College Football Pace Report: How to Bet Week 0 Over/Unders, Including Nebraska vs. Northwestern & Wyoming vs. Illinois

College Football Pace Report: How to Bet Week 0 Over/Unders, Including Nebraska vs. Northwestern & Wyoming vs. Illinois article feature image

Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: The Illinois Fighting Illini football team.

  • Week 0 is upon us, and we see betting value on two over/unders.
  • Both bets feature Big Ten teams, as Nebraska faces Northwestern and Illinois hosts Wyoming.
  • Check out both of BJ Cunningham's over/under bets for Saturday below.

A new college football season is upon us, as Week 0 kicks off on Saturday.

With head coach and coordinator changes, the transfer portal and new quarterbacks in new systems, we can't really rely on each team's pace numbers from last season. Instead, we have to take it on a case-by-case basis. So, until Week 4, plays per minute and plays per game numbers will not be provided.

If you're new to this piece, we'll take an in-depth look at the totals market using yards per play, Success Rate, Finishing Drives, plays per minute and more.

Using those metrics, along with a look at the weather and key injuries, the goal is to hopefully help bettors beat the market before Friday and Saturday morning.

Let's kick things off with a couple of overs for Week 0.

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Nebraska vs. Northwestern

Saturday, Aug. 27
12:30 p.m. ET
Nebraska Odds
-110o / -110u
Northwestern Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

The Power Five season kicks off with a Big Ten West clash from Dublin, Ireland.

A lot of changes have taken place at Nebraska this season. Former Texas quarterback Casey Thompson is now under center for the Huskers, with longtime turnover-prone starter Adrian Martinez moving on to Kansas State.

Mark Whipple now serves as the offensive coordinator after turning Kenny Pickett into a first-round draft pick at Pitt last season.

In terms of pace, Nebraska came in at 2.40 plays per minute last season, which ranked in the top 40 in terms of pace. At Pitt, Whipple played even faster at 2.48 plays per minute. Add in the fact that Thompson is coming over from Steve Sarkisian's offense at Texas that was also top-50 in plays per minute, and it's clear Nebraska's offense is going to be fast.

Last season proved to be an absolute roller coaster for Thompson:

Image via PFF

However, what the chart above does show is how good he was against below-average defenses. That's exactly what he will be facing in Week 0 because Northwestern's defense was awful last season, ranking outside the top 100 in both Passing and Rushing Success Rate.

The Wildcats allowed 6.3 yards per play a season ago to rank 111th in college football. What's even worse is the Wildcats have only five returning starters on defense. Their TARP rating sits at 0. Top tackler Chris Bergin, who had 141 tackles and 52 more than anyone else on the defense, is gone.

Northwestern's offense should improve from last season because this is the first time in four years it doesn't bring in a new starting quarterback.

However, Ryan Hilinski is a limited passer. He ranked 59th in the Power Five last season in explosive passing, but the Wildcats get four starters back on the offensive line and bring in Colorado State transfer Vincent Picozzi, which means there are 110 career starts across this offensive line.

Northwestern did not utilize a slow, methodical offense last season. It actually had the same tempo as Nebraska at 2.40 plays per minute, which ranked top-40 in the country.

So, I expect the pace of this game to be faster than most are expecting.

Nebraska also ranked outside the top 70 in both Defensive Rushing and Passing Success Rate Allowed. The Blackshirts also return only five starts from last season.

This game took place in Lincoln last season, and Nebraska was a -11 favorite with a total of 51.5. Nebraska won that game, 56-7, while putting up 657 yards of offense.

I have 61.5 points projected for this game, so I think there's a lot of value on over 49.5 points — especially with the rest of the market at 50.5. Also, winds are only supposed to be at around seven MPH, so they should not be a factor.

Pick: Over 49.5 (Play to 55.5)

Wyoming vs. Illinois

Saturday, Aug. 27
4 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
Wyoming Odds
-110o / -110u
Illinois Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

The first thing you think when you see this game is "under." But in the legendary words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend." I think this total is a tad low.

These two teams did not play at the pace of one of the service academies or Wisconsin last season. Wyoming ranked 99th in in plays per minute, and Illinois came in at 79th. It's still not fast, but it's not the snail's pace this total reflects.

Illinois has a new quarterback in Syracuse transfer Tommy DeVito, who will probably benefit from a more traditional offense that leans heavily on the rushing attack.

The Illini finished in the top half of college football in Rushing Success Rate and ranked top-25 in Offensive Line Yards, which is big against a Cowboys team that ended outside the top 100 in Defensive Line Yards.

Illinois also returns its top three running backs this season, led by Chase Brown, who averaged 5.9 yards per carry in 2021.

For Canadian football fans that actually enjoy touchdowns, may we present Chase Brown.

The Illinois RB from London, Ont. had 26 carries for 257 yards and 2 touchdowns, including this 80-yarder, against Charlotte today. #CanCon

— 3DownNation (@3DownNation) October 2, 2021

Meanwhile, Wyoming's defense will take a massive hit from last season.

Four starters in the secondary and both starting linebackers — including second-team All-American Chad Muma — are all gone.

The defensive line returns three starters and adds a couple of nice transfers, including Keelan Cox from Alabama. But the reality is the back end is very weak, which is something Illinois will take advantage of on Saturday with a competent quarterback in DeVito.

Wyoming is a rush-heavy attack, as it ran the ball 63.1% of the time last year. It was really successful in doing so, gaining 5.2 yards per carry, which was the 16th-best mark in FBS.

Starting running back Xazavian Valladay has moved on, so that means Titus Swen will take over the lead-back role.

That's actually a net positive for Wyoming because he recorded 5.9 yards per carry on 132 carries, which bested Valladay's mark of 5.1. His PFF run grade of 86.3 was also third-best in the Mountain West.

98 YARDS‼️@Titus_F_Swen with the second-longest rush in MW history and he puts @wyo_football up 41-17!#AtThePeak | #MWFB |

— Mountain West (@MountainWest) November 21, 2021

I have this total projected at 53.8 with a projection of both rushing attacks gaining over 220 yards on the ground. I love the value on over 43.5 points, especially with the rest of the market sitting at 44 and 44.5.

Pick: Over 43.5 (Play to 48.5)

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