It’s the end of October, which would normally involve games between teams that have played seven or eight games to this point, but if you look at most of the games on this list below, that’s not what you’ll find. Teams are still around the five-game mark in terms of games played, and in the Big Ten, it’s only going to be the second game. The rhythms of the season are still hard to pin down. We’re all trying to survive week to week in this weird pandemic environment. As always, don’t assume you have figured out a team at this point; be willing to look at different pieces of information. However, if you have to act on current data and contextual details, here is a look at what to expect from the weekend’s most high-profile games as well as the college football odds.
Ohio State at Penn State
Odds: Ohio State -12
The biggest game on the board is this one, despite the fact that Penn State was ambushed by Indiana – and also dealt a bad hand on a bad call on the game’s final play, a do-or-die two-point conversion attempt by Indiana that was ruled good, but appeared to be short of the goal line. The favorable ruling for Indiana was a disaster for Penn State, which must now try to beat Ohio State merely to avoid falling to 0-2. It would kill the Nittany Lions’ division, conference, and national title hopes before the start of November.
What is especially bad for Penn State is the Nittany Lions are without two running backs who were expected to be significant producers. Journey Brown has a health condition that is keeping him out, and Noah Cain was knocked out for the season with an injury suffered in the Indiana loss. Penn State has a great tight end in Pat Freiermuth, but it’s hard to see where the Nittany Lions are going to find enough offense to win. Quarterback Sean Clifford is a great running quarterback and an average passer.
Clifford will have to have one of his best passing games at Penn State if his team is going to have a good chance, but that also means the wide receivers have to supplement Freiermuth and provide more targets. Penn State has to stretch the field and spread out Ohio State’s back seven. If it can’t do that, the Buckeyes are going to get pressure on Clifford, who will hold the ball far too long in the pocket.
Ohio State has Heisman Trophy contender Justin Fields at the helm of a souped-up offense, so Penn State needs to have a plan for its own offense. Realistically, Penn State can’t get into a shootout. The Nittany Lions have to focus on ball control and time of possession. If they can convert a lot of third downs and hold the ball for close to 40 minutes, that might be their best path to victory.
Memphis at Cincinnati
Odds: Cincinnati -7
This is a showcase game in the American Athletic Conference. Memphis lost to SMU but bounced back to beat UCF in a thriller. The Tigers can move to the top of the conference if they can upset Cincinnati, but that is going to be a tall task. Cincinnati has moved into the top 10 of the national rankings with a tough defense that overwhelmed SMU, 42-13. Memphis lost to SMU, and Cincinnati beat the Mustangs by 29 — that’s a simple but powerful way to differentiate the teams.
Cincinnati’s offense is not an elite offense – quarterback Desmond Ridder is inconsistent as a downfield passer – but the Bearcats have the best defense in the AAC, with a well-coached secondary that isn’t caught out of position. Memphis and quarterback Brady White are going to have a hard time figuring out how to attack UC’s defense, and if the Bearcats get multiple interceptions against White, it is likely going to be a long day for the Tigers.
LSU Tigers at Auburn Tigers
Odds: LSU -3
When this game appeared on the schedule it looked like a featured one on the SEC schedule. Yet, LSU and Auburn both enter with multiple losses. The winner isn’t battling Alabama for first place in the SEC West; it is battling for third place in the division – that is the best either team can do at this point. Yet, LSU-Auburn is still a big deal. Both fan bases desperately want to win. Winning helps recruiting and boosts the national image.
Two details emerge: One is that at LSU, coach Ed Orgeron hasn’t lost to Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. It is hard to bet on Malzahn until he proves he can get the job done. The other thing about is LSU backup quarterback T.J. Finley was sensational in a huge win over South Carolina. Finley led LSU to over 50 points in his first start. LSU seems to have found a reliable offense, though its defense is still shaky. LSU has the upper hand here, but Orgeron’s team has been quite volatile in its performances thus far in 2020.
Boise State at Air Force
Odds: Boise State -14
Boise State hammered one rival in the Mountain West’s Mountain Division. The Broncos crushed the Utah State with an imposing defense. Now they will try to do the same to Air Force, which scored six points against San Jose State and suffered injuries along the offensive line. Boise State’s defensive line is annually one of the Broncos’ strengths and that’s a big reason why they’re a big favorite on the online betting lines. Everything about this important divisional matchup in the second week of Mountain West play lines up favorably for Boise State.
Texas at Oklahoma State
Odds: Oklahoma State -3.5
Texas used to be the heavyweight in the Big 12 while Oklahoma State was the spunky, plucky challenger. Now the roles are reversed, with Oklahoma State being ranked No. 6 in the country and leading the Big 12, while Texas is struggling to find a winning identity. Texas beat Baylor but the Bears are a bad team. Texas hasn’t yet shown it can beat a good team, and so the Longhorns do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. Oklahoma State’s defense has given up an average of 12 points in its last four games. Texas’ offense has sputtered, so it’s not likely that the Longhorns will find a way to post big numbers against the Cowboys.
Take a look to our Sportsbook Odds section and make your bets.