There is precious little time left before kickoff on Saturday, but there are still some solid plays remaining on the college football betting board. Betting value definitely diminishes as the week goes on and the lines sharpen up, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look around and find edges.
At this point, it can be beneficial to look at the smaller markets, such as derivatives and props, where the lines are not quite as efficient. I’ll go over some of my favorite remaining bets here to help you fill out your cards for the weekend.
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Projection: Virginia -12.4
Illinois was feeling good after knocking off Nebraska to kick off the season, but a home loss to UTSA last week brought the Illini back down to Earth in a hurry. Backup quarterback Artur Sitkowski has been filling in since Brandon Peters was injured against Nebraska, but as of Monday Peters still had not been cleared for contact. At this point, it’s unclear when he will be back.
Peters’ return will be welcomed, considering Sitkowski is coming off a 45.4 passing grade against UTSA when he threw for just 6.2 yards per attempt. The offensive line has done him no favors, either, as he was pressured 17 times against the Roadrunners. Against a Virginia defense that posted 2020's 15th-best pressure rate, whoever lines up at quarterback for the Illini on Saturday will need to keep his head on a swivel.
Virginia’s offense smoked William & Mary to open the season, putting up 43 points, but that doesn’t tell us very much about how this offense will perform going forward. The offense was solid if not spectacular in 2020, with top-50 rankings in overall offense grade and success rate. It was a balanced attack, but the run game was the more efficient of the two units, as it graded as PFF's 28th-best last season.
Illinois’ defense had major question marks after 2020, ranking outside the top 100 in run defense and coverage grades. It looked decent against Nebraska but allowed a 47% success rate and 12 total explosive plays to a Conference USA offense. Virginia should have an advantage in both facets when it is on offense, and Illinois may have a hard time exploiting what looks like the biggest weakness on this Virginia team, which is the coverage unit.
Wyoming Cowboys Team Total under 25.5 @ Northern Illinois Huskies
Did you know that Wyoming was losing 17-12 to Montana State last week before a touchdown pass with 47 seconds left bailed them out? This offense, and the pass game specifically, had major question marks entering the season, and Wyoming did nothing to alleviate those concerns in Week 1. Quarterback Sean Chambers returned from an injury that caused him to contemplate giving up football and earned a 48.2 passing grade against this FCS defense.
Chambers has always been a run-first quarterback, and his 26 passing attempts against Montana State were actually the most he has had in a game in his career. He only carried the ball 12 times for 57 yards. For a team that needs to rely on the ground game, last week’s 3.8 yards per carry just isn’t going to cut it. NIU’s defense had an average ranking of 67th in rushing success rate allowed last season, but I still don’t see Wyoming finding consistent chunks on offense.