It’s said a lot, but it’s never been truer than right now: I love the betting board in college football this week. There’s plenty of opportunities out there despite the opening-line movement, and I’m here to share where I’ll be placing some bets for Saturday in college football.
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NO. 9 IOWA HAWKEYES at WISCONSIN BADGERS
Saturday, Oct. 30 | 12:00 PM EST | ESPN
The Pick: Iowa +3.5
This matchup defines Big Ten football. These two offenses are among the most inefficient in the country while the defensive units have been holding their own. So, it’s not surprising that the total is only 36.5 points. While Iowa and Wisconsin are similarly built, the Hawkeyes are a little more equipped than the Badgers are on both sides of the ball. Led by quarterback Graham Mertz, the Badgers have generated -0.49 EPA per pass against Power Five defenses this season, which is the worst in the Power Five by a country mile. Mertz has earned a 53.2 passing grade for the season and ranks second-to-last in the Power Five in turnover-worthy play rate (7.5%).
Wisconsin has been entirely reliant on its rushing attack as of late due to those passing woes, running the ball on 73% of its plays in the last two games instead of 58% of the time prior to that. Now, Wisconsin will try to pound the rock against an Iowa defense that is fifth in the Power Five in expected points added (EPA) per rush allowed this season. Iowa’s coverage unit had an off day in its last outing against Purdue, but its run defense remained as stout as ever. The Hawkeyes recorded a tackle for loss or no gain on nearly one-third of the run plays while limiting the Boilermakers to 2.9 yards per carry.
It’s going to be difficult for these teams to put up a lot of points, but Wisconsin should especially struggle.
Saturday, Oct. 30 | 12:00 PM EST | Big Ten Network
The Pick: Maryland -5
Indiana isn't in a good place. With starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and backup Jack Tuttle both nursing injuries, the Hoosiers are forced to trot out four-star true freshman Donaven McCulley for his first career start. McCulley got some run after Tuttle went down against Ohio State, but it was a bad experience for the first-year quarterback. He dropped back to pass 11 times and completed only one while tossing a couple of quarterback-fault incompletions and eating three sacks on five pressured dropbacks.
Maryland’s defense isn’t a juggernaut by any means. The Terps’ defense is the lowest-graded group in the Big Ten, but do the Hoosiers — who are 0-6 against the spread against FBS teams in 2021 — have the horses on offense to take advantage of that weakness? McCulley has long-term potential, but he is probably going to have a long day Saturday. He is bound to see a boatload of pressure going up against a blitz-heavy Maryland defense, as IU’s offensive line ranks fourth-to-last in the Power Five in pressure rate allowed (38.4%) this season.
It might not always be pretty, but the Terps have a favorable matchup here.
NO. 1 GEORGIA BULLDOGS at FLORIDA GATORS
Saturday, Oct. 30 | 3:30 PM EST | CBS
The Pick: Georgia -14
It’s been said before and after every game this season, but it’s worth saying again: Georgia is a different animal. The Bulldogs are on pace to set a multitude of PFF College records defensively while sitting in the top spot for many notable defensive metrics this season.
Georgia Bulldogs Defense in 2021 (with Power Five rank)
|Team Defense Grade||94.9 (1st)|
|EPA Per Play Allowed||0.36 (1st)|
|Success Rate Against||30.6% (1st)|
|Yards Per Play Allowed||3.5 (1st)|
The Bulldogs have one of the most physically gifted defenses college football has ever seen, and they are going to make life difficult on Florida's two quarterbacks: Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson.
Jones is always a tick slow and has a tendency to lock onto his targets. That’s a big reason why he has over two times as many turnover-worthy plays as big-time throws. Georgia eats those types of quarterbacks up. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Georgia read Jones like a children’s book and come away with a couple of picks.
As for Richardson, he is prone to bad decisions under pressure. He has a tendency to play hero ball when under pressure, which will come back to bite him. It’s a classic issue with young, inexperienced quarterbacks. Over the last two games, Richardson has dropped back nine times under pressure but completed only one pass for eight yards while tossing three interceptions.
DUKE BLUE DEVILS at NO. 13 WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS
Saturday, Oct. 30 | 4:00 PM EST | ACC Network
The Pick: Wake Forest -16.5
Wake Forest is fresh off a 70-point outing in Week 8 that kept the perfect season alive. This week could be another Demon Deacons fireworks show, as they take on Duke, who has produced one of the worst coverage units in the Power Five in 2021.
Duke Blue Devils Pass Defense in 2021 (with Power Five rank)
|EPA Per Pass Allowed||+0.14 (57th)|
|Yards Per Attempt Allowed||9.2 (63rd)|
|Explosive Pass Play Rate Allowed||18.3% (62nd)|
|Deep Receptions Allowed||17 (60th)|
Duke employs a man-heavy scheme, but it’s clear it doesn't have the defensive backs to consistently be consistently effective with man coverage. Wake Forest will be seeing single-high-safety looks all game long — an area where it has thrived. No Power Five offense has been more efficient throwing the ball against single-high-safety coverages in 2021 than the Sam Hartman-led Demon Deacons. Overall, Hartman is one of the eight FBS quarterbacks with an elite passing grade in 2021 (above 90.0). Whether the play is one of their patented slow mesh RPOs or a traditional true dropback pass, Hartman has played at a high level in 2021.
Saturday, Oct. 30 | 7:30 PM EST | ABC
The Pick: Ohio State -18.5
Ohio State has been on a tear offensively since quarterback C.J. Stroud’s return to the lineup in Week 5. Stroud struggled a bit initially but now is producing at a championship and Heisman-contending level. Over his last three games, Stroud has been the highest-graded passer in the country (93.1). He hasn’t produced a single turnover-worthy play in that span and has been extremely accurate. On throws of 10 or more yards since Week 5, Stroud has completed 31-of-43 for 657 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Ohio State receiving room, offensive line and scheme as a whole provide one of the most favorable situations in the country for Stroud, and he’s finally taking advantage of it
He looks like a changed quarterback.
Penn State’s defense has been its greatest strength this season, but it’s going to be hard to stop the most efficient offense in college football on a drive-for-drive basis. It’ll be even harder for the offense to match the Buckeyes' firepower. The Nittany Lions' passing success rate against other Power Five defenses stands at 41.4% — 48th among Power Five schools. Quarterback Sean Clifford is on a three-game streak with a PFF grade in the 50s.
The Buckeyes should win versus the Nittany Lions.
OTHER BETS I LIKE TODAY
Saturday, Oct. 30 | 12:00 PM EST | ESPN3
The Pick: Virginia Tech +4.5
Saturday, Oct. 30 | 2:00 PM EST | Big 12 Network & ESPN+
The Pick: West Virginia +7
Saturday, Oct. 30 | 7:00 PM EST | CBS Sports Network
The Pick: Boise State -2.5
Saturday, Oct. 30 | 7:00 PM EST | Pac 12 Network
The Pick: Oregon State -1.5
NO. 19 SMU MUSTANGS at HOUSTON COUGARS
Saturday, Oct. 30 | 7:00 PM EST | ESPN2
The Pick: SMU pick ‘em
VIRGINIA CAVALIERS at NO. 25 BYU COUGARS
Saturday, Oct. 30 | 10:15 PM EST | ESPN2
The Pick: Virginia +3