The CW9 will take a weekly look at nine of the college football games that I’m interested in from an investment standpoint. I will focus on a number of factors, such as unit specific mismatches, scheduling opportunities and discovering value in the the market perception of teams. You can follow all of my plays for free on the SportsAction App through the App Store or Google Play.
Michigan State at Ohio State -16.5
Date: Saturday, November 11th 12:00 pm ET
Notes: After riding Michigan State to victory last week, we turn around and fade the Big Ten East leading Spartans. I was a bit surprised to see that my Sunday Morning Coffee numbers had Ohio State favored near 17 points. The Buckeyes had four turnovers in Kinnick in a crushing 55-24 defeat at Iowa. Ohio State graded 11 percent success rate in the third quarter (normally 65 percent), Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins had 11 combined rushing attempts, and the defensive line was atrocious. It certainly shapes up to be a buy low, sell high game with Sparty coming off victory as a nine-point dog to Penn State. Ohio State still had trouble with penalties (nine for 95 yards), which contributes to their ranking of 125th most penalized team in the country. What can be frustrating is Ohio State’s ability to turn it up and look like the best team in the country. The second half video of their victory over Penn State shows the type of big-play ability the Buckeyes have:
Ohio State is still No. 1 in the nation in third down conversion percentage, and this game comes down to what J.T. Barrett can get done through the air. Michigan State has a top-five Rushing S&P+ Defense, but the pass defense leaves a little to be desired. Sparty also has issues defending the red zone, ranking 119th in red zone scoring defense. At some point Michigan State must come down from the past five games which included one-score victories and a triple overtime defeat to Northwestern. The Minnesota and Penn State games were riddled with weather delays. Ohio State may come out giving Weber and Dobbins triple the carries they had at Iowa, and if that doesn’t work, Barrett will have to have a Heisman-worthy day.
The Pick: Ohio State -16.5
Iowa at Wisconsin -12
Date: Saturday, November 11th 3:30 pm ET
Notes: After dropping the hammer on the Buckeyes, Iowa should be on hangover alert heading into Camp Randall. Iowa has had one victory since 2010 in the Wisconsin series. My power numbers make this game Badgers -13.5, while S&P+ has it -15.5. There certainly is value in a Wisconsin team at home that ranks No. 1 in time of possession, third down conversion percentage, opponents rush TD and opponents red zone points per attempt.
Wisconsin is a much more efficient football team on both sides of the ball, and there may be a bit of motivation involved after ranking just sixth as an undefeated team in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings. The Hawkeyes have holes that can be exposed, ranking 108th in Rushing Success Rate Defense. On Wisconsin!
The Pick: Wisconsin -12
Florida Atlantic at La Tech +4.5
Date: Saturday, November 11th 3:30 pm ET
Notes: If you held any Florida Atlantic tickets with the closing number of 6/6.5 against Marshall, consider yourself in the Moose Hall of Fame.
— Lil Mook (@Lilmook4real) November 4, 2017
FAU Head Coach Lane Kiffin took to Twitter to fan the flames of the betting world, but we move on to a new week against a Louisiana Tech team that is looking to make a bowl with a 4-5 record so far in the 2017 campaign. With bowl motivation on the minds of the home team, the Owls may have overlook to a showdown with rivals FIU in Week 12. My power numbers had this game as FAU -1, which initiated my interest in the Bulldogs. It’s been a struggle for Louisiana Tech, which lost by one point to UAB, South Carolina and North Texas this year. This could be an underrated team with FAU, UTEP and UTSA remaining on the schedule. The bread and butter of the Owls’ offense is explosiveness in the rush attack. That may play into La Tech’s strength on defense, as they rank 25th in Standard Downs IsoPPP and 12th in Passing Downs IsoPPP defense. Take the more motivated home dog, and maybe even factor in Lane Kiffin helping the Bulldogs’ closing number.
The Pick: La Tech +4.5
Georgia at Auburn +2.5
Date: Saturday, November 11th 3:30 pm ET
Notes: One of the themes to Week 11 is motivation, and this game encompasses that mantra. Auburn is fighting for their playoff lives with two losses and a schedule that includes Georgia (twice) and Alabama. When you look at Auburn’s defensive metrics, it makes it a little easier to back the home dog. Georgia and Auburn are close in the explosiveness and efficiency rankings, which is saying something considering the Bulldogs look like national champions on paper. As for the point spread, my power ratings agree with S&P+ that this game should be a pick’em. There is plenty of motivation on the Auburn side with some of their key players.
“Year in and year out, this is just a big game. It’s always a tough game.”
— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) November 6, 2017
The big question is, “Where can Georgia get hurt?” Some digging into the numbers finds Passing Downs IsoPPP is 79th in the country. That is directly linked to second or third down and long situations. Jacob Fromm has yet to be tested in converting first downs in passing situations. Conversely, Auburn Passing Downs Defense is sixth in the nation. Auburn has been a shutdown defense in second/third and long all season, which does not bode well for a Georgia offensive line that will be tasked with keeping War Eagle out of the backfield. Auburn’s defense has spent much of the the year in teams’ backfields, ranking 21st in Adjusted Sack Rate and 6th in Adjusted Line Yards. This will be war, and I will take the more motivated desperate team with a defense that should cause havoc all afternoon.
The Pick: Auburn +2.5
Kentucky at Vanderbilt -2
Date: Saturday, November 11th 4:00 pm ET
Notes: Heartbreak for Kentucky in Week 10 which may be hard to shake off for this trip to Nashville. There is nothing to feel but pity for the Wildcats after the end of the Ole Miss game.
The Wildcats’ outside chances for the East have been dashed once again, and they now face a hungry Vanderbilt team looking to make the postseason. The Commodores have played very well in this series, winning at home outright the past three times and posting a 5-1 mark against the number the last six times in this series. The real pain point for Kentucky is their passing defense, which ranks 100th in S&P+ and 106th in success rate. Those are not good numbers in contrast to Vanderbilt’s passing offense, which ranks 21st in Passing S&P+ and 11th in success rate. Kentucky is 6-3 and have qualified for a bowl. This may be the most uninspiring spot on their entire schedule.
The Pick: Vanderbilt -2
Alabama at Mississippi State +14
Date: Saturday, November 11th 7:00 pm ET
Notes: If you are a fan of Team Chaos, welcome to the showcase for Week 11. We wrote about taking UMass in Week 10 against Mississippi State because of the lookahead spot against Alabama. Cowbell had their troubles with UMass, while the Tide won but didn’t cover against LSU. This still makes for a great spot in StarkVegas. Dan Mullen is getting plenty of attention for other jobs, and victory here would certainly have plenty of universities offering a blank check.
My power rating says Cowbell +13.5, while S&P+ makes this only +6! Although Alabama has yet to be tested in the final score, they were outgained by LSU in a non-cover. There are plenty of Crimson Tide injuries on the defensive side of the ball, specifically a decimated linebacker core. Alabama does have tremendous advantages in the explosiveness department on Mississippi State, but their strength of schedule is subpar. So far in 2017 Alabama has yet to play a S&P+ Top 25 team, with Fresno State (27) and LSU (29) providing the toughest competition.
2nd-winningest coach in Mississippi State football history https://t.co/OHsIoOGYAP
— Daniel Black (@dblack97) October 21, 2017
One of the factors with fading the Bulldogs last week was the poor IsoPPP (explosiveness). If Cowbell wants a shot to win this game, the key stat to pay attention to is Power Success Rate. Football Outsiders defines Power Success Rate as the percentage of runs on third- and fourth-and-short that gain a first down or touchdown. Mississippi State ranks seventh in Power Success Rate, while Alabama’s defense ranks 86th in the nation. This is the area in which the Bulldogs can expose Alabama’s depleted front seven.
The Pick: Mississippi State +14
Notre Dame at Miami +3
Date: Saturday, November 11th 8:00 pm ET
Notes: After fading Miami for much of the year, we back them in a spot that could ruin any chance the Irish have at the CFP. My numbers make this game a pick’em, while S&P+ makes the Hurricanes a two-point favorite. When looking at the advanced stats, Miami has the offensive explosiveness advantage while Notre Dame has a large defensive efficiency rating edge. What does that mean? There might be more 20-plus yard plays than first downs for the Hurricanes. Miami is no stranger to the big play. The key stat for this game is Miami ranking eighth in Rushing IsoPPP with Notre Dame being 82nd in defending rush plays over 20 yards. Travis Homer had 6.79 yards per carry against a legit rush defense in Virginia Tech and graded successfully in rushing attempts. Miami should be able to hang against a Notre Dame team who has yet to face a test on the road like what they will get at Hard Rock Stadium. Who is ready for Catholics vs. Convicts?
It's ND-Miami week and "Catholics vs Convicts" is airing now on ESPN2! pic.twitter.com/3hf4Xwf2xX
— ESPN (@espn) November 8, 2017
The Pick: Miami +3
TCU at Oklahoma -6.5
Date: Saturday, November 11th 8:00 pm ET
Notes: Baker Mayfield currently sits at -200 for the Heisman, and after facing this TCU defense it could be all wrapped up for the upcoming trip to New York. My power ratings have Oklahoma as a nine-point favorite, placing plenty of value on the current number. Its hard to ignore just how good this Sooners offense is, ranking first in total offense, yards per play and pass completion percentage. That is all very important against a TCU team that has had issues with explosiveness all season on the defensive side of the ball. The Horned Frogs rank 115th in the nation in explosiveness allowed, but more specifically they are 113th in defensive Passing IsoPPP. That should be an area where Baker Mayfield will crush TCU. Make no mistake, TCU’s rush defense is excellent, so I expect a high dose of pass calls from the Sooners’ offense. Although TCU head coach Gary Patterson has played nice in the media about Baker Mayfield, there is still plenty of motivation out there for the Sooners’ signal caller.
Gary Patterson straight roasted Baker Mayfield, AND his dad ?? pic.twitter.com/YaETUP4wia
— Zach Mason (@ZachMasonSports) December 29, 2015
The Pick: Oklahoma -6.5
Boise State at Colorado State +6.5
Date: Saturday, November 11th 10:30 pm ET
Notes: This late-night Fort Collins spot features a traveling Broncos team that may have zero motivation with a two-game lead in the Mountain division of the MWC. Colorado State currently sits at 6-4, and they’re looking to finish strong after losing efforts to Air Force and Wyoming. Boise State has dominated this series, winning five straight and covering all but once. The strength of this Boise team is the rush defense, which ranks 11th in S&P+. That certainly won’t be the game plan for Nick Stevens, who leads a Rams passing attack that ranks 30th in S&P+ and fourth in Passing Success Rate. That should be an issue for a Broncos team that ranks 79th defensively in Passing S&P+. Another reason to back the home team? Colorado State is 12th in yards per play, eighth in third down conversions and fourth in sacks allowed. I will be taking the motivated team that should have one of the nation’s best quarterbacks getting plenty of time to get the passing game in full gear.
The Pick: Colorado State +6.5