Wilson: My 6 Favorite College Football Betting Picks for Week 9
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Air Force Falcons quarterback Donald Hammond III (5) celebrates with wide receiver Dane Kinamon (14) fullback Taven Birdow (33) and wide receiver Benjamin Waters (20) and defensive lineman Mosese Fifita (99) and defensive lineman Joey Woodring (96).
- Collin Wilson dives into his favorite college football betting picks for Week 9.
- He's focusing on Ball State vs. Ohio, Michigan vs. Notre Dame and TCU vs. Texas, among a few others.
We talk about it all year, but now, we should start getting some answers. Who is a national title contender, and who isn’t?
Ohio State certainly is. What is left for the Buckeyes if they get past Wisconsin this week as a two-touchdown favorite? A few sleepy weeks against Maryland and Rutgers will lead into Penn State. The current projection for Penn State is Ohio State -13.
The Buckeyes are the highest rated team in the Action Network power ratings, meaning they would be favored in the semifinals and in New Orleans for the championship.
Every advanced stat that can predict a national champion points to Ohio State. Success rate and explosiveness are indicators or teams that win outright, and the Buckeyes are national leaders on both sides of the ball.
Other national title contenders have issues. Alabama ranks outside the top 40 in opponent explosiveness. Clemson ranks 75th in passing success rate as Trevor Lawrence looks to regain last year’s form. LSU’s defense has quietly allowed tons of big plays. Oklahoma may be the most formidable contender, but even the Sooners have issues with opponent explosiveness.
My favorite bets for Week 9 don’t concern these top teams, though. They contain a few teams right outside the elites and a few others that will cause big swings in the MAC and Mountain West races.
Be sure and follow me in The Action Network App to get my bets on every Week 9 game, plus Week 10 openers on Sunday.
College Football Picks for Week 9
Odds as of Thursday at 12:30 p.m. ET and via PointsBet, where Action Network users can access an exclusive promotion to get a 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).
Ohio vs. Ball State
- Spread: Ball State -3
- Over/Under: 62.5
- Time: 2 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN+
Ohio at Ball State could be a MAC Championship Game preview. Ball State can afford to lose this game as it stands now because of its divisional lead, while Ohio has to have this win to stay ahead in its side of the MAC.
Ohio will be tasked with stopping a Ball State offense that has put up 1,030 yards in its past two games against Toledo and Eastern Michigan. Quarterback Drew Plitt now has 16 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions. As for the ground attack, the Cardinals are top 30 in Line Yards, Opportunity Rate and Stuff Rate on offense — this team can move the ball.
The Ohio offense should have similar success with the ground attack, a staple of the Frank Solich offense, as the Ball State defense is outside the top 70 in rushing and passing success rate.
Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke is dynamic, averaging 8.5 yards per pass attempt and 5.3 yards per carry.
— #MACtion (@MACSports) October 19, 2019
Our Action Network power ratings make this game a pick’em. Neither team is going to generate much pressure, as Ball State is 63rd and Ohio is 127th in defensive havoc.
There will be plenty of offense, but a rank of 10th in third down conversions and 14th in red zone touchdown scoring should be all the Bobcats need to stay ahead in the MAC East.
Pick: Ohio +3 [In New Jersey? Bet now at PointsBet]
Western Kentucky vs. Marshall
- Spread: Marshall -4.5
- Over/Under: 45
- Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
- TV: Facebook Live
Homecoming is an emotional weekend at Marshall, as alumni and former players come to Huntington to celebrate. ‘Marshall and Beyond’ is the theme to this year’s homecoming, as the school promises a ‘momentous‘ announcement on the field after the first quarter.
Momentous is the perfect adjective to describe the Marshall offense and the Western Kentucky defense. The Hilltoppers have been led by a ferocious defensive trench play and some offensive playmakers like Arkansas transfer quarterback Ty Storey.
Lucky Jackson caught a TD pass from Ty Storey earlier, now he's returning the favor!
— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) October 19, 2019
But I highlighted the trick play because of Western Kentucky’s lack of traditional scoring offense. The Hilltoppers average just 22.3 points per game, relying on a defense that has allowed just 38 points in the last four games.
The Marshall defense is ferocious on its own, with a sack rate of 7th and 10th in opponent rush explosiveness. This should be another low scoring spot for the Western Kentucky.
Marshall does have a conservative offense, running in standard downs and passing in passing downs. The Herd have attempted just 211 passes this season, but a pass explosiveness rank of 14th suggests they should try and throw more.
Western Kentucky has been stellar against the run, which may get Marshall passing more often. Herd coach Doc Holliday has installed new schemes featuring three tight ends due to depth on the outside.
Armani Levias breaks tackles and sheds defenders on his 59-yd route to the endzone!
— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) October 18, 2019
These formations have allowed the Herd to rush with plenty of success or create an explosive passing game.
The Hilltoppers are 128th in the nation in defending pass explosives and if Western Kentucky gets behind, it will not have enough offensive firepower to get back into the game.
Pick: Marshall -4.5 [In New Jersey? Bet now at PointsBet]
Texas vs. TCU
- Spread: Texas -1
- Over/Under: 59
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- TV: FOX
The opener at Circa Sports in Las Vegas was TCU -2.5, which generated plenty of eyeball emoji texts on Sunday afternoon.
That point spread caught so many people off guard that I had a LinkedIn request from a guy I haven’t spoken to since high school who asked if Texas could pay his mortgage.
Sure enough, I was among the Sunday crowd to take a stance on Texas even after the narrowest of victories against Kansas of all teams and that flipped the line to Texas -1.
— Stadium (@Stadium) October 20, 2019
The buzzards are swirling over Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando and his job status. The Longhorns have underperformed all season, ranking 119th in total defense and 113th in sack rate.
The advanced analytics are not much better for Texas, with a defensive passing success rate of 120th and havoc ranking of 79th. Tom Herman noted in his Monday presser that it wasn’t a lack of effort for the injured defensive unit, rather than bad angles, technique and execution.
This run by Pooka Williams shows all three.
If you watch the UT-UK film it’s impossible to ignore Pooka Williams. He’s simply a playmaker, give him the ball and he’s gonna do something special a lot of the time. Also pretty abysmal defense and tackling by Texas, but it’s still a super hard play to pull off. #WNSFilm pic.twitter.com/LSMY7Yk53G
— Mark 🏈 (@HeaneyNFLDraft) October 22, 2019
The question remains if TCU can expose some of those issues on the Texas defense. But more importantly, does the TCU defense have a shot at stopping Sam Ehlinger?
The Longhorns offense is first in the nation in third down conversion percentage and fourth in red zone points per attempt.
And the biggest reason I bet on Texas early in the week was TCU’s defense surrendering 21 passing plays of 20 yards or more. TCU ranks 112th in defensive pass explosiveness, which should be a major factor when Ehlinger goes to the air with Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay.
Ehlinger INT, Kansas TD, blocked PAT and now this. Duvernay with a huge TD. Excellent deep throw by QB11, too. pic.twitter.com/5pHSYbS7WW
— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) October 20, 2019
Considering all the offensive statistics where Texas has major advantages, one data point stuck out on TCU… red zone defense. The Horned Frogs are 129th in opponent red zone points per attempt. If the Toronto Raptors TCU uniforms are not enough to scare Texas, the Longhorns should have a field day in Frogs territory.
If you pay attention to the market, this will be one of the most lopsided ticket versus money counts of the entire weekend. As of this writing, more than 80% of the money and tickets have all been written on the Longhorns while the point spread stays at TCU +1.
Generally the reverse line movement in a college game with a high ticket count is not something I want to fade, but a closer look at these TCU advanced stats leaves no option to bet against the Frogs.
So I’ll swim with the public on a Texas team that has done a lot against much better defenses.
Pick: Texas -1 [In New Jersey? Bet now at PointsBet]
Notre Dame vs. Michigan
- Spread: Michigan +1
- Over/Under: 51
- Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ABC
Give Michigan some credit — down 21-0 at Penn State in a hostile environment, the Wolverines didn’t give up. It was a tail of two halves for Penn State, as the Nittany Lions averaged 7 yards per play in the first half and just 1.9 in the second half.
Michigan scored 21 of the last 28 points in the game, and was a touchdown drop away from overtime.
— Kevin Boilard (@247KevinBoilard) October 20, 2019
Brian Kelly was vocal about getting pressure on Shea Patterson much like in 2018. The Irish are 14th in sack rate defensively, a challenge for a Michigan offensive line that is 62nd in sack rate. But the big boys on the line for Michigan have played better of late, allowing just one sack to a really strong Penn State defensive line and none to Illinois.
The Michigan defense has the task of flushing Ian Book from the pocket. The Wolverines should have Notre Dame in passing downs early, with a rank of 25th in line yards against an Irish rushing attack that is 93rd in power success.
This number may rise leading up to kick with plenty of money on the Notre Dame side. The Irish have covered just once in their past 6 road games (Georgia) and once in their past eight trips to Ann Arbor.
Look for Harbaugh and Michigan to treat this game with as much emphasis as a Big Ten rivalry.
Pick: Michigan +1 [In New Jersey? Bet now at PointsBet]
Utah State vs. Air Force
- Spread: Air Force -3.5
- Over/Under: 58.5
- Time: 10:15 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN2
This number caught my eye compared to my projected totals released early in the week. If seeing a projection of less than 50 was not enough, our own PJ Walsh published a piece of where smart money was moving this total — down.
We’ve spoken highly of the service academy programs in 2019, and Air Force in the trenches has been a nightmare for teams. The Falcons red zone defense has been just as impressive.
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) October 20, 2019
To support the under, we look specifically at time of possession and red zone efficiency. Utah State ranks 130th in time of possession, which can be tough against ball control option offenses like Air Force.
The Falcons are 11th in time of possession and fourth in third down conversion rate. Utah State may not have a chance in the red zone, ranking 130th in touchdown scoring per red zone attempt and 118th in scoring percentage.
The Air Force red zone defense is 30th in opponent scoring, meaning most of the Aggies scores will have to come from an explosive play, not from in close. Utah State struggled with the pass against Nevada, as Jordan Love had under than 170 yards with an interception. Another Love interception was waived off due to penalty.
Look for Air Force to have long, drawn out possessions to keep Utah State off the field.
Pick: Under 58, Air Force -3.5 [In New Jersey? Bet now at PointsBet]
Arizona State vs. UCLA
- Spread: UCLA +4
- Over/Under: 62.5
- Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
- TV: Pac 12 Network
UCLA entered the Stanford game with a season total of nine sacks. When the final whistle blew, the Bruins had 16.
Plenty has been made of the Stanford offensive line and quarterback health. Those are contributing factors to a UCLA defense that added 4 pressures, 7 passes defensed and 11 tackles for loss.
The UCLA offense also rolled the Trees on the ground and through the air, as quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson had 3 total touchdowns. Primary target Kyle Phillips had 10 catches, 100 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The duo combined for 3️⃣ of UCLA’s 4️⃣ touchdowns on the night as the Bruins cruised past Stanford in Palo Alto. pic.twitter.com/378EtO9u5w
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) October 18, 2019
There is reason to believe the Sun Devils could bounce back after an offensive struggle against Utah. Arizona State is 18th in pass explosiveness, while UCLA is in the bottom 10 defensively against the big play.
Quarterback Jayden Daniels may find success through the air, but the offensive line is progressively allowing more sacks as ASU’s depth is tested.
UCLA has been one of the worst Power 5 teams in havoc allowed. The Bruins have allowed 50 tackles for loss, but that might not be an issue against a poor Sun Devils front seven.
Arizona State is generating zero pressure with a sack rate of 102nd, which falls to 128th on passing downs. Look for continued balance and a clean box score from Dorian Thompson-Robinson, as these two teams are heading in different directions in the South division.
Pick: UCLA +4 [In New Jersey? Bet now at PointsBet]