Kramer: A bettor's guide to college football Week 8

By Adam Kramer  (VSiN.com) 

USATSI_16970202

A few weeks ago, I offered up a piece of betting advice.

Now, this isn’t always a good thing. My betting advice has, well, mixed outcomes -- that’s the polite way of saying it.

But in this instance, I nudged you, my faithful reader, on a little Heisman opportunity.

Bet Kenny Pickett.

I grabbed him at 75-1 at the time. Later that day, he was 50-1.

Now? He’s around 20-1 depending on where you shop.

Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback is having a ridiculous season. If he played in the SEC -- or a team not named Pitt -- his odds would be vastly different. After beating Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Pickett has now scored 24 touchdowns and thrown one interception.

Absurd.

He is the best quarterback in the ACC, which is not something I thought I would say this year. And on Saturday against Clemson, he will finally have a national showcase to convince others he’s worthy of consideration.

The rest of the schedule, which features four home games, is also conducive for more huge statistical games.

The problem? He still plays for Pitt.

That is not meant as an insult to the Panthers; it’s simply the reality of the award. If the numbers continue to be this overwhelming, however, I wonder if Pickett could sneak his into further consideration if the madness continues.

Bryce Young is still in the driver’s seat. Matt Corral is still in the mix. Caleb Williams, who I will talk about momentarily, is emerging. And C.J. Stroud is certainly still right there.

We have a long ways to go, but a win over Clemson at home changes this conversation completely. The days of 22-1 will be long gone if that happens, and it could. Heck, Pitt is favored.

For the select few that jumped aboard at 75-1 or 50-1, I salute you.

Let’s ride.

The Appetizer: Football Tidbits and Observations

1. Ed Orgeron is out at LSU after this year. I had heard some rumblings that this was coming, although the timing is curious. Coming off a huge win against Florida, the sentiment I get is LSU officials wanted to avoid what happened with Les Miles and not be put in a position to decide about its head coach if the team continues to win games. Now? It doesn’t matter. And the best job in college football -- at least in my opinion -- will soon be open.

2. Spencer Rattler will not be playing football at Oklahoma next year -- that pretty much feels obvious. In his first start, freshman Caleb Williams was electric against TCU. In fact, the offense looked the one we’ve grown accustomed to under Lincoln Riley. There’s a lot to unpack with this, and the betting impact is massive. Oklahoma might be viable College Football Playoff threat again. And do we want to get weird and bet Williams to win the Heisman? It might be too late in the year, although I grabbed him at 50-1. He’s now somewhere around 20-1 at most places.  

3. You either love or hate Mark Stoops this week. There is no middle ground. (Well, unless you didn’t bet on Georgia-Kentucky. Then you probably don’t know what I am talking about.) Stoops called timeout with seven seconds left in the game with his team on Georgia’s 1-yard line. The score was 30-7 Georgia, and the Bulldogs were covering the 21.5-point spread. Well, that was until after the timeout when the Wildcats touchdown ultimately pushed the final score to 30-13 essentially as time expired. I’ve been asked plenty whether college football coaches know the spreads of the games they play in. The answer, in almost every instance, is absolutely. Congrats to the Kentucky boosters who cashed.

4. Kirk Ferentz is going to be having nightmares of David Bell torching his defense for years to come. Purdue’s star wideout finished with 11 catches for 240 yards and a touchdown on Saturday as the Boilermakers beat Iowa outright as 11.5-point underdogs. In three games against Iowa, Bell has 558 yards and five touchdowns. His next stop is almost certainly the NFL, which is good news for all parties. Awesome talent.

5. How about Louisiana-Monroe? The Warhawks beat Liberty outright as a 32.5-point underdog, which is the kind of upset that seems to surface once in a great while. ULM lost outright to Georgia State by 34 points a week ago, only to bounce back and beat Hugh Freeze as a massive dog. What a win.

6. UNLV has a slot machine on its sideline. Not a picture of a slot machine or an inflatable slot machine, but a device that looks like a real-life slot machine to celebrate key moments. I have nothing to add other than I love college football more than I could possibly put into words.

The Buffet: The Five Best Games of the Weekend

1. Pittsburgh (-4, 47) vs. Clemson

This is not a spread I expected to see before the season, but here we are. You already know how I feel about Pitt’s quarterback. In general, however, the Panthers look like a pretty decent football team, and they’ll be playing Clemson at the right time. Outside of the loss to Western Michigan, which feels like an outlier, Pitt has been solid. The Panthers easily covered the 6.5-point spread at Virginia Tech, and they will now try to stay hot against the Tigers. Yes, Clemson beat Syracuse. Well, Syracuse beat Syracuse with terrible clock management. And as we enter the meat of the season, Clemson’s offense is still a bit of a mess. Nothing cute or fancy. It just feels like Pitt is better, and I don’t trust the Tigers at this point.

2. UCLA (-1, 58.5) vs. Oregon

The Chip Kelly Bowl is actually fascinating this year. Both teams were red hot at the start of the year; both teams have since cooled down. With Oregon, the injuries and the inconsistencies seem to be mounting since beating Ohio State. The Ducks beat Cal last week, although they fell well short of covering the 13.5-point spread and are 0-3 ATS in their last three. UCLA has recovered nicely since being blown out by Arizona State, and Saturday’s win at Washington as a small underdog was a good one. That momentum feels like the opposite of what Oregon has cooking, and playing at home certainly helps the Bruins plenty. I don’t like what I’ve seen out of the Ducks lately at all, and at some point it’s going to result in another loss. This feels like a good spot for it.

3. Iowa State (-6.5, 47) vs. Oklahoma State

Amid all the madness, we just sort of forgot about Iowa State. Two early losses pushed the Cyclones out of the spotlight after an offseason of hype, although they looked a lot more polished at Kansas State on Saturday. Still, this point spread will surprise some. Oklahoma State is coming off its biggest win of the year -- a thrilling 32-24 win at Texas. The Pokes closed as 3.5-point underdogs in that game, and the victory boosted them to No. 9 in the AP Poll. Still, Mike Gundy’s team will be getting points in a tough environment. I actually like both defenses quite a bit in this spot, and the early lean might be the under. I’ll also be honest with you: I still don’t know how good OK State is two months into the season. This is another fine measuring stick.

4. Mississippi (-11.5, 77) vs. LSU

With Orgeron officially out at the end of the year, it’s hard to know just exactly how LSU will respond. LSU suddenly found a running game against Florida -- one that has been missing all season -- and racked up 321 rushing yards in the 49-42 win over the Gators. The Tigers closed as 13-point underdogs. Ole Miss played a bizarre football game against Tennessee that included questionable officiating along with thrown golf balls, bottles, beer cans and everything Vols fans could find. Still, Ole Miss prevailed. One thing to watch this week is the status of QB Matt Corral. The Heisman hopeful (currently + 190) took a lot of shots and appeared to be banged up near the end of the game. If he can’t run the way he has -- which has become a huge part of the Ole Miss offense -- that could change the outlook on this game quite a bit.

5. Utah (-3, 56.5) at Oregon State

And just like that, Utah has life. After beginning the season with back-to-back losses to BYU and San Diego State -- losses that have aged nicely -- Utah has won three in a row. The latest, a 35-21 win over Arizona State, was the most impressive of the season. Oregon State, however, is no slouch this year. The Beavers are coming off a bye after losing at Washington State. Before that Oregon State had won four games in a row. In terms of this game and the rest of the Pac-12, the importance of home field tends to surface every week -- especially in games like this one. That said, Utah has tremendous balance and might have finally hit its stride. I am curious what we get as an encore effort on the road. This is a tough game to bet for me.

Last Call: Parting Shots on Other Games of Note

Coastal Carolina (-3.5, 59) vs. Appalachian State: Fascinating line. In fact, when you consider how bad App State played last week, I am curious to see how this one moves. Also, what a Wednesday night football game. Huge one for both teams.

Air Force (-4, 41) vs. San Diego State: This is a sneaky-good matchup on the docket, and Air Force is on quite a run since losing to Utah State earlier in the year. Despite San Diego State being unbeaten, I really like the Falcons in this spot.

Alabama (-28, 67) vs. Tennessee: The Vols had some momentum heading into last week, although the loss to Ole Miss -- coupled with some potentially significant injuries on offense -- might put a halt to that momentum. Alabama has dominated this series, and it’s hard to see anyway that trend stops here.

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