This week’s NFL run-down listed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers-New York Giants contest as WagerBop’s “embarrassing” pick of Week 11.
Our blog’s swing-and-miss on the Big Ten – on what could have otherwise been a “Royal Flush” weekend of college picks – made Tampa’s kneel-down 31-10 victory look like the Immaculate Reception.
Ohio State went to town on Michigan State to the tune of a 49-point lead in the opening half, blowing our prediction to Scarlet smithereens as OSU solidifies its standing as a top-2 CFP seed. Hurt feelings aside, it’s intriguing how Las Vegas is predicting so many blow-outs in games between tough, comparable rivals of college and pro football. Point spreads that appear exaggerated are turning out to be tiny margins compared to Saturday and Sunday’s scores.
It also feels like a very inconvenient syndrome headed into “Rivalry Weekend.” But the antidote to whiffing on wide spreads is to look for self-motivated teams who’re doing more than just get-up bigly for a rivalry game.
Missouri, for instance, would probably continue to play better defense (there was nowhere to go for the Tiger defense but up) even if a winnable, emotional scrum with Arkansas wasn’t on the ledger. Meanwhile, UGA head coach Kirby Smart doesn’t want to be echoing Dabo Swinney’s infamous post-South Carolina press conference after “only” beating the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets by 30 points this weekend.
Everyone wants to beat their rivals on a November afternoon. The best Rivalry Weekend picks ATS have bigger fish to fry.
FBS Rivalry Weekend Betting Lines, Previews, and Picks
Ole Miss Rebels at Mississippi State Bulldogs (Thanksgiving Night)
2021’s marquee Thanksgiving game gives us an example of college pigskin odds which are handicapped differently in different markets, as early betting action influences the numbers in weird ways. Mississippi State hosts the Egg Bowl as a (-1.5) favorite, but the Bulldogs are only a (-115) moneyline pick.
1.5 points are usually worth more than .05 of an FBS moneyline. For instance, you’d be hard pressed to find many (-5) point-spread favorites with (-135) odds to win.
The (61.5) point O/U offering is a weird line for the 2021 Egg Bowl, as a high-scoring game would lend individual points less value-in-proportion against the spread. But a 60-point O/U line isn’t all that crazy for an Ole Miss game, and the sportsbook’s odds are less generous for successful Under (61.5) bets than for high-side picks. Ole Miss’s fast tempo makes a low scoring outcome a bit more questionable.
Also of note is that Ole Miss has a “Top 10” ranking according to the Associated Press, but Sin City’s distrust of Lane Kiffin’s team shows in the Rebels’ (+1.5) point spread. Mississippi State is having a solid season that includes wins over UK, Texas A&M, and NC State, but has given up 30+ points to consecutive mid-tier SEC teams.
The culprit behind those (-114) “Under” odds are the Rebels’ recent problems passing the egg, and yet MSU’s defense represents a potential get-well opposing unit with no superstar ball-hawks or deadly edge rush.
Recommended bet: Over (61.5)
Boise State Broncos at San Diego State Aztecs (Friday, November 26)
San Diego State’s #22 AP poll ranking and home-field advantage for Friday’s contest stand in stark contrast to betting lines at Bovada and elsewhere on the web. Boise is a (-2.5) point spread favorite over the Aztecs, thanks to an active 4-game winning streak. An O/U line of just (44.5) for a game played under NCAA clock rules illustrates how much each team’s defense is respected, with the rival units ranking 1-2 in the Mountain West while racking-up intersections and sacks.
SDSU may not be a true favorite, but SoCal would make a solid pick ATS at (+1.5) points, let alone (+2.5) points. Boise State QB Hank Bachmeier has been less protected in the pocket than SDSU’s Lucas Johnson, and the Aztecs are both running the rock and defending against the run better than the Boise Blue.
San Diego State’s loss to Fresno State means that the team must win Friday’s game to clinch a West Division title. But pressure or no pressure, it’s rare to find that the stronger team on the LOS isn’t the favorite when playing on their home turf.
Recommended bet: San Diego State (+2.5)
Missouri Tigers at Arkansas Razorbacks (Friday, November 26)
Ohio State’s easy cover vs Michigan State last Saturday demonstrates that Las Vegas has been foreseeing blow-outs where Bristol pundits can’t. It’s still hard to tell why Arkansas (-14.5) vs Missouri is getting a similar treatment at FanDuel Sportsbook, since the Missouri Tigers have rallied from a mid-season swoon to forge a respectable defense and solid ground game behind new head coach Eli Drinkwitz.
Arkansas has fought hard to go 2-1 against a tough schedule over the last 3 weeks, but the Razorbacks remain vulnerable on defense and don’t count as a true 2-TD favorite.
Recommended bet: Missouri (+14.5)
Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Wolverines (Saturday, November 27)
If Ohio State’s moneyline to defeat Michigan on Saturday expands wider than (-310), it won’t be a surprise. Even though the Buckeyes are (-8.5) point-spread favorites, the latter line is not handicapped in a way to blow-off any chance of a Michigan win. Rather, the line serves to protect the sportsbook if Ohio State’s offense gets lava-hot again, and winds up adding 10-to-14 points on the scoreboard once UM’s tacklers become fatigued.
Even so, a mighty (63.5) O/U line appears too tall for an outdoor game in front of a massive, fanatical crowd. Michigan has had breakdowns on defense along the lines of MSU’s collapse last week, but pundits are too obsessed with blaming Jim Harbaugh to factor in the natural course of motivation in a conference race.
If the Wolverines were 7-4 with no chance at a major bowl bid, OSU would have a better chance to score 50 points. Given each school’s monumental W/L implications for Saturday, we can expect a bitter fight in all 4 quarters.
Recommended bet: Under (63.5)
Houston Cougars at Connecticut Huskies (Saturday, November 27)
The best of 2 midday picks on wide FBS point spreads can once again be found on the lesser-known conference. Georgia is expected to blow away Georgia Tech by (34.5) points on Saturday. Not only is Clean Old Fashioned Hate among the most emotional kickoffs in pigskin, but the Georgia Bulldogs have an SEC Championship Game to prepare for while GT can let it all hang out. The Connecticut Huskies are technically in a “nothing to lose” scenario of their own, but Connecticut has had such a bad year that ordinary Senior Day angles don’t apply. Houston, already feeling disrespected as a #19 ranked team with a 10-1 record, is a (-32.5) favorite ATS for a game at UConn that it could win by 10 touchdowns.
With such a terrific record on the books, why isn’t Houston more of a massive favorite? QB Clayton Tune marred the Cougars’ effort with 2 picks in last week’s defeat of Memphis, but Tune was right on key while piloting a decisive TD blitz in the 2nd quarter. There’s no reason for the more athletic team to be favored by less than 5 full TDs considering UConn’s lack spark on home turf.
Connecticut has flopped at home against Holy Cross, Wyoming, and MTSU, nearly losing to Yale at Rentschler Field in midseason. With a point to prove, the Cougars should thrash UConn badly.
Recommended bet: Houston (-32.5)
Alabama Crimson Tide at Auburn Tigers (Saturday, November 27)
Every player’s position may be scrutinized prior to the Iron Bowl, but this season’s epic state rivalry scrum comes down to a simple question. We know that Alabama (-19.5) will move the pigskin and score TDs against Auburn. It also seems clear that Nick Saban’s defense isn’t good enough to shut down a quality rival offense, though the Crimson Tide has more speedy playmakers who can produce drive-stopping turnovers at crucial moments. So how will the Auburn Tigers fare on crucial drives that move into the opponent’s side of the field?
The Auburn Tigers are a solid 45th in the FBS in Red Zone efficiency, having scored 17 rushing TDs from inside the 20-yard line. The only snag for that angle is that Bo Nix’s offense appears to be regressing late in the year. Auburn fell apart with the ball in the 2nd half of a loss to visiting Mississippi State that portended last weekend’s meek loss to South Carolina. That’s not the resume you want in a team trying to stay in range with Alabama.
Recommended bet: Alabama (-19.5)
Clemson Tigers at South Carolina Gamecocks (Saturday, November 27)
The Clemson Tigers are no longer a solid double-digit favorite against almost any respectable Power-5 host. South Carolina (+11.5) is superior to several ACC teams that Clemson has struggled to score 21+ points against.
Recommended bet: South Carolina (+11.5)
BYU Cougars at USC Trojans (Saturday, November 27)
Thanksgiving leftovers will be depleted in kitchens across America by Saturday night, which means FBS gamblers will be tired of betting the “Over” and cheering for points through sleepy eye-sockets by then. That’s fine, since WagerBop has a low-side recommendation for yet another optimistic prime-time O/U line.
The Trojans are once again being written-off at 4 wins and 6 losses, while BYU continues to fly high with a #13 poll ranking. Brigham Young deserves its (-6.5) line on the point spread at USC, but the O/U total of (64.5) points is over-the-top, considering BYU isn’t always capable of having its way with a big, burly Power-5 defense without a few punts and forced FG attempts along the way.
USC has an outside shot at 6-6 and will tackle hard, but the team’s lack of precision combined with BYU’s defensive prowess could combine to help the “Under” win by a significant margin.
Recommended bet: Under (64.5)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.