That makes three losing weeks in a row. We'll try to find some winners as October comes to a close.
Temple +3.5 Tulane
I have been a huge Willie Fritz fan since I watched his Sam Houston State team play in the FCS playoffs in either 2011 or 2012. I followed him when he made the move to Georgia Southern and later Tulane. And while you can't argue with the success he has had at Tulane (back to back bowl games and a half yard away from three in a row), he has never been able to get the offense rolling in New Orleans as he did at Sam Houston and Georgia Southern. And this year, the Green Wave have been as bad or worse on defense. Their last three opponents (all good offenses) have scored 137 points and the Green Wave are drowning with an 0-4 mark in conference play. In fact, dating back to last season, the Green Wave have lost seven conference games in a row with their last AAC victory coming almost exactly one year ago. Yet they are favored against a team and coach with a solid track record in the underdog role. Rod Carey is in his eighth season as a college football head coach, and while his teams never win bowl games, they play well as an underdog. His charges at Northern Illinois and Temple are 14-6 Against the Spread (ATS) as a road underdog with eight outright wins. They are a live dog in this spot against a reeling Tulane team.
Iowa -2.5 Northwestern
Does this line seem a little off to you? The team that is favored lost outright as a slight favorite last week while the underdog beat the brakes off an opponent they were expected to beat by double digits. I think this line tells you all you need to know about Maryland, Northwestern's opponent last week. I foolishly believed Maryland could hang in that game, and while the Terrapins did score on their opening drive, it was all downhill from there. While picking Maryland to cover last week was monumentally stupid, I will toot my own horn for a bit in correctly shaming the Mike Locksley hire. Of course, any idiot could have seen that coming. But I digress. I don't know how much we can surmise from Northwestern's victory last week, other than they are not nearly as bad offensively as they were last season. How good they are remains to be seen and a trip to Iowa City will provide some insight. The Hawkeyes lost at Purdue last week, but outgained the Boilermakers and averaged a yard more per play. Iowa was what we have come to expect from the Hawkeyes under Kirk Ferentz, even with a new quarterback making his first road start. I expect the Hawkeyes to rebound, especially since they will be back in the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium. This has been a unique series, at least in regards to the betting line, since Pat Fitzgerald showed up. The Hawkeyes are just 6-8 against Northwestern in that span and are an amazing 0-4 straight up and ATS as a double digit favorite! However, in games with an expected tighter margin (Hawkeyes favored by a touchdown or less), they are 4-1 straight up and ATS. Northwestern looked like a Big 10 contender last week, but most teams will probably look that way against Maryland. They will come back to earth on Saturday with the Hawkeyes giving them their first loss of the season.
Auburn +3 LSU
For the second time this season, the highly competent SEC officials may have gifted Auburn a victory. While the Tigers did have to drive down and score after the questionable call, there is no doubt Auburn could well be 1-4 or even 0-5 if a few whistles had gone the other way. Halfway through an unusual ten game SEC schedule, Auburn has been outscored on the year and quarterback Bo Nix has not improved on his uneven play from his freshman campaign. Despite their struggles, I am surprised they are catching three points at home against LSU. This spread would probably be different had LSU not had their game with Florida postponed two weeks ago. Remember, LSU was coming off a shocking road loss at Missouri and would have been at least a moderate underdog in the Swamp. As it was, they had an unexpected bye, and then crushed South Carolina at home, or so it would seem. Meanwhile, Auburn lost to that same South Carolina team in Columbia and needed the aforementioned fourth quarter comeback to shake Ole Miss in Oxford. But let's circle back to LSU's good looking win against South Carolina. While the Tigers won by four touchdowns, their defense did not play well. They allowed over 400 yards to the Gamecocks on just 51 snaps. This was the third time in four conference games they permitted at least seven yards per play. A defensive and special teams touchdown, as well as three missed field goals by South Carolina masked that poor defensive effort. LSU is allowing over seven yards per play on the season, and if we remove their victory against Vanderbilt, that number shoots up to 8.3. As I mentioned earlier, Bo Nix has basically played at about the same level he did last season, but I expect him to have the best game of the season (and potentially of his career) against LSU. Auburn has struggled against LSU under Gus Malzahn, going 2-5 straight up, including losing three straight (all as a favorite), but the underdog has done well recently in this series. The underdog is 5-2 ATS in this series since Malzahn arrived on The Plains and LSU has not covered as a favorite in Jordan Hare since 2008. I like Auburn to win this game outright.
New Mexico +13.5 San Jose State
This game was originally scheduled to be played in Albuquerque, but due to Covid-19 issues in the area, was moved to San Jose. That relocation puts San Jose State in an awkward position in that they will be laying double digits against an FBS team for the first time since 2014. The Spartans are much improved from what they were a few years ago, but should they really be laying two touchdowns against a conference opponent one week after scoring a grand total of seventeen points? I don't think so, which is why I'm encouraging you to back New Mexico. Remember, to cover a big spread, a team typically needs to score a lot of points, and I don't know if San Jose State can do that. As I mentioned, they netted seventeen points last week, but they made up for that by gaining less than 300 yards and averaging under five yards per play. It should be noted, the Spartans did win last week, so they may be able to hold New Mexico in check. However, a bet on New Mexico is a bet on uncertainty, and I think the Lobos have a chance to be better than most folks think. For starters, the toxic Bob Davie is no longer coaching the team, and they achieved a massive coup when Rocky Long agreed to be their defensive coordinator. Long enjoyed success as a head coach at both New Mexico and San Diego State, particularly on defense, so I think he can help a New Mexico team that has been quite porous on that side of the ball for the past few seasons. Take the Lobos and the points.
Texas Tech +14.5 Oklahoma
The Red Raiders finally came through and won their first Big 12 game of the season last week against West Virginia. The victory has just their third in conference play in a year and a half under head coach Matt Wells. Henry Colombi, who followed Wells from Utah State, started at quarterback and helped ignite a Red Raider offense that had been dormant since their overtime loss to Texas. The offense will need to continue to perform well when Oklahoma comes to Lubbock. While the Sooners have not been as dominant as they were previously under Lincoln Riley without an experienced quarterback running the show, they have still scored at least 30 points in every Big 12 game and have a conceivable path to get to the Big 12 Championship Game after an 0-2 start. However, their defense continues to be a cause for concern and is the reason I would back Texas Tech in this spot. The Sooners are second to last in the Big 12 in yards allowed per per play and before a solid showing against TCU, had allowed at least 37 points to their first three conference opponents. The Sooners also do not have a solid track record in Lubbock. The Sooners have been favored their last six trips there and have only covered once. They have been laying double digits their past three trips and have not covered either time. Look for more of the same. I don't have the cajones to call for a Texas Tech outright win, but they will cover this number.