Stuckey: Northwestern-Wisconsin & 2 Other Games Offering Situational Betting Value
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jonathan Taylor and Wisconsin
- Stuckey details the Week 5 college football games that are offers an edge for bettors who like to target situational spots.
- The games he'll cover below include Northwestern at Wisconsin, Vanderbilt vs. NIU, Toledo vs. BYU, Arkansas vs. Texas A&M and Middle Tennessee at Iowa, all of which kickoff at noon ET.
The Week 5 Saturday slate isn’t filled with an abundance of noteworthy situational spots but there are a few that caught my eye — most of which kick off at noon ET.
Identifying the potential situational spots each week isn’t rocket science. It just takes a bit of manual labor. One just has to look at a team’s opponents the week prior and week after to get an idea of where any potential flat spots might pop up.
But it’s certainly not pure science and there are other ancillary factors to consider. There’s an art and feel to utilizing situational spots in one’s handicapping. And ultimately, the actual number still reigns supreme. No matter how alluring a situational spot appears on paper, it’s worthless without any line value.
Let’s take a look at my three favorite situational spots for Week 5. I’ll also share two that just missed the cut. All five games kick at noon ET.
Northwestern +24.5 at Wisconsin
- Over/Under: 46
- Location: Madison, WI
- Time: Noon ET
- TV: ABC
Classic buy-low/sell-high spot here.
Northwestern was embarrassed at home against Michigan State last week, while Wisconsin steamrolled Michigan on national television. As a result, we are getting some line value here with Pat’s Cats in a game our projections make closer to 17.
Pat Fitzgerald is a coach you generally like to back as an underdog (46-35-1 ATS in his career). This is only the third time he’s been a 24-plus point underdog with Northwestern. The other two times were also conference games on the road and Northwestern covered both with ease.
- 2016: Northwestern (+25.5) lost 24-20 at Ohio State
- 2006: Northwestern (+30) lost 17-3 at Michigan
I’m not sure I’d get involved here at under 24 but have to bite at +24.5. Fitzgerald gets his guys to over-perform expectations more times than not in this spot. Expect their best effort in containing Jonathan Taylor, who’s actually been held in check in two prior meetings against Northwestern.
- 2018: 11 carries for 46 yards
- 2017: 19 carries for 80 yards
Those are two of Taylor’s worst career performances. We’re talking about a guy that gets 100 yards in his sleep. In fact, he’s gone over the century mark in 16 consecutive games against opponents not named Northwestern.
Northwestern will be without its leading receiver Bennett Skowronek but you aren’t betting the Wildcats for their electric passing attack. They’re averaging 4.6 yards per pass, which ranks dead last in the country.
It won’t be pretty, but I think Pat’s Cats find a way to stay within 24 here against a Badgers team that may come out a little emotionally flat for this noon kick after last week’s enormous win.
Vanderbilt (-7) vs. NIU
- Over/Under: 52.5
- Location: Nashville, TN
- Time: Noon ET
- TV: SECN
This could be a “take out your frustrations” game for Vanderbilt, which has started the year 0-3.
However, that 0-3 was not unexpected. They lost at Purdue as touchdown underdogs and two homes games against LSU and Georgia — two of the top-five teams in the country.
No matter where you look, Vanderbilt is ranked near the bottom nationally, but you have to take those numbers with a grain of salt. No other team has played two teams inside the top five in their first four games.
I expect a big game from dynamic back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who went for 130 yards and two touchdowns against LSU. He will face an NIU linebacker corps that has been decimated by injuries. With star linebacker Kyle Pugh now out for the season, the Huskies’ linebacker group is no longer a strength. They’ve gone from three solid, senior starters to just one.
On the other side of the ball, NIU’s offensive line has really struggled and there is no run game to speak of. The Huskies are averaging a paltry 2.5 yards per carry, which ranks in the bottom five nationally.
Toledo +2.5 vs. BYU
- Over/Under: 60.5
- Location: Toledo, OH
- Time: Noon ET
- TV: ESPN+
As I mentioned in our weekly moneyline underdog piece, I’m rolling with the Rockets in the Glass Bowl in what looks like a horrid spot for BYU.
BYU looked absolutely gassed last week against Washington and who can blame the Cougars after starting the season with games against Utah, Tennessee, USC and Washington — two of which went to overtime.
The Cougars were the only team in the country to start out the season with four straight Power 5 opponents.
Additionally, BYU lost two starters for the season last week, including running back Ty’Son Williams and linebacker Zayne Anderson.
Toledo possesses an explosive rushing attack, led by quarterback Mitch Guadagni and running back Bryant Koback, Koback ran for 228 yards and three touchdowns on just 19 carries last week against Colorado State.
The Rockets are averaging 6.7 yards per carry, which ranks fifth in the nation. I expect that ground game to have more success on Saturday against a BYU defense that’s allowed 4.7 yards per rush this season (102nd nationally). It’s a defense vulnerable to efficient rushing attacks.
BYU desperately needs a bye week, which it will fortunately get after this trip to Toledo. It wouldn’t shock me if BYU came out swinging but I think the Cougs ultimately wear down in the second half. A noon kick at Toledo is a tough ask after the gauntlet they’ve gone through to start the year.
Meanwhile, Toledo comes in much fresher and healthier as a result of an early season bye week and a win over a cupcake in Week 2 against Murray State. I think the Rockets get it done.
Missed the Cut
Arkansas +23.5 vs. Texas A&M
Noon ET on ESPN
You should get a best-effort game out of the Hogs after an embarrassing home loss to San Jose State last week. Meanwhile, Texas A&M comes off a home loss of its own (against Auburn) to drop to 2-2 on the season.
With a bye then Alabama next on the schedule, I’m not sure how excited the Aggies will be out of the gates to face an abysmal Arkansas team.
I will likely be on the Hogs if this line touches +24 and may also play them for the first half. Keep in mind this game is being played in Arlington, TX.
Middle Tennessee +23.5 at Iowa
Noon ET on ESPN2
This is a potential sleepy spot for the Hawkeyes, who have a date with Michigan in Ann Arbor next week.
However, they are coming off a bye and I just want no part of this Blue Raiders squad. Iowa might be able to simply line up and march down the field every possession behind its dominant offensive line against an MTSU defense that’s allowing 5.0 yards per rush.
MTSU will become a little more interesting if this line reaches 24.5 but it’s just a team I want no part of. You’ll be rooting for the clock to run out, while hoping sophomore quarterback Asher O’Hara can avoid any mistakes.