Two titanic tilts were circled on the schedule when it was first announced and now we’ve arrived at the date. Alabama and LSU will fight for SEC supremacy while Oregon and USC vie for Pac-12 power.
Here’s a look at our Saturday picks for both games:
Alabama Crimson Tide @ LSU Tigers
College Football Betting Odds: Alabama -8.5
Alabama is the better team in a straight-up comparison with LSU. The Crimson Tide run the ball better, and they throw the ball a lot better than the Tigers. Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron has been the picture of stability this season, whereas LSU signal caller Zach Mettenberger has played below-average ball, only rarely putting his talents to good use. Mettenberger has a gun for an arm, but that arm lacks touch and accuracy, which makes Mettenberger more of a liability than an asset as a passer. McCarron is, on the other hand, a well-rounded quarterback who makes a full assortment of throws with poise, confidence and precision. He is everything LSU wants in a quarterback… and everything LSU does not have in a quarterback at the present time. In big games, the quarterbacks carry so much weight and responsibility, and since McCarron outclasses Mettenberger by a considerable margin, it’s quite likely that Alabama will be able to achieve a lot more on the offensive side of the ball. The two defenses in this game are superb, but it’s the offenses where these two teams are appreciably differentiated. If LSU’s offense can’t get at least three first downs per drive, the Tigers’ defense is not going to be fresh in the third quarter. Alabama can pound the ball between the tackles with its running game and wear down the Bayou Bengals in the game’s final 20 minutes. There’s simply too little quality in LSU’s offensive huddle; the Tigers are going to find themselves in a position where they’re outmanned heading into crunch time. LSU will cover the spread because of its defense, but Alabama will win the game.
Pick: LSU +8.5
Oregon Ducks @ USC Trojans
College Football Betting Odds: Oregon -8.5
USC quarterback Matt Barkley has played really well this season against really bad teams such as Hawaii, Syracuse and Colorado. However, the senior – who got eliminated from this year’s Heisman Trophy race at an alarmingly early stage in the season – has not delivered the goods against elite or even above-average defenses. Oregon’s defense, guided by coordinator Nick Aliotti, has regularly lived in the shadow of Kelly’s offense, but it has consistently made the plays the Ducks have needed whenever they’ve needed them. Oregon limited Arizona State to seven first-half points a few weeks ago. It shut out Arizona. It smothered Washington. It silenced Washington State in the second half after getting surprised by the Cougars in the first half of that game, won comfortably by the Ducks. Barkley will have a tough time scoring 30 points against Oregon’s defense. Since the Ducks are quite likely to score at least 34 or 35 points against USC, that’s a problem for the Men of Troy. Oregon will win this game comfortably.
Pick: Oregon -8.5