It’s the final full weekend of college football’s regular season this week and that means plenty of rivalry games like Notre Dame-USC, the Apple Cup, Michigan-Ohio State and Alabama-Auburn to name a few. Here are a few sharp picks on college football odds for the week.
This game doesn’t mean that much in the grand scheme of things with Texas at 5-6 and TCU at 5-5 — the winner would get bowl eligible. But I think Texas wins easily here as it reportedly will fire Coach Charlie Strong and this will be his finale. You knew Strong’s fate was sealed when Texas lost at a terrible Kansas team on Saturday night, the Longhorns’ first defeat to the Jayhawks since 1938. Texas played uninspired football in Lawrence, lost an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter and then lost a whole lot more in overtime. The Jayhawks celebrated wildly — their first Big 12 victory in 20 tries, their first win over an FBS opponent since 2014. Strong is 16-20 overall and 12-14 in Big 12 play in three seasons with the Longhorns. If, as is expected, he coaches his final game at Texas on Friday against TCU, Strong will clinch either a bowl bid or his third seven-loss season. Strong will be owed a $10.7 million buyout for the remaining two years on his contract, a fee that would be reduced if he takes another job. The players love Strong, however, and they will play hard for him here. TCU has won the past two meetings in blowout fashion, but this Frogs team isn’t near as god as those. It’s expected that Texas will hire Houston’s Tom Herman to coach the team next season. If UT makes a bowl game, Strong is not expected to be the coach. Individually for Texas, running back D’Onta Foreman needs 137 rushing yards to reach 2,000.
No. 6 Washington at No. 22 Washington State (-5.5), Friday
The Apple Cup this year is as important as it has been in many years as the winner here takes the Pac-12 North title and will play either USC or Colorado in the conference championship game. If Washington wins this game and that one, it should make the College Football Playoff. Both teams ranked going into this rivalry game for the first time since 2001. The Huskies lost to USC two weeks ago but looked much better Saturday in a 44-18 win over Arizona State. Washington’s third-down defense struggled against the Trojans, giving up seven conversions on 13 attempts. The Sun Devils converted just one of 14 third-down conversions. The Huskies know they’ll need that type of performance in the Apple Cup as quarterback Luke Falk and the Cougars have converted 48 percent of their third-down chances this season and 60 percent of their fourth-down chances. Washington has won the Apple Cup in each of the past three seasons, with their margin of victory expanding with each subsequent game. I say that continues here.
No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State (-6.5), Saturday
It’s college football’s best rivalry, in my opinion. If Michigan wins, it will play most likely Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. If Ohio State wins, it only advances to the title game if Penn State loses Saturday vs. Michigan State, which is not likely. OSU has won 11 of the past 12 in this series and routed the Wolverines last year. “I don’t need to say too much about the game. It’s just The Game,” Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers said. “This one is for all the marbles. Everything we want is right in front of us.” Both these schools struggled this past Saturday, with UM escaping vs. Indiana and Ohio State doing the same against Michigan State. Will the Wolverines have starting QB Wilton Speight for this game? He missed the Indiana game with a shoulder injury. He’s got a 50-50 shot of playing here. Redshirt junior John O’Korn replaced Speight in the starting lineup Saturday. He completed seven of his 16 pass attempts for 59 yards and ran for 19 net yards. Ohio State hasn’t lost at home to Michigan in 16 years and won’t Saturday. Give the points.