Week 15 picks: Wisconsin dashes Ohio State’s Big Ten title, playoff hopes & more
Editor’s note: Every Thursday during the season, Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel will present their picks for the week.
Below are Week 15’s selections (all times ET). Enjoy.
IOWA STATE (+34) at No. 3 TCU (Saturday, Noon, ESPN)
Mandel: Yes, the Cyclones are 2-9, but wow that’s a big number. Then again, TCU has shown it’s capable of putting up 82 and is going to want to make one last statement for the selection committee. TCU 61, Iowa State 24.
Feldman: Gary Patterson and Trevone Boykin will put the pedal to the metal to try and fend off the teams right behind them in the rankings. ISU — the team that was blown out by Kansas and is winless in the Big 12 — won’t be able to hang. TCU 55, Iowa State 13.
LOUISIANA TECH (+12) at MARSHALL (Saturday, Noon, ESPN2)
Mandel: Rakeem Cato and the Herd face their toughest defense of the season in the form of coordinator Manny Diaz’s 21st-ranked unit. But here’s guessing Marshall doesn’t have a second straight defensive disaster like it did against Western Kentucky. Marshall 30, Louisiana Tech 17.
Feldman: Yes, the Thundering Herd have a terrific QB in Rakeem Cato and some really good skill talent, but Tech is excellent at causing turnovers and has plenty of firepower too (No. 12 in scoring). I like the experience they got early in the season facing some of college football’s resident heavyweights, and I’m calling a big upset.Louisiana Tech 35, Marshall 30.
OKLAHOMA STATE (+20) at No. 20 OKLAHOMA (Saturday, 3:30, FOX Sports 1)
Mandel: I expect Oklahoma State’s offense to perform better than it has in some time, with freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph making his second start after an extra week to prepare, but I just can’t see the Cowboys slowing down Samaje Perine. Oklahoma 44, Oklahoma State 34.
Feldman: The Cowboys are reeling and have been in a free fall, having lost five in a row — with the closest loss being by 21 points. This one should be a rout by halftime. Oklahoma 45, Oklahoma State 9.
No. 1 ALABAMA (-14.5) vs. No. 16 MISSOURI (Saturday, 4, CBS)
Mandel: Missouri’s exceptional D-line, led by Shane Ray and Markus Golden, could win the matchup with ‘Bama’s sometimes underwhelming O-line. They’ll likely get some pressure on Blake Sims and slow down the Tide’s running game. But Mizzou’s own offense is limited, and Nick Saban’s D will play much better than it did against Auburn. Alabama 27, Missouri 10.
Feldman: Lane Kiffin’s got the Tide O rolling, averaging over 40 ppg in the last six, and WR Amari Cooper is a matchup nightmare. As well coached as Gary Pinkel’s program is, they just don’t have enough athletes to beat the Tide. Alabama 31, Mizzou 14.
No. 9 KANSAS STATE (+9) at No. 6 BAYLOR (Saturday, 7:45, ESPN)
Mandel: Kansas State faces a conundrum. Its best hope is to slow down the game, but its best chance of moving the ball on Baylor is through big plays in the passing game with receivers Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton. The Wildcats can exploit the Bears’ defense, but they can’t keep up in a shootout. Provided Bryce Petty’s health is OK, he should have a big night on the big stage. Baylor 45, Kansas State 35.
Feldman: Art Briles’ team was very shaky last week, but they’re back at home and being this close to the rainbow, look for them to be much sharper and avoid some of those knucklehead penalties and breakdowns that caused them so many problems against Texas Tech. Baylor 38, K-State 24.
No. 4 FLORIDA STATE (-4) vs. No. 11 GEORGIA TECH (Saturday, 8, ABC)
Mandel: If ever there was a week for Jimbo Fisher to let stud RB Dalvin Cook carry the load, this is it. For one thing, the Jackets rank 106th in the country in rushing defense (5.08), but more so, the ‘Noles should want to shorten the game and keep Paul Johnson’s highly efficient offense off the field. Georgia Tech is good enough to run away with it if Jameis Winston throws another three or four picks, but the bigger the stakes, the better he usually plays. Florida State 35, Georgia Tech 27.
Feldman: The ‘Noles have had all they could handle from a lot worse teams, but again, I expect Jameis Winston and FSU to come through. It also helps that they have a former Tech defensive assistant on staff — DC Charles Kelly — to help get them up to speed for Paul Johnson’s attack. FSU 27, Ga. Tech 24.
No. 5 OHIO STATE (+4) vs. No. 13 WISCONSIN (Saturday, 8, FOX)
Mandel: It would be one thing if J.T. Barrett’s injury occurred a month ago, giving replacement Cardale Jones time to acclimate himself to game action, but instead he makes his debut against a top-15 team in the conference championship game. Ohio State needs to make it an ugly, low-scoring game, but its defense has slipped back of late and seems unlikely to slow down Badgers star Melvin Gordon.Wisconsin 38, Ohio State 27.
Feldman: Urban Meyer has to count on his (former) third-team QB Cardale Jones, who has loads of talent, a lot of speed and a solid O-line around him. The Buckeyes have endured an emotional week, and my hunch is, from being around the program for a few days this week, this group will respond to it very well. Meyer and long-time strength coach Mickey Marotti say it’s as close as any team they’ve ever had. Ohio State 24, Wisconsin 23.
FRESNO STATE (+21.5) at No. 22 BOISE STATE (Saturday, 10, CBS)
Mandel: It seems to happen about every other year: a 6-6 team makes its conference championship game. And the Bulldogs have done it in a strangely symmetrical fashion, losing three straight, then winning three straight, then losing three straight again, then winning three straight again. So we know what comes next. Boise State 45, Fresno State 20.
Feldman: OC Mike Sanford’s offense for Boise has averaged over 53 ppg in its past five games and will give the porous Bulldog defense (No. 104 in scoring D) way too many challenges. Boise State 50, Fresno State 17.
No. 2 OREGON (-14.5) vs. No. 7 ARIZONA (Friday, 9 p.m., FOX)
Mandel: Arizona’s consecutive wins over Oregon were no fluke. Rich Rodriguez’s team is well-equipped to handle the Ducks’ blur offense, because the Wildcats’ hurry-up spread is based on similar concepts. Scooby Wright and the Arizona defense won’t let Marcus Mariota treat them like he does most opponents, but Oregon’s own defense has improved down the stretch and won’t get run over this time. Oregon 34, Arizona 27.
Feldman: OK, I’m doubting my guy Scooby Wright, which means he’ll probably go on and make 20 tackles and have eight TFLs, but I just can’t see any Pac-12 team beating Marcus Mariota three times in a row. Oregon 42, Arizona 31.
The Result: Oregon 51, Arizona 13
BOWLING GREEN (+6.5) vs. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (Friday, 7 p.m. ESPN2)
Mandel: While the MAC championship game has a recent history of upsets — including BG over undefeated NIU last season — the 10-2 Huskies appear to have a more complete team than the 7-5 Falcons. Northern Illinois 27, Bowling Green 20.
Feldman: BG comes into this one having lost two in a row and three of its last five. The Falcons are dreadful on D (No. 101 in scoring D). I think the Huskies will be too physical for them. NIU 41, Bowling Green 31.
The Result: NIU 51, Bowling Green 20
Mandel through Week 13: 101-59 straight-up, 79-81 vs. spread
Feldman through Week 13: 101-59 straight-up, 80-80 vs. spread