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Weekly Picks

Week 12 CFB ATS Notes

by Thor Nystrom
Updated On: November 21, 2020, 12:29 pm ET

In the table below, you'll find the Adjusted Thor Line (ATL), a system I devised for determining line value. ATL does not consider injuries, COVID absences, or situational spots. The lines in the table below are from the perspective of the home team. I consider any discrepancy one-point or lower to be negligible. 

Check back Thursday for this week’s official plays. All lines courtesy of PointsBet Sportsbook.

Day Away Home PB Line ATL ATL side Line value    
11/17 Akron Zips Kent State Golden Flashes -26 -19.3 Akron Zips 6.7    
11/17 Buffalo Bulls Bowling Green Falcons +31 +29.1 Bowling Green Falcons 1.9    
11/18 Northern Illinois Huskies Ball State Cardinals -14 -11.8 Northern Illinois Huskies 2.2    
11/18 Toledo Rockets Eastern Michigan Eagles +6.5 +5.0 Eastern Michigan Eagles 1.5    
11/18 Western Michigan Broncos Central Michigan Chippewas -1.5 -0.2 Western Michigan Broncos 1.3    
11/19 Tulane Green Wave Tulsa Golden Hurricane -6.5 -2.5 Tulane Green Wave 4    
11/19 Utah State Aggies Wyoming Cowboys -20.5 -15.5 Utah State Aggies 5    
11/20 Purdue Boilermakers Minnesota Golden Gophers +3 +1.8 Minnesota Golden Gophers 1.2    
11/20 Syracuse Orange Louisville Cardinals -18 -17.6 N/A N/A    
11/20 UMass Minutemen Florida Atlantic Owls -32.5 -34.1 Florida Atlantic Owls 1.6    
11/20 New Mexico Lobos Air Force Falcons -7 -11.9 Air Force Falcons 4.9    
11/21 Georgia Southern Eagles Army Black Knights -4 -2.6 Georgia Southern Eagles 1.4    
11/21 Indiana Hoosiers Ohio State Buckeyes -20.5 -18.5 Indiana Hoosiers 2    
11/21 Illinois Fighting Illini Nebraska Cornhuskers -15.5 -12.1 Illinois Fighting Illini 3.4    
11/21 Florida Gators Vanderbilt Commodores +31.5 +32.0 N/A N/A    
11/21 LSU Tigers Arkansas Razorbacks -1 +4.7 LSU Tigers 5.7    
11/21 Wake Forest Demon Deacons Duke Blue Devils +4.5 +1.7 Duke Blue Devils 2.8    
11/21 Clemson Tigers Florida State Seminoles +34.5 +28.7 Florida State Seminoles 5.8    
11/21 Houston Cougars SMU Mustangs -3 -5.2 SMU Mustangs 2.2    
11/21 East Carolina Pirates Temple Owls +4 Pk Temple Owls 4.0    
11/21 Appalachian State Mountaineers Coastal Carolina Chanticleers -5.5 -1.2 Appalachian State Mountaineers 4.3    
11/21 Florida International Panthers Western Kentucky Hilltoppers -7 -3.3 Florida International Panthers 3.7    
11/21 Rice Owls North Texas Mean Green +1 +1.2 N/A N/A    
11/21 Arkansas State Red Wolves Texas State Bobcats +6 +3.6 Texas State Bobcats 2.4    
11/21 UTSA Roadrunners Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles +8.5 +3.9 Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles 4.6    
11/21 Iowa Hawkeyes Penn State Nittany Lions +2.5 -0.7 Penn State Nittany Lions 3.3    
11/21 Wisconsin Badgers Northwestern Wildcats +7.5 +12.4 Wisconsin Badgers 4.9    
11/21 California Golden Bears Oregon State Beavers +3.5 +1.5 Oregon State Beavers 2.0    
11/21 San Diego State Aztecs Nevada Wolf Pack +1 +2.4 San Diego State Aztecs 1.4    
11/21 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Troy Trojans -11.5 -15.0 Troy Trojans 3.5    
11/21 Texas Longhorns Kansas Jayhawks +29 +29.3 N/A N/A    
11/21 Cincinnati Bearcats UCF Knights +6 +1.8 UCF Knights 4.2    
11/21 Georgia State Panthers South Alabama Jaguars +3 +4.7 Georgia State Panthers 1.7    
11/21 Virginia Tech Hokies Pittsburgh Panthers +3 +7.2 Virginia Tech Hokies 4.2    
11/21 Kansas State Wildcats Iowa State Cyclones -11 -9.6 Kansas State Wildcats 1.4    
11/21 Kentucky Wildcats Alabama Crimson Tide -31 -27.9 Kentucky Wildcats 3.1    
11/21 UNLV Rebels Colorado State Rams -16 -15.5 N/A N/A    
11/21 San Jose State Spartans Fresno State Bulldogs +2.5 +0.1 Fresno State Bulldogs 2.4    
11/21 Tennessee Volunteers Auburn Tigers -10.5 -10.0 N/A N/A    
11/21 Liberty Flames NC State Wolfpack -3.5 -2.8 N/A N/A    
11/21 Oklahoma State Cowboys Oklahoma Sooners -7 -8.6 Oklahoma Sooners 1.6    
11/21 Mississippi State Bulldogs Georgia Bulldogs -24.5 -23.4 Mississippi State Bulldogs 1.1    
11/21 Missouri Tigers South Carolina Gamecocks +5.5 +0.9 South Carolina Gamecocks 4.6    
11/21 Michigan Wolverines Rutgers Scarlet Knights N/A +16.6 N/A N/A    
11/21 Navy Midshipmen South Florida Bulls +2.5 +1.7 N/A N/A    
11/21 Arizona Wildcats Washington Huskies -11.5 -9.8 Arizona Wildcats 1.7    
11/21 USC Trojans Utah Utes +3 -2.5 Utah Utes 5.5    
11/21 Washington State Cougars Stanford Cardinal -2 -0.7 Washington State Cougars 1.3    
11/21 Boise State Broncos Hawaii Rainbow Warriors +14.5 +15.3 N/A N/A    
11/21 UCLA Bruins Oregon Ducks -14.5 -20.1 Oregon Ducks 5.6    
11/21 Michigan State Spartans Maryland Terrapins -6 -3.1 Michigan State Spartans 2.9    

Situational opportunities

Kent State Golden Flashes (-26) vs. Akron Zips

ATL: KSU -19.3

The day after Election Day, on a Wednesday night, the MAC's season opened. The first kick was Akron-Western Michigan. The Zips got smoked 58-13, but I liked what I saw from a few of the skill players, specifically RBs Jeremiah “Boogie” Knight and Teon Dollard “To Donuts” (I only made up one of those nicknames).

The offense has a ways to go, but it has showed signs of spark and boasts more athleticism than you'd assume. In some ways, the first game of Tom Arth’s second season reminded me of Sean Lewis’ first Kent State team. Fitting, then, this matchup, as a sort of barometer for Arth.

If his team can stop shooting itself in the foot, you're going to see the Zips give a favored opponent or two a scare. Last week, Akron lost 24-10 to Ohio but finished with a 78% postgame win expectancy. Akron outgained Ohio 435-307, but finished with three more turnovers while averaging only 1.8 points per trip inside Ohio’s 40.

Akron is a team to monitor. They have no idea how to win yet. Heck, they have no idea how to put points on the board in the red zone. But they’re a better team than they’re being given credit for at the window -- my adjusted line says this spread is a touchdown rich -- even if that isn’t showing up on the scoreboard yet.

 

USC Trojans (-3) at Utah Utes

ATL: Utah -2.5

Utah’s first two games were canceled due to COVID-19 issues. Assuming this game gets played, it’ll be the Utes’ 2020 opener. Teams opening the season against teams that have already played are 24-11-2 ATS (68.6%) this season after that trend went 1-1 ATS last week.

USC sophomore QB Kedon Slovis told reporters nothing was wrong with his arm after FOX commentator Joel Klatt speculated on last week’s USC-Arizona broadcast that something could be physically off with it. Klatt was speaking to Slovis’ diminished velocity. 

But both Slovis and HC Clay Helton say Slovis is healthy and just had a sloppy game mechanically.


Injury updates

Clemson Tigers (-34.5) at Florida State Seminoles (game has been postponed for a date TBA)

ATL: Clemson -28.7

Florida State QB Jordan Travis, who missed last week’s loss to NC State with injury, has returned to practice. Travis will apparently split first-team reps with freshman Chubba Purdy in practice this week, but we’d expect Travis to draw the start against the Tigers assuming he’s healthy.

FSU’s personnel issues run a lot deeper than that, unfortunately. Star WR Tamorrion Terry left the program this week and has opted out. Terry, the team’s top receiver, clashed with the coaching staff this year and had minor knee surgery in October. He’ll begin NFL Draft preparations. 

Round 1 DT prospect Marvin Wilson (leg) and starting OL Devontay Love-Taylor (undisclosed) have both been ruled out for the season with injuries. Wilson is NFL-bound, while HC Mike Norvell hopes Love-Taylor, a grad transfer from FIU who provided much-needed fortification and versatility along the line, will return next year. 

Lastly, backup QB James Blackman left the team and announced he’ll transfer when the semester ends. Blackman, the former starter, was booed off the field in his final appearance, a brief cameo replacing an injured Travis against NC State that ended in an interception. Purdy replaced him the next series. Blackman has regressed during his career but could be a starting G5 quarterback next year if he picks his next destination correctly. If he wants to stay local, both FIU and FAU could use a signal-caller. We digress.

No such quarterback issues on Clemson’s side. Trevor Lawrence makes his return to the field after missing two games with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Lawrence’s absence may turn into a blessing in disguise for Clemson. The Tigers will still almost assuredly make the playoffs if they win out. And now Clemson knows they can win with backup five-star true frosh QB DJ Uiagalelei.

Clemson also got good news on TE Braden Galloway, who told reporters Monday that his ankle will be back to 100-percent for Saturday's game. Galloway’s wobbly wheel benefited from a bye week to rest. Through eight games, the tight end has posted a receiving line of 19-230-2.

But Clemson expects to be without starting WR Frank Ladson and starting LB James Skalski for a few more weeks. The Tigers are hoping they get back one or more of the group of DT Tyler Davis, LB Mike Jones Jr. and LG Matt Bockhorst this week.

 

Texas Longhorns (-29) at Kansas Jayhawks

ATL: UT -29.3

Texas WR Joshua Moore is questionable with a shoulder injury. Texas was on bye last week, giving him seven extra days to heal from the sprained AC joint he sustained in the November 7 win over West Virginia. 

Through seven games, Moore has emerged as Texas’ go-to receiver, catching 22 passes for 343 yards and seven touchdowns. 

In positive news, Texas may get WR Jordan Whittington back from the strained hip flexor that has sidelined him since the Oklahoma game.

 

Appalachian State Mountaineers (-5.5) at Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

ATL: CC -1.2

Appalachian State beat Texas State 38-17 last week but suffered a potentially huge blow when QB Zac Thomas suffered a leg injury. Thomas was carted off the field. He’s questionable for Coastal Carolina. His status is key here, and probably explains why this line is inflated over my adjusted number.

 

Arkansas State Red Wolves (-6) at Texas State Bobcats

ATL: ASU -436

Texas State QB Tyler Vitt was also forced out of the afformentioned Appalachian State-Texas State game. In Vitt’s case, with a hand injury that has his status up in the air for Arkansas State.

 

East Carolina Pirates (-4) at Temple Owls

ATL: Pick 'em

The Owls continue to battle extreme injuries issues at the quarterback position. Temple announced on Monday that true freshman Matt Duncan, the fourth-stringer, will start against the Pirates on Saturday.

QB1 Anthony Russo has been out for several weeks with injury, and had insult added to it when he was added to the Temple’s COVID-19 list last week. QB3 Trad Beatty has already been ruled out for this game with a head injury. Meanwhile, QB2 Re-al Mitchell, an Iowa State transfer, has been ruled out for the season with an injury.

Temple has also been forced to make due without starting RB Re-mahn Davis, who opted out a few weeks ago. Not how new HC Rod Carey though his first year would go. My adjusted line for this game is pick 'em, but considering Temple's extreme talent and depth issues on offense, ECU -4 is a perfectly reasonable line.

 

Mississippi State Bulldogs (+24.5) at Georgia Bulldogs

ATL: UGA -23.4

Georgia QB Stetson Bennett remains compromised by a right shoulder injury he suffered in the November 7 loss to Florida. HC Kirby Smart is hoping Bennett can return to practice this week, but apparently that’s no sure thing. 

If Bennett isn’t healthy enough to play against the Bulldogs, Smart will have no choice but to start D'Wan Mathis or JT Daniels. Mathis has struggled in brief looks this year. Daniels was cleared to play after transferring from USC but he has yet to appear in a game this season. 

 

Tennessee Volunteers (+10) at Auburn Tigers

ATL: Auburn -10.5

Tennessee should have QB Jarrett Guarantano active. Guarantano was an active participant in Sunday’s practice. He was knocked out of the November 7 loss to Arkansas with a head injury. Tennessee’s game against Texas A&M was canceled last weekend due to COVID-19, giving Guarantano some extra time to get right.

HC Jeremy Pruitt is keeping his options open at QB1 for now. It’s an open guess as to whether Guarantano, Brian Maurer or Harrison Bailey will start against the Tigers.

Auburn, which has the Iron Bowl on deck against Alabama, is in a prime lookahead spot if the Vols can muster any kind of offense whatsoever.

 

UTSA Roadrunners (-8.5) at Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

ATL: UTSA -3.9

UTSA blasted UTEP 52-21 last week despite the absence of star RB Sincere McCormick. McCormick was withheld for reasons that were unclear at the time. RB Brendan Brady ran for 124 yards in his absence. Now we know why McCormick missed the game: He was attending the birth of his daughter.

McCormick, the new daddy, is set to return to the field this week. 

No, that isn't the reason this line is so inflated. That has more to do with the Job-like season Southern Miss is having. They're on their third head coach of the season, and they have big problems at quarterback right now. Starting QB Jack Abraham opted out for the season last week due to concussion issues. Backup QB Tate Whatley is currently injured.

Those issues have allowed West Virginia transfer QB Trey Lowe to rise to QB1. Lowe has been brutal this year. He went 6-of-14 for 67 yards in an ugly 10-7 loss to WKU last week. If UTSA can get its run game going, it's going to win by double-digits.

 

Houston Cougars (+3) at SMU Mustangs

ATL: SMU -5.2

Houston RB Kyle Porter was not in uniform for this past weekend's win over USF due to an undisclosed injury. Porter, Houston’s top back with 321 yards and four touchdowns on 81 carries this season, is questionable for Saturday’s game.

Houston also may be without RB Mulbah Car, who was knocked out of the USF game with a lower-body injury. Chandler Smith and Kelan Walker will have to step up if both players are ruled out. 

The running back issues at Houston currently makes the status of star WR Marquez Stevenson an issue of even more pressing importance. Stevenson is listed as day-to-day with the ankle injury he suffered on Halloween in a loss to UCF.

Stevenson's absence has not only dealt a blow to Clayton Tune and the aerial offense, but the special teams as well. Stevenson is Houston’s most dangerous returner.


Status update

Michigan Wolverines (N/A) at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

ATL: Michigan -16.6

Prior to the Wisconsin game, Michigan had enormous problems in the secondary to correct. After getting blasted 49-11 by the Badgers at home, it’s clear that the Wolverines’ issues aren’t confined to one position group.

Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh said earlier this week that QB Joe Milton and QB Cade McNamara will split first-team reps this week. This comes after Harbaugh gave Milton the hook after he threw two early interceptions against Bucky. McNamara completed 4-of-7 passes for 74 yards and Michigan’s lone touchdown.

Harbaugh curmudgeonly refuses to release pre-game depth charts, almost assuredly meaning that we won’t know the identity of Michigan’s start quarterback until the lead-up to kick.

 

Utah State Aggies (+20.5) at Wyoming Cowboys

ATL: Wyoming -15.5

Utah State booted starting QB Jason Shelley off the team a day after he was utterly ineffective in a 35-15 loss to Fresno State. The Aggies announced that Shelley, a grad transfer from Utah, violated team rules following the game. 

Utah State has named redshirt sophomore Andrew Peasley the starter. The former two-star recruit has thrown 16 forgettable passes this year. If he falters, the Aggies could look to redshirt freshman Cooper Legas. Legas has never appeared in a college game.

 

UCLA Bruins (+14.5) at Oregon Ducks

ATL: Oregon -20.1

Oregon WR Mycah Pittman will likely miss his second-consecutive game with the undisclosed injury he suffered in the season-opening win over Stanford. Without Pittman in the 43-29 win over Wazzu last week, veteran Jaylon Redd stepped up with five catches for 99 yards.


COVID corner

Illinois Fighting Illini (+15.5) at Nebraska Cornhuskers

ATL: Nebraska -12.1

Illinois redshirt senior QB Brandon Peters is out of quarantine and back at practice. Peters has been out since the season-opening loss to Wisconsin after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Illini HC Lovie Smith declined to disclose to reporters whether he’ll start Peters or Isaiah Williams behind center against the Cornhuskers. Williams led the Fighting Illini to an upset win over Rutgers last weekend, running for 195 yards and a score, while struggling through the air (7-of-18 for 104 yards).

 

LSU Tigers (+1) at Arkansas Razorbacks

ATL: LSU -4.7

Razorbacks HC Sam Pittman should be back on the sidelines barring an unexpected setback later this week. Pittman said Monday he hopes to return to the team on Wednesday. Pittman missed last week’s loss to Florida and has been in isolation since testing positive for COVID-19 last week.

Pittman’s squad should have the services of TE Hudson Henry, who missed the Florida game with an undisclosed injury after he started the first three games of the season. The news wasn’t as good on WR De'Vion Warren, who’s been ruled out for the rest of the season because of the torn ACL he suffered against the Gators. Warren was the team’s best returner and one of its top receivers.


Opt-outs

Syracuse Orange (+18) at Louisville Cardinals (Friday)

ATL: Louisville -17.6

Louisville suffered a huge blow when redshirt sophomore RB Javian Hawkins opted out on Monday. He has begun training for the 2021 NFL Draft. We knew something was brewing after Hawkins was absent from the Cardinals’ loss to Virginia last weekend.

Hawkins rushed for 822 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 133 carries with a 16-127-1 line as a receiver out of the backfield. This comes one year after his breakthrough 2019 season, when Hawkins rushed for 1,525 yards and nine touchdowns on 5.8 YPC. 

Hassan Hall, who missed the last three games, two with injury and one while attending a funeral, has returned to practice. Hall will now step into the spotlight with Hawkins gone, assuming he's back to full-strength. You're also going to see more of inexperienced understudies Maurice Burkley and Jalen Mitchell.

In Syracuse news, the Orange appear likely to tab freshman QB JaCobian Morgan to start Friday against the Cardinals. HC Dino Babers said QB Rex Culpepper (undisclosed) has returned to practice, but didn’t say much more than that. Reading the tea leaves, Babers wants to see what he has with Morgan after the frosh acquitted himself well in the loss to Boston College on November 7.

 

Missouri Tigers (-5.5) at South Carolina Gamecocks

ATL: Mizzou -0.9

South Carolina has had an eventful lead-in week to this matchup against Missouri. 

The Gamecocks showed former HC Will Muschamp the door on Sunday, a day after the Gamecocks gave up over 700 yards in a 59-42 loss to Mississippi. Muschamp, who went 28-30 at the school, will pocket a bit more than $13 million in his buyout.

Former Colorado State HC Mike Bobo was named interim head coach. This is a job Bobo knows well, having donned the head coach’s headset for six years with the Rams prior to getting relieved of his duties upon the completion of last season. Muschamp had hired him to fix South Carolina's offense, returning Bobo to his roots after he OC’d at Georgia from 2007-2014.

The Gamecocks also suffered a huge loss on defense when CB Jaycee Horn, former NFL WR Joe Horn’s son, opted out for the remainder of the season. Horn is a projected first-round pick, the No. 6-ranked draft-eligible corner on Mel Kiper's board. He was the team's top cover corner, and one of the top corners in the SEC.

 

Virginia Tech Hokies (-3) at Pittsburgh Panthers

ATL: VT -7.2

Virginia Tech redshirt sophomore LB Keshon Artis and redshirt junior DE Zion Debose opted out for the remainder of the season. Artis was a special teams player, with Debose was a little-used reserve.

The Hokies got good news on starting RB Khalil Herbert this week. Herbert did not experience any setbacks with his recent pesky hamstring issues during Saturday's loss to Miami. Herbert rushed for 49 yards on eight carries.

Hokies HC Justin Fuente said earlier this week that he’s hoping Herbert will be able to increase practice reps this week in advance of Saturday's game.


Cancelations/postponements

Ohio Bobcats (N/A) at Miami (OH) RedHawks (Tuesday)

ATL: Ohio -5.3

The MAC canceled this game on Sunday and ruled it a no-contest due to COVID issues on Ohio’s roster. It was the first game canceled in the MAC since the conference returned to play on Nov. 4.

 

Ole Miss Rebels (N/A) at Texas A&M Aggies

ATL: A&M -11.9

The SEC postponed this game due to the amount of players on A&M’s roster currently in isolation due to positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing protocols. 

This is A&M’s second-consecutive postponed game, following last week’s pushed-back contest against Tennessee. Because A&M-Tennessee was already pushed to the SEC’s designated open date Dec. 12, the conference is going to have to get creative to reschedule this game.

It appears open to that possibility. The SEC will consider holding Ole Miss-Texas A&M on Dec. 19, the date of its conference title, assuming the Aggies don’t qualify. A game behind Alabama in the standings, with the Crimson Tide holding the tiebreaker, A&M is just about drawing dead to get into the SEC title game anyway.

 

Arizona State Sun Devils (N/A) at Colorado Buffaloes

ATL: ASU -5.0

A COVID outbreak on Arizona State’s roster that caused the cancelation of last week’s ASU-Cal game (Cal quickly rescheduled a Sunday matinee with UCLA, and got killed) has also torpedoed this one.

ASU athletic director Ray Anderson said in a statement on Sunday that the Sun Devils do not meet the conference’s threshold of 53 available players due to positive COVID tests.

Though Colorado is out in the cold right now, the Buffaloes, ala UCLA and Cal last week, are open to the possibility of getting paired with a late-week opponent. 

"We will look at any and all options about us being able to play this weekend," CU athletic director Rick George said in a statement. "It's too early right now to gauge everything, the conference did pair UCLA and Cal today on very short notice, so we'll have to see what transpires day-to-day around the league."

 

UL Monroe Warhawks (N/A) at Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

ATL: LT -13.3

This game was canceled on Monday due to COVID issues on ULM’s roster. Because it’s a non-conference game, the schools will just wipe it from their schedules.

Unfortunate for the 4-3 Bulldogs, who would have moved a step closer to another winning season had this game taken place. Louisiana Tech’s last three games have now been postponed or canceled by COVID (Rice, North Texas). The 0-8 Warhawks, who don’t really have a good excuse for the COVID issues coming off a bye week, are playing out the string.

 

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (N/A) at Miami Hurricanes

ATL: -16.9

On Monday, the ACC rescheduled this game for Dec. 19 due to positive COVID-19 tests on Miami’s roster. As part of the schedule reshuffling, Miami’s Nov. 28 game against Wake Forest was pushed to Dec. 5, while the Hurricanes’ originally-scheduled Dec. 5 game against UNC has been pushed to Dec. 12.

 

Charlotte 49ers (N/A) at Marshall Thundering Herd

ATL: Marshall -17.9

This game was canceled Monday with no makeup date. No word yet on which side forced the cancelation, or how big the outbreak on its roster is.

Both teams have had their share of COVID-19 travails this year. Charlotte has either postponed or cancelled six games this season due to the pandemic. This is Marshall's fourth postponement or cancellation of the year. 


2020: 41-34-1 (54.7%) ATS 

Lifetime (2014-Present): 581-503-17 (53.6%) ATS


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Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is Rotoworld’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!