Welcome back to our weekly look at college football’s lines. Here, we take one of the most volatile sports in one of the most volatile years and pretend to be able to predict it. It’s kinda fun.
I’m getting knocked around on big favorites this year, so we’re going to look at small lines and feisty dogs moving forward in a year in which points and drama have reigned supreme.
Here are three lines I like a lot, as well as a few fliers for a loaded Week 8 that sees the return of Big Ten football. I’ll be around on Twitter if there are any other games you’re looking at. Odds are supplied by our friends over at BetOnline.
Michigan @ Minnesota (+3.5)
This is an intimidating line and matchup to fly blindly into. Minnesota lost their offensive coordinator from last season and head coach P.J. Fleck is playing coy with just how many starters will be absent from this game due to COVID-19. The fact that the line hasn’t ballooned down beyond a reasonable field goal leads me to believe nobody critical, like returning quarterback Tanner Morgan or wide receiver Rashod Bateman, will be out.
This is more so a fade on Michigan than anything else, though Fleck as a dog and Minnesota at home are both nice teams to back. Michigan has been atrocious on the road against ranked opponents over the last 15 years, and while ranked opponents are a bit of an odd phenomenon this year, Minnesota is still legit as a top-four program in the Big Ten.
Harbaugh is starting a dual-threat quarterback in Joe Milton who will run behind a retooled offensive line against a Minnesota run defense that was average last year and projects as only average this year. There is reason to be concerned if the Wolverines are able to shorten the game with long running drives, but with little wide receiver talent left against an experienced secondary, they can’t score points in bursts the way the Gophers can. I’d sprinkle on the moneyline at anything better than +135, especially if you can only find Minnesota +3.
Notre Dame @ Pitt (+9.5)
Won’t go too far into the details here, but Pitt is one of the best deep passing teams in the country, Notre Dame is extremely stale on offense, and Narduzzi’s Pitt teams tend to perform really well against ranked competition.
The big deal here is the health of Kenny Pickett, who makes the Pitt deep passing game work with his legs and fearless approach—NFL arm talent notwithstanding. I think Pickett plays—that’s a large part of why they sat him against Miami, I’d imagine—but I wouldn’t take this until there’s confirmation. If there is, I expect Pitt to keep it within a touchdown, and push to win outright if Pickett is really at 100%
Maryland (+11) @ Northwestern (u54)
Northwestern is a double-digit favorite, which is absolutely ludicrous. They could be playing an FCS team like Rutgers and they still shouldn’t be a double-digit favorite. The Cats have one of the heaviest running approaches in all of college football, and even with Indiana transfer quarterback Peyton Ramsey installed, they lack the pass-catchers to offer any explosives.
The bad news is that the Northwestern running game isn’t even all that good. They had a 34.9% success rate and lost multiple offensive linemen from last year’s program, including star tackle Rashawn Slater, who opted out of the 2020 season. Maryland is far from a strong defense, but this figures to be a mistake-riddled plodder, especially when you consider that the Terps have yet to commit to a starting quarterback.
I like a teaser on this line to Maryland +17 and under 60.5, but if you only want to single bet it, I’d take the under on 54.
I’ve been playing bets on small dogs all year with success in an extremely volatile season, and I like a few more this week. Cincinnati is a great play +115 or better against an SMU team that lost their top wide receiver in Reggie Roberson (as well as their top running back in TJ McDaniel) with their top wide receiver Alec Pierce returning to rejuvenate what has been, to this point, a rough passing game. I also like Iowa State +125 against an inconsistent Oklahoma State team and Iowa as a small favorite (-3.5) against Purdue with the loss of Rondale Moore.