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September 25, 2017

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College football by the odds: Week 6 Vegas outlook and picks



LSU coach Les Miles sings the school song after LSU defeated Towson 38-22 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Joining Miles are offensive tackle Vadal Alexander (78), defensive tackle Bennie Logan (18), and tight end Chase Clemen (88).

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The lines are getting tougher and the games are getting bigger.

The college football regular season must be approaching its midpoint. A handful of teams, sure enough, will have completed half of their schedule after Saturday with the majority of the pack close behind.

Week 6 brings undeniably the most exciting slate of games so far this season, with three matchups between top-ranked teams and several more closely matched conference tilts on tap.

A month’s worth of data on the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams benefits the sports books as their numbers become a tad sharper. Talking Points has already begun regressing, posting successive 2-4 weeks in the standard six pack of picks.

For the first time this season, we’re trying to battle back from an overall losing record. Check this week’s picks at the bottom of the page after the usual breakdown of two major games and quick slants on some other contests on the card.

No. 4 LSU -2.5 at No. 10 Florida; over/under: 42.5

12:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC

The Swamp is billed as an environment where the Gators consistently bite down and snap any foreign football program in half.

The only thing Florida has chomped a bite out of recently in its home stadium, however, is bettors’ bankrolls. Florida hasn’t posted a winning record at Ben Hill Griffith Stadium, The Swamp’s formal moniker, since 2008.

The Gators are a non-disastrous 9-11 against the spread at home in the span, but that mark fails to match considerable chatter The Swamp commands. This game marks only the third time in the last five years that the Gators are underdogs at home.

Florida failed to come close to covering in the last two, against Alabama and Florida State last year.

Additionally, Florida has lost to at least one SEC West division team every season since 1999.

But early money drove this line down over a key number from 4 to 2.5 this week. Sports books had LSU as high as a 7.5-point favorite in this game over the summer.

The Tigers are 2-2 against the spread this season, but looked incredibly mediocre in their last two games. They beat Towson 38-22 last week after escaping Auburn with a 12-10 win as 18-point favorites.

Florida, meanwhile, is off of a bye week and constantly improving with three straight covers. With running back Mike Gillislee already proven, quarterback Jeff Driskel has come around as serviceable with only one interception compared to four touchdowns.

LSU’s defense is one of the best in the country, though, and Driskel has seen nothing like it this year. Despite going 4-3 versus Florida since taking over at LSU, coach Les Miles is only 2-5 against the spread in the series.

No. 5 Georgia +1 at No. 6 South Carolina; over/under: 53.5

4:00 p.m., Saturday, ESPN

Precise junior quarterbacks and embarrassingly talented defenses lead these two SEC East powers into their annual showdown.

It’s Georgia’s Aaron Murray against South Carolina’s Connor Show on offense. It’s the Bulldogs future NFL standouts up front, Jarvis Jones and Jordan Jenkins, against South Carolina’s duo of the same caliber, Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, on defense.

Click to enlarge photo

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (11)is pursued by Buffalo linebacker Lee Skinner (36) during an NCAA college football game, in Athens, Ga., Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012.

Yes, the Bulldogs and the Gamecocks share more similarities than differences. Perhaps that explains why this spread has looked as unstable as South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s mental state during a game.

Sports books that posted game of the year lines this summer saw Georgia as a 2.5-point favorite. Upon reopening the spread earlier this week, oddsmakers flip-flopped to South Carolina’s side to the tune of three points.

Georgia support drove the number down from there. South Carolina has printed money in the series, covering the spread in six of the last eight years with one push.

Georgia won five of those eight meetings straight-up, but dropped the last two. Sticking with the last eight meetings, six of those went under the total.

Both defenses have underperformed dramatically this season, as evidenced by the two teams combined 8-2 record to the over.

Georgia, for example, gave up 44 points to the Tennessee Crumbling Tiers last week. South Carolina trailed the Kentucky Feeblecats 17-7 at halftime before coming back to shut them out in the final 30 minutes.

Murray and Shaw are capable of trading blows, but the defenses could just as easily find their footing in a big spot with an inflated total.

Quick slants

• Let’s not forget the final marquee game, where No. 11 Texas hosts No. 8 West Virginia. The Longhorns give the Mountaineers seven points in this first-ever meeting between new conference mates. Bettors can make strong cases for either team. How will West Virginia respond to its first road game of this magnitude? As the hype has risen on the Mountaineers, they’ve failed to cover three games in a row. Texas has cashed three straight weeks, but can the Longhorns defense shore up a few weaknesses to keep them out of a shootout they likely can’t win?

• The last time Ohio played Buffalo at home, oddsmakers favored the Bobcats by 16 points and they covered. This year’s Ohio team is arguably stronger than that 2010 version, while the 2012 Buffalo squad is probably worse than two years ago. The spread this time around is only 14 in favor of Ohio. Buffalo, in addition, stunned Ohio as 9-point underdogs last season. It was the kind of loss that stayed on the Bobcats minds for the last year.

Click to enlarge photo

Louisiana-Monroe head coach Todd Berry walks over to check on an injured player during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Auburn, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Auburn, Ala. Auburn won 31-28 in overtime.

• For the potential letdown spot of the week, look no further than Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Raiders beat Georgia Tech by three touchdowns as 27.5-point underdogs last week. Now they return home to face fellow undefeated against the spread squad Louisiana-Monroe, coached by former UNLV assistant Todd Berry. The Warhawks, of course, stunned Arkansas as 31-point underdogs this year and covered against Auburn and Baylor the next two weeks. A three-point spread against Middle Tennessee sounds like nothing compared to that feat.

• Wait a minute. Ole Miss, energized by new coach Hugh Freeze and improving quarterback Bo Wallace, hung with Alabama better than any other team so far this season in a 33-14 loss-but-cover in Tuscaloosa last week. Seven days later, the Rebels are getting 13 points at home against a Texas A&M team with a freshman quarterback — albeit a good one in Johnny Manziel — traveling in the SEC for the first time. Something seems off.

• One final note on the SEC and it’s on to another league. Missouri has looked overwhelmed in its new conference, making uncharacteristic mistakes in excess through two SEC games. It won’t help this week that star freshman receiver Daniel Gordon-Beckham is suspended and quarterback James Franklin is still playing tentatively from a shoulder injury. Vanderbilt, getting seven points at Missouri, is coming off of a bye week.

• Bettors should like Bob Stoops off of a Big 12 Conference loss. The Oklahoma coach is 16-5 against the spread in the situation. The Sooners, two weeks removed from losing to Kansas State as 14.5-point favorites, travel to face the Texas Tech Red Raiders giving 5.5 points. Texas Tech is undefeated against the spread this year and stunned Oklahoma with an outright victory as 29-point underdogs in Norman last year.

• Casey Pachall is apparently worth almost five points on the spread. When news broke that the TCU quarterback would miss his team’s game against Iowa State because of a suspension, the line went from -12 in TCU’s favor to -7.5. The Cyclones, 2-1 versus the number this season, have become a popular bet.

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Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein (7) prepares to throw during an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

• Rivalries don’t get much more lopsided than the Sunflower Showdown. For the uninitiated, that’s the annual game between Kansas State and Kansas. Wildcats coach Bill Snyder has won and covered 14 of the last 15 times he’s faced the Jayhawks. No. 7 Kansas State is a 24-point favorite in Manhattan, Kan., this year.

• Strength meets strength in Raleigh, N.C., where North Carolina State gets 17 points at home against No. 3 Florida State. The Seminoles are 6-3 against the spread as road favorites under coach Jimbo Fisher. Tom O’Brien has led the Wolfpack to a 10-5-1 against the spread record as home underdogs. NC State traditionally gives Florida State all it can handle, as the Wolfpack have covered in nine of the last 10 meetings.

• Oregon, the second best team in the nation, have disappointed bettors with a 1-3 record against the spread. But it’s important to notice which game they covered in — the most important one so far. Oregon blew out Arizona 49-0 in the lone contest it didn’t take its foot off the pedal. Another ranked Pac 10 Conference opponent, No. 24 Washington, should receive the same treatment. The Ducks status as 24.5-point favorites may look intimidating, but they could name their score against the majority of opponents if they cared to.

Six pack of picks: Ole Miss +13, North Carolina State +17, Ohio -14, LSU -2.5, Oregon -24.5, Vanderbilt +7

Year to date record: 17-18

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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