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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 and collegefootballdata.com 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. And as we now enter Week 7 of the college football season, there are a few games that stand out to me based on the discrepancies between my ratings and sportsbook's lines. Let's dive into this week's top plays:
Auburn @ Ole Miss (Under 54.5)
I have the total in this SEC matchup sitting between 45-47 points which is a sizable gap from the current 54.5 total. This Auburn offense is one of the worst in the FBS, ranking 117th in the country. Auburn averages 35 rushes per game and their pass vs. rush rate per game is an even split at 50%. Ole Miss' offense runs the ball at a 62% clip which is 10th in the nation. Both of team's propensity to run the ball will help to keep the clock moving. Some other key factors in this game is Auburn's inability to sustain drives as they rank 107th in the FBS in 3rd down conversion rate. Add in Ole Miss' strong run attack and their top 20 defense versus a very inefficient Auburn offense and I'm on the under here. I see Ole Miss grabbing an early lead and milking it with their superior run game which will keep the clock moving.
Minnesota @ Illinois (Under 39.5)
This Big Ten matchup has defense written all over it. llinois is a much improved team and it is primarily due to their fantastic play on defense, but their opponent is no slouch in that department either. In fact, Minnesota and Illinois rank first and second, respectively, in the FBS, in defensive points per game. This game has a similar feel to last week's 9-6 barn burner between Illinois and Iowa. Illinois and Minnesota understand that they can implement a conservative game on offense while they rely on their stout defenses. This is evident in the numbers. Minnesota is running at a 63% clip while Illinois runs at a 57% clip. Both teams rank 108th and 127th respectively in offense explosiveness. Minnesota has the more efficient offense but I believe both teams will feed their running backs the ball, limit mistakes and rely on their defenses. My numbers have this total between 30-32. The under is the play here.
Oklahoma State @ TCU (Over 68.5)
This Big 12 matchup has all the makings of a classic. Both of these highly efficient offenses will be facing a couple middle of the road defenses in this matchup. Both offenses do a great job of evenly mixing in the run and pass which keeps the opposing defenses guessing. TCU is one of the most efficient offenses in the FBS as they rank 2nd in yards per play. They use their explosive run game (7.1 yards per rush) which ranks 1st in the FBS, to open up their passing opportunities. TCU also ranks 2nd in offense explosiveness and 20th in offense success rate this year. TCU may have the more efficient offense but Oklahoma State still ranks a respectable 39th in offense success rate and 7th in passing play explosiveness. On the other side of the ball, both of these teams rank near the bottom in defensive explosiveness at 91st and 115th. These defenses are susceptible to the big play and both offenses are more than capable of obliging. The over is the play here.