During the college football season, Stadium’s staff will provide weekly betting picks and advice. Here are our thoughts on the Week 3 slate:
1. What is your favorite pick against the spread?
Alex Symonds, Stadium Senior Producer: North Texas (+14) over California. I often look to fade a team coming off a big victory, and Cal qualifies in this spot after an emotional, weather-delayed 20-19 road win at Washington last week. While the Cal defense is among the best in the country (one of just 13 teams yet to allow a TD pass), I have faith in Mason Fine (69 career passing TD) and the North Texas passing attack to do enough to keep this one within the number. California Memorial Stadium isn’t a daunting place to play (only Oregon State has a worse Pac-12 home field edge according to Phil Steele) and the Golden Bears offense hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire since Justin Wilcox came to town. I might be depending on a backdoor cover here, but I’m taking the Mean Green now before this number dips below two touchdowns.
Dan Vasta, Stadium “Stats Guru”: Wake Forest (-3) over North Carolina. This is a tough matchup for the Heels, who are dinged up after having lost their starting center and a top corner. Wake Forest’s suspect defense will be the reason for many headaches this season, but their offensive skill players are legit and will pose problems for UNC. Wide receivers Scotty Washington (6-5) and Sage Surratt (6-3) already have five combined receiving scores, and QB Jamie Newman is one of the most productive signal-callers in the nation. This (technically) non-conference game should come down to a shootout, and while North Carolina is getting all the hype, bet on Wake Forest to cover in Week 3.
Andy Wittry, Stadium College Sports Writer: NC State (-6.5) over West Virginia. The Mountaineers squeaked out a 20-13 win against James Madison in their season opener, then lost 38-7 on the road at Missouri last week. The SP+ rankings have NC State at No. 31 after Week 2, while West Virginia checks in at No. 78, including the No. 95 offense and No. 121 special teams unit. That’s a massive disparity that doesn’t feel like it’s being fully considered in the spread. Even on the road against what is likely NC State’s toughest opponent so far this season, the Wolfpack should be able to win comfortably.
Nate Jacobson, Stadium Sports Betting Analyst: Iowa State (+2.5) over Iowa. It’s not a great television watching week in college football, and it’s even tougher to find games to bet on. But after seeing an aggressive line adjustment for the CyHawk game, I’m going to fade the line move and back the home underdog. Iowa State was a 4.5-point favorite in the Game of the Year line, and I think a seven-point adjustment is too much. I understand the concern about Iowa State needing triple overtime to beat Northern Iowa in Week 1, but an early bye week came at a crucial time for Matt Campbell’s squad. This game means everything for an Iowa State program that’s looking for their first win against their in-state rival since 2014. I would wait and see if this line gets to Iowa -3 and then take the Cyclones, who are also hosting College GameDay for the first time.
2. What is your favorite total (over/under)?
AS: Over 67 in North Carolina-Wake Forest. There is a reason this number opened at 62.5 and moved 4.5 points before settling where it currently sits. That’s because these are a pair of high-octane offenses (both ranked in the SP+ top 45) that throw the ball around. The Demon Deacons play very fast, running a play every 21.5 seconds during their first two games. For reference: Oklahoma has run a play every 28.5 seconds in their two blowout victories this season. I’ve been high on Wake Forest going back to spring ball, but with North Carolina’s resurgence under Mack Brown, I don’t want a part of either side in this game. That said, I’ll gladly play the over in this one.
DV: Under 57 in Florida State-Virginia. Virginia’s all-time record is 3-15 against the Noles, but FSU has been an absolute disaster this season. Considering that athletic UVA QB Bryce Perkins is basically a human bowling ball, he should be able to run right over Florida State’s underachieving linebackers. Expect for Virginia Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall to play with a lead for the majority of this contest and bleed the clock out during the second half as his team continues their hot start to the 2019 season.
AW: Over 60 in Alabama-South Carolina. If things get out of hand in Columbia, Alabama could challenge the 60-point mark by itself. Since Tua Tagovailoa took over as the Crimson Tide’s starter, Alabama has cracked the 45-point mark in 11 of 17 games, which means the Gamecocks might only be on the hook for two touchdowns, at most, to hit the over. In Ryan Hilinski’s first start at quarterback for South Carolina, he was 24-of-30 for 282 yards and two touchdowns in a game in which the Gamecocks put up 72 points against Charleston Southern. That’s a big difference from playing Alabama, but South Carolina’s offense showed some signs of life after putting up just 270 total yards against North Carolina.
NJ: Under 50.5 in Florida-Kentucky. Not only do I like the full game under, but I find the under on Kentucky’s team total potentially appealing. UK will be replacing starting quarterback Terry Wilson, who suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2, with Troy transfer Sawyer Smith. It’s a tough task for Smith to play this early in the season at a new program and against one of the most respected defenses in the SEC. I’m hoping the Wildcats’ team total is set around 21.5 (team totals are usually released on Friday), so that I can bet on it.
3. Which underdog of a touchdown or more has the best chance of an outright upset?
AS: Temple (+7.5) over Maryland. Maryland’s offense has lit the world on fire to start the Mike Locksley era (71 PPG in blowout victories against Howard and Syracuse) and the No. 21 Terps are ranked in the AP Poll for the first time since joining the Big Ten. While the folks in College Park have been patting themselves on the back, Temple has had an extra week to prepare for Maryland after their bye in Week 2. Matt Rhule and Geoff Collins built an impressive defensive infrastructure in Philly, and the defensive staff that Rod Carey brought to Temple has a track record of stopping high-powered offenses going back to their time at Northern Illinois (the Huskies never finished worse than 5th in the MAC in opp. yards per play during Carey’s tenure). I think there’s a lot of value in the Owls on the money line at +225.
DV: Kentucky (+8) over Florida. I know no one else will be picking the Wildcats after they lost their starting QB, but I like their chances. Gators QB Feleipe Franks hasn’t passed the eye test, and Florida’s offense has often looked stuck as they try to find their running game. Kentucky’s been nasty on defense, with their ferocious front seven living in the backfield against some solid MAC competition in Eastern Michigan and Toledo. UK should be able to win the battle in the trenches against the Gators in Lexington on Saturday night, and if Kentucky’s running backs can bail out new QB Sawyer Smith, then the Wildcats will beat Florida in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1976-77.
AW: UT Chattanooga over Tennessee. Just kidding, I’ll go with Temple (+7.5) against Maryland. The Owls are roughly a dog at home by more than a touchdown despite the SP+ rankings telling us the two sides are probably evenly matched — Maryland at No. 38 and Temple at No. 44. The Terps have lit up the scoreboard, and they’ll likely surpass their season win total, but their first two wins were against Howard and a Syracuse team that ranks No. 70 (!) in the SP+ rankings after starting in the preseason AP Top 25.
NJ: North Texas (+14) over California. As Alex mentioned earlier, it’s smart to target North Texas since they’re playing against a California team that’s coming off a huge upset that featured a lengthy weather delay. The situational spot is also tough because Cal plays at Ole Miss next week — kickoff is set for 11 a.m. local time (9 a.m. PDT). Winning straight up might be too much to ask of North Texas, but they’re the only big underdog I like this week, so I think they have a chance of pulling out the ‘W.’
4. What is one bet you are tempted to make this week, but know you probably shouldn’t?
AS: Stanford (+7.5/+260 money line) at UCF. I need to get something off my chest: I can’t stand UCF (call the team “Central Florida” if you REALLY want to make Knights fans mad). I don’t like their fake national title, I don’t like that their athletic director whines about scheduling, and I don’t like that UCF will likely get credit for a victory over a Power 5 team in this spot despite the fact that everything is going against Stanford. The Cardinal have to take this trip to Orlando after losing starting quarterback K.J. Costello in the opener and falling to USC in Week 2. What’s next? Just a game with No. 15 Oregon that means a whole lot more in the grand scheme of things than this mid-September non-conference game against the Knights. That’s the long way of saying that I want to hammer Stanford plus the points with a sprinkle on the money line, but I know I probably shouldn’t because my hate is motivating my handicap.
DV: Clemson (-27.5) at Syracuse. Clemson could hang a 50-burger on the Orange, but you have to remember that Syracuse has played Clemson tough the past two years. I thought this Syracuse team had too many question marks before this season, but they somehow started out the year ranked before being exposed. This shouldn’t be too close of a game, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Clemson struggled to cover after making a statement in last week’s impressive victory over Texas A&M.
AW: Ohio State (-16.5) at Indiana. The Buckeyes have won 23 straight against the Hoosiers, and dating back to Urban Meyer’s first season in Columbus, they’ve won by 23, 28, 21, 7, 15, 28 and 3 points against Indiana. Having attended four of those games, I can attest that those final margins of victory don’t necessarily accurately depict how competitive those games were through halftime or three quarters. For at least one quarter on Saturday, things will get weird in Bloomington. Even though Indiana is 40th in Bill Connelly’s SP+ rankings, including the No. 1 special teams unit in the country through Week 2, Ohio State is No. 5 with a top-15 ranking on both sides of the ball. Like many Ohio State-Indiana games, I expect the margin to be less than 15 points for a significant portion of the game, but the final score will be closer to three touchdowns.
NJ: USC at BYU (+4.5). Everyone is singing the praises of USC after true freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis led the Trojans to a massive win over Stanford in Week 2. Now they have a tricky trip to Provo before an important Pac-12 South clash against Utah in Week 4. This screams “trap game” for the Trojans, who are probably feeling good about themselves after a 2-0 start. However, I’m not sure I want to back BYU coming off a double overtime win at Tennessee. I could be undervaluing USC’s new-look offense led by OC Graham Harrell, so I’m ultimately just going to watch this game and hope to learn something about each team.