What are Andy Staples and Ross Dellenger's top SEC bets on the board in Week 8? Which ACC favorite does Joan Niesen think has a strong chance of covering? All of our best bets this weekend are here.
A 5-2-1 record to start off November is always a good way to kick it into high gear, and SI's college football staff has eight more best bets in Week 11's action.
Kentucky (-5.5) at Tennessee
Bettors jumped on the opening line of Kentucky-Tennessee (Kentucky -3.5), but they only bet the line up to 5.5. This low line is based on an assumption that the Wildcats will be suffering from a hangover from the loss to Georgia in the de facto SEC East title game. Do not assume this. The Wildcats beat the Volunteers last year, but Kentucky only won one of the previous 32 meetings. Kentucky players are not going to waste a chance to beat Tennessee, and Kentucky is the better team this year. Tennessee should struggle to block Josh Allen and company. Take the Wildcats to cover. — Andy Staples
Kentucky at Tennessee (+5.5)
The Wildcats are coming off an emotionally exhausting loss against top-5 Georgia, and they get a Tennessee team that is playing better (the Volunteers have covered in three of their last four SEC games). This feels like a fourth-quarter type game with a total south of 30 points. — Ross Dellenger
Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh (-3)
Here's a chance to take advantage of a wonky line. Pitt is favored by just three points at home to a Virginia Tech team that's lost three of its last four games--to teams worse than Pat Narduzzi's. Pitt may have started slow, but it's won three of its last four, and the lone loss in that streak was by five points to Notre Dame. At home, the Panthers should be able to take care of Virginia Tech by a touchdown margin; this won't be a blowout, but it won't be that tight. — Joan Niesen
Florida State (+16.5) at No. 3 Notre Dame
The late-breaking news that Ian Book will miss this game as he recovers from a rib injury he suffered against Northwestern dropped the line from 18 down to 16.5, and it probably didn’t drop farther only because the Irish won’t be the only team in South Bend dealing with some QB turmoil. No matter how healthy Deondre Francois is on Saturday, or how much he maintains he’s the No. 1 guy in Tallahassee, the Seminoles should be moving forward with James Blackman as their starting quarterback. Blackman threw for 421 yards and four touchdowns in a 19-point loss at NC State, and his gutsy (if not always perfect) performances last year when Francois was injured have shown that he welcomes big moments. However, the lure of keeping Blackman’s redshirt option intact may be too great. Willie Taggart handed playcalling duties over to offensive coordinator Walt Bell at the beginning of this week, a risky move this late in the season that more often than not results in a temporary bump in production, which would be a welcome site for FSU bettors. Notre Dame’s sleepiest performances this year have come at home—Ball State, Vanderbilt and Pitt, the first two of those coming when Wimbush was the starter—and Florida State has athletes on defense capable of keeping this one respectable. Neither offense looks built to pull away under the circumstances. — Eric Single
No. 10 Ohio State (-3.5) at No. 18 Michigan State
Though Ohio State’s defense has been struggling all season, it was exposed in a loss to Purdue when it gave up a season-high in points (49) and total yards (539). The Buckeyes are fresh off an embarrassingly narrow win over two-win Nebraska, in which they gave up 450 total yards. This week Urban Meyer’s depleted unit—which is really missing Nick Bosa—has a chance to look stronger against banged-up Michigan State. Starting with MSU’s offense, quarterback Brian Lewerke has been nursing an injured throwing shoulder for weeks which limited him last week against Maryland. Lewerke will start, but backup Rocky Lombardi, who has been impressive in the few snaps he’s taken, will be ready in relief.
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Starting running back LJ Scott (ankle) is now eyeing a redshirt and star receiver Felton Davis (Achilles) is out for the season, so Michigan State is low on offensive weapons. However, the Spartans did run the ball well against Maryland last week with Connor Heyward rushing for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Ohio State isn’t dealing with an offense firing at 100%, so if it can’t make necessary stops, how will it possibly handle Michigan in the regular season finale? It won’t be pretty, but Dre’Mont Jones and Co. should win this matchup.
Michigan State’s defense is what will keep this game close. But to beat Ohio State, this unit must make Heisman Trophy candidate Dwayne Haskins uncomfortable. Haskins is the Big Ten’s No. 1 QB, passing for 3,053 yards this season. He leads the nation with 32 touchdowns and has only thrown six interceptions, too. Getting him to make a rare mistake will be key for a defense that’s No. 1 in the nation in run defense (71.1 yards per game), but No. 98 in pass defense (253.4 ypg).
This game will be closer than you might have predicted at the beginning of the season, and that’s purely due to Ohio State’s confounding defensive struggles. But if Ohio State can maintain a balanced offense and score—whether that’s through the air with Haskins or running the ball like it did for 229 yards against Nebraska—it will win and cover. — Laken Litman
Cal (+5) at USC
Everyone assumes that Washington has the best defense in the Pac-12, and the Huskies certainly deserve high praise. But Cal is certainly in that top tier as well. The Golden Bears have allowed a combined 29 points in their past two games, coming against No. 8 Washington State and No. 25 Washington. Wazzu’s Gardner Minshew and Washington’s Jake Browning both arguably had their worst games of the season vs. Cal, with Browning actually getting benched for a brief period of time in the contest.
Head coach Justin Wilcox and defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter are the architects of this ferocious defense— which is tied for eighth in the country in 10-yard plays allowed on the season with 94. Wilcox has an edge gameplanning against this USC offense since he was the defensive coordinator there three years ago. Clay Helton fired him after USC’s loss to Stanford in the 2015 Pac-12 Championship Game, so there’s also a revenge factor there.
Last season, in the fourth game into Wilcox’s Cal tenure, the Golden Bears were tied with USC through three quarters before the Trojans pulled away with a 10-point win. This time around, however, Cal has a much scarier defense and USC has a weaker offense. I expect this to be a low-scoring game, and will gladly take five points here. — Max Meyer
Baylor at Iowa State (-14.5)
Iowa State and Baylor square off with the winner becoming bowl eligible. For the Cyclones, a win would also keep them on the fringes of a possible berth in the Big 12 title game.
Riding a four-game winning streak, Iowa State has relied on the hot hand of freshman quarterback Brock Purdy. In those four games with Purdy at the helm, the Cyclones have averaged 450 yards and 36 points per game.
While the offense is peaking at the right time, it’s the defense that has made a statement. In the pass-happy Big 12, Iowa State’s defense is leading the conference in rushing, scoring and total defense.
Iowa State has also been kind to Vegas, as the Cyclones have covered the point spread in each of their last five games.
The defense will be in the difference in this one, so go with Iowa State to win in blowout fashion. — Scooby Axson
Bonus: Group of Five
No. 23 Fresno State at Boise State (+3)
The Broncos are an underdog in a conference game on the blue field—that's a rarity. Boise is 3-1 against the spread this year at home, but Fresno is 4-1 on the road. Something's gotta give, right? We dropped below .500 for the year (8-10) after last week's 0-2 outing, so maybe the Broncos can buck us on track. — Ross Dellenger