Saturday College Football Odds, Predictions, Picks: How We’re Betting the Week 12 CFB Slate (Nov. 20)
Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors defensive back Nalu Emerson (28).
Week 12 Saturday is upon us, which can only mean one thing: It’s time to bet some college football.
For those trying to get a head start on Saturday’s slate, we’re here for you. And for the night owls who stayed up to sweat San Diego State vs. UNLV on Friday night and want to do the same with Colorado State vs. Hawaii tonight, we’re here for you, too.
Our college football staff has broken down the betting odds and pulled up with its top picks for Week 12 Saturday college football slate. From the noons to the nightcap, we’ve got you covered with our 12 favorite bets to make in Week 12.
College Football Best Bets for Week 12
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college football staff is targeting from Saturday’s Week 12 slate of games. Click the team logos for one 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.|
Iowa State vs. Oklahoma
By Shawn Burns
Iowa State travels to Norman to face Oklahoma in a game that many figured was going to be the biggest game of the Big 12 season.
The matchup, however, has lost some luster due to Iowa State underachieving all season and Oklahoma losing last week in a poor performance at Baylor.
Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams has played great this year but struggled badly in last week’s loss to Baylor, throwing for only 142 yards and tossing two interceptions.
The Sooners were held to 260 total yards and only 82 yards on the ground.
The Cyclones are coming off a loss at Texas Tech in which the offense played well, but the defense was overwhelmed by the Red Raiders, allowing 41 points and over 500 yards of total offense.
Iowa State allows only 20 points per game, but in its last four road games, it’s allowed nearly 33 points per game on average. That’s not a great trend when you’re about to face the eighth highest-scoring team in the country and the top offense in the Big 12.
The Cyclones will move the ball with Brock Purdy and Breece Hall, but this is a great bounce-back spot for Oklahoma. The Sooners can still win the Big 12, and they have an outside shot at making the College Football Playoff.
Expect a much better performance from Williams as the Sooners cover the small spread at home.
Pick: Oklahoma -3.5
Florida State vs. Boston College
Boston College -1.5
If Phil Jurkovec was healthy all season, this Boston College team would have had a legitimate chance to win the ACC. The Eagles are 4-0 with him under center and have won those games by an average margin of 23 points.
In his four starts, Jurkovec has averaged 12.4 yards per pass attempt while completing 64% of his throws.
The Eagles are a run-first team that has been dependent on the legs of Patrick Garwo III when Jurkovec was out. Garwo is the workhorse for Boston College who has amassed 900 rushing yards while averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
The Boston College defense has sneakily been one of the top groups in the ACC this season. The group ranks inside the top-20 in scoring defense, allowing less than 20 points per game. It’s been strong against the pass, allowing 6.7 yards per attempt, ranking 27th in the country.
The Eagles now match up against a Florida State squad that is 4-6 on the season and is coming off a victory over Miami.
From the sound of head coach Mike Norvell’s postgame press conference, the Seminoles just won the Super Bowl after beating a 5-5 Miami program. It was an impressive come-from-behind win over a rival school, but now they need to attempt to regroup to face a Boston College program that is trending upward.
Florida State will travel up to Boston, where the weather is supposed to be in the low 40s on Saturday, which won’t bode well for the Seminoles, who are used to sunny Florida conditions.
Jurkovec will make all the difference in this matchup, and I see value in Boston College laying anything under a field goal.
Pick: Boston College -1.5
SMU vs. Cincinnati
There are only two sets of rankings that matter at this point of the season for teams with College Football Playoff aspirations: conference rankings and College Football Playoff committee rankings.
The Bearcats have nailed the first part, going 11-0 for the second time in school history and will clinch a spot in the AAC Championship game with a win this weekend.
The second part of the formula is how it gets interesting for Cincinnati and where it needs the most help. Ideally, the Bearcats need a loss (or two) by either Alabama, Ohio State or Oregon. The uglier the better.
In the meantime, the Bearcats only have two things they need to do: win out and win convincingly. At this point in the season, scraping by while on the outside looking in just is not going to cut it. Covering double-digit spreads will help.
Based on both traditional and advanced statistics, Cincinnati is the superior program.
The Bearcats rank in the top 10 nationally in both scoring offense (39.2 points per game) and scoring defense (16.2 points per game).
SMU has an explosive offense, ranking in the top 10 in scoring offense (41.6 points per game) as well, but the Mustang defense doesn’t fare as well, ranking 64th in the nation in scoring defense (25.9 points per game).
The differentiator is the advanced statistics, where Cincinnati ranks 11th and 13th in Offensive and Defensive Success Rate, respectively, compared to SMU’s 27th and 30th rankings in the same statistics.
Cincinnati hasn’t covered in its last four games, all of which were games that the Bearcats were favored by more than 20 points.
The Cats know they need to finish strong and get some help along the way. Celebrating Senior Day at home is a perfect way for them to make the case to the CFP committee that they deserve to be recognized as one of the four best teams in the nation.
The advanced stats and CFP motivation will be the difference in this game. I’m projecting Cincinnati as 17-point favorites in what should be a high-scoring affair.
Lay the points on Senior Day, as Cincinnati makes the final push toward the College Football Playoff with a convincing win.
Pick: Cincinnati -10.5
SMU Team Total Over 26.5
By Doug Ziefel
Cincinnati has not faced an offense anywhere near the caliber of SMU.
Tanner Mordecai leads a Mustangs offense that is top-10 in points per game, yards per game, and third-down conversion rate.
Speaking of Mordecai, the Oklahoma transfer is having a phenomenal season that has flown under the national radar. He has thrown for 3,264 yards and 37 touchdowns. Those rank seventh and second among all FBS quarterbacks.
As for the vaunted Bearcats defense, their numbers remain very impressive on paper, but the scoreboard and their most recent box scores tell you otherwise.
Let’s go back to their matchup with Tulsa — a game in which the Golden Hurricane should have scored at least 26 points as they blew multiple opportunities with goal-to-go.
The Golden Hurricane dominated on the ground, rushing for 297 yards against the Bearcats. Though Tulsa doesn’t pass much, it still completed 67% of its pass attempts.
Fast forward to last week against a bottom-tier South Florida offense. The Bearcats allowed 28 points to that offense, and most of the damage was done through the air. They allowed 245 yards passing at 8.2 yards per completion. That’s exactly what Mordecai averages.
Lastly, this number is just too low for the SMU offense.
We already covered that it can score with the best of them, averaging 40 points per game. The lowest amount of points it’s scored this season is 25.
Take the Mustangs over as they could do the majority of the scoring in a game where the Bearcats will be forced to go blow-for-blow against them.
Pick: SMU Team Total Over 26.5
Michigan vs. Maryland
By Alex Hinton
The total in the Michigan-Maryland game has crept up throughout the week, but that just makes me like this play even more.
Maryland is 13th nationally in both passing yards per game and Passing Success Rate. However, Michigan ranks eighth in passing yards allowed and 11th in Passing Success Rate Allowed. Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagavailoa has also thrown nine of his 10 interceptions against ranked opponents.
The Terps have also allowed 22 sacks and now have to deal with Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. The Michigan edge rushers are the only duo in the country with 10 sacks each.
They are also only the second pair of teammates in the last five years to each register 10+ sacks in a season — the other being Syracuse in 2018. Michigan matches up very well with Maryland’s offense.
Now, you may worry about Maryland’s defense being able to slow Michigan down. Maryland is 102nd in points allowed per game and 91st in total defense.
However, Michigan’s offense has not exactly beaten up on the bottom-feeders in the Big Ten.
Rutgers, Northwestern, and Indiana are all 74th or lower in the SP+ rankings. Michigan averaged 27 PPG in those games. The totals finished at 33 against Rutgers, 40 against Northwestern, and 36 against Indiana — all of which were well below the pre-game total.
The common denominator in all three games is that they were look-ahead spots for Michigan each time. Michigan played Rutgers before Wisconsin, Northwestern before Michigan State, and Indiana before Penn State.
Now, the Wolverines play Maryland before Ohio State.
Michigan is also banged up with running back Blake Corum out again, while wide receiver Roman Wilson and tight end Erick All are playing through injuries.
Michigan may be playing for the Big Ten East Division title next week if the Buckeyes beat Michigan State on Saturday.
I expect the Wolverines to get a lead and comfortably control this game with their defense. That will allow Michigan to run the ball and the clock — which they want to do anyway — and get back to Ann Arbor in one piece.
Pick: Under 57.5
First Half Under 29.5
While Michigan fans moan and groan over the potential letdown of Ohio State next week, they still need to focus on this week’s matchup against Maryland. If Ohio State takes care of MSU as the number implies, then Michigan is back to fully controlling its own destiny.
As much as I have always hated Michigan, I have to give credit where credit is due. This team is good, and the defense is elite. Elite enough to give it enough of a chance to beat Ohio State by slowing down that high-powered offense.
With so much focus on Ohio State, I’m riding a first-half under.
Maryland has been falling and falling hard after a hot start by Taulia and Co. They are one-dimensional on offense with only a passing game to boot.
Michigan has the best duo in football at the edge position, making this a long game for the Terps.
Expect a lot of short possessions on Maryland’s end and long, grinding possessions when Michigan has the ball.
The Michigan offense remains the same as it has all season — zero explosiveness but maximum efficiency. With one of the highest rush rates in football, Michigan will constantly look to pound the ball for small gains at a time and bleed the clock.
Michigan also has an alarmingly bad Finishing Drives rate, a trend that I hope continues for some stalled-out possessions to make our first-half under look even better.
I’ll take the first-half under as I expect at some point for Harbaugh to call off the starters to prepare for Ohio State next week.
Pick: First Half Under 29.5
UAB vs. UTSA
We have a good one in the Alamodome, as UTSA and UAB will meet with a division title on the line.
After a successful 2020 campaign, UTSA hasn’t missed a beat. The Roadrunners have started out 10-0 and find themselves ranked 22nd in the latest College Football Playoff rankings.
However, I’m ready to sell. Let’s head to the schedule to take a closer look under the hood.
OK, they won at Memphis.
That’s a solid win on the surface, but UTSA scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win by three in large part due to a pair of costly Memphis lost fumbles and personal fouls. The Tigers outgained the Roadrunners and averaged almost three yards more per play.
UTSA also defeated Western Kentucky on the road. Another solid win, but WKU had 670 total yards of offense and didn’t score the game-winning touchdown after having first-and-goal at the UTSA 5-yard line after a personal foul and subsequent interception.
OK, so two fortunate coin flips went UTSA’s way, Who else have the Roadrunners beaten?
- Middle Tennessee
- Louisiana Tech
- Southern Miss
Those eight teams have a combined record of 25-54 (31.6%), and only UTEP has a winning record. The schedule has certainly been extremely favorable.
Meanwhile, UAB has played Georgia, Liberty and just beat Marshall on the road last weekend.
My ultimate point is don’t be fooled by the difference in records. I still have UAB power-rated as the superior team, so I happily took the 4.5 points here.
Also, if you dig into some of UTSA’s advanced metrics, there are worrying signs.
The defense has thrived on late downs despite ranking outside the top 80 in early downs EPA. That’s pretty unsustainable and could really come back to bite it against a very efficient UAB offense that ranks in the top 10 in EPA per rush.
UAB quarterback Dylan Hopkins also has the ability to exploit a UTSA pass defense that ranks outside the top 90 in Success Rate. That secondary is the weakest group in this matchup by far and what I think ultimately swings this result.
UAB has a top-25 defense nationally, while UTSA grades out right around average overall. I think the Blazers get more key stops and end the Roadrunners’ perfect season.
Pick: UAB +4.5
East Carolina vs. Navy
East Carolina -3.5
The Pirates may not be great from a Success Rate standpoint, ranking 88th nationally, but they sure are explosive. East Carolina is top-30 in offensive explosiveness, which will be a big advantage against a Navy defense that sits 81st in explosiveness allowed.
Holten Ahlers has been pretty average this season, putting up 7.2 yards per attempt with a 64.7 PFF passing grade and 12 big-time throws.
However, the biggest problem for Ahlers over his career has been holding onto the football. He already has 14 turnover-worthy plays this season.
But in a matchup like this, that isn’t going to matter because Navy hasn’t found a way to put any pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Midshipmen are 103rd in Havoc and 129th in terms of a pass-rushing grade, per Pro Football Focus.
So, Ahlers — who has a 81.8 passing grade from a clean pocket — should be able to throw all over a Navy secondary that is allowing 8.5 yards per attempt to opposing quarterbacks and ranks 96th in Passing Success Rate Allowed.
The triple option has been really ineffective this season, as Navy is gaining only 3.6 yards per carry, ranks 92nd in EPA/Rush, and 121st in Rushing Success Rate. The East Carolina front seven is 51st in Rushing Success Rate Allowed but top-30 in Stuff Rate and Power Success Rate Allowed, which are two huge metrics when facing the triple option.
I have East Carolina projected as -10.1 favorite, so I think there’s some value on the Pirates at -3.5.
Pick: East Carolina -3.5
Florida vs. Missouri
Let’s do some simple math here.
Missouri allows 35.9 points per game (118th), while Florida checks in nationally at 76th in scoring defense (27.4 PPG). Both of these weak defenses have put some lipstick on their résumés by holding down teams like Southeast Missouri State, Vanderbilt, South Florida and FAU to 28 points or less.
When facing an offense with a pulse, both teams have the potential to give up 50 points.
Horrific performances on the defensive end, terminated coaches, and offenses capable of competing in a shootout … this is music to an over bettor’s ears.
My power rankings call for this number to be 79.5, so I’m casually jogging to the betting window so as not to make a scene.
On the injury front, Connor Bazelak has the green light again after returning last week. Both teams may end up using multiple quarterbacks, and it’s worth noting UF has a healthy Anthony Richardson ready to come off the bench for special packages.
One game-inside-the-game to keep an eye on here is the big play when Mizzou’s defense is on the field. The Tigers have surrendered 26 plays of 30 yards or more this season (108th), while Florida has generated 28 of its own when it has the football (20th).
With perfect fall weather on tap Saturday in CoMo, there won’t be anything to slow down these offenses.
Pick: Over 69
Oregon vs. Utah
This should be one of the premier matchups of the weekend, and it’s a game with massive College Football Playoff implications. Oregon heads to Salt Lake City to take on a Utah team that has won six of its last seven.
Utah should be able to move the ball on the ground against the Oregon defense. The Utes currently sit inside the top 20 in both Rush Success and Line Yards, and the offensive line has been getting a steady push throughout the season.
As great as Kayvon Thibodeaux and Company have been at getting after opposing quarterbacks, the Ducks have been pretty mediocre in stopping the run.
On the other side, I expect Anthony Brown to struggle in what should be a raucous Rice-Eccles Stadium. Brown still has a tendency to be careless with the football, and with potential rain in the forecast for Saturday night, his decisions in the pocket are going to be that much more important.
Kyle Whittingham teams have made a habit out of disrupting offenses and forcing turnovers in big games throughout his tenure. This year has been no different, as the Utes come in at fifth in the country in Havoc.
I’m rolling with the home team to get it done and end the Ducks’ dreams of a playoff appearance.
Pick: Utah -3
Colorado State vs. Hawaii
Colorado State -2.5
The matchup between Colorado State’s defense and Hawaii’s offense will be a big-time mismatch, as the two are on opposite ends of the spectrum at this point.
The Rainbow Warriors rank 111th in EPA per play on offense and have shown zero ability to move the ball through the air, where it ranks 112th in Passing Success Rate.
It’s hard to see Hawaii moving the ball in the passing game with any consistency against this group, with the Rams ranking third in Passing Success Rate Allowed.
The pass rush has been a major reason why Colorado State has been so effective there, which ranks eighth in Pro Football Focus’ pass rush win rate metric. Individually, edge defender Scott Patchan has been a menace in his sixth year of college football, ranking fifth in the nation at his position in PFF pass rushing grade, with seven sacks and 40 pressures generated in total.
Colorado State’s offense definitely won’t blow you away, but Hawaii hasn’t proven that it’s capable of ever getting consistent stops on defense, ranking 84th in points allowed per drive.
The Rams have actually been effective in the passing game at times, thanks in large part to the nation’s best tight end in Trey McBride, who leads all tight ends in yards, receptions, first downs, and ranks second among all pass-catchers in PFF receiving grade.
Hawaii has been horrible at defending the tight end position, ranking 117th in Success Rate Allowed on tight end targets, which will provide an opportunity for another monster game out of McBride.
Overall, Colorado State is just a more complete team, and I project the Rams as favorites of -6.1 on the island.
Pick: Colorado State -2.5
Similar to Darin’s read on Colorado State, if you like the chalk, the under’s seemingly a correlated play.
Colorado State, in years past, may have been a get-right spot for a pass-centric offense, but Steve Addazio’s secondary is lights-out against aerial attacks — and that’s all Hawaii wants to do, ranking top-20 nationally in pass rate.
The X’s and O’s favor the Rams defense as it is, but another factor to monitor is the wind, which can pick up on the island. Forecasts are calling for 15 MPH winds, fitting one of our top-rated weather systems.
I’ll plug my nose and go under on Hawaii, which has cashed 14 of the last 17 unders in Mountain West play.