What to watch: Week 14 college football viewing guide, picks against the spread

Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will also pick those five games against the spread, plus some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.

Welcome to rivalry week, friends.

It’s the last weekend of the college football regular season, and there is plenty on the line across the country. While some programs are scratching and clawing just to clinch bowl eligibility, there are others that are poised to square off with their biggest line with conference championship or even College Football Playoff implications at stake.

The fun will get started on Thanksgiving night with the Egg Bowl between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Bowl eligibility is on the line for the Bulldogs while the future of second-year head coach Joe Moorhead is up in the air.

Things pick up on Friday when Virginia Tech and Virginia meet with the ACC Coastal on the line and Memphis hosts Cincinnati in a major AAC matchup before an epic Saturday featuring, Ohio State-Michigan, the Iron Bowl, Bedlam and plenty of other games that could add significant intrigue to the CFP race.

As we saw with Arizona State’s upset over Oregon last week, you never know where an upset may emerge.

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)
(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

(Note: All times ET, point spreads from betMGM)

5. No. 19 Cincinnati at No. 18 Memphis

Time: 3:30 p.m. (Friday) | TV: ABC | Line: Memphis -10.5

Cincinnati (10-1, 7-0 AAC) clinched the AAC East title by beating Temple 15-13 last weekend. The Bearcats could muster only 210 yards of offense in the win, but scored the winning points by blocking a Temple extra point and returning it 98 yards for two points. The stakes are higher for the Bearcats this time around as a road victory over Memphis would secure home-field advantage in next week’s AAC title game.

If Memphis (10-1, 6-1) wins, it will clinch the AAC West division title and host the Bearcats for a second straight week — this time with the conference title on the line. But if Memphis loses and Navy beats Houston on Saturday night, the AAC West crown would go to the Midshipmen.

The stakes in Friday’s game go beyond the AAC, too. Memphis and Cincinnati are currently the two highest-ranked Group of Five teams in the College Football Playoff rankings. The eventual winner of the AAC title has an excellent chance to represent the G5 teams in a New Year’s Six bowl game with just one loss.

Picks: Sam Cooper: Memphis -10.5, Nick Bromberg: Memphis -10.5

4. No. 24 Virginia Tech at Virginia

Time: Noon (Friday) | TV: ABC | Line: Virginia Tech -3.5

Virginia Tech (8-3, 5-2 ACC) has embarked on an impressive turnaround following a horrific September. The Hokies have won six of their last seven games and have been playing at an extremely high level in recent weeks. After nearly upsetting Notre Dame in South Bend, the Hokies beat Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh by a combined margin of 109-17. That includes back-to-back shutouts by Bud Foster’s defense the last two weekends. Now the Hokies are in position to get to the ACC title game against No. 3 Clemson, and all they have to do is knock off rival Virginia with the Coastal division on the line.

Bronco Mendenhall has done a great job in his four years at Virginia (8-3, 5-2), but has yet to beat Virginia Tech. He’s not alone. Mike London couldn’t beat the Hokies in his six seasons in Charlottesville, neither could Al Groh during his last six years on the job. Groh’s 2003 Cavaliers were the last Virginia team to get the job done. That’s 15 straight losses in the series with last year’s defeat as perhaps the most gut-wrenching of the bunch. If Virginia can snap that brutal skid, it can win the ACC Coastal and advance to the ACC title game for the first time in program history. The Cavaliers enter Friday’s game on a three-game winning streak and can get to 9-3 for the first time since 2007.

Picks: Sam: Virginia Tech -3.5, Nick: Virginia +3.5

3. No. 12 Wisconsin at No. 8 Minnesota

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Wisconsin -2.5

Wisconsin’s College Football Playoff hopes were dashed when it lost back-to-back games to Illinois and Ohio State. Since then, the Badgers have rebounded with three straight victories. That winning streak, coupled with Minnesota’s loss to Iowa, gives Wisconsin (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) a chance to claim another Big Ten West title and play in its sixth Big Ten championship game. The Badgers have put themselves back in position to win the division thanks to the efforts of star running back Jonathan Taylor, who has combined for a whopping 676 yards during the three-game winning streak.

On the other side, Minnesota (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten) can check off quite a list of accomplishments with a victory. First and foremost, the Gophers can win their first-ever Big Ten West title, which would give the program a chance for its first conference championship since 1967. On top of that, Minnesota could reach the 11-win mark for the first time since 1904 — 115 years ago. Minnesota already reached seven Big Ten wins in a season for the first time by beating Northwestern last week, so it might as well go for conference win No. 8. On top of all that, of course, is the College Football Playoff. The Gophers could make quite a case for themselves with an emphatic win over the Badgers and an upset over No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.

Picks: Sam: Minnesota +2.5, Nick: Wisconsin -2.5

2. No. 5 Alabama at No. 15 Auburn

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: Alabama -4.5

With Arizona State’s upset victory over No. 6 Oregon last weekend, the door swung open much wider for Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC) to sneak into the College Football Playoff as the No. 4 seed. With the SEC title out of the equation due to the Tide’s loss to LSU a few weeks ago, Nick Saban’s team has one final opportunity to make an impression on the CFP committee. And it will have to do so against its biggest rival with backup quarterback Mac Jones running the show. Jones has done quite well — 28-for-34 for 510 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions — in relief of Tua Tagovailoa, but that was against Arkansas, Mississippi State and Western Carolina. The Auburn defense at Jordan-Hare Stadium will present a far greater challenge for Jones.

Auburn (8-3, 4-3 SEC) has played one of the toughest schedules in the country, but has not been able to win its games against ranked SEC foes — losing to Florida (24-13), LSU (23-20) and Georgia (21-14). As you can see, the Tigers’ defense was able to hold up very well in those games, but an offense led by freshman quarterback Bo Nix just hasn’t been able to muster enough production to win those games. But Nix has been much better at home than on the road, and Alabama’s defense has proven to be more susceptible to big plays than a usual Nick Saban defense.

Picks: Sam: Alabama -4.5, Nick: Alabama -4.5

1. No. 1 Ohio State at No. 13 Michigan

Time: Noon | TV: FOX | Line: Ohio State -9.5

Michigan (9-2, 6-2) looks like a completely different team than the one that nearly lost to Army and was demolished by Wisconsin back in September. The Wolverines’ hyped new offense was especially underwhelming in the first half of the year, but seemed to really hit its stride in the second half of an Oct. 19 loss at Penn State. Since then, the Wolverines have won four straight and their average margin of victory during that span is 30.3 points. Will that carry over into an upset over rival Ohio State? The Buckeyes have completely dominated the series, winning 14 of the last 15, including seven straight.

With a win over the Wolverines, Ohio State (11-0, 8-0) — which wrapped up the Big Ten East title by beating Penn State last week — will complete an undefeated regular season in Ryan Day’s first year as head coach. Ohio State can also further solidify its case the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff entering the Big Ten championship game. The Buckeyes moved up a spot to No. 1 after their win over the Nittany Lions last week. While Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins did enough to put 28 points on the board, the Ohio State defense — led by Heisman candidate Chase Young — limited PSU to just 227 yards of offense. Young now has another massive stage to stamp a spot among the Heisman finalists.

Picks: Sam: Ohio State -9.5, Nick: Ohio State -9.5

Records ATS to date: Sam: 37-31, Nick: 29-39

Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, right, pressures Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State beat Michigan 62-39. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, right, pressures Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson during Ohio State's 62-39 win over Michigan in 2018. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Week 14’s best bets

Nick Bromberg (Last week: 2-1, Overall: 18-21)

Ole Miss at Mississippi State (-2.5): The Bulldogs are playing Thursday night’s Egg Bowl for bowl eligibility. A win gets MSU to 6-6 and drops Ole Miss to 4-8. Enjoy this game after you’re done with your Thanksgiving dinner. Hopefully it’s entertaining enough to keep you awake after your big meal. Pick: Mississippi State -2.5

Iowa at Nebraska (+5.5): Nebraska broke a streak of four-straight losses with a huge win over Maryland on Saturday. But Maryland is really, really bad. Iowa, meanwhile, has beaten Minnesota and Illinois since losing to Wisconsin. I don’t trust the Huskers to cover here, even at home. Pick: Iowa -5.5

Arkansas State at South Alabama (+10.5): The Jaguars are 1-10 and the only win is over FCS Jackson State. Eight of the 10 losses are by double digits. Arkansas State, meanwhile, is going for an eighth win and a fifth-straight. This is an easy pick here. Pick: Arkansas State -10.5

Sam Cooper (Last week: 2-1, Overall: 21-17-1)

Miami (Ohio) at Ball State (-2.5): Miami has won five straight games and already wrapped up the MAC East title, but barely beating winless Akron last week had to leave a bad taste. I think the RedHawks will want to go into the MAC title game feeling good, and that’ll include going into Muncie and getting a win. Pick: Miami (Ohio) +2.5

No. 3 Clemson at South Carolina (+25.5): Since barely beating North Carolina on Sept. 28, Clemson has been a favorite of at least 24 points in every game it has played. It has covered five of the six times (with the outlier being against an FCS team), covering by an average of 11.6 points. Clemson rolls. Pick: Clemson -25.5

Oregon State at No. 14 Oregon (-19): Oregon is coming off a devastating loss that knocked it from the CFP picture. Now it welcomes a much-improved Oregon State team itching to get to a bowl game. This season, the Beavers are 7-3 ATS as an underdog, 5-0 ATS on the road and Oregon is just 3-3 ATS as a double-digit favorite. Oregon wins, but the Beavers keep it close. Pick: Oregon State +19

For Week 14 picks from Dan Wetzel, Pete Thamel and Pat Forde, subscribe to the Yahoo Sports College Podcast.

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