USA Today Sports

College football line watch: Total too low for Civil War?

Each week during the college football season, Covers Expert Steve Merril looks at the NCAAF odds and tells you which spread to bet now, which one to bet later, and which total to watch as the week plays out.

Spread to bet now

SMU Mustangs (+10) at Houston Cougars

The current pointspread sits on the key number of 10, but we expect this line to come down soon. These two teams are heading in opposite directions. SMU has won four of their last five games with their lone loss coming by just three points at Cincinnati. The Mustangs are 5-5 on the season and a win in this game makes them bowl eligible. They host a very good Central Florida team next week so they need to win this game.

The wheels are coming off for Houston. The Cougars have lost three consecutive games and they are just 2-4 over their six games. Houston has been an underdog in four of those games, including a double-digit dog in three of those outings. Now it is laying 10 points with a struggling offense that has scored a total of 44 points in the last three games.

SMU crushed Houston by 30 points last year (72-42). This game won’t last at +10 so grab the Mustangs now before the line crashes down.

Spread to wait on

Minnesota Golden Gophers (+14.5) at Michigan State Spartans

This is a terrible scheduling spot for Michigan State. Heavy money poured in against the Spartans last week, but they still waxed Northwestern 30-6.

That win gave Michigan State the Legends division championship. The Spartans are in the Big Ten title game, so this game against Minnesota means absolutely nothing.

Minnesota has flown under the radar this season. The Gophers are 8-3 SU and ATS, covering in five straight games. Minnesota will take this game more seriously than Michigan State as the Gophers are looking to improve their bowl destination.

While we’re already getting over the key number of 14, every point helps so we’ll wait and hopefully grab the Gophers at +16 or more.

Total to watch

Oregon State Beavers at Oregon Ducks (67.5)

What happened to Oregon’s offense last week? The Ducks scored just 16 points against a bad Arizona defense. That was just the fourth time they’ve scored less than 34 points over their last 38 games. The Ducks still rolled up 506 yards of offense against Arizona but three turnovers did them in.

Neither Oregon State nor its defense has fared well in the Civil War. The Beavers have lost seven of the last 10 meetings while allowing Oregon to score 31 points or more in eight of those 10 games. The Ducks scored 48 and 49 points over the last two years.

The Beavers have a potent passing offense led by QB Sean Mannion. He has 4,089 passing yards with a 34-to-13 TD/INT ratio. Oregon State will score as the Ducks’ defense has fallen apart in recent weeks.

Any total posted less than 70 may be too low for this rivalry game barring bad weather.

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Posted by KentuckyChunder
1 year ago

I would like to add that I'm not sold on Mich State laying 2+ TDs to a good Minnesota team. I just don't see MN scoring much on MSU based on last week's performance against an underrated Wisconsin D. the pick this week is Ohio St. I tend to stay away from heavy chalk and/or backing the public, but the Buckeyes are going to roll Michigan. 12 was obviously a bad line, but I still like it at 16. sometimes we tend to overthink matchups - this game won't be close, Michigan's offense is just plain offensive.
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Posted by Rino69
1 year ago

hey, LeRinkRat, Gophers have played out doors in new stadium last 2 years. Vikings, as bad as they are, are the dome team.
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Posted by aleopriest
1 year ago

I have Mich St rolling over Minn, to much at stake there and I think Auburn has a good shot at upsetting Bama. I also have Duke winning outright vs NC.
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Posted by LeRinkRat
1 year ago

any thoughts on #1 ranked Alabama -11 @ #4 ranked Auburn? can't get much more "rivalry" than these two. Tide probably already "penciled in" for the BCS championship game BUT the Tigers have been playing great football down the stretch and haven't lost ATS their last 8 games
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Posted by mydogmoe
1 year ago

Auburn had 26 total yards in the 4th qtr vs Ga until the Hail Mary. Ga stopped the run and Aub couldn't pass. Expect more of the same from Bama...
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Posted by LeRinkRat
1 year ago

weather forecast for Minnesota @ Michigan State @ East Lansing Saturday is for clear and cold temp mid 30's, wind 5 to 15 mph. Gophers a "dome team" and don't know how well they will handle the cold. KentuckyChunder also makes a good point with "possible BCS at-large bid?". that being said, my Spartans are a "grind it out" defense first team who could very possibly WIN but NOT cover the 2 TD's
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Posted by WizrduvOdz
1 year ago

Gotta agree with you,KC. This game is one where the starters will play hard, but if it gets late and theyre up by 21 or less, I see the HC pulling some starters. Definitely room for a backdoor cover
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Posted by KentuckyChunder
1 year ago

the Minnesota game means nothing to Michigan State?? uh... sure, except for a possible BCS at-large bid.
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Top Response

Posted by Rino69
1 year ago

"hey, LeRinkRat, Gophers have played out doors in new stadium last 2 years. Vikings, as bad as they are, are the dome team."