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Weekly Picks

Week 7 CFB ATS Predictions

by Thor Nystrom
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET







Straight Up:  Iowa Hawkeyes   

Against the Spread:


Iowa Hawkeyes



Allow me to sum up Northwestern’s offense in three sentences: 1.) Run the ball with Justin Jackson. 2.) Sorry... 3.) ...that was it. Jackson (110 YPG) leads the country with 150 rushing attempts while the Wildcats as a team hand the ball off 51.57 times per game, a very high rate for a non-option outfit. This is the kind of team that Iowa chews up and spits out. Its defense ranks No. 5 nationally with only 78 rushing yards surrendered per game. The disciplined unit occupies blockers, stays in its lanes and doesn’t get gouged. And when Clayton Thorson is forced to pass? He’ll be doing so into one of the nation’s most talented secondaries. Iowa’s improbable run to the Big 10 Championship in Indianapolis continues with a 14-9-type game that feels throughout like a blowout.



Alabama -4.5 TEXAS A&M

Straight Up:  Texas A&M Aggies   

Against the Spread:

 Texas A&M Aggies





Fascinating matchup in that both teams' defensive weaknesses match up neatly against the opponent's offensive strength. The equation in this one is pretty straightforward: If the Aggies can slow down RB Derrick Henry, they win. Perhaps even by double digits. I remain dubious about Jake Coker and the Tide aerial attack and envision a sack fest hosted by Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall at Kyle Field if Alabama is forced to throw from behind. You know Alabama’s peccadillo over the past few years: They struggle when teams spread them wide and force the third and fourth corners into the game. Good luck against Christian Kirk, Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones. I see Henry running wild and the Aggies throwing for over 350 yards in a shootout. I want the points, but lets take the Aggies straight-up to pull off the upset as well.

MICHIGAN -7.5 Michigan State

Straight Up:  Michigan Wolverines   

Against the Spread:


Michigan State Spartans 



Every Saturday night, I call a college football writer buddy of mine. We’re both degenerates and college football obsessed, so the conversation generally begins with a rundown of the day’s biggest surprises before devolving into betting takeaways. Your faithful correspondent said this on that phone call this past weekend: “I don’t know who Michigan State is playing next week, but punch me in the face if I don’t bet against them.” Well, um, this is awkward. It seems as though everybody else had the same idea and now we have a scenario where the Wolverines are overpriced and the Spartans are underpriced. I cannot in good conscience give away free points while taking the public favorite. It violates every gambling tenant I hold dear and to bet on QB Jake Rudock in a big spot would violate still another. If this line were four or lower, I’d take Michigan. Michigan State hasn’t yet covered a game (0-6; Auburn and North Texas are both 5-0, while Central Michigan is the nation’s only undefeated ATS team at 5-0-1) and has the No. 62 defense in terms of efficiency. But at this price? Punch me in the face.

LSU -7 Florida

Straight Up: LSU Tigers    

Against the Spread:

 LSU Tigers




The recipe of an adequate, QB Will Grier-helmed offense and a strong defense quickly converted the Gators into one of the nation’s best 15 teams. Now that Grier’s season is over thanks to a PED suspension, it’s time to fade fade fade. I’ve seen Treon Harris’ work, okay? And I watched Will Grier. I bet on Will Grier. Will Grier was a friend of mine. Treon, you’re no Will Grier. The Gators’ undefeated season is about to come to an emphatic end.



Straight Up:   Notre Dame Fighting Irish  

Against the Spread:


Southern California Trojans 



This pick essentially comes down to how much you think former HC Steve Sarkisian’s personal problems hurt the Trojans earlier this year and how you think they’ll respond to interim HC Clay Helton. Because if you lined these two teams up in sim mode on NCAA Football (RIP... come back soon, friend), the Trojans would win more than half the time. They will, in other words, have the superior pure talent on the field Saturday. Whether that leads to a cover, a win or neither is entirely dependent on the personal resolve of the players on the roster. I hate making a pick based on a subjective measure there’s no way to quantify, but this column forces me to pick the seven biggest games of the week. Gun to my head, I want those points. It's just an expression. I'm taking the points even if no firearms are involved.



Straight Up:   Utah Utes  

Against the Spread:

 Arizona State Sun Devils




Arizona State and Stanford were two of my favorite non-obvious Playoff contenders heading into the season (Josh loved the Cardinal as well). Frankly, I questioned my preparation for the season after Stanford was out-muscled by Northwestern and Arizona State was blown off the field by Texas A&M in Week 1. The Sun Devils were begging to be written off after the USC loss. Since then a funny thing has happened: This team actually looks like the Playoff contender several analysts thought they could be in August. They obviously are eliminated from the hunt with two losses, but there's value to be had here. In its past two games, wins over UCLA and Colorado, ASU has averaged 43 PPG and scored on nearly half of its offensive possessions. Utah will have a fight on its hands to remain undefeated.

OHIO STATE -18.5 Penn State

Straight Up: Ohio State Buckeyes    

Against the Spread:


Penn State Nittany Lions 



The Buckeyes have quietly been nearly as bad as Michigan State ATS, going 1-5. Care to lay another big number under the assumption that the offense has finally found an identity with Cardale Jones as the primary quarterback and J.T. Barrett as the red-zone signal-caller? The biggest question for the underdog is whether freshman mega-stud RB Saquon Barkley will return after missing two games with a lower-body injury (HC James Franklin won't say). Ohio State’s defensive weakness is a susceptibility to long runs. If Barkley can’t play, it’s hard to see the Nittany Lions taking advantage of that. But if he does? Barkley hits the hole like an obedient ball putted by Happy Gilmore, bursting straight ahead with quick feet and innate, almost Ezekiel Elliott feel for reading blocks and defensive flow to the tune of an 8.9 YPC average. If Barkley plays, this is too many points to lay.


FLORIDA STATE -7 Louisville

Straight Up: Florida State Seminoles    

Against the Spread:


Louisville Cardinals 



We have here the most overrated team in the nation coming off its best performance of the year to put away a game Miami against a surly Cardinals squad that is better than its 2-3 record. Yep, give me the points, especially with a team that seems to finally be reaching preseason expectations after knocking North Carolina State from the ranks of the unbeaten. A couple trends for you. The Seminoles are 5-12 ATS in their last 17 as a favorite, including 2-6 in their last eight, while Lousiville is 6-2 ATS in their last eight as an underdog, including 4-4 straight up. Bobby Petrino gets an early kick to sneak up on FSU. Unless RB Dalvin Cook kicks it into DEFCON Beast Mode—not outside the realm; the Cards' rush defense is a shade better than middle of the pack—Louisville will cover and have a shot at the outright upset.

GEORGIA TECH -2.5 Pittsburgh

Straight Up:   Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets  

Against the Spread:


Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 



I love this spot. In the preseason, this line would have been Georgia Tech minus at least a touchdown. Now, Pitt (4-1) is without RB James Conner (hurry back!), but we’ll get good ATS value anyway because the Yellow Jackets (2-4) have lost four straight. Is that skid troubling? Absolutely. But lets not get crazy here. Three of those losses came on the road to ranked teams (Notre Dame, Duke and Clemson). The bad loss was at home to North Carolina. But lets not overact to that, either. The Yellow Jackets led the 4-1 Tar Heels after three quarters before dropping a one-touchdown decision. Reading through Paul Johnson’s quotes this week, you can ascertain a few things. First, he’s justifiably furious. Second, he’s going to scrap aspects of the playbook that aren’t working and get back to the simple run-run-run tenants of his triple-option attack. I see a double-digit Georgia Tech win, a deviation back to baseline for both teams.

WASHINGTON -2.5 Oregon

Straight Up:   Washington Huskies  

Against the Spread:

 Washington Huskies




Are you beginning to feel a bit nostalgic for the high-flying Marcus Mariota Duck offenses of yesterday? This incarnation has little in common with that one and until Vegas reflects that in its ATS numbers (which is to say until the public recognizes Oregon stinks), the Ducks will be one of the most profitable fades in the FBS. Throw out the jerseys, put this game in a vacuum and base the spread on talent and not perception? The Huskies would be favored by more than a touchdown. Grab the value while you still can. On the other side, Washington is one of the country's most undervalued ATS properties. Its 3-2 record doesn't inspire, but keep in mind the first loss was by a field goal at Boise State (5-1) and the second was by six to Cal (5-1). 


Last week: Straight-Up: 7-3; Against the Spread: 7-3


2015 Record: Straight-Up: 39-21 (65.0%); Against the Spread: 30-28-2 (51.7%)


2014 Record: Straight-Up: 118-72 (62.1%); Against the Spread: 99-90-1 (52.4%)

Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is Rotoworld’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!