College Football Betting Pace Report: 5 Totals to Watch for Bowl Season
Brian Bahr/Getty Images. Pictured: Jarrick Bernard-Converse.
The college football regular season is over, and it’s now time for bowl season.
With the coaching carousel, transfer portal, and opt-outs changing by the day, it makes it difficult for us bettors to keep track of it all and find value on the board. The good news is one of our most talented writers, Stuckey, has you covered with up-to-the-minute information regarding anything and everything affecting each team come bowl season, which you can read about here.
Finding value in the totals market is a bit of a catch 22. You first have to be prepared for potential opt-outs and changing weather forecasts. So, there may be instances where a cashout or buying out of a certain position makes sense.
With that being said there is still value in some totals on the board right now from the Cure Bowl to the College Football Playoff semifinals.
If you’re new to this piece, we take an in-depth look at the totals market using yards per play, Success Rate, 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 during bowl season.
Before we dive in, let’s take a look at where each team sits in terms of plays per minute and plays per game after the regular season for all of the bowl-eligible teams.
Now, for one final time, let’s dive into the totals for bowl season.
Northern Illinois vs. Coastal Carolina
|Northern Illinois Odds||+10.5|
|Coastal Carolina Odds||-10.5|
|Moneyline||+320 / -425|
|Time||Friday, Dec. 17 | 6 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.|
Coastal Carolina may play at one of the slowest paces in the country, but it boasts one of the most efficient offenses in college football. The Chanticleers finished the regular season as the No. 2 offense in college football in terms of EPA/Play and Success Rate.
A lot of that had to do with quarterback Grayson McCall, who ended up with the best PFF passing grade in college football this season at 93.0. He did only attempt 257 passes, but having an adjusted completion percentage of 79.7% and averaging 12.0 yards per attempt is incredibly efficient.
The entire country just saw this throw and catch from Grayson McCall to Jaivon Heiligh.
My goodness. pic.twitter.com/QbazdZksyS
— Scott Watkins (@scottwatkinsTU) October 20, 2021
Even though Coastal runs the ball on 61.03% of its offensive plays, McCall should be able to light up a Northern Illinois secondary that is 99th in Passing Success Rate Allowed, 81st in passing explosiveness allowed, and 114th in terms of a coverage grade, per PFF.
Coastal Carolina’s spread triple option should be able to run the ball with absolute ease of Friday night because Northern Illinois was one of the worst rushing defenses in the MAC this year.
Coastal averaged 5.5 yards per carry and was top-15 in EPA/Rush, Rushing Success Rate, rushing explosiveness, and Offensive Line Yards.
Northern Illinois, meanwhile, is one of the five worst teams in college football in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and Defensive Line Yards. So, the Chanticleers can basically choose how many points they want to put on the board.
One of the most surprising things to happen in college football this season was Northern Illinois winning the MAC, despite being 250-1 on Aug. 25th.
Rocky Lombardi had an efficient season under center, throwing for 7.8 yards per attempt and had the Huskies ranking 53rd in Passing Success Rate. He wasn’t asked to throw much in the MAC Championship game because the Northern Illinois rushing attack has been really good this season.
The Huskies averaged 5.0 yards per carry behind star running back and MAC Freshman of the Year Jay Ducker, who ran for over 100 yards in six of the final seven games of the season.
It helped that he had an outstanding offensive line that ranked No. 1 in the country in Stuff Rate Allowed and 19th in Offensive Line Yards.
Power sweep from NIU. It’s a beauty.
Freshman Jay Ducker @ RB will be a good one for NIU pic.twitter.com/twIN76aUZZ
— Last of the Fullbacks (@TheLastFullback) November 11, 2021
Coastal Carolina played the easiest schedule in all of college football and still could only rank 51st Rushing Success Rate Allowed, 58th in EPA/Rush allowed, and 89th in rushing explosiveness allowed.
So, Northern Illinois should be able to run the ball with ease on Friday.
The big thing to watch for is Tyrice Richie, who missed the final four games of the season but still had the second-most catches for Northern Illinois at 44 with 540 yards receiving.
At the time of writing this, he is questionable to play on Friday.
The forecast for Orlando, Florida, on Friday night is supposed to be beautiful and should not affect the game at all.
Even though these two teams play at a relatively slow pace, they both have fantastic matchups against very poor defenses that played very easy schedules this season.
I have 73.3 points projected for this game, so I’ll back the over at 62.5 points and would play it up to 65.5.
Pick: Over 62.5 (play to 65.5)
Kent State vs. Wyoming
|Kent State Odds||+3 (-105)|
|Wyoming Odds||-3 (-115)|
|Moneyline||+126 / -154|
|Time||Tuesday, Dec. 21 | 3:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.|
Naturally, the most northern bowl game of the season pits two cold-weather teams against each other.
Kent State may have lost the MAC Championship and put up a dud of a performance offensively, but its offense was still incredibly efficient this season. The Golden Flashes averaged 6.0 yards per play and ranked fifth in the country in Success Rate.
The main reason why Kent State was so efficient was because of its ground game behind Marquez Cooper, who ran for over 1,000 yards this season and averaged 5.0 yards per rush.
— Kent State Football (@KentStFootball) November 4, 2021
That allowed Kent State to rank fourth in Rushing Success Rate and sixth in Offensive Line Yards.
That’s huge in this matchup because Wyoming’s rush defense has been terrible this season, allowing 4.5 yards per carry. The Cowboys also ranked outside the top 70 in EPA/Rush allowed, Defensive Line Yards and Stuff Rate.
Special teams were also a problem for the Cowboys this season, as they ranked 125th, per SP+, and had the worst average starting position on defense of anybody in college football.
Dustin Crum was somewhat efficient this season, averaging 8.2 yards per attempt and putting up an 81.3 PFF passing grade with 26 big-time throws and only nine turnover-worthy plays.
The Wyoming pass defense was one of the best in the Mountain West this season, ranking 10th in terms of a coverage grade, per PFF.
However, it allowed Chevan Cordeiro and the Hawaii passing attack to throw for 323 yards on 31 attempts in the final game of the season in Laramie and will be without starting nickel back Keyon Blankenbaker, who is in the transfer portal.
Wyoming has a very rush-heavy offense, as it carried the rock 61.6% of the time this season. It was very successful in doing so, as the Cowboys averaged 4.9 yards per carry and ranked 35th in EPA/Rush.
It should have no trouble running the ball against Kent State’s embarrassment of a rush defense, which ranked outside the top 100 in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, rushing explosiveness allowed, and Offensive Line Yards.
HE IS GONE 💥
9️⃣8️⃣ YARDS FOR 6️⃣ pic.twitter.com/qyFEf5SnuD
— Wyoming Cowboy Football (@wyo_football) November 21, 2021
Wyoming quarterback Sean Chambers wasn’t effective in throwing the ball at all when he was on the field this season this season, averaging 6.4 yards per attempt on only 177 pass attempts.
The Kent State secondary was horrendous this season, ranking 117th in Passing Success Rate Allowed, 114th in EPA/Pass allowed, and 87th in terms of a coverage grade, per PFF.
As previously mentioned, starting nickel back Keyon Blankenbaker has entered the transfer portal for Wyoming. However, he is the only player of importance who will miss this game from either side.
It’s actually going to be a pretty nice day for late December in Boise at 35 degrees and very light winds. Since both of these teams are used to the cold, the weather should not be a factor in this game.
With the weather not being a factor and given the great matchup for both rush offenses — combined with Kent State playing one of the fastest tempos in the country (third in plays per minute) — I am expecting a higher-scoring game.
I have 65.2 points projected for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, so based on that, there is a little value on over 59 points or better.
Pick: Over 59 or better
Purdue vs. Tennessee
|Moneyline||+150 / -185|
|Time||Thursday, Dec. 30 | 3 p.m. ET|
|Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.|
If the weather is good, this is going to be a lightning fast-paced game with great matchups for both offenses.
Purdue is one of the most pass-heavy offenses in the country, throwing the ball 61.2% of the time. One of the main reasons for that is it couldn’t run the ball to save its life this season, ranking in the bottom five in pretty much every metric, so Jeff Brohm essentially abandoned the run and started throwing the ball 50+ times a game with Aiden O’Connell.
O’Connell has been really solid this season with that type of high volume, averaging 8.1 yards per attempt and putting up a 90.5 PFF passing grade with a whopping 30 big-time throws compared to only 13 turnover-worthy plays.
— Collin Wilson (@_Collin1) November 13, 2021
He will be without star wide receiver David Bell, who has declared for the NFL Draft, but he shouldn’t have much trouble throwing against a Tennessee secondary that allowed 7.1 yards per pass attempt, ranked 62nd in Passing Success Rate Allowed, and 67th in coverage, per PFF.
Josh Heupel completely changed the Tennessee offense this season, as the Volunteers played at an extremely fast pace of 2.94 plays per minute, which led college football.
The Tennessee offense was rush-heavy, keeping the ball on the ground for 57.8% of its plays. And how could you blame it when it carried the ball for 5.0 yards per carry and ranked sixth in Rushing Success Rate?
The Vols should be able to establish a ground game against a Purdue rush defense that ranked 37th in Rushing Success Rate allowed and will be without its best defensive lineman in George Karlaftis.
Hendon Hooker was a very efficient passer for Tennessee this season, averaging 9.8 yards per attempt with a PFF passing grade over 90 on throws 10+ yards in the air, which is huge against a Purdue secondary that ranked 105th in passing explosiveness allowed this season.
3rd TD strike of the afternoon for Hooker.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) October 2, 2021
For Purdue, star wide receiver Bell and pass rusher Karlaftis have both declared for NFL Draft and won’t play in the Music City Bowl.
For Tennessee, runningback Tiyon Evans has hit the transfer portal, but he didn’t play in the final three games of the season.
At the time of writing this, the weather in Nashville looks pretty good for Dec. 30, but make sure to double-check the weather the week of the game for a potential buy-out if rain/heavy winds are in the forecast.
With great matchups for both offenses, combined with Tennessee pushing this game at a fast pace, this game should be one of the more high-scoring bowl games, granted a solid weather forecast.
I have 71.4 points projected for this game, so I love over 63 points and would play it up to 64.
Pick: Over 63 (Play to 64)
Georgia vs. Michigan
|Moneyline||-335 / +260|
|Over/Under||44.5 (-115 / -105)|
|Time||Friday, Dec. 31 | 7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.|
Two of the best defenses in college football square off for a chance to play for a national title in the Orange Bowl.
Georgia put up great numbers defensively against a very average group of quarterbacks. I went back and looked at the best quarterback Georgia faced this season by PFF passing grade standards, and it was Arkansas’ KJ Jefferson, who put up an 82.0 passing grade this season.
Well, Alabama Heisman winner Bryce Young has the second-best passing grade in the country, so it’s not crazy surprising that he went off against the Bulldogs.
With that being said, Cade McNamara is nowhere near the level of Young. In fact, he’s been pretty average this season. McNamara has a 77.9 passing grade and is averaging 7.9 yards per attempt, which are nowhere near elite.
Georgia is the No. 1 defense in college football in Success Rate Allowed and EPA/Play allowed.
Top-5 defenses in College Football (EPA per play allowed)
3. Oklahoma State
5. Cincinnati pic.twitter.com/0wbH7yR3ev
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) December 11, 2021
Its front seven will be able to shut down Michigan’s running back tandem of Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins, as the Bulldogs allowed only 2.7 yards per carry on the season and are graded as the best run defense, per PFF.
Stetson Bennett put up a dud of a performance in the SEC Championship game, averaging only 7.1 yards per attempt and throwing two interceptions.
The biggest question mark now with Georgia is whether or not it can win the title if Bennett has to throw over 25 passes? The game against Alabama was only the second time this season he was forced to attempt more than 25 passes, so for Georgia to win, it has to rely on its ground game.
The Bulldogs are 14th in Rushing Success Rate, but they haven’t been explosive whatsoever, ranking 106th in rushing explosiveness.
Michigan has a fantastic rush defense that allowed only 3.5 yards per carry and ranks 18th Defensive Line Yards.
Michigan also has the potential No. 1 overall pick in Aidan Hutchinson, who fuels the second-best pass rush in college football, per PFF.
Bennett’s PFF passing grade goes from 89.4 with a clean pocket to 37.5 when he is under pressure. So, it’s going to be difficult for Georgia to move the ball if Hutchinson and Co. put pressure on Bennett.
Aidan Hutchinson is a freak 🤧 pic.twitter.com/ZCxEkjec9I
— Footballism™ (@FootbaIIism) December 11, 2021
There are no opt-outs or injuries to be concerned about.
It’s supposed to be a beautiful evening on New Year’s Eve in Miami Gardens, so the weather should not be a factor.
With these two defenses going up against offenses that play at a very slow pace (Michigan 58th and Georgia 73rd in plays per minute among bowl teams), I think this one is going to be a defensive slugfest.
I only have 38.8 points projected for this one, so I’ll back under 44.5 points.
Pick: Under 44.5
Oklahoma State vs. Notre Dame
|Oklahoma State Odds||+2|
|Notre Dame Odds||-2|
|Moneyline||+115 / -135|
|Time||Saturday, Jan. 1 | 1 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.|
The Cowboys and Fighting Irish meet in Glendale, Arizona, with both programs heading into an offseason of transition.
Brian Kelly has already left for LSU, and defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman has been named head coach at Notre Dame.
— Marcus Freeman (@Marcus_Freeman1) December 7, 2021
On the flip side, longtime Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles is taking the Ohio State defensive coordinator job, but he will coach the bowl game, as he doesn’t start with the Buckeyes until Jan. 2.
The loss of Kelly isn’t that big of a deal for one bowl game, given Tommy Rees called plays on offense this season and Marcus Freeman called the defensive plays.
I don’t know how the Fighting Irish are going to run the ball against Oklahoma State’s run defense, which is top-five in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, Stuff Rate, and Defensive Line Yards.
Even with Kyren Williams, Notre Dame’s rushing attack sat outside the top 80 in all of those categories. Williams has already said that he is skipping the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft, which means the game is likely going to be in quarterback Jack Coan’s hands.
Coan has been solid, averaging 8.3 yards per attempt and has an 82.3 PFF passing grade, but those are nowhere near elite numbers, and he’ll be facing an Oklahoma State secondary that is 12th in Passing Success Rate Allowed and ninth in passing explosiveness allowed
On the flip side, Oklahoma State looked lost without starting running back Jaylen Warren in the Big 12 title game. The good news is Warren has been practicing and is trending toward playing in the Fiesta Bowl.
However, Oklahoma State hasn’t been a great rushing offense, averaging only 4.1 yards per carry and sitting outside the top 80 in Rushing Success Rate, Offensive Line Yards, and Stuff Rate Allowed.
So, that means the Cowboys have to put the ball in Spencer Sanders’ hands again, which is not a recipe for success as we saw in the Big 12 Championship game.
Sanders did have a 78.9 PFF passing grade this season but only recorded 17 big-time throws compared to 14 turnover-worthy plays, which is not good news going up against a Notre Dame secondary that had the fifth-best coverage grade this season, per PFF.
For Notre Dame, safety Kyle Hamilton and running back Williams have both declared for the NFL Draft and will not play in the Fiesta Bowl.
Warren is practicing as of Dec. 13 and looks on track to play in the bowl game. Oklahoma State starting center Danny Godlevske is currently questionable, but he also looks to be on track to start practicing by the week of the game.
The weather should not be a factor in Glendale on New Year’s Day.
With no Williams and the Oklahoma State defense staying intact for the bowl game, I am not sure how the Fighting Irish are going to move the ball on one of the best defenses in college football.
On the flip side, Oklahoma State’s offense hasn’t shown much ability to efficiently move the ball, and it won’t get any easier against a top-25 defense.
I only have 39.7 points projected for this game, so I think there’s some value on under 45.5 points or better.
Pick: Under 45.5 or better