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Steve Marcus

Wyoming Cowboys quarterback Levi Williams (15) dives into the end zone for a touchdown during the second half of their game against the Wyoming Cowboys at Allegiant Stadium Friday, Nov. 27, 2020.

The end is in sight for the college football season that would seemingly never end.

This is the final week with a full college football betting board, a cause of sadness in any normal year. But this isn’t any normal year and, to be frank, this year the conclusion a bit of a relief.

College football’s biggest contribution as a sport this year seems to be providing a blueprint on how not to proceed amid a pandemic. As much as coronavirus outbreaks and canceled games have frustrated fans, it’s been even worse for bettors.

The lack of transparency has added a whole new wrinkle to handicapping, and not one that’s been easy to navigate. It’s not the only reason, but surely one of the reasons why I’m slogging through the worst season in the history of this column.

Going into the final full week, my record picking every game that kicks off Friday or later sits at 188-212-3 — 34-39-1 on plays, 49-50 on leans and 105-123-3 on guesses. I’ll pick ‘em all one last time, but win or lose, college football won’t be missed as much as it’s typically been when it’s over.

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.


Houston -5 at Memphis, over/under: 63. Memphis is limping towards the finish of the season with two straight big against-the-spread losses, but it seems like recency bias is the primary reason why this spread has gone up from its opening number of 3. The Cougars have looked just as poor as the Tigers at other points of the season. Guess: Memphis +5.

ACC (24-39-1)

Virginia +3 at Virginia Tech, over/under: 63. Selling high on the Cavaliers, which have covered five in a row but still have subpar talent and lack an explosive offense. Aside from last week’s 45-10 blowout loss to Clemson, Virginia Tech had been pretty unlucky during a four-game losing streak and likely due some positive regression. Play: Virginia Tech -3.

North Carolina +3 at Miami, over/under: 67.5. It’s not often you can get points with a team that has such a decided offensive advantage. The Tar Heels are on a different level than the Hurricanes by both EPA per play and success rate. Lean: North Carolina +3.

Duke +5 at Florida State, over/under: 57. The opening number of 3 fell more in line with my expectations in a game between two lousy teams, and I’m not sure what the Seminoles have done to justify a move in their direction. Still, this is one where it’s best not to get involved. Guess: Duke +5.

Wake Forest +1.5 at Louisville, over/under: 63.5. Louisville is not the same team that came into the season with a number of opt-outs, but Wake Forest hasn’t played in a month. Maybe the Cardinals lost too much, but this number feels particularly wild considering it would have been in the double digits a few months ago. Guess: Louisville -1.5.

Big Ten (21-21-1)

Wisconsin +1 at Iowa, over/under: 42.5. The Badgers offense is bad, but not quite as bad as their combined 13 points in back-to-back losses indicates. Buy low on a Wisconsin team that would have been a double-digit favorite over Iowa earlier in the year. Play: Wisconsin +1.

Minnesota +11 at Nebraska, over/under: 58.5. Before the Gophers’ coronavirus outbreak, the line on this game would have been around a touchdown lower. Sure, there might be some lingering effects and a few players still missing but this is too big of an adjustment. Play: Minnesota +11.

Michigan State +15.5 at Penn State, over/under: 46.5. Considering its 118th in the nation in EPA per play differential, Michigan State is lucky to be 2-4. The Spartans are a bet-against side, while the surging Nittany Lions are a bet-on. Lean: Penn State -15.5.

Rutgers +8 at Maryland, over/under: 58. Sometimes I sound annoyingly repetitive in these reasonings, but really boil this game and it’s Greg Schiano vs. Mike Locksley in the coaching matchup. Enough said. Lean: Rutgers +8.

Illinois +14.5 at Northwestern, over/under: 40.5. Forget “strength vs. strength”, this is weakness vs. weakness when Northwestern’s offense (102nd in EPA per play on offense) is on the field with Illinois’ defense (100th in EPA per play). At least the Illini seemed to have improved while it’s possible the Wildcats peaked early. Guess: Illinois +14.5.

Big 12 (21-22)

Louisiana Tech +21.5 at TCU, over/under: 52.5. TCU’s offense sits 51st in the nation in EPA per play. The Horned Frogs just aren’t explosive enough to give this large of a number. Play: Louisiana Tech +21.5.

Oklahoma State -6 at Baylor, over/under: 49. The number looks about right statistically, but Oklahoma State has gotten gradually worse as the season has gone on while Baylor has gotten progressively better. I know which side I’d rather have in a case like that. Lean: Baylor +6.

Conference USA

UAB -7 at Rice, over/under: 44. Rice’s 20-0 win over Marshall as 24.5-point underdogs last week was certainly eye-raising, but let’s not forget it’s also gotten beaten by bad teams in North Texas and Middle Tennessee this year. UAB is more consistently trustworthy. Lean: UAB -7.

North Texas -10 at UTEP, over/under: 63. This would be a fair price under normal circumstances, but UTEP’s situation is far from that as it’s dealt with additional opt-outs following a couple separate coronavirus outbreaks. Guess: North Texas -10.


San Diego State +17 at BYU, over/under: 48. I’m not downgrading BYU off last week’s loss at Coastal Carolina as it was pretty clearly the better team but just succumbed to some careless mistakes. The Cougars might have been worth a bet after opening at 14 here, but the number has now crept too high against a defensively sound Aztecs team. Guess: BYU -17.

Navy +7 at Army, over/under: 38. Army has been better than Navy in almost every possible scenario, but these games are always so low-scoring that it’s tough to suggest laying points. This might land right on the number. Guess: Army -7.


Western Michigan +2.5 at Ball State, over/under: 68. Western Michigan got caught peeking ahead to this matchup for the MAC West division title last week in a 53-42 loss to Eastern Michigan as 13.5-point favorites. For betting proposes, that’s all the better — now we’re getting points with the more talented team. Lean: Western Michigan +2.5.

Northern Illinois +6 at Eastern Michigan, over/under: 54.5. Too much of a prior is still holding up Eastern Michigan’s power ratings. Isolate for this year, and the Eagles have been just as bad as the Huskies. Guess: Northern Illinois +6.

Central Michigan +11.5 at Toledo, over/under: 52.5. It’s a shame a pair of field-goal losses — to Ball State and Western Michigan — will keep Toledo out of the conference championship game against Buffalo. From an efficiency standpoint, the Rockets rival the Bulls as the best team in the MAC. Guess: Toledo -11.5.

Akron +33 at Buffalo, over/under: 59.5. The Bulls can name their score if they want to, but will they want to? With the MAC Championship Game on deck, their focus just might be getting out of this meaningless game healthy. Guess: Akron +33.

Mountain West

UNR +3 at San Jose State, over/under: 59. Alert: This is an unlikely matchup of top-25 teams in EPA per play. The Spartans have gotten there with a better passing offense, however, making them easier to trust. Guess: San Jose State -3.

Boise State -11.5 at Wyoming, over/under: 47. It’s hard to forecast how the Broncos will look out of a three-week hiatus. In a cold, windy and likely low-scoring game, the points might be the safer option. Guess: Wyoming +11.5.

UNLV +20.5 at Hawaii, over/under: 57. Yes, winless UNLV is awful but Hawaii has endured its own issues this season and is lucky to have three wins. The Warriors haven’t come close to beating any team by three touchdowns all year. Guess: UNLV +20.5.

Fresno State -11.5 at New Mexico, over/under: 60.5. The Lobos have gotten outgained by at least 1.5 yards per play in four straight contests. Fresno State coach Kalen DeBoer has shown more progress in his first year than New Mexico counterpart Danny Gonzales. Guess: Fresno State -11.5.

Colorado State -13.5 at Utah State, over/under: 51.5. Utah State is a bottom-10 team in the nation by any set of analytically based power ratings. The Aggies should probably be at least 14-point underdogs to any team in the conference on the road. Guess: Colorado State -13.5.

Pac-12 (7-13)

Stanford +3 at Oregon State, over/under: 53.5. During its two-game winning streak, Stanford has actually been outgained by more than 1 yard per play. Oregon State is the better team by EPA per play, and judging by its four-game against the spread winning streak, continually undervalued by the betting market. Play: Oregon State +3.

California -2.5 at Washington State, over/under: 54. The Cougars are 19th in the nation in EPA per play on offense, and that’s despite playing one of their three games without now-returned freshman quarterback Jayden de Laura. In a likely shootout, the Golden Bears will find it difficult to keep up. Play: Washington State +2.5.

Utah +2.5 at Colorado, over/under: 49.5. Selling high on Colorado, which has surprised with a 4-0 straight-up and against the spread record but some context must be applied. The Buffaloes have faced one of the conference’s lesser schedules, and they’ve won by an average of only 7.5 points per game. Play: Utah +2.5.

Washington +6.5 at Oregon, over/under: 54.5. Washington actually rates one spot ahead of Oregon in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings, and it’s a similar story with other analytical sets of power ratings. From an efficiency standpoint, there’s no way to justify this large of a spread. Lean: Washington +6.5.

Arizona State -11.5 at Arizona, over/under: 55. The Sun Devils were a bet at the opening price of -8, but this line has climbed too high since then. The Wildcats have easily been the Pac-12’s worst team and fortunate that they’ve somehow avoided any blowouts so far. Guess: Arizona State -11.5.

USC -3 at UCLA, over/under: 62. Number is right on, but I find it a little easier to trust UCLA based on what I’ve seen this season. The Bruins have looked better-coached and more fundamentally sound. Guess: UCLA +3.

SEC (30-29-1)

Auburn -6.5 at Mississippi State, over/under: 49. The spread coming down from as high as 8 puts Auburn within range to consider. The Bulldogs put together a strong effort against rival Ole Miss in a 31-24 loss as 9.5-point underdogs but now have nothing left to play for as opposed to the Tigers, which are fighting for coach Gus Malzahn’s job. Lean: Auburn -6.5.

LSU +23.5 at Florida, over/under: 67.5. Alabama is currently a 14-point favorite over Florida in next week’s SEC Championship Game, and yet LSU was only a 5.5-point bigger underdog last week against the Crimson Tide than it is this week against the Gators. Unless the Tigers have completely quit on the season, something doesn’t compute and this line is inflated. Lean: LSU +23.5.

Tennessee -15 at Vanderbilt, over/under: 50. Despite needing a miracle to cover and cost me a winning play last week — yes, I’m still bitter — Tennessee looked improved in a 31-19 loss to Florida — especially defensively. They should be too much for a Vanderbilt team playing out the string after the firing of coach Derek Mason. Guess: Tennessee -15.

Georgia -13 at Missouri, over/under: 52.5. Georgia got the week off last week, while Missouri was locked into a shootout it eventually won 50-48 over Arkansas in its third straight game. The extra rest for a more-talented Bulldogs’ team should probably be worth enough to push this spread over 14. Guess: Georgia -13.

Alabama -32.5 at Arkansas, over/under: 68.5. At 7-2 against the spread apiece, these have been two of the most profitable teams to bet on all season. I don’t want to bet against either, but with the SEC Championship on deck, it’s hard to imagine Alabama devoting too much energy to running up the score. Guess: Arkansas +32.5.

Sun Belt

Coastal Carolina -13.5 at Troy, over/under: 51.5. No one should be in any rush to bet against Coastal Carolina, but this line looks a bit inflated. The Chanticleers have gotten blown out by the Trojans in two of the last three years and eked out a 1-point win last year. Guess: Troy +13.5.

Appalachian State -9.5 at Georgia Southern, over/under: 45. Appalachian State has as much talent as any Group of Five conference team. The problem this season has been harnessing it, but it’s never too late for a long-overdue breakout. Guess: Appalachian State -9.5.

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

Article written by #LasVegasSun