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MHJ’s Tough Cover Column: College Football and NFL picks for the weekend of 10/27 – 10/30

Usually, I start out the column with a few observations or takes before I get to the Top 25 and the picks. This week? I simply love the board too much. I won’t waste your time. Get the picks while they’re hot, coming off of the best Sunday of my life.


Saturday, 12 p.m.

TCU TT Over 38.5 @ West Virginia

  • TCU has scored 39+ in 4 of their 7 games and in the 3 games they didn’t…they scored 38
  • Max Duggan has 1871 yards and 19 TD’s with only 1 pick. Their RB Kendre Miller has rushed for 623 yards on 92 carries in the last 5 games rushing for over 6.7 YPC.
  • The Frogs have averaged 45 PPG this year while West Virginia is giving up just over 45 PPG this year
  • WVU gave up 48 to Texas Tech last week and 40 to Baylor the week before
  • They’ve given up 40+ in 3 of their 4 Big 12 matchups and gave up 38 in the lone game that their defense did not allow 40.
  • Both teams are 5-2 on the Over
  • I bet a West Virginia over last Saturday. I won’t make the same mistake of trusting their offense again. I will fade their defense though. Let’s Go Frogs.

Ohio State TT Over 37.5 @ Penn State

  • Ohio State has scored 45+ in their last 6 games. They’re averaging over 54 PPG over their last 6 games! 56.5 PPG over their last 5 games! 51 PPG in their 4 games of Big 10 play!
  • And I get that Penn State has a good defense. But they gave up 41 to Michigan in a game they didn’t even push them offensively. And they gave up 31 to Purdue. Ohio State has more weapons to worry about through the air and on the ground than Purdue.
  • CJ Stroud is going to be one of the Top 2 picks. He has over 2000 yards, 28 TD’s and 4 picks.
  • Everyone knows about Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Marvin Harrison Jr but Egbuka is their leading receiver. 41 catches, 735 yards and 7 TD’s.
  • Sorry Penn State, I backed you in the Big House 2 weeks ago and you were exposed as a fraud. I do not trust them to hold Ohio State’s offense from dominating.

Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Cal +17.5 vs Oregon
Cal ML(+610) vs Oregon

  • This was the play that jumped out to me more than any other on the board for College or Pro Football when I saw the lines drop from Circa Sports on Sunday.
  • Death. Taxes. Justin Wilcox covering ATS as an underdog.
  • California’s Head Coach Justin Wilcox has a bit of a hot seat. But that has nothing to do with how California plays against the better teams, it has to do with how they handle inferior competition. Cal is just 8-15 ATS as a favorite under Wilcox. That number changes dramatically when you talk about how they’ve performed as an underdog in recent years.
  • They are 23-9-1 ATS as an underdog with Wilcox, covering by an average margin of 4.5 points per game.. That number improves to 17-3 when Cal is an underdog by at least a TD. That number improves even more to 7-0 ATS at home when Cal is an underdog by at least a TD. There’s so many trends that point to Cal here that I am nervous it might be TOO trendy.
  • And there’s also 2 more things in our favor here. This game is not being played in Eugene, Oregon. The Ducks are ALWAYS a much better team at home and a much different team on the road. And more importantly, Bo Nix is a much different QB depending on where the game is being played, even dating back to his days at Auburn. If you don’t believe me, here’s a little breakdown.
    • Bo Nix at Home: 411-632(65%)/5,047 Pass Yards/37 Touchdowns and 2 interceptions/151 Passer Rating
    • Bo Nix away from Home:294-503/3,195 Pass Yards/15 Touchdowns and 13 interceptions/114 Passer Rating
  • It has not been quite as stark this year as it was in previous years but there is still a significant drop-off for Nix. He has 14 touchdowns with 0 interceptions at home this year while he has 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.
  • I get that Oregon is red hot since their embarrassing Week 1 loss to Georgia but does this not feel like an Oregon letdown spot? Every time that the words “Oregon” and “the playoff” are used in conjunction, you can start the clock on when they’ll screw it up and lose when you least expect. I’m not saying that I think Oregon will lose but that almost makes me think they will. It’s worth the 1 unit shot in the dark on the Money Line but the Cal spread is my favorite bet of the weekend, as of now.

Wake Forest -3.5 @ Louisville

  • Wake is 6-1 ATS, 4-1 ATS as a favorite and 2-0 ATS on road. Their loss is an OT loss to Clemson. I think this is a disrespectful line to the Wake Forest.
  • They are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games and 3-0 ATS in ACC play.
  • There are definite “rat line” vibes when it comes to the Louisville side here. I am sure that the sharps will be on Louisville but I’ll eat the cheese and trust the Demon Deacons.

Illinois -7 @ Nebraska

  • Illinois is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games and 5-2 ATS overall and I dont think this is smoke and mirrors. Bret Bielema has gotten the Illini program going in short order and he’s done it in the same way he was successful at Wisconsin. Playing defense and running the football.
  • And boy oh boy, can Chase Brown run the football. He has 1,059 yards…7 games into the season. I don’t think enough people are talking about the stats Brown is putting up. He has rushed for Over 1oo yards in every game they’ve played this season. He has also stepped up his game in Big 10 play, rushing for 654 yards in 4 games averaging 163.5 rushing yards per game against the Big 10.
  • Nebraska is 2-5 ATS, which goes to show they’ve been disappointing even after Vegas adjusted their lines.
  • Illinois has won the last 2 years as a TD underdog and a 16.5 point underdog against Nebraska. This is the best Illinois team in 15 years. This is the worst Nebraska team in potentially even longer. Give me the Illini BIG. Go win the B1G 10 West!

Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Over 62.5 Baylor-Texas Tech

  • Pretty simple bet here. 2 Big 12 teams that can score and don’t play much defense.
  • Last 4 Baylor games have went over. 3 out of the last 4 Texas Tech games have went over
  • Both teams are 5-2 on the Over
  • Baylor and Texas Tech both average 63 PPG on the total
  • Baylor averages over 64 PPG on totals in their Big 12 matchups. Texas Tech averages over 66.5 PPG on totals in their 4 Big 12 matchups
  • Big 12 Overs are #back

Saturday, 8 p.m.

North Carolina -3 vs Pitt

  • Pitt is 2-5 ATS and their two covers are against Virginia Tech and Western Michigan, who are horrible. A lot of people have given them credit for hanging tough early in the season with Tennessee but I’m not sure the Vols they played are comparable to the current version.
  • Pitt is 1-4 ATS in Power 5 play. 1-2 ATS in the ACC with an outright loss as a 21.5 pt favorite to Georgia Tech.
  • North Carolina’s defense certainly has their own issues but I just dont see how the Pittsburgh offense, that struggled to put up 10 points on a bad Louisville defense, can score enough to keep up with Drake Maye.
  • UNC is pretty locked in to the ACC Title Game at this point. If they win this game, they absolutely lock themself in. In Drake Maye I trust.


Thursday Night Football

Bucs ML vs Ravens

  • This bet has a lot more to do with fading the Baltimore Ravens than backing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
  • I’ve seen a ton of “The Ravens are back on track and found a way to win a close game” takes as a reaction to their 23-20 win over the Browns. I don’t know if the Ravens found a way to win that game as much as the Browns found a way to lose it. We were a Cade York missed Field Goal from Overtime and we were a questionable Offensive Pass Interference on Amari Cooper away from the Browns winning the game.
  • The Baltimore Ravens should be sued for malpractice when it comes to surrounding Lamar Jackson with one of the worst groups of weapons in the Natioanl Football League. You can get away with lackluster weapons when Lamar Jackson is playing like an MVP. That has not been the case over the last few weeks. The Ravens have scored 23, 20, 19 and 20 points in the last 4 weeks. An offense with Lamar Jackson leading the way should not fail to score 24 over a four game sample size.
  • I could throw out a million gambling stats that coincide with Tom Brady bounceback opportunities. I could throw out a million primetime gambling stats that coincide with Tom Brady winning tonight. But I like this bet because of Baltimore, not Tampa Bay. Keep it simple stupid.

1H Under 23.5 Ravens-Bucs

  • The last 3 1st halves have went under for both Baltimore and Tampa Bay.
  • But this is a Tampa Bay Bucs trend bet here. They are 6-1 to the 1st Half Under this season. Their only 1st half Over? A game with Patrick Mahomes and the porous Kansas City defense. So 1st Half Unders are 6-0 for the Bucs when they are not playing against Patrick Mahomes.

Sunday, 1 p.m.

Titans -2.5 @ Texans

  • This line makes no sense. Usually, I would stay away from a line this stinky. But I’ve talked myself into this just being the usual disrespect that we pay the Titans. The Titans are just a ho-hum Top 10 team every year no matter who they lose. Mike Vrabel is a truly incredible Head Coach.
  • Titans have won and covered four straight games and they are back among the playoff contenders of the AFC once again.
  • Tannehill is 8-0 outright and 5-3 ATS as a road favorite vs. a divisional opponent in his career.
  • Vrabel and Tannehill are 15-3 as a duo vs. AFC South. This is not a duo that is prone to surprising losses within their division. They handle their business.
  • Mills is 3-13-1 over the course of his career. And I’m supposed to believe him and his long neck are gonna end the Titans winning streak? I just don’t believe it. Titans win by more than a FG, even if it’s sweaty.
  • Also a fun little James Harden-sequel nugget. Teams are 8-19-1 ATS in their next game after facing the Raiders in Vegas. These teams have failed to cover the spread in six consecutive games. Teams get lit on the strip and then have a week-long hangover. Guess where the Texans played last week? You guessed it.

Raiders ML @ Saints

  • I don’t have a ton of my fancy trends to fall back on here.
  • I simply think these are two much different 2-win teams.
  • The Raiders have lost by 14 points in their 4 losses. Their point differential is +13…yet they’re 2-4. They just need to find a way to win a close game. I expect positive regression in that department.
  • I think all of the signs are pointing to a Vegas hot streak while I think all of the signs are pointing to a 5-12 or worse season from the Saints which may lead to a Dennis Allen firing.

Pats -2.5 @ Jets

  • I bet Bill Belichick and the Patriots when they play against the New York Jets. It’s just that simple. I know that the Jets are off the mat this year, but I’m not letting this trend die.
  • Belichick has faced NYJ 46 times as coach. He is 35-11 outright and 25-19-2 ATS. The Pats have beaten the Jets 12 times in a row dating back to 2015 (8-4 ATS). Jets last win: Dec. 27, 2015, Ryan Fitzpatrick against Tom Brady.
  • Usually, you would fade a team coming off of a loss on Monday Night Football. But Bill Belichick defies the logic behind fading teams on short rest. Belichick is 33-10 SU and 28-15-1 ATS on short rest over the last 20 years.
  • And the loss on Monday night is actually what makes me feel best about the Pats bet. Belichick is 36-11 outright and 39-7-1 ATS after a loss as either an underdog or under a TD favorite last 20 years in the regular season. Belichick has never lost the week after an ATS loss of 21 or more and he is 11-1 ATS the following game and covering by 11.9 PPG.
  • I expect a bounceback from the Patriots, whether that be from Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe.

Jalen Hurts Anytime TD

  • Copy and paste this every single week into my column. Until further notice, I will be betting Jalen Hurts Anytime TD every single week that is + money.
  • The implied probability is way off. He is statistically more likely to score a rushing TD than not if you judge his career statistics.

Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

49ers ML @ Rams

  • The 49ers own the Rams. I know that the Rams found a way to win the NFC Championship last year(thanks Jaquiski Tartt) but otherwise, it has not been pretty for Sean McVay against Kyle Shanahan.
  • Jimmy Garoppolo vs. the Rams: 7-1 SU/ATS (7-0 SU, 6-1 ATS in regular season).
  • Garoppolo does very well against teams that are .500 or better. 21-11 outright and ATS in that spot. Since 2017, he’s the second-most profitable QB in the NFL against winning opponents
  • The 49ers are 37-19 straight up and 31-24-1 against the spread with Jimmy Garoppolo as QB. They are 9-29 SU and 16-22 ATS without him. Jimmy G is a Cover Machine.
  • McVay and Stafford are also 0-2 ATS off a bye week as a duo. So erase any bye week hope you may have for the Rams to figure it out. Niners win this game and go on to win the NFC West.

Sam Ehlinger Anytime TD

  • As a longtime Sam Ehlinger believer( a longtime Matt Ryan hater, I was ecstatic to see the decision that Indianapolis made to bench Matt Ryan and give Sam Ehlinger a chance. The Colts immediately go from an offense that I dread watching to potentially one of my favorite offenses to watch in the league.
  • It’s no secret that I appreciate and value mobility in a QB. Shane Haff, who you can follow on Twitter @HaffnHaff_TPL, and I have discussed why at length on our weekly football review podcast “Chalk Talk”. The difference between taking a 10 yard sack, or losing a fumble as Matt Ryan did frequently, and even just getting a yard or two is immeasurably important to an offense. A mobile QB gives you a MUCH higher floor than a pocket passer. Mobile QB’s also tend to dramatically increase the efficiency of the runningback in the offense. My brain always goes back to Rookie RG3 propping Alfred Morris up as some superstar RB.
  • Ehlinger had 31 rushing TD’s in 37 College Starts including 16 rushing TD’s in his 14 starts in his Sophomore season. This is a big time Jalen Hurts situation where the implied probability is much better than the odds being given.

Sunday Night Football

Packers +11.5 @ Bills
Packers ML(+450) @ Bills

  • This is the biggest underdog spread of Aaron Rodgers career. And for good reason. The Bills are very good and the Packers are not very good. But I think there may be some positive trends that point to the Packers keeping it much closer than the experts think.
  • 2 of the 3 times Rodgers has been greater than a TD favorite, he has covered and won the game outright.
  • Aaron Rodgers has been great as an underdog, especially in primetime. 4-0 outright in his last 4 primetime games as an underdog. He is 12-1 outright and 11-2 ATS at night in general since 2020. 44-25 SU and 40-27-2 ATS on primetime in his career.
  • Since Matt LaFleur has been Head Coach, the Packers are 10-4 ATS as an underdog.
  • But the main reason that I like the Packers is matchup-based. Their defense is TERRIBLE against the run(32nd of 32 in Run Defense DVOA) but the Bills don’t really run the football well at all. The Bills do pass the ball better than almost anyone in the league obviously. But Green Bay is very stout against the pass, (9th of 32 in Run Defense DVOA). I don’t believe in Buffalo to score 31+ points in this game due to this matchup with a very good secondary and even if they do, I just need 20 points from the Packers. Which leads me to my next bet

Bills Team Total Under 30.5 vs Packers

  • The Bills have only scored 31+ points in half of their games this year. That number changes when you just look at the last 4 games. The Bills are averaging 26 PPG over the last 4 weeks.
  • But the main reason I like this bet is because of the Packers defense. They have not given up more than 27 points in a game. They are only giving up 20.9 PPG this year and this Team Total would need a full 10 points more than that to cash. Simple math.

You can follow Mark Henry Jr. on Twitter (@MarkHenryJr_) and listen to the Tough Cover Radio Show every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fox Sports Radio The Gambler.

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