College Football Picks for Week 13: Illinois vs. Northwestern Highlights Our Top NCAAF Favorites
James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Illinois’ Reggie Love III.
- College football Week 13 is here, and we have some more bets on our favorite NCAAF favorites.
- Collin Wilson already hit with Missouri dominating Arkansas, and Stuckey looks to secure the sweep with Illinois vs. Northwestern.
- Check out Stuckey's full betting breakdown for Illinois -5.5 below.
The last full slate of the regular season has somehow already arrived, as we march on to Week 13.
You might be familiar with our weekly moneyline underdog article.
Well, we decided last year we needed to show love for the other side by also sharing our two favorite college football favorites, which we talk about weekly on the "Big Bets on Campus" podcast.
We affectionately refer to them as "overdogs," thanks to one of our beloved callers.
After a hot start, it's been a struggle in the second half of the season. Last week, I had the worst pick in the history of sports betting with Auburn, which lost outright in convincing fashion as a three-touchdown-plus favorite.
Collin at least got us on the board with the Longhorns.
As a result, our record sits at 13-11 (54.2%) on the season. It's time to finish with a bang over the final two chalk chances of the 2023 season, including bowls.
For Week 13, Collin will kick us off on Friday afternoon with an SEC road favorite, while I'll close things out with a Big 10 home favorite on Saturday afternoon.
Stuckey: Illinois -5.5
I'm riding with the Illini, who need a win to get to bowl eligibility, against a Northwestern team that recently locked up its own bowl bid.
Northwestern is one of the best stories in college football this season. After essentially being priced as a coin-flip at home against UTEP earlier in the year, the Wildcats somehow got to six wins under new head coach David Braun, who recently shed the interim tag.
That's quite an accomplishment after dealing with plenty of adversity leading up to the season with a roster that doesn't boast typical Power-5 rich talent.
However, the Wildcats have certainly benefited from good fortune with wins coming over the aforementioned Miners and against FCS Howard by a field goal in a game they were actually outgained.
Northwestern also beat Minnesota in overtime by a field goal after a miraculous 21-point comeback and got fairly fortunate in a six-point win over Maryland.
For a perfect microcosm of Northwestern's season, look no further than last week's one-score win over Purdue,
The Boilermakers had the statistical edge, despite late scratches to their starting quarterback and best defender. However, they simply couldn't overcome a missed field goal, a fumble inside Northwestern's 40-yard line, three turnovers on downs inside the 30 and an interception in Northwestern territory to end the game.
That's the formula for scoring only 15 points despite gaining 443 total yards.
Northwestern did get a well-deserved victory over Wisconsin, but the rest has been an abundance of smoke and mirrors as the Wildcats have been out-gained in five of their six wins, including one against an FCS opponent, while benefiting from key opponent injuries and turnover luck.
The Wildcats have a +8 turnover margin largely because they've lost just one of 11 fumbles this season.
Additionally, their two quarterbacks have combined to throw 16 touchdowns to just six interceptions, despite a ratio of only 14 big-time throws to 15 turnover-worthy plays, per PFF.
Even if we just look at basic surface statistics, Northwestern has a -0.5 net yards per play margin, while Illinois is nearly a full yard better at +0.4 against a tougher overall schedule.
The Northwestern offense, which ranks 125th in yards per play, can't consistently take advantage of a vulnerable Illini secondary.
Meanwhile, the Illinois offense should enjoy success through the air, especially with the recent emergence of quarterback John Paddock.
If not for two brutal last-minute losses to Wisconsin and Iowa, Illinois could be playing for the division this weekend. Instead, it needs a win just to get to bowl eligibility.
Based on everything I've read and heard, the Illini care about getting to the postseason, so I'm backing them in a game I project close to a touchdown in a great situational spot.
For what it's worth, Illinois head coach Bret Bielema has generally bounced back well, going 33-20 (62.3%) ATS in conference play after a straight-up loss. That makes him the third-most profitable coach among 429 in that situation since 2005, per Action Labs.
Pick: Illinois -5.5
Wilson: Missouri -7.5
According to our Brett McMurphy's latest Action Network bowl projections, Missouri will head to a New Year's Six bowl, which would be one of the biggest bowls in program history.
The final hurdle to getting there involves beating rival Arkansas on the road.
The Tigers have been on an impeccable run with only two losses — by a combined 11 points — against Georgia and LSU. One could argue the Tigers actually outplayed Georgia but couldn't overcome turnovers and red zone inefficiency.
With seasoned quarterback Brady Cook at the helm, the offense has been both efficient and explosive, ranking in the top 30 in Quality Drives and Finishing Drives.
Meanwhile, the defense has been stingy against the run all season. While the Tigers do feature a pair of very strong cornerbacks, the pass defense has allowed too many explosive plays.
Fortunately for Missouri, the Razorbacks don't have much explosiveness.
Head coach Sam Pittman will keep his job and has received a vote of confidence from athletic director Hunter Yurachek, but the 2023 season has been a forgetful one after Pittman's old friend, Dan Enos, was hired as offensive coordinator but then fired midseason.
Arkansas got routed by Auburn in Week 11, which ended any hope of a postseason appearance. Not surprisingly, the Razorbacks followed up that loss with an uninspiring win in a non-cover against lowly Florida International.
Pittman continues to talk about playing for pride, but a rash of skill position injuries and a dire tackle situation has turned the Arkansas offense as cold as a trip through the Polar Express.
While the Battle Line Rivalry is relatively new, head coach Eli Drinkwitz relishes the opportunity against Arkansas. The head coach, who has dominated this series, has even mentioned that Arkansas doesn't play with the same intensity in the annual clash.
That certainly may be the case this season for a Razorbacks roster that will likely flood the transfer portal by this time next week.
I'm backing the Tigers, who should be hungry for a rivalry win and a chance to reach a New Year's Six bowl.
Pick: Missouri -7.5
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