Saturday's Best Bets
November 7, 2018
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College Football Best Bets – Week 11
My foray into the less-hyped SEC matchups last week provided bettors with the second consecutive 2-0 ATS sweep as both South Carolina and Missouri went out on the road and got outright victories against Ole Miss and Florida respectively. They were key wins for the Gamecocks and Tigers, as both continue to push forward to becoming Bowl eligible in 2018.
This week it's not a single conference I'm sticking too, but rather a couple of teams that landed outside of the CFP playoff picture but still inside the Top 10 in Tuesday's rankings. These two teams still have some work ahead of them (and will need help) if they want to be one of those Final Four teams, but whether or not they even get to the final week of the season with those opportunities remains to be seen.
Best Bet #1: Oklahoma State +20
It's “Bedlam” week over in the Big 12 as Oklahoma State visits #6 Oklahoma in a game the Sooners absolutely must have if they want to remain in playoff contention. Oklahoma has gone 3-0 SU and ATS in this matchup the last three years, winning by double-digits each time. However, Oklahoma was never more than a 12-point favorite in any of those meetings (closed +1 at Oklahoma State last year), and the last time they were laying this a big number in this matchup was back in 2014 when OK State came into Norman, Oklahoma and pulled off the 38-35 outright upset as +21 road dogs. This year's game has a chance to see a similar outcome as the nickname of “Bedlam” should live up to its origins.
Oklahoma may be ranked 6th right now, but their defense still has plenty of issues – especially against high octane offenses – and OK State can put up points with the best of them when they get things rolling. The Sooners ability to not be stopped on offense themselves – scoring 50+ in three straight weeks – is the only reason this team doesn't have another loss or two on their resume, and while Oklahoma will be able to put up plenty of points on the Cowboys defense, I'm not sure they can get enough stops to end up winning by three scores. OK State loves to play in those back-and-forth shootouts, and they've always been a team under Mike Gundy that plays up (or down) to their level of competition.
Oklahoma State's disappointing loss on the road to Baylor a week ago was a great example of that as it was a brutal spot for the Cowboys to face a tough, but weaker team. That game came after the upset win vs Texas and before this instate rivalry game, so the flat spot was rather predictable. It's performances like that though (and OK State's 31-12 loss at KSU a few weeks ago) that really baffle the Cowboys alumni because it's so clear the talent is there to compete for a conference crown every year. The inconsistency can be madding at times, but more often than not if it's considered a “big” game for the Cowboys, Gundy's got his team prepared to show up.
So in a game where these two teams will be trading scores back-and-forth and could ultimately be decided by who's got the ball last, catching nearly three TD's is just simply too big of a margin. The road team is 5-1 ATS in the last six games between these two, and the Sooners, for all their winning ways, are still just 1-4 ATS in their last five against a winning team and 2-6 ATS when coming off a SU win. We saw Oklahoma go down to the wire a week ago against a very similar team to Oklahoma State, and I would not be shocked at all to see this game finish as a one possession contest.
Best Bet #2: Ohio State -3.5
Tenth-ranked Ohio State has received a lot of negative attention this year – and rightfully so – for their conduct on and off the field, as they've now become that program that's become the popular pick to be counted out. An ATS run of 0-5 will do that to a team as they've really struggled with some much lesser opponents, losing to Purdue by 29 three weeks ago and then coming back from their bye week and barely getting by Nebraska (36-31) as 17-point home favorites. There is just no faith in the Buckeyes right now from both a national media pundit, and a betting market perspective, giving the Buckeyes tremendous value in my eyes this week.
For one, there is no question Ohio State's players have heard at least some of the “noise” about their team not performing up to expectation and how they are struggling with teams like Purdue and Nebraska. That kind of stuff only fuels the motivational fire for a football team, and it's not like Michigan State is a powerhouse by any means. Ohio State knows they've still got plenty of control of their own destiny – at least within the Big 10 East – in terms of winning out, and who knows where they land in the committee's eyes if that's the case. It's got to start with a win against this Spartans team that's already dropped two home games this year, and I think we see Ohio State do that with ease.
Michigan State has the reputation of being a tough home dog in the Mark D'Antonio era as time and time again they've come away with upsets in spots like these. But the 2018 Spartans aren't anywhere near as good as they've been in past seasons, and a 1-4 ATS run at home is a number Michigan State backers will conveniently ignore this week. Michigan State's biggest win this year also came at Penn State (21-17) when they were catching 13.5 points, but when Ohio State went to Penn State to face the Nittany Lions, they went in as -3 road favorites.
Sure, the 27-26 comeback win by the Buckeyes may not have looked as impressive, but they still closed 16.5 points better than Michigan State did in the same spot, and now they are only laying a FG against the Spartans? Can you not see just how much value there is there on Ohio State?
Now, buying this down (or waiting) to take a flat -3 on the Buckeyes is the smarter move here, but I'm not sure the hook will really matter all that much. Ohio State's offense – when rolling – should easily be able to put 30+ up on the Spartans and that's a point total the Spartans haven't reached since the final week of September. I expect Ohio State to come out and make a big time statement in this game with a double-digit victory, putting all that disparaging talk to rest for at least a week as that showdown with Michigan looms down the road.
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