It took three weeks, but we finally had the breakthrough I’ve been hoping for. 3-1-1 +3.3 units will work every time. Best bet (two units) Texas -9 played out exactly like the mismatch anticipated, and UNC +140 moneyline was ahead wire-to-wire. The lone miss, NC State -3, failed to cover by a point with their backup QB, though Leary was ineffective prior to the injury and FSU was clearly the right side of that bet. This week offers three high profile undefeated vs undefeated games as well as three other ranked vs ranked matchups. But national attention doesn’t always translate to an advantageous line, so read on to see where the advantages lie.
Bet 1: Penn St +7 (-107) at Michigan (11:00am CT Sat 10/15, Fox; all odds via PointsBet)
One of the two biggest games pops up right away. PSU comes in off a bye after an ugly win over pathetic Northwestern two weeks ago, Michigan enters after off of consecutive road wins at Iowa and Indiana the last two weeks. The JJ McCarthy era is probably best described as good, not great through three games. It’s likely Harbaugh and staff have been holding the offense back as to avoid giving PSU any more valuable tape than absolutely necessary. PSU has only been tested by Purdue in the opener, and Purdue is better than anyone UM has played. Seven points is a lot in a matchup this even. If James Franklin had a better track record in this spot I’d make the more aggressive +220 moneyline play, but the margin for error is too strong to pass up. Michigan has been too reliant on a ground-and-pound Corrum-centered attack (significantly weaker than last year’s ground-and-pound), and Manny Diaz’s unit is making expected in-season progression during his first year. PSU probably wins outright, but +7 is the correct play.
Bet 2: Wisconsin -7 (-110) at Michigan St (3:00pm CT Sat 10/15, Fox)
I have to be careful not to get too wrapped up in recency bias here, and running directly through Northwestern means next to nothing, but the firing of Chryst and promotion of Jim Leonhard appears to have been the reset the team needed as they were clearly not playing to the program’s standard. That’s about all it takes to beat this struggling Sparty team by more than a touchdown. Even when they were struggling, UW’s defense never fell to outright bad, and I think their resurgence will be the key to this road win. The Badgers know firsthand that while good, Jalen Berger is no replacement for Kenneth Walker, and neither is Jarek Broussard. Get MSU into obvious throwing downs and make Peyton Thorne miserable. It probably won’t be as complete of a beatdown as Minnesota or Ohio St’s visits to East Lansing, but not a one-score game either.
Bet 3: LSU +120 moneyline at Florida (6:00pm CT Sat 10/15, ESPN)
First meeting at the Swamp since everyone’s favorite shoe toss! No worries about too much recency bias here as LSU comes in off a bloodbath home loss to Tennessee, while UF beat Mizzou by a TD at home. With Ole Miss and Alabama on deck for LSU it’s imperative that Brian Kelly finds a way to pick up this win and avoid having to stare down the barrel of a 4-5 game losing streak in year one. Similar argument can be made for Billy Napier as Georgia and three road games remain after Saturday, but he doesn’t carry around the same expectations as Kelly and his contract. LSU’s offensive line will be getting at least one starter (LT Will Campbell) back. Anthony Richardson hasn’t been effective enough as a passer to keep a team like LSU from loading the box to stop the run. The Tennessee game gave Kelly too much to coach off of to not expect a major bounce-back against a one-dimensional team like Florida.
Bet 4: Washington St +3.5 (-107) at Oregon St (8:00pm CT Sat 10/15, P12N)
After starting Pac-12 play with losses to USC and Utah, Oregon St got their first conference win at Stanford thanks to an epic collapse by the Cardinal. Wazzu is also 1-2 in P12 play having just lost at USC last week. The key to this game lies in the fact OSU will in all likelihood have to start their backup QB, “third year freshman,” Ben Gulbranson. Coach Jonathan Smith hasn’t publicly confirmed it, but the starter Chance Nolan (who wasn’t tearing it up when healthy) was reportedly still in concussion protocol during the week. On the other side for WSU Cam Ward was able to avoid any interceptions for the first time in a month at USC and will look keep it up. He’s been solid, but maybe not the running threat many were expecting. It’s possible OSU had a gem fall into their laps and Gulbranson, but unlikely enough that I’ll gladly take WSU and the points.
Best Bet (2 units): Minnesota -6.5 (-115) at Illinois (11:00am CT Sat 10/15, BTN)
Ranked team almost a full TD underdog at home versus unranked team? Almost always take the unranked team. Bielema and DC Ryan Walters have done an outstanding job to get to this point and end an 11 year stretch being unranked, but I’m afraid it can only get so far. Illini starting QB Tommy Devito is very unlikely to play and Minnesota is rested off a bye following a disappointing home loss to Purdue without Mo Ibrahim, who should be back. I trust the Illini defense (and Chase Brown) to make this more difficult than MSU did, but they’re ultimately going to get worn down if Art Sitkowski can’t put together several drives, something he isn’t known for against defenses of the Gophers caliber. I’m not happy about it, but Minnesota is the best bet on the board against an Illini backup.
Last week: 3-1-1, +3.3. Season: 8-6-1, +3.13 units.