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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Be thankful for these gambling angles

The Betting Stuff column has been a bit feast or famine as of late, but a Thanksgiving week slate could be the cure-all as we head into the college football stretch run.

As for some quick housekeeping, my play of the year hit as Boise boat-raced New Mexico 37-0, but that wasn’t enough to offset 3 losses, including a head-scratcher between Wyoming and Utah State. This week, I’m targeting teams that have quit on their coaching staff (Hello, USC) and backing an underdog in the Bedlam Game.

Last week: 2-3, -2.5 Units
Season record: 42-28 (60%), +17.25 Units

UTEP+13.5 at UAB

I’m a major proponent of fading teams during bowl season that are coming off a loss in their conference championship game. The wear and tear of an extra game mixed with an emotional letdown is a recipe for a poor performance. In the past 10 bowl cycles, fading those teams has produced a handsome return (62.5% ATS).

This same concept can be extended to teams that have been eliminated from conference title competition late in the season. UAB was on the precipice of winning the C-USA West title, only to lose on the last possession, with 3 seconds remaining to UTSA. That is a gut punch and brings into question UAB’s motivation in this game.

Enter a UTEP Miners team that is in the midst of its best season since 2014. The Miners have swung their pick axes effectively on defense all season. No team allows a lower completion percentage (51.9%) and they’ve mastered the art of not allowing the big play. And that’s the key in this spot. UTEP has lost by 2 touchdowns plus just twice this season (Boise, UTSA).

Offensively, if they do fall behind, Gavin Hardison is coming off a career game and is a big-play waiting to happen. The boom-or-bust passer has helped the UTEP aerial attack record 17 pass plays of 40+ yards. That’s the 3rd-best total in college football, 5 more than Alabama has completed this season. So if UTEP does need a late game, back-door rally, I feel confident they can pull it off.

Boise State-3 at San Diego State

College football is filled with odd scheduling quirks, but I have to say this one is just bizarre. This game kicks off at 9 a.m. local time. For a San Diego State offense that will be lucky to crack 24 points in this game, some home-field advantage sure would have been nice. But the early kick on Black Friday and a stadium that is over 100 miles away from campus in Carson and you have a recipe for a non-existent home-field advantage.

Then you pepper in this Boise State program that is rolling. The Broncos have won 5 of 6, including wins over nationally-ranked BYU and Fresno State. The balance they’ve achieved between the run and pass has made all the difference. George Holani, after a slow start to his 2021 campaign, has hit the century mark in 3 straight games. Hank Bachmeier has done a great job protecting the football in the last month, with a 6:1 TD-INT ratio in his past 4 starts. That’ll be critical against a salty San Diego State defense. The Aztecs are top 5 in every meaningful run defense metric and top 10 in every one against the pass.

But as good as the SDSU defense is, the offense is just as bad. They generate just 316 total yards per game (116th) and can’t pass worth a lick. I’ll take the Broncos and their surging special teams (2 blocked punt TDs last week) against a listless SDSU offense.

Miami (Ohio) at Kent State Over 65

At first blush, the Miami (Ohio) offense may be the deadweight in this “over” play. But the Redhawks, historically pretty conservative under Chuck Martin, have started to come alive when they have the football. Miami has hit 33 points or more in 4 of its past 5, behind a resurgent passing attack. Brett Gabbert (brother of NFL QB Blaine) has tossed 15 touchdowns against just 2 picks in that span. That includes an absurd 492-yard outburst against Ohio. And look who is up next for Miami, the paper mache Kent State defense.

Kent State is allowing close to 490 yards per game, and that is split pretty evenly between run and pass. When you pair their defense, with their lightning-quick pace and big-play running game, it’s easy to understand some of their recent outcomes. Placing aside the Golden Flashes 38-0 victory over the MAC’s doormat (Akron) last week, here’s a quick look at the total points scored in Kent’s past 5 games: 86, 95, 61, 99 and 84.

That’s an 85-point average! Which makes Over 65 an automatic play for me.

BYU-7 at Southern California

The Trojans just got humiliated by their crosstown rival, proving on the defensive side of the ball there is no rock bottom for USC this season. The Blue Blood program is now 113th in yards per play allowed. You can run at will and the big play is always available to USC opponents through the air. Teams have hit 38 pass plays of 20 yards or more this season, placing the Trojans 88th nationally in that statistic.

The Cougars enter on an absolute tear and are well-positioned to take advantage of every USC deficiency. Jaren Hall has led an offense that is averaging 53 points per game across its last three. As for a look at the game-within-the-game, BYU is Pro Football Focus’ 2nd-ranked pass blocking team. USC’s pass rush? They have only gotten home on 5.76% of opponents’ dropbacks (85th). With time to operate and a highly skilled featured back behind him (Tyler Allgeier), Hall is in for another big game.

USC has a substitute teacher at the helm, nothing to play for and a dreadful defense. BYU, on the other hand, loves when they get a shot at P5 opponents and will relish running the score up in this one.

Oklahoma+165 at Oklahoma State

This is purely an anti-Spencer Sanders play. The junior quarterback has started 9 regular-season games against ranked opponents in his career. He’s thrown just 9 touchdowns in those contests against 13 interceptions. This season, Oklahoma State has offset Sanders’ less than stellar play in big spots with a consistent running game and a secretly awesome defense. The Pokes have a top-three unit in the following metrics:

  • Points per game allowed (14.8)
  • Yards per play allowed (4.0)
  • 3rd-down defense (23.19%)
  • Total defense (253.8 Yards)
  • Sack rate (11.58%)

These stats are borderline unassailable. But allow me to poke a few holes in the Pokes’ résumé. Oklahoma State has faced exactly 1 top-30 offense (TCU). Outside of that, they’ve feasted on outgunned opponents with mediocre quarterback play. The best quarterback they’ve faced all season is either Brock Purdy or Hank Bachmeier. That pairing ranks 40th and 35th in total QB, respectively.

By QBR standards, Purdy and Bachmeier are right at the 70-score level. In Caleb Williams’ 6 games (5 starts + Red River Shootout), the freshman phenom has topped a QBR of 94 4 times and sports an average of 88.7.

I’ll back the better quarterback in a rivalry absolutely owned by the Sooners in the past 20 years (17-4 since 2000).

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