During the college football season, Stadium’s staff will provide weekly betting picks and advice. Here are our thoughts on the Week 9 slate:
1. What is your favorite pick against the spread?
Alex Symonds, Stadium Senior Producer: Missouri (-10) over Kentucky. You’ll notice a theme in my picks this week: the bounce back. Missouri is coming off a horrible loss to Vanderbilt (the Tigers had just a 9% success rate on passing downs vs. the ‘Dores!), but this week Kelly Bryant and company should fare better against a beat-up Kentucky team. Wildcats WR Lynn Bowden has played QB the last two weeks, and Mark Stoops may have to employ that plan yet again against the stingy Tigers defense (allowing 16.6 PPG this season). I really like the board this week, and Michigan (+1) vs. Notre Dame and Ohio (+3) at Ball State are two more sides that just missed the cut here.
Dan Vasta, Stadium “Stats Guru”: Michigan (+1) over Notre Dame. Jim Harbaugh has lost eight straight against the AP Top 10 — and is just 1-10 against Top 10 teams while at Michigan. However, coming off a narrow upset loss at Penn State, I am a firm believer in Michigan bouncing back here as their defense is capable of harassing Ian Book. This game has the makings of being one of the best we’ll see all year, and I expect for Michigan to come away with the victory.
Andy Wittry, Stadium College Sports Writer: Penn State (-6.5) over Michigan State. This could be a tricky spot as the Nittany Lions go on the road to face one of the country’s better defenses a week after Penn State won a big home game against Michigan. But SP+ projects Penn State to be 11.5 points better than Michigan State, and the Spartans have scored just 10 total points in their last two games. The Nittany Lions defense is stout, so I like Penn State’s chances of winning by more than a touchdown.
Nate Jacobson, Stadium Sports Betting Analyst: Michigan (+1) over Notre Dame. Michigan opened as a four-point favorite at one sportsbook in Las Vegas on Sunday and was bet down to under a field goal within 10 minutes. Then a second wave of Notre Dame action pushed this down to where the Fighting Irish are favorites as of Wednesday afternoon. At this price, I’m going to go against the early money and take Michigan. They showed some improvement on offense in a loss to Penn State, and now they return home in a night game that Jim Harbaugh desperately needs to win. I’m also not as high on Notre Dame, so I’ll take Michigan at this price.
2. What is your favorite total (over/under)?
AS: Under 61 in UCF-Temple. Temple’s defense is coming off of a terrible performance in Dallas against SMU, and — sticking to this week’s theme — I have confidence in the Owls to make the proper adjustments this week at home against UCF and keep this game under the number. The Knights offense has played at a high level with Dillon Gabriel running the show, but he’s been turnover-prone (six total turnovers combined vs. Pitt & Cincinnati) against quality defenses. I’m slightly worried about these defenses scoring on their own, but this should stay under the total if we can avoid that.
DV: Under 37.5 in California-Utah. Five straight unders have hit involving the Utes. They have allowed 14 or more points just once during this stretch, and the Cal offense might be as bad as it currently gets in the Pac-12.
AW: Under 55.5 in Arkansas-Alabama. With Heisman contender Tua Tagovailoa out for Alabama, backup quarterback Mac Jones will get the start, and Tua’s younger brother Taulia will be Jones’ backup. Arkansas’ offense ranks No. 96 in SP+, and a really bad Tennessee team was able to hang around with Alabama for 3.5 quarters last weekend.
NJ: Under 55.5 in Arkansas-Alabama. Alabama has evolved as an over team since Tua Tagovailoa took over in 2018, and oddsmakers have been forced to set higher totals in games involving the Crimson Tide. But now that Tagovailoa is out for at least this game with an ankle injury, the total has dropped quite a bit from opening at 60. With Mac Jones at quarterback, expect Alabama to lean on the running game and play stout defense against a shaky Arkansas offense.
3. Which underdog of six points or more has the best chance of an outright upset?
AS: Northwestern (+10.5) over Iowa. This pick may seem out there, but things are usually weird in Evanston for a double-digit Big Ten favorite at 11 a.m. The Wildcats were completely embarrassed by Ohio State under the lights last week, but the Buckeyes have done that to everyone they’ve played this season. Northwestern still has a top-15 SP+ defense, and Nate Stanley (7.3 adjusted yards/attempt this season) shouldn’t scare Pat’s Cats too much. If the boys in purple can get to 17 points (a big if), there is plenty of value at +340 on the moneyline.
DV: Michigan State (+6.5) over Penn State. This game is the perfect upset per my standards. Penn State looks great on paper and everyone believes that they’re worthy of dethroning Ohio State. However, the Penn State defense has some weaknesses in their secondary that Sparty could exploit. On top of that, the Nittany Lions offense has been so reliant on KJ Hamler that it is eventually going to cost them against somebody not named Ohio State — this is the spot.
AW: Illinois (+9.5) at Purdue. We’ll see if the Illinois well is dried out or if it can be profitable for two weeks in a row after the Illini upset previously unbeaten Wisconsin last week. The SP+ ratings believe that Purdue is only 4.3 points better than Illinois, so even though this game is on the road, and Purdue kept things close against Iowa last week, the Big Ten West continues to make no sense, which is why I’ll ride the hot team.
NJ: Auburn (+10.5) over LSU. I’m going to do some “spread math” to handicap this game. Auburn was a 2.5-point favorite at Florida at the beginning of the month, which would make them about a six-point favorite on a neutral field. The next week, Florida was a 14-point underdog at LSU. This would mean Auburn should be only around an eight-point underdog when they travel to Baton Rouge for a less intimidating afternoon start in Death Valley. I’ll take Auburn as double-digit underdogs here with a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.
4. What is one bet you are tempted to make this week, but know you probably shouldn’t?
AS: I can’t pick just one, so here are three bets I’m going to try to avoid making between now and Saturday. Nebraska (+1) vs. Indiana: Should the Hoosiers ever be favored in Lincoln? Rutgers (+7.5) vs. Liberty: This just feels like way too many points even if Rutgers is the worst Power Five team by a mile. Kansas State (+24) vs. Oklahoma: The Sooners have yet to play in a road environment like this in 2019 and are due for a letdown, but I still don’t want to bet against this OU offense.
DV: Washington State (+14) at Oregon. The Ducks are rolling right now, so I don’t suggest fading them at the moment. However, the general public is really starting to fall for them, and when you pull off an impressive victory, disappointment usually comes the following week. I’m not predicting the upset here, but Max Borghi — my favorite RB — is an absolute stud for the Cougars. He has been unstoppable in conference play and could put a scare into the dominant Ducks defense. Uncle Mo(mentum) is still high on Oregon though, so I would likely take a pass.
AW: Indiana (-1) at Nebraska. This is admittedly a personal bias pick with my alma mater being favored at Nebraska in football — a sentence I never thought I’d ever type — despite its starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. being listed as questionable. I’d love to capitalize on the Hoosiers being perceived as the better team, but this is the type of game Indiana has been unable to win in the past, so I’m staying away.
NJ: Wisconsin at Ohio State (-14). The line for this game was Ohio State -11 before Wisconsin lost a shocker to Illinois in Week 8. The Badgers’ loss has moved this line three points, so some of the value is lost in backing the Buckeyes. However, I don’t want any part of betting on Wisconsin. That’s because they’d be in trouble if they trailed early because they don’t have the passing offense required to play catchup. I also question their mindset after losing to Illinois, which crushed their College Football Playoff chances — unless they pull off an upset of their own in Columbus.