Irish Favored At Virginia, While Underdog Boilers Could Be Spoilers At Ohio State

With CFP hopes on the line, Notre Dame and Purdue have key matchups that could impact the race
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Ninth-ranked Notre Dame has a tricky contest at Virginia this weekend as it looks to stay on the fringes of the College Football Playoff, while giant-killer and No. 19 Purdue could create chaos in the national title chase if it pulls off an upset of fourth-ranked Ohio State on the road.

The Fighting Irish (8-1), whose only loss is to undefeated No. 5 Cincinnati, completed a sweep of their three-game homestand last Saturday with a 34-6 romp past Navy. Jack Coan and Kevin Austin hooked up on a 70-yard touchdown pass, and Coan finished 23 of 29 with 269 passing yards. Kyren Williams added 95 yards and a pair of TDs on the ground, continuing a resurgence that has him on track to clear 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight year.

Virginia (6-3), which is bowl eligible for the fourth time in six seasons under coach Bronco Mendenhall, is looking to beat a ranked team for the first time this year after losing a 66-49 shootout to Mendenhall’s old team, BYU, on Oct. 30. Brennen Armstrong accounted for 431 total yards of offense and six touchdowns, but the Cavaliers defense was shredded for 734 yards β€” 385 of them coming on the ground.

The Cavaliers, who are 0-2 against AP Top 25 foes this year, have lost 16 straight games to top-10 teams since a 26-21 upset of then-No. 4 Florida State in 2005. Notre Dame was responsible for two of those losses, including a 35-20 result in the most recent meeting in 2019.

The Boilermakers (6-3, 4-2 Big Ten) are part of a four-way tie atop the West Division of the Big Ten. Despite a pair of victories over top-5 conference rivals β€” including a 40-29 upset of then-No. 5 and previously unbeaten Michigan State last weekend β€” Purdue still finds itself a three-touchdown underdog in its first visit to Columbus since 2012.

Against MSU, Aidan O’Connell threw for a career-best 536 yards and matched a career high with three touchdown passes, while David Bell had 11 receptions for 217 yards and a score. O’Connell threw for a combined 911 yards and five TDs in the upset wins over Iowa and the Spartans. Bell is now over the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in three seasons. He needs just 33 yards to surpass his career high of 1,035 set in 2019.

Ohio State (8-1, 6-0 East), which arguably controls its own destiny to claim a spot in the College Football Playoff semifinals, extended its regular-season conference winning streak to 24 games with a 26-17 victory at Nebraska last Saturday. Heisman Trophy candidate C.J. Stroud threw for 405 yards and two touchdowns, notching his third 400-yard game of the season, and is tied for seventh among FBS quarterbacks with 25 scoring tosses.

Purdue is the last team to deal the Buckeyes a conference loss, upsetting them 49-20 at home in 2018. The Boilermakers, though, have lost nine straight at Ohio State since a 31-26 victory in 1988.

Oddsmakers sense lots of points in Charlottesville

The Irish have been established as 5.5-point favorites at most Indiana sportsbooks, with WynnBET (-4.5 at -110) and BetMGM (-5 at -110) bucking the trend as of mid-day Thursday. BetMGM also had the best moneyline value for the Irish at -200, though the band was fairly narrow and ranged only as high as -220.

Notre Dame has averaged 35.3 points during its current four-game winning streak, and Armstrong’s dual-threat capabilities β€” he has already set Virginia’s single-season school record for passing yards (3,557) and has 34 combined passing and rushing touchdowns β€” have contributed to a lofty over/under total of 64 or 64.5 points depending on your sportsbook of choice.

The standard -110 is being offered in both directions at 64 points by DraftKings, PointsBet, and Caesars. The Kambi platform powering BetRivers and Unibet is straying from that offer at 64.5 points with a -108/-113 split. The most common offering for Notre Dame’s team total is 34.5 points, with FanDuel offering -110 to the over despite the low-side hook, and WynnBET’s -105 the best value for the under.

The hooks are in play at most books for Boiler bets

While it is easy to point to Purdue’s wins over Iowa and Michigan State and see the spread versus Ohio State as a clear lack of respect from oddsmakers, recall that the Boilermakers are still a team that lost at home to Minnesota and struggled to beat Illinois. Additionally, the Buckeyes are still largely the Buckeyes, entering this game ranked second among FBS teams in scoring (44.9) and total yards (541.8) and sixth in passing yards (352.8). Stroud is a consensus top-three futures pick for the Heisman and can still be grabbed at +500 at BetRivers and Unibet.

Purdue is an underdog ranging from +20 on the Kambi platform (-112) to +21.5 at FanDuel (-118). BetMGM (-105), theScore, and WynnBET have opted for the low-side hook at +20.5, while PointsBet, Caesars, and DraftKings (-115) are offering the flat three touchdown total.

For those thinking the Boilermakers can pull off a third upset of a top-5 team, theScore and WynnBET are offering the best moneyline value at +900, followed by Caesars (+850) and PointsBet (+800). The over/under is being offered from a low of 61.5 points at WynnBET (-110/-110) to 63 at DraftKings (-105/-115), with most settling on 62.5 points.

Though 20.5 points has been established as the over/under for Purdue’s team total, values are varying wildly on both sides. DraftKings is offering a -105/-125 split, with BetRivers and Unibet a near complete opposite at -130/+100. WynnBET and PointsBet are also putting a premium on the low-side hook, offering -115/-105 and -121/-110 splits, respectively.

Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY

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