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Chalk Talk: Staff picks for big favorites in Week 13

Dorian Thompson-Robinson

Dorian Thompson-Robinson

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

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Favorites come in all shapes and sizes in college football. While double-digit spreads are a relative rarity at the pro level, those numbers can vary wildly on Saturdays as teams dip in and out of conference play or step up (or down) a level in competition.

And while it’s often easy to be tempted to take a handful of points and hope for the best with a significant underdog, sometimes the favorites are favored for a reason. Each week our College Football staff will share their picks for which “chalk” favorite of 10 points or more will both win and, more importantly, cover the spread. (Note: We look at underdogs as well.)

Here are our staff’s picks for Week 13, the final week of the regular season, with some big numbers spread all across the country:

Vaughn Dalzell (@VMoneySports): UNLV (-12) over Nevada

Nevada failed to cover yet again last week, and they are now 1-8 ATS in their past nine games.

The Wolfpack lost by 27 and 38 points in the past two games and now end the season on the road at UNLV. The Rebels have lost six straight games and would love to end the season on a high note at home.

UNLV has lost by 6, 4, 7 and 6 points in Doug Brumfield‘s four losses this season and 52, 58, 34 and 31 points in the four wins with him under center. Nevada will not be able to score that many points on UNLV, and if the Rebels keep the Wolfpack under 21 points they should cover in their home finale.

UNLV was a 19-point underdog last year at Nevada, and the Wolfpack won by 19. The spread is now UNLV -12 at home. This line is all over the Rebels.

(YTD Record: 3-8 ATS)

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Eric Froton (@CFFroton): Iowa (-10) over Nebraska

The Friday kickoff caused FanDuel to list this at -3 on Saturday at 7:07 p.m., with the line slowly ticking up to -7.5 by the end of the night. That upward trend continued on Sunday, with the line settling at the current -10 in the early afternoon. The Hawkeyes are once again defense-oriented, ranking first overall in defensive performance and third in suppressing explosiveness. They’ve been a shut-down unit in conference play as well, having allowed more than 13 points in zero of their seven Big Ten games that were not against the B10 powerhouses (Michigan and Ohio State). Additionally, Iowa is on an impressive four-game win streak against Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin and Minnesota, with three of those decisions coming by 14 points or more. OC Brian Ferentz has been much maligned for his lackluster playcalling, with the run game churning out just 2.8 YPC, the offense ranking 129th overall and now missing star tight end Sam LaPorta.

Nebraska is coming off a tight 15-14 loss to Wisconsin and is riding a five-game losing streak, with their only FBS victories coming against Indiana and Rutgers in a game where they only had a 42% win expectancy. NU will have QB Casey Thompson under center after missing time with injury, which is vital because without Thompson their 42nd-ranked passing attack absolutely craters. Even with their starting QB, I cannot envision Nebraska being able to advance the ball forward on a consistent basis against the Hawkeyes given their troubles rushing against strong defensive fronts which will force them into taking chances through the air. That could be disastrous against Iowa’s ball-hawking secondary.

These two teams are a combined 16-6 to the Under thanks to a pair of listless offenses and the Hawkeyes’ lockdown D. I’m backing Iowa -10 and the Under 38.5, with this Nebraska team ready to call it a year.

(YTD Record: 6-5-1 ATS)

Editor’s Note: Looking for a deeper dive into Week 13 in College Football from a Bettor’s Perspective. Join NBC’s team of college analysts at 11A Eastern both Friday and Saturday for an NCAA College Football Betting Preview Q&A on the NBC Sports YouTube page.

Brad Thomas (@MrBradThomas): UCLA (-10) over Cal

Despite losing to USC and not being eligible for the Pac-12 title game, Chip Kelly and the UCLA Bruins should be proud of this season. They have racked up eight wins and offer a squad that has shown promise all season. This week, they are in line for a massive bounce-back opportunity against the struggling Cal Bears. In fairness to Cal, they were able to snap a six-game losing streak with the 27-20 win over rival Stanford. Unfortunately, they aren’t playing Stanford again this weekend.

Led by QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson and RB Zach Charbonnet, UCLA is averaging 39.5 points per game. Cal’s biggest issue all season has been their offensive production. Only averaging 29 points per game in the Pac-12 often leaves you in the dust. At one point, they could hang their hat on their defense. But the Golden Bears are 63rd in the nation in defense FEI, and their biggest issue is their inability to get off the field.

UCLA should be able to get down the field often, allowing them to score a lot and cover the -10 spread.

(YTD Record: 7-4 ATS)