College Football Odds & Picks: Our Best Bets for Saturday Afternoon, Including Arkansas vs. Cincinnati
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Bumper Pool #10 and the Arkansas Razorbacks football team.
- While the noon slate of college football games is great, it's important to keep the momentum rolling throughout the day.
- That's why our staff hand-picked five best bets for Saturday's afternoon slate, including picks for Cincinnati vs. Arkansas and BYU vs. USF.
- Check out all five afternoon best bets, complete with a breakdown, below.
After the noon slate on college football Week 1, there’s only one place to go: to the afternoon slate.
Our staff loves this window, hand-picking five bets between 3:30 p.m. ET and 4 p.m. ET. Two of those bets are aligned on No. 23 Cincinnati vs. No. 19 Arkansas, which is one of the few games that features two top 25 teams this weekend.
Be sure to check out all five of our best bets for Week 1’s afternoon slate below, along with our eight other best bets for the noon and evening kickoff windows.
Saturday Afternoon College Football Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college football staff is targeting from today’s slate of games. Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
|Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.|
Cincinnati vs. Arkansas
Cincinnati is being afforded the kind of respect usually reserved for perennial College Football Playoff teams. When Alabama loses a wave of starters to the NFL, it simply reloads. Are we sure Cincy is ready to pull off that same magic trick this fall?
Cincinnati needs to replace five players who were selected in the top 100 of the NFL draft last April.
Defensively, the Bearcats have been gutted, most notably in their secondary, where they’re tasked with replacing a generational cornerback duo (Coby Bryant, Ahmad Gardner). Cincy is 115th in returning defensive production overall. And now it’s tasked with working out the kinks in front of a raucous sellout crowd in SEC Country with a potential quarterback controversy on its hands. It’s far from an ideal way to start your season.
But this isn’t just about Cincy’s growing pains. Arkansas has a talented skill position group flanking KJ Jefferson and an elite offensive line protecting him.
Pro Football Focus ranked the Hogs’ front five as the fifth-best line in the country entering the season.
If Jadon Haselwood, a highly-touted Oklahoma transfer, can replace 80% of what Treylon Burks gave them last year in the passing game, this offense will be a problem for Cincinnati to slow down.
But even if the passing game isn’t firing on all cylinders for U-of-A, I anticipate the ground game picking up the slack.
The Arkansas rushing attack – which was last seen steamrolling Penn State (353 yards, 3 TDs) – will be facing a retooled Cincy front with just one full-time starter in its front six. Even at full strength last year, the Bearcats finished 62nd against the run.
This may be your last chance to back an undervalued Arkansas squad, now 16-6 ATS in its two years under head coach Sam Pittman.
Pick: Arkansas -6.5 (Play to -9)
By CJ Vogel
I am all over the Razorbacks on Saturday, and for good reason.
Arkansas returns four starters from an offensive line that opened a lot of eyes in 2021 – the Razorbacks finished ninth in the country in yards per game on the ground. It is a perfect storm for the trenches on the offensive side of the ball here.
Add in the fact that KJ Jefferson is back in the same system with another year of development under his belt, and the loss of Treylon Burks isn’t looking as bad in my mind.
When Arkansas gets to the red zone, it very rarely leaves without points. In 2021, Arkansas was 14th in red-zone efficiency and 21st in third-down efficiency. Rocking behind its 6-foot-4, 245-pound quarterback makes moving the chains in short-yardage situations much easier.
Cincinnati is 78th in the country in returning production from a year ago. The Bearcats were almost on the complete opposite end of the spectrum in efficiency ratings, with their red-zone defense coming in at 149th in the country and their third-down defense coming in at 152nd.
Arkansas will have a ruckus crowd at home – just as we saw last year against Texas. When the ball gets into big down positions, I am expecting the Hogs to pull through.
I like the Hogs by double digits tonight. It will be a statement win for Pittman.
Pick: Arkansas -6.5
Oregon vs. Georgia
I’ve touted it in my single-game guide. I preached about it in our mega guide. Now I’m bringing it back in our best bets feature.
Oregon has the tools to keep it tight in what will be a statement game early in the season. It seems like people are low on the Ducks because of last year’s underwhelming results thanks to injuries and luck, but the Ducks are back as a serious Pac-12 contender.
While I am skeptical of them pulling off another early-season upset – ala Ohio State last year – I at least expect them to keep it tight against the defending national champions.
Georgia’s success is built around an elite defense combined with a protective, slow offense that grinds you down slowly and effectively.
Oregon has the personnel to combat this, fielding arguably one of the best offensive lines in football. This is a unit that can limit Georgia’s consistent backfield pressure generated by its defense.
If Bo Nix can capitalize on the added protection, then Oregon should find itself with scoring opportunities to keep it close.
On the flip side, Georgia’s offensive scheme will remain the same, run the ball and dump it off to the playmakers. With Oregon finally healthy at linebacker and in the secondary, it should keep the playmakers in front of it to limit the damage.
With a slow style of play – coupled with Oregon’s strengths – I expect this to stay well within the number.
Pick: Oregon +17.5 (Play to +17)
Houston vs. UTSA
By Matt Wispe
This matchup of Group of Five Texas teams features two programs that experienced incredible 2021 campaigns.
Both teams enter this season missing meaningful pieces from their banner campaigns, but is one team better suited to find more success again this year, or at least this week?
UTSA’s success in 2021 was one of the highlights of the season, but it’ll have plenty of struggles in 2022. It ranks sixth-worst in returning production following its 12-2 season, and most notably, it lost Sincere McCormick. McCormick accounted for 27% of the Roadrunners’ total yardage and 29% of their offensive touchdowns.
Houston also finished its 2021 season with a 12-2 record. And in comparison to UTSA, the Cougars return an above-average portion of their production, but they enter the season without their leading rusher, Alton McCaskill, who tore his ACL in the spring.
The loss of McCaskill puts additional pressure on the passing game, but they should be in capable hands with fifth-year senior Clayton Tune under center and with Nathaniel Dell on the outside.
Defense will be the strength of this Houston team. Houston ranked 14th in yards per play allowed and 10th in rushing yards allowed per game. The Cougars’ 36.8% Rushing Success Rate Allowed ranked 12th nationally.
The key return for this team is defensive coordinator Doug Belk, who enters his fourth season in the position. Belk became the sole defensive coordinator in 2020 and has improved the team defense each of those two seasons.
With UTSA running the ball on 55% of its offensive plays in 2021, the loss of McCormick is a devastating blow. And against a defense at the level of Houston, scoring will be at a premium for UTSA.
Houston’s defense will keep the scoring low, and on the back of experienced QB play, it should have no trouble winning this game by a single score.
Pick: Houston -3.5 (Play to -6)
BYU vs. USF
It’s a shame the market continues underrating one of the best offenses in the entire country.
BYU finished fifth in yards per play (6.6) last season. The Cougars were seventh in a metric labeled F+ (which combines SP+ and FEI ratings) and netted 10 wins behind one of the most well-rounded units in football.
Dual-threat Jaren Hall broke out last year despite playing with cracked ribs. Now 100% healthy, he has everything at his disposal to help out over bettors.
The Cougars’ top three receivers bring back 95-1, 742-11, including PFF’s WR30 Puka Nacua. Tight end Isaac Rex is also back from injury, chipping in with three scores as an elite red-zone target in ’21.
The offensive line, meanwhile, returns more than 90% of last year’s snaps. And they were superb last year.
Blake Freeland was LT3 by PFF’s standards; two other guards were top-30 in the outlet’s respective position grades.
New South Florida quarterback Gerry Bohanon had the luxury of playing behind one of the best defenses in the nation last season at Baylor. The Bears could afford to play more tame offensively, as they were bottom-10 among major conferences in pace.
Snaps and tempo in a Bohanon-led offense should both increase, as South Florida’s defense projects to struggle this fall.
The secondary brings back a bulk of last year’s production, but this is a core that allowed quarterbacks to complete north of 70% of passes last season.
Anything at 59 or better is a play for me.