College football best bets for Week 12 from Matt Youmans


College football best bets for Week 12

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After two mediocre seasons at Texas, coach Steve Sarkisian is on the brink of a major breakthrough. The Longhorns are thinking big as they move closer to winning the Big 12 for the first time since 2009 and get a legitimate shot at the four-team playoff.

But this is not the Texas team that stormed into Tuscaloosa and beat Alabama in early September. This is a team without leading rusher Jonathon Brooks, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week, and with a banged-up quarterback, Quinn Ewers, who’s playing through a right shoulder injury.

To keep their goals alive, the Longhorns (9-1) must survive a much-improved Iowa State team and a frenzied atmosphere in the darkness of Ames, Iowa. On a Saturday when unbeatens Georgia and Washington hit the road, Texas is also on upset alert.

The Cyclones (6-4) are confident after winning four of their past five, including a 32-point win at BYU a week ago. Iowa State’s defense has allowed more than 20 points only three times this season, and quarterback Rocco Becht has stepped up to boost the offense.

The Longhorns have been leaking oil down the stretch, narrowly escaping one-score thrillers against Houston, Kansas State and TCU. The loss of Brooks, who had 1,139 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games, is a big setback. This should be another one-score game.

Pick: Iowa State +7.5

Last week’s plays in this column went 6-2 to put the season record at 36-30-3. Here are five more best bets for Week 12 (home team in CAPS):

VIRGINIA (+3.5) over Duke

The Blue Devils are on the road for the second straight week, after a crushing two-overtime loss at North Carolina and might still be without injured quarterback Riley Leonard. It’s not easy to back the Cavaliers (2-8), but they have been competitive in every game but one since late September. Virginia quarterback Anthony Colandrea passed for 314 yards and rushed for 89 yards in a 31-24 loss at Louisville on Nov. 9, when the Cardinals were lucky to win.

TENNESSEE (+10.5) over Georgia

With the betting public all over the top-ranked Bulldogs, and with the Volunteers off a blowout loss at Missouri, it seems like the time to grab an inflated number with the home ‘dog. Tennessee is 6-0 at home, where quarterback Joe Milton makes fewer mistakes, and the Vols should be tough enough on defense to keep this within striking distance in the fourth quarter.

MARYLAND (+19.5) over Michigan

The Wolverines are in a tricky sandwich spot after an emotional win at Penn State and with the Ohio State game on deck. If the news slipped under the radar, coach Jim Harbaugh is embroiled in controversy and will not be on the sideline again this week. The distractions are mounting for Michigan. The Terrapins, who have scoring potential with quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, tend to rise to the occasion in these spots.

NORTHWESTERN (+3) over Purdue

It’s got to be an emotional lift that David Braun, who inherited a mess in July, was named Northwestern’s permanent head coach this week. The purple Cats (5-5) need one win to become bowl-eligible in one of the season’s most surprising stories. Sixth-year quarterback Ben Bryant led Northwestern to a 24-10 win at Wisconsin a week ago. A pedestrian Purdue team that’s 0-3 on the Big Ten road should not be a 3-point favorite in Evanston.

OREGON STATE (-1) over Washington

Why are the undefeated Huskies, with a Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback, in the underdog role? It has a lot to do with the Beavers being dominant at home, winning nine in a row, and having an offense that can trade shots in a high-scoring game. Oregon State running backs Damien Martinez and Deshaun Fenwick combine to average 152 yards per game, and quarterback DJ Uiagalelei triggers a potent passing attack. Michael Penix Jr. leads the nation with 3,533 passing yards, but he was not as sharp recently while Washington survived upset bids by Utah, USC, Stanford and Arizona State.