Welcome to Week 7 of the college football season.
Each week, our VSiN experts will combine to give their best bets on select games.
We had a 6-3 showing in Week 6 and we’re looking to ride that momentum into Week 7. Odds are from DraftKings (unless noted) as of Wednesday night.
Season record: 28-32-1
Penn State Nittany Lions at Michigan Wolverines (-7, 51)
Saturday, Noon ET
Wes Reynolds: FOX’s “Big Noon Kickoff” features two unbeaten, top-10 teams from the Big Ten as No. 10 Penn State comes to the “Big House” to take on No. 5 Michigan. The stakes are high as Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State are all in the Big Ten East, and only one of those three teams will reach the Big Ten championship game.
The road team has covered the last three in this series, including two years ago when an 0-5 Penn State team won at Michigan (27-17 as a 1-point underdog) and last year when the Wolverines returned the favor (Penn State led in the fourth quarter but Michigan won 21-17 as a 2-point favorite).
This year, both teams have feasted on lower competition as Michigan’s opponents have a combined record of 15-21 (42%) and Penn State’s opponents are just 12-18 (40%). However, Penn State has had to go on the road to both Purdue and Auburn.
Penn State has rediscovered its running game after ranking 114th nationally last season. The Nittany Lions rank 33rd this season with 192.6 rushing yards per game. They have also been effective defensively against the run, ranking fifth nationally. This is a game where Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy is going to have to make a big play at some point in the passing game.
Michigan looks to be overvalued and Penn State has some good historical numbers to lean on. The Nittany Lions are 4-1-1 ATS in their last six as underdogs against an undefeated conference opponent, and James Franklin is 37-18-1 ATS when coming off consecutive wins.
Penn State should be fresh off a bye, and Michigan is 2-11 ATS against undefeated opponents under Jim Harbaugh, including 0-9 ATS in the last nine.
Pick: Penn State + 7
Minnesota Golden Gophers (-6.5, 39.5) at Illinois Fighting Illini
Saturday, Noon ET
Adam Burke: We’ve got a really low total in Champaign and it may not be low enough, as these are two of the slowest, most methodical teams in college football.
Minnesota leads the nation in time of possession per game by nearly 2.5 minutes over Air Force. The Gophers have had the ball for 37:59 on average through five games. Illinois isn’t far behind, ranking seventh in that department at 33:58 through six games.
The main reason each team ranks so high in time of possession is their third-down defensive success rates. Minnesota has allowed opponents to convert only 10 of 56 third-down attempts (17.9%) to lead the nation. Illinois ranks seventh, allowing just 24 conversions on 91 attempts (26.4%).
What should help keep this game low-scoring (and possibly close, even if Illinois QB Tommy DeVito is out) is that Minnesota’s offense is due for some serious regression on third down. The Gophers have converted 45 of 64 attempts (70.3%), which is the best in the nation by more than 12%.
Minnesota has played the 143rd-ranked schedule in the country, while Illinois has played the 62nd-ranked schedule and put up some impressive numbers against decent competition. Minnesota has played a bunch of bad teams and lost to the only good one it played. If DeVito were playing, I’d really like Illinois (and the line would be 3.5 or so).
I still like the Under here with an Illinois team that leads the nation in yards per play allowed and a Minnesota defense that ranks 10th and is up against a watered-down offense likely missing its QB and star WR.
Pick: Under 39.5
Danny Burke: Somehow we live in a college football world where the Fighting Illini are ranked. Who would’ve thunk it? Certainly not me, and probably not Minnesota when they saw Illinois on the schedule before the season started. But Bret Bielema’s squad has earned its status, and now the Illini get their biggest chance to prove their worth.
The good news for the Gophers is they’ve had an extra week to prepare, which also means an extra week for their star running back, Mohamed Ibrahim, to rest up and get ready for action. And he will be ready come Saturday. The senior tailback has tallied 567 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns in just four games. Having him behind quarterback Tanner Morgan again will provide a huge confidence boost for a Minnesota offense that’s averaging 39 points per game.
Illinois’ defense has limited opponents to just eight points per game, but as good as that is, maybe we should add an asterisk next to that number. In the Illini’s last two games, they faced an Iowa offense led by Spencer Petras and a Wisconsin offense led by Graham Mertz. Both are horrid and neither eclipsed 10 points against Illinois. That trend won’t continue against Morgan and the Gophers, who are averaging 250 passing yards and 245 rushing yards per game.
I get that the home team has had a great start to their year and is a great story, but now it’s time for reality to return to Champaign. The big boys are coming to town, and P.J. Fleck’s crew is prepared after a bye week — and hungry to avenge a lackadaisical performance in their last game.
Pick: Minnesota -6.5
Kansas Jayhawks at Oklahoma Sooners (-9, 62)
Saturday, Noon ET
Tim Murray: After starting the season 3-0, Oklahoma has dropped its last three games, all in the Big 12, and has not sniffed a cover in any of those three games. The Sooners lost to Kansas State 41-34 as 21-point favorites, then got destroyed by TCU 55-24 as 5-point favorites. Last week, without QB Dillon Gabriel, the Sooners were handed their worst loss in the history of the Red River Rivalry, 49-0. Texas closed as a 7-point favorite against Oklahoma. Gabriel is expected to play on Saturday against Kansas.
Kansas has been one of the best stories of the season. The Jayhawks jumped out to a 5-0 start and hosted ESPN’s “College Gameday” last week. Despite falling to TCU 38-31, the Jayhawks still got a push for Kansas backers with the game closing TCU -7. The Jayhawks are 5-0-1 ATS. Additionally, in their last seven games as underdogs, they are 6-0-1 ATS. Kansas QB Jalon Daniels is doubtful, and backup Jason Bean performed well when Daniels went down against TCU. Last year, Bean started against Oklahoma and went 17-for-23 for 246 passing yards and one touchdown in a 35-23 loss to the Sooners. Bean also rushed for 59 yards in the losing effort. The Jayhawks have covered in four of their last five games against Oklahoma.
Oklahoma’s defense has been dreadful this season, allowing 450 yards per game (118th in the nation). The Sooners better find a way to be buttoned up Saturday as Kansas is averaging 7.36 yards per play (fourth best in the nation).
There’s not a lot of positivity coming out of Norman right now and Kansas is a very popular underdog in the eyes of the betting public. On Thursday morning, 88% of the bets at DraftKings were on Kansas (78% of the bets at Bet MGM were on the Jayhawks as of Wednesday morning). Could this be a buy-low spot for the Sooners? Last year, Kansas was a 38-point underdog at home against Oklahoma. This year, with their backup quarterback, the Jayhawks are a 9-point dog on the road. First-year head coach Brent Venables needs to get something positive going in Norman and I believe he will have his squad ready to go Saturday afternoon.
Pick: Oklahoma -8.5 (Circa)
Iowa State Cyclones at Texas Longhorns (-15.5, 48.5)
Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
Tim Murray: If Quinn Ewers did not get hurt against Alabama, would Texas be undefeated? That has been a common topic this week after the Longhorns’ 49-0 destruction of rival Oklahoma. ESPN’s Rece Davis said, “Texas is about to go on a run,” on his podcast this week and predicted the Longhorns will just miss out on a berth in the College Football Playoff.
Iowa State is off to an 0-3 start in the Big 12 but its three losses have come by a combined 11 points. Last week, the Cyclones failed to score a touchdown against Kansas State but held a fourth-quarter lead before the Wildcats connected on a field goal with 7:14 to play. Iowa State is 96th nationally in total offense, averaging just 364 yards per game. However, the Cyclones are 11th in the country in total defense (277.5 yards per game) and allow just 4.81 yards per play. Two weeks ago, Iowa State held Kansas to just 28 yards in the second half.
Situationally, this certainly could be a tricky spot for Texas. The Longhorns obliterated Oklahoma last week in Dallas. Texas’ 49 points were the most ever scored by the Longhorns against the Sooners in a rivalry that dates to 1900. Next week, the Longhorns travel to Stillwater to play No. 8 Oklahoma State. Iowa State has thrived in the underdog role under Matt Campbell. The Cyclones are 21-13-1 ATS as dogs during Campbell’s tenure. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Campbell is 9-2 ATS as a double-digit underdog at Iowa State. The Cyclones have also won the last three meetings against the Longhorns.
Iowa State’s offensive ineptitude does leave room for concern, but given the situational spot and Campbell’s success as an underdog, I will bank on the Cyclones keeping this game close enough.
Pick: Iowa State + 16 (widely available)
Miami (Ohio) RedHawks (-6.5, 46) at Bowling Green Falcons
Saturday, Noon ET
Adam Burke: Wind could be a factor across the Midwest this weekend, impacting games in both the Big Ten and the MAC. The MAC is known as a conference with a lot of bad defenses, but these two will get some help from Mother Nature. The forecast calls for sustained winds in the 10-20 mph range with gusts a little harder than that.
For these two offenses, any additional hurdles are a problem. Miami ranks 104th in the nation in yards per play and Bowling Green ranks 111th. The RedHawks are actually one of the rare teams in the MAC that can play a little defense, as they rank 43rd in the nation in yards per play allowed. Bowling Green ranks 114th, so they have had all kinds of problems.
When Bowling Green does move the ball, it does it through the air, as BGSU’s offense ranks 118th in the country in yards per carry. Miami has a mobile quarterback and ranks 59th in YPC. With the weather conditions plus a better running game and a much stronger defense for the RedHawks, laying a touchdown is the play here.
Pick: Miami (Ohio) -6.5
Connecticut Huskies at Ball State Cardinals (-9.5, 48)
Saturday, 2 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: UConn is halfway to bowl eligibility, making this a huge game in Muncie for the Huskies. Ball State probably wins the game, but given its lackluster offensive production to this point, winning by double digits could be a tall ask. The Cardinals are 93rd in the nation in yards per play with 5.27, including just 5.34 YPP against non-Power 5 opponents. They’ve also managed just 5.1 YPP in the MAC, a conference with some of the worst defenses in the country.
UConn’s offense is far from explosive, but the Huskies have been able to find success in the rushing game. They rank 57th in yards per carry with 4.55, and Ball State is 85th in yards per carry allowed with 4.25. Ball State’s run defense has actually been worse in conference play than it was in non-conference play. Meanwhile, Ball State’s rushing offense has mustered just 3.88 yards per carry and only five rushing scores.
The forecast in Muncie on Saturday calls for wind gusts in the 20-25 mph range during the game, so running the football will be key and UConn actually seems to have some advantages there.
The total of 48 (which may go down as the forecast circulates) also implies a tight, lower-scoring game where points could be at a premium. With that in mind, UConn keeping this one close with a small chance at an outright upset makes sense.
Pick: UConn + 9.5
Alabama Crimson Tide (-7.5, 66) at Tennessee Volunteers
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Jeff Parles: The best Tennessee team in a generation has a chance to stake its claim as a legit College Football Playoff contender with a win on Saturday at Neyland Stadium. The Vols’ elite offensive attack is led by Heisman candidate Hendon Hooker, who has been absolutely spectacular through the first five games. Tennessee’s collection of receivers, led by Jalin Hyatt, should be able to have its way with an Alabama secondary that hasn’t been great.
On the Tide side, all eyes are on Bryce Young as he returned to practice after missing last week’s game against Texas A&M. For all of the talk that this was going to be Nick Saban’s best team ever, the Tide could easily have two losses already. If Quinn Ewers doesn't get hurt in Week 2, I firmly believe the Longhorns win that game. And last week against a mediocre Texas A&M team, the Tide needed a stop on the final play.
I know going against Saban isn’t the best thing to do, but with Young’s health in question and Alabama’s secondary, which has already struggled, going against the best receiving corps it has faced this season, the recipe for an outright upset is there. I’ll take the + 7.5 with Tennessee and I won’t be surprised if the Vols win this game.
Pick: Tennessee + 7.5
Wisconsin Badgers (-7, 49.5) at Michigan State Spartans
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET
Wes Reynolds: Wisconsin dominated last week in interim coach Jim Leonhard’s debut with a 42-7 victory in Evanston over Northwestern (now 1-5). The running game was productive (193 yards, 5.1 yards per carry), but the passing game stood out as Graham Mertz threw for 299 yards and five touchdowns, his career-best performance in his third season as the Badgers starting quarterback.
Although Michigan State ranks near the bottom in passing yards allowed (122nd of 131 teams, 292 yards per game), I’m not banking on Mertz putting up those numbers two games in a row on the road. Also keep in mind that the Spartans have had to face three of the top-20 passing offenses in the nation in Washington (No. 2), Ohio State (No. 14) and Maryland (No. 19).
The Spartans are 2-4 and have lost four straight (and four straight ATS). This is a game they must have for any shot at bowl eligibility. After a bye week, they take a trip to Michigan and also play Penn State on the road to close the season.
Granted, the Spartans are a putrid underdog considering they haven’t led for a single second in their four-game losing streak. However, Mel Tucker is 7-4 ATS as a home underdog which includes a 6-2 ATS mark against opponents off a SU and ATS victory.
This is Sparty’s last chance to right the ship.
Pick: Michigan State + 7.5 (widely available)
Mississippi State Bulldogs (-4, 49) at Kentucky Wildcats
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Wes Reynolds: Mississippi State is off to a 5-1 start and looks to be the main challenger to Alabama in the SEC West. The Bulldogs will get their chance next week against the Crimson Tide, but first things first for Mississippi State with a tricky spot at Kentucky, which lost by double digits at home last week without starting quarterback Will Levis.
This line was Mississippi State -6 and has dropped to -4, which indicates that Levis will likely be back from a foot injury.
The Bulldogs are off two big home victories against Texas A&M and Arkansas, but the final scores of both of those games are a bit deceiving considering Mississippi State had a combined + 5 turnover margin. Mississippi State failed in its first SEC road game last month, losing 31-16 at LSU.
Since 2014, the home team in this series is 8-0 ATS. Kentucky is also 9-0 ATS over the last three seasons when playing to avenge a conference loss.
Pick: Kentucky + 4
USC Trojans at Utah Utes (-3.5, 65)
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Danny Burke: It hasn’t been the most ideal season for Kyle Whittingham’s bunch. Losing your season opener against Florida in a tough environment in Gainesville is acceptable. Losing at UCLA, a team you’re supposed to be better than, while committing two egregious turnovers, is not. But the Utes and their quarterback, Cam Rising, are better than that — and they know it. And there’s no better way to redeem themselves than by defeating one of the hottest up-and-coming teams in the country at home Saturday night.
Lincoln Riley has immediately turned USC’s program around. Quarterback Caleb Williams is only getting better and the offense is a blast to watch. While the explosiveness on offense, along with an undefeated record, is all fine and dandy, there are still some concerns with the Trojans.
Defensively, on paper, the Trojans look pretty decent. They are allowing just shy of 19 points per game. The issue is they have played a soft schedule so far, and none of their opponents have featured a dominant offense. No wonder USC’s defense has been feeling good about themselves — they have yet to be challenged. Well all of that will change Saturday, when a ticked-off Utes team will be ready to showcase its true offense, one that averages over 40 points and 458 passing yards per game, in prime time.
Rising’s turnovers last week were an outlier. He will be ready to correct those mistakes and Utah will be ready to expose the fraudulent defensive numbers of USC.
Pick: Utah -3.5