We've reached a point where it no longer feels like I'm betting solely on the outcome of games. It now feels like I'm betting on which games will even be played. The last few weeks have seen an alarming increase in postponements and cancellations. In each of the last two weeks, one of the games I've included in The Six Pack has been canceled after I've turned in the column.
It could happen again this week, and if it does, like the last two weeks, I'll find a replacement game. Still, I want to offer you some advice. It's the same advice I gave early in the season, but it feels like a good time to reshare it. I don't recommend betting on any of these games until shortly before they begin. That way, you know which players will and won't be available.
With how quickly things can change, that advice seems more sensible now than it was even a few months ago. Anyway, onto this week's picks.
Games of the Week
No. 9 Indiana at No. 4 Ohio State
I get the sense that I'm quickly becoming the most hated man in Bloomington, Indiana. It's not that I want to be, but as exciting as it is that Indiana is off to a 4-0 start and ranked in the top 10, I can't ignore some warning signs. The biggest of which is Indiana's reliance on turnovers to score points. Through four games, Indiana has forced 12 turnovers, and it's done a phenomenal job turning them into points. That's great! The problem is, Indiana has had difficulty scoring points on its other possessions. Through the first four games, 37.8% of Indiana's points on offense have been scored following a turnover. That's the second-highest rate in the country, trailing only rival Purdue. The average length of Indiana's touchdown drives this season has been 53.2 yards, which is the shortest of any team that has played at least two games.
In other words, when Indiana isn't facing a short field thanks to a turnover, it has a difficult time reaching the end zone. In a matchup like this one, against an Ohio State team unlikely to provide a bunch of turnovers, and with a strong defense, Indiana's not likely to have many short fields. Meanwhile, Ohio State has Justin Fields at quarterback and one of the most potent offenses in the country. Also, let's not forget that Indiana was a strong team last season, but that didn't stop Ohio State from going to Bloomington, Indiana, and handing it a 51-10 loss. This year's game will be closer, but not close enough for the Hoosiers. Ohio State 49, Indiana 17 | Pick: Ohio State -20.5
No. 14 Oklahoma State at No. 18 Oklahoma
This will be the lowest total in Bedlam since the 2014 game when the line closed at 57.5 points. Not surprisingly, the way this series has gone, that game went over the total as Oklahoma State won 38-35. This series isn't called Bedlam because it provides quiet, boring games. These things get a little crazy. Over the last 12 years, Bedlam has featured an average of 74.8 points per game. That's why the over has gone 7-4-1 in those meetings. And in the four games in which the over didn't hit, the average closing total was 65 points. That's well above the total we're dealing with here.
Of course, Oklahoma State's playing much better defensively this year than in years past. It allows only 1.23 drives per possession, which ranks second in the Big 12 and 12th nationally. However, what needs to be pointed out is that Oklahoma State hasn't played an offense nearly as explosive as Oklahoma's. The Sooners are scoring 3.4 points per possession, which leads the Big 12 and ranks ninth nationally. The Cowboys defense will be tested like at no time before this season. Plus, as I've mentioned in this column more than once, overs have been great in Oklahoma's home games under Lincoln Riley. The over is 15-8-2 in Oklahoma's 25 home games under Riley. Oklahoma 38, Oklahoma State 27 | Pick: Over 59
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Lock of the Week
Kansas State at No. 17 Iowa State
Iowa State is an odd team to me. In the last few years it has finished with a record like 8-5 or 7-6, but the underlying metrics suggest it was a much better team than its record showed. This season the Cyclones are 5-2, but those same metrics suggest it's not as good as the record suggests. And that's part of the reason I like Kansas State so much in this spot because my numbers suggest these two are a lot closer in quality than an 11-point spread suggests. Nor does it hurt that Kansas State has gone 7-1 ATS in its last eight Big 12 games, while Iowa State is 2-8 ATS in its last 10 home games. I do think the Cyclones get the win, but it won't be nearly this comfortable. Iowa State 27, Kansas State 20 | Kansas State +11
Last Stand of the Week
Am I a stubborn fool? Probably, yeah, but that's not the only reason I'm on this pick. It's that, when things go wrong at Michigan, the world tends to overreact. They do the same thing at all the big schools with large fan bases that dominate #content. But this Rutgers team should be just what the doctor ordered for Michigan. Last week, at home against an Illinois team that had looked like the worst team in the Big Ten through three weeks, Rutgers lost. The Knights opening the season with a win over Michigan State was great for the program, but the Knights haven't been all that good since. Now Michigan, in desperate need of a win, gets to face the Rutgers team it's won five straight against by an average margin of 43.8 points. If the Wolverines don't cover this spread, then there's real trouble in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan 34, Rutgers 17 | Michigan -10.5
Option Team of the Week
Last week I took an angry Army squad as underdogs against Tulane, and it turns out that Army wasn't angry enough. Or maybe it was just that it didn't matter how angry Army was; the Tulane defense was ready for it. This week the Black Knights get another team prepared to face an option attack because it faces one in practice every single day. Southern enters this contest with a slightly higher rushing success rate (47%) than Army (46.7%) and is much more capable in the passing game. This should be a close, low-scoring affair, so points will be at a premium. I love Southern getting anything more than a field goal. Army 21, Georgia Southern 20 | Georgia Southern +4
Replacement Game of the Week
Virginia Tech at Pitt
This is a replacement game for Washington State and Stanford -- which was canceled due to COVID-19 issues within the Cougars program -- but don't worry, it's still a pick I like. This is a matchup that strikes me as one that's beneficial to Pitt. Virginia Tech is an offense that runs the ball 61.4% of the time, ranking 17th nationally as the highest rushing rate in the country. It plays right into Pitt's hands, as the Panthers defense ranks 14th nationally in defensive success rate against the run and first in yards allowed per carry at 2.21. My favorite stat about the Pitt rush defense is that it allows an average of 0.0 yards per carry before making contact. Yes, you read that correctly. Still, as good as Pitt's defense is, its offense isn't explosive enough to make this an easy win for the Panthers. I do like their chances of keeping it close, however. The fact Pitt is 10-6-1 ATS when an underdog of five points or fewer doesn't hurt my confidence any, either. The Panthers have also covered in four straight when coming off a bye. Pitt 24, Virginia Tech 23 | Pitt +3
SportsLine Pick of the Week
No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 19 Northwestern
Federal laws only allow me to put six games in The Six Pack on a weekly basis, but thankfully I've found a loophole that allows me to share my pick for this game elsewhere. To find out what I like in this Big Ten West showdown, head over to my SportsLine page.
Games of the Week
Lock of the Week
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 12? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $3,900 in profit over the past four-plus seasons -- and find out.