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Beating the Spread: Picking the Top Matchups in College Football’s Week 11

Shaking the Southland

Week 11 of the college football season is here — and it features three matchups between ranked teams. Here is a breakdown of all the top games and odds courtesy of Vegas Insiders

No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes (-3.5) at No. 18 Michigan State Spartans: While Ohio State is still on the outside track for a Playoff spot if they run the table; their last two performances don’t provide much confidence long-term. For starters, the Buckeyes come into Week 11 with a one-dimensional offense (12th in Passing S&P+, but 88th in Rushing S&P+), also, a defense which has allowed 450+ yards in back-to-back weeks.

Fortunately for Urban Meyer’s group, Michigan State has yet to break 30 points in six weeks, and quarterback Brian Lewerke is completing just 55.9 percent of his passes for 1,740 yards, 8 TDs, and eight picks on the season. Ohio State is 3-0 in their last three visits to East Lansing, having won by a total margin of just 14. This year’s matchup will once again be a close one. Ohio State wins but fails to cover the spread. 

Wisconsin Badgers at No. 20 Penn State Nittany Lions (-9): Both teams enter this week with unhealthy quarterbacks. Penn State’s Trace McSorley is suffering from an unspecified knee injury, while Wisconsin’s Alex Hornibrook is questionable with a head injury. Even with their senior quarterback not at full strength, the Nittany Lions have shown to be productive offensively behind running back Miles Sanders (848 rushing yards, 5.9 YPC, and 8 TDs). The Badgers, on the other hand, are already offensively challenged with Hornibrook (58.1 completion percentage, 1,341 passing yards, 11 TDs, and 8 INTs). It’s asking a lot out of backup QB Jack Coan to go on the road and win this one. Penn State wins but fails to cover the spread. 

No. 16 Mississippi State Bulldogs at No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (-24): Serious question: If Alabama could cover a 24-point spread at No. 3 LSU last week, what makes anyone believe they won’t cover the same point spread at home against 6-3 Mississippi State? The Bulldogs are 5th nationally in Def. S&P+ – and may be able to slow down Tua Tagovailoa more than LSU did –  but they’re going to have a hard time staying in the game with an offense that’s 46th in Off. S&P+ and 37th in red-zone efficiency. Alabama wins and covers the spread. 

Oklahoma State Cowboys at No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners (-20): Mike Gundy is 2-11 against Oklahoma during his 14-year tenure in Stillwater. The Cowboys have shown little consistency this season, like pummeling Boise State and Texas at home, but losing big at Kansas State and Baylor. Bedlam should bring out the best in QB Taylor Cornelius and RB Justice Hill, given the Sooners’ porous defense (53rd in Def. S&P+), but Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray (70.6 comp. %, 2,689 passing yards, 31 TDs) will be too much for the Pokes once again. Oklahoma wins and covers the spread. 

Northwestern Wildcats at No. 21 Iowa Hawkeyes (-11): Northwestern puts their 3-0 road record on-the-line this week when they travel to Iowa City. The Wildcats still hold a slim one-game lead in the B1G West standings, and a win this Saturday puts them one step closer to a B1G Championship Game appearance. Much of Northwestern’s success this season has come on defense where they’re 23rd and 32nd, respectively, in Def. Rushing S&P+ and Def. S&P+. This unit should carry them this week against an Iowa offense that’s 66th in Off. S&P+ and 119th in Rushing S&P+. Northwestern wins in an upset. 

No. 24 Auburn Tigers at No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs (-14): Auburn finds themselves in the top 25 again, but expect this to be short-lived. The Tigers feature a leaky defense (89th in yards per play allowed), plus a rushing attack which is outside the top 100. Simply put, Gus Malzahn’s group is out-gunned against Georgia, who is riding high with back-to-back wins over top-15 opponents. Georgia wins and covers the spread. 

No. 19 Texas Longhorns (-1.5) at Texas Tech Red Raiders: It’s been a challenging two weeks for the Longhorns, who suffered back-to-back heartbreaking losses at Oklahoma State (38-35) and then at home vs. West Virginia (42-41 on a Will Grier 2-point conversion in the waning seconds). Tom Herman’s group has exceeded expectations this season, but a bounce-back win inside a rowdy atmosphere in Lubbock, TX can go a long way for the confidence of the program. Texas’ QB Sam Ehlinger still won’t be at full strength this week, however, even at 85 percent, Ehlinger’s legs provide a difficult dynamic for Texas Tech’s defense to stop. Texas wins and covers the spread. 

No. 2 Clemson Tigers (-20) at No. 17 Boston College Eagles: All things considered, a 20-point spread is very, very big against a top-20 Boston College team that’s playing in their biggest home game in nearly a decade. But Clemson is a different team than the one that struggled at Texas A&M and against Syracuse earlier in the season. The Tigers have won its past four games by scores of 63-3 (Wake Forest), 41-7 (N.C. State), 59-10 (Florida State) and 77-16 (Louisville). In addition, QB Trevor Lawrence and RB Travis Etienne each have rattled off dynamic performances recently. Clemson wins and covers the spread. 

No. 8 Washington State Cougars (-6) at Colorado Buffaloes: As quarterback Gardner Minshew continues to work into the fringe of the Heisman Trophy conversation, Mike Leach has built a program that’s inching closer to their first Rose Bowl appearance in 16 years. Colorado, meanwhile, is riding a four-game losing skid following a 5-0 start in early October. Washington State is 8-0 against the spread this season, after this week they’ll make it 9-0. Washington State wins and covers the spread. 

South Carolina Gamecocks at No. 15 Florida Gators (-6): South Carolina’s offense exploded in last week’s 48-44 win against Ole Miss, averaging 7.4 yards per play. The Gamecocks might suffer a letdown this week against Florida, who while is in a slump following a 38-17 rout at home against Missouri, still posts a No. 31 defense in Def. S&P+. Florida wins but fails to cover the spread. 

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