NCAA Football Week 14 Picks: The Tailgater Breakdown

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Tailgater_logo3Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! We’re into the penultimate week of the 2013 college football regular season, and the stakes are high as rivals square off and conferences determine their championship contenders.

Not that you necessarily want to trust our judgment. We’re limping to the finish line, with the three of us posting a combined 9-21 record last weekend. Week 13 apparently was unlucky. When it all balanced out, here’s how each of us fared picking Week 12 games against the spread:

  • Zach Bigalke: 3-7
  • John Mitchell: 4-6
  • Matt Strobl: 2-8

Can any of us return back to a winning record this week? Let’s dive into the picks and see where it leads us this week…


East Carolina Pirates at Marshall Thundering Herd (-3.5)

Strobl: Talk about two teams with eerily similar seasons.  Both of these C-USA programs lost tight games to Virginia Tech early in the season.  Both dropped a close conference game- ECU by three in overtime against Tulane, Marshall by two in a shootout against Middle Tennessee.  Other than Marshall’s three-point loss to Ohio back in September, the Pirates and Herd have followed the same path in storming through the rest of their league competition.  ECU’s is averaging 42 points per game and surrendering 22.  Marshall scores 43 and yields 21.  Simply put, there’s just not much separating these squads, at least on paper.  The venue give Marshall the edge, but I have to believe that this will be as close and hard-fought as the statistics suggest. PICK: East Carolina

Mitchell: This is a battle between two of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country with East Carolina’s Shane Carden and Marshall’s Rakeem Cato. The two will be dueling it out for the Conference USA’s Eastern Division and a spot in the championship game. Both teams are hot, with the Pirates sporting a five game winning streak, and the Thundering Herd reeling off four consecutive wins in their own right. This is a toss-up, but Marshall is a 3.5 point favorite for a reason. The Thundering Herd have the benefit of home field advantage, and they are undefeated at Edwards Stadium this season. PICK: Marshall

Bigalke: All season long, this has looked like the matchup to watch in C-USA. Marshall has regressed a bit from early-season expectations, yet because ECU dropped that game to Tulane this contest is a winner-take-all battle for the East Division. Marshall is at home, but the Pirates have played a much tougher schedule in the midst of their five-game win streak. Here’s guessing they make it six. PICK: East Carolina


Bowling Green Falcons at Buffalo Bulls (+3)

Strobl: Just like ECU-Marshall, this game features two teams with nearly identical resumes.  Buffalo was rolled by Ohio State and Baylor before getting its season on track,and since then has only fallen to Toledo in a 51-41 shootout.  Bowling Green also lost to a pair of FBS big boys (though not of the same caliber as the Buckeyes and Bears) in Mississippi State and Indiana, and the Falcons fell to Toledo 28-25.  Just like ECU-Marshall, this game is essentially a tossup, with nothing to clearly recommend one side over the other.  As well as the Bulls have performed this year, I like Bowling Green.  The Falcons have been in these meaningful MAC games before and have the poise and talent to pull out a close victory. PICK: Bowling Green

Mitchell: What a coaching job by Jeff Quinn this year at Buffalo. He has taken a historically down trodden program to new heights this season, and the Bulls are one win away from clinching a spot in the MAC Championship Game against Northern Illinois. In Quinn’s previous three seasons with the Bulls, they won a combined nine games. With a win at home over Bowling Green, the Bulls would get their ninth win of the 2013 season. This is another toss-up, with both teams sporting strong defensive units. The Bulls have the star power with Khalil Mack, who is one of the best linebackers in the country. I think Bowling Green is probably the better team, but something has been working in Buffalo’s favor all year, and I’m not going to pick against it. PICK: Buffalo

Bigalke: This season is feeling more and more like deja vu of 2008, which means that Buffalo is going to continue their best season since Turner Gill led them to the MAC championship. Now, I can’t in good conscience say that the Bulls are better than NIU or that they will do to the Huskies what they did to Ball State five years ago. But it also wouldn’t surprise me. Bowling Green, like John said, is probably the better team on paper. Yet the Falcons blew their own BCS chances against North Texas, while Buffalo’s losses have come to teams like Ohio State and Baylor.  PICK: Buffalo


Oregon State Beavers at Oregon Ducks (-23)

Strobl: Last week I picked Oregon with confidence only to watch the Ducks flail and fail against Arizona.  Dare I depend on UO to cover yet another monster spread?  I do, primarily because the Beavers have been on the decline since peaking mid-season.  Despite their struggles, the Ducks are still one of the most explosive teams in the country.  They have some serious face-saving to do, and there’s no better place to make a statement than in a rivalry game. PICK: Oregon

Mitchell: This game looked like it could have serious Pac-12 North implications back in mid-October, when the Ducks were still undefeated and the Beavers were in the middle of a six game winning streak after dropping their season opener to Eastern Washington. Now, both teams limp into this one after embarrassing defeats. Oregon was battered and beaten soundly by Arizona in Tuscon last week to the tune of a 42-16 drubbing. Oregon State gave up 69 points to Washington, and lost their fourth straight game. Both teams are trending in the wrong direction, but the Ducks should be able to run all over the Beavers if they show up ready to play. Marcus Mariota being able to play is the difference in this pick, and I like the Ducks to take the Civil War in a rout. PICK: Oregon

Bigalke: The Civil War always has the potential for upsets to occur. Yet three out of the past five editions of this rivalry have been won by lopsided Ducks scores that would have covered today’s spread. The Beavers are beat up, and they’ll leave Autzen reeling after another big win in the post-Chip era. PICK: Oregon


Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Wolverines (+16)

Strobl: The Buckeyes have been one of the more frustrating teams this year with regard to spreads.  Close wins over Northwestern and Wisconsin, maulings of Penn State, Purdue, and Indiana, tighter-than-expected contests against Illinois and Iowa…the Buckeyes’ scoreboard inconsistency, fueled primarily by an inexperienced and oft-injured defense, has led to a relatively small spread in the Big House.  There’s no question that Michigan has been saving up its best shot for The Game, but the talent differential is stark this season.  The Buckeyes should win by three scores.  Of course, there are never any guarantees when these two teams meet in college football’s greatest rivalry.  But even so, I’ve got to go with OSU. PICK: Ohio State

Mitchell: One slip-up by Alabama or Florida State puts Ohio State in position to play for a national title. The Buckeyes have been downright dominant the entire month of November, and they run into a Michigan team that isn’t even as good as their mediocre 7-4 record shows. The Wolverines offense has been a dumpster fire for weeks now, and I don’t expect much to be different this week against Ohio State’s eighth ranked scoring defense. Ohio State has dominated this series in recent years, and that trend should continue in Urban Meyer’s second matchup against the Wolverines. I’d take the Buckeyes even if this spread was closer to three touchdowns. PICK: Ohio State

Bigalke: Ohio State can’t get any respect, but they’re now one win (and a Florida State or Alabama loss) away from playing for the final BCS national championship. With the way their biggest rival has fallen into the doldrums, there should be no logical way that the Buckeyes fall in Ann Arbor. There’s really no logical way that they shouldn’t cover this spread. Here’s guessing that Brady Hoke has plenty of incendiary things to say about “Ohio” once this game is over, and that Urban Meyer will feel perfectly content about whatever his team ends up doing to “That School Up North”. PICK: Ohio State


Alabama Crimson Tide at Auburn Tigers (+10.5)

Strobl: Few teams have had a turnaround like Auburn’s, and the players and coaching staff deserve all the accolades they’re sure to receive.  With a big win over Texas A&M and one of the nation’s top rushing attacks, Auburn has earned its way to a Top 5 BCS ranking without any of the hype that typically accompanies the elite squads.  All that said, Auburn still has some fairly significant flaws.  Its offense is too one-dimensional to compete with a team like Alabama, and the Tigers’ defense has been exposed at times.  I expect the Tide to roll through this Iron Bowl, though the matchup is obviously better than anyone thought it would be. PICK: Alabama

Mitchell: Alabama is a 10.5 road favorite against the No. 4 team in the country. Welcome to Nick Saban’s Alabama if you haven’t been paying attention in the last few years. Gus Malzahn has engineered a heck of a turnaround on the Plains with Auburn going from a historically bad 2012 season to a 10-1 2013 with one win separating them for Atlanta. Auburn’s rushing offense is the best in the SEC led by Nick Marshall and Tre Mason, but Alabama sports the SEC’s top rushing defense. If the Crimson Tide is vulnerable defensively, it’s on the back end, and I just don’t think Nick Marshall is good enough passing to take advantage of it. Alabama will likely make Auburn one dimensional on offense, and it isn’t the dimension the Tigers like to utilize. Look for AJ McCarron, T.J. Yeldon, and company to have big days at Jordan-Hare with the Tigers’ defense being anything but an immovable object. If Alabama plays up to its capability, then they should win this game by a couple of scores to clinch their second straight SEC Western Division title. PICK: Alabama

Bigalke: Maybe this is just my way of trolling John. Maybe it will actually come to pass. But while I don’t think that Auburn will necessarily win this contest, I have a feeling that this game is going to look eerily similar to the result of the 2010 Iron Bowl (but in reverse). That year, we saw Saban’s Tide jump out to a big lead on Auburn at home before Cam Newton brought the Tigers back in the second half to claim a spot in the BCS championship game. Gus Malzahn, I have a feeling, will put the scare into Bama before Saban and his coaching staff finds the right adjustments at the intermission. That’ll be enough to win, but not enough to cover. PICK: Auburn



NEXT PAGE: The Last Picks & Upsets of the Week

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