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College Capper: Picking Games Week 14

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

It's as old as college football itself and is nearly as entrenched as a part of Thanksgiving weekend as the Cowboys and the Lions - it's rivalry week.

That's the good news, now the bad. Although the people who cover college football are hyping this card, it looks pretty weak to me.

I know, I'm not supposed to say that, but let's face it, beyond the Auburn-Alabama clash, there just isn't much to get excited about. We aren't looking at a bunch of bad teams; it's just that those teams, beyond a handful, just don't have much on the line.

If this were the NFL, we'd be asking why the starters are playing in meaningless games. This is college football, though, which means, every game counts, whether we think it does or not. The players on the field want to win these games, which gives these games value.

Another bonus to this weekend, of course, is that there is pretty much a full slate of games Friday AND Saturday, not to mention a couple rivalry games Thursday night.

With any luck we'll be treated to a couple of upsets and a handful of close games. If not, well, there's always next week, Championship week, a tradition as old as my high school diploma.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter at @gregvara where I'll often have updated insight to matchups on the weekend. Last weekend I hedged a bit on the Minnesota pick, but I also spotted a strange line-move in the direction of Utah State, which paid off.


Cream of the Crop
(Week: 0-4/Season: 23-16)


Miami Ohio at Ball State:
Miami (OH) was a bad team a month ago, now it's historically bad. The RedHawks have dropped their last four games by an average of 30 points, and no, none of those losses were to NIU. Ball State's been stewing over its closer-than-it-looked loss to NIU the last two weeks, and the Cardinals are looking to take out their frustration on someone. Enter the RedHawks, this one won't be pretty as Miami can't score and Ball State has what might be the most explosive offense in the conference.

Side: Ball State -34.5

East Carolina at Marshall:
This should be one of the more entertaining games this weekend as both of these teams can really light up the scoreboard. Marshall has averaged more than 50 points in its last five games, and East Carolina has averaged more than 50 points in its past five games. I know, I could have made that last sentence more consice, but I wanted to emphasize the point that BOTH TEAMS ARE AVERAGING MORE THAN 50 POINTS PER GAME THE LAST FIVE WEEKS! Yes, each team brings a defense that is likely better than the ones they've faced the last five weeks, but the total is not inflated at all, which leaves a little wiggle room in case one of the teams steps up on defense.

Total: Over 64.5

Purdue at Indiana:
Once upon a time, Indiana had a very good offense - then it went up against Ohio State and Wisconsin. The good news is, the Hoosiers finally get a crack at the worst team in the conference this week and that once potent offense should return to form. Purdue is probably licking its chops as well as Indiana hasn't stopped anyone from scoring this season, so I'm expecting a lot of points here - weather permitting.

Total: Over 66

Best of the Rest
(Week: 2-3/Season: 33-24)


Massachusetts at Ohio:
I'm not sure if Ohio is headed in the wrong direction or if it was never good to begin with. Whatever the case, the Bobcats have played some awful football the last three weeks and are in no position to lay this many points to any team. UMass is not a good team, but this pick is based solely on the state of the Ohio program.

Side: UMass +16.5

Oregon State at Oregon:
I'm not sure if there is a team in the country that has fallen further than OSU over the last month. What looked like a quality team early in the season has completely imploded the last few weeks, and this is not the spot to get better. Oregon laid a huge egg last week, but that should serve as a wake-up call for the Ducks. Each team has its issues, but a poor start from OSU will open the flood gates this week and deem the Duck's issue irrelevant.

Side: Oregon -21.5

Ohio State at Michigan:
OSU is clearly the better team, and the Buckeyes have done a fairly good job of handling lesser teams this season, but they face a different type of underdog this week in Michigan. Michigan has plenty of issues, but the Wolverines still have talent and talent, when properly motivated, is very dangerous. I've seen this game played too many times to easily dismiss one side, and while I have no doubt Urban Meyer will have his team ready, I'm still not sure the Buckeyes will be able to easily pull away this week.

Side: Michigan +14.5

Duke at North Carolina:
North Carolina is on a roll, but while the Tar Heels have beaten up on the dregs of the ACC, Duke has actually beaten a couple quality opponents the last couple months. Looking at the line, the Blue Devils still aren't getting the respect they deserve and with a chip on their shoulder, they'll go into Chapel Hill and pull out the win - or at least the cover.

Side: Duke +6

PASSing Thoughts
(Week: 3-1/Season: 25-26-3)


Bowling Green at Buffalo:
The MAC East championship is on the line this week as these two teams face off for the right to play NIU next week in the MAC championship. Both teams have obviously played well this year, and while there isn't much separating them, I give a slight edge to Bowling Green.

Side: Bowling Green -1.5

Arkansas at LSU:
Arkansas actually showed a pulse last week, but unfortunately for the Hogs, LSU looks to be hitting stride on all fronts. The only hope for Arkansas is if LSU overlooks this game, but considering it is a rivalry game, I don't see that happening.

Side: LSU -24.5

Washington State at Washington:
WSU is starting to play some good ball, and even though Washington dismantled Oregon State last week, I think another week without the services of starting QB Keith Price might catch up with the Huskies this week in the Apple Cup. Just a case of too many points against a team that can score.

Side: WSU +16.5

Northwestern at Illinois:
A 4-7 team that's dropped seven in a row and no longer has a chance at the postseason is a 3.5-point favorite this week? On the road? I guess I get it, the Cats are facing Illinois, but come on. You have to wonder about the mindset of these kids. One week you have the Gameday crew on your campus, the next you aren't even bowl eligible. On the other side you have Illinois, which broke a lengthy Big Ten losing streak last week and actually has some positive momentum.

Side: Illinois +3.5

Alabama at Auburn:
I get the feeling that Auburn has stepped up in class a little too quickly. Yes, the Tigers have a couple quality wins on their schedule, but both of those wins came against teams that don't play defense. The one time they faced a team with a decent defense, LSU, they lost by 14. Alabama has been in this spot before, heck the Tide is in this spot nearly every season. The last time Auburn won this game they had a special player behind center, and while the Tigers have some good players, they don't have that game-changer who can make the difference in a game like this.

Side: Alabama -10.5