College Football Odds & Picks: How We’re Betting Cincinnati vs. SMU, Miami vs. Virginia, More (Saturday, Oct. 24)

College Football Odds & Picks: How We’re Betting Cincinnati vs. SMU, Miami vs. Virginia, More (Saturday, Oct. 24) article feature image
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Mark Brown/Getty Images. Pictured: Brevin Jordan and Dee Wiggins.

The college football party can officially start this weekend.

The Big Ten returns to the field, joining the SEC, Big 12, and ACC as the Power Five conferences to hit the gridiron in 2020.

With its return, we finally get to see the likes of Ohio State and Wisconsin as they aim to return to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship.

Although the Big Ten’s opening matchups may be the most anticipated of the weekend, there’s plenty of other action to go around.

With so much going on, our staff broke down their favorite bets for eight games on Saturday’s slate.


Saturday College Football Best Bets for Week 8:

Check our top Saturday picks below, each of which comes from one of the following games:


All odds have been updated as of Friday afternoon.


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Quinn Harris/Getty Images. Pictured: Ryan Day and the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Matt Wispe: Ohio State (-13.5 1H) vs. Nebraska

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
  • Kickoff Time: 12:00 p.m. ET

My only concern for this Ohio State offense is how long it plans on using its starters in this game. Ohio State was the third highest-scoring offense in college football in 2019 with 46.9 points per game, and that was in Justin Fields’ first season as a starting quarterback. With a full season under his belt, it’s fair to assume that some of the minor issues displayed by Fields will be corrected, particularly with the strength along the offensive line.

Defensively, the Buckeyes’ biggest concern is the replacement of all but one starter in the secondary, which includes the replacement of two first-round NFL Draft picks.

However, unlike most college programs, Ohio State isn’t expected to see a significant drop-off in talent with two high four-star prospects projected as starters. Additionally, it brings back former defensive back coach Kerry Coombs as defensive coordinator, and he has a proven track record in developing Ohio State cornerbacks and replacing early draft picks.

All of that is just to say that Ohio State is incredibly talented and shouldn’t see the typical setbacks of most programs. In this matchup, it’ll play against a Nebraska team that has had trouble holding onto the ball. Nebraska averaged 1.8 turnovers and 4.9 punts per game in 2019. Should this Nebraska offense continue to display these struggles, Ohio State’s offense will build an early lead easily over two touchdowns. I’d expect the Buckeyes will also cover the -26.5 spread for the game, but with the second half likely to feature second and third-string players rather than starters, I prefer the first half spot.

[Bet the Ohio State first-half spread now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]


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Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Les Miles and the Kansas Jayhawks.

Ace DeCardano: Kansas State (-19.5) vs. Kansas

  • Odds available at FanDuel [Bet Now]
  • Kickoff Time: 12 p.m. ET

KISS Principle Game of the Year (Keep it simple, stupid).

Kansas is clearly one of the worst teams in all of college football. To make matters worse, its only offensive weapon, Pooka WIlliams, opted out of the season on Monday. This means the team with the second-lowest yards per play (3.6) in FBS just lost the only guy on the team who could be counted on to gain yards. Not only do the Jayhawks lose talent on the field, but they also have to be psychologically deflated for a team that has already been outscored 132-38 in its three conference games (an average margin of 31.33 points per game). I’m laying less than three touchdowns against that offense? Sign me up.

When laying a big number, you always have to worry about the motivation level of the favorite. Fortunately, the Sunflower Showdown is an in-state “rivalry” game. It’s also a game in which Kansas State has won the previous 11 meetings by an average margin of victory of 25.8 points. The Wildcats did lose all-everything QB Skylar Thompson earlier this season to an arm injury, but true freshman Will Howard has performed fairly well in his absence.

Howard isn’t the most accurate passer (50% completion percentage), but he has made big plays both with his arm and with his feet (he had an 80-yard QB draw in the opening drive against TCU). Howard just needs to protect the football, and the Wildcats should coast. That’s entirely likely, as he has only thrown one pick so far this season.

Another freshman, running back Deuce Vaughn, should provide the big plays. The nation was introduced to Vaughn when he was torching the Oklahoma Sooner defense to the tune of 164 yards and a score on only 12 touches.

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Joe Murphy/Getty Images. Pictured: The Memphis Tigers.

BJ Cunningham: Memphis (-13.5) vs. Temple

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
  • Kickoff Time: 12:00 p.m. ET

Anthony Russo is back at quarterback for his senior season as a Temple Owl. So far, his downturn in efficiency that was evident in his sophomore season has continued into 2020. He’s been throwing the ball for only 6.6 yards per attempt in his first two starts. The good news is that Russo returns his three main targets from last season, including Jadan Blue, who racked up over 1,000 yards receiving.

Temple never really developed a running game in 2019, and it looks like it isn’t going to develop one this year, either. The Owls managed only 3.8 yards per carry against Navy and South Florida.

Last season, most of Memphis’ defensive issues came against the run, as it allowed 4.5 yards per carry. This year, it returns most of its starters on the defensive line. That returning experience has contributed to the Tigers’ improved rush defense, which has allowed 3.6 yards per carry in 2020.

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Brady White has the Tiger offense firing on all cylinders. White looks like one of the best quarterbacks in the country through his first three games, throwing for 8.2 yards per attempt and 13 touchdowns. His performance has led Memphis to a ninth-place ranking in Offensive Passing Success.

Not only is Memphis lighting up the scoreboard through the air, but it’s also doing work on the ground behind sophomore running back Rodrigues Clark. Clark is toting the rock for 5.5 yards per carry and already has 315 rushing yards through three games.

Temple’s defense underwent major changes in the offseason. It lost its best defensive lineman and three starting linebackers from last year, each of which was a top-three tackler on the squad. Those losses have already made a major impact, as Temple allowed 30 or more points to Navy and South Florida.

If Temple losing its best defensive lineman and starting linebackers wasn’t enough, the Owls also had to replace their best cornerback and a starting safety. That will be a huge issue, as they haven’t faced a passing offense like Memphis’ this year.

I don’t think Russo and the Owls will be able to keep pace with White and the Memphis offense, so I’ll take the Tigers at home at -13.5.

[Bet Memphis now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]


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Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Journey Brown.

Darin Gardner: Penn State (-5.5) at Indiana

I’m high on Indiana’s outlook this season, but at the same time, I see a lot of value here on Penn State.

One key area in which the Hoosiers really struggled in 2019 was in explosiveness, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. In terms of Explosive Drive Rate, Indiana ranked 118th on offense and 119th on defense.

Indiana’s offense was efficient in the passing game, but the running game was disappointing due to a subpar offensive line. The Hoosiers ranked 98th in Line Yards, 110th in Stuff Rate, and 98th in yards per carry. They only return two starters on the offensive line and are facing a Penn State defense that allowed the fewest yards per carry in the country a season ago. The Indiana defense took a big hit when it lost stud safety Marcelino Ball for the season, and it’s coming off a 2019 season in which it ranked 90th in Expected Points Added and 93rd in Havoc.

Penn State returns four of its five starting offensive linemen as well as quarterback Sean Clifford, who finished 2019 ranked 19th in adjusted yards per attempt.

The offense, as a whole, ranked 24th in both Touchdown Rate and Explosive Drive Rate, which could lead to big plays against a team that struggled mightily with defending explosiveness last season. Additionally, Penn State brought in offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, who is coming off a 2019 season in which he conducted a Minnesota offense that ranked sixth in EPA. On defense, the Nittany Lions return plenty of starters to a unit that ranked 13th in EPA, ninth in Touchdown Rate, and fourth in Explosive Drive Rate.

This game is a large mismatch in terms of talent in terms of the 247Sports Team Talent Composite Ratings. Penn State is ranked as the 13th most talented team in the country based on recruiting, while Indiana is far down the list at 53rd. I project Penn State’s margin of victory at over 10 on a neutral field, and with no fans in attendance at Big Ten games this season, home-field advantage should be negligible. Get the best number you can, but I like this at anything under a touchdown.

[Bet Penn State now at BetMGM and get a $500 INSTANT deposit match]


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John E. Moore III/Getty Images. Pictured: Eric Monroe and Brandon Bouyer-Randle.

Pat McMahon: West Virginia at Texas Tech Under 54 

A Big 12 game held in Lubbock usually means we’re in for a shootout, but several key factors point toward the under being the play on Saturday.

First up is Texas Tech’s messy quarterback situation. Alan Bowman came into the season healthy and with plenty of hype, but after a rocky start, he’s officially been replaced by Utah State transfer Henry Colombi. Colombi will get the nod for the Red Raiders on Saturday, and while he looked decent coming off the bench against Kansas State and Iowa State, he’s being thrust into a difficult situation making his first career start against a very strong Mountaineer defense.

Speaking of the West Virginia defense, this unit is legit. The Mountaineers rank first in the nation in total defense, first in opponent yards per play, and third in pass defense. Despite some concern over a less-experienced secondary taking the field this year, the Mountaineer defensive backs have been fantastic, allowing just 148.5 yards through the air and picking off six passes. While half of their games thus far have come against Eastern Kentucky and Kansas, they’ve still been outstanding defensively against quality opponents. The Mountaineers allowed just 14 points against Baylor in regulation and only surrendered 20 points to a talented Oklahoma State offense.

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Finally, the forecast in Lubbock is calling for strong winds Saturday evening. Winds of around 15 miles per hour are expected at kickoff, which means both quarterbacks could be in for a long day. Fighting through tough wind conditions is not something either offense needs right now, as it may force both to run more than they normally like to. West Virginia has run the ball effectively against lesser opponents but put up an abysmal 68 yards on 42 carries against Oklahoma State.

The Red Raiders like to sling and don’t run the ball often, but they will need to establish the ground game early to take some pressure off Colombi in his first start since high school. With the wind being a factor, both defenses will likely stack the box and make it difficult for the opposition to get anything going on the ground, which in turn, will create many difficult third-and-long situations. This has all the makings of a grind-it-out game with plenty of punting and not a whole lot of scoring.

[Bet the West Virginia-Texas Tech under now at BetMGM and get a $500 INSTANT deposit match]


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Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: The Northwestern Wildcats.

Steve Petrella: Maryland at Northwestern Over 54.5

  • Odds available at PointsBet [Bet Now]
  • Kickoff Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

There are two ways you can approach a league beginning its season. Study and learn, or take a few stances you think the rest of the market might be sleeping on. And we like to gamble, right?

There are two things working in Northwestern’s favor here on offense. Peyton Ramsey transfers in from Indiana, and he’s a major upgrade over what it’s had (Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson was a bust, sadly). We don’t have depth-of-target numbers in the Big Ten, but Ramsey isn’t afraid to push the ball downfield.

Second is new offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian, who comes over from Boston College. You may not realize, but the Eagles ranked top-five in plays per minute last season. With Ramsey in the fold, I think they’ll want to push the pace and the ball downfield. Nothing about Maryland’s defense scares me here.

On the other side, Maryland hasn’t settled on a starting QB but has two good options, including Alabama transfer Taulia Tagovailoa, Tua’s brother. The Terps also have a nice collection of weapons at wide receiver, ranking 34th in average recruiting ranking at WR since 2016. That group has a budding star in Dontay Demus, five-star freshman Rakim Jarrett and Virginia Tech transfer DeJuan Ellis, among others.

Every year, Maryland’s offense runs rampant in September before it gets decimated with brutal injuries. And then it ends up starting some guy at quarterback who hasn’t thrown a football overhand since he was 11 (OK, that was just the one year it started a linebacker at QB). The Terps always recruit and develop well at the skill positions, and the injury bug hasn’t hit yet. There’s nothing predictive about this, but an interesting note — overs are 5-1 in Maryland’s first two games of the season over the last three years. It fits the narrative if nothing else.

I think the betting market is underrating a Maryland offense we admittedly don’t know a lot about yet and Northwestern’s desire to play fast. I’ll take the over, and I also like Maryland getting double-digit points and might sprinkle something on the Terps 1H moneyline.

[Bet the Maryland-Northwestern over now at PointsBet risk-free up to $250]


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Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Miami Hurricanes players.

Mike Ianniello: Miami (-12.5) vs. Virginia

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
  • Kickoff Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

Virginia is probably a better team than its record indicates, but it will not be able to keep up with this improved Miami team, especially with its starting quarterback still in concussion protocol.

The biggest mismatch in this game comes down to generating big plays. The Virginia offense ranks 60th in Offensive Explosiveness and has just 12 plays that went further than 20 yards this season and just three over 30 yards. The Miami offense ranks second in the country in Offensive Explosiveness and has had success generating big plays through rushing (second) and passing (rank 21st). This will be a serious issue for the Virginia defense that ranks dead last in the country in allowing explosiveness and has given up 28 plays of more than 20 yards, 14 more than 30 yards and five more than 40 yards.

The Hurricanes defensive line has been dominant this season and ranks third in the country in tackles for loss, 13th in sacks and 12th in Stuff Rate. Even with projected top-10 pick Gregory Rousseau opting-out, the Canes’ defense ranks 16th in Havoc Rate, led by defensive end Quincy Roche, who has totaled 2.5 sacks and leads the country with 9.5 tackles for a loss this season. The Hurricanes will be able to generate enough Havoc on defense and enough explosive plays on offense to comfortably pull away from the Cavaliers. I like Miami at anything under two touchdowns.

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Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Luke Fickell and the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Mike Calabrese: Cincinnati Moneyline (+125) at SMU

  • Odds available at FanDuel [Bet Now]
  • Kickoff Time: 9:00 p.m. ET

When a point spread hits the board and my power rankings call for the underdog to actually be favored, I tend to jump all over it. In the case of Cincy-SMU, the Mustangs are coasting on an offensive reputation that was built with better personnel.

Two weeks ago, SMU lost a pair of critical starters at the skill positions in T.J. McDaniel and Reggie Roberson Jr. and nearly gave away a large lead to Memphis. It followed that up with a lackluster performance against 2-3 Tulane. Since halftime of its game against Memphis, SMU has been outscored 58-37 in the last six quarters.

The Tigers and Green Wave couldn’t expose SMU’s offensive shortcomings, but Cincy will be more than up to the task. The Bearcat defense has created chaos all over the field for opposing offenses. When opponents have the football, 21.96% of their plays end in negative yardage, a defended pass, a forced fumble or an interception. This has translated into horrific performances from opposing QBs (QB Rating of 80.46, first). Luke Fickell and his staff had an extra week to prepare for Sonny Dykes’ Air Raid offense, which is ample time to get one of the best secondaries in the Group of Five up to speed.

Look for the Bearcats to put the clamps on Shane Buechele and company and take a major step toward a possible invite to the College Football Playoff.

[Bet the Cincinnati moneyline at FanDuel completely risk-free up to $1,000]


College Football Betting Related Links

« Collin Wilson’s Betting Card
Stuckey’s MWC Betting Preview »
« Big Ten Conference Betting Guide
CFB Betting Cheat Sheet »
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