AP COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS: Big 12 hopes for playoff push
Thanksgiving weekend is filled with the rivalries and season-ending drama. The first weekend in December will determine just about every conference championship.
This weekend in college football looks like it has limited potential to shake up the rankings and College Football Playoff chase. But that's also what last weekend looked like and we all know how that turned out.
For once, the Big 12 is in the spotlight. The conference's best hopes for making a late push to the College Football Playoff will meet in Morgantown, West Virginia, when the No. 10 Mountaineers face No. 8 Oklahoma.
The Sooners (8-2) have the higher ranking but West Virginia, with its 8-1 record, probably has a better path to the playoff. Both teams will need some help as the College Football Playoff committee has not shown itself to be particularly impressed with the conference's best teams.
Another game to watch in the Big 12 this week is in Fort Worth, Texas, when No. 13 Oklahoma State faces TCU. The Cowboys are the longest of playoff long shots, weighed down by a loss to Central Michigan that was aided by a blown call by officials. Oklahoma State has already beaten West Virginia and finishes the season against rival Oklahoma.
THURSDAY NIGHT THROWDOWNS
No. 3 Louisville (minus 14) at Houston
Likely the last big-stage game for Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals to show off their stuff to Heisman voters and the selection committee ... HOUSTON 35-28, UPSET SPECIAL.
Arkansas State (plus 8+) at No. 25 Troy
The newly ranked Trojans are looking to make it two straight victories in games for first-place in the Sun Belt ... TROY 35-21.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
UNLV (plus 28+) at No. 22 Boise State
The Rebels helped the Broncos a bunch last week by beating Wyoming ... BOISE STATE 45-28.
No. 8 Oklahoma (minus 2+) at No. 10 West Virginia
The Mountaineers' defense has been solid, but with one major concern: Not much pass rush (17 sacks) ... OKLAHOMA 40-34.
No. 20 Washington State (plus 4+) at No. 12 Colorado
Maybe the most unlikely game of the season with playoff implications ... COLORADO 28-27.
No. 21 Florida (plus 13+) at No. 16 LSU
The Gators can clinch the SEC East by winning this hurricane-postponed game. The Tigers can give Tennessee the inside track to the division with a win ... LSU 28-12.
No. 2 Ohio State (minus 22+) at Michigan State
It has been such a horrible season for the Spartans, but they have Ohio State and Penn State in the next two weeks with a chance to pull a season-salvaging upset. OHIO STATE 35-17.
Indiana (plus 23) at No. 4 Michigan
The Wolverines are not built to be quarterback-dependent, which should serve them well against the Hoosiers ... MICHIGAN 42-17.
No. 5 Clemson (minus 22+) at Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons' defense mucked up both Louisville and Florida State, so the Tigers take Wake seriously ... CLEMSON 28-10.
No. 6 Wisconsin (minus 28) at Purdue
The Badgers can win the Big Ten West by winning out ... WISCONSIN 35-13.
Arizona State (plus 27) at No. 7 Washington
The ideal way for QB Jake Browning and the Huskies to bounce back from their worst game of the season? A home game against the worst pass defense in the Pac-12 ... WASHINGTON 50-21.
No. 9 Penn State (minus 28) at Rutgers
Nittany Lions RB Saquon Barkley against the worst rushing defense in the Big Ten ... PENN STATE 45-14.
Oregon (plus 14) at No. 11 Utah
Two more games for Mark Helfrich to show he should remain the Ducks' coach ... UTAH 46-30.
No. 13 Oklahoma State (plus 4) at TCU
The Cowboys have had consecutive great-escape victories to keep their Big 12 title hopes alive ... TCU 35-28.
No. 15 Southern California (minus 11) at UCLA
The Trojans are rolling into the rivalry game while the Bruins are just trying to salvage a season ... USC 42-21, BEST BET.
No. 17 Florida State (minus 21) at Syracuse
If Clemson and Louisville can make the playoff, Florida State could end up in the Orange Bowl ... FLORIDA STATE 38-24.
Maryland (plus 14) at No. 19 Nebraska
The Terps are still looking for win No. 6 for bowl eligibility. Probably not this week, though the Cornhuskers could be without QB Tommy Armstrong ... NEBRASKA 33-17.
No. 24 San Diego State (minus 10) at Wyoming
A victory by Donnel Pumphrey and the Aztecs would help set up a San Diego State-Boise State Mountain West title game, which would help the conference's chances to get a New Year's Six bowl bid ... SAN DIEGO STATE 28-17.
UTSA (plus 27+) at No. 23 Texas A&M
The Aggies look to build a little confidence before a Thanksgiving night game against LSU ... TEXAS A&M 49-21.
Stanford (minus 11) at California - (at)scurryn
Christian McCaffrey against the Bears defense (equals) so many missed tackles ... STANFORD 42-24.
Mississippi (minus 10) at Vanderbilt - (at)jeremiah8712
The Rebels can get bowl eligible with a win; the Commodores need to win their last two to get to six victories ... MISSISSIPPI 34-17.
Notre Dame (pick'em) at Virginia Tech - (at)hokiesmash
The Hokies have had some perplexing losses, but inconsistency probably should have been expected in their first season with a new coach ... NOTRE DAME 28-27.
UConn (plus 7+) at Boston College - (at)Licatacs
The Eagles can still get bowl-eligible by winning out - which is remarkable considering how poorly they have played against good competition ... BOSTON COLLEGE 14-10.
Harvard (minus 12+) at Yale - (at)MattSmithCFB
The Crimson need help to win the Ivy League ... HARVARD 34-17.
Record: Last week 14-12 straight; 12-14 vs. points.
Season: 163-69; 105-122-3.
Upset specials: 3-8.
Best bets: 2-9.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org