The Athletic

College football rivalry week odds, picks against the spread: Michigan, Ohio State finally meet for showdown

Conference races, division races and rivalries are at the forefront of the final week of the college football regular season. The massive Michigan at Ohio State showdown is finally upon us after both teams slogged through tough victories last week, but there’s plenty more at stake elsewhere.

Both division races are settled in both the SEC and the ACC, but both divisions are up for grabs in the Big Ten. The Michigan-Ohio State winner will claim the Big Ten East while Iowa controls its destiny in the Big Ten West. In the Pac-12, USC is assured of its spot in the conference title game while Oregon has to win at Oregon State to secure the other spot. In the Big 12, TCU awaits either Kansas State or Texas. If Kansas State wins at home against Kansas, the Wildcats will get a second shot at the Horned Frogs.

USC’s spot in the Pac-12 title game is locked in, but the Trojans’ hopes of making the College Football Playoff ride on a win against Notre Dame on Saturday. Plus, there’s the Egg Bowl and the Iron Bowl in the SEC.

Kickoff times are Eastern. Rankings are from the CFP rankings.


Mississippi State at No. 20 Ole Miss—7 p.m. ET Thursday on ESPN

The Egg Bowl between Ole Miss and Mississippi State might not get the same nationwide attention as some of the other big rivalry games, and it may not have national championship or playoff implications, but it is consistently one of the most underrated rivalries in the country. And it is time for it once again, with No. 20 Ole Miss entering as nearly a field goal favorite over the cross-state rivals.

After winning seven consecutive games to open the season and climb as high as No. 7 in the country, Ole Miss has dropped three of its past four games and two in a row. Mississippi State has also gone through a rough patch, losing three of its past five games while playing an absolutely brutal part of its schedule with Alabama and Georgia over a three-week stretch.

This game presents a contrast of styles as Ole Miss brings in one of the nation’s best ground games, averaging more than 278.3 rushing yards per game, the third-highest total in the country. The only two teams ahead of them are service academy schools that run the option, Air Force and Army. The Rebels have a two-headed monster at running back with Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans leading the way, while quarterback Jaxson Dart is also capable of making plays with his feet. Each has rushed for more than 550 yards this season. Judkins, a freshman, is closing in on the 1,400-yard mark while Evans is 101 shy of 1,000. Evans is coming off of a 207-yard game against Arkansas.

Mississippi State, meanwhile, brings in Mike Leach’s air raid offense and relies almost entirely on the pass. Quarterback Will Rogers leads the SEC in pretty much every major counting passing category, including completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns. That passing attack has resulted in some big numbers across the offense, as the Bulldogs have seven different players with at least 30 catches this season, and five different players with at least 40 catches.

They struggled against the better defenses and ranked teams on the schedule (Kentucky, LSU, Alabama, Georgia), but has been explosive against everybody else. Leach is looking for win the Golden Egg for the first time after losing his first two games against Ole Miss.

Expert picks against the spread

Picks made at Ole Miss -2.5


Nebraska at Iowa—4 p.m. ET Friday on Big Ten Network

This year’s Iowa-Nebraska game is set to renew in its typical Friday-after-Thanksgiving slot. The Hawkeyes are double-digit favorites at home in what’s projected to be a low-scoring affair.

The Huskers should have two goals ahead of the game that will take place at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. First, they’ll want to snap a seven-game losing streak to the Hawkeyes. And second, rivalry aside, Nebraska could really use a win that would send the Huskers into the offseason on a high note. For that to happen, a lot may be required of quarterback Casey Thompson and the offense against one of the nation’s stingiest defenses.

Despite scoring fewer than 20 points per game on the season, Iowa sits atop the Big Ten West with a 5-3 record and will win the division with a victory. Unquestionably, the Hawkeyes’ defense is doing the heavy lifting. The defense is allowing 13.5 points per game and 273.3 total yards per game to opponents. Getting to face a Cornhuskers offense that’s only slightly better than their own should be good news for Iowa and something bettors should take note of when wagering on the total.

If Iowa loses, the door is open for Purdue to win the division at Indiana. If both lose there could potentially be a mess of teams with 5-4 Big Ten records.

Expert picks against the spread

Picks made in Iowa -10.5


No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State—noon ET Saturday on Fox

The biggest game of the weekend is unquestionably Saturday’s Michigan-Ohio State meeting that some refer to simply as “The Game.” The Buckeyes, which are favored by more than a touchdown, are looking to avenge their loss from a year ago at The Big House.

This matchup between the Buckeyes and Wolverines will serve as college football’s post-Thanksgiving treat from Ohio Stadium in Columbus. Something has got to give this Saturday when the Buckeyes’ highest-scoring offense in college football (46.5 points per game) takes the field against the Wolverines’ defense, which allows the fewest points per game (11.7) of any team in the nation. For Ohio State to crack the Michigan defense, it’s likely that BetMGM’s odds-on favorite to with the Heisman Trophy, quarterback CJ Stroud, must perform as such.

Outside of a strong defensive performance, Michigan will need to get something from its offense. How much they’re able to get could depend on the status of star running back Blake Corum, who’s accounted for nearly 40 percent of the Wolverines’ offensive touchdowns this season. He injured his knee last weekend against Illinois and was forced to make an early exit. His status for Saturday’s game is still unknown. Donovan Edwards, who has also had big plays at running back behind Michigan’s strong offensive line, was out against Illinois. With both Corum and Edwards out down the stretch against Illinois, Michigan’s offense struggled against a quality defense.

Expert picks against the spread

Picks made at Ohio State -8.5


Auburn at No. 7 Alabama—3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on CBS

This year’s Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn may not have college playoff or SEC championship implications, but it is still a big game for both teams. Alabama is entering as more than a three-touchdown favorite.

So what exactly are the stakes for this game, aside from in-state bragging rights?

For Auburn, it is simply getting to bowl eligibility, which would be a pretty significant turnaround from where the season started. A five-game losing streak dropped the Tigers to 3-6 on the season, led to a coaching change, and had them on a path toward what looked like a completely lost season. But thanks to back-to-back wins over Texas A&M and Western Kentucky they could still become bowl eligible if they can knock off their fiercest rivals.

The stakes for Alabama are a little different. It knows it is going to a bowl game, but it is simply a matter of which one. A win over Auburn could solidify a spot in the Orange Bowl or Cotton Bowl, and also give the Tide another 10-win regular season under Nick Saban and avoid their first three-loss season in more than a decade.

Alabama still has the best player on each side of the ball in this matchup (Bryce Young at quarterback, Will Anderson on defense) and has the definite talent edge on paper. But rivalry games like this don’t care about stats or rosters. A better Alabama team than this one needed multiple overtimes to knock off an unranked 6-5 Auburn team a year ago. Anything can happen in these games.

Expert picks against the spread

Picks made at Alabama -21.5


No. 9 Oregon at No. 21 Oregon State — 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC

After surviving a tough test against Utah last week, Oregon controls its destiny for the Pac-12 title game. If the Ducks win at the rival Beavers, it will be USC vs. Oregon in Las Vegas next weekend. If the Beavers spring the upset, Washington and Utah have a chance to get in.

Quarterback Bo Nix was visibly limited against the Utes. An ankle injury suffered in a loss against Washington two weeks ago was still bothering Nix last week. The typically mobile QB was more of a pocket passer. That worked for a while, but the Oregon offense stalled in the second half.

The Beavers have a solid defense that allows just over 20 points per game, but is stronger against the run. Limiting a potentially still hobbled Nix will be key in this matchup.

Oregon has won 12 of the last 14 against the Beavers, but Oregon State has won two of the last three meetings in Corvallis.

Expert picks against the spread

Picks made at Oregon-3.5


No. 15 Notre Dame at No. 6 USC — 7:30 pm ET Saturday on ABC

It’s been a while since a USC-Notre Dame game has felt this big. One or both teams have been down for many of the recent matchups. The Trojans are chasing a College Football Playoff spot and Notre Dame is chasing a New Year’s Six bowl berth. This time around USC is favored by nearly a touchdown.

With USC likely controlling its destiny for a CFP berth, it’s a tough road ahead. Not only is Notre Dame playing as well as it has all season, but the Pac-12 title game awaits next week.

Caleb Williams was massive last week in a close win against UCLA and has two more showcase games to cement his Heisman Trophy campaign. Williams has emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the country this season with 33 touchdown passes and 3,480 yards with only three interceptions.

Running back Travis Dye is out injured, but Austin Jones stepped up last week with 120 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.

The Irish have had a solid defense all season, but the offense labored for much of the first half of the season. However, in each of the last five games Notre Dame has scored at least 35 points. ND has had 100-yard rushers in four of the past five games.

Notre Dame has won four in a row against the Trojans, but just one of those was in LA.

Expert picks against the spread

Picks made at USC-6.5


Pick records

Writer last week overall

Chris Vanini

1-4-1

49-42-3

Dan Santaromita

1-4-1

45-46-3

Austin Mock

3-2-1

44-47-3

Ari Wasserman

3-2-1

44-47-3

Brody Miller

1-4-1

41-50-3

(Photo by Caleb Williams: Tommy Gilligan/USA Today)

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