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FINDING VALUE IN SITUATIONAL SPOTS AND TRENDS
When handicapping a college football game, there are many factors that can sway your decision to place a bet. They can range from stats and power rankings, to home and away splits, and anywhere in between. One factor I like to finish with are the ATS trends and situational spots. The trend is your friend but not automatic. Some situations can give you an edge while others can be deceiving. I have one particular game this week where the trends and the situational spot helped to confirm my play.
We head out to Morgantown, West Virginia for a Big 12 Conference matchup between TCU and West Virginia. This trend has not been TCU’s friend. TCU is 1-4 ATS in Morgantown in their last five visits and 0-6 ATS overall against the Mountaineers in the last 6 years. To give perspective on this, in the last 10 years, TCU is only 2-8 ATS against West Virginia. While trends are not the end all, be all, data that dates back this far is hard to ignore. I like this spot for West Virginia. Morgantown has always been a house of horrors for TCU and West Virginia may just be getting them at the right time. While in no way shape or form is West Virginia a great football team, they are also not a terrible football team either. Sagarin has them ranked as 56th in the nation which is right around the middle of the pack. WV can sling it on offense too. They rank 38th in offense success rate and 38th in finishing offensive drives according to College Football Data (CFD). TCU has been a big surprise this year and have played really good football. However, they have been in wars the last three weeks, having to battle back for victory in all three matchups including one in overtime. I think they are playing over their heads and it’s only a matter of time before the clock strikes midnight. Their defense has been getting exploited the last few weeks giving up 30+ points in each matchup. TCU needed two Kansas State QB’s to go down just to survive their matchup at home last week. This just feels like a bad spot for TCU. After all they’ve accomplished, they look up and a trip to Morgantown is on the schedule. TCU has played the majority of their games near the state of Texas and now they’ll take the show to the east coast for a chilly Saturday morning matchup against a team they’ve struggled mightily to beat. Give me West Virginia here with the 7.5.
WEST VIRGINIA +7.5
Here’s are a few more plays that I like this week…
COLORADO STATE/BOISE STATE UNDER 43
Colorado State visits Boise State on Saturday night. This game has all the makings of an Illinois/Iowa matchup offensively. Granted Boise may be able to squeak a few more points out than nine but I see this game as a low scoring affair. Both of these offenses rank in the bottom of the FBS in yards per play as Boise State ranks 85th and Colorado State 125th per CFD. Colorado State ranks at the bottom of almost every category offensively. CSU is 131st in offensive success rate, 124th in rush offense, 125th in pass offense, and 130th in finishing offensive drives. While CSU boasts one of the worst offenses in the FBS, Boise State will be able to add to that frustration with the 9th ranked defensive success rate in the country and the 17th best defensive havoc rating (tackles for loss, turnovers, etc). These two teams also rank at the bottom of the FBS in pace with Boise State at 92nd and Colorado State at 103rd in seconds per play according to Team Rankings. With the defenses both being the strengths of these teams, I see this game moving methodically and the under hitting here. Give me the under 43 in this one.
CENTRAL FLORIDA PK
Cincinnati travels to Central Florida in this one. These two teams matchup pretty evenly in this contest. This is another situational play where I see an edge for the home team. UCF ranks 18th in offensive success rate and 32nd in defensive success rate per CFD. One of UCF’s biggest strengths is being able to stall other offenses drives. UCF ranks 9th in the country in defensive finishing drives per CFD. Which means that, when inside the 40 yard line, offenses are failing or settling. This can be the difference in wins and losses in close matchups such as this. Cincinnati still gets the most national attention in this conference but this is not the same team from last year. Cincinnati has been underwhelming even in wins this year. Their defense should keep them in this game but I fully expect UCF to come away with the victory here. There is new life to this UCF crowd with their recent success over the past few season so I expect UCF to be fired up for this one. Not to mention, Cincinnati is 0-4 ATS on the road this year. Give me UCF at a PK. I would play it up to -2.5.
Illinois, coming off of a bye, heads to Nebraska. Illinois is one of my favorite teams this year because of how much they've improved. Illinois’ success has mainly been on the defensive side of the ball which has in turn helped the offense. Illinois ranks number one in the country in defensive success rate while Nebraska is in the middle of the pack in that category at 47th. Illinois will be able to contain this Nebraska offense. Nebraska on the other hand ranks 122nd in defensive success rate so there will be plenty of opportunities for Illinois to take advantage of. Nebraska ranks 94th in defensive finishing drives, so teams are finishing drives on them. Illinois ranks 1st in that category on the other side. Teams are not finding the end zone very often against this Illinois defense. If you cannot find the end zone more times then not, it’s going to be difficult to keep the game in range. I believe Illinois finds enough offense and uses their defense for field position advantages in this game. I see Illinois slowly but surely pulling away. Give me Illinois -7 in this one.
USC coming off of a bye, heads to Arizona. USC will be fresh and ready to attack this bottom feeder of an Arizona defense. Arizona is 131st in defensive finishing drives which means if you’re inside the 40 you’re scoring. Arizona also has the worst defensive success rate at 131st. USC’s powerful offense will be able to take advantage of this horrendous defense and score in bunches. I have USC making enough stops on Arizona to be able to cover as 15-point favorites. A fresh off the bye USC team, coming off of a loss to Utah, should be plenty motivated to take care of this Arizona squad. It’s a big number but I believe USC has enough to cover it.
By Brandon Kenyon
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