Each week we’ll be providing our top college football picks.
Also check out our NFL Week 11 “Lookahead Lines” story, finding value (or not) by comparing earlier lines, and identifying recency bias.
Back to the college game. (Season record: 20-15.)
Week 12 College Football Picks, Preview: West Virginia in a Great Spot on the Road and Syracuse Catching Points Against Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium
Memphis/SMU OVER 72.5 (Friday)
I grew up rooting for the old Pony Express so I’m a closet SMU fan. I know the team well and the Ponies have had little success against Memphis in recent years. In their last four games against SMU, Memphis has scored 48, 63, 51 and 66 points. The Tigers won last year’s meeting 66-45 and we should see another game that approaches 100 points.
SMU’s offense is finally starting to click under new coach Sonny Dykes. The Mustangs have scored 107 points in their last two games with wins over Houston and UConn. Memphis has scored 106 points in its last two games with victories over East Carolina and Tulsa.
While the Mustangs’ offense is rolling, their defense continues to struggle. SMU is allowing 242 rushing yards per game in conference play and now must face Memphis running back Darrell Henderson who is averaging 9.2 yards per carry on the season.
SMU ranks 115th in scoring defense allowing 36.8 points per game, while Memphis ranks 86th giving up 30.5 per contest. Both teams will put up points with ease Friday night in what could be the highest-scoring game of the college football season.
West Virginia -4.5 over Oklahoma State
West Virginia will be my top college football play this year. This is an absolute horrendous spot for Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys are coming off one of the toughest losses of the season last week against rival Oklahoma. OSU went for a two-point conversion and the win after scoring a touchdown with 1:03 left in the game. The conversion failed and Oklahoma prevailed 48-47.
The Cowboys have now dropped four of their last five games and return home to host red-hot West Virginia. The Mountaineers have covered three straight scoring over 40 points in each game. While all the talk is about Will Grier and the West Virginia offense, the defense has held its last two opponents to season lows in total yards.
The Mountaineers are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 Big 12 road games. It’s senior day in Stillwater but it won’t matter. The Cowboys won’t have anything left in the tank after last week’s brutal loss, while West Virginia controls its own destiny to reach the Big 12 title game. Mountaineers roll on the road.
Syracuse +11 over Notre Dame
Total OVER 65.5
A couple of times a year I’ll see a spot to take an underdog and OVER. This is one of those spots, although the total has jumped four points from Tuesday to Wednesday. I actually have the OVER at 61.5 but I’m posting it at 65.5 because that’s the number as of Wednesday evening.
Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book missed last game with a rib injury but is expected to return on Saturday. Bettors must feel confident that Book is healthy because money came pouring in on the OVER. Money is also on Notre Dame. The Irish opened -9 at the SuperBook and were up to -11 on Wednesday.
I really think this will be one of the Games of the Year in college football. Notre Dame’s defense has been solid, allowing just 18.7 points per game but Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey presents all kinds of problems as both a runner and passer. Dungey leads a Syracuse offense that has scored at least 40 points in four straight games.
The Orange love the underdog role going 9-2 in that spot in their last 11 games. Meanwhile, Notre Dame is just 1-6-1 in its last seven games when laying a touchdown ore more. The Irish won’t have the advantage of playing in front of a home crowd as this game is at Yankee Stadium. Syracuse also draws a crowd for hoops games at Madison Square Garden and will do so here, ascending to No. 12 in the polls — a perch Cuse hasn’t achieved in a long time. I’ll call for a high-scoring, close game with Syracuse potentially pulling the upset and ending Notre Dame’s dreams of making the College Football Playoffs.
Marshall -27 over UTSA
Typically, I don’t run to lay four touchdowns with Marshall but UTSA is the worst team in FBS right now and it may not be close.
The Roadrunners rank second to last in the nation in scoring offense, averaging just 14.9 points per game. Only Rutgers (14.5) is worse. UTSA has scored fewer than 20 points six times this year and have dropped its last two games to UAB and FIU by a combined score of 97-10.
You’re probably thinking things can’t get any worse for the Roadrunners. They can. Senior quarterback D.J. Gillins made his first start for UTSA last week versus FIU but he suffered an injury in the final minute and will miss the rest of the season. The Herd can expect to see either freshman Jordan Weeks or sophomore Bryce Rivers at quarterback this week. Neither quarterback has started a game for UTSA.
The Thundering Herd can still finish atop Conference USA’s East division but must win their last two games. The line opened Marshall -24 but moved up to 27 with UTSA’s uncertainty at quarterback. Marshall should dominate the Roadrunners to set up a big game next week against FIU. I’ll lay the wood in this one.