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College football predictions, picks and best bets from handicapper Brett Ciancia. See which games he's targeting for his best bets of the week

College Football Predictions: The Best Bets From Around the Country for Rivalry Week

Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma Prediction

Since Mike Gundy took over in 2005, Oklahoma State is just 2-14 against their biggest rival Oklahoma.  Yes, Oklahoma was favored most years as they chased conference titles and Playoffs.  But even in the years when Oklahoma State was favored, it seemed their playcalling got conservative and predictable, and the struggles continued.

The good news for the Cowboys this year, is that mindset actually plays to their strengths now.  For years, Oklahoma State was a hyper-tempo, pass-heavy offense that found themselves in weekly Big 12 shootouts.  But in 2021, they have a slower tempo, run-heavy, ball control offense designed to complement one of the nation’s strongest defenses.

Credit Gundy and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles for piecing together a conference title caliber team in a year where they were the consensus #5 Big 12 team in the preseason media polls.

In Bedlam 2021, we have a “strength vs. strength” when Oklahoma has the ball.  Oklahoma’s offense is ranked #1 (Big 12) in scoring offense, yards/play, QB Rating, and is #2 in yards/carry.  Oklahoma State’s defense is #1 (Big 12) in all four of those categories.

Pick Six Previews’ Game Grader formula has loved Oklahoma State here down the stretch – look for Gundy to finally break through.

Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State odds

Prediction: Oklahoma State 27, Oklahoma 20

Pick:  Oklahoma State -4  @ -110

Notre Dame vs. Stanford Prediction

It is hard to believe, but Notre Dame is very much alive in the Playoff discussion.  At 10-1, a win Saturday in California places Notre Dame as one of the few 0-loss or 1-loss Power 5 teams.  After a shaky start with close wins over Florida State, Toledo, and Purdue, Notre Dame has rounded into form and is fresh off of a 55-0 blowout win over Georgia Tech.

Notre Dame is also the only Playoff contender that will not be playing on Championship Saturday, which means this game is their last chance to impress the Playoff Committee.  They will be motivated to keep their foot on the gas and keep scoring.

Meanwhile, no team in Power 5 has had a worse three-game stretch.  In Stanford’s last three games they are 0-3, by an average score of 43-10, and an average yardage differential of -340 yards per game.  That is historically bad.

Stanford has already been eliminated from bowl season, while Notre Dame has motivation to keep scoring.  They will make their closing argument in style.

Notre Dame vs. Stanford odds

Prediction:  Notre Dame 45,  Stanford 17

Pick:  Notre Dame -20  @ -110

Ohio State vs. Michigan Prediction

Like Oklahoma’s Bedlam Game, here in Ann Arbor, we have another bitter rivalry with the conference title and Playoff chances at stake.  Ohio State and Michigan will battle for the Big Ten East division title – the winner gets a trip to Indianapolis as the last hurdle to the final four bracket.

When Ohio State has the ball, we will see one of the premier trench battles of the 2021 season.  Ohio State’s offensive line features three legit All-America candidates and as a unit they place #1 (Big Ten) in pass protection Sack Rate.  They will be tested by the Big Ten’s top two in sacks, Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, coming off the edges of the Michigan defensive line.

New defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald has done an excellent job rebuilding the Michigan defense, but this will be by far their toughest test.  Ohio State’s offense is perfect at every position group:  that offensive line, paired with the nation’s best receiver trio, the nation’s #1 2021 running back recruit, and now a healthy and experienced quarterback in Heisman contender CJ Stroud.

Jim Harbaugh is 0-5 against Ohio State, and this isn’t the Buckeye team to break the trend against.

Ohio State vs. Michigan Odds

Prediction:  Ohio State 38, Michigan 27

Pick:  Ohio State -8  @ -110

Penn State vs. Michigan State Prediction

Michigan State is fresh off of the 2nd biggest Top 10 beatdown in Big Ten history.  And a review of their resume reveals many close wins and lackluster yardage differentials.  Obviously what Mel Tucker and staff have done is an incredible feat, but from a predictive viewpoint, Penn State should be favored here.  Now with head coach James Franklin re-committed with a 10-year contract extension, look for a focused Penn State team, and for the nation to finally see how elite their defense is this season.

Penn State vs. Michigan State odds

Prediction:  Penn State 24,  Michigan State 16

Pick:  Penn State -1.5  @ -110

Illinois vs. Northwestern Prediction

Northwestern (and Indiana) have distanced themselves at the bottom of the Big Ten this season.  My double fade of them went 2-0 ATS last week, and we’ll continue here.

Illinois vs. Northwester odds

Prediction:  Illinois 28,  Northwestern 17

Pick:  Illinois -6.5  @ -110

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