Week 12 of the college football season is finally here, and it features a slate full of important games that might change conference championship races around the nation. There are a number of ranked vs. ranked matchups this week, including two in the Pac-12. No. 22 Utah faces a gritty No. 17 Arizona team that has surprised many under Jedd Fisch. In the primetime slot, Heisman candidate Michael Penix Jr. and the Washington Huskies take on DJ Uiagalelei and the No. 10 Oregon State Beavers on ABC at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Huskies enter Saturday night in a rare underdog spot, despite being undefeated and claiming a win over Oregon. Will they be able to keep the momentum rolling heading as the Pac-12 Championship game draws closer? Elsewhere in the SEC, the Georgia Bulldogs fresh off reclaiming the top spot in the College Football Playoff rankings after a dominant win over No. 13 OIe Miss Rebels in Week 11, take on Joe Milton III and the No. 18 Tennessee Volunteers. And in the Big-12, No 21. Kansas State and No. 25 Kansas battle in Lawrence.
Matt Barrie, Matt Miller, Kevin Haswell and Kevin Pulsifer have got you covered with everything you need to know to make the smartest wagering decision for Week 12 of the college football season.
The race for the College Football Playoff appears to be wide open, with six teams (Michigan, Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, Oregon) having less than 10-1 odds to win the National Championship at ESPN BET. Who do you think is the best team in college football with only two weeks left in the regular season?
Matt Miller: I think a lot of people will say Georgia– and I get that they’re the top dog (pun intended) until someone beats them — but I’m going with Michigan. The Wolverines are the most complete team in the nation, with an elite rushing attack, a very efficient passing game and a defense suited to match up with any offense in the league. Now we do have to see them against Ohio State and my opinion could change by then, but right now I think Michigan is the best team I’ve seen.
Kevin Pulsifer: Matt’s right — a lot of people will say Georgia, including me. Michigan refused to pass the ball in the second half against Penn State, so we still haven’t seen it prove it for a full game. Georgia just got Brock Bowers back and put up 600 yards against a ranked team for the second time in a month. I was fading the Bulldogs when they failed to cover each of their first five games, but they have righted the ship and are clicking on all cylinders.
Matt Barrie: Georgia. It has proved over the past month that it has another championship-caliber team. Carson Beck has grown and the reload is getting dominant at the right time.
Kevin Haswell: I have to go with Georgia. Not only did the Bulldogs blow out Ole Miss on Saturday, but they also beat a very good Missouri team the week prior. The Bulldogs will be tested again Saturday as they head to Knoxville to take on Tennessee. As for the national championship, I’m in on Georgia at +225.
The Iowa Hawkeyes are on a historic streak of low totals. Week 12 marks the Hawkeyes’ eighth straight game with a total under 40 (30.5 at ESPN BET). Iowa is currently 8-2 to the under, hitting it in five straight games. Will it continue the streak against Illinois?
Matt Miller: Iowa unders are a tradition, and I’m not one to break tradition. Facing a stout Illinois defense, I don’t see that changing. Let’s not forget the Fighting Illini have the best defensive tackle in college football in Johnny Newton and another top-100 draft pick next to him with Keith Randolph. Yes, we’ve seen Illinois give up points this year, but not to an offense like Iowa.
Kevin Haswell: I’ve been on Iowa unders all season and for good reason. The Hawkeyes are averaging just 18.8 points per game this season, third-lowest among Power 5 teams. That number drops to 14.7 in Big Ten games. As for their defense, they are allowing just 12.3 points per game overall and in conference play. Give me Illinois-Iowa under 30.5.
Kevin Pulsifer: Iowa-Rutgers under was my favorite bet last week, but I’m actually going to buck the trend and go over 30.5 here. Illinois is allowing 30.6 PPG in Big Ten play by themselves. All but one Illini game this season has reached 40 points, and this Iowa team has gone lower lately but has still hit over 30.5 in more than half their games. I think this number is an overreaction to the last month of play.
Perhaps the most interesting game of this weekend features No. 5 Washington going up against No. 10 Oregon State. The Huskies are 2.5-point underdogs at ESPN BET despite being undefeated. Do you like Michael Penix Jr. and Washington to stay undefeated, or will the Beavers get the win in Corvallis?
Matt Barrie: This has the infamous “What do the oddsmakers know?” written all over it. Corvallis is a tough place to play, and Oregon State is a physical team. Washington is more talented. But Oregon State will punch them in the mouth. I think Washington ultimately wins, but it’s going to be uncomfortable for them for all four quarters.
Matt Miller: Wait, Washington is the dog here!? That’s shocking to me based on the strength of play. I do think this will be a good game, but the passing attack of Washington is simply too much for Oregon State to shut down for an entire game. I like Washington to cover that 2.5 and win the game.
Kevin Haswell: A lot of people are shocked that Washington is an underdog, but I’m not. Oregon State has been extremely impressive at home over the past three seasons, especially against the spread. The Beavers are 12-1 ATS as a home favorite, over that span (best cover percentage in the FBS). Give me Oregon State -2.5.
Kevin Pulsifer: We saw the Washington-Oregon game come down to a field goal, and I could see the same happening here. I have to side with Penix and Washington. There’s a clear upper tier of five teams in the Pac-12 — the Huskies have gone 3-0 against that group and Oregon State is just 1-0, with losses to Arizona and UCLA as well. I would love to get the full three points here but I’m willing to take the 2.5 as well.
LSU QB Jayden Daniels made history last week totaling more than 600 yards of offense with five TDs. Daniels (+320) currently has the second-shortest odds to win the Heisman at ESPN BET behind Bo Nix (+120). With games against Georgia State and Texas A&M left on the schedule, should Daniels be the favorite to win despite the Tigers’ 7-3 record?
Matt Barrie: The Heisman is for the most outstanding player in college football. I sometimes disagree that it has to go to the best player on the best team. Daniels has been complete from start to finish. Even though LSU has lost three games this season, I think he should be the Heisman front runner.
Matt Miller: If we’re talking about what the Heisman is — the most statistically successful quarterback in college football — then Daniels should be the favorite and LSU should do all it can to pad his stats with an SEC title out of the picture this season. I say run it up and let Daniels cook against subpar defenses. Should LSU’s record hurt him? I don’t think so. Lamar Jackson won the Heisman in 2016 with a 9-4 record and 51 total touchdowns. Daniels has 38 right now with two games to play, so while it’s unlikely he’ll get to 51, he’s played a much tougher schedule and the field of competitors vying for the trophy alongside him isn’t very prolific statistically.
Kevin Haswell: While I think Daniels has been the most impressive player in college football this season, I don’t think it’s smart to bet him to win the Heisman at this point. Current favorite Nix has two potential ranked matchups left on his schedule (Oregon State and potentially Washington in the Pac-12 Championship), while Daniels has none. Not to mention Nix will have the opportunity to play for a conference championship. There’s just too much opportunity ahead for Nix to cement his case to feel comfortable with betting Daniels.
Kevin Pulsifer: Do I think the Heisman should go to the player with the best stats against the best competition? Yes. Do I think that’s how the voters choose the winner? No. Nix and Michael Penix Jr. are on a crash course to meet in the Pac-12 title game. A rematch of two Heisman front-runners facing off with a CFP berth on the line? How can a narrative-based voter not give the award to the winner of that game?
What is your upset pick for Week 12?
Kevin Haswell: This week, I’m going to the Duke-Virginia game in the ACC. The Cavaliers have been quite unlucky, going 1-5 in one-score games and have a win over ranked North Carolina. On the other side, Duke QB Riley Leonard continues to be sidelined with a toe injury and the Blue Devils are 2-4 after starting the season 4-0. Give me Virginia +160 on the moneyline.
Kevin Pulsifer: Can I take Washington (+2.5) over Oregon State? No? Let’s head back to the Big Ten and see if Northwestern (+3) can keep its momentum going against Purdue at home. The Wildcats just announced coach David Braun is sticking around as its permanent coach, and they’re one win away from bowl eligibility. The Boilermakers are 0-3 on the road in conference play, and Northwestern has one home loss all season — to Penn State.
Do you have any favorite bets for Week 12?
Matt Miller: BYU to cover against Oklahoma (-24.5). I’ve seen BYU in person once this season (at Arkansas) and scouted three other contests. This is a tough, hard-nosed football team that will play up to their opponents. With Oklahoma’s season being defined lately by turnovers, the Cougars’ defense will get the takeaways needed to at least cover in this one.
Kevin Haswell: I’m going to go back to the well to pick James Madison (-9) against Appalachian State with ESPN’s “College GameDay” in town. The Dukes are 7-1 over their past eight games and are 3-0 ATS against teams with winning records this season. App State on the other hand is just 2-3 outright on the road this season.
Kevin Pulsifer: I’ll take the under 65.5 in the USC-UCLA game (gasp!). At 65.5, this feels low for a USC game, but not impossible (it played to just 63 points last week). The Bruins drag games to a standstill, playing to an average combined total of 39.6 points in their seven conference games. If you take the average total of both USC and UCLA conference games, you end up around 59, which is a whole touchdown under the current line. Given the importance of the rivalry, I imagine both defenses will want to show up and this game takes longer to open up.