We decided to do a little cheating. This week’s schedule is too good to limit ourselves to five games. With so much on the line nationally with four of the top 10 teams in the latest college football playoff rankings squaring off and in individual conferences and divisions, we added a sixth game this week.
Most of the eyes will be on the clash of the Big Ten titles between Ohio State and Michigan but that is far from being the only show in town.
It is the type of week that can separate the contenders from the pretenders not only on the football field but among those who bet online.
Ole Miss Rebels at Mississippi State Bulldogs
Odds: Mississippi State -2½
What to know: The Rebels lead the series 57-29-5 since the rivalry game became known as the Egg Bowl and own the 8-5 advantage in Thanksgiving games played in Starksville.
At times it can be hard to escape that shadow cast by the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide when you play in the SEC West Division but both Ole Miss and Mississippi State have generated plenty of buzz.
Ole Miss is leading the SEC in rushing for the second consecutive season while the defense is allowing 13 fewer points than during the 2020 campaign. Sam Williams has set a school record with 10.5 sacks.
Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense leads the nation in passing attempts as they have during stints at Washington State and Texas Tech. Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers is second among FBS quarterbacks with 4115 passing yards with Makai Polk hauling in 88 of Rogers’ passes.
This Thursday night game kicks off the best college games of the week.
Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Wolverines
NCAA odds: Ohio State -8
What to know: The last time Michigan defeated Ohio State when listed in the sportsbook as an underdog was in 2000.
Games don’t get much bigger than this. The Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1, 8-0 in the Big Ten) have dispatched of all challengers in the Big Ten to date. They made a major statement in racing to a 49-0 halftime lead the last time out against a Top-10 ranked Michigan State team and took Heisman Trophy candidate Kenneth Walker, who came into leading the country in rushing completely out of the game.
Ohio State has an embarrassment of riches for Heisman Trophy frontrunner C.J. Stroud. Jaxon Smith-Njigba leads the team 1,132 yards on 69 catches. Garrett Wilson (939 yards) and Chris Olave (848) could also surpass the 1,000-yard mark. Wilson and Olave have combined for 24 touchdown receptions. No team from a Power-5 Conference has more passing plays of 40 yards or more than the nine the Buckeyes have reeled off.
The Michigan Wolverines (10-1, 7-1) can exorcise some demons with a win over their fiercest rivals. Ohio State has won the last eight games and 15 of the last 16. The offense isn’t quite as explosive as Ohio State’s but Michigan has scored more points than another Big Ten team other than the one they are playing this weekend.
Michigan is the only FBS team with a pair of players with double-digit sack totals as Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo will need to make Stroud uncomfortable in the pocket.
Oklahoma Sooners at Oklahoma State Cowboys
Odds: Oklahoma State 4½
What to know: Oklahoma has covered against the college football spread in five of the last six meetings with Oklahoma State
Other than the Ohio State-Michigan showdown, no other matchup could have more of an impact on the national landscape.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-1, 7-1 in the Big 12) are seventh in the College Football Playoff rankings and the Oklahoma Sooners (10-1, 7-1) come in at No. 10. The winner of the game will not only capture the Big 12 regular-season title but also keep their national championship hopes alive.
Freshman quarterback Caleb Williams has emerged as one of the breakthrough stars of the 2021 season. He will be facing an Oklahoma State defense that leads the country with 42 sacks and 93 tackles for loss. If Oklahoma’s loss to Baylor showed anything, it did reveal that getting pressure on Williams is the best way to slow down the high-octane Oklahoma offense.
Oklahoma has won the last six games against Oklahoma State including 41-13 a season ago.
Enjoy these Oklahoma-Oklahoma State games while you can because it could be another amazing rivalry to fall victim to conference realignment.
Oregon State Beavers at Oregon Ducks
Odds: Oregon -7
What to know: The college football odds total has gone over in 14 of the last 19 meetings between Oregon and Oregon State.
A week ago the Oregon Ducks (9-2, 6-2 in the Pac-12) were in position to compete for a national championship. Now, the Ducks will need to take care of business just to be in a position to go after another Pac-12 title.
A quick look at the numbers and there isn’t much to separate the teams but a concern for the visiting Beavers (7-4, 5-3) is that they are just 1-4 on the road this season while Oregon is 6-0 at home. The Ducks average 14 more points when playing at home than when they are away from Eugene while Oregon State goes from allowing 18.2 points per game when playing at home to seeing the number jump to 32.8 in road contests.
Both teams have defensive stars worth watching. Oregon State linebacker Avery Roberts is the Pac-12 leader with 115 tackles while Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who has six sacks, is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft and is the first player in program history to be a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award which is presented to the nation’s best defensive player.
Game Wrecker. @kayvont is a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, presented to the national defensive player of the year.
— Oregon Football (@oregonfootball) November 23, 2021
Penn State Nittany Lions at Michigan State Spartans
Odds: Penn State -1½
What to know: The total has gone under in 12 of Penn State’s last 14 games on the road.
Were the Michigan State Spartans exposed as just another team in their blowout loss to Ohio State or was the 56-7 merely a bad day at the office?
Walker’s Heisman Trophy hopes came crashing to an end after managing a meager 25 yards in the loss to the Buckeyes.
Michigan State (9-2, 6-2 in the Big Ten) fell to No. 12 in both the College Football Playoff rankings and Associated Press Top 25 poll after the loss. They could work their way back into the Top 10 with a win but it won’t be easy against the battle-tested Penn State Nittany Lions (7-4, 4-4) who have been in every game this season losing three of its four games by four points or less and only falling to Ohio State by nine.
The Penn State defense forced as many punts as Rutgers had first downs in last week’s thumping of the Scarlet Knights. Ellis Brooks (91 tackles) and the rest of the defensive squad will look to slow down Walker and the Spartans.
Wisconsin Badgers at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Odds: Wisconsin -7
What to know: The total has gone over in 15 of the last 20 games between Minnestoa and Wisconsin..
With Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State all playing in the Big Ten’s East Division, it can be easy to overlook what is transpiring in the West Division.
The race for the West Division title comes down to the final weekend of the regular season. The Wisconsin Badgers are tied with the Iowa Hawkeyes atop the standings with the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Purdue Boilermakers only a game back.
Since Wisconsin (8-3, 6-2 in the Big Ten) owns a win over Iowa, a victory on Saturday against Minnesota (7-4, 5-3) will give Wisconsin its seventh trip to the Big Ten championship game. After winning the titles in 2011 and 2012, have lost in their last four Big Ten title tilts.
True freshman running back Braelon Allen has rushed for more than 100 yards in the last seven games including a season-best 228 yards in last week’s win over Nebraska.
Minnesota’s linebacking tandem of Jack Gibbens and Mariano Sori-Marin will see plenty of Allen in this one.