Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will pick those five games against the spread and highlight some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.
Slowly but surely, the college football season is inching toward the finish line.
In a normal season, we’d be preparing for conference championship games this week. But because of the pandemic, there are still two more full weekends of regular-season games, plus an array of rescheduled games played Dec. 19 alongside the conference title games.
This week’s slate looks a little lacking on paper, but there is potential for some upsets that could shake up the College Football Playoff picture with four of the top five teams in the country going on the road to face unranked opponents.
(Note: All times ET, point spreads/totals from BetMGM)
No. 4 Ohio State at Michigan State
Time: Noon | TV: ABC | Line: Ohio State -21.5 | Total: 59.5
Ohio State finds itself in a precarious spot. The Buckeyes had a game earlier this season against Maryland canceled and then had to cancel last week’s game against Illinois due to COVID-19 issues. Though there is no minimum amount of games needed to be eligible for the CFP, OSU must play its next two games to reach the six-game minimum needed to compete for the Big Ten title game. That starts on Saturday against Michigan State. Ryan Day tested positive, so he won’t be able to coach the game. It’s unclear who else will be unavailable for OSU in East Lansing.
It could be a tricky spot for the Buckeyes. Michigan State is 2-3 on the year but is coming off an upset over another top-10 team, Northwestern. The Spartans jumped out to a 17-0 lead, fell behind 20-17 in the fourth quarter but eventually pulled out a 29-20 win to give Northwestern its first loss of the year. Do the Spartans have another upset in them?
Sam Cooper: Ohio State -21.5, Nick Bromberg: Ohio State -21.5
No. 5 Texas A&M at Auburn
Time: Noon | TV: ESPN | Line: Texas A&M -6 | Total: 47.5
Right behind Ohio State in the latest College Football Playoff rankings is Texas A&M. The Aggies were trounced by Alabama early in the year but haven’t lost since. And a win over Florida is the feather in A&M’s cap to this point in the season. The Aggies, though, had two games postponed due to their own COVID-19 problems and looked really sloppy upon their return last week against LSU. It was a 20-7 win, but offense struggled mightily — especially through the air.
Now the Aggies have to go on the road to Auburn. The Tigers are 5-3 on the year and are coming off a blowout loss to No. 1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Will Gus Malzahn’s team bounce back? Auburn has responded to both of its previous losses earlier in the year by winning its next game, and this is a prime spot to pull off an upset against a team with playoff aspirations.
Sam: Texas A&M -6, Nick: Auburn +6
West Virginia at No. 9 Iowa State
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Line: Iowa State -7 | Total: 49.5
After its come-from-behind win over Texas last week, Iowa State is pretty much guaranteed a spot in the Big 12 title game. Texas was the first team to keep star RB Breece Hall under 100 yards this season, but QB Brock Purdy stepped up with a 312-yard performance. The Cyclones, now 7-2 and ranked No. 9 in the CFP rankings, can officially lock up the title game this week at home against West Virginia. ISU has never won a Big 12 title. Could this be the year?
West Virginia (5-3, 4-3 Big 12) has definitely improved in Year 2 under Neal Brown and boasts the top defense in the Big 12. The Mountaineers, who saw their game against Oklahoma last week get postponed, play the style of football to keep games close. The running game with Leddie Brown is solid and QB Jarret Doege has gone four straight games without a turnover. Could this potentially be a letdown spot for Iowa State? If it is, WVU could potentially pull off an upset.
Sam: Iowa State -7, Nick: Iowa State -7
No. 13 BYU at No. 18 Coastal Carolina
Time: 5:30 p.m. | TV: ESPNU | Line: BYU -10 | Total: 61
Coastal Carolina was scheduled to play Liberty on Saturday, but Liberty is unable to play due to COVID-19 cases in its program. But another prominent program was able to step in in Liberty’s place: BYU. On Thursday morning, it was officially announced that BYU will make the trip to play Coastal on Saturday. 2020 is wild, huh?
The quickly-arranged matchup creates one of the best games of the season so far as both teams are undefeated at 9-0. Coastal Carolina, in just its fourth year as an FBS program, has already wrapped up the Sun Belt East division title and has been one of the stories of the season under coach Jamey Chadwell.
BYU, meanwhile, saw its original schedule full of Power Five opponents wiped out and has been dominant to this point in the season. The Cougars had only one other game remaining on their schedule (vs. San Diego State on Dec. 12) before this game came together. Strength of schedule has been an issue for BYU so far in the College Football Playoff rankings, but a win over a team like Coastal could give the Cougars a solid boost.
Sam: Coastal Carolina +10, Nick: Coastal Carolina +10
No. 3 Clemson at Virginia Tech
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Clemson -21.5 | Total: 66.5
Clemson finally returned to the field last week for the first time since its upset loss at Notre Dame. And the Tigers came out firing. By the time the first quarter came to a close, they had a 31-0 lead over Pittsburgh. By the time the dust settled, Clemson walked away with a 52-17 victory and Trevor Lawrence had his second 400-yard performance of the year. Now, the Tigers need a win over Virginia Tech on Saturday to clinch a spot in the ACC title game — a rematch against Notre Dame.
On the other side, Virginia Tech is in the midst of a three-game losing streak. The Hokies started the year 3-1 but have since lost three of their last four. The most recent game, a 47-14 loss at Pitt, was the worst of the year. Now 4-5 on the year, the Hokies need to win one of their last two games to avoid a losing record. Before 2018, Tech hadn’t finished with a losing record since 1992. Now, the Hokies are staring at it happening twice in a three-year stretch as rumors about Justin Fuente’s job status persist.
Sam: Clemson -21.5, Nick: Clemson -21.5
Head-to-head ATS: Sam: 31-27, Nick: 26-32
Week 14’s best bets
Nick Bromberg (Last week: 1-2, Overall: 22-17)
Nebraska at Purdue: The Boilermakers have lost three straight but have put up over 30 points in each of their last two games. Nebraska, meanwhile, has scored 30 points just once all season. Purdue is such a slight favorite here that the Boilermakers have to be the team to go with here. Pick: Purdue -1.5
Arkansas at Missouri: This game is far more enticing than it was at the beginning of the season as Mizzou is over .500 and Arkansas has three wins. This could be a low-scoring affair as Missouri has given up 10 or fewer points in three of its last four games and Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom used to be Missouri’s head coach and is very familiar with the Tigers’ personnel. Let’s go low. Pick: Under 51.5
Kansas at Texas Tech: I have to go against Kansas in this one. The Jayhawks are a remarkable 0-8 against the spread in addition to actually being 0-8 in 2020. Outside of a 21-point loss to West Virginia on Oct. 17, Kansas hasn’t been close to covering all season long. Why should that change on Saturday? Also, the over is a good play too. Seven KU games have gone over and the other was a push. Pick: Texas Tech -27
Sam Cooper (Last week: 2-1, Overall 23-16)
Memphis at Tulane: Memphis is 6-2 but has had some close calls against bad teams along the way. Tulane is coming off that brutal 2OT loss to Tulsa, but the Green Wave typically bounce back well under Willie Fritz. Over the last three seasons, Tulane is 12-4 against the spread after a loss. Pick: Tulane -1.5
West Virginia at No. 9 Iowa State: This feels like a bit of a letdown spot for Iowa State, but I don’t trust West Virginia’s offense enough to pick WVU to cover here. I think the under is the smarter play. WVU’s defense is strong against the run, so ISU will likely have to string a few long drives together to put points on the board. WVU lost to ISU pretty convincingly the past two seasons, so I think the WVU will be motivated in this spot and keep it close. And low-scoring. Pick: Under 49.5
Colorado at Arizona: Arizona has lost 10 straight games and could be forced to start true freshman QB Will Plummer because of an injury to starter Grant Gunnell. Colorado leads the Pac-12 in rushing attempts per game and time of possession. I don’t see this being a very high-scoring game. Pick: Under 59.5
For other Week 14 picks from Sam Cooper, click here.
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