By Brad Carroll
Florida State sent a message to the rest of the nation Thursday night, coming from 17 down in the third quarter against Louisville to not only win, but win convincingly. This season hasn't gone smoothly for the Seminoles or quarterback Jameis Winston, but this victory could be the spark that sets another championship season in motion.
Most of all, there is the fact the Seminoles with Winston just don't lose. So, even though the SEC is getting all the publicity, a championship still goes through Florida State.
A host of other contenders get their opportunity to impress Saturday, as there are 13 big games, many of which are elimination games for the College Football Playoff. Below we preview them all, including Oklahoma at Iowa State, TCU at West Virginia, Kansas at Baylor, Florida vs. Georgia, Auburn at Ole Miss, Arkansas at Mississippi State, Stanford at Oregon, Oklahoma State at Kansas State, Purdue at Nebraska, Notre Dame at Navy, Illinois at Ohio State, Arizona at UCLA and Utah at Arizona State.
Our college football experts pick each of the games against the spread. Follow me on Twitter for all of our latest college football analysis and picks against the spread.
No. 18 Oklahoma at Iowa State, 12 p.m., FS1
The Spread: Oklahoma -16.5; Iowa State +16.5
Brad's Breakdown: Oklahoma has gone from national title contenders to completely out of the playoff race altogether in short time, losing to TCU and Kansas State this month. The Sooners barely beat rival Texas in between those two losses as well. Oklahoma was built this season to excel on defense, but that has been a weak point of the team now, allowing 33 points to West Virginia, 37 to TCU, 26 to Texas and 31 to Kansas State. The Sooners offense has become pedestrian during that stretch, with quarterback Trevor Knight throwing nine touchdowns and six interceptions this season. Iowa State has just two wins this year, but plays its best at home (not including a season-opening shocking loss to North Dakota State). The Cyclones lost by four but covered against Kansas State, lost to Baylor by 21 but covered, and beat Toledo by seven. Iowa State won't have enough to win the game, but it should have enough to continue the home trend and keep the score within two touchdowns.
Brad's Score: Oklahoma 38, Iowa State 24
Craig's Score: Oklahoma 35, Iowa State 13
Glenn's Score: Oklahoma 38, Iowa State 21
Matt's Score: Oklahoma 65, Iowa State 17
No. 7 TCU at No. 20 West Virginia, 3:30 p.m., ABC
The Spread: TCU -6; West Virginia +6
Brad's Breakdown: If you like nothing more than seeing the scoreboard light up with points, then this is the game for you. TCU, fresh off an 82-point performance against Texas Tech, has the highest scoring offense in the nation, averaging 50.4 points per game. West Virginia is 23rd in scoring offense, averaging 36.9 points per game, and owns the ninth best passing offense. While this is a College Football Playoff elimination game for the Horned Frogs, as one loss will knock them out of the race, it's also an elimination game for the Big 12 title. Both teams need a victory to stay in that race. TCU's only loss came against Baylor, where the Bears allowed 24 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to lose by a field goal. West Virginia has lost to then-No. 2 Alabama and then-No. 4 Oklahoma this season, but big wins over then-No. 4 Baylor and Oklahoma State has put it back in the top 20. Beating the Mountaineers on the road is going to be tough, but the Horned Frogs are a special team, and will put the game away in the fourth quarter.
Brad's Score: TCU 56, West Virginia 49
Craig's Score: TCU 45, West Virginia 31
Glenn's Score: TCU 48, West Virginia 35
Matt's Score: TCU 42, West Virginia 35
Florida vs. No. 11 Georgia at Jacksonville, 3:30 p.m., CBS
The Spread: Florida +13.5; Georgia -13.5
Brad's Breakdown: Since losing running back Todd Gurley, Georgia has fallen off the radar as being one of the better teams in the nation. But while the voters haven't taken notice, the Bulldogs have been very impressive since losing their star player to an NCAA suspension. Georgia beat then-No. 23 Missouri 34-0 just days after finding out Gurley wouldn't play, and followed that up with a 45-32 victory over Arkansas that wasn't even as close as the final score would indicate. The Bulldogs only loss this season came at then-No. 24 South Carolina by three. Florida is 3-3 this season but has lost three of its last four games, to Alabama, LSU and Missouri. The Missouri game could be the biggest indicator of how Saturday's game will go, as the Gators lost 42-13 to a team the Bulldogs dominated.
Brad's Score: Georgia 38, Florida 14
Craig's Score: Georgia 34, Florida 17
Glenn's Score: Georgia 42, Florida 17
Matt's Score: Georgia 35, Florida 14
Purdue at No. 15 Nebraska, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
The Spread: Purdue +23.5; Nebraska -23.5
Brad's Breakdown: Purdue has been competitive in each of its big games this season, covering against Notre Dame and Michigan State as big underdogs. Nebraska represents the third huge game for the Boilermakers this season, and there doesn't appear to be any reason not to go with the points again. Nebraska is 7-1 with its lone loss coming to Michigan State. Since that loss the Cornhuskers have beaten Northwestern by 21 and Rutgers by 18, covering the latter by a half-point. Nebraska's offense goes through running back Ameer Abdullah, who has rushed for 1,249 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Huskers will get to 8-1 for the first time since 2010, but the Boilermakers, with an improved offense under quarterback Austin Appleby, will keep the game within three touchdowns.
Brad's Score: Nebraska 42, Purdue 21
Craig's Score: Nebraska 38, Purdue 21
Glenn's Score: Nebraska 35, Purdue 20
Matt's Score: Nebraska 49, Purdue 10
Kansas at No. 13 Baylor, 4 p.m., FS1
The Spread: Kansas +36.5; Baylor -36.5
Brad's Breakdown: There is no reason to like this gigantic spread, as 36.5 points is tough to judge no matter what kind of teams are involved. Baylor is one of the best teams in the nation and has the second best scoring offense in the country. Kansas is one of the worst teams in the country, losing four straight games and five of its last six. Out of all the Jayhawks losses, only one came by more than 24 points, and that was a 41-3 loss to Duke. Baylor, however, easily has the best offense Kansas has faced all season long. The biggest reason to pick the Bears minus the points is Kansas just doesn't score much, averaging 9.6 points in their five losses. What hurts a Kansas pick even more is Baylor is coming off a loss to West Virginia two weeks ago, with the offense struggling in a game that likely knocked it out of the playoff hunt. The Bears should be looking to make a statement with a big offensive performance here and that's bad news for Kansas, even with the huge spread.
Brad's Score: Baylor 56, Kansas 14
Craig's Score: Baylor 56, Kansas 24
Glenn's Score: Baylor 70, Kansas 21
Matt's Score: Baylor 52, Kansas 21
No. 3 Auburn at No. 4 Ole Miss, 7 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Auburn +1; Ole Miss -1
Brad's Breakdown: This is the biggest game of the day and one of the biggest of the season, as one team will take a giant step toward making the final four tournament at the end of the year, while the other will be eliminated from contention. Ole Miss was the main surprise of the first batch of playoff rankings, as it came in at No. 4 despite losing last week to LSU. The Running Rebels lost that game 10-7 to then-No. 24 ranked team after allowing a 95-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes. Ole Miss had a chance to tie late, but on a third down play in Tigers territory in the final seconds, quarterback Bo Wallace threw a boneheaded interception on a deep throw. If he threw the ball out of bounds, the Rebels would have had a field goal opportunity with nine seconds to play to tie. Before that, Ole Miss was the most impressive team in the nation, and it still is on defense, allowing a nation best 10.5 points per game. Auburn is 6-1 with its lone loss coming to No. 1 Mississippi State. The Tigers have an amazingly difficult schedule remaining, with games at Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama. Auburn's offense is all about the running game, and Ole Miss allowed LSU to rush for 264 yards last week. It would be great for college football if Ole Miss advanced to the playoff, but last week's defeat can't be ignored. Auburn wins a thriller.
Brad's Score: Auburn 24, Ole Miss 23 (upset pick)
Craig's Score: Auburn 24, Ole Miss 20 (upset pick)
Glenn's Score: Auburn 27, Ole Miss 24 (upset pick)
Matt's Score: Auburn 31, Ole Miss 24 (upset pick)
Arkansas at No. 1 Mississippi State, 7:15 p.m., ESPN2
The Spread: Arkansas +11; Mississippi State +11
Brad's Breakdown: There are two games on the schedule Saturday where I didn't have a second thought about picking against the spread, taking Georgia minus the points against Florida, and this game, with Mississippi State laying 11 to Arkansas. Mississippi State ran into a bit of trouble last week against Kentucky on the road, as the offense struggled and the defense allowed 390 passing yards, but the Bulldogs still won by 14. At home against Arkansas, the Bulldogs should have a bounce-back performance, especially considering the Razorbacks are a run-based team and shouldn't test them through the air. On top of that, Arkansas has lost 13 games in a row against ranked teams by an average of 21 points and Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema is 0-12 in the SEC since getting the job last year. Back in 2012, Mississippi State beat Arkansas 45-14 at home. The Bulldogs are immensely better now and it all should make for an easy win against the Hogs.
Brad's Score: Mississippi State 41, Arkansas 20
Craig's Score: Mississippi State 38, Arkansas 13
Glenn's Score: Mississippi State 35, Arkansas 21
Matt's Score: Mississippi State 35, Arkansas 20
Stanford at No. 5 Oregon, 7:30 p.m., FOX
The Spread: Stanford +8; Oregon -8
Brad's Breakdown: Stanford has lost three games this season, the first time its done that in five years, but Oregon won't be taking the Cardinal lightly. Stanford has owned Oregon recently, as Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota and the Ducks have lost the last two meetings despite being undefeated and national title favorites going in. Stanford beat Oregon 17-14 in overtime in 2012 and won 26-20 in 2013. The big-play, high-octane Oregon offense everyone knows just isn't the same against the Stanford defense. If the Cardinal pulls the upset again, the Ducks will be eliminated from playoff contention. If the Ducks win, they may have passed their biggest challenge and likely will make the final four at year's end. Against its three quality opponents this year, Stanford lost 13-10 to USC, lost 17-14 to Notre Dame and dropped a 26-10 decision to Arizona State. The common theme is the Cardinal has absolutely no offense. Oregon and Mariota will finally get their revenge.
Brad's Score: Oregon 28, Stanford 17
Craig's Score: Oregon 41, Stanford 30
Glenn's Score: Oregon 38, Stanford 35
Matt's Score: Oregon 35, Stanford 17
Oklahoma State at No. 9 Kansas State, 8 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Oklahoma State +14.5; Kansas State -14.5
Brad's Breakdown: Kansas State has become a must-pick team each week, as it has covered its last five games against the spread. Oklahoma State has failed to cover in its last three, and none of them were even close. The Cowboys lost the last two, to TCU (42-9) and West Virginia (34-10), so they are reeling right now. They also lost to Florida State in the opener. Kansas State controls its own Big 12 title destiny, but has an extremely difficult road ahead with road games against TCU, West Virginia and Baylor. Kansas State can't overlook the Cowboys here or it could result in an upset, which would make those three games ahead mean little to nothing. Kansas State's defense should have no trouble slowing down Oklahoma State, however, and that means a big victory at home. Then, it's on to TCU for Kansas State.
Brad's Score: Kansas State 40, Oklahoma State 24
Craig's Score: Kansas State 30, Oklahoma State 10
Glenn's Score: Kansas State 48, Oklahoma State 20
Matt's Score: Kansas State 35, Oklahoma State 20
No. 10 Notre Dame at Navy, 8 p.m., CBS
The Spread: Notre Dame -14.5; Navy +14.5
Brad's Breakdown: Historically, Notre Dame seemingly always plays close games against the underdog Midshipmen, and holds just a 4-3 edge in wins since Ken Niumatalolo took over as head coach at Navy. The records and rankings haven't meant much in the past. But this year might be different, as Notre Dame is coming off a loss to Florida State two weeks ago and was ranked No. 10 in the first playoff rankings, a surprising development for a team ranked No. 6 in the AP poll. With that playoff ranking, the Irish will have to be on a mission to impress the voters and move up in the playoff poll to grab a top four spot at season's end. That's bad news for Navy, which is 4-4 but hasn't beaten a good team all season. Notre Dame is vastly superior to Navy and should parlay that to the scoreboard.
Brad's Score: Notre Dame 33, Navy 17
Craig's Score: Notre Dame 28, Navy 13
Glenn's Score: Notre Dame 35, Navy 30
Matt's Score: Notre Dame 50, Navy 20
Illinois at No. 16 Ohio State, 8 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Illinois +28.5; Ohio State -28.5
Brad's Breakdown: Ohio State is another team that got little respect from the playoff committee, getting ranked below even Nebraska from the Big Ten. The Buckeyes are 6-1, but their loss early on to Virginia Tech at home has destroyed their credibility with the voters. It didn't help that Ohio State needed double overtime to beat Penn State last week on the road. While the Buckeyes won't get to impress this week, next week's showdown with Michigan State will be their opportunity to take a giant leap forward. Illinois is 4-4, breaking a three-game losing streak with an upset win over Minnesota last week. The Illini aren't good on either side of the ball, but should catch a break with Ohio State having to get ready for the Spartans after this game. That means the Buckeyes win, but Illinois should keep the game close enough to cover.
Brad's Score: Ohio State 49, Illinois 21
Craig's Score: Ohio State 45, Illinois 14
Glenn's Score: Ohio State 65, Illinois 17
Matt's Score: Ohio State 52, Illinois 21
No. 12 Arizona at No. 22 UCLA, 10:30 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Arizona +6.5; UCLA -6.5
Brad's Breakdown: Since routing Arizona State 62-27, the Bruins have played terribly the last four games, winning two and losing two. UCLA lost by two to Utah and by 12 to Oregon, both at home. The Bruins followed that up with wins over California (by two) and Colorado (by three in double overtime), not exactly the way things were supposed to go for one of the preseason favorites for a playoff spot. Arizona is 6-1 on the season, including a win at Oregon, 31-24, at the beginning of October. The Wildcats lost the next week to USC, however, before topping Washington State by 22 last week. UCLA hasn't lost three games in a row at home since 1971, which is what will happen if it can't beat the Wildcats. The Bruins won't let that happen.
Brad's Score: UCLA 35, Arizona 28
Craig's Score: UCLA 27, Arizona 20
Glenn's Score: UCLA 38, Arizona 17
Matt's Score: Arizona 41, UCLA 40 (upset pick)
No. 17 Utah at No. 14 Arizona State, 11 p.m., FS1
The Spread: Utah +6; Arizona State -6
Brad's Breakdown: Since getting embarrassed by UCLA in late September, Arizona State has reeled off three straight impressive victories, over USC, Stanford and Washington. The last two weeks, the Sun Devils allowed a total of 20 points. Utah is 6-1 and has won three in a row since a bad defeat to Washington State. The Utes have beaten UCLA, Oregon State and USC, the latter in come from behind fashion on a late touchdown. Even though both teams would have serious work to do to get into the College Football Playoff, this certainly is an elimination game in that race. It also will go a long way in determining who will play for the Pac-12 title from the South. Arizona State has played so well lately, there should be no stopping it at home in the last game of the week.
Brad's Score: Arizona State 27, Utah 20
Craig's Score: Arizona State 36, Utah 28
Glenn's Score: Utah 42, Arizona State 24 (upset pick)
Matt's Score: Arizona State 31, Utah 27
Brad Last Week: 5-7-1 (spread), 11-2 (straight-up), 0-0 (upset picks)
Brad Season: 52-54-1 (spread), 80-27 (straight-up), 5-5 (upsets)
Craig Last Week: 4-8-1 (spread), 10-3 (straight-up), 0-0 (upset picks)
Craig Season: 47-59-1 (spread), 76-31 (straight-up), 5-8 (upsets)
Glenn Last Week: 5-7-1 (spread), 10-3 (straight-up), 0-1 (upset picks)
Glenn Season: 57-49-1 (spread), 80-27 (straight-up), 6-6 (upsets)
Matt Last Week: 5-7-1 (spread), 10-3 (straight-up), 0-0 (upset picks)
Matt Season: 53-53-1 (spread), 79-28 (straight-up), 3-4 (upsets)