Each week, The Firelion uses his eyes and heart to pick college football winners against the spread. But he doesn’t make you follow Coastal Carolina on ESPN+. The Firelion wants to add even more enjoyment to your college football watching by only picking nationally televised games. Read on down to see which teams you should rent to be your favorite team this weekend!
What We Learned
2019 Season Record: 35-35
Clutch is a gene, people! Whether it’s a buzzer-beating shot at Madison Square Garden, a term paper being started and finished the eve of its due date, or finding your wife a passable gift when most shelves are empty, you either win in those situations or you apologize. And I downright hate apologizing. Lucky for y’all following my picks, I’m Dame Lillard, Tom Brady, and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s beard in one number-crunching, fire-breathing body. Excuse me while I show my work:
- Win – (Alabama -19) – Alabama 38 – Mississippi St. 7: The big story is Tua’s hip, and his Bo Jackson-injury proved me right that Bama’s defense would be the force behind this win.
- Win – (Michigan -14) – Michigan St. 10 – Michigan 44: The Wolverines continue to roll… too little, too late, but good for them.
- Win – (Under 41) – Georgia 21 – Auburn 14: The Bulldogs tried real hard to blow our win at the end here, which hopefully keeps them out of the playoffs.
- Loss – (Minnesota -3) – Minnesota 19 – Iowa 23: A missed extra point by the Gophers in the fourth blew the push and an over .500 record for your favorite hot feline.
- Win – (Baylor +10.5) – Oklahoma 34 – Baylor 31: What a collapse by the Bears! But luckily the lead was large enough we were never in real danger.
- Win – (Utah -21) – UCLA 3 – Utah 49: If the Utes aren’t included in this column in the final two weeks of the regular season, you can assume I’m taking them. What a roll.
- Loss – (Over 68.5) – Arizona 3 – Oregon 34: (See Utah breakdown above)
You definitely want to hit your stride at the end of the season. And the Firelion is 18-10 over my last four columns. Follow me in the next two weeks and you’ll be able to buy name-brand Christmas presents this year.
The Week Ahead
All lines courtesy of MyBookie.ag
No time to let up now. More is expected out of you when you continue to win, and I’m ready to be your gambling quarterback. I’m agreeing to take all the blame as long as I also get the glory because there can only be happiness in the Firelion’s Den this time of year. Let’s win us some money, why don’t we?
(8) Penn State at (2) Ohio State
- Saturday @ Noon ET on FOX
- Line: Ohio State -19
- O/U: 58.5
Ohio State has been beating folks like their opponents were found covering up domestic abuse. The Buckeyes rank first in points per game as well as PPG Differential, outscoring their opponents by more than 41 points. But Penn State is rolling in as a one-loss, top-ten team and is still nearly a three touchdown underdog?
While Ohio State’s schedule hasn’t been that much better than the Alabama run that everyone mocks, their dominance is undeniable. They’re first in points per game, third in total yards, second in points allowed, and first in yards allowed. Quarterback Justin Fields has a 31-1 TD-INT ratio and has also rushed for 10 touchdowns on the year. Oh, and they get upcoming first overall NFL pick Chase Young back from suspension. Considering the Nittany Lions’ offensive line is ranked 80th in sack percentage, expect some chaos. Oh, the Buckeyes rank third nationally in sacks.
How can Penn State hang in this game? Return the favor by dropping Fields in the backfield. This Nittany Lions defensive lion is on par with Wisconsin’s, which dropped Fields five times in their game a few weeks back. Penn State is unlikely to catch the Buckeyes looking ahead to their rivalry game against Michigan next week as the division is on the line in this game. But the Nittany Lions haven’t lost by 19 since James Franklin’s first season and have played Ohio State within a field goal in each of the last three seasons. Ohio State wins by 10, but Penn State covers the +19.
(10) Minnesota at Northwestern
- Saturday @ Noon ET on ABC
- Line: Northwestern +14
- O/U: 39.5
Well, the Golden Gophers’ magical ride ended after one week. They’re still in the divisional driver’s seat with the deciding game coming up next week at Wisconsin, but their playoff hopes have been all but dashed. This game all depends on if Minnesota is looking ahead. And even then, it may not matter.
Pat Fitzgerald has grown the Northwestern program into one that teams never quite demolish. They play physical and grind it out (Pittsburgh is my 1a example of this type of team that you can bet on in big spreads in cold weather). But this season ain’t that. They’re winless in the Big Ten and give up more yards than anyone in the conference save for their doppelganger, Rutgers. Their two starting quarterbacks have combined for a 4-13 TD-INT ratio and sub-.500 completion percentage. Row the boat one more time at -14.
Texas A&M at (4) Georgia
- Saturday @ 3:30pm ET on CBS
- Line: Georgia -13
- O/U: 43.5
The Bulldogs were barely able to fend off Auburn last week, souring playoff position watchers on Georgia’s validity for that fourth spot. While Auburn’s defense is a top-tier squad, their freshman quarterback, Bo Nix, is still maturing and limits the play selection on offense. I bring that up to say that Aggie signal caller, Kellen Mond, does not have that problem. In addition to his 18-6 TD-INT ratio, Mond and running back Isaiah Spiller have combined for 15 rushing touchdowns this season. Add to that Cordarrian Richardson averaging 9.3 yards per carry on 25 touches.
And while Georgia does rank third in the country in rushing yards allowed, they’ve only faced one team this year that ranks in the Top 50 in total offensive yards per game (Notre Dame ranks 48th). And while Texas A&M ranks 57th in that stat (three YPG less than Auburn), the big play ability is something to look out for when the Aggies come rolling in.
Looking at Texas A&M’s defense, they can lock down lesser opponents, but they’ve given up right around 400 yards in five games this year (389 to Clemson 395 to Arkansas, 448 to Alabama, 405 to Ole Miss, and 433 to Mississippi St.). Georgia averages 415 per game, so don’t expect them to be slowed down too much. There’s little sense in trusting either of these teems fully, so go with the Over 43.5.
Texas at (14) Baylor
- Saturday @ 3:30pm ET on ABC
- Line: Baylor -6
- O/U: 65.5
The Bears of destiny abruptly ended their Cinderella run at the playoffs in devastating fashion, giving up 24 unanswered points in the second half (17 in the fourth quarter!) to Oklahoma last week to lose by a field goal. These are the kind of losses that can stick with a team and create hangover games. But there is a discrepancy that is worth noting in this game (especially considering Texas’ schizophrenic nature).
Texas, after its DBU shirt stunt during the LSU pregame, has given up 300+ yards through the air five times this year and 450+ total yards in six of their ten games. And while not a talked about NFL prospect, Baylor’s Junior QB, Charlie Brewer, is a downright playmaker. Expect him to chalk up another 300+ passing game. Bet on the Bears (formerly of “destiny” fame) at -6.
Tennessee at Missouri
- Saturday @ 7:30 pm ET on SECN
- Line: Missouri -4
- O/U: 46
The Vols are one win from going to their first bowl since the Obama administration. While they do play host to Vanderbilt next week, in a game Tennessee is favored to win by 20 at this point, their recent record against the ‘Dores makes the Orange and White faithful ready to go ahead and clinch that trip. Missouri is also looking for their sixth win as they will also be 3-TD home favorites over their opponent, Arkansas.
Honestly, there isn’t much of anything special about either of these teams. Why did I pick it? Because it’s one of the few tight spreads this week and I, unlike most everyone else, have been watching the momentum that this Volunteers team has been growing over the past two months.
It’s also very possible that Missouri is a dumpster fire after Kelly Bryant’s transfer didn’t lead to instant success. Example? Their leading receiver, Jonathan Nance, was arrested on Friday for not appearing for a court date. How is a Tigers grad assistant not escorting a top playmaker to a court date? Need one more thing? I’m on a roll and have earned your trust. The Vols will win this game outright as the 17th ranked defense in sack percentage will bring down Kelly Bryant four times and force three turnovers. Bet the Big Orange +4!
TCU at (9) Oklahoma
- Saturday Night @ 8:00 pm ET on FOX
- Line: Oklahoma -18
- O/U: 65.5
Will we see the Oklahoma from the second half of last week’s game, the one needing to run up the score to gain style points for its now far-fetched playoff chances? Or will TCU’s defense – which leads the Big 12 in total yards allowed – slow down Jalen and Lincoln’s Showtime offense?
The dirty secret about Oklahoma is that for all their explosiveness, they are more undisciplined than previous Sooner teams. They rank 126th out of 130 in the country in penalty yards per game (77) and 118th in turnover margin (tied with West Virginia for last in the conference). Considering the Horned Frogs’ defense has only allowed 300 yards passing twice this year – even in their pass-happy conference – and never more than 330 yards, they should be able to slow down Lincoln Riley’s mad genius enough to cover. Take the Horned Frogs at +18.
(7) Utah at Arizona
- Saturday Night @ 10:00pm ET on FS1
- Line: Arizona +23
- O/U: 57
The final game of the slate is another beatdown spot. Utah continues its final playoff push as the Utes have covered in each of their past six games (7-3 ATS on the year). This week they go into a late-night matchup in Tucson on Arizona’s senior night where senior QB Khalil Tate looks for a magical end to a disappointing collegiate career. The four-year starter was a 2017 Manning Award finalist before a decent ’18 and an injury-hampered 2019 campaign.
Unfortunately for Tate, he goes against a Utah defense ranking in the top five in yards allowed (5th), scoring defense (5th), and rushing yards allowed (1st). And on the other side of the ball, Utes signal caller Tyler Huntley is quietly punching his ticket to New York with his 74% completion rate, 13-1 TD-INT ratio, and five rushing touchdowns. Fellow senior RB Zach Moss is also raising his draft stock by putting up 6.2 yards per carry and needing only 51 yards for his third straight 1,000 yard rushing season.
That two-headed offensive beast will be looking across the line at a defense ranking 122nd in yards allowed, 118th in scoring defense, and 126th in passing defense. All the magic in all the deserts couldn’t slow down Utah here. The Utes get their seventh straight cover at -23.