If your heart has recovered from a wild weekend of college football in Week 14, well, have your defibrillator ready, because there are still some big games to come in Week 15. Leading the way are two teams that, before the season, almost no one would have projected to reach the Southeastern Conference championship game: Auburn and Missouri, in a battle of Tigers at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.
Auburn provided a ridiculously riveting finish to Saturday’s Iron Bowl, returning a field goal for a touchdown in a 34-28 shocker over No. 1 Alabama. This is the same squad that went 3-9 SU and 4-8 ATS last year, including 0-8 SU and 2-6 ATS in the SEC. This year, Auburn is 11-1 SU and is tied for the second-best ATS record in the country at 10-2.
Missouri is also 11-1 SU and fields the No. 1 spread-covering unit in the nation at 10-1-1. The Tigers were 5-7 SU and ATS last year, but they’ve rocketed to the top of the SEC behind quarterback James Franklin and a defense that allows just 19.4 ppg (14th). Mizzou wrapped up the regular season by holding high-octane Texas A&M and QB Johnny Manziel to just 21 points in a 28-21 victory Saturday.
Peter Korner, founder of Nevada-based odds service The Sports Club, says the Crimson Tide being out of the picture makes this contest far more intriguing.
“It turns out to be a great game which will be highly competitive and a real toss-up as to who will win. I think this game is much more interesting now that Alabama is out. With that, the majority of oddsmakers all made this a pick ‘em, and that's what we sent out. Auburn has really turned on the afterburners to be where it is, and Missouri has been strong all year. We'll let the bettors decide this one.”
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan State Spartans (+6)
The Buckeyes allowed a middling Michigan squad to put up 41 points and come a 2-point conversion away from an upset that would have rivaled Auburn’s shocker over Alabama. But even if the 42-41 win was far tighter than expected, with Ohio State laying 17 points, the Buckeyes (12-0 SU, 6-5-1 ATS) have still won 24 consecutive games SU heading into the Big Ten title game at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis.
The Spartans, meanwhile, grinded out a 14-3 home win Saturday as a 17-point chalk against Minnesota. Michigan State (11-1 SU, 7-4-1 ATS) has won eight in a row (6-2 ATS), holding opponents to 14 points or less six times in that stretch, and five of those foes scored only in single digits. The Spartans have the nation’s No. 1 total defense (273.3 ypg), No. 1 rushing defense (64.4 ypg) and No. 4 scoring defense (11.8 ppg).
“We're all wary that Ohio State has no defense and Michigan State has a top-notch defensive unit,” Korner said. “Our range went from Ohio State -4.5 to -7. We sent out Ohio State -6. Smart money will be on Michigan State, squares will be on the favorite. Hopefully it will balance out and we get good two-way action right where it's at.”
Oklahoma Sooners at Oklahoma State Cowboys (-13)
The host Cowboys are gunning for the Big 12 title and an automatic berth in a BCS bowl, but just playing the archrival Sooners in the Bedlam game is generally motivation enough. If not for a toe-stubbing loss at West Virginia back in September, Oklahoma State (10-1 SU, 8-3 ATS) would be firmly in the hunt for the national championship game. Since that setback, the Pokes have gone 7-0 SU and 6-1 ATS, scoring 38 points or more five times and winning by two TDs or more six times.
The Sooners (9-2 SU, 6-5 ATS) won their first five games, then went 4-2 down the stretch to fall out of Big 12 title contention. While Korner and his crew have Oklahoma State a double-digit chalk, he said the Sooners could surely make things interesting.
“We were all actually very close on this one, as the numbers ranged from Oklahoma State -12.5 to -14,” he said. “We sent out -13. We're sure dog players will wait and see how high this can go, but both teams are quality squads, and we don't see much movement – if any – until much later in the week.
“The way this year has ended up, I'm pretty sure that Oklahoma could win outright as the double-digit underdog, so we won't be surprised if the Sooners make this a game.”
Duke Blue Devils vs. Florida State Seminoles (-32)
Duke is yet another surprise team to be hanging around at this point of the year, coming off a 10-2 SU regular season and standing tied for second nationally with a 10-2 ATS record, as well. The Blue Devils are on an 8-0 SU run and have cashed in their last seven games, nabbing four outright wins as an underdog, including Saturday’s 27-25 win at North Carolina as a 5-point pup.
Florida State is steaming toward the BCS national championship game, despite sexual assault allegations swirling around star QB Jameis Winston, though no charges have been brought yet. The Seminoles (12-0 SU) have also been a spread-covering machine at 10-2 ATS, winning by at least 27 points in all but one game, so Korner isn’t expecting much out of the ACC championship tilt in Charlotte, N.C.
“This is a real non-game. Our range went from Florida State -30 to -33, and we sent out -32,” he said. “There’s not much to see here. We expect late-week action to be on the favorite, as usual, so we're ignoring the offshore line moves on Sunday. Moving fast and to a lower number this quickly, this early in the week is a joke. Any sports book that follows this is going to be rooting for Duke come Saturday.”