Week 7 of the college football season is here, including the another week of terrific matchups.
Our handicappers Brian Edwards and Wes Reynolds are here to give you their best bets for eight games on the weekend's card.
Lines are consensus odds from VSiN's college football lines page, as of Thursday afternoon.
Boston College Eagles at No. 23 Virginia Tech Hokies (-12, 62)
Reynolds: Virginia Tech gave up 656 yards last weekend at North Carolina in a 56-45 loss, but the Hokies do seem to have their starting quarterback back in the fold, as junior Hendon Hooker missed the first two games with COVID-19 and another with an undisclosed illness. Hooker came on in relief of Oregon junior transfer Braxton Burmeister and threw for two scores, while also running for one. Hooker has been named the starter going forward. The Virginia Tech defense also seems to be getting more and more players back by the week, as that unit was hit hard by COVID-19.
Boston College pulled off the upset over Pittsburgh last week at just under a touchdown home underdog. Sophomore Notre Dame transfer quarterback Phil Jurkovec (65% completions, 1,181 yards, 8 TD, 2 INT) has given the Eagles offense life in the passing game, but they have also needed that life because they can’t run the ball. Boston College is currently averaging a puny 60 yards per game on the ground and just 1.9 YPC (76th out of 76 teams currently playing FBS ball).
New head coach Jeff Hafley has done a good job with this Eagles squad but this looks like a sell-high spot this week against a Hokies team that is starting to get healthier plus has some payback on its mind having lost its season opener last year on the road to Boston College.
Pick: Virginia Tech -12
Edwards: Boston College has been a lucrative money maker as a road underdog since 2014, producing a stellar 15-4-1 ATS record in 20 such spots. Regardless of the venue, the Eagles are 18-5-1 ATS in their last 24 games as underdogs since their 2016 regular-season finale.
Boston College’s defense is ranked 11th in the nation with five takeaways, and is 16th in the country in scoring defense, limiting opponents to an average of 20.8 PPG. Jeff Hafley’s team owns wins at Duke, vs. Texas State and versus Pittsburgh. The Eagles’ lone defeat was a 26-22 loss against still-undefeated North Carolina.
Jurkovec has played outstanding football through four games and has one of the nation’s premier tight ends in Hunter Long, a second-team All-ACC selection in 2019. Long has 31 catches for 363 yards and two TDs, while WR Zay Flowers has 21 receptions for 405 yards and four TDs.
Boston College is coming to Lane Field thinking upset; in fact, the Eagles are looking for their third consecutive win over the Hokies, who have failed to cover the spread in back-to-back games. Virginia Tech lost 56-45 at UNC this past weekend, one week after disappointing its backers in a 38-31 win at Duke as a double-digit ‘chalk.’
I like Boston College as a double-digit underdog.
Pick: Boston College + 12
Duke Blue Devils at NC State Wolfpack (-4.5, 59.5)
Reynolds: Duke head coach David Cutcliffe has taken over the playcalling this season and the team put together its best offensive performance of the season last weekend at Syracuse. The Blue Devils gained 645 yards of total offense including 363 yards on the ground (5.8 YPC) and had a 36-to-11 edge in first downs in a 38-24 victory (they would have scored even more if not for committing four turnovers). Duke has committed 19 turnovers in just five games.
NC State made the change at QB to sophomore Devin Leary for the game at Pittsburgh and now the Wolfpack have won consecutive road games at Pittsburgh and Virginia. However, the defense hasn't been much to write home about as N.C. State has been outgained in each of its last three games.
This is a role reversal game, as the Wolfpack have been road underdogs (winning outright the last two games) and played on the road for three straight weeks. Now they come home game as a small home favorite. Duke has shot itself in the foot all season with turnovers (-11 margin), but have been more explosive on that side of the ball.
Picks: Duke + 4.5; Over 59.5
Kentucky Wildcats at Tennessee Volunteers (-6; 46)
Reynolds: Kentucky was involved in one of last weekend’s most bizarre college football results, defeating Mississippi State 24-2 but only mustering 157 total yards for an anemic 2.96 yards per play. Kentucky couldn’t throw the ball (8-of-21 for 73 yards) nor could run the ball (84 yards on 32 carries), but its defense carried the day by forcing six interceptions after failing to force a turnover in the first two games. Now the Wildcats take to the road to face Tennessee, who had enough to hang in at Georgia for 30 minutes -- but not for 60 -- as the Bulldogs dominated the second half en route to a 44-21 victory. Tennessee led 21-17 at halftime but was outscored 27-0 in the second half and held to only 214 yards (-1 yards on 27 carries).
The Volunteers’ stout offensive and defensive lines were beaten up in the trenches by Georgia. The key for Tennessee is whether it can recover from the pounding plus the wear and tear of playing a physical team like Georgia in just a week’s time. The Volunteers are a program on the rise under third-year coach Jeremy Pruitt but were not quite ready to go toe-to-toe with one of the SEC’s elite. Pruitt has won both meetings against Mark Stoops and Kentucky and the Wildcats have not won in Knoxville since 1984 when Jerry Claiborne was coaching in Lexington. Both teams have a marquee opponent on deck with Kentucky hosting Georgia and Tennessee hosting Alabama the following weekend.
Tennessee is on a 33-2 SU and 26-8-1 ATS run in this series since 1985 and 7-0-1 ATS in the last eight years versus Kentucky, but the Wildcats won by a misleading final score last weekend and that's usually a fade spot … and yet the line has not moved all week. Often, teams are beat up the following week after a highly physical game and that should be the case for the Volunteers this week.
Pick: Kentucky + 6
Texas A&M Aggies (-6, 54.5) at Mississippi State Bulldogs
Reynolds: The Aggies faithful has been impatiently waiting for Jimbo Fisher to provide a signature win in College Station and he finally did just that on Saturday with a 41-38 victory over No. 4 Florida. The Aggies were able to move the ball both via the ground (205 yards on 38 carries; 5.4 YPC) and through the air, as senior QB Kellen Mond went 25-for-35 for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Texas A&M was also stout against the run, holding Florida to just 90 yards on 24 carries. However, they have given up 747 yards combined through the air and eight passing touchdowns the last two weeks against Alabama and Florida.
The defense will certainly have to be active defending the pass against Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense at Mississippi State. After torching LSU in the opener, the Bulldogs and QB KJ Costello have only been able to throw for one touchdown pass against seven interceptions in the last two games (against Arkansas and at Kentucky). Mississippi State threw the ball 70 times on Saturday and was held scoreless on offense, as the only two points came via a safety. The Bulldogs were the toast of the SEC just three weeks ago and now they are reeling. Leach said after Saturday’s game “I think we’re going to have to kind of check some of our group and figure out who really wants to play here….“Any malcontents, we’re going to have to purge a couple of those.”
This looks like a sell high spot on Texas A&M and a buy low spot on Mississippi State.
Picks: Mississippi State + 6; Over 54.5
Miami Hurricanes (-13, 48) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers
Edwards: I was able to get Miami at -10 early in the week, but I still endorse the Hurricanes at -14 or lower. We have several factors working in our favor here.
Most important, the line move indicates that Pitt star QB Kenny Pickett is unlikely to be in uniform on Saturday. Pickett, who leads the nation in passing yards (1,389) and has an 8-to-3 TD-INT ratio and five rushing TDs, injured his ankle in the third quarter of last week’s 31-30 overtime loss at Boston College.
Pickett continued to play after missing a few snaps, but he was limping badly the rest of the way. Even if he can play, he won’t be anywhere near 100 percent.
At Monday’s media scrum on Zoom, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi conceded that the Panthers don’t have a clear No. 2 QB. Narduzzi said he didn’t know if he would start Davis Beville or Joey Yellen if Pickett can’t go.
Pitt has lost back-to-back games by two combined points, dropping a 30-29 decision at home to NC State two weeks ago. With that in mind and the uncertainty surrounding Pickett’s status, it’s reasonable to assume that team morale is an issue for the Panthers, who are mired in a 0-3-1 ATS slide in their last four outings.
The 12 p.m. ET kickoff in Miami helps, too. The October heat in South Florida is as stifling as August temperatures everywhere else.
Before last week’s loss at top-ranked Clemson, Manny Diaz’s team had won all three of its games -- vs. UAB, at Louisville and vs. FSU -- by margins of 17, 13 and 42 points, respectively. I like the ‘Canes in bounce-back mode to deal out woodshed treatment to the Panthers, who will be playing an injured QB or one that’s making his first career start on the road.
Pick: Miami (FL) -13
North Carolina Tar Heels (-13.5, 64) at Florida State Seminoles
Edwards: Just like the Miami game, I was able to get North Carolina at -10 earlier in the week. Nevertheless, I’m confident in the Tar Heels as long as the number doesn’t drift north of 14.
More than anything, we’re fading this disaster of an FSU squad. The Seminoles showed a little bit of life in last week’s 42-26 loss at Notre Dame, and they even picked up their first spread cover as 21-point underdogs. But that’s where FSU’s program is at these days -- losing by 16 points is a moral victory.
Sam Howell was long-time verbal commit to the ‘Noles until Mack Brown landed the UNC gig and flipped the QB on National Signing Day. What a coup that has proven to be!
Howell had a 38-to-7 TD-INT ratio as a true freshman, and he’s completed 68.7 percent of his passes this year for 777 yards and six TDs. The Tar Heels have the country’s second-leading rusher in Michael Carter, who is averaging 137.7 YPG on the ground and 10.3 YPC.
That’s bad news for an FSU team that’s run defense is ranked 61st nationally (194.3 YPG). I anticipate Howell and Carter producing big numbers and UNC winning by at least 17-21 points.
Pick: North Carolina -13.5
Alabama Crimson Tide (-4, 56) vs. Georgia Bulldogs
The Over is 3-0 for Alabama with its combined scores producing 111, 76 and 57 points. Alabama QB Mac Jones has the nation’s top QB rating (220.35), and he’s completed 66-of-83 throws (79.5%) for 1,101 yards with an 8-to-1 TD-INT ratio.
Jones has elite WRs in DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and John Metchie. The trio has combined to catch 57 balls for 1,010 yards and seven TDs through three games.
The Crimson Tide leads the nation in scoring (51.0 PPG) and is ranked second in passing yards (385.0 YPG) and third in total offense (560.3 YPG).
On the flip side, Alabama’s defense has issues galore. This unit is ranked 66th nationally (out of 76 FBS teams that are currently playing) in total defense and 70th in pass defense (322.3 YPG).
Georgia is off its best offensive performance in a 44-21 home win over Tennessee. The Bulldogs are getting outstanding QB play from Stetson Bennett, who has five TD passes without an interception and one rushing score.
The Over is the play here.
Pick: Over 56