What college football games appear to be the best bets and the best picks against the spread going into Week 7?
This column giveth, and when this thing taketh away it does so in spectacular burnout fashion.
I know better than to get cocky after a 9-1 run like I had two weeks ago, but last week was a brutal disaster. Now, in my defense, it took a whole lot of historical anomalies for it all to go the way it did.
Give me anyone who saw the Texas A&M offense doing that against Alabama. Not only did I miss that outright, but Florida State beat North Carolina as a 17-point dog.
That was nothing. USC had never lost to Utah in Southern California until last week.
I’m now 0-for-2 in the You’re An SEC Team, Act Like It calls with Missouri continuing the be an epic fail on defense – it didn’t cover against North Texas – and I whiffed by going under on Arkansas-Ole Miss and Maryland-Ohio State. And …
That’s it. The slide stops now with three themes. 1) Spite, 2) it’s Big Ten week, and 3) more spite.
Parts 1 & 3 begin with …
Results So Far ATS: 42-28-1
Click on each game for the preview
LINE Point Total 83
ATS PICK Under
I’ll admit it – I got cute.
I have a hard and fast rule to never, ever, ever, ever, ever take the over on a point total of 80 or more. Too many things can go wrong, and the worst that can happen is that it actually does go over, and at least you got a blast of a game to watch.
That’s exactly what happened last week. I modified my rule to 66.5 when it came to Ole Miss and Arkansas. 66.5 isn’t 80, and those two crazy kids combined to annihilate the over in a 52-51 Rebel victory.
83 is over 80, and the point total came down from 85.5. Oh sure, it’s more fun to assume the two killer offenses will go off, but be warned, last week was the first time an Ole Miss game got past 82, and Tennessee only got there in a 62-24 win over Missouri.
That’s Spite, Part 1. Part 2 …
LINE North Carolina -7.5
ATS PICK Miami
I vowed last week after the disaster against Florida State that I would never, ever, ever, ever pick North Carolina to do anything right ever again.
I’m picking North Carolina.
I know, I shouldn’t be emotional about this, and I shouldn’t pick out of revenge, but it just seems like the Miami thing is about to implode.
D’Eriq King is out for the year, the D that gets its groove on the Turnover Chain has a pathetic four takeaways on the year, and if it’s possible to see an entire team collectively look like the drive-through forgot the fries, that last second upright-doink loss to Virginia was it.
That, and North Carolina appears to be one of those adjustment teams.
It didn’t get the O going against Virginia Tech, and then it ran the ball more effectively and blasted Georgia State and Virginia. The run D didn’t get off the bus against Georgia Tech, and then the team stopped Duke cold.
The run defense against Florida State was pathetic, and this week the offense will make up for it with well over 400 yards.
LINE Oklahoma -13.5
ATS PICK TCU
All the game predictions are done without looking at the lines – the goal is to not be influenced by them one way or another. Once in a while, though, it’s hard not to want to adjust the predicted score to fit what the narrative should probably be.
This week, that narrative is simple. Oklahoma found the right quarterback, the offense will play like it’s supposed to, and America is about to deal with the unleashed beast the devoured Texas in the second half of last week.
There’s that – now that Caleb Williams appears to be the main man for now – and there’s a TCU team that’s hammered by key injuries, including to QB Max Duggan.
So we did the preview and got to the final predicted score, and I kept wanting to change it to Oklahoma by a few touchdowns. There’s one problem with that.
Oklahoma has yet to beat any FBS team by more than seven points – it has yet to play a solid full 60 minutes against anyone but Western Carolina, and even then the game was over instantly.
Not Tulane, not West Virginia, not anyone. Granted, that was all with Spencer Rattler at the helm before Williams pulled the team out of the fire.
Combine that with a TCU team that doesn’t play a lick of D but keeps everything close, and the possible letdown factor after the emotion in Dallas, and 13.5 might be a bit too generous.
NEXT: College Football Pick Against The Spread No. 7: Tulsa at USF
7. Tulsa at USF
LINE Tulsa -7.5
ATS PICK USF
Buyer beware on this – I’ll freely admit that this is based more on a hunch than anything truly analytical, and there’s a reason.
We haven’t seen USF play anyone who’s not a whole lot better.
The last outright win by USF over an FBS team came on October 26, 2019 over East Carolina. I never like to mess with streaks – especially ones that go 16 in a row and span a few years – but there’s an interesting aspect to this.
The last four losses in 2019 came against a strong Temple team that went bowling, and to loaded-and-ranked Cincinnati, Memphis, and UCF teams.
Out of the nine FBS losses last year, only a blowout to East Carolina was truly unacceptable. The 39-37 loss to Temple was close, and the other six losses were to terrific teams and/or on the road.
The four losses this year? NC State, Florida, BYU, SMU. All of them ranked, all of them strong.
Tulsa has been dangerous. It lost to UC Davis, but it beat Memphis, pushed Oklahoma State, and …
The defense isn’t close to as good as it was last year. USF is finally playing a team its own size, and it’s at home. It’s overdue for a good performance.
BTW, if you want to take stupid to another level, USF is +250 on the money line.
LINE Texas Tech -17.5
ATS PICK Texas Tech
This was the spot last week occupied by the pick of Alabama over Texas A&M. It’s going to take something special to flush out the negative vibes, so I’m going with something special.
If Texas A&M outright win defied every aspect of logic, analysis, and reason – that was NOT your fault for picking the Tide – then the only thing that can erase it is something even more freakish.
Before the season, a friend of mine pointed out that picking against the Jayhawks was solid gold throughout 2020, and he was sticking with it.
I tried to tell him that Kansas would beat South Dakota, and it did – by 3, not 13.5.
I tried to tell him that Coastal Carolina might be just okay – by the way, there’s your other freakish team, but the other way – and Kansas would at least cover. To be fair, the line ended up at 27 and that was the final difference, but most of the world got in before it went up to that.
Baylor rolled at will, Iowa State won by 52, and despite Duke doing everything possible to try letting the game die – and needing a late stop to hold the line – Kansas still couldn’t get there.
It’s a road game, and the Red Raider defense has gone bye-bye, and the Jayhawks have had two weeks off, and …
We keep on riding this train until it stops. Whenever it does, we tip our cap and thank it for the wonderful ride.
NEXT: College Football Pick Against The Spread No. 5: Fresno State at Wyoming
LINE Fresno State -3.5
ATS PICK Fresno State
I know, I know, pick against Wyoming in Laramie at your own peril, but this falls into the Didn’t Really Beat Anyone category.
Wyoming was fun over the first four games, but it helped to play Montana State, Northern Illinois, Ball State, and UConn. Now, NIU and Ball State aren’t awful, but they’re not Air Force.
Air Force also falls into the Didn’t Really Beat Anyone category, and it beat Wyoming 24-14. But it’s not just that.
The Cowboys haven’t faced a dangerous FBS passing game.
In comes Jake Haener and a Fresno State attack that’s thrown for 378 yards or more against everyone but Oregon, and even then it almost got to 300 in a 31-24 loss.
The Bulldogs went to UCLA and won that emotional game, flew home and had a shockingly tough fight with UNLV on a Friday night, and then flew to Hawaii and bombed away, only to lose thanks to six turnovers.
This was a beaten up, battered, and weary team that seemed like it needed to take a little break. After two weeks off, here’s where the offense picks it back up.
And with that, it’s Big Time Big Ten time. Diving right in with four games that should all be interesting, but all seem strangely gettable, starting with Big Time Big Ten Game No. 4 …
NEXT: College Football Pick Against The Spread No. 4: Purdue at Iowa
LINE Iowa -11.5
ATS PICK Purdue
If you’re into Purdue, wait this out as long as you possibly can because the late money is probably all going to come in on Iowa, mainly because the Saturday morning investment crowd will dive in because of the No. 2 ranking.
The scary part about this is what you’re going to be asking for. You’re looking for the Purdue defense to be special – and it might be.
BTW, if you’re buying into Purdue here, then also dive into the under on the 42.5.
We all know how amazing the Iowa defense is, but the offense – partly because it doesn’t take a whole lot of chances by design – is the worst in the Big Ten.
Now, there’s the conservative aspect of this, and there’s the defense that keeps taking the ball away to give the offense short fields, Even so, averaging 317 yards per game is way light.
Of course, Iowa leads the Big Ten in scoring defense allowing 13 points per game. Purdue is third allowing 15.4, and that’s with playing Notre Dame, Minnesota, and a good Oregon State offense.
Iowa is third in the Big Ten in pass defense – Purdue is No. 1.
Wisconsin has the best defense by a mile in yards allowed, but Iowa is No. 2 Purdue is No. 3.
The Boilermakers and Hawkeyes are almost neck-and-neck in the time of possession battle, and
It comes down to turnovers. They killed Purdue late against Notre Dame – and killed those who had the Boilermakers and the points in the 27-13 loss – and it has two giveaways in each of the last three games and no takeaways.
Iowa will still win this, but after scoring 13 over the last three games, something like 24-13 Hawkeyes gets this done.
Big Time Big Ten Game No. 3 …
NEXT: College Football Pick Against The Spread No. 3: Rutgers at Northwestern
LINE Rutgers -2
ATS PICK Rutgers
And you can probably get this at 1.5 in some places.
Let’s keep this one simple.
What about the Northwestern offense would suggest to you that it can win a game against a jacked up defense looking to come up with a big performance?
Now, Texas A&M shocked Alabama the last time I asked something like that, and Northwestern has had two weeks off to rest up for a home game, but …
This Wildcat offense really is awful.
It ran wild against a miserable Ohio team, and it perked up late against Michigan State when the game was over, and against Duke to make that interesting, but the real Wildcat O is more like the one that couldn’t move the ball a lick in the 56-7 loss at Nebraska.
Yeah, the Rutgers offense couldn’t manage more than 13 points in any of its last three games and only came up with 17 – at least against FBS teams – against Temple.
There’s a reason for the struggles …
Over the last three games, Rutgers went on the road to face Michigan and Michigan State, and it dealt with a surly Ohio State.
Expect the Scarlet Knight D that held everyone before Ohio State and Michigan State – including Michigan – to under 300 yards of total offense to show up.
Big Time Big Ten Game No. 2 …
NEXT: College Football Pick Against The Spread No. 2: Michigan State at Indiana
LINE Michigan State -4.5
ATS PICK Michigan State
There’s a Big Ten blind spot when it comes to Indiana.
The biggest Big Ten blind spot is Michigan – it wasn’t ranked, it’s not being given enough credit for its wins, everyone knows what’s coming, blah, blah blah – but the Hoosiers are the opposite. Everyone seems to still think the 2020 team is the 2021 team, and it’s really, really not.
It stinks that QB Michael Penix Jr. hasn’t been healthy. He’s as gutty as it gets, and he’s trying to find his form despite a slew of injuries he’s trying to get past, but he’s struggling and so is the offense.
Here’s part of the reason for the blind spot – Iowa, Cincinnati, Penn State. The Hoosiers dealt with three of the best teams in America, but that’s also sort of the point here.
Michigan State is actually playing as good if not better than those three.
Is there a great win on the Spartan schedule? Beating Nebraska was nice, but that was way too close of a 23-20 thriller. Going to Miami and winning actually isn’t any big deal, and road games against Northwestern and Rutgers are whatever.
Yeah, there’s a chance a rest Indiana team that played a tough schedule could come out roaring against a Spartan team that might be looking ahead to its week off before dealing with Michigan.
That might true for a little while, but the Michigan State offensive balance – starting with a special year from Kenneth Walker, who has 913 yards and averages over seven yards per game – should be enough to grind out a win by more than five.
Indiana vs. Iowa, Cincinnati, and Penn State? Those three 96, IU 30. Which leads us to …
Big Time Big Ten Game No. 1 …
NEXT: College Football Pick Against The Spread No. 1: Army at Wisconsin
LINE Wisconsin -14
ATS PICK Wisconsin
We all know what Army can do.
We all know the last thing a Big Ten team wants in the middle of its season is to refocus all of its efforts on staying in the lanes, dealing with the nasty blocking schemes that makes everyone sore, and fighting through the mental fatigue of never, ever having the ball.
With all of that, and fully aware that most teams can’t hit the Army knuckleball, there might not be a team this year outside of the one in Athens that can better handle what Army brings to town.
This one is an all-time It’s Not Your Fault pick if it doesn’t work.
I’ll get to the obvious in a moment, but with Wisconsin, it’s ALL about turnovers.
This team just can’t stop screwing up, with a whopping -11 in turnover margin with two or more in every game but the blowout over Eastern Michigan. However, the magic number might be three.
Wisconsin couldn’t get by Penn State, Notre Dame, or Michigan after giving it up 11 times in the three games. It turned it over twice last week against Illinois, and it didn’t matter. Why?
93 yards, and 26 of those on the ground. That’s what Illinois was held to.
Back to the turnovers for one quick second. If Wisconsin doesn’t give the ball away in bunches, it dominates – it’s been that way for two decades. Army has come up with five turnovers on the year, and two of them came in the opener against Georgia State.
But it’s about stopping the run, obviously.
Wisconsin’s defense has an Achilles heel, and it’s the deep ball against lightning fast receivers. Army will hit one of those shots, but there won’t be a second.
On the ground, the Badgers allowed 112 yards to Michigan, and no one else has pushed past 50. Not Penn State, not Illinois, and Notre Dame netted three yards it didn’t need.
Army obviously has to run well to win – it’s No. 1 in the nation on the ground. Wisconsin is No. 1 in the nation in run D by a relative mile.
Army has to win the time of possession battle – it’s No. 1 in the nation. Wisconsin is usually on top but it’s currently No. 4.
Army has to hit its third down tries to own the time of possession battle – Wisconsin is No. 2 in the nation in third down stops.
And then there’s the competition. Army has been great so far, but it played Georgia State, WKU, UConn, Miami University, and Ball State. Now it’s going to play a big-time program that’s in the midst of a big-time clunker of a year and desperately needs this win.