College football by the odds: Vegas picks and preview of Week 10

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Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett throws a pass against Penn State during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Penn State 39-38. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Sat, Nov 4, 2017 (2 a.m.)

The Green Valley Ranch sports book, likely along with other shops in town, erupted when Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett found tight end Marcus Baugh for a 16-yard touchdown to complete a 39-38 comeback victory over Penn State last week.

Outwardly, the celebration seemed out of place from a betting perspective. The score came with just less than two minutes remaining, meaning it wasn’t the type of stunning score at the tail end of a game that can cause bettors to momentarily forget about gambling implications.

And there were no traditional gambling implications affected anyway. The total of 57.5 points had already gone over in the third quarter, and Penn State was well ahead of the betting line as 6.5-point underdogs.

The vast majority of bets on the point spread came in on Penn State, meaning if anything, the mood in sports books would seem to be uneasy with the Nittany Lions suddenly one mistake away from failing to cover. But the point-spread and totals no longer tell the full betting story — money lines are now consistently just as impactful.

Much of the celebration was coming from those who took Ohio State at minus-250 (risking $2.50 to win $1) to win outright. It’s the type of bet, backing a favorite on the money line, that’s gaining in popularity after being mostly ignored as recently as a few years ago.

Parlaying several favorites on the money line is a craze that’s taken off, and can significantly damage sports books’ bottom lines when a string of teams laying points in big games come through together. A few were surely cashed last Saturday afternoon with Georgia and Notre Dame pounding Florida and North Carolina State, respectively, concurrent to Ohio State’s win in the three biggest games of the day.

Iowa State, which defeated TCU, and Northwestern, which knocked off Michigan State, probably limited the damage with upsets around the same time slot.

Favorite money line parlays are something to watch, and perhaps even consider, as the season closes out. A money line parlay typically pays out truer odds than one tying together point spreads.

Read below for Week 10 of college football by the odds, which features a betting preview and pick on the 10 biggest games of the week and extra picks at the end. After a 7-7-1 record in Week 9, the blog’s overall mark stands at 67-72-2 this season. Picks are labeled with three confidence levels, and lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side.

    • Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley plays against Ohio State during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

      Penn State minus-10 at Michigan State, over/under: 47.5; 9 a.m. on Fox

      At least Penn State covered.

      Michigan State let down even more bettors with its outright upset loss last week. The Spartans fell 39-31 in double overtime at Northwestern as 2-point favorites in a game where 81 percent of the tickets at William Hill were on them. The Nittany Lions drew 69 percent of the tickets in their game against the Buckeyes.

      That means Penn State enters this weekend’s marquee Big Ten East showdown with its four-game covering streak intact. They’ve been so reliable mostly behind running back Saquon Barkley, who’s still the Heisman favorite at minus-125 (risking $1.25 to win $1) despite gaining only 3.1 yards per touch against Ohio State.

      Barkley and the Nittany Lions will face another top 10 rushing defense in the Spartans, which rank No. 7 in the category by S&P ratings. Michigan State linebacker Joe Bachie and defensive end Kenny Willekes make for likely the best sophomore run-stuffing duo in the nation.

      Play: Michigan State plus-10

    • Georgia running back Sony Michel (1) runs a 74-yard touchdown against Florida in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

      South Carolina plus-24.5 at Georgia, over/under: 45; 12:30 p.m. on CBS

      Based on public betting perception, the College Football Playoff committee might not have been too out of line to put Georgia as the No. 1 overall team in its rankings.

      Georgia is getting bet just as much as Alabama, the team it controversially topped in the reveal. In fact, gamblers are behind the Bulldogs even more than the Crimson Tide this week.

      Georgia opened as low as a 22-point favorite over South Carolina, before immediately springing upwards. It’s not as if the Gamecocks are a walk over.

      South Carolina hasn’t lost to the point spread since a 17-16 win over Louisiana Tech as 9-point favorites in Week 4, though they did push in a 34-27 victory against Vanderbilt last week. But Alabama would be laying even more points in this spot.

      Bookmakers aren’t yet on board with the idea that Georgia is quite on Alabama’s level. The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook Game of the Year lines present some insight on the house’s view of the two teams likely to meet in the SEC Championship Game.

      They have a common opponent left on the schedule, as they both travel to Auburn. Alabama is currently a 10-point favorite at Auburn, while Georgia is minus-2.5.

      Lean: South Carolina plus-24.5

    • Iowa running back Akrum Wadley, right, scores past Penn State cornerback Grant Haley (15) and safety Troy Apke during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

      Ohio State minus-17.5 at Iowa, over/under: 52; 12:30 p.m. on ESPN

      Four of Ohio State’s five Big Ten games this season have been decided by at least 28 points. Four of Iowa’s five Big Ten games this season have been decided by seven points or less.

      The Buckeyes and Hawkeyes bring in teams that fit with their program’s stereotype in their first matchup in four years.

      Ohio State is known for ransacking opponents behind a frenetic pace that sees it average 80 plays per game. Iowa is known for trying to outlast opponents in the end by playing physically and deliberately to the tune of 60 plays per game.

      No one who played in the game the last time these two teams met may be on either roster but the betting line is nearly identical — Ohio State was an 18-point favorite before gutting out a 34-24 win in 2013.

      Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett’s school record 423 yards in the win against Penn State did more than reignite his Heisman campaign — he’s now a 4-to-1 second choice behind Barkley — as he moved up to third in the nation in passer rating. Iowa’s secondary has performed well this season, however, by giving up 5.9 yards per pass attempt to rank 13th in the nation.

      Guess: Ohio State minus-17.5

    • Clemson running back Tavien Feaster (28) runs for yardage against Wake Forest defensive players during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

      Clemson minus-7.5 at North Carolina State, over/under: 51; 12:30 p.m. on ABC

      Clemson likely would have never gotten a chance to win last year’s national championship if North Carolina State would have converted on a 33-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation in the teams’ matchup.

      Instead, Deshaun Watson led Clemson to an overtime touchdown to escape with a 24-17 victory as 20-point favorites. A close game with the Wolfpack this year would be far less shocking considering the odds are exponentially lower.

      For NC State to hang with Clemson in a second straight game, it will need to bounce back from its worst performance of the season — a 35-13 loss at Notre Dame as 7.5-point underdogs. The Wolfpack could look towards the Tigers in how to respond to a defeat.

      Clemson came back from its lone loss of the season, 27-24 at Syracuse as 24-point favorites, to pound Georgia Tech 24-10 as 14-point favorites last week. Quarterback Kelly Bryant showed no ill effects in returning from a concussion, racking up 207 passing yards and two touchdowns.

      It could turn into a battle of quarterbacks as NC State’s Ryan Finley has been one of the ACC’s most efficient passers.

      Guess: Over 51 points

    • Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt warms up before a game against TCU, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Ames, Iowa.

      Iowa State plus-2 at West Virginia, over/under: 60; 12:30 p.m. on ESPN2

      Maybe everyone should start taking Iowa State seriously now.

      The Cyclones, which control their own destiny in the Big 12, supplemented upset victories over Oklahoma and Texas Tech with arguably their biggest win yet last week — a 14-7 triumph over TCU as 7.5-point underdogs. Iowa State is on a four-game winning streak that money lines implied had less than a .5 chance of occurring since turning to walk-on senior quarterback Kyle Kempt.

      Just don’t look towards betting boards this week for confirmation that Iowa State has arrived. The Cyclones are an underdog for the sixth time in nine games this season, with the line not moving due to a reportedly even split of the action.

      They pulled an outright upset in one of only two trips ever to Morgantown W.V., winning 52-44 in overtime as 7.5-point favorites four years ago.

      That West Virginia squad was dangerous on offense and limited on defense, similar to the profile of this year’s Mountaineers. West Virginia is in the nation’s top 25 in gaining 6.5 yards per play against Football Bowl Subdivision opposition but 96th in giving up 6.1 yards per play.

      Iowa State has the opposite split, ranking inside the top 25 in surrendering 4.7 yards per play but picking up 5.5 yards per play to rate 65th on offense.

      Lean: West Virginia minus-2

    • In this Oct. 14, 2017, file photo, Stanford's Bryce Love, left, breaks free for a long touchdown against Oregon during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in Stanford, Calif. Love tweaked an ankle against Oregon and is a game-time decision for their game Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, against Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore . (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron, File)

      Stanford plus-3 at Washington State, over/under: 55; 12:30 p.m. on Fox

      The most popular early-week bet on this game hasn’t been on either side. It’s uncommonly been on the total.

      Tickets have poured in on the under, taking the total down a point at some sports books. The reasons are twofold.

      For one, the forecast calls for rain and snow at Martin Stadium, elements that could slow down the pair of Pac-12 contenders. Stanford might be limited anyway if the nation’s leading rusher, junior Bryce Love, is unable to return from an injury.

      The Cardinal showed the effects of playing without Love last week, eking out a 15-14 win at Oregon State as 18-point favorites. The Cougars weren’t any better and actually benched their offensive star, senior quarterback Luke Falk, in a 58-37 loss at Arizona in a game that went off as a pick’em.

      Both defenses might be better than perceived, which has made the Cougars and the Cardinal a profitable under bet this season. The two teams combined have seen 11 of their 17 games fall under the total.

      Lean: Stanford plus-3

    • Oklahoma's Emmanuel Beal is pictured during an NCAA college football media day in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

      Oklahoma plus-2.5 at Oklahoma State, over/under: 76; 1 p.m. on Fox Sports 1

      When it comes to a power program like Oklahoma, bettors can show an otherwise uncharacteristic level of forgiveness.

      The Sooners had burned the public with against the spread losses in four straight games before last week’s narrow 49-27 cover as 20.5-point favorites against Texas Tech. That was apparently all the majority of bettors needed to see to start buying in on the Sooners in bulk again.

      They’re dominating the action in arguably this week’s biggest games, drawing around three-fourths of the tickets in the Bedlam rivalry. Perhaps gamblers are also just married to the history of the series.

      This is only the second time in the last 18 years that Oklahoma State is favored over Oklahoma. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is 2-10 straight-up, 3-9 against the spread in the series.

      Before this week, the Cowboys had drawn just as much if not more action than the Sooners throughout the season. That included last week’s 50-39 win at West Virginia as 8.5-point favorites.

      Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph added a relatively minor 216 passing yards to his nation-leading 2,866 on the season. He may be set up for a bigger day against an Oklahoma pass defense ranked 87th in the nation by S&P.

      Play: Oklahoma State minus-2.5

    • FILE - In this Oct. 7, 2017, file photo, Alabama's Damien Harris (34) rushes for a 75-yard touchdown against Texas A&M during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, in College Station, Texas. amien Harris has sacrificed some carries playing in Alabamas offense, but that doesnt hurt nearly as much as something he gave up this summer: Honeybuns. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

      LSU plus-21.5 at Alabama, over/under: 48.5; 5 p.m. on CBS

      This point spread essentially asks bettors which version of LSU will appear at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

      Is it the seemingly adjusted outfit that’s on a three-game winning streak behind an offense that’s broken out of its doldrums the last two weeks? Or is it more like the bumbling mess of a team that went 1-2 straight-up, 0-3 against the spread in the three prior weeks?

      The former seems strong enough to keep the game with Alabama inside two touchdowns for the fourth straight year. The latter looks like a candidate to suffer something like Alabama’s last two wins, a 45-7 victory over Tennessee as 36-point favorites and a 41-9 shellacking of Arkansas as 37-point favorites.

      For the sports books looking to stimulate even action on both sides, the three-touchdown spread has succeeded. It’s high enough that bettors aren’t lining up at the window to take Alabama like a typical week.

      But those brave enough to lay such a large number could find valid reasons. Matchup-wise, the game still looks tough LSU. The Tigers’ whole offense is predicated on running the ball — they average 5.1 yards per carry to rank 25th in the nation — but the Crimson Tide are giving up a national-low 2.4 yards per rush attempt.

      Guess: LSU plus-21.5

    • Miami quarterback Malik Rosier (12) passes prior to an NCAA college football game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

      Virginia Tech minus-3 at Miami, over/under: 50; 5 p.m. on ABC

      The betting situation of this likely ACC Coastal division game of the year is practically unprecedented.

      It’s rare in the first place to see an undefeated, top-10 ranked home team taking points, let alone in a position where it’s not drawing any of the action. Bettors’ reluctance to back Miami is a reflection on its last four weeks, where it’s been favored by an average of 12 points but won only by a total of 18 points.

      Virginia Tech, on the other hand, has won five of its last seven games by at least 18 points. The Hokies’ offense has steadily progressed under freshman quarterback Josh Jackson, who has 17 touchdowns to four interceptions, but it’s defense that has them favored to get back to a second straight ACC Championship Game.

      Virginia Tech has the fourth-best defense in the nation by S&P. The Hokies’ defense only fault has been giving up big plays, however, and that’s precisely what the Hurricanes do best.

      Miami is 20th in the nation with 49 plays of at least 20 yards behind junior quarterback Malik Rosier.

      Play: Miami plus-3

    • Southern California linebacker Cameron Smith reacts after a play during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

      Arizona plus-7.5 at USC, over/under: 64.5; 7:45 p.m. on ESPN

      Bettors wouldn’t dare even consider wagering against USC in the preseason.

      Now they’re hesitant to back USC against Arizona of all teams. Consider it the Khalil Tate effect.

      Likely even more of a factor for the reluctance than the Trojans’ disappointing 2-7 against the spread season is the emergence of the most electrifying player in college football. Tate, a sophomore, is averaging more than 13 yards per carry with a 4-0 straight-up and 3-1 against the spread record since taking over at quarterback for the Wildcats.

      If he can keep up his blistering pace against a limelight team like USC, expect Tate to begin coming up in Heisman Trophy conversations. And there’s reason to believe he will.

      Although there were high hopes for a USC defense led by linebackers Cameron Smith and Uchenna Nwosu, it has failed to live up to those expectations. The Trojans rate 80th in the nation in giving up 4.6 yards per rush.

      Arizona has its own issues on defense that could spell a second straight breakout for USC quarterback Sam Darnold and running back Ronald Jones II. The Trojans’ two stars combined for 482 yards in a 48-17 win over Arizona State as 4.5-point favorites last week.

      Lean: Arizona plus-7.5

    • Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson looks at the scoreboard in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016.

      Extra points

      Texas Tech minus-3 vs. Kansas State Even if both teams were fully healthy, Texas Tech is good enough to lay a couple more points than this. But they’re not, as Kansas State is likely down to its third-string quarterback to make the value on Texas Tech too much to ignore.

      Wake Forest plus-15 at Notre Dame Here’s the “too many points” game of the week. The Fighting Irish should handle the Demon Deacons, but the visitors are feisty on defense and getting at least three more points than they should because of the excitement surrounding Notre Dame.

      Virginia plus-10 vs. Georgia Tech Cavaliers must win one of their last four games to hit goal of reaching a bowl game for the first time in five years, and this is their best chance. Georgia Tech is coming off a physically demanding 24-10 loss at Clemson that makes it unlikely to play at its peak.

      Army plus-6.5 at Air Force Air Force’s home field advantage should only go so far, because by almost any measure, Army has been the better team this season. That’s especially true on defense, where the Cadets are giving up .6 yards less per play.

      Western Kentucky plus-10.5 at Vanderbilt Vanderbilt is in a free-fall five-game losing streak, and shouldn’t lay points to anyone. Western Kentucky has gradually improved, but is still bogged down in the betting market by an 0-5 against the spread start to the season.

      Southern Miss plus-6.5 at Tennessee Speaking of Tennessee schools mired in a lost season, the Volunteers might be even worse than the Commodores. The only thing they do effectively is run the ball with John Kelly, but the Golden Eagles have a solid run defense that gives up 3.7 yards per carry.

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

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