During the college football season, the Stadium staff will provide weekly betting picks and advice in this roundtable. Here are our thoughts on the Week 8 slate.
Note: Ben and Nate will discuss all of their college football and NFL bets on the Sharp Lessons podcast. Subscribe on Spotify and Apple for episodes and follow Stadium Bets on Twitter for more sports betting content.
1. What is your favorite pick against the spread?
Alex Symonds, Stadium Senior Producer: UTSA -6.5 over Louisiana Tech.
A few weeks ago in this column, I established that I’m a company man, so once again I need to remind you, dear reader, that you can watch this game on Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET on Stadium with Chris Hassel and Patrick Murray on the call. I went against La Tech last week (and cashed a +225 ticket on UTEP in the process), and I’m going back to the well when the Bulldogs play UTSA. La Tech’s defense is giving up 5.9 yards per play this season, and I expect QB Frank Harris (1,600 passing yards, 211 rushing yards, 16 total TD) and the UTSA offense to go to work.
I worry about a Tech back-door cover in this situation, but with the Roadrunners ranked for the first time in program history, I’m hopeful UTSA coach Jeff Traylor will have his foot on the gas if this is a one-score game in the fourth quarter to keep that number next to his team’s name moving forward.
Ben Wittenstein, Stadium Social Media Producer: Clemson +3.5 over Pittsburgh.
This is straight-up disrespectful to the Tigers. Their two Ls have only come against the best team in the country and in a double overtime loss on the road. Yet, somehow, people have dismissed the Fighting Dabos this season — maybe due to their lack of offense/non-blowout wins? Because of that, this is the first time the Tigers are an underdog in ACC play since 2016!
I don’t think they’ve played bad enough to be +3.5 against Pitt. Sure, their offense might struggle, but I think their talented defense can keep them in this game. If you’re bold, sprinkle a bit on the Clemson ML, but as long as this stays at +3 or more, the Tigers should be a perfect buy low option.
Kate Constable, Stadium Host & Digital Producer: UCLA -1 over Oregon.
This line opened with Oregon as the favorite at the Rose Bowl, but quickly turned into a pick ‘em before moving in favor of the home team. The Ducks haven’t looked very impressive since their win over Ohio State. In fact, they haven’t covered since that game, which was in Week 2. Meanwhile, UCLA is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games against Pac-12 opponents.
Both of these teams have solid rushing attacks, but losing CJ Verdell for the season to a leg injury is a big blow for this Oregon backfield. Couple that with the fact that UCLA has one of the better rushing defenses in college football, allowing just 91 yards on the ground per game, and the Bruins will have an opportunity to slow down the Ducks.
Nate Jacobson, Stadium Sports Betting Analyst: Iowa State -7 over Oklahoma State.
Last week, I bet Texas -3.5 against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys won the game outright, but I don’t think I made a bad bet. Texas, leading 17-3 late in the first half, was driving with a chance to go up three scores before Oklahoma State had an interception returned for a touchdown to swing the game. The Longhorns’ offense stalled in the second half and the Cowboys ended up winning by eight points.
Now Mike Gundy’s team goes back on the road as a seven-point underdog — even though they’re the No. 8 program playing against a two-loss unranked team. The point spread indicates that Oklahoma State has been lucky this season while Iowa State is undervalued after early losses to Iowa and Baylor. Matt Campbell-coached teams traditionally start off slow, so I’m expecting their best effort now that we’re at the mid-way point of the season and they also still have a chance of reaching the Big 12 title game.
2. What is another bet you like?
AS: Maryland +4.5 over Minnesota.
These two teams are headed in different directions. After a 4-0 start, Maryland has been outscored 117-31 in consecutive losses while also losing wide receivers Dontay Demus Jr. and Jeshaun Jones for the season. Meanwhile, Minnesota has won two straight against Purdue and Nebraska after an embarrassing loss to Bowling Green. So why do I like Maryland and the points in this matchup? The Terps have had a week off to get plenty of reps for their replacement pass catchers and install any new wrinkles to the offense before going up against a Gopher defense that allows 7.0 yards per pass attempt.
In addition, Minnesota’s consecutive wins are a bit suspect when diving deeper into the box score. The Gophers were outgained 448-294 by Purdue, while Nebraska missed a 27-yard field goal and also came up empty with three chances to score from the two-yard line. The Terps should be able to keep this close and potentially win outright.
BW: Under 58 in USC-Notre Dame.
I simply don’t trust either of these teams to score in bunches. USC has a strong passing game, but the Irish pass defense has been above average in completion percentage and passing yards allowed. When you flip it, Notre Dame’s offense has been extremely hit-or-miss with Jack Coan and Tyler Buchner behind center. Keep in mind that when the total has been set between 55.5-61.5 in games featuring Notre Dame and USC this season, the under is a combined 3-0.
KC: Minnesota -4.5 over Maryland.
As Alex mentioned above, the Terps have struggled big time offensively, and now they’re also starting to see the injuries pile up on defense, losing linebacker Durell Nchami, who had a season-ending upper-body surgery. With their aforementioned depleted receiving corps, the Terps might be forced to run the ball against the Gophers’ solid rush defense, who only give up 3.1 yards per carry. Minnesota still has a chance to snag the top spot in the Big Ten West, so they’ll need every win they can get from here on out.
NJ: Under 51 in Northwestern-Michigan.
Michigan is favored by 23.5 in this game, so the low total suggests that the Wolverines will dominate across the board. I’ve had my doubts about Michigan this season, but they proved me wrong with road wins at Wisconsin and Nebraska. I still have some questions about their offense, but their defense will shut down a below-average Northwestern offense. Michigan has a big game at Michigan State next Saturday, so I can see a very conservative offensive game plan so that they don’t put too much on tape.
3. Which underdog of +200 or more on the moneyline has the best chance of an outright upset?
AS: LSU (+280) over Ole Miss.
I’m taking a shot at a big number here because I think this bet will go one of two ways: LSU fails to show up and loses by 20-plus points or Ed Orgeron gets another inspired performance out of his team and the Tigers shock Ole Miss as road ‘dogs. Basically, I don’t see a scenario in which both Ole Miss wins AND LSU covers the 9-point spread.
You’ve probably heard by now that Orgeron and LSU will part ways after the season, but what you likely don’t know is the Tigers’ rushing offense has woken up the last two weeks by averaging 5.85 yards per rush. On the other sideline, Ole Miss is allowing nearly 200 rushing yards per game. LSU clearly has an advantage in that matchup, so if you throw in the fact that QB Matt Corral is doubtful with an undisclosed injury, I feel pretty good about the upset potential in Oxford.
BW: Oklahoma State (+210) over Iowa State.
Iowa State has been playing better football as of late, which is what Matt Campbell’s teams tend to do as the season progresses. But the Cowboys really have looked great this season, especially defensively. A road dog in an environment like Ames is a tough task for anyone, but OK State’s defense should keep them in this game where the margins will be razor-thin. Iowa State has been upset at home this season already, and the undefeated Cowboys could make it twice.
KC: Oklahoma State (+210) over Iowa State.
This game has me a bit confused. An undefeated Oklahoma State team whose last three wins have been over ranked opponents is an underdog to a 4-2 Iowa State program? Clearly, I’m missing something. Both teams have solid run games behind Iowa State’s Breece Hall and OSU’s Jaylen Warren, who ranks third in the Big 12 with 117.5 yards per game.
Four of OSU’s wins came by single digits this year, which likely plays a role in Iowa State being the favorite here, but the Cowboys’ defense has limited opponents to just 19.5 points per game and held Texas’ high-powered offense to just 24 points last week. I think this game will be much closer than the line indicates, giving OSU a chance at an upset.
NJ: Georgia Tech (+200) over Virginia.
Whenever two mid-tier ACC teams play each other I tend to look toward playing the underdog because the gap between the middle of the conference is slim. This game sets up perfectly with Virginia as a 6.5-point favorite who has had some good fortune this season. They beat Miami by two points after the Hurricanes missed a 33-yard field goal at the buzzer. A week later, they rallied from down 30-13 in the fourth quarter to beat Louisville.
Georgia Tech has shown improvement since their embarrassing loss in Week 1 to Northern Illinois. They almost beat Clemson on the road in Week 3 and followed that up with a drubbing of North Carolina. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a bye, and I expect them to keep this game close — with a chance to win.
4. What is one bet you are tempted to make this week, but know you probably shouldn’t?
AS: UCF +2.5 over Memphis.
UCF’s season started with an improbable victory against Boise State and a ho-hum 63-14 win over Bethune-Cookman. The Knights were also in good shape against Louisville in Week 3 before QB Dillon Gabriel threw an ill-timed interception and broke his clavicle in a 42-35 loss. Without Gabriel this team has looked lost and gone 1-2 overall and 0-3 ATS in October. I’ve bet on the Knights in two of those games, and I guess this is a long-winded way to say that I’m not going to put my money on UCF again this season (unless Gabriel returns under center). That includes this week against Memphis.
BW: Virginia Tech -3 over Syracuse.
I initially wanted to bet on Virginia Tech in this spot, but after doing a bit more research, I think this line should probably be closer to -1. VT’s offense hasn’t inspired anyone during the past few games, while Syracuse has slowly but surely strung together solid performances, even coming close to beating Clemson last week at home. This is going to be a really ugly game offensively, so with an outlook like that, I’m going to stay away.
KC: Under 51 in Northwestern-Michigan.
I wanted to make this my “other bet I like,” but something kept telling me not to. We know Michigan’s defense has been one of the best in the country, while Northwestern’s offense has looked rocky, so I don’t anticipate the Wildcats putting many points on the board. As for Michigan, they are one of the top running teams in the country, rushing on nearly 70% of offensive plays. On top of that, they’re going up against one of the worst rushing defenses in the country in Northwestern, who is giving up nearly six yards per carry. So will Michigan be able to run up the score and put a 50-piece on the ‘Cats? Or will they instead score 40 and keep Northwestern off the board? I’m not sure, so I’m going to stay away.
NJ: Clemson +3.5 over Pittsburgh.
Some sportsbooks post point spreads for the biggest games of the college football season in the summer, and the line for this game was Clemson -17.5. It’s pretty shocking that we’ve gotten to a point where Clemson is now an underdog in a conference game, but that’s probably a warranted downgrade since the Tigers are 0-5 against the spread against FBS teams this season. I imagine Dabo Swinney will remind his team that they’re underdogs, which might motivate them to meet expectations. With that being said, I’m worried there are unfixable issues with Clemson’s offense and that they won’t be able to come back if Pitt gets out to an early lead.