- The underdogs are barking this week, as the SI college football staff is getting points with seven of their eight best bets.
The underdogs are barking this week, as we're getting points with seven of our eight best bets. Do we like them to also win straight up? Find out in our Week 9 picks.
No. 12 Kentucky (+7) at Missouri
The line on the Kentucky-Missouri game puts us in a what-does-Vegas-know-that-we-don’t scenario. We do know that Kentucky won a game against Vanderbilt last week despite quarterback Terry Wilson completing only 3 of 9 passes for 18 yards. That won’t be good enough to win at Missouri. But this spread seems huge when Kentucky is 6–1 and has a fairly stingy defense (4.7 yards a play). The Wildcats may not win the game, but take them to cover. — Andy Staples
No. 9 Florida (+7) vs. at No. 7 Georgia in Jacksonville, FL
LSU exposed the Bulldogs’ flaws in a 36–16 rout on Oct. 13, the same LSU team that took an ‘L’ in Gainesville a few weeks ago. Was a bye week enough to shore up UGA’s passing woes? Florida DC Todd Grantham has the Gators on a tear, and Dan Mullen has turned an abysmal offense into a productive unit. We’re not claiming that Florida will beat Georgia, but we are putting dough on the Gators keeping it close. — Ross Dellenger
No. 22 NC State at Syracuse (+2)
The Wolfpack are a two-point road favorite, but I'm picking Syracuse outright here. The Orange are undefeated at home in 2018, and though NC State is the most talented team to visit the Carrier Dome this year, I still think Syracuse has enough offensively to pull this one out, between the two quarterbacks it can throw at NC State. Ryan Finley is the most talented QB the Orange has faced this year, but Syracuse will have the pass rush to get the job done. — Joan Niesen
Duke at Pittsburgh (+2.5)
The Blue Devils could not run the ball against Virginia last week, averaging just 2.1 yards per carry in part because left tackle Jaylen Miller went down with a fractured ankle that will end his season. Pitt has had some low lows this season, but it has fared well against teams it has the edge on in the trenches (Georgia Tech and Syracuse). Most of the teams that have played Notre Dame this season have turned in a sluggish-at-best effort in their next game, but the Panthers got the benefit of a bye week to regroup after pushing the Irish to the limit in a 19–14 loss on Oct. 13, and they have been solid at home with the exception of an all-systems beatdown at the hands of Penn State. Pat Narduzzi's team improbably controls its destiny in the ACC Coastal and looks to have put the worst of its 2018 struggles behind it. — Eric Single
Purdue (+2) at Michigan State
Purdue is fresh off the biggest upset of this college football season with a 49–20 win over Ohio State last week. The Boilermakers started the year 0–3, but have won four straight, including two top-25 wins (Boston College, Ohio State). Can they keep this hot streak going on the road?
Quarterback David Blough has steadily improved over the past five games, which includes him dicing up Ohio State’s defense for 378 yards and three touchdowns last week. Purdue racked up a total of 539 yards and never trailed in the game. After a rough start to the season, which included losses to Northwestern and Eastern Michigan, Purdue has found a rhythm since replacing Elijah Sindelar with Blough as the full-time starter. He’s ranked No. 2 among Big Ten QBs in passer rating (trailing only Dwayne Haskins) and averages nearly 300 yards passing per game. His top target is true freshman Rondale Moore, who has made an immediate impact and already leads the conference with 104 YPG. Moore also returns kickoffs and punts and had 252 all-purpose yards against Ohio State, including a season-best 170 yards receiving and two TDs.
Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke on the other hand is banged up. He played through an injury to his throwing shoulder in last week’s 21–7 loss to Michigan and now has to also deal with the loss of his top receiver. Felton Davis III, who scored the game-winning TD against Penn State a few weeks ago, is out after tearing his Achilles. If the Spartans are limited in the passing game, can they rely on LJ Scott to run the ball? He missed four games with a bad ankle, but said this week he’s “100%.”
Additionally, a key for Michigan State is limiting big plays. Purdue had five for 20 yards or more in its win over Ohio State, including three for fourth-quarter touchdowns. Stopping chunk yardage will be a key for the Spartans.
With the home team favored by fewer than three points, this is basically a pick ‘em game. There’s a lot of uncertainty with Michigan State’s offense, from Lewerke to the fact that it only mustered 94 total yards against Michigan last week. Couple that with Purdue’s momentum and Jeff Brohm’s team has the slight edge. — Laken Litman
Arizona State (+3) FIRST HALF at USC
The Sun Devils are a four-point underdog, but I think there’s a better chance they cover in the game’s first 30 minutes. If JT Daniels is out—USC coach Clay Helton said it’s “50–50 at best” that Daniels is cleared from concussion protocol for Saturday’s showdown—third-string signal-caller Jack Sears will take the reins. I think there will be a lot of growing pains adjusting to a new quarterback, especially early on.
USC lost its best pass rusher in Porter Gustin for the season in its loss to Utah, and will be without its defensive leader in Cameron Smith as well. The Trojans are simply without too many important players, and this is already a team that constantly shoots itself in the foot with endless penalties and poor coaching.
Arizona State is 1–3 in Pac-12 play this season, while USC is 3–2. Yet the Sun Devils have actually outscored their conference opponents by seven points. The Trojans, on the other hand, have been outscored by nine points. USC under Clay Helton is undefeated at home, but this screams like a one-possession game, and I think Arizona State gets off to a fast start on the road. — Max Meyer
No. 6 Texas at Oklahoma State: UNDER 61.5 Points
Sam Ehlinger will be back under center for Texas after Shane Buechele shepherded the Longhorns through a six-point win over Baylor last week, but Texas’s offensive explosion in the Red River Shootout still feels like an anomaly instead of a new standard. With Stillwater getting the primetime network television treatment, this has all the makings of the Cowboys’ final stand before a November of irrelevance in the larger Big 12 picture (hence the tight three-point spread). The unit that benefits the most from that emotional bump should be first-year coordinator Jim Knowles’s defense, which was excellent against the run in Oklahoma State’s first big home game of the year against Boise State but has subsequently been ripped to shreds by Texas Tech and Iowa State’s true freshman quarterbacks. Texas still doesn’t have the explosiveness of its Big 12 brethren to feel great about a 60-plus-point total. — Eric Single
Bonus: Group of Five
Arkansas State at Louisiana (+3)
Billy Napier, a Nick Saban protégé, is trying to rebuild the Ragin’ Cajuns program, returning the school in south Louisiana to yearly bowl appearances. This one would be a biggie. The Red Wolves have owned the conference, winning six Sun Belt titles since 2010. Maybe this is the time when Napier’s team turns the page. — Ross Dellenger
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