5 College Football Week 11 Mismatches Bettors Can Exploit: Big Ten and SEC Edition
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Mississippi Rebels quarterback Jordan Ta’amu
- We continue to get more robust data to determine specific strengths and weaknesses of each college football team.
- We'll examine some of the biggest mismatches of Week 11 that bettors can take advantage of.
- This week, we've got five matchups that all include Big Ten or SEC teams.
As we head into Week 11 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 glaring unit mismatches each week.
Power ratings should serve as your handicapping starting point, but situational angles and matchup analyses should then help refine your final wagers.
Each week, I highlight five noteworthy unit mismatches for Saturday’s slate, 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 Saturday’s card, I narrowed my list to five that all happen to be in either the Big Ten or SEC. Let’s get to it.
Ole Miss vs. Texas A&M
- Texas A&M -13
- O/U: 67
- Noon ET, CBS
Texas A&M does a few things well, but defending the pass is not one of those things. The Aggies allow 8.5 yards per attempt, which ranks 115th nationally. That spells disaster against an explosive Ole Miss passing attack that averages 9.7 yards per completion (fifth-best in the country).
The Passing S&P advanced metric paints the same picture, as the 95th-ranked Texas A&M defense will face the 13th-ranked Mississippi offense.
The Aggie defense also ranks 130th out of 130th in IsoPPP+ (a measure of explosiveness). Expect plenty of big plays from quarterback Jordan Ta’amu and junior wide receivers A.J. Brown and DaMarkus Lodge; the Rebel offense ranks 11th overall in IsoPPP+.
Florida vs. South Carolina
- Florida -5.5 vs. South Carolina
- O/U: 54
- Noon ET, ESPN
South Carolina’s defense is an interesting study. When adjusted for opponent, the Gamecocks have a respectable yards per play allowed. However, if you dig a little deeper, you will notice they struggle to defend the run (4.2 yards per rush allowed; 72nd nationally) and short passing game, while excel at limiting big plays.
Just take a look at the underlying advanced metrics: South Carolina’s defense ranks 18th overall in defending Marginal Explosiveness, but 115th in overall Marginal Efficiency (and 119th vs. the run).
That formula can have some success in certain matchups, but not against a Florida offense that simply doesn’t rely on explosive plays. If you look at the Gators’ advanced metrics offensive profile, they rank 29th in Marginal Efficiency and 106th in Marginal Efficiency (19th in rushing).
I anticipate that Florida will have no issues methodically moving the ball down the field with its trio of backs that average 4.9 yards per carry (36th) — in addition to a short passing attack from quarterback Feleipe Franks or whomever head coach Dan Mullen decides to start.
Michigan vs. Rutgers
- Michigan -39 at Rutgers
- O/U: 62
- 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
The most obvious mismatch of the week given the point spread, but I couldn’t leave out the absolute stunning mismatch of the Michigan defense and Rutgers offense.
For my money, the Wolverines have the best defensive unit in all of college football. They really have no weak points. Just take a look at the following year-to-date statistics:
- 2.8 yards per rush allowed (No. 5 in country)
- 5.0 yards per pass allowed (No. 1 in country)
- 3.7 yards per play overall (No. 1 in country)
- .277 third down conversion (No. 7 in country)
Michigan also ranks in the top 10 in sacks and first downs allowed. Its 216.2 yards allowed per game not only leads the nation, but it’s almost 50 yards better than the next best defense (Miami — 264.7 yards per game).
As you’d expect, the advanced S&P+ metrics paint the same picture. The Michigan defense ranks No. 1 in overall defense, against the pass and in Adjusted Sack Rate — and No. 4 against the run.
I could go on, but you get the point.
That elite defense will take on a Rutgers’ offense that averages a measly 4.2 yards per play (128th nationally) — and per S&P+, ranks 128th overall. The Scarlet Knights also have the worst S&P+ Passing Offense in the nation (only UTSA averages fewer yards per attempt).
Rutgers also ranks dead last in points per game at 15.3. DEAD LAST.
The last time Michigan traveled to Piscataway, it came away with a 78-0 victory. Will it be that bad? I doubt it, but I can’t figure out how Rutgers will score.
Iowa vs. Northwestern
- Iowa -10.5 vs. Northwestern
- O/U: 44
- 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX
You knew I had to get one special teams mismatch in here — and this one is glaring.
Northwestern’s field goal kicking has been dreadful all season, as the Wildcats have only connected on six of 11 attempts. 36.1 net yards per punt. They’ve also been inefficient on kickoffs, kick returns and in the punting game. The best I can say about Northwestern’s special teams is it has returned punts at a satisfactory level.
Meanwhile, Iowa has a very reliable senior kicker in senior Miguel Recinos, and the Hawkeyes have returned kicks at a top-10 level in 2018. The advanced metrics back me up here. Per S&P+, Iowa’s special teams rank 30th overall, while Northwestern’s rank 125th.
In a matchup of two extremely stingy defenses, special teams could make all the difference.
Purdue vs. Minnesota
- Purdue -12.5 at Minnesota
- O/U: 58
- 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Ever since Antoine Winfield Jr. went down with an injury, the Minnesota defense has been absolutely dreadful. The biggest culprit? Explosive plays.
Minnesota has allowed an absurd number of huge plays in conference play, where it now sits at 1-5. In fact, in those six games, the Gophers have given up 31 touchdowns at an average of 34.7 yards per play. I’m not sure how that’s even possible!
After the Gophers gave up 55 points to Illinois in their most recent loss — a game that the Illini scored touchdowns of 77, 72, 72, 67 and 30 — Big Ten opponents now average 43 points and over 500 yards per game against them.
The advanced metrics highlight this glaring problem, as Minnesota ranks 114th in IsoPPP+ (measure of explosiveness, per S&P) and an even worse 129th in that same category against the run. On paper, Purdue’s big-play offense should feast, ranking No. 7 overall in IsoPPP+ — and its rushing attack ranks No. 6.
I will note that Minnesota did relieve defensive coordinator Robb Smith of his duties this week, so maybe a new message and scheme simplification can lead to better results for a 4-5 team fighting for a bowl bid after a 3-0 start.