NCAAF line watch: Don’t miss key number for Notre Dame-USC

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Each week during the college football season, Covers Expert Steve Merril looks at the NCAAF odds and tells you which spread to bet now, which one to bet later, and which total to watch as the week plays out.

Spread to bet now

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at USC Trojans (-7)

Southern Cal opened briefly as a 6.5-point home favorite versus Notre Dame, and money quickly came in on the Trojans making them 7-point chalk in all locations. I expect more USC money to come in and push this line up higher, so bettors should lay the key number now before the line ticks up.

Notre Dame comes in off a close 31-28 home loss to Louisville. That was its third straight loss and its fourth loss over the past five games. Southern Cal also comes in off a loss to rival UCLA, getting blown out 38-20. Southern Cal is playing at home, so it will have an easier time getting up for this game, especially since the Trojans have revenge on their minds after losing 14-10 at Notre Dame last season. Lay the points with the Trojans now.

Spread to wait on

Michigan State Spartans at Penn State Nittany Lions (+13.5)

Michigan State was initially a 13-point road favorite at Penn State and money came in quickly on the Spartans, pushing the line higher. I anticipate this line going up further, especially after Michigan State won 45-3 last week while Penn State lost 16-14.

Penn State has a solid defense that only allows 16.2 points per game on 4.1 yards per play, so giving them close to two touchdowns presents solid value. Michigan State’s biggest wins this season have come against some really bad teams. Penn State took Ohio State to double overtime, so the Nittany Lions are capable of competing. Wait this game out and take Penn State at +14 points or more later in the week.

Total to watch

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Georgia Bulldogs (64)

This rivalry game has seen Georgia win five consecutive meetings. The Bulldogs appear to be in line for a sixth straight win as they are currently 13-point favorites over Georgia Tech. This series has been high-scoring lately, with the past five games averaging 61 points.

Georgia Tech and Georgia are both playing at an extremely slow pace this season. The Yellow Jackets rank 122nd in pace while the Bulldogs rank just 102nd in pace. However, the teams are averaging a lot of points per game: Georgia Tech (37.8) and Georgia (43.3). The two defenses have gone unnoticed. Georgia Tech allows just 24.1 points per game and Georgia allows only 20.5 points per game.  Based on recent history, this total may be inflated a few points too high.

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