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Week 11 college football picks: Syracuse could shock Notre Dame

I’ve heard several college football media types complain about the lack of chaos this season.

It isn’t a surprise, as Alabama and Clemson have met in January for three consecutive years, and may play again in a few months.

Oklahoma and Ohio State are still in the hunt. Georgia looks like a perennial national title contender. And old-school programs like Michigan and Notre Dame are good again.

This is also a week that many call boring, with SEC teams facing Group of 5 or FCS programs before Rivalry Week.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if this was the week with the chaos?

Notre Dame is a 10.5-point favorite against Syracuse. Notre Dame is 10-0 and two wins from a spot in the College Football Playoff. But it has played four one-possession games this year against Michigan, Ball State, Vanderbilt and Pitt. And it needed a late touchdown to prevent another one-possession game at Northwestern.

The Fighting Irish are a balanced, impressive team. They’ve also beat up on programs having terrible years like Wake Forest (5 losses), Navy (8 losses), Stanford (4 losses), Virginia Tech (5 losses) and Florida State (6 losses).

Now they’re playing in a weird neutral-site venue (Yankee Stadium) against a Syracuse team that’s 7-3 against the spread and 8-2 overall. The two losses came by a combined 11 points against likely ACC Championship Game participants Clemson and Pitt.

Dino Babers is 8-3 ATS as an underdog outside of his home stadium at Syracuse. The Orange also are No. 1 in the nation in overall special teams.

I like Syracuse +10.5, and I think the Orange have a shot to pull the outright upset.

UAB +17 over TEXAS A&M: The Blazers lost 36-7 at Florida last year, when the Gators were 3-6 entering the game and without a head coach. But I think this year will be different. UAB (9-1) is the best team in Conference USA, already earning a spot in the title game. UAB has been excellent at getting to the opposing quarterback and generating big plays in the passing game. Combine those things with the fact that Texas A&M’s offense has been mediocre lately, and I don’t think the Aggies are going to manhandle the Blazers quite the same way that the Gators did. I expect a score like Texas A&M 31, UAB 17, and I’ll take the 17 points.

Middle Tennessee State +16 over KENTUCKY: The Blue Raiders are no strangers to SEC competition. And MTSU has not fared well in such games, losing 28-6, 35-7 and 49-7 since the beginning of last season. But this is a veteran group that has covered four of its last five games ATS, and is 9-1 against non-SEC teams dating back to the end of last season. Meanwhile, Kentucky has not scored more than 17 points in a game since Sept. 29. The Wildcats are 2-3 in their last five games, with a 14-7 win at home against Vanderbilt and a miracle 15-14 win at Missouri. Kentucky lost 24-7 to Tennessee last week after Georgia destroyed its SEC East title hopes. I think a down UK team slogs to a win while allowing 10 to 14 points. I don’t trust Kentucky’s offense laying two scores.

The Citadel-Alabama under 61.5: The Crimson Tide have not played a triple-option offense yet this season. But unlike the infamous Tin Horn game against Georgia Southern in 2011, Alabama’s defense is not built on brawn like it was with Josh Chapman, Dont’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and Mark Barron. The Citadel completed an impressive comeback against Samford last week that ruined the Bulldogs’ chances of making the FCS playoffs, but will have a tough time moving the ball against an Alabama defense gunning for a third consecutive shutout. Meanwhile, Nick Saban already declared that Tua Tagovailoa will play. But how much? Jalen Hurts played four series last year against Mercer before giving way to Tagovailoa. We probably won’t see Tagovailoa after halftime, and he may not play the entire first half. If Hurts’ ankle prevents him from playing in a third consecutive game, we’ll see a lot of Mac Jones. I think these teams go under the posted number.

UMass-Georgia over 65.5: UMass has one of the worst defenses in the nation, which won’t be good against a healthy D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield. UMass has been explosive on offense. Receiver Andy Isabella has 1,479 receiving yards this season, most in the nation by 132 yards. Georgia has not been great at pressuring opposing QBs, so UMass should find a way to score a time or two, especially in the second half. Georgia probably has spent time in practice on Georgia Tech and the triple-option this week as well. I expect a ton of points in this one, and I like the over.

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