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Weekly Picks

Week 9 CFB ATS Predictions

by Thor Nystrom
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

 

 

 

 

MARQUEE MATCHUPS:



 

 

Stanford -12 WASHINGTON STATE



Straight Up:  
Stanford Cardinal
 
 

Against the Spread:


 

Washington State Cougars 

 



Analysis:




Since its loss in the opener to Portland State—an upset that becomes more stunning by the week—Washington State has been one of the nation’s 25 best teams, going 5-1, the sole loss a six-point setback versus Cal. Included in that six-game stretch is four-out-of-four covers as an underdog (3-1 outright). I can’t call for the fourth outright win, but I think Mike Leach’s bunch stays undefeated ATS as underdogs. Stanford is driven by the RB Christian McCaffrey-led offense that leads the nation in time of possession. The lethargic defense, meanwhile, ranks No. 50 in the FBS with only 1.4 sacks per game. Wazzu QB Luke Falk is one of the nation’s hottest players at the moment. Expect him to put a real scare into the Cardinal in Pullman on Halloween. If the Cougars can pull the upset, they’ll move into pole position in the Pac-12 North.




Florida -3 Georgia (in Jacksonville)



Straight Up: Georgia Bulldogs 

 
 

Against the Spread:


 Georgia Bulldogs

 

 



Analysis:




Both squads are coming off a bye and should be well-rested in this (effective) play-in game for the SEC Championship game. During the Will Muschamp era, the Gators were consistently overvalued by Vegas and made for a good fade proposition. Ever since Muschamp became a dead man walking last season, fortunes have dramatically changed; the Gators are 8-2 ATS over their past 10. My irrational confidence in Georgia -- and my lack of faith in UF QB Treon Harris -- has forced my hand into going against that trend. Georgia is coming off a bye and HC Mark Richt says the team had a tremendous week of practice. The Bulldogs, welcoming back Jordan Jenkins and Isaiah McKenzie, get back on track by knocking off the Gators.



USC -5.5 CALIFORNIA



Straight Up:  
Southern California Trojans
 
 

Against the Spread:


California Golden Bears 

 

 



Analysis:




The line movement of last weekend’s USC-Utah game was the most fascinating I’ve seen in a decade of sports betting. USC opened as -3.5 favorites against undefeated Utah, the largest margin an unranked team had ever been favored over a team as highly ranked as Utah. Despite a reported 75-25 barrage of bets coming in on the Utes and no injury developments, the line shot up to USC -7 late in the week. Think about the amount of cash being wagered on the Trojans in a small volume of bets that would force the books' hands like that. Just as we followed the sharps last week on USC, we’re going to do so again, this time against them. This line opened at USC -6.5 before dropping a point despite heavy public action on the streaking Trojans. The Golden Bears have been anemic at home over the past few years, going 5-15 ATS in their past 20. To reverse that trend, they’re going to have to snap an 11-game losing streak to the Trojans... or come darn close. I say they do, with evaluators spending next week sending apologies and love letters to Jared Goff’s dorm room.



Notre Dame -9.5 TEMPLE

 


Straight Up:  
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
 
 

Against the Spread:


 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

 

 



Analysis:




To cover this spread, the Owls will need to score at least three touchdowns. You have to love the top-10 defense and the sparkly undefeated record, but keep in mind that Temple’s only two wins against teams assured of going bowling were versus Penn State’s awful offense and Cincinnati when soon-to-be-benched QB Gunner Kiel imploded for four interceptions. The No. 89 offense doesn’t move the ball against anyone and won’t have much success against Notre Dame. I don’t pay a ton of attention to historical betting trends, but it has to be significant that the Fighting Irish are 19-1 ATS in their last 20 October road games, right?  



Clemson -10 NC STATE

 


Straight Up:  
Clemson Tigers
 
 

Against the Spread:


 Clemson Tigers

 

 



Analysis:




North Carolina State is 8-2 straight up and ATS over their past 10 games overall while Clemson is 3-8 ATS in their past 11 October games. But let's pump the breaks for a second. The Wolfpack raced out to a 4-0 SU start and beefed up their stats by pasting four patsies—no joke, the best of the bunch was either 3-4 Old Dominion or 3-4 South Alabama; NC State makes Baylor’s out-of-conference schedule look like the heart of SEC play—and have struggled mightily since the ACC slate began. First came the two-game losing streak to Virginia Tech and Louisville, schools that are 4-9 against teams not named North Carolina State. Last week, the Pack took care of business on the road against hapless Wake Forest. So, you know, there's that. All of which is a longwinded way of saying that this paper lion has played no FBS team with a winning record and their current statistical profile is thusly irrelevant. We have here a decided talent mismatch. NC State has only two paths to covering: noted Josh Norris mancrush QB Jacoby Brissett would have to play the game of his life while the Mike Rose-led pass rush would have to force Deshaun Watson into committing multiple turnovers. I don’t see it. And not for nothing: Tigers’ HC Dabo Swinney is justified in being perturbed by the “Clemsoning” meme; he’s 8-0 SU and 5-3 ATS in his last eight as a double-digit road underdog.



Mississippi -7 AUBURN

 


Straight Up: Ole Miss Rebels 

 
 

Against the Spread:


 Ole Miss Rebels

 

 



Analysis:




Since the latter stages of last season, the Tigers have been one of the nation’s best fades, going 1-11 ATS over their past 12 games (the cover was against Kentucky). Let's make that 1-12. I can’t get over two notions: 1.) How is Auburn going to break 20 points against Mississippi’s defense? I like the flashes Sean White has shown over the past two weeks, but he'll need to have the best game of his life for Auburn to beat the Rebels. 2.) How does Auburn’s generous secondary plan to slow down WR Laquon Treadwell? Your guess is as good as mine; the Tigers don't match up well with big receivers.



Michigan -13.5 MINNESOTA



Straight Up:  Michigan Wolverines

 
 

Against the Spread:


Minnesota Golden Gophers 

 

 



Analysis:




Jerry Kill was one of the industry’s most underrated coaches and among its best men, but don’t expect the Gophers to languish in his absence. A part of what enabled Kill to succeed in difficult coaching outposts all those years was staff continuity. Tracy Claeys and crew are an extension of Kill and thus shouldn't be viewed as a downgrade (Claeys did a bang-up job as interim HC in 2013 and has been offered smaller HC jobs in the past). If anything, the playing-for-Jerry Gophers may be able to ambush a Wolverines squad coming off that last-second Michigan State debacle (and the subsequent bye) on Halloween night. Minnesota has covered five straight as home underdogs, including the heartbreaking near-win in the opener against TCU. The Gophers keep this low-scoring affair close enough to cover.




WILD CARDS:



 

Oklahoma State  -3 TEXAS TECH



Straight Up: Texas Tech Red Raiders 

 
 

Against the Spread:


 Texas Tech Red Raiders

 

 



Analysis:




The handicap here comes down to one thing: How real do you think the Pokes’ 7-0 record is? The seven wins: Central Michigan, Central Arkansas, UTSA, Texas, Kansas State, West Virginia and Kansas. None of those teams has a winning record. Only the Chippewas are .500. Oklahoma State is unremarkable in every facet except for its pass rush, led by Emmanuel Ogbah. If future NFL OL Le’Raven Clark can neutralize him, the Red Raiders have a good chance of knocking the Cowboys from the ranks of the unbeaten.  



Texas -6.5  IOWA STATE



Straight Up:  
Iowa State Cyclones
 
 

Against the Spread:


 Iowa State Cyclones

 

 



Analysis:




This is a safe space, right? I can confide in you? Come closer. I want to tell you a secret. Don’t laugh. (Whispering): Iowa State isn’t as bad as you think. Hey! I told you not to laugh! Here's a breakdown of the Cyclones’ five losses: Tied after three quarters against undefeated Iowa, double-overtime loss to undefeated Toledo, dominated by Texas Tech, only losing by 10 to TCU midway through the 4th quarter and held Baylor to its lowest margin of victory of the season (18 points). Not terrible, right? Speaking of terrible, Iowa State has finally deposed QB Sam Richardson (1-18 vs. the Big 12) at quarterback. Joel Lanning (nicknamed the "Lan Ram" for his running style) better get used to handing off to stud frosh RB Mike Warren. The vast majority of bets are coming in on Texas and this line is coming down anyway. I’m with the sharps.



HOUSTON -12.5 Vanderbilt



Straight Up: Houston Cougars 

 
 

Against the Spread:


 

Vanderbilt Commodores 

 



Analysis:




Speaking of not as bad as you think, the Commodores are No. 22 in the FBS in total defense and rank No. 13 with 16.3 points allowed per game. They are particularly strong on third down and suppressing big plays (No. 4 with only seven plays allowed of 30-plus yards). That latter stat is of particular interest against the big-play Cougars, who rank No. 6 in the country with 29 30-plus yard plays. Houston averages 47.6 points per game but won’t come close to that if Vanderbilt plays as disciplined as it has. Also, UH star RB Kenneth Farrow (head) is a bit banged up. The Commodores held Western Kentucky to 14 points earlier this season. They’ll be ready for the Cougars' attack. Houston’s only victory over a Power 5 team was a three-point escape against 3-4 Louisville.






***








2015 Record: Straight-Up: 55-25 (68.7%); Against the Spread: 37-40-3 (48.0%)

 

2014 Record: Straight-Up: 118-72 (62.1%); Against the Spread: 99-90-1 (52.4%)



Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is Rotoworld’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!