College Football Gambling Primer: Week 4



LW: 5-7, -2.7 units (Leans: 8-3)

A week that really could’ve been 8-4 (bad beats on Tennessee, Alabama/Ole Miss over, SDSU/ASU under), turned out to be 5-7. That moves us to 13-16 on the season. As Nick Saban always said, we are going to continue to trust the process. It’s early in the season. Lots of games left to bet.

Maybe I should just flip my leans and official plays? Now that’s what we would call a Gambling Costanza.

2018: 13-16, -4.75 units (Leans: 17-7)

2017: 68-49-2 (58.1%)

All 1 Unit

Oregon +2

Wisco/Iowa Under 42

Texas +3


UCF -13.5 (FRIDAY)

Michigan -11.5/Clemson -9 (6-Point Teaser)

Western Michigan -1.5/Baylor -1 (6-Point Teaser)

Georgia -8/Mississippii State -3.5 (#ItJustMeansMore/DAWGS 6-Point Teaser)

Syracuse -27.5


Most of the stats mentioned below are advanced statistics, think moneyball/sabermetrics but for college football. Most are weighted based upon opponent and some factor in preseason projections, so a great statistical game against Alabama A&M At Louisiana State doesn’t mean as much as one against LSU. You can find a full glossary here. Stats most mentioned:

Success Rate: “tool used to measure efficiency by determining whether every play of a given game was successful or not. The terms of success in college football: 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.”

IsoPPP: A stat that allows us to look at offense in 2 steps: How consistently successful were you, and when you were successful, how potent were you? This is an explosiveness play.

Maringal Efficiency/Explosiveness: “the idea behind marginal efficiency and marginal explosiveness is simple: what if we adjust our basic efficiency (success rate) and explosiveness (IsoPPP) measures for down, distance, and field position? Those factors create a baseline, and comparing a unit’s or player’s output to the baseline gives you a positive or negative number.”

Expected Turnover Margin: “What a team’s turnover margin would have been if it had recovered exactly 50 percent of all the fumbles that occurred in its games, and if the INTs-to-PDs for both teams was equal to the national average, which is generally around 21-22 percent.”

Points Per Scoring Opportunity: How many points do you score when you have the ball inside the 40-yard-line of the opposing team.

Games Of Week:

Stanford (-2, O/U 56) @ Oregon, 8:00 PM, ABC:

In a lackluster week, Stanford & Oregon is our top game of the week. After opening as a 1-point favorite, Oregon has moved to an underdog. Throwback to last years game when a rabbit was on the damn loose:

I really like the spot here for Oregon. A primetime game in Eugene hasn’t been this important in a decent amount of time for the Ducks. College GameDay is in town, so fully expect for the stadium to be buzzing come game time.

Oregon hasn’t been tested yet, but I see them rising to the occasion in this one. I’m really not sold on Stanford as even a Pac-12 contender yet thanks to their offense that ranks 93rd overall in S&P+. Jim Leavitt’s defense will be up to the task to shut down Bryce Love & Co.

-Success Rate: 120th (Stanford O) vs. 9th (Oregon D)

-Rushing Marginal Efficiency: 114th vs. 5th

-Passing Marginal Efficiency: 56th vs. 54th

Stanford’s defense has been nothing short of phenomenal, ranking 4th in S&P+. Oregon’s offense isn’t too shabby in their own right, ranking 26th in success rate, 24th in points per scoring opportunity, and 30th in marginal explosiveness. Justin Herbert is leading a passing attack that ranks 18th in efficiency and 8th in explosiveness. Nothing will come easy for Oregon when they have the ball, but I see them talented enough to put enough points up on the board for a victory.

Pick: Oregon +2

Wisconsin (-3, O/U 42) @ Iowa, 8:30 PM, FOX:

They should open a #B1G museum in the middle of Iowa and put this game on replay for the next year. This is going to be a game of field position and failed third downs.

Wisconsin’s offense does rank in the top 25, but everywhere they succeed, Iowa matches them:

-Overall: 21st (Wisco O) vs. 1st (Iowa D)

-Success Rate: 8th vs. 5th

-Points Per Scoring Opportunity: 31st vs. 13th

-Rushing Marginal Efficiency: 3rd vs. 38 (edge to Wisconsin here)

Iowa’s defense will be able to stop Wisconsin, especially with a loud crowd at Kinnick behind them. When Iowa has the ball, I don’t see Wisconsin having many problems:

-Overall: 110th (Iowa O) vs. 27th (Wisconsin D)

-Success Rate: 77th vs. 52nd

-IsoPPP: 115th vs. 34th

-Points Per Scoring Opportunity: 109th vs. 22nd

Since 2015, Iowa hasn’t scored more than 14 points against Wisconsin. This game is shouting 13-10 or 20-14 final.

Pick: Under 42

Texas A&M @ Alabama (-26, O/U 61): 

The big question is: can A&M stick around? The good news is they rank 18th in success rate and 34th in IsoPPP on offense while boasting the 9th most efficient rushing offense and 17th most efficient passing offense. You can see A&M staying ahead of the chains enough that they can keep the game within the spread with their defense that ranks 11th in success rate allowed.

The bad news? A&M ranks 126th in IsoPPP allowed. Alabama ranks 9th in that stat on offense. Expect Tua, Harris^2, & Co. to have their chances at mulitple big plays throughout the game.

I lean Texas A&M, but just can’t get myself to bet against Nick Saban yet.

Lean: A&M +26

TCU (-3, O/U 47) @ Texas, 4:30 PM, FOX:

I hate how much I am starting to like Texas.

On Saturday, the Longhorns will have matchup advantages all over the field. Let’s start on offense, where Texas loves running the ball (17th most on passing downs and average amount on standard downs):

-Rushing efficiency: 32nd (Texas offense) vs. 79th (TCU defense)

On offense, Texas will be able to control the tempo of the game. Herman has slowly brought along Sam Ehlinger, who looked impressive in Saturday’s win. Todd Orlando’s defense ranks 39th right now and I only see it going up from this point forward. Saturday will be a tough matchup, but I see the Longhorns being up for the task

-Success Rate: 12th (TCU offense) vs. 29th (Texas defense).

-Points Pers Scoring Opportunity: 72nd vs. 29th

The biggest advantages for Texas come on special teams and turning the ball over:

-Special Teams S&P+: 16th (Texas) vs. 106th (TCU)

-Expected turnover margin: 20th vs. 125th

Plus, Tom Herman is 10-1 ATS as an underdog as a head coach. HOOK EM.

Pick: Texas +3

McGuire Mortal Lock Engaged:

Washington State @ USC (-4.5, O/U 50.5), FRIDAY 10:30 PM, The Network That Shall Not Be Named:

It’s been a rough go at it for the Trojans. JT Daniels has been less than efficient (maybe cut the disgusting mustache). The offense ranks 87th in the nation and kicks off their Pac-12 schedule Friday night against Mike Leach and Wazzu. The Texas game got out of hand, but USC’s postgame win expectancy was at 42%. The same goes for their loss at Stanford, who is a favorite on the road at Oregon this week, where they had a postgame win expectancy of 20%. USC may feel very far off from what they were expected to be, but it’s not as far off when you dig into the stats from their first 3 games. A few bounces here and there, USC could be 2-1.

I am feeling USC in a buy low situation here. There have been calls for Clay Helton’s job this week as well as thoughts of USC not making any noise in the Pac-12. This team is too talented to just fold. The positive for the Trojans is their defense, which ranks 15th in the nation. They’ll have a test against an always explosive Wazzu offense, but I think they are up for the task.

The biggest matchup in this game is Wazzu’s pass offense vs. USC pass defense. Nobody in the nation throws the ball at the rate that Wazzu has through their first three games.

-Passing Marginal Efficiency: 40th (Wazzu O) vs. 57th (USC D)

-Passing Marginal Explosiveness: 96th vs. 66th

-Passing Completion %: 15th vs. 14th

That’s a pretty fair matchup. I think Clay Helton’s defense will be able to disrupt Wazzu’s passing offense enough to keep the USC offense in the game. With that in mind, JT Daniels will have to step up and I see him doing that in a home environment he is used to. Clay Helton is 14-0 in home games since taking over the USC program.

When the game of the year lines opened earlier this summer, the original line for this game was USC -15.5. Obviously, USC looks worse than we thought and Wazzu looks better, but an 11-point swing? I’m not buying it. I see a decent amount of value here for USC and I don’t mind betting on a team who the public feels has hit rock bottom. Buy low. Sell high.

Pick: USC -4.5

FAU @ UCF (-13, O/U 76), 7:00 FRIDAY, The Network That Shall Not Be Named:

I’ve been really disappointed in FAU throughout 2018. You couldn’t have expected better than a 2-1 record to start the season, but their wins over Air Force and Bethune-Cookman have not been impressive. The offense seems to be missing OC Art Briles, ranking 44th in S&P+ and the defense ranks an underwhelming 88th. This week they go on the road (barely) to take on UCF in a national TV game for Joey Freshwater/Boca Lane and the boys.

At first, I leaned FAU plus the points, but I really can’t see them keeping it close against a talented UCF team. The Knights haven’t played anyone impressive (South Carolina State & UConn), but I fully expect them to come out hitting on all cylinders on Friday night. The offense ranks 14th according to S&P+ (these numbers are weighted, please refer to the stats section above where I explain why I trust these numbers so early in the season) and have matchup advantages all over the field:

-Success Rate: 5th (UCF) vs. 80th (FAU defense)

-Marginal Explosiveness: 38th vs. 117th

-Points Per Scoring Opportunity: 2nd vs. 122nd

-Sack Rate: 1st vs. 99th

I don’t see UCF having a problem scoring the ball on this FAU defense. Their passing offense has been relatively subpar so far (marginal efficiency ranks 53rd and marginal explosiveness ranks 35th), but this game against FAU is a perfect time to get the horses going with Mackenzie Milton. FAU’s pass defense ranks 110th in marginal efficiency, 121st in marginal explosiveness, and 124th in pass completion rate.

Will FAU be able to keep up with UCF? They’ll definitely put some points up, but not enough to cover:

-Success rate: 85th (FAU offense) vs. 48th (UCF defense)

-IsoPPP: 26th (impressive) vs. 13th (more impressive)

-Points Per Scoring Opportunity: 43rd vs. 1st

FAU likes to rush the ball with Devin Singletary, but ranks 99th in success rate so far in 2018, while UCF’s defense ranks 60th.

I’m excited about this game as this is a matchup of the best G5 teams in Florida. It’s a great Friday night matchup. UCF hasn’t played since week 2 thanks to Hurricane Florence and will be well rested. They know that FAU wants their crown as the best G5 team in the nation, but they aren’t going to let it happen. Their motivation is high and will use this national TV game as a statement before they begin their AAC schedule.

Pick: UCF -13

Nebraska @ Michigan, Noon, FS1 (-17.5, O/U 50.5):

Nebraska has had a rough start to the season, while Michigan has seemed to rally the troops since their brutal 1st quarter against Notre Dame.

Nebraska is coming into this game at the Big House either starting a non-100% Adrian Martinez (who relies on the use of his legs, which are injured) at QB or a walk-on true freshman for the second straight week in a row. Good luck to either of those two going up against a Michigan defense that ranks 7th in the nation. The only positive Nebraska has had on offense this year has been their rushing attack that ranks 46th in efficiency and 54th in explosiveness. Michigan’s defense will have no problem shutting that down with their rush defense that ranks 26th and 8th in those same categories.

Michigan’s offense has been slowly getting better, ranking 22nd in success rate and 34th in marginal explosiveness. Nebraska’s defense ranks 58th overall, specifically excelling in limiting successful plays (25th in nation). I expect this to be another game in the right direction for Michigan on offense where they continue to open up the offense for Shea Patterson.

Clemson (-15, O/U 51.5) @ Georgia Tech, 3:30 PM, ABC:

Let’s pair Michigan up with Clemson in a teaser. Clemson comes into this game against Georgia Tech, already facing a triple-option offense last week. Georgia Tech has more talent than Georgia Southern, but Clemson held GeSo to under 80 yards of rushing last week and to a ridiculous 1.9 YPR.

Clemson’s rush defense ranks in the top 10 in both efficiency and explosiveness. That’s just what the doctor ordered going into a game against Georgia Tech, who has scored just a combined 17 points against Clemson in their past two games. Clemson knows this offense like the back of their hand and have the weapons to defend against it.

Georgia Tech’s defense is subpar, ranking 80th in S&P+. Here are some matchups to show you how Clemson will take advantage of this lackluster defense:

-Success Rate: 35th (Clemson O) vs. 114th (Georgia Tech D)

-Points Per Scoring Opportunity: 54th vs. 112th

-Expected Turnover Margin: 22nd vs. 105th

Clemson will win this one by double digits.

Pick: Michigan -11.5/Clemson -9 (6-point teaser)

Mississippi State (-9.5, O/U 55.5) @ Kentucky, 7:00 PM, The Network That Shall Not Be Named #2:

Barstool Sports has been the leader of the Mississippi State train thanks to Joe Moorhead’s connection to Fordham (former HC & player). As a part of those who are driving that train, I would like to let it be known that we will not be making any stops this week.

This game against Kentucky is certainly a test for JoeMo’s squad, especially considering it’s a lookahead spot with Florida up next (I’m sure every player wants a shot at Dan Mullen). The 7th ranked offense will be going up against a Kentucky defense that ranks 20th, but there are still matchup advantages for the Mississippi State Bulldawgs:

-Rushing Marginal Efficiency: 1st (Miss State O) vs. 58th (Kentucky D)

-Opportunity Rate (% of carries in which OL produces at least five yards of rushing for the runner): 1st vs. 89th

-Stuff Rate (% of runs where runner is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage): 1st vs. 88th

Mississippi State loves to run the ball (37th most on standard downs, 43rd most on passing downs) and will have their way against a lackluster Kentucky rush defense.

Mississippi State’s defense is nothing to scoff at either, ranking 21st overall. They hold the matchup advantage across the board when on the field:

-Success Rate: 33rd (Kentucky O) vs. 21st (Miss St. D)

-IsoPPP: 68th vs. 52nd

-Points Per Scoring Opportunity: 33rd vs. 37th

-Expected Turnover Margin: 129th vs. 74th.

Georgia (-14, O/U64.5) @ Missouri, 12:00 PM, The Network That Shall Not Be Named: 

We are going to pair Mississippi State with Georgia in our #ItJustMeansMore teaser of the week.

Why I see Georgia winning this one is simple: Drew Lock’s stats against top-40 defenses:

Screen Shot 2018-09-21 at 4.19.02 PM

Georgia’s pass defense is very good, ranking 40th in efficiency and 12th in explosiveness. The secondary is littered with NFL talent, so good luck to Drew Lock in his conquest to put up Heisman-like numbers.

On offense, Georgia currently ranks 6th. Missouri’s defense? 82nd.

-Success Rate: 2nd (UGA O) vs. 77th (Mizzou D)

-IsoPP: 11th  vs. 84th

-Points Per Scoring Opportunity: 21st vs. 97th

-Passing Efficiency: 3rd vs. 98th

I expect the Dawgs to come out barking and dominate on the road against Missouri.

Pick: Mississippi State -3.5/Georgia -8 (6-Point #ItJustMeansMore/DAWGSSSSSS Teaser)

UConn @ Syracuse (-27.5, O/U 75), 4:00 PM, The Network That Shall Not Be Named (News Station): 

This is a hell of a sandwich game for Syracuse. They just beat FSU for the first time since the 1960’s. Next week they have Clemson. The game in between? 1-2 UConn.

Here’s the thing, I really don’t think the situation is going to matter much. Why? Because UConn is just so bad. They are coming off a 56-49 victory against FCS Rhode Island, escaping with a post-game win expectancy of 20%. Look at their DC just collapse after the final play:

Here are some rankings for UConn’s defense:

-Success Rate: 130th (last)

-IsoPPP: 119th

-Allowed Points Per Scoring Opportunity: 130th (last)

-Rushing Efficiency: 130th (last)

-Passing efficiency: 130th (last)

Syracuse’s offense hasn’t been anything special but has put up 55, 62, and 30 points in their first three games thanks to explosive plays, ranking 48th in IsoPPP. They’ll have their way against a UConn defense that can’t stop a nosebleed.

The most encouraging part about Syracuse’s team has been their defense, which ranks 2nd in success rate allowed. UConn’s offense isn’t awful, as they currently rank 71st in S&P+, but will struggle against a stout Syracuse rush and pass defense. The biggest concern for me in this game is if Syracuse allows UConn too many explosive plays. Syracuse ranks 129th in IsoPPP on defense, a place where UConn ranks 87th. That isn’t great for the Huskies, but that is their only advantage in this game.

Syracuse is going to be able to put up as many points as they want in the Dome on Saturday. I see a 63-21 game. On top of everything, Cuse ranks 36th in expected turnover margin, while UConn ranks 94th. Give me the Orange.

Pick: Syracuse -27.5

Western Michigan (-7.5, O/U 62.5) @ Georgia State, 2:00 PM:

Similar to UConn, I’m going to look to keep betting against Georgia State until they prove me wrong. After barely beating Kennesaw State in week 1, Georgia State has been blown out by NC State & Memphis. On Saturday, a good Western Michigan team comes to town looking for a victory.

I expect complete domination from the Broncos. On defense, WMU struggles to defend against explosive plays (IsoPPP ranks 124th), but Georgia State 117th ranked explosive offense won’t be taking advantage of it. Looking at success rate, GSU’s offense ranks 93rd, while WMU’s defense ranks 56th. I don’t see GSU’s offense able to get going.

Where WMU does excel is producing explosive plays on offense. 8th in IsoPPP and 5th in marginal explosiveness. Georgia State in those two statistical categories on defense? 113th and 121st. WMU loves throwing the ball (29th most on standard downs) and will be able to succeed against a defense that ranks 128th in pass defense efficiency, 103rd in explosiveness allowed, and 129th in completion percentage allowed.

Kansas @ Baylor (-7, O/U 56), 3:30 PM, FS1:

Let’s pair WMU with Baylor in a teaser.

I know, I know, I know, Kansas has won two straight games, against FBS opponents too! Let’s not forget who those two wins have come against: Rutgers (114th in S&P+) & Central Michigan (119th). This week they are going to Waco to start off their Big 12 season.

Baylor’s performance on the surface was disappointing last week. Losing 40-27 at home to Duke’s backup QB isn’t encouraging, but their win expectancy was at 52% following the game. This is still a good football team that ranks 68th in S&P+. Let’s not overthink this and give too much value to Kansas. Although they do have a top-25 defense at the moment, this is still a Kansas football team.

Baylor’s offense ranks top 30 in success rate and explosive plays and will be Kansas defenses biggest test to date. The Jayhawk offense is still pitiful, ranking 7th to last in the country. A perfect opportunity for Baylor’s defense to take a step forward after an encouraging performance against Duke (5.4 YPP, 40% completion percentage).

Pick: WMU -1.5/Baylor -1 (6-Point Teaser)

Leans For The Road (17-7): Ohio +8.5, Louisiana Tech +20.5, Tulane +37, UNC +4, SMU +6.5, Wake Forest +7, Iowa State -19, Liberty +12.5, Michigan State -4.5, South Alabama +31, Washington -17.5