Each week we’ll be providing our top college football picks. (Season record: 8-5.)
Also check out our NFL “Lookahead Lines” story, finding value (or not) by comparing earlier lines, and identifying recency bias.
Back to the college game…
College Football Picks Week 8: Navy’s a Double-Digit Home Underdog and Oklahoma in a Good Spot vs. TCU
Oklahoma -8 over TCU
It seems like everyone in the world is on Oklahoma this week. I usually try to stay away from games like that but sometimes you just have to ride the public wave to the window and cash the ticket.
This is such a great spot for the Sooners. Oklahoma is coming off a bye and finally fired “defensive” coordinator Mike Stoops. Ruffin McNeill will take over a defense that faces a struggling TCU offense. The Horned Frogs have lost three of their last four games and have scored more than 17 points just once over that span.
TCU is only 2-4 ATS as a home dog in its last six games and 2-7 ATS overall in its last nine. Oklahoma has won four straight over the Horned Frogs with the average margin of victory of 12.2 points.
I’ll take the Sooners to pull away in this game and cover the eight points.
Kentucky -11 over Vanderbilt
Speaking of good spots, Kentucky finds itself in one this week. The Wildcats are coming off a bye, while Vanderbilt is playing for the eighth straight week and must rebound from a tough loss to Florida where they blew a 21-3 lead.
Kentucky has a major edge here with their rushing offense going against a Vandy defense that’s allowed an average of 257 rushing yards over the last four games. That will be a big problem when facing Kentucky RB Benny Snell and his 5.5 yards per carry.
Vanderbilt quarterback Ke’Shawn Vaughn was injured last week but is expected to play on Saturday. Kentucky has been strong on defense this year holding opponents to 116 yards below their opponents’ season average.
Vanderbilt has been a great fade in conference play going 1-10 ATS in its last 11 games versus SEC opponents. This line opened 10.5 at the SuperBook and moved to 11 where it is at most books as of Wednesday. Kentucky’s five wins this year have all been by 11 points or more. I’ll call for another double-digit victory here.
Navy +12 over Houston
Navy isn’t very good this year but I love taking option teams against defenses not used to seeing that offense, especially when I’m getting points (a dozen of ’em).
Navy has dropped three straight games after blowing a lead and losing to Temple last week. The Midshipmen haven’t lost four in a row since 2011. Navy’s pass defense has been an issue this year ranking 70th in the country and that’s certainly a concern versus Houston.
However, there are a couple reasons why I like Navy in this spot. Despite using two quarterbacks this year (Garret Lewis and Malcolm Perry), the Midshipmen still rank third in the country running the football at over 300 yards a game. So far, Houston has faced pass-happy teams like Arizona, Texas Tech and East Carolina. The Cougars have seen nothing like Navy’s ground game yet and I expect it to give Houston’s defense fits.
The other reason I like Navy is because weather couple play a factor. The forecast is calling for rain and wind on Saturday. That’s a huge advantage for Navy’s option offense over Houston’s high-flying passing attack.
Houston is playing its second straight road game and is 2-8 the last 10 as an away favorite. Navy is 5-1-1 in its last six as a home dog. Look for Navy to slow this game down and the weather to cause problems for Houston. The line opened at 13 and is down to 12.5. I’ll back Navy to keep this game close at home and possibly pull an outright upset — perhaps sprinking the moneyline at about +340.
Army -8 over Miami-Ohio
Army is one of the most underrated teams in the country right now. After outplaying Oklahoma in Norman but coming up just short in overtime, Army has beaten Buffalo and San Jose State by a combined score of 94-16. Army’s two losses on the season are to Oklahoma and Duke, a team we pointed out last week owns option offenses.
Miami is another team playing in its eighth straight week and are 0-3 ATS versus non-Mac teams this season. Army has won nine straight home games, including both this year as a favorite.
Since losing to Duke, Army’s defense has been one of the best in the nation holding opponents to 13 points below their season average. The Cadets held both Oklahoma (28) and Buffalo (13) to their season low in points.
Miami has dropped three straight in the series and now faces the best Army team in a decade. The line hasn’t moved off the opening number of eight. Take the Cadets to roll to their 10th consecutive home win on Saturday.
NC State +17.5 over Clemson
This is a battle of the ACC’s two unbeaten teams, although oddsmakers still don’t respect NC State. Despite being 5-0, the Wolfpack are big underdogs in Death Valley. The line opened up at 16 or 16.5 depending on the sports book and ticked up to 17.5 as of Wednesday.
I can’t help but favor the points in this matchup. Both teams are coming off a bye and each play good defense. Clemson ranks sixth in points allowed per game at 14.5, while NC State is 16th giving up 16.8 points. This is another game where weather could be a factor, potentially negating Clemson’s speed advantage.
NC State has struggled against the pass this year ranking 94th in the country. However, they’ve been tough against the run allowing just 107 yards per game and 3.7 yards per rush. Playing good rush defense is key against a Clemson offense that piles up 280 yards a game on the ground.
Clemson has won six straight in the series, although the Wolfpack have covered three of the last four. NC State hasn’t really been tested but I see this being a 27-17 kind of Clemson win. NC State has enough talent on both sides of the ball to stay within the number. If they don’t turn the ball over, I like their chances.
Michigan -7 over Michigan State
I don’t lay a touchdown on the road in conference play very often. Having said that, I see Michigan winning big on Saturday.
I took Michigan State last week as a 13.5-point underdog to Penn State. The Spartans won straight up in a spot Mark Dantonio thrives in, yet I’m still wondering how Michigan State got a first down in that game. The team is decimated by injuries at the receiver position, they can’t run the ball and quarterback Brian Lewerke was under constant pressure.
Penn State wasn’t able to close the door and let Michigan State hang around. I don’t see the same thing happening this week. Since a rough opening half against Notre Dame, the Michigan defense has been dominant. They destroyed a good Wisconsin team, outgaining the Badgers 444-273. Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook completed just seven passes against the Wolverines and three came on the final drive of the game.
Michigan State has dominated this series winning eight of 10 games straight up and going 10-0 ATS. All good things must come to an end though. Michigan is the best team in the Big Ten right now.
The line hasn’t moved off seven since the opening number was released. I’ll lay the touchdown with Michigan in a game I see them winning by 14+ points.