By Dillon Durst
It’s been a forgettable gambling season so far to say the least. I’m 21-28-1 through six weeks after last week’s 6-8 performance. Hell, last week I even took the under on the OU-Texas game simply because I’ve been in a rut and all logic told me to take the over. Desperate times calls for desperate measures, I suppose. But I’ll be damned if I let it get to me. Let’s see if we can right the ship here this weekend. I’m feeling optimistic.
Alabama vs. Tennessee, the over 57
I want to take Alabama -13.5, but playing in Knoxville against a Tennessee team that’s roared back in the second half of its last three games after facing first-half deficits makes the over a safer bet.
The Tide have scored more than 34 points in all six games this season, while the Vols have done the same the last three (both teams score 29 and the over hits). I think Alabama’s rushing attack – which is averaging 237 ypg – of Damien Harris, Joshua Jacobs and QB Jalen Hurts will have a big day against Tennessee’s 86th-ranked rush defense (183 ypg). The Vols allowed Texas A&M to rush for a whopping 353 yards last week despite outgaining the Aggies offensively, 684-592. Tennessee’s also banged up defensively. According to SEC Country, nine Vols starters are injured heading into this weekend’s showdown. To what extent, I’m not sure. But this is the Vols’ 7th consecutive game without a bye week to get healthy, so it’s not far fetched.
Both teams have a lot of offensive firepower heading into Saturday’s rivalry game. I expect the game to start slow, followed by a slew of second-half points.
Wisconsin +11 vs. Ohio State
The Buckeyes are by far the more complete team. But, the Badgers will surely have home field advantage in primetime at Camp Randall Stadium, one of college football’s toughest venues to play.
Wisconsin owns the nation’s 4th-ranked scoring defense (12.2 ppg), the 6th-ranked rushing defense (90.4 ypg) and 11th-ranked total defense (291.4 ypg). The Badgers are elite defensively, but not very good offensively (I want to say terrible, but that might be a bit of a stretch). They rank No. 106 in total offense (360.2 ypg) and No. 87 in scoring offense, averaging 26 ppg.
After struggling mightily offensively last season, Ohio State has the nation’s No. 3-ranked scoring offense (53.2 ppg) and rushing attack (323.6 ypg), and the 5th-ranked total offense (537.6 ypg). The Buckeyes also do a good job of protecting the ball. They’ve only surrendered 5 turnovers through 5 games, which is tied for 10th nationally. Ohio State ranks 4th in turnover margin (+8), having gained 13 turnovers to the 5 it’s surrendered.
Wisconsin’s had two weeks to prepare for the Buckeyes, and the advantage of playing at home can’t be understated. Just two weeks ago, the Badgers held Michigan, the nation’s No. 4 scoring offense, to just 14 points at Camp Randall. But, they didn’t have to account for a mobile QB, let alone Heisman-contending QB JT Barrett, who’s rushed for 347 yards and 3 TDs so far this season, including 137 yards last week against Indiana.
I’ve been back and forth between Wisconsin +10, the under, Ohio State -10 and back to Wisco +10. The Badgers didn’t have the offensive firepower to score more than 7 against Michigan, and I don’t see that happening Saturday night against this Ohio State defense. I expect Wisconsin to play keep-away, eat up the clock and take the air out of the ball. Buckeyes win, but Wisco keeps it within 10.
Notre Dame -3 vs. Stanford
After rushing for 436 of his 520 yards through Stanford’s first three games against Kansas State, USC and UCLA, Christian McCaffrey’s production dropped to 49 yards on 12 carries in a blowout loss to Washington in Week 5, followed by 35 yards on 8 carries in a 42-16 loss to Washington State last week at home. According to ESPN, McCaffrey is questionable for Saturday’s game in South Bend against the Irish, who’re reeling after a 2-4 start.
That’s reason enough to take Notre Dame -3 here. It only took until the fourth game of the season for defenses to start keying on McCaffrey, exposing Stanford’s glaring weakness at QB and its subpar offensive line. The Irish have been bad defensively this year (No, 78 total defense, No. 76 total defense), but Stanford has been even worse offensively, ranking 122nd in total offense (307 ypg) and 118th in scoring offense (19.4 ppg).
At this point, Notre Dame is fighting to salvage its season and a bowl berth. The Irish still have a projected 1st round NFL QB in DeShone Kizer (1,621 yards, 14 TDs vs. 5 INT), who’s also a mobile threat (202 yards, 6 TDs).
Also, the forecast for South Bend, IN, Saturday is 73 degrees and partly cloudy.
Southern Mississippi +24.5 at LSU
— After beating Missouri, 42-7, two weeks ago, LSU is a 24.5-point favorite at home against 4-2 Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles rank No. 16 nationally in passing offense (318.7 ypg) and tied for 21st in scoring offense (40.2 ppg). While the Tigers played much better offensively against Missouri, 24 1/2 points, to me, is a bit of a stretch against a good offensive football team.
Kansas State +13.5 at Oklahoma
— Bill Snyder’s Kansas State teams rarely lose by double digits and are always among the nation’s most fundamentally-sound teams every year. The 4-2 Wildcats rank 8th in turnover margin (+6) and have only lost 4 turnovers through five games. In their two losses this season, they lost by 13 at Stanford in Week 1 and by 1 to West Virginia in Morgantown in Week 5.