There are only a few hours left to lock in bets for this week’s slate of games, and there’s still some value on the board.
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PURDUE BOILERMAKERS at NO. 2 IOWA HAWKEYES
Saturday, Oct. 16th | 3:30 PM EST | ABC
The Pick: Purdue +11.5
Iowa’s stout defensive unit took a major blow in last week’s win over Penn State. Riley Moss — who joins Matt Hankins to form college football’s highest-graded outside corner tandem — went down with a knee injury after celebrating an interception. Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, it wasn’t season-ending, but it’ll be tough to sustain the success they’ve had on that side of the ball without him over the next couple of weeks.
Redshirt junior Terry Roberts will step in for Moss against Purdue. Despite being in his fourth year on the team, Roberts has just under 100 career coverage snaps to his name. And Purdue likes to attack weak spots in coverage. The Boilermakers have targeted a defensive back 10 or more times in a game seven times since 2020, the most in the Big Ten. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see wide receiver Milton Wright — who will match up with Roberts — leak out for a big play or two to keep this one tighter than the market is expecting. Not to mention, 11.5 points is hefty for an Iowa team that ranks sixth-to-last in the Power Five in EPA per play generated.
Saturday, Oct. 16th | 4:00 PM EST | ESPN+ & Big 12 Network
The Pick: Texas Tech -17
Kansas is still a long way away from being a competitive football team in the Big 12. Transfer quarterback Jason Bean hasn’t turned things around for the program through the first half of the season. The Jayhawks rank dead last in the FBS in successful play rate. Between Bean’s 57.4 passing grade and the offensive line being the lowest-graded unit in the Power Five, the offense has been anemic. Even with the Red Raiders having a shaky defense from top to bottom, this is a Jayhawks offense that has struggled against every opponent this season.
Texas Tech quarterback Henry Colombi has played well with Tyler Shough out due to injury. He’s generated 0.22 EPA per pass when on the field, a mark that would rank 16th in the Power Five. Kansas has yet to cover the spread in 2021, and I can’t see that changing this week.
NO. 13 OLE MISS REBELS at TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
Saturday, Oct. 16th | 7:30 PM EST | SEC Network
The Pick: Ole Miss -2.5
Tennessee has the sixth-most efficient offense in the Power Five since Hendon Hooker took over as the starting quarterback in Week 3. Hooker has been a great fit in Josh Heupel’s quarterback-friendly offense that provides simplistic reads. He’s made only two turnover-worthy plays in four starts — both being fumbles — en route to an 80.2 passing grade. That said, Hooker has yet to see a dime defense like what Ole Miss employs. Throwing the ball will be a little bit more challenging against this three-high safety, drop eight system. Hooker will need to match the drive-for-drive consistency Ole Miss brings on offense, and all it will take is one or two late decisions (which he is prone to do) as a passer to ruin that.
Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral — one of the three highest-graded quarterbacks in the Power Five — could have a field day against this Tennessee defense that ranks 49th in EPA per pass play allowed in the Power Five when facing other Power Five offenses. As long as this spread stays under that key number three, take Ole Miss.
Saturday, Oct. 16th | 7:30 PM EST | ESPN2
The Pick: Kansas State +6.5
Starting quarterback Skylar Thompson made his return to the lineup in Kansas State’s last game against Oklahoma in Week 5 after missing a few weeks due to injury. And he provided substantially better quarterback play for the Wildcats, earning a 90.0 passing grade for the game and leading his team to 0.4 EPA per pass play. For perspective, backup Will Howard earned a 45.4 passing grade and generated -0.19 EPA per pass in Thompson’s stead.
Iowa State has senior Brock Purdy leading the way at quarterback, and he’s been a mixed bag. He has earned three single-game grades above 80.0 in 2021, but those came against Northern Iowa, UNLV and Kansas — an FCS team and the 116th- and 117th-ranked teams in PFF’s power rankings.
Against Iowa and Baylor, Purdy earned sub-60.0 PFF grades. Kansas State’s defense isn’t anything special, but it can pressure opposing quarterbacks on true pass-rush opportunities, and that’s where Purdy struggles. Kansas State has the horses on offense to give Iowa State a run for its money at home.
NO. 18 ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS at UTAH UTES
Saturday, Oct. 16th | 10:00 PM EST | ESPN
The Pick: Arizona State ML (-115)
Utah is coming off a big road win against a USC team that’s in disarray. New starting quarterback Cam Rising played exceptionally well, as evidenced by his 91.2 passing grade. But in his few outings before that, things weren’t so hot. Rising earned sub-60.0 passing grades against San Diego State and Washington State.
This week, Rising and the rest of the Utah offense will have to go up against an Arizona State defense that ranks first among Power Five defenses in open target percentage allowed against other Power Five offenses (30.3%). Arizona State plays a significant amount of man-to-man defense and will give Rising much smaller windows to throw into than USC, which played mostly zone last week.
Utah’s defense will also have its hands full with Arizona State’s offense that leads the Power Five in successful play rate this season. They’ve done a good job of limiting quarterback Jayden Daniels’ downfield passing volume and have lived by the underneath passing attack and run game. The Sun Devils have a clear edge in nearly every facet.