Ari Wasserman, David Ubben and Stewart Mandel previewed the biggest games of Week 11 of the college football season on the Until Saturday podcast. The trio discussed the biggest games of the week and made picks against the spread for Michigan at Penn State, Ole Miss at Georgia, USC at Oregon and more.
Below is an edited, abridged version of their discussion on several Week 11 games. The full episode includes discussion on Miami at Florida State (-14.5), Utah at Washington (-9.5), Alabama (-10.5) at Kentucky, Tennessee (-1.5) at Missouri, Maryland (-2.5) at Nebraska, Iowa State (-7.5) at BYU and Arizona (-10.5) at Colorado.
You can listen to the full episode here.
Mandel: Michigan is the better team and I don’t trust James Franklin in these big-game situations. The only thing is we just don’t know, all this controversy that we’re talking about, how it’s affected the locker room, how it’s affected the coaches’ meetings. If Michigan were to go out and lay an egg I’m sure that will be the first talking point, but in terms of what we know about them on the football, I just feel Michigan is a much more complete team on all three phases. Am I supposed to say I’m picking them to cover? Yes, I am.
Ubben: I just don’t know how Penn State scores in this game. I’m open to hearing the case for how Penn State is going to put points on the board in this ballgame.
Wasserman: This line is weird.
Ubben: It is weird. I don’t disagree with you.
Wasserman: If I were to ask you last Saturday night before the lines came out, “What should the line be in this game?” wouldn’t it have been like seven?
Ubben: Around seven, yeah. It’s a weird line.
Wasserman: Four and a half is bizarre.
Mandel: There is home-field advantage. It’s gonna be a raucous atmosphere there so that obviously plays into the line. I just think that the Penn State team that played against Ohio State could barely move the ball. You’re going against as good if not a better defense in Michigan.
Ubben: I think the play here personally is the under (45.5), but I’m taking Michigan. Again, I just think it comes down to Michigan is a better team with a better quarterback. They’re a lot like Ohio State, but they have a better quarterback than Ohio State. Maybe not better weapons, but they do have weapons. This is going to be a low-scoring game, but it feels like a 20-10 situation for Michigan.
Wasserman: I can’t name a single identifying reason, football-only reasons, for picking Penn State in this game. That said, and I’m just playing devil’s advocate here, I’m almost made Penn State my lock of the week because I’m so offended by how small the line is. Then I changed it because I didn’t want to be ridiculed and called a homer again. Is it possible that the Michigan locker room is going through turmoil, actually got quite a bit of an advantage from having signs and they don’t have them anymore. They’re going on the road. This is a huge legacy game for James Franklin, potentially. Penn State is the hardest place in the Big Ten to play when it’s rocking. Michigan hasn’t played against a competitive team since last January and we are just overvaluing how great Michigan is. I’m not saying they’re not a national championship contender. I’m not saying they’re not a team that’s ultimately going to beat Ohio State and make the Playoff, but close games happen, guys. They happen all the time.
When you say “Where are the touchdowns going to come from?” I can’t look you in the eyes and say, “Well, Drew Allar is going to throw for 300 yards.” In my experience, and I’ve had some pretty bad ones looking at lines like this and saying “Well, one team is much better than the other, why is the line so small? I can’t figure it out. I’m going to hammer this side.” Losing those bets happens frequently.
Mandel: Vegas always knows. I don’t think it’s going to be a blowout.
Wasserman: We’ll see what the line closes at, but I’m not going to make it my lock of the week, but I am going to pick Penn State +4.5. That doesn’t mean Michigan can’t win by three.
USC at Oregon (-15.5)
Wasserman: This is the first game without Alex Grinch. Is USC dead, or can it put a little fight up in this game? Stew, we’ll start with you since this is your expertise.
Mandel: It’s my lock of the week, Oregon. I understand why they fired Alex Grinch. Maybe they should’ve done it a long time ago. But the idea that now that they’ve done that, the defense will be great, no. I don’t see that being fixed overnight. You saw what Washington did. Washington was not a good running team all season. And they ran for an insane amount of yards on USC. They can’t stop anything and Oregon’s good in all phases. Look what they did in that game at Utah.
I don’t think it’ll be pretty. I even question if USC has mailed it in at this point, like OK, we’re not going to be playing for the Pac-12 championship this year. What do we have to play for?
Ubben: I’m with you, Stew. I think in general Oregon’s a complete team. To me, they do a lot of things really, really well. They might not have UCLA’s defense, but they’re really good on defense. They might not have the same offensive line as Oregon State, but their offensive line is really good. They might not have the same explosiveness as Washington, but they’re really good through the air. They do everything well. And USC… We’ve talked about it, Ari. What does USC do well besides provide highlight-reel opportunities for Caleb Williams?
Wasserman: I don’t think they do anything particularly well besides that. I’m on Oregon -15.5, too. The question, though, is it possible that this game is just a rehash or a rerun of last week’s Washington game?
Mandel: No, because I think Oregon’s got a better defense.
Ole Miss at Georgia (-10.5)
Ubben: Ole Miss is a much better running team than Missouri is, and they have a much better running back in Quinshon Judkins and Georgia has struggled to stop the run. Kirby Smart after the game basically saying that Georgia got whipped at the line of scrimmage even though they knew what was coming half the time. I mean Missouri just ran stretch, and then they ran stretch and then they ran stretch. And Cody Schrader kept getting six, 10, five, six yards. Georgia usually does well against this type of offense, but I think Ole Miss being able to run the ball… they’re 30 spots higher in yards per carry than Missouri. We’ve already discussed Georgia, it is not the run defense that it has been in previous years. Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis are not walking through that door.
Ole Miss can run the ball well enough to keep it here. I think Georgia, in part thanks to Ari, is overvalued by our nation and Ole Miss keeps this close.
Wasserman: You think Ole Miss has a chance to win this game?!
Ubben: Yes, Ari, they do. Did we not go through this last week? You were killing me all week: “The idea that Missouri could be competitive in this game is so comically ridiculous.”
Wasserman: They were.
Mandel: Missouri put up a tough fight. I gained a lot of respect for Missouri, but I never thought they were actually going to win.
Wasserman: I want to ask you guys, we pound James Franklin into the dust about winning, competing, and showing up in big games. I feel like every time Ole Miss is a one-loss team or an undefeated team, and they go in to play a big game, they get completely boat-raced. When’s the last time Ole Miss actually showed up in a big way in a big game?
They played Bama this year and only scored 10 points. I love Quinshon Judkins. I think the guy is an animal, but what in Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss repertoire makes you think that all of a sudden think they’re going to beat this team?
Ubben: Because Alabama’s defense is better than Georgia’s, Ari. Maybe significantly better.
Mandel: My hot take is Missouri is a better team than Ole Miss, despite what the rankings say. You make a good point about Lane’s record, but beyond that I don’t think Jaxson Dart plays well in these road games. He’s all over the map. I think Georgia will get after him. I see Georgia winning comfortably, more comfortably than they did against Missouri.
Wasserman: I’m in lay the points mode here. I don’t know that I particularly love it. Ole Miss has such a fun and exciting offense and I think they’re pretty versatile. I would love to see that offense that we get to see every other week of the SEC schedule show up when they’re playing a championship contender and that just doesn’t ever seem to be the case.
Locks of the week
Wasserman: Nebraska +2.5 vs. Maryland.
Mandel: Oregon -15.5 vs. USC.
Mandel: Texas State at Coastal Carolina over 58
(Photo of Roman Wilson: Steven King / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)