College Football Expert Picks: Our Staff’s Favorite Rivalry Week Bets
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Brian Kelly and Notre Dame football players
Who’s ready for Rivalry Saturday?
Our college football experts definitely are, finding value on a couple of Saturday’s biggest games: Ohio State-Michigan, Texas A&M-LSU and Notre Dame-USC, to name a few.
Let’s get to it.
In case you’re curious, our staff’s favorite college football bets are 76-77-1 -1.6 units on the season.
John Ewing — Ohio State +4.5 vs. Michigan
Noon ET on ABC
Good luck betting against Urban Meyer as a dog. Ohio State is 6-0 straight up and against the spread when getting points in the Meyer era, per our Bet Labs data.
And it’s not a one-stop fluke, either: Meyer has been fantastic as an underdog throughout his entire career, amassing a 20-6 ATS record at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State. He even won 17 of those games outright.
Danny Donahue — Miami -4.5 vs. Pitt
3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Any time the public decides to fade a home favorite, you can be pretty certain I’ll be going up against them. In this one, only 38% of bettors are backing Miami, which sets up a nice spot to grab an undervalued home team.
When a home team listed between -4 and -7 has gotten less than 40% of bets since 2005, that team has gone 58-40 (59.2%) against the spread. Not bad.
Wilson — Auburn +24.5 at Alabama
3:30 p.m. ET on CBS
This is simply too many points in the Iron Bowl for an Auburn defense that profiles similarly to Mississippi State and LSU. The Tigers’ defense ranks 16th in passing completion rate and 13th in defending passing down explosiveness.
After a fairly disappointing season, Auburn will treat this as its 2018 Super Bowl, while Alabama has bigger fish to fry. Take the 24.5 in this heated in-state rivalry.
Stuckey — Texas A&M -3 vs. LSU
7:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network
As I noted in my weekly unit mimsatches piece, this is a plus-matchup for the dominant Texas A&M run defense, which allows the second-fewest rushing yards per game (80.8). That spells trouble for an LSU offense that has struggled to move the ball on the ground all season (4.1 yards per carry; 85th in country).
That will put the onus on Joe Burrow and the passing attack, which I simply don’t trust — especially since A&M should generate a lot of pressure on third-and-long situations from a defense that ranks 21st in adjusted sack rate on passing downs compared to 98th for the LSU offensive line.
Bottom line: LSU can’t exploit the Aggies’ two primary weaknesses of defending explosiveness and the pass. A&M gets the home win in one of the toughest places to play in the country to avenge a 24-point blowout loss last season.
Steve Petrella — Texas A&M -3 vs. LSU
7:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network
One more chance to fade LSU during this college football regular season.
LSU’s defense is legit, but I’m still not sold on quarterback Burrow and this inefficient offense, and Texas A&M is the much more balanced team. The Aggies rank top 35 in offensive and defensive S&P+, and they have a good enough special teams unit to match LSU.
LSU is still suffering from a good amount of turnover luck and has won 1.5 more games than expected, per Football Outsiders’ Second Order Win Total. The Aggies should have another half win by the same measure. I think they close the season strong and get revenge for last year’s blowout loss to the Tigers.
Ken Barkley — Notre Dame -11 vs. USC
8 p.m. ET on ABC
This has the potential to be quite a disaster for the Trojans. Not only does Notre Dame have the superior offense, defense and coaching staff (USC has a small advantage in special teams), but the Irish also obviously have all the motivation in the world to run up the score and eliminate any possible doubts the College Football Playoff Committee may have.
Because of USC’s sneaky lackluster schedule, this will be both the best offense and best defense they have faced this season, in my opinion (USC avoided Oregon and Washington from the North), which means the Trojans’ previous results may not even be appropriately preparing us for how bad this might get.
Sean Koerner: UNC +7 vs. NC State