College Football Picks: Big stakes from ACC to Mountain West

Nov 23, 2021, 11:51 AM | Updated: Nov 24, 2021, 5:15 pm
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy looks down the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college f...

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy looks down the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Texas Tech, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

(AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

There is still so much to be decided heading into this week’s Thanksgiving college football feast.

Let’s sort it out, conference by conference.

Atlantic Coast Conference: No. 20 Pitt is locked into the conference championship game and will face No. 21 Wake Forest, No. 24 North Carolina State or Clemson. Wake is in with a win. N.C. State takes the Atlantic Division with a win and a Wake loss. If both lose, Clemson gets to the ACC championship for a seventh straight season.

American Athletic Conference: No. 4 Cincinnati will play No. 19 Houston. Where the game will be played will be determined by whether the Bearcats win Friday at East Carolina.

Big Ten: The winner of Michigan-Ohio State takes the East. Wisconsin takes the West with a victory and Iowa takes it if the Badgers lose and the Hawkeyes win. If both lose, that opens the door for Minnesota and also makes Purdue’s result relevant, though the Boilermakers can’t win the division.

Big 12: Oklahoma State is in. If Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State, the conference title game is a rematch next week. If Oklahoma State wins and Baylor wins, it’s Cowboys-Bears.

Conference USA: No. 15 UTSA has clinched a division and will play the winner of the Western Kentucky-Marshall game.

Mid-American Conference: Northern Illinois will play the winner of Saturday’s Miami, Ohio, at Kent State game.

Mountain West: Lots of possibilities but the biggest game is Boise State at San Diego State, kicking off at 9 a.m. PST on Black Friday. The Aztecs host the conference title game with a victory. Even with a victory, Boise State needs help to clinch its division because Air Force holds a tiebreaker.

Pac-12: Utah has the South clinched. Oregon wins the North by beating Oregon State, but a loss sends either the Beavers or Washington State to the conference title game for the first time.

Southeastern Conference: Georgia vs. Alabama is set, but both need to take care of some rivalry business first.

Sun Belt: Same as above for Appalachian State and No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette.

The picks, with lines from FanDuel Sportsbook.


No. 8 Mississippi (plus 1 1/2) at Mississippi State

Last time the Egg Bowl was on Thanksgiving night both coaches ended up getting fired within a month and a half … OLE MISS 31-28.


No. 4 Cincinnati (minus 14 1/2) at East Carolina

CFP is truly in the Bearcats’ grasp … EAST CAROLINA 27-24, UPSET SPECIAL.

Colorado (plus 23 1/2) at No. 16 Utah

Utes have won the last four meetings by an average of 23 points … UTAH 42-14.

No. 17 Iowa (minus 1 1/2) at Nebraska

Hawkeyes have beaten the Huskers in six straight, but the last three have been by a combined 12 points … NEBRASKA 23-22.

Boise State (minus 2 1/2) at No. 22 San Diego State

Broncos have won four straight to surge back into the conference race … SAN DIEGO STATE 20-17.

North Carolina (plus 6 1/2) at No. 24 North Carolina State

Tar Heels trying to play spoiler and salvage an otherwise disappointing season … NORTH CAROLINA 34-28.

Missouri (plus 14 1/2) at No. 25 Arkansas

Is this a rivalry? Tigers have won last five and six of seven meetings since they joined the SEC … ARKANSAS 35-24.


No. 1 Georgia (minus 35 1/2) at Georgia Tech

Since the Yellowjackets beat the Bulldogs in Kirby Smart’s first season as coach, Georgia has won three straight by an average of 33 points … GEORGIA 45-7.

No. 2 Ohio State (minus 9 1/2) at No. 6 Michigan

Jim Harbaugh is 0-5 as Michigan coach against the Buckeyes. Is this the year he breaks through? … OHIO STATE 38-31.

No. 3 Alabama (minus 19 1/2) at Auburn

Tide has lost three of its last four trips to Jordan-Hare Stadium, but the Tigers come in on a three-game losing streak that’s taken a lot of the juice out of the Iron Bowl … ALABAMA 31-14.

No. 5 Notre Dame (minus 19 1/2) at Stanford

Cardinal (3-8) trying to avoid worst season since 2006 … NOTRE DAME 35-13.

No. 10 Oklahoma (plus 4 1/2) at No. 7 Oklahoma State

Sooners have dominated Bedlam, going 14-2 since Mike Gundy has been coaching the Cowboys … OKLAHOMA 28-27.

Texas Tech (plus 14 1/2) at No. 9 Baylor

Are the Bears going to be back in the market for a head coach? Dave Aranda is drawing interest from all over … BAYLOR 35-17.

Oregon State (plus 7 1/2) at No. 11 Oregon

Ducks are 2-2 against the Beavers under Mario Cristobal … OREGON 31-24.

Penn State (minus 1 1/2) at No. 12 Michigan State

Nittany Lions can’t run the ball but might not have to against the Spartans’ leaky secondary … PENN STATE 27-24.

No. 13 BYU (minus 6 1/2) at Southern California

Trojans don’t appear to have much fight left for this lost season … BYU 42-31.

No. 14 Texas A&M (minus 6 1/2) at LSU

Could be Ed Orgeron’s last game as Tigers coach, unless they go to a bowl … TEXAS A&M 27-17.

No. 15 UTSA (minus 10 1/2) at North Texas

Roadrunners trying to stay unbeaten … UTSA 28-14.

No. 18 Wisconsin (minus 6 1/2) at Minnesota

The most played rivalry in major college football with 130 meetings … WISCONSIN 23-17.

No. 19 Houston (minus 32 1/2) at UConn

Former AAC rivals, which sounds weird … HOUSTON 42-14.

No. 20 Pittsburgh (minus 13 1/2) at Syracuse

Orange have lost two straight and are still one victory short of bowl eligibility … PITTSBURGH 28-20.

No. 21 Wake Forest (minus 4 1/2) at Boston College

With QB Phil Jurkovec back for BC, Eagles have a chance to play spoiler … BOSTON COLLEGE 35-31.

Louisiana-Monroe (plus 21 1/2) at No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette

Ragin’ Cajuns won the rivalry game by 50 last season … LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 42-17.


Clemson (minus 11 1/2) at South Carolina — @treys842

Tigers have won six straight in the Palmetto Bowl, the last four by blowouts … CLEMSON 28-14.

Western Kentucky (plus 1 1/2) at Marshall– @philip_runyon

With just an average game, Hilltoppers QB Bailey Zappe could reach 5,000 yards passing and 50 TD passes … WESTERN KENTUCKY 35-31.

Rutgers (plus 1 1/2) at Maryland — @EppingerKevin

Winner becomes bowl eligible … RUTGERS 27-23.

Florida State (plus 2 1/2) at Florida — @SteveWildzN

Another game where the winner becomes bowl eligible; that’s a long way from the Bowden vs. Spurrier days … FLORIDA STATE 24-21.

Washington State (minus 1 1/2) at Washington — @bwolf4

If the Cougars can break a seven-game Apple Cup losing streak, it might land interim coach Jake Dickert the gig long-term … WASHINGTON STATE 20-17.

UMass (plus 6 1/2) at New Mexico State — @dacon1508

Two victories between the Minutemen and Aggies … NEW MEXICO STATE 24-20.


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

Season: 176-77 straight; 138-115 against the spread.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at and listen at


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College Football Picks: Big stakes from ACC to Mountain West