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.


TCU at Texas Tech +7

Date: Saturday, November 18, 12:00 pm ET

Notes: This early kick has a road team on letdown against a home team trying to make a bowl. TCU will have plenty of players riding the pine this weekend, as Gary Patterson stated Kenny Hill is probable to questionable. Hill joins a long list of other starting Horned Frogs (primarily on defense) to be questionable for this game. We also cannot forget that starting RB Darius Anderson is out for the year after suffering an injury during the OU game last week. While TCU may be taking Texas Tech lightly, the Red Raiders have plenty of motivation for the postseason and to keep Kliff Kingsbury employed.

The stat that led us to Oklahoma over TCU in last week’s CW9 makes an appearance in the advanced stats this week. TCU continues to give up the big play, ranking 122nd against pass explosiveness. Nic Shimonek and Texas Tech are 29th in explosiveness, but have to do a better job at protection.

We will invest in a fired up Texas Tech squad in their last home game as they compete for a bowl berth. It helps that TCU may sit every single game-changer on the roster, hoping to escape with a win and still make the Big 12 Championship.

The Pick: Texas Tech +7

 


Mississippi St at Arkansas +12.5

Date: Saturday, November 18, 12:00 pm ET

Notes: This is the first time my alma mater, Arkansas, is included in the CW9. It was quite the week on campus, or what we locals like to call “On the Hill.”  Athletic Director Jeff Long has been fired after falling out of the good graces of the boosters and Board of Trustees. With the other Razorback sports exceeding expectations, only Razorback football (and non-sales of the new suites under construction) can be blamed. The truth is that Jeff Long had huge shoes to fill after Frank Broyles. Coach Broyles knew the mayor of every city in all 75 counties. He was in constant contact with senators and the governor of the state. To be the athletic director at Arkansas, you must know the state, and you must produce on the football field. We all wish Jeff Long well in future endeavors, but the contract extension and buyout bestowed upon Bret Bielema has been a sticky issue for the Razorback fan base.

How will that translate on the field? With Cole Kelley’s off-field issue last weekend, Austin Allen gets the start. This is a massive spot to catch Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are coming off a tremendous effort against Alabama, losing by one score. Now Cowbell must regroup for the early kick in Fayetteville with possible overlook to the Egg Bowl next week.

This pick isn’t just the “rally the troops, our coach is about to be fired and we can still get to six wins” angle. There are advanced stats that point to why Arkansas can take a nose dive for half a game and having amazing comebacks against Ole Miss and Coastal Carolina. The Hogs rank 10th in S&P+ and 26th in IsoPPP in passing downs. When the Razorbacks face defenses that have issues locking third and long away, Arkansas is capable of getting back into any game.

A deep dive into Mississippi State shows a Passing Downs IsoPPP defense of 128th in the nation. The Bulldogs have been terrible at not just allowing a team to get a first down on third and long, but allowing teams to have 20-plus yard plays. The last time we had this angle with Cowbell on overlook, UMass got us to the window. On your toes to the finish, Razorbacks, and as always, Wooo Pig Sooie!

The Pick: Arkansas +12.5


SMU +12.5 at Memphis

Date: Saturday, November 18, 12:00 pm ET

Notes: Mike Norvell has stated that it’s been tough getting his Memphis team into a rhythm with hurricanes cancelling games and weather affecting them early in the season. The Tigers come off a bye week only needing a win this week against SMU or next week with East Carolina to clinch a spot against Central Florida in the AAC Championship Game. One of the off-field questions surrounding Memphis involve Norvell’s potential distractions with all the job openings across the nation. Meanwhile, SMU comes into this game off a high-scoring comeback against Navy that fell just short.

I have this game at the current number of SMU +12.5, but S&P+ makes Memphis just a six-point favorite. Both SMU and Memphis are very high-powered in explosiveness and efficiency, but Memphis does a better job of preventing the big play, ranking 51st in defending passing explosiveness. Memphis should win, but I’ll take an SMU team that was a drop or two away from beating UCF.

The Pick: SMU +12.5


Michigan at Wisconsin -7

Date: Saturday, November 18, 12:00 pm ET

Notes: Wisconsin has locked up the Big Ten West, and an appearance in the conference championship game awaits in two weeks. Until then, there is plenty of propaganda floating to mask the fact that Bucky Badger has one of the easiest schedules in the nation.

There may be motivation on the Wisconsin front to prove to the nation they belong in the CFP. As for the numbers, I have this at -6.5 and S&P+ has this at -12. Michigan and Wisconsin play similar styles of football. The biggest difference between these teams in the advanced stats is Michigan’s rush defense allowing 20-plus yard gains. The Wolverines rank 109th in IsoPPP Rush Defense, making them a prime target for Jonathan Taylor to have another 100-yard game. The Wolverines’ own rushing attack may get shut down, however, which could play into the strength of Wisconsin’s defense (passing situations). Michigan ranks 109th in first downs and 105th in third down conversions, while the Wisconsin offense is No. 1 in third down conversions. It’s worth mentioning that Michigan also ranks dead last in sacks allowed in the Big Ten. This number continues to sink with heavy Michigan money. As of this writing, a few juiced 7’s exist, and we will take that and depend on some Badger explosiveness on the ground.

The Pick: Wisconsin -7 -115


Western Carolina +21 at UNC

Date: Saturday, November 18, 3:00 pm ET

Notes: The FCS makes an appearance in the CW9, as we side with Western Carolina in Week 12. The Catamounts take on North Carolina after suffering a loss to the Mercer Bears last week. Mercer gets Alabama, so if you wager on either of the FCS games, it’s always good to get a highlight reel in:

The stats are from the FCS level, but Western Carolina is known for their offense, ranking 19th in scoring with an average of 34.5 points per game. There is plenty to play for, as the Catamounts sit on the bubble with the FCS Playoff selection committee making their decisions this Sunday. WCU ranks 12th in rushing attack, and 2-8 North Carolina is subpar defending the run. The Tar Heels rank 99th in defensive rush success rate and 75th in defensive Rushing IsoPPP+. Western Carolina should have no issues moving the ball in a high motivation spot.

The Pick: Western Carolina +21


Georgia Tech at Duke +6.5

Date: Saturday, November 18, 3:30 pm ET

Notes: How about a Georgia Tech sandwich for Week 12? The Yellow Jackets will be a week removed from a small upset over Virginia Tech with Georgia looming in Week 13. Meanwhile, Duke is still trying to keep their season alive at 4-6, with no room for any losses. S&P+ makes this 4.5 in favor of the Jackets. We will key on Duke facing their second triple option team in consecutive weeks after losing to Army in Week 11. If you haven’t seen the greatest punt of 2017, enjoy…

The Blue Devils rank 17th in third down conversions allowed, which should limit the Paul Johnson ground attack. Duke will be able to get to the quarterback all day, ranking 19th in adjusted sack rate, while Georgia Tech’s offensive line is 128th in adjusted sack rate allowed. It’s Senior day at Duke, and if the Blue Devils can make it to the red zone they will score every time. (The Yellow Jackets are worst in the nation, giving up 25 scores in 26 opponent tries). If Duke can prevent the deep pass while keying on the option, the Blue Devils should stay alive for the postseason.

The Pick: Duke +6.5


Kansas St at Oklahoma St -19.5

Date: Saturday, November 18, 3:30 pm ET

Notes: Yet another CW9 taking the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Currently ranked 13th in the CFP, the Pokes have a distant chance of reaching the Big 12 Championship. With enough top-10 meltdowns, a TCU loss to Texas Tech and a win over the Sooners in Arlington, the Cowboys still have a glimmer of hope at getting back into the playoff picture.

Over in Manhattan, Kansas State has encountered plenty of hurdles in the 2017 season. Last week’s loss to West Virginia may have taken the wind out of the sails.

The latest off-field drama includes Bill Snyder pegging his son to be the next head coach at Kansas State over a previous agreement with Jim Leavitt. On the field, the Wildcats have struggled on both sides of the ball, ranking 94th Pass Defense S&P+ and 116th defensive success rate. Those are not numbers to bring to the table against Mason Rudolph. The Pokes crushed Kansas State in 2016 for 457 yards and five touchdowns, and there should be more of the same this weekend.

The Pick: Oklahoma State -19.5


Texas A&M at Ole Miss -2.5

Date: Saturday, November 18, 7:00 pm ET

Notes: The Aggies continue to play musical chairs with their quarterback, naming Nick Starkel the starter against Ole Miss. Don’t look now, but the Rebels are favored in an SEC game. S&P+ makes this game Ole Miss -6, while Texas A&M continues to struggle as an efficient offensive team. The Aggies are an abysmal 121st on standard downs in success rate. That plays into the Rebels’ hands; Ole Miss has a terrible defense. The Rebels covered this game in the past five matchups, and they look to continue their inspired play leading to the Egg Bowl in Week 13. Some are calling the Rebels’ replacement for Shea Patterson, Jordan Ta’amu, the next Marcus Mariota.

The biggest problem for Texas A&M is their ability to defend the pass; they rank 124th in defending passing downs. Ole Miss should expose this, as the Rebels rank third in Passing S&P+.

The Pick: Ole Miss -2.5


Marshall at UTSA PK

Date: Saturday, November 18, 7:00 pm ET

Notes: There’s plenty of motivation for UTSA, our beloved #meepmeep, in this spot against the Marshall Thundering Herd. The Roadrunners did have their first game of the season against Houston cancelled due to a hurricane, leaving UTSA 5-4 with two games to go. The postseason is still a victory away after UTSA ran into the buzz saw that is UAB last week.

What does Marshall have to play for? A quick check of the Conference USA East standings sees Florida Atlantic having the division all but wrapped up. Marshall does not have the tiebreaker over FAU or FIU, leaving the Herd out in the cold. There are plenty of stats to pile on for the UTSA side, but red zone efficiency is up there at the top. UTSA ranks fourth in red zone scoring defense, while Marshall is 109th in the nation in red zone scoring. We will lean on the RoadRunners, who rank sixth in the nation in total defense.

The Pick: UTSA PK


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