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College Football Betting Odds, Futures: Buy Arkansas & Cincinnati Before Week 3

College Football Betting Odds, Futures: Buy Arkansas & Cincinnati Before Week 3 article feature image
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Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Arkansas linebacker Bumper Pool (10) and the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Thanks to “Stun Belt” Saturday, a few contenders have been mortally wounded in the race for the College Football Playoff.

Texas A&M and Notre Dame’s respective losses have set the table for new blood to replace them in the national discussion.

But it wasn’t just the national picture that got turned on its head on Saturday. UCF laid a sizeable egg at home against Louisville on Friday night, while Houston fell to Texas Tech on the road in heartbreaking fashion. These two losses displayed the kind of weaknesses that made our Alex Hinton rethink his AAC pecking order.

So, where to begin when dissecting a brave new world in which Alabama may be mortal and one — perhaps two — playoff spots may suddenly be on the auctioning block?

Let’s start in Alabama’s backyard with the SEC West contender that may have its eyes on a very big prize.

Mike Calabrese


National Championship Picture

Arkansas to Win National Championship (+15000)

By Mike Calabrese

This play is predicated on two things:

  • The quality of Arkansas’ performances through two weeks (particularly on offense).
  • The perceived vulnerability of the Death Star in Tuscaloosa.

The fine folks over at FiveThirtyEight crunched the numbers on what early-season scares can mean to top programs. They defined those scenarios as games that were “decided by eight points or fewer in a team’s first three games of a season.” Utilizing ESPN’s stats department, they pulled data on all of the preseason AP top-five from 2005-21 and examined their overall efficiency on both sides of the ball.

The takeaway was simple: Teams that didn’t suffer a “close scare” finished the season with the following efficiency averages: 85.3 overall, 80.9 offensively, 77.7 defensively. The teams that did suffer a scare checked in at: 79.3 overall, 72.9 offensively, 75.3 defensively.

Does this mean the Tide are truly in trouble? Far from it — but they did demonstrate they’re far removed from the unbeatable juggernaut we saw during the COVID-19 season. So, who does that open the door for in the SEC? I believe it’s Arkansas.

The Hogs have looked tremendous offensively. They’re firmly entrenched as a top-10 rushing team and have seemingly replaced Treylon Burks’ production by relying on a deep receiving corps.

KJ Jefferson ranks 18th nationally in QBR, continues to protect the football and has provided a challenging rushing threat for opposing defensive coordinators to account for thus far.

While everything on paper appears to be above average, including Rocket Sanders’ dynamic contributions (157.5 all-purpose yards per game), it’s the offensive line play that has me convinced they can knock off a few ranked opponents in the coming weeks.

college football-week 1-odds-picks-best bets-arkansas razorbacks-saturday-afternoon-september 3-2022
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Bumper Pool #10 and the Arkansas Razorbacks football team.

The Hogs’ offensive line comes in as the fifth-best unit in the country, per PFF, and it’s held up its end of the bargain so far. Arkansas is averaging 256 yards per game on the ground (9th), and it’s done a nice job of protecting Jefferson, a quarterback so confident in breaking tackles that he sometimes holds onto the ball longer than he should.

The difference between a top-20 finish and a berth in the College Football Playoff is really defense, and in Arkansas’ case, defensive health.

The starting 11 that Arkansas trotted out in Week 1 is right on the cusp of being good enough for this to be a CFP team, but it’s currently banged up in the secondary. Losing Jalen Catalon is a major setback, but getting Myles Slusher back in the fold is a win for the U of A secondary.

This unit won’t be confused for a lockdown defense, but given Slusher’s return, I think it can approach mediocre. Mediocre can help it win a few high-scoring affairs, which is what it will take to finish the 2022 campaign with just one loss.

An underwhelming Texas A&M offense will host the Razorbacks before Saban and the Crimson Tide travel to Fayetteville in 2.5 weeks. I believe the Hogs can split those games.

If they do, this national title future may hinge on their performance in Provo, Utah. BYU will likely be ranked in the top 10, providing a rankings springboard should Arkansas upset them. The game within the game favors Arkansas, as BYU’s lone weakness this season has been stopping the run.

It will take a lot of injury luck and a down year across the SEC West, but I believe backing the second-best team in this division is worth the wager given these odds in mid-September.

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Conference Championship Picture

Cincinnati to Win AAC (+260)

By Alex Hinton

Entering this season, Houston, Cincinnati and UCF were the preseason favorites to take home the American Athletic Conference title. Cincinnati has won the AAC the last two years and made the conference championship game in three consecutive years.

Houston has had a difficult schedule to start, splitting road games at UTSA and Texas Tech. UCF has opened up at home, dominating South Carolina State in Week 1 before losing to Louisville last Friday night.

Cincinnati opened with a loss at Arkansas before a dominant road win at Kennesaw State last week.

With each having a loss, crashing the CFP is off the table for the conference this year. However the AAC is still wide open. I believe there’s value in going back to Cincinnati for a three-peat.

The Bearcats lost a ton from last year’s CFP team, most notably quarterback Desmond Ridder, running back Jerome Ford, wide receiver Alec Pierce, and defensive backs Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant.

I expected that Cincinnati would be a team that got better as the season progressed, so I was not alarmed when the Bearcats lost to Arkansas. I had a Razorbacks ticket that week, but the Bearcats still found a way to make things interesting and nearly pull off the upset despite the difference in experience and in the trenches.

Early returns from Cincinnati have been positive this season as it retools, particularly at quarterback.

Since returning to the program as a transfer, Ben Bryant is averaging 263 passing yards per game while completing 68.3% of his passes and has five touchdown passes against just one interception through the first two games. Bryant is directing an offense that is averaging 43.5 points per game and 481.5 yards per game thus far.

Cincinnati ranks 12th, per SP+ (18th offensively and 25th defensively), and enters this week as the highest-ranked team in the AAC.

Cincy doesn’t play Houston in the regular season, but it does play UCF on the road. The Bearcats have won three of the last four meetings against UCF, including its last trip to the Bounce House in 2020.

UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee is a dynamic runner, but he still leaves a lot to be desired as a passer. Last week, Plumlee averaged just 3.9 yards per attempt and was rendered ineffective through the air against Louisville’s exotic blitzes.

I expect a defensive-minded head coach like Luke Fickell will craft a game plan to shut Plumlee down.

Cincinnati is projected as a four-point favorite at UCF and will be favored in every game for the rest of the year with this UCF matchup and a road game at SMU figuring to be the toughest matchups.

If the Bearcats wins out, they will host the conference championship game. That home-field advantage could be beneficial in helping Cincinnati leave the AAC on a high note and capture its third consecutive conference title before heading to the Big 12.

Cincinnati sits third in conference odds at Caesars, but it’s the favorite at WynnBET at +210. You can get the Bearcats at a slight value here.


Conference Bet to Watch

Miami to Win ACC

By Alex Hinton

Last week, my colleague, Kody Malstrom, laid out the case for Miami to win the National Championship. In order to do that, Miami will first have to win the ACC.

This week, Miami will travel to College Station to battle Texas A&M. The Aggies are coming off a loss at home to Appalachian State. It may come as a surprise to some, but Miami knows all too well how dangerous App State can be, as the Mountaineers nearly upset the Canes last season.

Texas A&M remains a 5.5-point favorite this week. Its offense has underwhelmed thus far, but it has the speed to exploit Miami in the back seven, particularly with Devon Achane and Ainias Smith.

Miami sits at +450 to win the ACC on both FanDuel and Caesars. Even if Miami loses at A&M this week, a loss would have no bearing on its standing in the conference. However, a slightly better number could be available next week depending on how the Canes look this week.

Regardless of this week’s outcome, Miami will be a threat to win the ACC. The Hurricanes own the second-lowest odds to win the ACC and play in the Coastal Division, which is generally the more favorable of the two.

North Carolina and Pitt are likely Miami’s biggest competitors in the Coastal, and Miami hosts both this season.

Drake Maye looks like UNC’s next star quarterback, but its defense will make it vulnerable on a weekly basis. The Tar Heels beat Miami, 45-42, last season, and this year’s matchup could be another high-scoring showdown.

Miami hosts Pitt the last week of the season following a trip to Clemson. Despite returning five starters on the offensive line, Pitt has struggled up front this year, as quarterback Kedon Slovis left last week’s game against Tennessee with an injury. His status is in question moving forward.

Speaking of Clemson, it’s still the ACC favorite at -120. I was not sold on Clemson entering this season, and it has not been overly impressive through its first two games.

The Tigers host the Canes on Nov. 19, and given the timing, it may have to beat Miami twice in three weeks. It’s difficult to beat a good team twice in a short span. On a neutral field, I like Miami’s chances to knock off Clemson.

I will have an eye on the Canes moving forward.

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