With all the action going on around the nation at this moment, it feels as though we may be catching Vegas napping with some opportunistic lines. There are a few games this week that really jumped off the board to me and I’m excited to share these picks.
Week Nine brought our second consecutive 3-0 week. West Virginia routed Kansas State en route to an easy over, Central Florida destroyed Houston from the opening kickoff, and Indiana cruised over a much-improved Rutgers team. The perfect week brings the season-long record to 16-8.
Week Ten’s slate gives us more West Coast action, and a few title contenders. Here are some betting picks to follow along with as you enjoy another college football Saturday.
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Pittsburgh at Florida State (-2)
The Pitt Panthers are reeling on a four-game losing streak to the likes of Boston College, North Carolina State, Miami, and Notre Dame. The first two losses were one-point last-minute heartbreaking losses, while the most recent two were convincing beat-downs when the Panthers were playing without their star quarterback Kenny Pickett. Pickett returned to limited practice this week, and should be ready to play Saturday. The offense was much improved with their senior leader, and should be able to move the ball on a Seminole defense that allows 35 points per game and nearly 500 yards per game. The Panthers’ defense, meanwhile has been strong at most times, but susceptible to the big play. Defensive end Patrick Jones II, who is getting consideration as a potential first-round pick in the NFL draft, leads the nation in sacks and will spend a lot of time in the Florida State backfield. On offense, Pickett will lean on the young freshman receiver Jordan Addison, who is on track to be the first freshman to lead Pitt in receptions and receiving yards since Cincinnati Bengal Tyler Boyd achieved that feat in 2013.
The 2020 Florida State Seminoles have been hot and cold this year. A stunning narrow win over North Carolina takes a backseat to 32 and 42 points losses to Louisville and Miami, respectively, and a home loss to Georgia Tech. With a 2-4 record, Coach Mike Norvell is not enjoying the success that he was used to while leading Memphis to a 38-15 record over the past four years. The shocking upset of the Tar Heels appears to have been more of an outlier than the new normal. Starting quarterback Jordan Travis is a threat on the ground, averaging 5.5 yards per carry, but is an unpolished passer completing a mere 50.5% of his passes with as many interceptions as touchdowns.
In these teams’ last matchup, which was Pitt’s first game as a member of the ACC in 2013, the nation was introduced to Jameis Winston in a 41-13 Florida State romp. Despite Pitt fans’ frustrations at the moment and Coach Pat Narduzzi’s perceived mediocrity, this is a very talented team that is 2 points away from being 5-2, with the two losses incurred without their star quarterback. Florida State, meanwhile, is in an unfamiliar rebuilding pattern with a new coach, an undisciplined defense, and a middling offense.
Pick: Pitt +2
#8 Florida at #5 Georgia (-3)
For the third straight year, this border-state SEC rivalry will be a top-10 matchup. Coach Dan Mullen’s Gators have looked sharp on offense, with only a narrow loss to Texas A&M blemishing the resume. Senior quarterback Kyle Trask is off to a strong start, with 18 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions in the Gators’ first four games. He has largely leaned on the incredibly athletic tight end Kyle Pitts, a likely top NFL draft pick next spring, and a strong 4-headed rushing attack. Pitts, who poses a matchup problem for any team in the nation, has 22 catches and 7 touchdowns so far. On defense, Coach Mullen’s squad needs to create more turnovers, which should be expected. The Gators’ luck has been unfortunate with a -1 turnover margin thus far, due to only 1 interception in four games – last year’s group had 15 interceptions.
The Georgia Bulldogs’ vaunted defense has been well-publicized and lauded. The team has held its opponents to an average of 16.2 points per game, and stymied Kentucky last week in an easy 14-3 road win. For all of the Bulldogs’ defensive successes, the team has struggled to generate consistent offense. Quarterback Stetson Bennett’s transition from walk-on to starting quarterback on a top-10 SEC team is an improbable great story, but does little to mask his up-and-down play this season. Bennett has thrown for 7 touchdowns against 5 interceptions, completing only 58.4% of his passes and struggling mightily last week. At 5-foot-11, Bennett’s height often has caused him problems, with two interceptions thrown to defensive linemen this year off tipped passes, and he has also lost 3 fumbles. Until Georgia can find better quarterback play, their defense will only be able to carry them so far.
When both teams are ranked in the top 10, Georgia holds a narrow 4-3 lead in the series. 2020’s game will mark the 17th consecutive season that the game is featured as the CBS Game of the Week. The “World’s Largest Cocktail Party” between these two teams will be played in Jacksonville, Florida, at a neutral site, with limited fans, no tailgating, and mask requirements. While the rivalry will have a different feel this year, it should shape up as a good back-and-forth matchup between two of the nation’s best.
Pick: Florida +3
Arizona State at #21 Southern California (USC) (-11.5)
Arizona State kicks off their 2020 season (better late than never) with a road game versus a ranked opponent. Sophomore quarterback Jayden Daniels was sensational in 2019 as a freshman, throwing 17 touchdowns versus only 2 interceptions, and served as a threat on the ground. His top target this year will likely be captain and senior wide receiver Frank Darby, who was a big-time deep threat and his 8 touchdowns were tied for first on the team with San Francisco 49ers’ first round draft pick Brandon Aiyuk. The offensive line bolstered its outlook with two Power 5 graduate transfers to add immediate talent up front creating rushing lanes for junior Rachaad White and true freshman Chip Trayanum, who both hope to succeed star running back Eno Benjamin, who is now with the Arizona Cardinals. The Sun Devils’ defense should be solid with 10 upperclassmen starting for Coach Herm Edwards’ team.
Is this COVID-19-shortened 2020 season that the USC Trojans return to prominence on the national level? Coach Clay Helton, in his fifth season at the helm sure hopes so. He’ll have sophomore quarterback Kedon Slovis, the 2019 Pac-12 offensive freshman of the year, back hoping to top his stellar freshman campaign (3,502 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, 71.9% completion rate). Slovis’ top options in the passing game return with Armon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns both seeking to put in another strong campaign before the NFL beckons. The offense should have enough firepower to stick with most of the teams in the conference, giving USC a good chance at representing the Pac-12 South in the Conference Championship game. The defense, however was porous at inopportune times last year and does not look to be greatly improved. In order to compete on a national level, the Trojans will need marked improvement from their defense, which ranked 78th of 130 FBS teams in its scoring defense.
The matchup between these two teams last year featured Arizona State’s backup quarterback in a narrow 31-26 Trojans win. This game, being the first weekend of Pac-12 action, was given the odd “12:00pm noon eastern time” kickoff. Having to play at 9:00am local time marks the earliest USC kickoff possibly ever (the earliest kickoff that I could locate for USC was a home game against Loyola in 1891 that started at 9:30am). This also marks the first time in history that USC’s season opener is also its homecoming game. It’s nice to finally have the Pac-12 action back, and hopefully this first Pac-12 game of the season can work its way into the win column for us.
Pick: Arizona State +11.5