College Football Week 9 Betting Guide: Odds, Picks and Value Bets
Alabama, LSU, Michigan and Ohio State are all on a bye in Week 9, but your local sportsbook doesn't stop taking bets just because several of the marquee college football programs are idle.
Whether you prefer over/unders, spreads or moneyline multipliers, we've got you covered with tips on the best Week 9 bets. If you're looking to throw down a wager on the latest Heisman Trophy odds, there's advice on that front as well.
We're also recommending a few games that you don't want to touch with a 10-foot pole.
Why is Mississippi State's anemic offense giving points against a ranked opponent? Will the winner of Central Michigan vs. Akron score even 17 points? And should you bet on Kansas winning a Big 12 game for only the second time in its last 35 tries?
We cover all that and more in this week's college football betting guide.
Moneyline Picks and Picks Against the Spread for AP Top 25 Games
No. 2 Clemson at Florida State: Florida State (+17) and Clemson (-778)
No. 3 Notre Dame at Navy: Navy (+24) and Notre Dame (-1800)
No. 6 Texas at Oklahoma State: Texas (-3.5 and -170)
No. 9 Florida vs. No. 7 Georgia: Florida (+6.5) and Georgia (-249)
Kansas State at No. 8 Oklahoma: Oklahoma (-24.5 and -2000)
No. 12 Kentucky at Missouri: Kentucky (+7 and +250)
No. 14 Washington State at No. 24 Stanford: Stanford (-3 and -151)
No. 15 Washington at California: California (+11.5) and Washington (-440)
No. 16 Texas A&M at Mississippi State: Texas A&M (+2 and +140)
No. 18 Iowa at No. 17 Penn State: Iowa (+6 and +210)
No. 19 Oregon at Arizona: Oregon (-9.5 and -350)
No. 20 Wisconsin at Northwestern: Wisconsin (-4.5 and -195)
No. 21 South Florida at Houston: Houston (-7.5 and -280)
No. 22 North Carolina State at Syracuse: Syracuse (+2.5 and +115)
No. 23 Utah at UCLA: UCLA (+10.5) and Utah (-375)
Last Week: 13-2 straight up, 7-8 ATS
Baylor at No. 13 West Virginia and No. 25 Appalachian State at Georgia Southern not included, as they played prior to publish.
For the moneylines, a minus means you need to bet that much in order to win $100, and a plus means a $100 bet would return that much profit. For example, if you want to bet on Oklahoma to beat Kansas State, you would need to risk $2,000 to win $100. Conversely, if you want to bet on Iowa to beat Penn State, a $100 bet would fetch $210 (plus the initial $100 wager).
Spreads to Bet
Florida International (-3.5) at Western Kentucky
It was tempting to make this game the lock of the week, but this line is so befuddling that it forces one to second-guess it.
Western Kentucky has been one of the worst teams this season. The Hilltoppers just lost a home game to Old Dominion, one week after getting blown out by Charlotte. Once one of the best offenses in the nation under Jeff Brohm's tutelage, they have been an abomination, barely averaging 20 points per game.
Meanwhile, Florida International is arguably the best team in Conference USA, sitting at 5-2 with both losses coming against power-conference opponents.
Maybe FIU isn't quite as good as UAB and perhaps WKU isn't quite as bad as UTEP, but they are in similar ballparks. UAB is favored by 16 at UTEP this weekend, so it's hard to understand why FIU isn't giving at least eight or nine points in this one. The Golden Panthers win by two possessions to secure bowl eligibility.
Notre Dame at Navy (+24)
Navy is in the midst of an uncharacteristically woeful season, and it's likely to fall short of a bowl game for only the second time in the past 16 years.
But a margin of more than three touchdowns? Really?
Notre Dame has more than its fair share of blowout wins in the deep history of this rivalry, but not lately. Each of the last two games in this series was decided by one possession. Only three of the past 17 games were victories of more than 21 points.
Plus, four of Notre Dame's seven wins this season were by a margin of eight points or fewer. And those close calls were all home games, so why should we trust the Fighting Irish to run away with this game in San Diego?
As was the case two weeks ago against Pittsburgh, Notre Dame should win the game, but it isn't likely to cover the large spread.
Massachusetts at Connecticut (+5)
As much fun as it has been to harp on Connecticut's horrendous defense, it bears mentioning that the Huskies have played a brutally difficult schedule for a Group of Five school. Their six FBS opponents—UCF, Boise State, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Memphis and South Florida—have a combined record of 34-9. The only one that isn't ranked in the top 20 in total offense is Cincinnati (37th).
Those teams sit so high in part because they got to tee off on Connecticut's defense, but either way, there's no question that each of those six teams is much better than Massachusetts.
The Minutemen are just average on offense, and their defense has allowed more than 530 yards and 46.1 points per FBS game. Of those seven games, the only one they didn't lose by double figures was a home game against lowly Charlotte.
The Huskies have been bad, but they shouldn't be laying points at home against Massachusetts. Connecticut wins a 42-35 shootout.
Last Week's Picks (1-2):
Illinois +25 at Wisconsin (Actual: Wisconsin by 29)
Appalachian State -25.5 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (Actual: App State by 10)
California -6.5 at Oregon State (Actual: California by 42)
Wake Forest at Louisville (-2.5)
Thus far this season, these have been two of the best teams to bet against.
Both Wake Forest and Louisville are 1-6 against the spread, thanks to a combination of dreadful defense and inconsistent offense. A few weeks ago, Louisville allowed 542 rushing yards in a 66-31 loss to Georgia Tech. The following day, Wake Forest gave up 471 rushing yards in a 63-3 loss to Clemson.
What's going to happen when those worlds of ineptitude collide?
Even if you have a good feeling about the offense of Jawon Pass and the Cardinals or Sam Hartman and the Demon Deacons, this spread is liable to be decided by a special teams play.
The Cardinals have scored on a punt return and have allowed both a punt and a kickoff to be returned for a touchdown against them. Meanwhile, Wake Forest's Greg Dortch is the only player in the country with multiple punt returns for touchdowns (two), and the Demon Deacons rank in the bottom 40 nationally in average yards allowed on both punts and kickoffs.
Do you want to risk your money on that type of game?
Tennessee at South Carolina (-7.5)
Did we ever reach a consensus on whether South Carolina is good?
The verdict is still out, but early returns aren't great. The Gamecocks are 3-3, and their best win of the season was at home against Missouri, when they allowed nearly 500 total yards and needed a last-second field goal to secure a two-point victory over a team that is winless in SEC play. South Carolina was manhandled by Georgia and never had much of a chance against Kentucky, either.
This spread is probably more about Tennessee being bad than it is about South Carolina being good, but are we sure about the state of the Volunteers?
Tennessee has had a weird schedule. Two of its seven games (vs. East Tennessee State, vs. UTEP) were near-guaranteed wins long before the opening kickoff, while four of the other five opponents (Alabama, Georgia, Florida and West Virginia) are still in the hunt for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Take out the wins over the dregs and the blowout losses to the elites and the Volunteers have faced only one average team, winning at Auburn.
Even during last year's 0-8 SEC disaster, the Vols only lost 15-9 to the Gamecocks. It was the sixth consecutive game in this series decided by less than a touchdown.
You might consider betting the under (54.5), but the spread is a sucker bet that may come down to an extra point or a late field-goal try.
Washington at California (+11.5)
California's last two games were a 30-point home loss against UCLA and a 42-point road win over Oregon State. It's hard to know what to expect from this team.
And while the Huskies have been much more consistent—they've scored between 27 and 35 points in five straight games—Washington hasn't been anything special away from home. It lost to Auburn and Oregon and narrowly defeated both UCLA and Utah. The Huskies' most impressive road performance was the 14-point win over Utah, but that could have been a loss had Utah not failed to score on every one of its final six trips into Washington territory.
This should be an entertaining game, but keep your gambling dollars out of it.
Easy Over: Duke at Pittsburgh (Over 45.5)
This is an oddly low number for a battle between teams who aren't that bad on offense.
In terms of both scoring average and total offense, Duke is close to the national average at 29.4 and 380.0, respectively. The Blue Devils struggled to score in recent losses to Virginia and Virginia Tech, but the former has been rock solid on defense and the latter was out for blood after its loss to Old Dominion. There's no good reason to assume Duke can't score 30 against this average-at-best Pittsburgh defense.
While the Panthers have disappointing year-to-date numbers on offense, remember that they've played Notre Dame, UCF and Penn State. Duke is good, but it isn't nearly as good as those three teams are. And in Pitt's other four games, it averaged 34.0 points per game and 6.2 yards per play.
Now consider the recent history between these teams. In five games since Pitt joined the ACC, the winner of this matchup has scored at least 51 points three times. Even the lowest-scoring game in the five-game series had 41 total points, so there hasn't been that much defense.
Duke wins 31-24, cashing the over with some room to spare.
Last week's easy over pick: TCU at Oklahoma (Line: 61.5; Actual: 79)
Easy Under: Central Michigan at Akron (Under 45)
This is our second consecutive week recommending the under in an Akron game.
It worked out well last Saturday. Akron and Kent State needed overtime just to eclipse 34 combined points. And the Zips are facing an even more anemic opponent this weekend, as Central Michigan has yet to score more than 24 in a game all season.
As far as yardage is concerned, neither of these teams should be trusted to put together a long drive. Akron ranks 124th out of 130 teams in yards per game (317.3), and the Chippewas are 128th (284.5). Even in their lone win of the season against FCS school Maine, CMU had all of 177 yards.
The only way this hits the over is a few pick-sixes, which could happen given this combination of teams. Central Michigan has turned the ball over 19 times this season—third-most in the country—and Akron has scored four defensive touchdowns. But that isn't enough to convince us that either team will score 24 points. Akron wins 17-13.
Last week's easy under pick: Akron at Kent State (Line: 52.5; Actual: 47)
Best Moneyline Value Bets
Last week was a rough one for this section. With the exception of Purdue shocking Ohio State as a 12.5-point underdog, no team that got more than seven points in Vegas won outright. I didn't have the Boilermakers, so I went 0-3. But fear not. This week will go better.
Generally speaking, a 10-point dog that wins outright pays 3-1 on the moneyline and a 17.5-point dog will pay around 6-1, so there's a lot of value in this zone.
Here are two significant underdogs who could pull off the upset and put a nice chunk of change in your pocket.
Kansas (+415) vs. TCU
Since the start of the 2009 season, Kansas is 5-78 in Big 12 play. Even worse, the Jayhawks have lost 33 of their last 34 conference games.
But in spite of that history, it's hard to not love better than 4-1 odds on Kansas to win a home game against a TCU team in shambles right now.
Shawn Robinson was TCU's starting quarterback until the middle of last week's loss to Oklahoma. He had surgery this week and is out for the year. The Horned Frogs have an excellent true freshman QB in Justin Rogers, but as of one week ago, he still hadn't been cleared to play in his recovery from a torn ACL. So it's pretty much Michael Collins or bust, and he has only completed 41.9 percent of pass attempts this season.
TCU also lost its top playmaker this week, as KaVontae Turpin was dismissed from the team following multiple reports of domestic violence.
The Horned Frogs were already sputtering on offense, averaging 18.5 points over their last four games. But at this point, how can they be trusted to score at all?
The best play in this game may be parlaying Kansas +13.5 with the under (49), because it could end up being a hard-to-watch slopfest. But that sure is an enticing moneyline.
North Carolina (+290) at Virginia
Why should you believe that a 1-5 team could win a road game against a 5-2 team?
Because North Carolina's offense has been humming and this team is due for a lucky break, that's why.
The Tar Heels have racked up at least 500 yards in each of their last two games. But they lost to Virginia Tech in the final 20 seconds of regulation when the Hokies capped off a 98-yard drive with a touchdown, and they lost to Syracuse in double overtime. UNC led in the final two minutes of both games. It just couldn't quite seal the deal.
As far as ESPN's Football Power Index is concerned, Virginia (ranked 47th nationally) isn't any better than Virginia Tech (36) or Syracuse (43). Perhaps this is where the Heels finally get over that hump.
Virginia's defensive numbers are great, but that's at least partially due to the schedule. The Cavaliers have faced only three opponents who are averaging more than 400 yards per game. They went 1-2 in those games, allowing 28.7 points. And North Carolina is sitting at 422.2 yards per game for the year.
Noteworthy Line Movement
UNLV at San Jose State (+5 to -3)
A lot of people seemingly have a strong opinion on who will win this battle for last place in the Mountain West Conference, because the line has moved more than a touchdown in the direction of San Jose State.
Why bettors are desperate to back one of the only two winless FBS teams is a mystery, especially since UNLV beat the other one (UTEP) by 28 points earlier this season.
The Rebels were awful in their first few games without dual-threat QB Armani Rogers, who has been out since late September with a broken toe. But they have righted the ship a bit with Max Gilliam running the offense.
UNLV is still an outright disaster on defense, but facing a San Jose State team with one of the worst offenses in the nation should help balance the scales. This line felt right when it first posted, but now there's good value on UNLV.
Kansas State at Oklahoma (-21.5 to -24.5)
Oklahoma's lines haven't moved much this season. If anything, it usually goes the opposite way.
The Sooners opened as a 32-point favorite against Army, but that line closed at 29. They started out giving nine points to TCU last week, but that one trickled down to 7.5. And the season opener against Florida Atlantic dropped from a 21-point spread to 19.
But this time around, Kyler Murray and Co. started as big favorites before growing even bigger.
Kansas State got some good news in the middle of the week, with head coach Bill Snyder saying he expects Dalton Schoen to play after he missed KSU's last game due to an undisclosed injury. Schoen is the top deep threat for the Wildcats and is one of only two players on the roster averaging more than two receptions per game.
Considering the amount of passing Kansas State will need to do in this one, Schoen's availability should've been worth a few points for the Wildcats. Instead, bettors have hammered the Sooners in anticipation of the type of blowout that will make a statement prior to the first College Football Playoff Top 25.
Speaking of which...
The Heisman Bet of the Week: Kyler Murray (+350)
It's getting to the point where it feels irresponsible to recommend betting against Tua Tagovailoa to win the Heisman. Even though the return on investment isn't great—you would currently need to risk $275 to win $100—his numbers are so ridiculous that it's hard to imagine anyone else winning it.
Heck, Tagovailoa and Alabama are such overwhelming favorites right now that you can bet on whether both he will win the Heisman and the Crimson Tide will win the national championship—and it's almost even odds.
But it isn't over until the fat lady sings. Alabama is on a bye this week, and the following week at LSU will be Tagovailoa's biggest test of the season by a country mile. If he struggles in a losing effort, there's still a chance for someone else to sneak in and win the award.
That's a big "if," but Ohio State's J.T. Barrett imploded out of nowhere in a loss to Iowa in the first week of last November. Prior to that four-interception disaster, Barrett's numbers through eight games (2,166 passing yards, 69.5% completion, 25 TD, 1 INT; 454 rushing yards, 5 TD) were similar to Tagovailoa's (2,066 passing yards, 70.4% completion, 25 TD, 0 INT; 123 rushing yards, 2 TD). According to OddsShark's Heisman tracker, Barrett entered that Iowa game with better Heisman odds (+450) than Baker Mayfield (+750).
Could Oklahoma's new QB be on a similar trajectory?
Kyler Murray's numbers are better than Mayfield's were last season. He doesn't throw as often as Mayfield did, but Murray is on pace for 4,810 combined passing and rushing yards and 60 touchdowns—compared to 4,938 and 48, respectively, by Mayfield. Murray's completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer efficiency rating are each considerably higher than Mayfield's 2017 marks.
Granted, Murray isn't competing with Mayfield. He's up against Tagovailoa. But if Murray continues to out-perform Mayfield, he's going to keep getting more attention.
Murray's Heisman odds inexplicably dropped from +300 to +350 following a rout of TCU in which he threw for at least four touchdowns for the third consecutive week. But with Tagovailoa, Dwayne Haskins and Shea Patterson all on a bye, this Saturday's game against Kansas State is his chance to have the entire Heisman spotlight to himself.
Moreover, while Tagovailoa is potentially struggling with LSU's defense next week, Murray will be facing a Texas Tech defense that ranks 123rd in passing yards allowed per game.
Now that Oklahoma is back in the College Football Playoff picture following Ohio State's Week 8 loss, his chances at the Heisman are better than they were a week ago, even though Vegas says the odds are longer. Capitalize on that disparity while you still can.
Lock of the Week: Texas A&M (+2) at Mississippi State
Texas A&M (+2) at Mississippi State
Have y'all seen Mississippi State try to move the ball lately?
Through four SEC contests, the Bulldogs have averaged 270.3 yards per game, 4.27 yards per play and 9.8 points. They have been somewhat competent on the ground, but their passing statistics are abysmal: 44.4% completion, 92.8 yards per game, 3.7 yards per attempt, 0 touchdowns, 6 interceptions.
That hot mess now has to contend with a Texas A&M defense that—despite games against Travis Etienne, Benny Snell and Alabama—ranks fourth in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game (81.6).
Pray tell, how is Mississippi State going to score against the No. 16 team in the country given how poorly it did against the teams currently ranked Nos. 4, 9 and 12?
If you want to also play the under in this game (45.5), it isn't a bad idea. Mississippi State has an elite defense and has not played in a game with more than 35 total points since Sept. 15.
But the Aggies have scored at least 20 in each of their seven games and rank 14th nationally in total offense at 486.7 yards per game. They'll find a way to score in double figures, which has been enough to beat Mississippi State as of late.
Bonus prediction: After winning this game by a final score of 23-13, Texas A&M debuts at No. 10 in the first College Football Playoff Top 25 this coming Tuesday, resulting in far too much talking-heads banter about whether the Aggies would belong in the playoff if they were to cap off a 10-2 season with a Week 13 win over LSU.
Last week's lock: Utah State -15.5 at Wyoming (Actual: Utah State by 8 in an unpredictably dreadful performance on offense.)
All moneylines, spreads and over/under totals are via OddsShark and are current through noon ET on Thursday.
Kerry Miller covers college football and men's college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.