College football line moves and best bets for Week 8
College Football Odds | College Football Betting Splits
Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio State Buckeyes (-4.5, 46.5)
Penn State was believed to be a surprising contender in the Big 10 this season, and the way the Nittany Lions can deliver on those expectations is by winning this game in Columbus. Penn State could also benefit from some potential absences on the Ohio State sideline. In the win over Purdue the Buckeyes were without wide receiver Emeka Egbuka and running back TreVeyon Henderson and cornerback Denzel Burke. Their status will likely be what decides where this number ends up on Saturday.
Outside of the health concerns, the Buckeyes’ offense will be facing its toughest test yet. The Nittany Lions lead the country in both opponent yards per play (3.2) and opponent yards per game (204.4). They also rank third in opponent EPA per play (-0.223). Ohio State quarterback has improved each of the last three weeks - he has averaged 271.7 yards per game and thrown five touchdowns over that span - but two of those opponents have ranked outside of the top 50 in opponent EPA.
Meanwhile, Penn State has a win over a top 50 defense - Iowa currently ranks 45th in opponent EPA - but none of their other opponents rank higher than 77th in defensive EPA. Ohio State is slightly better on that end. The Buckeyes are second to the Nittany Lions in yards per play allowed (3.9), sixth in yards per game allowed (269.4) and 44th in EPA per play allowed. This will be the stiffest test for Penn State’s offense as well.
DraftKings was first to market with this number on Sunday. It hung Ohio State as 4.5-point favorites, and Circa Sports followed with a six-point spread in favor of the Buckeyes. The betting market jumped on that number at Circa, and as of Sunday afternoon the consensus number is 4.5 on the screen. Where this side ends up is dependent on the availability of Egbuka and Henderson, but those two will also have an effect on the total which was bet up two points when it opened.
Utah Utes at USC Trojans (-4.5, 55.5)
Caleb Williams’ performance in the loss to Notre Dame might have surprised some, but there were warning signs that the reigning Heisman Trophy winner was playing with fire. Williams had committed seven turnover worthy plays in the three games prior to the loss in South Bend, and against the Irish he threw three abysmal interceptions in the first half, all of which led to touchdown drives for Notre Dame. The Irish are one of the best defenses in the country, but Utah is the best defense in the country and that is who Williams and USC face this weekend.
The Utes lead all teams in college football in EPA per play allowed (-0.259), and in more traditional metrics the Utes are 20th or better in both yards per game allowed (308.0) and yards per play allowed (4.7). The Trojans have the benefit of facing this opponent at home, but it is a massive problem on paper, especially coming off a loss that severely hampers any hope at a berth in the playoffs this season.
DraftKings opened this game with USC as 4.5-point favorites, and Circa Sports came to market with the Trojans laying a half-point less. Circa went to as high as -6 before buyback brought the line to -5 which is where it sits as of Sunday afternoon. It is worth mentioning that Cam Rising’s status is still in question for Utah, but after the quarterback revealed the extent of his injury last week it seems unlikely he will make his debut against USC on the road.
Oklahoma State Cowboys at West Virginia Mountaineers (-2.5, 52.5)
Oklahoma State enters this road game with West Virginia on a roll. The Cowboys have pulled off outright upsets the last two weeks against Kansas State and Kansas, but both results came within the friendly confines of Boone Pickens Stadium. This week, Oklahoma State must hit the road to face West Virginia. The Mountaineers had their 3-0 SU and ATS streak snapped in the crazy road loss to Houston last week, but that winning streak came at home. West Virginia will also be getting some reinforcements along the offensive line in left tackle Wyatt Millum. Despite the recent success for Oklahoma State the market was willing to push this opener to -3 and that is where the line sits as of Sunday afternoon. The total was initially bet down three points to 49.5 before buyback brought it back up to 51 which is the current consensus number.
Duke Blue Devils at Florida State Seminoles (-14.5, 52.5)
The status of Duke quarterback Riley Leonard will be the story this week. Leonard missed the Blue Devils’ win over N.C. State on Saturday, and redshirt freshman Henry Belin IV filled in admirably for him. Belin went 4-of-12 for 107 yards and threw two touchdowns in the win, and while it might seem this Florida State defense is a stiffer test, the metrics paint a different picture. The Seminoles rank 78th in the country in overall EPA per play allowed (0.062) and their run defense has been average. Florida State opponents have averaged 4.1 yards per game and 141.3 yards per game on the ground, and the team ranks 111th in opponent EPA per play rushing. Regardless of the status of Leonard, the Blue Devils will look to exploit that weakness. The only move here has been on the total which was bet down three points from the open, but it will be fascinating to see what the market believes is the difference between Leonard and Belin once the former’s status is clear.
Washington State Cougars at Oregon Ducks (-16.5, 55.5)
Oregon impressed many in the loss to Washington on Saturday, but the Ducks find themselves in a fascinating situation this week. Oregon could be caught in a letdown after a tough loss on the road, or it could look to take its frustrations out on a lesser opponent. If the market is any indication, it seems the Ducks are going to come out focused this weekend. DraftKings opened this line at -16.5 in favor of Oregon and Circa Sports opened at -18 on Sunday. Both lines moved in favor of the Ducks, and as of Sunday afternoon Oregon is laying 20 points at Circa. It should be noted that Washington State is coming off a brutal loss to Arizona. The Cougars allowed 44 points and 516 total yards to the Wildcats on Saturday, and Cam Ward threw for just 192 yards. It would seem the clock has struck midnight for Washington State, and the market believes that to be the case.
Tennessee Volunteers at Alabama Crimson Tide (-9, 46.5)
Tennessee might be 5-1 SU on the season, but this offense is not working out with Joe Milton at quarterback. The Volunteers are 85th in EPA per dropback (0.100) this season, and Milton is the lowest graded passer by PFF standards (62.2). This will not translate on the road against a top 20 defense like Alabama. The Crimson Tide rank sixth in opponent yards per play (4.2) and 10th in opponent yards per game (292.4). Alabama’s secondary has been its strength, and it is why it ranks 16th in opponent EPA per play per dropback. This is where I expect the Tide to flex their muscles.
Alabama might have allowed Arkansas to creep back into the game on Saturday, but it still limited the Razorbacks to 250 total yards and 4-of-14 on third downs. The Volunteers have played just one true road games this season, and that was a loss to Florida in which they were limited to 16 points. Alabama should be able to have the same success this weekend at home which will lead to a cover for the Crimson Tide.
Best Bet: Alabama (-9)