College Football Staff Picks Against the Spread, Best Bets for Week 11 Games

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It's a loaded college football slate for Week 11, including two clashes between undefeated ranked teams.

Below, our staff's writers and editors make their picks against the spread for Week 11, along with their best bet out of the games below.

Season-long standings:

Laken Litman: 66-50-4

Ross Dellenger: 59-57-3

Max Meyer: 58-58-4

Molly Geary: 56-60-4

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BEST BETS

No. 4 Penn State (-6.5) at No. 17 Minnesota

While everybody is busy talking about No. 2 LSU visiting No. 3 Alabama, there’s another big battle of unbeatens this Saturday as No. 4 Penn State heads to No. 17 Minnesota. And if the Nittany Lions win, the Big Ten West race gets more interesting, as the winner of Iowa-Wisconsin is added back to the mix.

The Golden Gophers are 8-0 for the first time since 1941, when they won a national title, and coach P.J. Fleck lobbied for College GameDay to visit Minneapolis but was denied. Despite all the excitement surrounding the program, the Gophers haven’t actually played anybody. They’ve only faced one conference opponent (Illinois) with a winning record and Penn State is a whole different kind of challenge. Led by best friends and the dynamic offensive duo of wide receiver KJ Hamler (leads Big Ten with eight TD) and quarterback Sean Clifford (has the nation’s 10th-best passer rating at 164.91), the Nittany Lions are rolling.

But the game will come down to this: Minnesota has the Big Ten’s third-best running game, averaging 204.5 rushing yards per game on 4.35 yards per carry. Senior Rodney Smith is the Gophers' featured back, and needs 111 yards to get to the 1,000-yard rushing mark this season. He’s piled up more than 103 yards per contest in five consecutive weeks and is averaging about 5.8 yards per attempt. That should make for an intriguing matchup against a Penn State defense that leads the league in rushing defense (and is second nationally), allowing just 68.38 yards per game on 1.99 yards per carry. The Nittany Lions have also only allowed five rushing TDs this season.

This one will be close, but Penn State has more talent along with experience vs. tough opponents, and will grind it out on the road. —Laken Litman

USC at Arizona State (-1.5)

I love this spot for Arizona State.

The Sun Devils, who are coming off a bye, were embarrassed in back-to-back road losses vs. Utah and UCLA. Against Utah, ASU averaged a meager 2.7 yards per play in a 21-3 loss. Against UCLA, ASU fell behind 42-10 before scoring 22 points in the fourth quarter to lose by a misleading score of 42-32.

But the bye couldn’t have come at a better time. Herm Edwards will have had two weeks to chew out his team for its recent performance, and will have extra time to prepare for USC.

USC, meanwhile, is coming off a 56-24 loss to Oregon at home in which the Trojans were completely dismantled. Believe it or not, USC actually was atop the Pac-12 South before that loss and controlled its Rose Bowl destiny. Now its season is rather meaningless, as it’ll likely compete for a generic bowl game under Clay Helton, who is essentially a lame duck.

Last season, the wheels fell off for the Trojans to end the season, as they lost five of their final six games. The first game of that stretch was a 41-28 loss to Utah, which gave Utah sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 South and was a big blow to USC’s aspirations. That’s how I view the Oregon game this season, and I think USC’s season is about to go into a tailspin with nothing meaningful to play for anymore.

The Trojans have also been a completely different team away from home. They’ve lost to BYU, Washington and Notre Dame, and barely escaped Colorado, who is undoubtedly the worst team in the Pac-12. USC is also 1-3 against the spread in those four road games. The Trojans are also still pretty banged-up, particularly on defense and at running back.

What worries me is Arizona State’s mediocre pass defense going up against USC’s stellar group of wideouts. The Sun Devils are 43rd in yards per attempt, and have allowed 77 pass plays of at least 10 yards, which ranks 73rd in the country. But what ASU is really good at is limiting big plays, as it has allowed just nine plays of 30 yards or more (tied for ninth in CFB) and four plays of 40 yards or more (tied for 10th). And being able to limit big plays is a must against USC’s explosive offense.

Arizona State runs a 3-3-5 base defense under Danny Gonzales, and I think you’ll see the Sun Devils drop eight into coverage quite a bit in this game. Other teams like BYU and Washington have been successful employing that strategy against USC, and a bonus is that the Trojans’ offensive line has had trouble blocking three rushers at times.

On the other side of the ball, I think true freshman Jayden Daniels can give USC’s inconsistent defense fits. The Trojans have had major trouble containing dual-threat quarterbacks over the years, and trying to deal with Daniels and Eno Benjamin is a tough task. Opponents have had no problem moving the ball on USC this season, as the Trojans have allowed 35 red-zone trips—which is tied for 94th in college football and is the second-highest number in the Pac-12 (only Arizona has allowed more). USC also gives up big plays regularly (18 plays allowed of at least 30 yards, tied for 65th).

I’m afraid we won’t get many more opportunities to fade a Helton-coached USC team, but we must take advantage while we still have the chance. —Max Meyer

No. 16 Kansas State (+7) at Texas

I picked Texas to win this game outright, mainly because the Longhorns are at home, coming off a bye and are getting some of their injured players back (meanwhile, Kansas State starting CB AJ Parker will miss the game). But it's hard to argue with how K-State is playing right now, particularly on offense. The Wildcats have won three straight, and avoided a letdown spot at Kansas after their big win over Oklahoma by stomping the Jayhawks in Lawrence.

Quarterback Skylar Thompson has scored seven total touchdowns with his feet in the last two games alone and just ran for 127 yards against Kansas (passing for 129 more). That fact should scare Texas. The Longhorns defense has been a mess this season, giving up 31 points per game and ranking 85th in rushing yards per carry allowed at 4.53. Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts ran for 131 yards vs. Texas, Oklahoma State QB Spencer Sanders ran for 109 earlier this year and TCU QB Max Duggan ran for 72.

Texas has been decimated by injuries on defense in 2019, and the good news is that its secondary looks like it's going to be healthier than it has in a while on Saturday. But the Wildcats won't be looking to win through the air, and if Thompson has another big day with his legs, it's going to put a lot of pressure on a slumping Sam Ehlinger, who's coming off a four-interception performance two weeks ago. I think there's a great opportunity for K-State to cover here, with a definite chance to win outright. —Molly Geary

Season record: 22-24