College Football Best Bets: 5 Betting Picks for Saturday Afternoon, Including Notre Dame vs. North Carolina
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images. Pictured: Princeton Fant #88 of the Tennessee Volunteers football team.
Week 4’s college football slate rolls on as we turn out attention to the afternoon games.
The afternoon docket rolls deep, featuring a number of stellar matchups that includes Florida vs. Tennessee, Notre Dame vs. North Carolina, Indiana vs. Cincinnati, Minnesota vs. Michigan State and more.
Our staff just so happened to find betting value on all four of those games, plus a non-conference matchup between Georgia Tech and UCF at 4 p.m. ET.
Be sure to take in all of our analysis for our afternoon best bets below — and check out our top picks for Saturday’s noon and evening windows as well.
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.|
Florida vs. Tennessee
If you haven’t heard by now, Josh Heupel has come in and turned Tennessee into one of the fastest-paced offenses in the country. He also has one of the most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks to run it.
Hendon Hooker has started 2022 on fire, averaging 9.9 yards per attempt with an 85.3 PFF passing grade. He also has eight big-time throws compared to only one turnover-worthy play.
Tennessee led college football at 3.12 plays per minute in 2021. This season, the pace slowed a bit to 2.98 plays per minute — but a lot of that has to do with the fact it wasn’t playing at its normal pace in blowouts of Ball State and Akron.
Tennessee possessed an incredible rushing attack last season, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and ranking fifth in Rushing Success Rate and 22nd in EPA/Rush. This season, its numbers are a little inflated with the two games against bottom-tier MAC schools, but Florida’s front seven has been gashed for 5.2 yards per carry and ranks 104th in EPA/Rush Allowed.
Anthony Richardson has been horrific as a passer, but he’s still been very effective as a runner, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Luckily for the Gators, Billy Napier stuck with his Louisiana roots and implemented a run-heavy offense.
The Gators have two outstanding running backs in Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne, who are both averaging over 7.0 yards per carry and have a combined 16 runs over 10 yards. That has led Florida to rank first nationally in Power Success Rate and 17th in rushing explosiveness.
Tennessee is currently 114th in rushing explosiveness allowed and 94th in Power Success Rate Allowed, even after playing two bottom-tier MAC schools. So, Florida should be able to move the ball on the ground.
Also, if the Gators fall behind they’re going to be forced to play this game at Heupel’s tempo, which should turn it into a high-scoring affair.
I have 73.1 points projected for this game, so I like the value on over 62 points.
Pick: Over 62 (Play to 66)
Notre Dame vs. North Carolina
By Alex Hinton
When this line opened this week, Notre Dame was a 1.5-point favorite, which I immediately thought was a mistake. The line has swung in North Carolina’s direction with the Tar Heels now entering as the 1.5-point favorite.
At a similar price, I prefer the moneyline, as I expect the Tar Heels to win at home.
Notre Dame’s offense started the year with a bang on a 54-yard reception by Lorenzo Styles Jr. Since, it has had very few fireworks.
Notre Dame is averaging 18.3 points per game this season. It ranks 100th in Finishing Drives, 117th Passing Success Rate, 118th in passing play explosiveness and 122nd in rushing play explosiveness.
The Fighting Irish lack juice offensively, but they will get to face North Carolina’s defense this week. However, that also means it must contend with UNC’s offense.
The Tar Heels are led by first-year quarterback Drake Maye, who has lit it up in his first three starts. The redshirt freshman is completing 74.2% of his passes and finds himself tied for the nation’s lead with 11 touchdown passes and just one interception.
He leads an offense that’s averaging 51.3 points per game. Behind Maye’s arm, the Tar Heels rank 11th nationally in Passing Success Rate.
Two key areas UNC will have an advantage over Notre Dame are Havoc and Finishing Drives. North Carolina’s offense ranks 69th in Havoc Allowed and 11th in Finishing Drives, while Notre Dame’s defense ranks 108th in Havoc and 76th in Finishing Drives.
While Notre Dame may have a bit of success against UNC’s defense, it will have a hard time keeping up with the Tar Heels offense.
Thirty points will likely be enough for North Carolina to pull out a win, so I’ll back the Tar Heels at home.
Pick: North Carolina ML -118 (Play to -135)
Minnesota vs. Michigan State
Saturday night’s cross-divisional Big Ten matchup presents a great opportunity for Michigan State to bounce back from its road loss to Washington.
Minnesota opened the season with two FBS opponents in New Mexico and Colorado that rank outside the top 100 in SP+. Its third win came against FCS Western Illinois.
Playing their first road game against a drastically more talented opponent may result in the Gophers taking some time to find their footing.
Minnesota will look to establish the run early and often with star running back Mohamed Ibrahim. Against its three low-level opponents, Minnesota averaged 312.7 rushing yards per game with an average of 5.8 yards per attempt.
This run-heavy style is advantageous for a Michigan State defense whose primary weakness comes in its secondary. The Spartans ranked fifth nationally in Rushing EPA per Play Allowed. A run-heavy scheme from Minnesota will be welcomed by the Spartans.
Additionally, Minnesota’s leading receiver, Chris Autman-Bell was ruled out for the season after suffering a lower-leg injury against Colorado. This loss will further the Gophers’ dependence on the run.
Look for Michigan State to jump out early in this one and force Minnesota into a game script it hasn’t experienced yet this season.
Pick: Michigan State +3 (Play to +1.5)
Indiana vs. Cincinnati
Indiana has been outgained in two of its three games so far. It barely scratched past Western Kentucky and Illinois despite forcing six turnovers between the two games. It allowed 22 points to Idaho as 24.5-point favorites.
The Hoosiers are due for regression. That’s not even mentioning new quarterback Connor Bazelak, who’s thrown just two interceptions but made five turnover-worthy plays.
Indiana has also upped its pace. It’s now fifth in plays per game and is passing at a top-15 rate.
This is a Luke Fickell defense that will force Indiana’s negative regression. The Hoosiers will play fast but straight into a ton of three-and-outs, and that will give Ben Bryant — who is PFF’s 19th-best quarterback — plenty of clock time to cover a decent-sized spread.
Bryant shouldn’t have an issue considering the Hoosiers rank outside the top 105 in Passing Success Rate Allowed and outside the top 120 in PFF’s pass rush grades.
We project this spread at Bearcats -20.5, giving us four points of cushion.
Pick: Cincinnati -16.5
Georgia Tech vs. UCF
I’ll take a whack at Georgia Tech going over the total for the first time all year on an over/under that was bet down early.
UCF, meanwhile, hasn’t been even close in the last two games, coming shy of the closing total by an average of 18 points per contest.
However, I disagree with Saturday’s over/under, a week after Georgia Tech vs. Ole Miss closed a full touchdown higher.
UCF (2.79) might not run as many plays per minute as Ole Miss (3.17), but the Knights are still top-15 nationally in pace.
Plus, after the Rebels hung 547 total yards and 42 points in a game they ran the ball 62 times, who’s to say the nation’s fifth-best rushing offense can’t go bonkers in its home confines?
Georgia Tech’s offense isn’t very effective, but it’ll at least run with some tempo. And although it’s low-hanging fruit, I’ll bet the Yellow Jackets don’t put up a bagel for the second straight week.
Both offenses are bottom-30 nationally in Finishing Drives, but I’m banking on some sort of positive regression, especially for the Knights and their RPO game behind quarterback John Rhys Plumlee.
There were potential weather concerns earlier in the week, but the forecast looks fairly clean.
It’s a cheap total for over bettors, especially if you can find the rogue 56 out there.