College football picks: ’Bama, Dawgs try to stay above fray

Southern Miss Alabama Football
Posted at 1:20 PM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 13:20:41-04

The road to a Southeastern Conference championship showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Georgia has plenty of potential pitfalls and detours.

The next two weeks present what look like serious challenges to the superpowers, starting Saturday when each hosts a ranked conference rival.

No. 8 Arkansas, coming off a victory against Texas A&M, visits No. 2 Georgia while No. 12 Mississippi and dynamic quarterback Matt Corral go to No. 1 Alabama.

The following week, both the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs hit the road. Alabama goes to No. 15 Texas A&M and Georgia is at No. 22 Auburn.

If the SEC behemoths can get through Oct. 10 still atop the AP Top 25, the six-week, 1-2 stint will be the longest for two teams from the SEC since 2000. In 2011, LSU and Alabama held the top two spots in the poll for five straight weeks leading into their Game of Century in early November.

Outside the SEC, the longest recent 1-2 run by two teams in the same conference came in 2006, when Michigan and Ohio State from the Big Ten held those positions for six week before their regular-season finale.

The Rebels and Razorbacks have a chance to inject some real chaos into a season that already has been a roller coaster. Or Alabama and Georgia will continue on their collision course.

The picks, with lines from FanDuel Sportsbook:


No. 5 Iowa (minus 3 1/2) at Maryland

This is probably the best offense the Hawkeyes have faced ... MARYLAND 28-23.

No. 13 BYU (minus 8 1/2) at Utah State

Cougars expect to have QB Jaren Hall back after he missed last game with an injury ... BYU 34-24.


No. 12 Mississippi (plus 14 1/2) at No. 1 Alabama

Nick Saban’s record against his former assistant stands at 23-0 with Lane Kiffin returning to Tuscaloosa ... ALABAMA 42-31.

No. 8 Arkansas (plus 18 1/2) at No. 2 Georgia

Razorbacks going for a third victory against a ranked team, something they have not done since 2011 ... GEORGIA 31-10.

No. 3 Oregon (minus 7 1/2) at Stanford

Cardinal have the worst run defense in the Pac-12 at 5.26 yards per carry allowed ... OREGON 31-21.

Indiana (plus 13 1/2) at No. 4 Penn State

Hoosiers snapped a six-game losing streak to the Nittany Lions in a wild overtime game last year ... PENN STATE 35-20.

No. 6 Oklahoma (minus 10 1/2) at Kansas State

Wildcats have won two straight meetings and have not won three in a row in the series since a five-game winning streak from 1993-97 ... OKLAHOMA 28-17.

No. 7 Cincinnati (minus 1 1/2) at No. 9 Notre Dame

Bearcats’ best chance to stamp themselves a playoff contender ... CINCINNATI 24-23.

No. 10 Florida (minus 8 1/2) at Kentucky

Gators have won 33 of the last 34 meetings, but Wildcats have been more competitive in recent years ... FLORIDA 31-21.

No. 11 Ohio State (minus 15 1/2) at Rutgers

Buckeyes have won all seven meetings with the Scarlet Knights since they joined the Big Ten by an average of 43 points ... OHIO STATE 45-21, BEST BET.

No. 14 Michigan (plus 1 1/2) at Wisconsin

Two teams that would rather not pass, kicking off at noon. Any chance it will be 42 degrees and cloudy for the full B1G experience? ... WISCONSIN 17-16.

Mississippi State (plus 7 1/2) at No. 15 Texas A&M

Bulldogs’ pass defense has been among the worst in the SEC; can that get the Aggies’ passing game going with backup QB Zach Calzada? ... TEXAS A&M 30-20.

Louisiana-Monroe (plus 34 1/2) at No. 16 Coastal Carolina

Chanticleers looking for their 10th straight Sun Belt victory ... COASTAL CAROLINA 48-10.

Western Kentucky (plus 11 1/2) at No. 17 Michigan State

Hilltoppers QB Bailey Zappe is averaging 408 yards passing per game ... MICHIGAN STATE 42-24.

No. 18 Fresno State (minus 10 1/2) at Hawaii

Bulldogs have won eight of the last 10 meetings ... FRESNO STATE 35-27.

No. 21 Baylor (plus 3 1/2) at No. 19 Oklahoma State

Bears tailbacks Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner are both averaging more than 7.0 yards per carry ... BAYLOR 23-20.

Arizona State (plus 3 1/2) at No. 20 UCLA

Considering the state of the rest of the Pac-12 South, this could decide the division ... UCLA 31-28.

No. 22 Auburn (minus 3 1/2) at LSU

Auburn QB T.J. Finley started five games for LSU last year as a freshman and could get the call in this one for his new team ... AUBURN 27-24, UPSET SPECIAL.

Louisiana Tech (plus 20 1/2) at No. 23 North Carolina State

Can the Wolfpack avoid a letdown after a breakthrough victory against Clemson? ... N.C. STATE 34-17.

Louisville (plus 6 1/2) at No. 24 Wake Forest

Cardinals and Demon Deacons have split the last four meetings; Average score: Wake 45, Louisville 44 ... WAKE FOREST 45-44.

Boston College (plus 15 1/2) at No. 25 Clemson

Is this the week the Tigers’ offense breaks loose? ... CLEMSON 27-17.


Texas (minus 5 1/2) at TCU — @laidbackTexan11

Horned Frogs are 7-2 against the Longhorns since joining the Big 12 ... TEXAS 31-28.

Pitt (minus 3 1/2) at Georgia Tech — @shawn_bubba

One of these teams might be pretty good. Or both. Or neither. Welcome to the ACC Coastal ... PITT 31-24.

Nevada (plus 6 1/2) at Boise State — @8ntmuch

Broncos are 16-1 against the Wolf Pack since 2001; the one victory for Nevada came with a quarterback named Kaepernick. Whatever happened to that guy? ... BOISE STATE 35-27.

Washington (plus 2 1/2) at Oregon State — @Hoyt4UW

Last time the Beavers beat USC and Washington in the same season was 2008; the Huskies have won nine straight in the series ... WASHINGTON 30-27.

UConn (plus 14 1/2) at Vanderbilt — @joshdub

It’s not the best game of the weekend — or is it? ... VANDERBILT 27-13.


Last week: 15-9 straight; 12-12 against the spread.

Season: 64-28 straight; 49-43 against the spread.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at and listen at


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