Miller: My Four Favorite Under-the-Radar College Football Bets for Week 13

Miller: My Four Favorite Under-the-Radar College Football Bets for Week 13 article feature image
Credit:

Reinhold Matay-USA Today Sports. Pictured: Sam Crosa (31), James Smith (37)

Everyone will have their eyes on Penn State-Ohio State and Texas A&M-Georgia this weekend, but don’t forget that there’s plenty of value in some of the weekend’s less heralded games.

The lines often aren’t as sharp in some of the smaller matchups 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 be putting out a few of my favorite bets in some under-the-radar games.

This week I’ve got four, so let’s jump in.

Week 13 College Football Bets

Temple at Cincinnati

  • Odds: Cincinnati -10
  • Total: 45
  • Time: Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN2

Luke Fickell deserves a ton of credit for the job he’s done in Cincinnati. He’s taken the Bearcats from 4-8 in his first year to 11-2 in 2018, and now 9-1 in 2019. He’s done it with a great defense, solid running game, and a reliable quarterback in Desmond Ridder.

While Cincinnati ranks 19th in the College Football Playoff rankings and is in contention for a New Years Six bowl game, something has been off recently for Fickell’s squad. In the five games since their Week 6 monster win against UCF, the Bearcats have been outgained in all but one. They’ve been living on the edge against lesser competition and this week they take a step up against Temple.

The Owls started the year with a solid win against Maryland before dropping their road opener to Buffalo. After a tough loss to Memphis in an early AAC showdown, Temple endured blowouts against SMU and UCF, two of the best teams in the conference. Despite the tough start to the season, I’ve been really impressed with how Temple has bounced back, particularly in last week’s win against Tulane as nearly a touchdown underdog at home.

The advanced metrics show that Temple’s defense is better than Cincinnati’s this season. That’s likely skewed by the Bearcats’ horrific performance against ECU, but it still demonstrates the strength of Temple’s defense. Their defensive line, anchored by AAC sacks leader Quincy Roche, should dominate the line of scrimmage for a unit that also ranks 16th in passing success rate. That’s a great combination against the kind of one-dimensional offense they’ll face on Saturday.

My power number on this game makes the line Cincinnati -9 so there isn’t a ton of line value with this pick. Instead I’ll lean on the advanced metrics and my eyes, which show that Cincinnati is a team that’s looked ripe for an upset in recent weeks.

Pick: Temple +10.5
[In New Jersey? Bet now at PointsBet]

Western Kentucky at Southern Miss

  • Odds: Southern Miss -4
  • Total: 51.5
  • Time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN+

In a matchup that features two excellent units facing each other, a game is often decided by which team can gain an edge when the other two units are on the field. That’ll be the case when Southern Mississippi’s high-powered offense faces off against a very stingy Western Kentucky defense.

Western Kentucky’s bounce back from a 3-9 season last year has been staggering. Not only are the Hilltoppers already bowl eligible, they’re 40th in the nation in overall defensive efficiency. The offense has been anemic for most of the season but with a great defense, head coach Tyson Helton has something to build on.

Southern Miss ranks 18th in the country in yards per play and 24th in passing success rate, but WKU is 39th and 6th at defending those categories respectively. The only category that this unit really struggles in is allowing long passing plays. That’s a recipe for disaster against the most explosive team in the group of five.

Southern Miss’s defense isn’t anything special because its apparent solid success rate numbers are dragged down by a tendency to allow long passes. Fortunately for the Golden Eagles, that’s not Western Kentucky’s game at all. In fact, Western Kentucky doesn’t have much of a game when it comes to their offense. I don’t see a single offensive category that stands for the Hilltoppers while I can at least see some promise in the Southern Miss defense.

At the end of the day, Southern Miss’ defense isn’t nearly as bad as Western Kentucky’s offense. Look for Jack Abraham to hit some long pass plays and for Southern Miss’ defensive line to wreak havoc when Western has the ball. I’m still very high on the Golden Eagles and I see a little value in backing them this week.

Pick: Southern Miss -4
[In New Jersey? Bet now at PointsBet]

Coastal Carolina at UL-Monroe

  • Odds: UL-Monroe +5.5
  • Total: 65
  • Time: Saturday, 5:00 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN3

These two teams have shown up on nearly every one of my cards in 2019 and this week is no different. This game features one of the juiciest bowl motivation matchups of the week as both programs sit at four wins with two games to go. Coastal has the clearer path to six wins because their last game is against lowly Texas State, while ULM faces Sun Belt juggernaut and in-state rival Louisiana in week 14. Both teams will be motivated to win, but which team has the edge once toe meets rubber on Saturday afternoon?

As usual we’ll turn to the advanced metrics to decide who to put our hard-earned cash on in this Sun Belt tilt. It’s rare to find a group of five matchup that features two top-40 offensive lines, but ULM has a clear advantage with the nation’s No. 4 unit in line score.

Unfortunately for the Warhawks, that’s where the major advantages in this matchup stop.

Coastal Carolina doesn’t have a good offense, but they do rank highly in both passing and rushing success rate. That poses a huge problem a ULM defense that ranks 125th in defensive rushing success rate against a Coastal team that loves to pound the rock. While Coastal Carolina isn’t very explosive, they’ve busted a few long runs and ULM gives up a ton of them.

Conversely, the Warhawks aren’t an efficient offense but they hit a ton of big plays. Coastal has a particularly poor success rate against the pass, but they don’t allow too many long passes.

Ultimately, I believe that Coastal Carolina will control the clock with long drives in this one. It’ll be up to UL-Monroe to hit explosive passing plays to keep up with the patient Chanticleers offense. I make the game Coastal +2.5 so I see plenty of value in the number. The situation at quarterback is a factor here as Coastal starter Bryce Carpenter was ineffective after playing banged up last week, but I don’t see much of a difference between the two signal callers.

Pick: Coastal Carolina +5.5
[In New Jersey? Bet now at PointsBet]

San Diego State at Hawaii

  • Odds: Hawaii -3
  • Total: 48
  • Time: Saturday, 11:00 p.m. ET
  • TV: Facebook

This game has major implications for the Mountain West title game, but there are quite a few moving pieces involved. We’ve got quarterback questions, unstoppable forces versus immovable objects, and weather issues to top it all off.

Whether it’s Cole McDonald or Chevan Cordeiro taking the first snap for Hawaii, both quarterbacks will likely play. In their last game, Cordeiro started but threw two interceptions in the first quarter. McDonald relieved the struggling starter and played very well, leading the Warriors to a win and cover. Cordeiro was great against San Jose State and kept McDonald on the bench, but for the most part, both of these guys play. I expect coach Nick Rolovich to extract a good performance out of one of his quarterbacks.

Either McDonald or Cordeiro will have his toughest assignment of the year against San Diego State’s defense. The Aztecs are rank in the top-20 in every defensive category besides passing success rate, where they rank 32nd. They’ll have their hands full with the Run n’ Shoot offense, but I expect them to give Hawaii problems. When the Hawaii offense faces the SDSU defense, it will be one of the best unstoppable force/immovable object matchups of the season.

When the Aztecs have the ball, it’ll be one of the most-stoppable against the one of the most-movable. Neither San Diego State’s offense nor Hawaii’s defense are particularly good at any one category. In fact, both units are pitiful in all the categories I track.

I’m willing to call both sides of the ball a wash and that seems to be what oddsmakers have done since the home team is favored by three points. I see some value in the number for a variety of reasons though.

I power rate San Diego State a little higher than Hawaii, and I make the Aztecs a small road favorite. I’m not a trends player, but some of the Hawaii ATS numbers are staggering. The Rainbows are just 5-17-1 against the spread on the island since 2016 when Rolovich took over. As a home favorite they’re 3-10-1 in that same time frame. Fading Hawaii at home has been a very profitable strategy.

The final piece to this puzzle is the weather. Winds are expected to be howling in Honolulu on Saturday night and that’s driven the total down to 48 from 52. Oddsmakers clearly see the wind having an affect on this game, but who do you think the wind will affect more? I’ll take the team that doesn’t rely solely on its passing offense to win football games.

Pick: San Diego State +3
[In New Jersey? Bet now at PointsBet]