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Mac Jones


In this Jan. 1, 2020, file photo, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws a pass during the second half of the Citrus Bowl NCAA college football game against Michigan in Orlando, Fla.

The Big Three has become the Lone One.

The college football betting market is no longer grappling with which team should be favored to win the national championship. It’s Alabama, by far.

The Crimson Tide are as low as -120 (risking $1.20 to win $1) to win the College Football Playoff in sports books across town. It’s a big change from a month ago when Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State were all offered at virtually the same price.

This wasn’t supposed to be a season where coach Nick Saban had one of his best teams, but it’s turned out that way through eight games.

Alabama is even encroaching on the historic efficiency of last year’s championship LSU team. A key part of the Tigers’ run to the championship was a 46-41 win over the Crimson Tide as 5-point underdogs.

Fast-forward to a year later, and LSU is a … 29-point underdog in the game. That speaks to the Tigers’ decline, of course, but just as much to the Crimson Tide’s ascent.

A year that was never supposed to have a clear betting favorite now has exactly that.

It’s been no banner season here, as I’m 170-189-4 (33-36-1 on plays, 45-45 on leans, 92-108-2 on guesses) picking every game on weekend slates. Read below for this week’s picks, separated by conference and labeled with one of three confidence categories. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side.


Memphis +1.5 at Tulane, over/under: 63. These teams grade out pretty similarly on the season, but Tulane has showed a clear upward trajectory while Memphis has stagnated. The Green Wave should probably be laying a field goal here. Guess: Tulane -1.5.

Tulsa -12 at Navy, over/under: 49.5. I have a personal rule not to bet against Navy considering how much it regularly outperforms its statistical expectation, but picking against it seems hard to avoid here. Tulsa has blown Navy away from an efficiency perspective all season. Guess: Tulsa -12.

ACC (23-36-1)

Clemson -22 at Virginia Tech, over/under: 54.5. Their 4-5 straight-up record won’t indicate it, but the Hokies’ statistical profile paints them as the second-best team the Tigers have faced all year. They’ve been prone to inexplicable mistakes, but if there was ever a time to expect the Hokies to get it together and throw everything they can at an opponent, it would be here. Lean: Virginia Tech +22.

Georgia Tech +7 at North Carolina State, over/under: 60. The Yellow Jackets look like a young team that was written off too quickly. They’ve demonstrated tremendous growth recently, including in two straight covers against Duke and Notre Dame, and the market may not have adjusted enough in their favor. Lean: Georgia Tech +7.

Syracuse +33.5 at Notre Dame, over/under: 51.5. You won’t often hear me say a 33.5-point spread is too high, but there’s no other explanation here. With mismatches all over the field, the Irish deserve to be laying five touchdowns or more. Lean: Notre Dame -33.5.

Boston College +6 at Virginia, over/under: 54.5. With a bye last week and a virtual bye the week before against Abilene Christian, Virginia has basically gotten three weeks to prepare for Boston College. That should tilt what otherwise looks like an evenly-matched game. Guess: Virginia -6.

Big Ten (19-18-1)

Indiana +14 at Wisconsin, over/under: 45.5. Michael Penix was doing everything for the Hoosiers, so the quarterback’s torn ACL and ensuing drop-off to backup Jack Tuttle might mean more than this number implies. Wisconsin is a tough first assignment for Tuttle as its defense ranks fifth in the nation in giving up only 4.2 yards per play. Play: Wisconsin -14.

Penn State -11 at Rutgers, over/under: 54.5. There’s a huge discrepancy between talent on the rosters here with the Nittany Lions having a clear edge. They struggled with five straight losses to the start the year, but this line would have seemed ridiculously short going into the season. Play: Penn State -11.

Nebraska +2 at Purdue, over/under: 61.5. Purdue has been a tad more efficient than Nebraska throughout the season. A fair line, therefore, would be the Boilermakers -3. Guess: Purdue -3.

Ohio State -23.5 at Michigan State, over/under: 59.5. Ohio State is so deep that the high potential of a few starters missing time with coronavirus isn’t as much of a cause for concern as it would be with other teams. The Buckeyes will also be out for style points with some suggesting they should miss the College Football Playoff because of their shortened schedule. Guess: Ohio State -23.5.

Iowa -13.5 at Illinois, over/under: 50.5. Iowa is more than capable of blowing out Illinois if it cared to, but there’s no indication of that being the case. The Hawkeyes, and the Illini for that matter, play at a deliberate pace that should keep this a low-scoring affair. Guess: Illinois +13.5.

Big 12 (18-20)

Texas -7 at Kansas State, over/under: 51.5. Yes, Texas is in a tricky emotional spot after its chances at reaching the Big 12 Championship Game were dashed with last week’s loss to Iowa State but Kansas State is in worse shape physically with numerous injuries. The latter factor is more predictive. Lean: Texas -7.

Baylor +22 at Oklahoma, over/under: 62.5. Don’t buy on teams at the height of their market perception. The Sooners have reached their peak off of their two best performances of the year, blowouts of Oklahoma State and Kansas, but they played at a level they’ll be unlikely to maintain in those games. Guess: Baylor +22.

West Virginia +6 at Iowa State, over/under: 49.5. West Virginia’s defense will be the best Iowa State has faced, but good enough to drag this spread down below a touchdown? I don’t think so as this is a spot where the line move has gone too far. Guess: Iowa State -6.

Oklahoma State -1.5 at TCU, over/under: 51.5. Steam is steadily coming in on TCU, which could possibly go off the board as a small favorite at this pace. But the virus has been running through the program and a number of absences should have more effect this week than they did against lowly Kansas last week. Guess: Oklahoma State -1.5.

Kansas +27 at Texas Tech, over/under: 62.5. Who could possibly pass up the chance to be involved in history as Kansas continues its march towards a winless against the spread season. Better question yet, who could possibly back a team this bad? Guess: Texas Tech -27.

Conference USA

Rice +23.5 at Marshall, over/under 44. Despite having played only three games on the season, Rice had some notable absences including running back Juma Otoviano in its return to the field last week. The Owls are already at a big enough disadvantage to the Thundering Herd before considering injuries. Guess: Marshall -23.5.

Western Kentucky+1.5 at Charlotte, over/under: 47. Is it wiser to back the better-coached team (Charlotte) or the more-talented team (Western Kentucky)? The correct answer is neither. Stay away from this last-minute replacement game. Guess: Charlotte -1.5.


BYU -10 at Coastal Carolina, over/under: 61.5. In a short-notice game like this where the line appears correct, I’m always going to first look toward the better-coached team and the home team. Coastal Carolina checks both boxes. Guess: Coastal Carolina +10.


Buffalo -11.5 at Ohio, over/under: 58.5. No one is going to want to bet against Buffalo after last week’s 409-yard, eight-touchdown performance from running back Jaret Patterson but there’s no choice but to sell high now. This spread would have been almost a touchdown lower a week ago. Play: Ohio +11.5.

Ball State +1.5 at Central Michigan, over/under: 61.5. Ball State’s three-game win streak is suspect at best as it’s won all three games by a touchdown or less and gotten outgained by nearly 1 yard play combined. Central Michigan should close as at least a 3-point favorite. Lean: Central Michigan -1.5.

Eastern Michigan +13.5 at Western Michigan, over/under: 66. Western Michigan has outgained every team its played this season by at least 1 yard per play. It’s only a matter of time before the Broncos bank the blowout they’ve been working towards. Lean: Western Michigan -13.5.

Toledo -9 at Northern Illinois, over/under: 55.5. Their final scores in back-to-back losses of less than a touchdown may not indicate it, but the Huskies are one of the worst teams in the nation by EPA. Toledo has as much talent as any team in the MAC. Guess: Toledo -9.

Bowling Green +2.5 at Akron, over/under: 57.5. This is the Toilet Bowl of the year, and anyone who’s tempted to bet on a game between two of the absolute worst teams in the nation might be better served flushing their heads. That being said, the idea of a team giving up 8 yards per play laying points is too difficult to construe. Guess: Bowling Green +2.5.

Mountain West

Colorado State +8 at San Diego State, over/under: 47. Colorado State has looked extremely sloppy in two of three games this year and now hasn’t played in nearly a month because of a coronavirus outbreak. Given the uncertainty surrounding the Rams, the Aztecs should be giving double digits. Guess: San Diego State -8.

Fresno State +7 at UNR, over/under: 59. There’s a big difference between games getting canceled for outbreaks and games getting canceled for contact tracing. Fresno State hasn’t played in two weeks because of the latter, and the rest could have come in handy as opposed to UNR which is playing a sixth straight game including a trip to Hawaii last week. Guess: Fresno State +7.

San Jose State -2 at Hawaii, over/under: 59. Situationally, this couldn’t get any worse for the Spartans as the game was moved to Honolulu with only a few days’ notice. The spread only moved four points, and that seems short given the travel and the way it cuts into preparation time. Guess: Hawaii +2.

Wyoming -18.5 at New Mexico, over/under: 52. New Mexico has no chance in this game against an imposing Wyoming squad, but it’s hard to count on the Cowboys at such a big number. They should get up big and be content to drain the clock, leaving ample time for New Mexico to backdoor cover. Guess: New Mexico +18.5.

Pac-12 (6-9)

Stanford +11 at Washington, over/under: 50.5. Stanford was outgained by nearly 2 yards per play in last week’s 24-23 win over California, with a couple fumble recoveries the only reason the only reason it was able to pull out the win. The Cardinal are a mediocre Pac-12 team and not being priced like it. Play: Washington -11.

UCLA +3.5 at Arizona State, over/under: 55. It’s hard to know what to make of the Sun Devils after they’ve been sidelined for the past three weeks with widespread positive coronavirus tests. At least the Bruins appear to come with the promise of a stingy defense. Lean: UCLA +3.5.

Oregon -10 at California, over/under: 59. The Golden Bears still haven’t recovered from a coronavirus outbreak that afflicted them at the beginning of the season. I’m in no rush to lay double digits on the road with a defensively-flawed Ducks team, but this line probably closes higher. Guess: Oregon -10.

Colorado -7.5 at Arizona, over/under: 59.5. Colorado opened too low as a 2-point favorite, but the spread has now swung too far the other way after getting over a touchdown. From a roster perspective, there’s not much separating these two sides. Guess: Arizona +7.5.

Oregon State +11 at Utah, over/under: 51.5. Number looks extremely high based on what the two teams have shown this season, but it might be justified with an injury holding out Oregon State quarterback Tristan Gebbia. The Beavers offense won’t be the same without him. Guess: Utah -11.

SEC (28-26-1)

Florida -17 at Tennessee, over/under: 61.5. There’s been nothing fluky about the outrageous production Florida has been putting up on offense. There’s been nothing to remotely indicate that Tennessee’s defense will stand any chance against it. Play: Florida -17.

South Carolina +11.5 at Kentucky, over/under: 48. The Wildcats don’t exactly have the explosive offense to attack the Gamecocks where they are most vulnerable defensively. That being said, the situation at South Carolina is unstable and it’s wiser to stay away. Guess: South Carolina +11.5.

Vanderbilt +35 at Georgia, over/under: 54. Unless Vanderbilt gets the mythical interim-coach boost after firing Derek Mason and letting Todd Fitch take over, this line looks a bit short. Georgia should be able to win by 40 points. Guess: Georgia -35.

Arkansas +3 at Missouri, over/under: 51.5. The personnel edge will be in Missouri’s favor, but that hasn’t mattered much to Arkansas all season. The Razorbacks have outmanned opponents up front and may be poised to do so again off of a bye week. Guess: Arkansas +3.

Alabama -29 at LSU, over/under: 68.5. The Crimson Tide’s run has left the tax to back them a bit too high. The Tigers may trail by this much at some point of the game but will be doing everything they can to keep scoring and potentially backdoor cover while the visitors will just be attempting to run out the clock. Guess: LSU +29.

Texas A&M -7 at Auburn, over/under: 49. Auburn would be a take at more than a touchdown, but it’s hard to see this number getting there. The spread is fair as is, but it’s hard to expect much out of Auburn following a physical, deflating 42-13 loss to Alabama. Guess: Texas A&M -7.

Sun Belt

Louisiana-Lafayette +2.5 at Appalachian State, over/under: 54. Despite playing a slightly tougher schedule, the Ragin Cajuns have been more efficient than the Mountaineers on the year at 1.9 net yards per play to 1.4. Given the relative unimportance of a line of 2.5, I’d rather just Louisiana moneyline at +115. Lean: Louisiana-Lafayette +2.5.

Troy -4.5 at South Alabama, over/under: 54.5. Troy is crashing, having lost three in a row both straight-up and against the spread to force questions about its motivation going forward. The Trojans shouldn’t be laying more than 3 points. Guess: South Alabama +4.5.

Florida Atlantic +2.5 at Georgia Southern, over/under: 42.5. Georgia Southern has been just as efficient if not more efficient on a per-play basis despite having faced a tougher schedule than Florida Atlantic on the year. The Owls remain hamstrung offensively. Guess: Georgia Southern -2.5.

UL Monroe +21 at Arkansas State, over/under: 69. As the season winds down, time is running out to fade the WarHawks, the worst team in the nation by EPA. Get in while you still can. Guess: Arkansas State -21.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

Article written by #LasVegasSun