Week 12 picks: UGA beats Auburn in Gurley’s return, Bama prevails & more
Editor’s note: Every Thursday during the season, Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel will present their picks for the week.
Below are Week 12’s selections (all times ET). Enjoy.
No. 8 OHIO STATE (-12) at No. 25 MINNESOTA (Noon, ABC)
Mandel: The Buckeyes are bound to come out flat after everything they poured into last week’s Michigan State game. Maybe that means Gopher star David Cobb bursts for some big gains. But while Minnesota did take Iowa to the woodshed, the Gophers don’t have nearly the firepower to keep up with J.T. Barrett and Ohio State for 60 minutes. Ohio State 34, Minnesota 20.
Feldman: The Buckeyes may seem ripe for a letdown after the big win at MSU last week, but I think Urban Meyer will have them re-focused to face a Gopher team that is 6-0 at home and coming off a rout of Iowa. Ohio State 31, Minnesota 17.
No. 19 CLEMSON (-3.5) at No. 22 GEORGIA TECH (Noon, ESPN)
Mandel: Talented Tigers QB Deshaun Watson’s return to the lineup after suffering a broken hand comes just in time for this clash that may determine which team stays alive for an Orange Bowl berth. He should bolster Clemson’s recently uninspiring offense. Meanwhile, the Tigers boast the nation’s No. 1 defense (3.97 yards per play), and with a dominant front led by DE Vic Beasley they’re well-built to slow down Georgia Tech’s run-heavy offense. Clemson 27, Georgia Tech 19.
Feldman: Dabo Swinney’s team is riding a six-game win streak and holding opponents to just 11 ppg over their past five outings. Expect the Tigers (No. 4 in the nation against the rush) to be able to cope with the Tech option attack who last season lost by 24 to Clemson. Clemson 31, Georgia Tech 20.
No. 1 MISSISSIPPI STATE (+8.5) at No. 5 ALABAMA (3:30, CBS)
Mandel: Alabama has been a completely different team at home (48.5 points per game) than away (23.6), presumably because first-year starter Blake Sims is more comfortable in Bryant-Denny. That does not bode well for a Bulldogs defense that is decidedly average — 59th nationally (5.37 YPP). QB Dak Prescott and RB Josh Robinson pose the toughest test to date for Nick Saban’s D, which often struggles with dual-threat QBs, but Sims and Amari Cooper will be too much. Alabama 44, Mississippi State 27.
Feldman: Blake Sims is dramatically better at home and the Tide have more athletes on both sides of the ball, but Dak Prescott’s mobility will give the Bama D some problems especially with Nick Saban’s team coming off a very physical trip to LSU last week. Alabama 28, Mississippi State 23.
No. 16 NEBRASKA (+6.5) at No. 20 WISCONSIN (3:30, ABC)
Mandel: The Huskers can’t get any respect, from either the selection committee (which dropped them three spots this week) or Vegas. But this pick is less about Nebraska than it is Wisconsin, which has been playing much more like Wisconsin since veteran QB Joel Stave reclaimed his job. Stave doesn’t throw a ton but he’s a respected enough passer to keep defenses honest — which only opens more opportunities for star RB Melvin Gordon. He’ll outpace Ameer Abdullah. Wisconsin 38, Nebraska 34.
Feldman: The Badgers are 11-1 at Camp Randall Stadium under Gary Andersen with a victory margin of over 30 ppg and they’re 4-1 against ranked teams at home. I like how Wisconsin’s offense has warmed up around Melvin Gordon and DC Dave Aranda is one of the most underrated coaches in the country. Wisconsin 27, Nebraska 17.
WASHINGTON (+9) at No. 14 ARIZONA (3:30, FOX)
Mandel: Washington, I had such high hopes for you before the season but you just can’t seem to pull it together. The Huskies’ star-studded defense may be able to slow down Anu Solomon, but Scooby Wright at the Wildcats defense have improved considerably over the course of the year. This one could get ugly. Arizona 47, Washington 23.
Feldman: Rich Rodriguez’s D is playing pretty well led by stud LB/DE Scooby Wright, while the Huskies have plenty of star power of their own on D. Ultimately, I’m going with the home team handling a U-Dub bunch that has dropped four of six. Arizona 24, Washington 17.
No. 9 AUBURN (+2.5) at No. 15 GEORGIA (7:15, ESPN)
Mandel: I couldn’t be more excited to see Todd Gurley back on the field. I don’t know that it will make that big a difference. Auburn’s downfall this season has been its lack of a pass rush. Opponents are averaging 7.2 yards per attempt, 78th nationally. Georgia has not demonstrated big-play passing ability. And it’s been maddeningly inconsistent on defense. Auburn can’t afford to be sloppy like it was against Texas A&M, but chances are it’s going to move up and down the field. Auburn 35, Georgia 24.
Feldman: Gurley’s back and he’ll face a Tiger D that is reeling after last week’s debacle against A&M, a 23-point underdog who pulled a huge upset. The Tigers have allowed 36 ppg in the last four times out. Georgia, 34, Auburn 28.
MISSOURI (+4.5) at No. 24 TEXAS A&M (7:30, SECN)
Mandel: This is the week where Missouri gets exposed for its incredibly deceiving 7-2 record. Its one win to date against an SEC foe with a winning record was that strange turnover-fest at Florida. It lost to Indiana and got shut out at home by Georgia. The Tigers’ stout defensive line could cause some problems for Aggies freshman QB Kyle Allen, but Mizzou’s offense, which is averaging just 21.4 points in SEC play, isn’t potent enough to keep pace with a team like A&M. Texas A&M 33, Missouri 17.
Feldman: Kyle Allen burned the Auburn D, but this week he’ll face a better pass rush and get more heat. The reshuffled A&M O-line should hold up pretty well and I expect the Aggies, who had a terrific outing running the ball last week to do so again. The Tigers attack has sputtered for much of the season and I’ll give the edge to the host team even though Mizzou does have two SEC road wins in loud places (South Carolina and UF). Texas A&M 35, Mizzou 30.
No. 3 FLORIDA STATE (-1.5) at MIAMI (8, ABC)
Mandel: The team that finally ends Jameis Winston and FSU’s 25-game win streak is going to have to plain outscore the ‘Noles, which have yet to score fewer than 31 points with Winston at the helm. Miami is one of the few ACC teams with the explosiveness to do it, led by star RB Duke Johnson. But you do have to make a few stops and create a couple of turnovers. I don’t have faith in Miami’s defense to do that. Florida State 42, Miami 30.
Feldman: The Canes are 19-4 when they host top-10 teams, and 1-1 since leaving the Orange Bowl as their home venue, and UM has some playmakers on offense led by Duke Johnson. True freshman Brad Kaaya has emerged as a solid QB, throwing eight TDs and zero INTs in his last three home games, but I’m not ready to pick against Jameis Winston and the defending champs. He’s been too good in the clutch. FSU 24, Miami 20.
No. 17 LSU (+2) at ARKANSAS (8, ESPN2)
Mandel: Vegas says this is the week Bret Bielema’s team finally ends its 17-game SEC losing streak. Vegas is correct. The Tigers are coming off a body-blow loss to Alabama and must now turn around and face a physical Arkansas team rested from a bye week. And Tigers QB Anthony Jennings is too erratic to trust in a tight spot on the road. In fact, this is only LSU’s third road game of the season. Arkansas 24, LSU 20.
Feldman: I’m tempted to pick the Hogs to finally win an SEC game, especially since the Tigers are coming off a battle with Alabama, but I’m playing the hunch that the young Tigers can bounce back on the road. LSU 21, Arkansas 20.
No. 6 ARIZONA STATE (+9.5) at OREGON STATE (10:45, ESPN)
Mandel: It’s been a rough year for Beavers QB Sean Mannion, whose production has dropped from 358.6 yards per game in 2013 to 270.8 this year. Arizona State coach Todd Graham will bring the heat, as he does every week, and while Mannion is savvy enough to get rid of it, his receivers aren’t talented enough to exploit coverage gaps. Arizona State 27, Oregon State 14.
Feldman: It’s been a long season for Sean Mannion and I suspect all the pressure the Sun Devils throw at him will cause a lot of problems. The Beavers have lost four in a row and five of their last six, and none of those last four were playing as well as ASU is now. Arizona State 41, Oregon State 24.
SOUTH CAROLINA (+7) at FLORIDA (Noon, SECN)
Mandel: Steve Spurrier’s made life miserable for a couple of his Florida successors. This one’s going to particularly hurt Will Muschamp. The Gamecocks have struggled on defense this season, but Florida’s is hardly the offense to exploit it. Florida will go conservative and run the ball all night. South Carolina just needs a few big plays from QB Dylan Thompson. South Carolina 20, Florida 17.
TEXAS (-2.5) at OKLAHOMA STATE (7:30, FOX)
Feldman: The Joe Wickline Game is an interesting one with UT starting to heat up, having won two in a row. I think the Horns are playing with more of an edge right now than the Cowboys. Texas 21, Oklahoma State 17.
PITT (+2.5) at NORTH CAROLINA (12:30, ESPN3)
Feldman: Both teams are coming off bye weeks. The Heels return home having dropped five of seven and they’re dreadful on D, ranking No. 112 in rushing defense. That is particularly problematic when you’re facing an offense powered by bruising James Conner, who is coming off a 263-yard rushing performance in his last game. Pitt 27, UNC 20.
Mandel through Week 11: 77-45 straight-up, 61-61 vs. spread
Feldman through Week 11: 78-43 straight-up, 60-61 vs. spread