Our NFL Premium Package is Now Available for the 2022 season! Get full access to our best bets, given out early in the week, in real time: sides, totals, player props, and more, all in one place, through the end of the Super Bowl. Get $15 OFF with code "NFL15" - offer valid through October 31st
Author's Note: There is a lot that goes into handicapping a college football game. Personally, I like to begin with efficiency rankings. ESPN's, Bill Connelly's SP+ Rankings, and USA Today's, Jeff Sagarin's Ratings are my bread and butter. What are SP+ Rankings? As Connelly explains, it's a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency that is intended to be predictive and forward-facing. Jeff Sagarin's Ratings are based on the efficiency rankings of each team's offense and defense, their strength of schedule, and likelihood of consistency. The combination of these rankings are my handicapping foundation for college football, and then I layer in data from teamrankings.com (TR), collegefootballdata.com (CFD), and PFF to round it all out. This helps me to better understand who are truly the good and bad teams in college football. It allows me to gauge how efficient teams are on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Let's dive into this week's top plays:
Minnesota +4.5 @ Penn State
We start in the Big Ten with Minnesota visiting Penn State in Happy Valley. These two teams, the past two meetings, have played within five points of each other. Minnesota winning 31-26 in Minnesota last season while Penn State prevailing 29-26 in 2016. Minnesota is the more complete team in this matchup. On the offensive side of the ball the edge heavily goes to the Golden Gophers. Tanner Morgan is a top 20 QB in the nation according to PFF. Minnesota ranks highly in offensive success rate at 7th in the nation (CFD). According to PFF, they have the 4th best rushing offense and 12th best passing offense in the nation. Minnesota will be able to control the line of the scrimmage in this game as they rank 27th in pass block and 2nd in run block in the nation (PFF). Penn State comes into the week ranking at 111th against the run and the 113th ranked tackling team in the nation (PFF). I show a sizable edge to the Minnesota offense in this game as they run the ball 62% of the time on average (TR) and their powerful run game should control the clock and the field position as well as keep the Penn State defense on the field. Penn State on the offensive side of the ball I see struggling as well. They are a middle of the pack offense that is going up against a tough Minnesota defense. If Penn State is going to have success on offense I see it coming on the ground but I would still give the edge to Minnesota here. I have this game around Penn State PK to -1 just because of the home field advantage we should see at a night game in Happy Valley. I think Minnesota is the clear better team and I believe PJ Fleck will have his team motivated after a loss in Champaign, IL last Saturday. Give me the Gophers here +4.5 and I'm ok playing this down to +3. One note to monitor in this game is the health of QB Tanner Morgan as he left in the 4th quarter last week. All signs so far are pointing to him playing as PJ Fleck said he will be practicing this week. I anticipate him playing in this ball game and the Gophers grabbing a much needed victory in Happy Valley. Again, this bet is contingent on Morgan playing: I will post an update on our Discord and Twitter if he’s ruled out and if there’s still value.
Texas @ Oklahoma State Under 64.5
Next we will head out to the Big 12 for another big test for Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State was able to go toe to toe with TCU last week but fell short as their defense let them down late. I had a lean on the under but this is more of a situational play for me. At kickoff, as of now, they are expecting winds in the 23 MPH range. Both teams like to run more than pass based on their average percentages. Texas comes in at 54% and Oklahoma State at 51% per Team Rankings. I believe strong winds could push both teams to run the football even more than usual. Oklahoma State showed some unusual progress on defense by limiting an explosive TCU offense to only 16 points going into the 4th quarter last week. Texas will be able to slow down Oklahoma State's pass attack as Texas ranks 26th in coverage according to PFF. Texas will use their solid defense and 3rd ranked rushing offense (PFF) to control this game and the clock should be running often in this ball game. These teams both come in at a respectable 18th (Texas) and 52nd (Ok. St.) in defensive success rate (CFD). In offensive explosiveness (chunk plays), Texas ranks near the bottom at 93rd and Oklahoma State ranks middle of the pack at 61st . I thought 64.5 was a bit too high in general, but now you add in the wind and I believe the under is the play here. I would jump on this now, before the line drops due to the reported conditions.
Boston College @ Wake Forest Under 61.5
For my final two plays, we will head over to the ACC. Boston College will head to Wake Forest in our first matchup. Boston College is the main reason for this play. Boston College ranks near the bottom in almost every offensive category. They really struggle to stay on the field offensively (121st in 3rd down conversion rate (TR) and only average 16.4 points per game (TR). Boston College’s offensive yards per play ranks 123rd (TR). Wake Forest boasts one of the best defensive lines in the nation and will be able to get pressure on BC’s quarterback, making life difficult for the Golden Eagles. Wake Forest will get their share of points in this game, but I have them at about 34-37 points. I am struggling to see where the scoring will come from on the Boston College side of the ball. They may get to their average of 17 points but even if that happens this under should hit with ease. 13 of the last 14 matchups between these two teams has gone under the total of 61.5, and many of them have gone under by a big margin. Give me the under in this matchup as I see Wake Forest getting a lead and cruising to victory.
Syracuse +13.5 @ Clemson
For my final play, we stay in the ACC in a battle between Syracuse and Clemson. I personally cannot wait for this matchup, which is shocking for me to say, given the long history of these two teams. This Syracuse team has been playing very good football all season, flying under the radar, but now they’ll face their toughest test to date. There is always going to be public money flowing in on this Clemson team because of popularity and the name on the jersey. I have this game at around a 9-10 point advantage for Clemson. The home field advantage certainly played into this, but I don’t think this Syracuse team is going to be scared of this moment. This team has been focused on this matchup all season and know the opportunity in front of them. They played a very tight game with Clemson last year but fell 17-14. Clemson is not the same dominant team of year's past and I believe the hungrier team will be the road team. A lot of the talk is surrounding the Clemson defense, but the Syracuse defense is no slouch either. Some of the numbers are slightly skewed because of strength of schedule but Syracuse defensively are putting up some good numbers themselves. Their defensive success rate is 15th (CFD), defensive explosiveness is 4th (CFD), defensive pass coverage is 5th (PFF), tackling is 20th (PFF) and defensively finishing drives is 7th (CFD). Some may want to buy the half-point, but I believe +13.5 is good enough. I am ok playing this all the way down to +12. I believe Syracuse does enough to stay in this game.
By Brandon Kenyon
Want to have direct access to our network of Betting Predators handicappers? Sign up for our FREE Discord channel to get 24/7 direct access to our handicapping team, as well as our community of sharp bettors
Want an easy to find all of our Betting Predators content in one place? Sign up for our free newsletter, Substack and receive a weekly roundup on everything we've published (FREE + PREMIUM), and all that we're up to throughout the week. We promise we'll never give your email address out for advertising purposes.