Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will pick those five games against the spread and highlight some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.
Before we bask in the gloriousness that is rivalry week, the Pac-12 will have much of the spotlight of Week 12.
Before Week 11, there were three Pac-12 teams in the College Football Playoff picture. But after Oregon lost to Washington and UCLA lost to Arizona, it’s down to just one: USC. The Trojans have lived up to the hype in Year 1 under Lincoln Riley but have a challenging road ahead, beginning with a crosstown trip to UCLA on Saturday night.
There’s also another excellent matchup out in Eugene as Oregon hosts Utah with significant Pac-12 title implications at stake. And before the Pac-12 takes center stage late into Saturday night, there are quite a few tricky spots with ranked teams going on the road. That includes No. 4 TCU’s trip to Waco to face Baylor, the defending Big 12 champion.
(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)
Illinois at No. 3 Michigan
Time: Noon | TV: ABC | Line: UM -17.5 | Total: 41.5
Another trip to the College Football Playoff is right there for the taking for Michigan. The Wolverines are 10-0 with their highly anticipated showdown with Ohio State looming next week. But before the trip to Columbus, Michigan will host an Illinois team that would love to play the role of spoiler.
Illinois was 7-1 and ranked No. 16 a few weeks ago but has since lost back-to-back games to Michigan State and Purdue. In the Purdue loss, Illinois saw Chase Brown exit late with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Brown is the nation’s leading rusher with 1,442 yards. He seemed destined to go head-to-head with Michigan’s Blake Corum, who is fourth nationally with 1,349 yards.
If Brown is able to return from injury, it will provide a major boost for a mediocre Illinois offense — especially with the mighty Michigan defense on the other side.
Nick Bromberg: Michigan -17.5, Sam Cooper: Illinois +17.5
No. 4 TCU at Baylor
Time: Noon | TV: Fox | Line: TCU -2.5 | Total: 58
TCU just keeps finding ways to win and it needs to keep doing so to assure its place in the four-team playoff. Seemingly on a weekly basis, TCU finds itself in tight games against Big 12 foes and comes out on the other side with a win. The Horned Frogs are 10-0 and No. 4 in the CFP rankings on the heels of a 17-10 road win over Texas. It was a surprisingly low-scoring affair and marked TCU’s seventh victory of the season decided by 10 points or fewer. Could another one be in store this Saturday in Waco?
Baylor won the Big 12 last year but is now a longshot to get back to the conference title game following last week’s 31-3 home loss to Kansas State. Baylor had won three straight before that, but fell flat on its face in a big spot. After such a poor showing, you have to think the Bears will be anxious to another chance to play in a big game — especially with a national championship contender in TCU visiting McLane Stadium.
Nick: TCU -2.5, Sam: TCU -2.5
No. 14 Ole Miss at Arkansas
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: SECN | Line: Ole Miss -2.5 | Total: 64
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin was so close to getting a win over his former boss, Alabama’s Nick Saban, but the Rebels fell 30-24 in heartbreaking fashion. Now the 8-2 Rebels are eliminated from SEC West contention and have to go take a trip to face Arkansas. A night game in Fayetteville is never easy, and Ole Miss will likely try to lean heavily on its running game like it has all year. Quinshon Judkins has been at the center of that, but he’s carried a heavy workload.
Arkansas, meanwhile, is just 5-5 on the year and has lost back-to-back home games to Liberty and LSU. While the Liberty loss was a shock, Arkansas put up a big fight with LSU in town last week but lost 13-10. In that game, Arkansas was without quarterback K.J. Jefferson due to a shoulder injury. Jefferson is expected back on the field this week. Arkansas will need him to pull off the upset and clinch bowl eligibility.
Nick: Ole Miss -2.5, Sam: Arkansas +2.5
No. 7 USC at No. 16 UCLA
Time: 8 p.m. | TV: Fox | Line: USC -2.5 | Total: 75.5
It’s a huge weekend in the Pac-12 as USC is the conference’s last remaining contender for the College Football Playoff. While UCLA and Oregon both lost last week to fall to 8-2, USC improved to 9-1 by trouncing Colorado, the Pac-12’s worst team. Caleb Williams had another big game with five total touchdowns, but the Trojans lost running back Travis Dye to a season-ending injury. That’s a big loss for the Trojans, though Lincoln Riley has indicated that several other injured starters could be back to full-strength.
USC’s offense has been playing at a high level. Its defense has not. The Trojans, who can clinch a spot in the conference title game with a win, are allowing 5.96 yards per play, which is tied for No. 102 nationally. Things have played out similarly for UCLA. The Bruins, who are still fighting to reach the Pac-12 title game, have a stellar running game led by QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson and RB Zach Charbonnet. Those two need to have big nights for UCLA to pull off the upset, especially with the way the defense has been struggling in recent weeks. In losses to Oregon and Arizona, UCLA allowed an average of 7.06 yards per play.
Nick: USC -2.5, Sam: UCLA +2.5
No. 10 Utah at No. 12 Oregon
Time: 10:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Line: Utah -1.5 | Total: 61.5
Like the USC-UCLA game, this matchup is massive for the Pac-12 title race. Both Utah and Oregon are 6-1 in conference play, a half-game behind 7-1 USC and a game in front of UCLA and Washington, both of whom are 5-2.
Earlier this year, Utah lost to UCLA but then got a big home win over USC. That win opened up a four-game winning streak for the Utes, who have racked up victories despite an array of injuries. The Utes seem to be getting healthier as QB Cam Rising has played the last two games after missing the Washington State game and star TE Dalton Kincaid — who had 234 receiving yards in the USC win — returned last week vs Stanford.
On the other side, there are injury concerns about Oregon’s most important player, quarterback Bo Nix. Nix seemed to hurt his foot or ankle late in last week’s heartbreaking loss to Washington. The coaching staff has remained quiet about Nix’s status, but the fact that Oregon went from a 3-point favorite to a 1.5-point underdog on Wednesday night says a lot. If Nix can’t go, Ty Thompson will likely make his first career start. Thompson was a five-star recruit in the 2021 class and is considered Oregon’s QB of the future. Well, now he may end up having to be the QB of the present on Saturday night.
Nick: Utah -1.5, Sam: Oregon +1.5
Head-to-head ATS: Nick: 29-26, Sam: 31-24
Week 12 best bets
Nick Bromberg (Last week: 1-2, Overall: 16-17)
UConn at Army (-10): The Black Knights have scored just 16 points combined in their past two games while UConn topped 30 points for the first time in five games in a win over Liberty. This feels like a very low-scoring game if UConn can slow down the Army run game. Pick: Under 43.5
UMass at Texas A&M (-33.5): The Aggies haven’t scored more than 28 points in any game against an FBS opponent this season and the team’s season high is 31 points against Sam Houston State in Week 1. That game came with a healthy Devon Achane too. After he missed the loss to Auburn, it seems doubtful he plays against the Minutemen. A&M wins, but I’m not confident they score enough to cover this big number. Pick: UMass +33.5
Texas (-9.5) at Kansas: This is a bet that KU QB Jalon Daniels will be able to play for the first time since he was injured against TCU. Coach Lance Leipold says he’s close to returning and that’s important; backup Jason Bean was injured against Texas Tech. I need to see Quinn Ewers play well on the road first before I’d consider picking the Longhorns. Pick: Kansas +9.5
Sam Cooper (Last week: 3-0, Overall: 21-12)
No. 24 NC State at Louisville (-4.5): NC State is taking an inexperienced QB to Louisville for his first road start and is going to be very conservative on offense. There’s also a chance Louisville QB Malik Cunningham won’t play, leaving a backup against a really good Wolfpack defense. I’m not expecting many points. Pick: Under 45.5
Iowa at Minnesota (-3): I’m not expecting Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan, leaving freshman Athan Kaliakmanis to go against the Iowa defense. If the Hawkeyes can corral Mo Ibrahim in the running game, they can force Kaliakmanis into mistakes just like they did with Graham Mertz last week. I’ll take the points. Pick: Iowa +3
Texas Tech at Iowa State (-3.5): A home game on a frigid evening in Ames, Iowa, sounds like the recipe for an under. Iowa State plays in so many low-scoring games and I’m not sure Texas Tech’s style of offense is equipped for these conditions. Pick: Under 47.5
For other Week 12 picks from Sam Cooper, click here.
For Week 12 picks from Dan Wetzel, Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger, subscribe to the College Football Enquirer.