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September 15, 2019

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College football by the odds: Vegas picks and preview of Week 13

Meyer frustration


Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer looks on during a break in the second half of an NCAA football game against Maryland, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, in College Park, Md. Ohio State won 52-51 in overtime.

Fifty-one is the number of the week as it pertains to college football betting.

Ohio State will see an end to its streak of being favored in 51 straight games, dating back to the 2014-2015 College Football Playoff, come Saturday morning when it hosts Michigan as 3.5-point underdogs. Alabama will step into the distinction as the team that’s been favored in the most consecutive games as it appropriately lays points for the 51st straight time as 24.5-point favorites over Auburn.

The Buckeyes will try to beat the odds to prolong a couple other streaks. They’ve beaten the Wolverines six straight times and in eight consecutive tries in Columbus, Ohio.

Ohio State is one victory away from tying its school record of consecutive victories in the rivalry series some consider the best in college football. And a loss this year would be particularly damaging to Michigan, as it would surrender its current spot in next week’s Big Ten Championship Game and perhaps the College Football Playoff to Ohio State.

The stakes and history have Michigan at Ohio State as far and away the most visible game of the final full week of college football, but there are other contests with championship implications.

Washington State at Washington and West Virginia at Oklahoma will also both directly determine a team that will play in a conference championship game next week. And those are just the examples in the Power Five conferences; several other games in the Group of Five carry major impact.

Talking Points looks to continue on a recent hot streak picking all of the games. The blog’s record on the year now stands at 314-295-11 — 34-26-1 on plays, 86-77-4 on leans and 194-178-6 on guesses — after going 34-19-1 in Week 12.

Read below for Talking Points’ picks on all the Week 13 games. Games are separated by conference, listed in rough confidence order and labeled in three categories. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side.


Pittsburgh plus-4.5 at Miami, over/under: 48. There’s a bit of the “don’t say it,” twitter meme warning here considering Miami has killed Talking Points all year and Pittsburgh has covered six in a row but this looks like too strong of a spot to pass up. Miami hasn’t played nearly as poorly as its 6-5 straight-up record makes it look, and still has the talent advantage that made it a 14-point favorite in this spot before the season. Play: Miami minus-4.5.

North Carolina State minus-7 at North Carolina, over/under: 60.5. The Wolfpack quietly haven’t been much better than the Tar Heels over the second half of the season, since the latter got their full complement of players back. NC State has won one more game outright but both are 2-3 against the spread, with the visitors’ plus-15 point differential not so far removed from the former’s minus-10 to merit a touchdown spread. Lean: North Carolina plus-7.5

South Carolina plus-25.5 at Clemson, over/under: 58.5. Since quarterback Trevor Lawrence returned from injury, Clemson has won by an average of 42 points per game, and outgained opponents by an average of 292 yards per game and 4.2 yards per play. There’s absolutely no reason to stand in the way of the Tigers right now. Lean: Clemson minus-25.5.

Syracuse plus-7 at Boston College, over/under: 57.5. Don’t mind buying low on Syracuse off of its embarrassing 36-3 setback to Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium. Boston College’s week 12 loss, 22-21 to Florida State where it was outgained by 1.5 yards per play, might have been even worse. Lean: Syracuse plus-7.

Florida minus-5.5 at Florida State, over/under: 52. Bookmakers made a mistake here, as Florida opened as low as a 3-point favorite before the spread immediately swelled. There still might be value on anything up to 7 points. Florida has been better than Florida State in almost every area this season. Lean: Florida minus-5.5.

Kentucky minus-17.5 at Louisville, over/under: 51.5. Kentucky has put together a banner year, and yet still has only beaten one Football Bowl Subdivision team by more than 17 points. The Wildcats simply don’t score consistently enough to lay big numbers. Guess: Louisville plus-17.5.

Virginia minus-4 at Virginia Tech, over/under: 50. Virginia has neither beaten nor been favored over Virginia Tech in 14 years. Being asked to suddenly lay points on the road to the Hokies is a big ask for the Cavaliers regardless of how much better it’s been this season. Guess: Virginia Tech plus-4.

Wake Forest plus-12.5 at Duke, over/under: 58.5. Spread looks a little high with these programs having played each other exceptionally close in each of the last three years. The Demon Deacons will hold nothing back, needing one last win to become bowl eligible. Guess: Wake Forest plus-12.5.

Big Ten

Illinois plus-18 at Northwestern, over/under: 58. Forget last week’s 63-0 loss to Iowa; for most of the season, Illinois has been able to score on anyone. The Illini should get back to their old ways against the Wildcats, as the home team’s focus will be coming out intact for next week’s Big Ten Championship Game. Lean: Illinois plus-18.

Rutgers plus-27 at Michigan State, over/under: 37. Michigan State hasn’t scored 27 points since September, let alone beat an opponent by that much. Rutgers has covered in four straight, and been generally more competitive this season despite its 1-10 straight-up record. Lean: Rutgers plus-27.

Michigan minus-3.5 at Ohio State, over/under: 57. The Wolverines haven’t won at Ohio Stadium in 18 years, but that’s no reason not to back them in a year where they have the clearly superior team in the rivalry. In fact, their historic struggles might be beneficial to bettors as it’s one of the factors weighing this spread down a couple points below where it should be. Lean: Michigan minus-3.5.

Minnesota plus-10 at Wisconsin, over/under: 54. Minnesota hasn’t stayed within single digits of its Paul Bunyan’s Axe rival in nine years, and the gap between the teams quietly looks as large as ever this season. The Golden Gophers have given up a mediocre 4.1 yards per rush on the season, which means they could get torn apart by Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor for the second straight year. Lean: Wisconsin minus-10.

Maryland plus-13.5 at Penn State, over/under: 53.5. Almost all of the Terrapins’ success this year has come out of explosive plays — a category in which they rank second in the nation by S&P+ ratings — but the Nittany Lions have consistently limited such breakouts. Not much value to be found, but Penn State should be a full two-touchdown favorite. Guess: Penn State minus-13.5.

Nebraska plus-10 at Iowa, over/under: 53. It’s all come together for the Cornhuskers, which have now gone 4-1 straight-up and against the spread in their last five games. There’s no reason to believe they’ll have a big drop-off in their final game of the year. Guess: Nebraska plus-10.

Purdue minus-4 at Indiana, over/under: 64.5. This is a totally fair spread, and yet 90 percent of the action has come in on the Boilermakers. Would prefer to go contrarian in a game where there doesn’t appear to be value on either side. Guess: Indiana plus-4.

Big 12

Oklahoma minus-2 at West Virginia, over/under: 84. The Sooners have regressed the last three weeks — beating Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech by a combined 21 points — which is perfect. That’s made the betting market stray from the Sooners, creating a relative buy-low opportunity with a team that’s been nothing short of historically efficient on offense in averaging 8.8 yards per play against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. Play: Oklahoma minus-2.

Oklahoma State minus-5.5 at TCU, over/under: 56.5. Sure, Oklahoma State has beaten West Virginia and only lost to Oklahoma by a point in the last two weeks. But the Cowboys have also failed to crack 20 points earlier in the year against the likes of Kansas State and Texas Tech. Not interested in paying a premium to back a team at its market peak. Lean: TCU plus-5.5.

Texas minus-15.5 at Kansas, over/under: 51.5. Kansas hasn’t quit on departing coach David Beaty, as it’s covered by more than touchdown in both games since it was announced he wouldn’t be retained. Texas is severely banged up, with quarterback Sam Ehlinger at the top of the injury list and questionable to play, and could have trouble with a quietly competent opponent. Guess: Kansas plus-15.5.

Kansas State plus-13.5 at Iowa State, over/under: 40.5. Kansas State needs this win to become bowl eligible, and based on its history as an underdog, it would be hard to count it out. The Wildcats have lived up to the program’s reputation this season, going 6-2 against the spread when taking points. Guess: Kansas State plus-13.5.

Baylor plus-6.5 vs. Texas Tech in Arlington, Texas, over/under: 65. Difficult to weigh in on this one without clarification on Texas Tech’s quarterback situation. The Red Raiders’ offense has been affected enough by losing starting quarterback Alan Bowman, but now could also be without backup Jett Duffey in a game both teams need to win to become bowl eligible. Guess: Baylor plus-6.5.


Washington plus-3 at Washington State, over/under: 49. Washington has underachieved; Washington State has overachieved. Pair the two together, and there’s an incredible amount of value on the Apple Cup. There’s been an inexplicable 17-point swing in the betting market, as the Huskies were a 14-point favorite in game of the year lines in September. Play: Washington plus-3.

Notre Dame minus-11 at USC, over/under: 54. The Irish went from getting very little of the betting action last week against Syracuse — a game it won 36-3 as 10-point favorites — to all of it ahead of their regular-season finale against the Trojans. But given the travel, implications and even talent, this is a much more difficult task. USC has underperformed and needs this win to become bowl eligible, but its last three losses have all come by a touchdown or less. The Trojans remain a tough out. Play: USC plus-11.

BYU plus-11.5 at Utah, over/under: 44. Yes, heated rivalries like this one can make for crazy results. That’s not enough of an excuse to deflate a spread to this extent. The Utes have been more efficient on both sides of the ball against a tougher schedule and should be laying more than two touchdowns. Lean: Utah minus-11.5.

Arizona State minus-2 at Arizona, over/under: 64.5. Last week was a microcosm of Arizona State’s season in that it covered and nearly beat Oregon 31-29 as 3-point underdogs despite having no business doing so. The Sundevils recovered six of the game’s seven fumbles, continuing to ride turnover luck that’s sure to regress to overachieving in coach Herm Edwards’ first year. Lean: Arizona plus-2.

Stanford minus-6.5 at UCLA, over/under: 57.5. Must be intrigued by the spot for Stanford, which got an unexpected chance to carve into its lengthy injury list when last week’s game with California was postponed due to wildfires. Hard to count on UCLA putting forth the same all-out effort it did in a 34-27 win over rival USC last week as 2.5-point underdogs. Guess: Stanford minus-6.5.

Oregon minus-16.5 at Oregon State, over/under: 70. Not quite enough points to entice support on the Beavers. The rosters aren’t drastically different from a year ago when the Ducks decimated the Beavers 69-10 as 26-point favorites. Guess: Oregon minus-16.5.

Colorado plus-12.5 at California, over/under: 43. Don’t mind paying a little higher price than expected on California given the instability at Colorado. Buffaloes coach Mike MacIntyre was let go last week, leaving a lot of uncertainty for how they will play to finish off the season. Guess: California minus-12.5.


Georgia Tech plus-17 at Georgia, over/under: 59.5. No one’s paying attention to the Bulldogs despite the fact that it’s blown out four straight opponents to get up to No. 3 in the nation by Football Outsiders’ F/+ ratings. They had a glorified bye last week, beating Massachusetts 66-27 as 41-point favorites, to prepare for the Yellow Jackets, which endured a grueling overtime game with Virginia that they were extremely fortunate to win 30-27 as 6-point favorites. Lean: Georgia minus-17.

Tennessee plus-3.5 at Vanderbilt, over/under: 50.5. This line feels too reactive to recent results, as Tennessee would have likely been a favorite if it hadn’t gotten clobbered 50-17 as 5.5-point underdogs to Missouri while Vanderbilt won 36-29 in overtime against Ole Miss as 3-point favorites. Vanderbilt is probably the rightful favorite, but by more than a field goal feels like a stretch. Guess: Tennessee plus-3.5.

LSU plus-3 at Texas A&M, over/under: 47. Teams look fairly even with LSU having outperformed Texas A&M by .9 yards per play on defense, but been .7 yards per play worse on offense. Taking points, therefore, must be the play with an added bonus coming in this being the type of spot LSU has thrived in all season. Guess: LSU plus-3.

Arkansas plus-23.5 at Missouri, over/under: 61.5. Yes, Missouri notched its biggest win of the season last week by beating Tennessee 50-17 as 6-point underdogs but it was also one week removed from being lucky to escape Vanderbilt 33-28 as 13.5-point favorites. The Tigers are extremely inconsistent, a quality that can be costly for a team being asked to lay a big number. Guess: Arkansas plus-23.5.

Auburn minus-24.5 at Alabama, over/under: 52.5. There’s just no draw to betting against a team that’s won by an average of more than 35 points per game this season. Unfortunately, there’s also no value in betting on them at undeniably inflated prices. Guess: Auburn plus-24.5.


Marshall minus-1.5 at Florida International, over/under: 52.5. Florida International has exceeded expectations all season but it’s over/under win total preseason was just five victories for a reason — the Panthers don’t have much talent. They’re at a major disadvantage in that department against the Thundering Herd. Lean: Marshall minus-1.5.

SMU minus-1.5 at Tulsa, over/under: 57.5. Effort and execution have been recurring issues for the Golden Hurricanes, which only have one win against FBS competition this year and that came against lowly Connecticut. Hard to expect much for them while being relegated to the role of spoiler as SMU fights for bowl eligibility. Guess: SMU minus-1.5.

Western Kentucky plus-11 at Louisiana Tech, over/under: 48.5. This might be a fair spread if Western Kentucky coach Mike Sanford was surely on his way out with the team having quit around him. There was no evidence of that last week, though, as the Hilltoppers rallied around Sanford as he fights for his job in a 40-16 win over UTEP as 6.5-point favorites. Guess: Western Kentucky plus-11.

Navy plus-7 at Tulane, over/under: 53.5. From a historical perspective, this is a tough spot for the Green Wave as they haven’t beaten the Midshipmen since 2004 or been favored in the series since 2002. Based on this year, however, they’ve been more efficient on both sides of the ball and should be able to put this one away. Guess: Tulane minus-7.

East Carolina plus-19.5 at Cincinnati, over/under: 52. Worry about how Cincinnati responds to losing a game it put so much emphasis into — last week’s 38-13 setback at UCF as 7.5-point underdogs. That may sound like grasping at straws, but there aren’t many other angles in a game where the line looks right. Guess: East Carolina plus-19.5.

Houston plus-7 at Memphis, over/under: 76.5. Number is inflated by a couple points after the Cougars lost quarterback D’Eriq King for the year in last week’s 48-17 victory over Tulane, but that might not be necessary. Freshman replacement Clayton Tune was a recruiting coup for the Cougars, and he’s shown why in throwing for 7.3 yards per attempt with four touchdowns to one interception this season. Guess: Houston plus-7.

Central Florida minus-14.5 at South Florida, over/under: 68. A couple sports books have added the half-point hook, which makes backing the Bulls a little more comfortable. This will be the most significant game of the year for South Florida, while Central Florida is coming off of the contest — a win over Cincinnati to clinch the AAC East title — it would have considered as such. Guess: South Florida plus-14.5.

Temple minus-29.5 at Connecticut, over/under: 67. Sports bettors should bemoan the end of the college football regular season if for no other reason but losing the weekly opportunity to bet against UConn. The Huskies are 2-9 against the spread and solidified as the worst team in the nation. Here’s one last fade for old time’s sake. Guess: Temple minus-29.5.


North Texas minus-22.5 at UTSA, over/under: 51.5. It’s been a horrendous year for the Roadrunners, which have been outgained by at least 200 yards in six of their 11 games. That puts them as the third-worst team in the country by Football Outsiders’ F/+ ratings, which inconveniently calculate North Texas as the toughest team UTSA has played all year — coming in at No. 35. Lean: North Texas minus-22.5.

Charlotte plus-17 at Florida Atlantic, over/under: 54.5. Charlotte’s lack of talent may have caught up to it the last couple weeks as the 49ers have lost two consecutive both straight-up and against the spread. Talent is at no shortage by Conference USA standards under Lane Kiffin at Florida Atlantic, which needs one more win to become bowl eligible. Guess: Florida Atlantic minus-17.

Old Dominion minus-8 at Rice, over/under: 63. Must think the Monarchs are in a better position to succeed considering it’s coming off of a virtual exhibition in a 77-14 win over Virginia Military Institute as 31-point favorites last week. The Owls, on the other hand, were brutalized 42-10 as 41-point underdogs to LSU. Guess: Old Dominion minus-8.

UAB minus-2 at Middle Tennessee State, over/under: 52. The Blue Raiders’ most dependable offense has come from its passing game, but the Blazers have one of the best pass defenses of any Group of Five conference team. Middle Tennessee State needs a win for a chance to reach the CUSA title game, but it’s not as if UAB is without motivation as it can clinch home field for the title game with a win. Guess: UAB minus-2.

Southern Miss minus-13 at UTEP, over/under: 44.5. No value on either side here, but prefer to be with the team that has something to play for. The Golden Eagles need a win to reach bowl eligibility, while the Miners have already appeared to pack it in for the year with back-to-back blowout losses. Guess: Southern Miss minus-13.


New Mexico State plus-9 at Liberty, over/under: 73. This is the rare home-and-home series after these schools struggled to fill out a whole schedule. New Mexico State may deserve a little more credit for racking up nearly 600 yards in a 49-41 victory at Liberty as 3.5-point underdogs last month. Guess: New Mexico State plus-9.


Buffalo minus-14 at Bowling Green, over/under: 60.5. Expecting the Bulls to be at their best considering they must win here to clinch a spot in the MAC Championship Game. Bowling Green has conveniently won and covered two in a row to pull its power rating up from rock bottom and make the point spread manageable for Buffalo. Lean: Buffalo minus-14.

Eastern Michigan minus-13 at Kent State, over/under: 52. Almost impossible to make the number high enough to back Kent State, which has lost by an average of 27 points per game in five contests against teams with winning records this year. Eastern Michigan sits at 6-5 straight-up, 7-5 against the spread, and has been one of the MAC’s strongest teams this year. Guess: Eastern Michigan minus-13.

Akron plus-23.5 at Ohio, over/under: 55. The Bobcats may have boosted this point spread by a field goal or more with their best performance of the season in a 52-17 victory over Buffalo as 2.5-point favorites last week. It’s not worth it to pay an inflated price with a team that’s had its share of troubles on the year. Guess: Akron plus-23.5.

Central Michigan plus-18.5 at Toledo, over/under: 53. Central Michigan has gone 1-3 in games decided by a touchdown or less, so it might not be quite as terrible as its 1-11 straight-up record indicates. More importantly, Toledo has been one of the most underwhelming teams in the nation after coming into the season as a big favorite to win the MAC and doesn’t deserve to lay this high of a number. Guess: Central Michigan plus-18.5.


Utah State plus-3 at Boise State, over/under: 67. Not a good matchup for Boise State, which hasn’t been as strong as usual in the middle of its defense. Utah State running backs Darwin Thompson and Gerold Bright have combined to average nearly 7 yards per carry, as the consistently undervalued Aggies have covered in all but two games. Play: Utah State plus-3.

UNR minus-13.5 at UNLV, over/under: 62.5. This is the biggest point-spread swing of the week when looking back to September, as the Rebels were 4.5-point favorites over the Wolf Pack before conference play began. They’ve gotten healthier and should manage an all-out effort against their archrivals. Lean: UNLV plus-13.5.

Hawaii plus-17 at San Diego State, over/under: 54. Always weary by its preponderance of air miles by this point of the season, Hawaii will likely find it next to impossible to score on a San Diego State defense giving up 4.6 yards per play. Hawaii also has a vulnerable rush defense that could play to the benefit of San Diego State running back Juwan Washington. Lean: San Diego State minus-17.

Wyoming minus-6.5 at New Mexico, over/under: 45. The situational coaching edge alone might be worth close to a touchdown for the Cowboys. Wyoming’s Craig Bohl is fighting for a bowl bid after improbably winning three straight, while New Mexico’s Bob Davie is on his way out of Albuquerque, N.M, after losing six straight. Guess: Wyoming minus-6.5.

San Jose State plus-33 at Fresno State, over/under: 49.5. Look for Fresno State to get up big early, and then shift its focus towards resting for next week’s Mountain West Conference championship game. That means, worst-case scenario, San Jose State will have backdoor covering possibilities. Guess: San Jose State plus-33.


Arkansas State minus-11.5 at Texas State, over/under: 52.5. Texas State players were reportedly revolted when coach Everett Withers was fired earlier this week. There’s no telling what kind of effort the Bobcats will give, while the Red Wolves are guaranteed to play with purpose as they can still reach the Sun Belt Championship Game with a victory and a Lafayette win over Monroe. Lean: Arkansas State minus-11.5.

Louisiana-Lafayette plus-3.5 at Louisiana-Monroe, over/under: 72. The Rajun Cajuns have played the much tougher schedule, as it’s ranked No. 38 in the nation by Football Outsiders’ F/+ ratings as opposed to the Warhawks’ No. 108 rank. And yet, Lafayette has a minus-7 point differential on the year to Monroe’s minus-59. Lean: Louisiana-Lafayette plus-3.5.

Coastal Carolina minus-2 at South Alabama, over/under: 58. Game looks like a total coin flip, with the Chanticleers .5 yards per play better on offense and the Jaguars .5 yards better per play on defense. Taking the points, therefore, becomes the only option. Guess: South Alabama plus-2.

Troy plus-11 at Appalachian State, over/under: 48. These two teams graded as remarkably even in power ratings coming into the season. Although Appalachian State has been more impressive, Troy hasn’t done anything to merit a downgrade. They’re the two best teams in the Sun Belt, and a double-digit line is high for a game between two teams that strong. Guess: Troy plus-11.

Georgia Southern minus-11 at Georgia State, over/under: 58.5. Not even a meeting with an archrival is likely to dig Georgia State out of its current hole, as it’s lost six consecutive both straight-up and against the spread. The Eagles might be chomping at the bit to kick the Panthers while they’re down and right a three-year losing streak in the series. Guess: Georgia Southern minus-11.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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