College football Week 9 picks from Steve Makinen

October 26, 2023 02:55 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 here at Follow up with Steve’s weekly content, which is linked in the explanations for his picks.

A 4-5 record last week cooled my recent hot stretch a bit, but over the last three weeks, I have still compiled a much-needed 15-9-1 record, pulling myself out from the hole dug on my own personal “Black Saturday” of September 30th. Let’s continue pushing forward with 11 more plays for Week 9.

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(odds as of October 26, 11:54 a.m. PT)


Michigan State at Minnesota

Although highly controversial because of the errant fair catch signal penalty on the late punt return nullified for Iowa, Minnesota’s win last week was huge in the grand scheme of things and could propel the Golden Gophers to a late season run, starting this week at home versus floundering Michigan State. Though they didn’t exactly play well last week in Iowa City, the win itself is a huge momentum boost according to this betting system: Over the last decade, college football teams that won a conference game despite gaining less than 250 yards of offense have used that victory to build momentum, going 65-39 ATS (62.5%) in the follow-up contest.

Minnesota has also won eight of the last nine ATS in this head-to-head series, including last year in a 34-7 decision on the road when the teams were at very similar levels to what they are now. That game also had a 508-240 yardage margin. MSU is struggling badly, having lost five in a row, and its entire program is reeling right now. Why would the Spartans decide to all of a sudden “bring it” here in a cross-divisional game?

Take Minnesota -7, with anything lower being great

Florida State at Wake Forest

Surviving an unexpectedly close game can be a big momentum booster for an elite team. While the final score doesn’t necessarily reflect how close the battle with Duke was last week, the late rally for the Seminoles in scoring all 21 4th quarter points en route to a 38-20 win could prove big down the stretch.

Here, they get a Wake Forest team whose offense has taken a dump without QB Sam Hartman this season. The Demon Deacons are down about 15 PPG from their production of the last three seasons. After three straight losses to the Wake, FSU finally gets a great shot at payback and is backed by this angle: Double-digit road favorites have been solid producers in the revenge role, going 45-32 ATS (58.4%) since 2016.

My Effective Stats numbers project that the Demon Deacons will only get around 13 points here. With a total of 53, that would mean the experts project the road favorites to get around 40. I could easily see a 28-point comfortable win here in a spot that might appear tough on paper, but not when you look beneath the hood and see that Wake is not a potent home dog anymore.

Take Florida State -20.5 +/- 0.5 points

Duke at Louisville

You have to feel for Duke fans, as the program has gone from undefeated a few weeks ago to having lost two out of three and is now in danger of another loss with its quarterback's health in serious question. The Blue Devils had a lot going for them just a month ago.

On the other hand, you have to be thrilled for Louisville fans, with their supposed rebuild under new head coach Jeff Brohm well ahead of schedule. Count me among those stunned by the success the Cardinals are having this early in his tenure. Being a “Louisville guy,” I figured the hire would work out well eventually, but this has been a crazy honeymoon. They have been balanced on offense, gaining over 460 yards per game and have been stout up front on defense. In this ranked vs. ranked matchup, Louisville will also be backed by a trio of systems that I have been leaning on in recent weeks from the VSiN Analytics Report, my favorite of which touts: When better-ranked home teams have been single-digit favorites or underdogs, they have gone 49-14 SU and 44-16-3 ATS (73.3%) since 2017.

Let’s take Louisville -4.5 and at any adjustment made if QB Leonard is announced officially out

Indiana at Penn State

Can’t say I was upset when Ohio State beat up Penn State last week, considering that I have lost twice this season when PSU head coach James Franklin has chosen to put it on weaker opponents, seemingly in the quest to cover point spreads with questionable unsportsmanlike late scores. It’s easy to inflate offensive stats when your schedule is so weak. I think we saw some true strength of the Nittany Lions offense last week when they scored just 12 points and racked up just 240 yards on the Buckeyes.

Does that mean that the Hoosiers are gonna get a hurtin’ on Saturday? Not necessarily, as IU’s defense has been somewhat respectable, holding opponents to about two points below their season averages. Their offense has just been atrocious, scoring 17.9 PPG. PSU holds opponents to 9.7 PPG and 20.6 below their averages.

Does that mean Indiana will get negative points here? Of course not, but with this unusual line/total combination, I think it’s obvious that the experts behind the counter are telling us that they won’t score much if anything. With almost 90% of bettors expecting a higher-scoring contest at DraftKings, I’ll go the opposite.

Take Indiana-Penn State UNDER 46 +/- 1 point


Oregon at Utah

I am not sure how much more Utah has to do this season to command some respect. Regardless of whether or not QB Cam Rising takes a snap this year for the Utes, this team continues to show it belongs with the elite of the Pac-12. Just this past week as a home dog to USC, head coach Kyle Whittingham’s team won 34-32, holding the powerful Trojans 15 points below their season average.

There may not be a tougher place to play in the conference than Salt Lake, and home teams have won the last four non-neutral games in this series against the spread. If that weren’t enough, we have two nice betting angles from the analytics report highlighting the revenge and ranked team angles on this contest: 1) Utah is 15-7 SU and 16-6 ATS (72.7%) in revenge mode since 2016 2) In games featuring two ranked teams since 2017, home teams are now 160-77 SU and 138-91-8 ATS (60.3%). I’d be really surprised if this game doesn’t come down to the wire.

Take Utah +6.5, although I’d love to get +7 but am win with +5.5 or more

Colorado at UCLA

Colorado has not played since blowing a 29-0 halftime lead against Stanford two weeks ago. A loss like that can sink a program. Do I think it will for Colorado? Not a chance, as this team has so much swagger, it will be impossible to knock the confidence out of them as long as Coach Prime is around. The Buffaloes' top players were making public appearances at professional sports games over the last two weeks, and they didn’t seem fazed. To them, after the success they had early, this game at UCLA is simply just another chance to shock the world.

The betting public hasn’t lost faith either, as over 65% of the handle and bets were on Colorado as of this writing. In most cases, that would be a bad thing, but when the majority of the handle was on road underdogs for an ATS wager last season, this majority group was 100-82 ATS (54.9%). The Buffs’ offense has kept up with units far better than UCLA’s (31.3 PPG), and in fact, the defense is actually holding opponents to 0.7 points below their scoring averages. If the Bruins only get to 30/31 points, how do they cover against the explosive CU team?

Take Colorado +17, with +/- 1.5 points OK

Iowa State at Baylor

Iowa State has been favored at Baylor in three straight trips there but has lost the last two outright, each by two points. The Bears go for the upset trifecta here, as they are very slight home dogs to the Cyclones. Here’s my take, however…why is ISU favored? Simply because of the won-lost records? I explained last week in backing Baylor at Cincinnati that head coach Dave Aranda’s team was much better than its record indicated and was certainly a far better team with QB Blake Shapen on the field. He returned last week and led the offense to 32 points and 316 yards through the air. He has not thrown an interception in four starts this season.

I don’t think the betting public is seeing beyond the 4-3 versus 2-5 record matchup, as over 80% of the handle as of press time was on ISU. Recall this DK betting splits system: When 80% or more of the handle was on a particular side of an ATS wager, this majority group was just 40-47 ATS (46%) in 2022. I think these teams are far too close when healthy for one team to be a road favorite. Baylor got some confidence back with its win at Cincy. They keep it going.

Take Baylor +2.5 with some ML action as well

Ohio State at Wisconsin

Anyone who has followed VSiN for a while knows that I am a Wisconsin guy, an avid follower of most or all of the teams in the state. For as much as I’d love to believe that this Badgers team has what it takes to shock the world and beat Ohio State on Saturday night in what should be a raucous Halloween atmosphere in Madison, I just don’t see it happening.

I don’t know how the offense, down QB Tanner Mordecai, will be able to muster much against the Buckeyes’ stout defense. OSU held Penn State to just 240 yards and 12 points last week and the Nittany Lions went into that game averaging 44.3 PPG. That boosted their defensive outplay margin to 24.7 PPG below their opponent's scoring averages. Wisconsin averages just 26.9, and most of that was with Mordecai in the lineup. You can do the math. Wisconsin has been a good revenge team and will be fueled by it somewhat from last year’s ugly 52-21 decision (after a 49-0 start), but I think it will only do so defensively for a portion of the contest.

Let’s go UNDER 45.5 +/- 1 point in Ohio State-Wisconsin

BYU at Texas

For as much as the loss of QB Quinn Ewers will be impactful for Texas, you have to feel like the momentum that will come from replacement Arch Manning getting his first start will trump any negative effects. How many teams across the country can say that putting their backup quarterback in might actually boost excitement?

The first test for Manning is BYU, a team off to a reasonably good start in its first year in the Big 12, sitting even at 2-2. Here’s the thing, though…the Cougars' two home games have been relatively decisive wins. Their two road games have been decisive losses. This will be the toughest road game they have faced in 2023 and the biggest point spread since Week 3 of the 2018 season.

With a sizable majority of the betting handle on BYU this week, I believe either the public is not buying Manning, or they are putting too much stock in the Cougars’ upset of Texas Tech last week. However, they benefitted hugely from turnovers in that game and CFB FBS teams that benefitted from a +5 turnover differential or greater but failed to score 44+ points in that game have responded by going just 35-50 ATS (41.2%) in their next contest since ’12.

Let’s go Texas -18.5 (+/- 1) in an unsuspecting blowout

Editor's Note: Since submitting his plays for week 9, Texas has named freshman Maalik Murphy as its starting quarterback for Saturday vs. BYU. Steve is sticking with his Texas pick, as the line has actually bumped up to -19.

Mississippi State at Auburn

By all rights, Auburn played pretty well last week in the 28-21 decision versus Ole Miss. However, there are no consolation prizes for losing in the SEC, and every week, every game is tough. That makes four losses in a row for the Tigers, albeit in underdog fashion, so not a startling outcome. Does that mean that they are ready to thrive in the favorite role against a Mississippi State team down its leader in QB Will Rogers? I don’t personally think so.

For the last few years, the MSU defense has been one of the best units in the conference against the run, and this Auburn attack has become terribly one-sided without much ability to move the ball through the air. It’s much of the reason they have scored just 17.3 PPG during the 4-game skid. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like backing favored teams that you can’t project having much success offensively in a game. MSU won its first test without Rogers last week at Arkansas, although they mustered just seven points and 205 yards.

That said, over the last decade, college football teams that won a conference game despite gaining less than 250 yards of offense have used that victory to build momentum, going 65-39 ATS (62.5%) in the follow-up contest. The Bulldogs have beaten Auburn in back-to-back years, and road teams are on a 3-0 ATS run in the series. I highly expect this one to be competitive.

Take Mississippi State +6.5 +/- 0.5 points

Louisiana-Lafayette at South Alabama

As I started writing this, I realized that I hadn’t even included a game outside of the Power Five conferences yet. Believe me, it was not intentional. However, this game interests me as South Alabama is listed as a double-digit favorite for the first time since they began their Sun Belt series in 2012. Typically, it has been the opposite, as ULL has been that significant of a favorite five times in the 11 prior meetings.

Last year, USA was an 8.5-point road favorite and scratched out a 3-point win. Are the Jaguars finally ready to assume the role of the better team in the series? I am not sold, and I think the Jaguars’ two most recent wins, 55-3 and 55-7, over doormats USM and ULM have elevated this line above where it should be. Recently USA has not reacted well to wins, going 14-32 ATS in that scenario since 2014. This, of course, will also be a rare series revenge spot for the Ragin’ Cajuns: LA Lafayette is 9-8 SU and 12-5 ATS (71%) in revenge mode since 2016. I think the hosts win, but ULL still has too much pride and strength not to battle till the end.

Take Louisiana +10 +/- 1 point

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