CFB Week 12 Best Bets: Bowl game motivation guides the way

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One game last week should have come with a warning label.

It sounds rudimentary, but no offensive system is sustainable without its star quarterback. That's why we cautioned in Week 11 not to back Virginia unless Brennan Armstrong was given a clean bill of health, which he wasn't. The +5.5 point spread grew to more than a touchdown Saturday, giving us all the warning we needed to step away. Just like that, the Saturday Seven became a Saturday Six.

While last week's 2-3-1 record was disappointing, we're still 10 games clear of .500 (42-32-2) as we look to find seven more valuable underdogs in Week 12.

No. 10 Wake Forest @ Clemson (-4.5, 56.5)

This game shows how difficult it is to find value late in the season compared to the beginning. We'd be getting close to a three-touchdown cushion with Wake Forest if this was played in September.

The Demon Deacons kept their ACC championship hopes alive last week, while Clemson beat up on UConn and still didn't cover, following a pair of fluky ATS wins before that. The Tigers are getting credit for this game being in Death Valley, but their three previous in-conference home wins over Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Florida State were far from impressive.

Sam Hartman and the Deacons' offense will be able to move the ball on Clemson, and while the Tigers should have success on offense as well, Wake Forest pulls out the win here. If not, it will be a close loss.

Pick: Wake Forest +4.5

Rutgers @ Penn State (-17.5, 47)

"Oh great, we're betting Rutgers this week," is a statement that often makes sense only with sarcastic italics. But it would have been an exclamation last week after the Scarlet Knights ran over Indiana, who has mailed it in.

Penn State lost a close one to Michigan last week, which means they're now slated for a mid-level bowl game and have nothing left to play for. Meanwhile, the Scarlet Knights are 5-5 and could use a win so that their bowl eligibility doesn't come down to next week's season finale.

We're getting 17 points with a team capable of moving the ball on the ground, facing a Nittany Lions team that lost at home to Illinois when all the Fighting Illini could do was run the football. Penn State is waiting for their postseason destination and not much else.

Pick: Rutgers +17.5

Illinois @ No. 17 Iowa (-12.5, 38.5)

Speaking of the Illini, they're double-digit 'dogs at Iowa. This play is less about Illinois than it is about the Hawkeyes.

I bet Iowa as favorites last week against Minnesota, and while they eventually covered thanks to a favorable game script, it was a horrible experience. The offense doesn't typically stretch out games, and the defense struggled to close out the Gophers last week. Last we saw of Illinois, they went to Minnesota and got a win of their own.

While Iowa is the better team, I'll take anything over double digits here as I don't believe the Hawkeyes can score more than 20 points, even with Illinois coach Bret Bielema missing the game.

Pick: Illinois +12

Washington @ Colorado (+6.5, 43)

The wildest finish last week from a spread standpoint came in Seattle. If Washington had any offense or decent quarterback play from Dylan Morris, the team would've won outright. Instead, they let a winnable game slip for the second straight week, which resulted in head coach Jimmy Lake thankfully being fired.

The rudderless Huskies go on the road in a tricky spot before returning home for next Friday's Apple Cup, and they are live to get upset by Colorado. I had high hopes for the Buffaloes last week, but a 20-10 halftime lead at UCLA fell apart in the second half. However, the shoddy Colorado defense won't be the usual liability against the hapless Huskies.

Pick: Colorado +6.5 (wait to see if +7 becomes available)

No. 6 Michigan @ Maryland (+15, 56.5)

This is a perfect situation. Michigan is going to College Park after a dramatic win against Penn State and with Ohio State on deck. Meanwhile, Maryland has been unlucky in failing to cover the last two weeks against teams similar to the Wolverines, matching Michigan State and Penn State yard-for-yard. That creates a little value over two full touchdowns.

Pick: Maryland +14.5

SMU @ No. 5 Cincinnati (-11.5, 65)

Is this the reckoning for Cincinnati? Everyone that hopes for their inclusion in the College Football Playoff wants the Bearcats to cover a spread. They haven't been able to do it against less dangerous teams, so I'll be taking SMU, who looked rejuvenated last week in an easy win over UCF.

Pick: SMU +11.5

Arizona State @ Oregon State (+3, 59)

We discussed Arizona State's close call in Seattle above - and a week later, they're back in the Pacific Northwest against a team that can actually score. The Sun Devils were dying to give away the Washington game, and I think they no-show against Oregon State. That means I'll be closing a round-robin moneyline parlay - which also includes Wake Forest, Colorado, SMU, and Louisiana - with the Beavers late on Saturday night.

Pick: Oregon State +3

Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.

CFB Week 12 Best Bets: Bowl game motivation guides the way
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