If you got Ohio State at 14-1 to win the national title, take a bow. (And then cut me in.)
Seems hard to remember when the betting public was skeptical of Ryan Day and Justin Fields replacing Urban Meyer and Dwayne Haskins, but those were the odds to start the season.
Fun fact: They dropped to 10-1 around the time the Buckeyes put 28 points on Lane Kiffin's Florida Atlantic team in the first nine minutes of the opener. Now an Ohio State title pays only 2-1 (+200).
Other notables: Alabama +300, Clemson +340, LSU +400, Georgia +1,000, Penn State +1,200, Oklahoma +1,800, Oregon +2,000, Minnesota +12,000 and Michigan +45,000(!).
I'd take Clemson. The College Football Playoff committee did coach Dabo Swinney a solid by ranking the Tigers fifth this week.
On to a new slate of games. The lines are below with our latest picks against the spread. Thursday morning odds courtesy of MyBookie.ag. Selections in bold.
Penn State (minus 7) at Minnesota
11 a.m. Saturday
A handicapper named Marc Lawrence comes up with zany formulas to pick games based on past results. Stuff like teams coming off victories by 12 or more points on Thursdays in October while wearing white jerseys are 12-4-1 against the spread since 1992 against teams whose head coach is a Gemini. Here is Lawrence's actual data on this game: An underdog in a matchup of undefeated teams coming off a double-digit conference win versus a foe coming off a win of 21-plus points and a double-digit spread win is ... wait for it ... 17-1 since 1980.
The Gophers crushed Maryland, 52-10, to remain undefeated and help coach P.J. Fleck land a lucrative contract extension. Minnesota's money men are believers in Fleck, as am I. If quarterback Tanner Morgan can survive the Penn State defensive line, the Gophers can win outright.
Maryland (plus 43 1/2) at Ohio State
The gap between these teams last year was one point. Now it's closer to a point a minute. It's the highest spread of any game this week by nine (Army is giving 34 1/2 to UMass), and I still can't find a reason not to take the Buckeyes.
Purdue (plus 2 1/2) at Northwestern
You've heard of trap games? This is a trap line. I predicted the spread would be Purdue minus 11 after watching Northwestern's most recent attempt to reach the end zone. (The Wildcats have not scored a touchdown since Oct. 5, spanning 13 quarters.) Yet the line opened at Purdue minus 2 and has tilted 4 1/2 points toward Northwestern. Actionnetwork.com reports that 62% of the public money is on the Wildcats. What's the justification? They're due? No, here it is: Purdue is down to its third-string quarterback, Aidan O'Connell, and has the Big Ten's worst rushing attack (2.6 yards per carry). My pick: the under (39). And, with reluctance, Northwestern.
LSU (plus 6) at Alabama
Oh, yeah. It's here. And it won't resemble the 9-6 wrestling match of 2011, when LSU won with quarterbacks who completed nine passes for 94 yards with two interceptions. LSU's Joe Burrow and Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa are Nos. 1-2 in the nation with completion rates of 78.8% and 74.7%. Insane. Also insane: Taking Ed Orgeron against Nick Saban. Yet I'm doing it, banking on Tagovailoa not being 100% with a high ankle sprain (though Saban has probably assembled the brightest minds in medical science). Simply put, I'm hoping LSU can score enough to keep it close.
Illinois (plus 14 1/2) at Michigan State
Another befuddling line that reeks of What am I missing here? The spread has soared from 11 1/2 to 14 1/2 even though 83% of bets and 76% of money is on the Illini. Michigan State's offense is good only if you compare it with Northwestern's: 21.8 points per game, 3.5 yards per carry. C'mon, Illini, don't let me down.
Iowa (plus 9) at Wisconsin
A beefy line for a game featuring two beefy lines. An extra week gave the Badgers time to recover from getting blitzed at Ohio State, and Paul Chryst seems to have Kirk Ferentz's number. Wisconsin has won three straight in the series by an average of 14.3 points. I'll take the Badgers.
Notre Dame (minus 8) at Duke
David Cutcliffe's Blue Devils are 8-1 in their last nine with extra time to prepare and 7-1 against the spread in nonconference home games. With this line pushing north of a touchdown, Duke gets the nod.
Last week: 4-2.
Season total: 51-46-3.