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The college football bets you need to make in Week 7

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Another college football Saturday is here and there are some massive Top 25 matchups on the board! And we’ve spent all week looking up and down the Week 7 college football betting odds, compiling the best picks and predictions on spreads, totals, props and everything in between. 

THIS ONE’S GONNA HURT(S)

The Texas Longhorns haven’t been able to stop opposing pass attacks – and they’ll face one of the most dangerous QBs in the nation this weekend as they square off against Jalen Hurts and the Oklahoma Sooners at the Cotton Bowl. The Longhorns come into this one having allowed the fifth-most passing yards per game in the nation (325.0) – and that’s very bad news for a team tasked with containing a QB that is averaging over 300 passing yards per game and has already accounted for 21 touchdowns. Texas’ lone saving grace in that department? It has “held” teams to 11 passing touchdowns through five games.

The Longhorns have already given up 30+ points three times this season, including back-to-back games against Oklahoma State and West Virginia. This Oklahoma team is far more dangerous – and should finish Over its lofty team point total.

NO REST FOR THE WEARY

The Michigan State Spartans are getting a much-deserved and much-needed week off – but not until after they tangle with the powerhouse Wisconsin Badgers in what will be the third road date in four games for MSU. And you can expect Wisconsin to be at full power, coming off a 48-0 drubbing of Kent State in which the Badgers were able to give most of their key players – chiefly standout RB Jonathan Taylor – some much needed rest. Wisconsin has already posted three shutouts and will be looking to extend that defensive dominance against a Spartans team ranked in the bottom half in total offense (393.5 YPG).

This is the first time the Spartans will have played true road games in consecutive weeks since October 2017 – and with the Badgers fully rested and looking dominant, we like the home team on a bigger spread; take -13.5 with confidence.

DON’T BE FOOLED

The Army Black Knights have played back-to-back slugfests that both finished well above the Vegas total – and bettors are wondering if a third straight Over is in the cards this weekend against host Western Kentucky. But not so fast: the Hilltoppers boast one of the most impressive run defenses in the nation, having limited opponents to just 2.82 yards per carry and four rushing TDs all season. On the flip side, WKU have struggled mightily on offense and rank near the bottom of the country in average rushing yards. The Hilltoppers have also seen an average of just 28 total points scored over their past two games.

While the total for this one might scare Under bettors away given how Army’s recent games have gone, both sides are capable of slowing down the opposition offense sufficiently to make the U43 play the superior option here.

WIN SOME, LOSE

Where the Florida Gators are, turnovers aren’t far behind. The Gators will look to maintain their ball-hawking ways – and take much better care of the ball on the offensive end – as they travel to Baton Rouge for a marquee encounter with LSU. Florida comes into the game with the most forced turnovers of any team in the country, having recovered five fumbles while adding 12 interceptions. Unfortunately, things have been quite the opposite when the Gators have the football; only four teams have turned the ball more often than Florida, which has coughed it up 13 times.

While LSU has seen far less turnover turmoil this season, the mere presence of the Gators in this game puts a special teams or defensive touchdown in play; we think it’s worth a look at +225.

JACKSON UNLIKELY TO PLAY

The Maryland Terrapins will be without starting quarterback Josh Jackson for Saturday’s encounter with Purdue. Jackson suffered a high-ankle sprain in last weekend’s victory over Purdue; he had hoped to make sufficient progress to return, but Maryland head coach Mike Locksley says that’s doubtful. Jackson has had a mediocre season at the helm of the Terrapins’ offense, throwing for 10 touchdowns with four interceptions but completing just over 51 percent of his pass attempts. Tyrell Pigrome would get the start in Jackson’s place; Pigrome is 17-of-27 for 171 yards and a TD on the season.

The Maryland offense shouldn’t see a dropoff with Pigrome at the helm against a Boilermakers unit allowing a whopping 290 passing yards per game (117th in FBS). Look for the Terrapins to rally behind their backup QB and pull out the upset win.

ARMANI NOT SUITED TO START

UNLV will once again turn to redshirt freshman Kenyon Oblad as their starting quarterback this weekend against the Vanderbilt Commodores. Junior QB Armani Rogers will not start for the Rebels due to a lingering knee injury that kept him off the field for last week’s 38-13 drubbing at the hands of the Boise State Broncos – and while he might see action this week, it won’t be in a starting capacity. Oblad finished with decent numbers against the Broncos (262 passing yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) but needed 55 pass attempts to get there as the Rebels found themselves down by 17 points at the half.

Oblad isn’t nearly the rushing threat that Rogers is, which is a major reason why BSU was able to limit UNLV to 2.2 yards per carry last week. And while Vanderbilt is allowing 5.14 YPC on the season, the downgrade in running ability between Oblad and Rogers makes the Rebels a fade as two-TD underdogs vs. the host Commodores.

BRYANT SET TO RETURN?

Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant says he’s “90 percent” sure he’ll be able to play this week against Ole Miss. Bryant left last week’s victory over the Troy Trojans with what was diagnosed as a left knee sprain, but he has participated in practice this week and told reporters he’s good to go for the weekend encounter with the Rebels. While not a true dual-threat quarterback, Bryant has 47 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown on the season to go along with 1,246 passing yards and 11 touchdowns (against three interceptions). More importantly, he has been sacked just eight times through the Tigers’ first five games.

It’s doubtful that Bryant will be 100 percent when he takes the field this weekend, and that could be a concern against an Ole Miss defense that averages 2.8 sacks per game (24th-best in the country). Whether Bryant plays or not, we like the Rebels to cover as a double-digit road underdog.

BLACKMAN IS BACK

James Blackman will return to action this weekend as he leads the Florida State Seminoles against the powerhouse Clemson Tigers.

Blackman missed the Seminoles’ previous game against North Carolina State after suffering a knee injury early in a September 27 victory over Louisville. Alex Hornibrook was sensational in his absence but will return to a backup role against the Tigers (-27).

Blackman has had a great start to the season (970 passing yards, nine TDs, two INTs) and has been particularly effective in the first half of games, completing 73.1 percent of his passes with six TDs, zero INTs and a 187.8 QB rating.

Florida State ranks 21st in the nation in first-half scoring at 21.4 points per game – a significant improvement over last season (9.5). And while Clemson is expected to roll here, we see enough from the Seminoles to lean their way on the first half cover.

PROBLEM SOLVED?

Nothing went right for the Nevada Wolf Pack in their 56-3 loss to Hawaii last week, so the coaching staff is doing something about it, naming junior Malik Henry the new starting quarterback for Saturday’s encounter with San Jose State.

Henry gets the call for Nevada (-1.5) after Cristian Solano and Carson Strong combined to throw for just 105 yards with two interceptions in the loss to the Warriors – Nevada’s second 50-point defeat of the season. Henry has appeared in one game for the Wolf Pack this season, completing all three of his pass attempts for 28 yards in a 37-21 victory over UTEP back on September 21.

Even if Henry excels as the starter, he can’t fix a Nevada pass defense that ranks 109th in the country and could get manhandled against SJSU’s 33rd-ranked pass attack. We like the Spartans to earn the outright victory here.

WAIT AND SEE

The Nebraska Cornhuskers could be without their sensational sophomore quarterback for this weekend’s Big Ten showdown with host Minnesota (-7.5).

Adrian Martinez left late in the third quarter of last week’s 13-10 triumph over Northwestern, and Cornhuskers head coach Scott Frost said the team is in “wait-and-see” mode on Martinez’s status for Saturday.

Martinez is the lynch pin of the Nebraska offense, leading the team in passing (1,245) and rushing yards (341) while accounting for 10 touchdowns. Noah Vedral would get the call at quarterback if Martinez isn’t able to suit up.

With the Golden Gophers limiting foes to a 57.9-percent completion rate and 211.8 passing yards per game, Martinez’s absence would be particularly damaging to Nebraska’s chances. It’s a good time to grab this line, as Nebraska could struggle even if Martinez suits up. If he’s ruled out, you could see this one climb to double digits.

 

Longshots to consider when betting the Shoemaker Mile

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Monday’s Shoemaker Miles Stakes at Santa Anita Park is a great race for a number of reasons. For starters, the Shoemaker Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race that offers the winner a guaranteed spot in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

The race also features last year’s Preakness Stakes winner, War of Will, making his season debut. Despite his triumphs on the dirt in 2019, War of Will started his career on the turf and his pedigree suggests that he’s very likely to be just as successful on the grass. That said, the Shoemaker Mile will be his first start off of a six-month break, and I’m going to try to take a swing or two with some horses who could upset the apple cart at longer odds.

Let’s start out with the horse on the rail, Without Parole. He won the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes going a mile at Ascot back in 2018. His three other career wins have all came at this mile distance as well. Granted, he hasn’t won in six races since the St. James’s Palace but he did finish a fast-closing third two starts ago in a much tougher U.S. debut in the TVG Breeders’ Cup MileIrad Ortiz Jr. rode Without Parole in that race and he will reclaim the mount on him again on Monday.

Without Parole has only had one race this year and it was in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational in which he finished second to last. However, he had several excuses right from the start of that race when he got squeezed coming out of the gate. He also raced in traffic throughout and got cut off several times in the stretch before Frankie Dettori — who had come from Europe to ride him at Gulfstream — finally just wrapped up on him. The Pegasus World Cup Turf also was a race that didn’t allow him to run on Lasix (furosemide) after he’d shown significant improvement racing on Lasix for the first time at the Breeders’ Cup.

Stream the 2020 Shoemaker Mile live here

How much of a factor might Lasix be for some horses? Well, let’s next look at the horse who finished last in the Pegasus World Cup Turf: Next Shares. In his following start (back on Lasix) in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes, Next Shares finished third (beaten just a neck) to River Boyne. Both Next Shares and River Boyne return in the Shoemaker Mile and I prefer the former as a pace play who has plenty of back-class. If you rewatch the Kilroe Mile, Next Shares covered a lot more ground than River Boyne. With a similar effort, Next Shares could certainly turn the tables.

The other thing to like about Next Shares is that his trainer, Richard Baltas, has entered speedster Neptune’s Storm in the Shoemaker Mile. That horse, along with Voodoo Song, should ensure a very brisk pace up front — they’ll also be kept honest by Blitzkrieg and War of Will, both of whom usually race on or near the lead. All of that speed adds up to good news for Next Shares. He’s a Grade 1 winner who has always done his best running when he’s had some pace to run into. The other two keys for him (like all stalking or closing-type runners) is clear running room late, and hopefully he’ll get that with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez taking the mount.

Lastly, we should take a look at True Valour. It’s hard to make much of an excuse for his flat finish in the Kilroe last out, but he’s truly performed better than what his results on paper might indicate. In the Thunder Road Stakes in February, he looked pretty keen early and it took him a few strides to settle down without throwing his head around and fighting his rider. Turning for home, it was clear that jockey Andrea Atzeni had plenty of horse under him but was just waiting for some running room. It ended up coming too late because River Boyne was in a better spot and had already taken command. True Valour did split horses nicely in the closing stages and was half a jump away from finishing second.

If you go back to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, True Valour had excuses there, too. He was up on heels early and he again took a little bit of time to settle down into a comfortable stride. Then, turning for him, he was just waiting for running room but instead got stuck behind a wall of horses. True Valour ended up steadying pretty badly and lost all chance at that point. I’m a little worried about how headstrong he tends to be early in races, but there’s a scenario here that could have at least two horses battling for the lead early and opening up some daylight on the rest of the field. That means he’ll be less likely to be running up on anyone’s heels and it also ensures that he’ll have a nice setup. Whether he can navigate clear passage late in the race is a separate matter.

Longshot Selections

#1 Without Parole

#3 Next Shares

#2 True Valour

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

How to bet an exacta on a horse race

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Betting an exacta can present a challenge on several levels.

There is, of course, the primary need to analyze past performances and decide which horses are going to finish first and second.

Yet because of the inherently lower payoffs as opposed to what you’ll find in a Pick 3 or Pick 4, you’ll need to structure your wagers effectively in order to turn your selections into a profitable wager.

For starters, an exacta can be a simple wager. If you like two horses equally, you can just box them in the exacta and collect so long as they finish 1-2 in any order. If you like one of them a little more, you can then bet more on the one you prefer, say $10 on a 1-2 exacta and $5 on 2-1.

If you’re a little more uncertain, make sure you structure your bet around the size of the field and the probable payoffs.

If you like a longshot, the higher probable payoffs give you the cushion you need to wager on more combinations and still turn a nice profit.

But if you’re dealing with favorites or horses at relatively low odds, you have to wager more efficiently to preserve your profit.

In a field of six or less, you’re best to either focus on one horse or box two of them instead of boxing three or more horses because of the small payouts the bet will most likely generate.

In a field of seven, a wise strategy would be to box your top two choices and then, if you are worried about other horses, play them top and/or bottom other the other horses. For example, box 1-2, then bet 1-2 over 3-4 and 3-4 over 1-2. This way you are getting coverage on four horses without having to box them.

Once you get an eight-horse field, as long as there is not an overwhelming favorite, you can expand the number of horses you box since the payoffs will typically be higher, giving you a better opportunity to offset the inevitable array of losing tickets in a boxed wager.