Wilson: My 9 Favorite College Football Bets For Week 6
USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Ryan Willis, Zack Moss, Ty Storey
- Collin Wilson gives out nine of his favorite college football betting picks for Week 6, including plays on Alabama-Arkansas, Notre Dame-Virginia Tech and...UL-Lafayette-Texas State?
- He dives deep into his own power ratings and other reliable metrics to find key mismatches and handicapping angles.
After the bonanza of bad beats with Tulane and Oregon two weeks ago, last week’s CW9 — my nine favorite bets on a college football Saturday — was just as much of a circus for the night owls. San Jose State’s five-overtime loss was the cap on a day full of backdoor covers denied.
Texas Tech failed to stay in range of West Virginia after quarterback Alan Bowman suffered a collapsed lung, while an Oklahoma State touchdown with less than three minutes left shut the backdoor on Kansas.
As I was projecting lines for Week 6, USC-Arizona had my full attention as Khalil Tate padded his passing stats in yet another backdoor chance for the CW9. When it makes Scott Van Pelt’s last game on Bad Beats, we just cut to the video — college kickers, man.
Bad beats and missed backdoor covers are a part of being a gambler. The best we can do is regroup, adjust and take the emotion out of betting the following week — which led us back to another Liberty winner!
Be sure to check out my Sunday Morning Coffee column for our Week 6 projected spreads. Let’s get to the picks!
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College Football Betting Picks, Week 6
Alabama at Arkansas
- Spread: Arkansas +35
- Over/Under: 55.5
- Time: 12 p.m. ET
- TV channel: ESPN
The Razorbacks finally covered their first spread, against Texas A&M in Week 5. If not for an early kickoff return touchdown by A&M, Arkansas may have had a chance at an upset. The Hogs have improved weekly, now boasting a defensive S&P+ ranking of 37th.
Plenty has been made of how quickly Alabama has started games, covering ridiculous spreads by a wide margin. Last week, Tide -31 in the first half covered easily. Louisiana-Lafayette covered the full game because of the Tide’s commitment to the run in the fourth quarter.
In no way can Arkansas’ stats compare to Alabama’s, but a few things might get us to the window. First, this total has been steadily dropping from the 60s down to 57. That gives even more value to a five-touchdown spread.
The Razorback defense ranks 19th in efficiency and 23rd against explosiveness on passing downs, which may at least temper the Tide once Tua Tagovailoa is removed from the game.
On the flip side of the ball, it’s been kept secret that Alabama is prone to giving explosive plays. Its defense ranks 98th on the ground and 48th through the air in explosiveness metrics.
The Razorbacks’ offensive line is sixth in the country in adjusted sack rate, meaning quarterback Ty Storey might have time to make quality decisions in the passing game to get us to the window.
Play On: Arkansas +35
Buffalo at Central Michigan
- Spread: Central Michigan +7.5
- Over/Under: 51
- Time: 12 p.m. ET
- TV channel: CBS Sports Network
Buffalo was boatraced by Army in Week 5, when star wide receiver Anthony Johnson played only a handful of snaps and recorded zero targets. A Buffalo defense that ranks outside the top 100 in passing explosiveness was on full display against the Knights.
The Knights are EVERYWHERE.
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) September 29, 2018
There have been whispers that Central Michigan may be the worst team in the MAC. In Week 1, CMU covered in a losing effort against Kentucky. In Week 2, Kansas beat the Chippewas by 24 points. That narrative had started to grow after an 0-2 start, but little did the betting public know that Kentucky and Kansas would both be underrated.
The Chipps covered against Northern Illinois, and outgained the Huskies. A victory over Maine and a cover against Michigan State is further proof that this team plays hard each week.
The Chipps rank 37th in defending explosiveness, which is needed against Buffalo’s dynamic duo of quarterback Tyree Jackson and Johnson (if healthy). The Bulls’ main weakness is third down conversion percentage (tied for 96th) and red zone scoring percentage (129th), which should be enough to get the home underdog cover.
Play On: Central Michigan +7.5
Syracuse at Pittsburgh
- Spread: Pittsburgh +3.5
- Over/Under: 59
- Time: 12:20 p.m. ET
- TV channel: ESPN3
The Orange should be a little hungover after almost beating Clemson. Syracuse led the Tigers most of the game until a Travis Etienne rushing touchdown with 41 seconds left.
Dino Babers’ crew must now go on the road again after a gutsy performance against one of the best teams in the nation.
— Stadium (@WatchStadium) September 29, 2018
Pitt has taken in plenty of money this week in this presumed bad spot for Syracuse, but there may be value on the spread and total. If Pitt is going to capitalize on the situation, then it will lean on its bread and butter in the running game.
Pitt ranks 20th in ground efficiency, and more importantly, the Panthers like to run on every down. When taking a total, you want to check your run rate on standard and passing downs. Pitt is well beyond the national average in both, ranking 33rd in standard downs run rate and 13th in passing downs run rate.
With Pitt’s adjusted pace of 120th in the nation, the under is certainly worth an investment. A closer look at the Orange defensive ranking in stuff rate is 109th.
Pitt should have no issues moving the ball in short-yardage situations, and controlling the clock. Shop for the best numbers on Pitt and look for the total to come up short.
Play On: Under 59, Pitt +3.5
Saturday Night Blackout Chaser
UAB at Louisiana Tech
- Spread: Louisiana Tech -9.5
- Over/Under: 55.5
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
- TV channel: Facebook Live
In Week 5, Louisiana Tech and North Texas battled to take control of Conference USA’s West division. The Mean Green had more total yards, but Louisiana Tech blocked a late field goal to win it.
BLOCKED‼️ DAWGS WIN‼️
🐶 Louisiana Tech 29
🦅 North Texas 27
HOW BOUT THEM DAWGS‼️
— LaTechReport.com (@LaTechReport) September 30, 2018
UAB comes into this game looking to add its name to the Conference USA West race. The Blazers have been efficient this far in the season, ranking in the top 20 in first downs and third down conversions. UAB does have issues defending explosive plays, but Louisiana Tech ranks just 83rd on passing downs in explosiveness.
UAB ranks first in adjusted sack rate on defense, sacking the quarterback on an absurd 14.6% of dropbacks.
Louisiana Tech is 75th on the offensive line protecting the quarterback, so expect some havoc from the Blazers. The Action Network power ratings have this line around UAB +8, while S&P+ makes this game close to a pk.
Play On: UAB +9.5
Notre Dame at Virginia Tech
- Spread: Virginia Tech +7
- Over/Under: 56.5
- Time: 8 p.m. ET
- TV channel: ABC
When this game opened with nickel limits offshore at Notre Dame -1.5, I had to think quickly. College football openers move at a lightning pace offshore before the Wynn in Las Vegas opens its numbers a few hours later. I knew -1.5 was very short, and that this was a terrible spot for the Irish.
Virginia Tech will unveil a Frank Beamer statue on Saturday, in addition to coloring the stadium in maroon and burnt orange. The first 5,000 entrants to Lane Stadium get a mini-Beamer figurine, leading to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” before kickoff. The Hokies are doing everything possible to create a hostile atmosphere for Notre Dame.
The Irish come off one of their largest margin of victories against a ranked opponent in some time. This will be new quarterback Ian Book’s first true road environment (no disrespect to a day game at Wake Forest).
We don’t know the ceiling for Book yet, but the same can be said for new Hokies quarterback Ryan Willis, who replaced the injured Josh Jackson.
This number got to +7 before some support for Va Tech came in. Despite an embarrassing loss to Old Dominion, the Hokies average 6.68 yards per play, good enough to rank in the top 25 nationally.
On defense, Virginia Tech ranks 11th in overall Havoc, specifically 12th on the defensive line. Notre Dame suffered a big loss with offensive lineman Alex Bars ruled out for the season. Look for the Hokies to keep this close.
Play On: Virginia Tech +7
Louisiana-Lafayette at Texas State
- Spread: Texas State +3.5
- Over/Under: 59
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
- TV channel: ESPN+
This may be Texas State’s first time in the CW9, or the first time ever in my writing career that I’ve wanted to throw some money behind the Bobs. The general public will remember ULL getting the cover against Alabama, and that might carry over to the following week against Texas State — a team that has just one Sun Belt win since 2015.
The Bobs have never beaten Louisiana-Lafayette. But there are stats and a couple of situations that apply to the Bobcats that I just cannot ignore. Also, they have a rotation of three quarterbacks creating misdirection on most snaps that’s plenty of fun to watch.
— Nick Castillo (@Nick_Castillo74) September 22, 2018
First, Texas State’s strength is in the efficiency of the defense, in which it ranks fifth in the nation. The Bobcats are also 19th against rush explosiveness.
Although Texas State hasn’t recorded many sacks, it ranks 34th nationally in overall havoc, specifically sixth in the linebacker unit. This is excellent news against a Ragin’ Cajuns team that is second in the nation in rush explosiveness.
ULL does not play much defense and ranks 126th overall in havoc rate. On paper, this Texas State team should be able to negate ULL’s biggest strength.
From a situational standpoint, Texas State comes off a bye week while ULL is on back-to-back travel off Alabama. The travel aspect of that statement might not have caught your attention, but the Alabama note should. One team has covered the week after playing Alabama so far in 2018, and that team needed three turnovers against Tulsa. Here is a list of teams post Alabama so far:
- Louisville (-42) defeats Indiana State 31-7
- Arkansas State (-1.5) defeats Tulsa 29-20
- Ole Miss (-28.5) defeats Kent State 38-17
- Texas A&M (-21) defeats Arkansas 24-17
Welcome to the CW9, Texas State Bobcats. Don’t let me down.
Play On: Texas State +4
Kentucky at Texas A&M
- Spread: Texas A&M -6
- Over/Under: 50.5
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
- TV channel: ESPN
For two weeks, this has been circled as a spot to back battle-tested Texas A&M, which covered against Clemson and Alabama. The Aggies are unranked, while Kentucky continues to rack up SEC wins and place 13th in the AP Poll.
This was an obvious spot to take Texas A&M, until I looked a little bit more deeply into the numbers.
Explosiveness and havoc continue to be a cornerstone of capping when we get to October, and in this game, one team has a distinct advantage. Granted, Texas A&M has played Clemson and Alabama, so its numbers do not fully consider strength of schedule to this point. But the Aggies are dead last in defending explosiveness — 103rd in defending rush explosiveness and an even worse 127th against the pass.
Terry Wilson and Benny Snell rank 17th in rush explosiveness offensively and could have a big night on the ground against the Aggies.
Benny Snell hitting the circle button ⭕️ pic.twitter.com/pC6IpubNVv
— KY Clips (@KY_Clips) September 30, 2018
The real story about Kentucky in 2018 has been the defense, which ranks third in S&P+. This unit ranks in the top 20 in every single category in the five factors from field position, explosiveness and efficiency.
Plus, Arkansas and ex-Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis might have given Kentucky the perfect blueprint for containing Aggie quarterback Kellen Mond.
Arkansas ranks third in linebacker havoc and limited Mond to just 11 carries for 14 yards. Kentucky ranks first in the nation in linebacker havoc, which should translate to constant pressure on Mond in both the rush and passing game.
Play On: Kentucky +6
Utah at Stanford
- Spread: Stanford -4.5
- Over/Under: 46
- Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
- TV channel: ESPN
The big handicap on Stanford was what a defense could do in the passes defensed department with quarterback K.J. Costello throwing plenty of jump balls to his big targets. Notre Dame caused disruption in the back seven and took over the game offensively. Utah has a chance to do that here.
With Bryce Love listed as questionable, Stanford may go to the air early. Utah ranks 11th in the country in defensive pass efficiency. The Utes also rank 10th in defensive pass completion percentage, and 29th against pass explosiveness.
If Utah can get consistent play from the offense, it may be a factor in the Pac-12 South again.
Play On: Utah +5