What are the odds: Analyzing this week’s AFC North battle


Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/MCT

Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Brandon Felder (85) catches a touchdown behind Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Bradley Roby (1) and safety C.J. Barnett (4) during the first half at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. (Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/MCT)

By Colin Martin, Staff Writer

Talk about having a great week! I went 7-1 in my bets from last week, my only loss being the Kentucky vs. Mississippi State game. I picked the Wildcats to correctly cover the -9.5 spread against the ranked Bulldogs — Kentucky won 28-7. However, I had imagined this would be a high-scoring SEC battle that would easily hit on the 55 point over. It sadly wasn’t, but I’m fine with that since it was my only incorrect bet of the week.

Hopefully, the betting gods are on my side again this week. My season record is now 10-6, following a rough start. Maybe I should start putting real money on these games instead of just giving advice. Let’s take a look at the top games for this week, including a new NFL bet.

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Source: Odds Shark (Graphic by Brian Gentry | Online Visual Editor)

Pitt (2-2) vs #13 UCF (3-0)

Spread: UCF -13.5

Over/under: 64.5

Analysis: Central Florida Knights, the defending National Champions (Alabama didn’t win the title in their eyes), take on the desperate Pitt Panthers. UCF is looking to extend the longest active win streak in the country by winning their 17th straight game Saturday. The Knights will also be looking to extend another streak, the longest current 30 plus point games to 16 straight games as well. They are coming off a win against popular head coach Lane Kiffin and his Florida Atlantic Owls 56-36. UCF ranks 9th in the country in scoring, averaging 50 points per game, and 5th in the country in total offense ammassing 588 yards per game.

Pitt is going to have a hard time trying to stop this top 10 offensive team. The defense is going to need to step up big time or this game could get very ugly, very fast. The Panthers had a tough loss last week to a bad North Carolina team, losing 38-35. Running back Qadree Ollison and the Pitt rushing offense must continue to run the ball well if they have any hopes of keeping up in scoring with UCF. Ollison had 12 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown, while teammate running back Darrin Hall had six carries for 84 yards and a touchdown in their team’s loss to the Tar Heels. Head coach Pat Narduzzi is going to do everything he can keep the Panthers in this game and stay in bowl game contention for the season.

Bet: Take UCF to cover and the over in this matchup.

#4 Ohio State (4-0) vs #9 Penn State (4-0)

Spread: Ohio State -3

Over/under: 70

Analysis: Two years ago, Penn State upset the Buckeyes at home, thanks in part to a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. The Happy Valley fans would love to see the same result, but it’ll be a bigger challenge this time around. The Nittany Lions have slowly gotten used to playing without star running back Saquon Barkley, as he is having great success early on in his NFL career with the New York Giants. Penn State is still led by senior quarterback Trace McSorely, who has his eyes on the Big Ten championship trophy. The Heisman Trophy hopeful is looking to extend his streak of throwing a touchdown in his 33rd straight game. If he can lead the Nittany Lion offense to a victory at home against a top 5 Ohio State, start building a statue outside Beaver Stadium.

Urban Meyer and his Ohio State team don’t care about Penn State’s cute whiteout in the stands. They’ll make sure the fans will only remember their silver and red jerseys running all over the field. Fellow Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Dwayne Haskins is ready to show Happy Valley how good he is. He’s thrown for 16 touchdowns and only one interception this season. If he keeps performing well, then the Buckeyes will be hard to beat. This game has massive College Football Playoff implications, and Ohio State wants to make sure they get in that top four.

Bet: Ohio State should cover the spread and bet the under.

#7 Stanford (4-0) vs #8 Notre Dame (4-0)

Spread: Notre Dame -5.5

Over/under: 52.5

Analysis: The South Bend fans are excited to witness a rivalry game between two top 10 teams. The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame don’t want to let their fans down, and head coach Brian Kelly needs this big win to reassure everyone he deserves to be in charge. They switched quarterbacks last week in a 56-27 win over Wake Forest. Senior Brandon Wimbush was replaced by junior Ian Book after barely winning the team’s first three games. Book is expected to start again after playing very well, but Kelly hasn’t said anything about who will start the game at quarterback.

The Cardinal of Stanford are flying high after their big time win in Eugene last week against a ranked Oregon team. They beat the Ducks 38-31 in a close game that needed overtime to determine a winner. Last year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up running back Bryce Love has struggled this season, only scoring one touchdown. He will need to play like he did last season if Stanford looks to continue their undefeated season. Like the Ohio State vs Penn State game, this game has College Football Playoff implications. Notre Dame, being an independent team without a conference affiliation, needs to win this game against a top 10 ranked team from a Power 5 conference. A loss could end their chances of going to the playoffs, but would boost Stanford’s chances by a sizable amount.

Bet: Stanford will cover the spread but take the over.

Baltimore Ravens (2-1) vs Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1-1)

Spread: Steelers -3

Over/under: 50.5

Analysis: A good old fashioned AFC North battle deserves to be included in this week’s betting takes. The Pittsburgh Steelers looked good last week, winning their first game of the season against the previously undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked like his old self; he threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns, a performance worth the title of AFC Offensive Player of the Week. The Steelers proved that they don’t need running back Le’Veon Bell to win, as the star continues to hold out over contract negotiations. Head coach Mike Tomlin needs to keep his team focused on the locker room together, so they can win a tough division game.

The Baltimore Ravens are still led by somewhat elite quarterback Joe Flacco, despite taking the former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson in the first round of last year’s NFL Draft. Flacco has led the Ravens to scoring 32.3 points per game so far this season, thanks to a new wide receiver core featuring veteran Michael Crabtree and speedsters John Brown and Willie Snead IV. If the Ravens want to make the playoffs this season, a division win in Pittsburgh would be very big for them.

Bet: Take the Steelers to cover the spread and bet the over.

All spreads and over/unders are taken from https://www.oddsshark.com/