College Football Picks: Neutral sites for 2 ranked matchups

Sep 21, 2021, 8:49 PM | Updated: Sep 22, 2021, 8:51 am
Texas A&M running back Devon Achane (6) reacts with teammate Demond Demas (1) after scoring a touch...

Texas A&M running back Devon Achane (6) reacts with teammate Demond Demas (1) after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against New Mexico, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)

(AP Photo/Sam Craft)

Last week, college football gave fans one of its tastiest, and unfortunately rare, treats when Auburn visited Penn State.

Good teams. Great setting. Entertaining game. What college football is all about.

This week, not so much.

The weekend’s two matchups of ranked teams — No. 12 Notre Dame vs. No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 7 Texas A&M vs. No. 16 Arkansas — are both being played at NFL stadiums a long way from campus.

Sigh.

The Irish and Badgers are playing the back half of a two-game series that was supposed to start last year with a game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Lambeau is a unique experience in sports. Taking advantage of an opportunity to play a big college game there makes sense.

Soldier Field has some history, but it’s not quite the same. It is a good spot for both schools’ fans to converge.

Still, it would be far more fun if this game was in Madison, Wisconsin, or South Bend, Indiana.

As for Texas A&M and Arkansas, the Southeastern Conference rivals have been playing at the home of the Dallas Cowboys since 2009 with a few exceptions — including last year when it was moved to College Station, Texas, because of the pandemic.

The contract with AT&T Stadium runs through the 2024 season. Both schools have said they would like to get that game back on campus.

The neutral site game is not going away in college football. They provide some value in recruiting and brand building and they can be fun road trips for players, who get to play in NFL stadiums.

But the more games on campus the better.

The picks with lines provide by FanDuel Sportsbook:

FRIDAY

UNLV (plus 30 1/2) at No. 22 Fresno State

QB Jake Haener became a late-night star in the upset of UCLA and the Bulldogs have staying power … FRESNO STATE 42-10.

SATURDAY

Southern Miss (plus 44 1/2) at No. 1 Alabama

Coming off a scare at Florida, this was probably not an enjoyable week of practice for the Crimson Tide. Uh-oh, Golden Eagles … ALABAMA 52-3.

No. 2 Georgia (minus 34 1/2) at Vanderbilt

The Commodores beat the Bulldogs in Kirby Smart’s first season as coach. In three games since: UGA 116, Vandy 33. … GEORGIA 45-7.

Arizona (plus 28 1/2) at No. 3 Oregon

Ducks RBs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye have combined for 4,846 yards rushing in their careers, most of any active duo in the FBS… OREGON 38-7.

West Virginia (plus 15 1/2) at No. 4 Oklahoma

Sooners remain the only Big 12 team West Virginia has not beaten since joining in 2012; time is running out on the Mountaineers … OKLAHOMA 38-21.

Colorado State (plus 23 1/2) at No. 5 Iowa

Hawkeyes are looking to extend their winning streak 10; it would be Iowa’s fifth double-digit winning streak in program history … IOWA 31-6.

No. 7 Texas A&M (minus 5 1/2) vs. No. 16 Arkansas in Arlington, Texas,

Aggies have won nine straight meetings, seven by 12 points of fewer … TEXAS A&M 28-21.

No. 9. Clemson (minus 9 1/2) at North Carolina State

Breakout coming for the Tigers’ sluggish offense? They have won eight straight against the Wolfpack … CLEMSON 31-17, BEST BET.

Akron (plus 48 1/2) at No. 10 Ohio State

Zips have allowed 105 points to two FBS opponents, Auburn and Temple. Does not bode well … OHIO STATE 59-7.

Tennessee (plus 20 1/2) at No. 11 Florida

Gators have won 14 of the last 15 meetings, but maybe a bit of a post-Bama hangover? … FLORIDA 34-17.

No. 12 Notre Dame (plus 6 1/2) vs. No. 18 Wisconsin in Chicago

The first meeting since 1964 features a former Badgers QB, transfer Jack Coan, likely starting for the Irish … WISCONSIN 23-20.

No. 14 Iowa State (minus 6 1/2) at Baylor

Top two defenses in the Big 12 … IOWA STATE 26-20.

South Florida (plus 23 1/2) at No. 15 BYU

Cougars have yet to trail in three games while winning by an average of only nine points … BYU 38-14.

UMass (plus 36 1/2) at No. 17 Coastal Carolina

Minutemen have lost 14 straight … COASTAL CAROLINA 55-14.

Rutgers (off) at No. 19 Michigan

Neither team has committed a turnover in their 3-0 starts … MICHIGAN 42-17.

Nebraska (plus 4 1/2) at No. 20 Michigan State

That bad loss in the opener at Illinois might be obscuring some real improvement by the Huskers … MICHIGAN STATE 27-24.

No. 21 North Carolina (minus 12 1/2) vs. Georgia Tech at Mercedes Benz Stadium

Tar Heels have scored 59 points in each of the last two games … NORTH CAROLINA 35-20.

Georgia State (plus 26 1/2) at No. 23 Auburn

Tigers return home from Happy Valley for another cupcake .. AUBURN 42-17.

No. 24 UCLA (minus 4 1/2) at Stanford

After nearly getting shut out in their opener, the Cardinal have scored 83 points in the last two games … UCLA 31-24.

No. 25 Kansas State (plus 5 1/2) at Oklahoma State

Wildcats RB Deuce Vaughn, checking in at 5-foot-6, leads the Big 12 in rushing with 371 yards … KANSAS STATE 27-23, UPSET SPECIAL.

TWITTER REQUESTS

SMU (plus 8 1/2) at TCU — @bleacher_scout

Mustangs snapped a seven-game losing streak in the Battle for the Iron Skillet last season … TCU 34-28.

Liberty (minus 6 1/2) at Syracuse — @kmasterman

Flames and Orange have split the first two games of the three-game series … SYRACUSE 24-23.

Missouri (minus 1 1/2) at Boston College — @mikeblewitt

An SEC-ACC matchup that really doesn’t feel like an SEC-ACC matchup … MISSOURI 28-24.

Kentucky (minus 4 1/2) at South Carolina — @Davidhopson

Wildcats have won six of the last seven against the Gamecocks … KENTUCKY 31-23.

LSU (minus 2 1/2) at Mississippi State — @RehmMaham

Tigers allowed 623 yards passing to the Bulldogs in coach Mike Leach’s debut last season. So it can’t get worse … MISSISSIPPI STATE 27-24.

___

Last week: 21-4 straight; 13-12 against the spread.

Season: 49-19 straight; 37-31 against the spread.

__

Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25

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College Football Picks: Neutral sites for 2 ranked matchups