What to watch: Week 12 college football viewing guide, picks against the spread

·7 min read

Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will pick those five games against the spread and highlight some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.

We're nearing the end of the regular season and there's still so much to be decided.

After Georgia at No. 1, the College Football Playoff rankings are extremely tight and conference races across the country are coming down to the wire. That leaves an assortment of extremely important games this weekend, headlined by Michigan State's trip to Ohio State.

There are also teams scratching and clawing to get to bowl eligibility. We're in for an action-packed Saturday.

(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)

No. 7 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State

Time: Noon | TV: ABC | Line: OSU -18.5 | Total: 68.5

Not much was expected from Michigan State this year, but Mel Tucker’s team is 9-1 overall and 6-1 in Big Ten play. MSU’s biggest win came over rival Michigan three weeks ago, but now the Spartans have an even bigger test going on the road to Columbus.

MSU’s pass defense has been its biggest weakness and the Spartans will have their hands full with the Buckeyes, who rank No. 6 nationally in passing offense behind Heisman candidate QB CJ Stroud and a trio of possible first-round receivers: Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

That group put on a show last week in OSU’s 59-31 win over Purdue, the team that gave MSU its only loss. Ohio State lost at home to Oregon in Week 2 but are in the midst of an eight-game winning streak. The winner of this matchup will have an inside track to the Big Ten East title and the College Football Playoff.

Sam: OSU -18.5, Nick: MSU +18.5

Ohio State receiver Garrett Wilson celebrates as he scores a touchdown against Purdue during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Ohio State receiver Garrett Wilson celebrates as he scores a touchdown against Purdue during the first half on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Iowa State at No. 13 Oklahoma

Time: Noon | TV: Fox | Line: OU -4 | Total: 60.5

Oklahoma suffered its first loss of the season last week, falling 27-14 to Baylor. The loss dropped the Sooners from No. 8 to No. 13 in the College Football Playoff rankings, but they are still in position to get back to the Big 12 title game. OU had its worst offensive output of the Lincoln Riley era last week and will need a much better performance against Iowa State, a team that has given OU fits in recent years.

Iowa State beat Oklahoma during the regular season last year, but Oklahoma won the rematch in the Big 12 championship game. ISU entered this season ranked in the top 10 but has not lived up to expectations. The Cyclones dropped to 6-4 last week with a loss to Texas Tech. It was their third road loss of the season, but it’s hard to envision an Iowa State team not motivated by the opportunity to upset Oklahoma in Norman.

Sam: Oklahoma -4, Nick: Iowa State +4

No. 21 Arkansas at No. 2 Alabama

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: Alabama -20.5 | Total: 58.5

No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama appear to be on a collision course to meet in the SEC championship game. Georgia (10-0) has already wrapped up the SEC East and will be massive favorites in its last two regular season games. Alabama (9-1) will be big favorites too, but Arkansas and Auburn will be much tougher tests.

Alabama has had some close calls lately. After the loss to Texas A&M, the Tide had just a seven-point fourth quarter lead in their win over Tennessee and then they barely snuck past LSU, 20-14. Nick Saban’s group had a chance for a get-right game vs. New Mexico State last week, but now has to face an Arkansas team riding a three-game winning streak. Arkansas (7-3) has lost 14 consecutive games to the Tide, last winning in 2006.

Sam: Arkansas +20.5, Nick: Arkansas +20.5

SMU at No. 5 Cincinnati

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Line: UC -11.5 | Total: 64.5

Cincinnati remains undefeated and is still firmly in the College Football Playoff mix despite some close games against lackluster competition. Nonetheless, undefeated is undefeated and the Bearcats have that road win over Notre Dame on their resume. If Cincinnati keeps winning, it will have a chance. SMU, though, will present one of the toughest opponents UC has faced all season.

The Mustangs started the season 7-0 before suffering back-to-back road losses to Houston and Memphis. They rebounded last week by routing UCF 55-28 at home behind a big performance from QB Tanner Mordecai. Mordecai, a transfer from Oklahoma, threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Mordecai is seventh in the nation in passing yards (3,264) and second in TDs (37). That SMU passing game is the type that can give any defense fits. Is there any upset in the works?

Sam: SMU +11.5, Nick: SMU +11.5

No. 3 Oregon at No. 23 Utah

Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Utah -3 | Total: 58.5

As long as Oregon keeps winning, the CFP selection committee is going to have a hard time keeping it out of the playoff. The Ducks are 9-1 with that road win over Ohio State and a 6-1 record in Pac-12 play. The Ducks, winners of five straight, will clinch the Pac-12 North with a victory in Salt Lake City on Saturday. The Ducks have been prolific with their rushing attack in recent weeks, but will have a challenge against a Utah defense allowing only 3.8 yards per rush in conference play.

Regardless of the outcome, it could be the first of two games between the Ducks and Utes. Utah opened the year 1-2 but has since won six of its seven Pac-12 games. The Utes are in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12 South, so a rematch is likely in the Pac-12 title game. Utah has won consistently since making the switch to Cam Rising at quarterback and putting Tavion Thomas atop the depth chart at running back.

Sam: Oregon +3, Nick: Oregon +3

Head-to-head ATS: Sam: 31-24, Nick: 25-30

Oregon running back Travis Dye (26) during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Andy Nelson)
Oregon running back Travis Dye (26) is on the field Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, in Eugene, Oregon. (AP Photo/Andy Nelson)

Week 12 best bets

Nick Bromberg (Last week: 0-3, Overall: 19-14)

Florida State at Boston College (-1.5): I think the Eagles are an underrated team, especially as QB Phil Jurkovec gets healthier by the week. I know Florida State may be getting a bit of a bounce after beating Miami, but Boston College seems like the way better team. Pick: Boston College -1.5

No. 10 Wake Forest at Clemson (-4.5): This line should give me pause. But I think I trust Wake Forest enough to make the cover. Clemson’s only hope to stay in this game is to make it a slugfest under 24 or so, and I think the Tigers are too racked with injuries to make that happen. Pick: Wake Forest +4.5

Nebraska at No. 15 Wisconsin (-9.5): Yes, Nebraska’s record doesn’t match the advanced stats. The Huskers are a better team than their record indicates. But I have a hard time seeing a Nebraska cover here with the way Wisconsin is playing. This could be ugly. Pick: Wisconsin -9.5

Sam Cooper (Last week: 2-0-1, Overall: 17-15-1)

Rutgers at Penn State (-17.5): The under is 8-2 in Penn State’s 10 games this season. The offense has been struggling and the defense is definitely good enough to keep a lackluster offense in check. I’d be surprised if this wasn’t a low-scoring game. Pick: Under 47.5

Washington (-7) at Colorado: Washington blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead to Arizona State last week and then coach Jimmy Lake got fired the next day. It’s already been a demoralizing season, so I can’t trust UW as a 7-point favorite even against Colorado. The Buffs have been better offensively the past few weeks. Pick: Colorado +7

Arizona State (-3) at Oregon State: This game feels like it's going to get a little loose. ASU is a very volatile team. The Sun Devils are talented but have a lot of turnovers and a lot of penalties. Oregon State has been great at home, but has a mediocre defense. Pick: Over 59.5

For other Week 12 picks from Sam Cooper, click here.

For Week 12 picks from Dan Wetzel, Pete Thamel and Pat Forde, subscribe to the College Football Enquirer podcast.