I must admit, I had a tough time with the college football board this week.
Maybe it's because celebrating the Phillies put me behind my usual working schedule, but there weren't many games that immediately jumped out to me. But after grinding through these matchups, I've landed on six plays I like quite a bit.
Last week was another mixed bag. I was dead wrong on UCLA, and quarterback injuries at James Madison and Kansas State hurt me. But I also nailed multiple plays, including Boise State as an outright winner over Air Force.
Let's see what Week 9 has in store.
Last week: 4-4
(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)
Rutgers at Minnesota
Time: 2:30 p.m. | TV: BTN | Line: Minnesota -14.5 | Total: 40.5
I wrote it last week and I’ll write it again this week. I trust the Rutgers defense. Rutgers hosted Indiana last week and quickly fell behind 14-0 after IU returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and then had a 91-yard scoring drive. After that, IU could muster only a field goal.
This matchup is a bit different. Indiana is a pass-happy team while Minnesota leans heavily on the run. But ever since Minnesota lost receiver Chris Autman-Bell to a season-ending injury, the Gophers haven’t been able to present even a mild threat of an explosive pass play. At the same time, Minnesota’s defense has struggled in the past two games against Illinois and Penn State.
Those are two mediocre offenses. Rutgers is far worse, but I think the Scarlet Knights can do enough to keep this game within two touchdowns. That’s especially true when you consider the offense on the other side.
Pick: Rutgers +14.5
No. 10 Wake Forest at Louisville
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ACCN | Line: Wake Forest -4 | Total: 64
This feels like a square pick playing the ranked road favorite at a short number, but I don’t care. I think Wake Forest is the right side here.
The Demon Deacons have an excellent passing attack led by Sam Hartman, and I expect them to have a lot of success against Louisville’s secondary. I still have visions of Louisville getting gashed through the air by Florida State with a backup quarterback and Boston College, a team with the worst offense in the ACC.
Louisville is coming off wins over a terrible Virginia team and a reeling Pitt team that is struggling mightily on offense. UL got Malik Cunningham back for the Pitt game but he and the Cardinals offense did not play well.
Wake Forest is an experienced team that already has a big road win over Florida State this season. I trust Dave Clawson’s team to get the job done.
Pick: Wake Forest -4
No. 20 Cincinnati at UCF
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Line: UCF -1 | Total: 56
UCF lost 34-13 on the road to East Carolina last week, but that game was much more competitive than the final score indicates. UCF had four turnovers and each of them took place in ECU territory.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, beat SMU on the road 29-27 to improve to 6-1 on the year. But this Bearcats team is nowhere near as good as the one that went to the College Football Playoff. The Bearcats have played close, sloppy games against a lot of mediocre-to-bad teams. Teams like Miami (Ohio), Tulsa and South Florida have all been competitive against UC.
The key matchup in this game is UCF’s running game vs. the Cincinnati rush defense. Cincinnati is allowing only 2.81 yards per rush this season. But when you take a closer look, you see that Cincinnati struggled vs. the only two running quarterbacks it has faced — Arkansas’ KJ Jefferson and USF’s Gerry Bohanon. Those two combined for 198 yards on 30 carries (sack adjusted).
UCF’s John Rhys Plumlee ranks third nationally among quarterbacks in rushing yards. He could have a big day in a bounce-back effort from UCF.
Pick: UCF -1
Northwestern at Iowa
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN2 | Line: Iowa -11.5 | Total: 37.5
The only way I could see Iowa covering this spread is with multiple defensive touchdowns. This is Northwestern, so it’s certainly possible. But I’ll take my chances.
I actually liked what I saw from Northwestern last week, albeit in a loss to a Maryland team playing with its backup quarterback. The Wildcats made the switch from Ryan Hilinski to Brendan Sullivan at quarterback, and Sullivan’s ability to run gave a solid Maryland defense some issues.
After another week of Sullivan working with the starters in practice, I expect Northwestern to at least put some points on the board. With the Iowa offense on the other side, you may need only 10 points from the Wildcats to stay within the number.
Pick: Northwestern +11.5
Missouri at No. 25 South Carolina
Time: 4 p.m. | TV: SECN | Line: South Carolina -4 | Total: 47
South Carolina entered the Top 25 this week, but I don’t think the Gamecocks are very good, despite a respectable 5-2 record. After a 1-2 start, South Carolina has won four straight. The first two wins came over two bad teams: Charlotte and South Carolina State. From there, the Gamecocks beat Kentucky without Will Levis and then beat Texas A&M, despite being outgained by more than 100 yards.
Normally I would be looking to fade the Gamecocks here, but I’m looking to the total instead because of the opponent involved: Missouri. I do not trust Missouri’s offense at all to go cover this spread on the road. But I do trust the Missouri defense to continue to play well. South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler has been struggling and the Gamecocks are very reliant on running back Marshawn Lloyd.
Both offenses play slowly and hit very few explosive plays, so I’m expecting a low-scoring game here. Give me the under.
Pick: Under 47
No. 19 Kentucky at No. 3 Tennessee
Time: 7 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Line: UT -12.5 | Total: 62.5
Slowing Tennessee’s offense won’t be easy, but I think this is a good spot to back Kentucky with the Wildcats coming off a bye and Tennessee’s highly anticipated trip to Georgia on the horizon.
Kentucky wants to play slowly and control the ball, and that can lend itself quite well to trying to cover a double-digit spread like this. On average, the Kentucky offense runs a play every 30.6 seconds. Only Air Force plays at a slower pace. With Chris Rodriguez in the lineup at running back and Will Levis healthier coming off a bye, there’s a good chance for Kentucky to find some success on offense vs. a Tennessee defense that gave up a ton of yards in its past two SEC home games vs. Florida and Alabama.
Kentucky is 7-2-1 ATS in its past 10 games as an underdog of seven or more points. Let’s do it again.
Pick: Kentucky +12.5