CFB Week 6 big games: Red River Rivalry headlines quality matchups
For another week, the big-game bets were the bright spot of our betting slate, indicating that early-week instincts might provide the best way to wager before they're polluted by overanalysis. Or, like all things betting, maybe it's a small sample that's affected by the randomness of things like a bad beat in the Notre Dame-Duke game - our third such brutal loss in this space this season.
Let's start by quickly congratulating Georgia and Michigan for bravely playing actual road games last week. The Wolverines won easily at Nebraska, and Georgia squeaked by Auburn, but until either plays a team that could beat them, Texas has to be considered No. 1 in the country.
Now that we've given the Longhorns their requisite credit, we can recognize that Oklahoma has been the under-the-radar team in the Red River Rivalry. The Sooners have the fourth-best offensive success rate on standard downs, and unlike last season, when he missed this game with a concussion, dark-horse Heisman candidate Dillon Gabriel is good to go at the State Fair of Texas.
The Sooners' standard-down efficiency numbers are actually better than the Longhorns', but that might be skewed by Texas' schedule, despite its big win at Alabama. Although the point spread is right around where it was expected to be in the offseason, Oklahoma is being slept on. The Sooners have the talent and motivation after last year's Red River fiasco to be live to win.
Pick: Oklahoma (look for +7 at -115)
Early on, the standard play within the Pac-12 schedule seems to be backing the home side in closely lined matchups. We took Washington State at home against Oregon State, then Utah over UCLA, then the Beavers over the Utes last week. Now it's the Cougars' turn to go on the road and the Bruins' chance to play a conference game at home.
Dante Moore and UCLA's offense struggled against Utah's defense, which was predictable for a freshman in arguably the toughest environment in the Pac-12. The Bruins have been bet out from -3 on the premise that he'll be better this week.
Even if that's the case, now that it's over a field goal, it's a different ask for the Bruins. Their standard-down success rate - both offensively and defensively - is behind both the Cougars and the Beavers. Cameron Ward and the Cougars aren't going into a rabid Rose Bowl environment, so we'll go against the grain and back the underdog here.
Pick: Washington State (+3.5)
This feels like something of a referendum on the post-NIL era for Alabama, and that's seems like a typical setup for a big showing from the Crimson Tide.
This game was projected to be Alabama -6.5 in the summer, and that admittedly felt high, given the expectations for the Aggies. However, now it's under a field goal despite Conner Weigman's season-ending injury. Max Johnson played better than expected against Arkansas, but Alabama's defense shut down a far more potent Ole Miss offense before strangling Mississippi State last week.
The Aggies gave the Tide a scare last year, but they were helped by four Alabama turnovers and couldn't stop the Tide on the ground. Saban's staff seems to have shortened the play sheet to focus on Jalen Milroe's strengths. The Tide will score just enough to win and cover in College Station.
Pick: Alabama (-2.5)
Georgia gets to come back home, and the market seems to be souring on the two-time defending champion.
I can't get behind that - I refuse to believe the Wildcats can come close to replicating the 329 rushing yards they managed against Florida to create offense in Athens. In a rare chance to buy low on Georgia and sell high on Kentucky, we can wait to see if -14 appears, but expect a classic Dawgs blowout.
Pick: Georgia (wait for -14, bet up to -16.5 by kickoff)
After getting its heart ripped out by Ohio State, Notre Dame saved the season late at Duke when it looked like the Fighting Irish had run out of gas in the second half. Now they're back on the road against an undefeated opponent that's recently ranked. With USC coming to South Bend next week, the Irish would be delighted to get a win, but if +7 comes back, that's worth a bet on the Cardinals, daring Notre Dame to win by two scores.
Pick: Louisville (wait for +7)
Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.
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