College Football Week 13 Picks: Notre Dame vs. North Carolina Predictions & More
Happy Thanksgiving. Let’s celebrate by making some money picking college football games. I’m coming off a 6-9-1 week and need a strong effort in Week 13 to push back over .500 for the year and into the profit zone as the season comes to a close. (My current 2020 record on CFB games is 90-3-3, a 49.2% win rate, leaving plenty of room to grow.)
My process is to pick most of my games early in the week and explain my rationale so you can make your own assessment as lines move. Of course, this season, that means a lot of no-action refunds, as more than a dozen games per week are likely to get canceled from here on out. Remember: If you bet on a canceled game, your sportsbook should refund you. Hopefully that doesn’t happen, games are played safely, and we win money.
*All wagers are for one unit.
Notre Dame vs. North Carolina
BET: Notre Dame -4 @ -110
BET: Under 66.5 @ -105
This line has moved a little bit in my favor, but I like the Irish at anything less than 6 points in this game. The Heels’ defense is not as bad as some recent raw scoring totals (44 points allowed to UVA, 53 to Wake Forest) would suggest, but they have real problems against the run. That doesn’t bode well against a strong Irish run game. Plus, UNC’s lightning pace on offense means the Irish will get more possessions to let their talent advantage show through.
Taking the under is a little bit of a hedge here. I think if this game has more than 66 points, Notre Dame will be doing a lot of the scoring. But A 35-30 Irish win, or something in that neighborhood, seems feasible to me and would result in two wins.
College Football Expert Picks
Penn State vs. Michigan
BET: Michigan -2 @ -110
The Surprise Toilet Bowl of the year between 0-5 Penn State and 2-3 Michigan will not be fun for anyone involved, but I expect Michigan to win by more than people think. The Wolverines’ biggest problem is that their cornerbacks are getting toasted every week, no matter who they’re facing. That might finally end this week, because Penn State’s QB situation is nightmarish, they only have one great receiver in Jahan Dotson, and TE Pat Freiermuth is out. Joe Milton should be able to hit on some longer throws against PSU’s secondary.
Kentucky vs. Florida
BET: Over 57.5 @ -105
Florida TE Kyle Pitts is back for this game. Kentucky’s defense has wilted the last few weeks against both Vanderbilt and Alabama after a great start to the year, and Kyle Trask has both rivalry and Heisman incentives to punish the Wildcats. Florida’s defense is also suspect enough that even a weak Kentucky offense could score some touchdowns.
NCAA Football Picks
Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt
BET: Vanderbilt +10 @ -120
Vandy has quietly improved over the last month and a half, particularly on defense. The Commodores have less talent than everyone else in the SEC, but they’re not as bad as they were when COVID was decimating their roster in October. Meanwhile, Tennessee looks bad on both sides of the ball and has no vertical passing game to speak of. I think Vandy can muck things up enough to keep Jeremy Pruitt miserable, as he’s been for the last five games.
NC State vs. Syracuse
BET: Syracuse +14 @ -110
Syracuse is good value at +13 or more, in my view. The Orange are extremely bad, but they wind clock by operating slowly when they have the ball. Their 58 plays per game are 125th in FBS, and NC State isn’t gangbusters itself at 69 plays per game (67th). I don’t expect a ton of possessions, and NC State’s defense is iffy enough that even one of the worst offenses in the country could score 14 or 20 points. It also helps that Syracuse QB Tommy DeVito is reportedly ready to return from injury, though it’s not known how much he’ll play.
UCF vs. USF
BET: UCF -24.5 @ -110
UCF QB Dillon Gabriel loves to take deep shots and has a talented bunch of receivers who can make difficult catches and then run. USF’s safeties have not played well all year and are vulnerable to getting toasted time and again by Marlon Williams and company. I expect UCF to score some quick points in this game, and not just because the Knights have the fastest-paced offense in the sport at 86 plays per game. There’s also a ton of bad rivalry blood at play here, and Josh Heupel will not hesitate to run up the score.
College Gameday Picks
Bowling Green vs. Ohio
BET: Ohio -24.5 @ -110
Bowling Green might be the worst team in FBS. I don’t think I’d take them in this game unless they were getting more than 28. Ohio’s offense is explosive. The Bobcats love to go deep to receivers Isiah Cox and Shane Hooks, who have combined for five catches on seven deep targets for 177 yards. I think they’ll add a few more against Bowling Green’s overmatched secondary and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.
Ball State vs. Toledo
BET: Ball State +10 @ -110
Ball State does two things well, and both make them attractive as double-digit underdogs in particular: 1) They run the ball efficiently. They’re fourth in FBS in rushing success rate and first in stuff rate, meaning they almost never fail to get past the line of scrimmage. So the offense stays on schedule and avoids long third downs. 2) They limit explosive plays pretty well on defense, denying teams quick points. These are good traits for a team getting 10 points, and I think the Cardinals can lose by less than that to safely deliver a cover. I would be comfortable with them at +7.5 or higher, and so far they’re getting much more than that.
Nevada vs. Hawaii
BET: Nevada -6.5 @ -115
I waited until this line ticked down from Nevada -7 to pull the trigger. Contrary to the reputations of both Hawaii as a program and new coach Todd Graham, the Rainbow Warriors don’t have much of a passing game. Nevada’s defense is tough, as it showed when it basically shut down San Diego State for an entire half in a slight upset win last weekend on national TV. The Wolf Pack can string together enough points to win by at least a touchdown, I think.
New Mexico vs. Utah State
BET: Utah State +4.5 @ +100
Utah State should probably be an auto-fade rather than a team to back, because the Aggies are horrendous on both offense and defense, have already fired Gary Andersen, and have already dismissed QB Jason Shelley. But I have a hard time justifying UNM laying this many points on the road against anybody. The Lobos are winless just like the Aggies, and I’m comfortable betting this is a close enough game that UNM doesn’t win by more than 4.
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.