There are three weeks left in the college football regular season. The playoff committee released the second edition of their rankings on Tuesday night as we further learned that nothing they do has any real rhyme or reason to it. Those rankings and other factors such as bowl eligibility will be the driving forces behind the narratives surrounding these final weeks.
At this point of the season, the betting market is pretty static. Edges have been figured out and we have a collection of data. That doesn't mean that there's no line movement though. Which schools are receiving early week action ahead of the Week 11 slate at BetMGM?
Michigan now a favorite vs. Penn State
One of the bigger games of this week's slate showcases the nuances of college football. For all intents and purposes, Michigan and Penn State were considered pretty equal teams entering the season. Even currently, ESPN's FPI ranks Michigan as the fifth-best team in the country and Penn State as 13th best. Their power rankings suggest Michigan is 4.1 points better on a neutral field.
With Penn State at home, this line being near a pick-em makes sense. Michigan is about 4 points better than Penn State according to the computers, but Penn State's home-field advantage is worth about that. This line opened with Michigan as a 1.5-point underdog on the road.
However, with the way this college football season has shaken out, one team has everything to play for and the other has very little. Michigan is ranked No. 6 in the country and still has a murky path to the playoff. The Wolverines would need help, but they aren't totally dead. On the other hand, Penn State has three losses and knows it isn't in the playoff conversation.
Michigan clearly has a lot more to play for, but handicapping factors such as motivation is an extremely hard endeavor. Nevertheless, after opening as an underdog, the Wolverines are now 1-point favorites in Happy Valley on Saturday.
Michigan needs this game a lot more than Penn State, but the Wolverines are on the road and I'm sure the Nittany Lions and their fans would love to kill their dreams. The public perception obviously favors Michigan due to the rankings. Early in the week, it seemed like bettors like Michigan to win this game. It's an intriguing display of what makes betting on college football so hard at times.
Can Oklahoma pull it off?
Oklahoma is ranked No. 8 in the latest rankings, which is surprisingly low for an undefeated team in a Power Five conference. It's clear the committee doesn't think much of the Sooners' strength of schedule to this point and they haven't looked overly impressive in the process of compiling their wins.
Thankfully for the Sooners, it looks like they still have a path to the playoff. Oklahoma is currently a 5.5-point favorite on the road against Baylor this weekend, who's ranked 13th in the nation. Oklahoma also still has to play Oklahoma State, who's ranked 10th, as well as Iowa State, who's been a highly ranked team at points of this season. If the Sooners can survive this gauntlet, make the Big 12 championship game and win that, I would be absolutely floored if they didn't make the playoff.
However, early week line movement has been against the Sooners this week. Baylor opened as a 6.5-point road underdog, but as mentioned earlier, that line has moved down to the current number, where the Sooners are 5.5-point favorites.
Oklahoma has definitely earned the doubt it's received this season. The Sooners have survived until this point, but Baylor is the best team they've played this season. It seems like the market likes Baylor to give the Sooners a scare.
Line also flips in South Carolina-Missouri
South Carolina has had a weird season, to say the least. The Gamecocks started their season by using a graduate assistant coach as their starting quarterback. They almost lost to Vanderbilt. But in Shane Beamer's first season, the Gamecocks are sitting here with a respectable 5-4 record and need just one more win to become bowl eligible.
South Carolina opened as a 1.5-point favorite on the road. In my article about bowl eligibility yesterday, I pointed out that this is South Carolina's best chance of getting the win it needs to become bowl eligible. South Carolina finishes its season with games against Clemson and Auburn.
Despite the Gamecocks having all the motivation in the world to get a win here, the market doesn't care. South Carolina is now a 1-point underdog at Missouri. Missouri has only one SEC win this season, and it came against Vanderbilt. The status of quarterback Connor Bazelak is uncertain for Missouri.
The mid-week games
We all love mid-week football. We know we'll have football on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday of every week. Those games on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday help us get through the week. They are also some of the most popular games to bet as there isn't much competition.
We have three games in the MAC on Wednesday. The most notable line movement comes in Kent State-Central Michigan, where the total is up to 75.5 points after opening at 71 earlier in the week. Central Michigan also opened as a 3-point favorite, but it's come off the key number. The Chippewas are just 2.5-point favorites now.
Toledo opened as a 9.5-point favorite, but the Rockets are now up to an 11-point favorite against Bowling Green.
On Thursday, we have an intriguing game as well as North Carolina heads to Pittsburgh. The total has come down from 75 points and sits at its current number of 73.5 points. Pittsburgh is a 6.5-point favorite, up slightly from the opening number of 6 points.