By Brad Carroll
This has already been one of the craziest college football seasons in recent memory. There isn't a clear-cut championship favorite. The two most impressive teams in the nation are from the Big 12, and nobody thought that would be the case. Alabama has already lost. Clemson finally won a big game. And Ohio State, everybody's favorite team to win it all, looks like it could be upset any week now.
Crazy yet, the best game of this entire week features California playing at Utah. That's right, Cal and Utah are playing the biggest game of them all Saturday. It's certainly been a topsy-turvy season, making for some exciting and unpredictable results so far.
And we're far from done. For now, however, here is our analysis and picks against the spread for the six biggest games of the week in primetime Saturday. Check out our early Saturday game picks here. And follow us on Twitter here.
Arkansas at No. 8 Alabama, 7 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Arkansas +16.5; Alabama -16.5
Analysis: Nearly everyone had written Alabama's obituary after losing to Ole Miss at home three weeks ago. The Crimson Tide had finally hit a stretch where they wouldn't be considered title contenders, a shocking but believable development. After all, even a great program like Alabama has to eventually hit a wall. Right? Well, apparently that wall hasn't come yet, as the Crimson Tide walloped the favored Georgia Bulldogs last week on the road, winning 38-10 in a game that wasn't even that close. Not only are the Tide back in the national title conversation, they are likely going to be in the four-team playoff once again. And nobody could have seen that coming a few weeks ago. The Tide have games against Texas A&M and LSU to come, their two biggest tests, and with Ole Miss losing last week, the road to an SEC title is again looking like it will go through Alabama. Arkansas shouldn't put up much of a fight Saturday night, especially if the Tide ride the momentum from last week's win into this home game. The Razorbacks had lost three straight games before beating Tennessee, 24-20, last week. Arkansas averages 25.8 points per game on offense and should have trouble scoring against a Alabama defense that allows just 16 a game. Alabama should know exactly what it has to do to make the College Football Playoff, and it starts with another blowout victory, this time over Arkansas.
Brad's Score: Alabama 35, Arkansas 17
Craig's Score: Alabama 34, Arkansas 13
Glenn's Score: Alabama 35, Arkansas 17
Matt's Score: Alabama 56, Arkansas 13
No. 21 Oklahoma State at West Virginia, 7 p.m., ESPN2
The Spread: Oklahoma State +6.5; West Virginia -6.5
Analysis: Oklahoma State might be the most under-the-radar undefeated team in the nation. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, it's for a good reason. Oklahoma State has been impressive only in the way it has survived each of its five games without a loss so far. Oklahoma State has beaten Central Michigan by 11, Texas by three and Kansas State by two. All of those are unranked teams. And we all know how bad Texas has been this season. So, the Cowboys are undefeated, but leave much to be desired on the field. They do average 38.2 points and 345 passing yards a game on offense. West Virginia had its biggest game in a long time last week against Oklahoma, and the end result was an eye-opening, 44-24, loss. That knocked the Mountaineers out of the top 25. West Virginia couldn't do anything to stop Oklahoma's front, and the result was terrible quarterback play from Skyler Howard. West Virginia does average 38.5 points per game on offense for the season, so this game against Oklahoma State should be a high-scoring one. Playing at home should be enough to propel the Mountaineers to victory, and end the Cowboys perfect season.
Brad's Score: West Virginia 49, Oklahoma State 42
Craig's Score: Oklahoma State 38, West Virginia 28 (upset pick)
Glenn's Score: West Virginia 35, Oklahoma State 31
Matt's Score: Oklahoma State 34, West Virginia 20 (upset pick)
No. 2 TCU at Kansas State, 7:30 p.m., FOX
The Spread: TCU -9.5; Kansas State +9.5
Analysis: If TCU keeps winning, nobody is going to keep it out of the College Football Playoff this year. Last year, the Horned Frogs should have played in the first-ever playoff tournament, but we're left out for the more well-established programs. TCU is undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the nation this year, and could easily be No. 1, considering Ohio State has played nothing like the top team in the country. The Frogs made their game against Texas a national statement last week, winning 50-7. TCU's toughest game came against Texas Tech on the road, where it needed a miracle play on a tipped pass in the end zone to survive. Trevonne Boykin and Josh Doctson make up one of the best quarterback-wide receiver tandems in the country. Kansas State was two points away from being undefeated, falling 36-34 to Oklahoma State after a field goal with 32 seconds to play. That was Kansas State's toughest opponent of the season by far, which means this game against TCU won't be nearly as close.
Brad's Score: TCU 45, Kansas State 24
Craig's Score: TCU 56, Kansas State 31
Glenn's Score: TCU 45, Kansas State 25
Matt's Score: TCU 63, Kansas State 35
No. 11 Florida at Missouri, 7:30 p.m., SEC
The Spread: Florida -5.5; Missouri +5.5
Analysis: Florida could be the most surprising team in the nation this season, as it has raced to a 5-0 record and is coming off one of the more impressive victories in all of college football, a 38-10 beatdown of Ole Miss last week. The Gators have just three tough games remaining, at LSU and home against both Georgia and Florida State. If they get past LSU, Florida could be back in the SEC championship game and end up in the College Football Playoff, which nobody saw coming just a week ago. Florida is doing it on both offense and defense, averaging 34.4 points on offense and allowing just 16.6 on defense. Missouri might be the least impressive 4-1 team in the nation, and the fact it's not ranked means that fact isn't lost on the pollsters. The last three weeks, the Tigers beat UConn by three at home, lost at Kentucky and beat South Carolina by two touchdowns at home. They averaged just 15.3 points per game over that stretch. This is a perfect trap game for Florida, however, as the Gators could be overlooking Missouri on the road. But Florida might still be in the "us against the world" mode and that should lead to a road victory over a sub-par Missouri team.
Brad's Score: Florida 30, Missouri 21
Craig's Score: Florida 23, Missouri 14
Glenn's Score: Florida 36, Missouri 17
Matt's Score: Florida 28, Missouri 3
Miami at No. 12 Florida State, 8 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Miami +9; Florida State -9
Analysis: Florida State is once again undefeated, but as has been the case with the Seminoles in recent years is they haven't played anyone of note yet. They've beaten Texas State, South Florida, Boston College and Wake Forest, so this game against Miami is their first true test of the year. Florida State should have a better resume at the end of the year than in year's past, however, thanks to the emergence of Clemson and Florida, both of which would represent huge victories. Nobody could question Florida State's inclusion in the College Football Playoff if it finished undefeated. Of course, one loss along the way will likely eliminate any chance of that happening. Miami lost for the first time last week, 34-23, at Cincinnati. That loss followed a three-point win over Nebraska two weeks earlier. Saturday night's primetime matchup on national television used to be the marquee game of the entire college football season, as Miami and Florida State make up one of the sport's biggest rivalries. But while the Seminoles have stayed near the top of the rankings, Miami has fallen off greatly, and isn't ranked despite a 3-1 record. Miami might not be ready to knock off Florida State just yet, but should be amped enough to keep this game close throughout.
Brad's Score: Florida State 27, Miami 24
Craig's Score: Miami 34, Florida State 28 (upset pick)
Glenn's Score: Florida State 45, Miami 24
Matt's Score: Miami 31, Florida State 28 (upset pick)
No. 23 California at No. 5 Utah, 10 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: California +7.5; Utah -7.5
Analysis: Nobody could have imagined this matchup would be the best of a day of college football. But here we are. California is 5-0 with wins the last three weeks coming against Texas, Washington and Washington State. If the Golden Bears win this game at Utah, they could easily jump into the top 15 and might work their way into Playoff consideration. If Cal can win here, it would have games at UCLA, Oregon and Stanford, plus home against USC, to make its case as the Pac-12 entry into the final tournament. The offense goes through quarterback Jared Goff, so if he plays well, the Bears can score on anyone. If he struggles, California will have little chance of winning against big teams. Utah is a big team, as it hasn't lost in four games this season, including big wins over Michigan and Oregon. The Utes' 62-20 win over then-No. 13 Oregon two weeks ago vaulted them to the top 5 in the AP poll a week later. Utah hasn't reached the top 5 since 2008, when it ended the year ranked No. 2. Utah must stop the passing game to hold off California at home, and it allows 238.5 passing yards per game. Cal averages 358.4 yards a game through the air. Both teams are playing their biggest games in recent history, which should make for an exciting, close game.
Brad's Score: Utah 38, California 35
Craig's Score: Utah 30, California 20
Glenn's Score: Utah 42, California 38
Matt's Score: California 56, Utah 49 (upset pick)