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Auburn in position to eliminate Alabama from CFP contention

Despite losing to Louisiana State and losing quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to a season-ending injury, Alabama still has a good chance to advance to the College Football Playoff.

The Crimson Tide need to beat Auburn in Saturday’s Iron Bowl, then have LSU beat Georgia in the Southeastern Conference title game to put themselves in contention for their sixth straight CFP berth.

But Ed Salmons, Westgate sportsbook vice president of risk, doesn’t expect that to happen. He likes Auburn to beat Alabama, a consensus 3½-point road favorite in what many regard as college football’s best rivalry.

“Alabama is a different team without Tua,” Salmons said. “They’re still very talented, but this game sets up perfect for Auburn, which has one of the best defensive lines in college football. I don’t think they’ll have any problem slowing down Alabama’s run game.

“Alabama’s defense is nothing more than average. Auburn can run the ball and score some points on them. I think Auburn is going to win that game.”

The Tigers are plus 150 on the money line.

Salmons also expects Georgia to beat LSU in the SEC title game and forecasts a CFP with No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 LSU.

But first things first. Here are some best bets for Rivalry Week:

— Washington (-7½) over Washington State, Friday

The Huskies have won and covered the last five meetings with the Cougars, winning by an average of 24 points.

Salmons took Washington minus 6½, and the line has since climbed to 7½.

“Washington has dominated this series,” Salmons said. “They played just terrible Saturday for whatever reason (in a 20-14 loss to Colorado). But they play well against Washington State.”

— Army (+2½) over Hawaii

“I like to look at situations, and this is a really weird one here,” Salmons said. “Hawaii is going to play at Boise State in the Mountain West championship game (Dec. 7). So does Hawaii spend all week studying how to stop Army’s run attack? Or do they look past this game and get ready for Boise? I’m thinking Hawaii won’t be ready for this kind of game.”

The Warriors are on an 8-18-1 ATS slide at home, and the Black Knights are on a 9-4 cover streak as underdogs.

— CFB Challenge

Handicapper Dana Lane (37-28 ATS) leads Paul Stone (36-29 ATS) by one game entering the final week of the Review-Journal College Football Challenge.

Here are their best bets:

— Boston College-Pittsburgh Under 51½

Lane (@DanaLaneSports): “With both teams combining for seven points last week, and with both putting so much emphasis on their respective games, I anticipate another offensive letdown spot. Both teams provided a blueprint on how to contain their main offensive weapons against Notre Dame and Virginia Tech.”

— East Carolina (+5½) over Tulsa

Stone (@PaulStoneSports): “Both teams will fall short of bowl eligibility this year. I believe East Carolina will be the more focused team in the regular-season finale for both teams.

“The Pirates have shown significant improvement over the course of the season under first-year coach Mike Houston. I actually made this game pick, so I feel like we’ve got some bonus points backing East Carolina in this spot.”

— Sharp plays

MGM Resorts: Iowa State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Virginia, South Alabama, Purdue.

CG Technology: Iowa State (-3½), Northwestern (+10½), Middle Tennessee State (+9½), Penn State (-38½), LSU (-16).

Caesars Entertainment: Northwestern, Middle Tennessee State, Army, Alabama-Birmingham, New Mexico, Navy, Syracuse, Connecticut, South Florida.

More Betting: Follow at reviewjournal.com/betting.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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