College Football Situational Spots for Week 10: Stuckey’s Top 7 Bets to Target
Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Cameron Williams.
- Stuckey is back with seven of his favorite situational spots to target for Week 10 of the college football season.
- His spots include Nebraska vs. Ohio State in the early slate and Washington vs. Oregon at night.
- Check out all seven of his top situational spots below.
While all of my wagers ultimately come down to the value I show compared to my projections, I always do consider the on-field matchups and potential situational spots each week.
For the latter, that requires analyzing a team’s schedule and trying to understand motivations, which isn’t easy, but certainly a factor when dealing with college kids.
After receiving requests to bring this weekly piece back, I wanted to share the seven situational spots I had circled for this weekend. You can also listen to our latest BBOC podcast episode to see why Liberty also fits the mold.
Noon ET on FOX
The Huskers seem like a tough nut to crack on the surface, but they’ve proven to be golden as underdogs so far this season with a perfect 3-0 ATS record when catching points.
All three of those games came against teams currently ranked inside the top-10 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings — two of which came on the road. And without some typical Nebraska boneheaded mistakes, it really should have beaten both Michigan and Michigan State, while it hung with Oklahoma right until the end in Norman.
Yes, Nebraska still turns it over way too much and makes way too many self-inflicted mistakes. But that makes it a very unappetizing favorite that finds ways to lose games. It’s a different story when you can get points with the Huskers, who have a 3-6 record with all six losses coming by one possession.
After dropping three straight games it easily could’ve won, I think you’re getting a discount on a Nebraska team that has done a lot of nice things on both sides of the ball.
And this game will now basically serve as its Super Bowl. Beating Ohio State could make its season, and it also needs this one to have any shot of reaching six wins and becoming bowl eligible.
Lastly, since making a change with its defensive play-caller, Ohio State has played nothing but cupcakes. The defense looked a lot better, but it was hard to get a true read on any progress given the level of competition, as the Buckeyes even faced Indiana with its third- and fourth-string quarterbacks for the majority of that game.
Well, we finally got to see a real test last week against Penn State, and the pass defense didn’t really have an impressive showing.
I think Nebraska’s offense can hang a good number here to stay within the number. The Huskers could also sneak in the backdoor if necessary at this number.
And who knows, maybe they decide to go one game without making dumb mistakes. They are due for one of those, but I won’t hold my breath.
3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Michigan State is fresh off an emotional comeback against in-state rival Michigan to get into the first four of the initial College Football Playoff rankings? Talk about a bad situational spot.
I’m also just not as high on this Spartans team as many others. They should’ve lost to Nebraska in an overtime victory in which they had only 15 total yards in the second half.
Also, don’t forget they barely beat a disappointing Indiana team (playing with its backup QB), 20-15, in a game the Hoosiers won the total yardage battle, 322-241. If not for a non-offensive touchdown in each, they could easily have two losses.
Even in last week’s victory over the Wolverines, Michigan State got out-gained, 552-395, and trailed, 30-14, in the second half. Again, another result that could’ve gone either way.
It also had an enormous fourth quarter to beat Miami in a game it had a sub-20% win probability at one point.
Michigan State has been quite fortunate, to say the least.
Not only does this set up as a potential letdown spot for Sparty, but I also think it’s a pretty good matchup for Purdue. Michigan State does not boast a strong secondary, which is one of the reasons its cornerbacks play so soft in coverage.
That should play right into the hands of Purdue’s quick passing attack that features stud wide receiver David Bell, who terrorized Iowa’s elite defense for 11 catches and 240 yards a few weeks back.
On the season, opposing quarterbacks have completed 62.5% of passes against the Spartans, which ranks 88th in the country.
On the other side of the ball, Purdue’s defense has performed at a top-30 level this season under a new regime that’s implemented a much more aggressive scheme.
The Boilermakers actually rank in the top 25 nationally in Rushing Success Rate and EPA per rush, which certainly will help against Heisman candidate Kenneth Walker III.
Purdue may also be able to key even more in on stopping the run if Michigan State does not have the services of starting wide receiver Jalen Nailor, who left last week’s game with an injury. He appeared to have a cast on and didn’t play in the second half.
Lastly, don’t be surprised if we see some red-zone regression on both sides in favor of the Purdue offense against Michigan State’s bend-don’t-break defense.
I think Sparty goes down in West Lafayette.
3:30 p.m. ET on FOX
The Horned Frogs (3-5) have arguably been the most disappointing team in the country this season.
After their most recent loss to Kansas State, the administration parted ways with long-time coach Gary Patterson. Will the team rally around the new staff and overcome growing adversity to get off the mat after three straight losses?
I say yes for a home game against an in-state rival that’s ranked inside the top-15 nationally. Although if it does suffer a loss, TCU will likely be a team I want no part of in its final three games.
This is also a horrid spot for Baylor, fresh off a victory over Texas with a matchup against Oklahoma on deck with massive Big 12 Championship implications. Can you say sandwich?
I can’t really figure out exactly what’s wrong with the TCU defense, one of nine units in the country that has allowed at least 6.9 yards per play. That’s shocking for a D that’s perennially been stingy under Patterson.
I have to think some positive regression is coming given the talent on that side of the ball, especially since it’s the healthiest it’s been in 2021 after dealing with a plethora of key injuries over the first two months of the season.
If I didn’t account for any priors, I would not touch this game, but I have to assume some improvement is coming. However, I’m trusting my numbers and counting on TCU rallying here and Baylor potentially coming out a little flat/overconfident.
The new staff could also add some new wrinkles and an element of surprise that Baylor is not prepared for. I’ll take my chances on buying TCU low here and pocket the touchdown with the home pup.
3:30 p.m. ET on FS1
I have to give credit to Penn State for showing up last week and putting up a fight in Columbus against Ohio State. I thought the Nittany Lions might be the walking dead after that home loss in nine overtimes to Illinois.
That said, I do have major questions about their motivation level this week in their second straight road game against Maryland in College Park at noon.
I think there’s a high probability Penn State comes out super flat for this one.
I’m not in love with this Maryland team, but Taulia Tagovailoa has played at an extremely high level this season. And I’m not as worried about the wide receiver room after losing Dontay Demus based on what I saw last week.
Penn State laid an absolute egg last year at home in this same time slot against Maryland the week after losing to Ohio State. It actually trailed, 35-7, after three quarters in that game.
While I don’t expect another lopsided Maryland victory, we could see another lethargic start for the 5-3 Nittany Lions, who had much higher hopes for how this season would play out.
If Penn State shows up, this could get dicey with a high-variance Terps squad, but I see value in the number regardless, so I’m happy to back the Turtles here.
4 p.m. ET on ACCN
The Wolfpack simply need to beat 3-5 Florida State on the road to set up a showdown with Wake Forest for first place in the ACC Atlantic Division? Sounds easy enough, right? Not so fast, my friend.
Even if NC State doesn’t get caught looking past the Seminoles, the home dog still has intrigue in my eyes.
Florida State has been a much better team since Jordan Travis took over at quarterback. If you only isolate its offensive numbers when he’s under center, the offensive output looks much rosier.
- 0-3 in three McKenzie Milton starts, averaging 18 PPG against Louisville, Jacksonville State and Wake Forest
- 3-2 in five Travis starts, averaging 37 PPG with the two losses coming against Notre Dame in overtime and Clemson in a game it led in the fourth quarter.
Plus, the young pieces on defense have continued to improve, and the offensive line is now at full strength.
Meanwhile, NC State has been hit hard by the injury bug, specifically on defense, where it has now lost four starters for the season. The latest casualty is starting linebacker and captain Isaiah Moore.
The Wolfpack did pull out a road victory in Louisville last week but were outgained and trailing in the fourth quarter.
Even after a tough loss at Clemson last week, I expect the Seminoles to get up for this game. Not only can they spoil NC State’s ACC title hopes, but they also have bowl aspirations of their own.
I like this at +2, but I’m waiting to see if I can first get +3 even at -120.
7 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Two weeks ago, Kentucky went into Athens with an undefeated record and in control of its own destiny in the SEC East.
While it did secure a memorable backdoor cover, the Cats left Athens with a loss and then followed that up with another lopsided loss in Starkville at the hands of Mississippi State.
Two losses later, UK will return home to Lexington for a rivalry game with Tennessee, which is fresh off a bye week.
That off week came at the perfect time for the Vols, giving them much-needed time to heal some wounds along the offensive line and get quarterback Hendon Hooker fully healthy.
Conversely, Kentucky has had a number of impactful injuries over the past few weeks.
- Starting offensive tackle Dare Rosenthal left last game with an injury, as did outside linebacker Jordan Wright
- Linebacker DeAndre Square and defensive back Vito Tisdale also got banged up last Saturday
- Star running back Chris Rodriguez is dealing with an injury that caused him to fumble twice against the Bulldogs
Plus, the defensive tackle position remains undermanned with Octavious Oxendine out for the season and Marquan McCall apparently still not ready to return from injury. Their absences have really hurt Kentucky’s usually rock-solid run defense.
In regards to the pass defense, it’s been a liability this season. The Cats rank outside the top 100 in Passing Success Rate. That’s an area Hooker can certainly exploit.
This is a good spot to back the Vols, who come off a bye seeking revenge for last season’s embarrassing home loss. They’re also much healthier and more rested with a few key matchup advantages I like on the field.
I also think the market isn’t properly pricing the Vols for how much better they are with Hooker in at quarterback over Joe Milton, whose performances weigh down some of their season-long metrics.
7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Well, how about another surprise team in the initial first four of the College Football Playoff headed out on the road for a tricky conference game? Should we put the Ducks on upset alert? That depends on if you trust Washington.
The Huskies have had an extremely disappointing season, starting with a season-opening loss at home to FCS Montana. However, despite only holding a 4-4 record, the Huskies are still alive in the Pac-12 North race and can actually tie the Ducks at 4-2 in the conference with the head-to-head tiebreaker to boot.
This is basically Washington’s Super Bowl and a game I’m sure the Huskies have had circled since Oregon went on to win the Pac-12 last year even though Washington technically won the division (COVID-19 withdrawal).
Washington isn’t without issues.
Quarterback Dylan Morris has been underwhelming at quarterback, and the run defense has been gashed far too often. Although, it’s worth mentioning that Washington’s offense did have to deal with a number of key injuries and COVID-19 issues with its top three wide receivers and star tight end Cade Otton. The pass-catching room is now as healthy as it’s been all year with a few games under their belts.
I’m more intrigued about what we saw from the defense last week. Washington made wholesale personnel changes across the entire defense, which I thought made sense and paid dividends on the field in a stingy effort at Stanford.
The Huskies moved star cornerback Kyler Gordon, a future pro, inside to the slot and moved slot Brendan Riley-Hiles to free safety. That left fellow stud cornerback and future pro Trent McDuffie on the outside along with uber-talented freshman Mishael Powell.
The cornerback room is the least of Washington’s worries, as it boasts one of the best pass defenses in the country and three of the top four highest-rated cornerbacks in the Pac-12.
Plus, playing all four cornerbacks simultaneously puts Washington’s best set of defensive backs on the field. The other safety spot was manned by Dom Hampton, who made his first start there after getting relegated to the bench after a taunting penalty early in the first game of the season.
The stouter Hampton is a much more reliable tackler and run stopper than the other Washington safeties. Having him in the box and Gordon in the slot significantly improves the Washington run defense — a major area of weakness that the Ducks will look to exploit. Gordon manning the slot will also help better combat Oregon’s short passing attack to its backs.
Lastly, Washington started freshman Carson Bruener at inside linebacker for the first time this season. All he did was amass 16 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble en route to becoming the first player in Pac-12 history to win both Freshman of the Week and Defensive Player of the Week in the same week.
Washington’s defense might have found the spark it was searching for last week with this lineup change. And don’t be surprised if Zion Tupuola-Fetui — a potential first- or second-rounder — makes a few splash plays off the edge. This should be his first game without a snap count restriction since returning from injury.
I think the Huskies defense will step up here against an Oregon offense that ranks in the top 10 nationally in Rush EPA per play. I’ll look foolish if they don’t, but it won’t be the first or last time that happens.
Besides, who exactly has Oregon beat by more than seven this year?
- Stony Brook
Only three — all against bad teams at home. Don’t forget this same Ducks team lost at Stanford and needed to come from behind in the fourth quarter at home to beat Fresno State and Cal.
I’m still much lower on the market than the Ducks and wouldn’t be shocked if they went down in front of a raucous crowd at Husky Stadium on Saturday night.