It’s taken until mid-November, but No. 6 Baylor will finally get a chance to prove it belongs in the playoff conversation, as the Bears face off this weekend against No. 12 Oklahoma in their toughest test so far. Would a win be enough to vault Art Briles and company into the top four?
Each Thursday, Stewart Mandel, Bruce Feldman, Joel Klatt and Jim Ross will make the calls on who’ll win the weekend’s most intriguing matchups.
Speaking of intrigue, we’ll also see whether No. 2 Alabama can avoid a letdown vs. No. 17 Mississippi State, and whether No. 7 Stanford can keep polishing its playoff resume vs. Oregon. Oh, and let’s not forget the Pac-12’s other playoff hope, No. 10 Utah, which will have to win on the road vs. Arizona.
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In addition to our straight-up picks, Mandel and Feldman will dive a little deeper into the games with their picks against the spread.
Feldman: David Cutcliffe’s team has had a chaotic two weeks after the wild loss to Miami and the blowout loss to arch-rival UNC. I think they’ll bounce back here, though. Duke 24, Pittsburgh 20
GEORGIA (+1.5) at AUBURN
Mandel: Auburn may go with QB Jeremy Johnson again due to Sean White’s knee injury – and that’s still more clarity than the Dawgs’ still-muddled quarterback derby. Auburn 23, Georgia 17
Feldman: The Tigers showed some spark last week at Texas A&M, and the hunch is it’ll continue against a visiting UGA squad that is averaging just 16 points in its past five games. Auburn 28, Georgia 20
ALABAMA (-8) at MISSISSIPPI STATE
Mandel: A post-LSU letdown for Alabama is inevitable, and the Tide offense may struggle, but the Bulldogs’ inability to run the ball consistently eventually does them in. Alabama 26, Mississippi State 17
Feldman: ‘Bama is coming off a huge win over LSU and now has to go on the road. I could see a little letdown from the Tide. Dak Prescott is playing very well and this is the best dual-threat QB the Tide will face in the SEC this year. Alabama 30, Mississippi State 24
MIAMI (+12.5) at NORTH CAROLINA
Mandel: The Tar Heels are humming, and while QB Marquise Williams and the offense get most of the attention, coordinator Gene Chizik’s D will shut down the ’Canes. North Carolina 36, Miami 20
Feldman: Larry Fedora’s team is No. 2 in the nation in yards per play, and the Heels are also much improved on D as well. UM is third-to-last in the ACC in defense, and the ‘Canes are allowing a dismal 6.2 yards per play on the road. North Carolina 35, Miami 27
MEMPHIS (+7) at HOUSTON
Mandel: Houston is a lot better than the committee is giving it credit. Dynamic dual-threat QB Greg Ward Jr. shreds Memphis’ defense as the Cougars remain perfect. Houston 34, Memphis 27
Feldman: UH’s offense is as potent as the Tigers’, and they have a much better defense and make a lot more plays (25 turnovers gained). Houston 42, Memphis 27
Mandel: Arkansas’ offense has quietly picked up steam of late, led by QB Brandon Allen (6 TDs vs. Ole Miss). The Razorbacks sneak up on a now-exposed LSU defense. Arkansas 38, LSU 35
Feldman: The Hogs have allowed an SEC-worst 21 rushing TDs this season, and I suspect the Tigers will be very determined to help Leonard Fournette get back on track. LSU 30, Arkansas 17
OREGON (+10) at STANFORD (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on FOX)
Mandel: Oregon’s offense has improved since QB Vernon Adams Jr. returned, but its 105th-ranked D remains a mess. Stanford QB Kevin Hogan takes advantage. Stanford 52, Oregon 35
Feldman: Vernon Adams and the Ducks’ offense have both heated up. Expect them to get it tight, but look for the Cardinal O-line to wear down Oregon in the fourth quarter and pull out a close win. Stanford 34, Oregon 27
OKLAHOMA (+3) at BAYLOR
Mandel: If this game were in Norman I’d likely pick the surging Sooners, but Baylor has won 20 straight in Waco and its offense rarely sputters in friendly confines. Baylor 45, Oklahoma 40
Feldman: Lincoln Riley’s offense has gotten cranked up, but the Bears are at home, where they’re much sharper and I think they’ll be ready for their first big test of 2015. Baylor 45, Oklahoma 44
UTAH (-6) at ARIZONA (10 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1)
Mandel: Has anyone noticed that Utah is back in the top 10 and very much alive for the playoff? Devontae Booker runs all over the Wildcats’ 72nd-ranked rushing D. Utah 31, Arizona 23
Feldman: The ‘Cats gave USC all it could handle last week, but they’ve been skidding for weeks now. I think Kyle Whittingham’s team will get some revenge after getting embarrassed 42-10 at home by ‘Zona last November. Utah 37, Arizona 27
WASHINGTON STATE (+9.5) at UCLA
Mandel: Pass-happy Wazzu is not built to exploit the Bruins, which own the nation’s 81st-ranked rushing defense but 16th-ranked pass efficiency D. UCLA cruises. UCLA 48, Washington State 34
Feldman: The Cougars’ offense has been terrific, but I’m not sure their O-line will be able to hold up for four quarters against a talented Bruins front led by Kenny Clark. UCLA 45, Washington State 31
Mandel: The Gamecocks are coming off consecutive road games at Texas A&M and Tennessee they lost by a touchdown each. They catch Florida at the right time. South Carolina 23, Florida 17
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE (+2.5) at SOUTH ALABAMA
Feldman: A pair of 4-4 teams. I’ll go with the Cajuns to get their offense going again after Mark Hudspeth challenged them following a couple of dismal outings. Louisiana-Lafayette 30, South Alabama 23
SEASON RESULTS AFTER WEEK 10:
Mandel: 76-39 (including upset picks)
Feldman: 75-40 (including upset picks)
Klatt: 64-29 (minus games he called on FOX or FS1)