Betting this college football season has felt like experiencing a recurring case of whiplash.
The swings have been the most violent I’ve ever encountered, and they’ve been evident in this column — especially last week. After three straight winning weeks on plays, I crashed in Week 11. I crashed big.
I went 0-8 on plays and 14-21 overall picking every game kicking off Friday or later. Talk about wiping out progress in painful manner.
I’m going to try to steer back on course methodically despite having a limited number of games left to do so. Chasing is the never answer and would only increase the possibility of the first losing season since starting this iteration of the college football by the odds column three years ago.
That can’t happen, so I’m out to make a move upwards slowly but surely.
Read below for this week’s picks. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side. The current record stands at 139-147-3 (27-31-1 on plays, 38-35 on leans and 74-81-2 on guesses).
Cincinnati -6 at UCF, over/under: 63.5. Line has moved six points in Cincinnati’s direction, which is too much. The Bearcats don’t deserve to be any more than a small favorite in a game against the best offense it’s seen all season. Play: UCF +6.
East Carolina -3.5 at Temple, over/under: 57.5. These teams are even statistically, and yet the line has shifted a touchdown in East Carolina’s favor. That’s an indicator that the Owls are unlikely past the coronavirus infections that have hampered their whole season. Guess: Temple +3.5.
Liberty +3.5 at NC State, over/under: 67.5. The two teams’ schedule strengths aren’t all that much different from one another, and Liberty has played far more efficiently. Get this before it closes below a field goal. Lean: Liberty +3.5.
Virginia Tech -3 at Pittsburgh, over/under: 55. Should the Panthers be upgraded because they got a week off while the Hokies are playing a ninth straight game or downgraded because they may still have lingering coronavirus absences? I’m having a tough time deciding. Guess: Virginia Tech -3.
Clemson -35 at Florida State, over/under: 63. The talent discrepancy has never been larger between these one-time rivals. I would need at least 40 points to consider the Seminoles. Guess: Clemson -35.
Syracuse +19 at Louisville, over/under: 56.5. The best thing to do in games like this with two teams overloaded with issues is pass. The worst thing to do is lay nearly three touchdowns. Guess: Syracuse +19.
Big Ten (15-9-1)
Wisconsin -7 at Northwestern, over/under: 44. Northwestern has won three straight games by a touchdown or less and therefore might be getting too much credit for its 4-0 record. The Wildcats are great defensively but haven’t encountered a team like the Badgers and quarterback Graham Mertz. Play: Wisconsin -7.
Purdue -3 at Minnesota, over/under: 61. Purdue’s abundance of injuries now extend to quarterback where Aidan O’Connell will be a game time decision. Purdue’s offense has been underwhelming even with O’Connell under center and may provide a chance for Minnesota’s defense to get back on track. Play: Minnesota +3.
Iowa -2.5 at Penn State, over/under: 47. A couple weeks ago, Penn State would have been a decent-sized favorite in this spot. Iowa has played at the very top of its range in combined 84-14 victories over Minnesota and Michigan State the last two weeks and should at least come back to Earth slightly. Lean: Penn State +2.5.
Indiana +20.5 at Ohio State, over/under: 66.5. With last week’s cancelation, Ohio State got gifted extra time to prepare for what suddenly looks like it’s only challenging game remaining on the schedule. That’s an advantage that could be worth an extra point or two on the spread. Lean: Ohio State -20.5.
Michigan -10.5 at Rutgers, over/under: 55. It’s easy to understand the reluctance to get involved with a tumultuous Michigan side right now, but its talent should dwarf Rutgers’. If the Wolverines don’t get on track this week, they’re officially never getting on track this season. Guess: Michigan -10.5.
Illinois +15.5 at Nebraska, over/under: 59. Nebraska has played a much tougher schedule than Illinois, and yet the Cornhuskers sit at -0.4 net yards per play to the Illini’s -1 net yards per play. Nebraska shouldn’t have any trouble winning this game, though its lack of consistent explosiveness on offense merits some pause in laying more than two touchdowns. Guess: Nebraska -15.5.
Big 12 (16-16)
Oklahoma State +7 at Oklahoma, over/under: 59. Sell high on an Oklahoma offense that has been rolling for the past month but struggled to start the year. It’s important to note that the Sooners haven’t played a defense anywhere near as stout as the Cowboys’ unit, which rates in the top 10 in the nation by most all-encompassing analytics. Lean: Oklahoma State +7.
Kansas State +11 at Iowa State, over/under: 46.5. By all accounts, this should be a low-scoring game between two well-coached teams. This looks like a lot of points for a low-scoring game between two well-coached teams. Guess: Kansas State +11.
Rice +1 at North Texas, over/under: 63. Neither the Owls nor the Mean Green have played in weeks thanks to cancelations, but the latter had looked much improved in their first two games. If anything, North Texas looked as bad as ever in its first five games. Guess: Rice +1.
Massachusetts +33 at Florida Atlantic, over/under: 50.5. The betting market often struggles to accurately price outlier. The Minutemen are the worst team in the nation by Football Outsiders’ F/+ ratings — a massive outlier. Guess: Florida Atlantic -33.
UTSA -9 at Southern Miss, over/under: 51. Southern Miss is down two head coaches and numerous players, but this is a giant adjustment against a UTSA side with a lesser roster. The Roadrunners also put a lot into last week’s 52-21 rivalry win over UTEP as 5.5-point favorites and it’s a lot to ask them to play that well two weeks in a row. Guess: Southern Miss +9.
Florida International +7.5 at Western Kentucky, over/under: 43.5. Western Kentucky has one of the worst offenses in the nation. Florida International has lost almost half of its team to a variety of factors. Don’t come close to this game. Guess: Western Kentucky -7.5.
Georgia Southern +4 at Army, over/under: 41. Prefer to take the points in what should be one of the quickest, most low scoring games of the week. Both teams’ option attacks should neutralize each other and make this a virtual coin flip. Guess: Georgia Southern +4.
San Jose State -2.5 at Fresno State, over/under: 60. Both offenses are lighting it up, but trusting San Jose State coach Brent Brennan’s scheme in its fourth year is easier than going with Fresno State’s Kalin DeBoer, who’s still implementing his system. Guess: San Jose State -2.5.
San Diego State -1.5 at UNR, over/under: 46.5. Teams have been dead-even if only taking into account this season, but priors should still hold some weight only four games into the season. And San Diego State was expected to be significantly better than UNR in the preseason. Guess: San Diego State -1.5.
New Mexico +7 at Air Force, over/under: 55.5. New Mexico has covered two straight, losing by a total of only 13 points to UNR and Hawaii, but it’s been outgained by more than 1 yard per play in those games. Air Force hasn’t played in three weeks, and unless it’s more crippled by coronavirus absences than reported, this number is too small. Guess: Air Force -7.
Boise State -14 at Hawaii, over/under: 58. Don’t mind paying a premium with the Broncos now that quarterback Hank Bachmeier is back. Hawaii has already gotten blown out by lesser sides in San Diego State and Wyoming. Guess: Boise State -14.
Arizona +11 at Washington, over/under: 54.5. The Huskies played much better than the final score indicated in a 27-21 win over Oregon State as 13.5-point favorites. They were my biggest bet-on team coming into the Pac-12 season, and they’ve done nothing to lose that distinction. Play: Washington -11.
Washington State +2.5 at Stanford, over/under: 64.5. Cougars freshman quarterback Jayden de Laura has been among the most exciting players to watch in the last couple weeks and should be able to keep his team in a likely shootout. This year’s Stanford team looks like it’s continuing the drop-off the program experienced last year. Lean: Washington State +2.5.
USC -3 at Utah, over/under: 58. Teams playing in their first game, like Utah, have outplayed teams in the middle of their schedule, like USC, all season long but it’s debatable if the Utes have any other edges. They lost almost all of their starters, putting them at a disadvantage against a team as experienced as USC. Guess: USC -3.
California -3.5 at Oregon State, over/under: 49. Cal sure didn’t look like a program that had overcome its bout with coronavirus in a 34-10 loss to UCLA as 3-point favorites. The Golden Bears are a buy-on team at full strength, but let’s see them at full strength first. Guess: California -3.5.
UCLA +13.5 at Oregon, over/under: 66.5. Yes, it’s only been two games but this looks like a collision between one of the nation’s best offenses (Oregon) and one of the nation’s best defenses (UCLA). When the line is otherwise fair, take the best offense in such contests. Guess: Oregon -13.5.
Mississippi State +24 at Georgia, over/under: 44.5. Several Mississippi State players have left the program with more reportedly unhappy, and the effect has been evident on the field. Coach Mike Leach’s team has been outgained by at least 2 yards per play in each of the last three games and may continue bottoming out. Lean: Georgia -24.
Missouri -6.5 at South Carolina, over/under: 57. Number appears a bit high on the surface, but begins to make more sense with all that's going on underneath the South Carolina program. Multiple players opted out after coach Will Muschamp was fired and it's hard to tell how much interim coach Mike Bobo will be able get out of those remaining. Lean: Missouri -6.5.
Tennessee +10.5 at Auburn, over/under: 50.5. Number looks fair but Tennessee may reportedly starting giving younger players more snaps including at quarterback where freshman Harrison Bailey may start. Auburn is more concerned with the now, and the better side to begin with. Guess: Auburn -10.5.
Kentucky +30 at Alabama, over/under: 58. I’m never in any rush to bet against Alabama but market perception seems to have risen significantly on the Crimson Tide in the three weeks since it played a game. This is the biggest favorite they’ve been all season despite playing a few teams worse than the Wildcats. Guess: Kentucky +30.
LSU -2 at Arkansas, over/under: 62.5. Even with a few of the Tigers sitting out for the rest of the season, this is a matchup between a rested side of blue-chippers against a rebuilding, albeit scrappy, team playing its fourth straight week. LSU -3 would be a fair price. Guess: LSU -2.
Florida -31.5 at Vanderbilt, over/under: 68. Florida hasn’t shown mercy on any team all season. There’s no reason to believe Vanderbilt will be the first recipient in a guaranteed blowout. Guess: Florida -31.5.
Appalachian State +5.5 at Coastal Carolina, over/under: 48. This is the game of the year in the Sun Belt, and assuming Appalachian State quarterback Zac Thomas is cleared to play, the biggest test of the year for the Coastal Carolina defensive backfield. This is more of a toss-up than the line suggests. Lean: Appalachian State +5.5.
Middle Tennessee +11.5 at Troy, over/under: 59.5. Troy trashed Middle Tennessee 47-14 as 1.5-point road favorites earlier this year. The win was convincing enough that -14 would be justified as a fair rematch price. Lean: Troy -11.5.
Arkansas State -6 at Texas State, over/under: 67. Both teams are such sieves defensively that it’s dangerous to back either. The Red Wolves have more playmakers on offense, though, with a strong receiving core around quarterback Logan Bonner. Guess: Arkansas State -6.
Georgia State -3.5 at South Alabama, over/under: 58.5. Teams appear close to evenly-matched, but Georgia State has been more consistent than young, volatile South Alabama. The Jaguars’ only wins have come against three of the worst teams in the nation — UL Monroe, Texas State and Southern Miss. Guess: Georgia State -3.5.