| November 23, 2019 06:00 AM
Oklahoma was cutting it close for a while, but their historic comeback win helped my picks last week go 3-0 straight up and 2-1 against the spread. With the College Football Playoff getting closer and closer each week, let’s dive into the three biggest games of week 13.
My record after week 12: Straight up – (28-8), against the spread – (23-12, with one push)
No. 9 Penn State (9-1) at No. 2 Ohio State (10-0) (Noon EST on FOX)
Ohio State is really good. Like, really, really good.
The Buckeyes have the nation’s top-scoring offense and the top-scoring defense as well. The offense is averaging an obscene 51.5 points per game while the defense is allowing just 9.8 points per game. They’re also converting on third down at a 58.5% clip.
Justin Fields is playing at another level but will probably finish as the Heisman Trophy runner-up to LSU’s Joe Burrow. Fields has thrown for 2,164 yards and is completing 69.1% of his throws. He has 31 touchdown passes and just one (!) interception. If you factor in his 10 rushing touchdowns, he has combined for 41 touchdowns on the season.
Penn State, playing in its biggest game of the season at Minnesota, allowed Tanner Morgan to go 18-for-20 for 339 yards and three touchdowns. I assure you that Fields can put up similar numbers.
J.K. Dobbins, who has nearly 1,300 rushing yards on the season, is the feature back averaging seven yards per carry with 13 rushing touchdowns. However, Master Teague III can’t be ignored. He has over 700 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns, and is averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Penn State has the nation’s fourth-best run defense. Will the Nittany Lions be able to contain the Buckeyes’ fourth-ranked rushing offense?
Sean Clifford has had a great year for Penn State, but he played poorly against Minnesota. On the season, Clifford has thrown for 2,450 yards with 22 touchdowns and six picks while completing 59.6% of his passes. Penn State’s offensive line will definitely have its hands full against Ohio State’s defensive line. The Buckeyes are tied for second in the nation in sacks with 42.
Sean Clifford is my X-factor in this game because he’ll have to give a herculean effort in order to keep Penn State in this game. The Nittany Lions have an outstanding defense, but were carved up and gashed for big gain after big gain against Minnesota. They also allowed Indiana to score 27 on them in Happy Valley. I don’t like their chances.
The spread: Ohio State (-18.5)
My pick: I’m picking Ohio State to win this game. Shocker! They’re the better team, and they’re playing at home. That being said, this line is pretty high. Still, based on what I’ve seen from Ohio State offensively, I’m taking the Buckeyes to cover the spread.
Texas A&M (7-3) at No. 4 Georgia (9-1) (3:30 p.m. ET on CBS)
Georgia’s win on the road at Auburn locked up its third consecutive SEC East title. Now it has to take care of business in its final two games against Texas A&M and Georgia Tech before heading to Atlanta to battle for the SEC Championship and to keep hope alive for a playoff spot.
Jake Fromm takes care of the football and has thrown for just under 2,000 yards on the season. He’s completing 64.8% of his passes and has thrown 16 touchdowns and just three picks.
Georgia’s strength is its defense and running game. The Bulldogs have the nation’s second-ranked scoring defense and are allowing just 10.5 points per game. D’Andre Swift leads Georgia’s top-25 rushing attack. He has over 1,000 rushing yards along with seven rushing touchdowns and is averaging over six yards per carry. Brian Herrien, his backup, has five rushing touchdowns and is also averaging over five yards per carry.
Aggies QB Kellen Mond is probably the best quarterback that the Bulldogs have played all year. It’s close between him and Notre Dame’s Ian Book.
Mond has thrown for over 2,400 yards and 18 touchdowns with six interceptions. He’s also completing 64% of his passes and is second on the team in rushing yards (400) and rushing touchdowns (seven). He’s not afraid to put his body on the line.
My X-factor in this game will be Texas A&M’s offensive line against Georgia’s front seven. Mond will need time to throw, and the Aggies will need to open up some running lanes if they want to keep Georgia’s defense honest. The Bulldogs are going to send pressure from a bunch of different directions. If the Aggies aren’t stout up front, they’re going to fall behind the chains on first and second down. That’s a really bad spot to be in when you’re playing on the road against this Georgia defense.
The Aggies ran for just 53 yards against Clemson and a meager 56 yards against Auburn and lost both games. They ran for over 100 against Alabama and got smoked. Those are their three losses: two top-ranked teams and a top-10 team. The Bulldogs better come ready to play.
The spread: Georgia (-13)
My pick: The Bulldogs play way too conservatively in big games against good teams for me to think that they’re going to win by two touchdowns. I’m going with the Dawgs to win, but I’m taking the points too.
Texas (6-4) at No. 14 Baylor (9-1) (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1)
Baylor was up 28-3 (a scoreline I’m very familiar with as an Atlanta Falcons fan) and collapsed in the second half in its loss to Oklahoma. Now Baylor’s undefeated season is over, and its shot at the national title is all but gone. The Bears are faced with the unenviable task of getting ready for another good team in Texas.
Here’s the good news for the Bears: Baylor gained 113 yards on the ground and just 197 yards through the air against the Sooners. Texas’s defense is statistically worse than Oklahoma’s in almost every way.
Charlie Brewer did it all last week for Baylor, accounting for four touchdowns. Baylor will need a similar performance out of him today.
The Longhorns bent but didn’t break often against the Iowa State Cyclones last week and stormed back to take the lead late before losing on a last-second field goal. This is a team that only lost to LSU and Oklahoma by a touchdown. They definitely had their chances to beat the Tigers but couldn’t get it done.
The Longhorns offense is definitely dangerous. They’re ranked 17th in the country in scoring offense and averaging 36.1 points per game. On the other hand, the Bears’ scoring defense is ranked 24th nationally, so we could see strength against strength.
Texas QB Sam Ehlinger started the season on an absolute tear and has cooled off a bit. He has thrown for over 2,900 yards this season and 27 touchdowns along with eight interceptions. He’s completing 65.3% of his passes and has added another five rushing touchdowns this season as well. Texas needs to stay aggressive offensively if it wants to win. Playing conservatively will only play into the hands of this strong Baylor defense.
While Ehlinger is no Jalen Hurts, he’s still a very special player with great intangibles. Texas ranks sixth nationally in third-down conversions at 50.7%. If the Longhorns want to stay in this game, they’ll need to keep the chains moving on third down.
My X-factor for this game is Charlie Brewer against Texas’s linebackers. Will Texas be able to keep Brewer in the pocket? Will it be able to disguise coverage schemes, blitz effectively, and knock him off his rhythm? Those will all be important factors.
The spread: Baylor (-6)
The pick: I don’t know if Baylor is going to be able to put last week’s loss behind them and beat an angry Texas squad that just let a win slip through its fingers in Ames. Even though I think the Bears have the better team, I’m taking the Longhorns and the points.
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.