Week 11 College football best bets, odds and game picks including Michigan vs Penn State

Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) looks to throw a pass during a warm up prior to the game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Beaver Stadium.
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Caleb Wilfinger


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Deputy Editor for Pickswise with years of experience handicapping and giving out winning picks. Lover of all US sports and Southampton FC. For Caleb Wilfinger media enquiries, please email contact@pickswise.com.
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Week 10 was another terrific week of college football, with compelling games and exciting finishes from start to finish. We bounced back from a couple of middling weeks with a 3-1 Saturday — bringing us to 17-14 over the past 9 weeks. I’ve said all season that regression was to be expected after we cashed at an unsustainable 63% rate a year ago, but we got back on track last week so let’s keep it going!

We have a compelling slate ahead of us, including massive games in the Big Ten Pac-12 and SEC. With Saturday rapidly approaching, here is a look at my best bets for Week 11 of the college football season. And remember, you can check out all of our CFB predictions for the Week 11 games.

Penn State Nittany Lions +5.5 vs Michigan Wolverines (-110)

Odds available at FanDuel Sportsbook at time of publishing. Playable to Penn State +4.5

There’s so much at play in this game, including a lot of unknowns. We know that Michigan is a very good team, but we don’t have many relevant data points on the Wolverines given that their strength of schedule is ranked 111th in the country. Jim Harbaugh’s team has been dominant in all phases of the game, particularly on offense (2nd in EPA per play, 4th in early downs EPA) as JJ McCarthy appears to be much improved from a season ago. Conversely, Penn State’s offense had been a major concern for me coming out of the Ohio State game and that carried over into a poor performance against Indiana the following week. However, Drew Allar and the rest of the offense seemed to finally cut it loose and generate explosive plays through the air in the final moments of that game to seal the victory.

Last week, that new confidence carried over into a game against Maryland, where Allar completed nearly 75% of his passes and racked up 4 passing touchdowns in what was clearly his best game of the season. The Nittany Lions’ passing attack finally hit its stride with contributions from KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Dante Cephas and the tight end duo of Tyler Warren and Theo Johnson, and James Franklin’s team finally looked like the College Football Playoff contender it promised to be at the start of the campaign. While Franklin has repeatedly failed to win “the big one” in his career as head coach, the Nittany Lions’ head coach has fared well in recent meetings against Michigan at Beaver Stadium, where we should get another terrific environment on Saturday.

Given that there are still some unknowns about the effectiveness of these offenses against quality opposition, the real deciding factor in this game will likely be the defenses. Regardless of the level of competition, this Nittany Lions defensive unit has been outstanding all season, ranking inside the top 5 in nearly every metric you can find. Put on any game film from this season and the speed and ferocity that this defense plays with is immediately noticeable, and it shows up on the stat sheet. Manny Diaz’s group is 5th in the nation in EPA per pass defense, 1st in passing success rate, tops in early downs EPA, 2nd in points per quality possession and 3rd in net points per drive (CFB-Graphs). On the other side, McCarthy and this Wolverines offense are absolutely rolling, but they haven’t faced a defense of this caliber all. If Penn State can get out to an early lead, it’ll be difficult for Michigan to create separation in what should be a close contest throughout.

Read our full Michigan vs Penn State predictions

Arizona Wildcats -9.5 over Colorado Buffaloes (-110)

Odds taken from game preview published on November 6. Playable to Arizona -10. 

Much like I said last week in this column, I’ve become a broken record about Arizona. The Wildcats continue to win and cover, and each week the betting market still discredits what they have accomplished. I’ll keep repeating myself; this is a different team with Noah Fifita under center and these excellent wide receivers at his disposal. While Jedd Fisch’s team is finally garnering some respect, this line still should be well into double digits, especially since Oregon State was just laying nearly 2 touchdowns against this same Colorado team in Boulder, just a week after losing to Arizona. For some reason, oddsmakers are still pricing the Wildcats as more than a field goal worse than the Beavers on a neutral field, which makes little sense to me given that the Wildcats just knocked off Oregon State 2 weeks ago.

Arizona’s offense is humming, while Arizona’s defense is still undervalued in the market as the Wildcats are 37th in early-downs EPA, 28th in EPA per pass and 12th in EPA per rush (College Football Data). That unit shouldn’t struggle this weekend against a Buffaloes offense that is 92nd in rushing success rate and will likely be forced to be in obvious passing situations throughout the game. Shedeur Sanders has struggled during Pac-12 play and it doesn’t help that Pat Shurmur has taken over play calling, making this offense a lot less explosive than it even was previously. All of these signals point to a convincing victory for the Wildcats, as I have full confidence in backing Fifita and this group over Sanders and the Buffaloes any day of the week. Bear Down!

Be sure to check out our full Arizona vs Colorado predictions

San Jose State Spartans ML over Fresno State Bulldogs (-105)

Odds available at BetRivers Sportsbook at time of publishing. Playable to San Jose State -115. 

This is a terrific spot for a team that I’ve had my eye on for the last couple of weeks. San Jose State got off to an awful start in the first half of the season, but the Spartans’ 1-5 record can be easily explained by taking a look at their brutal schedule. Losses to USC, Oregon State, at Toledo, Air Force and at Boise State are nothing to be ashamed of and Brent Brennan’s group has bounced back nicely by winning 3 straight games by a combined margin of 129-45 to thrust them into contention for a possible spot in the Mountain West title game if they win out. Experienced quarterback Chevan Cordeiro is at the helm of an offense that is absolutely rolling (20th in early downs EPA, 17th in net points per drive) and I’d expect this success to continue at home off a bye week.

While I’m perfectly comfortable backing San Jose State, this is just as much a fade of a Fresno State team that is inflated in the betting market after a couple of fluke results in recent weeks. The Bulldogs covered as short favorites against Boise State last week, but it took a kickoff return touchdown at the end of the first half and a broken run in the waning moments of the game for Fresno State to do so. The Bulldogs schedule has been much weaker than their counterparts on Saturday, including wins over Kent State, Nevada, Eastern Washington, Purdue and Utah State. Fresno State also can’t run the ball, which puts it at a disadvantage against a Spartans defense that is much better against the pass than in the trenches. There are also serious questions about Mikey Keene’s health heading into this game, so let’s back the Spartans to pounce on this great situational spot.

Check out this week’s top college football underdog picks

UCF Knights +3.5 vs Oklahoma State Cowboys (-110)

Odds taken from opening lines piece published on November 6. Playable to UCF +2.5

To round out the column this week, I’m targeting my favorite “buy low, sell high” spot on the board as we’ll be looking at this UCF team to keep things close (and possibly win outright) against an Oklahoma State side that is ripe to be taken down on Saturday. For starters, the Cowboys deserve to be commended for how they’ve turned their season around. This appeared to be a dead team walking after an early loss to South Alabama, but the Pokes have rounded into form to the tune of 5 consecutive victories, including an emotional win over Oklahoma last Saturday in what could be the final installment of Bedlam. Since Mike Gundy and his staff turned to Alan Bowman and Ollie Gordon II to lead the offense, this team hasn’t looked back. The Cowboys have also gotten a ton of help from their opponents, winning the turnover battle by an unsustainable +8 margin over the last 5 games.

While we’re now reaching the peak of the market on Oklahoma State, this is a great spot to buy low on a UCF team that I believe to be undervalued in the market due to injury issues with quarterback John Rhys Plumlee this season. Plumlee missed 5 weeks earlier in the campaign and the Knights suffered greatly without their starting quarterback, going 1-5 in his absence and falling off a cliff offensively. UCF nearly knocked off Oklahoma in Plumlee’s return and he appears to be healthier now. The Bounce House should be at full capacity for a matchup against a Cowboys team that can even afford a loss and still make the Big 12 championship game in a few weeks. This is as good of a letdown spot as you’ll see on the board this week, so let’s back UCF to keep this within a field goal.

Be sure to check out all of our NCAAF Week 11 picks for the biggest games on Saturday

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