With Oklahoma getting a notch in the conference loss column, Texas and West Virginia have their eyes on conference supremacy—but they'll need to focus on the teams in front of them, first. This week our experts are fading the Longhorns and Mountaineers against the spread, but betting on favorites in the ACC and Pac-12.
Baylor at Texas (-15)
Sat. 10/13, 3:30 p.m. ET
Pick: Baylor +15
Texas's thrilling 48-45 win over Oklahoma in last weekend's Red River Shootout was arguably the most entertaining college football game played thus far this season, and Longhorns fans are hoping it will come to be seen as a defining early victory of the Tom Herman era. The fact of the matter, however, is that Texas was outplayed: The Longhorns were outgained by 2.5 yards per play and can largely thank the three turnovers they forced for their victory.
Baylor, which travels to Austin this week, has largely avoided turning the ball over. Starting quarterback Charlie Brewer has thrown only two interceptions this season despite having already thrown 206 passes, the 10th-highest mark in FBS. As has come to be the expectation in Waco, the Bears are explosive through the air, ranking 10th in the country with 325.5 passing yards per game. And last week Baylor's running game appeared to take a step forward, with a committee of carriers combining for 261 yards on the ground in a 37-34 win over Kansas State.
Yes, Baylor's defense is bad—but combined with its formidable offense, that could cause the Bears to be undervalued by oddsmakers. Since the beginning of the 2014 season, road underdogs that are allowing at least 6.1 yards per play, but gained at least 525 total yards in each of their last two games, are 56-17 against the spread (76.7%).
After playing three ranked opponents in four weeks, Texas figures to be vulnerable. The Longhorns are one of only 16 FBS teams to surrender seven (or more) passes of 40-plus yards to opponents this season, and making big plays through the air will be Baylor's key to keeping this one close. –Sam Chase
Virginia Tech (-5.5) at North Carolina
Sat. 10/13, 7:00 p.m. ET
Pick: Virginia Tech -5.5
North Carolina entered the 2018 season having gone 0-8 straight up and 2-6 against the spread as a home underdog since the start of the 2010 season. Three of those losses were to Virginia Tech, which beat the Tar Heels by an average margin of 21 points per game and by more than 15 points each time despite having been favored by fewer than four points in all three games. The Hokies are 5-0 against the spread when facing the Tar Heels since the start of 2013, which includes victories of 59-7 in Blacksburg last October and 34-3 in Chapel Hill the October prior to that.
The Tar Heels come into this one allowing an average of 36.8 points per game, which ranks 111th out of 130 FBS programs. Home underdogs that are allowing an average of at least 35 points per game are 20-59-1 against the spread when coming off back-to-back games that went over the total since the start of the 2014 season, with such teams being outscored by an average margin of 40 to 22 over those 80 games. Virginia Tech is 6-0 straight up and 5-1 against the spread as a favorite of between 3.5 and 10 points since the start of 2016, and the Hokies are 8-2 against the spread in that same time frame when coming off a game in which 60 or more total points were scored. North Carolina, meanwhile, is 3-10 against the spread since Larry Fedora took over as the team’s head coach prior to the 2012 season when facing an opponent that averages at least 450 total yards per game. –Scott Gramling
West Virginia (-6.5) at Iowa State
Sat. 10/13, 7:00 p.m. ET
Pick: Iowa State +6.5
With previously unbeaten Oklahoma and LSU losing last weekend, West Virginia rose to No. 6 in the polls, one spot behind college football’s elite. But make no mistake about it: There’s a sizable gap between the country’s dominant teams and the Mountaineers. In the last two weeks, West Virginia defeated Texas Tech by eight on the road—scoring just 14 points after a 28-point first quarter—and had difficulty shaking off Kansas at home. Unbeaten is unbeaten, but this team should not be viewed as a stone-cold lock to cover—especially against an intriguing Iowa State team in Ames.
The Cyclones are just 2-3, but their three losses are by 10 points to 4-1 Iowa, by 10 points to 5-1 Oklahoma and, most recently, by just three points to TCU in Fort Worth. After a trio of moral victories, Iowa State got a much-deserved actual victory last week at Oklahoma State, spurred by the infusion of freshman Brock Purdy at QB. A dual-threat focus of the offense, Purdy doesn’t have the experience and receiving weapons of Will Grier, but he proved capable of putting points on the board in a difficult environment. Five Cyclone receivers made catches of at least 20 yards in Sunday’s six-point road win against the Cowboys.
As a home underdog, Iowa State is an incredible 8-2-2 ATS since a 24-0 win over Texas on Halloween night in 2015. In conference play, Iowa State has covered its last five games and nine of its last 11. Under the cover of night, look for the Cyclones to do it again, against another favored Big 12 opponent. –Ed McGrogan
Colorado at USC (-7)
Sat. 10/13, 10:30 p.m. ET
Pick: USC -7
In the head-to-head history between USC and Colorado, the Trojans are a perfect 12-0 straight up. Last year, USC was a 13.5-point favorite when the teams met in Boulder. The Trojans won that game 38-24, making it five covers in the past eight meetings between the teams. USC rolled in that game, racking up 522 yards of total offense. The Trojans don’t have quite the same firepower this season, but this year’s team is capable of scoring some points as well—as evidenced by the 82 combined points USC put up in wins over UNLV and Washington State.
Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that Colorado’s 5-0 record includes wins over teams that are a combined 5-22 on the season. And in Nebraska and UCLA, you could make a good case that the Buffaloes have beaten two of the nation’s worst Power 5 programs this season. The bottom line is that this Colorado team isn’t for real. The Buffaloes also happen to be playing their first true road game this season, and this one will be especially tough, as USC is a perfect 17-0 straight up when playing as a home favorite under Clay Helton. The Trojans have won those games by an average of 16.6 points per game. –Zachary Cohen