Each week, I’ll sort the Saturday games into three categories to help you decide which games you will spend time watching.
Ain’t Come To Play School Game: A game you cannot miss. The players on the field aren’t at their respected universities to play school. This category, of course, is a tip of the cap to Cardale #12Gauge Jones.
Sneaky Good Bill Snyder Game: A game that you wouldn’t typically tune into, but if you are in front of the TV you should highly consider putting on. These games will be high scoring and/or competitive. This category is a tip of the cap to Bill Snyder, who has provided the college football world with more sneaky good teams than I
Butt Diaco Game: A game that is going to SUCK. Don’t watch this. Unless you have money on the game, there are 10 bajillion better things you could do with your time. This category is a tip of the cap to Bob Diaco, the buttiest of all butt coaches in college football history.
Before we start, I wanted to define a few of the advanced stats I’ve been using in these previews. The best stats I have found when analyzing this beautiful sport have come by Bill Connelly, who writes for SB Nation. You can find the glossary for all of his stats he uses here, but here is a spark notes of the main stats I predominantly mention in these previews.
Success Rate: How successful/efficient are you as a team in staying on track to move the chains. A successful play is defined as getting at least 50% of the necessary yards of first down, 70% on second down, and 100% on third or fourth down.
IsoPPP: Isolating points per play on only successful plays. This statistic aims to look at how consistently successful you are and when you are successful how explosive are you?
Standard Downs: 1st down, 2nd-and-8 or less, 3rd-and-5 or less, 4th-and-5 or less
Passing Downs: 2nd-and-8 or more, 3rd-and-5 or more, 4th-and-5 or more.
If you have any questions on these stats, shoot me a DM/Tweet @JackMacCFB.
Aint Come To Play School Games:
Oklahoma (-7.5, O/U 65) Vs. Texas (In Dallas), 3:30 ESPN:
Allllllll the way back in September, I discussed the magic Tom Herman has pulled while being an underdog. Going into the USC game, including his time as an OC at Ohio State, Tom Herman was 6-0 straight up as an underdog. Texas lost the USC game in OT, but still ended up covering to push him to 7-0 ATS as an underdog since 2012.
Saturday, Tom Herman, for the second time this season, is an underdog. Last week when I took a look at the following week’s matchups, I made a mental note on the Red River Rivalry. If Texas took down Kansas State, Oklahoma could be unfocused enough after a blowout win against Iowa State to be given a contest by Texas. I was excited to make such a sharp play. That was all until Oklahoma decided to fuck it all up:
So, here we are. Oklahoma is a seven-point favorite heading into the Cotton Bowl to play a team led by a coach who has strived as an underdog. Is the advantage for Herman and the Longhorns as much as I thought it once was? Not really.
A lot would need to happen for Texas to stay around in this game. Oklahoma took a tough loss to the CLONES on Saturday, but this team is still one of the best teams in the country. On offense, they still rank 1st in success rate, 12th in IsoPPP, and 9th in points per trip inside the opponents forty yard line. Combine all of that together and you will find Oklahoma on top of the overall offensive S&P+ rankings. Todd Orlando has done a great job with the Texas defense since the debacle against Maryland week one. Up until last week, Texas held USC to 27, San Jose State to 0, and Iowa State to 7. Where they have succeeded the most has been defending the run, where they rank 23rd overall. The problem for the Horns come Saturday is the Sooners aren’t particularly keen on running the ball and Texas aren’t particularly great at defending the pass. Looking at S&P+, Oklahoma ranks 1st in passing success rate and 16th in passing IsoPPP where Texas ranks 59th in defending the pass and 92nd in defending against IsoPPP. If you needed a defense for Baker Mayfield to rebound against it would be this one. The biggest advantage of this game comes in explosive plays for Oklahoma. As I mentioned before Oklahoma ranks 12th in the nation in IsoPPP and Texas ranks 107th in IsoPPP on defense. Baker & Co. will have plenty of opportunities to BURN Texas’ defense in big ways.
Looking at the other side of the ball you won’t see many advantages for Texas. Sam Ehlinger has been impressive as a freshman, but there won’t be any moral victories handed out on Saturday. Last week, Texas put up a 57% success rate through the air, far and away the best number they’ve put up all season. Even with last weeks performance, I’m still not sold on the Texas passing offense yet, where they still rank 52nd & 95th in success rate and IsoPPP respectively. Texas has no advantages on offense looking at the stats. Oklahoma’s defense isn’t the best, but I am confident they will rebound after Iowa State ran through them last week. Where they struggle the most is allowing explosive plays, where they rank 99th. Iowa State exploited this last week, specifically passing the ball (2.5 passing IsoPPP, which would rank them 1st in the country), but Texas (rank 95th in passing IsoPPP and 116th in overall IsoPPP) isn’t going to be able to do the same.
Where does this leave us? I am not going to lay these points against a Herman led team. I feel that betting against Herman as an underdog is a gambling sin, but I don’t see Oklahoma losing this game. I am going to tease them down to 1.5 with Auburn (more on them below). Boomer Sooner.
Pick: Oklahoma -1.5/Auburn -1 6 Pt. Teaser
Wild Card Games:
Virginia (-3.5, O/U 50) @ North Carolina, 3:30 ACC Network:
Every year we see a few teams completely depleted by injuries. This year, North Carolina is one of those teams. Looking at their injury report coming into this game against Virginia, the Tar Heels have 21 (!!!!!!!!) players on their injury report. Banana lands.
Virginia is in a completely different boat. After completely dominating Boise on the blue turf a few weeks ago, Virginia took down an average Duke team last week and have all the momentum in the world. After a disgusting year last year, Bronco Mendenhall has completely turned around this program. If you want another example of Bronco’s coaching powers, take a look at BYU, who are only three years removed from his coaching reigns and are looking down the barrel of a 3-9 season.
Don’t get me wrong, the Cavs aren’t a contender for the ACC title, but this team still has immense value to gamblers. On offense, they pass the ball more than most (2nd in passing on standard downs, and 67th on passing downs) and they rank 18th in passing success rate. Passing is where the Cavaliers will win this game, as North Carolina ranks 71st in defending the pass.
Virginia’s true strength is on defense, though. They rank 28th on defense and 15th in success rate and 9th in IsoPPP. Those numbers are phenomenal. North Carolina has a lot of problems, and I’m not even including the NCAA, but their offensive performance all year has ranked them 72nd in S&P and 90th in points per game. Playing at home will help them but I don’t see any way for them to put up more than 17-24 points against this top Virginia defense.
Pick: Virginia -3.5
Auburn (-7, O/U 44) @ LSU, 3:30 CBS:
I bought all the possible stock in Auburn this week. I am all in on this team. Gus Malzahn has slowly developed Jarret Stidham into the best QB in the SEC. I’m still a fan of Jalen Hurts, but what Jarret Stidham has done since the Clemson game has opened my eyes to Auburn as the contender that nobody is talking about. They are currently 8th in the country according to S&P+ and 9th in ESPN’s FPI rankings. A lot of people are still stuck on Auburn’s performance against Clemson, which truthfully has been Clemson’s biggest test yet. Auburn kept within one score of Clemson in Death Valley, a team who then went on to flatten Louisville and Virginia Tech in primetime road games. Auburn’s biggest problem that night against Clemson was the 11 sacks they allowed, but in their 3 FBS games since then they have only allowed 3 sacks. Put simply, Auburn is coming together.
Similar to UNC, LSU is going in the separate direction of their counterpart on Saturday. Be happy that Coach O got a big win, but don’t get too confused about LSU’s victory against Florida. A lot of luck had to happen for LSU to sneak out that victory and they ended the game with a win expectancy of 24% and a percentile performance of 36%. LSU just doesn’t have much talent this year (relatively). OC Matt Canada, who has somehow evaded much of the blame this year, can’t do much with Danny Etling. Last week, Canada used a lot of motion pre-snap to confuse Florida in the first half and it worked to limited success, but once Florida adjusted during the half, any success LSU was seeing disappeared.
This weekend isn’t going to be much different for LSU as they go up against the 7th ranked defense. LSU’s only strength on offense has been running the ball, where they rank an impressive 7th in success rate, but Auburn’s front has kept rush attacks in check all season long, ranking 2nd in defensive rush success rate.
I expect Stidham to take advantage of LSU’s 62nd ranked pass defense and the two-headed attack of Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway to run all over LSU’s 57th ranked rushing defense. I will be using Auburn with Oklahoma in the tease, but taking them minutes the points wouldn’t be a bet I’d advise against.
Pick: Oklahoma -1.5/Auburn -1 6 Pt. Teasers
Cincinnati @ South Florida (-23.5, O/U 65), 7:30 PM ESPN:
Before the game ended because of lightning, here are how all of the drives ended for UCF against Cincinnati: touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, end of the game. This absurd stat shows a lot about UCF’s talent this year, but also shows how poor Cincinnati has been defending against any teams with a pulse this year.
To follow up their performance against Central Florida, the Bearcats have to take on their counterpart at the top of the AAC, South Florida. To add insult to injury, Cincinnati has to travel to Florida to take on a team off a bye.
South Florida is better in every phase of the game than Cincinnati. They have better stats, coaches, and talent. That isn’t something that I’m breaking any news about, just take a look at the line. Vegas doesn’t set high lines like this with teams that are comparable in talent. Taking that all into account, South Florida can cover this line and they could do it in the first half. What will put USF over the top is their 25th rated explosive offense. Cincinnati, which ranks 102nd in defending against explosive plays, is going to give up big play after big play on Saturday. Quinton Flowers has made some great plays on the ground this year, but this week I expect him to light up the Cincinnati pass defense that ranks 82nd in success rate and 124th in IsoPPP!
This is also a point of the season to take a few position on teams that you believe have given up on the season. Cincinnati is one of them for me. This is Luke Fickell’s first year in Cincinnati, he knows they won’t be making a bowl game and wants to give some of the recruits he recruited some playing time. The juniors and seniors know this and won’t feel the need to give 110% for a coach that didn’t recruit them. When they are down 14-0 in the first quarter, what are they going to do? Step up or back down. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, I think their players will back down and allow for South Florida to win by 30+.
Pick: South Florida -23.5
Arkansas @ Alabama (-31.5, O/U 54), 7:15 ESPN:
Similar to the game above, Alabama is far and away the better team in this game. I could get into the analytics behind these two teams, but they will all look the same way: Alabama is 50+ spots better in this category than Arkansas is.
What has me loving this game for Alabama is similar to the bet I made with them when they went in and ended Vanderbilt’s season. Before that game, we had one specific player on Vandy tell Alabama they were “next.” Alabama heard throughout the week about a potential Vanderbilt upset. Saban heard about it in the media. Everything was pointing towards the classic scenario where Alabama reminds everyone who was king. That game went exactly as we expected, 59-0 Alabama.
This situation is a bit different, but the same result is going to happen. After last weeks game where Alabama allowed Texas A&M to stick around after being up 24-3, Nick Saban went on one of his classic rants:
Saban is crazy and that’s why we love him, but there is a science behind his craziness. Whenever he goes on one of these rants it’s for a purpose. That purpose isn’t for anything except to send a message to his football team. The players know this and it usually spells bad news for their next opponent.
That opponent this week is pretty much the SEC’s punching bag for the rest of the year. Arkansas is broken. They just lost 48-22 to a South Carolina team without Deebo Samuel. I have no idea what is going to happen with Beliema. It looks like their QB Austin Allen isn’t going to play on Saturday. Everything is going wrong for the Razorbacks and they are going to Alabama to be sacrificed.
The Tide are going to Rollllllllll.
Pick: Alabama -31.5
Coastal Carolina @ Arkansas State (-17, O/U 63.5):
Arkansas State is the class of the Sun Belt while Coastal Carolina is still trying to figure out how to handle life in the FBS.
In success rate, Arkansas State ranks 13th offensively while Coastal Carolina 99th. Arkansas State also has been an explosive offense, where they rank 24th. The Red Wolves love to throw the ball and are very good at it, ranking 5th in passing. The Chanticleers are going to have a hard time stopping that passing attack as they rank 113th in defending against the pass.
The matchup is too much here. Coastal Carolina has shown signs of life this year, but they still have a long way to go before competing with a team like Arkansas State in the Sun Belt. If Arkansas State can keep the Chanticleers to 17-24 points they will cover this spread with ease.
Pick: Arkansas State -17
Texas A&M @ Florida (-2.5, O/U 50), 7:00 ESPN2:
The wrong team is favored here. Playing at home under the lights is a huge advantage for Florida, but Texas A&M is still being undervalued for their choke against UCLA.
Taking a look at Florida’s offense, it’s still a mess. It’s hard to blame them considering half their offense is still suspended, but QB Feleipe Franks isn’t doing much and the only part of the Gata’s offense that is a little bit scary is the run game. Freshman Malik Davis has been a nice surprise for Florida, but Texas A&M will load the box up against the Florida offense and force Franks to beat them. That ain’t going to produce much. The Aggies also lead the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss and rank 9th in havoc rate.
Similar to Auburn, Texas A&M is coming together on offense. They have found themselves a baller in Kellen Mond:
They also have loads of weapon around Mond in Traeyvon Williams, Keith Ford, and Christian Kirk. Mond, Williams, and Ford will take advantage of a lackluster run defense from Florida, which will open up plays for Christian Kirk down the field.
Sumlin continues to get a lot of crap, but I still believe in him as a good coach and a great offensive mind. A&M will have too many weapons for Florida on Saturday and to think we are getting points here only adds to the excitement.
Pick: A&M +2.5
BYU @ Mississippi State (-24, O/U 49), 12:00 SEC Network:
BYU and Arkansas were two teams I bet last week. They both turned out to be bad bets and taught me a valuable lesson: do not bet on awful teams, bet against them. So, here we are, gambling against BYU and Arkansas in the same week.
BYU is so bad. They had 11 possessions last week and only entered inside Boise State’s 40 ONCE!!! Now they have to travel South and play a game at 10 AM mountain time against a team coming off a bye. Talk about a brutal spot.
Mississippi State went into their bye week with two blowout losses against Georgia and Auburn. To me, those two losses were more examples of Auburn and Georgia being top-10 teams than an indictment on MSU. Over the past three weeks, Mississippi State has scored a total of 13 points. Dan Mullen and Nick Fitzgerald are chomping at the BIT to go put some points on the board and they will get their chance against BYU. The Cougars have one of the worst offenses I’ve ever seen and the 25th ranked MSU defense will keep them under 10 points unless a miracle occurs/Ty Detmer goes all Benjamin Button and straps on the chin strap one more time.
Pick: Mississippi State -24
NC State (-11, O/U 54) @ Pittsburgh, 12:00 ACC Network:
Pittsburgh is a complete and utter dumpster fire right now. The team that beat Clemson last year would beat the 2017 Pittsburgh Panthers by 100 points. Similar to Cincinnati, I have a feeling this team doesn’t feel like they have a lot to play for coming off yet another loss to Syracuse.
This week they get an NC State squad that will continue their conquest for ACC blood. Bradley Chubb & C0. are going to dominate the Panthers offensive line that ranks in the bottom 30 in both standard and passing down sack rate. On the other side of the ball, Ryan Finley, who ranks 3rd in QBR in the nation, will take advantage of the 15th worst pass defense in defending against explosive plays. He will find Jaylen Samuel for big plays with ease, similar to how Mason Rudolph abused Pittsburgh’s defense earlier in the season.
Some could look at this game as a letdown spot for NC State, but I disagree. The big win against Louisville happened on a Thursday, giving the Wolf Pack enough time to ride high off the win and then focus on their next opponent. Also, their last big win against FSU they had a similar noon kickoff let down spot against Syracuse, but they performed in the 75th percentile in that game and had a win expectancy of 91% despite only winning by 8. Pittsburgh plays at Heinz Field, which will probably be as quiet as a library on Saturday, so home field advantage doesn’t mean much outside of travel. If NC State were to allow a TD or turn the ball over early, the crowd noise level won’t change much besides the parents section.
Pick: NC State -11
UConn @ Temple (-10, O/U 59), 12:00 ESPN News:
I’m not sure the world we are living in anymore. Temple should NOT be a double-digit favorite to ANYONE. Maybe Vegas is still looking at Temple as the 2016 squad, but the 2017 Owls are nowhere near that level. They rank 98th in S&P+, 119th in offense, and 60th in defense. Temple will get back to the days of being a top AAC contender, but their first year under Geoff Collins hasn’t been easy.
Temple does have a great defense thanks to their stout run defense. Teams have decided to pass the ball on the Owls (37th in passes against on standard downs & 18th in passes against on passing downs) and have done it with success, as Temple ranks 75th in passing success rate. The one thing UConn has been good at all year has been passing. They rank 25th in success rate and 17th in IsoPPP all thanks to new OC Rhett Lashlee. UConn will be able to get on the board against these Owls. UConn’s defense has been brutally bad, but Temple still isn’t a dominating force on offense.
This is also a big game for UConn, as winning this game is the only hope they have for keeping their bowl chances alive. Temple and UConn recruit a lot of the same kids as well, so this game has massive recruiting implications for Randy Edsall’s Huskies. He will have them ready to go. Take the POINTS!
Pick: UConn +10
Official #JackieGambling Picks Of The WEEK:
Overall: 28-21, 57.14%
Last Week: 6-5
Oklahoma -1.5/Auburn -1 6 Pt. Teaser
South Florida -23.5
Arkansas State -17
Mississippi State -24
Texas A&M +2
NC State -11