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Odds and Ends

Against the Spread Picks: Week 10

by Thor Nystrom
Updated On: November 6, 2020, 10:03 am ET

In the table below, you'll find the Adjusted Thor Line (ATL). ATL is a system based on power ratings, computer models and real-time betting data that I devised for determining line value.

All lines courtesy of PointsBet Sportsbook. My picks are in bold.

Day Away Home PB Line ATL ATL side Line value
11/5 Utah State Aggies Nevada Wolf Pack -17 -11.5 Utah State Aggies 5.5
11/5 Wyoming Cowboys Colorado State Rams +3 +3.8 N/A N/A
11/6 Miami Hurricanes NC State Wolfpack +10.5 +10.7 N/A N/A
11/5 San Jose State Spartans San Diego State Aztecs -9.5 -9.1 N/A N/A
11/6 BYU Cougars Boise State Broncos +3.5 +1.2 Boise State Broncos 2.3
11/7 Air Force Falcons Army Black Knights N/A -4.0 N/A N/A
11/7 SMU Mustangs Temple Owls +17.5 +10.5 Temple Owls 7.0
11/7 Michigan State Spartans Iowa Hawkeyes -6.5 -5.2 Michigan State Spartans 1.3
11/7 Michigan Wolverines Indiana Hoosiers +3 -1.4 Indiana Hoosiers 4.4
11/7 Nebraska Cornhuskers Northwestern Wildcats -3.5 -6.1 Northwestern Wildcats 2.6
11/7 West Virginia Mountaineers Texas Longhorns -6.5 -7.6 Texas Longhorns 1.1
11/7 Arkansas State Red Wolves Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns -14 -13.3 N/A N/A
11/7 Tulane Green Wave East Carolina Pirates +5 +8.1 Tulane Green Wave 3.1
11/7 Tulsa Golden Hurricane Navy Midshipmen +10.5 +10.6 N/A N/A
11/7 UL Monroe Warhawks Georgia State Panthers -18.5 -12.0 UL Monroe Warhawks 6.5
11/7 South Florida Bulls Memphis Tigers -18 -17.6 N/A N/A
11/7 Liberty Flames Virginia Tech Hokies -15 -14.1 N/A N/A
11/7 North Carolina Tar Heels Duke Blue Devils +11.5 +13.5 North Carolina Tar Heels 2
11/7 Arizona State Sun Devils USC Trojans -10.5 -16.4 USC Trojans 5.9
11/7 Troy Trojans Georgia Southern Eagles +3 -1.4 Georgia Southern Eagles 4.4
11/7 Boston College Eagles Syracuse Orange +14 +12.2 Syracuse Orange 1.8
11/7 UMass Minutemen Marshall Thundering Herd N/A -42.0 N/A N/A
11/7 Appalachian State Mountaineers Texas State Bobcats +17.5 +22.7 Appalachian State Mountaineers 5.2
11/7 Minnesota Golden Gophers Illinois Fighting Illini +7 +4.3 Illinois Fighting Illini 2.7
11/7 Maryland Terrapins Penn State Nittany Lions -25 -26.1 Penn State Nittany Lions 1.1
11/7 Florida Gators Georgia Bulldogs -3.5 -4.4 N/A N/A
11/7 Fresno State Bulldogs UNLV Rebels +11 +9.7 UNLV Rebels 1.3
11/7 Houston Cougars Cincinnati Bearcats -13.5 -13.2 N/A N/A
11/7 Texas Tech Red Raiders TCU Horned Frogs -9 -11.0 TCU Horned Frogs 2.0
11/7 UTSA Roadrunners Rice Owls -4.5 -2.8 UTSA Roadrunners 1.7
11/7 Charlotte 49ers Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders +4.5 +4.5 N/A N/A
11/7 Kansas Jayhawks Oklahoma Sooners N/A -38.6 N/A N/A
11/7 Oklahoma State Cowboys Kansas State Wildcats +12.5 +11.5 Kansas State Wildcats 1.0
11/7 Pittsburgh Panthers Florida State Seminoles -2 +3.3 Pittsburgh Panthers 5.3
11/7 Vanderbilt Commodores Mississippi State Bulldogs -19.5 -20.8 Mississippi State Bulldogs 1.3
11/7 Arizona Wildcats Utah Utes -14 -18.0 Utah Utes 4.0
11/7 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Florida Atlantic Owls -6.5 -3.4 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 3.1
11/7 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs North Texas Mean Green -2 +2.3 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 4.3
11/7 Baylor Bears Iowa State Cyclones -14 -9.3 Baylor Bears 4.7
11/7 UCLA Bruins Colorado Buffaloes +6.5 +6.8 N/A N/A
11/7 Texas A&M Aggies South Carolina Gamecocks +10 +6.9 South Carolina Gamecocks 3.1
11/7 Stanford Cardinal Oregon Ducks -8 -15.9 Oregon Ducks 7.9
11/7 Rutgers Scarlet Knights Ohio State Buckeyes N/A -34.9 N/A N/A
11/7 Tennessee Volunteers Arkansas Razorbacks +2 +2.7 N/A N/A
11/7 Clemson Tigers Notre Dame Fighting Irish +5 Pk Notre Dame Fighting Irish 5.0
11/7 South Alabama Jaguars Coastal Carolina Chanticleers -18 -15.9 South Alabama Jaguars 2.1
11/7 Washington State Cougars Oregon State Beavers -2 +2.6 Washington State Cougars 4.6
11/7 New Mexico Lobos Hawaii Rainbow Warriors -15.5 -6.5 New Mexico Lobos 9

Boise State Broncos (+3.5) vs. BYU Cougars (Friday)

ATL: BYU -1.2

Okay, I get it. 

You’ve seen the 7-0 BYU Cougars beat opponents by an average of 30 points per game. You’ve seen QB Zach Wilson surge up NFL Draft boards by completing 74.6% of his passes for 2,152 yards and a 19/2 TD/INT ratio. You’ve seen an offense that averages 527.7 yards per contest. You’ve seen BYU’s defense hold opponents to 281.4 yards per game (No. 9 in the FBS) and 13.4 points (No. 9).

And you haven’t seen much of Boise State. Certainly nothing meaningful. A 42-13 win over Utah State, and a 49-30 win over Air Force. QB Hank Bachmeier didn’t play in the latter game and may not play in this one, either, due to an undisclosed illness.

I understand the trepidation of stepping onto the tracks against BYU with a Boise team that hasn’t proven much.

But let’s slow our roll on BYU for a sec. Here are the SP+ ranks of the seven opponents BYU has beaten: Nos. 107 (Navy), Troy (51), Louisiana Tech (95), UTSA (111), Houston (60), Texas State (118) and WKU (79).

I think we’re going to see more holes in this BYU defense on Friday night than we’ve seen all season. Through two games, Boise State is top-two in the nation at finishing drives and No. 1 in offensive success rate. 

When Bachmeier missed the Air Force game, USC transfer Jack Sears completed 17-of-20 passes (85.0%) for 280 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Sears will get the call again if Bachmeier can’t go. That shouldn’t be considered a big downgrade. 

I like Boise State to win outright whoever is behind center.

Boston College Eagles (-14) at Syracuse Orange

ATL: BC -12.2

I’ve been impressed with Jeff Haffley’s first Boston College team. The 4-3 Eagles couldn’t complete their upset bid of Clemson last week (34-26 loss), but BC’s 71% post-game win expectancy indicated what we saw on TV: BC outplayed Clemson.

Boston College has really only been upstaged in one of its seven games, a 40-14 loss at Virginia Tech. The other loss was a four-pointer against UNC. The Eagles have beaten two ACC teams by 20 or more (Duke and Georgia Tech). They’re becoming a known quantity.

So is Syracuse. All six of the 1-6 Orange’s losses have come by double-digits, five to ACC opponents and an ambush by Liberty. 

In this space last week, we faded Syracuse with Wake Forest laying a similar-ish number (-12). The Demon Deacons won 38-14. Wake actually led 38-7 until a garbage Syracuse TD with three minutes remaining. A large part of our reasoning on that play: The Orange’s roster is shot, waylaid by opt-outs and injuries.

Things were so bleak at running back last week against Wake that converted receiver Cooper Lutz was the lead back. RB Sean Tucker is questionable to return from his leg injury this week, so Lutz may get a platoon partner. Unfortunately, reinforcements aren’t coming at quarterback or on defense.

These programs are going in opposite directions. I expect Boston College to let out some frustration and drop the hammer on Syracuse on Saturday.

USC Trojans (-10.5) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils

ATL: USC -16.4

I just think this number is off. Objectively. In a vacuum.

Graham Harrell's second USC offense will be improved with a full season of QB Kedon Slovis. Slovis has one of the nation’s premier receiving corps led by Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyler Vaughns and Drake London. Here’s the scary thing: This offense was already a top-10 SP+ unit last year. And it’s going to be better.

Trojans HC Clay Helton hired former Texas and Houston DC Todd Orlando to fix a defense that ranked sub-70 in most major categories last year (and No. 60 SP+). Orlando’s hybrid defense ramps up the aggression out of 4-2-5 and 3-3-5 looks, confusing quarterbacks with where the pressure is coming from.

Orlando inherits a ton of experience, if nothing else -- 12 of USC’s top-13 tacklers last year were either freshman or sophomores.

Arizona State has new coordinators on both offense and defense and youth at important positions. This is a game USC should win by 17 or more. 

Mississippi State Bulldogs (-19.5) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores

ATL: MSU -20.8

Vanderbilt (0-4) has lost its last three games by an average score of 45.3-11.7. Defensively, on the season, they’re allowing exactly 500.0 yards per game. Opposing passers are completing 69.8% of their passes with a 12/1 TD/INT rate. Last time around, Matt Corral went 32-of-37 for 449 yards and seven TD against Vandy.

Mississippi State has lost four straight since shocking LSU in the opener. The offense has been brutal, throwing for only two TD in the past four games. But this is an all-time get-right game for Mike Leach’s charges. 

Mississippi State showed in the opener what it can look like when it encounters a defense that can’t stop it from moving the chains. Spoiler alert: Vandy doesn’t stop anyone from moving the chains.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (+2) at North Texas Mean Green

ATL: LT -2.3

The wrong team is favored.

These programs have a common opponent in FCS Houston Baptist, which they beat by similar margins. 

Outside of LTU’s game against HBU, the Bulldogs are 3-3 with wins over a solid UAB team, a win against Southern Miss before their second coach quit on them, and a win against UTEP. 

Outside of UNT’s game against HBU, the Mean Green are 1-3, with the win over lowly Middle Tennessee State, and the losses all by double-digits, including to the aforementioned tail-spinning Southern Miss. 

Louisiana Tech has the better resume. It has just as much talent (if not more). And it has the shorter injury rap sheet heading into this game.

My number is completely flipped: ATL believes Louisiana Tech should be favored by about 2.5. But since Louisiana Tech is a road ‘dog, I have to drop one of my favorite CFB ATS coaching trends: Louisiana Tech HC Skip Holtz is 27-11 in his last 38 games at Louisiana Tech as a road underdog.

Cincinnati Bearcats (-13.5) vs. Houston Cougars

ATL: Cincy -13.2

One of my favorite games of the season so far. Sportsbooks simply haven’t adjusted their numbers fast enough to either recognize Cincy’s upward trajectory nor Houston’s downward trajectory.

I don’t blame Dana Holgorsen. The Cougars had a brutal start to the season, with five different season-openers canceled due to COVID-19. Houston didn’t end up opening the season until Oct. 8.

Keep in mind, this was a pivotal Year 2 of the Holgo program -- he had not only redone the team’s offensive and defensive systems, but Holgo had done so while losing face-of-the-program D’Eriq King four games into his reign last season.

High offseason hopes for a Year 2 turnaround have been dashed in part due to the odd circumstances of Houston’s season, as well as the ankle injury of star WR Marquez Stevenson early in last Saturday’s loss to Central Florida.

The loss of Stevenson killed Houston’s chances of beating UCF -- the air attack was completely neutered once Stevenson was fitted for his walking boot. Stevenson is out for this week.

That’s really, really, really bad timing. Cincy boasts the G5’s nastiest defense. It has an answer for everything. Premier, trump-card playmakers is about the only card to play on it, and now Houston doesn’t have one of those.

The Bearcats have won every game this season by 14 or more points. In the last two games, they've destroyed SMU 42-13 and Memphis 49-10. Houston doesn't stand a chance.

Oregon State Beavers (-2) vs. Washington State Cougars

ATL: WSU -2.6

We’ve reached Year 3 of the Jonathan Smith era at Oregon State. And I think it’s the season the Beavers start to get a little frisky. My conviction is such that I'm defying my numbers in this game.

Oregon State returns only five starters on offense, but the most important one is back, star RB Jermar Jefferson. Nebraska QB Tristan Gebbia should provide at least steady QB play, 83 starts return on the offensive line, and there’s solid receiving talent on the roster with Trevon Bradford, Champ Flemings and Tyjon Lindsey.

But where Oregon State concerns opponents this year is on defense. That unit returns nine starters. It should be one of the best defenses Oregon State has fielded in the last decade. LB Hamilcar Rashed is one of the nation’s best returning defenders, having posted 14 sacks and 22.5 TFL last year. 

That defense’s opening assignment: Welcoming the Run ‘n Shoot offense to the Pac-12. Washington State’s new coaching staff has new schemes on both sides of the ball.

Nick Rolovich, the former Hawaii coach, announced earlier this week that true freshman QB Jayden de Laura will start. de Laura may be a star in time, but asking a true freshman to win a conference game on the road in his debut when he didn’t get a full training camp due to COVID, and when even his veteran teammates aren’t familiar with the new offensive scheme, is a very tall order indeed. 

It’s an open question how the personnel will fit Rolo’s system. For instance -- Hawaii rarely used its running backs in any capacity. But Wazzu has a young star in Max Borghi, a gifted receiver. How will Rolo use him?

Wazzu has put up 52 or more points against Oregon State in four straight games. Oregon State is well aware of this fact. Eager beavers to turn the tables.

North Carolina Tar Heels (-11.5) at Duke Blue Devils

ATL: UNC -13.5

UNC’s run defense is brutal. We fade the Tar Heels when they’re facing teams that can grind their front-seven to dust. Duke, which ranks No. 83 in epa/RUSH, does not qualify.

On the other side, Duke’s pass defense is a sieve. UNC and QB Sam Howell should get right against a defense that ranks No. 89 in preventing passing explosion.

Florida Gators (+3.5) at Georgia Bulldogs

ATL: UGA -4.4

ATL says this line is more or less fair. But it doesn’t realize that Georgia is dealing with massive injury issues at the moment.

Bulldogs All-SEC safety Richard LeCounte was involved in a scary dirt bike accident last Saturday and hospitalized after suffering a concussion and shoulder injury. He’s out.

So is DL Julian Rochester (knee). The statuses of numerous other Georgia players are up in the air: WR George Pickens (upper-body), DL Jordan Davis (elbow), LB Quay Walker and FS Lewis Cine are all listed as questionable. All are starters. 

On top of all that, there’s the simple fact that Georgia has settled for shoddy quarterback play. Stetson Bennett is a mediocre game manager. Surrounded by elite talent, he’s completing 58.4% of his passes with a 7/5 TD/INT ratio while providing little on the ground.

Georgia’s defense, at full strength, is arguably the best in the nation. But it is not at full strength. And it has a brutal assignment here while compromised. QB Kyle Trask (9.6 YPA, 18/2 TD/INT ratio) and TE Kyle Pitts (22-355-7) are one of the country’s most singularly scary duos. 

The Bulldogs may have to combat Pitts without a starting middle linebacker and both starting safeties. And Georgia simply cannot afford to dig itself a hole -- Bennett showed against Alabama he is ill-suited to pass his way out of one.

I like Florida outright.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+5) vs. Clemson Tigers

ATL: Pick 'em

Honestly, I’m a little surprised this line isn’t closer to my adjusted line of pick ‘em. After all, Trevor Lawrence is going to be watching from the sidelines in street clothes.

Clemson freshman QB DJ Uiagalelei will make his second-career start in an enormous spot. Uiagalelei completed 30-of-41 passes for 342 yards against Boston College. He also flashed mobility at an enormous 6’4/240. 

Uiagalelei looked really good. But he also looked like the freshman he is at times. While Clemson moved the ball well in general, the Tigers’ offense could clench up when it mattered. Clemson averaged only 3.3 points in its eight drives beyond BC’s 40.

If Uiagalelei and company don't cash in on each and every opportunity, they're going to have big problems here. Because Notre Dame's offense is extremely efficient, and it will control the flow of this game against Clemson's depleted defense if the Tigers' offense is forced to play from behind.

Clemson is missing DE Justin Foster, DT Tyler Davis, LB James Skalski and LB Mike Jones for this game -- they've all been ruled out. The latter three are starters. Several defensive reserves are also questionable. And that's not all: edge rusher Xavier Thomas will miss the first half after he was ejected in the second half against Boston College last week for targeting.

I asked NBC Sports Notre Dame beat reporter Douglas Farmer for his thoughts on the game. We ended up seeing things similarly, but he said it better than I could.

"Notre Dame's offense is not what you want to face without your defensive interior, no matter how good your reserves are," Farmer wrote. "That will allow Notre Dame to shorten the game without compromising its approach or effectiveness. At which point, the edge has to go to the home team or the veteran quarterback or the savvy defensive coordinator facing an offense that has been more limited this season than is readily discussed. And Saturday, the home team has both the veteran QB and the savvy coordinator."

Underdogs are 8-3 ATS in the last 11 games between top-five ranked teams. And the Irish in particular are money in the bank when counted out in these spots: As a home ‘dog, Notre Dame is 4-0 ATS and SU (!) since 2014.

I think the Irish will upset Clemson on Saturday.

2020: 33-26-1 (55.9%) ATS 

Lifetime (2014-Present): 573-495-17 (53.6%) ATS

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Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is NBC Sports Edge’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!