Kramer: A bettor's guide to college football Week 9

By Adam Kramer  (VSiN.com) 

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I started to feel bad for Indiana in the second quarter. With five minutes left in the first half, Ohio State led 37-7 on the road against a team that has given them issues in the past. That was not the case on Saturday. 

In fact, this was a glorious bit of football demolition.

Not long ago, this kind of performance felt improbable for the Buckeyes. Not impossible, but highly unlikely. The loss at home to Oregon in the second game of the season, coupled with some ugly wins sandwiched around it, felt significant. 

Six weeks later, Ohio State might be the biggest threat to Georgia in all of CFB. 

After a weekend that saw Cincinnati and Oklahoma struggle, Ohio State has more momentum than any team in college football. 

I bet Ohio State to win the Big Ten before the season began. To be honest, I didn’t feel great about this. But given what we’ve seen recently from Iowa and Penn State, the Buckeyes feel like an overwhelming favorite to win the conference. They’re now + 550 to win the national title, ranked behind only Georgia and Alabama. The gap has closed significantly. 

Sometimes, a team’s early struggles are never repaired. Clemson, having lost its third game of the year, is certainly an example of that. But Ohio State looks momentarily fixed. 

C.J. Stroud, who is now + 550 to win the Heisman, has evolved at quarterback. The defense, which struggled mightily early on, has adjusted. And the talent at both running back and wide receiver is frankly absurd. 

Time will tell just how good Ohio State is. I thought this moment was coming next weekend against Penn State, although I’m not so sure anymore. Well, actually I am. That won’t be the game.

As for what it means moving forward, the Buckeyes appear to be back. That is terrible news for the rest of the Big Ten and perhaps beyond.

The Appetizer: Football Tidbits and Observations

1. College football’s new overtime rule stinks. Watching Illinois and Penn State trade failed two-point conversions up until the ninth overtime wasn’t entertaining. It was oddly paced and, well, really poorly played. I know college football implemented this new penalty kick-like model to avoid marathon games like the one we saw between LSU and Texas A&M in 2018, but this mutated version isn’t it. Move back to the 40-yard line, and let each team get cracks at scoring points. I like the general foundation of overtime in CFB, but it can be better. Also, let’s never speak of this sequence of football again. Wow, was that bad.

2. I have watched a lot of football, although I can honestly say I have never seen anything like what Oklahoma QB Caleb Williams did against Kansas. The Sooners slept through the first three quarters as a 38.5-point favorite. And when the offense had appeared to stall on fourth down, Williams actually ripped the ball away from his own teammate to pick up a huge first down with only a few minutes remaining. Seriously, it was ridiculous, incredibly smart and (apparently?) legal. What a play for a true freshman.  

3. Wake Forest and Army played one of the more bizarre and entertaining football games you will see all year. I bet Army (+ 3), and I lost that bet despite watching the Knights score 56 points. The Demon Deacons scored 70 points, and they did so against a defense that was top 40 in the nation. This game featured 1,233 total yards, and quarterback Sam Hartman threw for 458 yards and scored six touchdowns. Losing bet, but thanks for the entertainment, Wake. 

4. Hot seat watch: Virginia Tech. The Hokies lost 41-36 to Syracuse as a 3.5-point favorite, allowing the Orange to score 21 fourth-quarter points. Va. Tech is now 3-4, and Justin Fuente could very well be out of a job soon. Simply put, Virginia Tech is nowhere close to the program it used to be. If this job does open, I am curious to see what kind of attention it would attract with other high-profile openings likely in the mix. 

5. Clemson… woof. The Tigers are a broken football program, and they have still yet to cover the spread this season or score 20 points against an FBS opponent. Maybe an offseason will help recalibrate things, although I’m not so certain. What a dramatic fall it has been. 

The Buffet: The Five Best Games of the Weekend

1. Michigan (-4, 51.5) at Michigan State

This has everything you look for in a football game. Rivalry game. Huge conference and playoff implications. We need more of these. While I did not expect Michigan-Michigan State to mean this much, I am thrilled that it does. The Wolverines are 6-1 ATS, and they covered the 23.5-point spread against Northwestern despite starting slow. Michigan State has also lost just one game against the number. The Spartans were off last week, although they slipped past Indiana before that. While home field will certainly impact this game, it does feel like Michigan has more talent. In fact, while these two have similar styles, the Wolverines just do everything a bit better. Also, 51.5 feels like too many points.

2. Ohio State (-16.5, 60.5) vs. Penn State

One of the most anticipated games of the year lost plenty of shine last weekend. Penn State’s overtime loss to Illinois, which was hard to watch, took a lot of steam out of a game that felt massive for both programs. But Penn State’s back-to-back losses certainly derailed that, and the Nittany Lions are now 1-3 ATS in their last four. Ohio State, meanwhile, looks like a football program reborn. While the Buckeyes struggled early on, they look supercharged now. Ohio State has covered the spread in the past four games and outscored its opponents 231 to 44 in that time. Playing at home under the lights should serve as another significant boost. I’m curious to see if this line keeps climbing as the week progresses. I imagine it does. 

3. Ole Miss (-1, 64.5) at Auburn

While Georgia-Florida is the marquee game on the SEC slate—and we’ll get to it momentarily—this is actually a better football game. Ole Miss enters Week 9 with just one loss along with a 5-2 record against the spread. I was actually quite impressed with the performance against LSU given how chaotic the game against Tennessee was the previous week, and the drama-less outcome should benefit them here. Auburn enjoyed a bye after blasting Arkansas on the road the week prior. And the more I see of this team, the more I like it. Quarterback Bo Nix is still a bit of a wildcard in every possible way, although the good is really starting to outweigh the bad. If the good Nix shows up here, Auburn’s offense should find plenty of success. 

4. Georgia (-14, 50) vs. Florida

The Gators are a weird team. For as well as they played against Alabama in defeat, it’s hard to shake the losses against Kentucky and LSU. The last time we saw Florida, they lost outright as a 13-point favorite. And considering how inept the Tigers looked against Ole Miss this past weekend, I can’t help but wonder just how poorly this all might translate against the best team in college football. Georgia is a football factory at the moment, and the running game should thrive against Florida. I’d like to see more explosive plays from the offense, and there’s a chance this might be the week for it. Here’s my one hang up. Dan Mullen obviously hasn’t had a great year, although he has a knack of scripting beautiful game plans for the most meaningful games of the year—Alabama being a good example of that. For the Gators to keep this close, this has to happen.

5. Wisconsin (-3.5, 36) vs. Iowa

We need to talk about this total, and we need to do it now. While I was startled when I saw the over/under at 36, it wasn’t because it's a bad line. It’s just a threshold we don’t normally see across any level of football. In this case, however, it makes sense. The last time we saw Iowa, the offense looked inoperative. The Hawkeyes lost at home outright to Purdue as a double-digit favorite, scoring just seven points. It’s also worth noting that five out of Iowa’s seven games have stayed under. On the topic of Purdue, Wisconsin clobbered the Boilermakers last week as a small chalk. A top-10 team is getting more than a field goal to an unranked opponent, and no one should be the least bit surprised. 

Last Call: Parting Shots on Other Games of Note

Baylor (-3, 62) vs. Texas: The Bears have covered the spread in five of the last six. Texas has coughed up consecutive games in really disappointing fashion. This has the makings of a wild matchup, and I lean over early on.

San Diego State (Pick-em, 46) vs. Fresno State: Considering San Diego State beat Air Force last week, I find this early spread a bit intriguing. (Also, I bet Air Force. Not great.) Fresno State has been up and down, but the Bulldogs certainly have the talent to take down an unbeaten.

Mississippi State (-1, 47.5) vs. Kentucky: Speaking of Bulldogs, Mississippi State finds itself as a small favorite over the nation’s No. 12 ranked team. That line can and likely will bounce around throughout the week, although the respect Mike Leach’s team is getting early on is pretty meaningful. 

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