Week 10 of the college football season is here, with another slate of terrific matchups.
Our handicappers Adam Burke, Tim Murray and Scott Seidenberg are here to give you their best bets for the weekend's card.
Overall record: 44-42-4 ATS
Lines are consensus odds from VSiN's college football lines page, as of Wednesday night.
Saturday, Nov. 6
No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes (-14.5, 64.5) at Nebraska Cornhuskers
Burke: Big Noon Saturday on FOX heads to Lincoln for this Ohio State vs. Nebraska matchup. The college football community still seems to be buzzing a little bit about the Buckeyes and their troubles with Penn State, but let’s remember that Ohio State had almost seven yards per play and went 1-for-6 in the red zone. Some more efficiency in the high-percentage scoring areas and the Buckeyes win big and maybe even cover.
The defense for Ohio State has greatly improved throughout the season, but Nebraska will be a test. All of the talk with the Cornhuskers is about Scott Frost and Adrian Martinez and the future of the program, but this is a top-25 offense by yards per play with 6.68. Nebraska’s primary issue has been turning the football over and that could be a thing again this week, as Ohio State ranks tied for ninth in turnover margin going into this set of games and came in tied for 22nd with 14 takeaways. The Buckeyes have also scored six defensive touchdowns.
Ohio State, of course, is a top-five offense that ranks second in the nation in yards per play. Nebraska’s defense is also a top-25 unit in yards per play allowed with 4.97, but few teams have a passing attack like Ohio State’s and the Cornhuskers certainly haven’t faced any that come close.
Ryan Day doesn’t really have to worry about style points, but he’ll run it up if he can, especially with Ohio State in need of some red zone practice. Frost knows Nebraska will have to score to try and keep pace. This total is a little bit higher than I would have expected, but that suggests to me that I’m on the right track by thinking it’s a high-scoring game.
Pick: Over 64.5
No. 9 Wake Forest Demon Deacons at North Carolina Tar Heels (-2.5, 75.5)
Murray: North Carolina was ranked 10th in the preseason AP poll, but here we are in early November and the Tar Heels' in-state rival, Wake Forest, is ninth in the College Football Playoff rankings. North Carolina, on the other hand, is fighting for bowl eligibility.
Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman has been tremendous this season. Hartman is sixth in the country in passing efficiency and has 22 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. The Demon Deacons are ninth in the country in yards per game (495.4). Wake's offensive is explosive, just ask Army.
While the Wake Forest offense has been great, the defense is another story. The Demon Deacons are 100th nationally in yards allowed per game (421.5) and are allowing 5.77 yards per play. Syracuse had 514 yards against Wake Forest, Louisville racked up 517 yards and Army finished with 595 yards against the Demon Deacons defense. North Carolina enters the game ranked 12th nationally in yards per game (482.8) and QB Sam Howell will be the best quarterback Wake Forest has faced this season. Howell is averaging 274 yards per game through the air and has rushed for 99 yards per game in the Tar Heels last three contests. Additionally, WR Josh Downs is fourth nationally averaging 122.4 receiving yards per game.
The Demon Deacons have taken advantage of turnovers this season with a + 10 turnover margin. But, Wake Forest is due for some regression in that category, much like what we saw with Iowa (-3 in TO) in the 24-7 loss to Purdue.
One bizarre trend working in Wake Forest’s favor this week is that North Carolina is coming off a loss to Notre Dame. Oddly enough, teams coming off a loss to the Irish are 0-6 ATS the following week.
Despite the unique trend, I will back a team that just lost to the Irish. At 8-0, Wake Forest is worthy of its No. 9 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings, but the Demon Deacons have faced the 98th-best strength of schedule. Tar Heels fans should be frustrated with how the season has fared based on expectations, but the superior talent should prevail on Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill.
Pick: North Carolina ML (-135)
Liberty Flames at No. 16 Ole Miss Rebels (-9.5, 67.5)
Seidenberg: I love kicking teams when they’re down, and make no mistake, Ole Miss is down. Losing last week to Auburn eliminated Ole Miss from contention for the SEC Title Game. It's really easy for these kids to lose focus going from the gauntlet of the SEC to now playing an independent team that I’ll bet half the players on the roster don’t even know where the school is located. (Liberty is in Virginia, by the way)
Plus, there’s a lot on the line for the Flames here as former Rebel head coach Hugh Freeze leads a team into Oxford for the first time. I think his team will fight for him, knowing how much this game means. Ole Miss is banged up with so many injuries, including QB Matt Corral and some of his top playmakers as well. This is the perfect spot for the Liberty defense to limit this high-scoring Rebels offense. I think both teams will score and both will rack up well over 400 yards of offense, but, in the end, Liberty’s Malik Willis will make the play that Corral won’t and Liberty will cover in a game that will come down to the final possession.
Pick: Liberty 9.5, Sprinkle Liberty ML 300
SMU Mustangs (-4.5, 71) at Memphis Tigers
Seidenberg: If Seth Henigan plays, the Tigers plus the points are a good bet. Last week was crushing for SMU as their hopes of an undefeated matchup with Cincy in a few weeks were tossed to the side. Houston probably wins that game anyway on the final possession, but losing by a kickoff return for TD has got to be deflating.
Memphis boasts one of the best passing offenses in the country. As long as Henigan, who is a game-time decision after missing the last game against UCF plays, they will score. Keep an eye on his status.
Memphis covered six straight against SMU before losing last season on a last-second FG. When playing with revenge, the Tigers are 4-1 ATS at home. SMU meanwhile is 4-11 ATS as a road favorite in conference play. Memphis needs two more wins to be bowl eligible. They haven’t been under .500 since 2013 and would avoid that with a win here. I think this is another back-and-forth game, much like the one SMU played last week, with a little less focus for the Mustangs. Give me the Tigers as the dogs.
Pick: Memphis + 4.5 (if Henigan Plays)
North Texas Mean Green (-5, 48) at Southern Miss Golden Eagles
3 p.m. ET
Burke: Readers from last week will remember that I was on the Southern Miss/Middle Tennessee under. What an adventure that trainwreck was! The game featured nine combined turnovers and three defensive/special teams touchdowns and still found a way to stay under the total.
The weather won’t be on our side this week like it was last week for a Southern Miss under, but it might take six quarters for these two teams to get to 48 points. Hopefully they’ll only end up playing four.
North Texas ranks 109th in yards per play on offense with 5.02. Southern Miss is dead last in the nation with 3.83 YPP. If we remove the Golden Eagles’ win over FCS Grambling, they’ve managed just 3.48 YPP against FBS teams. We can do the same with North Texas and their win over Northwestern State and the Mean Green drop to 4.49 yards per play.
The Southern Miss defense isn’t great, but has held opponents to fewer than four yards per carry. The North Texas passing game is one of the worst in the nation, which means that the Golden Eagles might match up okay here. UNT’s defense is bad, but no offense in the country is worse than the one that they’ll face this week.
North Texas has one of the nation’s worst red zone offenses with just 12 touchdowns in 25 attempts. Southern Miss is 7-for-14 and has the fewest attempts in FBS. I don’t see how points are scored in this game.
Pick: Under 48
No. 3 Michigan State Spartans (-3, 54) at Purdue Boilermakers
3:30 p.m. ET
Murray: Back on Oct. 16, No. 2 Iowa hosted Purdue fresh off a win over Penn State. The Boilermakers dominated the Hawkeyes, 24-7. Enter Michigan State, who will try to avoid a similar fate at the hands of Purdue. The Spartans overcame a 16-point second-half deficit and defeated rival Michigan, 37-33, in East Lansing last weekend.
In the second year of the Mel Tucker era, the Spartans have obliterated all preseason expectations and Wake Forest transfer RB Kenneth Walker III is a big reason why. Walker rushed for 197 yards and five touchdowns against Michigan and is currently one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy. Can the Boilermakers slow down Walker? Purdue has not been great at stopping the run this season, as they currently sit 54th in the country in rushing yards allowed.
The Boilermakers have not played many elite passing offenses to date, but Purdue is ninth in the country in passing efficiency defense. Additionally, Michigan State WR Jalen Nailor’s status is unclear for Saturday. Nailor, who is averaging 18.9 yards per reception, did not play in the second half against Michigan due to a hand injury. If Purdue can sell out to slow down Walker, it will force QB Payton Thorne to beat the Boilermakers potentially without one of his top targets.
Defensively, Michigan State has allowed 300.5 passing yards per game, which is 127th out of 130 FBS teams. The numbers are a bit inflated due to Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe throwing for 488 yards in a 48-31 Michigan State victory. The Spartans are currently 33rd in defensive passing efficiency. Purdue WR David Bell is a nightmare for defenses to contain, just ask Iowa. Bell had 11 receptions for 240 yards and a touchdown in Purdue’s win over the Hawkeyes. Bell is averaging over seven receptions per game for 112.3 yards.
The opportunity to pull off another big upset is on the table for Purdue. The Boilermakers smashed No. 2 Ohio State at home in 2018 and stunned No. 2 Iowa earlier this year. With Kenneth Walker in the Spartans’ backfield, I think Michigan State might wear down Purdue, but I like the Boilermakers to be up for the challenge in the first 30 minutes on Saturday and even to hang on and cover for the game.
Pick: Purdue + 3, Purdue + 1.5 1H
No. 20 Houston Cougars (-13, 53) at USF Bulls
7:30 p.m. ET
Burke: The Cougars slid into the Top 25 after last week’s win over SMU, who was ranked 19th going into the game. Houston won 44-37 on a game-winning kick return touchdown with 13 seconds left. A lot of bettors subscribe to the “fat and happy” theory with teams that just got ranked in the Top 25 and are going on the road against an inferior opponent.
That describes this game perfectly. USF was a box score winner, but an ATS loser last week against East Carolina, as the Bulls were over a yard per play better than the Pirates, but lost by 15 because of turnovers and third-down troubles. Quietly, the Bulls are only -0.19 yards per play in their four AAC games. Houston is + 0.98 yards per play in AAC action. Good, but maybe not good enough to be laying almost two touchdowns in a tough road spot here. Houston has also benefited from a + 6 turnover margin in conference play with nine takeaways against three giveaways.
Per Sagarin, USF has played the 60th-ranked schedule and Houston has played the 111th-ranked schedule. Houston just stepped up and played a top-40 opponent for the first time all season. USF is far from being one of those, but the Cougars put a lot into that game last week and a letdown just feels natural, especially for a Dana Holgorsen team that is riding a high.
Pick: USF Bulls + 13
Texas Longhorns at Iowa State Cyclones (-6.5, 60)
7:30 p.m. ET
Burke: The Longhorns have dropped three straight games by one score. The Oklahoma game still stands out in the minds of most, but Texas has also lost by eight to Oklahoma State and seven to Baylor in the last two games. The Baylor showing was particularly frustrating coming off of the bye week, but the Bears are legitimately improved this season to say the least.
While the 31-24 loss looks disappointing, Texas had plenty of chances to win that game in Waco. The Longhorns were outgained by 45 yards, but both teams had 5.7 yards per play, as Baylor ran seven more plays. Texas was only 3-of-14 on third down and also turned the ball over on downs three times. Four of Texas’s five turnovers were in plus territory. The only one that wasn’t came on the fourth down that sealed the game with 1:40 left.
The two actual turnovers were both just outside of the Baylor red zone. In the loss to Oklahoma State, an 85-yard pick-six was the difference in the game. Casey Thompson hasn’t taken good care of the football, but Iowa State only has two takeaways in five conference games.
Iowa State fell from the Top 25 after picking up a third loss. From a yards per play standpoint, the Cyclones should be way better than they are, but they’ve struggled in every game where they’ve stepped up in class. This team just doesn’t seem as buttoned up or polished as we’ve seen from Matt Campbell teams in the past. Neither is Texas, but 6.5 seems a little steep here.
Pick: Texas + 6.5
USC Trojans at Arizona State Sun Devils (-8.5, 59)
10:30 p.m. ET
Burke: Pac-12 After Dark takes us to Tempe, where a raucous and lubed-up crowd will watch USC take on Arizona State. The Trojans are having a rough season as it is, but it was made that much worse when star WR Drake London was carted off with a fractured ankle on a touchdown catch against Arizona.
USC’s reliance on London is staggering for a team that should be able to recruit at a high level. London has 88 of the team’s 219 receptions (40.2 percent) and 1,084 of the team’s 2,522 receiving yards (43 percent). The next highest pass-catcher has 32 grabs for 396 yards. London also has seven of the team’s 17 touchdown catches. Gary Bryant Jr. has five and will now draw a lot more attention from opposing defenses.
Arizona State has not looked good the last two games against Utah and Washington State, so we’re getting a bit of a cheap price here. The Sun Devils are 15th in yards per play on offense at 6.73 and 32nd in yards per play on defense with 5.06. Going into this week, Arizona State was 10th in yards per play differential against FBS opponents. They should be a lot better.
Five turnovers killed ASU last week against Washington State. Thirteen penalties and a second-half collapse were the problems against Utah. But, this home game for Arizona State should be one of those “get right” spots. The Trojans defense has allowed over six yards per play and the offense is missing its best player.
The Sun Devils have a coaching advantage here and a really good opportunity to get back on track with a win and a cover.
Pick: Arizona State -8.5