Every Thursday during the college football season, theScore's sports betting writers release their best bets for the week. Each member has been given a fictitious $1,000 bankroll to manage throughout the season. If you decide to follow any of the picks, please gamble responsibly.
Season record: 2-2, +$63
Line: Michigan State -14
Arizona State has some serious problems on offense, starting with a patchwork offensive line and continuing with a freshman quarterback. The Sun Devils took a full half to get going versus Kent State and scored just 19 points a week ago against 35.5-point road underdog Sacramento State.
Those efforts won't cut it against Michigan State's defense, which ranks fourth in ESPN's "efficiency" rating, adjusted for situation and strength of opponent. The Spartans' experienced offense put up 51 points against Western Michigan and is finding its spark behind returning QB Brian Lewerke.
Sharps were all over the Spartans before the year and have driven this number to -14, though oddsmakers are reluctant to push Michigan State above the key number. It should be a short enough cushion for Sparty at home.
Pick: Michigan State -14 ($50)
Line: Clemson -27.5
This is a simple case of fading Clemson in an unsuccessful spot. In 10 years under Dabo Swinney, the Tigers have laid at least 20 points on the road just five times. They're 1-4 against the spread in those games, with two of those losses coming in their last two games at Syracuse (2015, 2017).
Saturday's line would be the second-largest on the road in the Swinney era and the largest home spot for Syracuse coach Dino Babers, who is 2-1 ATS against Swinney and 6-2 ATS in his last eight ACC games.
Syracuse entered the year as the ACC's second-best team and is now getting spotted like a conference doormat after one big loss to red-hot Maryland. Take the points here at +27.5, though pay a bit extra for +28 if you can find it.
Pick: Syracuse +27.5 ($25)
Season record: 3-3, -$25
Last weekend I took the Maryland game against Syracuse over the total on a game that felt too low. This Saturday, I’m going under on one that feels too high.
The Terrapins didn’t do anything particularly special against the Orange on offense outside of some RPOs. Maryland’s skill players are quick and the scheme is revamped under head coach Mike Locksley, but perhaps it was a bad spot for Syracuse with Clemson on deck. Needless to say, it felt like an anomaly for there to be so many open holes against a pretty good Orange defense.
I would have loved this total more if Geoff Collins was still at Temple, but Rod Carey will do. He’s got a defensive-oriented team that's had a few weeks to prepare for a game that’ll be played on a grass field, which will potentially slow things down. While I think Maryland’s offense is potent, I’ll take the under on the team total in the Terps' first legitimate test.
Pick: Maryland team total under 35.5 ($30)
Line: SMU -17.5
This is an awful lot of points for SMU to lay. I understand the Mustangs are off to a roaring start, but they beat a mediocre Arkansas State team and took advantage of a poor North Texas secondary last weekend. Texas State was no match for A&M in Week 1 and couldn’t cover against Wyoming despite outgaining the Cowboys by more than 150 yards of offense. But, there’s some upside with this team. With TCU on deck for SMU, this is a good spot to fade a team that’s hot in the market.
Pick: Texas State +17.5 ($30)
Line: Illinois -7.5
Although Illinois looks improved, especially on offense, the team has played some cakewalks leading up to Week 3. They beat a lifeless Akron at home in the opener then limped out of Connecticut with an unimpressive victory over the Huskies last weekend. Eastern Michigan is a team I was looking to bet at some point, and I think this is a great spot to pull the trigger.
Head coach Chris Creighton has been lethal as a road underdog in his career (on a 13-2 run ATS) but couldn’t come through in this spot last weekend at Kentucky as the Wildcats scored a "meaningless" touchdown with 52 seconds left. This is an underrated Eagles team that isn’t all that far off from the Illini talent-wise. Expect this to be close.
Pick: Eastern Michigan +7.5 ($30)
Season record: 0-4, -$203
Jalen Hurts takes his Heisman tour to Los Angeles this weekend, and you can feel completely confident in the nation's No. 1 offense going scorched earth on a UCLA program in absolute shambles.
Oklahoma will score at will on Saturday night. The Bruins have the nation's 84th-ranked defense after games against Cincinnati (96th-ranked offense) and San Diego State (112th). That's atrocious. While UCLA doesn't stand a chance at stopping the Sooners, you have to think its offense will click at some point under Chip Kelly.
The over is 22-3 when Oklahoma is a road favorite dating back to 2012 and it's 6-1 under Lincoln Riley. The Sooners could hit 60 if they want to, which means we need two touchdowns from the Bruins. Chip gives us three.
Pick: Over 73.5 ($60)
Line: Florida -8
Alright, credit where it's due. After beating Toledo and Eastern Michigan, Kentucky might be able to win the MAC. But we're about to find out what this Wildcats team is made of this weekend.
After losing starting quarterback Terry Wilson last weekend, junior Sawyer Smith is being forced into his first start - just a month after arriving on campus. The Troy transfer faces a brutal first test against a terrific Florida defense returning 74% of their production from last season. The Gators will throw all sorts of different looks at Smith to make his debut as uncomfortable as possible.
This is also a huge revenge spot for Florida after Kentucky snapped a 31-game losing streak to the Gators last season. Under Mark Stoops, the Wildcats are 5-13-1 ATS as home underdogs and 1-6-1 ATS as home underdogs in SEC games when getting at least a touchdown. It may be a small sample size, but Florida is 4-0 ATS on the road under Dan Mullen (3-0 as favorites).
Pick: Florida -8 ($50)
Season record: 0-4-1, -$219
Line: Colorado -4
This week I have my favorite play of the season so far with Air Force +4.
Colorado is in an awful spot. The Buffs are coming off two emotional games versus in-state rival Colorado State and Nebraska, where Colorado was trailing 17-0 late in the third quarter only to come back and beat the Cornhuskers in overtime. Meanwhile, Air Force opened the season with FCS Colgate, then had a week off to prepare for the Buffaloes. Essentially, the Falcons have been preparing for this game all summer.
Air Force lost a lot of close games in 2018, and with 14 starters returning, is expected to be one of the most improved teams in the MWC. The Falcons excel in this spot, going 10-3-1 ATS as a road underdog over the last five years. Colorado will need to get up emotionally for the third straight week, which is never easy for a college team, especially one with a new head coach.
I'm taking Air Force +4 and in a 7-point teaser with Florida. As mentioned by Moretto, Smith will make his first start for Kentucky against Florida's ferocious defense and the Gators are 15-0 straight up in their last 15 trips to Lexington. Meanwhile, Air Force didn't lose a game by more than 10 points last season. The Falcons are a tough team to blow out with their clock-chewing option offense, so giving each team seven points in a teaser makes sense.
Picks: Air Force +4 ($50)/7-point teaser: Air Force +11 and Florida -1 ($100 to win $78)