College football Week 3 picks from Steve Makinen

September 14, 2023 06:39 PM

Steve Makinen is our main numbers guy here at VSiN, and his weekly best bets are a “greatest hits” compilation of system matches, betting trends analysis, and his proprietary power ratings, which can only be found right here at Follow up with Steve’s weekly content, which is linked in the explanations for his picks.

College Football Odds | College Football Betting Splits | College Football Power Ratings

(odds as of September 14, 2:54 p.m. PT)


Georgia Southern at Wisconsin

Matchup Analysis

It’s been a little bit of a slow start for new head coach Luke Fickell’s much anticipated first season at Wisconsin, as the Badgers have put together two mixed review outings and have split those games while going 0-2 ATS.

The big change under Fickell this season was supposed to be on the offensive side of the ball behind offensive coordinator Phil Longo, and while that unit has shown some flashes of eventually being able to click, in my opinion, it's not at the point where you want to lay 20.5 points to a capable offensive opponent. The 30 PPG and 233.5 PYPG averages are better than usual but again, uneven.

At the same time, this has not been the usual Badgers’ defense either, as they’ve allowed 24 PPG points to Buffalo and Washington State. After three games last year, they had allowed a total of 24 points. UW is just 13-18 ATS in its last 31 as a home favorite, and head coach Clay Helton’s team is capable of getting to the 20-point mark here at least. If so, I don’t see how Badgers separate enough to cover anything close to 3 TDs.

Play Georgia Southern in the +20 to +22 range

Louisville at Indiana (+10)

Matchup Analysis

Louisville’s offense is off to a great start under new head coach Jeff Brohm, and it would seem that the high expectations fans had for this program might be well placed. Quarterback Jack Plummer has picked up right where he left off at Purdue when he played the position for Brohm previously. That said, Saturday’s game at Indiana could be a tricky spot for an “unstable” team.

It’s on the road (effectively neutral I guess) in Big Ten country against an Indiana team that is 2-0 ATS so far and playing some really good defense. The Hoosiers have allowed just 30 points, with a game against Ohio State factored in, and with just three starters back on that side of the ball coming into 2023, the newbies on that side of the ball have seemingly turned the page on the ugly performance of last season. Off a game in which they exploded for 41 points and 558 yards of offense, this Indiana team could be a live underdog.

Play Indiana at +/- 1.5 points of this double-digit number

Kansas State at Missouri (+4)

Matchup Analysis

I saw the line for the KSU-Mizzou game open at +3.5, and I immediately raised my eyebrows. Somebody behind the counter must not have a whole lot of respect for the Wildcats, despite the fact that they returned 13 starters from their Big 12 title team of a year ago. That said, this game is never easy for the Wildcats, and in fact, they have lost three in a row in Columbia, allowing 120 points to Missouri in the process.

This used to be a sizeable rivalry game, that is before the Tigers left for the SEC. However, you can rest assured that the locals will be looking forward to hooking up with the Wildcats again. With almost 90% of the money on KSU at this point according to the DK splits, I like Mizzou’s chances as the home underdog.

Play Missouri at anything over +2.5

Bowling Green at Michigan (-39.5)

Matchup Analysis

Michigan has failed to cover the point spread in either of its first two games, and its offense doesn’t seem to be clicking to the point of being able to beat this week’s huge number. That said, instability is a concern for Bowling Green this season, as they turn to two new coordinators and a new starting quarterback.

The Falcons are 1-1 so far, but the tougher of their first two opponents, Liberty, would not be confused with Michigan. The Falcons allowed 248 yards rushing in that 10-point loss. The Wolverines have had a balanced attack in their first two outings and will be far superior upfront in this particular matchup. They also don’t have a majority of the money handle or bets backing them. That is a good thing.

Is this the week that Michigan finally puts it together and wallops someone at the Big House? BGSU is 9-28 ATS in its last 37 as a dog and just doesn’t compete well when overmatched.

Play Michigan at -40 or less

Central Michigan (+34.5) at Notre Dame

Matchup Analysis

If you’re a fan of betting teams that may or may not be completely focused on the current opponent because of a potential “look-ahead scenario,” look no further than this contest in South Bend on Saturday, as Notre Dame gets a final tune-up before hosting Ohio State next weekend.

Recent history shows that the Irish have not been good at beating huge spreads at home. In fact, they are just 5-11 ATS in their last 16 games as double-digit favorites at home. Granted, things look like they could be “different” this year with QB Sam Hartmann running the show, but to me, this team has to prove it can beat difficult numbers like this before anyone assumes they will take care of business easily.

Play CMU at anything +33 or more

Northwestern (+19.5) at Duke

Matchup Analysis

Think about how much things have changed for these programs since they met in early September a year ago. The Blue Devils, who won that game 31-23 on the road, have gone on to win nine of their last 13 games since. Northwestern, of course, has only won one game in that same time span, a 38-7 decision versus UTEP last week.

In the game a year ago, it was the Wildcats that were 10-point favorites. Now they find themselves as 19.5-point underdogs. What a massive swing. Is it accurate or is it a possible overadjustment? I would tend to lean to the latter, as Northwestern was very competitive in that head-to-head game last year, and in fact, had its best day of the season throwing the ball. They also come off their best game overall in the last 12 months in their rout of UTEP and— gasp—could have some momentum going. This is a series in which laying points in treacherous, as dogs are on a 9-1 ATS series run. This is also the biggest line the series has seen since pre-2000.

Let’s take Northwestern as the sizeable dog, at anything +18 or more

South Carolina (+27) at Georgia

Matchup Analysis

When I saw this line released and Georgia was favored by 27 points, my first task was actually to go and check the injury report to see if QB Spencer Rattler was going to miss the game for South Carolina. That’s how far I thought the line was off. In fact, my Power Ratings indicate this line should only be Georgia -22.2. Rattler has looked good in recent action for the Gamecocks, not just in the two games this season, but also at the close of last. If you recall, he led his team to back-to-back double-digit dog upsets of Tennessee and Clemson to close the regular season. If there was ever a game in which he would benefit by playing well in terms of his future NFL prospects, this would be it, against a Georgia team considered the closest to a pro team at the college level. With road teams on a 7-0 ATS streak, let’s look to make it eight.

Take South Carolina to keep it within 24 points

Tennessee at Florida (+6.5)

Matchup Analysis

Florida opened as a 7-point dog against Tennessee, and despite around 80% of the handle and bet volume backing the visiting Vols, the line at DraftKings has actually dropped down to 6.5. I called this out last week in a couple of NFL games, but I like to refer to this situation as the kiss of death bettors. If given the choice between public bettors and books seemingly baiting them, I will always side with the latter.

The recent history for Tennessee in Gainesville is well-documented, and it is not good. They have lost nine straight games at the Swamp, and while this may be their best opportunity in many years to end that streak, I have been outspoken in the belief that this is not the same UT team as last season. They might escape with a win here, but Florida is not going to roll over, and I expect the Gators to be very competitive.

Take Florida as the home dog of +6 to +7

Northern Illinois (+11.5) at Nebraska

Matchup Analysis

Some of you may recall Northern Illinois walking into Nebraska in 2017 and coming away with an improbable 21-17 win as a 10.5-point dog. The Cornhuskers got their revenge a couple of years later in a 44-8 decision, leaving this year’s tilt as the rubber match.

Head coach Matt Rhule’s team has not looked good in its first couple of contests, turning the ball over often and failing to capitalize on opportunities. One might say they look like the unstable team they were pegged as on my Stability system.

For this week, they are laying double-digits to a veteran NIU team that brought back 15 starters this year and has already pulled off a sizeable upset by winning at Boston College. Nebraska has scored just 12 PPG in its first two outings, are you ready to back them as a favorite of that amount here? Me neither.

Take Northern Illinois as the double-digit dog

Vanderbilt (-4.5) at UNLV

Matchup Analysis

This is a strange contest in that the more stable of the teams sports an 0-3 ATS record to start the season, while the rebuilding or transitioning team is 2-0 ATS. Perhaps that has bought us some more line value, as a few weeks ago, this line would have probably been Vandy -7 or so.

The Commodores have looked good throwing the ball behind QB AJ Swann and have scored 34 PPG while gaining 8.2 yards per pass attempt. UNLV has struggled against the pass in its first two outings, allowing 9.2 yards per attempt.

The Runnin’ Rebels have enjoyed little home-field advantage in recent years in Las Vegas either. If head coach Clark Lea’s team can stay hot offensively, they should move to 3-1 and get the job done on this road chalk line.

Lay the 3.5-5.5 with Vandy

Syracuse (-2.5) at Purdue

Matchup Analysis

Do yourself a favor and look at Purdue’s schedule for 2023. It is not an easy one for new head coach Ryan Walters and his 11 returning starters. I would argue that the Boilermakers may not be favored until they travel to Northwestern in late November. Here they get their final tune-up before Big Ten play starts next Friday (hosting Wisconsin) against a Syracuse team that has dominated its first two opponents.

The Orange have outscored Western Michigan and Colgate 113-7 while outgaining them 1173-424. They look every bit the experienced and stable team they were projected to be out of the gate and are rightfully the favorite here.

Purdue is off a big win last week at Virginia Tech, but a second straight solid outing might be too much to ask from a team sporting a stability score of 2. This is about as big of a stability mismatch as there is this week and the line doesn’t match.

Take Syracuse at anything up to 4.5 IMO


For more system matches and key trends, check out the Week 3 College Football Analytics Report.

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