This is one of the more bittersweet weeks in college football. There's a lot to love out there right now. It's a holiday weekend, and we not only get full slates worth of games on both Friday and Saturday, but they're slates full of rivalry games. There are also so many games with high stakes, whether it's a division title or a bowl berth on the line.
But then we're reminded that it's the last full weekend of the season. Next week we'll have conference championship games, and before you know it, bowl season will be here. We love them both, but there's a tinge of sadness in knowing that this weekend will be the last time we get to watch three games at a time all day long. So make sure to spend some time with the family on Thursday, and then spend time with your real family (football) on Friday and Saturday. Cherish the moments before they're gone.
All lines are from Caesars Sportsbook.
Games of the Week
No. 2 Ohio State at No. 5 Michigan: If I were picking this game with my heart, I'd bet on Michigan. Not because I'm a Michigan fan, but because I want to see a competitive game. It's a top-five battle between two of the biggest rivals in the sport with everything on the line. The winner clinches the Big Ten East and will play for a conference title and a College Football Playoff berth. Of course you want it to be an epic game! Furthermore, this is the most complete and well-balanced team Jim Harbaugh has had at Michigan since 2016, when both teams were ranked in the top-five and the game needed double overtime to decide a winner.
Unfortunately for Michigan, I don't make picks with my heart, and my head tells me to lay the points with the Buckeyes. Yes, this is the best Michigan team since at least 2016, and possibly of the Harbaugh era, but it doesn't matter. A couple of weeks ago, Ohio State flipped a switch, and now it's a fully operational weapon of mass destruction. It's not just that the Buckeyes completely dismantled Michigan State last week; it's that they did it the week before this game, convincing me nobody outside of Georgia can stop them. This won't be as easy as last week's win, nor will it be as dominant, but it's going to be another Ohio State win. And a cover too. Ohio State 38, Michigan 27 | Ohio State (-8)
No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 7 Oklahoma State: I'm tired of waiting for Oklahoma's offense to reach the levels we're used to and ready to accept that it's capable of big plays, but incapable of consistent, sustained excellence. That's not a terrible place to be because it's still working well for the Sooners. They're fourth nationally in points per drive and 11th in success rate. The problem is they're facing one of the best defenses in the country this week, and like Iowa State did last week, the Cowboys can slow this Sooners offense down.
On the other side of the ball is an Oklahoma State offense that's shown improvement over the back half of the season, but is more in the range of "above average" than "good." Plus, for all the flak Oklahoma's defense caught early in the season, it's getting healthier and played much better of late. Its major weakness is at the back end, and that's not an area I'm confident the Cowboys can exploit effectively. I expect this game to be close, and I'm not entirely sure who will win. I am confident it will be a lower-scoring affair than we're used to in Bedlam, however, so I'll be on the under. Oklahoma State 24, Oklahoma 21 | Under (49.5)
Lock of the Week
Navy at Temple: One of the things you need to keep an eye on at this point in the season is which teams still care and which ones have quit. Friends, I am fairly confident that Temple has quit. It enters the weekend having lost six straight in blowout fashion. In those games, the Owls have been outscored 261-45, never allowing fewer than 34 points or scoring more than 10. Now they're being asked to face an option offense, and nobody likes facing option attacks when they want to play. It's just three hours of large humans diving into your knees. It's tiresome.
If Temple has already shown plenty of signs of quitting on the season, what do you think will happen on Saturday? Of course, if you're not comfortable relying on this quit narrative, the Temple defense ranks 109th in EPA against the run and 104th in success rate. Even when trying to stop the run, it hasn't shown much of an ability to do so. Navy 34, Temple 10 | Navy (-12.5)
Under of the Week
No. 16 Iowa at Nebraska (Friday): Quarterback Adrian Martinez will not be starting for Nebraska after suffering a shoulder injury last week. While Martinez has never quite lived up to the hype after a strong freshman debut, he's essential for this offense. His absence -- particularly against this Iowa defense -- is likely a hindrance. It's an Iowa defense that makes life miserable on veteran QBs, so I can only imagine how it'll frustrate redshirt freshman Logan Smothers.
Of course, I'm not willing to trust Iowa on the spread simply because its offense has been terrible all season long. The Hawkeyes rank 108th nationally in points per drive and 116th in offensive EPA. So it's an Iowa offense that doesn't score points against a Nebraska offense without its best player. It's hard to see this game going over the total without at least one defensive touchdown, which is certainly possible but difficult to rely on. Iowa 21, Nebraska 14 | Under (41)
Stick A Fork In Em Game of the Week
FIU at Southern Miss: OK, so Temple isn't the only team that's quit. FIU is right there with it. The Panthers have lost 10 straight games, and last week, its coach Butch Davis said that the school was trying to sabotage the program. Davis then showed up to FIU's loss to North Texas without wearing any FIU clothing, opting instead to wear a Navy sweatshirt and hat. To me, that sends a bad message to the players you're still supposed to be coaching, and they played like a team that felt abandoned, losing 49-7.
Meanwhile, Southern Miss is a team that started the season poorly and had every excuse available to quit itself, but instead is finishing the season strong. Circumstance forced the Eagles to move running back Frank Gore Jr. to quarterback, and it's working. The Eagles hung with UTSA, giving them a tougher test than most Conference USA teams have during a 27-17 loss before turning around and beating Louisiana Tech 35-19 last week. In a battle of a team that wants to be there against a team that doesn't, bet on the one that does. Southern Miss 31, FIU 3 | Southern Miss (-10.5)
Rivalry Game of the Week
Northwestern at Illinois: This is a rivalry game that's been dominated by Northwestern for a while now. The Wildcats have won six straight in this series and 14 of the last 20 meetings, and are 11-4 since coach Pat Fitzgerald took over. This season is a bit different, though. While Northwestern has had plenty of bad offenses in recent seasons, it's paired that offense with fantastic defense. That defense hasn't shown up in 2021.
Northwestern ranks 86th nationally in points allowed per drive and 99th in defensive success rate. More worrisome for this matchup is the Northwestern run defense. The Wildcats have allowed 5.3 yards per carry this season, which ranks 117th. Their defensive rush EPA ranks 103rd. Illinois has not been an explosive offense, but it has shown the ability to run the ball. The Illini run the ball 56% of the time and should have success on Saturday. The Illini are also playing for an outside shot at a bowl game, as they'll be one of the top choices available at 5-7 if there aren't enough bowl-eligible teams. Illinois 24, Northwestern 13 | Illinois (-6.5)
SportsLine Pick of the Week
No. 3 Alabama at Auburn: Listen, I've run out of room in The Six Pack, but you didn't think I'd go into the weekend without sharing my pick for The Iron Bowl, did you? Of course not! Find out what it is over at SportsLine.
Games of the Week
Lock of the Week
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 13, and which top College Football Playoff contender gets a huge scare? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $3,700 in profit over the past five-plus seasons -- and find out.