Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 | 2 a.m.
Some weeks of college football, bettors are forced to scrape the bottom of the board to find edges. Other weeks, the sides that stick out are right at the top, aligning with the games garnering all the interest.
Last week fit the former description for me. This week is more to the latter.
With bets on a handful of the biggest games, Week 7 should be a lot of fun. I’ve got plays in such premier contests as Florida at LSU, Penn State at Iowa and Oklahoma vs. Texas, quite an upgrade from losing out after backing the likes of Rutgers and Western Michigan last week.
Not that Week 6 was all bad. I went 28-18-2 picking every game, including eking out a 4-4 on plays despite the two aforementioned mistakes, to bring the season total to 161-120-11 — 27-23-2 on plays, 46-22-2 on leans and 88-75-6 on guesses — following three early games this week.
But if the quality of the matchups is any indication, Week 7 should be more enjoyable.
Read below for picks on every Football Bowl Subdivision games this weekend, separated by conference and labeled with three different confidence categories. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side.
BYU plus-6 at South Florida, over/under: 50.5. These teams look evenly matched, meaning there’s no reason for the home team to be getting any points, let alone a touchdown. The two losses that buried South Florida by public perception — 49-0 to Wisconsin and 48-21 to SMU — don’t look so disastrous in hindsight with both opponents playing as well as anyone in the nation. Play: South Florida plus-6.
Cincinnati minus-7.5 at Houston, over/under: 51.5. The Cougars put on an inspired effort in a 46-25 win over North Texas as 7.5-point underdogs in the first game after D’Andre King and Keith Corbin announced their intentions to sit out the rest of the season. But it would be foolish to assume that means they’ll continue to produce at the same level without arguably their two best players, as this line implies. Lean: Cincinnati minus-7.5.
Memphis minus-5.5 at Temple, over/under: 50. I’ve repeatedly labeled Memphis as one of the most undervalued teams in the nation and reaped the benefits of picking the Tigers every week as they’re 4-0 against the spread in FBS games. But in a situation like this, you have to know when to sell and/or tread lightly, which might be this week on the road against the best defense they’ve faced this year. Guess: Temple plus-5.5.
Navy minus-1 at Tulsa, over/under: 54. Some have suggested Navy is in a bad spot coming off of an emotional win over Air Force, but Tulsa had its own roller coaster with a loss at SMU in overtime. More importantly, the Golden Hurricanes rush defense is mediocre, which spells big problems against the Midshipmen. Guess: Navy minus-1.
Connecticut plus-33.5 at Tulane, over/under: 58.5. Tulane rates eighth in the nation in run play percentage, so it’s not typically a team worth laying a big price behind. But no rules apply when it comes to Connecticut, which is at a massive disadvantage to every opponent. Guess: Tulane minus-33.5.
Virginia plus-2.5 at Miami, over/under: 43.5. A coaching advantage only goes so far, so while the Cavaliers’ Bronco Mendenhall will have an edge off a bye week, there’s still a discrepancy in personnel. The Hurricanes have the much better roster and this line has over-corrected after sitting as high as Miami minus-7.5 going into the season. Play: Miami minus-2.5.
Louisville plus-7 at Wake Forest, over/under: 65.5. Both teams played Boston College in their last games, and on the surface, the results may look pretty similar with Louisville winning 41-39 and Wake Forest prevailing 27-24. The Cardinals, however, outgained the Eagles by more than 1 yard per play while the Demon Deacons were at a 2 yard per play disadvantage. Lean: Louisville plus-7.
Florida State plus-27 at Clemson, over/under: 60.5. Clemson is showing signs of succumbing to the same affliction of 2016 Ohio State and 2015 Florida State, defending national-championship teams that were too quickly anointed the following year and thus overvalued. Maybe the Tigers snap out of this week, but it might be more likely that this spread is again inflated by a few points. Lean: Florida State plus-27.
Georgia Tech plus-17.5 at Duke, over/under: 47.5. Duke has flipped back and forth this season between looking like world beaters and a work in progress. The Blue Devils are too inconsistent to command this spread, which is 11 points higher than they’ve given in any other FBS game. Guess: Georgia Tech plus-17.5.
Penn State minus-3.5 at Iowa, over/under: 42.5. Once again, bets are pouring in against Penn State as public perception has been negative towards the Nittany Lions all season long. It’s a perplexing position considering Penn State has blown out opponents and covered in every game except for a 17-10 win against a Pittsburgh team that’s since turned out to be better than expected. Play: Penn State minus-3.5.
Maryland minus-3.5 at Purdue, over/under: 53.5. The Terrapins have blown out every bad team they’ve played this year. Given Purdue’s mounting injury situation, it might not be too presumptuous to categorize it as a bad team. Guess: Maryland minus-3.5.
Nebraska plus-7.5 at Minnesota, over/under: 52.5. This is right around the time the Cornhuskers left behind early struggles and started taking off last season. They would have been a slight favorite in this game coming into the season. Guess: Nebraska plus-7.5.
Michigan State plus-10.5 at Wisconsin, over/under: 40.5. I want nothing to do with this game, as the line looks right, but it is a beneficial situational spot for the Badgers. They had a glorified bye in blowing out Kent State 48-0 last week while Michigan State engaged in a strenuous battle in a 34-10 loss at Ohio State. Guess: Wisconsin minus-10.5.
Rutgers plus-27.5 at Indiana, over/under: 49. Firings. Retirements. General discontent. The situation at Rutgers is beyond repair — at least for this season — and makes the Scarlet Knights not worth backing in any way for the time being. Guess: Indiana minus-27.5.
Michigan minus-22.5 at Illinois, over/under: 49. This would have been way too many points a couple weeks ago, but the Illini are ravished with injuries on both sides of the ball. If the Wolverines can’t get right here, then it’s safe to assume they’ll never get right. Guess: Michigan minus-22.5.
Oklahoma minus-10.5 vs. Texas in Dallas, over/under: 76. This is a really poor matchup for this year’s Longhorns, which were already coming into the season young in the secondary but are also now severely injured. Expect Jalen Hurts’ Heisman candidacy to pick up steam after a big day in the biggest spot of the regular season. Play: Oklahoma minus-10.5.
Texas Tech plus-11 at Baylor, over/under: 58. Both these teams are bet-ons at the moment as Baylor has quietly snuck into the top 10 in Football Outsiders F/+ ratings and Texas Tech has adjusted to life with quarterback Jett Duffey filling in. A round spread of 10 seems perfect, so there might be slight value on Texas Tech. Guess: Texas Tech plus-11.
Iowa State minus-10.5 at West Virginia, over/under: 54.5. Sell high on Iowa State off of its best performance of the year. The Cyclones were lights-out in thumping TCU 49-24 as 3-point favorites, but that level of efficiency will be tough to keep up on the road in one of the Big 12’s toughest venues, Milan Puskar Stadium. Guess: West Virginia plus-10.5.
North Texas plus-3.5 at Southern Miss, over/under: 58.5. The Mean Green have been up and down this season, but they have virtually the same offense that clobbered the Eagles last year. Southern Miss has an experienced roster too, making it even harder to shake memories of North Texas’ 30-7 win as 7-point favorites. Play: North Texas plus-3.5.
Middle Tennessee plus-10 at Florida Atlantic, over/under: 63.5. Fun fact: Florida Atlantic played Ohio State closer than anyone this season in its 45-21 week 1. Sure, the circumstances were favorable and it doesn’t really matter but it’s one way to illustrate that the market may have overreacted to the Owls’ early-season struggles. They are still more talented than the vast majority of conference opponents. Play: Florida Atlantic minus-10.
UAB minus-12 at UTSA, over/under: 47.5. The Blazers needed a few weeks to break in all their new personnel, but now they’re back to clicking as efficiently as a typical Bill Clark-coached team. UTSA ranks No. 125 in the nation by F/+. Lean: UAB minus-12.
Charlotte plus-5.5 at Florida International, over/under: 62.5. This might be a good spot to buy low on the 49ers coming out of a bye week. Charlotte is even in net yards per play for the season while Florida International sits at minus-.3. Guess: Charlotte plus-5.5.
Army minus-4.5 at Western Kentucky, over/under: 43. The Black Knights feast on teams unprepared for the triple option, and on the surface, the Hilltoppers may fit the description. They’ve played conference games in each of the last two weeks — meaning they haven’t had extra time to prepare — and haven’t faced Army in the last five years. Guess: Army minus-4.5.
Old Dominion plus-16 at Marshall, over/under: 47.5. This spread might have been fair at the beginning of the season, but the Thundering Herd have been a major disappointment. So have the winless-in-FBS Monarchs, in fairness, but they have a comparable talent level after bolstering their roster with junior-college players in the offseason. Guess: Old Dominion plus-16.
Massachusetts plus-32 at Louisiana Tech, over/under: 63.5. The Bulldogs’ defense is highly suspect, having just given up 20 points to Rice in a narrow overtime victory. There’s too much potential for garbage-time touchdowns to lay this big of a price. Guess: UMass plus-32.
USC plus-11 at Notre Dame, over/under: 59.5. Kedon Slovis has been the best of USC’s three quarterbacks in game action, so it was big news when he was cleared to play in this week’s rivalry game. USC is a take at any double-digit spread. Lean: USC plus-11.
Northern Illinois plus-6.5 at Ohio, over/under: 51.5. I’m content to keep fading the Huskies, which still have remnants of their great seasons under coach Rod Carey in their power rankings. It’s a new team under coach Thomas Hammock, however, and Northern Illinois is going through some expected adjustment not fully recognized by the market. Lean: Ohio minus-6.5.
Ball State plus-1 at Eastern Michigan, over/under: 57.5. Before last week’s divergent results — Eastern Michigan getting blown out by an undervalued Central Michigan 42-16 and Ball State beating an overrated Northern Illinois 27-20 — this line was shaping up to favor the Eagles by much more. Even though buy signs may still be on the solid Cardinals going forward, I can’t pass up the immediate value on the Eagles. Lean: Eastern Michigan minus-1.
New Mexico State plus-10 at Central Michigan, over/under: 57. The Chippewas are drawing action in the betting market for pounding Eastern Michigan but they’re still a young team with plenty of weaknesses. Look at any set of analytical power ratings and they rank in the nation’s bottom 25, leaving them unworthy of laying double digits to almost any team. Guess: New Mexico State plus-10.
Toledo minus-25.5 at Bowling Green, over/under: 65.5. The Falcons are last in the nation at negative-4 net yards per play against FBS opponents. The Rockets are the best team in the conference, making this a complete mismatch. Guess: Toledo minus-25.5.
Kent State minus-14.5 at Akron, over/under: 57.5. Akron earned the ignominy of being called the worst team in the nation by losing to Massachusetts, but Kent State isn’t too far outside of the conversation. The Zips certainly aren’t far enough outside of it to lay two touchdowns. Guess: Akron plus-14.5.
Miami (Ohio) plus-12.5 at Western Michigan, over/under: 56.5. The number looks right on, but I’d rather play against the RedHawks after their undeserving 1-0 start to conference play. Miami (Ohio) was outplayed by Buffalo two weeks ago but feasted on a plus-4 turnover margin to win 34-20 as 1.5-point favorites. Guess: Western Michigan minus-12.5.
San Jose State plus-3 at UNR, over/under: 59.5. These look like two teams headed in opposite directions, as the Wolf Pack juggles quarterbacks and looks for answers with a minus-99 point differential through five games. Meanwhile, San Jose State coach Brent Brennan’s vision is finally coming together and his team has a shot at bowl eligibility with an Even scoring margin. Lean: San Jose State plus-3.
Hawaii plus-13.5 at Boise State, over/under: 60. I continue to worry over the toll travel is taking on Hawaii, but this line is high enough that I may have to subdue those concerns. The Warriors are in the nation’s top 20 in averaging 6.5 yards per play, making them by far the best offense the Broncos have seen. Lean: Hawaii plus-13.5.
Fresno State plus-3 at Air Force, over/under: 50.5. Don’t chase betting steam if the number that enticed all the action is long gone. Yes, there may have been value on Fresno State when it was as high as 5.5-point favorite, but at 3, the spread is more in the range where it should be. Guess: Air Force minus-3.
Colorado State minus-3 at New Mexico, over/under: 66.5. The Lobos haven’t covered in any of their four FBS games this season, with the best performance being a backdoor push in a 17-10 loss at Liberty. It’s hard to properly price the worst teams in the nation, and New Mexico is one of the worst teams in the nation. Guess: Colorado State minus-3.
Wyoming plus-3.5 at San Diego State, over/under: 38. I’m choosing not to believe in Wyoming’s offensive outburst shown in a 53-17 victory over UNLV as 8-point favorites in its last game. Scoring will be limited in this matchup so even the one extra point from the opening number of minus-4.5 is valuable and enough to flip my pick from Wyoming to San Diego State. Guess: San Diego State minus-3.5.
UNLV plus-14.5 at Vanderbilt, over/under: 57.5. The Rebels have serious problems moving the ball with freshman Kenyon Oblad at quarterback. They could frustrate a terrible Vanderbilt rush defense if they switch back to Armani Rogers, but the uncertainty of that happening makes this not a game to get tangled up in. Guess: Vanderbilt minus-14.5.
Washington State plus-1 at Arizona State, over/under: 59. Washington State has lost two straight, making this a perfect spot to buy low on it coming out of a bye week. The Cougars will push the pace and, at 5.5 yards per play for the year, the Sun Devils won’t have the offense to keep up in a potential shootout. Play: Washington State plus-1.
Washington minus-6.5 at Arizona, over/under: 59. Arizona has quietly been one of the best teams in the Pac-12 with a top 20 offense in the nation and a serviceable defense. The Wildcats aren’t quite on the level of back-to-back conference champion Huskies yet but they’re not a touchdown worse either. Lean: Arizona plus-6.5.
Colorado plus-21 at Oregon, over/under: 58.5. The Buffaloes are dealing with cluster issues in the secondary, the exact type of setback they’d most want to avoid traveling to take on quarterback Justin Herbert and a high-upside Ducks’ offense. Don’t overreact to Oregon’s relatively slow days against California and Stanford the last two weeks; both defenses are better than Colorado’s. Lean: Oregon minus-21.
Utah minus-14 at Oregon State, over/under: 59.5. The home team might have been the pick if this number had fully crossed over two touchdowns, but with minus-14 still lingering at many sports books, I prefer the Utes. The Beavers are much better this year but they’ve yet to play a single above-average defense until now. Guess: Utah minus-14.
Florida plus-13.5 at LSU, over/under: 55.5. Florida continues to get no credit from the public at large, which means they continue to be at a discount in the betting market. LSU hasn’t faced a single above-average defense, making it absurd to expect it to continue producing offense at the same level against one of the top units in the nation. Play: Florida plus-13.5.
Ole Miss plus-12 at Missouri, over/under: 57.5. Keep buying on the Tigers until the market catches up to the fact that they’re a top-15 quality team. Ole Miss runs on 60 percent of its plays, and the Missouri defense’s strength lies in stopping the run as they’ve only allowed 3.1 yards per attempt on the ground. Play: Missouri minus-12.
South Carolina plus-24.5 at Georgia, over/under: 52.5. The Gamecocks are coming off of a bye week and must be the best 2-3 team in the country. Coach Will Muschamp had an aggressive approach in another overmatched spot against Alabama earlier this year — in which South Carolina covered the 25.5-point spread with a 47-23 loss — and a similar approach could pay dividends versus Georgia. Lean: South Carolina plus-24.5.
Arkansas plus-7 at Kentucky, over/under: 53.5. Value always lingers on teams after terrible losses, which appears to be the case with the Razorbacks. They are not bad as their 34-21 loss to San Jose State as 20-point favorites indicates. Arkansas is roughly on par with the Wildcats before even considering the latter is slammed with injuries. Lean: Arkansas plus-7.
Alabama minus-17 at Texas A&M, over/under: 61.5. This line looks fair, which is uncommon for the Crimson Tide. Alabama is typically inflated by a few points, so there might not be a better game to back it in for the rest of the season. Guess: Alabama minus-17.
Mississippi State minus-7 at Tennessee, over/under: 53. Yes, they lost 43-14 to Georgia last week but it was a fluke the Volunteers didn’t cover the 24-point spread as they played well for large stretches of the game. Mississippi State is giving up .2 yards more than they gain, making them undeserving to lay points on the road. Guess: Tennessee plus-7.
Georgia State plus-5.5 at Coastal Carolina, over/under: 64. Georgia State was even more impressive than the final score indicated in a 52-38 victory over Arkansas State as 6.5-point underdogs. They sped out to a 24-7 lead, showing a defensive ability that might be foreign to Coastal Carolina. Guess: Georgia State plus-5.5.