Wilson: My 9 Favorite College Football Betting Picks for Week 8

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USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Mitchell Guadagni, Nico Evans and Tyler King

  • Collin Wilson gives his nine favorite betting picks for the college football slate in Week 8.
  • He's riding a bunch of ugly underdogs, including Rice and New Mexico, so this column is not for the faint of heart.

The CW9 took a few last-minute lumps with Vanderbilt, Washington and the Arkansas Under, but we rebound to a Week 8 slate full of opportunity to cash some winners.

Week 7 could have been labeled as Shakeup Saturday with so many Top 25 losses, but we have only four games in Week 8 that feature a head-to-head matchup of ranked teams.

Two rivalry games on Saturday feature one side that has dominated for years (Washington State over Oregon, Michigan State over Michigan), and we shouldn’t be lacking drama this weekend.

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 9 projected spreads. Let’s get to the picks!

YTD: 30-32-1


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College Football Betting Picks, Week 8

Air Force at UNLV

  • Spread: UNLV +10
  • Over/Under: 57
  • Time: Friday, 10 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: CBS Sports

We start the CW9 on a Friday night from Las Vegas, backing the Runnin’ Rebels as a home underdog against Air Force. There could be a theme this week to some of these ugly dogs we are backing, and that is market value.

UNLV ended Sunday night at +14, which is higher than The Action Network power ratings number of +10. After digging deeply into the Utah State game, UNLV has balanced its offensive attack, led by quarterback Max Gilliam.

Replacing Armani Rogers, Gilliam went for 250 yards and three touchdowns through the air. If it were not for a Utah State blocked punt return for a touchdown, the Rebels would have covered.

Last week’s game against Utah State served as measuring stick of UNLV’s new power rating. While I have this game at UNLV +10, S&P+ has this at a pk.

Air Force certainly is not an offensive juggernaut, ranking 117th in S&P+. Defensively, the Falcons aren’t much better in passing explosiveness and sack rate. This is far too many points against a UNLV team that has rebounded from the loss of its star quarterback.

Play On: UNLV +10

Buffalo at Toledo

  • Spread: Toledo +1.5
  • Over/Under: 62
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN+

As the side crosses through zero with money coming in on Buffalo, the total continues to dip. My numbers make this Toledo -5 with a total of 58. There will be plenty of wind with 15-mph gusts forecasted to run from sideline to sideline. Weak kicking games could be affected, and Buffalo ranks 115th in special teams S&P+, specifically outside the top 100 in field goal value.

Buffalo has not faced the same level of competition Toledo has, with the Bulls’ strength of schedule S&P+ at 122.

We will back a Toledo offense that is 12th in rushing efficiency and sixth in passing explosiveness. Toledo’s defensive line also ranks 15th in Havoc, which will be needed against a Buffalo offensive line that ranks first in sack rate with just one allowed all year.

Keep your eye on Buffalo star wide receiver Anthony Johnson, who missed the Army and Central Michigan games with an injury. He caught just two passes for 44 yards in last week’s game against Akron.

Play On: Toledo +1.5

Miami Ohio at Army

  • Spread: Army -8
  • Over/Under: 48
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: CBS Sports

We are back on the Gus Ragland train for this early kick. While it is important to check Army opponents on whether they have faced a triple option, it is the Redhawks statistics against the rush that make this worth a wager. Miami of Ohio is top 30 in the nation in opponent’s rushing yards, allowing 3.29 yards per carry.

On the other side of the ball, Miami is 16th in rushing explosiveness, going for 200 yards in each of the Redhawks’ past four games. Ragland, who led this team to six straight wins and a near upset of Mississippi State in 2016, has continued to play more efficiently in recent weeks.

Ragland has logged seven touchdowns to just one interception over the past four games. Miami of Ohio should finish enough drives to stay inside this number.

Play On: Miami Ohio +8

Utah State at Wyoming

  • Spread: Wyoming +15
  • Over/Under: 51.5
  • Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: SportsNet SouthWest

Utah State has yet to lose against the spread, while Wyoming has posting a 1-6 ATS mark for the season. The Cowboys have struggled in losses to Hawaii, Fresno State and Missouri. Meanwhile Utah State has covered the spread by multiple touchdowns against New Mexico State, BYU and UNLV. The Aggies have taken in all of the betting tickets during the week for the battle of the Bridger Rifle Trophy.

We are going with Wyoming, as it has posted a 14-6 ATS mark in its last 20 at home and generally plays better defense in Laramie than it does on the road. Utah State is the opposite of that, going 6-12 ATS in its past 18 road trips.

It isn’t just trends that make the game, but Utah State’s strength of schedule ranking of 121st could play into the public perception of how good this team is. The opener against Michigan State opened some eyes, but anyone with a pulse passing the ball has given the Spartans trouble.

Wyoming has played the 44th-ranked schedule in S&P+, and even with terrible offensive stats, the Cowboys are 20th overall in defending explosiveness. This is still a Craig Bohl team that plays decent red-zone defense and ranks 41st in special teams S&P+.

The Action Network power ratings have this game at Utah State -12.5, ESPN FPI at -14.5, and S&P+ at -16.5 in favor of the Cowboys.  It might not hurt to wait it out through a dead number and catch a 17 when gameday Aggies steam arrives.

Play On: Wyoming +15

Coastal Carolina at UMass

  • Spread: UMass -3
  • Over/Under: 72
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: Eleven Sports

UMass’ objective is to be involved in a shootout. There have been 367 points scored total in the Minutemen’s last four games. That’s nearly 92 per game!

They rank outside the top 100 in third down defense, 113th in sack rate, and are -5 in net turnovers. It would not be a reach to state that UMass has a total disregard for defense, ranking 125th in S&P+ with a strength of schedule rank of 105th.

The important stats to notice are yards per play, plays per game and adjusted pace. The last metric is where my numbers have this total severely under the current number. Coastal Carolina is 114th in adjusted pace, with a standard downs run rate of seventh. In a stark contrast to UMass, the Chants are top 5 in time of possession. Coastal doesn’t mind scoring plenty of points, but its ground-first approach held games against ULM, Troy and ULL under 67 points.

This game should follow a pattern similar to the 2017 version, when Coastal Carolina went for 321 yards on the ground and kept the game at 66 points.

Not only did the Minutemen see this modified version of the triple option last year, UMass faced Georgia Southern in Week 2 and limited the Eagles to 34 points. We will look for spurts of scoring droughts in Amherst.

Play On: Under 72

Florida Atlantic at Marshall

  • Spread: Marshall +3
  • Over/Under: 62.5
  • Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: Facebook Live

Florida Atlantic bettors haven’t forgotten 2017, and neither has Marshall head coach Doc Holliday. Lane Kiffin took a safety in an effort to wrap up a win against the Herd, and in doing do lost the wager for all FAU -5.5 to -6.5 bettors.

Florida Atlantic comes off a needed bye week after posting horrendous defensive numbers through the first six weeks. The Owls rank 123rd in defensive efficiency and 122nd in finishing drives. That means teams move the chains and score once they’re in Owls territory. FAU has had trouble getting to the quarterback with a sack rate of 125th.

The real key to this game is if Marshall’s defense does anything about FAU running back Devin Singletary. The Herd defense is 12th against rush explosiveness and 27th against rush efficiency. Any Florida Atlantic points might have to come from a drive through the air. Marshall has worked hard on its ball protection in practice, and that should play off in a cover and possible victory.

Play On: Marshall +3

Fresno State at New Mexico

  • Spread: New Mexico +13.5
  • Over/Under: 54.5
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPNU

Last week’s theme to our podcast and CW9 was strength of schedule. Fresno State now applies to that theme, with a rank of 116th. The Bulldogs are posting some gaudy advanced numbers, but lost against their toughest opponent — Minnesota in Week 2 — with the Gophers using a true freshman quarterback. It’s worth noting the large gap in turnover ratio with this game, as the Bulldogs+11 mark is in stark contrast to New Mexico’s -1 in net turnovers.

Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford mentioned the complexity of New Mexico’s new spread offense with a mix of triple option. The Action Network’s Danny Donahue wrote about the line movement for this game, indicating bigger money moving this game in favor of New Mexico. With quarterback Tevaka Tuioti out for the season with a collarbone injury, Sheriron Jones has passed for 958 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions.

New Mexico is 11th in passing explosiveness and had been stellar on third-down conversions until last week’s loss against Colorado State. Fresno State ranks 123rd on third and long and 114th on third and short. The Bulldogs’ rank of 95th in passing downs sack rate should give the Lobos plenty of time to take shots down the field.

Play On: New Mexico +13.5

Rice at Florida International

  • Spread: FIU -24
  • Over/Under: 53
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN+

I am completely ready for the Action Colleges hotline to be lit up with plenty of Rice and Florida International phone calls after this contest.

Rice has yet to cover an FBS game, with the Owls’ only victory coming in a nail biter against Prairie View A&M in Week 0. Not only is Rice ranked 128th in The Action Network power ratings, it would be just a 3-point favorite to UConn on a neutral field.  This play is all about market value, as I make this line Rice +16 and S&P+ has this Rice +20.

Butch Davis has done an incredible job getting Florida International to a 4-2 record so far this season, paving his way to another likely bowl trip. A closer look at the Golden Panthers’ advanced stats shows a 2nd Order Win Total differential of -1.1. That means they’re winning coin flips games that could have gone either way.

This is why creating power ratings and adjusting based upon advanced analytics and the closing number should pay dividends, because a line of 24 indicates a Florida International’s power-rating peers would be Indiana and Tennessee. Also notice both teams are two of the slowest in adjusted pace. This gives even more value to the points.

Play On: Rice +24

North Texas at UAB

  • Spread: UAB -1.5
  • Over/Under: 54.5
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: BeIN

This game couldn’t be any bigger for the UAB futures ticket, and there could be all kinds of fireworks in this one, on both sides of the ball. UAB has been fantastic on defense with a sack rate of first in the nation, efficiency rating of first in standard downs and a Havoc rate of 24th overall. One element to not overlook is explosiveness on both sides of the football.

North Texas loves to pass, with a standard downs run rate of 95th and a passing downs run rate of 122nd. This should stop the clock between plenty of downs and create more space to build points for both teams.

This number might have value, as North Texas being 7-0 to the under so far this season against UAB’s 5-1 for the under has been reflected in the market.  I have this number at 60 and expect the Blazers’ rush explosiveness to be matched by Mason Fine in the air.

Play On: Over 54.5