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The College Football Report: Chalk & Chips

In a weekend lacking any marquee match-ups, let's look at some interesting trends among otherwise uninspiring games. If you aren't sold on the ho-hum nature of the weekend, check out this visual. That's right, only one of the seven experts polled by USA Today predicted an upset in #6 Georgia vs. #23 South Carolina (everyone else picked the Bulldogs) and one of seven selected Central Florida over #22 Missouri. Otherwise, it's chalk all the way.

Syracuse (-6.5, down from -9) vs. Central Michigan, 11 a.m.
We can't figure out why the money likes the Chippewas. Central Michigan boasts a not-so-illustrious 1-7 record as a home underdog since 2011. Oh, wait. The 'Cuse can't handle giving the points. Dating back to 2012, the Orange have a 4-7 record as a favorite.

Our pick: We'll follow the herd. Take the Chips and the points!

Iowa (-10) vs. Iowa State, 3:30 p.m.
The Cy-Hawk trophy is at stake on Saturday in the 62nd meeting between the Hawkeyes and Cyclones. Even the Iowa and Iowa State campus police have gotten involved this year. Let's do this.

Our pick: Iowa. Remember, the Hawkeyes were one of our picks among the "Teams we like" in the preseason. So they have that going for them, which is nice.

Purdue (+28) vs. Notre Dame, 6:30 p.m.
We see the Boilermakers covering an inflated line in the wake of a classic "not as good as they looked" (Notre Dame) and "not as bad as they seemed" (Michigan) result last weekend.

Our pick: Purdue.

Penn State (-3.5) at Rutgers, 7 p.m.
The NCAA lifted sanctions on Penn State on Monday, unexpectedly granting the Nittany Lions an early reprieve from a four-year bowl ban and five-year scholarship limitation imposed in 2012 following the horrific Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Effective immediately, Penn State regains bowl eligibility and a share of the Big Ten's revenue from bowl games. The timing is curious at best; the ruling comes two days following a disastrous day for the conference last Saturday and flies in the face of precedent. In 2011, the NCAA hit Ohio State with sanctions for far less severe infractions that the school is just now exiting. Also: Is it too cynical to note that the NCAA released the news in the midst of the Ray Rice/Roger Goodell firestorm?

The historical trends point in both directions for this game: Since 2011, Rutgers is 12-5 as an underdog and 16-5 straight-up at home. Yet the Scarlet Knights struggle to cover the number in the High Point Solutions Stadium, having gone just 2-7 against the spread in the last nine home matches. The Nittany Lions play well on the road, with a 15-8 overall record in the last 23 conference games, but just 1-4 straight up and against the number in the last five.

Our pick: Penn State, riding an emotional high. Also: Rutgers isn't very good.

#9 USC vs. Boston College (+17), 7 p.m.
We like the Golden Eagles in this one. BC is 9-4 against the line at home since 2012 and Southern Cal is only 8-19 as a road favorite since 2008. Boston College won't win, but both teams will focus on the run and 'SC may be flat following last weekend's slug fest with Stanford.

Our pick: We won't waste time watching the game, but we'll take the points.

Kentucky vs. Florida (-18)
Time to resurrect the always-bet-against-the-Kentucky-Wildcats-in-SEC-games strategy this week. Call it the Free Money Plan. As if the Gators needed extra motivation, Kentucky running back JoJo Kemp predicted an upset on Wednesday. We call this "bulletin board material" in the business.

Our pick: Florida.

The Big Ten vs. Everyone
Don't call it a comeback! No, really. Don't call it a comeback. We're calling for the Big Ten royalty to vent on a series of tomato cans on Saturday, as if that will distract us from the conference's woes. Michigan State would join in the fun, but has the week off.

Our picks:
* Kent State vs. #22 Ohio State (-32), 11 a.m.
* Miami-Ohio vs. Michigan (-31), 2:30 p.m.

Northwestern vs. Bye
The Wildcats can neither win nor lose - maybe the best NU fans can hope for this season.

Our pick: Toss-up.

The College Football Report Free Range Sacred Chicken
You can't cage him, you can only hope to contain him. Or something.

The Chicken's picks:

* Massachusetts vs. Vanderbilt (-16), 11 a.m.
* Louisville (-6.5) vs. Virginia, 11:30 a.m.
* Mississippi State vs. South Alabama (+14), 3 p.m.

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Mike Luce is our man on campus - every Friday and Monday. He welcomes your comments.

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