College Football Odds, Picks & Predictions for Week 7: Collin Wilson’s Betting Card, Featuring Alabama vs. Tennessee & More
Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Utah wide receiver Money Parks.
- The Week 7 college football slate is monstrous, and who better to break down three undefeated, top-25 showdowns across three different conferences than Collin Wilson.
- Penn State vs. Michigan, Alabama vs. Tennessee and USC vs. Utah are the three best of the week.
- And Wilson has a preview and a bet for each.
Week 7 could be the best week of college football we've seen this season.
We have three matchups featuring undefeated teams from three different conferences: No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 5 Michigan in the Big Ten, No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 6 Tennessee in the SEC and No. 8 Oklahoma State vs. No. 13 TCU in the Big 12.
I'm betting each of the first two matchups on Saturday, but the handicap on the SEC showdown depends on the status of Alabama quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.
But that's not all.
The Pac-12 also gives us a treat when No. 7 USC travels to Salt Lake City to take on No. 20 Utah in a game that could go a long way in the conference championship race and the race for the College Football Playoff.
Read on for my analysis and picks for all three top-25 games below — and be sure to check out the rest of Action Network's Week 7 college football betting coverage.
Collin Wilson's Week 7 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.|
Penn State vs. Michigan
Separation Saturday kicks off with two undefeated teams from the Big Ten East Division — and neither is named Ohio State.
The series between Michigan and Penn State could not be more even through the last decade, with each winning five and the Wolverines covering in six of the 10. Dating back nearly 20 years, Michigan has won eight of the 10 games played in Ann Arbor.
Michigan returns home after two consecutive conference games on the road. The Wolverines broke away in Kinnick Stadium for the cover against Iowa, but a grind against Indiana saw head coach Jim Harbaugh fall just short of a cover.
The Wolverines struggled in expected points on rushing attempts, but the Hoosiers are one of the best defenses in limiting chunk yards.
Penn State hits the road after two consecutive games at home before a bye week. Head coach James Franklin owns an 8-9 record against the spread in weeks following a bye, cashing just once at the window since the 2020 pandemic season.
Although the Nittany Lions are undefeated, wins over Auburn and Central Michigan were assisted by a net-positive eight turnovers. Penn State put on a defensive clinic before the bye week against Northwestern, allowing only two drives to cross the 40-yard line, resulting in no points.
Franklin had numerous items to address during the bye week, from player health to preparing for a trio of Big Ten games that will decide the season.
The biggest area of focus comes on quarterback Sean Clifford after numerous lackluster results. The fifth-year signal-caller has more turnover-worthy plays than big-time throws — a stark contrast to last season under coordinator Mike Yurcich.
Clifford has cut his big-time throw rate in half while also posting the lowest average-depth-of-target number of his career.
The offensive line has fallen outside the top 50 in pass blocking, which has a direct relationship with Clifford's efficiency under pressure.
True freshman Nick Singleton after this 54-yard TD:
2 TD pic.twitter.com/f0x2ozmuq9
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 17, 2022
The great news for the Penn State passing attack is the return of a running game after a multi-year absence.
Nick Singleton averages an astounding five yards after contact with seven explosive runs on 63 rushing attempts. Over half of the rushing attempts have come outside the hashes with plenty of success.
New defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has continued Penn State's strength in terms of creating Havoc.
The Nittany Lions rank third nationally thanks to leading the nation in pass breakups. Penn State averages 11.2 passes defensed per game, an astronomical number compared to 7.3 for runner-up Pitt. A triumvirate of cornerbacks in Joey Porter Jr., Kalen King and Johnny Dixon lead the charge in forced incompletions.
The front seven has been just as instrumental in stopping the rush, ranking 10th in Stuff Rate and Line Yards.
PJ Mustipher continues to be a wrecking crew at the defensive interior with more tackles than any defender in rushing attempts. His absence due to injury last year was a key element of Penn State's defensive struggles. Since his return, the Nittany Lions own one of the lowest rates of standard down plays by forcing opponents to get off schedule.
There should be plenty of credit given to Harbaugh for the seamless transition to new coordinators after last year's run to the College Football Playoff.
Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter has continued the defensive dominance despite losing contributions to the trench. Edge Mike Morris has the highest pass rush productivity grade of any defender in college football with at least 100 snaps.
Overall Havoc numbers are down from a season ago, but this is the highest-graded defense in terms of tackling, per PFF.
— JOSE ALVARES (@Alvaresjose11) September 3, 2022
The rush defense is lacking in the advanced statistics with no individual player graded in the top 200 of PFF rush defense. However, the defense ranks 17th in Line Yards and has dominated inferior teams by limiting Indiana and Iowa to a combined 54 yards rushing on 49 attempts.
Only three rushing attempts have gone over 20 yards this season — a number that will be challenged by Penn State.
The offense has seen no drop-off after adding co-coordinators following last year's College Football Playoff run. Matt Weiss and Sherrone Moore balanced snaps between two quarterbacks until Cade McNamara got injured, leaving starting duties to JJ McCarthy.
McNamara is not the only offensive player dealing with injury for the Wolverines, as tight end Erick All and lineman Trente Jones find themselves in a similar boat.
Luckily for Michigan, Karsen Barnhart returned from injury to fill the roll at offensive tackle after recording 606 career snaps in three previous seasons. Barnhart was the second-highest-graded lineman in blocking in 49 snaps against Indiana.
As for McNamara, there's no timetable for his return. His father has also denied any rumors of a potential transfer.
Share your source Adam[!!
— Gary McNamara (@GaryMcNamara23) October 11, 2022
After a spree of fumbles against Maryland and Iowa, McCarthy played a clean game against Indiana on a half-dozen rushing attempts. The quarterback threw his first interception of the season against the Hoosiers and has now tossed nearly as many turnover-worthy plays as big-time throws.
The Michigan offense has recorded the second-most standard down plays this season, which is easily the biggest key against the Nittany Lions.
Penn State vs. Michigan Betting Pick
The new and improved Penn State rushing attack is most potent outside the tackles with Singleton and Kaytron Allen. Both backs have feasted on opposing defenses that miss tackles, an area in which the Michigan defense excels.
Cornerbacks Gemon Green and DJ Turner have combined for over 200 snaps against the rush, recording just a single missed tackle. Slot cornerback Mike Sainristil is the second-highest graded run defender for the Wolverines with the second-best average depth of tackle among all cornerbacks in college football.
These expected run interruptions will lead to passing situations for Clifford, who has failed to post a big-time throw in the past two games of this series.
Penn State also ranks outside the top 50 in pass blocking, so Michigan's top-25 pass rush will create a crowded pocket conducive to turnovers.
There has not been a better defense in terms of forced incompletions than Penn State. The Nittany Lions have been one of the best teams in the nation in forcing passing downs. Central Michigan consistently found itself in passing downs, as dual-threat quarterback Daniel Richardson was limited in establishing the ground game.
For Michigan to sustain drives and stay ahead of schedule, McCarthy must be successful in running the offense outside of the tackles to get away from Mustipher and Penn State's defensive interior.
The Action Network projection makes this game Michigan -8 with a total of 59. While both offenses have slim advantages in Finishing Drives, other key statistics call for a cover by the home team.
Michigan enters as the top tackling team in the nation, evidenced by three cornerbacks who have not missed a single tackle in the open field this season.
Penn State, meanwhile, ranks 114th in tackle grading thanks to a pair of edge rushers in Nick Tarburton and Chop Robinson, along with safety Keaton Ellis. When opposing offenses have completed passes, safety Zakee Wheatley has recorded the highest number of missed tackles against passing targets.
Michigan running back Blake Corum is well on his way to setting career records in missed tackles created. With Donovan Edwards back to full strength after injury, the Wolverines have the skill position players to assist McCarthy in creating rush explosive plays outside the tackles.
This victory on the field for Michigan keeps the offense away from a swarming Penn State defense that has dominated in passing downs.
Pick: Michigan -7 or Better
Alabama vs. Tennessee
A short 310 miles separate the campuses in Tuscaloosa and Knoxville, as a hot rivalry renews in what is known as the Third Saturday in October.
This series between Alabama and Tennessee has been dominated by Nick Saban since his hiring as head coach for the Crimson Tide. Meanwhile, the Volunteers haven't downed the Tide since 2006.
The hatred runs deep, dating long before former national champion coach Phillip Fulmer supplied the NCAA with information about violations within the Alabama program.
Fast forward to the present, where the Volunteers have one of the best offenses in the nation led by head coach Josh Heupel. At 21.3 seconds per play, Tennessee has the ability to move the chains on the ground or through the air at a rapid pace.
That pace worked against Heupel last season in Tuscaloosa, as Alabama dominated in a 52-24 rout. The Crimson Tide haven't been toppled by a pure tempo team since a second consecutive loss to Ole Miss in 2015.
If Tennessee upsets Georgia later in the season, this game could be a preview of the 2022 SEC Championship.
Headlines around the country surround the health of Alabama quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.
The sophomore took an awkward fall against Arkansas, resulting in an AC joint sprain that lingered through Week 7 preparations for Tennessee. A typical recovery period for this injury lasts two-to-four weeks, and kickoff against the Vols comes just 14 days after Young left the field against the Razorbacks.
Freshman backup Jalen Milroe took over duties under center last week, unleashing a bonanza of zone-read rushing attempts against a poor Texas A&M run defense.
Milroe struggled to protect the ball both on the ground and through the air. The Texas native fumbled twice and committed five turnover-worthy plays in the passing game.
No matter which direction Saban goes at the quarterback position, the Heisman winner could be limited in downfield passing, while the freshman backup has severe issues in Havoc Allowed.
The great news for the Crimson Tide is a defense that's peaking in the heart of the SEC schedule. Alabama ranks top-15 in nearly every advanced statistical category. No team has reached 375 total yards on this defense, including Texas and Arkansas.
Defensive coordinator Pete Golding has turned in his best effort yet in tackle grading, as Alabama ranks third nationally in that category while promoting a top-30 defense in explosiveness allowed.
Preseason Heisman dark horse Will Anderson has amped up his game of late, recording 10 pressures against Texas A&M's offensive line.
Several questions surrounding Tennessee were answered after a bye week leading up to kickoff at LSU.
The Volunteers were without the services of offensive tackle Gerald Mincey and wide receiver Cedric Tillman. Tennessee suffered at the left tackle position with Jeremiah Crawford as the starter, but Mincey is expected to be back to bolster the trench.
Tillman represents the most explosive target on the team for quarterback Hendon Hooker. While Bru McCoy and Ramel Keyton have filled in, only Jalin Hyatt averages more than two yards per route run outside of Tillman.
Hendon Hooker put this game to rest early. Vols are dominating ‼️ pic.twitter.com/sWrkjHNWek
— CFB SHARPS (@cfbsharps1) October 8, 2022
Running backs Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright dominated the LSU defense, combining for more than five yards per carry.
The ability to stay in standard downs has been key for Heupel, as the Volunteers stay in these situations at the fifth-highest rate nationally with the sixth-highest Success Rate.
While the offense has been rolling in standard downs, the defense has seen its ups and downs in recent games.
Tennessee improved its coverage grade after the LSU game and now ranks 118th, per PFF. With a benign pass rush and a below-average Havoc rating, the Volunteers defense has excelled at stopping the run and regressed against the pass.
A rank of 96th in Passing Downs Success Rate ensures opposing offenses rack up plenty of first downs. Tennessee sits 117th in opponent first downs through the air, which places the biggest handicap for this game on which quarterback starts for Alabama.
Alabama vs. Tennessee Betting Pick
Handicapping quarterback injuries can be a tireless event with no clear information until after kickoff. In Alabama's case, there's a clear sign of what the offense will look like depending on the signal caller.
If Milroe gets the start, it heavily favors a Tennessee defense that has been stout against the run. The Volunteers rank top-10 in Defensive Stuff Rate and Rushing Success Rate, holding LSU's zone read with Jayden Daniels to just 55 yards on the ground.
Although the Action Network projection on the total lies in the 70s with Young starting for Alabama, an under at 65 or better is the play if the Milroe ground attack takes over.
Even if Young is healthy enough to play this game, the downfield passing has question marks. Ja'Corey Brooks and Kobe Prentice are the only targets with more than two yards per route run, as the Tide's past explosive passing game has not been part of this 2022 squad's identity.
The best weapon for Bama has been Jahmyr Gibbs out of the backfield, bringing a negative number in average depth of target and relying on missed tackles from the defense.
The Action Network projection with Young is Alabama -10.
There are a number of advantages for the Tide outside of the quarterback concerns. Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry are two of the highest-graded secondary players, per PFF.
Meanwhile, both Anderson and Chris Braswell rank top-25 in pass rush productivity, while Tennessee trails in defensive grades in terms of coverage and generating pressure.
The execution plan is clear: Back an Alabama team that can get the ball to explosive targets with Young. But if Milroe takes his second start, look for an under at the key number of 65.
Pick: Alabama -7 (If Young Plays) · Under 65 (If Milroe Plays)
USC vs. Utah
A titanic showdown from a Power Five conference in the middle of a College Football Playoff drought will kick from Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday night.
If Utah loses, it all but seals any chance of it making the Pac-12 Championship after taking a loss to undefeated UCLA in Week 6. With the exception of Oregon, the Utes don't have any highly-ranked teams on the schedule to beat and claim as a tiebreaker in the division-less conference.
Meanwhile, USC is still marching toward the postseason, remaining undefeated despite a scare from Oregon State.
A rash of injuries to Washington State allowed the Trojans to roll in the Coliseum. The gravy train of turnovers has slowed, as USC posted its first turnover of the season against the Cougars. However, it still comes in at +14 in turnover margin after completing half of its schedule.
With UCLA and Oregon still undefeated in conference play — and the Ducks not on the schedule — a win in Salt Lake City is crucial for the Trojans to keep pace in the conference.
The old adage "defense wins championships" can be changed to "money buys offensive weapons," as Lincoln Riley continues to come under fire during the rise of USC and the fall of Oklahoma.
Quarterback Caleb Williams is a true contender for the Heisman Trophy, as an undefeated season would plant him next to Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud during the trophy presentation.
The advanced numbers disagree with the sentiment, as nearly two-dozen quarterbacks have thrown for more yards, while PFF grades Williams the 38th-best signal-caller.
Caleb Williams is absurd. Absolutely ridiculous throw on the move. pic.twitter.com/XCzd6X1QVO
— Jared Feinberg (@JRodNFLDraft) October 8, 2022
Outside of the highlight-reel plays is a pesky big-time throw rate that has been chopped by more than half of what he recorded at Oklahoma last season. Williams has thrown just one more big-time throw than turnover-worthy play despite his gaudy touchdown-to-interception ratio.
The good news for the USC faithful is its corps of hard-nosed running backs have taken the hit to defenders. Travis Dye has posted a dozen explosive runs, while Austin Jones averages more than four yards after contact.
Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has certainly seen his share of struggles on the defensive side. USC ranks outside the top 100 in Success Rate with a rank toward the bottom half of FBS in Stuff Rate and Line Yards. Only eight other defenses have allowed more 20-yard runs than USC.
Washington State lost starter Nakia Watson to injury, paving the way for backup Jaylen Jenkins to dice the Trojans up for 130 yards on just 13 carries.
While USC's coverage and Havoc have improved since the arrival of Riley and Grinch, the run defense has allowed every offense to dominate in standard downs.
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham saw the wheels come off in a trip to Pasadena las week, resulting in a 10-point loss to the Bruins.
Passing downs failed the offense, as it posted a lowly 28% Success Rate. That was the difference against a UCLA team led by Dorian Thompson-Robinson that generated a 61% Success Rate in passing downs. The performance was uncharacteristic for the Utes, who rank top-35 in third-down conversions on both sides of the ball.
Whittingham cited the Bruins' physicality, calling UCLA the most physical team that has ever been in the Pac-12.
Poor fundamentals played a role, as Utah has now missed 31 tackles in losses against Florida and UCLA. The Utes have not generated enough pressure and have recorded less than two sacks per game.
Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley is expected to send more pressure against USC's offensive line after relying on a four-man front that ranks 108th in pass rush.
Tavion Thomas right up the middle for the TD 💪@Utah_Football takes one right back
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 8, 2022
Tavion Thomas' return signifies Utah once again becoming an elite rushing offense. The fourth-year back had just 18 carries as he builds his workload after injury, generating three runs over 10 yards while averaging 4.1 yards after contact.
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig is tasked not only with creating a bigger role for Thomas, but finding Dalton Kincaid more targets in the passing game. The loss of Brant Kuithe has upped Kincaid's usage at the tight end position.
Utah is not an explosive offense, as Money Parks has been the only explosive wide receiver in terms of yards per route run. Quarterback Cam Rising does run one of the most methodical units in the nation, ranking sixth in standard downs rate with a top-15 Success Rate.
The Utes are one of the best teams in the nation at achieving first downs through the running game, but the UCLA defense put the blueprint together by forcing low-probability passing downs.
USC vs. Utah Betting Pick
There may be personal motivation for Whittingham to beat USC. Utah lost a linebacker to the Trojans through the portal in the offseason, causing the Utes head coach to verbalize his distaste for the new world of college football, and indirectly, USC.
While that narrative won't play out on the field, the Trojans' inability to defend the run will play a huge part in the winner of this game. USC ranks outside the top 100 in Defensive Success Rate and has allowed the 83rd-most first downs.
Teams that establish the rush and excel in ball protection possess the formula to beat the Trojans. Not only does Utah have a healthy Thomas, but the Utes also rank sixth nationally in Havoc Allowed.
More importantly, Utah will dominate USC in standard downs, with a success rate of 14th against the Trojans' rank of 112th. Oregon State possessed similar strength in methodical, ground-based drives but ultimately lost due to four interceptions.
The Action Network projection gives Utah a 4.5-point advantage with a total of 60.5.
A case could be made for the under considering the Utes' ability to limit explosive plays and refusal to allow touchdowns in the red zone.
Look for Whittingham to turn up the pressure in sending more than four defenders after Williams, as the offense drains the clock with scoring drives.