Listen, it’s Friday, and I’ve got a whole lot of picks coming your way for both tonight and the entire weekend. Believe me, this newsletter is so long that I can guarantee you I’m going to get an email or a direct message in Slack from my editors that will say something along the lines of “Friday’s newsletter was too long. They need to be shorter.”
I didn’t have a choice! There’s just so much opportunity available to us, and I couldn’t risk wasting this chance. It’s the holiday season, after all.
So I hope you’re well, and I hope you win a lot of money this weekend. I also hope you take the time to read these stories before you do. I mean, my CBSSports.com colleagues went through all the trouble of writing them. The least you could do is read them.
All right, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.
All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
Ball State vs. Buffalo, Friday, 7:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Under 69 (-110): Yes, we’re taking an under in the MAC. We like to live dangerously in this newsletter. This game’s total opened at 66 and has since been bet up to 69, which is fine with me. The total has gone up because Buffalo has one of the most potent offenses in the country. The Bulls have averaged 3.79 points per drive this season, which ranks third in the nation behind Kent State (3.98) and some team called Alabama (3.93). Of course, Buffalo has also played a shorter schedule than nearly anybody else, as it comes into tonight having only played five games.
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More than that, while the Bulls are a legitimately good team, their offensive numbers are inflated. In three games against Bowling Green, Kent State and Akron — three of the country’s absolute worst defenses — the Bulls averaged 4.67 points per drive. In two games against the more respectable defenses of Northern Illinois and Miami (OH), they averaged 2.8 points per drive. Ball State is in that more respectable range defensively, so I don’t anticipate the Bulls having the same kind of offensive success. That, combined with a Buffalo defense that’s a lot more than respectable, should keep us under the total tonight.
Key Trend: The under is 5-1 in Ball State’s last six games as an underdog.
Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The only thing in the world that loves MACtion more than I do is the Advanced Computer Model, and it has a couple strong leans for tonight’s game in Detroit as well.
🏈 College Football
Oregon at No. 13 USC, Friday, 8 p.m. | TV: Fox
The Pick: Oregon (+140) — This is a play on the situation. The Pac-12 can’t help but shoot itself in the foot over and over again. While USC’s Playoff chances are minimal at best, the Pac-12 wanted to make sure to lower them as much as possible. That’s why it has the Trojans playing the conference championship game on a short week after Oregon had last weekend off.
Oh, and in case that’s not enough, the Pac-12 also put USC in a position where it had to prepare for two teams because it was initially slated to play Washington here. That was changed to Oregon when the Huskies didn’t have enough players available due to COVID and contact tracing. Oregon, meanwhile, was able to spend that extra week off preparing for USC. So, yeah, it should be a close game anyway, and when you factor all of that into it, there’s a genuine chance Oregon wins the game.
Key Trend: USC is 1-8 ATS in its last nine Friday games. Those short weeks!
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 7 Florida, Saturday, 8 p.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: Florida +17 (-110) — There’s nothing quite as terrifying as betting against Alabama right now, but it’s the right play in this spot. It’s worth repeating: since halftime of the game against Georgia, Alabama’s defense has leveled up, and this team has gone back into Death Machine mode. It’s truly the best team in the country, and I’m not sure anybody else is on the same tier right now.
That said, 17.5 points is a lot of points to be laying against a potent Florida offense. If we look at Alabama this season, the only offense it faced that comes close to Florida’s in terms of style and production is Ole Miss. That Rebels offense put up 647 yards and 48 points against Alabama. Now, I don’t think Florida will match those numbers, but there’s too much talent on the Gators offense to think they won’t find any success at all. Also, Dan Mullen’s too good at scheming against opponents not to put up points in this spot. The question is whether or not Florida’s defense gets any stops. If it can manage a few, I’m confident the Gators keep this close.
Key Trend: Florida is 4-1 ATS in its last five as an underdog.
Want more college football picks for this weekend? You can find them in my weekly column The Six Pack.
🏀 College Basketball
Iowa State at No. 8 West Virginia, Friday, 9 p.m. | TV: ESPN U
The Pick: Iowa State +15 (-110) — Get on this one quickly as the line is shrinking. It opened at 17 and is down to 15. As long as it’s at 14 or better as you’re reading this, it’s still good. I love large dogs like this in conference games, particularly against highly-ranked teams, because the general public often overvalues highly-ranked teams.
Neither one of these teams is a great three-point shooting team, but while the Mountaineers are terrific defensively, if they have a weakness this season, it’s been defending the interior. That’s where Iowa State’s offense excels, as it’s shooting 59.1% from two, ranking 18th in the country. That will likely be what keeps the Cyclones within the number.
Key Trend: West Virginia is 3-10-1 ATS in its last 14 games against teams with a losing record.
Texans at Colts, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: Under 51 (-115) — When we get late into the NFL season, I like to look for unders worth playing. It becomes a smarter bet, particularly in divisional matchups like this one. The Texans and Colts have not only played already, but they played just a couple of weeks ago. Indianapolis won that game 26-20, though if we look at the box score, we see the Texans offense performed a bit better. It was two Houston turnovers that decided the game. That’s why I’m somewhat hesitant to take the Texans here, though if you’re betting the spread, that’s the side I prefer to be on, particularly if it’s at 7 or better. But the best value is on the total.
Key Trend: The under is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
Bears at Vikings, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: Fox
The Pick: Under 46 (-110) — This is a similar situation to the last pick, as two division rivals that have already played meet again. The first meeting in Chicago was a sleepy affair. The Vikings won 19-13 but weren’t able to do much of anything on the ground. The Bears offense was even more pathetic than usual, managing only 149 yards in the game, averaging 3.0 yards per play.
Things should be a little better for Chicago this time, as they’ve replaced Nick Foles with Mitch Trubisky (yes, it’s an upgrade), and David Montgomery will play after being injured for the first meeting. That will improve the Bears offense, but not to a degree where I think the final result will look all that different. Both of these teams are outside the playoff picture but have a slim chance of getting in. That will cause both coaches to do what they typically do in these spots and get conservative. Nobody is going to want to be the one to make the mistake that ends their playoff hopes.
Key Trend: The under is 13-5 in the last 18 meetings.
Chiefs at Saints, Sunday 4:25 p.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: Chiefs -3 (-105) — The Saints defense had been playing very well until last week against the Eagles. Yes, they didn’t know exactly what it they were getting into facing an Eagles offense with Jalen Hurts. Still, if we look at New Orleans’ recent schedule, it’s not as if they were up against a murderer’s row of offenses.
Since completely shutting down Tampa Bay, they’d played the Falcons twice, a 49ers team with Nick Mullens and a Broncos offense with Kendall Hinton. The Chiefs offense is an entirely different animal, and, maybe this is just my opinion, but Patrick Mahomes is better than those other QBs. Even with Drew Brees looking like he’ll be back and starting, I don’t think the Saints will keep up.
Key Trend: The Chiefs are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games against teams with winning records.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine and Alabama expert Emory Hunt is 9-0 in his last nine spread picks involving the Crimson Tide, and he has another confident pick for Saturday’s SEC Championship Game between Alabama and Florida.
💸 The DFS Rundown
Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens — Lamar is back! And not just from the bathroom! After hitting a bit of a rut during the middle of the season, Lamar has managed six total touchdowns in the last two games and 218 yards rushing. Now, facing a bad Jacksonville team, he projects to provide the most bang for the buck among all quarterbacks this weekend.
J.D. McKissic, RB, Washington — There are two running backs I love this week among the cheaper options. Obviously, McKissic is my value play, but if you’re looking for more mid-range value, I’d go with Cam Akers. I’m going to have both of them in a lot of my lineups, but I love the value McKissic is going to provide at his price. With Antonio Gibson out, Washington will rely more on McKissic and Peyton Barber at running back, and McKissic’s utility as a pass-catcher gives him a high floor. There’s nothing Alex Smith loves more than dumping off to the short option!
Full lineup advice
SportsLine’s team of DFS insiders has you covered for daily fantasy sports. Mike McClure has won almost $2 million playing DFS, and Jacob Gibbs was ranked as one of the nation’s most accurate Fantasy experts last year. Plus, use SportsLine’s all-new DFS Optimizer to get optimal NFL DFS picks from 10,000 simulations.
🏈 Weekend NFL Parlay
A five-leg moneyline parlay paying +206.