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/Q&A for all of his stats he uses here and here, but here is a spark notes of the main stats I predominantly use.
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.
Adjusted Line Yards: A statistic that separates the strength of the offensive line and the ability of the RB. Just because you have a great RB doesn’t mean you have a great line.
Adjusted Sack Rate: An opponent-adjusted rate of a sack rate, which is sacks divided by (sacks plus passes).
If you have any questions on these stats, shoot me a DM/Tweet @JackMacCFB.
Aint Come To Play School Games:
Oklahoma State (-7, O/U 73) @ West Virginia, 12:00 PM, ABC:
Most of my year is spent waiting for College Football to come back into my life. During those long summer months, I like to research every FBS team so I have a decent understanding of them coming into the season. After I’m done, I like to take a stance on a few teams that I see as underrated versus overrated. At this point of the season, I get to look back on my July & August predictions on those teams and as good as the correct predictions feel, the wrong ones feel even worse. One of those wrong predictions was with West Virginia. I looked at the Mountaineers as a team with an inexperienced defense and an overrated QB from Florida (Will Grier) that beat up on teams like New Mexico State in 2014 to gain his reputation as a great player. Turned out I was wrong.
West Virginia is currently ranked 30th in S&P+ and 36th in ESPN’s FPI. The combination of Will Grier and RB Justin Crawford has been lethal, leading to a top 5 offense according to S&P+. Saturday they welcome Oklahoma State to Morgantown, a team that ranks 8th in S&P+ and 11th in ESPN’s FPI. As you can tell looking at the total of 73, a lot of points are expected between these two teams who are both looking to find a way into the Big 12 Championship game.
I want to like Oklahoma State here, but I can’t after taking a further look at the situation Gundy’s fighting mullets will be facing in West Virginia. The Cowboys rank 36th in S&P+ defense compared to West Virginia’s ranking of 102nd. They rank 7th in explosive plays, while West Virginia ranks 121st in allowing explosive plays. All signs point to the Okies lighting up Dana Holgorsen’s defense, but their lackluster performance against Texas last week and seeing Oklahoma is on the slate next Saturday has me shying away. On top of the scheduling situation, this game is at 11 AM central time and being played on the road (Oklahoma to West Virginia isn’t a 45-minute bus ride). I could easily see OSU being half-asleep in the first half.
I tip my internet cap to anyone who looks at all of that and lays the touchdown on the road favorite. You have balls and I don’t. I wish you nothing but the best and hope you cash your bet then realize how lucky you are. Or you can continue to live on the edge because this is America and you should do whatever the hell you want that doesn’t end in hurting other people. Grow a mullet or something.
Lean: Oklahoma State -7
Penn State @ Ohio State (-5.5, O/U 57.5), 3:30 PM, FOX:
Going into the game against Oklahoma, I declared myself a landowner on JT Barrett Island. Similar to my take on West Virginia, I ended up being wrong. Barrett was 19-35 in that game, throwing for 183 yards and one interception. OSU lost 31-16 while being dominated by Baker Mayfield.
The island looks a lot different now than it did walking into the game against Oklahoma. There are a lot more empty houses and less activity on a daily basis. The weather storms have seemed to hit the island a bit harder than they have in the past. A lot of people have moved off citing that houses on JT Barrett Island will be the first to crumble when the newest housing bubble explodes. Losing those fair weather inhabitants was fine with me. I took their property on the island and bought some more for myself. Some days it feels like I am the only one left on this island, sort of a Tom Hanks Cast Away situation, but the darkness only makes me stronger. I was born in the darkness. My moment is coming and I can feel it.
Here are some stats on JT Barrett for all the HATERS out there:
- Barrett has 21 TD’s this year. Michigan’s QB’s have combined for 4.
- Barrett has won eight Big Ten players of the week in his time at OSU. The only Big Ten player to win more is Ron Dayne (9) and Denard Robinson (9).
- Two weeks ago against Nebraska, JT Barrett started eight drives. All eight of them ended in touchdowns.
- Barrett ranks 4th in QBR on the season.
JT Barrett isn’t perfect, but the man is much better than most think. He is constantly disrespected, part of which is his fault, but he has a chance to shut those doubters up starting Saturday. I believe Ohio State is the second-best team in the nation behind Alabama. To me, it’s Alabama and Ohio State then a gap then everybody else. The best/most fun CFP would include Alabama-Oklahoma, Ohio State-Georgia in the semifinals, with the Buckeyes and Tide meeting for the championship.
Saturday, JT Barrett’s opportunity begins with Penn State and surprise, surprise, I will be backing the Buckeyes. Since the Oklahoma game, the Buckeyes competition has been subpar, but it would be unfair to dismiss their accomplishments. In their last 5 games, OSU has outscored their opponents 266-56. That’s a……210 point differential. TWO HUNDRED TEN! The offense really started to perform, which makes me think that Kevin Wilson’s offense finally is clicking with this team. Saturday is a different level of competition, but it’s not some world beaters that OSU has never seen before.
Penn State impressed me last week. They have a national championship caliber team, but going into the horseshoe in a revenge spot for Ohio State is going be too much for Barkley and McSorely. They ran and threw all over Michigan, and I don’t want to go all Bill Simmons on you here, but how sure are we that Michigan is a good team? Every week it seems more and more like the Maize & Blue are the most overrated team in the nation. The Buckeyes are going to be a much tougher matchup, especially considering that OSU is coming off a bye week. No disrespect towards James Franklin, but Urban Meyer has the advantage in coaching and that edge is only multiplied when you factor in the bye week.
I like Ohio State’s edge in three aspects of the game: rushing, stopping Penn State inside the 40, and special teams. Currently, OSU ranks 4th in S&P+ rushing and 1st in success rate, while PSU ranks 47th in stopping the run and 13th in success rate. JK Dobbins is one of the best RBs in the country despite only being a freshman and combine him with Barrett and last seasons starting RB Mike Webber, I could see the Buckeyes having a phenomenal day on the ground. Winning the ground game will open up more opportunities for Barrett through the air. Inside the 40, which I prefer to look at instead of red zone numbers, Penn State is averaging just 4.66 points per trip ranking them 46th in the nation. This makes sense considering how much Joe Moorehead likes to use the entire field and spreading out the offense inside the 40 becomes more difficult with less and less room to work with. Ohio State only allows 3.03 points per trip inside the 40, which ranks them 5th. That’s a huge edge. Forcing field goals is a win that is sometimes forgotten when looking at why/how a team won a game. The biggest edge comes on special teams, though. Ohio State ranks 37th in the nation, while Penn State ranks 97th. We often forget about special teams when capping these games, but in a game with a number as close as 6.5, everything matters.
Ohio State starts their run to the CFP final on Saturday. JT Barrett has one of the best games he has ever had as a Buckeye and the masses will all be buzzing about the BOOMING real estate market on JT Barrett Island.
Pick: Ohio State -5.5
N.C. State @ Notre Dame (-7, O/U 58), 3:30 PM, NBC:
I think the sign of a great sports bettor is one who can flip-flop on a team depending on how the betting market reacts to them. I aspire every day to be one of those great sports bettors, so I try to follow the attributes of the greats. Notre Dame is probably being overrated here. Everybody saw them roll through a malnourished USC team last week and on Saturday they play a team that most of the public doesn’t know. The buy low-sell high side of me would say take NC State plus the points and RUN! They have a solid QB in Ryan Finley, a playmaker in Jaylen Samuels, and a great defense that features future NFL draft pick, Bradley Chubb. NC State is off a bye and Dave Doeren is one of the most underrated coaches in the country.
Similar to Oklahoma State, I can’t take this road side. I am too high on Notre Dame. The Irish have a lot of talent, extending from RB Josh Adams all the way to the entire defense, which ranks 18th in the nation. The yoga has seemed to work for Brian Kelly and QB Brandon Wimbush has become perfect in the game manager role. The way to beat Notre Dame is to slow down their rushing attack (e.g. Georgia), something I don’t see NC State doing. The Wolfpack rank 45th in rushing S&P+, which is above average, but that’s not going to cut it against the Josh Adams led attack that ranks 1st in the nation. Another strength that is crossed out by a superior Notre Dame team is NCST’s passing attack. Ryan Finley, who ranks 7th in QBR, leads the 19th ranked passing attack that has the 9th ranked success rate while throwing the pigskin. Notre Dame, on the other hand, ranks 4th in defending the pass and 6th in success rate.
Notre Dame is going to be too much for NC State to handle. This game won’t be a blowout and I could see NC State sneaking in the backdoor late in the fourth, but I am not confident enough to make this a play.
Lean: NC State +7
Wild Card Games:
Texas Tech @ Oklahoma (-20, O/U 75.5), 8:00 PM, ESPN2/ABC:
Oklahoma hasn’t won a game by more than one score since they beat Tulane 56-14 on September 16th. Next week they have Oklahoma State, a game they have to win if they want to get into the CFP. You think Texas Tech is on the front of their minds right now? I don’t think so.
Coming off a brutal road game against Kansas State, Oklahoma touts the #1 ranked offense in the country but the 84th ranked defense. That defense is going to open a lot of holes for Texas Tech’s 14th ranked offense to exploit. The Red Raiders currently rank 19th in explosive plays on offense while Oklahoma ranks 104th in allowing them.
We are getting significant value after Tech’s loss last weekend. 20 points is too much in this game. Don’t sleep on the Red Raiders defense either. Oklahoma’s bread and butter are explosive plays with Mayfield, but Texas Tech ranks 32nd in defending against said plays. I’m not suggesting Texas Tech can shut down the Sooners attack, BUT if they keep the Sooners in front of them, it will be enough for the offense to score 31-38 points to cover the 20 points.
Pick: Texas Tech +20
Missouri (-13, O/U 76) @ UConn, 6:30 PM, CBSSN:
OH, WE ARE BACK BABY. SOUND THE ALARM, BECAUSE WE ARE GOING BACK TO EAST HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT TO TAKE THE HUSKIES.
We are 4-0 when picking UConn games this year. I feel I have a good read on this team, a read that the public doesn’t. UConn isn’t particularly a great team, but they are undervalued and have been fortunate enough to be given a few great scheduling spots. This week they get another.
For the next minute, I want you to imagine being a football player on Missouri. You have SEC talent, but apart of a 2-5 team with a coach you aren’t sure is going to be fired or not when the season is over. Now, on Haloween weekend, you have to take a trip up to East Hartford, Connecticut to play the 3-4 UConn Huskies in a game on CBS Sports Network at 6:30. How on earth could you possibly get up for that game?
Missouri is significantly better than UConn. They are better on offense, defense, and special teams. They have more talent than UConn. I hate to go all #FootballGuy on you here, but that talent gap won’t matter much on Saturday. This feels more like a bowl game than anything else. UConn has all the motivation in the world (playing SEC team, national TV, underdogs, win puts them in good spot for bowl eligibility) while Missouri, as I described above, is just counting down the hours until they fly back home.
Let’s take a look at the stats, shall we? Missouri is very good at one thing and that’s explosive plays. They rank 1st in the nation and will be going up against a UConn defense that allows the 74th most explosive plays. UConn, on the other hand, is also very good at producing explosive plays, ranking 22nd. This is bad news for Mizzou seeing that they are the second worst team in all of America in defending against explosive plays. Where I see the biggest advantage for UConn is in defending explosive passing plays. They rank 46th in defensive passing IsoPPP, a place that Missouri ranks 3rd on offense. The defense, which has looked better the past two weeks, will have just enough to slow down the Missouri passing offense. Another advantage for UConn comes in, you guessed it, explosive passing plays. Bryant #TheresANewShirreffsInTown Shirreffs leads the 27th ranked passing IsoPPP attack that will look to dominate against Missouri’s pass defense that ranks 105th in passing IsoPPP.
Missouri is also dealing with the injury of RB Damarea Crockett, who has averaged 6 yards per carry this year. This is big news considering the Tigers rushing attack ranks 9th in the nation. They don’t run the ball anywhere close to as much as they throw it, but Crockett’s injury is still a major blow to an offense that likes to attack defenses from any which way they can.
Missouri doesn’t give a shit about this game. UConn does. There are multiple matchup advantages for the Huskies. Take the points.
Pick: UConn +13
TCU (-6.5, O/U 48.5) @ Iowa State, 3:30 PM, ESPN2 or ABC:
Ames this, Ames that. I keep hearing about this whole “Ames is a SCARY place to play as a road favorite” thing. Meanwhile, Texas went into Ames and beat Iowa State on a short week 17-7 just a month ago. It hit all of the “Ames is a SCARY play” bs: national TV, night, road favorite….Texas still dominated that game. Iowa went into Ames earlier this year and won 44-41. Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, and West Virginia all went into Ames last year and won. Playing in Ames somehow has this reputation because of some random Friday night game 5 years ago when Brandon Weeden’s Oklahoma State team lost as the #2 squad in the nation. The place is as hard to play in as any other mid-their P5 stadium. This game is also in the afternoon, which brings down the potential atmosphere in the stadium a full 20% or so in my opinion.
TCU is the better team here. Both are playing for the same thing: a shot at the Big 12 Championship. In past years Ames may have been a tough place to play because teams came in overlooking Iowa State, but TCU won’t be doing the same this year. Kenny #TRILL Hill and Gary Patterson see Iowa State’s success this year and won’t be caught off guard by a talented Cyclone’s team.
TCU is better in every facet of the game: coaching, offense, and defense (ISU has a slight edge in special teams). Where the Horned Frogs struggle most are allowing explosive plays on defense, ranking 125th in IsoPPP. Unfortunately for Iowa State, they rank 60th in IsoPPP on offense. Yes, this does make them average, but it would’ve been a much better situation for the Cyclones if they ranked in say the top 25. Iowa State hasn’t been great on offense all year ranking 48th overall, 81st in both rushing and passing. The struggles at the QB position make the rankings a bit more clear, but it’s still been a disappointing season on this side of the ball for Matt Campbell’s squad. It won’t get any easier with TCU’s 11th ranked defense coming to town, a team that excels in stopping both the run and pass.
Patterson’s defense will keep the Cyclones offense in check and Kenny Hill will lead an offense that will have just enough firepower to cover this spread for the Horned Frogs. TCU has been scoring the 15th most points inside the 40 this year, while Iowa State allows the 74th most. Passing offenses have had a top-40 success rate on Iowa State this year, a statistic that TCU ranks 18th in. TCU does have Texas on deck, but the Longhorns aren’t a lookahead as much as they were in the past. TCU will be focused going into Ames on Saturday and will come out with a 10-14 point victory.
Pick: TCU -6.5
UCLA @ Washington (-17.5, O/U 58), 3:30 PM, ESPN2 or ABC:
UCLA has quit. Jim Mora is a dead man walking (look at the photo above! No one even wants to give him a high five!). Josh Rosen is more interested in staying healthy than winning football games and I can’t blame him. UCLA has been a disappointment this year and now they have to go play in a noon kickoff against a superior Washington team coming off a bye.
UCLA’s only strength this year has been its offense, ranking 7th in S&P+, but the unmotivated unit will have to muster up some courage to put up any substantial points against Washington’s #1 ranked defense. Their 107th ranked defense won’t help them either. They say great defenses travel, but so do terrible ones. The Bruins rank 88th in success rate, 110th in defensive IsoPPP, and 107th in points allowed inside the 40….GROSS. Washington in those same categories rank 11th, 11th, and 16th. Talk about a mismatch.
Washington will start off their push to the Pac-12 championship with a bang this weekend. The bye week allowed them to fix whatever the hell happened in Arizona and coach Chris Petersen is one of the best college coaches ever off a bye against the spread. This game has a 48-17 feel to it.
Pick: Washington -17.5
UTSA (-15.5, O/U 47.5) @ UTEP, 8:00 PM, C-USA TV:
I could write a thesis on how bad the 2017 UTEP football team is and it wouldn’t be doing it justice. The best way I can sum it up is with their status going into this UTSA game. For the past two weeks, UTEP has had one job: figure out who is starting at QB. They still haven’t done that. Their only sign of hope comes in form of RB Quadraiz Wadley, who is questionable for this game after sustaining a knee injury against WKU a few weeks ago. Everything is a mess in El Paso right now. The Miners have averaged just 3.9 yards per play this year and have only averaged 219.6 yards per game. I don’t like to use total yardage, but when the stat is so astoundingly bad it can tell a hell of a story. Looking at the advanced stats, UTEP ranks 127th in S&P+ offense, 98th in rushing and 127th in passing.
UTSA, on the other hand, has had their fair share of disappointments too. After starting off 3-0, the Roadrunners dropped two against Southern Mississippi and North Texas by a combined 5 points. Last weeks win against Rice got them back to their winning ways. I could dive into the UTSA stats and compare them to UTEP, but you get the idea that UTSA is better in every category than UTEP. With Wadley being hurt, UTEP won’t be able to take full advantage of UTSAs 100th ranked rushing defense.
UTEP is a mess. UTSA is a good football team, ranking 44th in S&P+ and 85th in ESPN FPI. They are going to steamroll the Miners. I’d take this game at -20.5.
Pick: UTSA -15.5
Official #JackieGambling Picks Of The WEEK:
Overall: 40-25, 61.54%
Last Week: 4-3
Texas Tech +20