Spread Options: College football picks against the spread for Week 9

It’s hard to believe it’s Week 9 already.

We’re rounding the corner to the month of November and weekly College Football Playoff rankings. But that doesn’t mean we have to solely focus on the big games on the slate.

There is always value to be found all over the board, and hopefully this is the week I start finding it. I went 6-2 in Week 7 and followed that up by going … 2-4. Yeah, it’s been that kind of year.

There was some good. I was on Oklahoma State covering at Iowa State and the under in the Ole Miss vs. LSU game. But I also picked the under 52.5 in the Wake Forest vs. Army game, a game that finished with a final score of 70-56. Yikes.

Let’s get back on track with a heavy card this week, shall we?

Last week: 2-4

Overall: 26-28-1

(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)

No. 2 Cincinnati at Tulane

Time: Noon | Line: Cincinnati -24.5 | Total: 62

Tulane is 1-6 and has one of the worst defenses in the country, allowing 493.9 yards per game. Only UMass and Arkansas State allow more. In last week’s loss to SMU, quarterback Michael Pratt took a huge hit late in the fourth quarter and is now in the concussion protocol. If Pratt can’t play on Saturday, Tulane will have to start freshman Kai Horton. Horton, who had just one FBS offer out of high school, entered the season third on the depth chart but became the backup after an injury to Justin Ibieta.

Cincinnati, currently ranked No. 2 in the AP poll, had a lackluster offensive performance in last week’s win over Navy. The Bearcats put it in cruise control after going up 27-10 late in the third and ended up with a 27-20 victory. Ahead of the first CFP rankings show of the season, I expect the Bearcats to put a hurting on the Green Wave in this one — especially if Pratt can’t play.

Pick: Cincinnati -24.5

No. 6 Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State

Time: Noon | Line: Michigan -4 | Total: 50.5

With the way these two teams operate, I’m expecting a fairly low-scoring game.

Michigan State has been pretty reliant on big plays offensively. Though it has faced mostly mediocre opponents, Michigan hasn’t been giving up explosive plays like the old Don Brown-led defenses routinely did. Additionally, the MSU offense has struggled in recent wins over Nebraska and Indiana, the two best defenses the Spartans have faced this year.

Michigan relies heavily on its running game, averaging 253.3 yards on 46.4 attempts per game. Michigan State has faced only one team that ranks in the top 75 nationally in rushing offense. That was Nebraska, and MSU held up pretty well as the Huskers went for 194 yards on 50 attempts. That’s just 3.9 yards per try.

Pick: Under 50.5

Michigan running back Blake Corum (2) rushes during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Northwestern, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Michigan running back Blake Corum (2) rushes during the second half against Northwestern, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Miami at No. 17 Pittsburgh

Time: Noon | Line: Pitt -9.5 | Total: 61

Despite starting the season 2-4, Miami has still shown some fight. The Hurricanes nearly completed second-half comebacks against both Virginia and North Carolina and then were able to hold off NC State last week in a 31-30 upset. With D’Eriq King out, Tyler Van Dyke has improved at quarterback and Jaylan Knighton has been making plays at running back.

Defensively, though, Miami has not been good and now it has to face Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett. Pickett, a fifth-year senior, has emerged as a Heisman candidate with the Panthers now one of the favorites in the ACC. I’m a bit worried about a letdown after last week’s win over Clemson, but I think Pitt will have plenty of success through the air, especially with Miami safety Bubba Bolden now out for the season.

Pick: Over 61

Indiana at Maryland

Time: Noon | Line: Maryland -5.5 | Total: 49.5

Indiana, now 2-5 overall and 0-4 in Big Ten play, is likely down to its third-string quarterback on Saturday at Maryland. Michael Penix has been out for a while and Jack Tuttle was injured during the loss to Ohio State, leaving freshman Donaven McCulley as the next man up. McCulley was a big recruit for IU, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to see the field in a Big Ten road game.

On the other side, Maryland is missing its top two receivers and is coming off a 34-16 road loss to Minnesota. Indiana’s defense has a lot of veteran players, and I expect those guys to keep the Maryland offense relatively in check.

Pick: Under 49.5

Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech

Time: Noon | Line: GT -4 | Total: 55.5

With Jeff Sims fully healthy, I expect Georgia Tech to move the ball no matter who it plays. The fact that it has a reeling Virginia Tech team at home further reinforces how I feel about the Yellow Jackets this week.

Justin Fuente is firmly on the hot seat as the Hokies have lost four of their last five games, including last week’s 41-36 heartbreaker to Syracuse. The Orange scored twice in the game’s final 2:28 to escape Blacksburg with a win. Though the Hokies got a nice boost from freshman running back Malachi Thomas against Syracuse, I am having a hard time seeing them bounce back — especially in just their second road game of the year.

Pick: Georgia Tech -4

No. 22 Iowa State at West Virginia

Time: 2 p.m. | Line: ISU -7 | Total: 48.5

West Virginia snapped a three-game losing streak by beating TCU 29-17 on the road last week, but to me that game was more about where TCU is as a program than anything special WVU did. The Horned Frogs have one of the worst defenses in the country, and the offense turned it over three times in the second half.

Iowa State will present a much tougher challenge. This is a team that opened the year ranked in the top 10 but stumbled through the month of September. The Cyclones, coming off a 24-21 win over No. 8 Oklahoma State, are just now hitting their stride. ISU is 4-1 ATS in its last five as a road favorite, and I like that trend to continue.

Pick: Iowa State -7

Iowa State running back Breece Hall (28) celebrates after scoring on a 4-yard touchdown run during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma State, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 24-21. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Iowa State running back Breece Hall (28) celebrates after scoring on a 4-yard touchdown run during the second half against Oklahoma State, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 24-21. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Hawaii at Utah State

Time: 3 p.m. | Line: USU -5.5 | Total: 65

Hawaii is 4-4, but three of its wins came over New Mexico State (which it played twice) and Portland State. In those three games, the Rainbow Warriors scored an average of 46 points per game. In Hawaii’s other five games, it is averaging 18.8 points per game.

Hawaii is going to score more than 18.8 points against Utah State, which has one of the worst defenses in the country, but I’m not expecting an offensive explosion either. Utah State will have some success, too, but the Aggies tend to put up a lot of empty yards. USU ranks 17th in total offense but is 69th in scoring offense.

Pick: Under 65

Colorado at No. 7 Oregon

Time: 3:30 p.m. | Line: Oregon -24.5 | Total: 49

Colorado has the worst offense in the country, averaging just 238.1 yards per game. The Buffs have some talent at running back but cannot throw the ball whatsoever. Only the three option teams — Army, Air Force and Navy — have worse passing attacks than CU.

That obviously doesn’t lend itself very well for Saturday’s road trip to Eugene. Normally I'd be leery about trusting the Ducks to cover a big number, but their offense has been playing better lately and I'm not sure the Buffs will be able to score more than 10 or 14 points.

Pick: Oregon -24.5

Louisville at NC State

Time: 7:30 p.m. | Line: NC State -7 | Total: 57

I think Louisville is better than its 4-3 record shows. The Cardinals lost by just three on the road to undefeated Wake Forest, blew a 30-13 fourth quarter lead in a loss to Virginia and should have beaten Boston College by more than 14 last week.

Malik Cunningham is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country and I think he’ll be able to have success against an NC State defense that has lost several of its top players to season-ending injuries.

Pick: Louisville +7