TOP 25 PICKS: Unbeatens try to avoid upsets; Utah faces USC
There are 14 undefeated FBS teams heading into the second half of the college football season. No more than seven can get through championship Saturday that way.
Of those 14 unbeatens, all but one is guaranteed to avoid playing another unbeaten team between now and the College Playoff Football selections on Dec. 6.
That would be No. 3 Utah, the last remaining unbeaten team in the Pac-12. Despite not having to face another team with a perfect record, the Utes road to an undefeated season and a spot in the playoff is anything but smooth.
A major hurdle to clear comes Saturday when Utah goes to Southern California. The Trojans have lost three games and had their coach fired, but as they showed last week at Notre Dame there is no shortage of talent at USC.
In fact, odds-makers favor USC, so don’t call it an upset if the Utes fall to Troy.
Speaking of upsets, only one game matches ranked teams this weekend – No. 15 Texas A&M at No. 24 Ole Miss. If the national title race gets a shake, it will be come from somewhere unexpected.
THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
No. 20 California (plus 3) at UCLA
Even with two conference losses, Bruins can still hope for a Pac-12 title – but not with three … UCLA 35-28.
No. 22 Temple (plus 3) at East Carolina
Pirates aren’t getting much attention in the American, but they have close losses at Florida and BYU … EAST CAROLINA 27-20.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
No. 18 Memphis (minus 10) at Tulsa
Potential trap game for Tigers coming off huge win against Mississippi … MEMPHIS 45-38.
No. 3 Utah (plus 3 1-2) at Southern California
Trojans could use a coach like Utah’s Kyle Whittingham … USC 33-27.
No. 15 Texas A&M (plus 5 1-2) at No. 24 Mississippi
After Ole Miss’ loss to Memphis, it would probably be in the SEC’s best playoff interests to have the Rebels out of the conference title picture … UPSET SPECIAL, TEXAS A&M 31-29.
TRYING TO STAY UNBEATEN
No. 1 Ohio State (minus 21) at Rutgers
Buckeyes one of two No. 1 teams in New Jersey this weeknd; top-ranked Coastal Carolina of FCS is at Monmouth … OHIO STATE 45-20.
Iowa State (plus 37) at No. 2 Baylor
Bears trying to reach 60 points for the sixth straight game … BAYLOR 63-28.
No. 6 Clemson (minus 6 1-2) at Miami
No. 9 Florida State (minus 6) at Georgia Tech
Couple weeks away from an ACC showdown in Death Valley, both contenders are on upset alert … CLEMSON 28-24 and FLORIDA STATE 31-24.
Indiana (plus 16) at No. 7 Michigan State
Spartans have won six straight meetings and 10 of 11 against the Hoosiers … MICHIGAN STATE 38-21.
Western Kentucky (plus 16 1-2) at No. 5 LSU
WKU QB Brandon Doughty is averaging 387 yards passing per game … LSU 45-24.
Kansas (plus 33 1-2) at No. 14 Oklahoma State
Cowboys have not had many easy games … OKLAHOMA 51-17.
No. 19 Toledo (minus 14 1-2) at UMass
Last Saturday game of the season for Rockets who move into weekday (hash)MACtion in November … TOLEDO 38-28.
No. 21 Houston (minus 21 1-2) at UCF
Knights are only team in FBS averaging less than 4.0 yards per play (3.87) … BEST BET, HOUSTON 42-10.
Tennessee (plus 15) at No. 8 Alabama
Tide winning streak in series is eight … ALABAMA 38-20.
Washington (off) at No. 10 Stanford
Huskies freshman QB Jake Browning is uncertain to play because of a shoulder injury … STANFORD 31-13.
Texas Tech (plus 14 1-2) at No. 17 Oklahoma
Sooners QB Baker Mayfield went from walk-on to starter at Texas Tech then transferred to Oklahoma … OKLAHOMA 42-30.
No. 23 Duke (plus 2 1-2) at Virginia Tech
Hokies get QB Michael Brewer back from a shoulder injury … DUKE 20-14.
No. 25 Pittsburgh (minus 6 1-2) at Syracuse
Panthers lead the ACC in sacks with 22 … PITTSBURGH 27-20.
Georgia Southern (plus 6) at Appalachian State – (at)andrewside89
Top two teams in the Sun Belt … APPALACHIAN STATE 31-27.
Auburn (plus 5 1-2) at Arkansas – (at)j-albritton
Loser takes last place in the SEC West … ARKANSAS 31-21.
Utah State (minus 5) at San Diego State – (at)VegasAggie
Potential Mountain West championship game preview … UTAH STATE 24-17.
Last week’s record: 16-5 straight; 13-8 vs. spread.
Overall: 105-37; 75-62-3.
Upset specials: 3-5.
Best bets: 2-4.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org