Back on the 4-1 train, no thanks to James Franklin in a big game. Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, and Cal all covered for an inefficient 4-1, +2.0 thanks to the blunder as a best bet. Getting into positive territory as far as unit total might be tough, but over .500 in picks is very much within sight. I’m going to start employing bold strategies such as not making any more Michigan opponents the best bet to get there. The biggest update to this week’s slate of games is the increased chance to bet into any coaching changes if any of the group of firings is likely to trigger an on-field reaction. Then there’s the dead men still coaching, Chip Kelly being the designation’s mascot (chronological, best bet aside).
Bet 1: Penn St -20.5 (-110) vs Rutgers (11:00am CT Sat 11/18, FS1; all odds via FanDuel)
This pains me, as would like to see nothing more than PSU continue into a full tailspin after the pathetic scapegoating of Mike Yurcich by Franklin, as offensive play calling was hardly the main reason for the latest loss to their B1G East overlords. But they still have that defense, and the Rutgers offense that was shutout at Iowa won’t get a much easier assignment this week. Allar remains too inaccurate to get the team over the hump vs equivalent talent, but Rutgers is specializing in grit and determination more than talent. The way the OSU game got away from them will continue to haunt Schiano’s crew.
Bet 2: Ball St -12.5 (-110) vs Kent St (1:00pm CT Sat 11/18, ESPN+)
There’s no rule requiring every game be a national headliner, so why not take a Ball St that is playing better of late versus the MAC’s worst. The Cardinals have won 2 of their last 3, and the lone loss was by just 3 at Bowling Green. Kent St is winless in conference and against FBS opponents in general. Ball St shouldn’t be taking any wins for granted and will use dual threat QB Kiael Kelly to take care of business at home.
Bet 3: Arizona -1.5 (-105) vs Utah (1:30pm CT Sat 11/18, Pac-12)
Last week’s scoreless second half in Seattle, after going to the break with the lead, has the feeling of something that will be tough to just get over. That’s of no concern to Arizona as the wins keep coming, even if it wasn’t close to a cover vs Prime in Boulder. 9-3 with 7 wins in a very deep Pac-12 should get Jedd Fisch at least some attention for national coach of the year. Willingham is damn good as a dog, as was on display last week, but this is too much to ask, even for him.
Bet 4: Wisconsin -5.5 (-118) vs Nebraska (6:30pm CT Sat 11/18, NBC)
This is contrarian to anybody that witnessed the awful product Wisconsin put on the field in a blowout home loss to Northwestern. But this is an opportunity to buy low at home versus a team that is committed to committing turnovers. I have to operate off the assumption that Braelon Allen won’t be back since it wasn’t close last week, logging just a couple plays before being shut down. Tanner Mordecai should be a different story. He likely was playing through rust and should be sharper. If Fickell can’t coach off of last week’s game, I don’t see how it will work out for him in Madison.
Best Bet (2 units): Iowa -3 (-110) vs Illinois (2:30pm CT Sat 11/18, FS1)
I’ve had a great record betting both of these teams’ games, so naturally the read in the direct head-to-head deserves a press. I don’t second guess Bret Bielema much, since he’s clearly done a good job in three years in Champaign and his Wisconsin track record is also stellar. But benching John Paddock for Luke Altmeyer is like taking Lou Gehrig out of the lineup out of fairness to Wally Pipp. There are limits to everything, and after the drive to beat Minnesota, Paddock’s 507 yards in a victory over Indiana is the exception to the rule that jobs aren’t lost due to injury. Altmeyer might be on a short leash, but Iowa isn’t a defense in need of generosity. Look for an early lead, then an Illinois offense stuck needing to score against a much better defense than they’ve seen since Nebraska, who beat them 20-7 at Illinois.
Week 11: 4-1, +2.00 units; Season: 28-30, -8.95 units. Good luck!