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. Due to the smaller Championship Weekend card, the CW9 will only contain four plays this week.
Georgia Southern at Coastal Carolina +3
Date: Saturday, Dec. 2, 1:00 p.m. ET
Notes: We start off the abbreviated CW9 with a pair of 2-9 teams at the bottom of our favorite conference, the Sun Belt. This game may be overlooked by many, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value. Coastal Carolina comes off a bye week, while Georgia Southern is on the second leg of a back-to-back road trip to end the season. After dropping their first nine, the Golden Eagles have caught fire the past two games, with a 52-0 dominating win over South Alabama and a 10-point victory against Louisiana Lafayette, both as underdogs. After the firing of Tyson Summers, Georgia Southern produced for interim head coach Chad Lunsford. The administration has now taken the interim tag off Lunsford’s title, giving him the permanent position.
Get to know your new head coach a little better. Here’s a look at some of the roles @chadlunsford has held at GS in his 9 seasons in Statesboro! If you’re excited about his new role as much as we are, mark Jan. 1, 2018 on your calendar as that’s when season ticket renewals begin! pic.twitter.com/ls5GHuPjjN
— Georgia Southern Football (@GSAthletics_FB) November 29, 2017
All of this good news on the Southern front gives us value on Coastal Carolina as a home dog. My numbers make this Coastal -2.5, while S&P+ have the Chants at -5. Coastal Carolina has a carousel of quarterbacks on the injury report, with Tyler Keane, Dalton Demos and Chance Thrasher all listed out for the game. Kilton Anderson now leads a Coastal team that outranks Georgia Southern in explosiveness. Coastal is 38th in passing IsoPPP, while Georgia Southern is 120th in defending pass explosiveness. The big question for this game is, “Can Coastal stop the Eagles’ ground attack?” The Chants’ defense is decent against the rush, ranking 64th in opportunity rate and 60th in stuff rate. Don’t forget that Coastal has played many teams close; they’ve lost five of the seven games they’ve led or been within one possession in the fourth quarter, including closes road losses against Arkansas and App State.
The Pick: Coastal Carolina +3
Georgia +2.5 vs. Auburn
Date: Saturday, Dec. 2, 4:00 p.m. ET
Notes: After the blowout by Auburn in Jordan-Hare earlier in November, one might think that Georgia wouldn’t have a prayer in this game. Make no mistake, War Eagle is the hottest team in the country. This will be Auburn’s third high-profile game of their last four, and their first game away from home field since November 4th at Texas A&M. There certainly seems to be value on the Georgia line, as Auburn moved from a three-point dog at home on November 11th to a 2.5-point favorite at a neutral site (in Georgia) in the span of three weeks. That is a major adjustment in a short time frame for the number.
Star Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson is currently listed as probable, but he’s been reported as day-to-day and a game-time decision. Johnson is one of the few non-quarterback players that can effect the point spread. His health aside, the Auburn blowout of Georgia fresh on the betting public’s mind may provide enough steam to get this number to 3 before kick, so you may want to wait for a better Georgia number. The Georgia offensive game plan should be different in the SEC Championship game, as Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined for only 20 carries in the first meeting. Jacob Fromm was rattled as Georgia consistently found itself in third-and-long situations. Look for Georgia to rely more on the advanced stats that got them the SEC East title. The Bulldogs rank ninth in rushing S&P+ and sixth in explosiveness. More carries for Sony Michel and Nick Chubb will keep Jacob Fromm out of third-and-long, while the Bulldogs’ defense can stay fresh enough to take advantage of an Auburn offensive line that ranks 90th in adjusted sack rate.
Auburn’s defense does rank No. 1 in passing S&P+, and if Georgia wants to win, they must limit the passing situations for Fromm. Keep an eye on special teams as well, as Auburn ranks 130th in opponent kickoff return yards per attempt, and Georgia ranks 15th in the nation in kickoff return yards per attempt. No matter what side you choose in the SEC Championship Game, we at least can all agree that student-swallowing hedges are the best.
**The Pick: Georgia +2.5*
Fresno State at Boise State -8.5
Date: Saturday, Dec. 2, 7:45 p.m. ET
Notes: We can throw last week’s game out of the window, as both teams were already circled for this week’s Mountain West Conference Championship. Only the site of the game was to be determined, and Fresno State head coach Jeff Tedford was not happy with that decision. Even with a Bulldog victory and Fresno State’s ranking in the CFP top 25, Boise State will host this game. In general, the game last week was close, with Fresno pulling away thanks to an additional twelve points in the fourth quarter. There were no turnovers, and both teams went over 400 yards in the box score. These players will know each other very well on the blue turf.
Both teams will limit explosiveness, as the Broncos and Bulldogs both rank in the top 25 in limiting explosive plays. Specifically, Boise State is 9th defending rush explosiveness, while Fresno State ranks 129th in offensive rush explosiveness. The Broncos’ defense should be the difference in a home game with plenty of motivation after failing to even reach the MWC Championship the previous two seasons. The final stat we use to back Boise State is third down conversions. The Broncos are 9th in the nation at converting third downs, while the Bulldogs are 92nd. If you are an Alabama fan, you are certainly rooting for Fresno to add to the Tide resume, but I expect Boise to get the win and cover on the “Smurf Turf”.
The Pick: Boise -8.5
Wisconsin v Ohio State -6
Date: Saturday, Dec. 2, 8:00 p.m. ET
Notes: Let the Alabama and Ohio State debate for the final playoff spot begin directly after this game. Although the Buckeyes were listed in Sunday Morning Coffee just shy of the current -6, this game will simply come down to which Buckeyes team shows up. The team that played in Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium will lose to Wisconsin, while the Ohio State that played Michigan State could put a 50 spot on the Badgers.
There may be value in this line, as Wisconsin’s toughest opponents all year (per Football Outsiders) are S&P ranked Florida Atlantic (15th) and Michigan (22nd). The Badgers struggled in several categories against Michigan; quarterback Alex Hornibrook completed only 9-of-19 passes for 143 yards, and the Badgers notched only 325 yards of total offense. (Forcing a key turnover and a punt returned for a touchdown were key factors in the Badgers’ cover.) Wisconsin can be beat in a few areas according to the advanced stats. The Badgers’ defense ranks 61st in 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), and their offensive line ranks 80th in adjusted sack rate. Those stats don’t bode well against an Ohio State rushing attack ranked 14th in power success rate and a defense ranked 26th in adjusted sack rate. I don’t think it ultimately matters if it is J.T. Barrett and/or Dwayne Haskins under center, as Ohio State should win this game in the trenches. Speaking of the Buckeyes’ future, there can never be enough Haskins highlights.
The Pick: Ohio State -6