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Alex Kirshner is back with his predictions and picks for Week 9 in college football

Last week, I went 10-10 picking college football games. For the second week in a row, the majority of the games I picked saw the line or total move in my favor after I locked my pick in, usually a sign that you’re doing something right and good results should follow. But it hasn’t materialized lately into the winning outcomes we’d prefer. I’m 57-54-2 on the year (a 51.4% win rate), and it looks like Week 9 will bring yet more closing line value. Hopefully it’ll translate into a solidly above .500 performance, as I see a handful of strong value plays.

All bets are for one unit unless otherwise noted. 

Michigan State vs. Michigan

BET: Under 55.5 @ -110 

I’m a believer in new Michigan QB Joe Milton and think the Wolverines will score some points. But for this game to get to 56 points, the Wolverines might have to score more than 40 themselves, because Michigan State’s offense is horrendous. Even if the Spartans don’t turn the ball over repeatedly (as they did in a loss to Rutgers), I don’t think they’ll be able to move the ball much at all against a much more talented Michigan front. And I don’t think they’ll have many explosive plays that would allow them to steal quick points.

On the other hand, this is a Michigan State vs. Michigan game, and that means it’s liable to turn into a complete mess for everybody involved. I’m banking on a little bit of that happening here, and perhaps on Michigan getting up by so many points that Jim Harbaugh just sits on the game and allows it to come home with 55 points or fewer. 

Purdue vs. Illinois

BET: Purdue -4 @ -110 

This line has moved hard in my favor since I grabbed it on Sunday, and Purdue is now around a touchdown favorite at most sportsbooks. I would stay away from Illinois even at that number and still at least give some thought to Purdue, which beat Iowa last week despite not having either its head coach (Jeff Brohm) or its best player (Rondale Moore). 

The Boilermakers’ got extremely lucky to win that game, but I still think they’re a lot better than Illinois. The Illini didn’t score a point on offense at Wisconsin and in particular couldn’t run the ball at all. Even though Purdue’s defense is a far cry from Wisconsin’s, I don’t see why we should expect Illinois to score higher than the low or mid-20s. On the other hand, with Brohm (and perhaps Moore) back, shouldn’t Purdue score into the 30s against an Illinois defense that got picked apart by Wisconsin? 

Boston College vs. Clemson

BET: Boston College +32.5 @ -110

A few things point in Boston College’s favor. One, Clemson empties the bench early in blowouts and tends to lighten up a bit at the end of the game. If this game is going the way it probably will go, Trevor Lawrence will be out by some time in the third quarter, and BC will have a decent chance at a backdoor cover anyway. Two, Boston College QB Phil Jurkovec is well suited to hang in tough against the Tigers and move the ball a little bit. 

Jurkovec has been under pressure more often this season than any QB in the country except Georgia Tech’s Jeff Sims. But unlike Sims and the other QBs high on that list, Jurkovec actually performs quite admirably when he’s under duress. He has a 4-0 TD-to-interception ratio when under pressure (as he is on 40% of his drop-backs) and completes nearly 60% of his passes in those circumstances. Clemson will probably sack Jurkovec a lot, but don’t be surprised if he makes enough challenging throws to get BC to 17 or 24 points. 

College Football Expert Picks

North Carolina vs. Virginia

BET: North Carolina -7 @ -115

Don’t be scared off by the Heels’ loss at Florida State two weeks ago. This is a devastatingly effective offense, and the defense is good enough to keep UVA’s lackluster offense from doing much of consequence. I don’t think the Hoos will get close to 30 points, and I think the Heels should score somewhere in the mid-30s for an easy cover. 

This is one of the few lines mentioned in this article that has moved against me since I took it, meaning you could get UNC at a better number than I did. I recommend it as a smart risk. 

Minnesota vs. Maryland

BET: Minnesota -19 @ -110

BET: Under 59.5 @ -110 

Maryland was the worst team in the country in its season debut at Northwestern. I don’t know if the Terps will be that bad all year. But I also don’t think the Gophers will be as bad as they were against a very good Michigan offense last week. I expect Maryland to get blown out as it almost always does when playing a capable Big Ten opponent. I do not think the Terps’ offense is any good, and I could see Minnesota covering with a 42-10 final score, or something in that ballpark, which would be both an easy cover for the Gophers and the under. 

TCU vs. Baylor

BET: Baylor PK @ -110 

In terms of line value, this appears to be my worst pick of the week, and you can get Baylor at around +3. I’d recommend that. Both of these have slightly above-average defenses and struggle immensely to score. I see a close game and have a hard time not taking the points. Baylor should do better if coach Dave Aranda learns from some of his mistakes at Texas last weekend, when he repeatedly called for ill-advised punts on makeable fourth downs.

NCAA Football Picks

Kansas State vs. West Virginia

BET: Over 48.5 @ -110

This number feels low to me. Kansas State’s offense is better than the phrase “Kansas State’s offense” would make you think, and the Wildcats have done a good job creating short fields for themselves, allowing them to score more quickly. (Their average starting field position in non-garbage time drives is their own 35-yard line.) West Virginia’s running game is basically non-existent, and I expect the Mountaineers to throw a lot and try to find points through the air. These things are all conducive to a few more points. 

UCF vs. Houston

BET: Under 78.5 @ -110

That’s just a huge number. These offenses are dynamic, and it’s certainly possible the high total is justified. But I’ll take a number where a 40-37 shootout doesn’t get us there. I think Houston’s defensive front is strong enough to cause mild problems for UCF’s offense, and even a few defensive stops would be a huge deal for this under. I also don’t think Dana Holgorsen thinks he can win a shootout and might try to play a little ball control by having the Cougars run a lot – at least if they haven’t fallen behind. 

Boise State vs. Air Force

BET: Boise State -10 @ -130 

I’m not a big believer in Air Force. The Falcons looked great in what amounted to a preseason game against Navy at the beginning of the month, when Navy looked much worse than it does now and Air Force was just getting in one game with a rival before waiting a few weeks to start the Mountain West season. But Air Force looked drab in a 17-6 loss to San Jose State, failing to move the ball much at all against what is probably not a great defense. 

College Gameday Picks

Nevada vs. UNLV

BET: Nevada -9.5 @ -110

I won’t waste your time with a detailed explanation of this pick: UNLV is bad bad. Like, they may lose every game they play this year by more than one score. 

This line has moved to about +13. I like Nevada at anything less than two touchdowns. 

South Alabama vs. Georgia Southern

BET: Over 50.5 @ -110 

Betting the over in a Georgia Southern game is not usually good gambling hygiene. The Eagles run a lot and keep the clock moving, and the over has only hit once in five Eagles games this year. But I think it will happen this week. South Alabama’s defense gives up a lot of chunk running plays (10 of 20-plus yards in five games), and I think Georgia Southern can steal a quick touchdown or two on drives that don’t take a ton of time. On the other side, South Alabama’s offense is fairly explosive and could get some big passing plays against an Eagle defense that’s had problems in that area this year. To me, this total is too low not to hit. 

Troy vs. Arkansas State

BET: Troy +4 @ -105

I think the Trojans are undervalued here because they’ve had two close games the last two weeks that they should’ve won by a lot, but didn’t. First, they needed a buzzer-beating field goal to beat a terrible Eastern Kentucky by two, despite underlying stats suggesting it should have been more like a two-touchdown game. Then, they had an inexplicably bad third quarter and lost heartbreakingly at home to Georgia State by two, in another game they probably should’ve won by two touchdowns. Troy is better than those outcomes. 

This line has tightened a little bit, but if you can find Troy at +3 or better, I advise it. I would also consider the Trojans on the moneyline this week. Arkansas State’s defense is completely out of sorts, and my expectation is that Troy doesn’t just cover, but wins outright.

Article Author


Alex Kirshner covers college football for the Moon Crew newsletter. He is a co-author of The Sinful Seven: Sci-Fi Western Legends of the NCAA, and he lives in Washington, D.C.


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