College Football Week 13 Statistical Preview: Best Bets for Michigan-Ohio State, Alabama-Auburn
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Ladies and Gentlemen, we have arrived at the last weekend of the regular season.
Despite being excited for the amazing games that are sure to come (Iron Bowl, The Game, The Civil War and many more!) it is bittersweet as the college football season is nearing its end. This weekend will decide CFP berths, Conference Championship opponents and, most importantly, bragging rights.
I know we usually take a quick look at every game on the slate for these previews but let’s do something a little different this time: Let’s take a close look at a few of the bigger rivalry games on Saturday.
The Game: Ohio State (-7.5) @ Michigan. O/U: 64.5
This is without a doubt the biggest contest of the weekend. Both the Big Ten East and a possible CFP berth are on the line when the Buckeyes take the trip north to Ann Arbor to face the Wolverines.
The weather is going to be a classic winter game at the Big House: Cold with some precipitation. It is only going to be 33 degrees, so instead of snow these teams will be dealing with freezing rain. Could that slow down Chris Olave and CJ Stroud enough to give the Wolverines a chance at Harbaugh’s first win in The Game?
Let’s take a look at each team’s advanced metrics:
As I mentioned last week on the Action Analytics Twitter Account, Ohio State is the best standard downs team in the country. If the Buckeyes can stay ahead of the chains, they will carve up this Michigan defense.
Let’s not forget, Michigan allowed Michigan State to score 37 points and let Kenneth Walker III look like a Heisman front runner. Ohio State may lack a Heisman candidate at running back, but they are still a top-20 rushing attack in the country efficiency-wise ranking 17th in both rushing EPA/play and rushing success rate.
Even if weather forces the Buckeyes to keep the ball on the ground, they will be more than happy to stuff it down the Wolverines’ throat.
On the flip side, if the Wolverines are forced to run the ball they are playing into Ohio State’s strength. This Buckeyes defense is an elite run-stopping group, as they demonstrated against Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III last weekend. They are ranked in the top-25 in Rushing Play success rate allowed, EPA/Play, and explosiveness allowed.
Another key advantage for the Buckeyes lies inside the 40. Michigan’s offense is just average at converting scoring opportunities into points, ranking 66th in offensive finishing drives. Meanwhile the Buckeyes defense is 22nd in the country in defensive finishing drives.
Even if the Wolverines make it inside the 40, look for the Buckeyes to hold them to field goals. I like Ohio State to keep this Michigan team out of the end zone. Make sure you get the hook at .5 before you play this.
The Pick: Michigan Team Total Under 28.5 (-115)
The Iron Bowl: Alabama (-20.5) @ Michigan. O/U: 57.5
Next up let’s take a look at the game on the Plains of Alabama. The Crimson Tide are looking to keep their playoff hopes alive while Auburn is determined to play spoiler for the second time in three years.
Without Bo Nix, just covering the spread could be a tall order. However, Bryan Harsin is confident enough in backup TJ Finley’s abilities that he benched Nix against Georgia State. Finley ended up leading a thrilling 98-yard TD drive to complete a comeback win.
This is also not his first time tangling with the Tide. In 2017, Finley was the starting QB in a 55-17 loss against Alabama. While that is obviously not an ideal experience, Nick Saban has made a lot of young quarterbacks look bad in his career. With a couple extra years under his belt and a new roster, Finley will be looking to get his revenge.
Alabama has been getting premium spreads all season. The legendary Alabama first half streak that ran for two years is over. Why is that? Let’s turn to some advanced metrics to find out.
Check out the fourth row in the first chart: Alabama’s defense is one of the worst at keeping opponents out of the end zone in the country, ranking 110th. The Tigers should be able to score against this once-vaunted Crimson Tide defense. However, Alabama is elite at finishing drives on the offensive side of the ball, ranking 6th nationally.
Derrick Mason’s Secondary has been getting torched this season, ranking 107th in passing play success rate allowed. This is a major problem against a Bryce Young-led passing attack that ranks 11th in passing play success rate. Young and his talented receiving core should have no problem carving up this Tiger secondary like a carving knife through a turkey on Thanksgiving.
Overall, while I think this is a premium price on the spread for an Alabama team that has not been as dominant as usual this season, the true value lies on the total. Despite moving up from 55 at open, I am confident enough in both these offenses to take the over at 57.5.
The Pick: Over 57.5 (Up to 58.5)