LAS VEGAS — Two years after winning a national championship, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron is headed for the unemployment line. His job in Baton Rouge is not done, however, and how he will go out is still to be determined.
Orgeron was not fired, technically, when the school and the barrel-chested, folksy 60-year-old coach reached a separation agreement in mid-October. He’s coaching to the end of the season and will receive a $17 million buyout, so shed no tears for the rich guy. But Orgeron’s home finale Saturday will be an emotional occasion.
The Tigers (5-6) hope to avoid their first losing season since 1999 while sending Orgeron out with a win against Texas A&M, which has not defeated a quality opponent on the road all season. The stage is set for an upset, or at least a dramatic game that goes to the wire.
LSU’s defense has improved in November, and quarterback Max Johnson appears healthy and ready to fire. The Tigers’ past two SEC games resulted in an overtime loss to Arkansas and a six-point loss at Alabama. Expect a low-scoring, tight game on a memorable night in Baton Rouge.
The pick: LSU +6.5
Penn State (-3) over MICHIGAN STATE
Remember the Heisman Trophy campaign for Spartans running back Kenneth Walker? It was fun while it lasted. Walker had six carries for 25 yards last week in a 56-7 loss at Ohio State and now is limited by an ankle injury.
The Nittany Lions have the better defense and a veteran quarterback, Sean Clifford, who can exploit Michigan State’s pass defense, which ranks as the worst in college football.
Each head coach just received a mind-boggling new contract — Penn State signed James Franklin for 10 more years and $75 million and Michigan State handed Mel Tucker a 10-year, $95 million deal. Franklin’s team is healthier and he should win this duel of overpaid coaches.
NORTH TEXAS (+10) over Texas-San Antonio
The Mean Green (5-6) will be motivated by the opportunity to attain bowl eligibility. North Texas has won and covered four straight games behind quarterback Austin Aune and running back DeAndre Torrey. The Roadrunners (11-0) peaked early in the season and should be on upset alert.
Notre Dame (-20.5) over STANFORD
Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly should be thinking about style points as his team sneaks into the College Football Playoff picture. Notre Dame’s defense allowed a total of nine points in the past three games, and the Cardinal offense has been anemic.
Stanford, 0-6 straight up and ATS since upsetting Oregon on Oct. 2, just got crushed 41-11 by a pedestrian California team. Notre Dame has 41 consecutive wins against unranked opponents and 39 straight wins as a favorite.
Last week: 3-1 Utah (W), Wake Forest (L), UCLA (W), Hawaii (W)
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