Its rivalry week which means anything can happen in games in Auburn, Ann Arbor and Chapel Hill but do I like the dogs or the favorites in today’s action? Check it below.
Ohio State (-16) at Michigan – It’s amazing how cyclical this rivalry has been over the last two decades. Under Lloyd Carr, Michigan dominated the series with the Buckeyes while Ohio State behind Jim Tressel turned the tables. OSU Head Coach Urban Meyer is 1-0 against the team from ‘up north’ while Brady Hoke is 1-1 against the team from ‘Ohio.’
For the Buckeyes, the stakes are simple. They already have a date with Michigan State next week in the Big Ten Championship Game but in order to have any chance of reaching the BCS National Title game they must win in Ann Arbor and win convincingly. Because Michigan has drastically under-achieved this season, a slim victory over the Wolverines probably won’t sit well with pollsters.
Michigan has struggled to run the ball and has struggled even more in protecting quarterback Devin Gardner whose play has declined in recent weeks. The Wolverines are 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games at home versus the Buckeyes. Meanwhile, OSU is 4-2 straight up in their last six trips to Michigan Stadium. I see a big time beat down by the Buckeyes in the Big House. Take Ohio State to cover.
Duke (+6) at North Carolina – It isn’t the same as the rivalry on the hard-court down on Tobacco Road but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot at stake in this match-up. The Blue Devils can clinch a spot in the ACC Championship Game with a victory over their rivals. A loss would create a three-way tie with Duke, Virginia Tech and Miami who won their season finale yesterday.
The over/under is 58 and I’m loving the over as both teams average over 32 points per game and each gives up about 24 per game defensively. Duke has won seven straight games and is riding a wave unseen in these parts in a long, long time. UNC is 8-1 straight up in their last nine home games with the Blue Devils and that concerns me.
What also concerns me is Tar Heels’ tight end Eric Ebron who could find himself as the top tight end entering the 2014 NFL Draft. If Duke cannot handle or at the very least contain Ebron it could be a long day for their defense. With that said, Duke is too much to pass up at +6. Take the Blue Devils in this one.
Alabama (-11) at Auburn – I’ve struggled to get a grip on this one all week but I finally feel like I’ve got some things to go on. The knock on Alabama has been the fact that they don’t win dynamically enough or put up the points that Florida State and/or Ohio State do. That won’t mean a lick to Nick Saban and it never has. He knows a win means a trip to Atlanta to play either South Carolina or Missouri in the SEC Title Game.
Auburn and first-year coach Gus Malzahn also know what is at stake for them. They’ve already completed the season’s biggest turnaround in terms of wins and losses versus the previous season but now they can take another step. A win sends them to Atlanta and puts a bitter end to their rivals’ tremendous streak of success.
The Iron Bowl will be a vicious battle but I think it comes down to two things; big game experience and defense and both of those favor the Crimson Tide. In order for the Tigers to have any success they must run the ball early. It will help them set up their passing game which is typically not much of a threat. Can Auburn handle the pressure of this type of game? It’s a fair question.
The Tigers are 3-6 against the spread in their last nine games at home against the Tide which bears some thought but I really like Alabama to win this game but 11 is just too big so take Auburn getting those points.