By Brad Carroll
Thanksgiving means a lot of things to a lot of people, but in the college football world, it's a chance for fans everywhere to be thankful for an extra afternoon of great matchups on the field. The day after Thanksgiving has always been a time to celebrate a stuffed belly and a possible day off from work with an extra helping of college football.
This year is no different, as there are five games Friday to feed an already healthy appetite from the day before, some with College Football Playoff implications, some with conference title game spots hanging in the balance, one that features an undefeated team and another that's a classic rivalry game. It doesn't get much better than this slate of games one day earlier than usual.
We preview and our college football experts pick against the spread Western Kentucky at No. 24 Marshall, Nebraska at Iowa, Arkansas at No. 17 Missouri, Stanford at No. 8 UCLA and No. 13 Arizona State at No. 11 Arizona below. Make sure to follow us on Twitter for all of our latest college football news and picks.
Western Kentucky at No. 24 Marshall, 12 p.m., FS1
The Spread: Western Kentucky +23.5; Marshall -23.5
Brad's Breakdown: Finally, the college football playoff committee deemed Marshall worthy of inclusion in the Top 25 rankings. The Thundering Herd are a perfect 11-0 this season, but has been punished because of a weaker than weak schedule. Marshall, however, took a big step toward being the Group of 5 representative to play in a New Year's Day game by getting into the 24-spot. The Herd trail Boise State in that race right now, with the Broncos coming in at No. 23. So, obviously, Marshall must win this game against Western Kentucky and do so impressively. Marshall had won its first 10 games by an average of 30.8 points, but had to hold on for a 23-18 win at UAB last week, coming up with a defensive stand to remain perfect. Western Kentucky provides the final regular season test before the Herd plays in the Conference USA championship game. The Hilltoppers are 6-5 but have won three straight games. They have victories over Navy and Army this season, but did get blown out by Louisiana Tech to start the month and lost by three to the same UAB team that pushed Marshall to the limit. Marshall knows there is no alternative to winning big, and will get the job done.
Brad's Score: Marshall 48, Western Kentucky 24
Craig's Score: Marshall 48, Western Kentucky 21
Glenn's Score: Marshall 56, Western Kentucky 20
Matt's Score: Marshall 45, Western Kentucky 17
Nebraska at Iowa, 12 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Nebraska Pk; Iowa Pk
Brad's Breakdown: The entire state of Nebraska is in shock right now from how their football team has played recently. Nebraska was 8-1 going into a game with Wisconsin still with a shot to play not only for a Big Ten title, but possibly even make it into the College Football Playoff tournament. Then everything went downhill, starting with a humiliating loss to the Badgers, 59-24, where Melvin Gordon ran for 408 yards in just three quarters, setting an NCAA single game record. If that wasn't enough, the Cornhuskers lost at home to Minnesota the following week. Coach Bo Pelini is on the ultimate hot seat and might not make it to a bowl game. Iowa is 7-4 this season but has lost two of its last three games, to Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes were competitive last week against the Badgers, however, losing 26-24. Nebraska has the better talent overall, but there is no telling how the Huskers will react to watching their season implode. Iowa playing at home is a huge advantage and will use it to pull out a close victory.
Brad's Score: Iowa 23, Nebraska 20
Craig's Score: Nebraska 27, Iowa 20
Glenn's Score: Nebraska 31, Iowa 28
Matt's Score: Nebraska 31, Iowa 14
Arkansas at No. 17 Missouri, 2:30 p.m., CBS
The Spread: Arkansas -2.5; Missouri +2.5
Brad's Breakdown: Missouri will play in its second straight SEC championship game if it can beat a suddenly red-hot Arkansas squad at home. The Tigers also would end Georgia's outside shot of making it to the College Football Playoff in the process with a victory. If Missouri loses, No. 9 Georgia goes to the SEC title game and if it wins there it could have a case to move into the top four. The Bulldogs would need a ton of help from teams above it losing as well for that to happen. Missouri could be the perfect team to stop Arkansas' tremendous run of two straight impressive wins in the SEC. After dropping 17 straight conference games, the Hogs have posted two shutout victories, over then-No. 17 LSU and then-No. 8 Ole Miss. Arkansas certainly turned heads with its 30-0 destruction of the Rebels, who were once a title contender. The Razorbacks have a bruising offensive line that has beaten down their opposition recently. Missouri, however, just might have the defensive line to match up against them and win the battle. Arkansas has finally started to play up to its potential, but the run ends at Missouri, as the Tigers have too much to play for to suffer a letdown.
Brad's Score: Missouri 28, Arkansas 21 (upset pick)
Craig's Score: Missouri 34, Arkansas 28 (upset pick)
Glenn's Score: Missouri 35, Arkansas 21 (upset pick)
Matt's Score: Arkansas 35, Missouri 28
Stanford at No. 8 UCLA, 3:30 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Stanford +5.5; UCLA -5.5
Brad's Breakdown: UCLA can clinch a spot in the Pac-12 championship game and set up a possible College Football Playoff play-in game against Oregon if it can beat Stanford at home. The Bruins have remained in Playoff contention by winning five straight games, beating then-No. 12 Arizona and then-No. 19 USC last week as the highlights. Despite its two losses, which came against Utah and Oregon back-to-back, UCLA could sneak into the top four with a victory over Oregon in the conference title game. The Bruins would still have to jump Ohio State, TCU and Baylor, but a win over the Ducks could get that done. The Bruins are playing their best football of the season, and that was evident in their 38-20 blowout win over the Trojans. Stanford has taken a giant step back from its spot as a national title contender, with a 6-5 record overall and just two wins in its last five games. The Cardinal has losses to USC, Notre Dame, Arizona State, Oregon and Utah, all ranked teams. UCLA will make Stanford 0-for-6 against ranked teams this season.
Brad's Score: UCLA 30, Stanford 20
Craig's Score: UCLA 38, Stanford 27
Glenn's Score: UCLA 32, Stanford 25
Matt's Score: UCLA 56, Stanford 31
No. 13 Arizona State at No. 11 Arizona, 3:30 p.m., FOX
The Spread: Arizona State +2.5; Arizona -2.5
Brad's Breakdown: Both teams are sure to have an eye focused on the scoreboard Friday afternoon, as if Stanford beats UCLA, the winner of this game will play in the Pac-12 championship game. This battle for the Territorial Cup is the first time since 1986 where both teams will be ranked going in. Both teams are 9-2 but Arizona is the hotter of the two, winning three straight, including a 42-10 wipe-out of then-No. 17 Utah on the road. The Wildcats also have one of the biggest victories of the season on their resume, beating Oregon 31-24 as a visitor. Arizona State had worked its way into the College Football Playoff conversation by winning five straight games after getting blown out by UCLA. The Sun Devils reached No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings but a 35-27 loss to unranked Oregon State ruined those hopes of playing for a title. The biggest factor in this game comes down to the health of Arizona starting quarterback Anu Solomon, who is questionable for this game with an ankle injury. Solomon was injured last week against Utah and didn't play the second half. He was wearing a walking boot on his leg. The short week doesn't help his recovery time. If Solomon is slowed down at all, the edge switches to Arizona State, and that means an upset.
Brad's Score: Arizona State 38, Arizona 35 (upset pick)
Craig's Score: Arizona 24, Arizona State 20
Glenn's Score: Arizona 35, Arizona State 20
Matt's Score: Arizona 42, Arizona State 41
Brad Last Week: 6-6 (spread), 7-5 (straight-up), 2-0 (upset picks)
Brad Season: 76-79-1 (spread), 115-41 (straight-up), 10-8 (upsets)
Craig Last Week: 5-7 (spread), 7-5 (straight-up), 2-0 (upset picks)
Craig Season: 71-84-1 (spread), 108-48 (straight-up), 8-11 (upsets)
Glenn Last Week: 6-6 (spread), 8-4 (straight-up), 4-1 (upset picks)
Glenn Season: 86-69-1 (spread), 112-44 (straight-up), 12-13 (upsets)
Matt Last Week: 8-4 (spread), 9-3 (straight-up), 4-0 (upset picks)
Matt Season: 76-79-1 (spread), 114-42 (straight-up), 9-8 (upsets)