College football is not going to be at its best this week. No rated team plays against another. None of the top 7 teams are favored with fewer than 19 points. The chaos will rest. It may be that it has already worn out.
After all the excitement and chaos of the past seven weeks, the college football playoff could seem pretty familiar. Even with Clemson back to view it for the first time in seven years, the window of opportunity to eliminate other common suspects may have passed. Ohio State found its shape. Oklahoma found Caleb Williams. If Alabama wins six games in a row (when did that ever happen?) It will be back to defend its title. While Cincinnati ranked second in school history this week, the Bearcats can’t be sure that an unbeaten season will be enough to get into the sport’s most exclusive country club.
Undefeated wasn’t enough last year when the Bearcats ended the regular season in sixth place behind three teams in defeat. For conference mate Central Florida, 2017 wasn’t enough when the Knights finished the regular season behind nine teams, including Auburn with three losses, or 2018 when they were seventh behind Georgia with two losses.
An Alabama with two losses – or Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Michigan, Penn State, etc., with one loss – would be similarly difficult to jump. Cincinnati’s best win (Notre Dame) and best remaining opponent (SMU) are likely to result in zero wins against the ranked teams.
Cincinnati trainer Luke FickellUSA TODAY Sports
Remember, the Bearcats aren’t number 2 on the only leaderboard that matters. The first official playoff rankings will not be published until November 2nd. And even these are prone to delusion. The precedent was set in year 1 of the playoff era when TCU moved into 3rd place in the regular season finals and dropped back to 6th … after a 52-point win! The committee can do what it wants. Even if Cincy debuts in the top four, it doesn’t take a loss for the Bearcats to fall. It doesn’t matter how bad Cincinnati (-27.5) holds devastating teams like Navy. Perfection is likely not going to be good enough.
KANSAS (+38.5) over Oklahoma
Yes, I know Caleb Williams is the best player in college football history, but 2017-19 Lincoln Riley’s juggernaut offenses – led by Heisman Trophy winners (Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray) and a Heisman runner-up (Jalen Hurts) – The Sooners failed to lead to victories by more than 38 points against the worst football program in the country. Funnily enough, Spencer Rattler did the feat last year. Remember him
MICHIGAN (-23.5) over northwest
The undefeated Wolverines weren’t as dominant as their stats suggest, and they could get caught looking at next week’s game against the undefeated Michigan State. But after Michigan beat two of the last-placed Big Ten teams with a total of 10 points, Michigan won’t look past any other overwhelmed opponent.
Illinois (+23.5) via PENN STATE
The Nittany Lions offensive is just above average with Sean Clifford below the middle. Without him, James Franklin has no good options – other than going to USC or LSU.
Oklahoma State (+7) via IOWA STATE
I’ve belittled the cowboys on several occasions, but I’ve never disregarded them like this before. While the underperforming Cyclones are more talented and more balanced, it is absurd to score a touchdown against an undefeated team that have come through twice as underdogs this season. The comeback win in Texas is proof that even if the cowboys go down, they won’t go quietly.
UCLA (-2) over Oregon
The Ducks cannot rely on quarterback Anthony Brown and they cannot rely on the running game here as they face a defense that allows 3.2 yards per try. Anyone can see Oregon’s downfall coming. But who would have ever thought that Chip Kelly would land the knockout blow?
Lsu (+9.5) via MISSISSIPPI
The rebels can’t dodge golf balls forever. After narrowly escaping back-to-back games with wins in the last few seconds, Lane Kiffin’s terrible defense may not be saved again by Heisman co-favorite Matt Corral, who is questionable.
PITTSBURGH (-3) via Clemson
After several weeks with Clemson as a double-digit favorite, Vegas has released a Tigers line that reflects reality. The unthinkable premature end to Clemson’s ACC title reign comes against Heisman candidate Kenny Pickett, who has thrown for 21 touchdowns and one interception for the fifth highest team in the country (42.6 points per game) this season. Clemson has not exceeded 21 points in four ACC games.
Kenny PickettUSA TODAY Sports
Tennessee (+25.5) via ALABAMA
The Crimson Tide will cruise until it hits Georgia in the SEC title game, but its defense remains below Nick Saban’s standard, providing opportunities for the Volunteers’ tenth-placed offensive.
Ohio State (-19.5) via INDIANA
I would like to put another touchdown on it. The Hoosiers stand 0-5 against the spread and will do without their starting quarterback. The Buckeyes averaged 59 points in their last three games. More importantly, they allowed a total of 37 points in those games.
Usc (+7) via NOTRE DAME
The Trojans have alternated double-digit wins and double-digit losses since the start of the season. Last time USC – which is 2-0 on the street – lost 16 points to Utah. So, Trojan’s Money Line is it!
South Carolina (+20.5) via TEXAS A&M
As sincere as Jimbo Fisher sounded as he declared his wish to stay in College Station and turned down the chance to return to Baton Rouge, I can’t help but remember the words of his former boss at LSU, the one after two Years ago, he had a five-year contract with the Miami Dolphins: “I think I have to say it,” said Nick Saban just a week before he took his job, “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.” This forgotten quote from the same session in 2006 is perhaps even better: “I have no control over what people post on dotcom or anything.”
State of North Carolina (-3) via MIAMI
Since he was unexpectedly thrown into the starting role, Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke has faced two of the ACC’s softest defenses. Even so, the rookie was intercepted three times and completed fewer than 48 percent of his passes for the Hurricanes (2-4). Next up is the wolf pack’s eleventh-placed defense, who averaged more picks than all but six teams, while finishing second in the ACC on the opponent’s completion percentage (55.5).
Best bets: Cincinnati, Lsu, State of Ohio
This season (best bets): 45-58-2 (12-9)
Record 2014-20: 904-866-15