Throughout the fall, I’ve handicapped the “Games of the Year” that South Point Sportsbook released back in May. Now that we’re halfway through the season, I’m going to focus on Top 25 matchups and games that I have a strong opinion on through the remainder of the year.
Along with USC (-7), here are five other lines that I like for this weekend’s college football action.
7 Washington (-3.5) at 17 Oregon
This one opened early at Washington (-10) before moving to Washington (-7) in July. Now that this game could decide the Pac-12 North, the line has dropped even more.
Washington bounced back after their Week 1 loss to Auburn and is riding a five-game winning streak. Unfortunately for the Huskies, that lone loss looks worse with time as Auburn continues to self-destruct. If Washington wants to reach the College Football Playoff for the second time in school history, they have to knock off the rival Ducks.
Oregon is coming off a bye week and has a chance to redeem the program with a win under the national spotlight. Although they lost a heartbreaker to Stanford three weeks ago, they have a legitimate shot at avenging the 38-3 loss that they suffered to Washington in Seattle last season.
When it comes to quarterbacks, Oregon QB Justin Herbert — who was injured for last year’s battle — is having a strong season for the Ducks. The NFL prospect has already racked up 1,411 yards and 15 touchdowns through the air. On the other side, Washington quarterback Jake Browning has underwhelmed at times, throwing just nine touchdowns to go along with five interceptions.
Considering that Oregon should have fresh legs and a quality gameplan against a Washington team that has struggled in the past to handle unranked opponents, I’m loving the Ducks as home underdogs. I would take Oregon at (+3.5) or (+3) as soon as you can in case this line goes under a field goal.
15 Wisconsin at 12 Michigan (-8.5)
This game originally opened as Michigan (-3) during the summer, but returned as Michigan (-6.5) earlier this week before the smart money drove the line close to double-digits.
Wisconsin has a strong running attack thanks to their big offensive line and talented RB Jonathan Taylor. But their traditionally strong defense has shown serious flaws this season. They allowed 191 rushing yards in an upset loss to BYU and surrendered 511 yards against winless Nebraska last week. To make matters worse, the Badgers have several key defensive players on this week’s injury report.
Michigan, who’s flown under the radar since their early-season loss to Notre Dame, now embarks on a tough stretch against the best of the Big Ten as Michigan State and Penn State both loom on the horizon.
Breaking down this game on paper, Saturday’s matchup against Wisconsin seems to favor Michigan. The Wolverines have one of the best rush defenses in the country, so they should be able to contain Taylor.
If Michigan can get out to an early lead, turnover-prone Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook will have to throw the ball. And in light of the issues facing the Badgers defense, I expect Michigan QB Shea Patterson to prove why he was worth the hype when he decided to transfer to Jim Harbaugh’s program.
I would’ve really liked to bet on Michigan at the opening line, which is why I’d wait until game day to bet on the Wolverines. Hopefully the number goes back down by then.
2 Georgia (-7.5) at 13 LSU
One of the reasons LSU’s season win total of 7 (or 7.5) was so low this summer was because the Tigers drew Georgia as their non-Florida opponent from the SEC East. An already tough schedule got that much harder due to the luck of the draw.
While Georgia currently sits as the No. 2 team in the country, they haven’t been challenged this season.
That ends this weekend.
The Bulldogs will have their hands full trying to overcome the rowdy atmosphere that Tiger Stadium is known for on a Saturday in the fall.
I’ve picked on LSU — whose magic finally ran out during last week’s loss to Florida — a lot this season, but I think there’s value on them in this situation as a touchdown underdog. Georgia has benefited from a weak schedule and is getting too many points from Las Vegas. The Tigers might not pull off the outright win, but I’ll take them with the points in Baton Rouge.
Baylor at 9 Texas (-14)
This is definitely not the biggest game of the weekend, but the best bets in college football are usually not found in primetime.
I’m going to pick Baylor to cover the spread here as the underdog in a situational play. After Texas’ 48-45 win over Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown, a game in which the Longhorns were outgained in yardage, Texas should come out flat against the lesser Bears.
While Tom Herman’s underdog run is well documented, he hasn’t had much success as a favorite. Texas has failed to cover five of their last six matchups as a favorite, including games this season against Maryland, Tulsa and Kansas State.
On Saturday, I expect for Baylor to keep it within two touchdowns of a Texas team that could get caught looking ahead at their upcoming games against Oklahoma State and West Virginia.
UCLA at California (-7)
Just two weeks ago, I was very high on California, but disappointing losses to Oregon and Arizona have made me reconsider how I view the Golden Bears. That being said, I’m still backing California in their Week 7 matchup against UCLA despite the fact that Cal quarterbacks Chase Garbers and Brandon McIlwain have consistently turned the football over at inopportune times this season.
That’s because I think the aforementioned signal-callers will protect the ball and take advantage of a bad UCLA defense. The real reason the line isn’t closer to double digits is because of Cal’s embarrassing losses that I referenced above.
Expect for California to finally take care of business as a seven-point favorite and leave Chip Kelly searching for his first win at UCLA.