College Football Picks: Pac-12 contenders in spotlight
The Pac-12 has slipped into the background of the college football season. Again.
The conference is still providing plenty of highlights and intrigue. No conference is more unpredictable from top to bottom.
In the College Football playoff era, those are not necessarily good qualities. Being the only Power Five conference without a top-10 team makes it difficult to command the spotlight, but this weekend the Pac-12 has two games with championship implications and maybe even playoff ramifications.
No. 12 Oregon (5-1, 3-0), the only team in the Pac-12 still unbeaten in conference play, faces No. 25 Washington (5-2, 2-2). The Ducks might be the Pac-12′s best hope to reach the College Football Playoff. Of more immediate importance, Oregon could build a huge lead in the North by beating the Huskies for the second straight season.
In the Pac-12 South, No. 13 Utah (5-1, 2-1) hosts No. 17 Arizona State (5-1, 2-1) with the winner moving into a tie for first with the winner of Arizona-Southern California. The Utes already have a loss to USC on their resume and another loss will make it tough for the defending South champions to get back to the Pac-12 title game for the second straight season.
Regardless of what happens in Salt Lake City, a Washington victory would leave the Utah-Arizona State winner as the conference’s lone one-loss team.
No. 4 Ohio State (minus 28) at Northwestern
Rematch of last year’s Big Ten title game and the first Friday night game for the Buckeyes since 1959 ... OHIO STATE 31-7.
Tennessee (plus 34½) at No. 1 Alabama
Tide’s winning streak over the Vols is 12 games and the gap between the rivals is as big as it has ever been ... ALABAMA 48-14.
No. 2 LSU (minus 18) at Mississippi State
QB Joe Burrow has been near flawless, but LSU’s running game is rolling, too, behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a 5-foot-8 junior averaging 6.3 yards per carry ... LSU 38-23.
No. 3 Clemson (minus 23½) at Louisville
Cardinals’ turnaround this season has been fueled by a big-play offense; Clemson’s defense is a big-play black hole ... CLEMSON 45-17.
West Virginia (plus 33½) at No. 5 Oklahoma
Mountaineers might be without QB Austin Kendall, an Oklahoma transfer ... OKLAHOMA 56-20.
No. 6 Wisconsin (minus 31) at Illinois
Will the Illini score? ... WISCONSIN 35-7.
No. 16 Michigan (plus 9) at No. 7 Penn State
You know the tune by now: The Wolverines are 0-7 as an underdog under Jim Harbaugh, including five double-digit losses ... PENN STATE 20-14.
No. 9 Florida (minus 5½) at South Carolina
Gamecocks expect to have QB Ryan Hilinski in the starting lineup after a sprained knee against Georgia ... FLORIDA 24-21.
Kentucky (plus 24½) at No. 10 Georgia
Wildcats used WR Lynn Bowden at quarterback to beat Arkansas last week; This is not Arkansas ... GEORGIA 41-14.
No. 11 Auburn (minus 18½) at Arkansas
The Tigers’ passing game ranks 85th in the nation in efficiency rating (129.30), worst among ranked teams ... AUBURN 34-14.
No. 12 Oregon (minus 3) at No. 25 Washington
Red zone touchdowns have been hard to come by for the Huskies (102nd in the nation at 53.13; the Ducks lead the nation in red-zone defense (two TDs in 14 trips) ... WASHINGTON 20-18, UPSET SPECIAL.
No. 17 Arizona State (plus 13½) at No. 13 Utah
Sun Devils last four games have been decided by a total of 17 points ... UTAH 24-20, BEST BET.
No. 14 Boise State (minus 6½) at BYU
Cougars are piecing it together at QB with Zach Wilson injured; Broncos hope to have QB Hank Bachmeier (hip) ready ... BOISE STATE 28-17.
Kansas (plus 21) at No. 15 Texas
Longhorns defense has been riddled by injuries and mauled by LSU and Oklahoma; here’s an opportunity to get it together ... TEXAS 45-17.
No. 18 Baylor (plus 3½) at Oklahoma State
Bears have won four of five against the Cowboys, but that spread says all you need to know ... OKLAHOMA STATE 28-23.
Temple (plus 7½) at No. 19 SMU
Can the Owls take down a ranked and unbeaten conference opponent two weeks in a row? ... SMU 31-27.
No. 20 Minnesota (minus 28½) at Rutgers
Scarlet Knights completed five passes for one yard last week. No, really! ... MINNESOTA 42-10.
Tulsa (plus 17) at No. 21 Cincinnati
First of four straight games the Bearcats are likely to be double-digits favorites ... CINCINNATI 28-14.
No. 22 Missouri (minus 21½) at Vanderbilt
Commodores trying to stop a freefall after losing to UNLV at home ... MIZZOU 42-14.
Purdue (plus 18) at No. 23 Iowa
In three games against Power Five teams not named Rutgers, the Hawkeyes have scored two touchdowns and 33 points ... IOWA 24-14.
Louisiana-Monroe (plus 14½) at No. 24 Appalachian State
Get to know App State RB Darrynton Evans, averaging 108 yards per game and 6.1 per carry ... APPALACHIAN STATE 35-16.
Florida State (plus 2) at Wake Forest — @Carbonerjams
Wake Forest is favored over Florida State. Tough times in Tallahassee ... WAKE FOREST 35-31.
Tulane (plus 4) at Memphis — @jimlaise
Huge game between AAC West contenders ... MEMPHIS 31-24.
Texas A&M (minus 6½) at Mississippi — @DarrylKerr
Aggies appear to be better suited to this weight class after three losses to ranked teams ... TEXAS A&M 31-21.
Southern Miss (minus 1) at Louisiana Tech — @biggstallion
First-place in Conference USA West on the line; Golden Eagles have won four straight meetings ... LOUISIANA TECH 30-27.
Last week: 20-3 straight; 13-10 against the spread.
Season: 124-36 straight; 87-68-4 against the spread.
Upset specials: 2-5 (straight up).
Best bets: 2-4-1 (against the spread).
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://podcastone.com/AP-Top-25-College-Football-Podcast
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