College Football Staff Picks Against the Spread, Best Bets for Week 12 Games

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It's a loaded college football slate for Week 12, including four contests between ranked teams.

Below, our staff's writers and editors make their picks against the spread for Week 12, along with their best bet out of the key games.

Season-long standings:

Laken Litman: 72-56-4

Max Meyer: 66-62-4

Ross Dellenger: 65-63-3

Molly Geary: 65-63-4

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No. 1 LSU (-21) at Ole Miss

We're hoping our break from Best Bets last week has us rested and ready to do some winning, which we've not done enough of this year. The hole in which we've dug (4-6 this season) isn't so deep that we can't get out of it. However, we have no more margin for error, at least not during the regular season. Are the Tigers three touchdowns better than Ole Miss? Probably. Will they have a letdown after a rousing victory over the Tide? We're not counting on it. 

No. 8 Minnesota (+3) at No. 20 Iowa

No. 8 Minnesota is 9-0 for the first time since 1904 (!) after a crowd-rushing-the-field-sized upset over No. 4 Penn State last week. The Golden Gophers, who jumped nine spots in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings but still sit behind four one-loss teams, visit No. 20 Iowa on Saturday.

Quarterback Tanner Morgan, running back Rodney Smith and wide receivers Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman have the Gophers' offense rolling, averaging 37.6 points and 432.9 yards per game. Against a stingy Penn State defense, Morgan was nearly perfect, completing 18 of 20 passes for 339 yards with three touchdowns. Iowa, however, has a more physical unit that’s ranked in the top 20 nationally in every major statistical category. The Hawkeyes have only given up 12 touchdowns all season, which is third-best behind only Ohio State (eight) and Georgia (10), and are holding opponents to 11.1 points per game. So while it was thought the previously undefeated Nittany Lions would be the biggest test for P.J. Fleck and Co., Iowa poses a greater threat as the Gophers strive to finish the regular season with a trip to Indianapolis.

That’s not going to be easy with this back-loaded schedule. With three games still to go, Minnesota has a two-game lead over No. 14 Wisconsin in the Big Ten West race and still has to face the Badgers on Nov. 30. It’s been a magical season. But how long can the Gophers keep this going? —Laken Litman

No. 23 Navy (+7.5) at No. 16 Notre Dame

If you have trouble stopping the run, you’re going to have a difficult time playing Navy.

On the surface, Notre Dame’s run defense doesn’t look that bad, as it is tied for 54th in yards per carry allowed at 3.94. But against top-40 rushing teams in the country in terms of yards per carry allowed, Notre Dame has been vulnerable. It allowed 249 rushing yards to Louisville (on 5.3 YPC), 212 to New Mexico (on 4.6 YPC) and 152 to Georgia (on 4.6 YPC). Even teams with talent tailbacks but inconsistent rushing attacks have gashed the Irish, as USC ran for 171 yards (4.9 YPC) and Michigan racked up 303 (5.3 YPC).

Navy is fifth in the country in yards per carry (6.08), which will be the best ground game Notre Dame has faced thus far. Quarterback Malcolm Perry leads this triple-option attack, as he’s run for 1,042 yards and 16 touchdowns on 6.6 YPC. Now these two teams play each other every year in this rivalry showdown, so Notre Dame does have some familiarity defending the triple option. But it’s still tough to prepare for this type of offense in a week.

While the Midshipmen rank 22nd on offense in Bill Connelly’s S&P+ (higher than Notre Dame at 35), the offense isn’t the only strength of this team. Their pass rush has been excellent, as it ranks 12th in the country in sack rate at 10.3%. We’ve seen teams make Irish QB Ian Book look uncomfortable before, and if Navy can force him to become out of rhythm, the Notre Dame offense as a whole could become stagnant at times. Navy also has the special teams advantage in this one, ranking 18th in S&P+ compared to Notre Dame at 48th.

This game opened with Notre Dame as an 11-point favorite, but it’s already dropped to 7.5. Navy is coming off a bye, and I think the Midshipmen will give the Irish all they can handle in this one. —Max Meyer

No. 2 Ohio State (-52.5) at Rutgers

Yes, we're going there. 

This is a massive spread, but it's massive for a reason. Normally I wouldn't point toward recent trends, but the Buckeyes have covered the spread in their last eight games and in their last five vs. Rutgers. No spread has been too big for them this year, and I don't expect that to change this week. In its last three games against the Scarlet Knights, Ohio State has won by 49, 56 and 58. Rutgers has scored a total of three points in those games and has been shut out three times this season alone—by Indiana, Michigan and Iowa.

Even with running back Isaih Pacheco back and with OSU star Chase Young out, it's hard to see the Knights scoring more than seven points, at most. The Buckeyes have given up just three touchdowns on the ground all year and are holding opponents to 2.48 yards per carry, fourth nationally. Meanwhile, in his last three games against Big Ten defenses, Rutgers QB Johnny Langan has thrown for a combined 135 yards, and a one-dimensional offense is not going to consistently move the ball on Ohio State.

On Saturday, the Buckeyes came out mad and put up 73 points on a Maryland team that beat Rutgers by 41. Don't expect motivation to be short in Piscataway, either. Through no fault of its own, OSU just dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and it knows anything less than a beatdown here could be held against it. —Molly Geary

Season record: 23-26