College Football Group of 5 Parlay: Our Top Picks for Week 8, Featuring Nevada vs. Fresno State
Will Navarro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Josh Kelly (11) of the Fresno State Bulldogs.
Each week, to coincide with the release of the “Group of Five Deep Dive” under the Big Bets On Campus podcast banner, I’ll be sharing my Group of Five Parlay of the week.
After a rocky Week 7, I’m back in the saddle with three favorites that are well-positioned to lower the boom on their opponents in Week 8.
So, that means I’m banking on a Seminole rout at Doak Campbell, a Ball State bludgeoning in Muncie and a late-game victory formation in the Valley for Fresno State.
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UMass vs. Florida State
Florida State used to be in the same boat as Texas and USC, with the national media quick to anoint the ‘Noles as “back” after a quality win.
The problem for Florida State is that it hasn’t been able to string together quality wins, and as a result, it has fallen completely out of the national consciousness. For perspective, until last Saturday, the ‘Noles hadn’t beaten a pair of Power Five opponents in back-to-back weeks since Willie Taggart’s first season in Tallahassee.
But this is a tailor-made “buy low” situation. When teams are flying below the radar, that’s when I love to play them. Florida State is fitting that bill right now.
After an 0-4 start, the ‘Noles have scored 68 points in their last two games while securing a pair of upset wins over Syracuse and North Carolina.
Their offensive line has played significantly better, thanks in large part to the return of a few previously sidelined starters. Maurice Smith at center particularly helped the ‘Noles prevent a single sack against UNC last week.
With more continuity and talent up front, Jordan Travis has had time to operate. The dual-threat QB has accounted for 510 total yards and seven touchdowns in his last two games.
UMass, meanwhile, is still the same team that can’t seem to stop anyone defensively. The Minutemen rank 122nd in plays from scrimmage that go for 20 yards or more, and 118th in that same metric at 30+.
FSU will hit plenty of long gains and hang north of 50 on UMass as they march toward bowl eligibility.
Pick: Florida State -35.5
Miami (OH) vs. Ball State
Ball State was on the road to ruin. After a very rocky start that included a beatdown in State College, the Cardinals sat at 1-3 and looked lost offensively.
But a Week 5 upset of Army has rejuvenated the 2020 MAC Champs. In short, Ball State has righted the ship. Winners of three in a row, the Cardinal passing attack is humming behind Drew Plitt. He just posted a QBR of 82.3 at Eastern Michigan last week, and their running game is finally starting to chip in.
Ball State won the MAC last season behind their passing game and now that the trio of Yo’Heinz Tyler, Jordan Hall and Plitt are rolling again, I’ll be betting BSU until it burns me.
Miami (OH), on the other side of this matchup, has just three wins this season, two of which came against college football doormats (Long Island and Akron). Defensively, the RedHawks are feisty, having held their last four opponents to just 18.5 points per game. But upon closer inspection, they fail to do anything noteworthy on that side of the ball.
Teams are able to pass and run with relative ease (162 rush yds, 75th; 214 pass yds, 47th), and Ball State can’t seem to take the ball away from anyone (.8 Takeaways, 109th).
I’ll take the home team on a heater against an average MAC opponent.
Pick: Ball State -5.5
Nevada vs. Fresno State
This is probably the best Group of Five game in the country this week, with elite quarterback play on display.
Fresno State proved early on, in a narrow loss to Oregon and an upset of UCLA on the road, that it can move the ball on anyone. Jake Haener has helped the passing game blossom into one of the best aerial shows in college football (332 yards, 10th).
But it’s really the Fresno defense that has me siding with the Bulldogs in this one. They check in top-20 nationally in Run Stuff Rate, hold opponents to just 4.8 yards per play (24th) and lead the country in opponent completion percentage (47.9%). Carson Strong has been playing well as of late, but he showed in games against Boise State and Kansas State that he and the Wolf Pack passing attack can be reined in.
My power rankings call for this one to be Fresno -7.5, so I’m happy to walk this line all the way down to the key number of three before pulling the trigger.
Pick: Fresno State -3
College Football Week 8 Group of Five Parlay (+600)
Florida State -35.5
Ball State -5.5
Fresno State -3
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