Best Bets for Week 9 of College Football: Our Staff’s 5 Top Picks for Afternoon Slate, Including Iowa State vs. West Virginia
John E. Moore III/Getty Images. Pictured: Tyree Wilson (0) and Chux Nwabuko III (42) of the Texas Tech Red Raiders football team.
The action rolls on Saturday afternoon, and our college football staff came prepared.
Our experts have five bets ready to go from the biggest kickoff window of the day, starting at 2 p.m. ET and rolling through 5 p.m. ET. And that’s even before our staff breaks down their top bets for Saturday evening and Saturday night.
Our favorite afternoon bets begin in Morgantown, as Iowa State takes on West Virginia. We stay with the Big 12 theme next for the Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma game in Norman. Then, we move to the ACC, where Boston College faces Syracuse in the Carrier Dome before wrapping it up with some Group of Five action between Arkansas State and South Alabama.
As always, be sure to check out our favorite bets for every kickoff window, and feel free to use the table below to navigate to any game of your choice.
College Football Best Bets for Week 9
Our Top Picks for Saturday Afternoon
The set of college football team logos below reflects each of our college football staff’s best bets for Saturday’s evening slate of games kicking off at 2 p.m. ET.
Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific pick discussed in this article.
Check Out All of Our Staff’s Best Bets for Week 9
Looking for more of our college football staff’s top picks for Week 9? Check out our best bets for each of Saturday’s three other kickoff windows:
No. 22 Iowa State vs. West Virginia
I know this is going to be a tough pill to swallow, but this is the last time we can enjoy Brocktober in Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy’s long career as the starter in Ames. It’s only right that we pay our respects here.
The Cyclones have been very solid on both sides of the ball this season, ranking in the top 15 in Expected Points Added (EPA) per play on both offense and defense.
Under Purdy, this passing game ranks fourth in the nation in terms of Success Rate, with Purdy leading the nation in PFF’s adjusted completion percentage metric, which accounts for receiver drops.
As far as weapons for the Cyclones, receiver Xavier Hutchinson is coming off a huge day against Oklahoma State in which he caught 12 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns and ranks 14th in PFF grade among receivers with at least 50 targets.
At tight end, Charlie Kolar has been a very productive player for this team for a long time and ranks 12th at the position in receiving yards.
This group should have no problem moving the ball against a secondary that ranks 108th in yards allowed per attempt.
On the other side, West Virginia has struggled to move the ball through the air this year, ranking 79th in EPA per throw.
The one weakness for a strong Iowa State defense has been allowing a few too many explosive passes, but do the Mountaineers have what it takes to exploit that? I’m willing to put my money on the line and find out.
West Virginia hasn’t been impressive on the ground either, which isn’t great against an Iowa State defense that has excelled against the run.
Pick: Iowa State -7
Texas Tech vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
The sports betting world and the stock market follow very similar patterns. They both have one constant that you should memorize: Buy low and sell high.
Oklahoma is currently in the “buy low” spot.
Last weekend against Kansas, Oklahoma played three of the worst quarters of football I have seen in a long time. Laughably bad.
Then it remembered it was projected 30 points better than the Jayhawks squad and turned it on in the fourth to squeak out the victory.
While the offense is still a well-oiled machine, the defense has regressed a little since its strong finish at the end of the 2020 season — especially in Def. Pass Success, as the secondary has been slacking by getting burned all season.
Texas Tech has a respectable pass attack but not a good enough one for me to be worried.
Oklahoma sneakily has one of the best defensive lines and will constantly generate pressure in the backfield. This will lead to mistakes and early outs, which will give the offense plenty of opportunities to turn them into points.
If the defense can do its part to help cover the large spread, then I will feel comfortable, as I expect a bounce-back game from Caleb Williams and Co.
Ranking 13th in Pass Success and third in pass blocking, William will have plenty of time to hit his playmakers in the open field for them to work their magic. Texas Tech is a below-average defensive unit, ranking 60th or worse in every defensive metric, including 104th in PFF Tackling.
Not only is Williams expected to have a big bounce-back game, but this matchup also provides a juicy opportunity for running back Kennedy Brooks to run wild. Texas Tech’s biggest weakness is Def. Rush Success, an area Brooks will look to exploit if he can hit the open hole.
Texas Tech is simply too outmatched in this one, and I expect Oklahoma to remind everyone why it will be in the playoff when the season ends.
Pick: Oklahoma -19
Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma Over 66.5
Points should come in droves between two offensive-minded Big 12 clubs.
We know Oklahoma will ring up its fair share against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders rank 127th in Finishing Drives and 106th against the rush, and the market’s expecting about six touchdowns from the home squad.
However, it’s the Sooners defense that deserves to be faded in this spot.
Only one other Power Five program has coughed up more yards per play than Oklahoma (7.4) over the last three games — and that was Kansas.
The Red Raiders did lose starting quarterback Tyler Shough to an injury. But Henry Colombi has filled in just fine, posting a better PFF grade than the former.
Texas Tech should feel extremely loose after the firing of head coach Matt Wells. The offense is registering a respectable 8.1 yards per pass attempt and doesn’t mind playing a frenetic style of play.
This is a big bounce-back spot for Oklahoma after a dud against the Jayhawks, and there should be enough from the visitors to let the scoreboard light up like a Christmas tree.
Pick: Over 66.5
Boston College vs. Syracuse
Syracuse is on fire (ATS-wise), covering in its last five games. However, this ends with a surprisingly solid Boston College squad.
These teams are tied in our power ratings and are one spot apart in the SP+ Ratings.
The Orange have been killing it on the ground, rushing for 354 yards against Wake Forest and 314 against Virginia Tech. The combination of running back Sean Tucker and quarterback Garrett Shrader is proving to be a lethal backfield.
This will be a strength-on-strength matchup, as Boston College’s defense ranks 28th in Success Rate Allowed on rushing plays. One area it needs to do better in is containing the run, as it’s 86th in explosiveness allowed on rushing plays.
If, and it’s a big if, the Eagles can contain Syracuse on the ground, they should be able to bottle the Orange’s passing offense.
Cuse is just 87th in Passing Play Success Rate, while Boston College is 44th in Success Rate Allowed on passing plays. Schrader is 73rd in EPA/Play this season among quarterbacks with at least 50 snaps.
On the flipside, Boston College’s offense isn’t great, but there’s one key mismatch here: Finishing Drives.
BC is 57th in terms of Offensive Finishing Drives, averaging just a shade over four points per opportunity (past the 40). Syracuse is 110th in the country in Defensive Finishing Drives, allowing just under 4.5 points per opportunity. When the Eagles get into scoring position they will convert these opportunities into touchdowns.
All in all, this matchup is extremely even, and in terms of Syracuse’s offense vs Boston College’s defense, it’s strength on strength.
This line opened at 5.5, and while I am comfortable with 6.5, make sure you’re shopping for 7s tonight and tomorrow, as there may be some closer to kickoff.
Pick: Boston College +6.5
Arkansas State vs. South Alabama
This is my favorite time of the year. There’s a nice crisp in the air, the leaves are beginning to change colors and fall from the tree.
Have you ever seen a dog run through a pile of the leaves? That’s pretty much what it looks like for teams playing this Arkansas State defense.
The Red Wolves have been lost six straight games since their Week 1 win over FCS Central Arkansas, mostly because their defense is atrocious.
Arkansas State ranks dead last in the country, allowing 578.6 yards per game. For comparison, that is over 80 yards per game more than UMass has allowed, the next worse team.
Teams are averaging 8.3 yards per play against the Red Wolves, and South Alabama quarterback Jake Bentley should be licking his chops like a dog about to play in the leaves.
The veteran QB is second in the Sun Belt with 260.7 yards per game and is completing 69% of his passes for 11 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Bentley’s favorite target is All-Conference receiver Jalen Tolbert, who is fourth in the country with 124.7 yards per game. He’s averaging over 19 yards per catch.
South Alabama also has three running backs averaging over 40 yards per game on the ground.
The Jaguars should have no problem moving the ball on offense, and Kane Wommack has done wonders with this defense in his first year as head coach. The Jags are sixth in the country in Defensive Success Rate and fourth in Defensive Finishing Drives.
Look for South Alabama to dominate standard downs on both sides of the ball and come away with a big victory on Saturday.
I like the Jaguars at -8.5 and would play them to -10.