College Football's 10 Best Bets for Week 11

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistNovember 5, 2013

College Football's 10 Best Bets for Week 11

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    Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

    Week 10 is a thing of the past—good riddance!—and now college football fans can look forward to the most stacked slate of games on the schedule this season.

    Starting with a historically awesome Thursday night—which includes both No. 3 Oregon at No. 5 Stanford and No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 6 Baylor—Week 11 is loaded from top to bottom with important matchups between good teams who hate each other.

    Because of the strength of this weekend, Vegas is expected to see an uptick in action, with non-partisan bettors looking for a way to get invested in all of the giant games.

    And when the books take on extra money—especially on the biggest, most high-profile games—there is usually a chance for smart bettors to jump in, take the contrarian side and find some juicy value.

    Here are 10 bets, ranked in descending order of confidence, that can help you bring down the house this weekend.

    Note: All lines via VegasInsider.

10. Florida State at Wake Forest (+35)

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    Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

    The Pick: Wake Forest

    Florida State is more than 35 points better than Wake Forest, but the Seminoles are in a prime letdown spot after shredding No. 7 Miami and have no real incentive to make a statement.

    The Demon Deacons have covered both of their ACC home games against North Carolina State and Maryland, and even though they got killed at Clemson, they have historically been much better in Winston-Salem.

    Even if Florida State comes out firing—as it did against North Carolina State on the heels of beating Clemson—it is likely to take its foot off the gas with a big lead, giving Wake Forest a good chance to sneak in for a backdoor cover.

    N.C. State was also giving 35 points to the Seminoles, and despite going down 35-0 in the first quarter, it still eventually cashed the ticket by losing 49-17.

9. Nebraska (+7) at Michigan

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The Pick: Michigan

    It would be easy to pick on Michigan after its listless performance at Michigan State, but there's a chance the Spartans are actually quite good, and the Wolverines' offensive line couldn't match up with a defensive front seven that is definitely quite good.

    That is not the case with Nebraska's defensive front seven, so Michigan might be able to mask some of the holes that were made so vivid in East Lansing. Heading back to the Big House, with its back against the wall, I expect Michigan to rebound well and show up ready to play.

    If you were lucky, you grabbed this when it opened at 6.5, and I am not crazy about laying the full touchdown. But since Brady Hoke took over in 2011, Michigan is 5-0 playing a Big Ten opponent off of a loss, winning those games by an average of 21.6 points.

    Also, the last time Nebraska traveled to Ann Arbor it lost 45-17, despite being ranked No. 15 in the country. And that team was a lot better than this one.

8. Virginia Tech (+6.5) at Miami

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    The Pick: Virginia Tech

    Dallas Crawford is good, but he is not Duke Johnson. And even if he was, I'm not sure Miami is the better team in this game.

    Virginia Tech is reeling right now, but I think its defense is the best unit on the field, and I always feel good about getting that plus nearly a touchdown. That holds especially true on a road field that's basically a neutral venue, since Sun Life Stadium is hollow and historically hasn't provided much of an advantage for the home team.

    Miami must bounce back for the first time this season, having just lost whatever delusions of BCS grandeur it might have harbored before traveling to Tallahassee. With its best player gone for the season, how will the Hurricanes fare in that spot?

    I'll bet on Frank Beamer—at least to keep things close. By the time this game kicks off, it will have been over a month since Miami has won by a touchdown.

7. Houston (+10.5) at Central Florida

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    Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

    The Pick: Houston

    Houston is 7-1 on the season, but it's actually the Cougars' one loss that makes me confident in their ability to cover—much more so than any of their wins.

    BYU is a very, very very solid team, placing No. 11 in the most recent F/+ ratings from Football Outsiders, which were published after BYU's most recent game on Oct. 25. 

    Houston was able to hang with the (other) Cougars for all four quarters, and even though it eventually lost by one point, 47-46, it proved itself capable of playing against quality competition.

    Central Florida is also very good, but I wasn't crazy about its home-field advantage after watching the South Carolina game—a Gamecocks win that felt more lopsided than the final score, 28-25, indicated.

    Houston can keep this within 10 points.

6. Colorado (+28) at Washington

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    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    The Pick: Washington

    Colorado just lost by 21 points at UCLA, a team that I value as roughly even to Washington (if not slightly better). So on the surface, this line seems close to right.

    But the context says otherwise. UCLA was coming off of back-to-back road games at Stanford and Oregon, and even against a Bruins team that was worn down physically, the Buffaloes were unable to stay within 20 points.

    Washington also played back-to-back road games at Oregon and Stanford this year, and the result of its following game—a 53-24 loss at Arizona State—has crippled its value. But I still remember the Huskies team that beat Boise State and Arizona by a combined 60 points on its home field this season.

    Coming off of a bye, I expect this team to closer resemble those Huskies—and the Huskies who outgained Stanford by 210 yards in Palo Alto—than the Huskies who got destroyed in Tempe, Ariz.

    Washington by five or more touchdowns.

5. Oregon at Stanford (+10.5)

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    The Pick: Stanford

    Oregon is likely a better team than Stanford, and if I had to bet the moneyline, I would take the Ducks to win this Thursday in Palo Alto. But 10.5 points is WAY too much.

    The Cardinal did, after all, beat a similar (albeit slightly worse) Oregon team on the road last season, and they appear to have figured out a blueprint to slowing down the Ducks' fast-paced attack.

    What's more, according to Football Outsiders' F/+ ratings, Stanford has actually been the better overall team this year, bolstered by the No. 2 defense in college football as of Week 9.

    Once the Week 10 numbers are processed, the Cardinal are likely to jump past Virginia Tech and have—statistically—the best defense in college football, in addition to home-field advantage and that proven track record of success against their opponent.

    You're telling me that team can't stay within single digits?

4. Arkansas (+17) at Ole Miss

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Pick: Ole Miss

    Maybe I'm missing something here—the closest I could come in my research was a small, three-point margin when they met in Fayetteville last year—but I don't get why this number is so low.

    Arkansas is bad. Like, really bad. Prior to last week's home game with Auburn, which it lost convincingly despite playing as hard as it possibly could, the Razorbacks had been outscored 134-10 in their last 11 quarters.

    I think Ole Miss turned a corner in its upset win over LSU, and now that it is back in the win column, I expect the Rebels to play with a renewed sense of purpose. The three-game losing streak is a thing of a past, and they can once again see a light at the end of this season's tunnel.

    Coming off of a bye, look for Ole Miss to come out energized and rested, ready to dominate this game on both sides of the ball. If it could hold LSU to 114 yards on 35 carries, this defense should be able to buckle down and swallow the one-dimensional Arkansas running game.

3. UCLA at Arizona (+1.5)

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    Andrew Fielding-USA TODAY Sports

    The Pick: UCLA

    Arizona is 3-0 straight-up at home this season, which ostensibly explains the reason this line is so short, especially when combined with UCLA's 2-2 record on the road.

    But UCLA's road schedule has not been your average task. The Bruins won by 20 points at Nebraska (before all the Huskers' injuries) and at Utah (where the Utes beat Stanford) before putting up a good fight in losses at Stanford and Oregon in consecutive weeks.

    I like how UCLA matches up with Rich Rodriguez's offense, too. The Bruins are weak in the secondary but deceptively strong in the front seven, which could present some problems for an offense that loves to run with Ka'Deem Carey but is (wisely) hesitant to trust quarterback B.J. Denker throwing the football.

    Last year, with the Wildcats ranked No. 22 in the country, UCLA pounded this team into submission by the tidy score of 66-10. If I wasn't so innately paranoid and sure that this was a "sucker bet," it would be ranked even higher.

2. TCU at Iowa State (+8)

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    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    The Pick: Iowa State

    Iowa State is 1-7 overall and 0-5 in Big 12 play, but the Cyclones have shown some pluck at home, where they almost beat Texas and Texas Tech this season.

    Though TCU is probably the better team, I think this game will mean a lot more to Iowa State, which cares more about getting its first conference win than TCU cares about getting its second.

    The Horned Frogs entered the year with high expectations and have fallen woefully short of them. Coming off of a tragic overtime loss to West Virginia, it will be hard for the Horned Frogs to get up and ready to play a true road game like this one.

    Iowa State upset No. 15 TCU on the road last season. I'm calling another outright upset, but I'll happily take the seven-plus points as well.

1. LSU (+11.5) at Alabama

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    Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

    The Pick: LSU

    Series trends are often misleading, but in the case of Alabama and LSU—especially after seeing this massive, 11.5-point line—it's impossible to ignore how these teams have fared against each other in the regular season.

    For those unfamiliar, here is every regular-season meeting between the Tigers and Crimson Tide since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa:

    YearLocationLineFinal ScoreBetting Winner
    2012Baton Rouge, La.ALA -8.5Alabama 21, LSU 17LSU – Underdog
    2011Tuscaloosa, Ala.ALA -4.0LSU 9, Alabama 6LSU – Underdog
    2010Baton Rouge, La.ALA -6.5LSU 24, Alabama 21LSU – Underdog 
    2009Tuscaloosa, Ala.ALA -7.5Alabama 24, LSU 15'Bama – Favorite
    2008Baton Rouge, La.ALA -3.0Alabama 27, LSU 21'Bama – Favorite
    2007Tuscaloosa, Ala.LSU -7.0LSU 41, Alabama 34PUSH 

    Not only has LSU covered the past three years as an underdog to Alabama, neither team has ever won by a double-digit margin. Death, taxes and single-digit football games between Les Miles and Nick Saban.

    And yes, I'm aware that the 2012 BCS National Championship Game was a 21-0 Alabama win, but Saban had over a month to prepare for that game and it was played indoors. Those are variables independent to a bowl game that I don't take into account for an outdoor, regular-season clash. 

    Zach Mettenberger played the best game of his career against Alabama last year, LSU has the skill players to give Kirby Smart's defense fits and John Chavis has always been able to keep the Crimson Tide offense in relative check.

    I don't know if they win, but I think the Tigers keep this within one possession. And I definitely think that they keep it within single digits.