To all you early-bird bettors out there hoping to get ahead of Saturday’s noon action, we tip our proverbial cap. And to those night owls fumbling through the morning after staying up deep into the late-night hours to sweat the over in Friday night’s East Carolina vs. Cincinnati game, we’re right there with you — and we’re also here to help.
Our staff has broken down the odds and highlighted their favorite betting positions for the Week 11 Saturday college football slate. From the noons to the nightcap, we’ve got you covered with our favorite bets for each of the three major Saturday college football kickoff windows:
- 12:00 p.m. ET | “The Midday Kickoffs”
- 3:00 p.m. ET | “The Afternoon Heat Check”
- 7:00 p.m. ET | “The Late Set”
Check our top Saturday picks below, each of which comes from one of the following 11 games. This column focuses on “The Midday Kickoffs” and includes our staff’s four favorite bets for the slate-opening games, beginning at noon ET and extending into the early afternoon.
“The Midday Kickoffs”
Click any of the four midday games below to navigate to a specific matchup. Alternatively, click on any of the other seven games among our staff’s best bets to navigate to our Afternoon or Evening Best Bets columns.
“What’s a life with no fun? Please don’t be so ashamed. I’ve had mine, you’ve had yours, we both know.”
— Aubrey Graham, “Take Care”
The Rest of our Best (Bets)
All odds have been updated as of Friday evening.
|Army Odds||+3.5 [BET NOW]|
|Tulane Odds||-3.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+133 / -162 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||47.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||12:00 p.m. ET|
|Stream||ESPN2 / ESPN+|
The Black Knights have had it pretty easy so far this season outside of a 14-point loss at Cincinnati. However, despite the easy schedule, the triple option has been humming to the tune of 5.5 yards per carry in their games against FBS opponents.
With Jemel Jones questionable, it looks like Christian Anderson will be under center on Saturday after missing the last three games. Anderson played in the opening 42-0 win against Middle Tennessee State.
Army is 39th in the country in rushing success and sixth in power success this season. Tulane’s defense has been solid against the run, allowing only 3.1 yards per carry but ranks 69th nationally in defensive power success. The last three times Tulane has faced the triple options, they’ve had no answers, allowing 5.8 yards per play, including 5.33 and 33 points to Army when these two teams met last season in West Point.
Tulane’s offense has been humming, but it’s about to run into a roadblock. The Green Wave have run the ball all over their opponents to a 5.3 yards per carry clip. Army counters with one of the best run defenses in the country, allowing only 3.4 yards per carry and ranking sixth nationally in defensive rushing success. Tulane will also have to make the best use of their time on offense, because Army is sixth nationally in opponent’s plays per game at 59.2.
As long as Anderson or Jones is under center, this Army offense is legit and will be an issue for Tulane to stop. I have Army projected as -3.74 favorites on the road, so I think there is plenty of value on the Black Knights at +4.
Pick: Army +4
|TCU Odds||+2.5 [BET NOW]|
|West Virginia Odds||-2.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+124 / -152 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||45.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||12:00 p.m. ET|
Country Roads, take me home, to the place I belong … West Virginia. What a difference home sweet home has made for the Mountaineers this season. WVU has gone 4-0 at Milan Puskar Stadium and 0-3 away from Morgantown.
West Virginia is anchored by one of the best defenses in the country. They rank in the top 15 nationally in passing Success Rate (seventh), rushing Success Rate (12th) and Havoc created (eighth). They are fourth in the FBS in total defense, surrendering just 271 yards per game.
That terrific defense has tightened the clamps even more at home this season. In their three road games, the Mountaineers are allowing 351 yards per game. While still very solid, in their four home games, they have allowed a meager 211 yards per game.
West Virginia has an elite group of defensive backs, led by Dreshun Miller and Tykee Smith. Miller leads the Big 12 in passes defended, and Smith hasn’t allowed a play of more than 15 yards all season.
TCU has been awful trying to pass the ball this season, ranking 99th in the country in passing Success Rate. Max Duggan threw for just 73 yards last week against Texas Tech, the worst passing defense in the Big 12. West Virginia has the best passing defense in the Big 12.
The Horned Frogs have relied exclusively on their running game this season, but while more dominant against the pass, the Mountaineers defense still ranks 12th in the nation in rushing Success Rate. Brothers Darius and Dante Stills are both beasts that clog up the middle for a defensive line that ranks 22nd in Line Yards and 33rd in Stuff Rate.
On offense, West Virginia has really found its groove. Quarterback Jarret Doege has thrown for over 300 yards in four straight games and is second in the conference in passing. The Mountaineers are balanced well, though, as running back Leddie Brown is second in the Big 12 with 105.9 rushing yards per game.
The Mountaineers are second in the Big 12 in total offense and first in the Big 12 in total defense. It’s hard to tell how much home-field advantage matters with limited capacity, but it clearly has an impact for West Virginia. I am confident in the Mountaineers here and will let the country roads take me home. Take West Virginia -2.5, and I would play it to -4.
Pick: West Virginia -2.5
|Illinois Odds||+7 [BET NOW]|
|Rutgers Odds||-7 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+215 / -270 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||52 [BET NOW]|
|Time||1:00 p.m. ET|
|TV||Big Ten Network|
I’m sure nobody has this game circled on Saturday, but sometimes you have to go dumpster diving at noon to start your weekend off on the right foot. That’s what I’ll try to do in this Big Ten matchup between two teams with a combined 1-5 record.
Illinois has undoubtedly looked abysmal during an 0-3 start to the year. It’s never a good sign when a team ranks dead last in the conference in both scoring offense and defense. That said, COVID-19 caused head coach Lovie Smith to turn to start his fourth-string quarterback last week against Minnesota. Smith’s third-string QB, Isaiah Williams, will be available for this one.
Rutgers is off to a 1-2 start, which might be better than most fans in Piscataway thought after three games of a conference-only slate. I’m a big fan of Greg Schiano. I think he’ll eventually turn this program around, but the rebuild will take some time.
The Rutgers offense is a horror show, ranking 119th in yards per play. On the other side of the ball, experience and new schemes have led to some improvements on defense — especially up front where the Scarlet Knights actually sit in the top 10 in tackles for loss per game.
Rutgers did open with a win at Michigan State, which may be contributing to the perception difference here. However, the Scarlet Knights were still outplayed in that game, averaging a meager 3.9 yards per play.
The Scarlet Knights also caught Indiana in a very bad situational spot but failed to cover in a conniving Hoosiers’ win. Last week against Ohio State, the final score was very misleading in a game the Buckeyes led 35-3 at halftime.
Ultimately, I’m buying low on the Illini at +6 in a game I make much closer to a coin flip. There’s just too much value here, as I don’t think Illinois is as bad as it has looked.
I also bet under 52.5. I expect both defensive fronts to dominate against two bad offensive lines that rank outside the top 100 in Adjusted Line Yards and have struggled in pass protection. Don’t expect too much through the air from teams that rank 109th and 110th in passing efficiency.
I ultimately trust the Illinois ground game a bit more in what could be a rock fight. Let’s just hope the turnovers and special teams swings break our way.
Pick: Illinois +7 | Under 52
by Pat McMahon
|South Alabama Odds||+16 [BET NOW]|
|UL-Lafayette Odds||-16 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+460 / -651 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||53.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||2:00 p.m. ET|
The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns are a very good football team and just cracked the AP Top 25 this week. The Ragin’ Cajuns are off to a 6-1 start that includes a win at Iowa State, and their only loss is to undefeated Coastal Carolina. They’ve taken care of business against inferior opponents this season but haven’t been able to put teams away.
In five games where Louisiana-Lafayette is more than a touchdown favorite, they’re 0-5 against the spread. They were a 9-point favorite in the loss to Coastal and won the four games that they were favored by double digits without covering any of them. It’s tough to put a finger on exactly why the Ragin’ Cajuns aren’t blowing out the teams they’re supposed to, but they’ve looked sloppy and not as prepared in those games compared to when they are underdogs or the game is expected to be close.
The Ragin’ Cajuns were sharp in big victories over Iowa State and UAB but looked like a completely different team in tight wins over Georgia State and Georgia Southern, among others, when they seemed to sleepwalk through much of the game.
I’m not only fading Louisiana-Lafayette because of this trend — I also like what South Alabama brings to the table. The Jaguars are at the middle of the pack in the Sun Belt with a 2-2 conference record (3-4 overall). However, they’re a tough out and always seem to hang around against better competition.
South Alabama is 2-0-1 as a double-digit underdog this season, including an outright win over Southern Miss in the season opener. The Jaguars did get blown out against UAB as a 7.5-point underdog in September, but they were without injured starting quarterback Desmond Trotter. He is fully healthy now and playing pretty well, completing 70% of his passes with eight touchdowns and just two interceptions on the season.
This number opened at Louisiana-Lafayette -14, and I was surprised to see it bet up to a couple of points. Louisiana simply plays up or down to the level of their opponents, and time and again have shown that they shouldn’t be favored by more than two scores in conference play. There are some 16s out there at the time of this writing, but if the spread starts to go down as we get closer to kickoff, I still think it’s worth a play down to 14.
Pick: South Alabama +16