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After a big Week 11 showing, Alex Kirshner is back in Week 12 with his college football picks

I had a strong Week 11 picking college football games. My plays went 9-5 after languishing around and below .500 for the previous month, and I boosted my season record to 84-84-2 (50% win rate) on the season. We’re a strong week or two away from the profit zone for the season, and we’ll try to get there by following a sound process in Week 12.

In an effort to find good line value, I make a lot of my picks on Sundays, when lines have yet to move much. I share those picks here but talk through my process and provide advice you can follow as you weigh this weekend’s lines over the course of the week, if that interests you. My preference is to share picks as I make them myself and then talk about the rationale.  

*All wagers are for one unit.

Indiana vs. Ohio State

BET: Indiana +20 @ -115

This line has moved a little bit against me to start the week, and you can probably find IU as a 21-point underdog or more. Ohio State has a significant talent advantage and got an extra weekend to prepare because of a COVID cancelation by Maryland last weekend. The Buckeyes are also at home. But Indiana’s vertical passing game, led by QB Michael Penix Jr. and a cast of skilled receivers, should be able to score a few points on Ohio State’s defense. Despite all that unit’s talent, the Buckeyes have let Nebraska and Rutgers move the ball on them.

On the other side of the ball, Indiana’s defense will at least be the stiffest test Justin Fields has faced yet. Do I think the Hoosiers will stop him? No. Do I think they will contain him? Not really, no, but I do think they’ll slow him down a little bit and make a three-touchdown spread an attractive option for Hoosiers bettors. 

Michigan vs. Rutgers

BET: Michigan -8.5 @ -105

Michigan is bad, and I don’t like to “bet on the helmet” or pick a team because it’s a big name brand. So I won’t do that here. This is Jim Harbaugh’s worst team at Michigan, and I’m not betting on the Wolverines because I think they’ll magically put something together. You can even find them at a better number than I did, likely -7.5 or -8. 

I’m betting on the Wolverines because their biggest weakness (a lousy secondary and overall pass defense) shouldn’t hurt against Rutgers, which has so far flashed a useless downfield passing game. Rutgers will not hit many deep shots in this game and shouldn’t move the ball efficiently through the air. Michigan, even in this dilapidated state and with some injuries, has enough talented defensive front players to stop Rutgers and cover 10 points or fewer.

Tennessee vs. Auburn

BET: Auburn -10 @ -110

Bo Nix might be turning a corner. He’s looked more comfortable as the season has gotten longer, and his last two games (wins over Ole Miss and LSU) have been two of the best performances of his two-year career. Auburn’s defense has been iffy all year but looked tremendous against a still-dangerous LSU offense the last time it took the field. 

Tennessee’s offense is in a bad place. The Volunteers do not have a quarterback who makes me worried about Auburn’s D backsliding. Unless the UT defense plays a surprisingly good game, I’m not sure why they shouldn’t get crushed on the Plains. 

Florida vs. Vanderbilt

BET: Florida -30.5 @ -115

Vanderbilt has made legitimate strides on defense the last few weeks and might be better than it appeared when COVID was shrinking the Commodores’ roster earlier in the year. That doesn’t change that they’re miles less talented than Florida or that the Gators have the most explosive passing game in the sport right now. Even if Kyle Pitts isn’t back this week, UF showed against Arkansas (63 points, six TDs for Kyle Trask) that the offense can put up fireworks with moving pieces. Florida’s defense isn’t any good, but I’m not sure Vandy is talented enough to score more than 17 or 20 points. UF could easily get into the 50s.  

Northern Illinois vs. Ball State

BET: Ball State -13.5 @ -110

NIU’s defensive front has been close to nonexistent through two games. That’s a bad situation against any opponent, but particularly against Ball State, which has run the ball exceptionally well. (The Cardinals are #2 in expected points added per rushing play, a state in which NIU is currently last in the country.) NIU’s defense has been bad, and I don’t think the offense will stay on the field long enough for the Huskies to stay within two touchdowns. 

Cincinnati vs. UCF

BET: Cincinnati -3 @ -120

Oddsmakers might respect UCF based on what the Knights have done the last three years, or think bettors will. That’s the only explanation I have for this line being so small. 

The Bearcats’ secondary is so elite that it can neutralize UCF’s best asset, its downfield passing game. The Cincinnati offense has trended way upward over the last four games and should be able to score plenty against a good but not entirely consistent UCF defense. I would be happy to get the Bearcats at -4.5 or better and wouldn’t be interested in UCF unless the Knights were getting a full touchdown. 

East Carolina vs. Temple

BET: Temple -3 @ -110

Both of these teams are bad. I’ve watched a good bit of both and think ECU is notably worse than Temple, though. The Pirates absolutely cannot run the ball and aren’t great at throwing it, either. Their defense has no big strengths. The Owls aren’t great shakes themselves but are at least a Group of 5 average running attack, and I don’t think their defense could be any worse than ECU’s. My key number here is -4. I would be comfortable with the Owls unless the total crosses that number. So far, it’s moved in the other direction, which is good for you if you haven’t bet the Owls yet. 

Middle Tennessee vs. Troy

BET: Troy -12 @ -105

This line has moved so you might be able to get a better number than I did, but I like Troy at -13.5 or better in this game. I would not play it if your sportsbook has the line at -14. (In normal times, I’d like Troy at -15 or so, but the Trojans have had some COVID issues of late, and that causes me to dock them a point or two because of lineup uncertainty.)

Troy has one of the best defenses in the Group of 5, and Middle’s offense has barely been able to do a thing all season. Troy has scored into the 30s in all but two games this year (one of those being against BYU), and they should get there again, while I think Middle will struggle to hit 20. That bodes well for about a two-TD Troy win.

 Utah State vs. Wyoming

BET: Wyoming -17 @ -110

This line has moved since I took Wyoming at -17 on Sunday. The Aggies are a mess and have now dismissed both their head coach (Gary Andersen) and starting QB (Utah transfer Jason Shelley) in the span of about two weeks. This is one of the worst teams in FBS, and I think they’re bad enough to justify a bet on Wyoming at -21 or better, even though Craig Bohl isn’t known for a high-flying offense that should easily cover big-numbered spreads.

UTSA vs. Southern Miss

BET: Southern Miss +7 @ -110

Southern Miss is now getting even more points than when I grabbed them at +7. I wish I’d waited. The Golden Eagles are bad and are on their third head coach of this season, but UTSA hasn’t shown anything on the road and still needs to show me more before I’d take them laying a touchdown away from San Antonio against pretty much anybody. They’re 1-3 on the road, and their only win was by a field goal in a game they should’ve lost to Texas State.

Article Author


Alex Kirshner covers college football for the Moon Crew newsletter. He is a co-author of The Sinful Seven: Sci-Fi Western Legends of the NCAA, and he lives in Washington, D.C.


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