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The best bets for Week 7 of college football, including USC

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The early betting lines often allow for the most value.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Arizona Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

All wagers at -110 odds and for 1 unit unless otherwise noted. My picks are in bold, with that team’s spread attached. Visit Odds Shark for updated lines throughout each game week.

Season record: 66-55 (+$560)

Last week I went 15-10-2. If I can do that every week I’ll quit sports writing and move to Vegas.

I often tell readers that the best bets can be found in the opening lines on Sunday afternoons. Lines tend to be sharper after they’ve been bet all week. Most of my plays are made early in the week. Note that some of the lines below have since changed.

Of course, if you’re trying to bet thousands of dollars on each game, the low limits (typically $250-500 max bets per game) early in the week can be a hindrance, but I’m figuring most of my readership is playing $100 per game or less.

Because I make these wagers throughout the week, I order them by when they were made.

Picks made Friday, October 12

It was nice to start the week 1-0 with Texas Tech cashing easily, though if you jumped off at halftime and tried for a middle with the way the Red Raiders were moving the ball, I could totally understand that betting strategy.

As of Friday morning, 12 of my picks have moved at least 1.5 points in my favor, eight are within a half point, and six have moved against me by a point or more. Utah State has gone from 17 to 27, which is incredible. Beating the closing line is not a guarantee of winning, but it is a strong indicator of success.

I have a few plays to add Friday morning. When you play in the week can make a big difference. Certain lines should be fired upon early in the week, while others may require more research, or be lines that are drifting back to you.

  • Louisville at Boston College -13: I’ve waited to see if A.J. Dillon would play, but firing this now is about risk management. If Dillon is announced as playing, this might cross 14, which is a key number. If he is announced as out, I doubt it will get down below 11.
  • UCF at Memphis +4.5 (+100): I think Memphis can run the football against UCF. I made the Knights a favorite of 1.5 points, so getting 4.5 at even money is a play. UCF is one of the most public sides of the week, yet the line has not risen that much.
  • Ball State +3 at Central Michigan: Central Michigan is the luckiest team in terms of turnovers according to Bill Connelly’s stat profiles. Ball State has been playing better football.
  • Rutgers +24.5 at Maryland: This is simply a play on the numbers. I think Maryland should be laying 21.5, not 24.5. I do not like Rutgers, but Maryland does not have a legitimate home-field advantage and its offense is not consistent enough to lay this number.

Others I am waiting on

These are games which are not bets just yet, but if the numbers fall to me I’ll look to play them.

  • Marshall at Old Dominion: If this gets under a field goal, I will lay it with the Thundering Herd. I do not know if Marshall QB Isaiah Green is out, as he was against MTSU last week.
  • Kent State at Miami (Ohio): If this gets under 10 points, I’ll lay the points with Miami (Ohio).
  • UNLV at Utah State: Though I have a play on Utah State, if I can get 28, I’ll take UNLV and play for the middle.
  • Troy at Liberty: I want to play Liberty at 10 or better.
  • West Virginia at Iowa State: I want to play Iowa State at 7.5 or better.
  • Iowa at Indiana: I want to play Iowa at 3.5 or better.

Picks made Monday, October 8

Totals come out on Monday afternoons, so you have to be ready to fire.

  • Miami -6 at Virginia: I did not want to play Miami in this spot, but with my number in the double digits, getting under a touchdown is too much value to pass up.
  • Louisiana Monroe at Coastal Carolina -4: Louisiana Monroe just allowed 11.5 yards/play to Ole Miss before garbage time. CC does not have the athletes that the Rebels do, but that is some horrendous defense. With the Chanticleers off a bye, I’ll lay the four.
  • Kent State at Miami Ohio Over 55.5 (-120): I thought this line should be in the mid-60s. Kent State wants to push tempo, neither team is great on defense, and Miami Ohio’s offense is coming together.
  • UCLA at Cal Over 53.5: Both teams operate at a decent tempo, and I think Cal’s offense gets right against an undermanned Bruins defense.
  • Duke at Georgia Tech Under 58.5: Duke’s defense has the discipline to play well against Georgia Tech, and I don’t trust Duke’s offense to put up 20+.
  • Boise State at Nevada Under 58: Neither team has been doing anything explosive on offense, while maintaining somewhat decent success rates. That is a recipe for many drives with a first down or two ending in a punt.
  • Ole Miss at Arkansas Over 72 (-115): Both teams want to push tempo. Neither team plays a lick of defense. I expect this to shoot out.
  • West Virginia at Iowa State Over 60.5 (-120): Iowa State can really score, and West Virginia should have scored more than it did last week if not for some interceptions that killed red zone drives.

Picks made Sunday, October 7

  • Texas Tech +10.5 at TCU: TCU’s offense is not good enough to lay double digits against a team which can really score.
  • Purdue at Illinois +10.5: Illinois’ offense is bad, but not terrible. And Purdue doesn’t play much defense.
  • Michigan State at Penn State -13.5: I made my number for this game 18. MSU has been a major disappointment, while the Nittany Lions are off a bye week. Betting against Mark Dantonio when MSU is a double-digit favorite is scary, but this is not your typical Sparty.
  • WKU at Charlotte +7.5: I thought this line would be a field goal, so taking slightly over a touchdown is an easy call.
  • Akron +11 at Buffalo: Last week I successfully bet against Akron, and have made a lot this year on Buffalo. So when I saw this line in the double digits, and my own line was seven, I have to take the value.
  • UNLV at Utah State -17: Utah State is a good football team. UNLV, even with its starting QB, cannot throw. I expect the Aggies to score way too much for the Rebels.
  • Pitt at Notre Dame -21: This is a letdown spot for the Irish, but Notre Dame did just manage to beat Virginia Tech on the road despite not playing well for the first 30 minutes.
  • Colorado at USC -6.5: This is a perfect spot to bet the Trojans. Colorado is incredibly overrated due to the zero in its loss column. USC is off a bye and improving with its young skill talent.
  • Louisiana Tech at UTSA +14: I successfully bet against La Tech last weekend and will look to make it a second week. UTSA is not that good, but I don’t understand how LT has any business laying two touchdowns on the road.
  • Ohio at NIU -2.5: NIU has been playing better football the last two weeks. Its defense should be solid against the Bobcats.
  • Minnesota +32 at Ohio State: This is a good example of being flexible. I thought that I would be on the Buckeyes, but the line came out so high that I had to play the Gophers.
  • Temple -1 at Navy: I’ve consistently gone against Navy this year, and will look to do so again. Navy is off a huge letdown loss in a rivalry game against Air Force.
  • Southern Miss at North Texas -8: Perhaps I’ll be wrong about North Texas yet again, but I am going back to the well. I really like QB Mason Fine.
  • Nebraska at Northwestern -9.5: Nebraska is just not a good football team. Northwestern might be turning a corner.
  • Tennessee +20 at Auburn: Why in the world is Auburn laying 20 points against any SEC team with its current offensive woes? The Volunteers are off a bye.
  • Florida -8 at Vanderbilt: I really did not expect to be on Florida here. It is an obvious letdown spot following two big wins against Mississippi State and LSU. But at a number in the single digits, I have a hard time resisting.
  • Missouri +29.5 at Alabama: The Tide are an incredible team. But four touchdowns against a solid Missouri team feels like a ton.
  • Wyoming at Fresno State -18: I’m back on the Fresno State train yet again. I do not have any faith that Wyoming’s offense can score with Fresno.

Pick made August 21

  • Wisconsin at Michigan -3: I obviously feel great about this GOY futures line because the spread opened at seven. My number for this game is Michigan by nine, so I would still likely play the Wolverines.

Ongoing Futures/Props

I made 26 futures or prop bets which I published between May and August. My current record on these is 1-2, with a profit of $-120. That is reflected in the overall total above. My reasoning for making them can be found at the link.


  • BC +1.5 at Wake Forest (GOY futures line)


  • Alabama at Ole Miss +22 (GOY futures line)
  • Florida at Mississippi State -3 (GOY futures line)


  • Washington national championship (+2400)
  • Washington Over 8.5 wins (-200)
  • Michigan State Over 7.5 wins (-155)
  • Stanford Under 9.5 wins (-170)
  • Tennessee Under 6.5 wins (-160)
  • Virginia Over 5 wins (-110)
  • Boston College Over 5.5 wins (-110)
  • Oregon Over 8.5 (-120)
  • Northwestern Under 6 (+100)
  • Florida State Over 7.5 wins (-110)
  • UCLA Under 5.5 wins (-115)
  • Washington State Under 6.5 wins (-110)
  • Pittsburgh Under 5.5 wins (+100)
  • Virginia Tech Under 8.5 wins (-110)
  • Wisconsin at Michigan -3 (Game of year futures line)
  • N.C. State +19.5 at Clemson (Game of year futures line)
  • USC to win the Pac-12 (+485)
  • NC State to win ACC (+6000)
  • Georgia Tech to win ACC (+6000)
  • Clemson to make the Playoff (-130)
  • Alabama to not make the Playoff (+280)
  • Oklahoma to make the Playoff (+425)
  • Notre Dame to make the Playoff (+600)

I feel OK about my chance of turning a profit on these wagers as a whole.

My Washington, Tennessee, Virginia, Boston College, UCLA, Pitt, Stanford, and Virginia Tech season win totals are trending in my direction.

Clemson at -130 to make the playoff looks good in the air according to both Bill Connelly’s numbers and ESPN’s playoff predictor.

Oklahoma losing to Texas is not a death blow for its playoff chances, but it doesn’t help. Meanwhile, my Notre Dame playoff ticket looks like a great value after the Irish cleared one of their major final tests.

USC, for all its struggles, still must be considered the favorite in the Pac-12 South, and at +485 to win the conference, will be a hedge opportunity if it gets to the final. Utah beating Sanford hurt me a bit with this wager, but helped me with Stanford’s win total.

And N.C. State at +6000 to win the ACC looks like a great value. N.C. State is currently +1500 to win the league at Caesars, meaning my wager is 4X as valuable now compared to what it was in the preseason.

Meanwhile, there are some wagers which I feel are already dead in the water.

Georgia Tech to win the ACC seems done, as does Alabama not to make the playoff, and win totals for FSU, Washington State, Michigan State, and Oregon.