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Tue, Sept. 17

College football picks: LSU, Auburn back in contention

Auburn and LSU played the last weekend of September and both coaches were under pressure. The ugly game had a bizarre ending. The next day LSU fired coach Les Miles, while Auburn and Gus Malzahn were feeling fortunate to be 2-2.

Now it's November and both SEC West Tigers are in the race not only for a conference championship, but perhaps a spot in the College Football Playoff.

No. 15 LSU hosts No. 1 Alabama on Saturday for what amounts to an elimination game for the Tigers. Even with a victory, the Tigers would need help to win the West, an amazing prospect given the first month of the season.

Snapping a five-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide would do wonders for interim coach Ed Orgeron as he tries to convince LSU to make him coach-for-good.

No. 11 Auburn faces a much easier task Saturday with Vanderbilt at home. The Tigers have won five straight and if they get to the Iron Bowl without another loss, beating Alabama could earn them a trip to the SEC title game.

How things have changed.

The picks:

THURSDAY NIGHTERS

No. 12 Oklahoma (minus 21) at Iowa State - The Sooners are down to one scholarship tailback with Joe Mixon suspended and Samaje Perine injured ... OKLAHOMA 42-14.

UCLA (plus 12) at No. 21 Colorado - The Bruins' season is crumbling ... COLORADO 24-10.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

San Jose State (plus 29) at No. 24 Boise State - The Broncos bounce back from the first loss of the season ... BOISE STATE 45-14.

MARQUEE MATCHUPS

No. 1 Alabama (minus 7) at No. 15 LSU - The Tide held Leonard Fournette to 31 yards on 19 carries last season ... ALABAMA 28-23.

No. 9 Nebraska (minus 17) at No. 6 Ohio State - The Cornhuskers have not beaten a top-10 team on the road (0-9) since coach Tom Osborne led the Cornhuskers to a victory at Washington in 1997 ... OHIO STATE 31-20.

UPSET ALERT

No. 8 Wisconsin (minus 6½) at Northwestern - The Wildcats have won two straight against the Badgers and could find themselves in first place in the Big Ten West with another victory ... WISCONSIN 21-20.

No. 10 Florida (minus 5½) at Arkansas - The Razorbacks will have had two weeks to stew over getting blown out by Auburn ... ARKANSAS 28-24, UPSET SPECIAL.

PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS

Maryland (plus 31) at No. 2 Michigan - Jim Harbaugh faces former assistant DJ Durkin, who has done a solid job in his first season as Terps coach ... MICHIGAN 41-15.

Syracuse (plus 26½) at No. 3 Clemson - The worst defense in the ACC comes to Death Valley for Deshaun Watson to feast upon ... CLEMSON 52-21.

No. 4 Washington (minus 17) at California - If the Huskies were getting overconfident, the College Football Playoff selection committee likely knocked that right out of them ... WASHINGTON 49-28.

No. 5 Louisville (minus 25) at Boston College - The Cardinals need some blowouts ... LOUISVILLE 56-14.

No. 7 Texas A&M (minus 13½) at Mississippi State - The Aggies lost their last game in Starkville, but Dak Prescott doesn't player there anymore ... TEXAS A&M 38-21.

CONFERENCE CALLS

Vanderbilt (plus 26) at No. 11 Auburn - The downside of playing Vandy? If the Tigers were to get into a three-way tie in the SEC West, the record of their non-divisional opponents could come into play ... AUBURN 42-10, BEST BET.

TCU (plus 8) at No. 13 Baylor - The last three meetings include two decided by three points each and one — last season — went to overtime ... BAYLOR 35-28.

Kansas (plus 34½) at No. 14 West Virginia - The Jayhawks' Big 12 losing streak is at 17 games ... WEST VIRGINIA 45-7.

Georgia Tech (plus 10) at No. 18 North Carolina - The Tar Heels have won two straight high-scoring games against the Yellow Jackets; combined score 86-74 ... NORTH CAROLINA 43-27.

No. 19 Florida State (minus 5) at N.C. State - Seminoles RB Dalvin Cook is back in the Heisman Trophy discussion ... FLORIDA STATE 35-24.

Iowa (plus 7½) at No. 20 Penn State - If the Nittany Lions are truly on the upswing, this is a game they need to win ... PENN STATE 26-20.

No. 22 Oklahoma State (plus 3) at Kansas State - Wildcats Bill Snyder looking for victory No. 199 ... KANSAS STATE 24-21.

No. 23 Virginia Tech (plus 10½) at Duke - After years of futility against the Hokies, the Blue Devils have won two of the last three meetings and lost the other game by one point ... VIRGINIA TECH 31-23.

Arizona (plus 17) at No. 25 Washington State - After 0-2 start, the Cougars are the biggest threat to Washington in the Pac-12 North ... WASHINGTON STATE 42-24.

TWITTER REQUESTS

Texas (minus 3½) at Texas Tech — @4WallerOU - The Charlie Strong Referendum Tour pulls into Lubbock; the Longhorns had a six-game winning streak against the Red Raiders snapped last year in Austin ... TEXAS 50-42.

Georgia (minus 2) at Kentucky — @realBJP - The Wildcats have not beaten Georgia since 2009, but now is the season to do it ... KENTUCKY 28-23.

Notre Dame (minus 6½) vs. Navy in Jacksonville, Florida — @JeffiBelcher - The Irish didn't exactly look like a team about to salvage its season in beating Miami last week ... NOTRE DAME 35-31.

Oregon (plus 17) at USC — @mjbx101 - A couple of emerging quarterbacks in the Pac-12 in Sam Darnold of USC and Justin Herbert of Oregon ... USC 48-35.

RECORD: Last week 13-7 straight; 15-5 vs. points.

Season: 129-52; 83-93-3.

Upset specials: 2-7.

Best bets: 1-8.

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