College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions: Collin Wilson’s 3 Best Bets for Week 9, Including Michigan vs. Michigan State
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: An Auburn Tigers football player.
- Michigan takes on Michigan State in a top-10 Big Ten duel, while Georgia travels to Jacksonville to face Florida in the SEC.
- Meanwhile, Auburn and Ole Miss will also battle in a critical top-25 SEC matchup.
- Collin Wilson has three of the biggest games of a monster college football Week 9 slate covered below.
Week 9 of the college football season is a big one.
With ranked matchups and historic rivalries scattered all across the schedule, this is a slate that appeals to both fans and investors of teams.
The Battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy is the biggest on the schedule, as No. 6 Michigan takes on No. 8 Michigan State in East Lansing. This matchup of two top-10 Big Ten teams has a significant impact on the College Football Playoff rankings that come out next week.
When that game wraps up, the eyes of the college football world will turn to Jacksonville, where Georgia faces Florida in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. The Bulldogs defense has clearly been stout all season, but the deep-passing and rushing ability of Anthony Richardson may allow Florida to become the first team to score two touchdowns on Georgia this season.
Finally, the SEC West will have a clearer picture when Ole Miss takes on Auburn in a game with many big plays expected.
This slate represents everything midseason college football is about.
Check out all three games I’m betting below, and don’t forget to follow me in the Action Network app ahead of game day to see all of the bets I make.
My Week 9 College Football Betting Card
Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific game on my Week 9 college football betting card.
Specific bet recommendations come via the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.
#6 Michigan vs. #8 Michigan State
The Paul Bunyan Trophy is awarded to the winner of the Michigan and Michigan State football series, and this chapter will be the biggest in the historic rivalry since 1961.
Two undefeated teams in the top eight of the AP Poll will clash and produce an undefeated competitor for Ohio State, while the loser of this game will generate plenty of questions surrounding the head coach.
Rumors continue to circulate around Mel Tucker’s destination after the 2021 season. While the NFL remains an option for the second-year Spartans coach, the LSU rumors have gone full sizzle.
Following the path of Nick Saban, Tucker will first have to defeat Michigan to stay undefeated.
The knock on Jim Harbaugh is the bully nature against directional schools while wilting against the upper-tier of the Big Ten. The Michigan head coach made numerous coaching staff changes and is labeling this as an elimination game.
Both teams are looking for statement games, already playing three common conference opponents.
Thanks to the pandemic Halloween upset, the Wolverines are looking for revenge after losing outright as 21.5-point favorites last season. The Spartans will look to capitalize coming off a bye week and hope to bring surrender cobra back.
Harbaugh has been here before, as the 2016 season was the second of his tenure in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines started the season with nine straight wins before losing three of the final four games. Since the former Michigan quarterback returned as head coach in 2015, the home team has lost every game in this series with the exception of 2019.
The big questions are how did Michigan get to the end of October undefeated, and is it sustainable against Michigan State?
The offense has increased its usage of 12 personnel, using two tight ends almost exclusively on first down. Armed with a new contract, offensive coordinator Josh Gattis increased the tight end formation from 14% last year to 40% this season.
The result has been an exclusive rushing attack that ranks 13th in Success Rate.
The offensive line has shored up with the offseason departure of Joe Milton to Tennessee, as Cade McNamara leads a unit that boasts the best rank in FBS in terms of Havoc Allowed.
Rush is called on 67% of plays as the Wolverines are led by two running backs who average more than three yards after contact in Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum.
How sweet was this @blake_corum @UMichFootball jump cut?! 😍 pic.twitter.com/g9HojuA0Am
— Michigan On BTN (@MichiganOnBTN) October 23, 2021
The duo have created 68 missed tackles this season, as both own the ability to create explosive runs. The Wolverines will have plenty of success on the ground, as Michigan State is 66th in Defensive Rushing Success Rate and 91st in Stuff Rate.
The Wolverines will move the chains at a slow tempo, averaging 6% more than the national average in two-plus first-down drives and ranking 100th in plays per minute.
Where Gattis will get into trouble is Finishing Drives, as a rank of 52nd highlights Michigan’s tendency to settle for 10 field goals against 20 touchdowns on the season.
Getting to McNamara has been a strenuous exercise for Michigan’s opponents. The Wolverines have run 341 plays in standard downs compared to 150 in passing downs, but have managed 9% above the national average in Success Rate when behind schedule.
McNamara has a 6:1 ratio in big-time throws to turnover-worthy plays, showing confidence in a pressured pass attempt with a drop of just 11% in adjusted completion percentage versus a clean pocket.
Although passing downs are conducted in an 11 formation, Haskins and Corum have been utilited 35 times on third down for the 22nd-best conversion rate in FBS.
The plan for Michigan State is easy: Take away the run in standard downs and look get corner play on receivers Cornelius Johnson and Daylen Baldwin in long downs and distances.
There is a different attitude on the Michigan defense after the hiring of Mike Macdonald as the defensive coordinator.
The 4-3 defense is long gone, and the days of the 3-3-5 and 4-2-5 are part of the scheme under a new coach. Michigan has produced results on this side of the football, maintaining a top-10 rank in tackling, pass rush and Finishing Drives.
Michigan’s Dax Hill and Josh Ross hit Graham Mertz. Wisconsin’s QB getting checked out after taking the hit to his ribs
🎥: @CFBONFOX pic.twitter.com/2Lf4I54nBs
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) October 2, 2021
Michigan has toned down the blitz rate 9% since last season but has become more effective in just rushing four defensive players at a 70% rate. The pressure generated by four or less has allowed the Wolverines to maintain a high level in pass coverage, currently graded 16th by PFF.
Michigan State will offer the biggest test for the defense this season, as the Wolverines defense has feasted against a schedule of rush-based attacks.
Tucker has been the ultimate transfer portal whisperer, bringing in a bevy of talent from other programs.
The biggest of those names is Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker III, who leads the Spartans with nearly 1,000 yards while generating 62 missed tackles and 4.8 yards after contact.
Happy birthday to the 🐐 Kenneth Walker III pic.twitter.com/ibE5pz4adH
— Spartan Fan (@SpartyOn70) October 20, 2021
Similar to Michigan, the Spartans have stayed in standard downs for twice as many plays as passing downs, thanks to a running game that is 12th in Stuff Rate and top-40 in Line Yards and Success Rate.
The difference in offenses between the two teams is the Spartans’ ability to throw vertically. Quarterback Payton Thorne has put together three times as many big-time throws as turnover-worthy plays with explosive targets in Jalen Nailor and Jayden Reed.
Most receiving yards on deep pass attempts this season ✈️
1. Jalen Nailor, Michigan State (Week 6): 191
2. Jayden Reed, Michigan State (Week 2): 160
3. Jacob Copeland, Florida (Week 2): 152pic.twitter.com/qcF515cGBZ
— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 11, 2021
Michigan State is 15th in expected points on passing plays, giving the Spartans the explosive plays needed to put points on the board.
As the offense has plenty of playmakers in gaining chunk yards, the defense has been one of the best in the nation in eliminating big plays. Out of 91 opponent offensive drives, Michigan State has allowed only three to be explosive.
The Spartans do struggle against the run, allowing opponents a Success Rate 10% above the national average on running plays.
The caveat is what defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton has been able to get when defending in the red zone.
Michigan State runs an exclusive 4-2-5 defense with a modest 24% blitz rate. A closer look at the blitz numbers shows the Spartans stunting against half of the 12 formation snaps opponents have flashed this season. Michigan is running 40% of plays out of the 12, utilizing tight ends to block for the running game. The Spartans’ success in blitzes on first down is vital to secure the cover and outright victory.
Michigan vs. Michigan State Betting Pick
There are three common opponents between these teams: Nebraska, Rutgers and Northwestern.
The Scarlet Knights had massive success on offense against Michigan, recording a Success Rate 17% above the national average on standard downs while doubling the rate for methodical drives.
Michigan State nearly doubled Rutgers in overall yards per play with one explosive play after another.
Both teams secured a field-goal victory over the Cornhuskers but had similar Defensive Success Rate splits against the Nebraska offense.
Michigan State allowed just one drive of 14 to be explosive against Nebraska, while Michigan allowed three drives to average 10 yards per play or more. On offense, Michigan did not post a single explosive drive and had just three runs over 12 yards.
Both teams stomped Northwestern, as turnovers assisted Michigan in securing an average starting field position at the 37-yard line.
Explosiveness is a central theme once again in the Wildcats box score against both teams. Michigan allowed Northwestern an explosive drive, while Michigan State didn’t allow any drives to average 10 yards per play or more.
The Spartans nearly doubled Northwestern in overall yards per play.
Hammering out those three head-to-head box scores gives a clear indication that Michigan State’s explosive plays will be a factor in this game. Furthermore, while the defenses have done an excellent job at preventing points, both offenses struggle in Finishing Drives.
These teams will line up and look to establish the run, which gives the Spartans the edge with chunk yardage by their skill players.
The Action Network projects the total at 51, but a slow tempo in combination with excellent coverage and ground-based attacks will put value on the under.
Projections on the side fall on Michigan -4, but with the head-to-head box scores in mind, Michigan State has the clear advantage in getting the ball vertically downfield.
Pick: Under 50.5 or Better | 1H Under 24 or Better | Michigan State +4 or Better
#1 Georgia vs. Florida
Another edition of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is set to kick from Jacksonville on Saturday.
Dan Mullen notched his first victory over Kirby Smart last season, cruising to a 16-point victory.
The dynamics of the Gators’ offense have completely changed, while the Georgia defense is putting up all-time numbers at the FBS level.
As for changing offenses, the battle between Stetson Bennett and a healed JT Daniels remains at quarterback for the Bulldogs. Smart indicated practice would be the grounds for identifying a starter and not game play.
If Daniels is at full strength, then Georgia could go vertical against the Gators.
As for Florida, this could be the week Anthony Richardson takes over starting duties from Emory Jones at quarterback. Smart is aware of the change and is coaching the defense for both, as each of the Gators’ quarterbacks “run the same package.”
The toughest part in Georgia’s advanced analytics is poking a hole in the numbers.
Smart and defensive coordinator Dan Lanning have created a scheme that runs 3-3-5 on standard downs and 2-4-5 on passing downs with a 23% blitz rate.
The Bulldogs are the top overall defense in tackling, coverage and Finishing Drives. Not only is Georgia the top team in strength of record, but the Bulldogs are also the top team in game control and average win probability rank.
This is just not even fair. Jordan Davis (#99) splits the double team and ends this play. pic.twitter.com/Fyf8m5iQ4e
— Ben Glassmire (@BenGlassmireNFL) October 25, 2021
Georgia owns a Defensive Stuff Rate ranking of 21st in the country, thanks in part to Jordan Davis filling the gaps. No matter who is under center for the Gators, expect the zone-read option to be mobile outside the tackles.
The issue is that no offense has had success against Georgia, with opponents creating just two explosive drives in 83 attempts and two-plus first down drives 16% less than the national average.
If Florida is to sustain drives and create chunk plays, it would be the first offense to do so against this Bulldogs defense.
The biggest question on the offensive side of the ball is the availability of Daniels. Smart has hinted that when players are 100%, they return to the field — as targets Jermaine Burton and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint should be ready for Florida.
Although Bennett has run the offense with efficiency, his passing beyond 20 yards has been limited to just 12 attempts for six big-time throws.
The market has been cool to react to the Daniels news. He was announced out before the Arkansas game, and the point spread fell just two points for the Bulldogs.
The reason for the modest reaction is the rushing attack led by Zamir White and James Cook.
Zamir White, grown man TD 💪#CFB pic.twitter.com/ScmdZuJnZE
— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 9, 2021
With Kendall Milton and Kenny McIntosh not expected to play, Georgia’s stable of running backs will rotate Daijun Edwards and a number of explosive freshmen.
Georgia should have plenty of success running the ball, as Florida ranks 125th in Defensive Stuff Rate and 66th in Line Yards.
The Bulldogs have a tempo rank of 115th, but by design, can eliminate opponents with the run and maintain the best rank in average third-down distance to go.
This is an uphill climb for the Florida defense.
“Continue to grow and develop” was the way Mullen summed up the quarterback battle between Jones and Richardson.
Florida is expected to play a two-quarterback system against Georgia and generally play with the hot hand.
Richardson was thought to be used in short-yardage situations but has recently flashed deep passing skills that could cause separation in the depth chart.
Florida redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson has some of the best tools in college football at the QB position.
The ball just explodes off his hands, he displayed perfect velocity and ball placement on this touchdown throw. pic.twitter.com/WJaJROCrwy
— Luca Sartirana (@SartiranaLuca) October 22, 2021
The offensive packages are essentially the same with either quarterback, as 89% of snaps come out of the 11 formations with a balanced run-pass ratio.
There is an uptick for Richardson in play-action passing — 43% of his dropbacks against Jones’ 34%. Mullen will ride the hot hand, as the Georgia defense is top six in every standard and passing down metric.
Florida’s defense is where this game will be won or lost. The Gators have been excellent at rushing the passer, boasting a rank of eighth, per PFF.
To get the quarterback throwing, containing the rush is where this game will be handicapped.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham continues to struggle in building a unit to contain the run, evidenced by LSU’s Tyrion Davis-Price rushing for 287 yards before Florida hit the bye week.
Price@LSUfootball | #GeauxTigerspic.twitter.com/ZdibnQ1KtC
— Collin Wilson (@_Collin1) October 16, 2021
Opponents are averaging five yards per play in standard down,s as the Gators cannot work behind the line scrimmage. Florida is 87th in tackles for loss and support a Havoc rank of 99th.
Grantham is in the last year of his deal with Florida and maintains that improvements will come after the bye week. If a tackling grade of 93rd doesn’t improve, plenty of rushing attempts by Georgia may end up being explosive.
Georgia vs. Florida Betting Pick
For Florida to cover this spread, the offense will have to score. Georgia is the clear leader in Finishing Drives and special teams, leaving little space for the Gators to attack.
Mullen will create plenty of motion and move the pocket to find a way to attack the best defense in college football. Despite all of the love for the Georgia defense, it hasn’t faced many opponents that had the ability to utilize the vertical pass.
Auburn generated six explosive passes from the arm of Bo Nix, with a Success Rate above the national average in passing downs. Richardson has the tools to put explosive passes in the air if the ground game isn’t available.
Florida should be the first offense to score two touchdowns or more against the Bulldogs defense.
The Florida defense is where the handicap resides, as every offense has been successful at moving the chains and creating chunk yards on the ground.
The Action Network projection makes this total at 52, just above the key number of 51. Any news of Daniels under center only helps in the vertical passing game to obtain more available yards.
The side projection calls for Georgia -15, close to the market at 14.5. That leaves no value on the spread.
Pick: Over 51 or Better
#10 Ole Miss vs. #18 Auburn
The pecking order in the SEC West will have clear visibility when play concludes at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.
Our own Brett McMurphy projects Ole Miss in the driver’s seat for a New Years Six Fiesta Bowl bid, while Auburn is projected in the Gator Bowl.
If the Rebels survive Week 9 on the road, Ole Miss will host three straight home games before the regular-season conclusion in Starkville against Mississippi State.
Auburn has the chance to dictate its own destiny with only a single loss in SEC play. A win over Ole Miss leaves a loaded slate with a trip to Texas A&M and the potential to host the Iron Bowl with the SEC West on the line.
There are rumors of suspension and persistent questions about head coach Bryan Harsin’s COVID-19 vaccine status, as any Auburn wagers should come with close monitoring of a developing story.
The Rebels look to complete one of the toughest October schedules in college football. Ole Miss lost to Alabama in Week 5 but has reeled off three straight victories over Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU.
Potential Heisman quarterback Matt Corral was questionable against the Tigers after his 30 rushing attempts against Tennessee came with a price. The junior played against LSU, leaving the pocket just 12 times and completing 18-of-23 passes.
Head coach Lane Kiffin leveraged explosive running backs in Snoop Conner and Jerrion Ealy to finish off LSU.
JERRION EALY ON 3RD & 19! pic.twitter.com/1ypyuTh72J
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) October 23, 2021
Ole Miss boasts one of the most successful and explosive offensive attacks in the nation, armed with the third-fastest tempo in the nation to keep defensive coordinators up all season.
Auburn falls outside of the top 100 in defending the explosive rush, indicating this could be another big game on the ground for Conner, Ealy and Corral at full strength.
The co-defensive coordinators of Chris Partridge and DJ Durkin have called a multiple scheme, floating from a 2-3-6 to 3-2-6, but issues persist against the run.
The Rebels are 119th in Defensive Rushing Success Rate and 107th in Line Yards.
Ole Miss has played decent defense in coverage and against the explosive pass, but putting only two down linemen on the field is asking for every team on the schedule to run.
The biggest advanced statistics gap in this head-to-head is the Auburn rush offense that ranks third in explosive plays against an Ole Miss defense that is outside the top 100 in defending.
Bo Nix continues to have a positive season despite recording a turnover-worthy play in every game except the opener against Akron. More importantly, Nix has improved in a crowded pocket, throwing twice as many big-time throws than turnover-worthy plays this season.
Auburn ranks fifth in Havoc Allowed, a metric that checks tackles for loss allowed, sacks, fumbles and interceptions.
The Auburn offensive line has been fantastic in pass protection, but it also owns a top-25 number in Line Yards, clearing the path for Jarquez Hunter and Tank Bigsby on the ground.
Ridiculous touchdown from Tank Bigsby pic.twitter.com/u2ahjlnHJz
— Patrick Greenfield (@PCGreenfield) October 9, 2021
While the rushing duo will complicate issues for Ole Miss, the Auburn defense will continue to look multiple under coordinator Derek Mason. The Tigers have blitzed from 15 different schemes this season, with the most coming from the 4-2-5.
The secondary ranks fourth in the nation against the explosive pass, led by one of the highest-graded cornerbacks in the country in Roger McCreary.
Roger McCreary closes on the long throw and showcases his length once again pic.twitter.com/13vEs6bCwZ
— Tyler Browning (@DiabeticTyler) October 17, 2021
Auburn is the best defense in the nation against the explosive play in passing downs, a further indication that Ole Miss may try to match the Tigers’ power running.
With a tackling grade of 31st in the country, Auburn will be tasked with stopping an Ole Miss unit that averages 18% more than the national average in available yards.
Ole Miss vs. Auburn Betting Pick
The first question is what kind of offensive plan Harsin will call against Ole Miss. The Tigers have become increasingly dependent on the arm of Nix, as the last three games have consisted of 89 rushing attempts to 121 plays in the passing game.
Harsin is aware and indicates a balanced approach is the goal for every game, but early deficits require the passing game.
Auburn may lean heavily on the rush because of Ole Miss’ defense in early downs. The Rebels are 118th defensively in standard downs Success Rate and 98th in Finishing Drives, as the Tigers should have no issues scoring on drives that extend beyond the 40-yard line.
Ole Miss may implement the same rush strategy with a four-down mentality. No team in college football has attempted as many fourth downs as the Rebels. Expect Ole Miss to work with the rushing game considering Auburn’s rank outside the top 100 in big plays on the ground and the fact that Corral’s health is not 100%.
The Action Network totals projection calls for a score of 68, with heavy advantages to each offense in explosive plays and Finishing Drives. This game should be a shootout from the start, giving value to the over.
The side projection calls for Auburn -2, but there’s no reason to think this is not the live-betting game of Saturday, as each offense is capable of coming back from multiple score deficits.
The biggest key number in this total range is 65, as sharp money has hit the market at this buy point throughout the week.
Considering the defenses with respect to the rush, a first-half over at 31 or better is suggested.
Pick: Over 65 or Better | 1H Over 31
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