It’s the most exciting time of the year in college football, a rivalry week teeming with spotlight games that matter for the multi-conference playoffs. Anything can happen when hated teams meet and seasons can be derailed if the favorites lack performance. Ohio State takes on Michigan on Saturday in a battle of the undefeated, where the victor decides his own fate in the national title picture.
USC’s home showdown with Notre Dame is another nationwide showdown that tells the Trojans they must win. And in Clemson, the Tigers are looking to avoid becoming the second team in a row that South Carolina has been knocked out of the playoff race.
Season results: Brad Crawford (80 years old)-32 straight; 65-43-4 against the spread); Chris Hammer (74-38 in a row; 63-45-4 ATS). The 4-5-1 weeks match for both of us against the spread is the first losing week of the pair in two months this season, so it had to happen sooner or later. Neither of us foresaw South Carolina’s win over Tennessee, but we managed to nail Kentucky, keeping it close to top-ranked Georgia. We thank everyone for following this season and wish you and your family a happy holiday season.
By picking for the week’s biggest game of rivalry, starting with the Egg Bowl on Thursday in Oxford, Mississippi.
Mississippi State on Ole Miss -2.5
Hammer (Pick: Mississippi State +2.5): I’m interested to see how the Ole Miss dressing room reacts to all the talk around Lane Kiffin. Whatever anyone says at Oxford, such assumptions matter. And I think we saw that last week against Arkansas. As for the game itself, Mississippi’s passing attack should succeed against the holey secondary rebels. My biggest question is whether the sometimes problematic defense of the Bulldogs can slow down Quinshon Judkins. Give me the state of Mississippi, they ended a two-game losing streak in this series. … Mississippi State 27, Ole Miss 24.
Crawford (pick: Ole Miss -2.5): I still have Ole Miss ahead of Mississippi State, but my confidence in the Rebels is starting to fade. As Hammer mentioned, the distraction factor is strong due to rumors of Kiffin moving to Auburn, but coach Ole Miss denies that his team leader is away from it. This is an important place for both teams and Ole Miss takes the Citrus Bowl victory. It’s not an official game this week, but I’ll take the home team. … Ole Miss 30, Mississippi 27.
State of North Carolina at UNC -6.5
Hammer (Pick: NC State +6.5): It’s a fun matchup between NC State’s good defense and Tar Heel’s excellent offense. Conversely, a poor Wolfpack offense – perhaps with his third QB line – will clash with a poor UNC defense. I’m really leaning towards NC State’s cover in this situation because seven out of 10 UNC games this year against FBS competitors were decided by 10 points or less. Tar heels don’t tend to knock people off their feet because their defense loses points in batches. … UNC 28, NC State 24.
Crawford (Pick: UNC -6.5): NC State is now a MASH division with multiple injuries leading up to last week’s defeat in Louisville. This season-end spiral against the Wolf Pack was unexpected, but perhaps more shocking was that UNC lost 17 points in a home loss to Georgia Tech last week. NC State should be able to move the ball against a porous defense, but I like Drake May in a big recovery effort. … UNC 31, NC State 24.
Oregon -3.5 in Oregon
Hammer (Pick: Oregon State +3.5): Oregon is on alert. The Beavers not only have the best defense the Ducks have seen since Georgia, but they also have the best 35 rushing yards per game. With Bo Nicks limping a bit and this game taking place in Corvallis, I think something crazy could happen in Civil War. Earlier this year, Oregon almost lost its USC status. I think they manage to pull this disorder at home. … Oregon State 28, Oregon 27.
Crawford (select Oregon +3.5): In case you haven’t been paying attention, it could be argued that Oregon and Washington State are the two teams currently playing the best Pac-12 football on both sides of football. USC may be a playoff contender, but it’s the Beavers and Huskies who dominate the competition. Nix’s availability is unknown at the time of publication, and his impact is significant if he was at 100%. I like the home team here, which brings a bit of chaos elsewhere in the Pac-12 title game. … Oregon State 30, Oregon 28.
LSU -9.5 at Texas A&M
Hummer (selection: LSU-9.5): How much does the A&M line-up still want to be there? That is the question. LSU has everything on the line. Aggie just has pride, and I wonder how this lineup will behave in this situation. I’d love to pick A&M as a cover – I feel like it’s going to happen – but I can’t justify that with the way Aggie has been played lately. Texas A&M hasn’t broken the 30-point barrier this season and needs to score to keep up with LSU. The tigers are rolling. … LSU 38, Texas A&M 24.
Crawford (Pick: LSU -9.5): Last week, LSU played one of their most complete games of the season against UAB, which is indicative of the team’s level of concentration against faceless opponents. Texas A&M hasn’t shown that it can move the ball at a constant speed all season, so why change anything here? Admittedly this line is weird and I thought it would open at 5pm or so. I will take over the cover with a team that has improved over the course of the season. … LSU 31, Texas A&M 10.
South Carolina at Clemson -14.5
Hammer (Pick: South Carolina +14.5): Clemson 34, South Carolina 24.
Crawford (Pick: South Carolina +14.5): I’d say 30 points is the magic number for the Gamecocks in this game if they’re going to break Clemson’s seven-game winning streak in the rivalry streak. You rarely see the Palmetto Bowl listed among the top 10 college football rivalries, but it has to be. These two fan bases hate each other, and that contempt is real. For the first time in years, South Carolina will enter this game with confidence, and while most matches in this series have not been single-possession games over the past decade and will change, this will. … Clemson 27, South Carolina 24.
Baylor in Texas -7.5
Hammer (Choice: Baylor +7.5): As is often the case with the Longhorns, whether a team can keep up depends a lot on whether its QB can attack a vulnerable Texan minor. Can Blake Shapen do it? This year it has been rather inconsistent, which does not give me much confidence. The same can be said for Quinn Ewers, however, so that’s something to keep in mind against Baylor’s brash front that can keep Texas’ running game in check to some degree. I’ll take Baylor under cover. The Bears have played everyone (except K-State) closely this season. … Texas 35, Baylor 28.
Crawford (pick: Baylor +7.5): I’m probably overestimating Baylor at this point – you’ve been warned. I believe Dave Aranda will come up with a game plan that will make this matchup competitive and the Bears will react to last week’s stunning loss against TCU with a solid game. I’m not picking a clean win here, but you’ll be watching this game in the fourth quarter to close out the Big 12 season. … Texas 34, Baylor 33.
Notre Dame at USC -6.5
Hammer (Pick: Notre Dame +6.5): Fun fact about USC: The only Power Five defense the Trojans have played this year is Oregon. As it turned out, that game was decided by three points. Notre Dame enters this game with the 25th overall national defense in yards per game. This is by far the most difficult USC defensive test of the season. And while I don’t like the Irish offense, they move the ball well enough to take advantage of the terrible USC defense. Given that this game takes place in Los Angeles, I still choose the Trojans. But I expect it to be close. … USC 34, Notre Dame 31.
Crawford (Pick: USC -6.5): Lincoln Riley’s defense is not at the level of a national champion, we know that. But USC is aiming for more, and I’m sure we’ll continue to see Trojans scoring quickly despite facing a tough opponent. I mentioned a month ago that if USC wins on schedule, the Trojans will be in the final four. They are two wins away from this. USC’s 2022 cover selection worked well for me, so I’m going to do it again. … USC 35, Notre Dame 27.
Auburn in Alabama -21.5