College Football Picks for Week 12 | Best Bets from Today’s Early Games
Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Washington State defensive lineman Antonio Pule.
College Football Week 12 has arrived.
With next week’s college football slate extending to Black Friday, today marks the last truly ginormous Saturday slate of the 2022 college football season. So, let’s enjoy it while we can.
Our staff came through with four best bets for Saturday’s early games, starting with Navy vs. UCF and extending through Washington State vs. Arizona at 2 p.m. ET.
Read on for all four of our early best bets, and be sure to check out the rest of our top picks for Saturday’s afternoon and evening games.
College Football Best Bets from Today’s Early Games
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college football staff is targeting from Saturday’s early kickoff windows. 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.|
Navy vs. UCF
I’m going back to the well with this Navy team after its cover against Notre Dame last week.
The Midshipmen’s strength is slowing down opposing rushing offenses. The program ranks ninth in the nation in yards per rush and third in Defensive Line Yards.
That will be crucial in this matchup against a UCF program that ranks 20th in the nation in Rush Rate, running the ball on 59% of its snaps. That has been the main driver of the offense’s success this season, as it averages 5.4 yards per carry.
Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee is the team’s leading rusher this season, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and 79 rushing yards per game. Navy will be able to contain his legs and force him to become a pocket passer.
That hasn’t been Plumlee’s strength in recent weeks. The senior quarterback has thrown only one touchdown to three interceptions in that span.
Navy’s offense will do what it always does, chew clock and methodically march down the field. The Midshipmen have closed as double-digit underdogs in their five road matchups this season and covered the spread in each one.
I anticipate that trend to continue in this matchup with UCF.
Illinois vs. Michigan
I love this spot for the Illini to hang inside the number and get the cover.
First of all, getting 18 points in a game where the total currently sits at 41 is a ton. Michigan isn’t exactly a high-powered offense and the Wolverines do most of their damage on the ground, which should result in less possessions.
Additionally, the bigger reason why I love this spot is where the game falls on the schedule for both teams.
With Ohio State on deck, I think it’s pretty fair to assume that Jim Harbaugh may go a little bit vanilla in this one. Michigan will naturally have one eye on the showdown with the Buckeyes next week, and I don’t see Harbaugh wanting to show Ryan Day all that much on Saturday.
Meanwhile, for Illinois, I think you’ll see a fired up Illini team giving its best effort to salvage things after a really disappointing two week stretch.
Bret Bielema’s team was in great position to take the Big Ten West before squandering two games at home to Michigan State and Purdue.
Despite those losses, the Illini are still alive in the West, and this has still been a season that has far exceeded anyone in Champaign’s expectations. Expect Bielema’s bunch to give it everything they have on the road as a heavy underdog.
Illinois has the defense to hang around in this one, which should result in a comfortable cover. Give me the Illini with the points.
UTSA vs. Rice
After relying on its bell-cow running back last season, UTSA has become one of the most prolific passing attacks in the country. Quarterback Frank Harris leads a Roadrunners team that ranks fourth in the country in Passing Success Rate.
Harris is averaging over 300 yards per game with 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He is completing 70% of his passes and has just one interception since September. He has two star receivers in Zakhari Franklin and Joshua Cephus. Franklin leads the conference in touchdowns and Cephus leads in receptions.
The Roadrunners have also really improved their running game as the season has gone on, thanks to the emergence of freshman Kevorian Barnes to go along with Brenden Brady.
They have over 200 yards rushing in four of the last five games. Barnes had just six carries through the first six games and now he has over 100 yards in three of the last four games.
UTSA is excellent at Finishing Drives, ranking 16th in the country at putting up points when it crosses the opponent’s 40-yard line. Harris has led the Roadrunners to the top scoring offense in the conference as has been excellent in the red zone.
Do you know what Rice really struggles at? Defending the pass. The Owls rank just 102nd in the country in Passing Success Rate on defense and are 118th at defending Passing Explosiveness. They have allowed 22 passing touchdowns this season and over the last four games, they have given up 14 touchdowns through the air.
Teams have been picking them apart recently, with Louisiana Tech scoring 41 points on them, Charlotte putting up 46, UTEP scoring 30 and Western Kentucky notching 45 points last week.
The Owls also rank 120th at defending Finishing Drives. Pretty much every team that crosses the 40 against Rice has scored a touchdown.
It has been seven wins in a row for UTSA, and a win against Rice would secure a second-straight Conference USA Championship game berth for Jeff Traylor and the Roadrunners.
The Owls aren’t going to be able to slow down Harris and this passing attack, and Meep Meep should pull away here.
Washington State vs. Arizona
By Cody Goggin
Arizona just finished running through the gauntlet of its schedule and played far better than expected. The Wildcats lost to Oregon, Washington, USC and Utah, but played competitively in most of those games.
Last week, the Wildcats went on the road and upset UCLA.
A large part of the success for Arizona during this stretch has been its passing game, which ranks 28th in Success Rate and 25th in PPA. The Wildcats pass the ball at the 14th-highest rate in the nation, largely due to the game scripts they find themselves in.
Of the teams that Arizona has played in the last month, none of them have had great passing defenses, allowing Arizona to hang around in the game or even win in the case of UCLA.
Utah is the only Pac-12 opponent Arizona has faced that ranks better than 99th in Passing Success Rate Allowed this season The Utes were able to hold Arizona to its lowest point total in conference play (20).
Washington State’s defense will be able to challenge Arizona in the same way. The Cougars rank 31st in Passing Success Rate against and 28th in passing PPA. According to PFF, Washington State has the 27th-highest coverage grade in the country and the 40th-highest-graded defense overall.
The main reason that Arizona has struggled to win games this year despite its passing offense being good has been its defense.. This unit ranks dead last in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and is 131st in Overall Success Rate.
The Wildcats are also 130th in rushing PPA, 129th in points per opportunity allowed, 119th in passing PPA and 126th in Passing Success Rate.
Washington State’s offense is far from elite, but it will be good enough to take advantage of this Wildcats defense.
The Cougars throw the ball at the third-highest rate in the country and rank 66th in Success Rate through the air. They also rank 41st in Rushing Success Rate, 27th in rushing PPA and second in Rushing Explosiveness.
I believe that this game will come down to the mismatch that the Washington State defense poses for Arizona in the passing game. If the Cougars can get to 30 points against this Wildcats defense, they will be able to cover without issue.