Miller: My Favorite Under-the-Radar College Football Bets for Week 9
Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports.
Everyone will have their eyes on Wisconsin-Ohio State, Auburn-LSU, and Notre Dame-Michigan this weekend, but don’t forget that there’s plenty of value in some of the less heralded games.
The lines often aren’t as sharp and there aren’t as many eyes on the games. If you know personnel mismatches, coaching staffs and advanced stats for Group of Five teams, you can position yourself well to make some money.
Every Saturday, I’ll submit a few of my favorite bets in some under-the-radar games.
This week I’ve got four, so let’s get to it.
Utah St at Air Force
Utah State lost head coach Matt Wells to Texas Tech in the offseason but he left Gary Andersen a very talented group of players. Quarterback Jordan Love returned after a monster season and All-MWC linebacker David Woodward was poised to be one of the most productive defensive players in the country.
Love has struggled in 2019 but I’m not ready to give up on him just yet. Air Force’s defense provides him with a great opportunity to bounce back and recapture some of the draft buzz that he generated prior to the season. The Falcons really struggle to defend the pass so Love should be able to pick apart their secondary. He’ll have plenty of time throw because Utah State’s offensive line is 7th in sack rate and Air Force’s defensive line is 95th.
When Air Force has the ball, the Aggies will face a buzzsaw that ranks 25th in offensive efficiency, 24th in yards per play, and 20th in yard per carry. They’ve scored 40+ points in three of their last four games but starting quarterback Donald Hammond III (shoulder) is questionable for this matchup.
Even if Hammond plays, I like the way that Utah State defends the run enough to feel good about them slowing down Air Force. I make Utah State a one-point favorite with Hammond in the game so I’m happy to get over a field goal.
Pick: Utah State +3.5
Ohio at Ball State
Ball State is an absolute wagon right now in the MAC. Based on what I’ve seen from this conference, the Cardinals are my pick to win the league. Their 52-14 beatdown of Toledo was partially due to an inevitable regression for the Rockets’ defense and the absence of starting quarterback Mitch Guadagni, but it demonstrated how good of a football team the Cardinals are.
Ball State has one of the best QB/WR duos in the group of five in Drew Plitt and Riley Miller. Those two hooked up for a pair of touchdowns, one on an incredible trick play, before the Cardinals leaned on the run game to the tune of 374 yards.
Ball State’s offense has been pretty good but it’s not as explosive or efficient as Ohio’s. The Cardinals have a solid defense while Ohio’s defense has been horrific, ranking 125th in efficiency, 119th in explosive plays, and 115th in yards per play.
This has the makings of shootout in Muncie, Indiana but I’ll take the team that plays its home games there and has the much, much better defense.
Pick: Ball State -2.5
Eastern Michigan at Toledo
It’s time to fade Toledo. As I mentioned earlier, the Rockets were due for a ton of regression on both offense and defense and it finally caught up to them last week against Ball State. That regression is nowhere close to being done, and I expect Toledo to continue to struggle this week.
Adding to my Toledo negative is the absence of their starting quarterback Mitch Guadagni, who missed last week’s game with an undisclosed injury. The word out of Toledo is that Guadagni suffered the 3rd concussion of his career; likely meaning this will be a lengthy absence for him. His replacements were a combined 16/38 for 171 yards in last week’s debacle against Ball State.
Eastern Michigan also has quarterback concerns as Mike Glass III is listed as questionable for this one. The difference is that his backup, sophomore Preston Hutchinson, went 31/36 for 357 yards and three touchdowns in the Eagles win over Western Michigan last week.
After the Rockets’ struggles under center last week, I have far more confidence in Eastern’s quarterback situation. I make this line around a pick after adjusting for the quarterback injuries so I was happy to grab +4.5 on The Action Network app early in the week. I still like the Eagles as long as you’re getting a field goal or better.
Pick: Eastern Michigan +3.5
Central Michigan at Buffalo
Jim McElwain has done a heck of a job turning around this Central Michigan program in a short amount of time. After a 1-11 season in 2018, he has the Chippewas one win away from bowl eligibility here in Week 9.
They’ve done this on the legs of their dynamic running back duo of Jonathan Ward and Kobe Lewis. The pair has combined to rush for 1,277 yards, 6.2 yards per carry, and 16 touchdowns through eight games this year. Those numbers are even more incredible when you consider the fact that Central Michigan leans more towards a pass heavy attack.
Buffalo is 8th in the nation in average yards per carry allowed, but they struggle defending long pass plays. The Chips have been pretty explosive through the air so even when the runs aren’t working, they’ll move the ball.
Buffalo brings tons of pressure to stop the run, so look for Central Michigan to run plenty of screen plays to their star running backs, both of whom are excellent receivers.
CMU’s defense has a massive advantage over the one-dimensional Bulls’ offense. It’s a solid unit that excels at stopping the run, currently ranking 23rd overall.
Buffalo has their own pair of excellent backs in Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks. The big difference in this game is that Central Michigan will be able to adapt when the running game stalls, Buffalo will not after losing leading passer Matt Myers to a season-ending injury.
You may be able to get Central Michigan +3 if you wait the line out, but there is still good value at +2.5.
Pick: Central Michigan +2.5