During the college football season, Stadium’s staff will provide weekly betting picks and advice. Here are our thoughts on the Week 6 slate:
1. What is your favorite pick against the spread?
Alex Symonds, Stadium Senior Producer: Florida (+3) over Auburn. Auburn has one of the most impressive résumés in the country after five weeks, which may explain why this game has moved three points after opening as a pick ’em. But I don’t believe in the Tigers up front, so I am betting Florida (+3). Auburn is in the bottom third of FBS in tackles for loss (TFL) allowed this season, while Florida has gotten after opposing offenses with 45 TFL in the first five games (4th FBS). Add in UF’s home-field advantage and a true freshman QB on the other side, and I’ll happily take the Gators getting a field goal.
Dan Vasta, Stadium “Stats Guru”: Oregon (-18) over California. Losing Chase Garbers under center is going to hurt Cal. When the QB went down (shoulder) last week in their loss to Arizona State, the Golden Bears barely moved the ball the rest of the way. In fact, excluding a scoring drive to start the second half, they failed to post any drives of more than 19 yards. Coming off a bye week, Justin Herbert and the Ducks will be primed for an offensive explosion that will cover the big number.
Andy Wittry, Stadium College Sports Writer: Texas (-11) over West Virginia. There’s not a great comparison for West Virginia (No. 64 SP+) among Texas’ first four opponents — Louisiana Tech (No. 96 SP+), LSU (No. 5 SP+), Rice (No. 124 SP+) and Oklahoma State (No. 18 SP+) — but with the Longhorns’ top-five offense, scoring enough points to keep a two-touchdown buffer against the Mountaineers shouldn’t be an issue.
Nate Jacobson, Stadium Sports Betting Analyst: Illinois (+14) over Minnesota. Illinois has shown enough improvement in Lovie Smith’s fourth season where I trust them to cover big point spreads against middling Big Ten teams. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to fade Minnesota, and I’m going to take the bait here. The Golden Gophers are 4-0, but have trailed in the final minute of regulation in narrow wins against Fresno State and Georgia Southern — and also trailed in the fourth quarter of their opener against FCS program South Dakota State. The Fighting Illini will stay within the number in this one.
2. What is your favorite total (over/under)?
AS: Under 50.5 in Northwestern-Nebraska. Northwestern comes to Lincoln a week after the Cornhuskers fell flat under the lights against Ohio State. I don’t know who wins this game, but I am confident that both offenses will struggle to score in a classic Big Ten West rock fight, so I’ll bet under 50.5. Northwestern may be 1-3, but the Wildcats defense (11th per SP+) is strong and disciplined. Even if Adrian Martinez and company hit a few explosive plays, Northwestern’s offense (dead last in FBS at 3.93 yards per play) won’t be able to help this number hit the over.
DV: Under 48.5 in Auburn-Florida. Both teams rank in the top 25 in points allowed, and Auburn loves to dominate the trenches. They’ve been flexing their muscles, making it fair to ask if they have the best defensive line in the nation. Florida QB Kyle Trask will be under duress all game, and I don’t see the Gators hitting the chunk plays needed to score points. Also, the last nine meetings that ended in regulation between these schools have had the total well under 50.
AW: Over 55.5 in Purdue-Penn State. There’s a non-zero percent chance that Penn State covers this number by itself after putting up 79 points in its season opener against Idaho and 59 at Maryland last week. The only concern here is that the Nittany Lions’ defense (No. 16 in SP+) is too good for a Purdue offense that’s without quarterback Elijah Sindelar and wide receiver Rondale Moore due to injuries, BUT the Boilermakers still put up 31 points in a Week 5 loss to Minnesota despite playing without the two players for most of the game.
NJ: Under 48.5 in Auburn-Florida. I would lean to Florida (+3) in this game, and a Florida cover would correlate well with the under in this matchup. Florida QB Kyle Trask has a high upside for the future, but for now, he’s a game manager that can take care of the ball and help Florida shorten the game. Auburn racked up 42 first-half points in their last game against Mississippi State — which is why the total for this game has gone up — but Florida has a much better defense and the Gainesville crowd will make things difficult for true freshman quarterback Bo Nix.
3. Which underdog of six points or more has the best chance of an outright upset?
AS: Tulsa (+13) over SMU. SMU is ranked in the AP poll for the first time since receiving the death penalty and is also 5-0 for the first time since 1983. Sonny Dykes’ offense is ninth in FBS in points per game (44.4), 13th in total offense (510.6 ypg) and 16th-best on 3rd down (50.6 pct.). Despite these superlatives, I like Tulsa (+13) on the road against the overvalued Mustangs this week. SMU has lost the game before the bye each of the last five years, and I believe there is value on Tulsa (+400) on the moneyline.
DV: East Carolina (+11.5) over Temple. From top to bottom, this is perhaps the worst selection of touchdown-plus underdogs to pick from in recent memory. It’s why I almost considered taking Virginia Tech over Miami despite Justin Fuente being on the hot seat. Did I mention that this slate is brutal?
AW: Vanderbilt (+7) over Ole Miss. This is a rough week for finding a touchdown ‘dog that inspires any confidence. While SP+ says Ole Miss is 6.8 points better on a neutral field, the Commodores’ offense is ranking roughly twice as high as the Rebels. Plus, Ole Miss starting quarterback Matt Corral is listed as questionable, leaving freshman John Rhys Plumlee (48.6%, 6.4 Y/A, 2 TD, 1 INT on 35 attempts) as the team’s potential fill-in starter.
NJ: Georgia Tech (+10.5) over North Carolina. This is a very high-variance game in my opinion. I can see North Carolina out-classing Georgia Tech and winning by a large margin, but I can also see Georgia Tech winning straight up because North Carolina just lost a heart-breaking game to Clemson. It was a grueling first five weeks of the season for the Tar Heels, which included games against South Carolina, Miami and Wake Forest along with the No. 1 team in the country. If Georgia Tech avoids turnovers on offense, they’ll have a chance of covering this number and potentially securing a much-needed win for the program.
4. What is one bet you are tempted to make this week, but know you probably shouldn’t?
AS: Michigan State at Ohio State (-20). I don’t want a part of either side on Saturday. My betting instincts tell me to fade the Buckeyes after everyone saw them wallop Nebraska on Saturday night, but even if this game hits 21 I don’t think I can trust Michigan State to cover. Buckeyes DL Chase Young wrecks even the best gameplans, and Spartan QB Brian Lewerke is the ultimate wild card on the other side. I will be watching to get a read on both teams going forward, but this game is personally a complete “stay away” matchup from a betting standpoint.
DV: Iowa at Michigan (-3.5). I could seemingly put Michigan on this list every week, but I don’t want Jim Harbaugh to lure me in once again. Whoops, too late. I respect the always consistent Iowa Hawkeyes, but Michigan is a desperate team at this point in the season. Despite Michigan’s sense of urgency, I’m going to hold off on betting on this game.
AW: Oklahoma (-35) at Kansas. The Sooners scored 55 points in a 39-point win at home over Texas Tech in Week 5 and Kansas is significantly worse than the Red Raiders. The SP+ rankings say Oklahoma is 31.7 points better than Kansas on a neutral field, and this is a Jayhawks team that doubled up a Power Five opponent (Boston College) on the road. Whether or not Oklahoma wins by at least 35 points might come down to how long Jalen Hurts stays in the game.
NJ: Virginia Tech at Miami (-14). I have tried to talk myself into betting on Virginia Tech at an inflated number, but I’m worried about backing a team that just lost by 35 points at home to Duke on a Friday night. The math says to take the Hokies, but they are a team I cannot touch for the foreseeable future.