Julio Cortez/Associated Press
Normally, Thanksgiving weekend marks college football’s wind-down. Rivalry games. Conference championships just around the bend. In typical years, and 2020 has been anything but typical, the finish line comes quickly.
Some teams are close. Others not so much. And while the various starts and stops throughout the year will make for a chaotic close to the season, the show must go on.
What does that mean for you? More games. More action. More Locks of the Week.
Now, in many weeks that’s a good thing. Last week? Not so much. An inadequate 2-6 record in Week 12 won’t cut it. In fact, “inadequate” doesn’t do it justice. Laughable. Embarrassing. All warranted.
I’m still 31-28 on the year, although the large cushion built up a few weeks ago has all but dwindled. It’s about time we build that cushion back up.
Before we get to this week’s picks, let’s take a look at the good and the bad that was. (Spoiler alert: not much good.)
The Good, Late-Night Points: The over in Hawaii-Boise State cashed, and I felt alive watching a football game that started close to midnight. Sure, the early field-goal fest had me worried. But then the touchdowns came in bunches, and the over cashed easily. It was hard to find the positive in a bleak week, so this will have to do.
The Bad, Big Ten Dumpster Diving: We won Minnesota. Controversial? Absolutely. But the rest of our Big Ten picks were, well, suboptimal. Picking Penn State? Bad. Picking Nebraska? Very bad. There is plenty of badness to go around, but I’ll focus on the conference near and dear to my heart. We’re taking a week off of dumpster diving. Promise. Well, maybe.
Let’s find out. Here are the Week 13 selections, using point spreads provided by DraftKings.
North Carolina (+5) vs. Notre Dame
Gerry Broome/Associated Press
If you’re a Notre Dame fan, this is the game you should fear. That’s not to say that UNC has the talent of Clemson. Even if I’m picking an upset—and to be clear out of the gate, that’s exactly what I am doing right now—I’m going to keep it real.
What is perhaps most terrifying about this for the Irish is how UNC plays. In that game against Clemson, the Notre Dame defense allowed 439 passing yards. It’s the most the Irish have allowed in a single game, and that is not particularly good news heading into this matchup.
UNC QB Sam Howell is coming off a 550-yard passing performance against Wake Forest. And while I don’t think we’ll see that kind of production, this does feel like a bit of a potential mismatch.
Yes, North Carolina lost to Florida State. Yes, North Carolina lost to Virginia. But this feels like the perfect spot at the perfect time to shake things up.
UNC with the points. UNC outright. Massive college football shake-up, ahoy.
Texas State (+17.5) vs. Coastal Carolina
Hear me out. If you haven’t discarded this piece yet because of the North Carolina selection above, allow me to at least explain why I’m picking a 2-9 team to cover a curious line against perhaps the hottest team in college football.
The Bobcats are indeed 2-9. There is no getting around that. But it’s a spicy 2-9 riddled with tough opponents and some close, brutal losses. Granted, there have been some bad losses in there as well, although this is a far better team than its record would indicate. (I’m sorry how cliche that sounds, but I genuinely believe it.)
Maybe this will help. Despite the record, Texas State is still 7-4 against the spread.
The other element I love about this game? The timing. Coastal Carolina is coming off a thrilling victory (and cover) over Appalachian State. There’s a distinct possibility that the Chanticleers will come out flat. Coastal wins, but it’s tighter than expected.
SMU (-12.5) at East Carolina
Joey Johnson/Associated Press
I’ve watched a lot of East Carolina football this season. In fact, even though it wasn’t included in last week’s picks, I jumped on the Pirates (-7) against Temple last weekend. It was one of my few stress-free plays Saturday. And no, I did not include that in my updated record.
There will be no gambling manipulation, even if the picks stink every so often.
East Carolina is much better than what it was the last few years. Seriously. This was one of the worst teams in college football, and the improvements are noteworthy.
That said, this is a massive step up in class. And while last weekend’s effort was excellent—seriously, I needed it—I don’t see last weekend’s effort being duplicated.
SMU still only has two losses this season, one of which came against Cincinnati. The Mustangs have an offense that should give East Carolina fits, and I expect that to be the case early on.
Iowa State (-1) at Texas
There is no craftiness here. No contrarian spin. No dumpster diving or conspiracy theory of any kind. Simply put, I like Iowa State. The Cyclones, coming off one of the most dominating wins of the year against Kansas State, are playing well. And this is a really good opportunity to nab a massive conference win.
Also, have you watched Breece Hall play football yet? If the answer is no, then make it a point to watch Iowa State’s sophomore running back this weekend. He is electric.
He is also the nation’s leading rusher and a likely favorite for the Heisman next season. (Yes, I know it’s nearly impossible for non-running backs to win the award. But he might be that good.)
This point spread says quite a bit considering Texas is at home. And while the Longhorns have won three games in a row, it just feels like Iowa State is peaking on both sides of the ball at the right time. Could be a really fun game. ‘Clones in a thriller.
Clemson vs. Pittsburgh (Over 54.5)
Matt Cashore/Associated Press
There will be points. In fact, Clemson is likely to score many of them. Heck, for all I care, the Tigers can score all 55 of them required to hit this over.
I appreciate Pittsburgh’s efforts last week against Virginia Tech. Down a significant number of players because of COVID-19, the Panthers responded with an overwhelming effort and win. But this is a different beast, and Trevor Lawrence is back at quarterback. While D.J. Uiagalelei performed incredibly well in his absence, well, you know what this dude is capable of by now.
With that said, Pittsburgh’s offense should be able to score. It doesn’t have to deliver a Notre Dame-like output. In fact, 20 points should be more than enough.
Although Clemson is a heavy favorite, I could see these teams trading touchdowns for a while. It wouldn’t be the first game the Tigers have played that features this type of rhythm.
Points, points, points.
Other Plays on the Card
Jay LaPrete/Associated Press
Maryland at Indiana (Over 63.5): I really like both of these quarterbacks. Taulia Tagovailoa and Michael Penix Jr. are fun and explosive. And I don’t believe we’ll see an Indiana letdown following the loss to Ohio State. Instead, we’ll see a competitive game (for a while) where touchdowns are traded. Then, in the second half, Indiana wins by double digits. But along the way? Say it with me one more time…points, points, points.
West Virginia (+10.5) vs. Oklahoma: This is a fascinating game, and the timing is rather intriguing a week removed from Bedlam. While Oklahoma has looked excellent over the past month, West Virginia has the defense to keep pace and slow things down—or so I hope. The Sooners will win, but the Mountaineers provide a scare.
San Jose State (+10.5) at Boise State: Simply put, San Jose State is solid. I could leave it at that, but I’ll add some context. I really liked the win over San Diego State a few weeks ago, and the Spartans defense should present some issues. I’ll take it a step further. The money line feels a little lively here given the value.
Cal (-1.5) vs. Stanford: I have been hesitant to step out on Pac-12 games, although the time is now. In a battle between winless teams, I’ll take Cal. The Stanford teams we grew accustomed to watching? The ones with the great defense and great quarterback play? Well, this team isn’t exactly that. Cal wins by a touchdown
Adam Kramer covers college football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @KegsnEggs. Lines accurate as of 4 p.m. ET Wednesday.
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