THE LOAF: WEEK 12 COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS

STAFF WRITER: Michael Brown

Welcome back to The Loaf! We’re back at it again for Week 12 of the season, and what can I say? I just keep getting that TOA$$$$T. We had another 6-1 slate this past weekend: the lone loss was Tulane (-11.5), but we caught dubs with Syracuse (-20.5), Kansas (+12), Tennessee-Kentucky (UNDER 42.5), Oklahoma State (+21), Clemson-Boston College (UNDER 59.5), and West Virginia (-11.5). I really have to work on the Group of 5, but other than that, we’re doing sensational. We are now at 12-2 on the season after two weeks of picking games, which you just love to see.

In sugarcoated terms, the slate for Week 12 is complete and utter garbage. We’ve got so many FBS-FCS games on the slate, and plenty of Power 5-Group of 5 games. Of the four teams in ABC and FOX’s respective prime time games, three of them are either Group of 5 or Kansas. Don’t let that get you down, though. It’s a College Football Saturday. We must love all College Football Saturdays the same, and there will still be plenty of opportunities to build on consecutive 6-1 weeks on The Loaf. (NOTE: I originally had the Under 45 in Stanford-Cal, but the game was postponed due to air quality from the fires out west. I couldn’t find a replacement pick I loved, so we’ve got just six plays this week)

I have just two losses so far in the brief history of The Loaf, and both are in the only two Group of 5 games I’ve played. I figure the best thing to do is just rip the band-aid off, get this one out of the way, and lead off with UTEP (+7.5) at Western Kentucky. Do yourself a favor, though, and do not watch this game. Don’t subject yourself to it. Both of these teams are awful. Just absolutely dreadful, a combined 2-18 on the year. But somebody has to win this game, and I feel like the Miners have been trending upward (relatively speaking), competing most of the time, while Western Kentucky is getting waxed week in and week out. And that’s not to say UTEP wins the game outright, but it could. Western Kentucky is probably the better team, which is apparent with this spread, but I just refuse to trust Western Kentucky to win a game by more than a touchdown, regardless of the opponent. These are not the Hilltoppers of Jeff Brohm. Western Kentucky 27, UTEP 24

It worked out very well for me last week, so I’m gonna keep riding the fade Kansas State train with Texas Tech (-6) at Kansas State. What on earth is this number doing at anything less than 7? I get that Texas Tech may not have its quarterback, but I still think they should win this game by at least a touchdown. K-State is really, really bad; they cannot move the ball. I mean, they (predictably) came extremely close to losing to Kansas last week. Texas Tech has actually been decent on the defensive side of the ball this year too. Not great, but decent, which is plenty good enough against this Kansas State team. It’s gonna sleepy at kick, 2:30 CST in front of a quiet crowd in Manhattan. Texas Tech will be rolling in looking to reach that coveted 6th win to become bowl eligible too. I just feel like they’re going to want this one more than K-State will. The Red Raiders will be able to move the ball regardless of who is under center, and Kansas State is going to have a hard time scoring, as it has all year. For what it’s worth, S&P+ has Texas Tech winning this game by more than two touchdowns, and I can’t say I disagree. Texas Tech 31, Kansas State 14

I’ve got three dogs this week, and Nebraska (+2.5) vs Michigan State is probably my favorite of the trio. I really feel like Nebraska should be favored in this game. Don’t let the 3-7 record fool you; this team isn’t bad. Adrian Martinez is a beast slingin’ the rock and the morale is sky high amongst everyone in Lincoln right now. The confidence in Scott Frost is understandably high, and you’d have to imagine, especially if they can finish this season off strong, that the Huskers will be favorites in the Big Ten West next season, or a very trendy pick at the very least. The defense is still leaving some to be desired, but that’s not a big issue with a team like Michigan State coming in. The Michigan State offense is absolutely terrible.

scott frost

New Nebraska HC Scott Frost has developed a sense of confidence around his program, and a win this week against Michigan State would go a long way in boosting that morale even more – PHOTO CREDIT – Getty Images

Brian Lewerke is so bad at quarterback, and it’s hard to see him walking into Memorial Stadium and having a good day. His receivers get no separation, and he struggles to get the ball near them. It’s just hard to watch, man. Interestingly though, Scott Frost actually recruited Brian Lewerke: “I remember Lewerke coming out of high school from Pinnacle in Arizona and I went and watched him and was impressed with him, so I know what kind of player he is.” You might see the epically named Rocky Lombardi some too with Lewerke struggling and also injured. I still don’t think that will matter though. With Nebraska moving the ball the way it is, and playing in front of its home crowd, you’d imagine they win this game. So if you’re gonna give me 2.5, I’ll take it. Nebraska 28, Michigan State 17

Games of the Week have treated The Loaf well, so we’re back at it again with #3 Notre Dame (-9.5) vs #12 Syracuse at Yankee Stadium. Ah yes, the Shamrock Series, where Notre Dame, at the request of absolutely nobody, converts one of its home games into some type of “show on the road” thing and hosts a neutral site game and wears some disgusting alternate uniforms. Now, all of that aside, Notre Dame is a great team, and will win this game. The Orange are good, fun to watch, and trending upward with Dino Babers at the helm, but they just aren’t there yet. Notre Dame is stout on defense, and should be able to keep Eric Dungey and crew at bay for the most part. On the other side of the ball, Syracuse struggles to defend the run, and Notre Dame does that quite well. It just feels like Notre Dame is going to score a lot, and Syracuse probably won’t.

Ian Book

Notre Dame QB Ian Book (12) should do well this week against an average Syracuse defense, and lead his Irish to a big win – PHOTO CREDIT – ABC

Ian Book is due for a good game after missing last week against Florida State, and I think this is a good opportunity for him to do so. Syracuse hasn’t been great away from the Carrier Dome, especially on defense, giving up nearly 30 points a game in its 4 games outside the Dome. Dino Babers didn’t really sound like he was expecting a dub either, “I think at some positions, we’re able to rotate guys, I think at other positions, we’re one injury away from the floodgates. If something like that were to happen, it would not be good for us. We are at the very bare minimum at some of those positions, and at some of those positions not even that. It’s a typical November in some senses, and we don’t have the depth that they have. They have more good players, more players that are more flexible, and I’m sure they’re more healthy than we are.” This could be interpreted a few different ways, though. It might have been something along the lines of, “In case we don’t win, just remember I told you we were at such a disadvantage.” I feel like, more so, this is a not-very-confident Dino Babers who was trying to rain on the parade that was the hype around his team, at least in a way that it wouldn’t get to their heads as much. Cuse has done well in the underdog role under Babers, so he probably wants to stay there. They won’t be the underdogs forever, but they’re a year or two away still. Notre Dame 38, Syracuse 24

Coming into the season, many expected the Miami-Virginia Tech game to be for the Coastal Division. Instead, these teams are both still looking for win number 6 (Virginia Tech is actually still sitting at 4 wins), and neither is all that great. I like Miami (FL) at Virginia Tech (UNDER 51.5). Both of these teams have just been so, so fraudulent this season. The Hokies have been uncharacteristically bad on defense. It’s not pretty. The solution to the problem may be a struggling Miami offense, and, overall, a team that seems to have punted on the season. The quarterback situation at Miami with Malik Rosier and N’Kosi Perry has been bizarre to say the least. Perry will likely start again this week, and I really think it should be Perry.

N'kosi

Miami RB Deejay Dallas (13) will be looking to bounce back for Miami this week after a somewhat quiet outing against Georgia Tech last week – PHOTO CREDIT – John Amis, AP

The thing is, neither has been overly impressive, and it’s hard to imagine either of them going into Lane Stadium and consistently moving the ball down the field. Someone asked Mark Richt about his players’ thoughts on the possibility of former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant coming in as a transfer, and he said, “We don’t ask anybody’s permission to do that,” he said. “We recruit every year at all positions. We recruit high school kids. We look at junior college kids. We look at guys that might transfer that aren’t graduates.” Bryant would be an upgrade over both Perry and Rosier, though, and I think most Miami players understand that. Meanwhile, Ryan Willis leads a very pedestrian Virginia Tech offense against a Miami defense that’s actually really good, and is full of studs who will eventually be playing on Sundays. The Hokies aren’t going to score much, and there’s a solid chance we’ll see the turnover chain make multiple appearances in this game. So, even with Virginia Tech’s defense playing the way it is, I don’t see any offense doing much to light up the scoreboard in this one. It’s gonna be ugly. Virginia Tech 24, Miami (FL) 20

We’re gonna wrap it up this week in the SEC with Tennessee (+6) vs Missouri. I was very close to taking Tennessee last week, but I decided not to. The Vols turned around and opened a can on Kentucky, and now I’m back again this week, this time not shying away from it. I don’t wanna sit here and act like Tennessee is a great team, or even a pretty good team, because they aren’t. But they definitely aren’t bad, and are much improved from both last season and even early this season.

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Jarrett Guarantano has looked good for Tennessee this season, and the Vols will need him to continue to play well if they want to upset Missouri – PHOTO CREDIT – AtoZ Sports Nashville

Jarrett Guarantano seems to be improving week after week after week, and he’s going up against a Missouri defense who definitely wouldn’t be classified as world-beaters. With the wide receivers he has, I can certainly see him putting up some points this game for Tennessee. Missouri, meanwhile, has been very mediocre this season. They were great against a pretty bad out of conference schedule, but the Tigers are 2-4 in SEC play, and Drew Lock has been kinda average-like in SEC games. They had to hold on for dear life against Vanderbilt last week, and just haven’t looked very impressive at all in conference play this season. It would be great for Tennessee to reach a bowl in Jeremy Pruitt’s first season, and I think they’ll come out very motivated to get that sixth win in front of their home crowd at Neyland. I say it all the time, but it’s true. College Football is typically about which team wants it more, and I think, in a game between two teams that are comparable in skill and coaching, Tennessee will want this one a lot more, and will have 100,00+ behind them in support. Gimme the Vols outright. Tennessee 31, Missouri 20

There you have it, Week 12’s Loaf. Enjoy your College Football weekend, everyone! And, as always,

LET’S GET THIS TOA$$$$T

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