Stuckey: My 3 Favorite Situational Bets for College Football Week 6
Troy Taormina, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Sam Ehlinger
- Stuckey details the Week 6 college football games that offer an edge for bettors who like to target situational spots.
As I do each Saturday during the college football season, I’ll share my three favorite situational bets on the slate.
Identifying 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 identify any potential flat spots that might pop up.
It’s certainly not pure science and there are other 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.
A Northern Illinois late two-point conversion cost us a sweep last week but it was still a profitable Saturday at 2-1.
Let’s take a look at my three favorite situational spots for Week 6, which include three teams all coming off byes.
Kent State +35 (at Wisconsin)
- Over/Under: 46
- Location: Madison, Wisc.
- Time: Noon ET
- TV: ESPNU
We’re headed back to Camp Randall Stadium to fade Wisconsin as a large favorite for the second straight Saturday.
The key to this play is two-fold:
- I think this is too many points as I make it 32, so getting over 35 was intriguing on the surface.
- Kent State head coach Sean Lewis is a Wisconsin guy that played for the Badgers between 2004-07 as a quarterback and tight end when Paul Chryst served as the Wisconsin offensive coordinator, QB coach and TE coach. And before Lewis decided to get into coaching, guess who he called for career advice? Chryst. I’m guessing the last thing Chryst will want to do is run up the score on Lewis here, so you may see him pull his starters earlier than he normally would in a blowout.
Now, the kids will still be trying for Wisconsin. So, would it shock me if the Badgers won 48-3? No. Jonathan Taylor should run wild behind a Wisconsin offensive line that will open up massive holes against the Kent State defense.
But the Badgers will play slow and are dealing with a number of injuries with Michigan State on deck, which is another reason for Chryst to just build a big lead and sit on it. And Kent State is coming off a bye for this game, so I expect a few added wrinkles and trick plays for Kent State’s “Flash Fast” offense.
I should note that the weather might not be great with 15 mph winds and rain in the forecast for Saturday afternoon in Madison. That should actually benefit Wisconsin’s heavy rushing attack.
Even so, I still liked Kent State enough to play +36 and would feel comfortable doing so at 35 or above. The weather may also keep a lot of folks at home in Madison for this 11 a.m. local kick in what should be a blowout.
Ball State 1H +3 (at Northern Illinois)
- Over/Under: 49
- Location: DeKalb, Ill.
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN+
Northern Illinois may be a little beat up and fatigued coming home after a three-game road trip. That road trip was no cake walk either, as the Huskies faced three Power 5 teams in Utah, Nebraska and Vanderbilt. Meanwhile, Ball State should come in much fresher after a bye last week. That extra preparation for its conference opener can’t hurt either.
The Cardinals also have had two weeks to stew over the fact that they’ve lost to Northern Illinois 10 straight times. Expect the seniors to come out with a little extra fire early on as they look to take the Bronze Stalk trophy home to Muncie, Ind., for the first time since 2008.
But the main reason I’m playing this first half (and not the full game) is because of the NIU linebacker corps. Coming into the season, linebacker was supposed to be a position of strength on the NIU defense thanks to three returning seniors: Lance Deveaux Jr., Kyle Pugh and Antonio Jones-Davis.
Well, the injury bug hit this group hard as NIU lost Deveaux Jr. before the season started and recently lost Pugh. That left only Jones-Davis and two sophomores. And one of those sophomores, Jordan Cole, who has played well, will miss the first half due to a targeting suspension.
After the departures of their star defensive ends Sutton Smith and Josh Corcoran, their pass rush has suffered. They also had to replace both corners from last year, which will come into play against a capable Ball State aerial attack. And now what was supposed to be the strength of the defense is severely shorthanded for the first half on Saturday.
NIU has many other flaws too. It can’t generate a push up front, so its run game has been almost nonexistent. The Huskies are averaging just 2.8 yards per rush, which ranks 124th in the nation. They’ve also been abysmal on third downs. In fact, only Miami has a lower third down conversion percentage among all 130 FBS teams.
Give me Ball State here in the first half.
West Virginia +10.5 (vs. Texas)
- Over/Under: 62
- Location: Morgantown, W.V.
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ABC
The clear and obvious situational angle here is Texas being caught flat in Morgantown with a potential lookahead to the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma next weekend. Meanwhile, West Virginia is coming off a bye for what will be the biggest home game of the year for the Mountaineers. Milan Puskar Stadium should be rocking with horns down signs throughout.
And that narrative has actually played out in the past. If you recall, just last year, Texas barely pulled out a win at Kansas State 19-14 but failed to cover as 8.5-point favorites.
And over the past 20 years, the Longhorns are just 5-14-1 ATS the week before playing Oklahoma. And they’ve only covered once in the past 10 years.
Texas has had some absolute clunkers in that span. Here are a few of those:
- 2016: lost 49-31 at Oklahoma State as 2.5-point underdogs
- 2015: lost 50-7 as 14-point underdogs at TCU.
- 2012: lost 48-45 at home vs. WVU as 7.5-point favorites
- 2010: lost to UCLA 34-12 at home as 15.5-point favorites
- 2007: Lost 41-21 at home as 14.5-point favorites against Kansas State
- 2002: won 17-15 at home against Oklahoma State as 25.5-point favorites
- 1999: lost at home 35-17 to KSU as 6.5-point favorites
In regards to the actual game, Texas just has so many injuries, especially in its secondary, which will even up the matchup on the field. West Virginia has certainly struggled in many areas this year but it can build on two straight wins over Power 5 teams prior to the bye week.
I think Texas probably finds a way to win but it wouldn’t shock me if we added another clunker to the list above. I’d roll with the Mountaineers at anything 10 or above.