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Alex Kirshner is back in Week 14 with his college football picks

Last week was one of my roughest of the college football season, as I went 7-13. I’ve dipped below .500 for the year over the last two weeks, to a combined 47.8% win rate. It’s been a tricky season. Getting closing line value hasn’t meant much, and COVID has made it harder to both evaluate teams and figure out who will even be playing in a given week. 

But I don’t know if there’s much to change. Almost every computer projection system tracked by The Prediction Tracker has fallen short of the profit zone this year, and most are well below .500. All we can do is follow a sound process, watch a ton of football, beat closing lines, and pick the best numbers we can in a random year. With a few weeks left in the season, that’s certainly possible for me, but I’ll need a strong December. 

In an effort to get there, I make most of my picks on Sundays and Mondays, shortly after lines go up. I’ll provide my rationale for every pick here, and you can assess it for yourself throughout the week, depending on where lines are sitting as you make your own picks. As always this year, these games are subject to cancelation and being declared no action.

*All wagers are for one unit.

Alabama vs. LSU

BET: Alabama -28 @ -115

Alabama has been the best team in college football since halftime of its game against Georgia on October 17. The Tide appear to have fixed their defensive issues from early in the season, when they looked vulnerable against Ole Miss and had to rely on their offense to do all the heavy lifting. The offense is, of course, still dominant, as Mac Jones, Najee Harris, and DeVonta Smith are making a good case that they’re the best QB-RB-WR trio in the country. 

LSU’s season has fallen apart, and the Tigers had one of their worst efforts yet in a loss to Texas A&M last week. Bo Pelini’s defense might be improving incrementally, but the offense was in decline even before star receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. opted out for the season on Sunday. I would play the Tide as up to 31-point favorites against an overmatched rival. 

College Football Expert Picks

Florida vs. Tennessee

BET: Florida -16 @ -115

Tennessee’s offense is in dire straits. The Vols have not identified a suitable quarterback or figured out how to get explosive plays on offense. Their defense has been a disaster over the last month, giving up big plays in the passing game at one of the worst rates in the country. That’s no good at all against Florida, which might have college football’s most dangerous downfield passing game. Kadarius Toney and Kyle Pitts could have massive games. 

I’m comfortable with the Gators at anything up to -19. Tennessee has been as bad as any non-Vanderbilt team in the SEC since the third week of the league’s season. 

Vanderbilt vs. Georgia

BET: Georgia -33.5 @ -110 

Vanderbilt just lost 41-0 to Missouri, so yeah, I will take one of the five most talented teams in the country to beat them by at least 34. Vanderbilt is making a fair case as being the worst team in SEC history, and it probably won’t help them this week that head coach Derek Mason just got fired and they’re now working under interim leadership. On top of that, Georgia’s pass game has really opened up the last few weeks with JT Daniels at quarterback. If the Dawgs air it out like they have been, they should not have trouble covering this spread. 

I would play the Dawgs at anything up to 38 in this game, so I see this is a strong value pick. Vanderbilt is that bad, and so many things are working in UGA’s favor.

NCAA Football Picks

Clemson vs. Virginia Tech

BET: Clemson -21 @ -115

Virginia Tech’s strength is one of the country’s best run games, anchored by QB Hendon Hooker and RB Khalil Herbert. I don’t think the Hokies will hold up so well against Clemson’s terrifying defensive front. Pitt managed to neutralize Tech’s ground game a few weeks ago, and as the Tigers showed last week, they’re a lot scarier up front than the Panthers. Without Tech moving the ball at its usual clip on the ground, Hooker will have to make a lot of throws to keep this game from getting ugly, and I doubt he can against this defense.

On the other hand, Clemson has Trevor Lawrence back and played like a furious team in destroying Pitt last week. Any time you’re betting on Clemson, you’re betting on the Tigers getting up by enough to cover despite pulling Lawrence with a lot of time left and generally emptying the bench. I think they can get up by enough to cover despite all of that. 

Colorado vs. Arizona

BET: Colorado -3.5 @ -115

I’m pleasantly surprised with the 3-0 Buffs in Karl Dorrell’s first year on the job. The offense was better than I expected in Pac-12 wins against UCLA and Stanford, and the defense picked up the slack against a solid Mountain West team, San Diego State, last week. New QB Sam Noyer has been solid in an offense that doesn’t ask him to do all that much most of the time, but he’s been good enough to hit a few deep shots each week. Running back Jarek Broussard has been great. And lucky for them, Arizona’s defense is capital-B Bad. 

The Buffs should move the ball efficiently and hit some explosive plays. I can’t say the same for Arizona’s anemic offense, and so 3.5 doesn’t seem like enough points for CU to be laying. I would feel fine with Colorado at -7 or better and believe I’m getting great value.

College Gameday Picks

Houston vs. SMU

BET: SMU PK @ -110

Unquestionably, the reason SMU isn’t favored is that the Mustangs turned in an inexplicably awful effort against ECU in Week 13. I really have no explanation for why SMU gave up touchdowns on its first six defensive series and, even more confoundingly, scored just a touchdown in falling behind 45-7 at the half. It’s one of the most bizarre results of the season. But given that SMU doesn’t seem unhealthy and put up a much better effort to almost come back in the second half, I’m not inclined to react that strongly to it. 

Houston has been up and down all season and has dealt with a raft of COVID-19 issues. I haven’t seen enough to think they shouldn’t be underdogs in Dallas. 

Florida Atlantic vs. Georgia Southern

BET: Georgia Southern PK @ -110 

FAU is a classic “great defense, no offense whatsoever” team. Watching the Owls is deeply boring, but I’ll admit they can put the clamps down on any offense they face. However, Southern’s defense is solid in its own right, and I expect the Eagles’ offense to move the ball at least a little bit. Will FAU’s on the road? I’m not sure. In a low-scoring game that feels like a tossup, I lean toward the home team, and I’d be OK with GaSo even as a 1-point favorite.

Bowling Green vs. Akron

BET: Akron -3 @ -105

Now that UMass has finished its abbreviated season, Bowling Green is the worst active team in college football. The Falcons have no strengths and have been annihilated in all four of their games by a combined score of 194-54. Last week, they lost 52-10 to Ohio, but the score was 45-10 at halftime and would’ve finished around 70-10 if the Bobcats wanted to run up the score. 

Akron is also winless, but at least the Zips showed life in a 24-10 loss to the same Ohio team that routed BGSU two weeks later. They’ve flashed an occasionally explosive running game behind featured back Teon Dollard, though he was a non-factor last week against Miami (Ohio). The Zips are good value laying just a field goal at home, and I would consider them at anything up to -5. 

It would be almost impossible to get me to pull the trigger on Bowling Green in this game. The Falcons are just too horrendous.

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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