It was another bad week to bet on the top teams in college football, as the top five in last week’s GMS NCAA Power Rankings — and in most major polls — went 1-5 against the spread. Only LSU, a 27-19 victim at Florida as a 2.5-point favorite, lost its game straight-up, but Alabama was victim to a very late backdoor cover and Ohio State and West Virginia — which had been undefeated against the spread — were mistake-prone and couldn’t reach the number.
Only No. 3 Georgia was able to win convincingly.
Elsewhere, staying unbeaten straight up is enough to make a move in the rankings these days. Covering the spread along the way is especially worthy of notice. Two teams doing both are Notre Dame and Central Florida. The Fighting Irish went to Blacksburg, Virginia, and took out Virginia Tech with ease, and UCF just continues to win (and cover).
Two other unbeaten teams (straight up) entering the rankings are Colorado and Cincinnati. The strength of schedule leaves something to be desired for both teams, but both just keep on winning — and they’re a combined 9-2 against the spread.
Also welcome to the rankings to Texas, which won an exciting Red River Rivalry game over Oklahoma as 7-point underdogs and shoots well into the Top 20.
NCAA Power Rankings
- Alabama (6-0, 3-3 ATS, last week: 1)
It was a real heartbreaker for Crimson Tide backers on Saturday, as Arkansas’ touchdown with just seconds left on the clock brought the Razorbacks within 34 points and ruined all tickets at -35 or -34.5. Still, there’s no heartbreak inside a locker room for a team that has led by an average of 38-6 at halftime. This is a juggernaut the likes of which college football hasn’t seen in a long time. Up next is a visit from Missouri, which can score some points — but not like Alabama, which is 28-point chalk.
- Ohio State (6-0, 3-3 ATS, last week: 2)
The Buckeyes remain unbeaten but haven’t covered convincingly since the first two weeks of the season. If it weren’t for a last-minute touchdown against Tulane, Ohio State would have lost against the spread five straight times. The defense let Indiana hang around too much for a cover on Saturday night. But the offense, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Dwayne Haskins, is good enough to make you hesitate betting against these Buckeyes.
- Georgia (6-0, 3-3 ATS, last week: 3)
The Bulldogs got back on track from a gambling perspective in a 41-13 victory over Vanderbilt that withstood a late Commodores touchdown to cover -26 anyway. This week, it’s a much stiffer test with a trip to LSU. The result is Georgia’s smallest spread of the season, a 7-point number against the Bayou Bengals. The last time the Bulldogs had a single digit to cover was at South Carolina, and they passed that test with a 41-17 romp.
- Notre Dame (6-0, 4-2 ATS, last week: 6)
The couple of weeks the Fighting Irish nearly lost — and didn’t come close to covering — against Ball State and Vanderbilt already seem like ancient history, thanks to back-to-back first-class performances in wins against Stanford and Virginia Tech. Neither the Cardinal nor the Hokies are Top-10 material, but Notre Dame’s win over Michigan is looking better and better and the Irish have to be considered a legitimate playoff contender.
- West Virginia (6-0, 5-1 ATS, last week: 5)
For the first time all season, the Mountaineers failed to meet the number in a sloppy 38-22 victory over Kansas (+27.5) in which West Virginia committed four turnovers. That won’t do in a tricky road game at Iowa State, and it certainly won’t do when the Mountaineers face one of the nation’s toughest November schedules. But maybe it’s out of their system with little harm done.
- Clemson (6-0, 2-4 ATS, last week: 9)
Whoa. That 63-3 thrashing of Wake Forest (+20.5) is the sort of performance that gamblers like to see from favorites. Trevor Lawrence was not only recovered from his injury against Syracuse, but he also looked like he was perfectly capable of having the Tigers playing on the second Monday in January for the national title. Now we’ll see if Clemson can be a little more consistent. The road starts, after a bye week, with a trip to also unbeaten NC State.
- Penn State (4-1, 4-1 ATS, last week: 8)
Penn State has had a bye week to lick its wounds after the 27-26 come-from-ahead loss at home to Ohio State. Now comes another toughie: A visit from Michigan State. Don’t think too many folks thought the Spartans would be 13.5-point underdogs in this one when the schedule came out, but they’ve underachieved while the Nittany Lions mostly have looked very good.
- Michigan (5-1, 3-3 ATS, last week: 14)
The Wolverines continue to impress, this week covering a 17.5-point spread against Maryland with a big second half. What’s more, their loss to Notre Dame and a comeback victory over Northwestern keep looking better, too, leading to this big rise in the rankings. Michigan still has some big opportunities to prove itself down the stretch, starting with this week’s home game against Wisconsin.
- Florida (5-1, 5-1 ATS, last week: 17)
Another big riser is the Gators, who out-slugged LSU 27-19 at home as 1-point underdogs and announced themselves as a factor in both the SEC East and College Football Playoff races. The Gators’ only loss is to 5-1 Kentucky, and their victory at Mississippi State gained prominence after the Bulldogs beat Auburn. Florida is only laying seven points at Vanderbilt this week, though, and then (after a bye) comes a huge neutral-site game against Georgia.
- LSU (5-1, 3-3 ATS, last week: 4)
The good fortune/clutch play that has been the Tigers’ calling card all season finally ran dry in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, when Joe Burrow threw two interceptions in the final two minutes trying to lead LSU to a comeback victory. Everything this team wants is still in front of it, but the road is very treacherous: Georgia, Mississippi State, Alabama. At least all three games are at home, but LSU figures to be an underdog in two, starting against Georgia, which is a touchdown favorite.
- Central Florida (5-0, 4-1 ATS, last week: 13)
Another big spread, another cover for the machine from Orlando. The Knights bulldozed SMU (+25) by a 48-20 score and have now covered in all five games against FBS competition. This week brings a different sort of game, though, with a trip to Memphis. This one figures to be much closer (UCF is favored by 4.5) and features a Tigers team that could possibly score right along with the Knights.
- Texas (5-1, 3-3 ATS, last week: NR)
A giant welcome to the rankings to the Longhorns, who slipped from the consciousness of many by losing to Maryland in the season opener. Since then, however, Texas is unbeaten with a big win against USC, an easy victory over TCU and Saturday’s tidal triumph over Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl. Now we see if the Longhorns have a letdown as 14.5-point favorites Saturday against Baylor.
- Oklahoma (5-1, 2-4 ATS, last week: 7)
On the flip side are the Sooners, who made an incredible rally to tie the Red River Rivalry 45-45 but couldn’t stop Texas in the final minute. The loss is very damaging to Oklahoma’s Big 12 and CFP hopes, of course, and this also has proven to be a team bettors just can’t count on. The offense is good enough to cover against anyone, but the defense has been horrible. Perhaps the firing of defensive coordinator Mike Stoops will change the tide. We’ll find out after a bye week.
- Washington (5-1, 2-4 ATS, last week: 12)
This seems low for the Huskies, but they struggled again at winless UCLA, scoring only once after halftime, and the season-opening loss to Auburn looks more questionable after the Tigers have dropped games to LSU and Mississippi State. Washington’s only hope is to right the ship from here and run the table in the Pac-12. The next, very difficult step is a trip to Oregon. Washington is 3-point chalk.
- Texas A&M (4-2, 5-1 ATS, last week: 19)
The Aggies found a way to finish in a big game, knocking Kentucky from the ranks of the unbeaten in overtime. Texas A&M feels like it’s a step below the big boys, but the Aggies are still good enough to win most of their games and perhaps surprise someone along the way. Meanwhile, they’ve proven to be a great team to bet on with a 5-1 ATS mark. Texas A&M is favored by two at South Carolina this week.
- Kentucky (5-1, 3-3 ATS, last week: 15)
A tough night for the Wildcats and their backers, who had five points in hand and lost via an overtime touchdown when a field goal would have allowed Kentucky to cover. Still, don’t lose faith in this team, which has beaten good teams and went toe-to-toe with A&M in a tough environment. A trip to Missouri and home game against Georgia are key upcoming games.
- Mississippi State (4-2, 4-2 ATS, last week: 20)
The Bulldogs stayed in last week’s rankings despite back-to-back losses, and they showed why on Saturday, knocking off Auburn 23-9 in an impressive home victory. The Bulldogs still must play LSU, Texas A&M and Alabama, so there are plenty of opportunities to rise or fall ahead. The trip to Baton Rouge is next after a bye week.
- Colorado (5-0, 4-1 ATS, last week: NR)
The Buffaloes are a robust 4-1 against the spread, with the only defeat against FCS member New Hampshire. They’ve taken care of business against every opponent they’ve played, including key wins against Nebraska and Arizona State. Two very tough road trips await, however, to USC and Washington in the next two weeks. Win those and Colorado is the favorite to win the Pac-12. But the Buffs will be underdogs in both; they’re getting seven points against the Trojans.
- Auburn (4-2, 2-4 ATS, last week: 10)
Our eighth SEC team is the Tigers, who despite the disappointing night in Starkville, Mississippi, still own a huge win against Washington and have only lost to teams ranked above them. The schedule lightens up for a bit, with home games against Tennessee and Texas A&M sandwiched around a road trip to Ole Miss. If Auburn can manage to win all three, its season is right back on track headed for November showdowns with rivals Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers are giving 16.5 points against the Volunteers.
- Appalachian State (3-1, 4-0 ATS, last week: 19)
The Mountaineers were off last weekend in preparation for a rare Tuesday game with fellow Sun Belt contender Arkansas State. If you’re thirsty for some midweek action, consider this one, in which App State is 9.5-point chalk. That’s a big number on the road, but the Mountaineers have scored some big points in every game thus far.
Also considered (alphabetical order): Arizona State, Boise State, Cincinnati, Fresno State, Iowa, Miami, NC State, Oregon, Stanford, Texas, Troy, Utah State, Washington State, Wisconsin
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