Originally posted on 11/07/2019:

Best bets for Week 11 college football games


Every Thursday during the season, Bill Connelly, Doug Kezirian, Preston Johnson and Phil Steele will provide their top plays across the college football landscape.

Here are their best bets for the 11th full week of the college football season:

Season ATS records:

Johnson record: 29-21-1 (1-1 last week)
Connelly record: 18-11-2 (2-0-1 last week)
Steele record: 22-31 (4-1 last week)
Kezirian record: 35-26-1 (3-1 last week)

Note: Picks from Caesars Sportsbook lines as of Wednesday night.

Friday's games

Washington Huskies (-10) at Oregon State Beavers

Kezirian: This is all about the letdown spot for a Washington team that put everything it had into last week's home game against Utah. The Huskies lost a heartbreaker at home, and now they must hit the road to face an Oregon State team that provides minimal excitement. Meanwhile, the Beavers have won back-to-back games in the underdog role, and I think they're a live 'dog here, as well.

The Beavers are two wins away from bowl eligibility, and their best chances are the next two games at home, before closing out the season on the road at Washington State and Oregon. I think it is a great spot to back Oregon State -- with a raucous home crowd on national television -- catching a flat Huskies team. Now, the Beavers' defense is pretty weak, so I have much more confidence in their ability to score points. In my eyes, a high-scoring non-cover is more likely than a low-scoring cover, so I am opting for the team total.

Pick: Oregon State team total over 27.5 points (FanDuel)

Saturday's games

LSU Tigers at Alabama Crimson Tide (-6.5)

Johnson: I'm going to zag while everyone is anticipating a ton of points in this season's LSU-Alabama matchup. Look, I'm as pro-Joe Brady and Joe Burrow as anybody. I discussed their impact on the LSU offense at length in my top 25 preseason futures bets article. My projection for the full game total is 59.8, so I think the market perception is a little overblown. The narrative is that the Alabama defense isn't very good this season; the Crimson Tide "aren't very good" because they aren't No. 1, like most years. They still rank 11th in the nation in defensive efficiency -- and that's pretty good.

Both teams had a bye week to prepare for the other defensively (LSU ranks 14th on the defensive side of the ball, by the way), and with teams likely feeling the game out early, I'm angling in on the first half total at 31.5. The game will open up in the second half with either squad trailing, and I do respect the offenses enough to realize it could be back-and-forth late in this game. It's also worth noting that Tua Tagovailoa has been hurt, and we aren't even sure how effective he will be. What if Nick Saban approaches the game with a run-first mentality to avoid putting Tagovailoa in spots with an injured ankle, similar to last year's SEC championship game (when he threw multiple interceptions against Georgia)? There's even a chance Tagovailoa doesn't play in the game at all. Everything points to an under here for me.

Pick: 1H under 31.5 points (DraftKings)

Clemson Tigers (-31.5) at NC State Wolfpack

Kezirian: My colleagues are stricter about their numbers, but I am a sucker for a narrative, and this game fits that mold. Dabo Swinney not only loves to play the underdog card, but he orchestrates Clemson's best performances in such situations. The undefeated defending champs are ranked fifth in the CFP's first rankings, and that plays right into the hands of Swinney. For example, after nearly losing to North Carolina, the Tigers covered against their next FBS opponents. They also combined to outscore those opponents by a 83-10 margin in the first half. I think Swinney pushes all the right buttons of a team that feels slighted by the committee. On top of that, North Carolina State is pretty weak, and its best win is Syracuse at home. This should be a blowout from the start.

Pick: Clemson -17.5 1H (DraftKings)

USC Trojans at Arizona State Sun Devils (-1.5)

Kezirian: This is a similar situation to what I explained with Washington in that it is a flat spot for Southern California. However, instead of a gut-wrenching loss, the Trojans got undressed by Oregon. USC head coach Clay Helton is likely on the verge of being fired, and I just don't see how this team rallies to play a competitive road game in what is usually a tough stadium. Plus, the Trojans' defense has been hit hard with injuries, and that is a dream for Arizona State and quarterback Jayden Daniels. He is a true freshman, and he showed his limitations early in the season, but the offense has picked up in the past few weeks (except when it faced Utah's top-notch defense). I expect the Sun Devils to have a productive day, and the defense will create some opportunities against a USC offense that might be checked out. I prefer the team total because USC has such talent at wide receiver and that concerns me a bit.

Pick: Arizona State team total over 29 points (FanDuel)

Illinois Fighting Illini at Michigan State Spartans (-15)

Kezirian: Respected bettors have continued to back Michigan State this season, and I cannot figure out why. Perhaps I will learn the hard way on Saturday, but I must continue to fade this overrated squad that is getting by on brand and reputation. They're 2-6 against the spread (ATS), including 1-3 ATS as a double-digit favorite. The offense is extremely limited, and now it will be without two key players. Center Matt Allen and senior wide receiver Darrell Stewart Jr. will both miss this game due to injury. Stewart accounts for 37% of Sparty's receiving yards. With all that being said, I think we see their best effort off a bye, and while I do expect them to win, 15 points seems like a ton. Illinois has burned me a couple of times this season, but I just cannot say no to Lovie Smith and his immaculate beard. The Illini seemingly have turned the corner in his fourth season, thanks to an upset over Wisconsin and flirting with another one against Michigan. When QB Brandon Peters stays healthy, they have several weapons to hang with most teams. Illinois has won three straight, and I anticipate another good showing in East Lansing.

Pick: Illinois +15

Connelly: All right, if Kezirian and Lovie's beard are giving me cover, I'll lean into this one too. Michigan State is still capable of excellent performances -- beating Indiana by nine certainly seems like a far more impressive win now than people realized at the time -- but that was quite a while, and a few key players, ago. State's biggest strength (run defense) should negate Illinois' preferred style enough to win the game, but (A) SP+ still only projects an 11.5-point win; (B) linebacker Joe Bachie is suspended and, as mentioned, the Sparty receiving corps is a shambles; and (C) 15 points is indeed a big number.

Pick: Illinois +15

Baylor Bears (-2) at TCU Horned Frogs

Connelly: TCU has proved it can randomly put together something brilliant at home this season -- a 37-27 win over Texas and a 51-14 win over Kansas that looks more impressive now than it did then -- but I'm going with the numbers on this one. SP+ likes Baylor enough to project the Bears a 5.7-point favorite, and that's not taking into consideration TCU's potentially iffy QB situation.

Freshman starter Max Duggan got hurt late in TCU's loss to Oklahoma State, and then backup Mike Collins came in and got hurt, as well. Duggan probably will play, but he'll be going up against a Baylor pass defense that gives you no big plays and pressures you pretty well. If Duggan's health is worth an extra point or two in BU's favor, that makes this a pretty comfortable projected difference between SP+ and Caesars.

Pick: Baylor -2

Louisville Cardinals at Miami Hurricanes (-6.5)

Connelly: Sigh, OK, fine. I'll bite. SP+ maintained extreme faith in Miami in recent weeks, never dropping the Canes below 32nd overall despite their 3-4 start and intensely frustrating losses to North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. It saw a team that was dramatically, unsustainably unlucky and projected them as favorites at both Pitt and Florida State. I didn't make either one of those picks a Best Bet despite the huge difference between projection and Las Vegas. I was a coward. Two weeks late, then, I'm publicly jumping on the bandwagon. Miami still is far too inefficient offensively, but the -6.5 number is lovely, the Canes are making tons of explosive offensive plays and the Miami defense is still the Miami defense. Louisville is improving (from 70th in SP+ after five weeks to 53rd after 10), but there's enough space between the spread and the SP+ projection (Miami by 11.3) to carry the day here.

Pick: Miami -6.5

Kansas State Wildcats at Texas Longhorns (-7)

Connelly: Eventually the number sucked me in. After opening around Texas -5.5 or -6, I expected it to drift a point or two toward Kansas State once bettors realized that (A) the Wildcats are 6-2 ATS and smoking hot and (B) Texas' defense has been getting worse and worse. It didn't happen. The Horns have had a bye week to get healthier, but it's really hard to ignore that they are 86th in defensive SP+ and haven't given up under 30 points since Week 3. And while the Texas offense is awesome, it could be without deep threat Brennan Eagles and tight end Cade Brewer, as both are listed as questionable. SP+ projects Texas as a 1.8-point favorite, and even taking into account that KSU's excellent DB AJ Parker is also listed as questionable, any injury adjustment is either neutral or moves that number in KSU's favor, not the Horns'.

Pick: KSU +7

Liberty Flames at BYU Cougars (-17)

Kezirian: It's a lot to ask of Liberty, and I think this is too much. The Flames are playing their third straight road game, and this comes in altitude. Liberty has some respectable losses this year, but it also fell at Rutgers. According to Sagarin rankings, it has played the 143rd toughest schedule in all of college football. Given FBS has 130 teams, that means some FCS schools have played more difficult schedules. All that while the Cougars have won consecutive games and seem on their way to bowl eligibility. I have some concern with the BYU quarterback situation, with the top two on the depth chart unlikely to play. Baylor Romney will probably get the call, given both Zach Wilson and Jaren Hall are not fully recovered from injury. That has played a role in this spread coming down from 20.5 points. I still like BYU to overwhelm Liberty.

Pick: BYU -17

Georgia State Panthers (-2.5) at UL Monroe Warhawks

Steele: Two years ago, Georgia State went from 3-9 to a surprising bowl bid, as the Panthers went 4-0 on their Sun Belt road games and put up a school-record 670 yards in their trip to UL Monroe that year. This years' squad is much stronger, with an upset win at Tennessee and a win over Army at home. The Panthers not only beat two of the SBC's preseason favorites in Troy and Arkansas State, they are plus-147 yards per game in league play. Georgia State is led by dual-threat QB Dan Ellington (1,771 pass yards, 66%, 18-4 ratio, 512 rush yards), and the Panthers average 321 rushing yards per game and 5.7 yards per carry against Sun Belt foes. ULM is at the other end of the spectrum at minus-71 yards per game in Sun Belt play, and the Warhawks' defense is allowing 235 yards per game on the ground and 5.6 yards per carry. The Panthers are the much better team, and they are laying less than a field goal.

ATS pick: Georgia State -2.5

UAB Blazers at Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (-4.5)

Steele: Last week, UAB coach Bill Clark said the focus was on C-USA play and he rested numerous players, yet the Blazers still were only outgained by 65 yards at Tennessee. UAB is allowing just 224 yards per game and is plus-184 yards per game in C-USA play. UAB also is an impressive 16-4-1 ATS in their past 21 conference games. The visitor is 4-1 straight up in this series, covering the past five, and there have been four outright upsets in the previous six meetings. This game figures to be a low-scoring defensive struggle, so I will side with the defending C-USA champs as an underdog.

ATS pick: UAB +4.5

Johnson: I'm surprised by the early move this week on UAB. This opened +7 and has moved down to as low as +4.5 in the current market. For me, this is a buy on Southern Miss at this number. My projection is -8.5, and I just faded a UAB team last week against Tennessee that lost its starting QB, Tyler Johnston III, after going down 30-0 before scoring a garbage TD late in the fourth quarter. Johnston's status remains a question mark, but my 8.5-point projection assumes he is playing anyway. This is a list of the schools that this six-win UAB team has beaten this season: Alabama State, Akron, South Alabama, Rice, UTSA and Old Dominion. The two semi-reputable teams they faced were Western Kentucky and Tennessee, and Johnston struggled mightily in each. Southern Miss is the better team coming off of their bye week for extra preparation and extra rest. I laid the 4.5.

Pick: Southern Miss -4.5

Wyoming Cowboys at No. 22 Boise State Broncos (-12.5)

Steele: Last year, Boise jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead with a 286-73 yard edge and coasted to a 34-14 win at Wyoming. Boise still has a great shot at the Group of 5's New Years' Day Six bowl game, but it needs to impress down the stretch. Last year, Wyoming was 0-4 in Mountain West play, averaging just 11.5 points per game when Sean Chambers took over as starting QB with four games to go, and the Cowboys won their final four games, putting up 31 points per contest. Wyoming is 6-2 but has lost Chambers for the rest of the season. His mobility (567 rushing yards, 10 TDs) was a big part of a Cowboys offense that is completing just 40.6% of their passes. Boise got back QB Hank Bachmeier last week after he missed the Broncos' lone loss at BYU. He threw for 213 yards, and Bachmeier should be even better this week. Boise is plus-148 yards per game at home and has gone 12-1 in the series with their average win by 24.4 points per game. Wyoming has been outgained in all three road trips this year (-98 yards per game), and this is its toughest road opponent yet.

ATS pick: Boise State -12.5

North Texas Mean Green at Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (-5.5)

Steele: Louisiana Tech is 26-11 straight up at home under Skip Holtz. While North Texas QB Mason Fine gets all the publicity, Tech QB J'Mar Smith is having a very quiet, solid season in hitting 67% with a 13-3 ratio, and running back Justin Henderson averages 7.0 yards per carry. Tech already has beaten C-USA contenders FIU and Southern Miss at home by 12 and 17 points, respectively. North Texas has not traveled well this year, losing all four road games by 12 points per game, and the Mean Green are being outgained by 73 yards per game. Tech is the stronger team, has a solid home edge and is in a good situation fresh off a bye with North Texas playing for a fifth straight week.

ATS pick: Louisiana Tech -5.5

Johnson: There isn't much to this one for me. My projection is 76.3, and I'm going to bet discrepancies of a touchdown versus the market in most cases that weather and injuries aren't factors. Take a look at some of the scores against worse competition for each team this season. North Texas and Tech rank No. 23 and No. 29 in passing frequency. There are going to be a lot of plays run in this matchup, and I'm trusting my numbers and going with it.

Pick: Over 70

Florida State Seminoles at Boston College Eagles (-2, 63)

Steele: This is an important game for both teams' bowl hopes. Boston College has by far its most explosive offense under Steve Addazio, and it is gaining 85 yards per game more than its opponents typically allow. The Eagles' offensive line is a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award and has allowed just four sacks, and Boston College also has AJ Dillon, who is one of the top running backs in the country. Florida State is allowing 434 yards per game on defense. Boston College is at the other end of the spectrum on defense, as the Eagles allow their opponents to gain 94 yards more than average. Florida State has plenty of explosive athletes, led by running back Cam Akers, who has rushed for 983 yards, and receiver Tamorrion Terry, who averages 19.6 yards per catch. Interim head coach Odell Haggins also was the Seminoles' interim head coach in 2017, and Florida State scored 42 points in both of his games. The weather forecast is sunny with light winds, which makes me like the over.

Pick: Over 63

New Mexico State Aggies at Ole Miss Rebels (-28, 63)

Johnson: After facing the Auburn, Texas A&M and Missouri defenses over the past three weeks, the Aggies will feel like a breath of fresh air for this Ole Miss offense. I'm still very bullish on new Rebels quarterback John Rhys Plumlee. Most weeks he is the fastest player on the field, and we have seen flashes of brilliance in Rich Rodriguez's offense (remember Khalil Tate at Arizona in Rodriguez's final season?). I also will be betting the Ole Miss team total over, which based on the current market projects to be lined 45.5. The Rebels are going to light it up on Saturday, and their defense has been quietly stellar against stiff SEC competition. I'm thrilled to be laying just 28 points.

Pick: Ole Miss -28