College Football Group of 5 Parlay for Week 7: Our Top Bet, Featuring Kent State vs. Western Michigan
Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Dustin Crum.
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.
While an early loss at the betting window on Thursday night doomed the parlay, the other two legs hit with ease, as UTEP improved to 5-1 ATS on the season and the projected shootout between UTSA and WKU exceeded even my high expectations (98 points).
For those of you playing these games individually, I’m now 11-7 (61%) on the year.
This week, I’m calling for another Western Kentucky over, buying low on a suddenly surging Kent State offense and scanning the radar in the Bay Area as San Diego State imposes it’s No Fly Zone restrictions on San Jose State.
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San Diego State vs. San Jose State
I recommended playing the Aztec moneyline (-350) on the podcast this week, but the more I dig into this game, the more I like SDSU against the spread.
It all starts with the Aztecs’ dynamic defense.
Kurt Mattix, SDSU’s defensive coordinator, is setting himself up for a run at the Broyles Award and a slew of head coaching offers. For the second year in a row, he’s coaching up a top-five defense, and according to Pro Football Focus, only Iowa and Georgia bring more to table against the pass than the Aztecs.
In the Aztecs’ Power Five matchup against Utah, they held the Utes to just 4.4 yards per attempt.
Teams simply can’t beat this unit deep, evidenced by the fact they’ve allowed only four competitions of 30 yards or more through five games (5th nationally). This suffocating coverage allows them to get to the quarterback early and often (3.6 sacks per game, 8th) without blitzing.
San Jose State is in the midst of a quarterback controversy, having to choose between a dinged-up and largely ineffective incumbent (Nick Starkel, 4 INTs in last 3) and Nick Nash, who was unable to get the offense out of neutral against Colorado State (11/22, 154 yards).
This is not the kind of momentum a team wants when it’s about to face the nation’s premier G5 defense.
And then there’s the lack of a home-field advantage at CEFCU Stadium. The east-side stadium renovation has temporarily reduced seating capacity from just over 30,000 to 21,520. And lackluster play has brought the official attendance numbers down to 15,000. That translates to a nonexistent home-field advantage, as you can see below.
𝙊𝙣𝙚 𝘾𝙞𝙩𝙮, 𝙊𝙣𝙚 𝙎𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙖𝙣 𝙉𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣
— San José State Football 🏆 (@SanJoseStateFB) October 8, 2021
This drop is significant, because coming into the season, Collin Wilson’s home field advantage metrics placed SJSU at 26th nationally. The home-cooking just isn’t the same this season.
The Spartans nearly lost outright to New Mexico State two weeks ago and appear to be in a tailspin entering this one.
Pick: San Diego State -9.5
Western Kentucky vs. Old Dominion
Here’s a fun fact right out of the gate: Western Kentucky is the only team in the nation that has cracked the top 11 in scoring offense while residing in the bottom 11 of scoring defense.
That screams “over” in bright shining lights on the gambling marquee.
This also explains why the Hilltoppers have gone over in all five games this season, exceeding the closing total by an average of 16.7 points per game. No other Group of Five program is within five points of that “over” average.
Is it possible the lousy Monarch attack could throw cold water on this over party? At first blush, absolutely.
Old Dominion totals have split this season, 3-3, behind the nation’s 100th-rated scoring offense.
If you’re hunting for a national ranking in the triple digits you don’t have to strain your eyes when perusing ODU’s metrics. Yards per play, competition percentage, interception rate, sack rate, the list goes on and on for the Monarchs, and frankly, it’s all ghastly.
But ODU has shown potential on the ground, committing to the run more than 40 times per game while gaining 179 yards per contest. Western Kentucky is absolutely horrific against the run, allowing 211 yards per game to opponents.
Given the red-hot state of the WKU passing attack, I’m not concerned about the stingy (by C-USA standards) secondary ODU is currently trotting out there.
The ODU defense has faced two upper-tier quarterbacks thus far (Sam Hartman, Wake Forest & Malik Willis, Liberty) and surrendered seven passing touchdowns against zero interceptions. Bailey Zappe and midseason All-American Jerreth Sterns will have a field day.
If the ODU running game can do the heavy lifting and get the Monarchs into the upper 20s, WKU and it’s aerial attack will do the rest. I would play this up to 72.5.
Pick: Over 67
Kent State vs. Western Michigan
If you bought low on the Golden Flashes and backed Kent State as a double-digit underdog to Buffalo last week, you were handsomely rewarded.
Dustin Crum has finally emerged from a brutal opening schedule that seemed destined to doom the Kent season. Instead of packing it in, he and his band of MAC playmakers are out for revenge.
Crum tallied 479 total yards and five touchdowns last week. His backfield mate, Marquez Cooper, has now assumed full bellcow duties, having toted the rock 52 times for 232 yards and three scores in the past two weeks.
The offense is back on track, which is bad news for the rest of the MAC.
Western Michigan, which I faded last week against Ball State, does not have the same quick-strike offense it did last season.
Kaleb Eleby is still a tremendous G5 quarterback, and La’Darius Jefferson continues to give the Broncos the perfect run/pass balance (435 yards, 8 TDs), but the days of the Eleby quick-strike are over.
In 2020 WMU’s yards per attempt average was second nationally, just .1 yards behind mighty Alabama. This season, it checks in at 67th.
I would warn our audience to check the weather in Kalamazoo before pulling the trigger. After a soggy week and with rain forecasted for Thursday and Friday, strong winds are now on the menu for Saturday.
If the passing game is off the table for both teams, I still like Kent State but to a lesser degree.
If winds are projected below 15 MPH, this becomes one of my top plays of the week, with Crum positioned for back-to-back big outings through the air.