College football underdog picks, insight and analysis
College football in November means the push towards the playoffs and conference titles is in full swing. And this weekend a pair of games will impact the first edition of the college football playoff rankings. The College Football Playoff Committee unveiled its first rankings of the season this week, and two Big Ten teams and two SEC teams occupy the top four spots.
1. Ohio State (8-0)
2. LSU (8-0)
3. Alabama (8-0)
4. Penn State (8-0)
5. Clemson (9-0)
6. Georgia (7-1)
7. Oregon (8-1)
8. Utah (8-1)
9. Oklahoma (7-1)
10. Florida (7-2)
Also undefeated in the rankings are No. 12 Baylor (8-0), No. 17 Minnesota (8-0).
Using some of the defensive dominators along with updating the stronger, balanced offenses will assist you with some of your stats and weekly handicapping. But there is much more to evaluate and the heat gets turned up in November with teams pushing for conference titles, bowl games and the top teams shooting for a playoff position.
Last week was a 1-1 results on these pages with an outright winner on BYU (+3.5) over Utah State, 42-14. It was an unusual Saturday in Week 10 as only of handful of underdogs won outright with Charlotte (+5) and Oregon State (+4.5) the biggest underdogs to get a victory. Last Thursday on Halloween, Georgia Southern closed +13.5 after taking a ton of money and beat previously undefeated Appalachian State 24-21 as the biggest upset in Week 10.
We're going to fire for birdies and green in Week 11 on all three games between ranked teams in the College Football Playoff rankings. All six teams enter these three contests off a bye week.
NCAA Football Underdog Selections for Saturday, Nov. 9
142 Minnesota (+6.5) vs Penn State - Golden Gophers Moneyline +215 - 12:00 ET on ABC
167 LSU (+6) at Alabama - Tigers Moneyline +185 - 3:30 ET on CBS
193 Iowa (+9) at Wisconsin - Hawkeye's Moneyline +290 - 4:00 ET on FOX
All lines available at leading online sportsbooks including Bookmaker and 5Dimes, offering reduced juice and the best moneylines.
Penn State at Minnesota
The Golden Gophers (8-0) storybook season continues and Minnesota has opened up a two game lead in the Big Ten West division over Iowa and Wisconsin, who Minnesota will play in their final three games of the season following the Penn State showdown. The Gophers have improved as the season has progressed after early season close calls against South Dakota State, Fresno State and Georgia Southern in non-conference play. The Gophers are now qualified as a strong, balanced offense rushing for 215 YPG and passing for 232 YPG and have increased their scoring to 40 points per game (top 10 in the country). The rushing numbers improve to 240 yards per game at home. Penn State has an elite defensive front that pressures and gets in the backfield. The Lions have allowed just 71 rushing yards per game at 2.2 yards per rush on the road. Both defenses are defensive dominators and top 12 in the country with Penn State allowing just 300 YPG at 4.0 yards per play and Minnesota 272 yards per game at 4.3 yards per play. The Gophers have not only played a soft Power 5 schedule, but Minnesota has played against four backup quarterbacks in five Big Ten games. Penn State is certainly solid, but still overrated and won't be in the College Football Playoff when the regular season concludes in the next month. The Nittany Lions have won four games in which they were out-gained, and while Minnesota steps up in class, we must take the Gophers with the offensive balance and efficiency and defensive dominator stats in place as they play the biggest November game in decades in Minneapolis. Penn State is taking 65% of the spread bets at Sports Insights, but we disagree with the public's perception on Penn State this week. The Gophers can now 'Row the Boat' for coach PJ Fleck looking to continue their strong play in building courage and character in their biggest challenge to date. In a potential lower-scoring Big Ten battle, we side with the Gophers to get the Gold in the cold (40 degrees, rain/snow in afternoon likely after game).
LSU at Alabama
The biggest bet game of the weekend is LSU at Alabama, who occupied the top two spots in last week's AP Poll and are now No. 2 and No. 3 in the first college football playoff poll. Alabama has beaten LSU eight straight times, and the Tigers last win in the series was 9-6 in Tuscaloosa in 2011. This is the highest total ever in the history of this SEC rivalry with the previous high 54 posted in 2013. Sharp players have bet the under with the total down to 62.5 after opening 66. Temperatures near 60 degrees and sunshine with light winds will make it a fine day for football between these two defensive dominators, who allow 4.4 and 4.5 yards per play respectively. While not as balanced on offense, both these teams are explosive on offense and out-gaining opponents by 199 yards per game for Alabama and 221 yards per game for LSU led by Heisman Trophy finalists at quarterback. College Game Day is in Tuscaloosa along with many pro scouts to watch the talent on both teams including quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, who is questionable (ankle) for Alabama but highly likely to start after missing last game. Still, Tagovailoa will not be 100% and was noticeably 'not as nimble' at Friday's final practice before the big game. Both teams are also off a bye in preparation for this most anticipated match-up. The difference in the game will not only be defense, but which team can execute and balance more on offense and not have key turnovers, as Alabama is +13 this season in turnover margin. The Crimson Tide have only rushed for more than 200 yards in one game this season, and that was against New Mexico State. The Tigers defense has not allowed more than 150 yards rushing in a game this season. The offenses both rank top 5 in total yards and passing yards per game.
Alabama - total offense (510 YPG), rushing (168), passing (338)
LSU - total offense (525 YPG), rushing (163), passing (361) FBS games online, as LSU played one non-FBS team
Betting against Alabama is tough enough, and now coach Saban has a bye to prepare. The 'Tide are 31-1 SU in SEC play since the start of the 2016 including 5-0 this year. Alabama is just 3-10 ATS as a single-digit favorite in SEC games. Since the Associated Press rankings in 1980, the AP No. 1 ranked team (LSU) is 8-0 SU/ATS when playing the No. 2 team (Alabama). in the regular season. Not a big bet, but one worth making although this SEC showdown is the biggest bet game of the year in college football according to the head linesmaker at BetOnline and SportsBettingAG. At a consensus of seven leading online sportsbooks tracked by Sports Insights live betting data, LSU is taking 58% of the spread bets and 79% of the moneyline bets. We side with LSU.
Iowa at Wisconsin
Few teams have been better on the road in the past five years than Iowa (6-2), who is a defensive dominator and allowing just 10 points per game this season. Wisconsin (6-2) also holds defensive dominator designation, but the Badgers have not played as well in recent games allowing 24 and 38 points in back-to-back losses to Illinois and Ohio State. Iowa's last four games all went Under the total, and no quarterback was able to complete 60% of his passes and that includes Michigan and Penn State in back-to-back weeks in 10-3 and 17-12 defeats. Those two teams were also held below 4.0 yards per rush by the Hawkeyes defense, even as Penn State pounded the ball 53 times for 177 rushing yards. So Iowa can rise up to the Badgers strength in running the ball with best boy Jonathan Taylor, an elite running back for certain. The loser of this game is out of the Big Ten West title chase, and with a posted total of 38 and temperatures near 40 degrees, this becomes an easy take on the Hawkeye's as defensive dominator and nearly a double-digit 'Dog.
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FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay