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 9 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: Michigan (-4) over Michigan State.
Yes, I’m taking Jim Harbaugh’s team in a rivalry game. Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 2015, you probably already know Harbaugh is 3-3 against Michigan State as UM’s head coach and has yet to beat Ohio State in five tries.
Now that the narrative stuff is out of the way, let’s discuss why I like the Wolverines in this matchup. This Michigan defense is nasty and the numbers back it up: UM gives up 6.2 yards per opponent pass attempt (13th in FBS) and has allowed opposing offenses to convert just 33.3% of third downs (20th). But when playing Kenneth Walker and the Spartans’ rushing offense, it’s about limiting the big play and UM has given up just 19 runs of 20 yards or more this season (T-8th in FBS).
Michigan State has yet to play a defense ranked in the SP+ top 20, and I’m hopeful Michigan (#8 defense per SP+) can put the clamps on Sparty for a road cover.
Ben Wittenstein, Stadium Social Media Producer: Auburn (-2.5) over Ole Miss.
One team in this game is playing a home game coming off a bye and the other is playing its fifth straight game. Sure, Ole Miss has won three in a row, but the Tigers have a rest advantage and they have the not-so-secret weapon of “Bo Nix at Home.” The Tigers might also get linebacker and co-captain Owen Pappoe back after missing four games due to injury. I think this is a good spot to trust a formidable Auburn defense against a high-scoring, but worn down Ole Miss offense.
Kate Constable, Stadium Host & Digital Producer: Michigan (-4) over Michigan State.
There is a lot at stake this weekend in East Lansing with both Michigan and Michigan State coming into this game undefeated and ranked in the top 10. Michigan is going to be looking for revenge after MSU beat them in Ann Arbor last season. MSU relies heavily on the run game, as they should with a player like Kenneth Walker III who is averaging 6.6 yards per carry, but Michigan has a strong run defense to counter and will force the Spartans to look to their passing game.
If that’s the case, MSU is going to have trouble moving the ball like we’re accustomed to seeing, and Jim Harbaugh is going to get a much needed big road win.
Nate Jacobson, Stadium Sports Betting Analyst: Texas (+3) over Baylor.
I was burned by Texas two weeks ago in this section when I bet on them as a 3.5-point home favorite against Oklahoma. The Longhorns had a chance to go up by three possessions late in the first half of that game, but Casey Thompson threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and the game flipped. If Texas held on to beat Oklahoma State and didn’t squander an 18-point lead against Oklahoma the week before, then this point spread would look a lot different with the Longhorns coming off a bye. This is a good buy low spot for Steve Sarkisian’s team against a Baylor team that isn’t as good as their 6-1 record.
2. What is another bet you like?
AS: Over 47.5 points in Florida State-Clemson.
The shine has really worn off this rivalry with Florida State’s recent demise, and now that Clemson is riding the struggle bus it’s weird to see how irrelevant this matchup has become considering there was a six-year period from 2011-16 in which both schools were ranked for this game.
The Tigers have been brutal in 2021: 20.0 points per game, 4.96 yards per play and a 38% 3rd down conversion rate are all program lows since Dabo Swinney’s first full season in charge in ’09. Florida State’s defensive numbers are decent across the board. So why am I betting the over? FSU’s defensive body of work has been skewed by games over Jacksonville State and UMass, so I’m not buying a resurgence. On the other side, Clemson has five defensive players on the injury report and if Florida State can get in the end zone three times, I’m confident this game will get over the total.
BW: Under 50.5 points in Michigan-Michigan State.
Before you even talk about the high quality of both teams’ defenses, this game immediately stands out as an under because of all the running that’s going to happen. Both of these teams LOVE to run the ball — they each average over 200 rushing yards per game — which means more clock can be chewed. On top of that, they each have an above average run defense.
It just seems unlikely that these teams will score quickly enough to get over that total. Michigan’s passing game is… fine? Nothing special. Sparty’s passing game is only slightly better. To me, this seems like a game destined for the mid-40s.
KC: Ohio State (-18.5) over Penn State.
I’m sticking with the Big Ten and taking the Buckeyes to cover a large spread over a Penn State team that is unraveling. The Nittany Lions’ offense hasn’t looked the same since QB Sean Clifford went down a few weeks ago against Iowa and their defense was terrible last week. In their nine-overtime loss to Illinois, PSU gave up 357 yards on the ground.
Their defense better figure things out quickly because with backs like TreVeyon Henderson and Master Teague, the Buckeyes are going to be twice as hard to contain. As long as OSU doesn’t look ahead to their upcoming matchups with Michigan State and Michigan, I like them to cover.
NJ: Under 50.5 points in Michigan-Michigan State.
I was surprised to see this total open at 52. Michigan is a run-first offense that protects QB Cade McNamara from making costly mistakes and they have a strong defense. Michigan State is coming off a bye week and their head coach Mel Tucker was a well regarded defensive game planner from his days as an assistant coach for Nick Saban’s Alabama and Kirby Smart’s Georgia teams.
I fully expect a rock fight for a noon local start in chilly East Lansing with so much on the line between these in-state rivals. This is my favorite college bet this week and would play it down to 48.
3. Which underdog of +200 or more on the moneyline has the best chance of an outright upset?
AS: Miami (+300) over Pittsburgh.
The ACC Coastal division is all about chaos: From 2013 to ’19, each of the seven Coastal teams represented the division in the conference title game with no repeat offenders. So what could be more chaotic than a 3-4 Miami team with a coach on the hot seat upsetting a 6-1 Pitt team whose quarterback Kenny Pickett just became a top-four Heisman betting choice? Nothing!
On the field, Miami freshman QB Tyler Van Dyke is getting more comfortable the more he plays, and is coming off a 325 yard, four TD performance against NC State. I’m hopeful Van Dyke can keep the good vibes going and the Panthers have a letdown after an emotional victory against Clemson last week.
BW: Florida State (+290) over Clemson.
Does it feel good to pick FSU in any capacity this year? That’s a big nope. But… Clemson and Dabo Swinney just seem like they’ve given up. Thrown this season out of the window. To me, this is a good window for FSU to salvage a bad season with what would be considered a good win—considering the spread. The Tigers have already lost 11 players to injury and the Seminoles are on a three-game winning streak.
It’s a long shot, but I can see Mike Norvell and Co. pulling off the upset on an apathetic Clemson team.
KC: Louisville (+205) over North Carolina State.
If Louisville wants to win, they’re going to need a huge game out of QB Malik Cunningham, but that’s entirely possible. Cunningham can give the Cardinals explosive plays both on the ground and through the air. He’s completing 63.4% of his passes and has rushed for 480 yards this season.
However, its Louisville’s defense that will really need to come ready to play because NC State is coming off a tough loss to Miami last week and is going to be motivated to get back on track.
NJ: West Virginia (+225) over Iowa State.
I’m still a little annoyed at the Iowa State fans storming the field as seven-point favorites against Oklahoma State last week. Oklahoma State was ranked No. 8 and were undefeated, but the Cyclones didn’t even cover the number!
Anyways, I’m going to fade Iowa State off that storm-the-field win last week and a home date against Texas next week. West Virginia pulled a minor upset against TCU last week so I’m hoping they build off of that win and at least cover as seven-point underdogs.
4. What is one bet you are tempted to make this week, but know you probably shouldn’t?
AS: Penn State (+18.5) over Ohio State.
I don’t love many things more than I love betting on a stinky underdog in a marquee game, and a week after losing in nine overtimes to Illinois, Penn State definitely qualifies this week. Ohio State was favored by 11 on the look-ahead line just a week ago, but the Illinois loss — combined with James Franklin hiring coaching super agent Jimmy Sexton — and Sean Clifford’s iffy injury status has moved this line more than a touchdown.
This game is Penn State or pass for me, and although Franklin has said Clifford will be 100% healthy in this game, I don’t believe him. I’m going to pass despite the burning desire to take one of the stinkiest underdogs on this week’s betting board.
BW: Over AND under (36.5) in Iowa-Wisconsin.
I put both the over and under on this one because each is just so, so tempting. I want to consider them both just to feel something on Saturday morning because this game is going to be sloppy either way. Will it be sloppy because it’s a defensive battle that will end 9-3? OR will it be sloppy because there will be at least two pick-sixes and each team will have incredible starting field position because of interceptions, allowing them to score easily?
I honestly don’t know, so I’m staying away from either side of the total even though I really, really, really want to bet it.
KC: Over 71.5 points in Duke-Wake Forest.
I’m not concerned about Wake Forest putting points on the board in this one. They’ve scored at least 35 points in each game this season and just put up 70 against Army.
What makes me hesitant here is Duke’s contribution to the total. They got shut out last week against Virginia, but prior to that they’ve averaged 22.5 ppg. The Deacons’ defense isn’t anything spectacular, so I have to imagine the Blue Devils will be able to get into the end zone more than once. Nonetheless, I feel better staying away from this one.
NJ: UMass (+36) over Liberty.
There were a few candidates for this question like Florida, but I’ll go to a side that I definitely won’t be betting even if the situation sets up perfectly. UMass is the worst team in the FBS, so I don’t have it in me to put my hard-earned money on them. They are, however, catching a Liberty team coached by Hugh Freeze at the perfect time.
Freeze has a huge look-ahead game next week at Ole Miss, which is where he was the head coach from 2012-16 before resigning for committing multiple violations in July 2017. I can see Freeze not putting much time planning for this week’s game and he might be focused on his return to Oxford while the game is being played, which could lead to the Flames to fall short of covering a big number.