Let’s take a look at the College Football Week 6 odds, picks, and predictions for Saturday’s games.
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College Football Week 6 Odds, Picks & Prediction: Saturday
Virginia (+3) vs. Louisville
This will become my favorite bet of the week if Louisville QB Malik Cunningham is ruled out. But either way, I’m riding with Virginia.
Cunningham suffered an undisclosed injury in Saturday’s loss to Boston College. He missed the final two drives in what turned out to be a 34-33 loss as double-digit favorites.
Cunningham is Louisville’s entire offense. He leads the Cards in both rushing and passing yards and has accounted for 43.7% and 66.3% of the team’s rushing and total yardage.
Cunningham was replaced by QB2 Brock Domann, who went 1-for-7 through the air while not providing any mobility. The downgrade from Domann to Cunningham is arguably worth a TD or more on the spread.
So if Cunningham is out, consider my spread more like UVA -7 or -8. Here was what SI’s Louisville blog had to say: “Louisville is capital-S screwed if [Cunningham misses] time.” UL HC Scott Satterfield, who is on a seat hotter than the sun’s core, has refused to discuss Cunningham’s injury or prognosis.
Like Louisville, Virginia has been a “sell” team for us for much of the season. But the Cavs have started to figure things out, namely, how to work around a poor OL. That had also previously been Boston College’s bugaboo, but Louisville wasn’t exactly able to exploit that. In fact, BC rushed for more yards last week than they had against their past three P5 opponents combined.
Virginia played quality games against ODU and Syracuse last month before succumbing to Duke in a back-to-back road spot last week. I think the Cavs will get back on track by upsetting Louisville.
Pick: UVA +3
#4 Michigan (-22.5) @ Indiana and OVER 58.5
We took Michigan last week, and it worked, so we are going to ride again! The most impressive part of the Michigan victory last week to me was the offense dominating Iowa! Iowa only had 1 sack and no turnovers for a defense that had utterly dominated everyone they played. Michigan had a balanced account that went for over 300 yards, and RB Blake Corum rushed for 133 yards which no team had hit against Iowa before this game. QB J.J. McCarthy was efficient, going 18/24 for 155 yards and a TD.
Michigan did all of this against a top-tier defense in Iowa, and Indiana is on the other end of the scale. The Indiana defense is giving up an average of 30 points per game, ranks 118th in passing yards allowing 277.8 YPG, and allows over 142 rushing yards per game, ranking 69th. Michigan is 6th in the country in PPG, averaging 45.4 PPG, and are averaging just over 30 PPG in their two games against Power 5 teams (who both have better defenses than Indiana, IMO).
The biggest mismatch in this game is on the other side of the ball. Indiana has been a bit one-sided on offense with a strong passing game, ranking 33rd in the country behind transfer QB Connor Bazelak. The problem is they can’t run the ball efficiently, they rank 116th in rushing total and 110th in YPC. The lack of a respectable run game will make 2nd and 3rd long, bad news for an offensive line that ranks in the bottom 15 of pass blocking by PFF’s metrics. Michigan has 15 sacks from 11 different players, and I expect it to be a long day for Bazelak. Michigan will have to do the heavy lifting on the score, but I see this as a 52-14 or 49-21 type of game that Michigan should dominate!
Pick: Michigan -22.5 (-120) AND Over 58.5 (-110)
Mississippi State (-9) vs. Arkansas
Arkansas is in a terrible situation, traveling to an opponent they match up poorly against. And Arkansas may be playing without their star quarterback.
Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson has not practiced this week as of Wednesday. The Hogs have been pretty mum about his status. So much so that it’s getting weird. HC Sam Pittman on Wednesday corrected a reporter who asked about Jefferson being in the concussion protocol.
“I didn’t say that,” Pittman said. “Anybody else?” The rest of Pittman’s presser, he was affable, joking about bands and jukeboxes. Usually polite, Pittman, during one answer, said “Bless you” to a reporter who’d sneezed. He was only short that one time. Is it any coincidence that it was a response to the only question he was asked that day that mattered?
Jefferson took a huge shot and suffered a head injury last week. Pittman can say what he wants, and HIPAA laws certainly allow him to say as little as he ends up saying. But if Jefferson weren’t in concussion protocol right now, Arkansas’ team doctor would be facing a fate much worse than the Dolphins’ doctor who was just fired for his handling of Tua Tagovailoa’s injury.
Pittman went on to say that he thought Jefferson would travel with the team to Starkville. This, too, was a telling quote. If Pittman thought Jefferson was playing on Saturday, he’d know – not think – Jefferson was traveling to said game.
A reporter halfway through the presser asked a clever question that revealed another telling Pittman quote. Asked what practice day during the week was most important in terms of deciding on an injured player’s availability, Pittman said: “Wednesday is always our day, they have to do something by Wednesday, or we pretty much count them out for the game.” Again: Jefferson did not practice on Wednesday.
No way to sugarcoat it: Arkansas’ quarterback situation is ugly if Jefferson can’t go. The team previously moved former QB Malik Hornsby to WR, leaving transfer Cade Fortin as the primary backup. Fortin could not hold onto the starting job at USF. In 131 career attempts, Fortin has completed less than 50% of his passes for fewer than five yards per attempt and a 1/3 TD/INT ratio. The prospect of QB depth without Jefferson was so bad at the position that Pittman elected to move Hornsby back to QB this week.
Cade Fortin is not an FBS-caliber quarterback. Pittman referred to Fortin as the “throwing” backup, which tells you all you need to know about Hornsby’s passing development if you didn’t get the referendum from the move to receiver.
Pittman became less cagey when discussing hypothetical QB plans if Jefferson is out against MSU, stating that both Fortin and Hornsby would take snaps. It seemed like he had thought that one through.
My tea-leaf reading says Jefferson has little chance of playing, barring an enormous late-week breakthrough. If he doesn’t, Arkansas won’t be able to pass. This would allow Mississippi State’s strong defense to devote all its resources to shutting down the run.
On the other side of the ball, Mississippi State’s passing offense finally appears to be close to achieving singularity under Mike Leach for the first time. The Bulldogs get the ball into space and force the defense to tackle one-on-one.
Arkansas’ biggest team weakness – when Jefferson is healthy – is either the pass defense (SP+ No. 102) or tackling (PFF No. 122). Arkansas is without both starting safeties from last year, one to transfer and the other to a season-ending injury, and its corners have been poor.
It would be shocking if Mississippi State couldn’t do anything it wanted on offense. And if Jefferson doesn’t play, Arkansas will play offense against a good defense with both hands tied behind its back.
Lastly, Mississippi State has outscored opponents 52-7 in the first quarter this year – first-quarter and/or first-half bets should also be considered.
Pick: Mississippi State -9 (1Q: MSU -3)
#21 Washington (-13.5) @ Arizona State
Arizona State seems pretty lost, which isn’t surprising to anyone paying attention to their recent storylines. Head Coach Herm Edwards was fired after the embarrassing loss at home to Eastern Michigan, and while the opponents haven’t been easy, Utah and USC, the Sun Devils haven’t shown much fight. UCLA beat Washington State by harassing QB Michael Penix and converting 3rd downs. The blueprint is there, but it’s doubtful to me that ASU can pull it off.
Washington only allowed 2 sacks to UCLA but allowed a season-high 15 pressures against, their previous season high was 8 against FCS Portland State. Arizona State has the 2nd fewest sacks in the country so far this season, with only 3. The Bruins converted 10/14 first downs against Washington, which is probably a little fluky, but the Bruins are one of only 19 teams in FBS with a 3rd down conversion rate of 50% or better. Arizona State has converted only 20 of 59 3rd downs on the season, ranking them 104th in the nation. The one game the Sun Devils converted 50% of 3rd downs was last week against USC, a game they lost by 17 points.
The bigger issue I see for ASU is the offense as they rank well below average statistically, 104th in scoring, 91st in passing, and 77th in rushing. PFF also grades them below average in every single offensive stat that they grade. Washington is right around average to below average on defense, but Arizona State just doesn’t have the offense to take advantage. QB Emory Jones has been ok but still only has 4 passing TDs over ASU’s 5 games. Jones also only has 5 turnover-worthy plays, according to PFF but also only 3 big-time throws. Washington can be beaten, UCLA proved that, but ASU isn’t going to be the team to even come close, in my opinion. The on-field obstacles are too big, not to mention the coaching changes. I think the Huskies dominate this one!
Pick: Washington -13.5 (-115)
#9 Ole Miss (-16.5) @ Vanderbilt and UNDER 61.5
Vanderbilt is a very improved team overall, but they are still at the bottom of the SEC and aren’t ready to compete with the top teams in the SEC, as evidenced by the 55-3 beating Bama put on them two weeks ago. Vandy has some dominant wins over Hawai’i, Elon, and Northern Illinois but has been pounded by the two P5 opponents they’ve played so far in Wake Forest (45-25) and Alabama. Vandy has established itself as a run-first offense behind transfer RB Ray Davis and even ranks top 25 in PFFs run grade.
Mississippi has been a bit bipolar in run defense this season which has given them middling statistics and grades against the run this season. Tulsa, who beat the spread and made the game close against Ole Miss, ran for 262 yards against Ole Miss. Tulsa ran the ball 43 times and had some big chunk runs of 47 and two of 17, making up 31% of that total. This doesn’t scare me because Ole Miss fixed the issue last week against Kentucky, holding the Wildcats to 108 rushing yards on 37 attempts.
While the run game could be an issue for Ole Miss, the rest of the game is a mismatch. Ole Miss hasn’t been crisp passing the ball, and transfer QB Jaxson Dart has been anything but sharp so far, but Vandy doesn’t pressure QBs enough. Vandy only has seven sacks on the season and ranks dead last in pass rush grade from PFF. The biggest issue that Vandy is facing is the Ole Miss run game. The Rebs have a season-low of 186 rushing yards, and that was against a ranked opponent last week in Kentucky. Ole Miss has gone over 300 yards rushing twice, and the only team that Vandy has held to under 150 yards was Hawai’i in Week 1 when they got up 38-10 early in the 3rd, and Hawai’i ended up with 55 pass attempts and only ran 26 times. The extra week to prep might help Vandy for a little bit, but once Ole Miss starts running downhill, they’ll be hard to stop. Once again, I’m threading the needle a little bit, laying the points and taking the under, but I think the run-first identity of both teams will lead to burning the clock, and I don’t think Vandy will score much at all. I see this as a Rebs Win in the neighborhood of 35-10 or 42-17, which would hit both sides. The public money is on our side, too, so let’s ride with them and add to the W column!
Bet: Ole Miss -16.5 (-115) and Under 61.5 (-106)
Miami (FL) vs. UNC o65.5
My system absolutely loves the over in this game, and I’m going along for the ride. The market seems to be a bit down on UNC’s offense after the Notre Dame loss and is, of course, way down on Miami’s following the MTSU loss. Sharp bettors also may be bracing for a weather game: Current forecasts call for 16 mph during gametime, with a decent chance of precipitation.
All of this may have opened a window of value for us. Wind affects point totals, but not to the degree that ATT shows value on the over. For both offenses, this is an awesome get-right opportunity. UNC’s offense has scored 35 points or more in all five games. It ranks top-5 in both explosiveness and finishing drives.
Miami has consistently been burned by big plays. The Hurricanes rank No. 118 in defensive explosion. It’ll be strength-on-weakness when UNC’s top-10 passing offense throws into Miami’s No. 129 SP+-rated pass defense.
On the other side, Miami hasn’t generated explosive plays all season. But they’ve shown an ability to move the ball between the 20s, and the offensive line has played well. The lack of points in scoring opportunities – see Texas A&M game – won’t be a problem against UNC’s defense, one of the most generous in the nation.
Miami’s offensive line – a bright spot so far – will manhandle UNC’s defensive front. That’ll keep the Canes on schedule throughout the game. And against UNC’s rotten secondary (No. 110 PFF coverage grade), expect a get-right game for QB Tyler Van Dyke. Van Dyke, who came into this season as an R1 hopeful, was benched against MTSU.
Miami has had two weeks to prepare after last week’s bye. I expect a big bounce-back from the Canes’ offense. The game’s outcome could go either way, but I expect the winner to prevail in a shootout.
Pick: OVER 65.5
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