• The Midshipmen have consistently covered big spreads against Notre Dame in recent years. On Saturday night in San Diego, Navy is once again a giant underdog with plenty of value.
By The SI Staff
October 22, 2018

Texas and Notre Dame fans have the College Football Playoff on their minds. Can the Longhorns and Irish avoid slip-ups away from home on Saturday?

Wake Forest at Louisville (-1.5)

Sat. 10/27, 12:00 p.m. ET

Pick: Wake Forest +1.5

There aren’t many FBS squads to which Louisville should be laying points, and that includes a team that’s performed as poorly as Wake Forest. While both of these teams come into this one with identical records of 1-6 against the spread, the Demon Deacons have the slightly better straight-up record at 3-4 while the Cardinals have gone 2-5. The first of Louisville’s straight-up wins came against an FCS Indiana State team that currently has a losing record, and the second was a 20-17 home victory as a 23.5-point favorite over a Western Kentucky squad that has only one straight-up victory to its credit in 2018.

Only 10 FBS offenses are averaging fewer rushing yards per game than the 111.7 Louisville is putting up, and the Cardinals are one of only nine FBS defenses allowing an average of more than 230 rushing yards per game. Teams that are allowing an average of at least 225 rushing yards per game are 7-29 against the spread in games where the line is between +3 and -3 since the start of the 2009 season when coming off back-to-back games in which they were outrushed by 125 or more yards. Wake Forest’s 213.3 rushing yards per game ranks 30th in FBS, and Louisville is 0-6 both straight up and against the spread since the start of the 2016 season when facing a team that’s averaging more than 200 rushing yards per game. The Demon Deacons have gone 4-0 against the spread when facing the Cardinals since Louisville joined the ACC prior to the start of the 2014 season, and Wake is 6-1 against the spread over that same time frame when coming off back-to-back games in which they allowed more than 30 points. This has been the point in the season during which Louisville has struggled most, as the Cardinals are 3-12 against the spread in October games over the past four calendar years. — Scott Gramling

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Tulane at Tulsa (-3)

Sat. 10/27, 7:00 p.m. ET

Pick: Tulsa -3

Since the start of the 2006 season, Tulsa has hosted Tulane six times and the Golden Hurricane have won and covered in each of those games. And despite the fact that Tulsa hasn’t necessarily been a powerhouse over the years, the average margin of victory in those contests was still a ridiculous 29.5 points per game. That’s not to say that head coach Philip Montgomery’s team is looking at yet another blowout win over the Green Wave, but there’s a very good chance the Golden Hurricane cover in this one.

This might be a down year for Tulsa, but the team matches up well against Tulane. The Golden Hurricane have had their struggles in the passing game this season, but the Green Wave have allowed 16 touchdowns and 275.3 yards per game through the air this season—both numbers are among the bottom 30 teams in FBS.  That means that Tulsa freshman Seth Boomer just might break out on Saturday. Boomer has struggled since taking over under center, but this matchup represents a great opportunity for him to get it going. And Tulsa’s running game has the ability to take some pressure off of him as well, so Montgomery’s offense shouldn't be as predictable as in weeks past. And defensively, Tulsa doesn’t make major mistakes often. That should allow the team to contain Tulane quarterback Jonathan Banks. — Zachary Cohen

Navy vs. Notre Dame (-23.5)

Sat. 10/27, 8:00 p.m. ET in San Diego

Pick: Navy +23.5

This has been a down year for Navy, losers of four straight, but it should be business as usual against Notre Dame. The Midshipmen have routinely been heavy underdogs against the Fighting Irish in their annual meeting, and they routinely cover those giant spreads. The service academy has covered four of the last five matchups, including when getting 14, 16.5 and 20 points.

Given Notre Dame’s flawless resume to this point, another heavy number is warranted, but winning by more than three touchdowns is a lot to ask for a team that is still finding its offensive identity. Since supplanting Brandon Wimbush as the starting quarterback, Ian Book has breathed new life into his team, but it took some late heroics for Notre Dame to edge Pittsburgh in South Bend, not to mention earlier escapes of Ball State and Vanderbilt.

For all of his passing prowess, Book will need to put up points on almost every drive to cover this spread, given Navy’s possession-limiting, game-shortening triple-option attack. And the offense isn’t the only unusual element Notre Dame must contend with: This is a late game in San Diego, a neutral site chosen by Navy. It has the feel of a special occasion for Navy, while Notre Dame, with national-title aspirations, will simply look to survive and advance. — Ed McGrogan

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Texas (-3) at Oklahoma State

Sat. 10/27, 8:00 p.m. ET

Pick: Oklahoma State +3

Not unlike Tom Herman teams of years past, this year's Longhorns have played up to strong competition and played down against weaker teams. Home victories over then-ranked USC and TCU squads look a little less impressive in retrospect, but a 48-45 Red River Shootout triumph over Oklahoma came against one of the best teams in the country. Texas lost its opener to Maryland, though, and has beaten Tulsa, Kansas State and Baylor all by seven points or fewer.

So will Texas show up this week at Oklahoma State? It's a big-name opponent and a cross-border rival, but Mike Gundy's Cowboys are far from nationally relevant after losing three of their last four games to fall to 4-3. Last week's 31-12 defeat to Kansas State was an especially low point. OK State does own an emphatic win over Boise State, however, and obviously has some talent. Running back Justice Hill is averaging 97.7 rushing yards per game on over six yards per carry, and the Cowboys are averaging 6.77 yards per play overall, third-best in the Big 12. (Texas ranks eighth at 5.42, albeit against an admittedly tougher schedule.)

This one could come down to quarterback play. Sam Ehlinger, whose improvement as a sophomore has accounted for so much of Texas' success this season, missed most of the Baylor win with a sprained shoulder. Despite having a bye week to recover, his status remained uncertain for Stillwater as of early this week. Backup Shane Buechele averaged only 5.4 yards per attempt against a weak Baylor defense, and represents a significant downgrade from Ehlinger if he has to play once again. Quarterback Taylor Cornelius has had his struggles for Oklahoma State, but his ability to tuck the ball and run should serve him well against the Longhorns. Texas has allowed big rushing days to opposing Big 12 QBs like Shawn Robinson and Kyler Murray, and Cornelius has reeled off a run of 25 yards or longer in four different games this season. A well-timed scamper could make the difference in a game that oddsmakers clearly see as being close on Saturday night. — Sam Chase

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