College Football Best Bets for Week 7: Our Top 5 Picks for Saturday Night, Including Alabama vs. Mississippi State
Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Danny Davis III (7), Jalen Berger (8), Kendric Pryor (3) and Graham Mertz (5) of the Wisconsin Badgers.
- Alabama looks to rebound from its loss to Texas A&M by facing Mississippi State.
- Wisconsin vs. Army, Liberty vs. UL Monroe and Stanford vs. Washington State are also on the schedule for Saturday night.
- Our experts provide five of their best bets for the final window of the Week 7 college football slate.
It’s time to cap off this college football Saturday with a successful evening slate. Between the Pac-12 After Dark and a juicy prime-time game, the action on the turf doesn’t slow down.
Our experts are keying in on four night games this week: Alabama vs. Mississippi State, Liberty vs. UL Monroe, Stanford vs. Washington State and Army vs. Wisconsin.
Below are five best bets, so use the table to navigate to the best option for you.
Saturday College Football Best Bets for Week 7
Our Top Picks for Saturday’s Evening Kickoffs
The set of college football team logos below reflects each of our college football staff’s best bets for games kicking off at 7 p.m. ET or later.
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 7
Looking for more of our college football staff’s top picks for Week 7? Check out our best bets for each of Saturday’s three kickoff windows:
No. 5 Alabama vs. Mississippi State
Nick Saban took over the head coaching job at Alabama in 2007, and since then, he has gone a smooth 175-24 (87.9%).
In recent years, the statistics have been even better. For the trailing five-year period of 2016-20, Saban and the Crimson Tide have gone 65-5, which equates to a 92.8% win rate. Over that same five-year period, the Tide have lost only three times in regular-season play.
In each of the subsequent games after a loss, Saban’s Tide have not only won, but they have also covered the spread every time.
There are a couple of things I really admire about the Alabama program under Saban, with the first being his ability to build a culture. Saban built a championship culture from the bottom up, instilled it and has been able to keep it going for what feels like forever at this point.
How is he able to do that in today’s college football when there’s a “what have you done for me lately” carousel of head coaches?
Well, he wins, and most importantly, he wins when he has to because he is a master motivator. This ability to motivate is a first derivative of the culture that he has built. The ability for his team to completely buy into what the program is trying to achieve is what has enabled all the success.
The culture and motivation lead to perseverance, and that’s why his teams have bounced back from an occasional loss during the course of long college football seasons.
This is a tough spot for Mississippi State. It has one of the most talented and best-coached teams in the country coming to Starkville this weekend looking to make a statement. Alabama’s back is against the wall, but all of its goals are still very much achievable.
The formula is very clear-cut for Alabama from this point on: Win convincingly, and the SEC Championship and College Football Playoff are within reach.
Saban will have his team prepared and extremely motivated to get back on track. The X-factor in this game will be Saban’s ability to motivate the Crimson Tide to clean up their defensive errors.
Historically, Saban-led teams have been very successful in this spot, and I don’t expect this game to be any different. Lay the points.
Pick: Alabama -17 Recommended Risk: 2 units.
Liberty vs. UL Monroe
Louisiana Monroe was pegged as one of the five worst teams in the country entering 2021.
But with Rich Rodriguez calling the plays and his son, Rhett, taking the snaps, the Warhawks eked out two early wins over Jackson State and Troy.
The victory over the Trojans was an indication that ULM was no longer a Sun Belt pushover.
Unfortunately for the Rodriguez family, Rhett landed in the ICU after sustaining a lung injury, and the program as a whole has come off the rails in his absence.
In its last two games, ULM has been outscored, 114-27. Non-competitive doesn’t even begin to cover what’s happening with the Warhawks. The defense, which was playing well, has cratered. Teams are now completing close to 73% of their passes (128th) and running up 518 yards per game (123rd).
Liberty, meanwhile, has shaken off a slow start offensively and found its groove in the past two games. It dropped 36 on a highly-talented UAB defense and followed that up with 41 points in its game against Middle Tennessee.
Malik Willis, in particular, has been fantastic, accounting for 733 total yards and six touchdowns in his last eight quarters of work.
The Flames are 5-1 ATS this season, covering large numbers (20, 26.5, 35) along the way.
The 32.5 doesn’t scare me away given the state of the ULM defense and its lack of identity on offense with Rhett Rodriguez on the shelf.
Pick: Liberty -32.5
Stanford vs. Washington State
Washington State is coming off of its biggest win of the season over Oregon State, while Stanford is coming off of an embarrassing loss at Arizona State. I like this opportunity to sell high on the Cougars and buy low on the Cardinal.
The Cardinal defense has struggled mightily against offenses with running quarterbacks, but Jayden de Laura has been reluctant to run the ball often since returning from injury. He has just five rushes for five yards in the last two games.
The Wazzu offense hasn’t run the ball well enough in Pac-12 play to take advantage of Stanford’s poor rushing defense, and I like the Cardinal’s chances of creating Havoc against de Laura through the air.
Stanford has faced one of the toughest schedules to date this season, and it will face a significant step down in competition this week after playing UCLA, Oregon, and Arizona State in three consecutive weeks.
The Cardinal rushing offense, led by Nathaniel Peat and Austin Jones, will resurrect this week and take some of the pressure off of Tanner McKee. This will allow McKee to be more efficient as he connects with Elijah Higgins and Ben Yurosek on play-action in a Cardinal win.
While I don’t love playing short road favorites often, take the Cardinal 1.5-point favorites on BetMGM (with value down to Stanford -4), as the Cardinal offense will have more success translating yards into points after failing to do so last week against Arizona State — a game in which they had 10 drives end in Arizona State territory for just 10 total points.
Pick: Stanford -1
This will be a very slow matchup in terms of pace, with a Washington State offense that ranks 128th in seconds per play taking on Stanford, which ranks 105th in that same metric.
Looking at the Cougar offense, it hasn’t been what fans were probably hoping for in coach Nick Rolovich’s second season in Pullman. It ranks 94th in Expected Points Added (EPA) per play, and the lone bright spot has been an offensive line that has been efficient in pass blocking.
Quarterback Jayden de Laura has been mediocre overall this year, ranking 60th in yards per attempt, and the ground game ranks just 86th in EPA per carry as well.
Stanford’s defense could entice the Cougars to lean on the ground game here, considering how much the secondary has outpaced the run defense. The Cardinal have been effective against the pass but rank 120th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed.
The same discrepancy is true for Stanford on the other side of the ball as well, as its rushing success rate on offense ranks even lower than its Rushing Success Rate Allowed, at 126th.
Through the air, Stanford has been better, but Tanner McKee ranks just 67th in PFF passing grade and 50th in yards per attempt.
The Cougar defense has had similar results as Stanford’s, as it’s much better against the pass than the run. It’s ranked 39th in yards allowed per coverage snap, per PFF, but 91st in EPA per rush.
Stanford leans on the passing game, but that plays into the strength of this Washington State defense.
Overall, I think pace will play a significant factor here, and possessions on both sides could be limited.
This is one of the biggest discrepancies left on the board compared to my projections, since I have it at 46.1. The market hasn’t moved in my favor after the total opened, but I have a hard time making a case for the alternative here.
Pick: Under 52.5
Army vs. Wisconsin
I just can’t figure out how either of these teams will score.
Wisconsin obviously can’t throw the ball with Graham Mertz (130th in Pass Success Rate) and Army doesn’t throw it in its triple-option offense.
This will be a heavy ground-based account between a pair of clubs that rank in the top seven in the country in rush attempts per game and are also two of the slowest teams in the country. Both rank outside the top 100 in plays per minute.
Here are the top five defenses this year in yards per rush allowed:
- Wisconsin (1.7)
- San Diego St (1.9)
- Georgia (2.2)
- Army (2.4)
- Iowa St (2.5)
From an adjusted EPA per play perspective, Wisconsin’s defense is essentially exactly on par with Iowa. The Badgers rank in the top three nationally in Rush Success Rate and Line Yards — the two key metrics to focus on when facing a service academy.
They also rank No. 1 on standard downs, which is critical to keeping Army behind schedule. The Wisconsin linebackers should be able to contain Army’s triple-option offense, which has faced an easy schedule of run offenses to date.
And if Wisconsin can move it down the field against an Army defense that ranks top 25 in Rush Success Rate, it ranks 127th in Finishing Drives, so I’ll take my chances on Mertz not exploding.
Ultimately, I make this total 34.5! So, I will gladly go under 39 here in a game that will have the clock bleeding throughout.
Pick: Under 39.5 (down to 38)
Check Out All of Our College Football Best Bets for Week 7
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