As the College Football Playoff committee figures out this week’s first release of rankings, a monster Week 11 game will surely impact next week’s rankings. Covers checks in on the opening odds and early action for that matchup and three others, with insights from Matt Chaprales, head of content for PointsBet USA in New Jersey.
No. 2 Louisiana State Tigers at No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (-6)
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa missed much of a Week 8 home win over Tennessee and all of a Week 9 home win over Arkansas, due to a high ankle sprain. It appears Tagovailoa is on target to return for this major Southeastern Conference clash. The Crimson Tide (8-0 SU, 4-4 ATS) thumped Arkansas 48-7 as 32-point favorites, then had a bye in Week 10.
Louisiana State has faced a much more challenging schedule than ‘Bama, with wins over Texas, Florida and Auburn. The Tigers (8-0 SU, 5-3 ATS), who also had a Week 10 bye, fended off Auburn 23-20 as 11.5-point home faves in Week 9.
“We hung a lookahead line of Alabama -9.5 two weeks ago and took a few sharp plays on LSU,” Chaprales said. “We reopened Alabama -6 Sunday night, and the first move was to 6.5, but it’s a significant adjustment, no matter how you slice it. While the market still views ‘Bama as the better team on a neutral field, the gap has certainly closed.
“Needless to say, this should be one of the highest-handle games of the year.”
No. 5 Penn State Nittany Lions at No. 13 Minnesota Golden Gophers (+6)
It’s not much of a surprise that Penn State rides into this Big Ten battle unbeaten, at 8-0 SU (5-3 ATS). The Nittany Lions had a Week 10 bye, after coasting past Michigan State 28-7 giving 5.5 points on the road in Week 9.
It is a surprise that Minnesota is among the ranks of the unbeaten, hosting its biggest game in quite some time. The Golden Gophers (8-0 SU, 5-2-1 ATS) cashed in their last five outings, including a 52-10 wipeout of Maryland laying 14 points at home in Week 9. Minnesota also had a Week 10 bye.
“Arguably the biggest football game for Minnesota in recent history,” Chaprales said. “We opened this Penn State -6 and immediately took a four-figure bet at that number, resulting in a move to -7.”
Iowa State Cyclones at No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners (-13)
Even after a bye week, Oklahoma is trying to get the license plate number of the bus that ran over it in Week 9. The Sooners (7-1 SU, 4-4 ATS) went off as 23.5-point favorites at Kansas State, yet trailed 24-23 at halftime and fell miles behind at 48-23 early in the fourth quarter. Lincoln Riley’s squad then rallied but came up short, 48-41.
Iowa State is also coming off a loss as double-digit home chalk, ending a three-game SU surge. The Cyclones (5-3 SU, 4-3-1 ATS) were 11.5-point Week 9 home faves against Oklahoma State, but lost outright 34-27. Iowa State had a bye in Week 10.
“Oklahoma’s playoff hopes aren’t cooked yet, but the Sooners will obviously need to win out and take care of business in the Big 12 title game,” Chaprales said. “Coming off the shocking loss and a bye, we’re expecting a focused Sooners squad and wanted to be on the high side. Even so, an opener of 13 wasn’t high enough.”
Indeed, PointsBet’s first move was to Oklahoma -13.5, but the line went back to -13 by Monday afternoon.
No. 10 Baylor Bears at Texas Christian Horned Frogs (+1)
Baylor is somewhat quietly undefeated, although it got a pretty good scare in a Week 10 Halloween night game. The Bears (8-0 SU, 4-4 ATS) went to West Virginia as hefty 18-point favorites and got out with a 17-14 victory.
Texas Christian’s salad days – 12 double-digit-win seasons from 2000-2017 – appear to be over, after a 7-6 SU 2018-19 campaign and now standing at 4-4 SU (3-5 ATS) this season. In Week 10 at Oklahoma State, the Horned Frogs fell 34-27 as 1-point favorites.
“Baylor is about as shaky of an 8-0 team as you’ll see and accordingly isn’t getting a ton of respect from the market, as evidenced by this opener,” Chaprales said. “That said, the first few bets have come in on the Bears, ticking the line up to -1.5 as a result.”
That didn’t last long, however, as the line moved back to Baylor -1 by Monday afternoon.
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.