It’s not mandatory to have a bet on the biggest game of the day, so I will have no play on LSU-Alabama when the game kicks off. The health of Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who’s returning from a high-ankle sprain, is a reason for hesitation.
If Tagovailoa is fine and moving around well — and that should be the case, according to ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit — Alabama could be a bargain as a 6-point favorite in Tuscaloosa. This is still Nick Saban versus Ed Orgeron, a coaching mismatch tilted toward the Tide.
But doubts remain about Tua’s ankle and whether he can survive four quarters. If he limps off at some point and backup Mac Jones trots onto the field, I don’t want to be laying six points. The Tigers are a different animal this season. Orgeron deserves credit for making the right moves to open up LSU’s offense and turning Joe Burrow into a Heisman candidate, a far-fetched dream at this time a year ago. Plus, this is not one of Saban’s greatest defenses.
I missed the best number when LSU plus-7 was briefly available early in the week. It’s a boring opinion, but I have nothing more than a lean to the Tigers, who are getting 6½ at some books. Live wagering is sometimes a better option for those who want action.
Seven plays for Saturday:
124-WEST VIRGINIA (plus-2½) over Texas Tech
— Offensively speaking, the Mountaineers still have problems, but their defense was outstanding in a 17-14 loss at Baylor on Oct. 31, when Bears quarterback Charlie Brewer was dropped for eight sacks. West Virginia’s Neal Brown is a sharp coach with extra prep time and the home ‘dog looks live in this spot.
125-Louisville (plus-6½) over MIAMI
— The Cardinals are 3-1 straight up in their past four games with the loss to Clemson. Scott Satterfield is 18-6-1 ATS in his past 25 dating to his days at Appalachian State. It could be a letdown spot for the Hurricanes after they ended the Willie Taggart era (or error) at Florida State. Miami coach Manny Diaz is 1-4 ATS as a favorite versus FBS opponents, including a loss to Georgia Tech as an 18-point favorite.
145-Purdue-NORTHWESTERN (Under 39½)
— Incompetent quarterback play plagues Northwestern, which has scored more than 15 points only once all season. The last 44 drives by the Wildcats’ offense produced zero touchdowns and seven turnovers. The TD drought will end in this game, but neither team will light up the scoreboard. The Boilermakers are down to their third-string quarterback, Aidan O’Connell, who has attempted 22 passes all season.
154-ARIZONA STATE (plus-3) over USC
— This line has moved five points in the past 24 hours because freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels has a leg injury and is a game-time decision for the Sun Devils. I expect Daniels will play, but if he’s out this bet is in big trouble.
In the biggest game of Clay Helton’s career, at least in terms of his future employment, the USC coach took a 32-point beating from Oregon last week. After the Ducks turned Helton into a lame duck, the Trojans seem likely to be emotionally deflated. Arizona State coach Herm Edwards is off a bye and will motivate a team which is suddenly fighting for bowl eligibility.
183-Kansas State (plus-7) over TEXAS
— Bill Snyder was money in the underdog role and the Wildcats’ new coach, Chris Klieman, is picking up where Snyder left off. Klieman has three outright underdog wins this season (at Mississippi State, TCU, Oklahoma). K-State ranks 23rd in the nation in rushing offense (217 yards per game) and an injury-riddled Texas defense is not stopping the run or the pass. Longhorns coach Tom Herman is 2-5 ATS in his past seven at home.
193-Iowa (plus-8½) over WISCONSIN
— Four of the nation’s top five scoring defenses are from the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes rank No. 3 (10.1 points per game) and the Badgers rank No. 5 (11.4). Iowa’s offense is always a concern, but senior quarterback Nathan Stanley is capable of keeping the ‘dog in the hunt in a low-scoring game.
199-San Jose State (plus-8) over HAWAII
— Josh Love passed for 438 yards in San Jose’s 52-42 loss to Boise State last week. The Trojans are 5-1-1 ATS in their past seven games. Hawaii, which has defensive issues, is 2-13-1 ATS in its past 16 Mountain West home games.
Last week: 5-3 against the spread