Our Experts’ 5 Favorite College Football Picks: How Stuckey’s Betting SMU-Arkansas St.
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Arkansas State mascot
- Five of our college football experts give out their favorite bets on Saturday's slate.
- They'll cover the following games: Toledo vs. Kentucky (noon ET), South Carolina vs. North Carolina (3:30 p.m. ET), Northwestern at Stanford (4 p.m. ET), SMU at Arkansas State (7 p.m. ET), and Louisiana Tech at Texas (8 p.m. ET)
The last two nights have been fun, but let’s not kid around. There’s nothing like a real-life, overwhelming-number-of-games college football Saturday.
Our experts have been working all summer toward this day, hammering out power ratings and identifying mismatches that the market may not be accounting for in Week 1.
And we’ve arrived. If you need a few games to bet on Saturday, you’ve come to the right place.
All odds below are as of 5 p.m. ET on Friday and via PointsBet.
Our Favorite College Football Bets for Saturday
- Game: Toledo vs. Kentucky
- Spread: Kentucky -11
- Over/Under: 62
- Time: 12 p.m. ET
- TV: SEC Network
Like last week, I’m relying on a profitable system that leans into the wide range of outcomes that could happen in the first half of a high scoring college football game. (And college football is weird and high variance as it is).
When the over/under is high and the game is expected to be somewhat close, visiting dogs on the first-half moneyline have been a great bet — hitting 37% of the time for 12.9% ROI.
Toledo has far less talent than Kentucky, but the Rockets have a good offense and a savvy offensive-minded coach. They should compete for a MAC title this year.
Kentucky on the other hand replaces a ton from an excellent defense that surprised a lot of people last year.
At nearly 3-1, I’ll take a shot on Toledo heading to halftime with a lead behind that strong offense.
Pick: Toledo 1H Moneyline (+280)
- Game: South Carolina vs. North Carolina
- Spread: South Carolina -11
- Over/Under: 63.5
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN
Starting a true freshman quarterback in Week 1 is rarely an ideal scenario for a college football team. Starting one against an SEC defense in his first career collegiate action probably isn’t going to end well.
North Carolina will do just that when they throw 4-star quarterback Sam Howell into the fire against South Carolina. He was a massive recruit for the Tar Heels but that doesn’t mean he’ll be a star right away.
South Carolina has massive advantages in explosiveness and line score when they have the ball. The Gamecocks ranked 28th in explosiveness and 48th in offensive line score while North Carolina was 102nd in defending explosive plays and 91st in defensive line score.
The temperature is going to be nearly 90 degrees in Charlotte on Saturday so the break-neck pace that South Carolina moves at will wear out UNC’s defense even faster.
While North Carolina will be breaking in a true freshman QB, the Heels also have brand new coordinators on both sides of the ball. This is a perfect combination of events for a double digit Gamecocks win.
That’s why’s you’ve seen the line move from -7 to -10 this week and now all the way to -11. I was able to hop in on a -7 earlier in the summer but I would still play this game to -11.
Pick: South Carolina -11
- Game: Northwestern at Stanford
- Spread: Stanford -6
- Over/Under: 47.5
- Time: 4 p.m. ET
- TV: FOX
Home teams and favorites typically drawn plenty of public action, which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Oddsmakers are well aware of that, so when they post a line that sets the public on a road dog, there’s probably good reason for it. There’s also a good chance I’ll be taking that contrarian favorite.
Since 2005, home teams listed between -4 and -30 getting less than a third of bets (Stanford is getting 28% at the time of writing) have gone 54-32-0 (62.8%) against the spread.
Week 1 has also presented a more optimal time to take favorites, perhaps because the market is often hesitant to accept major differences in team strength before seeing the teams play. Ranked home teams favored by three touchdowns or less have gone 39-18-0 (68.4%) ATS in Week 1 since ’05. Such teams getting less than half the bets have gone 8-1 ATS.
Pick: Stanford -6
- Game: SMU at Arkansas State
- Spread: Arkansas State -3
- Over/Under: 56.5
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN+
This may look unappetizing on the surface. A Sun Belt team facing Sonny Dyke’s Air Raid offense. However, I actually think this matchup might not be as high scoring as some may think.
First of all, both defenses return a good amount of production from last year.
Despite losing two key playmakers up front, Arkansas State should still have an extremely strong defensive line. Last season, the Red Wolves ranked in the top 15 nationally in both Stuff Rate and Adjusted Sack Rate.
Meanwhile, SMU’s offensive line struggled throughout 2018, ranking 129th in Stuff Rate, so it may have a lot of difficulty converting on key third-and-short situations.
That said, the Red Wolves pass defense should be its strength once again with most of the pieces from a rock solid secondary back for this season. That sets up well against an SMU team that loves to pass as much as any in the country (126th in passing downs run rate in 2018).
Arkansas State had a prolific offense last year and plenty of talent on the outside remains in Jonesboro. However, it will have to replace quarterback Justice Hansen. The former Oklahoma transfer threw for over 10,000 yards in his career and will be sorely missed. The drop-off between him and new starter Logan Bonner is significant.
Bottom line: I think the strengths of both defenses match up well with each opposing offense.
Arkansas State has a defensive line that can control the line of scrimmage and a scheme that consistently generates pressure going up against a weak SMU OL. It also owns a secondary that can match up with receivers James Proche and Reggie Roberson.
And SMU’s defense, which was fairly underrated last year, brings back 10 of its top 11 tacklers. The Mustang secondary can slow down Arkansas State’s passing attack, which should take a major step back with Bonner, the new QB.
Oh, and it also doesn’t hurt that Arkansas State has a much better punter than kicker — which is very beneficial to the under.
Pick: Under 56.5
- Game: Louisiana Tech at Texas
- Spread: Texas -20.5
- Over/Under: 55.5
- Time: 8 p.m. ET
- TV: Longhorn Network
Could the writeup for this game just be that Tom Herman does not cover as a favorite and Skip Holtz generally covers as an underdog? OK, we’re done here? Great.
While most everyone knows about the Herman splits, its the Louisiana Tech coach that has been fantastic as a visiting underdog, per Bet Labs.
Conversely, Tom Herman has not been a covering coach when favored by 6-points or more. Last season saw close calls against Tulsa and Kansas.
But this handicap goes past the trend records for the two coaches. The Longhorns suffered numerous injuries during camp, most of which are listed as probable for the Louisiana Tech game.
The Bulldogs quarterback and wide receiver combo of J’Mar Smith and Adrian Hardy was one of the most explosive in Conference USA.
— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) November 11, 2018
On the flip side, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger will have to deal with Louisiana Tech shutdown cornerback Amik Robertson. With four interceptions and 12 pass breakups from 2018, Robertson will be able to shutdown a top Texas target like wide receiver Collin Johnson.
This number may get enough Longhorns steam to get back to 21 before kick and I’d like the safety of three scores, but our Action Network projections put this game at 14.5.
Pick: Louisiana Tech +20.5