College Football Picks Saturday: Ohio State at Michigan, Clemson at South Carolina, North Carolina at NC State, Alabama at Auburn, Penn State at Michigan State, UCLA at USC

November 27, 2015

By Brad Carroll

 

Some of college football's biggest rivalries will be on display Saturday afternoon, and better yet, most will have College Football Playoff implications as well. From Ohio State-Michigan to Clemson-South Carolina to Alabama-Auburn to UCLA-USC, and then some, there will be plenty of must-see TV in the early going.

 

Better yet, we have you covered with previews, analysis and our college football experts pick the six biggest games of the afternoon slate against the point spread below. Click here for our Friday game previews and picks and here for our primetime Saturday slate of game previews and picks. Follow us on Twitter here.

 

No. 8 Ohio State at No. 10 Michigan, 12 p.m., ABC

The Spread: Ohio State +1; Michigan -1

 

Analysis: Ohio State's season unraveled in an instant last week, not only with its final-seconds loss to Michigan State ruining the Buckeyes' perfect record, but also with star player Ezekiel Elliott calling out the coaches and basically quitting on the team afterward, saying he's going to the NFL Draft guaranteed. It was a terrible few hours for the Buckeyes and their fans, who now need help just to get into the Big Ten championship game, let alone the College Football Playoff. Michigan State controls its own destiny to play in that game, but if the Spartans somehow falter against Penn State, the winner of this game will play for the conference championship. If the Buckeyes do end up in that title game, there is the possibility of them working their way into the top four at the end of the regular season and championship week. So, there is plenty to play for if you're Ohio State. Michigan, on the other hand, has plenty to play for as well, although a national championship won't be part of it. If Michigan wins this game and Penn State beats Michigan State, the Wolverines will play in the conference title game, which would be an amazing one-season turnaround by coach Jim Harbaugh. The game being played at the Big House is huge for Michigan, and with Ohio State reeling for the first time since Urban Meyer arrived on the scene, this has the makings of a Wolverines victory.

Brad's Score: Michigan 27, Ohio State 24

Craig's Score: Michigan 24, Ohio State 21

Glenn's Score: Ohio State 35, Michigan 24 (upset pick)

Matt's Score: Ohio State 34, Michigan 17 (upset pick)

 

No. 1 Clemson at South Carolina, 12 p.m., ESPN

The Spread: Clemson -17.5; South Carolina +17.5

 

Analysis: If Clemson wins its final two games, it will play for a national championship, and be the No. 1 seed as well. It's that simple. While other teams are scrambling to figure out where they stand, the Tigers already know. Win twice and they are the top seed, which would be a huge deal, as it should be the difference between playing a Notre Dame or Iowa instead of an Alabama. This is a rivalry game with South Carolina, so the Tigers should be on upset alert, even with the Gamecocks being a terrible team. South Carolina, though, is really terrible, as it lost to the Citadel, 23-22, last week. Remember, that is the week where most SEC teams schedule cupcakes to make for a smooth finish to the season. It didn't work out so well for South Carolina, which has lost four games in a row overall. But the Gamecocks have played each opponent close, losing the four games by a combined 21 points. Clemson has been gliding into the close of its season, winning by 10 against Syracuse and 20 against Wake Forest, failing to cover the point spread in both of them. That same pattern should be followed here, with South Carolina losing, but Clemson not blowing it away either.

Brad's Score: Clemson 34, South Carolina 17

Craig's Score: Clemson 38, South Carolina 20

Glenn's Score: Clemson 38, South Carolina 20

Matt's Score: Clemson 42, South Carolina 10

 

No. 14 North Carolina at NC State, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2

The Spread: North Carolina -6; NC State +6

 

Analysis: North Carolina remained one of the hottest teams in the country last week, overcoming the emotional home finale for Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer to win in overtime. The Tar Heels are 10-1 on the year, with the lone loss coming against South Carolina in the season opener. I wrote it last week and I'll write it again - if only the Tar Heels could play that game again, they would be undefeated and would be two wins away from playing for a national championship. Now, there is little to no chance they make it in, although there is a slither of hope. If North Carolina wins those two games, which would include a victory over No. 1 Clemson, the Playoff committee could make the case for UNC to make it in. One would think the Heels would have a better case than Notre Dame. North Carolina has to take care of business first at rival NC State, which is 7-4 on the season. The Wolfpack have lost to Virginia Tech, Clemson and Florida State in their past seven games, so the arrow is certainly pointing down as the season closes. North Carolina also has Marquise Williams at quarterback, who has been on an unstoppable run most of this season. 

Brad's Score: North Carolina 35, NC State 28

Craig's Score: North Carolina 27, NC State 13

Glenn's Score: North Carolina 42, NC State 20

Matt's Score: North Carolina 35, NC State 20

 

No. 2 Alabama at Auburn, 3:30 p.m., CBS

The Spread: Alabama -14; Auburn +14

 

Analysis: If this wasn't the Iron Bowl, this point spread likely would be another touchdown higher, as Alabama is clearly better in every way than Auburn this season. Alabama is currently No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings and controls its own destiny to play for a national championship. The Crimson Tide don't have much competition the rest of the way, either, as they have Auburn on the road and then Florida in the SEC championship game. Auburn is a shell of a team now, with a 6-5 record, and the Gators have not bite at all, and could be a cakewalk for the Tide in the conference title game. On paper, that's certainly the case. In this rivalry game, there is always the scare of the underdog putting a scare into the favorite. But Auburn has lost three of its last five games, and counting legit opponents, has lost three of its last four. The Tigers lost to Arkansas, Ole Miss and Georgia, sandwiched between a victory over Texas A&M. Alabama has won eight straight since a shocking home loss to Ole Miss. Included among those victories is three against teams ranked in the top nine, which is an amazing stat. The Tide also rolled to a 31-6 win over then-No. 17 Mississippi State on the road. Rivalry games are tricky, but Alabama should have no problem winning this game by three touchdowns.

Brad's Score: Alabama 35, Auburn 14

Craig's Score: Alabama 35, Auburn 14

Glenn's Score: Alabama 35, Auburn 10

Matt's Score: Alabama 45, Auburn 10

 

Penn State at No. 5 Michigan State, 3:30 p.m., ESPN

The Spread: Penn State +11; Michigan State -11

 

Analysis: Michigan State vaulted itself back into the College Football Playoff conversation with a victory over previously-undefeated Ohio State last week, and likely controls its own destiny in making the final four. If the Spartans beat Penn State at home, they will make the Big Ten championship game, setting up a matchup with Iowa. The winner of that game should get a spot in the Playoff. So, the Spartans should control their own destiny in making it, as they would replace Iowa in the tournament. Penn State won't be a pushover for the Spartans in this game, however, as the Nittany Lions are 7-4 overall and have a winning record in Big Ten play. Penn State also has quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who's thrown for over 2,100 yards with 14 touchdowns against just three interceptions. But even though he might be one of the top quarterbacks taken in the upcoming NFL draft, Hackenberg leads an offense that scores just a tick over 24 points per game. Michigan State averages over 31 points per game with quarterback Connor Cook leading the way. Cook has nearly 2,500 yards passing with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions on the year. Cook, however, didn't play last week against Ohio State and will be a game-time decision for this game. The fact MSU won its biggest game of the season without the star quarterback should give the team confidence to win this game no matter who is under center.

Brad's Score: Michigan State 30, Penn State 17

Craig's Score: Michigan State 28, Penn State 14

Glenn's Score: Michigan State 31, Penn State 21

Matt's Score: Michigan State 30, Penn State 17

 

No. 22 UCLA at Southern Cal, 3:30 p.m., ABC

The Spread: UCLA +3.5; Southern Cal -3.5

 

Analysis: Before the season, and even several weeks into it, this matchup was one many circled on the Pac-12 schedule as a game that could have major College Football Playoff implications. Things didn't turn out that way at all, with UCLA losing three times already and USC firing its coach in the middle of what has become a four-loss season. UCLA is playing better of late, winning four of its last five games. The Bruins have beaten Cal and Utah when both were ranked and added wins over Colorado and Oregon State. The Trojans had won four games in a row, against Utah, Cal, Arizona and Colorado, before getting beat up against Oregon last week, 48-28. If UCLA wins this game, it will play in the Pac-12 championship against Stanford, so that motivation will be on the Bruins' side. Southern Cal quarterback Cody Kessler needs to play better if the Trojans are going to pull out a home victory as the favorites. But the Bruins should squeak out a close victory on the road.

Brad's Score: UCLA 28, Southern Cal 27 (upset pick)

Craig's Score: UCLA 34, Southern Cal 27 (upset pick)

Glenn's Score: UCLA 35, Southern Cal 17 (upset pick)

Matt's Score: UCLA 28, Southern Cal 20 (upset pick)

 

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