Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz
Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz (5) against Eastern Michigan during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)


Patrick Werkmeister

For this college football edition of ‘Best Bets’, an impressive Saturday slate means a lot of teams playoff hopes are on the line. Coming into this Week 9 of college football, Oklahoma switched spots with Alabama in the playoff rankings following their close call with Kansas, who hasn’t won a Big 12 contest in two years. It’s still anyone’s shot for a title contention, so each game going forward for the top 10 carries great importance. With some fantastic football action at hand, here is what bets I love about this college action.

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Iowa (+3.5) @ Wisconsin
For this Big 10 matchup, the Iowa Hawkeyes travel to Madison to face off against the Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin opened this game as two and a half-point home favorites and are now favored by three and a half. The Hawkeyes come into this one 7-2 ATS in their last 9 and 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games on the road. Last weekend, Iowa was on a bye whereas the Badgers handled Purdue 30-13. This bout features a battle of two of the worst quarterbacks in the Big 10, Spencer Petras and Graham Mertz. The running game will be a key decider in this one with two of the top backs in the Big 10. With Iowa coming off of a bye, they have had plenty of time to rest and prepare for this match with the Badgers. The Wisconsin offense checks in with one of the worst red zone efficiencies in the country at 126th. As seen in the Penn State Illinois game last week, it is crucial to score in the red zone. Following their loss to Purdue before their bye week, I like this underdog position Iowa is in for this one. I like this red zone stat and will take the hungry dogs to cover. Take Iowa plus the points.

Penn State @ Ohio State (-19.5)
From the Horseshoe in Columbus, quarterback CJ Stroud and the Ohio State Buckeyes host QB Sean Clifford and the Penn State Nittany Lions. The opening line for this rivalry favored the Buckeyes by just 12.5 before Penn State’s home loss to Illinois and is now listed at 19.5. Ohio State has dominated this matchup for nearly a decade, in their last 9 games vs Penn State they are 8-1 SU. While the Nittany Lions suffered an embarrassing 8OT loss to Illinois, Ohio State blew out the Indiana Hoosiers 54-7. Led by QB CJ Stroud, the Buckeye gunslinger has thrown for 14 TDs and 0 interceptions in his last three games. No matter what teams they played in the Big 10 during that stretch, it is still a more than efficient record. Not only have they been good at covering the spread against all teams, but Ohio State is also 4-0 ATS in their last four games despite laying an average win margin of nearly four touchdowns per contest. The only thing that will really stop the Buckeyes is themselves in this matchup. With the way they have performed, as long as they take care of the ball, they should have no problem covering against this broken Penn State team. Take the Bucks to win by a landslide in this mismatch.  

UCLA (+6.5) @ Utah
In this Pac-12 contest, the UCLA Bruins look to steal one on the road in Utah versus the Utes. This opening line listed the Utes as three and a half-point home favorite, but they are now favored by six and a half. This season, UCLA is a stellar 5-0 ATS in their five road games. Both squads are coming off losses from last week as the fog thickens around this conference filled with mediocre talent. UCLA just let a win slip through their grasp versus a formidable Oregon team that is 7th in the nation. Their electric offense was able to drop 31 on this Duck defense that was ranked one of the top in the country. That pattern should continue as it has all season in this match vs Utah. With losses to BYU, San Diego State, and Oregon State, something just doesn’t seem right in taking Utah minus the points versus a proven Bruins team. That is part of the reason why I’m taking UCLA and the points for this beautiful Saturday.

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