While most of the country breaks out the sweaters and fleece jackets to embrace fall, down in the South you can still find hints of summer — on the football schedule.
Charleston Southern at No. 1 Georgia. Prairie View at No. 16 Texas A&M. Outside the AP Top 25, New Mexico State is back in Southeastern Conference country, visiting Kentucky a week after playing at Alabama. Louisiana-Monroe is at LSU.
The SEC may have started this fall cupcake trend — is there a Pumpkin Spice University — but the Atlantic Coast Conference has gotten in on it, too.
Clemson hosted UConn last week and North Carolina will tune up for its Thanksgiving weekend rivalry game against North Carolina State by playing Wofford this Saturday.
The majority of Power Five teams play at least one nonconference game per season against a team they know they can roll. Usually those teams come from the very bottom of the FBS or from the wide choice of options in the FCS.
Sometimes it backfires on the big boys. See: Florida 70, Samford 52. But strategically working in a glorified scrimmage so late in the season, when championships are on the line, will always feel like gaming the system.
There already are signs the eventual expansion of the College Football Playoff will encourage more aggressive scheduling. The cupcake games probably will never go away for good, but here’s hoping they can at least be limited to the first two months of the season.
The picks, with lines from FanDuel Sportsbook. And we’ll pass on some of those cupcakes:
Memphis (plus 8 1/2) at No. 17 Houston
So much attention on Cincinnati trying to make the playoff, but the Cougars have to be thinking New Year’s Six bowl if they can win out … HOUSTON 34-23.
No. 23 San Diego State (minus 10 1/2) at UNLV
Here’s to the Rebels, who snapped a 14-game losing streak and have now won two straight games, both by two touchdowns … SAN DIEGO STATE 27-15.
No. 21 Arkansas (plus 21 1/2) at No. 2 Alabama
Razorbacks have lost 14 straight to the Crimson Tide since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa … ALABAMA 34-17.
SMU (plus 11 1/2) at No. 3 Cincinnati
No need for style points this week, Bearcats; Just win, baby … CINCINNATI 34-27.
No. 4 Oregon (plus 3 1/2) at No. 24 Utah
Oddsmakers remain more skeptical of the Ducks than poll voters and the CFP selection committee … OREGON 31-28.
No. 7 Michigan State (plus 19 1/2) at No. 5 Ohio State
Spartans will need another Heisman-worthy game from RB Kenneth Walker III to keep up with the Buckeyes … OHIO STATE 45-28.
Georgia Tech (plus 17 1/2) at No. 6 Notre Dame
Fighting Irish have won 23 consecutive regular-season games against ACC opponents — not counting last season’s conference title game against Clemson … NOTRE DAME 42-20.
No. 8 Michigan (minus 14 1/2) at Maryland
Sandwich game for the Wolverines between come-from-behind win at Penn State and The Game against Ohio State … MICHIGAN 38-21.
No. 9 Oklahoma State (minus 10 1/2) at Texas Tech
Cowboys have won 10 of 12 against the Red Raiders, including five of six in Lubbock … OKLAHOMA STATE 35-23.
Vanderbilt (plus 36 1/2) at No. 10 Mississippi
Commodores have lost 19 straight SEC games … OLE MISS 49-14.
No. 11 Baylor (plus 1/2) at Kansas State
Wildcats quietly have won four straight and have a shot to get to nine wins … BAYLOR 27-24.
Iowa State (plus 3 1/2) at No. 12 Oklahoma
Last six meetings have been decided by 10 points or fewer … IOWA STATE 31-28.
No. 13 Wake Forest (plus 4 1/2) at Clemson
Demon Deacons need one victory in their last two games to lock up the ACC Atlantic; No gimme … CLEMSON 28-26.
No. 14 BYU (minus 19 1/2) at Georgia Southern
Cougars closing in on back-to-back double-digit win seasons for first time since 2009 … BYU 45-21.
UAB (plus 4 1/2) at No. 15 UTSA
Roadrunners can clinch a spot in the C-USA title game against the reigning champions … UTSA 21-17.
Illinois (plus 11 1/2) at No. 18 Iowa
Hawkeyes have won seven straight meetings … IOWA 23-14.
Nebraska (plus 8 1/2) at No. 19 Wisconsin
Badgers have won seven straight meetings, only two of which were one-score games … WISCONSIN 34-17 BEST BET.
Virginia (plus 14 1/2) at No. 20 Pittsburgh
Cavaliers QB Brennan Armstrong (ribs) was held out against Notre Dame in hopes of getting him back for this game that could decide the ACC Coastal … PITT 38-28.
No. 22 Louisiana-Lafayette (plus 4 1/2) at Liberty
Now here’s an interesting late-season nonconference game for the Ragin’ Cajuns … LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 28-27, UPSET SPECIAL.
Syracuse (plus 11 1/2) at No. 25 North Carolina State
Orange take another crack at getting bowl eligible … N.C. STATE 27-17.
Florida (minus 9 1/2) at Missouri — @Stevencalcutt
Who knows what to expect from the Gators? … FLORIDA 49-35.
UCLA (minus 3 1/2) at Southern California — @jlipscomb02
Trojans have allowed 41 points per game against four Pac-12 opponents at home … UCLA 42-35.
Virginia Tech (plus 7 1/2) at Miami — @shawn_bubba
One team that has fired its coach (VT) and another that might be soon … MIAMI 34-28.
Wyoming (plus 4 1/2) at Utah State — @VegasAggie
First-year coach Blake Anderson has Aggies in position to reach Mountain West title game … UTAH STATE 24-21.
Rutgers (plus 17 1/2) at Penn State — @trentcondon
Nittany Lions have won 14 straight against the Scarlet Knights, who really want to turn this into a rivalry game … PENN STATE 24-13.
Last week: 18-6 straight; 11-13 against the spread.
Season: 155-73 straight; 125-103 against the spread.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25
Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.