5 College Football Week 12 Mismatches Bettors Can Exploit: Mountain West Specials
Andrew Nelles / Tennessean via USA TODAY NETWORK. Pictured: Nevada quarterback Ty Gangi
- We now have a robust data set to determine specific strengths and weaknesses of each college football team.
- We'll examine some of the biggest mismatches of Week 12 that bettors can look to take advantage of.
- This week's five mismatches include three from the Mountain West, including one game on Friday night.
As we head into Week 12 of the college football season, we can utilize a robust data set to really understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of all 130 FBS teams. Whether you want to look in the trenches, at the skill positions or even on special teams, bettors must identify and be cognizant of glaring unit mismatches each week.
Power ratings should serve as your handicapping starting point, but situational angles and matchup analyses should help refine your final wagers.
Each week, I highlight five noteworthy unit mismatches, which will hopefully help you make more informed betting decisions. I will point out a major discrepancy in a standard statistic and then provide supporting evidence that the underlying metrics back up.
After finding a number of mismatches on this week’s card, I narrowed my list to five, including three Mountain West matchups — the first of which comes on Friday night and the last late night on Saturday. The other two include a Big Ten matchup and an intriguing game between an SEC team and a non-conference foe that comes in with a 9-1 record. Let’s get to it.
New Mexico vs. Boise State
- Boise State -20.5 at New Mexico
- O/U: 62.5
- Friday, 9 p.m. ET, CBSSN
If a team comes out flat with a lack of focus for a football game, it can really show with sloppy special teams play. And Boise is certainly at risk for both tonight.
The Broncos are clearly in a poor situational spot tonight, traveling for a road game against a bad New Mexico team in between a huge win over Fresno State and a showdown for the division against Utah State next week. And they have horrid special teams, which S&P+ ranks at 118th in the country.
To summarize how bad Boise has performed on special teams, it ranks dead last in the country in net punting (31.91), has had two punts blocked and kicker Haden Hogarth has only made 8 of 13 field goal attempts.
On the flip side, New Mexico has an excellent special teams unit, ranking fifth in S&P+. The Lobos have the No. 2 kick return defense (14.89 yards on average) and the No. 21 punt return unit (13.67 yards on average). They really just do everything well in that regard, although they don’t really kick much with their freshman kicker, who is 6-6 on field goal tries but has missed five extra points.
I expect New Mexico to win the hidden yardage battle, which could ultimately decide this spread. Special teams was certainly a factor when I decided to bet New Mexico tonight once I saw a +21 pop up.
Maryland vs. Ohio State
- Ohio State -14.5
- O/U: 58.5
- Noon ET, ABC
This game is all about the explosiveness edge that Maryland will hold on both sides of the ball.
Believe it or not, Ohio State’s offense has lacked big plays all season, ranking 90th in IsoPPP+ (a measure of adjusted explosiveness, per S&P+). Don’t expect that to change this weekend, as the Terps do a great job in limiting explosiveness, ranking 31st in IsoPPP+ on the defensive end.
The disparity is even greater on the other side of the ball, as Maryland’s offense relies on explosive plays, ranking eighth in IsoPPP. The Terrapins’ explosive offense could give fits to an Ohio State defense that has been vulnerable to big plays in 2018, ranking 115th in IsoPP+.
This is also a nightmare spot for Ohio State, which has a date with rival Michigan on deck. If the Buckeyes aren’t ready for a noon kick in College Park against a Terps team fighting for bowl eligibility, they will get hit in the mouth early and often with big plays. I played Maryland +17 earlier in the week, and still like it at 14-plus.
UAB vs. Texas A&M
- Texas A&M -16.5
- O/U: 45.5
- 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
If you’re looking for reasons to back UAB, look no further than its defensive line, which has been dominant all season. The Blazers have compiled 38 total sacks for an average of 3.8 per game, which leads the country.
That’s especially noteworthy this week because Texas A&M’s biggest weakness is its offensive line, which has allowed 32 sacks this season (3.2 per game); only eight teams have allowed more.
The advanced metrics paint the same picture, as the Aggies’ offensive line ranks 116th in Adjusted Sack Rate, while UAB’s defensive line ranks second overall (on passing downs as well).
And when UAB’s offense takes the field, it should have some opportunities to hit some huge plays down the field against a Texas A&M defense that ranks DEAD LAST in defending explosiveness in the passing game. Believe it or not, UAB’s offense actually ranks 11th in that same category.
Nevada vs. San Jose State
- Nevada -14.5
- O/U: 60
- 5 p.m. ET, ESPN3
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: San Jose State has the worst rush offense in the country. And it’s not close.
The Spartans, who rank dead last in S&P+ rush offense, average an FBS-worst (and historically bad) 2.1 yards per carry.
I don’t expect them to get anything on the ground against a Nevada defense that only allows 3.5 yards per carry (top-30 nationally). Per S&P+, the Wolfpack rank in the top 20 in overall run defense.
When Nevada has the ball, quarterback Ty Gangi will have all day to throw behind an offensive line that only allows 1.3 sacks per game (top 25 rate). That unit also ranks seventh overall in Adjusted Sack Rate on passing downs. San Jose State is simply incapable of getting to opposing quarterbacks, ranking 129th in overall Adjusted Sack Rate (and on passing downs).
Those are huge matchup advantages for Nevada on both sides of the ball.
UNLV vs. Hawaii
- Hawaii -7
- O/U: 70.5
- 11 p.m. ET, Spectrum PPV/Stadium App
Regardless of the statistic you focus on, Hawaii has one of the worst defenses in the country. Just take a glance at some of the following highlights (or I should say lowlights):
- Ranked 123rd in S&P+ overall defense
- 36.5 points per game allowed (112th in nation)
- 6.5 yards per play allowed (115th in nation)
That said, overall defense doesn’t matter much against an inept UNLV passing offense. We must focus on Hawaii’s rush defense, as the Rebels have an explosive rushing offense that ranks eight overall, per S&P+.
Well, the news doesn’t get much better for the nonexistent Rainbow Warrior defense, which also struggles immensely against the run. Their 5.0 yards per rush allowed ranks 103rd in nation. UNLV, which averages 5.0 yards per carry, should gash Hawaii all night long on the ground, especially with the explosive Armani Rogers now back on the field.
I already bet the Rebels, who will have a great shot at winning their fourth straight over Hawaii.