College Football Odds, Predictions, Picks: Our Best Bets for Saturday Evening, Including Mississippi State vs. Kentucky
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi, home of the Mississippi State Bulldogs football team.
- The college football action rolls on in the evening slate.
- Our staff broke down five bets for this kickoff window, with three of our experts aligned on Mississippi State vs. Kentucky.
- Check out all five bets for the evening slate below.
Our staff’s favorite bets for the college football evening slate focus heavily on the SEC — and three members are aligned on one of the night’s biggest games.
Three members of our crew think Mississippi State will down Kentucky in Starkville, while another Senior Writer sees Auburn taking care of Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss team. Then, our focus shifts out west as Oregon State goes to battle against Cal.
And luckily, this isn’t the end of the road. We still have three more picks to close out the night after these games kick off, so be sure to check out our top bets for Saturday night’s slate.
As always, use the table below to navigate to any pick for our top evening bets.
College Football Best Bets for Week 9
Our Top Picks for Saturday Evening
The set of college football team logos below reflects each of our college football staff’s best bets for Saturday’s evening slate of games kicking off at 7 p.m. ET.
Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific pick discussed in this article.
Check Out All of Our Staff’s Best Bets for Week 9
Looking for more of our college football staff’s top picks for Week 9? Check out our best bets for each of Saturday’s three other kickoff windows:
No. 10 Ole Miss vs. No. 18 Auburn
Hopefully Bo Nix season is in full effect for me on Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium because Auburn is my favorite bet of the weekend.
This is just a brutal spot for Ole Miss, as this will mark the fifth straight SEC opponent it will face in the month of October, rotating home and road trips for each one:
- at Bama
- vs. Arkansas
- at Tennessee
- vs. LSU
The Rebels may be completely gassed here, while Auburn should come in very fresh after a bye week.
I don’t envision Auburn having any issues moving the ball (particularly on the ground) against this soft Ole Miss defensive front that the Tigers should push around.
Also, the high-powered Lane Kiffin offense has been trending a bit down over the past few weeks for its standards as a result of key injuries at receiver and offensive line.
Pick: Auburn -2.5
No. 12 Kentucky vs. Mississippi State
Mississippi State ML -115
The Action Network’s own Brett McMurphy projects Kentucky in the Sugar Bowl, but a trip to Starkville may change the course of the Wildcats’ 2021 campaign.
Mississippi State is fighting to stay relevant in the SEC’s West Division with a 2-2 record and games to come against Auburn and Ole Miss. This particular game stands out because of matchups and the fact that what Kentucky does well on defense may not apply to the Bulldogs.
Kentucky has just one loss this season because of its ability to stop the explosive play. The Havoc-minded defense ranks fifth against rush explosiveness and top-40 in Line Yards.
Those statistics do not matter much against a Mississippi State offense running the Air Raid attack with a passing rate of 76%.
A closer look at the Wildcats’ back seven reveals a rank of 115th in Passing Success Rate and 104th in passing downs explosiveness. Mississippi State should generate plenty of offense with a top-10 air attack by Passing Success Rate measures.
The Bulldogs have been the worst offense in the country in explosive plays in standard downs but rank 12th in Success Rate in moving the chains. That will be complemented by a sagging Kentucky mark of 74th in Defensive Finishing Drives.
Can the Kentucky offense keep up? A heavy rush attack will run into a Bulldogs defense that ranks top-25 in Line Yards.
Mississippi State has had its own defensive issues against explosive plays, but that’s not a worry against the Kentucky offense. The Wildcats are known for standard downs Success Rate, but the Bulldogs are top-20 in getting offenses behind schedule.
Take the Bulldogs in StarkVegas and look for a different SEC team to fill that Sugar Bowl slot in the New Year’s Six.
Pick: Mississippi State ML -115
Mississippi State ML -115
Zach Arnett is a quality up-and-coming defensive coordinator. Oregon, Texas, and LSU were all interested in him as a possible replacement at DC this offseason, and it makes sense.
He turned around a defense at San Diego State in one season, and last year, he helped the Bulldogs finish in the top 25 against the run while generating 18 turnovers in 11 games (24th). It was enough of an improvement that he caught the eye of many head coaches looking for the next star assistant.
This season, the Mississippi State run defense is even better (11th), but its pass defense has been ghastly. That’s why this is a situational play in favor of the Bulldogs. Kentucky is the 30th-most run-heavy team in the country, choosing to throw just 24.8 times per game (112th).
In terms of hitting big plays, UK only has 19 pass plays of 20 yards or more this season which ranks them 96th nationally. That’s Mississippi State’s main issue — stopping the big pass play (93rd in competitions of 20+).
So, while I see UK and Wan’Dale Robinson doing some damage, I’m not sure it’ll be enough to offset a tough day at the office for Chris Rodriguez Jr.
Mississippi State ranks top-10 nationally in yards per carry allowed, total rushing defense, and rushing touchdowns allowed. In a strength vs. strength battle, I like MSU at home in this one.
And when the Bulldogs have the football, it’s easy to envision a big game for Will Rogers. Putting aside their blowout loss to Alabama, Rogers has an 18:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio, is completing 78% of his passes, and is averaging 375 yards through the air.
Kentucky can be had through the air, and Rogers and company will do just that on Saturday night in StarkVegas.
Pick: Mississippi State ML -115
Mississippi State +1 (-105)
This should be a fascinating SEC matchup on Halloween night.
Kentucky enters off a bye week following its first loss of the season to No. 1 Georgia in Athens. Mississippi State heads home after a beatdown of Vanderbilt in Nashville last week.
I like the Bulldogs in this spot for a couple of different reasons.
No. 1, the Mississippi State defense has done a fantastic job of limiting opposing offenses on the ground. The Bulldogs are holding opponents to 97 yards rushing per game, and this has come against a schedule that has featured several legitimate rushing attacks.
The Kentucky offense is dependent on rushing the football. Quarterback Will Levis is extremely limited through the air, and the Wildcats rely on the ground game to pick up the bulk of their first downs.
I believe Kentucky will really struggle to move the chains in this game, which will give Will Rogers and the Bulldog offense plenty of opportunities to cash in.
Secondly, I really like the situational spot that presents itself for the Bulldogs. Kentucky had its undefeated season ended by Georgia in its last time out, and while it did get a bye week following that, I have some doubts as to how it will respond.
Meanwhile, Mississippi State has started to click offensively, and this is a big chance for the Bulldogs to take the next step.
You better believe the Bulldog faithful will be rowdy and ringing their cowbells on Saturday night of Halloween weekend. Mike Leach may not like candy corn, but he’d love to knock off a top-15 team in Starkville under the lights.
Give me Mississippi State outright in this one.
Pick: Mississippi State +1 (-105)
Oregon State vs. Cal
With a win, the Beavers will clinch bowl eligibility for the first time since 2013. Expect the Beavers and their dominant rushing attack to do just that while the Cal offense fails to keep up.
While I don’t like betting short road favorites in the Pac-12, I love Oregon State here because of its running game and Cal’s inability to close games.
Both teams rank among the top two in Line Yards, but the Beavers run the ball 63.1% of the time (14th nationally), while the Bears run the ball just 48.8% of the time (109th nationally).
The Beavers have been more consistent in leaning on their stronger rushing attack, and they have been much more explosive on the ground overall.
This has helped their offense rank fourth in Finishing Drives, while the Bears offense ranks just 72nd in Finishing Drives.
Oregon State is simply the better team, and its running game will travel. The Bears have been competitive consistently in their losses this season, but outside of Oregon, this is by far the best team the Bears have seen.
This is undoubtedly the best rushing attack the Bears have faced, and the three-headed monster of BJ Baylor, Deshaun Fenwick, and Trey Lowe will lead the Beavers to bowl eligibility.
Expect the Beavers to win their third straight over the Bears as they cover, and bet them down to -3.