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NCAAF

Nov 30, 2019

Saturday's Essentials

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Here’s a look at what must be considered before wagering on Friday's slate in select FBS vs. FBS matchups:

Early Starts

Georgia (-28.5/46.5) at Georgia Tech, 12 p.m. ET, ABC: The Bulldogs have had a much nicer time preparing for the Yellow Jackets than they have in past years since a modernized spread look is much easier to prepare for than a triple option, especially this late in the season. They would love to take care of business without suffering any injuries ahead of next week’s SEC Championship date with LSU.

Georgia hasn’t lost at Georgia Tech since 1999 and figure to help fill out the house by helping pack Tech’s home stadium for them. Clean Old-fashioned Hate has been pretty one-sided and should again feature a blowout where only the spread will be in doubt late. First-year coach Geoff Collins does have his team playing their best football of the season following a 28-26 upset of N.C. State in which QB James Graham, WR Ahmarean Brown and DE Jordan Domineck all took steps forward. Don’t expect any wrinkles to be on display here since Jake Fromm and the offense will be saving those for Atlanta and LSU. For that reason, a vanilla game plan could help land at least a backdoor cover opportunity for the Yellow Jackets if the outcome is in hand come fourth-quarter. Georgia has covered in each of the last two seasons.

Ohio State (-9.5/51) at Michigan, 12 p.m ET, FOX: If there’s an upset in these early games, the Wolverines are most likely to pull it off, coming into their rivalry game with the Buckeyes on a four-game winning streak, having outscored their opposition 166-45 in becoming a very reliable ATS squad, even covering in their most recent loss at Penn State. Both of the Wolverines’ losses this season have come outside Ann Arbor, where Jim Harbaugh has won 13 straight games, last losing to the Buckeyes to close the 2017 season. Harbaugh has dropped all four of his matchups with the Buckeyes, losing the first three to Urban Meyer the first three years and Ryan Day last season by a remarkable 62-39 margin that ranks as the most points ever given up by Michigan. The Wolverines lost at home as a 12-point underdog in ’17 but covered in the 31-20 loss and they actually were 4-point favorites in Columbus when taking that vicious beating last year, so the spread hasn’t meant much in recent years.

With Chase Young back, a fearsome Buckeyes’ defense will look to disrupt Shea Patterson’s rhythm coming off a 371-yard, five-touchdown game against the Hoosiers, giving him nine over the past two games. Ohio State’s Justin Fields has thrown for 43 touchdowns and has been intercepted only once, so this will be his Heisman statement. He’s coming off a thumb injury suffered last week and has been banged up, so Michigan could have a chance at pulling off an upset and snapping a run that has seen it drop 14 of 15 in this rivalry. Rain and snow could be part of the festivities. Temperatures will be in the high 30’s. Game on.





Clemson (-27/50.5) at South Carolina, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN: The Gamecocks haven’t won in this series since Steve Spurrier haunted Dabo Swinney with five straight wins from ’09-’13 after losing to him when he took over in an interim role. Swinney has won five straight, four of which have come by double-digits. The outlier in that stretch is when he took his top-ranked team into Columbia and escaped with a 37-32 win as a 20-point favorite. Trevor Lawrence helped put up a 56-spot in last year’s win in Death Valley and will again attempt to toy with a Will Muschamp defense. His teams have fallen 147-52 against the rival Tigers. Lawrence has thrown 16 touchdown passes without being intercepted and became the first quarterback in school history to throw for at least three scores in six consecutive games.

South Carolina won’t be going bowling even if it pulls off this massive upset, which is wild since they’ve already taken down Georgia in Athens. The Gamecocks were held to a season-low six points last week by Texas A&M but freshman QB Ryan Hilinski has held up decently against the Dawgs and Crimson Tide, defenses on par with what he’ll see today. South Carolina’s leading rusher, Tavien Feaster, opened his career at Clemson and will be returning from an injury. He’ll need to have a big game to keep this close.

Afternoon Delights

Wisconsin (-3/47) at Minnesota, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC: The Gophers will look to wrap up a Rose Bowl bid and welcome College Gameday to Minneapolis for the first time ever. While it’s not the biggest game of the day – not even the biggest game in their own conference – the battle for Paul Bunyan’s ax is as big as it has ever been. Minnesota won last season to end a 14-game losing streak in the series, which is now even at 60-60-8. Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor is 144 yards shy of 6,000 rushing yards for the season, so getting him a little individual glory will likely be the key to Wisconsin holding serve as a road favorite.

The Gophers are 6-1-1 ATS over their last eight and have seen QB Phillip Nelson and top WRs Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson make huge leaps forward. The 15 points that Minnesota surrendered against Wisconsin was the lowest total the Badgers have produced in the series since 1990. Rain and snow will make it difficult for both teams to move the ball. The ‘over’ is 15-4 in the last 19 battles for the ax and has connected in four of the last five games involving the Gophers.

Alabama (-3.5/49.5) at Auburn, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS: The Crimson Tide will look to continue their dominance over the Tigers on the six-year anniversary of their most memorable loss in the Iron Bowl, the unforgettable “Kick Six” game. Auburn also won as five-point underdogs in 2017 and will try and make life difficult for sophomore Mac Jones, who has been thrust into the starting role with Tua Tagovailoa done for the season and kid brother Taulia Tagovailoa not ready to take the reins just yet. The Tigers’ defensive line is among the best in the country, so even though Jones has gotten plenty of experience over the years and looked sharp in a 66-3 win over Western Carolina last week.

The Tigers have been tested plenty this season, defeating Oregon and losing to Florida, LSU and Georgia due to a lack of offense. This Alabama defense isn’t as strong as it has been in years past, so freshman QB Bo Dix may be able to exploit hooking up with Seth Williams. It’s expected to be a warm day on the Plains, so both quarterbacks won’t have to deal with the elements as they look to make the most of their fabulous receiving corps.

Notre Dame (-16.5/46.5) at Stanford, 4 p.m. ET, NBC: The Irish hope to wrap up a 10-win season by ending a drought on the Farm, where Stanford hasn’t lost to the Golden Domers in over a decade. It’s been a disastrous run for the Cardinal this season due to multiple injuries, so this will be the school’s bowl game since they won’t finish with a winning record for the first time since ’08, ending David Shaw’s run of bowls in succession. Notre Dame has dropped five straight in Palo Alto and will look to end that run to win 10 games for a third straight year for the first time since ’91-’93.

The Irish is going out on the road with a patchwork offensive line after losing right guard Tommy Kraemer and top tackle Robert Haisey. There’s a 70 percent chance of rain forecast here and wind gusts are likely, so it might be tough for both teams to move the ball. The Cardinal’s rushing attack has really struggled this season, so unless the weather holds up, it might be tough for either team to move the ball considering QB Davis Mills hasn’t been able to rely on his ground game. Notre Dame was crushed by Michigan last time it played in a heavy rain storm.

Primetime Matchups

Texas A&M at LSU (-17/64), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: The Tigers are already in the SEC Championship game but that doesn’t make this a free-roll. The Aggies are definitely dangerous, having already won seven games while losing to the who’s who of Clemson, Auburn, Alabama and Georgia, covering in two of their setbacks. They don’t figure to be overwhelmed by the Tigers, who they beat 74-72 in last year’s remarkable seven-overtime game in College Station. QB Kellen Mond gave LSU major headaches last season and has 2,710 yards passing and fourth in TDs passing with 19. He also has 392 yards has rushed for seven scores, so you figure that he’ll be on the run often to try and cause breakdowns. Ole Miss had a lot of success with its quarterback running all over the Tigers, so if Mond can similarly pick up some chunk yardage, this could get interesting. LSU safety Grant Delpit is expected to return this week from an ankle injury that forced him out of last week’s win over Arkansas.

Oklahoma (-13.5/69) at Oklahoma State, 8 p.m. ET, FOX: Oklahoma has surely learned its lesson about overlooking rival OSU, even in down years. Bedlam is always interesting and even though the Sooners’ fifth straight Big 12 title game appearance is clinched, this is still serious business. Oklahoma State sophomore Chuba Hubbard (166.5 yards per game, 20 TDs) leads the nation in rushing and will have to come up big despite commanding OU’s full attention since QB Spencer Sanders (thumb surgery) and WR Tylan Wallace (torn ACL) have been lost. QB Dru Brown has helped the team continue their four-game winning streak but isn’t as explosive as Sanders.

Counterpart Jalen Hurts has rushed for 17 scores while throwing for 3,184 yards passing and 30 TDs. Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy has been extremely complimentary of Hurts and figures to roll the dice with his offense since keep-away isn’t likely to work. Clear conditions certainly lend themselves nicely to a shootout.

Late-Night Snack

Army at Hawai’i (-3/54.5), 12:30 a.m. ET, CBSSN: The Warriors pulled out an enormous 14-11 win at home last Saturday against San Diego State to clinch a spot in the Mountain West title game, so we’ll see if they’re able to sustain their intensity in what may be a difficult game to get up for considering next week’s matchup with Boise State. Consider that although Hawai’I has run into a New Mexico team that runs elements of the spread option, Army’s triple-option is very difficult to prepare for and will really test Hawaii’s coaches since they may not want to expose key defenders to chop blocks and a physical grinding style that is required to stop Army.

The Black Knights want to head back to West Point with a 6-6 record so that their game against Navy affords them an opportunity to get bowl eligible in its own right. After dropping five straight games, Army has outscored UMass and VMI by a 110-13 margin, so we’ll see how they handle a step up in competition. Hawai’I has really struggled to stop the run, so if you’re reading this, go ahead and take my freebie for the day and take the points with Army to win in Honolulu, where wind gusts may also aid the cause in keeping the team’s feared passing attack from throwing it around efficiently.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

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