The season is about to get serious for No. 4 Oklahoma and the Big 12.
The Sooners come off a open date to play the first of what could be their four toughest games of the season. They visit No. 18 Baylor, which is coming off an upset loss but is still in the Big 12 hunt, in one of four games Saturday matching ranked teams.
After that, Caleb Williams and the Sooners head to Iowa State. The Cyclones are also still hanging in the Big 12 race, but like the Baylor, can’t afford another loss.
The season finale is the annual Bedlam showdown at No. 10 Oklahoma State, which is sitting by itself in second in the Big 12. The Sooners and Cowboys could meet again, too, the following week in the Big 12 championship game in Arlington, Texas.
It’s the type of stretch that could slingshot the Sooners (CFP No. 8) up the College Football Playoff rankings and give a player a boost in a wide-open Heisman Trophy race.
Williams has been sensational since taking over at quarterback for the Sooners at halftime of the Texas game. Best case-scenario he will have been the Sooners’ QB1 for seven and a half games; no matter how well Williams does down the stretch, barely playing in 38% percent of your team’s games has to count against you.
The picks, with lines from FanDuel Sportsbook:
No. 2 Cincinnati (minus 23 1/2) at South Florida
OK, maybe this is the week the Bearcats get back to the blowouts? … CINCINNATI 45-17
No. 1 Georgia (minus 20 1/2) at Tennessee
This is the best offense the Bulldogs’ dominant defense has faced … GEORGIA 38-17.
New Mexico State (plus 51 1/2) at No. 3 Alabama
What are we doing here? … ALABAMA 49-7.
No. 4 Oklahoma (minus 5 1/2) at No. 18 Baylor
Sooners offense has found another gear with Williams at QB, but can the defense tighten up? … BAYLOR 38-35.
Washington State (plus 13 1/2) at No. 5 Oregon
Wazzu’s Jayden de Laura might be the Pac-12’s best quarterback … OREGON 31-20.
Purdue (plus 20 1/2) at No. 6 Ohio State
According to Sportradar, the only team to defeat three AP top-10 teams as an unranked team in a season was Illinois in 1959; the Spoilermakers will try to become the second … OHIO STATE 34-17.
No. 7 Notre Dame (minus 5 1/2) at Virginia
Cavaliers are hopeful star QB Brennan Armstrong (ribs) will play … VIRGINIA 34-31, UPSET SPECIAL.
Maryland (plus 12 1/2) at No. 8 Michigan State
Spartans have won five of six meetings since the Terps joined the Big Ten … MICHIGAN STATE 38-24.
No. 9 Michigan (plus 1/2) at No. 23 Penn State
Nittany Lions trying to play spoiler to the Wolverines, who still have Big Ten championship and CFP hopes … MICHIGAN 24-20.
TCU (plus 12 1/2) at No. 10 Oklahoma State
Horned Frogs have won three of four meetings and the last three in the series were decided by a touchdown … OKLAHOMA STATE 28-20.
No. 11 Texas A&M (minus 2 1/2) at No. 12 Mississippi
Aggies have been rolling since upsetting Alabama, winning three straight by an average of 23 points … TEXAS A&M 28-21.
No. 21 North Carolina State (plus 2 1/2) at No. 13 Wake Forest
For first place and a commanding lead in the ACC Atlantic … WAKE FOREST 35-31.
Southern Mississippi (plus 32 1/2) at No. 15 UTSA
Golden Eagles rank last in the country in offense at 3.88 yards per play … UTSA 35-7.
Mississippi State (plus 5 1/2) at No. 16 Auburn
Want to be a college kicker? Mike Leach might have a spot for you in Starkville, Mississippi … AUBURN 26-23.
No. 17 Houston (minus 24 1/2) at Temple
Cougars QB Clayton Tune has thrown for 797 yards and seven TDs in the last two games … HOUSTON 42-14.
Minnesota (plus 5 1/2) at No. 19 Iowa
Hawkeyes have won six straight in the battle for Floyd of Rosedale … IOWA 20-17.
Northwestern (plus 23 1/2) at No. 20 Wisconsin
Wildcats have been a tough out for the Badgers recently; the teams have split the last eight meetings and none have been decided by more than 14 points … WISCONSIN 28-10.
Georgia State (plus 10 1/2) at No. 22 Coastal Carolina
Chanticleers will be without injured QB Grayson McCall, maybe for the rest of the season … COASTAL CAROLINA 31-24.
No. 24 Louisiana-Lafayette (minus 6 1/2) at Troy
Ragin’ Cajuns have already clinched a spot in the Sun Belt title game … LOUISIANA 28-21.
Syracuse (plus 3 1/2) at Louisville — @hokiesmash_ASD
Louisville will be retiring Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson’s No. 8 … SYRACUSE 27-24.
UAB (plus 4 1/2) at Marshall — @theMattWeber
Rematch of last season’s C-USA championship game won by the Blazers … MARSHALL 27-21.
Arizona State (minus 5 1/2) at Washington — @kmasterman
Huskies coach Jimmy Lake is suspended for the game because of an incident on the sideline with one of his players last week … ARIZONA STATE 24-17.
Nevada (plus 2 1/2) at San Diego State — @DCAbloob
First-place in the Mountain West’s West Division on the line … SAN DIEGO STATE 27-21.
Miami (minus 2 1/2) at Florida State
Hurricanes have won four straight in the series as the ‘Noles have flailed in recent years — but FSU is getting better … FLORIDA STATE 35-34.
Last week: 16-7 straight; 12-11 against the spread.
Season: 137-67 straight; 114-90 against the spread.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com
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