Miller: Can You Trust Louisiana Tech to Hang with Texas?
Steven Erler-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: J’Mar Smith
- Kyle Miller covers betting angles for four under-the-radar college football games, including Akron at Illinois (noon ET), Ole Miss at Memphis (noon ET), Eastern Michigan at Coastal Carolina (3:30 p.m. ET) and Louisiana Tech at Texas (8 p.m. ET)
While the world awaits Oregon-Auburn or Alabama-Duke, don’t forget that there’s plenty of value to be had in games involving smaller conference teams.
The lines often aren’t as sharp and there aren’t as many eyes on the games. If you know personnel mismatches, coaching staffs and advanced stats for Group of Five teams, you can put yourself in a good position to fire and make some money.
Every Saturday, I’ll be putting out a few of my favorite bets in some under-the-radar games. This week I’ve got four, so let’s get to it.
All odds below are as of 9 a.m. ET on Friday and via PointsBet.
Akron at Illinois
- Spread: Illinois -18
- Over/Under: 61
- Time: 12 p.m. ET
- TV: Big Ten Network
Illinois finally found an identity on offense in 2018 when it ran Rod Smith’s spread run game extremely well.
The Illini ranked ninth in rushing, 38th in explosiveness and 38th in offensive line score — a stat I created using data from Football Outsiders — and they return nearly everyone that contributed to that success.
Four of the five offensive linemen are back as well as star running back Reggie Corbin.
— Illinois on BTN (@IllinoisOnBTN) November 3, 2018
Akron’s 2018 defense managed to limit explosiveness pretty well but the Zips were horrible at defending the run. They’re 109th-ranked run defense combined with a 98th ranked defensive line score (same as offense, just using Football Outsiders defensive line stats) means they’re going to have a long day defending the run in Champaign.
Akron will also be adjusting to a pro-style offense under new coach Tom Arth that doesn’t seem to fit quarterback Kato Nelson at all.
Illinois should be able to cruise to an easy victory behind their run game.
The Pick: Illinois -18
Ole Miss at Memphis
- Spread: Memphis -4.5
- Over/Under: 66
- Time: 12 p.m. ET
- TV: ABC
Ole Miss will be breaking in a new quarterback in Matt Corral on Saturday in Memphis. He was a highly-touted recruit but this will be his first chance to have the job completely to himself.
Corral is known for his running ability so he should blend well with new offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez’s system. He’ll be surrounded by an offense that ranks dead last in returning production, losing several star receivers to the NFL.
Memphis lost elite running back Darrell Henderson, but returns nearly everyone else, ranking 23rd in offensive returning production, and had some good backs behind him.
The Tiger will move the ball however they see fit on an awful Ole Miss defense that finished 90th is defensive S&P+ last year. Meanwhile, the Memphis offense finished in the top-25 of every offensive category last year besides passing efficiency.
The Tigers’ defense wasn’t great overall, but they were a respectable 50th in rushing defense efficiency. That’ll come in handy against Ole Miss’ new run heavy offense. This defense also ranks eighth in returning production and is primed for its best season in years.
I make them Memphis an 11-point favorite in this one, so I rushed out to grab Memphis -6 earlier in the summer. The line sat there for a while but we’ve seen some Ole Miss money hit the market this week, knocking the line down to -4.5.
It’s worth the wait to see if you can get a four, just don’t miss out on -6 when game day steam hits this line on Saturday morning.
The Pick: Memphis -4.5/5
Eastern Michigan at Coastal Carolina
- Spread: EMU -6
- Over/Under: 53.5
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPNU
Since 2017, Eastern Michigan has been one of the most profitable college football teams in the country, going 16-9 (64%) against the spread in that span. During that time, Coastal Carolina has gone just 10-14 ATS. But I’m very optimistic about the Chanticleers’ chances in Week 1.
Coastal has a large edge in returning production, specifically on defense. They’ll need that defense to take a huge step forward in 2019 as they were downright bad last season.
Eastern Michigan lost a ton on both sides of the ball and will be breaking in new guys all over the field.
Behind veteran running back C.J. Marable, I trust Coastal Carolina much more than the young Eastern Michigan team, many of which will be making their first ever start on the road.
EMU has played some very, very close games over the last few years — 17 of their last 25 games have been inside single digits — and I expect another one on Saturday.
The Pick: Coastal Carolina +6
Louisiana Tech at Texas
- Spread: Texas -20.5
- Over/Under: 55.5
- Time: 8 p.m. ET
- TV: Longhorn Network
Everyone knows how poor Tom Herman has been as a big favorite in his time as a head coach. Part of the reason that he struggles in those spots is because he’s very conservative approach with his quarterbacks in these games.
He doesn’t care what happens, as long has his quarterback doesn’t get injured and he leaves with a win. Herman is 15-23-2 against the spread as a favorite in his career, and 6-13-1 ATS as a double-digit favorite.
That means quarterback Sam Ehlinger will be sitting back in the pocket slinging it around or just handing it off, eliminating one of the best aspects of Texas’ offense — his playmaking ability on the ground.
When Ehlinger does drop back to pass, he’ll be facing one of the best corners in the country in Louisiana Tech’s Amik Robertson.
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) September 10, 2017
Tech has an experienced quarterback in J’Mar Smith who can take care of the ball and get it to his prime target, Adrian Hardy. Texas has one of the worst defensive returning production numbers in the country so they’ll have their hands full.
To top it all off, Texas hosts LSU in Week 2. There’s no way these guys are going to be focused on Louisiana Tech this week, especially given Tom Herman’s track record as a big favorite.
The Pick: Louisiana Tech +20.5