College Football Picks: Michigan, Washington hit the road
For a few ranked teams, the first month of the season was all about home sweet home.
No. 4 Michigan (4-0), No. 9 Oklahoma State (3-0) and No. 15 Washington (4-0) will play their first road games of the season this weekend.
The Cowboys have a big one in the Big 12 against No. 16 Baylor.
The Wolverines and Huskies face unranked but potentially formidable conference foes in their first road trips.
Michigan goes to Iowa, where the offensively challenged but defensively excellent Hawkeyes have a history of pulling big-time upsets. Iowa is 5-1 in its last six games at Kinnick Stadium against top-five opponents, dating back to 2008. That includes a victory over No. 2 Michigan in 2016.
The surprising Huskies are preparing for the dreaded short-week road game. Washington plays Friday night at UCLA. The Rose Bowl is often far from an intimidating place to play, but historically it’s not been a good spot for the Huskies. Their win at the Rose Bowl in 2018 snapped an eight-game losing streak in Pasadena, California.
The first road tests for Michigan and Washington are among this week’s five most intriguing games.
No. 18 Oklahoma at TCU
Oklahoma was upset last week by Kansas State, which found more than a few holes in Brent Venables’ defense. Now the Sooners face a TCU offense that is averaging 8.1 yards per play. This game should give us an idea of just how wild the Big 12 race will be this season.
LINE: Oklahoma by 6 1/2. PICK: Oklahoma 38-28.
No. 22 Wake Forest at No. 23 Florida State
There is a top-10 game in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but this one makes the list because it will provide a status check on Florida State’s revival. The Seminoles are ranked for the first time in four years, but staying there will be tough with consecutive games against Wake, No. 10 North Carolina State and No. 5 Clemson.
LINE: Florida State by 6 1/2. PICK: Wake Forest 34-33, UPSET SPECIAL.
No. 7 Kentucky at No. 14 Mississippi
The Rebels have been impressive in a 4-0 start, but it has come against three FBS opponents who are a combined 5-7 and an FCS team. QB Will Levis and the Wildcats will provide by far their toughest test. Kentucky has its highest ranking since finishing the season sixth in 1977.
LINE: Ole Miss by 6 1/2. PICK: Mississippi 27-23.
No. 15 Washington at UCLA
QB Michael Penix Jr. leads the nation with 347 yards passing per game and has thrown only one interception as the Huskies have surged into the rankings in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer. Let’s see how it plays in Pasadena against the Bruins, whose 4-0 start includes only one victory against a Power Five team. And that was last week against winless Colorado.
LINE: Washington by 2 1/2. PICK: UCLA 31-28.
No. 4 Michigan at Iowa
The Wolverines tore through the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten championship game last year, but Kinnick figures to be a challenging place for QB J.J. McCarthy to make his first road start. The Iowa defense has yet to allow more than 5.0 yards per play in a game and has scored three touchdowns.
LINE: Michigan by 10 1/2. PICK: Michigan 20-13.
The rest of the ranked teams playing against FBS opponents, with lines by FanDuel Sportsbook.
Utah State at No. 19 BYU (minus 24)
Star WR Gunner Romney (lacerated kidney) is set to make his season debut ... BYU 42-14.
No. 1 Georgia (minus 28) at Missouri
Bulldogs have won nine of 10 since the Tigers joined the SEC ... GEORGIA 45-10.
No. 2 Alabama (minus 17) at No. 20 Arkansas
Tide have won 15 straight in the series; only four have been one-possession games, which is as many as have been decided by at least 40 points ... ALABAMA 42-17.
Rutgers at No. 3 Ohio State (minus 40 1/2)
Buckeyes are 8-0 against the Scarlet Knights; average margin: 42 1/2 ... OHIO STATE 56-14.
No. 9 Oklahoma State (plus 1 1/2) at No. 16 Baylor
Cowboys QB Spencer Sanders totaled seven interceptions as OSU split two games with the Bears last season ... OKLAHOMA STATE 23-21.
No. 10 North Carolina State (plus 6 1/2) at No. 5 Clemson
Could be a soggy one in Death Valley ... CLEMSON 20-16.
Arizona State (plus 26 1/2) at No. 6 Southern California
How much fight is left in the Sun Devils? ... USC 45-21.
Northwestern at No. 11 Penn State (minus 25 1/2)
Since beating Nebraska in Dublin, Wildcats have lost to Duke, an FCS school and a MAC school ... PENN STATE 38-10.
Oregon State at No. 12 Utah (minus 10 1/2)
Utes pass defense has been stifling, allowing 5.1 yards per pass and only two TD throws ... UTAH 28-16.
Stanford at No. 13 Oregon (minus 17 1/2)
Cardinal are banged up along the offensive line and allowing more than 4.3 sacks per game ... OREGON 42-20, BEST BET.
No. 17 Texas A&M (plus 3 1/2) at Mississippi State
Bulldogs have won five of eight against the Aggies ... MISSISSIPPI STATE 26-24.
Purdue at No. 21 Minnesota (minus 11 1/2)
Status of Boilermakers QB Aidan O’Connell (undisclosed injury) is uncertain ... MINNESOTA 31-17.
Georgia Tech at No. 24 Pittsburgh (minus 23 1/2)
First game for the Yellow Jackets after coach Geoff Collins was fired ... PITT 38-13.
Texas Tech at No. 25 Kansas State (minus 7 1/2)
Wildcats have won six straight in the series and haven’t lost to the Red Raiders in Manhattan since 2008 ... KANSAS STATE 31-21.
Illinois at Wisconsin (minus 7) — @bluegrassish—
Illini’s defense is second in the Big Ten in yards per play at 3.84 ... WISCONSIN 20-10.
Iowa State (minus 3 1/2) at Kansas — @VegasAggie
Oddsmakers have not quite bought into Jayhawks-mania yet ... IOWA STATE 38-31.
LSU at Auburn (plus 8 1/2) — @AnthScar
Underrated SEC rivalry that often produces weird games and subplots ... LSU 21-14.
Tulane (plus 2 1/2) at Houston — @jefe172
Green Wave have won at Kansas State and lost at home to Southern Miss in the past two weeks ... TULANE 27-26.
Last week: Straight-up — 19-5; Against spread — 10-14.
Season: 62-21; 45-49.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com
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