NCAA Football: UCLA at Southern California

If we just keep stacking winning weeks, we'll finally get ourselves out of the hole we dug to start the year. That's what I've been telling myself to do, and that's what we've done over the last few weeks. Not only did we go 4-2 last week, but one of our four wins was the North Carolina (+150) upset. So, not only did we inch closer to .500 on the season, but I can see a profit not too far off in the distance!

Now, if only I could get The Lock of the Week settled. It's my most confident play every week, but it's been our most unreliable. It's been so unreliable, in fact, that if I never included a Lock of the Week, The Six Pack would already be profitable! Seriously, remove the Lock of the Week and this column is suddenly 30-27-1 on the season for a return of 3.39 units. Still not where we want to be, but a fair bit better than where we are. On to this week's picks. 

All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

Games of the Week

No. 7 USC at No. 16 UCLA: The first rule of Bill Walton's Laws of Pac-12 Physics is that if there's anything the Pac-12 can do to hurt itself, the Pac-12 will do that. We saw evidence of this last week when Oregon lost at home to Washington and dashed its College Football Playoff hopes. UCLA did the same thing later that evening, stubbing its toe at home against Arizona. That means the Pac-12 has only one legitimate CFP hopeful left: USC.

That means it's time for the Trojans to do what the laws of physics require of them. Now, because science can sometimes be tricky, I'm choosing to take UCLA and the points rather than the Bruins straight up. After all, it's entirely possible that the Trojans could pick up the win here and then lose next week against Notre Dame. Whatever the case, I don't trust USC's defense to cover. UCLA 41, USC 38 | UCLA +2.5

No. 10 Utah at No. 12 Oregon: If we continue to follow Walton's First Law, Oregon will win this game. You see, the ideal scenario for the Pac-12 would be for USC to win its final two games and face Utah in the Pac-12 Championship. That would give the Trojans a chance to "avenge" their lone loss, which came to the Utes, and strengthen their overall résumé. So this dramatically tilts the field in Oregon's favor Saturday night. However, I do not know the status of Oregon quarterback Bo Nix. He was banged up late in the loss to Washington, and there's been no official word on his status for Saturday (though recent line movement suggests he may be out). Even if he does play, I don't know if he'll be at 100%.

Even if Nix is fine, the Ducks suffered injuries on their offensive line, too, so there's a real chance the Oregon offense won't be firing on all cylinders. I expect it will lean heavily on its rushing attack against a Utah defense that's struggled to stop the run, and the Utes have been more effective on the ground themselves. All of this leads me to believe this game won't be as high-scoring as the total suggests. Oregon 31, Utah 28 | Under 61.5

Lock of the Week

No. 22 Oklahoma State at Oklahoma: If I knew quarterback Spencer Sanders was unavailable to play in this game, the spread would make a lot more sense. However, Sanders wasn't supposed to start last week, yet he made an appearance in Oklahoma State's 20-14 win over Iowa State and promptly led the Cowboys on a touchdown drive. 

Since Oklahoma State is out of the running for the Big 12 Championship, so let me propose a theory: Mike Gundy sat Sanders to give him a week to heal ahead of this game. When the Cowboys were struggling to beat Iowa State, he sent him in to help win the game. But this is the game Gundy's had his eyes on. It's Bedlam. Oklahoma is leaving for the SEC soon. We don't know how many more of these games there will be. Winning this game is everything for Gundy and the Cowboys. Meanwhile, the Sooners have been mediocre all season long, and their lone win against a team with a winning record came against a Kansas team without its starting quarterback. Take the Pokes, folks. Oklahoma State 37, Oklahoma 33 | Oklahoma State +7.5

Under of the Week

No. 15 Kansas State at West Virginia: I don't think losing quarterback Adrian Martinez is the worst thing for Kansas State because Will Howard gives the Wildcats more balance on offense. That said, just because Kansas State can throw the ball better with Howard doesn't mean it will change its identity. It's still a team that wants to run the ball, even if it's been inefficient at times. I don't think it'll have much trouble doing so against this West Virginia defense, which has struggled to stop the run all season.

On the other side, I don't have much faith in the Mountaineers' offense right now. The vibe seems off. The Eers pulled off an upset of Oklahoma last week but got a bit lucky to do so. West Virginia converted four of five fourth-down attempts, while Oklahoma went 1 of 13 on third and fourth downs combined. That doesn't feel like a sustainable model for offensive success. Still, I don't like betting against West Virginia as a home dog. The better play is on this one coming in below the total. Kansas State 27, West Virginia 20 | Under 54.5

Over of the Week

Indiana at Michigan State: It's not going to grab much attention after it got off to a terribly disappointing start to the season, but Michigan State has turned a corner of late. After upsetting Illinois in Champaign two weeks ago, the Spartans took down Rutgers last week. And if you remove the 29-7 loss at Michigan, you see that the Spartans offense has taken strides in that time and been better than the unit we saw earlier in the season.

However, the defense still has plenty of holes that can be exposed. Granted, Indiana might not be the best team to expose them, but Sparty should be able to easily move the ball against a Hoosiers team with little to play for. This isn't going to be a shootout by any stretch of the imagination, but we should crack 50 points. Michigan State 31, Indiana 23 | Over 47.5

Upset of the Week

Iowa at Minnesota: Last week, North Carolina was an underdog on the road against Wake Forest, and I did not understand it. When the line came out for this game, I felt the same way. I don't care what the power ratings say, Iowa is a better team than Minnesota right now, and the market hasn't adjusted nearly enough.

Minnesota has won three straight to get to 7-3, but those wins have come against Rutgers, Nebraska and Northwestern, three teams that are a combined 8-22. The Gophers have not beaten an FBS team with a winning record this season. They beat Michigan State earlier in the year before the Spartans turned things around, but they're only 5-5. Against Purdue, Illinois and Penn State, the Gophers were outscored 91-41. Iowa's defense will make it very difficult for a one-dimensional Minnesota offense to move the ball, and Iowa wins this game more often than it loses it. The pig is going back to Iowa City. Iowa 17, Minnesota 13 | Iowa (+118)

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