College football upset alert: Expert picks for Week 9 underdogs with best odds to win


At one point during last Saturday’s noon viewing window, 28.5-point underdog Navy led Cincinnati 10-7, 38.5-point underdog Kansas led Oklahoma 10-0 and 24.5-point underdog Illinois tied Penn State 10-10 in the fourth quarter. Illinois was the only underdog to follow through and pull the upset, and it took nine overtimes to get there.

Illinois proved to be the biggest dog to get the win last week. In 54 games, there were 16 upsets, including three of 20-point spreads or more. In addition to Illinois, Rice was a 24-point dog to UAB and won, and New Mexico pulled off a win against Wyoming as a 20-point underdog.

Here at the Underdog Challenge, we are charged with the difficult task of spotting those upsets before they happen. The contest works as follows — each expert picks three upsets per week. If an expert picks an upset correctly, he gets the amount of points that team was an underdog.

MORE: Against the spread picks of every Top 25 game | Bowl projections

BETTING TRENDS: Florida-Georgia | Michigan-Michigan State | Penn State-Ohio State

Here are our standings after eight weeks.

1 Bill Trocchi 9-15 51.5
2 Zac Al-Khateeb 11-13 50.5
3 Bill Bender 8-16 41.5
4 Mike DeCourcy 7-17 32.5

On to the upsets.

Odds courtesy

Bill Bender, Lead college football writer

Temple (+10.5) vs. UCF

Temple hasn’t been consistent this season, but the Owls are 2-1 at home. That included a close win against Memphis. UCF is 0-3 on the road this season under first-year coach Gus Malzahn. It’s going to be a rainy Saturday in Philadelphia, too. Temple pulls an upset.

Iowa (+3.5) at Wisconsin

This is a tough one for the Hawkeyes on the road. Wisconsin has won four of the last five meetings, and both teams have solid defenses. It’s going to come down to which quarterback makes the fewest mistakes, and we think Iowa comes up with the game-changing turnover here. The Hawkeyes retake control of the Big Ten West.

Virginia (+2.5) at BYU

Bronco Mendenhall makes his return to Provo in what should be a late-night classic. The Cavaliers are on a four-game winning streak, and their offense is built for a game that should score in the 30s. It will be close, but look for Virginia to pull this one out in the fourth quarter.

Mike DeCourcy, Senior writer

UCLA (+6.5) at Utah 

No, I don’t know who’ll be quarterback for the Bruins at this point. Anyone wants to help me out on that, feel free. What I do know is that Ethan Garbers’ performance in his cameo at the end of the Oregon game makes me feel as comfortable and confident as one can in a touchdown underdog (possibly) playing with its backup quarterback. The Bruins showed some ingenuity early and resilience late in losing to the Ducks. They have the ability to win this game.

No. 8 Michigan State (+4.5) vs. No. 6 Michigan 

Am I really supposed to pass up an undefeated home team in a rivalry game when the contest payoff would be this generous? Sorry, maybe the whole thing is designed to draw me in, but I have to ride with it. I know the Spartans do not have a particularly dynamic offense and will do everything they can to make this game a lethargic, low-possession, low-scoring game. At least the celebration will be entertaining, if Sparty can pull this off.

MORE: A defining moment for Jim Harbaugh

West Virginia (+6.5) vs. No. 22 Iowa State 

What we really need is Bob Huggins to get involved in trying to expand the College Football Playoff. This could accomplish two items that would benefit college athletics. First, the people involved in the CFP might be frightened enough to listen to him; he can be a scary guy. Second, this would distract him from his project to ruin the NCAA Tournament and turn it into the Class 5A championship.

Bill Trocchi, Senior editor

No. 8 Michigan State (+4.5) vs. No. 6 Michigan

You are not a college football fan if you aren’t counting the hours til this one kicks off. The teams have almost identical point differentials in their three common opponents (Rutgers, Nebraska and Northwestern), and MSU has that spiffy blowout at Miami on its resume. Both running games are awesome, but the Spartan advantage is at QB, where Payton Thorne ranks second in the Big Ten in passing efficiency and Cade McNamara is ninth. Add in the home field advantage and we should have a Sparty party.

Miami (+9.5) at No. 17 Pittsburgh

Taking a big swing here. Mike DeCourcy called for a ‘Pitting’ a week early. Quarterback Kenny Pickett is the darling of college football after he said he was celebrating the Clemson win with ‘a cold one’ on national TV last week. But Miami is quietly improving, playing Virginia, UNC and NC State to within three points the last three games. A blah noon atmosphere at Heinz Field following the big Clemson win could be in store. Canes steal one.

Virginia Tech (+4.5) at Georgia Tech

Another team who is better than you think is Virginia Tech. The Hokies led Notre Dame by eight in the fourth quarter before losing on the final play, led Syracuse by nine in the fourth quarter before losing in the final minute and lost to West Virginia by six after having a first-and-goal at the three in the final minutes. You are what you are, but VT is close to being 6-1. Add a dash of ‘win one for the hot seat Coach’ and you have a recipe for an upset.

Zac Al-Khateeb, Content producer

Navy (+10.5) over Tulsa

Navy is 1-5 this season, though not for a lack of effort by the Midshipmen: Ken Niumatalolo’s squad lost in single-possession games to No. 24 SMU (31-24) and to No. 2 Cincinnati (27-20) over the last three weeks. Both those teams are better than Tulsa, which is 3-4 on the season. The Golden Hurricanes have come on strong of late with consecutive wins over Memphis and South Florida, and took a well-timed bye in Week 8 to prepare for the triple-option. But we’ve seen teams flounder against it again and again, with more time to prepare. The Midshipmen right the ship.

No. 10 Ole Miss (+2.5) over No. 18 Auburn

Ole Miss vs. Auburn is the premier battle of the SEC in Week 9. The Rebels and Tigers feature frustratingly creative dual-threat quarterbacks in Matt Corral and Bo Nix, respectively, so it figures to be an offensive-oriented battle. It’s cliche, but the team whose quarterback plays better will likely be the victor. To that end, look for Corral (1,913 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, one interception, 493 rushing yards and nine more scores) to outperform Nix (1,488 passing yards, eight touchdowns, two interceptions, 149 rushing yards, two scores) in a close Rebels victory.

North Carolina (+3.5) over No. 11 Notre Dame

These teams have been tough to figure out in 2021. North Carolina had ACC championship aspirations that quickly fell to earth amid a 4-3 season, and 6-1 Notre Dame hasn’t looked nearly as talented as it did in 2020. Again, I’m going with the team with the better quarterback: UNC’s Sam Howell. He isn’t having the season he had last year, but still has 1,851 passing yards and 18 touchdowns to six interceptions through seven games, plus 494 rushing yards and five more scores. He should help lead the upset against a Notre Dame secondary without safety Kyle Hamilton.


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