College Football Early Bets, Picks: Week 13 Predictions for Oregon State vs. Oregon, Texas A&M vs. LSU & More
John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: The Texas A&M Aggies football team.
It's time for the final weekend of the college football regular season. It's rivarly weekend, which means we have some huge games like Ohio State vs. Michigan, Oregon State vs. Oregon, etc.
The market clearly moves a lot over the course of the week. Money pours in from the time lines open on Sunday until kickoff on Saturday. Like any other sport, it's paramount to get the best price possible when betting on college football.
For example, a -6.5 favorite could move to -7.5 on Saturday morning, and then you run the risk of that team winning by one of the most likely outcomes — a seven-point victory — and you just lost your bet. It happens every week.
But that mess could have been avoided if the bet was locked in at -6.5 on Sunday afternoon.
I'm here to help you navigate the market by providing a few lines I'm buying right now — or other lines that I'm waiting to buy later in the week.
The hope for this piece is to beat the market, get the best price possible, and in the long run, save you some money with closing line value. To do that, we'll utilize our Action Network PRO projections, ESPN's SP+ and my own projections to create a consensus.
You hear all the time, "Process over results." The best way to know if the process is working is by closing line value (CLV), meaning how many points did you beat the closing line by? Well, I'm here to help you hopefully get the most CLV possible early on in the week so you're sitting in a great position by the time we reach Saturday.
Oregon State vs. Oregon Odds
Oregon State vs. Oregon Projections
|Oregon -12.7||Oregon -10.8||Oregon -11.2|
Oregon State's upset bid of Washington came up just short, as it lost 22-20. However, the Beavers did a fantastic job of shutting down Heisman Trophy candidate Michael Penix Jr.
Penix by far played his worst game of the season, going 13-of-28 for only 162 yards. It's not really a surprise given how good OSU's secondary has been all season, ranking inside the top 30 in both Passing Success Rate and EPA/Pass Allowed.
The way to stop Oregon, though, is by stopping the short passing game because Bo Nix is the best short passer in college football.
Nix is one of the top two Heisman favorites and currently leads college football in completion percentage, but that's because all of his throws are short. Over 65% of Nix's pass attempts this season have been under 10 yards in the air. So, given how successful Oregon State was in limiting Penix, this is definitely an encouraging sign.
The biggest question mark for the Beavers in this game is going to be their ability to stop the run. They rank 70th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, while Oregon is second offensively.
However, Oregon ran for only 4.2 yards per carry in the blowout against Arizona State this past weekend, and star back Bucky Irving has been banged up the past few weeks.
On the other side, Oregon State has an elite rushing attack that will be its best path to success in this game. The Beavers sit third in Rushing Success Rate and sixth in EPA/Rush because of Damien Martinez.
Martinez is averaging 6.3 yards per carry on the season and is a big-play machine with 39 runs of at least 10 yards, which is the third-best mark in college football.
Those big plays can be attributed to his offensive line, which will be key if Oregon State wants to hang around in this game. The Beavers are 19th in Offensive Line Yards and have the No. 1 run-blocking grade, per PFF.
Defensively, Oregon is pretty weak against the run, ranking 73rd in Defensive Line Yards. It has also given up a lot of big plays on the ground, ranking 81st in rushing explosiveness allowed.
The Beavers' rushing attack will have to be efficient to control the clock and not put pressure on DJ Uiagalelei against a top-10 secondary.
The biggest thing in this game is going to be Oregon State's ability to defend the run in its own area of the field. The Beavers have had a lot of success in that area, ranking 23rd in Finishing Drives Allowed.
All three projection models show value on the Beavers at +14, so I would grab that now before it moves.
Pick: Oregon State +14
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Northwestern vs. Illinois Odds
Northwestern vs. Illinois Projections
|Illinois -3.8||Illinois -0.6||Illinois -0.8|
No team in college football has had a better turnaround than Northwestern, which reached bowl eligibility with its win over Purdue this past weekend. The Wildcats have a great chance to get to seven wins when they travel to Champaign for an in-state rivalry with Illinois for their regular-season finale.
Northwestern quarterback Ben Bryant has been really impressive the last two games since returning from injury. He averaged over 8.5 yards per attempt against Wisconsin and Purdue while coming through a +10.59 EPA in those two games as well.
That will be big against an Illinois secondary that has been bad against the pass this season. The Illini got a break last week facing one of the worst passing attacks in the country, but on the season, the Illini rank 96th in Passing Success Rate Allowed and 81st in EPA/Pass Allowed.
Even though Northwestern hasn't moved the ball very effectively this season, it's been really good at finishing off scoring drives. The Wildcats are averaging 4.4 Points per Scoring Opportunity, which ranks 29th in the country. They've also scored points on 90.2% of their red-zone trips.
Illinois quarterback Luke Altmyer was apparently healthy enough to play against Iowa, but John Paddock will now be the starting quarterback against Northwestern after his 500-yard passing performance against Indiana two weeks ago.
#illini Bret Bielema said John Paddock will be the starting quarterback against Northwestern.
— Joey Wagner (@mrwagner25) November 19, 2023
Paddock came back down to earth against Iowa, going 22-for-47 for only 215 yards. He'll have another tough matchup against a Northwestern secondary that's top-40 in both Passing Success Rate and EPA/Pass allowed.
Illinois is going to be forced to methodically move the ball in this game because Northwestern simply doesn't allow big plays. The Wildcats are eighth in the nation in explosiveness allowed, while Illinois' offense is 111th in explosiveness.
This line is inflated because Northwestern is already bowl-eligible and Illinois needs a win to reach bowl eligibility. However, this is a rare scenario in which I don't think inflating the line for the team that needs to win is warranted.
First, Northwestern has so much positive momentum going with David Braun that I highly doubt it's going to rest on its laurels. Secondly, this is a rivalry game, so I would expect Northwestern to try to keep Illinois from reaching bowl eligibility.
All three projection models show value on the Wildcats, so I would grab them now at +5.5.
Pick: Northwestern +5
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Texas A&M vs. LSU Odds
Texas A&M vs. LSU Projections
|LSU -5.3||LSU -5.2||LSU -2.8|
There really isn't much else you can say about Jayden Daniels at this point other than he's put up the best numbers in the country. However, this is a great opportunity to sell high on the Tigers after Daniels put up eight touchdowns.
The reason is because Texas A&M has an outstanding defense. The Aggies are top-10 in the country in both Success Rate and EPA/Play Allowed, and they're incredibly difficult to run against.
Tennessee is the only team that has averaged over four yards per carry against the Aggies' front seven, so it's not shocking that A&M ranks fifth in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and sixth in EPA/Rush Allowed.
LSU's offense, not surprisingly, has been the best team in the country at Finishing Drives, averaging 5.16 Points per Opportunity. However, Texas A&M is top-10 in Finishing Drives Allowed, so it's not going to be as easy for LSU as it was against Georgia State last week.
The problem with backing LSU as a double-digit favorite is that its defense literally cannot stop anything when it faces a decent offense. The Tigers are 122nd in EPA/Play Allowed, 100th in Success Rate Allowed and 125th in Finishing Drives Allowed.
The biggest reason LSU has struggled on defense is because of its inability to stop teams on third downs. The Tigers are allowing teams to convert 46.5% of third downs, which ranks 119th in the nation. On top of that, they're also dead last in Power Success Rate Allowed, which measures the percentage of running plays on third or fourth down from two yards or less in which an offense either converted into a first down or scored a touchdown.
A&M quarterback Max Johnson has missed the last two games, and it's unclear at the time of writing whether or not he's going to play in this one.
Jaylen Henderson has started in his place and has played pretty well, averaging 10.0 yards per attempt with a positive EPA through those two games.
Quite honestly, whoever starts is going to be able to throw all over an LSU secondary that's allowing 8.0 yards per attempt and ranks 109th in Passing Success Rate Allowed.
Texas A&M also has a solid rushing attack that's top-50 in Success Rate. That unit should be able to run the ball effectively against an LSU front seven that ranks 117th in that same category defensively.
All three projection models show good value on the Aggies, so I like the value on them at +12.5 at FanDuel, while the rest of the market is at +10.5.
Pick: Texas A&M +12.5
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