College Football Picks: With no marquee games, upset alerts

Twenty-two teams in the Top 25 will play this weekend and no one game features two of them.

That doesn’t happen much and it is especially rare for it to happen after the first month of the season, when conference play kicks into gear. The last time there was weekend with no games matching ranked teams after September was November 2009.

So while there are no must-see matchups on the slate, there are plenty of possibilities for upsets that could shake up the rankings a week after six ranked teams lost, including No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 17 Michigan.

Among the unbeaten teams, No. 6 TCU looks to have the toughest test, going on the road to play Kansas State. No. 11 Miami has to avoid a post-Florida State hangover against a Georgia Tech team that can make a good case to be ranked. No. 21 Michigan State also has a potentially tricky follow-up to its big victory against Michigan, traveling to Minnesota to face the Gophers.

Of course, last week Iowa State beat Oklahoma as a 30-point underdog so you never really know where the potential pitfalls lie for the College Football Playoff contenders.

The picks:


No. 2 Clemson (minus 22 ½) at Syracuse

QB Kelly Bryant (ankle) expects to play for the Tigers, but if all goes well he won’t need to for very long … CLEMSON 42-17.

No. 8 Washington State (minus 13 ½) at California

The Cougars defense is tied for the Pac-12 lead in tackles for loss with 49; the Bears have allowed the most TFLs in the Pac-12 at 50 … WASHINGTON STATE 35-20.



Arkansas (plus 29 ½) at No. 1 Alabama

Not the opponent you want to see on the schedule if you’re a coach getting major grief from the fan base like Bret Bielema is … ALABAMA 49-14.

Missouri (plus 30) at No. 4 Georgia

Bulldogs have the No. 1 defense in the SEC and the Tigers have the No. 2 offense. But that Mizzou defense is bad … GEORGIA 45-17.

No. 5 Washington (minus 17) at Arizona State

Another #Pac12AfterDark special on ESPN for the Huskies … WASHINGTON 35-21.

No. 6 TCU (minus 4 ½) at Kansas State

Horned Frogs are already 3-0 against teams they lost to last season. Try to make it 4-0 against the Wildcats … KANSAS STATE 30-24, UPSET SPECIAL.

Purdue (plus 16 ½) at No. 7 Wisconsin

Badgers have won 11 straight against the Boilermakers by an average of 36-12. … WISCONSIN 36-12.

Georgia Tech (plus 5) at No. 11 Miami

Try very hard to resist saying the U is back until the Hurricanes at least win a division title … MIAMI 31-21.

Cincinnati (plus 24 ½) at No. 18 South Florida

Only the Bulls and Alabama rank in the top 10 in the nation in rushing offense and rushing defense … USF 45-15.

Boise State (plus 7) at No. 19 San Diego State

Aztecs and Broncos have split four games since 2011, but have not played since 2014 … SAN DIEGO STATE 24-20.

East Carolina (plus 35 ½) at No. 22 UCF

Knights QB McKenzie Milton averages an American Athletic Conference best 11.5 yards per attempt … UCF 55-24.

No. 25 Navy (plus 3) at Memphis

The latest Navy QB tearing up defenses with the option is Zach Abey, who is second in the nation in rushing at 174 yards per game … MEMPHIS 38-33


No. 10 Auburn (minus 7) at LSU

After beating Florida, is LSU back on track? The Tigers have won eight straight against Auburn in Baton Rouge … AUBURN 28-17.

Texas (plus 8) at No. 12 Oklahoma at Dallas

First time since 1947 that both Texas and Oklahoma will have first-year coaches in the Red River Rivalry … OKLAHOMA 31-24.

Utah (plus 12 ½) at No. 13 Southern California

Utes hope to get QB Tyler Huntley back from injury this week … USC 28-20.

No. 17 Michigan (minus 6 ½) at Indiana

Wolverines have lost just once to the Hoosiers since 1968 … MICHIGAN 21-13.

No. 21 Michigan State (minus 4) at Minnesota

Spartans have already surpassed last season’s win total … MICHIGAN STATE 21-14.


No. 9 Ohio State (minus 24) at Nebraska

According to the Omaha World-Herald, the Cornhuskers have not been this big an underdog at home since 1957 … OHIO STATE 38-10.

Baylor (plus 25 ½) at No. 14 Oklahoma State

Bears have won three straight and four of five against the Cowboys, but are still looking for their first win this season … OKLAHOMA STATE 52-21.

No. 20 North Carolina State (minus 12) at Pittsburgh

Iowa State’s Joel Lanning was not the only player going both ways last week; Pitt’s Jordan Whitehead was the team’s leading rusher along with his usual solid play at safety … NORTH CAROLINA STATE 39-17.

Oregon (plus 10 ½) at No. 23 Stanford

Can the revitalized Ducks defense contain Bryce Love, the nation’s leading rusher? … STANFORD 28-17.

No. 24 Texas Tech (plus 3) at West Virginia

Mountaineers have won three straight against the Red Raiders … WEST VIRGINIA 42-27, BEST BET.


UCLA (minus 1 ½) at Arizona — @broncosfan150

Another one of those swing games in the Pac-12 for teams with coaches feeling some heat … ARZIONA 38-35.

South Carolina (plus 3) at Tennessee — @BrentCollins1

Here’s the Vols’ opportunity to show all the talk of gut checks and rallying around the coach is more than just talk … TENNESSEE 24-20.

Florida State (minus 7) at Duke — @emarktaylor

Seminoles have never lost to Duke in 19 meetings. This would be a particularly bad time to start … FLORIDA STATE 35-17.

Texas A&M (plus 3) at Florida — @BZSEC

For all the complaints about the Gators offense, Florida is averaging more yards per play (5.71) than A&M (5.49) … TEXAS A&M 26-24.


Record last week: 19-5 straight up; 14-10-1 against the spread.

Record this season: 104-30 straight up; 54-66-4 against the spread.

Upset specials: 3-3 (straight up).

Best bets: 4-1 (vs. points).


Follow Ralph D. Russo at


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