The 4 best college football bets for Week 12
Last week’s 2-2 performance brought my season-long record to 15-13-1 with just 2 weeks left before conference championships.
This week’s college football odds feature 3 matchups between ranked teams, including a pair of massive games in the Pac-12: No. 8 USC vs. No. 12 UCLA, and No. 13 Utah vs. No. 6 Oregon. Those late-night matchups will determine which teams from out west still have a (slim) chance to get destroyed in the College Football Playoff.
The Week 12 best bets start and stay closer to the Atlantic, however.
Pick 1: Western Kentucky vs. Auburn -5.5 (-110)
Western Kentucky (7-4, 3-2 away, 8-3 ATS) has put together a nice little season and has been a great bet against the spread so far. But the Hilltoppers have stacked lopsided wins against some of the worst FBS teams in the country (plus FCS Austin Peay).
Looking at both ESPN’s Football Power Index and Football Outsiders’ FEI ratings, WKU’s 6 FBS wins are as follows (the numbers in parentheses are the opponent’s rankings at ESPN and Football Outsiders, respectively):
- 49-17 @ Hawaii (128th/129th)
- 73-0 vs Florida International (131st/130th)
- 35-17 @ Middle Tennessee (101st/114th)
- 20-17 vs UAB (61st/70th)
- 59-7 @ Charlotte (125th/128th)
- 45-10 vs Rice (117th/118th)
Their 4 losses are:
- 33-30 OT @ Indiana (84th/74th)
- 34-27 vs Troy (69th/64th)
- 31-28 @ UTSA (57th/58th)
- 40-13 vs North Texas (77th/81st)
Senior QB Austin Reed has been nothing short of prolific for WKU, racking up 3,548 yards, 31 touchdowns and just 7 picks. But this will be, by a wide margin, the best defense he’s faced all year. Auburn’s struggles on offense haven’t affected the other side of the ball; Auburn ranks 19th in Defensive FEI.
The Tigers are also coming off arguably their best win of the year, a 13-10 home victory over Texas A&M. Auburn outgained the Aggies 330-213 and didn’t surrender a touchdown until the final 2 minutes of the game. That was their second solid performance in as many attempts under interim coach Carnell “Cadillac” Williams. The week prior, in Williams’ debut, they dropped a tight 39-33 OT decision to Mississippi State, easily covering as 12.5-point underdogs.
This is a step up in weight class for Western Kentucky. Auburn’s physicality should put some distance between the teams as the game wears on.
Pick: Auburn -5.5 (-110)
Pick 2: No. 4 TCU (-2.5) vs. Baylor
TCU (10-0, 5-0 away, 8-1-1 ATS) passed its biggest test of the season last week, and with flying colors. The Frogs were 7-point road ‘dogs at Texas but emerged with a decisive 17-10 win, a game they led 10-3 at the half and 17-3 with less than 5 to play. TCU had nearly 100 more yards than the Longhorns on offense and limited Texas to a scant 199 total yards.
They are now firmly in the College Football Playoff picture, but Sonny Dykes will be keenly aware of the Big 12’s less-than-stellar reputation in the eyes of the selection committee. The other 3 undefeated teams are still ahead of TCU, even though the Frogs had the best win of Week 11. If they slip up at all, the committee is likely to drop them below a 1-loss Tennessee.
All that is to say: every game remains do-or-die for TCU’s Playoff hopes.
Baylor (6-4, 3-2 home, 6-4 ATS) has been wildly inconsistent all season. They have peppered in some impressive wins (45-17 at Texas Tech, 38-35 at Oklahoma, 31-24 at Iowa State) with bad losses (31-3 vs. K-State, 43-40 at WVU, 36-25 vs. OK State). That home loss to Kansas State came just last week and was truly horrific for Bears fans. They were routed despite K-State losing starting QB Adrian Martinez in the first quarter.
While the metrics don’t believe TCU is a top-four team in the country, they do agree that TCU is significantly better than Baylor. TCU ranks 15th in FEI, while Baylor is down in 42nd. In the FPI, the teams are closer together (16th vs. 19th), but TCU has a 14.1 rating while Baylor is only 11.1. That 3-point gap is the same as the gap between 19th and 31st (i.e. it’s a significant difference).
TCU adds another impressive W to its resume in Waco.
Pick: TCU -2.5 (-110)
Pick 3: Syracuse vs. Wake Forest -10 (-110)
I was on the Syracuse bandwagon until their ugly setback to Notre Dame, and now I could not have jumped further away. The Orange (6-4, 1-2 away, 6-4 ATS) have dropped 4 straight after a 6-0 start, and they haven’t been competitive in the past three. Starting QB Garrett Schrader missed some time, but he returned last week against Florida State and Syracuse was still abysmal on offense in a 38-3 loss.
Schrader went just 6-for-16 for 65 yards, while the ground game was limited to 95 yards at 3.1 YPC. Coming on the heels of a 19-9 setback to Pitt, this marked the second straight game Syracuse failed to score a single touchdown.
Wake Forest (6-4, 4-2 home, 6-4 ATS) is also in a tailspin, dropping 3 in a row after a 6-1 start to the year, but there’s a lot more to like in their skid as compared to ‘Cuse.
Wake fell 48-21 at a surging Louisville, 30-21 at NC State, and most recently 36-34 at home to a UNC team that’s headed to the ACC title game.
Sam Hartman’s continues to pile up the passing stats, averaging just over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns per game. His 10 picks are concerning, especially the 7 he’s tossed in the past 3 games. But if the junior pivot can limit the mistakes, the Deacs should breeze past a Syracuse team that can’t move the ball anymore.
Pick: Wake Forest -10 (-110)
Pick 4: Miami vs No. 9 Clemson First-Half Under 24 (+105)
I faded Miami (5-5, 3-1 away, 2-8 ATS) last week and it didn’t work out. But I’m not buying into that 35-point performance against Georgia Tech. Facing a real defense this Saturday — and an offense that won’t turn the ball over 4 times — the Hurricanes will revert to their low-scoring, possibly touchdown-free ways.
A far cry from some of Brent Venables’ shutdown units of the past decade, Clemson’s defense remains top-20 in efficiency.
I will be stunned if Miami manages more than a couple of field goals before the half, which would place the onus on Clemson to put the ball in the paint 3 times in the first 30 minutes. The Tigers have only accomplished that feat 3 times this season.
Miami’s defense will provide enough early resistance to keep the first half under 24.
Pick: First half under 24 (+105)