- We're riding with several underdogs in games involving top-25 teams in our best bets this week.
The calendar has flipped from September to October, and this is the perfect time for bettors to hit their stride. To help out, here are our staff's best bets for Week 6.
No. 8 Auburn at Mississippi State: UNDER 42.5 Points
Mississippi State has scored 13 points in the past two weeks against defenses that don’t have as much raw talent as Auburn’s. The Tigers, meanwhile, have averaged less than 3.5 yards a carry against every opponent that wasn’t Alabama State. That’s a problem for Auburn’s offense, which needs to be able to run consistently between the tackles to make the scheme really hum. The Bulldogs’ defensive line will make running difficult, but Mississippi State’s offense could struggle more to score against Auburn’s defense. Take the under. — Andy Staples
No. 5 LSU at No. 22 Florida (+2.5)
We’re assuming coordinator Todd Grantham’s unit will do enough to hold LSU and QB Joe Burrow down in a day game in The Swamp, but this is no sure thing. It feels like a toss-up, an ugly offensive grudge match with two strong defenses. The game has come down to the final play the previous four years. Meanwhile, the Gators have covered in their last three outings and in their last two against LSU. — Ross Dellenger
Syracuse (-3.5) at Pitt
The Orange traveled to Clemson last week and lost by four points, so it seems entirely reasonable that in a road game at Pittsburgh, they could hold their own. With that in mind, I'm picking them to cover against the Panthers on Saturday. Pitt is mired in a 2-3 season with a minus-9.6 average point differential; meanwhile, Syracuse is 4-1 with an average point differential of +22.8. That's enough for me to think it'll win by a touchdown, even on the road. — Joan Niesen
Florida State (+13.5) at No. 17 Miami
Maybe last week’s escape at Louisville’s expense was the stroke of good fortune Florida State needed to right itself and creep back up into the middle of the ACC. We’re still waiting for running back Cam Akers’s breakout game in Willie Taggart’s offense under construction, but senior Nyqwan Murray had his first big afternoon of 2018 with six catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner. The nastiest rivalry in the state of Florida should be incentive enough for the Seminoles to keep battling. Last week was clearly the right time for Miami to switch to redshirt freshman quarterback N’Kosi Perry, but things might have been a little closer in Perry’s first start against North Carolina if the Tar Heels had not yielded an astounding six turnovers. If FSU doesn’t shoot itself in the foot, the Hurricanes' offense doesn’t have the type of firepower that might embolden Mark Richt to jam on the accelerator with a lead. — Eric Single
Maryland (+17.5) at No. 15 Michigan
Jim Harbaugh brought in quarterback Shea Patterson to fire up the offense after it was so inept last season. He’s had his moments, but Michigan is often more reliant on its running game and fifth-year senior Karan Higdon, who is second in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor averaging 119.8 rushing yards per game. However, the offensive line struggles to open holes and the offense as a unit only ranks sixth in the conference, averaging 411.8 total yards per game. Harbaugh’s group can be better. As UM prepares to face an improved Maryland defense that’s keen on turnovers (has forced eight in four games) and limiting opponents on third down (29% conversion rate is best in the Big Ten), this will be an interesting matchup to watch.
Despite an uneven offensive attack, Michigan’s defense is still the No. 1 unit in the country, holding teams to 232.6 yards per game. However, rush end Rashan Gary is questionable after suffering an injury in last week’s game against Northwestern. The defense will have its hands full with speedy Maryland backs Ty Johnson and Anthony McFarland, who are capable of making explosive plays. The key is stopping the run. Maryland freshman quarterback Kasim Hill leads the Big Ten’s worst passing offense and he isn’t going to beat you with his arm. So far he’s thrown just three touchdowns to one interception this season.
It’s also worth mentioning these are two of the Big Ten’s most penalized teams: Michigan averages 9.3 per game, while Maryland averages 9.2. Flags will fly.
This game is in Ann Arbor, but don’t forget Northwestern nearly beat Michigan last week before Patterson led his team back to win by three. Don’t expect the Wolverines to lose at home, but they may not cover. — Laken Litman
Washington State at Oregon State: OVER 64 Points
I don’t really love any plays in the Pac-12 this week, but when in doubt, either fade Clay Helton (USC is on a bye though) or take the over in the Oregon State game.
Oregon State’s defense is absolutely abysmal, as the Beavers have allowed 35 plays of at least 20+ yards—124th in the country and the worst mark of any Power 5 team. Under Mike Leach, the quick throw is a staple and Washington State’s offense has been moving the ball at will with Gardner Minshew as the signal-caller (the Cougars are No. 1 in the country with 410.4 passing yards per game). Against a Beavers defense that struggles generating pressure and creating takeaways, Minshew should have a field day.
On the opposing side, Oregon State will likely get tailback Artavis Pierce back to add to an already dynamic rushing attack. Freshman tailback Jermar Jefferson leads the Pac-12 in rushing with 727 rushing yards, and Pierce had touchdown runs of 78 and 80 yards in the season opener against Ohio State. Washington State has allowed more than 300 rushing yards over the past two weeks to USC and Utah, including quite a few going for 20 yards or more.
It honestly wouldn’t be surprising to see the Beavers (+17) make this a close game, but let’s root for points and big plays late Saturday night rather than Oregon State defensive stops in what I think will be a 41-31 type of affair. — Max Meyer
No. 7 Oklahoma vs. No. 19 Texas at Cotton Bowl (+7.5)
As with just about every rivalry game, you can throw the records out of the window. The Sooners have beaten the Longhorns two years in a row and six of the past eight years.
The question all season has been, “Is Texas back?” If winning four games in a row after a season-opening loss to Maryland is any indication, then yes, Tom Herman’s squad is ready to start competing for conference and national championships (both droughts are over a decade long).
Oklahoma is Oklahoma again, as the Sooners roll up points and yards no matter what defenses try to do. And like years past, they also seem not to play any defense. It’s not just that the defense is getting gashed at every turn, though, but it has come at the offense's expense in terms of maximizing that unit's number of possessions.
In the past two weeks, the defense was on the field for nearly 45 minutes against Army and Baylor ran 101 plays against the Sooners.
Texas would be wise to deploy this strategy to avoid Murray and the prolific offense from making this game a track meet. — Scooby Axson
Bonus: Group of Five
Wyoming at Hawaii (–3)
Now, you know, the only reason we’re picking this game is to have something to sweat over late into Sunday morning. The two teams kick off at midnight ET. Something’s got to give in this one. Neither Wyoming nor Hawaii has covered a spread in four weeks. We’re banking on the high-scoring Warriors (they’ve scored at least 42 points in five of six games). — Ross Dellenger