1. #1
    Hman
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    Best bets for Week 9 college football games 🏈

    Best bets for Week 9 college football games

    ESPN PLUS ($ MATERIAL)


    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 ninth full week of the college football season:


    Season ATS records:
    Johnson: 22-17-1 (1-1 last week)
    Connelly: 15-9-1 (2-1 last week)
    Steele: 16-27 (3-3 last week)
    Kezirian: 30-23-1 (4-6 last week)


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

    Friday's game


    USC Trojans (-13.5, 62.5) at Colorado Buffaloes

    Kezirian: Unsurprisingly, the line has moved up from the opening number of 11. These are two teams headed in opposite directions. Colorado has lost three consecutive games, including the past two by a combined score of 86-13. The Trojans enter off a blowout victory over Arizona and should find similar ease scoring on this Colorado defense. The Buffaloes are allowing 8.7 yards per pass attempt, which ranks 116th out of 130 FBS teams.


    At times this year Buffs quarterback Steven Montez has shown flashes. He was awful in the past two games, throwing six interceptions, but those came on the road. I expect him to experience more success at home against a USC defense that certainly showed vulnerability the past few weeks. I think Montez can take advantage in places where Khalil Tate could not.


    Pick: Over 62.5 and USC team total over 37.5 (FanDuel)




    Saturday's games


    Arkansas Razorbacks at Alabama Crimson Tide (-32.5, 56)

    Kezirian: This is an extremely intriguing game. I realize quarterback Mac Jones figures to look more competent with a full week of practice, but this is a giant dropoff from Tua Tagovailoa. Coach Nick Saban will simplify his offense and rely on his talent gap at all other positions. I expect the offense to throw, given they need to prepare Jones to play against LSU in their next game in case he's forced to start, but this will probably resemble the typical Bama offenses with "game managers" at the helm. Plus, if he has a big lead in the second half, Saban will look to bleed clock and get to the bye week as healthy as possible.


    Alabama's defense has shown some vulnerability against quality SEC opponents but Arkansas does not present those challenges. The Razorbacks only mustered 10 points against Auburn and I expect a similar performance in this game. The Bama defense tends to bend on drives but not break in the red zone. This is not a dominant defense like we've seen in years past, but it should be up for this challenge.


    Pick: Under 56



    Troy Trojans at Georgia State Panthers (-1, 66)

    Johnson: This one is a matchup play for me. Troy's defense ranks ranks 128th against the pass (against the 120th-toughest schedule). The Trojans are allowing 9.6 yards per opponent pass attempt, which is actually an improvement after allowing just 4.8 yards per pass in last week's matchup against South Alabama. Troy ranks 12th in the country against the run, so I anticipate we see the Panthers slinging it from the get-go and attacking the Trojans' defense accordingly.


    Georgia State's pass defense also ranks outside the top 80, and Troy throws at one of the highest frequencies in the nation. My projections are 70.1 and Georgia State -2, and I like the prospects of the Panthers gaining a first down every time they drop back to pass.


    Pick: Georgia State -1 and over 66



    Memphis Tigers (-10.5) at Tulsa Golden Hurricane

    Johnson: My projection in this matchup is Tulsa +7.3. I think there are two big reasons there is a discrepancy between my number and the market.


    First, Memphis got bet against heavily last week against Tulane. The line was +4.5 on the Green Wave early in the week, got down to +2 at kickoff and the Tigers won the game by 30. That type of result tends to scare people off, but it's important to remember that it was only a one-game sample. The biggest and sharpest market influencers were pounding Tulane last week, and that's still worth noting.


    Second, Tulsa is only 2-5, but I think the Golden Hurricane are one of the best two-win teams in the country. Last week, they covered in a 24-13 losing effort in Cincinnati. They actually outgained the Bearcats, but five turnovers from QB Zach Smith swung it in Cincinnati's favor. Tulsa is also the team that blew the 21-point, fourth-quarter lead to an undefeated SMU team earlier this season. The Hurricane were beating Oklahoma State outright in the third quarter of a game in Week 3. They covered on the road against Michigan State in the season opener. Their two victories have come against Wyoming and San Jose State -- two fairly impressive Mountain West squads.


    The Golden Hurricane can hang in this matchup. Their top-40 pass defense (not adjusted for strength of schedule) will be able to slow down Brady White and a Memphis passing attack that ranks 14th (against a much weaker strength of schedule). I took the double digits plus the hook.


    Pick: Tulsa +10.5


    Connelly: Consider this a faith-in-SP+ pick. SP+ is 5-1 ATS in Memphis games this season and 6-1 in Tulsa games. While Tulsa has been better than its 2-5 record, Memphis is just downright good. And though I don't love the -10.5 number, SP+ says Memphis by 18, so we're rolling with it.


    The big advantage here comes when Tulsa has the ball. The Tulsa defense is good enough to frustrate Memphis here and there, but the Tigers rank 36th in defensive SP+, and the Golden Hurricane rank 106th on offense. Worse, they're a fast 106th -- they operate at a pretty high tempo but go nowhere quickly. Against a Memphis team that makes bigger big plays than anyone else (and plays nearly flawless special teams), it's pretty easy to see how this could snowball. Tulsa hung pretty tight with Cincinnati last week, but Memphis plays defense nearly as well as the Bearcats, and with much more offensive pop.


    Pick: Memphis -10.5



    Utah State Aggies (+3.5) at Air Force Falcons

    Johnson: Gary Andersen has always been a defensive-minded coach who is strong against the run. When he took over the Utah State program in 2009, the Aggies improved from 111th in the country in opponent yards per rushing attempt to No. 8 in 2012 (he left for Wisconsin the following season). This season, they rank 17th, and are getting an Air Force option attack that was down to its third-string quarterback Saturday night at Hawai'i. Now, Hawai'i's rush defense ranks 123rd and the Falcons were able to run with success anyway, but that will be a different story against the Aggies.


    On the other side of the ball, QB Jordan Love will be able to find success against a weak Air Force pass defense giving up 7.9 yards per attempt. My projection is Utah State +1.2 if Falcons starting QB Donald Hammond III is a go, so getting the hook on a key number like +3 is an edge worth betting either way.


    Pick: Utah State +3.5



    Penn State Nittany Lions (-6.5) at Michigan State Spartans

    Johnson: Last week against Michigan, Penn State gave up 26 first downs to its own 14. The Nittany Lions were outgained 417 yards to 283. The week prior in Iowa, they were outgained by 62 yards. They deserve credit for notching wins, but I still haven't been too impressed with Penn State's performance. Turning around after two extremely physically taxing games and traveling to face a top-15 Mark Dantonio defense in East Lansing coming off its bye week is an absolutely miserable spot.


    My raw projection is +3.9 anyway, and with all of the other variables on our side, snagging the 6.5-points (and +200 on the money line) is certainly worthwhile.


    Pick: Michigan State +6.5


    Steele: It is time to circle the wagons for Michigan State. The Spartans went on the road to face two of the top teams in the country and got blown out by both Ohio State and Wisconsin. Last week, Penn State survived at home as Michigan dropped a tying touchdown pass near the end of the game. Despite having the hyped home crowd behind them, the Nittany Lions gained just 14 first downs to Michigan's 26 and were outgained by 134 yards. Penn State is playing with the pressure of being 7-0 and has to play its third big game in three weeks -- and will do so on the road. This game goes to the wire, and an upset wouldn't surprise me.


    ATS pick: Michigan State +6.5
    Score: Penn State 17, Michigan State 16



    Florida International Panthers (-2.5) at Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

    Connelly: Middle Tennessee is a team SP+ has had a pretty good read on all season, and SP+ projects an average losing margin of 6.9 points for the Blue Raiders in this one. Combine that with the fact that both SP+ and Vegas have been a bit behind the curve on FIU's recent rise, and I think you've got a pretty good bet here.


    Since quarterback James Morgan returned to full strength, Florida International has been a different team. The Panthers covered by 17 points or more against UMass in Week 6 and Charlotte in Week 7, and while they failed to cover against UTEP, they still won comfortably 32-17 in what was a very low-tempo game (nine possessions each, dictated by tortoise-slow UTEP). With the offense coming around, FIU is one of the more well-rounded teams in Conference USA (80th in offensive SP+, 81st on defense, 69th in special teams), and I think the Panthers handle this one comfortably.


    Pick: Florida International -2.5



    Liberty Flames (-7.5) at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

    Connelly: Yes, I am taking Rutgers to cover in a game of football ... so I should probably explain myself.


    1. Rutgers is 74th in defensive SP+. That's not good by Big Ten standards, but it's a decent FBS standard, and in five games against FBS defenses this season, Liberty is averaging only 17 points per game. (Rolling up 121 points in two games against FCS teams is why the Flames' scoring average is decent overall.)


    2. If we set Liberty's range at something like 17-21 points, then, Rutgers needs to score only 10-17 points to cover. That's ... a pretty high bar for a team that hasn't scored in double digits since September, yes.


    All we really know about the Rutgers offense, however, is that it can't score against Big Ten-caliber defenses. In the two opportunities they got to play teams anywhere near Liberty's caliber (98th in defensive SP+), the Scarlet Knights scored 48 points against UMass (130th) and 16 against Boston College (94th). Granted, that was a couple of Rutgers quarterbacks ago, but I have faith that the Knights can cross back over into the land of double-digit points and score a glorious cover. SP+ says Liberty by 3.2, and I can roll with that.


    Pick: Rutgers +7.5



    UCF Knights (-10.5) at Temple Owls

    Steele: The home team in Temple games this season is a perfect 7-0 ATS, including Owls victories as home 'dog over No. 21 Maryland and No. 23 Memphis. While UCF has won three of the past four meetings between these two, Temple has had the yardage edge in each but is minus-nine in turnovers. Temple QBs combined for 19 interceptions last season, but just six this season. In UCF's previous trip to Philadelphia, the Knights were held to season lows in yards (317) and first downs. The Knights' QBs are completing 65.2% of their passes at home but just 53.7% on the road, losing at both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Temple will take the Knights to the wire.


    ATS pick: Temple +10.5
    Score: UCF 28, Temple 27



    Miami RedHawks at Kent State Golden Flashes (-1.5)

    Steele: Miami head coach Chuck Martin is now 3-22 straight up and 1-11 ATS in nonconference play the past three seasons, so he has stayed true to form with his team 0-4 ATS this season in nonconference play. Miami turns the switch on in Mid-American Conference play at 18-7 straight up the past 25 MAC games (9-2 ATS past 11). Kent State is 3-4, but its wins have been over an FCS team, Bowling Green and Akron. This matchup is a battle for first place in the MAC East, and I will continue to ride a Miami team that focuses on MAC games.


    ATS pick: Miami +1.5
    Score: Miami 31, Kent State 27



    Texas Tech Red Raiders (-3.5, 61.5) at Kansas Jayhawks

    Steele: Kansas is 3-0 ATS this season as a three-touchdown underdog or more, including an upset of Boston College and near-upset of Texas last week. When the line is two touchdowns or less, the Jayhawks are 0-4 ATS this season. Texas Tech has faced the tougher schedule, yet is plus-27 yards per game, and Kansas is minus-87 yards per game. The Red Raiders are 3-4, and this figures to be a must-win for them to get to a bowl game, so they will take Kansas seriously. Texas Tech has won the past 12 meetings in this series and has won its previous six trips to Lawrence by an average of 29.4 points per game.


    ATS pick: Texas Tech -3.5
    Score: Texas Tech 31, Kansas 17


    Johnson: This one is straightforward: The 48 points the Jayhawks scored against the Longhorns last week wasn't a fluke. I ended up betting both the first-half and full-game overs after I learned about new offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon. He's a 34-year-old math major who drives a 2009 Toyota Corolla with 134,000 miles on it. It doesn't matter. Dearmon has written multiple books on the run-pass option (RPO), and is known in coaching circles as a guru. He started at smaller schools and has worked his way up to to run the show at Kansas. Head coach Les Miles said Dearmon is one of the brightest individuals he has ever encountered in all of his years of coaching. I'm willing to back that again, and maybe get out in front of a string of Jayhawks overs.


    Pick: Over 61.5



    No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at No. 19 Michigan Wolverines (PK)

    Steele: Jim Harbaugh is still winless versus ranked teams on the road as Michigan's coach. In the past three seasons, Michigan has faced four ranked teams at home and is 3-1 straight up and 4-0 ATS in those games, with its average win by 22.3 points. The Wolverines' offense emerged in the second half against a tough Penn State defense on the road and should continue to roll the rest of the season. The home team has won five in a row in this series and is 8-1 straight up and ATS the past nine meetings. My computer calls for Michigan to have a 412-316 yardage edge in this nearly pick 'em game in the Big House.


    ATS pick: Michigan PK
    Score: Michigan 23, Notre Dame 17



    Washington State Cougars at Oregon Ducks (-14, 64)

    Johnson: Everyone was hyping the Oregon defense before its showdown in Seattle against Washington last Saturday. And the unit deserved it -- to some degree. The Ducks ranked third in the nation in defensive efficiency, but the best team and quarterback they had faced was Auburn's Bo Nix in the opener. Washington's Jacob Eason and the Huskies were able to move the ball to the tune of 6.8 YPP. Now the Ducks are coming off of their comeback victory and have to face Mike Leach's Air Raid offense, which ranks No. 5 in the country behind QB Anthony Gordon.
    The Cougars have had defensive issues of their o
    wn (remember that UCLA game?), and Leach fired the defensive coordinator. Their matchup in Tempe, Arizona, against the Sun Devils resulted in 72 points scored (38 from ASU's struggling offense). My projection is 69.6, so this is an easy decision for me.


    Pick: Over 64



    Duke Blue Devils at North Carolina Tar Heels (-3.5, 54.5)

    Johnson: The Blue Devils haven't allowed more than 350 yards to an opponent this season since the opener against Alabama. They have losses to Pittsburgh and Virginia, though, where they gave up 33 and 48 points, respectively. Turnovers played a major role, and I think a few of the final scores in their games have been misleading.


    The Duke offense ranks outside the top 100, and in this rivalry matchup against Mack Brown's Tar Heels, I project only 51.7 points. Despite fielding one of the least efficient offenses in the country and limiting opponents, Duke has seen six of its seven games go over the total. I think that's why we're getting some value here, and I'm perfectly fine going under at this number.


    Pick: Under 54.5



    Texas Longhorns (-1.5) at TCU Horned Frogs

    Johnson: I've been bearish on TCU since the preseason. The Horned Frogs aren't performing up to Gary Patterson standards on either side of the ball, and in the games they have faced a legitimate passing attack (Brock Purdy at Iowa State, Shane Buechele at SMU), they've surrendered at least 400 yards and 40 points. I know the Longhorns needed a late field goal just to beat Kansas at home as a three-touchdown favorite, but that's likely why we are seeing a cheap price now.


    I'm not sure what changes for the TCU defense against Sam Ehlinger, and the way to beat the Texas defense is through the air against its depleted secondary. The Horned Frogs rank 107th in passing at just 6.3 yards per attempt. Give me the Horns.


    Pick: Texas -1.5



    Miami (FL) Hurricanes at Pittsburgh Panthers (-5.5)

    Kezirian: We might need to view Pitt as a good football team. After nearly beating Penn State in Happy Valley, many labeled it as a negative on the Nittany Lions. Same for Pitt's upset of Central Florida. The Panthers are 5-2 ATS and continue to prove doubters wrong. I am more than happy to lay this relatively short number against a team that struggles offensively as much as Miami does. While I expect a good effort from the Hurricanes following their embarrassing home loss to lowly Georgia Tech, they can barely block. The Canes allow 5.2 sacks per game, which ranks 128th out of 130 FBS teams. Their sack percentage is 13.25%, which ranks 126th out of 130. I like this Pitt team to take care of business.


    Pick: Pittsburgh -5.5

  2. #2
    jjgold
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    Always a good
    Tool reading these

  3. #3
    gojetsgomoxies
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    steele with the terrible ATS record....... i'm a big fan of his stuff in general, but sometimes i think he tries to be too cute on his picks. he has superior understanding, just go straight-forward.

    TT -3.5 @ kansas.......... wow, kansas has improved. i think they were improving last year too. williams is outstanding tailback.

    what has happened to miami-florida?............. see duke with a big dud on offense last week. uncharacteristic.

    rutgers gotta be a great pick against liberty.... i read that as rutgers getting 7.5. far better talent.

    what has happened to WSU? i would never fade leach, but it's not been good recently.... i know they lost all-pac 12 safety in off-season (to injury). a team like WSU can perform but i'm guessing big depth issues.

  4. #4
    Jayvegas420
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    what about the over in Iowa/Northwestern

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