College football best bets for Week 11 from Matt Youmans


College football best bets for Week 11

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Without a doubt, Michigan is the most intriguing team in college football this season. As a sign-stealing scandal swirls around coach Jim Harbaugh, who revels in playing the role of the bad guy, the Wolverines remain undefeated and untested.

The first true test is coming Saturday at Penn State. If Michigan is a mystery team, we are about to get some answers. We are about to find out if the Wolverines, who have won their nine games by an average margin of 34 points, can hit the road and win their first game against a ranked opponent.

Michigan’s best two wins came against Rutgers and UNLV. Its only road games were against Michigan State, Minnesota and Nebraska — three of the Big Ten’s worst teams. The flip side is the Wolverines have wasted every opponent in their path and rank No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense while allowing 6.7 points per game, so there are no signs that Harbaugh’s team is overrated.

Junior quarterback JJ McCarthy has the numbers (75.7% completions, 18 touchdown passes) of a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, and Blake Corum is an elite running back with 16 rushing touchdowns. The Wolverines are physical and tough on the offensive and defensive lines, overpowering opponents that stood no chance.

The Nittany Lions certainly have a chance. Penn State has the nation’s No. 3 scoring defense (11.9 ppg) and a dynamic running back duo in Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton. Freshman quarterback Drew Allar, who crumbled under pressure in a loss at Ohio State on Oct. 21, is coming off his most impressive performance and will be more comfortable at home.

The elephant in the room is James Franklin, who is only referred to as “Big Game James” out of sarcasm. Franklin is 3-16 versus Top 10 teams as Penn State’s coach. It should be noted he was a favorite in only one of those 19 games. It also should be noted Franklin is 3-6 against Michigan, including 3-3 in the past six meetings.

Harbaugh tends to get conservative in big games, and a slow-paced Michigan offense lacks explosiveness anyway. I bet the Nittany Lions +5 — a number still available — and also played this Under the total of 45 for a smaller wager.

Pick: Penn State +5

Last week’s plays in this column went 5-1 to put the season record at 30-28-3. Here are seven more best bets for Week 11 (home team in CAPS):

Miami (+14) over FLORIDA STATE

It’s risky to get behind Hurricanes coach Mario Cristobal, who has found ways to lose games he was a lock to win. This situation sets up well for Miami, however. All of the pressure is on Florida State, which will get the Hurricanes’ best shot in a high-stakes rivalry game. The Canes should cover if quarterback Tyler Van Dyke (11 interceptions) avoids the mistakes that have plagued him for most of the season.

CENTRAL FLORIDA (+2.5) over Oklahoma State

The Cowboys won the final Bedlam game, upsetting Oklahoma as fans stormed the field in Stillwater in what was essentially their Super Bowl. It means Oklahoma State, which has won five straight, is facing a classic letdown spot on the road. UCF, which showed its potential in a 31-29 loss at Oklahoma in October, has a potent offense led by quarterback John Rhys Plumlee and can trade shots with the Cowboys. 

PURDUE (pick) over Minnesota

The Golden Gophers, who just dropped a home game to Illinois, don’t have the type of offense that can expose Purdue’s weak pass defense. The Boilermakers have taken some beatings against a tough schedule, but they are desperate for a win, stepping down in class and featuring more offensive playmakers. Purdue quarterback Hudson Card, a transfer from Texas, has nine touchdown passes and eight interceptions in nine games and must play his cards right.

COLORADO (+10.5) over Arizona

Noah Fifita, a forgotten backup in September, has passed for an average of 305 yards in the Wildcats’ past four games, including three straight wins. Jedd Fisch has done an incredible coaching job to bring the Arizona program back from the dead. The story out of Tucson is a great one, but this game is in Boulder, and the Buffaloes are desperate home ‘dogs. Shedeur Sanders, third in the nation with 2,882 passing yards, has kept Colorado in every game with the exception of a blowout loss at Oregon.

Utah (+9) over WASHINGTON

In a matchup of contrasting styles, the Utes are stronger on defense and should win at the line of scrimmage. Washington has been on wobbly legs, barely surviving as a four-touchdown favorite in games against Arizona State and Stanford before outshooting a finesse USC team 52-42 a week ago. If the forecast is right and there is rain and wind in Seattle, Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. will not have a huge advantage. Utah has what it takes to slow down the game and stay in it to the end.

OREGON (-15) over USC

In their home-run spot last week, the Trojans came up short against Washington, leaving quarterback Caleb Williams in tears. Williams is a great talent, but he can’t carry his defenseless team. USC allowed 316 rushing yards to the Huskies’ 117th-ranked rushing offense, forcing coach Lincoln Riley to fire his friend and defensive coordinator, Alex Grinch. Are the Trojans checking out on this season? The Ducks are far superior on defense, and quarterback Bo Nix (30 total touchdowns, two interceptions) is making his Heisman case.

HAWAII (+20) over Air Force

The Falcons’ one-dimensional offense was completely shut down in a mind-boggling 23-3 loss to Army, which forced six turnovers. Air Force’s ground attack limits its chances to cover as a three-touchdown favorite. The Honolulu home ‘dog might be worth a shot, especially since quarterback Brayden Schager and the Hawaii defense showed some life in a 27-14 win at Nevada a week ago.

Without a doubt, Michigan is the most intriguing team in college football this season. As a sign-stealing scandal swirls around coach Jim Harbaugh, who revels in playing the role of the bad guy, the Wolverines remain undefeated and untested.