Each week during the 2014 season I will offer up my picks and scores for the biggest games in addition to a handful of other key matchups. Last week the selections went 5-5 both SU and ATS. The overall record straight up on these selections for the year is a solid 82-28, and I am 55-54-1 against the spread.
With several huge games that will impact the College Football Playoff coming up this weekend, here are my selections for Week 12's top games.
All odds courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.
No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide (minus-8.5) vs. No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs
Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
It is No. 1 vs. No. 1 here. Mississippi State is ranked No. 1 in all the polls and deserves to be after beating three top 10 teams (at the time) in a row in Texas A&M, LSU and Auburn. And Alabama is my top-ranked team in the nation, and would be favored in Las Vegas on a neutral field over any other team in the country.
Mississippi State has a dynamic, balanced offense, averaging 520 yards per game in SEC play, led by Heisman contender Dak Prescott. Its defense has a physical front that is allowing just 127 rushing yards per game on the year (3.6 yards per carry) and has recorded 31 sacks. While it allows just 52.4 percent completions, it is yielding 301 YPG passing. Mississippi State also comes in as the much fresher team, having just played UT-Martin last week while Alabama needed overtime to escape with a win at LSU.
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This has been an unusual year for the Crimson Tide, as they are usually the same strong team at home or on the road -- that has only been the case for the defense this season. Alabama QB Blake Sims has looked shaky on the road, hitting just 52.9 percent of his passes -- but he is an exceptional 70.2 percent at home. With a stronger pass attack at Alabama, teams can't stack the line against the Tide and they are averaging 266 YPG rushing at home (5.9 YPC) versus just 131 YPG (3.6 YPC) on the road. In two SEC games at home, Alabama has rolled up an average of 637 total YPG. Incredible.
Alabama has taken on my No. 5-rated schedule and is out-gaining its opponents by 212 YPG while Mississippi State has taken on my No. 41 slate and is only plus-95 YPG. Mississippi State has a solid rush defense, but Alabama has my No. 1 defense in the country and allows just 90 rushing YPG and 2.8 yards per carry. It is also getting more pressure on QBs than a typical Saban defense. Last year, the unit had 22 sacks and this year it already has 23, including a Saban era-high six against Texas A&M (in Alabama's most recent home game, which was a month ago).
This is just Mississippi State's fourth road game with South Alabama, Kentucky and that trip to Death Valley. While LSU boasts one of the toughest stadiums in the country to play in, it was an unranked Mississippi State team taking on a young LSU team in just the fourth game of the season. Now the Bulldogs are a national story,