Coincidentally, this week’s college football picks feature four Big Ten games. But with many games of note taking place in the conference last week, we are seeing some fallout in the Week 13 lines that could play to our favor.
Week 13 college football picks
No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions at No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes (-18.5, 57.5 over/under), Saturday at noon ET (FOX)
No. 2 Ohio State has made things look easy on their way to a 10-0 start. The Buckeyes are outscoring opponents by 41.7 points per game, leading the nation in both points per game (51.5) and points allowed per game (9.8).
While No. 8 Penn State is off to a 9-1 start themselves, the gap between the two teams is much wider than that.
There’s a reason this point spread is so high despite both teams ranking in the College Football Playoff Top 10.
Penn State leads the nation in rushing yards allowed per play (2.2), which is where the Nittany Lions are strongest, but even that doesn’t give them much of an edge as Ohio State ranks fourth (2.5).
You can still throw against the Penn State defense, and Ohio State has a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback in Justin Fields.
Ohio State defensive end Chase Young returns Saturday after serving a two-game suspension for a violation of NCAA rules. Young’s presence should help steady an Ohio State defense that has allowed a season-high 35 points over the last two weeks. Then again, when you score a total of 129 points across two games, the other team is going to have additional possessions and opportunities.
Penn State did not respond all that well last week, beating Indiana at home, 34-27, as 15-point favorites after losing on the road to Minnesota the week prior. Indiana is a respectable 7-3, so they are far from a pushover, but Ohio State beat the Hoosiers earlier in the season by 41 points.
Good teams win, but great teams cover.
Penn State is a good team, but Ohio State is an absolute powerhouse.
There’s still plenty left for Ohio State to play for, and style points matter as the Buckeyes jockey for seeding in the College Football Playoff, so there should be no concern about Ohio State looking ahead to next Saturday’s rivalry game against Michigan or whatever else may lie ahead.
Pick: Ohio State -18.5
No. 10 Minnesota Golden Gophers (-13.5, 39.5 over/under) at Northwestern Wildcats, Saturday at noon ET (ABC)
At less than two touchdowns, it’s hard not to like No. 10 Minnesota (-13.5) here.
This line seems like an overreaction to Minnesota’s loss last week at Iowa. Now, Minnesota is probably still ranked too highly at No. 10, but there’s no shame in losing to Iowa on the road. Had the Golden Gophers won to continue their undefeated season, something tells me this line would be a lot higher.
Minnesota isn’t one of those schools where the expectations are national championship or bust – and head coach P.J. Fleck isn’t the type to let his team get too down on themselves.
This is still a very good Minnesota defense with talent on offense going up against a 2-8 Northwestern team that hasn’t done much of anything this year.
After weeks of offensive ineptitude, Northwestern scored 45 points last week, failing to cover a 39.5-point spread over UMass in a 45-6 win.
For Northwestern to be a 39.5-point favorite over anyone should tell you just how bad UMass is.
Look for Minnesota to rebound nicely here.
Pick: Minnesota -13.5
Illinois Fighting Illini at No. 17 Iowa Hawkeyes (-15.5, 46.5 over/under), Saturday at noon ET (BTN)
Perhaps an overreaction to last week’s win over Minnesota, No. 17 Iowa is laying way too many points here for a team that doesn’t blow anyone out. Five of Iowa’s last six games have been decided by one possession and the Hawkeyes haven’t scored more than 26 points since a 48-3 win over Middle Tennessee State on Sept. 28.
Illinois has been playing quite well ever since an upset over then-No. 6 Wisconsin on Oct. 19, winning four straight and covering in their last five games.
The Illini were decimated by injuries early in the season and have been forcing turnovers at a rapid rate ever since getting healthy in recent weeks. An outright road win for Illinois is unlikely, but there’s no reason they can’t be competitive against Iowa.
Pick: Illinois +15.5
No. 13 Michigan Wolverines at Indiana Hoosiers, Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
No. 13 Michigan is on a roll, blowing out their last three opponents by a combined score of 127-31 – including a 45-14 rout of then-No. 8 Notre Dame.
With Michigan wanting a win over No. 2 Ohio State next week for pride as much as anything, this feels like a spot where the Wolverines are looking ahead and will come out flat.
Michigan has not beaten Ohio State since 2011 and has lost 14 of their last 15 to their biggest rival. Needless to say, Michigan has bigger things on their mind than Indiana.
However, if Michigan isn’t careful, they could end up losing outright to Indiana.
Before losing to Penn State last week, Indiana was ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1994. The high-powered Hoosiers offense leads the Big Ten is passing yards per game (314.3) and actually outgained the Nittany Lions last week in total yards, 462-371.
Indiana head coach Tom Allen is 0-13 against ranked opponents in his three seasons in Bloomington but has had a few close calls. With Saturday being Indiana’s Senior Day, there would be no better way to send the seniors out in style.
At +300 on the moneyline, Indiana could be worth a small wager as well when making your Saturday college football picks.
Pick: Indiana +9.5
No. 25 SMU Mustangs at Navy Midshipmen (-3.5, 66.5 over/under), Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
Don’t be alarmed by No. 25 SMU allowing a combined 848 passing yards the past two weeks – Navy only has thrown for 870 passing yards all season.
The Midshipmen run an option offense and the Mustangs are allowing a respectable 3.5 yards per rush. SMU is allowing 301.5 passing yards per game – the 124th worst number out of 130 FBS teams – but Navy won’t be able to capitalize on that unless they drastically change their offense. That’s not happening.
Navy is coming off a 52-20 loss to Notre Dame last week, where the Fighting Irish threw for three touchdown passes for 20-yards or more.
Something to consider when making your college football picks: SMU ranks seventh in the nation in passing yards per game (328.1) and should be able to have similar success throwing the ball.
Pick: SMU +3.5
Arkansas Razorbacks at No. 1 LSU Tigers (-43.5, 69 over/under), Saturday at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Last week was a perfect example of just how hard it can be to cover a number this large when Ohio State won by 35 points as a 52-point favorite over Rutgers.
Arkansas and Rutgers are just as comparable as LSU and Ohio State are.
Arkansas has lost their last four games by a combined score of 198-60, which sounds horrific, but even that is an average margin of 34.5 points per game. Included in that stretch were a 48-7 loss at Alabama and a 51-10 loss against Auburn, which, again, are still less than the point spread here.
As dominant as LSU has been, outside of an opening-week win by 52 points over Georgia Southern, LSU’s biggest win this season by margin has been 36 points.
Sure, Arkansas lost last week at home to Western Kentucky by a score of 45-19, but we’re not asking them to beat LSU – they just have to cover.
Pick: Arkansas +43.5
Record: College football picks against the spread
Last week: 3-2