Michigan State has been a moneymaker on the road recently, going 14-3 against the spread in its last 17 spots as a road favorite and 8-1 ATS in its last nine Big Ten road contests. The Spartans will try to shake off last week's loss to Ohio State when they visit College Park to take on Maryland Saturday night.
Point spread: Spartans opened as 10.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)
College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 38.9-26.1 Spartans
Why the Michigan State Spartans can cover the spread
The Spartans had won six games in a row while going 4-2 ATS until running into a buzz saw in a 49-37 loss to the Buckeyes last week. Sparty led that game 21-14 late in the second quarter but gave up two long J.T. Barrett touchdown passes before the half, totally turning the momentum toward OSU.
Michigan State eventually racked up 536 yards of offense but just didn't have an answer for Barrett, who scalded the Spartans for almost 400 yards from scrimmage and five scores. Fortunately for State, the Terrapins don't have anybody like Barrett.
Why the Maryland Terrapins can cover the spread
The Terps have had their ups and down this season, but after winning at Penn State 20-19 on Nov. 1 as three-point underdogs, they're now 3-2 both straight-up and ATS in Big Ten play. Maryland only managed 194 yards of offense but held the Nittany Lions to just 219 yards and forced four turnovers. So at 6-3 SU and 5-4 ATS, Maryland is already bowl-eligible for the second season in a row.
Despite moving to a new conference, the Terps had some high hopes for this season, but injuries have once again taken a toll on this team. However, they have won and covered two of their last three outings.
Michigan State might have a tough time getting up for this game initially, but with its running game and defense, it should be able to pull away from a Maryland team that lost 52-24 to Ohio State and 52-7 to Wisconsin. So the smart money here resides with the Spartans, on the road, at the more manageable spread.
- The total has gone over in 10 of Michigan State's last 11 games.
- The total has gone over in five of Maryland's last six games at home.
All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates, and get the free odds tracker app.
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The Arkansas Razorbacks still haven't won an SEC game under head coach Bret Bielema, losing 17 straight conference games overall and going 7-10 against the spread. The Hogs take another shot at snapping that inglorious streak when they host the Tigers of LSU on Saturday night in Fayetteville.
Point spread: The Razorbacks opened as 1.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).
College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 26.9-25.7 Razorbacks
Why the LSU Tigers can cover the spread
The Tigers had won and covered three games in a row until a tough 20-13 overtime loss at home to Alabama last week. LSU kicked a field goal to take a 13-10 lead with less than a minute to go but allowed the Tide to drive for a game-tying field goal of their own and then lost in the first overtime period.
The Tigers outrushed 'Bama 183-106 and held the ball for over 38 minutes but missed a chance at the victory in regulation when they couldn't do anything with a 1st-and-goal from the Tide 6-yard line in the final minutes. Still, LSU is 7-3 ATS on the season and owns a three-game winning streak against Arkansas.
Why the Arkansas Razorbacks can cover the spread
The Razorbacks are still winless in SEC play under Bielema, but they've come close to snapping that skid several times already this season.
In the season opener, they played Auburn to a 21-21 halftime tie before running out of gas in the second half. Later, they blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead and lost to Texas A&M 35-28 in overtime. Then, they lost to Alabama 14-13 thanks in part to a missed extra point. Last week, Arkansas led top-ranked Mississippi State in Starkville 10-0 in the second quarter but came up empty from there and lost 17-10.
Still, the Hogs are 7-2 ATS on the season, and they're 6-1 ATS in their last seven meetings with LSU.
Both teams are coming off tough losses, so they're in the same boat emotionally. Arkansas owns the edge on offense, averaging 452 yards per game, but LSU has the edge on defense, holding foes to 318 yards per game. In close calls like this, the smart money should go with the better defense, so the Tigers are the pick, plus the points.
- LSU is 7-2-1 ATS in its last 10 games.
- Arkansas is 1-4 SU in its last five games.
All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-movement updates, and get the free odds tracker app.
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The earlier date on the schedule isn't the only thing different about Tennessee's annual football game with Kentucky this year.
The Wildcats are no longer doormats. So, when the Volunteers meet their next-door neighbors in Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon—a couple of weeks earlier in November than usual—it really will be a playoff-type atmosphere.
Head coach Mark Stoops' Cats need one more win to become bowl-eligible. Butch Jones' Vols need two.
Though Tennessee is favored by a little more than a touchdown on OddsShark.com this week, it's anybody's game.
That's a far cry from a series that has laughed in the face of the word "rivalry" in recent years. Though the two schools are just 173 miles apart, the gulf between the football programs has been much wider, as UT has won 28 of the past 29 by an average of 20 points.
That's no longer the case. The two programs' seasons are extremely similar.
The Vols have played a tougher schedule so far and have four wins. The Wildcats' is more back-loaded, and they have five.
Both have a tough road to a bowl. Both upset South Carolina dramatically. Both played Florida extremely close before losing. Both play a lot of youngsters and have second-year coaches.
Though the Wildcats have fallen off and lost four straight after a 5-1 start, they took No. 1 Mississippi State to the brink before getting handled by Missouri and Georgia the past two weeks.
So, why is UK no longer known as the "Mildcats," the team that has beaten UT just seven times since 1959?
Reporter Kyle Tucker of Louisville's The Courier-Journal newspaper told Bleacher Report there are several factors, but it all starts with a Stoops-influenced defense and 6'5", 240-pound redshirt sophomore quarterback Patrick Towles.
"The big difference: a quarterback who can (doesn't always) raise his game to an elite level and make NFL throws and a defense that, while pretty atrocious against the run, can force turnovers," Tucker said. "The Cats only intercepted three passes a year ago; 13 so far this season.
"Yes, [Towles] can take over games, but he's also disappeared some down the stretch here. UK needs the guy back who had 390-plus total yards three times this season, including against Florida and Mississippi State."
Like Tennessee, Kentucky's defense has made some big, pivotal plays. Also like the Vols, they've had lapses where they've played atrociously, allowing 41 points to LSU, 45 to Mississippi State and 63 last week to Georgia.
But having a really good quarterback covers a lot of warts. There have been several games where Towles has picked up his team and carried it on his shoulders with his cannon arm and able legs. He's the best NFL prospect at the position in the league.
Having him directing the opponent makes a really good football game possible on Saturday. It also makes for an intriguing atmosphere that UT quarterback and fellow potential pro prospect Joshua Dobbs told VolQuest.com's John Brice and Rob Lewis (subscription required) will have a do-or-die feel:
Coach Jones has definitely said it's a three-game playoff. We want to win all three games obviously. We have to start with this one. We have to come out Saturday ready to play. Our goal is to get to five wins and they stand in our path. Our goal is to do whatever it takes to move them out of the way, get win number five and then move on from there.
Even in their worst years, that hasn't been too difficult for the Vols. Beating Kentucky is tradition. But it won't be that easy this season, thanks to Stoops. He has recruited some players in there, and it is already paying dividends.
The Wildcats may not always know what they're doing, but they've got athletic freshmen and sophomores all over that defense and have a future offensive star in Boom Williams at running back.
He highlighted a recruiting class in 2014 that was among UK's best ever, ranking 23rd in the country on the 247Sports composite rankings.
"There are four former 4-star recruits in the backfield, led by freshman Stanley 'Boom' Williams, one of just two players in the country with a catch of 25-plus yards, run of 50-plus and kick return of 75-plus," Tucker said. "He's a big-time playmaker, one of just six players with three TD runs of 50 yards or longer, including one last week against UGA.
"Safety A.J. Stamps is a JUCO addition who has made a major difference in the secondary."
Beyond the numbers in the rankings, though, it's obvious that Kentucky now isn't the same as Kentucky of old. Sure, the Wildcats fade in stretches against good teams that are more established, more talented, deeper and have been playing at a higher level longer.
But those flashes of competitiveness are getting longer and longer.
It's the same frustratingly slow signs of maturity the Vols see when they're looking in the proverbial mirror. These are programs in the pubescent stages of competition, and this is a massive game for the long-term complexion of both.
Whichever team comes out on top will not only have a leg up in making it to a bowl game this year, but they'll hold bragging rights in a series that hasn't meant much in a long time but looks like it's trending in that direction in the future of a wide-open SEC East.
Tennessee may be recruiting the type of talent that can put the Vols back near the top of the league, competing for a spot in the SEC Championship Game.
But Kentucky can't be shrugged off anymore, not with Stoops recruiting in Ohio and Florida the way he is, not with a blossoming star at quarterback and not with some underclassmen who double as playmakers.
The Vols may wind up doing what its fanbase expects and handling the Wildcats yet again on Saturday. But if they do, it'll be another impressive step for the program and a nice encore to the "Comeback in Columbia."
All stats and information taken from UTSports.com. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.
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