College Football PrizePicks: Dorian Singer, Sieh Bangura Among 3 Plays for Week 0 (Saturday, Aug. 26)
Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images. Pictured: Dorian Singer (USC)
Each week throughout the season, I’ll be dropping a college football PrizePicks column on Friday to help you diversify your Saturday betting card.
While there are only seven games to choose from in Week 0, there were a few squares that deviated significantly from my projections. Let’s have a look.
Diego Pavia, New Mexico State QB
More Than 33.5 Rushing Yards (Play to 39.5)
If you haven’t caught any of our preseason content over at the BBOC podcast, you've missed my burgeoning love affair with Diego Pavia.
The New Mexico State quarterback is amassing a cult-like following in the desert. He played his high school ball in Albuquerque, led New Mexico Military Institute to a NJCAA national title and has reversed NMSU’s fortunes since taking over as its starting quarterback.
The sawed-off dual-threat plays with reckless abandon and can rack up rushing yards on designed QB runs — via the read option — and by scrambling when things break down. A former elite high school wrestler, Pavia doesn’t go down easy and isn't afraid to lower his shoulder when he approaches the goal line.
Last season, Pavia started eight games for the Aggies. In his final six starts, once the offense got cooking, he averaged 10 carries for 67 yards per game. He eclipsed this rushing prop in five of those six games.
His run grade came in at 88.5, per PFF, the second-best among FBS quarterbacks with at least 25 rushing attempts in 2022. That stat matches his tape, which shows a dangerous runner capable of popping off big plays on the ground.
For first-time PrizePicks players, it's worth noting that unlike the NFL, college football subtracts sack yardage from a player’s individual rushing totals. Luckily, New Mexico State ranked 23rd nationally in sacks allowed at just 1.23 per game last year (-9 yards per game surrendered).
This is all trending in Pavia’s favor against a toothless UMass front that finished last season with just 18 sacks (115th).
Pavia burned the Minutemen for 56 rushing yards in last year's meeting, and other dual-threats — like Tulane’s Michael Pratt (55 yards), Toledo’s Dequan Finn (74 yards) and Texas A&M’s Conner Weigman (66 yards) — did the same.
Sieh Bangura, Ohio RB
More Than 60.5 Rushing Yards (Play to 66)
The San Diego State run defense — which was once elite — is trending downwards.
In 2020, the Aztecs were one of seven defenses that allowed less than 100 yards per game on the ground. Opponents mustered a pitiful 3.05 yards per carry against Kurt Mattix’s defense.
Somehow in 2021, they were even better, ranking third against the run. They finished within spitting distance of Georgia’s YPC-allowed performance, and that was a defense that's widely considered to be one of the greatest of all-time.
But then last season, SDSU fell from the ranks of the elite to simply really good against the run. The Aztecs finished 20th against the run and allowed backs like Air Force’s Brad Roberts, Boise State’s George Holani and UNLV’s Aidan Robbins to eclipse the century mark on the ground against them.
Now, they’ve taken major losses in their front seven, including three-time All-MWC performer Caden McDonald at linebacker and the Tavai brothers on the defensive line. The defensive front features brand-new pieces this season, and Ohio has the goods to exploit that.
The Bobcats return 75.2% of their offensive line starts and an excellent dual-threat quarterback that will prevent the Aztecs from keying in on Sieh Bangura.
As a freshman, Bangura got stronger as the season progressed and was named the MAC Freshman of the Year. In his final nine starts, he averaged 101 yards rushing on 20 carries per game. This included his final performance in the bowl game — a 25/138/1 gem against Wyoming.
Given the likely game plan for Ohio, the potential game flow of a close battle between the Bobs and Aztecs and the projected regression for the SDSU run defense, I set this rushing prop 10 yards higher at 70.5.
Dorian Singer, USC WR
Less Than 5 Receptions
Two factors are at play here: game flow and USC’s absurdly deep receiving corps.
The implied score of this game — based upon the spread and total — is USC 48, SJSU 18. What that says to me is a lot of second-half running and second-string opportunities for young pups like Zachariah Branch and Raleek Brown at receiver.
Even when Dorian Singer is on the field with the starting offense, there are so many mouths to feed. Last season, four receivers finished with a reception total between 39 and 59 for USC.
This year, Tahj Washington joins Singer on the Biletnikoff Award watchlist, and both Brenden Rice and Mario Williams have the potential to hog targets on any given Saturday.
San Jose State won’t be able to slow this running game down either, which means that Austin Jones or MarShawn Lloyd could get this blowout started before Singer even sees his fifth target.
If the low total scares you, keep in mind that Jordan Addison — a first-round draft pick, Biletnikoff winner and consensus All-American — only topped this reception prop in five of his 11 starts last season.
And that was with Addison clearly identified as Caleb Williams’ top target.
There’s no guarantee Singer — an Arizona transfer — opens the 2023 campaign as the clear WR1 with Washington and Williams vying for targets.