The Thursday night offerings this week in college football are not merely good. They’re fabulous. One of the best Thursday night’s in the sport’s history is here. It’s time to see how the nation’s best teams fare in hugely important moments on the national stage.
Oklahoma Sooners @ Baylor Bears
Odds: Baylor -14.5
This game is in Baylor’s hands, win or lose. The Bears have simply not been slowed down at all in home games this season. Their offense enjoys such noticeable rhythm and can strike so quickly from all spots on the field. Moreover, the Bears are not limited in terms of what they do – they can run just as well as they pass, and they can hit big plays on the ground just as easily as they can create 80-yard plays through the air. Oklahoma’s defense is limited by the fact that linebacker Corey Nelson and defensive lineman Jordan Phillips are both out with injuries. Those were and are two important performers for the Sooners. Without them, Oklahoma’s defense probably won’t be very physical at all, certainly not to the point that it can disrupt what Baylor likes to do on offense. Oklahoma is a big-name team, but Baylor has the big-name talent and is playing at home before a raucous crowd. Everything in this game points to a Baylor blowout. Oklahoma will have to play its best offensive game of the season just to stay close, and yet Sooner quarterback Blake Bell has hardly been a consistent player this season. It would rate as a considerable surprise if Baylor lost this game. It would be a mild surprise if this game is even close on the spread in the final five minutes of regulation.
Pick: Baylor -14.5
Oregon Ducks @ Stanford Cardinal
Odds: Oregon -10.5
This game should be a fascinating contrast of styles. Oregon relies on speed to win, while Stanford relies on power. Oregon loves tempo and spread principles, while Stanford likes to slow the game down and use the strength of its offensive line to pound the ball between the tackles and keep opposing offenses off the field. Stanford’s defensive line dominated Oregon’s offensive line last season, and playing at home, the Cardinal might be able to turn the trick once again. However, with Stanford defensive lineman Ben Gardner out for the season with an injury, the Cardinal won’t have nearly as much muscle to throw at the Ducks. Gardner’s absence will be very hard for Stanford to replace. Since Oregon has waited a long time for this game, expect the Ducks to control Stanford’s defensive line and pave the way for a comfortable victory straight up and on the betting lines.
Pick: Oregon -10.5
Troy Trojans @ Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns
Odds: ULL -12
This game offers Troy a last chance to get back into the Sun Belt race, but the Trojans looked awful against Louisiana-Monroe last week. Louisiana-Lafayette has been the best team in the Sun Belt all season long. Playing at home, ULL should be able to take care of business.
Pick: ULL -12