| November 16, 2019 07:00 AM
My picks had a tough time in week 11, going 1-2 straight up and 1-2 against the spread. Like Alabama, it’s time to bounce back. There is no shortage of ranked match ups this week, with no room for error for teams in the playoff hunt.
Record after week 11: Straight up – (25-8), against the spread – (21-11, with one push)
No. 4 Georgia (8-1) at No. 12 Auburn (7-2) (3:30 p.m. ET on CBS)
Saturday brings us another installment in the Deep South’s oldest college football rivalry. The Bulldogs have won five of the last six games and are looking to extend their recent streak of dominance. Georgia can wrap up the SEC East title and keep its dreams of a trip to the College Football Playoff alive with a win. Auburn’s shot at the SEC West is gone, so the Tigers’ focus is on building momentum for the Iron Bowl against Alabama and trying to secure a spot in a New Year’s Day bowl game such as the Sugar Bowl.
All that separates these two teams when it comes to rushing offense is 3.4 yards per game. But there is a much bigger gap when it comes to run defense. Auburn is ranked 21st nationally against the run, along with Michigan, allowing just 112.7 rushing yards per game. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have the country’s fourth-best run defense, allowing fewer than 75 rushing yards per game, and have yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season.
Auburn has the country’s 13th-ranked scoring defense and is allowing 17.4 points per game. The Bulldogs? They’re second in the nation at 10.1. The Bulldogs also average a full point more per game on offense than the Tigers do. Georgia is ranked in the top five nationally in total defense and is allowing just a smidge over 260 yards per game. I have a hard time seeing true freshman Bo Nix having a lot of success against this aggressive and talented defense.
Both defenses are great at preventing third-down conversions. Although Auburn’s defense allows third-down conversions just 31.2% of the time, Georgia is even better, with a 29.6% rate.
Florida held the Tigers to 2-of-14 on third down, 124 yards rushing, 269 total yards of offense, and 13 points.
LSU held the Tigers to 5-of-18 on third down, 130 yards rushing, 287 total yards of offense, and 20 points.
Auburn lost both games.
The X-factor in this game will be D’Andre Swift against Auburn’s linebackers. I expect Swift, who averages more than six yards per carry and has seven rushing touchdowns on the season, to pile up some impressive numbers. The key, however, will be yards after contact. Can the Tigers wrap him up before he gets to the second level or will he gash them for big plays?
The spread: Georgia (-3)
My pick: I believe the Georgia defense will frustrate Nix, and the Bulldogs’ running game will help them control the tempo on the road. I’m taking Georgia to win and cover.
No. 8 Minnesota (9-0) vs. No. 20 Iowa (6-3) (4:00 p.m. ET on FOX)
Iowa City and Kinnick Stadium, in particular, are where national title dreams famously go to die.
After an incredibly emotional victory over undefeated Penn State last week, Minnesota stayed unbeaten and took further control of its destiny in the Big Ten West and College Football Playoff race.
After a close loss to Wisconsin in Camp Randall, where they gave up 250 rushing yards to Jonathan Taylor and only lost by two points, the Hawkeyes now have the job of spoiler, a role they have played brilliantly throughout the years.
Nate Stanley won’t wow you, but he’s effective. He has thrown for nearly 2,200 yards this season with 12 touchdowns and five picks while completing 60.7% of his passes. On the other sideline, Tanner Morgan has been a paragon of efficiency for the Golden Gophers. He has thrown for 2,100 yards and 21 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He’s also completing 67.9% of his passes. Morgan is ranked fourth nationally in passing efficiency behind Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, and Joe Burrow and is one spot ahead of Justin Fields. That’s incredibly impressive company.
It’s hard to have a better day than Morgan had against an elite Nittany Lions defense last week. He was 18-of-20, a 90% completion rate, for 339 yards, three touchdowns, and no picks. Although he’s completing more than 71% of his passes and has yet to throw an interception on the road this year, I expect that to change on Saturday.
Iowa is ranked 10th nationally in passing defense, 20th in run defense (even after giving 300 yards last week), 29th in red zone defense, 11th in total defense, and 4th in scoring defense.
The spread: Iowa (-3.0)
My pick: Remember how I said Kinnick Stadium was where national title dreams go to die? I think we’ll see another tombstone erected this afternoon. After that win against Penn State, I think the Golden Gophers might be a little drained, both physically and emotionally. I’m taking the Hawkeyes to win and cover.
No. 10 Oklahoma (8-1) at No. 13 Baylor (9-0) (7:30 p.m. ET on ABC)
Talk about a turnaround for Baylor! Matt Rhule went 1-11 in 2017, his first year at the helm in Waco. The Bears went 7-6 the next year and won the Texas Bowl. Now? They’re undefeated with a legitimate shot to win the Big 12.
The reason I don’t think Baylor has been getting a lot of love nationally is that the Bears have merely been surviving against some of the weaker Big 12 teams instead of thrashing them.
Oklahoma has the nation’s second-ranked scoring offense. The Sooners are fifth nationally in passing and 13th in rushing. They also have Jalen Hurts, a Heisman candidate who leads the country in passing efficiency. Hurts has thrown for 2,742 yards, 24 touchdowns, and just four interceptions while completing 73.3% of his passes. He’s also leading the Sooners in rushing yards (869) and rushing touchdowns (15) while averaging seven yards per carry.
Baylor has the nation’s 17th ranked scoring defense. Will that hold up against Oklahoma? I doubt it. The Sooners have scored at least 34 points in every game and have scored 40 or more in eight of their nine games.
Still, the Sooners’ defense is vulnerable. Kansas State proved it, and Oklahoma nearly blew a 21-point lead against Iowa State last week in Norman. My X-factor for this match up is Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer against the Oklahoma secondary. Brewer has thrown for 2,338 yards, 16 touchdowns, and four picks while completing 67.3% of his throws. Can Brewer stretch the Sooners’ defense and beat them down the field? If the Bears are down early or late, Brewer will have to be the one that leads them back.
One area that Baylor does excel in is turnovers. If the Bears can create some short fields and score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals, they’ll be able to build momentum or at least put a dent in Oklahoma’s.
Baylor will probably need big games from John Lovett, who is averaging 6.3 yards per carry, and JaMycal Hasty, who is averaging 5.8 yards a touch, to keep the explosive Oklahoma offense off the field and give its defense some rest. Baylor has the nation’s 41st-ranked rushing offense while the Sooners have the country’s 51st-ranked rushing defense. It’s not exactly strength against weakness, but the Bears will need to exploit every advantage they have if they want to beat the Sooners.
The spread: Oklahoma (-10.5)
The pick: The injuries that Oklahoma sustained last week won’t stop Hurts and Co. from beating Baylor. I’m taking the Sooners to win and cover.
Noah Niederhoffer (@NNiederhoffer) is a producer at SiriusXM and a graduate of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Originally from Atlanta, he now lives in Washington, D.C.