Wilson’s Favorite College Football Bets: Picks on Duke-Middle Tennessee, More
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Duke Blue Devils running back Brittain Brown
- Collin Wilson covers the Saturday college football card from his favorite betting angles.
- Get his analysis and picks on Pitt vs. Penn State, Temple vs. Maryland, and more.
The first few weeks of college football handicapping can be the toughest. Week 1 was tainted with turnovers, scheme changes and teams getting gassed in heavy heat.
As we enter Week 3, we can start to pull the curtain back a little bit.
We’re getting more data on each team and early numbers are out on power success rate, stuff rate, sack rate and havoc. These stats will be a gambler’s best friend, even in this week’s slate, which is mediocre at best.
College Football Betting Picks for Saturday Week 3
All odds above as of Thursday at 11 a.m. ET and via PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).
Maryland vs. Temple
- Spread: Temple +7.5
- Over/Under: 64
- Time: 12 p.m. ET
- TV: CBS Sports Network
We don’t have a ton of numbers on Temple, which beat Bucknell 56-12 before a Week 2 bye. There is still a lot of unknown for Rod Carey’s team in his first year.
After Maryland has TKO’ed both Howard and Syracuse, the question must be asked if those two wins have credibility. The Terps outscored their opponents 142-20, but Howard is near bottom of the Sagarin ratings and Syracuse has not looked like the Orange of the past.
Josh Jackson's first real mistake for Maryland.
Andre Cisco had the most interceptions in college football last season, and he just picked up his second of 2019. pic.twitter.com/YfvthXa5xw
— Sean Montiel (@SeanMMontiel) September 7, 2019
This was the biggest win by an unranked team over a ranked team since 1999. The question for gamblers and oddsmakers remain — where is the ceiling for this Maryland team?
Because of the single game against Bucknell, the Owls are No. 1 in the nation in power success rate and havoc allowed on offense. The defense has just as good of numbers being first in opportunity rate and stuff rate.
We will soon find out if the oddsmakers and power ratings have not caught up the Mike Locksley regime, or if Maryland’s market value is way inflated. I’m willing to bet on the latter.
Pick: Temple +7.5
Pittsburgh vs. Penn State
- Spread: Penn State -17.5
- Time: 12 p.m. ET
- TV: ABC
There is no love lost between Pat Narduzzi and James Franklin. When the Pitt-Penn State rivalry renewed after a 15-year hiatus, there was no shortage of shade.
From Franklin comparing Pitt to Akron, Narduzzi searching for a post game handshake in 2017 to the quickest possible handshake in 2018, this will sadly be the last year of the Pitt-Penn State rivalry quite some time. But it’s lived up to the hype.
As for the spread, there’s as much love for Penn State in the market as there is hate for Pitt.
Hosting Buffalo in Week 2, Penn State opened as a 24-point favorite and closed -31.5 against the Bulls. The Nittany Lions went in to halftime trailing Buffalo 10-7 before a monster third quarter.
But the box score tells the story, as Buffalo had eight more first downs, had more total yards and had the ball offensively for 42 minutes of the game.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 8, 2019
Pitt opened -7 against Ohio, but that number took plenty of Bobcats action before settling on Pitt -4. The Panthers had a tremendous day, doubling Ohio’s total yards while finding a balance of 37 passes and rushing attempts each.
Narduzzi mentioned that new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple must work on a run-pass balance to protect quarterback Kenny Pickett. Ohio had just one sack but eight quarterback hurries, indicating that Pickett will continue to work on a quick release.
If you like havoc, this may be the game for you. Early this season, Pitt is eighth and Penn State is 11th in the nation.
.@Pitt_FB beats Ohio at home, 20-10.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) September 7, 2019
Our Action Network projections see this game as Penn State -12.5 with a total of 58. While both defenses bring high octane havoc, there could be plenty of possessions that start in opponent territory.
With the changes to the Pitt offensive philosophy, the Panthers are averaging nine more snaps per game than 2018. If Buffalo can hit three different targets for explosive passes on Penn State, expect Pitt here to do the same.
Pick: Pitt +17.5, Over 52.5
Air Force vs. Colorado
- Spread: Colorado -5
- Over/Under: 58.5
- Time: 1 p.m. ET
- TV: Pac-12 Network
If you believe in sandwich spots, this game may be your meatiest meal of the weekend. Colorado comes off victories over Colorado State and Nebraska with Arizona State on deck in its Pac-12 opener.
What. A. Game.
Watch the highlights of Colorado's comeback win over Nebraska in our 60' in 60" ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/j2yqwhQQQe
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 8, 2019
The Buffaloes must turn around and play Air Force, which is coming off a bye week. The Falcons racked up 423 yards and seven touchdowns against Colgate in Week 1.
Air Force runs the triple option, forcing defenses to rely on disciplined football at the point of attack on the fullback and quarterback. So far this season, the Colorado defense ranks 128th in line yards and 125th in stuff rate.
Air Force should have plenty of success moving the ball on the ground and eating up clock. While a yards per play differential of +3.81 for Air Force will need a few extra games to mean anything, Colorado is barely in the positive at +0.44.
There is plenty of bark in Air Force as an underdog in a tricky spot for the Buffs.
Pick: Air Force +5
Army vs. UTSA
- Spread: UTSA +17
- Over/Under: 45
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- TV: NFL Network
The other day, I served my 12-year old a dose of cough medicine. It looked terrible. The color was blue, the smell was of rotten fruit and the aftertaste was similar to a bad batch of house whiskey.
As he stared me down holding the mini-cup I said “you don’t have to like it, but you have to take your medicine.”
Well gamblers, here we are, taking our medicine with the Roadrunners.
Michigan fends off Army in 2OT with this strip-sack to improve to 2-0 on the season ⬇️pic.twitter.com/Pn8bApDgyv
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) September 7, 2019
Similar to Oklahoma in 2018, Army came up just short in overtime of defeating a top 10 team in their own house. This Michigan team was beaten at the line of scrimmage, now ranking outside of the top 70 in power success and stuff rate on defense. Surprisingly, UTSA may handle the Army option with a bit more prosperity.
The Roadrunners have a 28-point victory over Incarnate Word and a 49-point loss to Baylor. The box score in Week 2 against the Bears is not pretty, but if there is a silver lining it is short yardage situations. Of the 10 times Baylor had just 4 yards to gain for first down or touchdown, the Bears were successful just 50% of the time.
The key to hanging with Army is short yardage rush defense. The UTSA defense is 36th in line yards and 32nd in stuff rate. If Army gets into passing down situations, the Roadrunners have ranked 22nd in sack rate early this season.
Right around the time this game kicks on NFL Network, I will be at Stadium View next to Lambeau Field in Green Bay. I look forward to streaming UTSA and ordering blue cough medicine on the menu.
Pick: UTSA +17
USC vs. BYU
- Spread: BYU +4.5
- Over/Under: 55.5
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ABC
The last 14 days have probably been a whirlwind for USC freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis.
A JT Daniels injury combined with an explosive victory over Stanford has Slovis taking on all the spotlight at Southern Cal.
Offensive coordinator Graham Harrell has successfully upgraded the quarterback position, while the defense shut out Stanford in the second half.
Kedon Slovis Looking STRONG In The Pocket💪
He finds Amon-Ra St. Brown and the Trojans (-3) take the lead over Stanford!pic.twitter.com/qsvLqdhknB
— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) September 8, 2019
The Trojans will have to rebound for a non-conference road trip to BYU. While Clay Helton needs every victory, this is an overlook game for the players with a short-rest week and Utah on deck — a game that could determine the Pac-12 South.
The numbers backup the theory that Slovis may have tougher time with the Cougars defense.
BYU gave up just one pass over 20 yards against Tennessee, and the Cougars were first in the nation in 2018 in opponent IsoPPP. Tennessee and Utah have been able to move the ball down the field with efficiency, but limiting the big play has been the staple for BYU.
This game will be another grind, which is BYU’s weekly objective. Expect quarterback Zach Wilson to be accurate and mobile, while Slovis will have plenty of success moving the chains in the short passing game but little creating big plays.
The Action Network power ratings make this game USC -1, suggesting any number on BYU over +3 has value on the home underdog.
Pick: BYU +4.5
Duke vs. Middle Tennessee
- Spread: Middle Tennessee +6.5
- Over/Under: 51
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
- TV: Facebook Live
Many believed the easiest bet of Week 1 was fading a depleted Middle Tennessee State against the almighty Michigan in the Big House. But first half and full game bettors were ripping up tickets as the Wolverines struggled with fumbles, third down conversions and leaving red zone attempts with less than a touchdown.
The Blue Raiders then put up 604 yards on Tennessee State in a 45-26 victory. Once our Sunday Week 3 projections were released with Duke -6 and a subsequent opening line of Duke -6.5, it was time to ask if Middle Tennessee was real.
In games against NC A&T and Alabama, Duke has posted a negative yards per play differential of -0.51. That is in stark contrast to a Middle Tennessee state team at +1.38.
The Blue Raiders are not only top 20 in yards per play, they have scored on every attempt in the red zone through two games. On top of that, Middle Tennessee has been successful in every power success attempt this season, tied for first in the nation.
The season is young and both the Blue Devils and Blue Raiders have played a top 10 blue blood. To this point, the advanced stats heavily favor the underdog in Week 3.
Pick: Middle Tennessee +6.5