On the Ball: College Football Picks—Week 15
Is there really going to be a clear consensus of the four most worthy teams for the playoffs? Of course not, especially since they’re all wild card selections with little discernible criteria for the selection process. There are not even enough spots for each of the big conferences to be happy.
Look at what could happen this weekend. If TCU and Baylor both win on Saturday and end up as Big 12 co-champs with identical records, how can the committee justify only selecting TCU? If 10–2 Missouri knocks off Alabama in the SEC title game, does the great SEC get shut out? Even two-loss programs Wisconsin, Kansas State, and Georgia Tech can throw the system into even more chaos with mild upsets over Ohio State, Baylor, and Florida State.
Having no automatic bids is a major part of the problem. Let it be decided on the field, in clear terms.
An eight-team field would be so much better, with each of the Power 5 conferences having an automatic bid and then filling it out with three wild card picks—those three will spark debate for sure, but at least we’re not talking about the top three anymore.
Anyone worrying that adding more teams will dilute the regular season play need only look at the NFL, which has 12 playoff spots for 32 teams while maintaining massive TV ratings. There are 128 eligible teams in the FBS.
Now that I’m done with my rant, here are my weekend picks (home team in caps, otherwise it’s a neutral site).
(11–1) Alabama 41, (10–2) Missouri 27—It’s tough for Missouri to get much respect, despite winning the SEC East, when they have no wins over any currently ranked teams and a home loss to 4–8 Indiana. The one ranked opponent they played—Georgia—smashed them 34–0. I think they’ve improved since both losses, but Alabama has too.
Line: ALA -14.5, Over/Under: 49
(11–1) Oregon 38, (10–2) Arizona 21—This is going to be a tough one for Arizona, being that their 31–24 win (in Eugene) is the only blemish on Oregon’s pristine résumé, and the Ducks would surely love some redemption here. It’s very hard to upset the same favorite twice in a season, although this is the second straight year the Wildcats have topped Oregon. The third time should be the charm.
Line: ORE -14.5, Over/Under: 74.5
(10–1) TCU 49, (2–9) Iowa State 10—The easiest game to call on this list, Iowa State has dealt with injuries all season and wasn’t that deep to begin with. TCU, sitting at third in the College Football Playoff rankings, currently has the easiest path to the postseason—just beat the last-place Cyclones.
Line: TCU -34, Over/Under: 68.5
(12–0) Florida State 31, (10–2) Georgia Tech 27—The Seminoles have been skating by for weeks now, having won their last 3 games and 6 of the 12 by single digits. If they were still the top team in the playoff rankings, I’d pick the Yellow Jackets for the upset, but I think their being in the No. 4 spot, despite being the only unbeaten left, puts a little chip on their shoulders—even if they’re the defending champs.
Line: FSU -4.5, Over/Under: 61
(10–2) Wisconsin 27, (11–1) Ohio State 21—It’d be quite a story if the Buckeyes were able to win the Big Ten title game with their third-string quarterback. But with no starts under Cardale Jones’s belt, it’s hard to see him leading them to victory over a dangerous Wisconsin squad. While everyone knows the Badgers have the nation’s leading rusher in Melvin Gordon (2,260 yards), they also boast the fourth-stingiest defense in the country, allowing just 16.8 points per game.
Line: WIS -4, Over/Under: 52.5
(9–2) Kansas State 34, (10–1) BAYLOR 31—All we’ve heard all week long is Baylor making a case for the playoffs—as if Saturday’s tilt against K-State is a foregone conclusion. Never look past a Bill Snyder-coached team. They’ve had a chip on their collective shoulder for years and relish the underdog role. That said, it won’t be easy against the nation’s highest-scoring team.
Line: BAY -7.5, Over/Under: 66.5
(8–3) OKLAHOMA 38, (5–6) Oklahoma State 28—I don’t understand how the Bedlam series isn’t included in last week’s “rivalry week,” especially since both teams had bye weeks, but it’s as intense as any rivalry in the country. Of course, it’s been long-dominated by Oklahoma (84–17–7), and though the Cowboys have finally pulled the red shirt off of freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph, it won’t be enough for the road upset.
Line: OKLA -21, Over/Under: 60
(10–2) Boise State 34, (6–6) Fresno State 17—New coach, same result for the Broncos, who watched Chris Peterson leave for Washington yet have kept right on winning. Their schedule wasn’t an easy one, either, with games against Ole Miss, Connecticut, and Colorado State. They beat Fresno State earlier in the season and should be able to put them away again.
Line: BSU -22, Over/Under: 69
Last week: 12–6
Season record: 61–21