Bowl Game Pick 'Em: Confidence Picks Full Breakdown

Bowl Game Pick 'Em: Confidence Picks Full Breakdown

This article is part of our Bowl Game Pick 'Em series.

Welcome back for another exciting slate of bowl games to round out the 2018 season. For those who are unfamiliar with the format, confidence picks are straight up rather than against the spread, so we're just picking winners here and ranking them from most (39- Georgia) to least (1-Virginia) confident. The spreads are included as a reference. For clarity, the team I side with is always listed first in the matchup
If you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section

39.) Georgia (-11.5) vs. Texas

There's always a fear of a team on the outside looking in on the playoff picture phoning it in for the non-playoff bowl. That's not the sense I get from this Georgia team, which is looking to end the year on a high note against Texas. Part of my rationale is how Georgia played to end the season. Georgia averaged 43.0 points per game (9th) in November, with D'Andre Swift averaging 8.86 yards per carry and Jake Fromm checking in with the second-highest passer rating (194.6) to go with an 8:1 TD: INT in that span.

Overall, Georgia ranks in the nation in S&P+ as a team (3rd in offense, 16th in defense) whereas Texas checks in at 6th overall (28th in offense, 55th in defense). That's a fairly significant gap between two teams, especially for a New Year's Six bowl. Texas is no slouch, but it might be a year away from being able to knock off Georgia

Welcome back for another exciting slate of bowl games to round out the 2018 season. For those who are unfamiliar with the format, confidence picks are straight up rather than against the spread, so we're just picking winners here and ranking them from most (39- Georgia) to least (1-Virginia) confident. The spreads are included as a reference. For clarity, the team I side with is always listed first in the matchup
If you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section

39.) Georgia (-11.5) vs. Texas

There's always a fear of a team on the outside looking in on the playoff picture phoning it in for the non-playoff bowl. That's not the sense I get from this Georgia team, which is looking to end the year on a high note against Texas. Part of my rationale is how Georgia played to end the season. Georgia averaged 43.0 points per game (9th) in November, with D'Andre Swift averaging 8.86 yards per carry and Jake Fromm checking in with the second-highest passer rating (194.6) to go with an 8:1 TD: INT in that span.

Overall, Georgia ranks in the nation in S&P+ as a team (3rd in offense, 16th in defense) whereas Texas checks in at 6th overall (28th in offense, 55th in defense). That's a fairly significant gap between two teams, especially for a New Year's Six bowl. Texas is no slouch, but it might be a year away from being able to knock off Georgia in this setting. I'm putting my highest confidence point total behind the Bulldogs.

38.) LSU (-7.5) vs. UCF

Last year I sided with UCF's opponent (Auburn) but expressed some caution and only ranked the Tigers at 27th -- lower than most had them. Of course, Auburn ultimately got beat by UCF in convincing fashion and UCF still hasn't lost since 2016.

Things will be different when the Knights face these particular Tigers, however. Yes, Central Florida has a higher S&P+ ranking (8th) than LSU (15th). But because S&P+ measure team performance over the course of the season, it doesn't properly account for the loss of quarterback McKenzie Milton. His replacement, Darriel Mack, is a fine player in his own right but this offense is fundamentally different with him behind center. I predict Central Florida will lean on the ground game, and that plays to LSU's defensive strength.

37.) Boise State (-3) vs. Boston College

I've been a Boise State cynic most of the season and Vegas only has the Broncos as a three-point favorite, so why the high confidence? Well, Boise State checks in as the 29th-rated team by S&P+ while BC sits at 71st. That disparity is significant.

Boston College's offense checks in at 95th, and that's presuming a fully healthy AJ Dillon. Well, Dillon dealt with ankle issues down the stretch and was knocked out of his final regular season game. If Dillon is still limited for this tilt, Boston College's offense could sputter in spectacular fashion given that the game would come down to quarterback Anthony Brown (2,121 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 7.4 YPA, 55.4 completion percentage).

36.) Memphis (-5) vs. Wake Forest

Wake Forest is a veritable punching bag on defense; it allows 33.3 points per game (102nd) to go with 465.3 yards per game. That number balloons to 478.7 when scaled to games against teams with winning records. Of course, Memphis is embarrassing on defense in its own right, checking in at 75th in S&P+ and allowing 549.8 yards per game against winning teams.

The difference is Wake Forest doesn't have the firepower to exploit Memphis' defensive deficiencies the way Memphis' offense can shred the Demon Deacons. Memphis has the 8th-ranked offense in S&P+. Worried about Darrell Henderson sitting out? Well, backup running back Patrick Taylor ran for 1,012 yards and 15 scores and Tony Pollard tore off 7.26 yards per carry over 61 attempts. Memphis has more than enough firepower to rack up points and yardage on Wake Forest even without Henderson.

35.) Ohio State (-6.5) vs. Washington

The Buckeyes were a frustrating team all season long but started to play their best ball to close the season. The long layoff slows that momentum (I know, you're not allowed to say that word) but this is still a supremely talented team that could beat almost anyone and we have the Urban Meyer last game* wrinkle baked in.

Alright, onto the actual concrete stuff. This is a tremendous strength on strength matchup with Ohio State' fourth-rated offense going up against Washington's No.3 ranked defense. The edge goes to Ohio State there, however.

Washington hasn't seen an offense in the same realm as Ohio State's. The Dwayne Haskins-led Buckeyes don't have the punishing run game of past years, but their passing attack is deep and lethal. Ohio State's defense is also lagging behind what it was in past years, but can Washington really make the Buckeyes pay for it? Quarterback Jake Browning has the same TD:INT ratio (16:10) that he posted when he was a true freshman in 2015. Running back Myles Gaskin showed flashes but still finished with career lows in yards per carry (4.9) and touchdowns (10). Back the Buckeyes here.

34.) Fresno State (-4) vs. Arizona State

Similar to the Boise State-Boston College dilemma, we have a top-flight Group of Five team going up against a mediocre Power Five club. The Bulldogs rank 10th(!!!!) overall in S&P+ and have the 9th-rated defense. The Sun Devils? 54th, and with the 92nd defense. Arizona State also ranks 30th in offense, which is respectable, but it'll be missing potential first-round receiver N'Keal Harry.

How big was Harry's footprint in this offense? Well, he was responsible for 34 percent of the team's targets, 38 percent of the receiving yards, and 47 percent of the receiving touchdowns. Ouch.

Unless running back Eno Benjamin goes full-on Terminator mode, this could get ugly for the Sun Devils.

33.) Texas A&M (-6) vs. North Carolina State

The Aggies did well for themselves in Year 1 under Jimbo Fisher -- about as well as an 8-4 team can do. They rank 19th in overall S&P+ while the Wolf Pack checks in at 30th, so this is a fairly even matchup.

North Carolina State has an edge in experience at quarterback with future NFL draft pick Ryan Finley facing an A&M defense that coughed up 25 passing touchdowns. Finley himself has 24 touchdowns and 3,789 passing yards.

On the other hand, Texas A&M is loaded on offense and has an athletic quarterback -- Kellen Mond-- in the mold of an Eric Dungey, who shredded the Pack for 411 passing yards and four rushing touchdowns. The Aggies skill group is loaded as well; Trayveon Williams rushed for 1,524 yards, Jace Sternberger was a First-Team All-American at tight end, and their receivers all major threats on the outside. I expect Texas A&M to score at will on North Carolina State, which will bump up the pressure on Finley. And Finley tends to struggle in those scenarios.

Fun Fact: Jimbo was 4-1 vs. Dave Doeren during his time at Florida State.

32.) Alabama (-14) vs. Oklahoma

This matchup pits the No.1 and No.2 offenses in the nation in S&P+ with Oklahoma and Alabama facing off. There's no doubt points will be in abundance in this game with an implied total checking in at 80. The difference here -- and I know this will shock you -- is defense.

Oklahoma has the 89th-ranked defense per S&P+, which is easily the lowest mark of any team with a top-30 overall rating. Alabama's defense is 10th in the nation.

Looking toward personnel, Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa should be good to go in this matchup after suffering a high-ankle sprain against Georgia in the SEC Championship game. That means that Alabama's passing attack is about to be unleashed on an overmatched defense.

With Oklahoma, its best hope is turning this into a back-and-forth, high-scoring battle. If Alabama stops Kyler Murray or forces some turnovers, this could get ugly for the Sooners in a hurry.

31.) Cincinnati (-5) vs. Virginia Tech

Continuing the theme of a Group of Five powerhouses taking on mediocre Power 5 schools, we have the Bearcats checking in as five-point favorites over the Hokies. According to the S&P+ projections, Cincinnati is expected to win this game by eight points.

Virginia Tech is maybe the most milquetoast Power 5 team to achieve bowl status (aside from the Milquetoast Bowl between California and TCU). It ranked 58th in the nation in scoring offense and 85th in scoring defense. That type of lethargy on offense doesn't bode well when it's going against the No.7 scoring defense. Ryan Willis filled in ably at quarterback for the injured Josh Jackson but he may have a tough go against the 26th-ranked pass defense. The Hokies also don't possess a true run threat, either. And even if the Hokies did have a stud at running back, he'd have tough sledding against a Cincinnati defense that checks in at No.3 against the run.

The key on the other side of this matchup will be Cincinnati's run game sparked by Michael Warren II. He missed the regular season finale with an injury but announced that he'll be available against the Hokies. Virginia Tech ranks 110th against the run in S&P+, which is a stat that will loom large against a talent like Warren's after he racked up 17 rushing scores in 11 games.

Cincinnati's strengths line up with Virginia Tech's weaknesses in a way that gives the Bearcats a distinct advantage.

30) Penn State (-6) vs. Kentucky

Kentucky's defense is its best hope of keeping this one close. Penn State's offense is dangerous and dynamic, so if the Nittany Lions get out to a two-score lead, Kentucky's inability to throw the ball will be its undoing.

29.) Appalachian State (-7) vs. Middle Tennessee
Appalachian State losing coach Scott Satterfield gives some reason for concern here, and Middle Tennessee is rolling with a very experienced quarterback in Brent Stockstill. At the same time, the Mountaineers are a talented group that should be able to overcome Satterfield's absence and come away with the victory here.

28.) Washington State (-3.5) vs. Iowa State

This sets up as one of my favorite matchups of bowl season. Washington State's high-flying offense led by Gardner Minshew on one side, Hakeem Butler, David Montgomery, and Brock Purdy on the other.

Iowa State won't be shocked by the pass-happy, up-tempo attack from Washington State. That said, the only thing that's been able to slow the Cougar offense this year has been bad weather in the Apple Cup. This sets up to be a back-and-forth affair but Washington State's offense will be too much for Iowa State over the course of 60 minutes.

27.) Clemson (-11.5) vs. Notre Dame

I'm confident Clemson wins this one, but the spread feels a tad disrespectful to Notre Dame. Both defenses rank inside the top-5 in S&P+, so even though Clemson's offense has been dominant to this point, we can't assume they'll hang 40 with ease on the Notre Dame defense.

Notre Dame needs this to become a true defensive battle to have any real chance because if its offense is asked to score 28-or-more points, it may be too tall of an order. Clemson's edge on offense figures to be the deciding factor here, but it won't be a comfortable victory for the Tigers.

26.) Missouri (-8) vs. Oklahoma State

The key to this one is Missouri's defense. The Tiger defense ranked inside the top 40 in S&P+ but was shaky against the pass (67th). Obviously, that plays to Oklahoma's strength on offense, especially with running back Justice Hill sitting out. Still, Missouri's defense is underrated and if the pass rush can get home, Oklahoma State's Taylor Cornelius could be in for a long day.

Missouri's offense is facing very little resistance when it comes to Oklahoma State's defense. Drew Lock is the obvious headliner, but Missouri's run game might be the secret ingredient. Missouri's combo of Larry Rountree and Damarea Crockett (if healthy) can gash Oklahoma State. Look for this to be a high-scoring affair where MIssouri gets just enough stops to win this one by more than one score.

25.) Michigan (-7.5) vs. Florida

Michigan's dud against Ohio State gave me enough pause to keep the Wolverines down at 25 as opposed to tossing them in the high 30s. Of course, Florida doesn't have a Dwayne Haskins, but the Gators as still athletic and are strong defensively, so the Michigan offense could struggle. If Michigan taps back into its pre-Ohio State form, this should be a breeze for the Maize and Blue. That's far from a guarantee, however.

Florida coach Dan Mullen always has his teams ready for bowl games (5-2). I side Michigan here, but not as strongly as some of my peers.

24.) Syracuse (+1.5) vs. West Virginia

No two years are exactly alike. But we did get a glimpse at what West Virginia looks like sans Will Grier in last year's bowl game and it wasn't pretty. Well, Grier will be sitting this one out to avoid injury before the draft, leaving the Mountaineers without their best player. Without Grier, West Virginia's talent advantage at the receiver position is negated.

Syracuse deserves credit in its own right, too. The Orange have looked like they belonged against some of their toughest competition this year, and senior quarterback Eric Dungey gives them a major advantage in this one. Go with Syracuse here; West Virginia's offense will sputter without Grier.

23.) Stanford (-6.5) vs. Pitt

Pitt has shown to be a dangerous team when it gets its ground game in gear (ask Virginia). Stanford, meanwhile, has deviated from its brand this season with a toothless run game salvaged thanks to strong quarterback play. Quarterback K.J. Costello's connection with J.J. Arcega-Whiteside will be a major storyline in this one, and it's difficult to envision Pitt being able to contain it. If Pitt struggles to get its ground game going like it did against Miami, Stanford (3.9 YPC allowed) should win this one easily.

22.) Vanderbilt (-3.5) vs. Baylor

These are two of the most mediocre bowl eligible teams from the Power 5. Vanderbilt has a slight edge thanks in part to its major edge in the run game here. The Commodores have Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who ripped off 1,001 yards while averaging 7.0 yards per carry. Assuming he's healthy for this one, he could be a game-changer against a Bear defense that gives up 5.0 YPC.

Baylor is also extremely mistake-prone; the Bears have a minus-nine turnover margin that ranks 119th in the nation. Compare that to Vanderbilt's plus-8 margin and we see a game where Baylor gives up too many short fields to the Commodores to compete for 60 minutes.

21.) Mississippi State (-7) vs. Iowa

I feel that MIssissippi State is more than seven points better than this Iowa team on a neutral field. The Outback Bowl is Iowa's second home, however, as the Hawkeyes will be playing in this game for the sixth time in 2003, and each of those contests has been properly strange.

In all seriousness, this should be an excellent game between two evenly matched teams with similar strengths. Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald will be rounding out his storied career in this one after rushing for 1,000 yards for the second time. He will be a challenge to Iowa to contain for four quarters, and if he gets into any rhythm as a passer, the Bulldogs could build a massive lead.

Mississippi State also has an elite defense that ranks sixth by S&P+, which spells trouble for an Iowa offense that ranks 63rd. Look for Mississippi State to generate pressure on Nate Stanley with its excellent front headlined by Montez Sweat and Jeff Simmons. Short possessions from Iowa could bury the Hawkeyes early in this one.

20.) Temple (-3.5) vs. Duke

Teams with coaching changes prior to bowl season always give me a reason for pause when it comes to confidence picks. But have you seen how fired up Temple's interim coach is for this game?

In the actual, on the field sense, Temple checks in more than 30 spots ahead of Duke in the S&P+ ratings, and this Owls defense is the last thing that this stagnant Blue Devil offense wants to see. Expect this one to be a low-scoring slugfest where Temple emerges victorious thanks to its strong defense and run game led by Ryquell Armstead.

19.) Wisconsin (+4) vs. Miami (FL)

What a difference a year makes. On December 30, 2017, these two teams squared off in the Orange Bowl after narrowly missing the playoff. Both started this season inside the top 10. Now? The Pinstripe Bowl.

Miami actually has the defensive edge, at least on paper, but its offense is so suspect that it might be difficult to move the ball on a Wisconsin defense that is not up to its usual standards. And on the other side, Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor

18.) Arkansas State (-1.5) vs. Nevada

A candidate for best Group of Five on Group of Five matchup, this one promises to have plenty of fireworks between two explosive offenses. The X-factor here is Arkansas State's Justice Hansen. Did you know: Hansen led the nation in passer rating in November (199.62), averaged 10.3 yards per attempt, and threw 12 touchdowns and no picks in that span.

On the Nevada side, we have an offense that's shown flashes of dominance interrupted by frustrating stretches. The Wolf Pack opened the year averaging 38.2 points per game in September before sagging to 24.5 PPG in October. They picked it back up in November (33.0 PPG), but that number is greatly helped by their 49-point performance against Colorado State that makes up one-third of their November contests. Arkansas State is the better side with the better offense here, so I lean with the Red Wolves.

17.) Army (-3) vs. Houston

I don't think I'm out of line in saying Houston would win this game somewhat comfortably if D'Eriq King was at quarterback and Ed Oliver was providing some resistance to Army's rushing attack. Well, that won't be the case as King is done for the year with a meniscus injury and Oliver sitting out to get ready for the NFL Draft.

This is not to say Army wouldn't have made a fight of it; the Black Knights (10-2), while not the most efficient rushing attack by S&P+, are effective nonetheless with a 4.64 YPC mark.

Army also plays a brand of ball that frustrates tempo teams like Houston, which ranks 11th in the nation in plays per game. Look for Army, with its 38:50 average time of possession, to squeeze the life out of this Houston club that's simply nowhere close to full strength.

16.) Georgia Tech (-4) vs. Minnesota

The line has moved from Georgia Tech -4 to Georgia Tech -6 since opening. A story from the Star Tribune reports that upwards of six Golden Gophers could be facing a suspension for this upcoming bowl game. Losing depth is always problematic, but when it's against a punishing triple-option attack, it gets worse.

We also have the intangible factor of Paul Johnson coaching his last game for Georgia Tech after a wildly successful tenure at the school. Georgia Tech stumbled a bit down the stretch but from Sept. 29 to Nov. 3, the Jackets averaged 413.8 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns per game. Even when giving the option discount, that's dominant. A thinned out Minnesota squad might not be able to hold up to 60 minutes of ground-and-pound option football.

15.) BYU (-12) vs. Western Michigan

It's one thing to pick BYU here, but by 12 points? When BYU averages 25.4 points per game? Luckily spread doesn't matter for confidence picks. BYU should win this game. I just doubt they blow out the Broncos.

14.) Georgia Southern (-1.5) vs. Eastern Michigan

Georgia Southern's unique play style with the option is a challenge for any team no matter how much they try to practice and prepare. Eastern Michigan is stingy on defense overall, but its calling card is its secondary while its run defense is shoddy. Over the course of 50+ runs, the Eastern Michigan defense will wear down and Georgia Southern will come out on top.

13.) North Texas (+9) vs. Utah State

Utah State's coaching staff got poached by Texas Tech, so the Aggies will be at a disadvantage in that regard against a well-coached North Texas squad that has one of the most high-powered offenses in the nation. The Aggies are strong on both sides of the ball but the spread here, even if they still had their coaching staff, seems off to me. The Mean Green will come away with this one and you can gain an advantage on some of your competition if your competitors just go with the heavily favored side here.

12.) Toledo (-5.5) vs. Florida International

Toledo is working with a backup at quarterback in Eli Peters. However, the Rockets have a talented and experienced skill position group that should be able to take advantage of the soft matchup against Florida International's shaky defense, especially in the run game where the Panthers rank 114th in S&P+. Toledo has too much firepower for Florida International, and it'll be apparent in this one.

11.) San Diego State (+3) vs. Ohio

Both teams have had up-and-down seasons, looking like the class of their respective conference one week and looking downright dreadful the next. San Diego State's run defense is hugely important here. The Aztecs check in with the ninth-ranked run defense per S&P+, and Ohio has shown to struggle when it can't get a ground game established.

Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke is the most exciting player in this contest, but he'll be in trouble if the Aztecs take away his rushing threat. In wins this season, Rourke averaged 7.53 YPC and racked up 12 rushing touchdowns. In four losses, his YPC dipped to 4.14 and he had just one rushing touchdown. I'll bet on the defense here and take the Aztecs.

10.) Louisiana Tech (+1) vs. Hawaii

Any game with Hawaii is worth watching for the Warriors Run 'N Shoot offense that hangs points on almost any defense. Louisiana Tech is middling on defense, so scoring shouldn't be much of an issue for Hawaii here. The issue is Hawaii's defense. Hawaii checks in at 118 in overall defense and is outside the top-100 against both the run and the pass. With that, even a mediocre offense like Louisiana Tech's might be able to push for 40 points. It'll be a close game (as seen by the spread), but I'll bet on defense once again here.

9.) Louisiana (+3.5) vs. Tulane

This Tulane team has been Jeckyll and Hyde all year long. It beat quality opponents like Memphis and South Florida (at the time) but tossed in some clunkers along the way as well. Narrow victories over bottom-dwellers like Navy and East Carolina also leave me with a queasy feeling about this team.

Louisiana doesn't have much of a defense (111) but the Ragin' Cajuns can hang points on the board (32.5 PPG)

8.) Purdue (+3.5) vs. Auburn

Top to bottom, Auburn has the better roster. But have you watched Auburn play this year? Yes, the defense has been as-advertised (18th), but the offense is a trainwreck by Auburn standards (47). Aside from wins over Ole Miss and Liberty, Auburn hasn't scored more than 28 points in a game since Sept. 22.

On the Purdue side, we have one of the nation's top offenses (16) masterminded by one of college football's most cutting edge coaches in Jeff Brohm.

There's also some gamesmanship involved in this pick. The spread implies it's a fairly even matchup, and I truly feel this game means more to Purdue than it does to Auburn. Sometimes that means something in a bowl game setting.

7.) California (PK) vs. TCU

The only true pick 'em on the slate, California gets the lean from me for a few reasons. California might be onto its third quarterback of the season, but they're starting Chase Garbers on purpose. TCU, on the other hand, is on its third-string quarterback, but it ain't exactly by choice. The Horned Frogs are left with Grayson Muehlstein after Shawn Robinson left the program and Michael Collins suffering a leg injury at the end of the season. Tossing a third string quarterback out there against Cal's 12th-rated defense will likely be too much for TCU to overcome. California has its own warts on offense, to be clear, but I still feel the Golden Bears can win this rock fight of a football game.

6.) UAB (-2.5) vs Northern Illinois

A pair of conference champions square off in what is projected to be one of the most even matchups of the bowl season. UAB (53) checks in 12 spots ahead of Northern Illinois (65) and both teams are defensive-minded. If you're looking for a track meet, look elsewhere.

The difference in this game will come down to Northern Illinois' offense versus UAB's defense. The Huskies offense (115th, woof) does not have the horses to play catch-up, so look for them to try to win the time of possession matchup and wear down the Blazers. In the end, UAB has just enough on offense to put this one out of reach for Northern Illinois.

5.) Marshall (-2.5) vs. South Florida

Neither of these teams inspire much confidence and it's tough to trust either of them. Marshall has one of the worst offenses in the nation (110th) but its defense is strong (13th). South Florida, meanwhile, showed a much higher ceiling early in the season than Marshall did at any stage of the campaign by starting out 7-0 and averaging 35.6 PPG in that stretch. The present-day Bulls are unrecognizable from that early season form and enter this game on a five-game losing skid. If USF quarterback Blake Barnett (shoulder) plays in this game it could shake up things, but as it stands, Marshall is the better team with the type of defense and play style that usually comes out on top in these type of matchups.

4.) Utah (-7.5) vs. Northwestern

I always fear the team with a strong defense in bowl season. That's a problem for me when the matchup is basically the physical manifestation of the Spiderman Meme. They both rank in the top 35 in S&P+ defensively and both have offensive shortcomings. Northwestern checks in at 103rd whereas Utah is 43rd, although the Utes' ranking is likely propped up by their early-season performances when Tyler Huntley, Zack Moss, and Brittain Covey were all healthy and rolling. With Covey and Moss definitely out and Huntley a question mark, that offensive potency is highly questionable. I still believe Utah wins, but that lack of offensive upside going up against a tough defense makes this one of my least confident picks.

3.) Troy (+3) vs. Buffalo

Buffalo decidedly has more star power in this matchup. Tyree Jackson, Jaret Patterson, Anthony Johnson, and K.J. Osborn are all players that were on winning season-long teams this season. Troy doesn't have the same offensive notoriety across the board but has a slight edge in this one. It ranks 46th overall in S&P+ while Buffalo checks in at 51. This may be my favorite under-the-radar matchup of bowl season, and I lean Troy. The Trojans are extremely well-coached (not that Buffalo isn't) and can rush the passer. They rank 12th in the nation in sacks with 36 and can stop the run. If things go Troy's way and it can pin its ears back and get after Jackson, this will be an outright win for the Trojans.

2.) Michigan State (+3) vs Oregon

Like most of the games down in this neck of the confidence points woods, this one could really go either way. Michigan State is a team I've been low on all season, mostly due to its putrid offense (114th). You have to give credit where credit's due, though. The Spartan defense is stout. It ranks second overall in S&P and statistically has the best run defense in FBS, allowing 2.67 YPC and 81.3 yards per game. Oregon's offensive identity is more air-based with Justin Herbert at the helm, but if the Spartans make the Ducks one-dimensional, it'll still be a problem.

If Michigan State is able to dictate the tempo and make this game as ugly as humanly possible, Sparty will come out on top. We should have a good read on which way this one will go by the end of the first quarter. If Oregon forces Michigan State to play catch-up, I will be wrong but it won't burn me too badly.

1.) South Carolina (-4) vs. Virginia

A healthy Bryce Perkins for Virginia will make this an interesting clash between two fun teams. South Carolina will be without Deebo Samuel in this contest, but the Gamecocks still have a quarterback in Jake Bentley that is playing his best ball along with other talented skill players like Bryan Edwards. Virginia's secondary play (27th) versus Bentley will be the deciding factor in this one, and I argue that it's advantage Bentley in what should be a close and entertaining game.

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John McKechnie
John is the 2016 and 2021 FSWA College Writer of the Year winner. He is a Maryland native and graduate of the University of Georgia. He's been writing for RotoWire since 2014.
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