• In our best bets this week, we explain why there's value in pivotal ACC and Big Ten showdowns.
By The SI Staff
October 19, 2018

Welcome back to our college football staff's weekly best bets, where we explain why there's value in pivotal ACC and Big Ten showdowns.


Auburn at Ole Miss: OVER 63 Points

I have no idea who will win the Auburn-Ole Miss game, but I know the Rebels’ defense has been medicine for sick offenses all season. The Tigers should look more functional on that side of the ball this week. Meanwhile, Ole Miss should score its share of points as well. Take the over here. — Andy Staples

Vanderbilt (+11) at No. 14 Kentucky

The Commodores hung with Florida, and they can, at times, play solid defense. Kentucky leans heavily on a ground-and-pound running game that eats up the clock. This has the makings of a low-scoring duel that could be close in the end. The Dores haven’t covered a spread in a month, but maybe this is the week? Here’s to Derek Mason directing onto the Wildcats some of that fire he used against Dan Mullen in their mid-game screaming match last week. — Ross Dellenger

College Football
North Carolina State at Clemson Preview: Are the Undefeated Wolfpack Legit?


North Carolina at Syracuse: OVER 66.5 Points

With an over/under of 66.5, I might be crazy, but I'm taking the over. The Tar Heels can't be counted on for much offense, but even if they can eke out two touchdowns, that should push the scoring high enough, considering what I imagine Syracuse's productive offense will do to the country's No. 104 scoring defense. Larry Fedora's team has allowed opponents to score an average of 33.8 points per game this season, playing against some of the game's more dismal offenses. Syracuse, meanwhile, has the best scoring offense in the conference thus far. — Joan Niesen

No. 16 NC State (+17) at No. 3 Clemson

I was completely stunned to find a three-possession line for this game. Far inferior NC State teams have taken Clemson to the wire in Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley’s approximately nine-year college career, and only one Textile Bowl this decade has been decided by more than 15 points, a 41–0 Clemson romp in 2014. (The Wolfpack have lost 13 of the last 14 in the series.) NC State has Syracuse’s passing game acumen without Syracuse’s pace, and that’s the right half of the offensive equation to have mastered if you want to strain Clemson’s defense. Finley has been excellent against the teams that have been put in front of him, and in years past he has not embarrassed himself against top-level competition. On top of that, the Wolfpack lead the nation in Bill Connelly’s blitz down success rate (57.1%), which defines success as getting 50% of the necessary yardage on first down, 70% on second down or 100% on third or fourth down. This game could turn into a lot of things, but a Clemson blowout seems like an unlikely outcome. — Eric Single

Big Ten

No. 6 Michigan (-7) at No. 24 Michigan State

Michigan and Michigan State head into this rivalry game fresh off impressive Big Ten wins: The Wolverines had their most complete performance in a 38–13 victory over Wisconsin, while the Spartans upset Penn State on the road with a touchdown in the final seconds to win 21–17.

Michigan is looking more and more dominant, like maybe it could challenge Ohio State for the Big Ten East divisional title. However, quarterback Shea Patterson wasn’t at his best last week, passing for just 124 yards and no touchdowns (though he did add 90 rushing yards and a score). Wisconsin’s defense was able to get pressure on him, and Michigan State can do the same. If he can remain strong in the pocket, he’ll be able to score a lot of points against a weak secondary, ranked second to last in the Big Ten (286.3 yards per game).

The Spartans defense was tough last week against a powerful Penn State offense. The Nittany Lions were held to three points in the second half and only managed 397 yards, which was well below their average coming into this game. Michigan ran for 320 yards against Wisconsin’s banged-up defense last week, but likely won’t be able to do the same thing against MSU’s No. 1 rush defense, which is limiting opponents to 62.3 yards per game. This is why there’s even more need for Patterson to find his weapons out wide.

Michigan’s defense has the task of containing MSU quarterback Brian Lewerke, who isn’t afraid to use his legs to get first downs. Winning matchups against 6’4”, 200-pound receiver Felton Davis—who caught the game-winning TD against Penn State and is perhaps the best receiver the Wolverines have seen all year—won’t be easy, but this is a defense that is allowing 3.8 yards per play this season, which is the best mark in the country.

This is a must-win for Michigan if it wants to have a shot at its first Big Ten title under Jim Harbaugh and keep its playoff hopes alive. Expect the Wolverines to cover on the road. — Laken Litman

College Football
Michigan vs. Michigan State Preview: Can Wolverines Cover vs. Spartans for First Time in a Decade?


Arizona (+10) at UCLA

UCLA was winless at this time last week, and now the Bruins are a double-digit favorite after beating a punchless Cal? The line opened at UCLA -5.5 when the news that Khalil Tate won’t play due to injury was announced, and now it’s been bet all the way up to -10. Tate was sensational last season, but he seemingly played hurt throughout this entire campaign. Going from an injured Tate to Rhett Rodriguez isn’t worth all of these points, and I don’t think that the Bruins should be this big of a favorite over any Pac-12 team. — Max Meyer

Big 12

Kansas at Texas Tech: UNDER 59 Points

For Texas Tech, nothing has changed as far as what it does on both sides of the ball. The defense is still last in the Big 12 in yardage allowed and the offense is still prolific, ranking as the conference’s best statistically.

No matter who has been behind center, whether it has been freshman Alan Bowman or Jeff Duffey lately, the Red Raiders have had no trouble moving the ball.

Now longtime doormat Kansas comes to town, losers of three straight games. The Jayhawks fired their offensive coordinator Doug Meacham during ther bye week, making the unusual decision to replace a coordinator mid-season.

Kansas coach David Beaty was justified in the decision, as the Jayhawks rank ninth in Big 12 play in scoring, passing and are dead last in rushing.

For betting purposes, Kansas is 0–3 against the spread away from home, with each game coming under the projected point total. — Scooby Axson

Bonus: Group of Five

Utah State (-14.5) at Wyoming

Here’s a stat for you: We’ve won five of our last six Best Bets over the previous three weeks (and are now 7–7 on the season). Here’s another stat: Utah State has covered the spread in all six of its games this season, including spreads of 27, 46.5 and 23.5 points. The Cowboys are on a three-game slide and haven’t covered a number since their season opener. Put your dough on the Aggies to win by more than two touchdowns. — Ross Dellenger

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)