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Luckett’s Locks: Championship Stakes

(Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports)

(Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports)

After our first losing weekend in quite some time, the overall season record is down to 32-25 ATS  following a 3-4 mark last week. We just could not find the rhythm, but there’s plenty of ball left in time for us to improve our .561 winning percentage. Despite some more cancellations, a good slate is at our disposal.

Some Big Ten games with major division title implications will take place tomorrow in addition to others around the country that could play a major role in conference championship races. It’s setting up to be another solid Saturday of college football action and there is plenty of value to take advantage of.

Here are the best plays on the card.

Indiana @ Ohio State (-20)

There is no denying that Ohio State is a legit national title contender and they are off to an impressive start with three wins by double-digits with star quarterback Justin Fields putting up monster numbers (11 touchdowns, 11 incompletions). The defense has shown some holes early in the season, but the offense is a juggernaut. Now they’ll return to the Horseshoe following an unexpected week off to face an unlikely divisional opponent in a top-10 showdown.

Tom Allen has the Hoosiers playing some big boy football in year four and IU is off to an historic start. Indiana is 4-0 with wins over Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State. They are perfect in their division and another upset win would give them a chance to win their first ever division title. Michael Penix Jr. is giving this team solid quarterback play while 12 takeaways and a plus-eight turnover margin is helping pace the defense.

I’m just not buying this Hoosier hysteria just yet. Penix is putting up a very average 7.1 yards per attempt and this offense really struggled to move the ball against Penn State. The defense has been very reliant on turnovers and Fields simply doesn’t turn it over. It’s a chance for Ohio State to get a statement win for the committee and they deliver it on Saturday. The shines comes off for IU as they will be decked by Ohio State. Lay the 20.

San Diego State @ Nevada (+1)

Brady Hoke is back in San Diego running things once again for the Aztec program and SDSU is off to a nice 3-1 start with three double-digit victories while the only defeat came at the hands of undefeated San Jose State. The Aztecs have the Mountain West’s top non-option ground attack and the defense once again leads the Mountain West in yards per play allowed. This is a quality Group of Five program that puts together good teams ever season.

Jay Norvell has his Nevada program surging in year four with the Wolf Pack off to a 4-0 start and their Air Raid offense humming. Carson Strong is averaging over nine yards per attempt while tossing for 379 yards per game. Norvell’s name was linked to the South Carolina opening and he could be a candidate for Iowa if they decide to move away from Kirk Ferentz. Romeo Doubs is best wide receiver you have not heard of (31 grabs, 20.81 yards per catch) while the defense has been surprisingly stingy.

This is a statement game for Nevada with the matchup being moved into the CBS window thanks to Ole Miss-Texas A&M being called off for COVID issues. The Wolf Pack are rolling and they get an important win as the passing game wins out over San Diego State’s ground-and-pound. Take the home dog in Reno.

UCLA @ Oregon (-16.5)

The Ducks are off to a fast 2-0 start in Pac-12 play with a couple of double-digit wins over Stanford and Washington State. Under new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, this offense is putting up a smooth 8.16 yards per play paced by a ground game that is absolutely rolling. Meanwhile, the defense is giving up plenty of yards, but has been stingy in the red zone. The home team will be rocking some swift new threads.

It’s year three for Chip Kelly in Westwood and the Bruins are just 8-18 since the high profile hire took over. After getting thumped by Colorado, UCLA bounced back strong last week with a very solid blowout home win over California. Surprisingly, this defense has been very good through eight quarters allowing just 4.55 yards per play.

The bottom line is that Oregon is just way more talented than everyone else in the conference and until these lines adjust we’re going to ride Mario Cristobal’s squad. Chip Kelly makes his second return trip to Autzen Stadium, but his squad will be on the wrong end once again. Oregon rolls and they roll big behind a dominant ground attack. Lay the big number with the home favorite.

Mississippi State @ Georgia (-24.5)

After all that they’ve been through, it appears that Kirby Smart is finally turning to highly publicized USC transfer JT Daniels at quarterback. The Dawgs need some help to get back into the the SEC championship, but their defense still leads the SEC in yards per play allowed while their ground attack is still trying to find their groove.

Things have been very bleak for Mike Leach in his first season at Mississippi State and now multiple starters on defense have opted out. In the first year installing the Air Raid, the results have been ugly with State ranking dead last in the SEC when it comes to yards per play and scoring offense. True freshman Will Rogers has taken over behind center and the results have not been pretty.

Both teams are coming off unexpected byes thinks to some COVID-19 cancellations and UGA is really banged up on both sides of the football. However, Mississippi State is really bad and it is going to be rough sledding scoring any points against this Georgia defense. We’re betting on Daniels to provide an offensive spark as UGA romps. Lay the big number and a hook.

USC @ Utah (+3)

The Trojans have been playing with fire in the first two weeks as they’ve needed miraculous fourth quarter comebacks to defeat both Arizona State and Arizona. The Air Raid offense in year two under Graham Harrell has been pretty pedestrian with Kedon Slovis needing a lot of throws to collect yards while the ground game has been effective. Under new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, the USC defense is once again middle of the pack in the Pac-12.

After not being able to play their first two weeks, Utah will be making their season debut in the #Pac12AfterDark window and it is expected that South Carolina transfer Jake Bentley will get the start behind center for the Utes. Utah lost a lot off their team that went 11-1 in the regular season last year, but the program has been established under Kyle Whittingham and they should remain might competitive.

This is the week USC finally gets burned. Playing in the late window, Rice-Eccles Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Trojans in recent memory and it remains one late in the night on Saturday. Utah gets a big win to start the season as the home dog howls in Salt Lake City.

Best Bet: Wisconsin (-7.5) @ Northwestern

Wisconsin has played just two games this season, but they look pretty dadgum good. The Badgers are outscoring opponents 94-18 doing it the typical Badger way. Behind a power run game and timely passes from young quarterback Graham Mertz, points are being scored in bunches. Meanwhile, Jim Leonhard just might be the best defensive coordinator in college football and this group has been filthy to start the year.

Pat Fitzgerald continues to do wonderful things with Northwestern football despite offensive issues still looming. Indiana grad transfer Peyton Ramsey is running the show behind center and the Wildcats are only putting up 4.70 yards per play, but they’ve been more competent. They again have a really good defense that ranks No. 5 in SP+ and is allowing just 4.33 yards per play.

It’s a matchup between two of the better defenses in college football so expect points to be at a premium. However, Wisconsin’s offense looks to be pretty good and they have what appears to be a pretty good quarterback. This is a cheap number for a Wisconsin team that just may be a top-five squad in college football. Lay the touchdown and a hook.

Article written by Adam Luckett

Twitter: @AdamLuckettKSR