Forget “sports books.” For this week only, local betting shops should be renamed, “sports burrows,” in honor of their momentary overlord.
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is all the rage in the betting market after throwing for 471 yards and four touchdowns to beat Texas 45-38 last week. After opening at 100-to-1 to win the Heisman Trophy at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, the senior is down to 5-to-1.
The former Ohio State transfer has cracked into the previously perceived two-man race of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (currently 3-to-1) and Clemson’s Tyler Lawrence (5-to-1).
Burrow took advantage of playing in the biggest game of the week, but it might be a while before he gets another opportunity on such a stage. LSU is projected as at least a three-touchdown favorite in each of its next three games before hosting Florida on October 12.
That means it’s time to find the next Burrow-like riser who can pull his team up the ranks. I’ll continue to attempt to do so by handicapping every Football Bowl Subdivision game, including the 48 on this week’s slate below.
Picks are separated by conference — with the home team taking precedence in non-conference games — and labeled in three separate confidence categories. My record stands at 47-40-4 through two weeks — 5-12-1 on plays, 17-4-1 on leans and 25-24-1 on guesses.
Maryland minus-7 at Temple, over/under: 66.5. Neither Syracuse nor Howard stood a prayer of slowing Maryland’s offense. Temple does. The Owls are rested off a bye and field an experienced front seven that helped them rank ninth in the nation last year in giving up 4.5 yards per play. Play: Temple plus-7.
Stanford plus-9 at UCF, over/under: 62.5. The line on this game going into the season was UCF minus-3, and with no one expecting anything out of Stanford in this spot any longer, it’s the perfect time to pounce. The Cardinal should not be downgraded because of last week’s 45-20 loss to USC considering quarterback K.J. Costello — one of the nation’s most underrated passers — was out with an injury and will return against the Knights. Play: Stanford plus-9.
Miami (Ohio) plus-17.5 at Cincinnati, over/under: 49.5. The RedHawks were a 1.5-point favorite in this matchup a year ago. Yes, they were at home and lost 21-0 but that’s too drastic of a shift especially considering the Bearcats haven’t proven anything this year with their week 1 win over UCLA looking less impressive given the Bruins’ struggles. Lean: Miami (Ohio) plus-17.5.
Texas State plus-17.5 at SMU, over/under: 62.5. Bobcats played better than the final score makes it look in a 23-14 loss to Wyoming as 7.5-point underdogs as they outgained the Cowboys by 1.5 yards per play. SMU, meanwhile, might be fortunate to be 2-0 after winning a glorified coin flip over Arkansas State in week 1. Guess: Texas State plus-17.5.
Washington State minus-9 at Houston, over/under: 73. When the point spread looks tight and there’s not much to handicap off of, look towards the coaches. Washington State’s Mike Leach has been a gift to bettors — going 51-40 against the spread with the Cougars — while Houston’s Dana Holgorsen has been a curse — he’s 45-57-2 against the spread lifetime. Guess: Washington State minus-9.
Oklahoma State minus-14 at Tulsa, over/under: 64. Tulsa has shown real signs of life in starting the season 2-0 behind one of the nation’s most experienced defenses and Baylor transfer quarterback Zac Smith. And there’s no overstating how much a bigger in-state school traveling to play them for the first time in eight years means to the Golden Hurricane. Guess: Tulsa plus-14.
Western Kentucky plus-10 vs. Louisville in Nashville, over/under: 50.5. Louisville’s power-rating is amusingly inflated from one somewhat spirited effort in a season-opening 35-17 loss to Notre Dame as 19-point underdogs. Western Kentucky is one of the most experienced teams in the nation and not at a major talent disadvantage to their in-state, power-conference rival. Play: Western Kentucky plus-10.
North Carolina plus-3 at Wake Forest, over/under: 66.5. The Tar Heels might be the most fortunate 2-0 team in the country, having mounted fourth-quarter comebacks in both games to win by a total of seven points. The Demon Deacons have played just as well, despite a field-goal win of their own over Utah State in Week 1, and deserve more than the minimum home-field advantage adjustment. Play: Wake Forest minus-3.
Florida State plus-7.5 at Virginia, over/under: 58.5. Florida State must show some semblance of a defense before it can’t be considered worth backing. In direct contrast to the Seminoles, the Cavaliers have been one of the most disciplined and dependable teams in the nation over the last two years. Guess: Virginia minus-7.5.
Kansas plus-21 at Boston College, over/under: 51. Number looks exactly right, but both teams will commit to their run games and keep the clock churning. That makes points more valuable. Guess: Kansas plus-21.
Clemson minus-27.5 at Syracuse, over/under: 62.5. I would rather not fade Clemson unless the line looks completely out of whack, and this one falls short of that criteria. Syracuse has only gained a mediocre 5 yards per play against iffy Maryland and Liberty defenses so it could find major problems against Clemson. Guess: Clemson minus-27.5.
Arizona State plus-14.5 at Michigan State, over/under: 41.5. Laying more than two touchdowns is a tough ask in a game where there might not even be two touchdowns scored. Both these teams are led by their defenses as I need more than one outburst — an admittedly impressive 51-17 victory over Western Michigan as 14.5-point favorites — to trust Michigan State’s offense. Play: Arizona State plus-14.5.
Northern Illinois plus-14 at Nebraska, over/under: 54.5. Now that the Nebraska hype has died down, it might be time to start buying low on the Cornhuskers. The Huskies shouldn’t be expected to play to its peak in a second straight road game against a Power Five conference opponent. Lean: Nebraska minus-14.
Pittsburgh plus-17.5 at Penn State, over/under: 52.5. From the misleading box score department, the Panthers only won 20-10 as 4-point favorites last week but blew out Ohio from an efficiency standpoint with a nearly 3 yard per play advantage. With the Panthers’ offense now on track behind veteran quarterback Kenny Pickett, they should be able to stay competitive with a still-green Nittany Lions squad. Guess: Pittsburgh plus-17.5.
Ohio State minus-18 at Indiana, over/under: 60. The line move makes it hard to side with Ohio State. There may have been some value on the Buckeyes at their opening number of minus-14, but now that the spread has left one key number and passed through another, the favorite is unadvisable. Guess: Indiana plus-18.
Georgia Southern plus-16.5 at Minnesota, over/under: 45. The Eagles have arguably played a tougher first two games than the Golden Gophers but have managed to put up comparable efficiency numbers. Georgia Southern is averaging a net minus-0.9 yards per play as opposed to Minnesota’s minus-0.7. Guess: Georgia Southern plus-16.5.
TCU minus-1.5 at Purdue, over/under: 52.5. The Boilermakers are a big unknown without veteran quarterback Elijah Sindelar, whose status is unknown after suffering a concussion. Even if Sindelar plays, don’t be scared of getting stuck with a Horned Frogs’ team that’s potentially undervalued after being ravaged with injuries last year. Guess: TCU minus-1.5.
Eastern Michigan plus-7.5 at Illinois, over/under: 55.5. Extra half point could loom large in a game that doesn’t project to be particularly high scoring. Eastern Michigan has beaten a Big Ten team in each of the last two years, and Illinois could be distracted by next week’s conference opener against Nebraska. Guess: Eastern Michigan plus-7.5.
UNLV plus-20 at Northwestern, over/under: 53.5. UNLV frustration might be spilling into the sports books as Station Casinos, a locals-first shop, has a spread two points higher than the rest of the market. I want nothing to do with this game as Northwestern is the antithesis of UNLV in many ways as an annual overachiever, but it’s not a team that often deserves to be favored by three touchdowns. Guess: UNLV plus-20.
North Carolina State minus-6.5 at West Virginia, over/under: 45.5. Opponent adjustments are especially vital early in the season. Yes, the Wolfpack have outscored their first two opponents 75-6 but they were Western Carolina and East Carolina, paper-thin competition compared to West Virginia’s slate of Missouri and FCS power James Madison. The results don’t merit them laying a touchdown in one of college football’s tougher venues. Lean: West Virginia plus-6.5.
Iowa minus-1.5 at Iowa State, over/under: 43. It feels like now or never for Iowa State to reassert itself in this rivalry after losing four straight, but I can’t shake the feeling of Iowa having too many plus-matchups in this contest. That includes a highly dependable quarterback in Nate Stanley against an inexperienced set of Cyclones’ cornerbacks. Guess: Iowa minus-1.5.
Ohio plus-5.5 at Marshall, over/under: 49. These teams look incredibly evenly matched as moderately-experienced squads expected to compete for their conference championships. They’re also both coming off of close losses to bigger programs, and there’s no reason this line should be higher than a field goal. Lean: Ohio plus-5.5.
Texas minus-32.5 vs. Rice in Houston, over/under: 56. Already dealing with significant injuries, Texas came out of last week’s loss even more banged up. The Longhorns’ focus against the Owls, therefore, will be more centered on getting out in one piece for next week’s Big 12 opener than running up the score. Guess: Rice plus-32.5.
Duke minus-6 at Middle Tennessee State, over/under: 50.5. Forget about Duke’s offensive ineptitude in a season-opening 42-3 loss to Alabama as a 33.5-point underdog. It won’t matter much here, not against a Middle Tennessee team that gave up nearly 500 yards to Tennessee State last week. Guess: Duke minus-6.
Army minus-17 at UTSA, over/under: 45. As bad as the Roadrunners may be, they might be catching the Black Knights at the right time. Army is bound to endure some attrition in its second straight road game coming off of a physical, double-overtime loss at Michigan. Guess: UTSA plus-17.
Massachusetts plus-20.5 at Charlotte, over/under: 66.5. Charlotte is taking some steam in the betting market after showing early strides under first-year coach Will Healy, but it’s entering unprecedented territory. The 49ers have only once been favored by double digits previously in a Football Bowl Subdivision game. Guess: Massachusetts plus-20.5.
San Diego State minus-15.5 at New Mexico State, over/under: 50. San Diego State’s offense is only going to get better as it settles into a new, more modern approach. New Mexico State’s defense may only get worse coming out of getting trucked 62-10 at Alabama and into another physical game. Lean: San Diego State minus-15.5.
East Carolina plus-7.5 at Navy, over/under: 53.5. Some version of this is repeated ad naseum, but here it goes again: Don’t change your perception of teams drastically based on one game. I came into the season wanting to back East Carolina under new coach Mike Houston as much as possible, and one 34-6 smackdown to North Carolina State as 18-point underdogs shouldn’t change that. Lean: East Carolina plus-7.5.
USC minus-4 at BYU, over/under: 56.5. It’s too early to say definitively, but USC may have finally figured out its offense with coordinator Graham Harrell and freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis. Either way, it’s going to be a culture shock for BYU to face its uptempo, quick-passing attack after taking on two run-heavy teams to start the year. Guess: USC minus-4.
Buffalo minus-5.5 at Liberty, over/under: 55.5. Until coach Hugh Freeze gets on his feet, it’s fair to assume that Liberty will be at a coaching disadvantage. That could be magnified this week against Buffalo coach Lance Leipold, who has led the Bulls to overachieving on a near annual basis. Guess: Buffalo minus-5.5.
New Mexico plus-35 at Notre Dame, over/under: 64.5. New Mexico is one of the worst teams in the nation; Notre Dame is one of the most overvalued teams in the nation. There are no right answers here. Guess: Notre Dame minus-35.
Georgia State plus-8.5 at Western Michigan, over/under: 69.5. Look over the total as both the Panthers and Broncos have capable offenses to pair with defenses that stand little chance at stopping each other. And, in a high-scoring game, points make it easier for favorites to cover. Lean: Western Michigan minus-8.5.
Florida Atlantic minus-3 at Ball State, over/under: 64.5. Lane Kiffin’s highly successful first season at Florida Atlantic is beginning to look more like the exception than the rule as terrible results pile up. Those disappointments include getting outgained by 5 yards per play in a 48-14 loss to UCF last week and leaving the Owls unable to be trusted with laying points on the road. Guess: Ball State plus-3.
Louisiana Tech minus-10.5 at Bowling Green, over/under: 58.5. The Bulldogs have struggled I both of their games so far, failing to cover by double digits in each, but still have a highly experienced roster in contrast with rebuilding Bowling Green. If Louisiana Tech doesn’t show signs of improvement this week, it might be time to start waffling on the typically dependable program. Guess: Louisiana Tech minus-10.5.
Akron pick’em at Central Michigan, over/under: 45. The Chippewas edge the Zips in both returning production and recruiting rankings. I’d prefer to take a talent edge, even if it’s a slight one, in a pick’em game. Guess: Central Michigan pick’em.
Air Force plus-4 at Colorado, over/under: 58.5. Rest is an always-important factor that may not be priced enough into this line. The Falcons had a bye after playing Colgate last week while Colorado battled back to defeat Nebraska in its second straight emotional contest after opening with a win over rival Colorado State. Lean: Air Force plus-4.
North Texas plus-14 at California, over/under: 50.5. Buy low on North Texas, which still has one of the nation’s most underrated quarterbacks in Mason Fine despite getting blown out by SMU last week, and sell high on California, which is still offensively challenged despite upsetting Washington last week. The travel and coaching track records — Justin Wilcox is much more proven than Seth Littrell — are the only issues causing hesitation. Lean: North Texas plus-14.
Texas Tech minus-2 at Arizona, over/under: 77.5. It just feels right that the game with the highest total of the whole week 3 will close the action. Expect every bit the shootout that the over/under implies, which therefore favors the more explosive home team as Arizona has gained 2.2 more yards per play than Texas Tech against a comparable slate of opposing defenses. Lean: Arizona plus-2.
Hawaii plus-21 at Washington, over/under: 55.5. Hawaii annually regresses when it starts to venture towards the mainland. This line would have been at least a field goal higher two weeks ago and I’m not sure two close fourth-quarter wins for the Warriors and a narrow upset loss to California for the Huskies should have this big of an impact. Guess: Washington minus-21.
Oklahoma minus-24 at UCLA, over/under: 73. I may have sided with Oklahoma at the opening number of minus-17.5, but the asking price has gotten too outrageous. The Sooners were only a 10-point favorite in this spot in the game of the year lines over the summer. Guess: UCLA plus-24.
Florida minus-8 at Kentucky, over/under: 48.5. The Gators have practically enjoyed three weeks to prepare — their only game was a 45-0 mismatch against Tennessee-Martin — and the Wildcats lost quarterback Terry Wilson to a knee injury last week. Despite all of that, this number has inexplicably gone down a point from where it sat in the game of the year market preseason. Play: Florida minus-8.
Kansas State plus-7 at Mississippi State, over/under: 52. This is a pretty massive overreaction to a pair of impressive blowout victories by Kansas State. Yes, the Wildcats flew past expectations in beating Nichols State and Bowling Green by a combined 87 points but Mississippi State on the road is a different beast. Going into the season, the Bulldogs shaped up as closer to a two-touchdown favorite. Play: Mississippi State minus-7.
Colorado State plus-9.5 at Arkansas, over/under: 64. There’s no chance Arkansas gets caught looking past Colorado State after the Rams upset the Razorbacks 34-27 last season. The Razorbacks were a 14-point favorite in that game on the road and have shown signs of progress, meaning there’s no way this year’s line should be shorter. Lean: Arkansas minus-9.5.
Alabama minus-25.5 at South Carolina, over/under: 62.5. Almost every year, Alabama point spreads look a few points higher than justified. Almost every year, Alabama beats point spreads at a winning clip. Therefore, it’s best to stay away from their games. Guess: South Carolina plus-25.5.
Kent State plus-35 at Auburn, over/under: 54. Auburn deserves a spot in the conversation of best defenses — especially best defensive lines — in the country. It’s hard to see the Zips being able to score with the likes of Nick Coe and Derrick Brown bearing down on them. Guess: Auburn minus-35.
Arkansas State plus-32.5 at Georgia, over/under: 58. Having yet played a game that’s garnered any national attention, Georgia has been conspicuously absent from discussions about the best teams in college football. But the Bulldogs are better than ever, and if they had been able to prove it in a bigger game early in the year, this line might be a couple points higher. Guess: Georgia minus-32.5.
Southern Miss plus-2.5 at Troy, over/under: 48.5. Wrong side might be favored as Southern Miss brings back virtually its same team in a pivotal season for coach Jay Hopson while Troy adjusts to new coach Chip Lindsey. Troy has looked like it picked up right where it left off, but that was against Campbell and Buffalo. Southern Miss is a big step up. Play: Southern Miss plus-2.5.
Memphis minus-18.5 at South Alabama, over/under: 57.5. The market is moving against the Tigers — they are now an absurdly high 7-to-1 to win the AAC at Circa Sports — and I can’t figure out why. Memphis remains one of the best, if not the best, Group of Five conference teams this season and a strong bet-on. Lean: Memphis minus-18.5.