College Football Odds & Early Bets for Conference Championships: 2 Picks for Utah vs. USC & Purdue vs. Michigan
Nic Antaya/Getty Images. Pictured: Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy.
The college football regular season is over, and it’s Championship Weekend with a ton on the line all across the country on both Friday and Saturday.
We all know the college football market moves a lot over the course of the week. Money pours in all over the place from the time lines open on Sunday afternoon until kickoff on Saturday. Championship Weekend is no exception.
Like any other sport, it’s paramount to get the best price possible when betting on college football.
For example, a -6.5 favorite could move to -7.5 on Saturday morning, and then you run the risk of that team winning by one of the most likely outcomes — a seven-point victory — and you just lost your bet. It could have all been avoided if the bet was locked in at -6.5 on Monday morning.
I’m here to help you navigate the market by providing a few lines I’m buying right now — or other lines that I’m waiting to buy later in the week.
The hope for this piece is to beat the market, get the best price possible, and in the long run, save you some money with closing line value. To do that, we’ll utilize our Action Network PRO projections, ESPN’s SP+ and my own projections to create a consensus.
You hear all the time, “Process over results.” The best way to know if the process is working is by closing line value (CLV), meaning how many points did you beat the closing line by?
I’ll be keeping track of exactly how many points we’ve beaten the market by in recent weeks:
- Syracuse +3.5 → +3.5 closing line
- New Mexico +15.5 → +14.5 closing line
- Bowling Green +2.5 → +2.5 closing line
- UCLA -18.5 → -20 closing line
- Louisiana +24 → -24.5 closing line
- Washington State -4 → -4 closing line
- Boise State -15.5 → -17 closing line
- Kansas State -11.5 → -12 closing line
- Air Force -1 → -2.5 closing line
Now, let’s dive into the Championship Weekend.
Utah vs. USC
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
A rematch of one of the games of the year with a College Football Playoff berth on the line for USC.
Caleb Williams essentially locked up the Heisman Trophy against Notre Dame on Saturday night. He’s leading an offense that has been one of the best in the country this season, averaging 7.1 yards per play while ranking second in Success Rate and fourth in EPA/Play.
In the game at Utah earlier this season, the Trojans put up a whopping 556 yards of offense and averaged over eight yards per play.
With that said, it’s going to be much more difficult this time around.
First off, USC is without star running back Travis Dye for the remainder of the season. Austin Jones has filled in nicely, going over 100 yards in the last two games. He’s going to have to put up a similar performance because way to attack the Utah defense is on the ground. The Utes rank outside the top 60 in EPA/Play Allowed.
Williams attempted 42 passes against Utah earlier this season and threw for 9.1 yards per attempt. However, he had just a 72.5 PFF passing grade because he posted his third-lowest adjusted completion percentage mark of the season.
Utah also pressured Williams 19 times, which is the most any defense has pressured him this season.
The Utes boast an outstanding secondary that’s 16th in EPA/Pass Allowed and owns the 23rd-best PFF coverage grade. Since they’ve seen Williams once already this season, they should be able to put up a better performance this time around.
The biggest handicap in this matchup is USC’s defense, which continues to be absolutely horrendous. Notre Dame averaged 7.8 yards per play on Saturday night, while UCLA put up 6.8 the week prior. The Trojans rank 127th in Success Rate Allowed, 96th in EPA/Play Allowed and 121st in Finishing Drives Allowed.
Utah did whatever it wanted in the first meeting in Salt Lake City. Cam Rising had an incredible game, throwing for over 400 yards, 9.4 yards per attempt and three big-time throws.
Cam Rising and Utah upset USC last night, This 2 point conversion to win pic.twitter.com/8qqjew8f2U
— CFBTalkDaily (@CFBTalkDaily) October 16, 2022
Utah ranks top-10 nationally in Passing and Rushing Success Rate on offense, so it can choose how it wants to exploit this USC defense.
And of course, we have to mention turnover luck. USC has been the luckiest team when it comes to turnovers with a +26 turnover margin on the season, which is by far the best mark in college football.
The sheer number of turnovers the Trojans have snagged this season has put a gigantic band-aid over what is truly one of the worst Power Five defenses in college football.
All three projection models are showing at least 2.5 points worth of value on the Utes, so I would grab them now at +3.
Purdue vs. Michigan
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
Coming off another win over its bitter rival, Michigan looks to win back-to-back Big Ten titles when it takes on Purdue as big favorites.
Michigan’s put it on Ohio State last Saturday, going for over 500 yards at 8.8 yards per play on its way to a 45-23 win at the Horseshoe.
The Wolverines offense ranks eighth in Success Rate, 23rd in Finishing Drives and 18th in yards per play. The reason it’s so successful is because of its rushing attack, which sits top-10 in Success Rate and EPA/Rush.
Blake Corum suffered a nasty injury against Illinois and carried the ball just twice against Ohio State.
Normally, when a running back of Corum’s caliber (95.8 PFF rushing grade) goes down, the rushing attack takes a step back. However, Michigan has another dynamic running back in Donovan Edwards, who torched the Ohio State defense for 216 yards and two touchdowns.
Edwards is averaging an eye-popping 7.5 yards per carry and owns an 86.0 PFF rushing grade this season.
DONOVAN EDWARDS 85 YARDS TO THE HOUSE!!! pic.twitter.com/lFjgfeCwKq
— 𝗙𝗢𝗟𝗟𝗢𝗪 @𝗙𝗧𝗕𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗱𝟳 (@FTBeard7) November 26, 2022
Purdue boasts a top-30 run defense, so Michigan may find life on the ground more difficult than it did against Ohio State.
However, quarterback JJ McCarthy has been outstanding at quarterback for the Wolverines, averaging 8.2 yards per attempt with 16 touchdowns compared to two interceptions.
Purdue’s secondary has been torched repeatedly this season and has a big problem giving up big plays through the air. The Boilermakers are allowing 7.4 yards per attempt (77th in FBS) while ranking 122nd in passing explosiveness allowed and 86th in PFF coverage grade.
McCarthy has a PFF passing grade over 85 on throws more than 10 yards in the air.
Purdue is also very poor in one crucial category on defense: Finishing Drives. The Boilermakers rank 80th in Finishing Drives Allowed with opponents averaging 3.8 points per drive once they cross Purdue’s 40-yard line.
On the other side of the ball, Aidan O’Connell has been very inconsistent this season. He’s averaging only 6.7 yards per attempt this season to go along with a 67.8 PFF passing grade, 18 big-time throws and 22 turnover-worthy plays.
Image via PFF
That’s not good news for a team going up against a Michigan secondary that ranks ninth in Passing Success Rate Allowed, fourth in EPA/Pass Allowed and has the fifth-best coverage grade in college football.
Purdue has found some success on the ground. Running back Devin Mockobee is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and has 21 runs over 10 yards. He’s the main reason why Purdue ranks 34th in Rushing Success Rate.
However, the Boilermaker offensive line has done him no favors, as the unit ranks 81st in Offensive Line Yards and 66th in terms of a PFF run-blocking grade.
Michigan’s front seven has been incredibly stout, allowing just 3.0 yards per carry (2nd in FBS) and ranking third in both Defensive Line Yards and EPA/Rush Allowed. So, I’m not sure how Purdue is going to be able to move the ball consistently.
All three projection models have Michigan projected at -18 or above, so I would grab the Wolverines right now at -14.5.