The 2023 college football season moves into Week 12 with so many interesting games on tap. The battles for conference championships and College Football Playoff spots kick into high gear so close to the finish line for another regular season.
Michigan Wolverines at Maryland Terrapins
Odds: Michigan -19.5
The Michigan Wolverines probably will not have coach Jim Harbaugh on the sideline for this game due to the Big Ten’s suspension of the head coach for violations related to illegally stealing signs from opponents. Michigan is fighting an off-field battle with the Big Ten, but meanwhile, its team continues in the pursuit of a third straight conference championship and a third straight appearance in the College Football Playoff.
Michigan won at Penn State without Harbaugh last week. The Wolverines should be able to win this game without Harbaugh as well, but with Ohio State looming one week later, Michigan will be tempted to look ahead to that huge game, which could have two 11-0 teams going against each other. Maryland will play hard, having clinched a bowl game and having nothing to lose. Maryland won’t win outright, but it has a very good chance of covering the spread at home.
Pick: Maryland +19.5
Louisville Cardinals at Miami Hurricanes
Odds: Louisville -1
The Louisville Cardinals are likely to play in the ACC Championship Game. They can seal their spot in the big game with a win here. Louisville was shaky last week in a Thursday night win over Virginia. The Cardinals allowed 21 points in the third quarter and trailed by seven points midway through the fourth quarter before rallying to win. Much as Michigan might look ahead this week to its big rivalry game with Ohio State one week later, Louisville could look past Miami and start thinking about its own rivalry game with Kentucky on Thanksgiving weekend.
It’s a tricky spot for Louisville, but Miami just played an emotionally exhausting game against Florida State and might be spent in its own right. Also, Miami quarterback Emory Williams got hurt, putting Tyler Van Dyke – an ineffective quarterback – back on the field. He might not be ready to win this game for Miami, so take Louisville instead.
Pick: Louisville -1
Oklahoma Sooners at BYU Cougars
Odds: Oklahoma -24.5
This is a Big 12 game, since BYU joined the Big 12 this year. BYU has had a very tough time of late, getting blasted by West Virginia and Iowa State in recent weeks. Oklahoma lost two straight games but then bounced back last week with an emphatic blowout of West Virginia. Oklahoma’s offense should be able to do whatever it wants with BYU’s defense, and Oklahoma’s defense should be able to shut down an inconsistent and shaky BYU offense. The point spread is huge, but Oklahoma seems to be in good position to cover it.
Pick: Oklahoma -24.5
Utah Utes at Arizona Wildcats
Odds: Arizona -1
This is a fascinating game between two teams with identical 7-3 records. Utah has been banged up this season at key positions, missing quarterback Cam Rising and tight end Brant Kuithe, among several other important players. Those absences have mattered. Utah’s offense isn’t as explosive or consistent without Rising and Kuithe. Yet, being 7-3 with those two players out is a real achievement for head coach Kyle Whittingham. Utah has done a lot with its limitations this season. It simply hasn’t been enough to win the Pac-12 title. The conference is too good and its best teams, Washington and Oregon, are too strong. They both beat Utah and USC. The Utes needed their stars to be healthy in order to compete with those opponents, but they weren’t.
Utah now goes to Tucson to take on an Arizona team which continues to win. The Wildcats haven’t lost a game since September 30. Freshman quarterback Noah Fifita, who was thrown into the lineup only after quarterback Jayden de Laura got injured, has been a sensation and a revelation for Arizona this season. His leadership has been great. His performances have been steady. Arizona has become a really good team with Fifita on the field.
This game is a toss-up, as the betting odds indicate. Fifita and Arizona are riding high, and Arizona is playing physical football. The game should be close, but Arizona continues to earn respect and trust from a lot of people in the sport of college football. Take the Wildcats here.
Pick: Arizona -1
Georgia Bulldogs at Tennessee Volunteers
Odds: Georgia -10.5
The Georgia Bulldogs have had some wobbly moments this season. They beat Auburn by only seven points and then defeated Missouri by only nine points at home. They played a bad first half against South Carolina before rallying in the second half. Clearly, they are not nearly as good as the 2022 and 2021 national championship teams in Athens. Yet, they are unbeaten and they are still likely to make the College Football Playoff. Last week, they drilled the Ole Miss Rebels and looked a lot more like the Kirby Smart-coached juggernaut we have come to expect in recent years.
One thing about Georgia remains true: This team shows up for big games. Obviously a two-time national champion is going to win more big games than anyone else. The point to emphasize is that if you’re expecting a Georgia stumble, you shouldn’t. You need to rethink that approach. Georgia clobbered Tennessee one year ago in a highly anticipated game. This year’s Tennessee team is dramatically worse than last year’s group. Georgia, though not as strong as it was in 2022, should still be able to win this game decisively and remain on course for the playoff.
Pick: Georgia -10.5
North Carolina Tar Heels at Clemson Tigers
Odds: Clemson -7
The Clemson Tigers recently defeated Notre Dame to finally develop some momentum late in their season, which has been a substantial failure. The Tigers have four losses and have no chance to do anything important in terms of postseason berths or big bowl games. They won’t be part of any huge December or January game. What is left for them is a high-profile game against No. 20 North Carolina, which is 8-2 and is trying to win 10 games and possibly qualify for a New Year’s Six bowl game. The Tar Heels’ odds of making that top-level bowl aren’t great, but they will disappear altogether if they can’t beat Clemson on the road.
Clemson’s offense and North Carolina’s defense have both struggled this season. Chances are that the winner of this matchup – when Clemson has the ball – will take the upper hand in this game. Given that Clemson dominated North Carolina last year in the ACC Championship Game, with quarterback Cade Klubnik thriving, Clemson should be able to win this game outright. However, North Carolina is probably going to score enough behind Drake Maye – a likely top-three pick in the 2024 NFL Draft – to keep this game close. Clemson wins, Carolina covers.
Pick: North Carolina +7
Washington Huskies at Oregon State Beavers
Odds: Oregon State -2.5 at BetOnline Sportsbook
This game opened close to a pick ‘em, but the money has been moving to Oregon State all week. The Beavers are now a two and a half-point favorite over the Huskies, which is a belief among the betting public that Washington is going to finally lose a game this season. It’s a reasonable line of thought. Washington is surviving rather than dominating. The Huskies have played some sloppy and ugly games over the past month, scoring only 15 points against Arizona State and then allowing 33 points to Stanford before conceding 42 points to USC.
Washington beat a shorthanded Utah team by only seven points at home last week. The Huskies are making enough big plays to overcome their many mistakes, but that’s the pattern of a team which is bound to eventually pay for its sloppiness and inconsistency. Oregon State is at home. The Beavers have been waiting for this game all season long. They have good, tough, physical linemen who can neutralize Washington at the line of scrimmage. Oregon State will indeed hand Washington its first loss of the 2023 college football season.
Pick: Oregon State -2.5
Texas Longhorns at Iowa State Cyclones
Odds: Texas -7.5 at Bovada
The Texas Longhorns aren’t playing great football, but they are playing well enough to win each week. The Horns have not lost since early October against Oklahoma. They have had some injuries at the quarterback position and elsewhere on their roster, but they have managed to win a series of close games, the most recent one being against TCU.
Iowa State overcame a very rough September to insert itself into the middle of the Big 12 championship race. The Cyclones have gotten better over the course of the season. Coach Matt Campbell knows how to make in-course adjustments to put his players in position to succeed. Texas, going into Ames, Iowa, for this huge Big 12 road game, probably will have enough athletes to win, but Iowa State is going to keep it close enough to cover the spread.