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Saturday Syllabus: Auburn Is One Win Away From Winner-Take-All Iron Bowl

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Georgia at Auburn… It’s the Deep South’s oldest rivalry, not involving racists, evangelicals or government intrusion. When the season began, it looked like Gus Malzahn had to work miracles to get Auburn to a bowl game. Now, this team is a win away from a winner-take-all Iron Bowl for the SEC West. The Tigers are favored against Georgia, a team many felt would contend for a BCS title.

The Bulldogs may be a bit undervalued. Georgia has tightened its run defense. Only Tennessee has averaged more than four yards/carry against them in their last seven games. They are the best unit Auburn has faced. Georgia also has Todd Gurley, more or less, back. That should give them more balance against a not so stout Tiger defense. The Dawgs are better than Arkansas or Tennessee. Mark Richt exerts his control on the road. Pick: Georgia (+3.5)

Image (2) Mack-Brown-is-Menacing-594x395.jpg for post 212202Oklahoma State at Texas… Both teams win the Big 12 if they win out. Oklahoma State is likely out of it with a loss. There’s a little bit of an edge to this game, with 71 Oklahoma State players being from Texas. The Cowboys have won the last two in Austin and held the Longhorns to a four-point game in 2008.

The Longhorns have won six-straight. It’s still hard to figure out precisely what they do well. Their offense is average. Their defense is, well, average. They have skirted disaster in close games, but have paid a toll in injuries. Leading rusher Johnathan Gray and senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley are out for the season. Oklahoma State’s defense (9th in yards/play, 6th in third down conversions, 12th in red zone TD percentage) is the clear best unit on the field. The Cowboys get into the red zone enough. Pick: Oklahoma State (-3)

Washington at UCLA… The Huskies are 6-3, after losing three-straight in October. But it’s worth noting those losses came to three of the top seven SRS teams in succession. UCLA has the better record because the Bruins have not played Arizona State yet. Washington needs two wins in its final games to surpass the seven-win barrier where Sark has stalled the past three seasons. In a night game on the road, this looks like the most challenging of the three.

We’re not sure about UCLA’s offense. Brett Hundley has put up some great numbers, except for when he was shut down by Oregon and Stanford. Washington has been just as good as those two programs against the pass. UCLA’s conventional run game has struggled. We’re not sure the gimmick package with Myles Jack has quite the same success in week two. Bishop Sankey is healthy. So is Keith Price. The Huskies pull one out on the road. Pick: Washington (+2.5)

Image (1) Ed-Orgeron-usc.jpg for post 284354Stanford at USC… Both teams enter on a high. Stanford upset Oregon, assuming the Pac 12 North reigns. The Trojans, enthusiasm ramped up by Coach O, have won four of five since Lane Kiffin was pulled off the bus. Stanford has won five of six against the Trojans. But four of those games were decided by one score. It’s a definite letdown spot for Stanford. This is USC’s biggest game remaining.

The stats aren’t that far apart here. Both teams have very strong defenses on third down and in the red zone. We would not anticipate much consistent ball movement. USC has Marqise Lee back and has more big play potential on offense and on special teams. That makes the difference in a tight game. Pick: USC (+4)

Other Picks

South Carolina (-12) vs. Florida… Maybe there’s an argument for Florida’s defense. With just 51 scholarship players making the trip and the Gators starting their third-string quarterback, we won’t be making it.

Michigan State (-5.5) at Nebraska… Michigan held Abdullah under four yards/carry. Michigan State, coming off a bye, holds him under three. This is not a beat down, but the Spartans cover.

Miami (-3.5) at Duke… Miami has played three of the Top 21 pass defenses the past three games. Not so sold on Duke’s defensive surge. Not sure the Blue Devils’ passing game can take advantage of Miami.

A 6-3 week last week took us to 41-43-2 ATS on the season.

[Photos via USA Today Sports, Getty]

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