Best Week 12 college football bets

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Week 12 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.

UCLA Bruins at Oregon Ducks (-13, 66)

Reynolds: UCLA head coach Chip Kelly returns to Oregon, where he went 46-7 during his tenure. This is his second trip back to Eugene as UCLA’s head coach, and the first time didn’t go so well, as his Bruins were handled 42-21 in 2018. Kelly's Bruins, on 36 hours notice, easily defeated Cal 34-10 as 3.5-point home underdogs last week. However, Cal had been dealing with COVID-19 issues and this was its first game due to the game at Washington being cancelled the week prior. 

Meanwhile, Oregon, despite being minus-5 in turnover margin for its first two games, is 2-0 SU and ATS with wins over Stanford and at Washington State. The Ducks have been balanced on offense under new coordinator and former Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead. Oregon is averaging 270 passing yards per game and 269 rushing ypg (7.1 yards per carry), which is even more impressive considering that the program had to replace all five starters on the offensive line. 

The Ducks should be able to move the ball fairly easily on a UCLA defense that gave up 48 in its opener at Colorado. 

Pick: Oregon -13

Cincinnati Bearcats (-6, 63.5) at UCF Knights

Reynolds: The Bearcats are just outside of College Football Playoff contention -- and they seem to know it. Last week, they ran a fake punt up 42-10 in the fourth quarter at East Carolina. They also chose not to take a knee and ripped off a 75-yard run to tack on another score at the end to win 55-17. Outsiders are taking notice as well. Former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones, obviously taking shots at Michigan and Penn State and their recent struggles, cheekily suggested that Cincinnati replace them in the Big Ten. Although that statement illustrates absurdity by being absurd, it does work its way into market perception. 

This week, Cincinnati takes to the road to face a UCF club that has already lost two games. However, UCF could likely treat this as its bowl game or game of the year. Last season, UCF lost at Cincinnati as 3.5-point road chalk (27-24), but outgained the Bearcats 423-341. Four turnovers did in the Knights in that loss. 

UCF still leads the nation in total offense (619.1 ypg) and is a definitive step up in competition for Cincinnati. The Bearcats, under senior quarterback Desmond Ridder, have also taken their offense to another level this season. However, getting into a shootout with UCF is not the best of ideas.

Pick: UCF + 6

Washington State Cougars at Stanford Cardinal (-2, 64.5)

Reynolds: After Stanford lost its opener at Oregon, last week looked like a bounce-back spot against Colorado. Looks were obviously deceiving, as Colorado dominated the game in a 35-32 victory that was a much wider margin than the final score indicated. 

Cardinal quarterback Davis Mills missed the opener at Oregon due to an error in the Pac-12's COVID-19 testing protocol. He returned last week but was still in quarantine isolation until Thursday and only had one practice. The rust obviously showed as the offense did not get going until Colorado had a big lead.

Washington State and was gifted a double-digit lead against Oregon due to three first-half turnovers. Nevertheless, the Ducks outgained the Cougars 581-421 en route to a 43-29 win and cover. 

Pick: Stanford -2

Liberty Flames at NC State Wolfpack (-3.5, 66.5)

Reynolds: Liberty is 8-0 and already 2-0 against the ACC this season, with wins at Syracuse and at Virginia Tech. Quarterback Malik Willis is completing 68% of his passes and has an outstanding 15-1 TD-to-INT ratio. The Auburn transfer has rushed for 700 yards and punched in 9 TDs on the ground. The Flames put up 466 yards of total offense and 38 points on Virginia Tech two weeks ago. 

NC State should also be able to both get and give up its fair share. The Wolfpack shut down the Florida State offense last week but it is difficult to put too much stock into that considering that the Seminoles were down to their fourth- and fifth-string quarterbacks. The NC State defense gave up 620 yards to Miami, 578 at North Carolina, 503 at Pitt and 495 at Virginia Tech. 

Pick: NC State/Liberty Over 66.5

Florida Gators (-31.5, 68) at Vanderbilt Commodores

Edwards: The Over is 5-1 overall for the Gators, who have seen their combined scores average 75.8 ppg. Florida is seventh in the nation in scoring with its 45.8 PPG average. Dan Mullen’s team is led by fifth-year senior quarterback Kyle Trask, who has completed 70.1 percent of his passes for 2,171 yards with an incredible 28-3 TD-to-INT ratio.

Even without star tight end Kyle Pitts, Florida’s offense looked sensational in a 63-35 home win over Arkansas, and backup TE Keon Zipperer had two touchdown catches.

Vanderbilt has seen the Over go 3-1 in its last four games. The Commodores have given up 41, 41 and 54 points in their three home games to LSU, South Carolina and Ole Miss, respectively.

In last week’s 38-35 loss at Kentucky, Derek Mason’s club allowed the Wildcats to score more than two TDs above their 23.3 PPG average. Likewise, the Commodores’ 35-point output was two TDs more than their highest previous scoring output of 21 vs. Ole Miss.

The bottom line for this game is that Florida is going to be able to score as many points as it wants. However, Vanderbilt’s offense has shown some life in recent weeks, so we aren’t going to lay more than 30 points and have that backdoor open in the fourth quarter against a Florida defense that’s allowing foes to score an average of 30.0 PPG.

Therefore, we’re going to attack this game with two plays (but make sure to take note of my suggestions in extra nuggets below pertaining to team totals for the Gators that weren’t available at my deadline for filing this column).

Picks: Florida 1H -18 in the first half and Over 68 points for full game

Kansas State Wildcats at Iowa State Cyclones (-11, 46.5)

Edwards: Kansas State (4-3 straight up, 5-2 against the spread) is 11-1 in its last 12 head-to-head meetings against Iowa State. The Cyclones haven’t beaten the Wildcats by more than 11 points since 2005. Only one of the last six games in this rivalry has been decided by more than five points, and that was Kansas State’s 27-17 home win over Matt Campbell’s club last season.

Kansas State saw its 10-game winning streak over the Cyclones snapped in its last visit to Ames, where the Wildcats allowed a 17-point fourth-quarter lead to get away in a 42-38 loss. Nevertheless, Kansas State easily covered the number as a 13-point underdog.

Chris Klieman’s team has already been a double-digit underdog three times this year, and is 3-0 ATS with a pair of outright wins in those games. They’ve beaten the closing lines in those three games by 61 combined points.

In fact, Kansas State is 17-6 ATS with seven outright wins in its past 23 games as a double-digit underdog since late in the 2009 campaign. The Wildcats are 35-13 ATS as road underdogs since 2007.

Kansas State has had two weeks to prepare for the Cyclones, who had a 60-minute battle with Baylor last week before prevailing, 38-31.

The Pick: Kansas State + 11

Tennessee Volunteers at Auburn Tigers (-10.5, 50.5)

Edwards: I initially made Auburn an 18-point favorite in this game, but after hearing Gus Malzahn’s presser on Monday when he acknowledged that a few of the 10 players that tested positive for COVID-19 last week might not play Saturday, I adjusted my number to -16.

I still feel like there is plenty of value with Auburn, which is off its best performance of the season in a 48-11 home win over LSU. The Tigers also picked up a solid win at Ole Miss by a 35-28 count on Oct. 24.

Malzahn’s team is going for its third straight win and simultaneously seeking revenge for a 30-24 loss as a 14.5-point home favorite vs. Tennessee in 2018. Meanwhile, the Volunteers are hoping to end a four-game losing streak both straight up and ATS.

Since taking a 21-17 lead to halftime at Georgia on Oct. 10, Tennessee has been outscored 133-37 in its last 14 quarters of play. After the 44-21 loss in Athens, Jeremy Pruitt’s squad lost 34-7 at home vs. Kentucky, 48-17 at home vs. Alabama and 24-13 at Arkansas.

During the four-game slide, Tennessee has averaged only 14.5 ppg and played four different quarterbacks. The offense was completely blanked in the second half after leading the Razorbacks 13-0 at intermission.

Auburn quarterback Bo Nix is a completely different player at home. He has seven TD passes without an interception in three games at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Nix has three elite weapons in veteran wide receivers Anthony Schwartz, Seth Williams and Eli Stove, a trio that has combined for 87 receptions, 1,134 receiving yards and eight TDs.

Auburn true freshman running back Tank Bigsby was appropriately named by his parents. Bigsby has 503 rushing yards, five TDs and a 5.7 ypc average.

Judging Tennessee by its last four performances, Pruitt has lost his team and his job security. That’s only going to get worse Saturday when Auburn wins by at least two TDs, and I won’t be surprised if it gets ugly for the Vols on The Plains.

Pick: Auburn -10.5

 

Extra nuggets

 

  • Like I noted earlier, the Gators are going to hang at least a 50-burger on Vandy in Music City. If Florida’s team total in the first half is 28 points or fewer, the Over is my favorite play of Week 12. If Florida has a team total of 48 or less for the game, that’s also an Over recommendation. 
  • Eastern Michigan failed to cover the spread in Wednesday’s 45-28 loss to Toledo as a 6.5-point home underdog. Nevertheless, the Eagles still own a spectacular 26-4-1 ATS ledger in their last 31 games as underdogs.
  • Before wagering on Missouri at South Carolina (the Tigers are 6.5-point road favorites), gamblers should consider multiple factors. At his Tuesday presser, Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz revealed that the Tigers had only 56 scholarship players available for Saturday’s game. That number could drop even more when results of additional COVID-19 tests become available. The Tigers must have 53 scholarship players available to play. Since South Carolina fired Will Muschamp on Sunday after his defense gave up 159 points during a three-game losing streak, three of the Gamecocks’ best defensive players have opted out of the rest of the season. This trio includes Israel Mukuamu, Jaycee Horn and RJ Roderick. Mukuamu was a second-team All-SEC selection in 2019, while Horn was the catalyst in a 30-22 home win over Auburn on Oct. 17 when he produced four passes broken up, three tackles and two interceptions. Roderick had 134 tackles in 31 career starts.
  • If South Carolina doesn’t make a move to hire Hugh Freeze and if it strikes out on whoever its top few candidates are, I’ll give you one sleeper name to watch who has a famous last name. Remember when Steve Spurrier led the Gamecocks to three consecutive 11-win seasons after the program had produced just one double-digit win total (10) in its history of more than 100 years? The key to that run was signing in-state players like Stephon Gilmore, Alshon Jeffrey, Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney. The catalyst in getting those players to Columbia was recruiting coordinator Shane Beamer, who is now Lincoln Riley’s Assistant Head Coach at Oklahoma.
  • Temple, a 3.5-point home underdog vs. East Carolina, will be starting its fourth-string true freshman QB Matt Duncan against the Pirates, who are 5-13 ATS in 18 games as road favorites since 2010. Owls’ starting senior QB Anthony Russo is out for another week, one of his backups was lost to a season-ending injury and another is out for at least one more week.
  • Louisville RB Javian Hawkins has opted out of the rest of the season. Hawkins, a fourth-team All-American in 2019 when he ran for 1,525 yards and nine TDs, had 822 rushing yards, seven TDs and a 6.2 ypc average through eight games.
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