Last week was a rough one. Georgia; okay, going to the well one time too many. But UConn outplayed Army but had too many penalties, some of which appeared to be phantoms, and couldn't score from the 1-yard line four times. Appalachian State then proceeded to barely show up in the second half after jumping out to a 24-0 halftime lead, allowing a 25-yard TD pass with 2:58 left for an Old Dominion backdoor. I think the results should have been better. Let's try to end the regular season the way it started, with lots of winners!
Central Florida (-19.5) at South Florida
I've tried to fade UCF QB John Rhys Plumlee when I can, as I don't trust his arm. I don't need to here. USF ranks 128th in rush defense, allowing 224.7 ypg and a whopping 6.0 ypc. The Knights bring the nation's seventh-ranked rushing attack, averaging 234.5 ypg and 5.3 ypc. The Bulls have lost nine straight, allowing at least 41 points in seven of those defeats. They can run the ball, and haven't ben blanked on the scoreboard, so a fast-moving clock and a few TDs could be a problem. But they also likely need 30+ points to cover this, a number they've hit only three times to date.
Coastal Carolina (+13.5) at James Madison
Coastal is going to be without QB Grayson McCall, which is certainly worrisome when going on the road. But they've had two weeks to prepare, and Jamey Chadwell will have coached up Bryce Carpenter enough here. The road game makes me pause, and Carpenter could certainly implode, but it's also Thanksgiving break and students aren't on campus. Outside of JMU's run defense, these two teams are statistically similar. JMU doesn't have a signature win, and won't get it here either. The Chanticleers keep it close at a minimum, as this game is for the Sun Belt East Division.
Marshall (-5.5) vs. Georgia State
I've had some success going on the Herd throughout the year, and I'll roll with 'em one more time on a slate with so many rivalries where we just don't know. What w can bank on is Marshall's defense, which ranks seventh nationally, allowing 15.5 ppg, They've allowed more than 13 points just twice in their seven wins. GSU wants to run the ball, Marshall knows it's coming and will plug it up, allowing only 3.0 ypc and six touchdowns on the ground all season.
Pittsburgh (-6.5) at Miami
On one hand, you can argue Miami may still have some pride and are playing for bowl eligibility. And the extra practice that comes with that could be valuable to the remaining core. But what's going to remain? Reportedly some 30-40 players will leave the program via transfer or eligibility expiration, and the one-year coaching staff is going to see some turnover too. Depending on who you consider a starter, they could be with out all five of their offensive linemen here, and we still don't have a clue who plays quarterback. They simply don't score points. I look for Pitt and Israel Abanikanda to run right through Miami early, making the 'Canes quit in the process. Pittsburgh rolls.
Washington (-2) at Washington State
Why not close out my regular season with a late-night contest I likely won't make it to halftime during? I fulling expect Pullman to be amped up. But this Cougars team hasn't passed the test for me. They are riding high on a three-game winning streak, but it's against Stanford, Arizona and Arizona State, who are a combined 10-for-22 overall. They'll have some juice early, but Washington QB Michael Penix and company will stretch this out to a comfortable margin over 60 minutes.
Under (46.5) Cincinnati vs Tulane
Tulane brings a strong defense into this game, even if it's lost its way a bit over the past month. Perhaps the competition caught up to them or maybe the Green Wave defenders started believing that they were invincible, whatever the case, I'm expecting the good version that defense to show up here. They might be further aided by the absence of Cincy QB Ben Bryant, who will not play. Cincy's defense got off to a poor start this season, but has since turned it around and like Tulane, I'm expecting the best effort of the season in this spot. Rain is also in the forecast, so I'm expecting Cincy especially, to keep it on the ground most of the day, speeding up the clock and leading to an under here.
North Carolina (-6.5) vs North Carolina State
I love spots like this. North Carolina is discounted after blowing a 17-point lead this past week at Georgia Tech, but if the 'Heels had hung on, this line would have been closer to 10. NC State hasn't done anything in the past two weeks to deserve this much respect here as the Wolfpack offense has been a mess since the loss of Devin Leary. North Carolina somehow only scored 17 points this past week, but they'll make up for that this week. While the 'Heels defense has been a problem for most of the season, the Wolfpack has stalled on offense recently and I'm not sure they can take advantage.
Ohio State (-7.5) vs Michigan
It's amazing that neither one of these teams has played anything resembling a solid team this season. OSU started with Notre Dame, but who knows how good that team is and both teams played Penn State, which is okay I guess, but my point is, we still have no idea how good these teams are. You could say, well look at how they played their competition, but that doesn't help either as both teams struggled this past week against bad competition. There are a few things working in favor of OSU here though. First, the home field will be huge. Second, OSU has better balance on offense and third, Blake Corum is iffy to play and that kills Michigan's offense, which is more run-heavy. The Buckeye defense hasn't been great lately, but it always finds a way to come up big and if Michigan doesn't have the threat of a running game, this could get out of hand.
Wisconsin (-3) vs Minnesota
These two teams are fairly evenly matched, with solid defenses and stellar ground games. What gives Wisconsin the edge here is home field, a veteran QB and not getting beat to hell this past week. Perhaps the biggest edge here is the fact that Minnesota put it all on the line this past week against Iowa and I don't see how the Gophers will have much left in the tank this week. The Gophers also played pretty well overall, while Wisconsin played like garbage, and I always like the team that needs to rebound. This is going to be a tough spot for the Gophers young QB to excel. Look for the Badgers to excel through the air this week, much like Iowa did this past week.