Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023 | 2 a.m.
Four teams are now odds-on favorites to reach the College Football Playoff in the betting market with Oregon having joined the already-established Michigan, Georgia and Florida State triumvirate.
What if they all lose this weekend?
That might sound like an absurd suggestion and it’s highly unlikely to occur, of course, but it’s at least somewhat possible on Saturday — at least more than it’s been ahead of any other weekend this year.
All four teams are in games with spreads below 17 points. Throw in three more playoff contenders — Washington, Texas and Alabama — as 10.5-point favorites or less and Week 11 has a real chance to create some disruption.
That’s something that’s mostly been lacking this season. There have been a few scattered big upsets, of course, but to have five power-conference teams sitting undefeated with only three games left in the season is uncommon.
The only team in the category that looks almost fully safe this weekend is Ohio State, which hosts Michigan State as 32-point favorites. No other upset against a top-ranked team would be all that shocking.
The market’s top-rated team, Michigan, has the toughest test of all in going to Penn State as only 5-point favorites.
Georgia is the smallest regular-season favorite it’s been since the opening week of the 2021 season as an 11-point favorite hosting Ole Miss.
Oregon is laying 15.5 points to USC but it was the latter who came into the season as the favorite to win the Pac-12 Conference.
Florida State and Texas are taking on competent in-state rivals in Miami and TCU, respectively.
The market implies only around a .25% chance the aforementioned scenario happens and all four playoff front-runners lose. But with relatively tough games for seven of the top eight contenders, it’s more likely than not than at least one of them loses.
I’m picking against every single one of the teams, at least on the point spread. And while that was a coincidence, not a coordinated plan of attack, it speaks to a larger conviction I hold about this weekend’s slate.
College football has been mostly steady so far this season, but it’s about to get rocked in Week 11. I’m more confident in that bet than any of the game handicaps below.
Find picks on every Week 11 game below. Picks are labeled in three separate confidence categories — plays, leans and guesses. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side at publication time. The record picking every game this season stands at 259-267-11 (64-73-1 on plays, 89-88-3 on leans and 106-106-1 on guesses).
Michigan -5 at Penn State, over/under: 45.5. I hate to invoke the classic college football cliché of Michigan, “ain’t played nobody,” but truly, the Wolverines have faced the softest schedule imaginable for a national championship favorite through nine weeks. It’s going to at least take some time to adjust to playing against a Nittany Lions’ defense that might be the nation’s best with NFL-caliber players at every level including edge rusher Adisa Isaac, linebacker Curtis Jacobs and cornerback Kalen King. Play: Penn State +5.
Alabama -10.5 at Kentucky, over/under: 48.5. Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe put on a show in last week’s 42-28 win over LSU as 3-point favorites with 155 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. But LSU’s defense, which has been a mess all year, was susceptible to that; Kentucky’s is not. The Wildcats’ offense is coming around too, so if coach Mark Stoops is to be taken at his word that quarterback Devin Leary’s latest injury is not serious, then they have a real chance to put a scare into the Crimson Tide. Play: Kentucky +10.5.
Miami +14.5 at Florida State, over/under: 50. For a stretch earlier this season, it looked like this would shape up as one of the Seminoles’ toughest games of the year with a point spread around a touchdown. That changed with an injury to Hurricanes quarterback Tyler Van Dyke that’s contributed to the team going 2-3 in their last five. But Miami remains dangerous, and if Van Dyke is somehow healthier this week than he’s been laboring through the last couple games, then this line is too high. Guess: Miami +14.5.
Utah +9.5 at Washington, over/under: 53.5. Utah finally broke out offensively in last week’s 55-3 win over Arizona State as 9.5-point favorites, and gets another soft matchup against a mediocre Washington defense to try to make it two in a row. And even if the offense can’t continue heading in the right direction, the Utes are strong enough defensively to keep the Huskies from running away on the scoreboard. Guess: Utah +9.5.
Tennessee -1 at Missouri, over/under: 58.5. The scheduling spot far favors Tennessee, perhaps more than the line is implying. Tennessee has probably been game-planning for Missouri in practice for two weeks since it had a glorified bye last week in beating UConn 59-3 as 36-point favorites. Missouri didn’t have the same luxury considering it had to travel to Georgia for a bruising 30-21 loss as 16-point underdogs. Lean: Tennessee -1.
Ole Miss +11 at Georgia, over/under: 59. Missouri’s explosive-play ability frustrated Georgia, and Ole Miss is even better in the category. No one has done all that well in slowing Ole Miss quarterback Jaxson Dart, running back Quinshon Judkins and wide receiver Tre Harris. That terrific trio has left the Rebels undervalued all year — they’re 6-2-1 against the spread — and nothing has changed going into the game against the back-to-back defending national champions. Play: Ole Miss +11.
Texas -10 at TCU, over/under: 53. The expectation is that Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers will return for this game, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be 100% off a sprained AC joint. This is the biggest game of the year for TCU, meaning they’ll be well-prepared and were already trending upwards as it got new quarterback Josh Hoover comfortable in the scheme. Lean: TCU +10.
USC +15.5 at Oregon, over/under: 73.5. This line would have been at least a field goal lower at any other point of the last two seasons. Oregon may truly be a national title threat and cruise to the College Football Playoff, but long-term, it’s not wise to buy on a team at its peak in the market. USC meanwhile is at its bottom even though a better performance could arguably be expected after the long-overdue firing of defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. Play: USC +15.5.
Vanderbilt +14 at South Carolina, over/under: 57.5. Vanderbilt has been the worst against the spread in the country with a 1-9 record, and yet, the market continues to price it without any major adjustment. South Carolina has its own flaws but a much higher ceiling and blowout potential with veteran quarterback Spencer Rattler, who’s quietly put together a strong year despite not having much around him. Play: South Carolina -14.
Maryland -1.5 at Nebraska, over/under: 45. The talent gap here is much wider than the line indicates. Matt Rhule has done a solid job in getting Nebraska competitive in his first season as coach — for a clear edge on the sidelines against Maryland’s Mike Locksley — but there’s only so much he can do going up against a team that has a higher level of athlete at its disposal. Play: Maryland -1.5.
Indiana +6.5 at Illinois, over/under: 43.5. Indiana has made major improvements in covering two straight, including beating Wisconsin outright, but Illinois is also on the up and the latter’s statistical profile blows the former’s away. Illinois is 65th in the nation in net yards per play (+0.18) to Indiana’s 104th standing (-0.69). Play: Illinois -6.5.
Oklahoma State -3 at UCF, over/under: 64. Oklahoma State has gone 3-1 in conference games decided by a touchdown or less; UCF has gone 1-3. Flip a couple high-leverage plays and this spread is UCF -3. The truth is somewhere in the middle, right around pick’em. Sell high on Oklahoma State, which is coming off one of the best wins in program history by knocking off Oklahoma 27-24 as 6.5-point underdogs in the final scheduled edition of the Bedlam rivalry. Play: UCF +3.
Stanford +20.5 at Oregon State, over/under: 54.5. Oregon State’s market rating seems to have taken a minor hit after two straight non-covers, but it played better in a 27-24 loss to Arizona as 3-point favorites and a 26-19 win over Colorado as 13-point favorites than the final scores indicated. Stanford deserves credit for surprisingly eking out a couple Pac-12 wins but they’ve come by a total of six points. The Cardinal are still by far the weakest team in the conference on paper. Play: Oregon State -20.5.
West Virginia +12.5 at Oklahoma, over/under: 58.5. Oklahoma arguably didn’t deserve to lose either of last two games, let alone both of them, to Kansas and Oklahoma State. Statistically, the Sooner’s drop-off hasn’t been as pronounced as the chatter and polls would lead you to believe. They should remain motivated because they’re still alive in a topsy-turvy Big 12 Conference race. Play: Oklahoma -12.5.
Play: Old Dominion +13.5 at Liberty
Play: Auburn +3 at Arkansas
Lean: Minnesota +1 at Iowa
Lean: Eastern Michigan +19 at Toledo
Lean: UCLA -17 vs. Arizona State
Lean: Iowa -1 vs. Rutgers
Lean: South Alabama -11 vs. Arkansas State
Lean: SMU -16.5 vs. North Texas
Lean: Georgia Tech +14.5 at Clemson
Lean: Texas Tech +4 at Kansas
Lean: Kansas State -20.5 vs. Baylor
Lean: Navy +3 vs. UAB
Lean: Wyoming +6 at UNLV
Lean: Hawaii +19.5 vs. Air Force
Lean: Western Kentucky -4.5 vs. New Mexico State
Lean: Appalachian State +2.5 at Georgia State
Lean: Boston College +1.5 vs. Virginia Tech
Lean: Duke +13.5 at North Carolina
Lean: San Diego State +4 at Colorado State
Lean: Temple +7 at South Florida
Lean: Texas State -1 at Coastal Carolina
Guess: Georgia Southern -2 at Marshall
Guess: BYU +7 vs. Iowa State
Guess: San Jose State +1.5 vs. Fresno State
Guess: New Mexico +26 at Boise State
Guess: Memphis -9.5 at Charlotte
Guess: Wisconsin -10.5 vs. Northwestern
Guess: Tulsa +23 at Tulane
Guess: East Carolina +9 at Florida Atlantic
Guess: UNR +16.5 at Utah State
Guess: NC State -2.5 at Wake Forest
Guess: Louisville -20 vs. Virginia
Guess: Akron +18.5 at Miami (Ohio)
Guess: Bowling Green -9 at Kent State
Guess: Southern Miss +10.5 at Louisiana
Guess: UL Monroe +21.5 vs. Troy
Guess: Florida International +11.5 at Middle Tennessee
Guess: Louisiana Tech -7.5 vs. Sam Houston
Guess: Colorado +10.5 at Arizona
Guess: Connecticut +25 at James Madison
Guess: Mississippi State +19 at Texas A&M
Guess: LSU -13.5 vs. Florida
Guess: Michigan State +32 at Ohio State
Guess: UTSA -14.5 vs. Rice
Guess: California -1 vs. Washington State
Guess: Cincinnati +2.5 at Houston