Wilson: My 9 Favorite College Football Bets for Week 7

Wilson: My 9 Favorite College Football Bets for Week 7 article feature image
Credit:

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kyle Shurmur, Jake Fromm and Karan Higdon

  • Collin Wilson is back with his favorite bets for Week 7's college football slate.
  • He's laying the points with a few favorites, and backing a few dirty dogs that haven't looked good this season.

The CW9 went contrarian with Central Michigan, Virginia Tech and Texas State last week, and we got rewarded with plenty of turnovers and third-down inefficiency. It was good to get UAB and Pitt outright, but there is still plenty of work to do in this column to line everyone’s pockets with cash.

Week 7 means we’re close to the first rankings for the College Football Playoff. Georgia-LSU and Michigan-Wisconsin will go a long way toward determining those rankings, but there are plenty of conference and divisional angles to take advantage of this week.

This column will leverage The Action Network power ratings and plenty of advanced stats from Football Outsiders.

Be sure to check out my Sunday Morning Coffee column for our Week 7 projected spreads. Let’s get to the picks!

YTD: 27-26-1


Subscribe, unsubscribe, rate, download twice and listen once to The Action Network Colleges Podcast.

All data below as of Thursday afternoon. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds, track your bets and follow all of our experts’ picks.


College Football Betting Picks, Week 7

Florida at Vanderbilt

  • Spread: Vanderbilt +7
  • Over/Under: 50.5
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN

Florida makes its way to Nashville after consecutive emotional victories over Mississippi State and LSU. Dan Mullen has rebounded nicely from an embarrassing program loss to Kentucky.

The Gators will head into a bye week after this game with Vanderbilt, leaving Mullen with two goals for this game — seal a victory and get out healthy in this possible hangover spot.

Vanderbilt has some terrible splits in the advanced numbers, but that could be excused with a strength of schedule rank at 14th. The Commodores are great with explosiveness on both sides of the ball, ranking 30th on offense and 28th on defense. Florida will have a tough time stopping big plays on the ground and in the air.

Quarterback Kyle Shurmur has been fantastic for Vanderbilt so far this season, with 1,400 yards passing and a ranking of 14th in explosiveness on passing downs. He is protected by an offensive line that ranks 17th in adjusted sack rate.

It’s worth noting that Florida is second in the nation in turnover margin at +11 so far this season. Look for some regression to the mean at some point for that Gators, and for Shurmur to extend drives in passing-down situations to keep this inside the number.

Play On: Vanderbilt +7

Troy at Liberty

  • Spread: Liberty +9.5
  • Over/Under: 63.5
  • Time: 2 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: WatchESPN


We have made some cash on the Liberty Flames, but it hasn’t come without sweats.

The narrative on Liberty entering Week 1 is that it wanted to make an impression because the Sun Belt and Conference USA have passed it over. Liberty needs to be in an FBS conference to make the program financially sustainable.

This game against Troy serves much like the Old Dominion victory — it’s a chance to show a conference that turned Liberty down what it’s missing. We’ll all put our faith in quarterback Stephen Calvert once again.

Buckshot Calvert remains an explosive quarterback. With Calvert’s 1,656 yards and 12 touchdowns, Liberty ranks 22nd in pass explosiveness and 25th in efficiency on passing downs. The Flames defense has been a bit of pushover against opponents on the ground while creating zero havoc, but the pass downs defense is a respectable 16th in efficiency and 13th against explosiveness.

Troy enters this game with a new starting quarterback in Sawyer Smith. Previous starter Kaleb Barker was injured against Georgia State and lost for the season. Smith finished that game without much impact, recording one quality play in two-plus quarters of play. Coach Neal Brown described Smith’s performance by saying “I thought he did a good job really managing.” Not inspiring stuff.

Troy has a bye after this week, and it’s possible the Trojans want to get out of Lynchburg with a win and a healthy roster. Liberty’s deficiencies on defense might not be exposed by Smith, and Buckshot Calvert should lead an emotionally charged program to a cover.

Play On: Liberty +9.5

Army at San Jose State

  • Spread: San Jose State +15
  • Over/Under: 50.5
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPNU

There are some ugly numbers on the surface for San Jose State, making this the game of the week that should generate the most calls for the Action Colleges Podcast.

San Jose State is a nasty 123rd overall in S&P+, 128th in offensive success rate and 120th in defensive field position. It’s easy to write off this Spartans team because of the numbers, but remember that this is the same SJSU team that played decent rush defense against Hawaii in a five-overtime game. And it’s kept the last three games within two scores.

Army plays a triple-option, bully style of football that is rush dependent with very little passing. San Jose State is allowing just 150.8 yards per game on the ground, allowing opponents just 3.75 yards per rush.

The real advantage in this game is the Spartans’ passing explosiveness, which ranks 33rd in the country. That will be trouble for an Army secondary that is 122nd in defending pass explosiveness. Army is allowing seven yards per play, and 9.1 yards per pass. This San Jose State team should keep it within the number.

Play On: San Jose State +15

Texas A&M at South Carolina

  • Spread: South Carolina +2.5
  • Over/Under: 52
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: SEC Network

We backed Kentucky against Texas A&M in Week 6, and were dealt a push, but the betting process with the Aggies remains the same. Texas A&M ranks 130th in the nation against explosiveness. Kentucky couldn’t take advantage of this, but a healthy Jake Bentley at quarterback and up-tempo pace with wide receiver Deebo Samuel could yield different results.

Kentucky had an adjusted pace ranking of 111th, while South Carolina is 25th, making this a completely different test for the Aggies defense.

Texas A&M has other issues that go outside of defending explosiveness, one of them being the sack rate on offense. Kellen Mond does plenty to scramble and evade trouble, but the Aggies are 124th in the nation in sacks allowed, surrendering 3.5 per game.

With the Aggies ranked 108th in team passing efficiency, South Carolina should have no issues going up-tempo through the air.

Play On: South Carolina +2.5

Georgia at LSU

  • Spread: LSU +7.5
  • Over/Under: 50.5
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: CBS

After LSU’s loss to Florida and Georgia’s rout of Vanderbilt, it was easy to envision a buy low, sell high scenario and back the Tigers.

But I won’t be following through with that intuition.

LSU has played a tougher schedule to date. That has helped build a slightly misleading résumé that includes a plus-5 turnover margin, a 17% win expectancy at Auburn and a pass-completion rate of 115th for Joe Burrow.

One thing we do know about both teams is that they excel in stopping explosiveness, with LSU ranking 12th and Georgia first in the nation. The clear advantage is with Georgia’s offensive efficiency and explosiveness, which ranks 5th and 18th, respectively.

One of the big questions I have with Georgia is its defensive line, primarily with how Missouri pushed the Bulldogs around between the tackles. Missouri ranks a superb 17th in opportunity rate and 10th in stuff rate on the offensive line, so there is certainly a reason Georgia’s defense had issues in Columbia.

LSU does not have similar offensive line metrics, ranking 81st in opportunity rate and 68th in stuff rate. In short, LSU will not have the same success running the ball between the tackles on Georgia like Missouri did.

Other advanced stats tell you to keep that LSU money in your pocket. The Tigers offensive line is 80th in adjusted sack rate, as the offense is 111th in explosiveness on passing downs.

Georgia still has issues getting the quarterback, but having a linebacker Havoc ranking of 17th should give Burrow plenty of trouble. LSU’s defensive line is just 110th in Havoc, which spells trouble against Georgia, which ranks an amazing third in the country in Havoc allowed. 

Play On: Georgia -7.5

Washington at Oregon

  • Spread: Washington -3
  • Over/Under: 57.5
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ABC or ESPN2

Oregon’s strength of schedule is 111th, which surprised me until you realize Bowling Green and San Jose State are in the bottom 10 rankings of S&P+. The victory at Cal was clouded with plenty of turnovers and missed fourth-down attempts that supported the Ducks’ 18-point victory. Washington has a strength of schedule of 64th, including a close loss to Auburn, and wins over Utah and Arizona State.

The handicap on this game comes down to Washington defending the best player on the field, Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert.

The Huskies rank first overall in defending pass explosiveness and 17th in passing efficiency. While Washington isn’t spectacular overall in causing disruption, the defensive back unit ranks ninth in the country in Havoc. Based on those numbers alone, Herbert will have some problems.

Washington is 29th in S&P+ offense, which is an edge over an Oregon defense that ranks 80th. Specifically, the Ducks are 106th in defending pass explosiveness. Quarterback Jake Browning has never been known to have a deep ball arm, but there will be plenty of short to mid-range crossing routes to Aaron Fuller and Ty Jones that could result in explosive plays.

If all that isn’t enough to back Washington, Oregon’s defense is 90th in red zone scoring percentage. Washington had issues converting red-zone trips to points against Auburn, but that should not be the case against the Ducks. 

Play On: Washington -3

Miami at Virginia

  • Spread: Virginia +6.5
  • Over/Under: 47.5
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN2

Miami escaped against Florida State after trailing 27-7 in the third quarter last week. Quarterback N’Kosi Perry continued to show flashes of brilliance with a mix of careless ballhandling. The trends of forced fumbles against Perry was evident against North Carolina and Florida State, and should be present against Virginia.

This game won’t lack for excitement, as both defenses are highly ranked in Havoc (Virginia is 10th, and Miami is first in the nation). Also noteworthy is the Havoc allowed by both teams, ranking just below 85th. The ball should be on the carpet frequently at Scott Stadium, and these defenses should be in the backfield often.

Virginia should have the upper hand on defense, as the Miami offensive line has issues with a sack rate of 103rd. Passing downs will be an issue for Perry as Virginia’s defense is 18th in efficiency and 10th against explosiveness.

Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins has made plays through the air and on the ground. If you didn’t know about Perkins before this week, you certainly will after this prime-time bout.

Perkins trails leading rusher Jordan Ellis by 137 yards on the season, and has racked up 14 total touchdowns.

Perkins will be the difference in this game, and a moneyline play may even be in order for the Hoos.

Play On: Virginia +6.5

Wisconsin at Michigan

  • Spread: Michigan -7.5
  • Over/Under: 49
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ABC

Wisconsin has a defensive S&P+ ranking of 55, which makes sense after diving more deeply into the Iowa and BYU games. When you take in Wisconsin’s 88th-ranked strength of schedule, you realize that this team has underperformed against the likes of New Mexico and Nebraska, which both covered at Camp Randall.

Shea Patterson is becoming more comfortable as the weeks go by as Michigan’s quarterback. Michigan is now 12th in passing efficiency and 19th in completion rate. Patterson is complemented by a rushing attack led by Karan Higdon that ranks 24th in ground explosiveness. Michigan is developing a one-two punch offensively that will be tough to stop this season.

The handicap for this game comes down to Wisconsin’s pressure on Patterson. The Badgers are 118th in passing downs sack rate, which will give Patterson plenty of time to throw. On top of that, Wisconsin’s defense is 56th in completion rate and 86th in defending pass explosiveness.

There is a chance Michigan could have its best offensive day of the 2018 season. This would not be a surprise to anyone, including Jim Harbaugh’s daughter. 

As for the other side of the ball, expect Alex Hornibrook to be harassed by one of the top defenses in the nation. The Wolverines defense is top 10 in almost every advanced statistical category, which does not bode well for a Wisconsin offensive line that ranks 72nd in adjusted sack rate.

Havoc will favor the Wolverines as well, ranking 13th overall to the Badgers 53rd.  This one could get ugly.

Play On: Michigan -9.5

Ole Miss at Arkansas

  • Spread: Arkansas +7
  • Over/Under: 67.5
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: SEC Network

Most of the world looks at Ole Miss going for 800-plus yards against ULM and expects the same against a perceived terrible Arkansas defense.

While my Hogs are improving each week with a cover against Texas A&M and Alabama, it’s the defense that is making the most strides. Arkansas’ defensive S&P+ rank is currently 51st, while the Razorbacks have maintained the 11th-toughest schedule in the nation so far. Specifically, the Arkansas passing downs defense ranks 44th in efficiency and 53rd against pass explosiveness.

Ole Miss has been all or nothing in recent weeks, with 70 points against ULM and just 23 combined against LSU and Alabama. The biggest issue for the Rebels in this game is their bottom 12 ranking in time of possession. Any opposing team with a rush offense will be able to keep this game under control, and Rakeem Boyd is that ingredient for Arkansas.

Arkansas’ adjusted pace is 81st in the nation, and the game plan from Chad Morris will be anything that doesn’t get the Hogs into a shootout. Mother Nature will also have her say, as Little Rock is forecast for loads of rain and wind.  That will only help our cause on the under.

Play On: Under 67.5