We were a Riley Leonard reinjury away from a clean sweep in our Week 8 big-game bets – the ones that somehow feel like they’re worth more.
Duke (+14) had the lead when its star quarterback reinjured the ankle sprain that put his availability in question this time last week. With Leonard out, the offense stalled, leaving Florida State to score 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. It was a case of the handicap being perfect, but the risk of injury was too much to overcome.
At least we can bask in James Franklin’s failure to compete with the big boys in the Big Ten, Alabama overwhelming Tennessee, and the market’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge that USC simply isn’t good. There’s little to pick from as far as marquee games this week, but the game formerly known as the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” still has just enough cache to qualify.
Who knows how long it lasts, but life without Brock Bowers at least starts for Georgia in Jacksonville for this traditional neutral-site matchup. At full strength, I have this line projected at -15.5, and that’s following the market’s slow downgrade of the Bulldogs throughout a season where they’ve failed to cover all but one game. As a result, maybe a further rating dip for Georgia will result in a line of lower than two touchdowns.
Kentucky ran for 329 yards on Florida a few weeks ago, while South Carolina put up 465 total yards in a close Gators victory last week. Those numbers are concerning since the Bulldogs could run rampant over the Gators. But from an advanced metrics standpoint, Florida’s defensive standard down success rate (SDSR) is only slightly worse than Georgia’s, and the same goes for the offense.
With Florida widely available at +14.5, you can bet that and dare Georgia to be explosive on offense without Bowers, which is what it likely needs to win this game by three scores or more.
Pick: Florida (Shop for +14.5)
Maybe the Utah offense looks like it’s up to snuff – without Cameron Rising and Brant Kuithe – just because of how bad USC’s defense is. But you could tell me anything positive about Kyle Whittingham and his staff in Salt Lake City, and I’d believe you.
Oregon‘s got an explosive offense, but it’s nothing the Utes haven’t seen before. In just about every matchup in the Pac-12, the Ducks are inevitably the bigger, more physical team in the trenches. The exception is Utah.
My projections make this line Oregon -4, including an upgrade on the Ducks from where they were rated before the season, even though it’s no certainty that’s warranted. So there’s value in the Utes, especially if their early-season offensive struggles are a thing of the past.
Pick: Utah (+6.5)
The Blue Devils’ loss has taken some shine off this game, but this is the only other ranked-on-ranked game of the weekend. Regardless of Leonard’s availability, Duke could have a tough time getting back up for a road game after the loss to FSU. Meanwhile, Louisville couldn’t keep its level up after beating Notre Dame, losing to Pittsburgh, but the Cardinals were off last week to prepare for this one.
Based on previous point spreads, Duke’s estimated market rating has shot from 55/100 to 69/100. The latter rating is what this line is built on. That means you can bet on the Cardinals now and take your chances with a fair line if Leonard starts – or have a valuable ticket if he’s ruled out.
Given how well the Cardinals’ defense performed at home against Sam Hartman in their win over the Irish and that they have a better standard down defensive success rate than Duke, Louisville is worth backing early in the week.
Pick: Louisville (-4)
Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there’s a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.