We'll just warn you now: the most interesting game in today's set of five picks is in the Mountain West. Yes, it's the week before Thanksgiving, when most of the SEC is taking a break from their grueling schedule of games against the likes of Kentucky and Vanderbilt to play teams that sometimes beat the likes of Kentucky and Vanderbilt. But because the schedule's so soft, we have a situation where -- solely due to name recognition and basic competence -- every game on today's docket airs on a primary Disney network or on CBS.
In large part, our slate today is weakened by the absence of a game we'd have normally picked this week. Unfortunately, due to the uncertain status of Trevone Boykin and the absolutely certain status of Josh Doctson, Vegas has declined to put TCU-Oklahoma on the board as of this writing. So we'll make do with what we have here, as always For Entertainment Purposes Only.
|Friday, 8:30 p.m. Bronco Stadium, Boise ID
JM: First things first: Air Force's losses are to Navy, Michigan State, and Colorado State. Boise's are to New Mexico, Utah State, and Brigham Young. Air Force is going to cover.
More importantly, however, is this disturbing reality: regardless of the result of this game, if New Mexico beats Colorado State this week the Lobos and Falcons will be playing next week for the MWC Mountain Division championship and a date with San Diego State. Worse, there's a very real possibility that Boise State and Utah State could end up tied for fourth place in the division with an 8-4 Air Force winning the title. Let that sink in as you ponder how far the Mountain West has fallen.
LT: If a non-Power 5 Conference falls in college football, does anyone hear it? There's another something to ponder. As for this game, Jon pointed out the losses, but it's worth noting neither one of these teams has anything resembling a quality win. In fact, just like Wisconsin, both are winless against teams currently over .500. Presumably, the Broncos are favored by nearly 2 touchdowns because they tend to blow out opponents when they win, but with no proof they can do that against a competent team, this one's easy. Air Force covers.
|Saturday, 11:00 a.m. Beaver Stadium, State College PA
JM: Since Luke likes picking Big 10 games so much, here's another. Penn State hasn't been bad, but their win over Maryland was concerning, they lost to Northwestern, and they got stomped by an Ohio State team whose primary characteristic this year has been an inability to stomp anyone. Michigan, on the other hand, is one touchdown and one punt from being unbeaten. While the Wolverines did have to survive a fight from Indiana last week, the flip side is that they beat Maryland and Northwestern by a combined score of A Whole Freakin' Bunch to zero as opposed to being outscored by them. Michigan covers.
LT: If there's one thing that could make me wish for more SEC games, it's picking Big Ten games. This is definitely a game I won't be watching, although I do appreciate the comedic appeal of a mediocre quarterback named Christian Hackenburg. He completed just 7-of-13 passes for 120 yards against Ohio State, and he's probably going to get devoured by Michigan's defense. Wolverines cover.
|Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Autzen Stadium, Eugene OR
JM: This is a tough one, but ultimately I think it comes down to this. Oregon's losses have been to Michigan State, Utah, and Washington State, and they've got a win over Stanford. This season is not the disaster it feels like for the Ducks; it's just an off year, evidenced by having trouble getting past Arizona State and Washington. But they did get past them. USC lost to Notre Dame, Stanford, and Washington NOT State, and while they did beat Utah they also very nearly lost to Colorado, arguably only surviving because Buffs QB Sefo Liufau was injured. Despite this being a home game in the Pac 12, I think the Ducks will cover.
LT: The other shocking part about this game, considering the collective groans coming from these two fanbases, is both Oregon and USC have a realistic shot at making the Pac-12 title game. The Ducks would need California to pull off an upset at Stanford, while USC merely needs to win out, which of course won't be easy with UCLA looming next week. But it's possible, further illustrating that there's nothing close to an elite team out West this season.
Oregon is back in its usual spot at the top of the Pac-12 in scoring offense, and it's largely because Vernon Adams, Jr. is playing quarterback again. After losing two of their first three conference games without him, the Ducks have won four straight despite not really figuring out the whole defense thing. They won't need too much of it against the Trojans. Oregon covers.
|Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford MS
JM: Can you believe that Les Miles is on the hot seat? LSU has lost two games -- to Alabama and Arkansas. I mean, even Ole Miss lost to Arkansas, so that can't be that big a deal, right? LSU beat Florida, who beat Ole Miss. But then Ole Miss beat Alabama, who beat LSU. There's not a lot to separate these two teams there... but there is when you look at their losses to the Razorbacks. Mississippi fell in overtime. LSU got drilled. Ole Miss covers.
LT: Not only did LSU get drilled, it happened at home, where the Tigers are usually invincible. They're in danger of self-destructing if Brandon Harris and his offensive line don't get their act together quickly. Leonard Fournette is barely averaging three yards per carry over his last two games, which would have been unthinkable at the start of November. All that being said, the Ole Miss defense is not very good. I think LSU bounces back and covers here.
|Saturday, 6:00 p.m. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville AR
JM: Look, I don't want to speak ill of CLANGA, but the bottom line is that the high point of their season so far has been beating Missouri. Seriously. They have done absolutely nothing in 2015. At least Arkansas has Ole Miss and LSU mounted on their wall. Razorbacks cover.
LT: That's two-time SEC East defending champs Missouri to you, sir. The Bulldogs are still the only SEC West team to beat Missouri in a regular season game in the last three years. OK, so now that I've said some good things about Mizzou that won't be true for much longer, let's move on to the game.
Regrettably, after back-to-back wins over Ole Miss and LSU, even I have to reluctantly admit Arkansas is no longer the same team that lost by 11 at home to Texas Tech. But you know what they're still not good at? Stopping the pass. In the last four games (all wins, somehow) the Razorbacks have given up 368 passing yards to Ole Miss's Chad Kelly, 271 yards to the aforementioned Brandon Harris, 380 yards to UT Martin's Jarod Neal, and 254 yards to Auburn's Sean White. Mississippi State's Dak Prescott is the best QB in the SEC (a fairly low bar) and is going to have a field day. CLANGA covers.