Week 11 of the college football season is here, including the another week of fun matchups.
Our handicappers Brian Edwards, Tim Murray and Wes Reynolds are here to give you their best bets for eight games on the weekend's card.
Lines are consensus odds from VSiN's college football lines page, as of Thursday afternoon.
No. 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-13.5, 49.5) at Boston College Eagles
Edwards: Boston College (5-3 straight up, 5-3 against the spread) is 9-0-1 ATS in its last 10 games as a home underdog. The Eagles are 4-1 ATS with two outright wins in five underdog situations this year, and they have produced a 3-1 SU/ATS record in four home contests.
The lone home defeat was a 26-22 setback vs. North Carolina where, the Tar Heels intercepted the potential tying two-point conversion attempt, returned it all the way back for a touchdown and were awarded two points.
Notre Dame is an abysmal 1-4 ATS in five games as a double-digit favorite this season. After outlasting Clemson 47-40 in double overtime for the program’s biggest win in at least eight years, Brian Kelly’s team falls into a vintage letdown spot here.
In fact, the last time the Fighting Irish knocked off a No. 1 team like Clemson last week was when they defeated Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward and the Florida State Seminoles in 1993. The following week in South Bend, Lou Holtz’s team lost outright on a walk-off field goal to none other than a Boston College squad coached by Tom Coughlin.
We’re getting a lot more points here because of last week’s results, but let’s remember that Clemson was playing without four defensive starters and a fifth, defensive end Xavier Thomas, had to sit out the first half. We mention that ahead of Trevor Lawrence’s absence out of respect for true freshman quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, who certainly wasn’t the problem.
As for Boston College, it won a 16-13 decision at Syracuse that didn’t collect any style points in a classic sandwich situation: one week after allowing a 28-10 lead to get away in a 34-28 loss at Clemson and with Notre Dame on deck. However, Jeff Hafley’s team controlled the game at the Carrier Dome from start to finish.
Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec has been outstanding in his first season in Chestnut Hill after transferring from Notre Dame. The 6-foot-5 signal caller has connected on 172-of-277 throws for 2,083 yards with a 15-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Jurkovec has 12 touchdown passes compared to merely two interceptions in the Eagles’ last six games, and he’s added three rushing touchdowns this year.
In wide receiver Zay Flowers and tight end Hunter Long, Jurkovec has two of the ACC’s top targets. Flowers has 38 receptions for 600 yards and six touchdowns, while Long leads his position group nationally in catches (43) and receiving yards (501) and has three touchdowns grabs.
If your number is 13.5, you probably want to buy the half-point to the key number of 14 just in case.
Pick: Boston College + 13.5
Reynolds: The Fighting Irish did it. They showed up in a big game, which they have not done all that frequently in recent years, and knocked off No. 1 Clemson, who had its 36-game regular-season winning streak snapped. It was of course a celebratory scene on the field after a big win where social distancing was the furthest thing from anyone's mind. Notre Dame now sits at No. 2 in the polls and control its own destiny in the ACC.
Notre Dame shut down the Clemson running attack to the tune of just 34 yards, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for a Boston College rushing attack that ranks 110th out of 123 FBS teams and averages just 106.6 ypg on the ground. However, the Irish defense did allow 439 yards through the air last week and will be facing a familiar foe leading the opposing passing attack this weekend, Boston College’s Jurkovec leads the ACC in passing yards. Jurkovec started his college career at Notre Dame in 2018, but Ian Book won the job. Jurkovec called Notre Dame his "dream school" growing up and he even contemplated changing positions before electing to transfer. While he doesn't seem to carry any bitterness or ill will, Jurkovec clearly wants to one-up his former team.
Last weekend, Boston College clearly went to a more conservative game plan and was in a tough spot off the near-miss at Clemson. The Eagles failed to cover as two-touchdown favorites and only won 16-13 on the road against a Syracuse team that is arguably the ACC's worst. Boston College was also clearly looking ahead to this matchup.
Notre Dame shouldn’t apologize for last week's massive victory, but they did accomplish it without having to face Lawrence and a Tigers defense without three key defensive starters. Boston College is on an 8-1-1 ATS run as home underdogs and this is its annual "Red Bandana" game to honor the life of former BC Lacrosse athlete Welles Crowther, who is remembered as the man wearing a red bandana over his face as he helped save 18 people from the World Trade Center South Tower on 9/11 before losing his life. Without question, this is BC's game of the year and they will be highly motivated to take on a rival coming off an absolute high.
Pick: Boston College + 14
Arkansas Razorbacks at No. 6 Florida Gators (-17.5, 61)
Edwards: This play has a lot of similarities to our Boston College selection. For starters, Arkansas catches Florida in a classic letdown scenario. In their biggest rivalry game -- especially considering the Gators don’t play bitter in-state adversary Florida State this season -- the Gators ended a three-game losing streak to Georgia by dealing out a 44-28 shellacking to the Bulldogs in Jacksonville.
Florida star tight end Kyle Pitts sustained a concussion in the first half and did not return. Although the future first-round pick has been listed as questionable all week, it’ll be shocking if Dan Mullen doesn’t rest Pitts, who has 24 receptions for 414 yards and eight touchdowns in just five games, on Saturday night at The Swamp.
Furthermore, four other Florida starters might not dress vs. Arkansas. As of early Thursday morning, senior defensive end Jeremiah Moon was listed as doubtful with a foot injury and defensive back Trey Dean was ruled out. Senior offensive guard Stewart Reese and senior safety Brad Stewart were both listed as questionable.
Arkansas (3-3 SU, 6-0 ATS) is the nation’s premier team for our purposes with its unbeaten ATS ledger. The Razorbacks should be 4-2 if not for an unfathomable blunder by the referees -- and even worse decision-making from the replay officials in the booth -- that allowed Auburn to hit a last-second field goal to nip the Hogs, 30-28.
Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks will face his old team just like Jurkovec is vs. Notre Dame. Franks has been the catalyst for Razorbacks, throwing three touchdowns passes without an interception to lead them to a 24-13 home win over Tennessee after trailing 13-0 in the third quarter last week. For the season, Franks has a 14-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Arkansas has covered the number in four double-digit underdog spots this season, and this is the second-biggest spread it has seen. Florida will win by 7-10 points, but the Razorbacks will get the cash even without new head coach Sam Pittman, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.
Pick: Arkansas + 17.5
Wake Forest Demon Deacons at North Carolina Tar Heels (-13.5, 66)
Edwards: During Dave Clawson’s seven-year tenure, Wake Forest (4-2 SU, 5-1 ATS) owns a 19-7 spread record in 26 games as a double-digit underdog. In their last 18 games as road underdogs, the Demon Deacons are 13-5 ATS. They’re 2-0 ATS as double-digit underdogs this year, including a 23-16 win over Virginia Tech as 10.5-point home underdogs.
Wake Forest has quietly won four games in a row and has covered the spread in each of those victories; three of those wins have come by 17 points or more. The Demon Deacons won a 24-18 decision over the Tar Heels last year in Winston-Salem.
Mack Brown’s team is playing its seventh game in seven weeks, while Wake Forest is off an open date and has had two weeks to prepare for North Carolina.
Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman has completed 62 percent of his throws for 1,253 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. His favorite target is Jaquarii Roberson, who has 33 receptions for 490 yards and two touchdowns.
The Demon Deacons have a pair of outstanding running backs in Kenneth Walker and Christian Beal-Smith. Walker has 528 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns and a 5.0 yards-per-carry average, while Beal-Smith has run for 472 yards and four touchdowns with a 5.2 YPC average.
This tandem will face a Tar Heels’ run defense that ranks seventh in the ACC and 55th nationally. Wake Forest has a clean bill of health, but North Carolina will be without two starters (defensive back Storm Duck and wide receiver Beau Corrales) and two other starters (center Brian Anderson and cornerback Kyler McMichael) are questionable.
Pick: Wake Forest + 13.5
No. 10 Indiana Hoosiers (-7, 52) at Michigan State Spartans
Murray: Last week, I played Michigan -3 against Indiana. Yikes. I was VERY wrong. Indiana played its best game of the season and cruised past the Wolverines, 38-21. Indiana QB Michael Pennix Jr. was tremendous in the victory, throwing for 342 yards and three scores as the Hoosiers beat Michigan for the first time since 1987.
Now, Indiana is ranked 10th in the AP Poll. The last time the Hoosiers were ranked in the top 10 was Sept. 22, 1969.
In two weeks, Indiana will head to Columbus to take on No. 3 Ohio State. What a moment for the Hoosiers. Maybe College GameDay will be there?
All Indiana has to do is beat a 1-2 Michigan State team that just lost by 42 to Iowa last weekend. The Hoosiers should roll, right?
In the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend!”
This is a classic look-ahead spot for Indiana. If Michigan State can play clean football, it should be able to keep this game close. The Spartans turned the ball over seven times in its 38-27 season opening loss to Rutgers and was -3 in the turnover battle against Iowa last week. In Michigan State’s 27-24 upset win over Michigan, the Spartans did not turn the ball over once.
Another interesting note about Indiana: While the Hoosiers are off to an impressive 3-0 start, they are 12th in the Big Ten in ypg (339.3).
The scheduling spot favors Michigan State on Saturday and I will roll with the Spartans.
Pick: Michigan State + 7
No. 9 Miami (FL) Hurricanes at Virginia Tech Hokies (-2, 67.5)
Murray: This is a hold-your-nose special. Virginia Tech is coming off an embarrassing loss last weekend against Liberty (Side note: Do not call a timeout to “ice” a kicker before a 59-yard field goal attempt). Miami is cruising along and hoping to reach the ACC Championship.
Why are the Hokies a favorite against a top-10 after losing at home to Liberty?
I don’t know if you will find more than a handful of people who will be backing Virginia Tech come Saturday afternoon.
Another big question about Virginia Tech is the status of RB Khalil Herbert. Herbert hurt his hamstring early in the Hokies’ loss to Liberty and did not return to action. Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente told reporters this week, “I don’t know if he’ll be available or not.” Among players that have played five games, Herbert leads the nation in all-purpose yards per game with 178.1. Only Clemson RB Travis Etienne has more all-purpose yards than Herbert. If available, Herbert should have a big day against the Miami defense.
Virginia Tech QB Hendon Hooker rushed for 156 yards against Liberty with Herbert sidelined. The Hokies lead the ACC with 277.4 rushing yards per game.
Miami QB D’Eriq King has delivered in a big way for the Hurricanes since transferring from Houston. King accounted for 535 total yards and threw five touchdowns in Miami’s 44-41 win over NC State last weekend. Outside of Clemson, not many teams have been able to hold King down this season. The Hokies are 12th in the ACC in yards allowed per game (460.7).
There don’t seem to be many reasons to pick Virginia Tech but I anticipate the Hokies to come out with a sense of desperation. With another loss, Fuente’s job could be on the line. Miami, on the other hand, took a punch to the gut when Notre Dame defeated Clemson. The Hurricanes chances of reaching the ACC Championship shortened due to the Fighting Irish’s upset victory.
I’m going to hold my nose and embrace the stink on Saturday in Blacksburg.
Pick: Virginia Tech -2
- With Wednesday night’s spread cover in a 38-31 loss at Ball State as an 8.5-point road underdog, Eastern Michigan improved to 19-3 ATS in its last 22 games as a road underdog. Bettors have no excuse to not back the Eagles every time they’ve got a plus next to their name in a road game.
- Utah, a three-point road favorite at UCLA, is 10-5-1 ATS in its last 16 contests as a road favorite. The Bruins have lost nine of their 13 home games while going 4-9 ATS during Chip Kelly’s tenure that’s been an unmitigated disaster from the start. Since Kelly arrived, UCLA is 7-18 with a 10-15 ATS mark.
- San Jose State (3-0 SU, 3-0 ATS) is off to its best start since 1982 and will be seeking it first 4-0 start since 1955 when it hosts UNLV as a 15.5-point home favorite. However, the Spartans might not have starting quarterback Nick Starkel, who formerly played at Texas A&M and Arkansas. Before getting knocked out of last week’s 28-17 win at San Diego State, Starkel had completed 58-of-79 passes (73.4%) for 706 yards and seven touchdowns compared to only one interception. He’s officially listed as questionable.
- For those like me holding Over 8.5 season-win total tickets on Alabama, there are scenarios in which these wagers won’t become “no-plays” or pushes (because Alabama doesn’t get all 10 scheduled games in). Although LSU doesn’t have an available date to host the Crimson Tide, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey has said that games can be moved around. In other words, the league can take teams that aren’t in the mix to make the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 19 like LSU, and have them play on that same day against other teams who aren’t threats to make it to Atlanta. Look for a new date for Alabama at LSU, with one of LSU’s games moved to Dec. 19.
- The early leader in the clubhouse for Week 11 Bad Beats is Toledo, which allowed a 10-point lead with less than a minute remaining to get away in Wednesday’s 41-38 loss at Western Michigan as a one-point road underdog.
- Something has to give Saturday in Morgantown, where West Virginia will host TCU as a 3-point home favorite. The Mountaineers are 4-0 both SU and ATS at home this year, while the Horned Frogs are unbeaten SU and ATS in a pair of road assignments. West Virginia is 10-4 ATS in its last 14 games as a home favorite, while TCU is 14-7 ATS in 21 games as a road underdog since 2011.