Well, that went badly. Last week saw us suffer a big old goose egg on our College Football picks. Fortunately, a successful run coming into the weekend means this column’s record is sitting right at .500 (11-11) even after the carnage. We were at least able to get a sense of how the Big Ten and Mountain West conferences look this season with their return to play last week. There are a number of games and lines I like on the Week 9 Halloween slate, so let’s not waste too much time dwelling on the past and instead focus on getting this ship steered in the right direction. Read on for my best College Football picks for Week 9.
Week 9 College Football Picks
All odds courtesy of Bovada Sportsbook
Northwestern at Iowa (-2.5 at -110)
Iowa is coming off of a disappointing season-opening defeat to Purdue, complicated by the fact that the Boilermakers were without head coach Jeff Brohm and top wide receiver Rondale Moore. With Northwestern coming off a convincing win over Maryland, this game to me screams buy-low on the Hawkeyes. There has been limited line movement on the game overall, with Iowa opening at -3 and only a half-point drop down to the current -2.5 at Bovada Sportsbook.
Last week’s win was the 100th in the head coaching career of Pat Fitzgerald. It really speaks to how successful he has been at Northwestern, a program that has perennially languished at the bottom of the Big Ten Conference. After a dominant victory, it makes sense that the expert College Football picks would move the line slightly in the Wildcats’ favor. Senior quarterback Peyton Ramsey was stellar against Maryland last week, completing over 76% of his passes for 212 yards, 1 touchdown, and a passer rating of 147.0. The Wildcats also found ample success on the ground, churning out 6.1 yards per carry. Iowa figures to provide a much stronger defensive resistance than Maryland, but Purdue was able to mount a number of sustained drives against the Hawkeyes last week.
While the end result was a defeat, it’s not as if Iowa played terrible on the road against Purdue last week. New quarterback Spencer Petras threw for 265 yards and ran for a score. Iowa simply failed to convert drives into points, particularly in the second half where they were held to a single field goal. They will need to be more efficient against a Northwestern defense that showed aggressiveness and willingness to blitz last week. Defensively, Iowa kept Purdue in front of them, allowing only 5.6 yards per pass and 3.9 yards per run, but struggled to get off the field. Look for that to change in what is now a must-win game if the Hawkeyes hope to compete for the Big Ten championship.
It’s hard to trust many coaches more than Kirk Ferentz to right the ship, and Iowa has had a track record of performing well as a favorite in games with short spreads. Prior to last week’s loss at Purdue, Iowa had won 13 straight games as a favorite of 6 points or fewer. With a win necessary to keep pace in the Big Ten West Division, look for the Hawkeyes to bounce back and cover the spread in this week’s College Football picks.
Nevada at UNLV (+14 at -110)
The annual Battle for Nevada and the coveted Fremont Cannon is set to take place late-night this Saturday as Nevada and UNLV do battle. This year’s edition will take place inside the new home of the Las Vegas Raiders, Allegiant Stadium. The game has seen drastic line movement in favor of the favorite here. Nevada opened as an 8-point favorite and is now laying 14 points both at Bovada Sportsbook and across the betting market ahead of this rivalry game. It’s also worth noting that the expert College Football picks have backed the over here, seeing the line tick up from 56.5 to 60.
Nevada squeaked past Wyoming in their season-opener, winning an overtime shootout 37-34. Carson Strong and the Wolfpack passing attack were electric. The sophomore QB threw for 420 yards and 4 touchdowns in the game, and both Cole Turner (119 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Romeo Doubs (117 yards, 1 score) had over 100 yards receiving. Devontae Lee chalked up 65 yards rushing to pace Nevada on the ground as well. He could be in store for a much greater output against a UNLV defense that gave up 287 total rushing yards to San Diego State last week. The Wolfpack defense wasn’t terrific against the Cowboys and will need to prioritize a reduction in penalties if Nevada is going to cover the two-touchdown spread.
UNLV got trounced on the road by San Diego State last week, a disappointing debut for new head coach Marcus Arroyo. The Rebels only scored 6 points, but the Aztecs notably have one of the best defenses in the conference, if not the country. It was a tough season-opener for a rebuilding and evolving offense, but Arroyo should be able to get this offense on track against the Wolfpack this week. Senior running back Charles Williams will be leaned on, and quarterback Max Gilliam will look for a better showing against a much weaker defensive opponent. After being run all over last week, the Rebels defense must refocus its attention on defending the Nevada aerial attack.
Rivalry games cause even the worst of teams to show up in a big way. Neither Nevada nor UNLV are expected to make a ton of noise in the Mountain West championship picture this season, so expect both teams to be locked in for this in-state battle. Outright winners of two straight in what is always a hard-fought rivalry, UNLV as two-touchdown underdogs is just too good to pass up in this week’s College Football picks.
Troy at Arkansas State (Over 71.5 at -110)
This Sun Belt matchup promises plenty of points from both sides, and the over has already been a popular play among the expert College Football picks. Both Troy and Arkansas State feature prolific offenses with each averaging over 31 points per game on the season. The line movement suggests a high-scoring affair as well with the opening line of 69.5 being bet up to 71.5 at Bovada Sportsbook.
The only way to beat Arkansas State is to try and keep pace with them score for score. Troy has the ability to do so. Outside of a poor showing on the road against a ranked BYU team, the Trojans passing attack has been lethal. Even after Gunnar Wilson was forced out of last week’s game, Jacob Free came on to throw for 329 yards and a pair of scores in a narrow loss to Georgia State. With not much of a ground game to speak of, Troy will look to attack the Sun Belt’s worst defense in Arkansas State (43.4 points allowed per game) through the air.
Should you sit down to watch some Arkansas State football either this Saturday or at any point during the season, you will be in for some fireworks. From a high-powered offense, led by two capable passing quarterbacks in Layne Hatcher and Logan Bonner, to plenty of giveaways and takeaways, the Red Wolves have a flair for the dramatic. Other than forcing turnovers, the defense has been atrocious. The Red Wolves have failed to hold a Sun Belt opponent below 45 points all season.
Two teams that love to pass, force turnovers and bring less than imposing defensive units to the table signals a ton of points. 71.5 is no small total number, but there’s no possible way you can take the under here in this week’s College Football picks.
Bonus Pick: Rice (+1.5 at -110 or +100 Moneyline)
Special shoutout to the Rice Owls football program on accomplishing the first ever quadruple-doink missed field goal I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, the kick failed to bounce through the uprights after hitting every part of the goalposts and the crossbar twice, and Rice dropped their first game of the season to Middle Tennessee. Still searching for their first win, the Owls take on a Southern Mississippi team that is in a state of chaos, to say the least. The Golden Eagles saw a second coach walk out on them this past week when interim Scotty Walden left to take over the lead position at FCS-level Austin Peay. Southern Miss has also been dealing with a rash of positive COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, making it hard to trust them when making College Football picks. I’m comfortable backing the Owls to win outright as opposed to the spread here, given the better value.