Week 9 College Football Picks: Thoughts on Penn State-Ohio State, Michigan-MSU and more

Updated: Oct 30, 2021


Credit: Ohio State Athletics

(Editor's Note: We have added Florida State Clemson UNDER 47.5 to the card)



It's Wednesday, it's time to make some college football picks, and I'm just going to keep it real: I am ice cold right now. The last two weeks have been, by far, our worst of the season.


And here's the scary part: We are in many ways hitting the toughest part of the college football betting slate. Now in Week 9, we're kind of at the point where we know everything there is to know about these teams, and where Vegas does as well. Seriously, what kind of information are you going to dig up on Penn State or Ohio State for their game Saturday that you don't already know? It also leads to the situation we're in here: Don't the lines on OSU-PSU, Georgia-Florida, on and on, feel about just right?


It seems so, but still, the show must go on.


Here are the Week 9 picks, with all of our odds presented by DraftKings Sportsbook.


Also remember, we drop two new episodes of "College Football Betting" with Aaron Torres every week. The good news for you, is I don't hand out picks there, just instead, the goal is to simply make you the smartest bettor possible. Something I believe I do on a week-to-week basis. You can listen to our latest show here:

Let's get to the Week 9 picks:


No. 6 Michigan (-4.5) at No. 8 Michigan State Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX


So over the last couple days, in the lead-up to the biggest game in this rivalry in decades, it seems like every outlet is doing these big, long gushing profile pieces on these two teams. How Jim Harbaugh is having the time of his life coaching this team and how Mel Tucker is college football's transfer portal guru.


Both are fascinating pieces, and I encourage you to read each if you can (one is behind a paywall).


Still, in looking at this game, a few things stand out to me about Michigan State specifically: One, Mel Tucker is the transfer portal guru, because he had to be. His team wasn't very good last year. And while they're clearly much improved, they are still wildly thin at several positions, again, because beyond a transfer or two who was brought in this summer, there was no one good enough already at the school.


Beyond that, let's stick with the Spartans, because I've got to ask: Doesn't it feel like a huge part of the Michigan State hype this year was basically built on beating a bad Miami team, that we didn't know was bad at the time? That came in Week 3, when the Canes were still ranked in the Top 25. And while the final score was 38-17, it was a one-possession game late until the Spartans poured it on in the fourth quarter. Since then Michigan State has an overtime win over Nebraska, victories over Western Kentucky and Rutgers, and a game where they hung on for dear life against a bad Indiana squad (we all saw what Ohio State did to them last week).


Three, while Michigan is a pretty sound football team across the board (they do pretty much everything at an above average level), Michigan State which has two gaping holes: One, their pass defense isn't great (121st nationally) and they also rank 119th in time of possession - meaning they either score quick, or give up the ball quickly.


In the end, I'm not sure Michigan is totally the team to expose the Spartans in the pass defense category (Ohio State probably fits that category). But they have been more than willing to pass the ball. And my concern for Michigan State is simple, if they have a few three and out's and Michigan is able to put up even some points, I'm not sold the Spartans are built to mount big comebacks.


The over/under feels right on the nose (no Michigan-MSU game has gone over 55 in the Harbaugh era) and generally I don't love taking road favorites.


But it feels like Michigan is still undervalued, Michigan State is a little bit overvalued, and after what happened last year when these two teams played (when MSU won) the Wolverines will come in with a chip on their shoulder.


No. 9 Iowa (+3) at Wisconsin (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)


First off, the over/under here is set at 36.5 - just a comically low number, that I actually think feels about right.


Secondly, I know, I know: Taking Iowa as an underdog is a totally square play. This line makes it seem like the oddsmakers are beginning us to take Iowa.


You know what though, I don't care. I'm doing it anyway.


Here's why: Yes, Wisconsin picked up a nice win last week over a ranked Purdue team. But at the same time, if you look closely, it's clear that the Badgers aren't really all that improved, and instead are the same "All defense, no pass game" team we saw against Penn State, Notre Dame etc.


Seriously, want to know how Wisconsin beat Purdue? They ran the ball for 290 yards, they forced five turnovers and Graham Mertz threw the ball just eight times. EIGHT!!!! That makes Army football look like Mike Leach's Air Raid by comparison.


I bring that up to say, there is no way Wisconsin is going to be able to execute the same game-plan against Iowa. For all the Hawkeyes faults, they have one of the best run defenses in college football (ranked 11th nationally) and have forced the most turnovers in the sport. There's no way that Wisconsin - which was ranked dead last in college football in turnover margin as of a week ago - is going to be +3 in that category on Saturday.


Again, this feels like a totally square play and it might be. But for Wisconsin to win this game, they're going to have to do something they haven't been able to do all year - pass the ball without turning it over.


It's something I don't believe they're capable of doing, which is why I'll gladly take the Hawkeyes and the points here.


Colorado at No. 7 Oregon (UNDER 49): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX


Look, I could sit here and give you 10,000 words on this game, but let me just save you some time: If you take out a game against the worst team in Power 5 football (Arizona), here is how many points Colorado has scored this year against Power 5 teams: 7 points (Texas A&M), 0 points (Minnesota), 14 points (USC), 3 points (Cal).


That's right, outside of Arizona - the worst team in Power 5 football they have not scored more than 14 points on any Power 5 opponent all season.


To it's credit, Colorado also plays decent, though not elite defense. They rank 63rd nationally in total defense. That doesn't sound great, but it's borderline incredible, considering how much time they spend on defense.


Therefore, it feels like we all know how this game is: Oregon jumps out early to a respectable lead - say 24-3 at halftime. Then Mario Cristobal and Joe Moorhead call off the dogs, and get ready for a rivalry game next week at Washington, in something like a 34-3 win over the Buffaloes.


Florida State (+9.5) at Clemson (UNDER 47.5): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN


As mentioned up top, it hasn't been a good few weeks for the picks. But I will give myself credit for one thing. Last week when Clemson opened as a slight underdog, it led everyone to the same conclusion: "Vegas has caught up to Clemson!!!" And what did I say in response? "They haven't caught up, Clemson should be a way bigger dog than they are."


Well... HOW YOU LIKE THEM APPLES?!?!


(Also, please ignore most of the other picks I've made over the last couple weeks)


Honestly, there's no other way to put it: This Clemson team just isn't very good. On top of not being very good, they are also banged up (they were missing 18 scholarship players to injury last week) and most importantly, there's starting to become a little bit of a toxic vibe around the program. Dabo is growing frustrated with the media who keeps asking him about coaching changes and why he won't recruit the transfer portal, and fans are starting to tune out a bad team. Incredibly, it would only cost you $18 to get into the stadium this weekend.


I bring all this up to say that there is no magic turnaround coming at Clemson, and even if there was, they're facing a rapidly improving Florida State team this weekend. The Seminoles have won three straight since quarterback Jordan Travis returned at full strength and they currently rank 13th nationally in rushing yardage.


Frankly, I even think there is probably a little value on a Florida State moneyline bet, but let's just stick with the spread in this one.


Pitt (-3.5) was my favorite bet last week. And I like this one as well.


No. 10 Ole Miss at No. 18 Auburn (UNDER 66): Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN


I'm going to try to keep this one brief, but here are two things you need to know about this game.


One, Ole Miss is insanely banged up. While virtually every other SEC team has had a bye in the last week or two (or this current week), the Rebels had there's all the way back on September 25th. Because of it, this is now their fifth straight game, all against SEC opponents. And it's catching up to them.


Rather than me list the injuries, here's what 247 Sports put out earlier this week:


"Starting wide receivers Braylon Sanders (shoulder) and Jonathan Mingo (foot) have been missing. Tight end Chase Rogers (foot) has been unavailable. Starting left guard Caleb Warren (foot) missed games versus Arkansas and Tennessee but made his way back into the lineup Saturday just in time for starting right guard Ben Brown (arm) to miss his first start in 40 games, a streak that was the longest on the team. Mingo, Rogers and Brown are feared to be lost for the season."


Not ideal.


And because Ole Miss is so banged up, you know what has happened the last few weeks: Ole Miss overs have been WILDLY overinflated.


Two weeks ago against Tennessee the over/under peaked at around 82. The two teams combined for 57. Last week against LSU the over/under settled at around 77. The two teams combined for 48.


I mean come on, that isn't even CLOSE.


Add in that Ole Miss's defense gets better by the week and they're playing a ball control Auburn offense, I'd grab this number before it goes down even further.


No. 20 Penn State at No. 5 Ohio State (UNDER 30 - 1H): Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC


This is obviously the biggest game on this week's slate, and no game better symbolizes what I said up top about how Vegas has these games pegged. Ohio State is an 18.5 point favorite in this game, and the over/under is 59.5


Honestly, don't both those numbers feel about right? They do to me. Again, because at this point we know everything there is to know about these teams. You simply can't fool Vegas at this point in the year.


Therefore, just about the best angle I could come up with in this game was the first half under. My logic is pretty simple: We know Penn State's offense is going to struggle (we have a seven-game sample size to prove it) and this will be by far the best defense Ohio State has faced all year. While I believe the Buckeyes are the second best team in the country, they have faced one Top 40 defense all year - that was Minnesota in the opener in... August.


In the end, I don't love the under in this one because I believe Ohio State can pile it on late, and I don't trust Penn State to cover the points either.


I am however loving the first half under.


Stay Aways:


Florida vs. No. 1 Georgia (-14) - Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS: There is just way too much quarterback uncertainty for me to play this game. Remember, last year this game was when Stetson Bennett got benched and we realized he wasn't the guy at quarterback - a year later, people seem to have forgotten that he is limited against good teams. Meanwhile Dan Mullen just refuses to hand the reigns of this team to Anthony Richardson - or at least that's what we think. Georgia is probably the play, but I just don't want to see AR15 run through the tunnel as the starter and spend the rest of the game sweating this one out.


No. 12 Kentucky (-1) at Mississippi State - Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network: Kentucky is clearly the better team, Mississippi State is at home, at night. No... thank you.

 

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