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

Wilson: My 9 Favorite College Football Betting Picks for Week 9 article feature image
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USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Charlie Strong, Kai Locksley and Kylin Hill

  • Collin Wilson is back to give his nine favorite college football betting picks for Week 9.
  • He's made money on some of the worst teams in the country, and he's going back to the well with another one this week.

Last week’s college football picks column was littered with teams at the bottom of The Action Network power ratings. UNLV, Rice and Wyoming headlined a card that went 6-3, proving there is money to be made on every FBS team, if an edge presents itself.

Handicapping the past two weeks have been about strength of schedule, along with a bloated market for teams excelling against the spread. Plus advanced metrics that point out certain weaknesses.

We discussed Ohio State’s issue giving up the big play, Wisconsin ranking 122nd in defensive line havoc, or Liberty ranking 38th in IsoPPP.

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: 36-35-1


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College Football Betting Picks, Week 9

South Florida at Houston

  • Spread: Houston -7.5
  • Over/Under: 75
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ABC/ESPN2

Looking at the strength of schedule for these two teams is scary enough to wear as a mask at Halloween. The Cougars have played the 126th ranked schedule, while the Bulls ranks 129th out of 130.

It’s safe to say we will look for future fade spots when these two move up in class, but for this game, we’ll focus on something different. With future NFL top draft pick Ed Oliver possibly out, there should be plenty of points scored.

Both of these teams rank in the top 20 in explosiveness, but the underdog Bulls should be able to keep pace with the Cougars. South Florida is 24th on passing downs explosiveness, contrasting Houston’s rank of 103rd in defending passing downs.

Houston ranked 58th in sack rate with Oliver, but without him, the defensive line havoc rate of 56th will suffer, allowing South Florida to keep pace in this one.

Play On: South Florida +7.5

Middle Tennessee at Old Dominion

  • Spread: Old Dominion +4
  • Over/Under: 59
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN+

Old Dominion had one of the most ridiculous victories of the college football season last week, including a near kick-six and three untimed downs.

The Monarchs are playing with house money, and Middle Tennessee’s recent inefficient offense comes to town looking for answers. The Blue Raiders are 117th in rushing offense, averaging 3.27 yards per carry, which directly resulted in some poor scoring performances over the past couple of weeks.

Middle Tennessee ranks 130th in rush explosiveness, while the offensive line is 116th in protecting Brent Stockstill on passing downs. When you’re edging out Charlotte at home, a trip to Norfolk may result in an outright Old Dominion victory. Also, what would October football be without a Stockstill injury watch?

Stockstill went 14 of 20 for 111 yards and three touchdowns against Charlotte, but a closer look at game tape shows there was zero mobility for the quarterback who has 52 rushes for 261 yards on the season (if you don’t count sacks against rushing yards).

It’s hard to butter up Old Dominion’s pedestrian advanced statistics, but the Monarchs do rank 38th in defensive line havoc.

Play On: Old Dominion +4

Cincinnati at SMU

  • Spread: SMU +9
  • Over/Under: 50
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: CBS Sports Network

Yes, we are playing the ponies. It’s hard for me to make that statement without mentioning that one of my top 5 things to do in Las Vegas is ‘play the ponies’ at the MGM Grand. I desperately miss that quarter slot machine with the bobbling horses as you placed long shot exactas.

MGM has since shut down that machine, which was perfectly placed outside the sports book, in favor of the new Fortune Cup.

Are we playing the SMU Ponies on Saturday? With a bucket of beer and a few shots of Vegas bombs, you know we are.

Cincinnati’s offense couldn’t do much in a loss to Temple, scraping together 17 points by the third quarter and not scoring again through overtime. Bad snaps and personal fouls doomed the Bearcats, who look to rebound against an SMU team that runs a much different pace than Temple with the Air Raid offense.

Cincinnati’s defense will limit an SMU offense that has been ghastly at moving the chains, ranking 126th in offensive efficiency. Where SMU has the advantages is in the explosive splits, taking advantage of a Bearcats defense that is 76th against rush explosiveness and 68th on passing downs against pass explosiveness. Although we don’t generally look to SMU for defense, the Mustangs rank 27th in the nation at limiting explosiveness.

The strength of schedule must be taken into account also. Cincinnati has played the 116th ranked schedule compared to SMU’s 21st. There is also a gap in special teams, where the Bearcats are 70th and the Mustangs are 26th.

It is the schedules, explosiveness and special teams that’s got us playing the ponies.

Play On: SMU +9

Texas A&M at Mississippi State

  • Spread: Mississippi State -1.5
  • Over/Under: 43.5
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN

I cannot figure out if I have lost more money fading LSU or backing Mississippi State this season. There was a different feel this week once head coach Joe Moorhead made mention that Keytaon Thompson might go under center at least for some of this game. This is the change many of us have desperately been looking for, with Fitzgerald leading Cowbell to a 128th ranking in completion percentage.

Assuming Thompson gets some playing time, the Bulldogs’ excellent defense should have breathing room.

Texas A&M is one of the best teams in the country, supporting two losses in covering efforts against Clemson and Alabama. But there are a few statistics that worry me with the Aggies — explosiveness and finishing drives. Texas A&M ranks 128th against explosiveness, and while no one is accusing Cowbell of flashing big offensive plays, this could be a sneaky spot to inject big play calling, which Moorhead did plenty at Penn State.

 

Finishing drives measures the points per trip inside the 40-yard line and red zone S&P+. Texas A&M ranks 98th and 94th on each side of the ball, indicating the Aggies aren’t scoring as much as they should while allowing opponents to convert points.

In contrast, Mississippi State ranks 27th offensively and fifth defensively in those same categories. Efficient quarterback play will make a huge difference, and I’m backing MSU because of it.

Play On: Mississippi State -1.5

Tulane at Tulsa

  • Spread: Tulsa -1.5
  • Over/Under: 50.5
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPNU

The point spread (+7) against Arkansas was puzzling for Tulsa, as the Golden Hurricanes were blanked against the Razorbacks in a 23-0 defeat.

Quarterback Seth Boomer continued his inefficient play at quarterback, going 8 for 25 for 127 yards. The freshman is now supporting a season completion rate of 35.1%.

I support the kid. He played high school football 15 miles from my house … but money is much sweeter when I cash it on my alma mater.

Tulane and Tulsa have very similar stat profiles with the exception of two areas — special teams and explosiveness. Tulsa is 106th in special teams compared to Tulane’s 20th.

While Tulsa ranks a decent 45th in third-down conversion percentage, there are large gaps in the explosiveness stats between the two teams. The Green Wave are 33rd in rushing explosiveness and 10th in pass explosiveness, which may spell doom for the Golden Hurricane, who rank 49th overall in defensively in the same category. Havoc is also an issue for Tulsa, coming in at 90th compared to Tulane’s rank of 47th.

Buckle up your seatbelt for turnover bonanza, as both teams rank in the bottom 15 in the nation in havoc allowed. The ball should be all over the carpet at Skelly Field, with every single loose ball hopefully procured by the Angry Wave helmets.

Play On: Tulane +1.5

UAB at UTEP

  • Spread: UTEP +16
  • Over/Under: 49
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN+

Rejoice, Miner Nation! The CW9 has won money on Rice, Wyoming, Sacramento State, and now we turn to #PicksUp for a cash against my beloved UAB Blazers.

Look, Miner Nation. We started off the season on the wrong foot, but all of us at The Action Network have your back this weekend.

There are two situational aspects to consider here. UTEP is still searching for that elusive first win, and hasn’t given up on the season. It has covered in three consecutive weeks against UTSA, North Texas and Louisiana Tech. The Miners have scored at least 20 points in their previous four games. They’re getting oh-so-close to that first win.

UAB all but wrapped up Conference USA West with a comeback victory over North Texas. It was an emotional victory not in just wrapping up the division, but wearing the names of patients at Children’s Harbor in Birmingham.

College football is a sport played with more of an emotional edge than the NFL, and it’s understandable if a trip to El Paso is a bit of letdown after a big victory that did some good both on and off the field for the Blazers.

There isn’t much to handicap in the form of advanced stats with this one, as UAB’s is playing top 10 in efficiency and sack rate. UTEP does get a boost with returning quarterback Kai Locksley. In his absence, the offensive line improved its play during the previous three weeks. Because of Locksley’s return, this game will serve as a double dip on UTEP and the over.

UAB has resolved the biggest question coming into 2018 — pass explosiveness. The Blazers now rank ninth in passing downs pass explosiveness, and that was on display in comeback victories against North Texas and Louisiana Tech.

UAB also ranks 102nd in red zone defense, which may allow a healthy UTEP offense to continue scoring 20 points or more.

Play On: UTEP +16, Over 49

Texas at Oklahoma State

  • Spread: Oklahoma State +3.5
  • Over/Under: 59.5
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ABC

While I was researching for and writing Sunday Morning Coffee, the postgame win expectancies for the Longhorns started to stick out like a sore thumb. Texas has won games against Baylor, Oklahoma and USC. Those three games have a postgame win expectancy of 32%, 9% and 53%, according to Football Study Hall, leading to a second order win total of -1.6, meaning Texas has been very lucky to have only one loss.

The Longhorns are the most overvalued team in the country, and now find themselves in coach Tom Herman’s worst spot — a road favorite.

Oklahoma State’s Achilles heel through two losses into the bye week was offensive line execution, along with the play calling. The offensive line worked on stability over the bye week, and should show improvement with missed assignments. The last time Oklahoma State was an underdog was before the Boise State game, and players love being an underdog again in Stillwater.

There are gaping holes in the advanced stats between the two teams, with Oklahoma State having a much higher S&P+ rating than Texas. Whether quarterback Sam Ehlinger returns or not, the Longhorns are 113th overall in explosiveness with an eye popping 117th ranking in red zone defense. Oklahoma State ranks eighth in explosiveness with an offense that ranks 30th in red zone efficiency.

And have I mentioned its Barry Sanders throwback night?

If red zone play and explosiveness wasn’t enough to sell you on the Cowboys, consider the sack rates for each team. The handicap on Texas has always been its lack of pressure on the quarterback, ranking 117th in sack rate. That should be good news to a struggling Oklahoma State offensive line.

On the flip side of the ball, the Cowboys field a sack rate of 12th in passing downs. Both the defensive line and linebacker unit have top 40 numbers in havoc, which should make Ehlinger uncomfortable.

Get those paddles ready for Homecoming on Barry Sanders throwback night, Pokes Nation!

Play On: Oklahoma State +3.5

San Diego State at Nevada

  • Spread: Nevada +2.5
  • Over/Under: 46
  • Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPNU

I was asked on the latest Action Colleges podcast about my bet regret, where co-host Stuckey and I talk about a bet we didn’t make from the previous Saturday. I said Oklahoma when I should have mentioned the Wolfpack.

After laying off the Pack against Hawaii, they marched up and down the field against the Rainbow Warriors in an 18-point victory.

I had no issues backing Nevada early in the season in non-conference play, but took losses against the spread against Vanderbilt and Toledo. It’s time to return to the bandwagon against a San Diego State team that has overachieved. The Aztecs have a second order win total of -1.1, indicating some luck in victories over San Jose State, Boise State, and Eastern Michigan.

San Diego State may have issues with the passing attack of Nevada, led by quarterback Ty Gangi. With a standard downs run rate rank of 118th, the Wolfpack are always looking to throw. Gangi is protected by an offensive line ranking 18th in sack rate, and the offense ranks 37th in pass explosiveness.

San Diego State is not as efficient in the 3-3-5 scheme as years past, posting a havoc rate of 104th overall and a sack rate of 103rd in passing downs. Another area of concern is the finishing drives metric for San Diego State. The Aztecs rank 119th in converting points past the 40-yards line.

That is great news for our ticket, as the Wolfpack have shown some defense, ranking eighth with its back against the red zone.

Play On: Nevada +2.5