College football is back and with it, college football sports betting. Each week during the NCAA football season, we’ll break down the biggest games of the week from a sports betting perspective and give you a pick or a lean for the games you, and the rest of America, are going to be watching.
Please note we’ll be referencing only legal, regulated sportsbook betting odds and totals here at PlayPicks. A “pick” is a wager that, as of the time of this writing, we feel good about and could end up in our weekly plays. A “lean” is a wager that, as of the time of this writing, we favor over the other side. It could end up in our plays after additional research or information is released.
See our video at the bottom of the article for even more commentary!
Record on Picks: 13-6
Record on Leans: 3-3
(4) Ohio State vs. (9) Penn State
This is the game of the year in the Big Ten, and the Nittany Lions have payback on their minds for last year’s 39-38 loss in Columbus. Ohio State outscored Penn State 19-3 in the fourth quarter. The memory of that collapse is still a source of frustration for fans in Happy Valley.
You can have the history of Michigan vs. Ohio State, but the best rivalry in the Big 10 right now is when these two teams tangle each season. This is also a playoff elimination game. Therefore, expect both teams to be firing all on cylinders.
Saturday’s game will match up the No. 2 and No. 3 scoring offenses in the country. Penn State is scoring 55.5 points per game while Ohio State is right behind at 54.5. Both teams have played games away from home, but that hasn’t stopped them from scoring at will.
In truth, this game will hinge on the other side of the ball. That’s where Penn State’s defense is only giving up 19.9 points per contest while the Buckeyes D is averaging just 17 points per game. The offenses will get all the headlines, but in a rivalry game, look for both defenses to stiffen in key moments.
Both teams have elite quarterbacks, and it’s a great debate as to which one is having a better season. OSU’s Dwayne Haskins has completed 76 percent of his passes and thrown 16 touchdowns to just one interception. PSU’s Trace McSorley has 8 touchdowns to just two picks himself and led an offensive explosion that put up 63 points on the road at Illinois last week. Both have Heisman aspirations, and a great performance in this game could really help their campaigns.
Either offense has the ability to go to the house on every play, but Penn State just hasn’t played anybody with the firepower of the Buckeyes. While the passing attack has gotten a ton of attention, the running backs could be the difference in this game for Ohio State. J.K. Dobbins has seen the most touches, but Mike Weber, Tate Martell, and Master Teague all have rushing touchdowns of over 30 yards this season.
Penn State had to go to overtime to beat Appalachian State and hasn’t played a close game since Week 1. This Buckeye team might be the best in the country not named Alabama.
Finally, the stadium will be rocking, but that won’t matter much if Ohio State gets a big lead. This game could be another classic. Picking a side is hard, but if we must, there is too much talent on Urban Meyer’s sideline to pick against them. The total here is a little high for a rivalry game, so take the under at 70.5.
Lean: Ohio State -3.5
South Carolina at (17) Kentucky
What a start to this season for fans in Lexington. With a Kentucky win over Florida for the first time in forever and then following it up with a win over a ranked Mississippi State team last week, football has kept UK fans from looking ahead to basketball season.
Kentucky’s rushing attack is one of the best in the country, averaging 277 yards per game. Running back Benny Snell Jr., according ESPN’s Stats and Info, is one of only four SEC players since 2000 to rush for 500 yards and 7 touchdowns in the first four games of the season. He is a major weapon that must be dealt with if you want to slow down the Wildcat offense.
The problem for Kentucky is that their passing attack is one of the worst in the country, ranked 125th in FBS. When your passing numbers are in the neighborhood of triple-option teams like Army and Georgia Tech, you know you struggle to put the ball in the air. If the Gamecocks can force Kentucky and QB Terry Wilson into 3rd and long, there are turnovers to be had. Wilson has already thrown four interceptions this season.
USC head coach Will Muschamp, known as a defensive guru, enters this game with a good unit. Still, his team is giving up 164.7 yards per game on the ground. Kentucky ran for 303 yards against Florida and 229 yards last week against Mississippi State. If rushing numbers like that are duplicated on Saturday, it could be a long night for South Carolina.
On offense, USC QB Jake Bentley is completing 68.3 percent of his passes and has thrown six touchdowns to just three interceptions. Last week against Vanderbilt, the junior threw for 261 yards in an impressive road victory. Bentley has benefited from a great connection with star wideout Deebo Samuel. He’s caught at least six balls in each of USC’s first three games.
However, against Georgia, Bentley threw two picks in the 41-17 loss and didn’t handle the pressure Georgia was able to apply. Look for South Carolina to run the ball as much as they can with Rico Dowdle and Ty’Son Williams early in this game. UK’s defense has been good, but they have reaped rewards from their offense playing keep away with their ground assault. South Carolina will want to play with the lead and force UK to throw the ball.
Kentucky is just 2-2 against the spread and have been ‘dogs in both their SEC victories. They are favored in this one. It will be interesting to see how they deal with being ranked for the first time since 2007. South Carolina is 1-0 ATS on the road this season after covering last week at Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks didn’t perform well against Georgia, but expect them to be ready to go this week.
Pick: South Carolina +1.5
(20) BYU at (11) Washington
BYU owns one of the most shocking outcomes of the season so far when the Cougars won on the road at then No. 6 Wisconsin. The Badgers missed a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation to snap their 41-game non-conference winning streak and possibly bounce them from playoff consideration.
The last time the Cougars beat a top 10 team was back in 2009. That was No. 3 Oklahoma 14-13 on a neutral field in Dallas. BYU ended that season ranked in the top 15. A win on Saturday over Washington could go a long way to backing up the upset win over Wisconsin.
BYU was 11-point and the 23.5-point dogs against Arizona and Wisconsin on the road and won both those games outright. Washington better be ready from the opening kick because the Cougars aren’t going to be intimated by the night-time atmosphere in Seattle.
Now, the Huskies’ season got off to rocky start with a loss to Auburn. That was primarily due to Washington’s inability to covert in the red zone. QB Jake Browning has been decent this season, but the offense has sputtered far too often for a team that had National Championship goals. Senior running back Myles Gaskins is averaging a career low 4.3 yards per carry and has just two touchdowns after recording 21 last year.
BYU has been great on the road, winning both of their contests away from Provo. Defensively, the Cougars are only giving up 17 points per game and have the athletes to contend with what Washington will look to do.
Running back Squally Canada had a huge game against Wisconsin: 118 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries. If he comes anywhere close to those numbers on Saturday, the Cougars could very easily take another Top 15 scalp in 2018.
Washington will most likely win this game, but take the points.
Pick: BYU +17.5
(7) Stanford at (8) Notre Dame
Boy, did we get the Notre Dame at Wake Forest game wrong last week. In fact, it was the only game we missed, going 4-1 for our picks.
The Irish made a change at quarterback, going with Ian Book over Brandon Wimbush, and the team exploded for a 56-27 road victory. Notre Dame now have their quarterback and finally look like the title contender so many had predicted. With a chance to get a second marquee win at home after beating Michigan earlier this year, Notre Dame has another huge opportunity on Saturday.
Then, Stanford pulled off one of the craziest wins in recent memory at Oregon last week. The Cardinal was all but dead when the Ducks fumbled away the ball and the game at the end of regulation. Stanford was able to tie the game and force overtime; they scored the only touchdown of the extra frame. For gamblers, it was either a miracle cover or one of the worst beats of their lives.
Maybe Stanford was looking ahead to this matchup of top 10 teams, or maybe the Cardinal isn’t as good as their ranking might suggest. Bryce Love has been quiet by his standards so far this season. Across from him, the Irish defense ranks in the top 15 for yards given up per play. This doesn’t feel like the week Love breaks out and gets himself back into the Heisman conversation.
One thing Stanford does have going for it is that they know Ian Book will be running the show for Notre Dame. Thus, they can gameplan for him. Brian Kelly spent the week leading up to the Wake Forest game saying that both QBs would play, but only Book played significant snaps in the blowout win.
The Cardinal defense is fourth in the nation in quarterback sack percentage (13.4%) and 10th in points per game (14.7). They also have recorded 13 sacks on the season and must get to Book to make him uncomfortable.
However, David Shaw’s club can’t expect to get breaks in the red zone like they did last week where they returned a fumble 80 yards for a momentum-changing touchdown. If the Irish move the ball like Oregon did last week, this game could get ugly.
Overall, Notre Dame’s offense is coming to life with Book at QB, and something just isn’t right with Stanford. They were lucky to beat Oregon and didn’t look great in the win over Southern Cal. The Cardinal have won three straight in this series, but that streak ends on Saturday.
Pick: Notre Dame -5.5
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