There is a new No. 1 in college football. Alabama moved up to the top spot following Clemson’s close call last weekend in a 21-20 win at North Carolina. The Tigers fell to No. 2 this week in the Associated Press Top 25 earning 18 first place votes behind 29 votes for Alabama. Georgia (4), Ohio State (7) and Auburn (3) also received first place votes this week while holding the No. 3, No. 4 and No. 7 slots in the poll.
Ohio State hosts Michigan State in a Top 25 match-up in Columbus Saturday with Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit calling the prime time game for ABC with kickoff at 7:30 ET. The Buckeye’s are laying 20-points as a huge favorite between two of the elite defensive teams in the country. The over/under is set at 49.5 points.
Both teams defense rank top-5 in the country in yards against and yards per play.
- Ohio State: 224 yards per game, 3.3 yards per play, 8.6 points per game
- Michigan State: 254 yards per game, 3.8 yards per play, 15 PPG
So why the big point spread? The Buckeye’s offense has piled up at least 500 yards in four straight games including last week in a 48-7 route on the road over Nebraska. Quarterback Justin Fields had two more passing touchdowns and one rushing TD to increase his totals to 16 passing and seven rushing touchdown this season. Fields has yet to throw an interception, and he’s moved up in the Heisman Trophy chase with current odds of +500 (5-1) at DraftKings Sportsbook and +850 at FanDuel Sportsbook.
The Buckeye’s have looked unbeatable with their explosive offense and dominant defense that is No. 2 in the nation in sacks with 24. Still, No. 2 Clemson and No. 8 Wisconsin are two other teams with top 5 defenses along with powerful offenses. And those two teams struggled in victories last week with Clemson gaining just 331 yards at North Carolina and needing a stop on the Tar Heels 2-point attempt foll0wing their touchdown in the final 90 seconds to squeeze out a 21-20 win as a 27-point favorite.
Wisconsin was out-gained at home and held to just 243 yards offense by Northwestern, but the Badgers (-23) won 24-16 thanks to three Wildcats turnovers and two of them returned for Badgers touchdowns.
So not even the top teams with strong offensive and defensive profiles and production are immune to a tough challenge from un-ranked teams.
Case Keefer, Las Vegas Sun sports and gaming writer/editor, had this to say in support of Michigan State (+20.5) at Ohio State.
Behind Joe Bachie and Kenny Willekes, Michigan State has a defense that can stack up with its consistently brilliant stop units over the last decade. The Buckeyes’ high-flying offense starring Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins will be tested for the first time this season. Play: Michigan State plus-20.5.
Keefer has had an excellent college football season providing insights and analysis with complimentary picks and opinions for every college game on the board each week.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio at the weekly Big Ten press conference discussing Ohio State. “Offensively, when you look at them, I think it's 32 touchdowns to 4 is what the deal is. From my perspective, as a coach, is make sure we're motivated, make sure we have a great plan. The players have to be motivated as well, and also we've got to execute. We've got a lot of players from Ohio on our football team, and they'll come ready to play as well.”
Dantonio added a number of comments including, “Also we've got to execute. Our quarterback, Brian Lewerke is playing extremely well. I do like our offense. It's more productive.”
Understanding the patterns of team performance, in conjunction with the betting patterns of gamblers, can be a very useful tool. Most gamblers will bet on the top teams and continue to lay points even as the point spreads rise and potentially provide value on the other team. Thus, when undefeated teams keep winning, they not only draw more attention, but the price to bet and support them becomes greater. Some teams may continue to outperform expectations or the bookmakers lines and odds, but not even the best teams cover the point spread a majority of the weeks as bettors laying big prices found out last week supporting Clemson and Wisconsin.
Technical analysis (patters) can support the situations and match-ups, and the popular handicapping newsletter Playbook provides against the spread (ATS) support playing against undefeated 5-0 teams.
Since 1980, teams who find themselves favored in these games are just 150-193-6 ATS, or a 43.7% ATS proposition. However, bring them in off a fat double-digit ATS win and they dip to 46-72-3 ATS (39%). When these 5-0 teams like Ohio State are up against a conference opponent coming off consecutive wins (Michigan State), they fall to 6-24 ATS, including 2-15 ATS when tackling foes with staunch defenses that allow fewer than 17 points per game (Michigan State).
Still, the four highest scoring teams in the country are all ranked top-6 in the AP Poll: LSU (55 PPG), Ohio State (52), Alabama (52) and Oklahoma (51). They will continue to generate the most betting interest.
So will the most productive offensive teams.
Ohio State (-20) is drawing 65% of the bets against Michigan State from a consensus of seven leading online sportsbooks tracked by Sports Insights and its college football live odds and data feed. Oklahoma (-33) is taking 76% of the bets yet the line has dropped in the Sooners Big 12 game at Kansas. While LSU (-27.5) is getting 52% of the bets hosting one of the better teams in the Mountain West (Utah State) in no-conference play.
Top 25 teams with a bye this week include: Alabama, Clemson, Utah, Arizona State, Wake Forest, Virginia, Texas A&M.
The two other Top 25 match-ups drawing major interest this week:
- No. 7 Auburn (-2.5) at No. 10 Florida - 3:30 ET on CBS
- No. 14 Iowa at No. 19 Michigan (-3.5) - 12:00 ET on FOX
Auburn is taking 77% of the bets at Sports Insights, while Iowa as underdog is drawing 52% of the bets. The bets will increase into Saturday and the percentages change on the live odds feed.
Auburn and Florida defenses are allowing 320 and 318 yards per game respectively. The total on the game is 48.5. Auburn has already beaten ranked teams Oregon 27-21 on a neutral site and Texas A&M 28-20 on the road. Florida plays their first ranked team, but the Gators have wins over Miami and SEC foes Tennessee and Kentucky.
Iowa’s defense is No. 3 in the country in yards allowing 251 per game, but 4.8 yards per play ranks top 30. Michigan’s defense has allowed 296 yards at 4.5 yards per play. But the Wolverines were beaten badly at Top 10 Wisconsin 35-14. Iowa plays their first ranked opponent of the season Saturday at Michigan. The last time the two teams played was in 2016 when Iowa (+21) pulled the stunning upset over then unbeaten and No. 2 ranked Michigan (9-0). The Hawkeye’s have played one quality opponent this season and escaped at Iowa State 18-17 gaining just 313 yards and out-gained by 105 yards by their in-state rival.
Southern Methodist (SMU) is 5-0 for the first time since 1983, and the Mustangs are one of four teams that remain perfect against the point spread. No. 7 Auburn, No. 21 Oklahoma State, No. 24 SMU and UL Lafayette are all 5-0 ATS. All five SMU games have also gone over the total with the Mustangs offense top 10 in the country averaging 510 yards per game and 44 points per game. The SMU defense also leads the nation in sacks (25).
The Pac-12 no longer has any undefeated teams after Cal lost at home to Arizona State 24-17. The Bears fell out of the Top 25 dropping from No. 15 to No. 26 while Arizona State re-entered the poll at No. 20 having also won on the road at Michigan State.
For a breakdown on all the match-ups and betting percentages of spread, money line and totals on each team, check out Sports Insights live odds feed and also William Hill sportsbook twitter feed as they send out their weekly college football betting update by Saturday morning.