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Alex Kirshner is back in Week 15 with his college football picks

Last week was a strong one for my college football picks. I went 10-5, and I’m still bitter it wasn’t 11-4, as it would’ve been if Florida had not surrendered one of the worst bad beats of the season on a garbage-time, fourth-down heave by Tennessee. I’m 102-110-3 (a 48.1% win rate) on the year, and I need a strong last week of the regular season to put myself in position to reach the profit zone as we get into conference championships and bowls.

As always, I make the majority (though not all) of my picks on Sundays and Mondays, shortly after lines are released. I’ll explain my rationale for every pick here, and you can make the best decision for yourself based on where a number sits when you’re putting in your own bets. I hope you have fun following along and get a more informed read as you make some plays. 

*All wagers are for one unit

Rutgers vs. Maryland

BET: Maryland -7 @ -113 

Rutgers had a few plucky performances at the beginning of the Big Ten’s abbreviated season, but whatever magic was in play in late October and early November has worn off. The Scarlet Knights’ offense is abysmal and doesn’t do a single important thing at even an average level. (Both the passing game and running game are well below national medians in both efficiency and explosiveness metrics, and no one has emerged as a real answer at quarterback.

Maryland has only played four games, but the Terps’ defense has rounded nicely into form when it’s gotten into the field. The offense should be better than it was in a loss to Indiana two weeks ago, because some of the nearly two dozen Maryland players who missed that game should be out of the Big Ten’s COVID protocol by the time this one kicks off. Getting back five-star freshman receiver Rakim Jarrett would be especially useful. I like Maryland a ton as long as the Terps aren’t laying any more than a touchdown and PAT. I would need to be getting more than 10 to consider Rutgers. 

Pitt vs. Georgia Tech

BET: Under 53.5 @ -110

Pitt’s defense generates a ton of pressure on opposing QBs. Georgia Tech’s offensive line gives up a ton of pressure on young signal-caller Jeff Simms. The ingredients are in place for the Yellow Jackets to have a very hard time moving the ball through the air, and while Tech’s running game is a little better, Pitt is also stout in that area.  

When the Panthers have the ball, I don’t expect many fireworks either. Pitt has been clunky on offense all year. QB Kenny Pickett has gotten little help from his offensive line or his receivers, and no one has emerged as a great featured back. Tech’s defense is weak, but I don’t think Pitt is scary enough to punish the Jackets for most of their shortcomings. 

I would prefer the under in this game even if both teams were operating at full strength. Nobody is ever likely to be full-strength this year, which makes the under look even stronger. 

Wake Forest vs. Louisville

BET: Under 64.5 @ -108

A few factors point toward a low scoring output in this game. For one, Louisville’s offense has moved in the wrong direction, scoring 17, 30, and 27 points the last three weeks, all numbers that would leave the under looking good if they held up again. For two, the decline has coincided with the loss of running back Javian Hawkins, who opted out one game before the Cardinal offense really started moving in the wrong direction (and a few days after it scored just seven points in a blowout loss at Notre Dame). For three, UL coach Scott Satterfield spent the week getting publicly flayed for having a conversation with South Carolina about that coaching job, and this has a strong “season falling apart” vibe for Louisville.  

Wake smashed the under the last time it played a game (a 59-53 loss to North Carolina on November 14), but the Deacs don’t have a great offense and don’t have a terrible defense. I expect this game to settle somewhere in the 50s, leaving the under safely intact. 

San Diego State vs. BYU

BET: BYU -15 @ -110

BYU lost to Coastal Carolina in one of the games of the year, but the Cougars still have quite a bit to play for. They need to win this game and get some style points to have a serious chance of getting into a New Year’s Six bowl as an at-large team. SDSU has an elite defense that will make life hard on Zach Wilson and his excellent receiving corps, but the Aztecs’ offense is putrid and will be overmatched against an underratedly tough BYU D. 

BYU could cover just by scoring into the mid-20s, and should cover if it reaches the 30s -- something we can’t rule out, particularly if Tyson Allgeier can rip off a few big runs against an SDSU front that has occasionally sprung big leaks. If this line winds up at 14 or less, I feel even stronger that the Cougars are the right side to be on. 

College Football Expert Picks

Arizona State vs. Arizona

BET: Arizona State -8 @ -115

Arizona’s hapless offense is the biggest reason the Wildcats are not going to win a game in this abbreviated season, and it’s also the reason Arizona State should cover this spread in the Territorial Cup. The Wildcats are bad always, but this matchup is worse than normal for them, and I think they’re going to lose by a lot more than eight points. 

ASU has only played two games, and there’s a ton of uncertainty baked into figuring out anything in the Pac-12 this year. But the Sun Devil running game has so far been unstoppable against two defenses (USC, UCLA) that aren’t great but are probably better than Arizona’s. Herm Edwards splits his careers pretty evenly among three guys (two running backs and QB Jayden Daniels), and in ASU’s two games, the Sun Devils lead the nation in rushing success rate. On the other hand, Arizona’s defense is 92nd in rushing success rate allowed. 

Stanford vs. Oregon State

BET: Oregon State +3.5

The Beavers have some issues, most notably around COVID. QB Tristan Gebbia and brilliant RB Jermar Jefferson didn’t play at Utah last weekend, and I’m not sure of their status for Stanford. But Oregon State hung in pretty well against the Utes anyway and came reasonably close to an upset, instead losing 30-24. I think they could cover 3.5 against Stanford anyway, but I’d feel a lot better about this if it turned out Gebbia and Jefferson were back. 

In general, I like Oregon State’s ability to run the ball against a Stanford defense that isn’t anything like the stereotypical, run-stopping Cardinal defenses of the past.

College Gameday Picks

Appalachian State vs. Georgia Southern

BET: Appalachian State -9 

Welcome to one of the most bitter rivalries in college football, one that traces back to both programs’ days as FCS powers and has continued as they’ve moved into the Sun Belt. Both coaching staffs desperately want to win this game, which means we should be able to judge it mostly on the merits and assume neither team will have given up, as some have by this point in an all-time season. (I say “mostly” because COVID is its own factor.) 

Georgia Southern plays solid defense but has a frustrating offense. The Eagles’ version of the triple option is designed to keep them on schedule with short and steady runs, but they’ve struggled to be as efficient as they need to be while running that system. They also have no passing complement whatsoever, so they’re missing a key ingredient in great option offenses.

App has taken some tough losses of late to Sun Belt leaders Coastal Carolina and Louisiana. My expectation is the ‘Neers will be furious and ready to play. I also think they’ll be able to sell out to stop the run, and send enough bodies toward the line to slow GSU’s ground game. 

Coastal Carolina vs. Troy

BET: Over 51.5

Both teams have incentive to try to score a bunch of points in this game. Coastal needs style points as it makes a case for a New Year’s Six bowl appearance, and Troy coach Chip Lindsey would probably be well served to put up a strong offensive showing to make sure he doesn’t get fired. Add that Coastal’s offense is one of the best in the country and probably would’ve scored more than 22 on BYU if it had more time to prepare, and I feel great about the over. 

Ohio at Kent State

BET: Ohio +6 @ -110

BET: Over 66.5

Kent State has one of the best offenses in the Group of 5 and one of the better quarterbacks in the country in Dustin Crum. The problem is that the Flashes defense is horrific. Like, really, really, really bad, one of the worst in the country at 119th in SP+ entering the week. Ohio has a lesser but still solid offense, and its defense is a grade above Kent’s at 86th.

The Bobcats are going to give up some big plays, but I think they’ll hit several of their own, particularly with some chunk run plays. Kent State’s defense nearly gave up the FBS single-game rushing record to Buffalo’s Jaret Patterson two weeks ago, and the Bobcats have a sound running game that’s averaged 5.6 yards per carry this year, ninth in FBS. If you find OU getting more than four points, I’d consider pulling the trigger. I can’t imagine myself being comfortable playing Kent State as a favorite, because of the Flashes’ defense. 

These feelings also give me confidence in the over, which also works as a slight risk hedge while I bet on the underdog.

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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