It is a HUGE day for College Football fans. An absolute stacked slate of games and as always on the Tough Cover Column, we’re here to help you find the winners. I’m gonna start this column off with a segment that I do on the Tough Cover Radio Show every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fox Sports Radio The Gambler called the Top 5 to Focus On.
TOP 5 TO FOCUS ON:
1. Tennessee @ Georgia (3:30)
2. Clemson @ Notre Dame (7:30)
3. Alabama @ LSU (7:00)
4. Texas @ Kansas State (7:00)
5. Texas Tech @ TCU (12:00)
Now, let’s get to the picks.
TCU -8 vs. Texas Tech(1u)
- There was a lot of outcry about undefeated TCU being ranked #7 behind the 1-loss Alabama Crimson Tide. I do not concur with the outrage. Alabama is a MUCH better team than TCU.
- TCU will not go undefeated this year. BUT, this week will not be the week that the Horned Frogs go down. They will not lose their 1st game at home to a Texas Tech team fighting for Bowl Elgibility. TCU still has 3 chances to be exposed. Next week, they play in Austin against the Texas Longhorns on the road. The week after, TCU stays in the state of Texas and takes a road trip to Waco. I truly believe that they’ll be an underdog in both games.
- I would be nervous to lay the points if Donovan Smith or even Tyler Shough were available but I don’t believe in Behren Morton. Morton looked horrendous last week against Baylor and threw 5 turnover-worthy balls.
- TCU has won their last 3 matchups with Texas Tech including a 21 point win last year and a 16 point win 2 years ago. This is a MUCH better TCU team under new Head Coach Sonny Dykes.
- I expect TCU to have a bit of a revenge game against the CFP committee and put a hurting on the Red Raiders here, which leads me to my next bet.
TCU TT Over 38.5(4u)
- I have serious long-term concerns about TCU’s defense, specifically their secondary, that preclude them from being a College Playoff contender. But I have absolutely no concerns about the TCU offense.
- At QB, they have one of the best QB’s in the country in Max Duggan. Duggan leads the Big 12 with 276.5 yards passing per game and 22 touchdowns, and has only two interceptions.
- Duggan has a weapon in Wide Receiver Quentin Johnston, who has averaged 134 yards receiving over the last 4 weeks and has scored a touchdown in all 4 games.
- They also have a Runningback in Kendre Miller, who has more than 100 yards rushing in five of the past six games, and run for a TD in nine straight games.
- Texas Tech just gave up 45 points in a blowout loss to Baylor in Lubbock at home. TCU has a much better offense than Baylor AND they’re at home. I expect a 50 burger.
- TCU is scoring over 44 PPG this year and that number stays at 44 PPG in Big 12 play. TCU has scored 40+ in 5 of their 8 games this year and in the 3 games they didn’t, they scored exactly 38 points.
Tennessee +9 @ Georgia(2u)
- This is, very clearly, the biggest game of the year and will decide a ton in the SEC Championship landscape as well as the College Football landscape. This is the first time that #1 in the AP Poll is going head to head with #1 in the CFP Rankings.
- Tennessee has passed every possible test. They beat Florida in a potential letdown spot. They absolutely beat down LSU on the road in Death Valley. Then, they won the best game I’ve seen in the last few years against big bad Alabama.
- But that’s not what impressed me most about Tennessee. I was most impressed by their drubbing of Kentucky. Beating a Mark Stoops Kentucky team 44-6 is impressive no matter what season it is or what the circumstances are. UK does not get punked like that often. Tennessee’s defense is rounding into form and shut Will Levis down, holding him to 98 yards and forcing 3 interceptions.
- I understand that Georgia is the “sharp play” here. Sometimes the sharp play loses. I just can’t erase that Missouri game from my brain. I’m just not sure that this Georgia defense is even half as good as last year’s was.
- I think there’s a good chance we look back on this Tennessee offense and Hooker/Hyatt being a Burrow/Chase-like connection. Jalin Hyatt’s propensity to score TD’s as well as make big plays is the ultimate death blow that Tennessee’s offense can deliver even though their Heisman contender QB gets most of the focus.
- This is a 50/50 coin flip type of game and I’ll take the 9 points all day long.
Navy +21 @ Cincinnati(4u)
- I bet this game early and hopped on a spread that was over-inflated at +21. That line has fallen two points to +19. I still really like it.
- Navy kept it close last year with the best team that Luke Fickell will ever have at Cincinnati and lost 27-20 in a game that could have went either way. I don’t understand why they won’t be able to keep it within 21 of a much worse version of the same team.
- Cincy has failed to cover their last 4 games and their last 3 games were decided by a total of 10 points. This team is destined to play close games, week in and week out. They are 1-5 in their last 6 ATS.
- Navy is also a team that keeps it closer than the experts think. They are 3-0 ATS on the road and 4-2 ATS as an Underdog. Navy keeps it within 2 scores.
Alabama -13 @ LSU(1u)
- This LSU resurgence is cute and all but this is Nick Saban, Bryce Young, Will Anderson and the Alabama Crimson Tide riding into Death Valley.
- Something I’ve heard all year/week long is that Brian Kelly teams get better as the season goes on. As a Notre Dame fan, I can attest to this. As a Notre Dame fan, I can also attest to Brian Kelly being someone who can punch DOWN to inferior competition than rise up to superior competition. When the going gets tough, Brian Kelly teams get going.
- I also think there’s a chance that Florida and Ole Miss just are not very good and we’re giving LSU a ton of credit(#10 in the CFP Rankings) for handing both schools a loss. This is still an LSU team that needed a miracle to escape a game on the road against a reeling Auburn team. LSU was clearly given #10 in the CFP Rankings to make this a Top 10 matchup on ESPN.
- A big reason that Alabama’s secondary struggled with Tennessee is because they were missing the top Cornerback in the 2023 NFL Draft, Eli Ricks. In his first game back against Mississippi State, he allowed just 1 catch on 9 targets while recording 4 PBU.
- Give me Alabama in a rout, 45-20.
Alabama TT Over 35(3u)
- Speaking of an Alabama rout, I just don’t see a scenario where the LSU defense doesn’t struggle with Bryce Young.
- Alabama has scored 36+ points in 5 of their 7 games with Bryce Young at the helm. Alabama scores over 43 PPG and that’s with a 24 point performance from the backup QB. They average 46 PPG in Bryce Young’s starts.
- LSU gave up 35 to a bad Florida team and 40 to Tennessee in a game they didn’t even push them offensively.
Florida State -7 @ Miami(5u)
- Mario Cristobal is one of the biggest frauds in sports. Miami had a very good roster with a very solid QB and Cristobal still found a way to find a new low for The U after opening the year at #16. Did anyone watch last week’s Miami-Virginia game? It was an abomination and it set football back a decade. They scored 6 points in regulation and won a 14-12 game in SIX overtime.
- Florida State’s 3 losses have come to teams that are much better than Miami and they’ve all been extremely close.
- Mike Norvell has gotten things going on the right direction with Jordan Travis at QB.
- But the real reason this is my favorite bet on the board? Miami has failed to cover SEVEN straight games with an ATS record of 1-7. The only team that The U has covered against is Bethune Cookman. Give me Florida State to embarrass their rival in Coral Gables.
Notre Dame +4.5 vs. Clemson
- Full disclosure: I’m a diehard Notre Dame Fighting Irish fan. There may be some stone cold bias going into this pick. BUT, I will say that I did not bet Notre Dame all season…until last week. I knew that this team would beat Syracuse last week and I know that they’ll keep it close with Clemson this week.
- Syracuse gave Clemson EVERYTHING they could handle on the road at Clemson. On the other hand, Notre Dame went on the road to the Carrier Dome halfway across the country and laid a beatdown on Syracuse. Clemson is getting a ton of credit for winning close games against ACC teams that immediately become worse after losing to Clemson. We’ve seen it now with NC State, Wake Forest AND Syracuse. UNC is probably the 2nd best team in the ACC and Notre Dame smacked them around.
- I’ve been saying for weeks that I think Notre Dame has a Top 10-15 roster in the country but they just don’t have a Quarterback. Well, you may be able to say the same thing about Clemson. D.J. Uiaglelei seemed to prove his haters wrong over the 1st half of the year with stellar performances. But as soon as he struggled last week and a game became too close, Dabo Swinney went to Cade Klubnik who ended up leading Clemson to a win. The vibes are weird for the Clemson Tigers.
- And even though DJ burst onto the scene in South Bend 2 years ago with a huge night, Clemson still lost that game.
- Clemson struggles against the run and Notre Dame runs the ball 61.3% of the time and have a budding star in powerful RB Audric Estime.
- Notre Dame will not only cover, but win this game.
You can follow Mark Henry Jr. on Twitter (@MarkHenryJr_) and listen to the Tough Cover Radio Show every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fox Sports Radio The Gambler.