The Southeastern Conference and Big Ten are loaded. The Atlantic Coast Conference is a one-team league. And the Big 12 and Pac-12 races are wildly entertaining.
Five teams have a chance to play Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, including Baylor (6-0, 3-0) and Oklahoma State (4-2, 1-2).
The Cowboys’ inclusion is tenuous, but a win Saturday and next week against Iowa State would change the outlook. We’ll see their best effort at home off a bye.
Baylor is overvalued in the market on the strength of avoiding a loss.
Kudos to Matt Rhule for installing a capable Bears defense and for going 4-0 in one-possession games during his team’s eight-game win streak. But Texas Tech (SP+ No. 38 on offense) managed 515 yards against Baylor in a double-overtime loss, during which star linebacker Clay Johnston suffered a season-ending injury.
That’s bad timing before a trip to Oklahoma State (SP+ No. 8 offense). Running back Chuba Hubbard and the Cowboys will exploit Johnson’s absence and cover the 4-point number.
Four more plays (home team in CAPS):
Missouri (-21) over VANDERBILT: The Commodores are one of three FBS teams that haven’t covered a spread, according to the closing number at the Westgate. This could be Vanderbilt’s worst team since 2009. Missouri’s defense is giving up 3.2 yards per carry, so don’t expect the Commodores’ two-person offense to find anything to exploit. Vanderbilt’s rush defense allows an SEC-worst 210 yards per game, and Missouri is a run-first offense.
New Mexico (+19) over WYOMING: When you think Lobos, you probably think awful defense. But New Mexico is 43rd nationally in yards per carry allowed. Only four teams run at a higher rate than Wyoming’s 70 percent, and they’re all triple-option teams. And Trey Smith and Titus Swen, two-thirds of Wyoming’s running back by committee, are out because of injury. I don’t trust Wyoming QB Sean Chambers (38.1 percent completion rate) and a mediocre group of receivers to take advantage of New Mexico’s shoddy pass defense. And if you toss out the Notre Dame game, New Mexico’s point differential is minus-21 in five games.
Boise State (-7) over Brigham Young: Broncos freshman QB Hank Bachmeier looks like a game-time decision. But Chase Cord is a capable backup, and Boise State’s offense will be fine. An uninspiring BYU offense might be down to its third quarterback. Starter Zach Wilson and starting running back Ty’Son Williams are out for the season. That’s not good for whoever operates behind BYU’s offensive line, which ranks 98th in line yards and 104th in sack rate. Especially not with national sack leader Curtis Weaver lined up on the other side.
Air Force (-3) over HAWAII: The Rainbow Warriors are 3-16 ATS as home favorites since 2014. The Hawaii defense allows 5.3 yards per carry, 119th in FBS. Air Force runs on 83.7 percent of its offensive snaps. Hawaii ranks 122nd in SP+ special teams, an area in which the Falcons typically excel. Turnovers have been a huge issue for Hawaii, as the team’s minus-12 margin ranks 129th. Sloppy play is a bad trait against Air Force, which is tied with Rice for committing the fewest penalties in the FBS. The Falcons defense is susceptible against the pass, but there’s too much to overcome for Hawaii.
Last Week: 3-2
Christopher Smith of AL.com, NOLA.com and MyBookie is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Follow @cfblocksmith on Twitter.