Gary Landers/Associated Press
Had it not been for a few small, calamitous moments, these first few sentences would have been a celebration of Locks of the Week and its return to dominance.
That said, many of those little moments didn’t go our way. A 4-4 week could have easily been 6-2. And while some would be frustrated by this result—and believe me, I shared a few pointed words with my televisions on Saturday—I like where we are and where we’re headed.
Trust the Process, as Nick Saban says.
After that 4-4 showing in Week 11, I am 29-22 on the year. I realize that record is simply not acceptable to you, the reader, who is expecting more. And I’m going to give you more in Week 12. Before I give you the picks, let’s explore the good and the bad from the week prior.
The Good, Tulsa: The game against SMU started as bad as it could have. A pick-six, a fumble and a deluge of penalties put Tulsa in a 21-0 hole. But the Golden Hurricane responded. The defense played fabulous. It wasn’t pleasant to watch, even if the outcome was delightful. It was a grind for a 28-24 result and a satisfying Tulsa cover.
The Bad, Texas Tech: Rough. That’s all I can say. Down the entire game against Baylor, Texas Tech stormed back, and SaRodorick Thompson was running free into the end zone for the cover. But instead of scoring, he purposely fell and set up a chip-shot, game-winning field goal. I had minus-1.5 in the column. Texas Tech won by a single point. That was suboptimal.
I could go on with The Bad. Virginia Tech should’ve covered. Western Kentucky should’ve covered. Purdue-Northwestern should’ve hit the over. We could’ve been perfect. But let’s not dwell on what we can’t change. Let’s make money instead.
Here are the Week 12 selections, using point spreads provided by DraftKings.
NC State (-3.5) vs. Liberty
Ethan Hyman/Associated Press
If I were a bad football team in need of a head coach, I would take a look at Hugh Freeze. Some background-check-related items would need to be combed through, but Liberty’s skipper clearly knows how to coach.
With that said, this is a tricky matchup and a fascinating point spread against North Carolina State. While that would sound odd most years, Liberty is No. 21 in the AP Poll and one of the darlings of the 2020 season.
At home this year, NC State is unbeaten against the spread. And had the Wolfpack not given up a late lead in excruciating fashion to Miami a few weeks ago, they might even be ranked.
This feels like a good spot, and I like NC State’s offense. In a game that will likely be filled with points, the Wolfpack will melt the Freeze hype.
Yes, it was intentional, and I’m not sorry. Maybe a little sorry.
Penn State (+2.5) vs. Iowa
Barry Reeger/Associated Press
I have won picking Iowa. I have lost picking Iowa. Now, I’m picking against Iowa in a game your football-loving friend is undoubtedly going to text you about. Here’s a synopsis of what that text will look like:
Hey, did you see that Iowa line? Penn State is so bad. They just lost to Nebraska! They’re 0-4! This is free money. We have to bet Iowa.
I get it. Penn State has not won a game, and Iowa is a few plays away from being 4-0. I’m not here to defend the Nittany Lions, but they have lost to two Top 10 teams (Ohio State and Indiana) and been hit with both opt-outs and injuries.
This series historically produces weird results. But of late, Penn State has dominated—covering the spread in five of six years. While this year is very different for a variety of reasons, the theme will continue. Penn State in a nail-biter.
Minnesota (+3) vs. Purdue
Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press
Oh, I’m not done sorting through the Big Ten dumpster. There are still gems to unearth, even if they need polishing. Penn State isn’t the only team I’m pegging for a bounce-back. I also like the Fighting P.J. Flecks on Friday night.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Minnesota’s performance against Iowa the week prior was grotesque. The offense was stale. The defense was essentially nonexistent. I understand why you would look at this selection and question it.
However, Purdue hasn’t exactly been lights-out. And this point spread, as you probably recognize, is begging for Boilermaker action.
But while the Gophers are clearly nowhere close to what they were a season ago, there is talent on this team. And with that, I will make two predictions: Wideout Rashod Bateman will finish with more than 150 yards receiving. And Minnesota will win this game outright.
Cincinnati (-5.5) vs. Central Florida
Aaron Doster/Associated Press
Although I rarely enjoy being part of a large crowd while picking games, I’m not shying away from it in this instance. Yes, this game opened as a pick’em on Sunday. Yes, that value was long gone after a few hours.
No, that still doesn’t make me want to pick Central Florida. I’m taking Cincinnati, and I’m not sweating the fact that I will not be alone.
I could dazzle you with some fascinating trends surrounding this game. I could tell you that Cincinnati is 5-2 against the spread, while Central Florida is 2-5 against the spread. I could, with all sincerity, tell you why the Bearcats are a legitimate College Football Playoff threat—or at least implore the committee to take them seriously.
But I won’t do that. (Fine, I just did.)
There’s really not much more to add. Cincinnati looks like a special football team, and we’ll see that once again.
Virginia Tech (-3.5) at Pittsburgh
Matt Gentry/Associated Press
Back on the wagon. In previous installments, I’ve doubled down on teams from the previous week that were not winners. As a disclaimer, this is not an emotional play. The goal is simply to find value where it might exist.
I see value here with Virginia Tech. The loss to Miami was a bit of a heartbreaker. It was a game the Hokies looked alive in until the very end. Two losses in two weeks by a combined four points. Yikes.
We’ll see a bounce-back on the road against a team that was struggling until a few weeks ago.
Sure, Pittsburgh crushed Florida State. In 2020, that’s not saying a whole bunch. Before that, the Panthers lost four consecutive games outright and three against the spread (the other was a push).
If Virginia Tech doesn’t beat itself—and look, that feels like a necessary disclaimer—it will win this game nice and cozy.
Other Plays on the Card
Nati Harnik/Associated Press
Nebraska (-14.5) vs. Illinois: We’re Big Ten-heavy this week, although this time I’m targeting a favorite. I know the moments have come in small doses, but I have loved what I’ve seen from Luke McCaffrey at quarterback for the Cornhuskers. This feels like a perfect opportunity for this team to finally unleash on an opponent in a big way. Lopsided victory here.
Army (-4) vs. Georgia Southern: In a sneaky-good game between a couple of quality teams, Army will respond after a tough loss to Tulane. This is the only team this season that played remotely close to Cincinnati’s level. A rebound is in order. Army wins this one by more than a touchdown.
Boise State at Hawaii (Over 59.5): I want to take a moment to tell you how much I appreciate the fact that this game will kick off at 11 p.m. on the East Coast. That’s not solely why I included it here. I promise. But you know you’re going to be looking for action late Saturday night, and when you do, you’re going to want to look for points. There’s going to be a lot of them.
Adam Kramer covers college football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @KegsnEggs. Lines accurate as of 4 p.m. ET Wednesday.
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