I already gave out two best bets earlier in the week from the Pac-12, but I have two more non-Pac-12 underdogs that I also think are strong plays. As always, SI Gambling will be using current odds from New Jersey sportsbooks (FanDuel, DraftKings, William Hill, PointsBet) for best bets every week.
Miami at Florida State: Miami +3 (-105) at FanDuel
Seven of Miami’s eight games this season have been decided by one score or less, and with the Hurricanes as a three-point underdog in Tallahassee, it wouldn’t be a surprise if another close contest is in the cards.
Miami outlasted Pittsburgh this past weekend 16-12 despite rushing for 2.0 yards per carry and starting quarterback N’Kosi Perry throwing for 4.3 yards per attempt. Week 1 starter and redshirt freshman Jarren Williams came on in relief, and led the Hurricanes on a game-winning drive. He and wideout K.J. Osborn connected for a 32-yard score with 58 seconds remaining.
Williams is back as the start under center against Florida State, and that should help Miami’s offense. He has the advantage over Perry in yards per attempt (8.4 to 7.2), completion percentage (69.6 to 56.6) and quarterback rating (155.4 to 133.3).
The Hurricanes’ offense gets a couple more boosts with the returns of starting tailback DeeJay Dallas and wideout Jeff Thomas. Despite running behind a trainwreck of an offensive line, Dallas is tied for 32nd in the nation in yards per carry at 6.66 (Halloween themed!). He’s a home-run hitter who is only one of seven players in college football with at least three runs of 50 yards or more. Thomas, meanwhile, is coming off a two-game suspension, and he is also extremely explosive. Getting those two back can only improve an inconsistent Miami offense, which is facing an improving Florida State defense since Jim Leavitt has come aboard.
The defense also gets back a key player in senior linebacker Michael Pinckney, who is tied for second in sacks and is fourth in tackles. Miami’s front seven hasn’t been elite like last season, but the Hurricanes are still tied for 18th in tackles for loss per game and do an excellent job containing big runs, as they have only allowed five runs of 20 yards or more this season (tied for 13th). That’s important when going up against Florida State’s superstar running back Cam Akers.
While Year 1 under Manny Diaz hasn’t gone the way most had hoped in Coral Gables, I still think it’s a better situation at head coach than on the opposite sideline. Under Willie Taggert this season, Florida State ranks 29th in points scored in the first half per game (17.8) and 35th in points allowed in the first half per game (11.5). After halftime, it’s been a completely different story. The Seminoles are 97th in points scored (10.8) and 111th in points allowed in the second half per game. Whether that’s issues with conditioning or poor halftime adjustments, those metrics fall on Taggart for not having his team ready consistently for a 60-minute battle. Florida State is also in worse shape than Miami in penalties per game and turnover margin.
I just think Miami is the better team and that it’s better than its 4-4 record suggests. Getting a few key players back in time for this rivalry game helps as well. And if you want to bet the Canes on the moneyline, I wouldn’t fault you there, either.
No. 22 Kansas State at Kansas: Kansas +6 (-110) at William Hill
Both teams are coming off emotional victories with Kansas State upsetting then-No. 5 Oklahoma and Kansas notching its first Big 12 win of the season over Texas Tech. And given that it’s a rivalry game, I’m not expecting a hangover for either side, even if both sides are coming off their biggest win of the season.
The reason why I’m backing Kansas this week has been the offensive revolution its undergone the past two games under Brent Dearmon. He was promoted to offensive coordinator during Kansas’s bye week a couple weeks ago, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. In games against Texas and Texas Tech, Kansas is averaging a whopping 7.03 yards per play. Just to put that in perspective, fellow Big 12 foe Baylor is averaging 7.05 yards per play this season, which ranks 10th in the nation.
Granted, these aren’t two great defenses Kansas has faced. Texas ranks 112th in yards per play allowed (6.42) and Texas Tech is 122nd (6.59). But Kansas State’s defense has been of a similar caliber this season, ranking 110th in yards per play (6.39).
Where the Wildcats have particularly struggled is defending the run. Kansas State is 125th in yards per carry allowed at 5.58. This is the worst Power 5 run defense in the country. The only teams worse at stopping at the run in terms of YPC—UTSA, Hawaii, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State and UMass. The Wildcats have also been poor at preventing big runs, as they’ve allowed eight runs of 30 yards or more (tied for 110th) and six runs of 40 yards or more (121st). Kansas’s star tailback Pooka Williams has run for 5.2 yards per carry this season, and that number has gone up to 6.8 against ranked opponents.
It’s not just Williams who can do damage, though. Quarterback Carter Stanley averaged 11.2 yards per attempt last game against Texas Tech and threw for three touchdowns. He had four touchdown passes against Texas the previous game. Believe it or not, Kansas now has an explosive run game and aerial attack, and the Jayhawks should give their in-state rival similar problems that Texas Tech and Texas experienced.
Kansas State’s offense isn’t very explosive, but it will grind away as it eats up the clock. The Wildcats rank 11th in the country in average time of possession per game. While Kansas’s rush defense has been a problem this season (4.88 YPC allowed, 104th in CFB), it’s still better than Kansas State’s. Going up against dual-threat quarterback Skylar Thompson will be tricky, but this is also a Kansas defense that has faced quarterbacks in each of the past two games that also are threats on the ground in Sam Ehlinger and Jett Duffey.
Kansas State has won 10 in a row in the Sunflower Showdown, but this is the first time in years that the spread in this game is under a touchdown. What admittedly scares me the most in this matchup is the massive special teams advantage Kansas State has in this game (Bill Connelly’s S&P+ ranks K-State’s special teams seventh and Kansas’s 120th). The Wildcats are also a well-coached group under first-year coach Chris Klieman, however Les Miles is also doing wonders in his debut season in Lawrence. I think these teams since Kansas has rolled out its new offense are much more even than this line currently suggests, so I’ll back the more explosive team and the home underdog here in this rivalry game.
Season record: 24-14