Conference play is underway in college football, which leads to bigger matchups and more competitive point spreads, but it can make handicapping games tougher as the betting market lines up with the current trajectory of teams.
And when those point spreads “feel” right, situational handicapping becomes critical in finding any edge possible. That’s why I picked out the toughest scheduling spots for Power Five teams in the month of October.
Remember that there could be point-spread value on the other team listed in the games below, so make sure to consider all angles when it gets closer to kickoff.
October 5: North Carolina at Georgia Tech
North Carolina had a brutal first five weeks of their schedule that was just capped off with a home game against No. 1 Clemson. The Tar Heels had a chance to take the lead with just over a minute left, but their two-point conversion attempt failed and they lost by one point. It was a courageous effort from Mack Brown’s team, who closed as 27.5-point underdogs.
You now have to wonder about North Carolina’s motivation when they travel to face Georgia Tech this coming week. North Carolina is currently a nine-point favorite on the road, but I can see the Yellow Jackets keeping the score within the number given the “hangover” spot for the Tar Heels.
October 11: Oregon vs. Colorado
The Pac-12 is wide open this year with every team already having lost at least one game this season. Oregon needs to win out if they want a chance to make the College Football Playoff, and their biggest test will come Oct. 19 when they travel to Pac-12 North rival Washington.
But Oregon can’t overlook Colorado, who they host the week before their showdown with the Huskies. The Buffaloes have already defeated Nebraska and Arizona State in the underdog role this season, so expect for a challenging matchup for the Ducks.
October 12: Washington at Arizona
The week before Washington hosts Oregon they travel to Arizona. This could’ve been considered a “sandwich” game before the season with the Huskies playing Stanford this upcoming week, but since the Cardinal are struggling, this scheduling spot at Arizona isn’t as difficult as I initially thought it would be.
That being said, this still feels like a potential trap game for Washington. It will be their second-straight road game, and it’s a long trip from Seattle to Tucson. Washington — and bettors — would be wise to not overlook Arizona in this spot.
October 19: Wisconsin at Illinois
Wisconsin has cemented themselves as the team to beat in the Big Ten West, which means they have the best chance of preventing Ohio State from winning the Big Ten.
The Badgers host Michigan State on Oct. 12 and play at Ohio State on Oct. 26, making their Oct. 19 matchup at Illinois a textbook sandwich game. While Illinois is perceived as the worst team in the Big Ten West, they’re actually improving and could cover big numbers as an underdog. They already succeeded in that role when they lost to Nebraska by only four points as an almost two-touchdown ‘dog in Week 4.
October 19: LSU at Mississippi State
Thanks to the improved play of QB Joe Burrow, it appears that LSU has a legitimate shot at winning the SEC and potentially reaching the College Football Playoff.
In October, the Tigers host Florida and Auburn, who are both currently ranked in the top 10. But the game that could pose problems for LSU — both on the field and regarding the spread — is Oct. 19’s showdown against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs already have two losses this season, but a home date against the Tigers is a matchup that the team and fans will get up for.