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NFL Draft

College Football Week 9 Best Bets

  • The Draft Network
  • October 30, 2020
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Welcome back to our weekly look at college football’s lines. Here, we take one of the most volatile sports in one of the most volatile years and pretend to be able to predict it. It’s kinda fun.

Here are three lines I like a lot, as well as a few fliers for a loaded Week 9 of college football. I’ll be around on Twitter if there are any other games you’re looking at. Odds are supplied by our friends over at BetOnline.

Michigan State (+25.5) @ Michigan

How little preamble for such a storied rivalry. The Spartans got beat by Rutgers after turning the football over seven times last week, and even on the drives that ended with punts or fumbles, struggled to generate consistent offense. Michigan and new quarterback Joe Milton couldn’t stop scoring against the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ undersized defense, dominating in the game for the Little Brown Jug.

This is a play about play style and pace. The Wolverines are going to be a run-centric team with Milton under center and a backfield with multiple future NFLers around him, and while Michigan State deserves little faith overall at this time, their run defense was sound against the Scarlet Knights. For the Wolverines to have scoring drives, I’d expect them to lace together 10-plus play efforts that will eat time off the clock.

I do like the under at 52 for that reason as well, though Michigan State picking up a backdoor cover in a game in which they will certainly never give up seems a safer pick. Rocky Lombardi (real person) has enough talent at quarterback for the Spartans to challenge the Wolverines’ man coverage in garbage time.

Memphis @ Cincinnati (-6)

Followers of the column will know we haven’t yet lost money on Cincinnati this year, pushing against South Florida and otherwise dominating their competition against Austin Peay, Army, and most recently, SMU. Now, the Bearcats are less than a touchdown favorite at home against a Memphis team that embarrassed them twice last season, but has seen a massive talent drain at the offensive skill positions.

It’s time for revenge for the Bearcats defense, which is a top-five defense in the country among Group of or Power 5 conferences. Memphis’ offensive structure and execution is not dissimilar to the SMU system that Cincinnati just suffocated, and even with less luck in the drops column, the Bearcats secondary is up for the challenge presented by Memphis’ speedy wide receiver corps. Cincinnati has also shown an elite ability to get pressure on third down with four, sometimes three rushers, which flustered a veteran quarterback in Shane Buechele last week and will fluster another veteran quarterback in Brady White this week.

Memphis’ defense is one of the worst Cincinnati has seen this year, and their running game gets stronger by the week, with an experienced offensive line and a bruising running back in Gerrid Doaks. Expect Cincinnati to shorten this game, win with physicality in both trenches, and control the score all the way through.

Ohio State (-10.5) @ Penn State

I am hesitant to play this line as an overreaction to Penn State’s loss to Indiana, which was a game they could have won multiple times, and perhaps should have in the excruciating clarity of video replay. Early in the week you could have bought this line at -9.5 or -10, which would be a more encouraging proposition on a pretty key number.

But if you consider this line as a vote of confidence in Ohio State’s roster, then it feels like a stronger play. The Buckeyes’ line remains dominant, with two future NFLers in Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere posing a much bigger impediment to Shaka Toney and Jayson Oweh than Indiana’s offensive tackles presented. Beyond those players for Penn State, the defense lacks the talent to run with Ohio State’s passing game. 

And can Penn State’s new offense affect the Buckeyes’ second level the way Nebraska’s spread attack did? With Noah Cain now out along with Journey Brown for the rest of the season, Penn State needs to win in the passing game, which they’ve never been able to do against the Buckeyes.

Things can get weird in this game, but Penn State doesn't have the advantage of a packed stadium this year. This should play out more like it looks on paper.

Live Dogs

As always, some dogs to bet outright here, in the forever zaniness of college football: Baylor (+115) is a better team than TCU that has been missing in execution and suffering from bad coaching decisions, but I’m not sure how TCU moves the ball on this defense. Northwestern (+115) is visiting a bad Iowa team with a surprisingly pace-y and plucky offense with transfer quarterback Peyton Ramsey at the helm. 

And if you want to get really spicy? UTSA (+170) deserves a sprinkle on the road at Florida Atlantic. The Owls are weak on run defense and Sincere McCormick is the most productive runner in the nation, so the Roadrunners won’t have to rely on backup quarterback Frank Harris as much in the passing game.

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