Last week was yet another profitable week for the Best Bets column, putting us on the right side of the .500 mark. While many people may have turned off the LSU vs. Florida game late in the fourth quarter, bettors were hanging on every play. As 13-point favorites, LSU’s defense came up with a big goal-line stand to win by 14 points and cover the spread. This big win vaulted the Tigers to second in the polls, and it sets up a potential No. 1 vs No. 2 showdown on November 9th when LSU travels to Alabama.
This week there are three matchups between top-25 teams (Oregon-Washington, Arizona State-Utah, Michigan-Penn State) that will hopefully deliver some compelling football. I predict two of these games in this week’s best bets column, and I’ll identify some typical “trap” and “lookahead” spots for other teams.
Here are my five best bets for Week 8 of the college football season.
Best Bets for Week 8: College Football
(odds courtesy of FanDuel)
Last Week: 3-2
Michigan vs. Penn State UNDER 45.5
There may not be a better atmosphere in college football than a “white-out” under the lights at Penn State. Michigan has back-to-back critical games as they are at Penn State this week and home against Notre Dame next week. After a disappointing offensive effort in a 10-3 win over Iowa two weeks ago, Michigan seemingly got their offense back on track in scoring 42 points in a win over Illinois. However, a look at the numbers will tell you that while Michigan gained 355 yards in the first half, they only managed 134 yards in the second half.
Outside of a 59-point outburst against Maryland, Penn State’s offense has looked inconsistent for the last four weeks. Quarterback Sean Clifford completed just 50% of his passes for 117 yards against Iowa. The Nittany Lions managed only 294 total yards for the game.
Both of these defenses rank in the top-15 in the country in PPG (Penn State-2nd at 8.2 PPG, Michigan-15th at 17.5 PPG). Penn State has one of the most dominant front sevens that they have ever had in the James Franklin era. I look for both of these offenses to play somewhat conservatively and to have trouble moving the ball consistently. Though it is already a low total, under 45.5 points is a great bet for what is sure to be a defensive struggle.
Oklahoma State -3.5 vs. Baylor
Just two years ago, the Baylor Bears went 1-11 in head coach Matt Rhule’s first season with the team. Now they stand at 6-0 and rank 18th in the country after a thrilling 33-30 double-overtime win over Texas Tech. It is not common for ranked teams to be underdogs by more than three points to unranked teams, but that is exactly the situation here. Just as the Miami-Virginia line last week smelled “fishy,” this line eludes the same reaction from me. Oklahoma State is off a bye after a disappointing loss to the same Texas Tech team that Baylor just beat. However, I loved the fight that the Cowboys showed in a tough loss at Texas two weeks prior. They then followed that up with a dominating performance over a ranked Kansas State team.
The Baylor Bears are first in the Big 12 in points allowed per game, but I expect them to be challenged by a superior offensive team in Oklahoma State. The Cowboys rank eighth nationally at 528.3 YPG. Look for Oklahoma State to hand Baylor their first loss of the season, as they earn their second-straight home win over a ranked team.
Oregon vs. Washington UNDER 51
All the talk about Oregon in the preseason was centered around their dominant offensive line and Heisman-hopeful quarterback Justin Herbert. However, Oregon’s defense is the biggest reason for their impressive 5-1 start. Over the last five weeks, Oregon’s defense has allowed 6, 3, 6, 7, and 3 points, respectively. The Ducks rank eighth in the nation at 267.7 YPG allowed.
Washington’s defense is helped by the fact that Oregon’s leading receiver, Jacob Breeland, is out for the year with a leg injury. The Huskies have allowed just 19.6 PPG this year. The under is 4-0 in the last four meetings between these teams in Washington. Look for another defensive struggle in this game.
Wisconsin at Illinois +31
This is a prototypical “lookahead” spot for Wisconsin. Coming off back-to-back shutout wins over Kent State and Michigan State, they travel to Illinois for a 12:00 kickoff. Next week might be the game with the biggest college football playoff implications to date, as Wisconsin travels to Ohio State. Meanwhile, Illinois overcame a sluggish start to cover the 26-point spread against Michigan last week comfortably. Illinois may fall behind early again, but you should look for Wisconsin to rest many of their starters down the stretch. Wisconsin is 0-4 ATS against a team with a losing record. Illinois will cover this big spread against a team that doesn’t have their full attention.
LSU at Mississippi State +19.5
If Wisconsin’s can be considered a “lookahead” spot, LSU’s is the quintessential “trap game.” College Gameday just visited Baton Rouge, and the Tigers responded with an emotional two-touchdown victory over the Florida Gators. Their next two games after Mississippi State are against Auburn and Alabama. It would not surprise me if LSU is looking ahead to those next two games. The cowbells will be out in full force at Davis Wade Stadium. Mississippi State is coming off an embarrassing loss to Tennessee. They played two quarterbacks (Garrett Shrader and Tommy Stevens), and neither was particularly effective. It feels like this spread should be 39.5 instead of 19.5. However, the Bulldogs are 6-1 ATS in their last seven home games and 4-1 in their last five games following a loss. I will follow these trends and fade the public, taking the Bulldogs to cover.