Each week, TheLines previews the week ahead in sports betting. There’s another big stretch on tap now that we’re in the final month of the calendar year. College football is wrapping up, college hoops is just getting started, and the NFL is in the home-stretch. Here’s what to look forward to this week.
NCAAB: No. 8 Creighton at No. 5 Kansas – Tuesday
It’s another Bluebloods Tuesday, this time involving the Blue Jays and the Jayhawks. Kansas has the experience this season against ranked teams. They lost to No. 1 Gonzaga in their season opener, but pulled off a gritty win over No. 20 Kentucky. Creighton is 3-0 but has not faced a ranked opponent yet this year. The Jays continued their dominant offense that was on display so often in 2020 through their first three games, with two of those seeing Creighton eclipsing 90 points. Kansas’ strong suit this year has been their defense as over their last three games they’re allowing just 59 points per game. Kansas is favored in this one.
NCAAB: No. 4 Michigan State at No. 18 Virginia – Wednesday
Michigan State is 5-0 to start the season, including a major win over No. 6 Duke. The Spartans haven’t dominated in any specific facet of the game, but have instead kept a balanced attack. The technical-defending national champion Cavaliers were stunned in their second game by San Francisco, but have rebounded since. Their game against Michigan State begins a stretch of three ranked opponents in four games. It’s nearly a toss-up here. Keep an eye on the point total, which could be low due to the teams’ combined pace of play and emphasis on defense.
NBA Preseason Begins – Friday
After a short two-month break, the NBA is back with the preseason. The defending-champion Lakers take on the city rival Clippers on opening night with a much changed roster that includes Dennis Schroder and Marc Gasol. The Brooklyn Nets are also showing off their “new” roster that was revamped in 2019 when Kevin Durant signed there. Without the traditional Summer League, this is also a first look at high-profile rookies Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, and Obi Toppin. The rookies’ performance will be intriguing thanks to the lack of camp and Summer League. This year’s crop will be thrown to the fire. Preseason favorites for the 2021 NBA title include the Lakers (+300), Clippers (+550), Bucks (+550), and Nets (+600).
NCAAF: Michigan at No. 4 Ohio State – Saturday
Without the Iron Bowl and rivalry week, college football’s most bitter rivalry gets the main stage unchallenged. Though not the highest-stakes chapter to The Game, plenty of focus and betting handle will be dedicated to this one. Ohio State, which was a 30-point favorite at several books, opened up as the largest favorites in the history of The Game and that line hasn’t moved too much as of yet. That’s a market reaction to Michigan’s 2-4 record. Turmoil is mounting within the program and with Jim Harbaugh’s job security as the losses (especially to rival schools) are piling up. This could be the last hurrah for one of the most notorious coaches in college football.
NFL Week 14
Okay, this is cheating. However, the race to the NFL playoffs has heated up to the point where there could be a top five just for Week 14 games. Games that have serious playoff implications include: Vikings at Buccaneers (-6.5), Colts (-3) vs Raiders, Steelers (-2.5) at Bills, and Browns at Ravens (-1.5). The Broncos and Texans are also teetering on playoff elimination, while the Washington Football Team, Eagles, and Cowboys are fighting to stay alive in the NFC East. Like every week this late in the season, the playoff picture will become much more clear on these results.