Welcome to The Friday Pick-Six, a weekly column here during the 2023 season where I’ll pick five games against the spread each week, plus my Upset Du Jour.
We’ll track the bets, and y’all can decide to fade or tail (for entertainment purposes only!)
Similarly to a whiny eight-year-old who just pushes their vegetables around their plate, I continue to just kind of move chips on the table, tip the dealer and go home even.
Last week featured a ‘meh’ set of picks. I correctly nailed Penn State getting outclassed by Michigan and Auburn “upsetting” Arkansas, but I thanks to a Washington linebacker prematurely celebrating a pick-six, I missed a cover by a point against Utah. I totally whiffed on Tennessee-Missouri and I didn’t expect Miami to give Florida State such a fight.
After nailing my last two Upset Du Jour picks, Nebraska couldn’t stop turning over the football again, losing by three points to Maryland to remain one win short of snapping its bowl-less streak.
So we move forward here in Week 12, sitting at 27-25-2, and 5-6 on my upset specials. This week isn’t the greatest penultimate slate of games, but there are still some tasty matchups.
So let’s make some picks. (All point spreads come from FanDuel).
No. 9 Louisville at Miami (+1.5)
This line has oscillated between Miami as a home ‘dog and slight favorite all week, settling on the Hurricanes at +1.5. It smells because Louisville has clearly been the better team all season, but the Hurricanes, who stung me last weekend, remain a metrics darling while the Cardinals have struggled (close win at NC State, ugly loss at Pitt) on the road.
But how much of a home field advantage with the ‘Canes have in a sleepy noon spot where they’re selling 2-for-1 tickets against a Top 10 team? Miami is also coming off an emotional, physical loss to rival Florida State, where the Hurricanes pushed the Seminoles for four quarters only to see freshman quarterback Emory Williams go down late with a serious injury and having to revert back to the benched Tyler Van Dyke.
Now they’re asking Van Dyke, who has zero touchdowns and six picks in his last three games, to make plays against a Cardinals defense that ranks in the Top 25 nationally? Give me the better coach (Jeff Brohm) and a team motivated to clinch a spot in the ACC title game.
PICK: Louisville -1.5
Appalachian State at No. 18 James Madison (-8.5)
The NCAA was one of four ruling bodies that blocked the Dukes’ waiver to be eligible for a bowl game this season, completely botching a surefire layup for some much-needed public goodwill.
Instead, the organization will get clowned for three hours on ESPN’s College GameDay, which is at James Madison this weekend.
The Dukes are 10-0 and have mostly rolled all their opponents this season — despite its recent promotion from the FCS. I don’t foresee a letdown spot here.
With GameDay in town plus head coach Curt Cignetti‘s message to his team, I expect we’ll see a spirited performance.
PICK: James Madison -8.5
This one is pretty simple: Utah isn’t UTAH away from Rice-Eccles Stadium, while Jedd Fisch and the Arizona Wildcats are a wagon as an underdog in Pac-12 play (5-0 ATS).
Freshman Noah Fifita has locked down Arizona’s starting QB job, and has eight touchdowns to just two picks during the team’s four-game winning streak. The Wildcats have a chance to win eight games for the first time in nearly a decade — and while that might not seem like all that much, this is a program that’s just two years removed from a 1-11 season.
Utah is feisty and still a Top 20 defense in scoring, but the Utes’ secondary struggled with Oregon and Washington’s wideouts and now they must tangle with Jacob Cowing (10 touchdowns) and Tetairoa McMillian (eight touchdowns). I’ve rode the Wildcats all season, so why stop now?
PICK: Arizona +1.5
Four teams are vying for a spot in the AAC title game — including both the Mustangs and Tigers. SMU is smashing foes in its final year in the league before bolting out of the ACC, winning six straight games by an average of 30 points.
Meanwhile, Memphis has won five of six, its lone conference loss coming to No. 24 Tulane. The Tigers can’t stop a nosebleed defensively (No. 107 nationally in yards per play), but behind the electric play of star transfer tailback Blake Watson, they’ve scored more than 44 points in four games in a row.
SMU has actually been powered by its defense this season (surprisingly ranking No. 7 nationally in yards per play), but they’ve shown a tendency to allow explosive plays at times — something the Tigers excel at. It’s a must-win for Memphis if it wants to stay in the AAC title hunt. I’m skeptical they can beat Rhett Lashlee and the Mustangs, but they stay within the number.
PICK: Memphis +8.5
No. 5 Washington at No. 10 Oregon State (-2.5)
The Beavers have been excellent at home in 2023, which is a big reason why they’re favored against an undefeated Top 5 team on Saturday. Jonathan Smith, Damien Martinez & Co., are looking to play Pac-12 spoiler in the last year of the league, and OSU has the run game and physical offensive line to give a Huskies defense full of holes plenty of problems.
Still, Oregon State’s pass defense has been iffy against the likes of Washington State (422 yards and four scores) and Arizona 275 yards and three touchdowns) — their lone two losses — and now it must stop Michael Penix Jr., Rome Odunze and Washington’s prolific aerial attack.
It would be comical justice for the Beavers to win after the way the program has been treated by the Pac-12, and maybe they will, but I’ll grab the points as I still think we’re set for the Washington-Oregon rematch in the Pac-12 title game.
PICK: Washington +2.5
Upset Du Jour
Purdue at Northwestern (+3)
The Wildcats just promoted interim head coach David Braun to the permanent head-coaching role on Wednesday, as the former defensive coordinator has surprisingly led the program to five wins — more than the team’s combined total the past two seasons.
How stunning are the team’s results under Braun, especially considering the circumstances he took over the program? He’s the first Northwestern coach to win art least five games in his first season in 120 years, per ESPN Stats & Info.
I know the Boilermakers snapped their four-game losing streak last week with a blowout win over Minnesota, but Ryan Walters’ team has been awful on the road in Big Ten play (0-3). Meanwhile, the vibes are high in Evanston and the Wildcats are a win shy of making a bowl game.
PICK: Northwestern +3