Get college football best bets for the Saturday 11/18/23 slate. This article features an analysis of Coastal Carolina vs. Army, Utah vs. Arizona, Louisiana vs. Troy, UCLA vs. USC, Washington vs. Oregon State, Florida vs. Missouri, and Louisville vs. Miami.
College Football Week 12 Best Bets – Saturday Slate (11/18/23)
We’re onto Week 12 of the college football season, and our staff has you covered with our favorite bets of the day on Saturday. Check out the Lineups YouTube page for further discussion of these games and all of the biggest matchups offered by the Week 12 slate. Let’s get to work.
Jacob Wayne’s Record: 19-23-1 (-4.4 units)
Kody Malstrom’s Record: 11-13 (-3.3 units)
Will Schwartz’s Record: 20-7-1 (+12.5 units)
Coastal Carolina at Army Prediction
I’m not sure whose idea it was at Coastal Carolina to schedule a non conference road game against a triple option offense in the second to last week of the season, but this is an awful spot for the Chanticleers. Coastal has a home game against 18th ranked James Madison on deck which will be their biggest game of the season, and they’ve already clinched bowl eligibility.
I doubt Coastal Carolina pushes the envelope with Grayson McCall, who has been out since Week 8, or their backup Jarrett Guest. Third string redshirt freshman Ethan Vasko has gotten the start each of the last two weeks, but he has been held to under 180 passing yards in both. He won’t be able to take advantage of an admittedly weak Army pass defense that ranks outside the top 90 in PFF’s coverage grades.
Army’s offense has the advantage here as Coastal Carolina hasn’t been able to stop the run all season. The Chants rank 102nd in rushing success rate allowed and 90th in yards per carry allowed, and preparing for the triple option is a different beast entirely. If Coastal is caught looking ahead to next week, it will show in their lack of consistent tackling and discipline.
I don’t have many concerns about Army’s motivation here as they need to win out for a chance at a bowl game. Meanwhile, they can also avenge a 38-28 road loss to Coastal Carolina last season to kick off the year. With homefield advantage, more motivation, and a bad run defense to work against, bet on the service academy catching over a field goal.
Best Bet: Army +4.5
Utah at Arizona Prediction
Arizona has been good to me all season, and while they didn’t cover as 10-point favorites against Colorado last week, I’m happy to go back to the well with Jedd Fischs’s team here. Fisch and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham are top contenders for Coach of the Year in my eyes, but that’s true for entirely different reasons.
Whittingham has kept Utah afloat despite losing several top offensive contributors to injury, including quarterback Cam Rising, but their offense hit a wall last week. The Utes scored 28 points and had 306 yards in the first half before being held without a score and to just 76 yards after halftime in their 35-28 loss to Washington.
Arizona’s defense is significantly better than Washington’s, particularly against the run where they rank 7th in EPA. Utah is 10th in the country in rush play rate, and if their ground attack isn’t working, this offense will stall out repeatedly as Bryson Barnes can’t provide a consistent aerial attack.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats should be able to score even against a tough Utah defense. True freshman Noah Fifita ranks 12th in passing success rate as he consistently takes what the defense gives him and doesn’t force the issue. With two star receivers and a stud running back in Jonah Coleman, the Wildcats have the horses to give even an elite Utah defense a tough time.
Just two weeks ago, Arizona took down a UCLA team that’s very similar to Utah with a final score of 27-10. Arizona’s elite offensive line held up against a nasty Bruins pass rush while their balanced offense created enough scoring chances. I expect a similar game here, and I’m happy to grab Arizona at anything under a field goal as the better team in this game.
Best Bet: Arizona ML
Louisiana at Troy Prediction
As we get into the final couple of weeks of the regular season, understanding motivation is often times just as important as handicapping matchups. In this case, there’s a massive gap in motivation between these teams. Troy has already clinched a spot in the Sun Belt championship while Louisiana needs one more win to reach bowl eligibility.
Louisiana head coach Michael Dormeseaux isn’t dismissing how big of an opportunity this is for his team in his second year at the helm, saying “this is our championship” and that Troy will be a “hell of a challenge.” That challenge will likely be reduced by the Trojans holding out some players and keeping the playbook vanilla as they look to the Sun Belt title.
The Ragin’ Cajuns are coming off two straight losses, but those are more excusable when you consider that they were forced to change their starting quarterback and center. There isn’t a huge drop off from Zeon Chriss to Chandler Fields under center for Louisiana, but freshman Cooper Fordham took over for Landon Burton and it’s understandably taken him a little time to get settled.
Troy is a team I don’t mind fading as a favorite due to their 128th-ranked rushing offense by success rate. They’ll give Louisiana opportunities to keep the back door open. The Cajuns led Troy 17-7 entering the fourth quarter last year before the Trojans outscored them 16-0 in the final frame to win 23-17. With revenge and bowl eligibility top of mind, expect a spirited effort from Louisiana and perhaps an upset win.
Best Bet: Louisiana +16
UCLA at USC Prediction
This rivalry has certainly lost its juice throughout the year with both teams mightily struggling for vastly different reasons. For the Trojans, it’s their inability to field any sort of competent defense that has been the main cause of their downfall. As for the Bruins, they have struggled to generate any sort of consistency at quarterback.
Luckily for UCLA, the USC defense is capable of making anyone look elite as they are as bad as it gets. As a whole, USC’s defense currently ranks 96th in Def Success Rate, 123rd in Explosiveness, and 85th in Havoc. They do fare a lot better when backed up into scoring position, clocking in at 40th in Def Points per Opportunity.
While an above average mark in Def Points per Opportunity may spell doom for the UCLA offense in their attempts to stay within scoring pace, they actually have a massive advantage when they enter into scoring territory. When inside the 20, UCLA’s offense should have no issue with turning their opportunities into six points off the back of their ground game.
Not only does this limit the exposure of their weak quarterback play, but it also negates potential Havoc with a back breaking interception. By taking advantage of USC’s defense who ranks 118th in Def Rush PPA, UCLA should have no issue with putting up points on the board.
On the other end is where this gets really interesting. UCLA’s lone source of success has been from their front seven, an elite unit that excels at both generating pressure and getting opposing offenses off the field in a hurry.
That same high level of defensive play will be called upon against an elite USC offense. As of writing, UCLA’s defense currently ranks 34th in Def Success Rate, 24th in Explosiveness, 10th in Points per Opportunity, and eighth in Havoc. The front four is capable of collapsing the pocket while giving their linebackers the benefit of staying in coverage or crashing down the sides when Caleb Williams takes off.
As we’ve seen so far this season, USC mightily struggles against elite defensive units as their scoring pace drastically slows down. That puts added pressure on their own defense, a unit that has routinely allowed lesser offenses find scoring consistency. That sets a pace too fast for Caleb Williams and company to keep up with, resulting in a loss. Take UCLA at the key number of +7 and sprinkle their moneyline as well.
Best Bet: UCLA +7
Washington at Oregon State Prediction
Has Washington flown too close to the sun? Sort of like Florida State, Washington’s sloppy level of play has been raising eyebrows as we near the conference championships. This has resulted in Oregon being pegged as a decent sized favorite to win the Pac 12 championship, potentially setting up a thrilling rematch.
Before that happens, Washington needs to get past Oregon State in what is a scary spot for the Huskies. Corvallis is one of the toughest places to play in and the line has already flipped from Washington -2.5 to +2.5 as of writing.
As for why this line has seen a drastic change, that is because Oregon State is built to give the Huskies struggles. Especially when they are on offense, exploiting a regressing Huskies defense that has dipped to 116th in Def Success Rate and 117th in Havoc.
That spells doom against a Beaver offense that is built to exploit all the previously mentioned areas of Washington’s defense. When on offense, Oregon State will be in a position to routinely move the ball with ease thanks to their elite ground game. Oregon State has one of the best offensive lines in football, giving them the ability to mix their run schemes up the gut or on the outside.
This has resulted in the Beavers offense clocking in at third in Rush Success Rate and 13th in Rush PPA, as well as ranking 33rd in Havoc Allowed. Factor in the weather conditions calling for rain and Oregon State will be able to make modest gains at a time down the field while also dominating time of possession. Once in scoring position, the Beavers should have no issue punching it in for six against a Huskies defense that ranks 65th in Def Points per Opportunity.
On the other end, expect Oregon State to sell out in coverage as that has recently given the Huskies offense fits. This will bolster their already impressive Def Pass Success Rate mark, as well as getting the benefit of leaving their corners on islands as they have shown to rarely let passes go over the top of them.
With the Beavers defense being in a position to limit the Huskies strength in Success Rate, as well as dominating on the ground when on offense, take the Beavers on the moneyline in what will be a stunning victory. Washington has shown that they can battle through adversity, yet the shine is starting to wear off on their undefeated armor.
Best Bet: Oregon State Moneyline
Florida vs. Missouri Prediction
This season, the SEC hasn’t exactly embodied a hard-nosed, defense-first brand of football; it’s been home to some of the best teams in the country, but many of them have been offense-first. The Missouri Tigers are absolutely no exception, as they’ve been one of my favorite teams to watch as they’ve taken a huge step forward after essentially a .500 season in 2022, but perhaps even more importantly, their games have been some of my favorites to bet on. Specifically, the move has been to invest in overs in the games that feature their supercharged offense and mediocre defense, and while the well has dried up a bit of late, it’s time to go back to it.
After the over had hit in five consecutive Mizzou games, the market adjusted and the last three Tigers games have all seen the under hit. Now, the market has re-adjusted, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s gone a bit too far- this game absolutely should not be below 60. To state the obvious, if both teams hit 30, this over cashes. Mizzou has cracked that number in seven of their past eight games, with the one exception being their contest against Georgia, who of course owns an elite defense. Florida’s unit ranks 110th in EPA per play, compared to 14th for the Mizzou offense, so suffice it to say, the Tigers should have much more of an opportunity to run up the score in this one.
Florida also has every ability to contribute in this one. After their first four games ended in unders or pushes on the total, their past six have all gone over the number. Most recently, their game at LSU was saddled with a total of 68, but ended up featuring 87 points. The Gators’ offense ranks 24th in EPA per play, so paired with the aforementioned abysmal defense, they’re an over machine. Florida has scored 35 and 36 games in their past two games, each of which was a loss, so they’re no strangers to shootouts. They’ve scored 35 or more points in four of their past five games, and like Missouri, a faceoff with Georgia was the only outlier.
They’re going up against a dead-average Mizzou defense, and should perform similarly to how they have against the other unspectacular units in the SEC East. The air attack with Graham Mertz at quarterback hasn’t been flashy, but it’s been efficient, and the run game has also held up well, with Trevor Etienne and Montrell Johnson Jr. chipping in equally. The Gators are also outside the top-100 in run play percentage, so they’ll help keep the clock moving in this one, yet another reason it figures to be a fun shootout with plenty of scoring from both sides.
Best Bet: Over 59.5 (-110)
Louisville vs. Miami Prediction
With Louisville sitting at 9-1 with a fluky loss to Pitt and Miami looking incredibly vulnerable at 6-4, it’s easy to believe that this essentially-even line is, in part, a product of brand recognition. That is to say, if the roles were reversed, and Miami was a one-loss squad while Louisville was hovering around .500, this probably would be farther from a pick ‘em. Louisville is a good bit clear of Miami when it comes to overall EPA, ranking 12th in the country compared to 39th for the Hurricanes, but the mismatch doesn’t stop there.
It’s almost impossible to understand where Miami is going to find offense in this one. Hurricanes quarterback Tyler Van Dyke has been caught in a vicious slump, which led to his benching, but he’s been thrust right back onto the field due to an injury to his own backup. He’s thrown seven interceptions since his last touchdown, and seems to dig himself into a deeper hole every time he throws the football. Even in his short relief appearance against Florida State, a terrible defense, he completed just two of seven passes, and tossed his most recent pick.
He’ll be going up against a Louisville defense that is more than capable of forcing him into the same mistakes that have been his hallmark this season. The Cardinals’ pass defense ranks 21st in the country by EPA per play, featuring a solid secondary and an absolutely vicious pass rush. Ashton Gillotte has been phenomenal for the Cardinals as an edge rusher, with double-digit sacks and a pass rush win rate in the high teens, he’ll be key in handling a pretty solid Miami offensive line. Van Dyke has actually been good this year when kept clean, but is an abject disaster when pressured, so getting to him will be a huge priority for Louisville.
Overall, the Louisville defense ranks fourth in per-play EPA, fueled by the best run-stopping unit in the country by that metric. With Van Dyke slumping, Miami would love to be able to get the run game going, but the odds of that don’t seem particularly high against Louisville, a team that has absolutely clamped some of the best runners in college football, including a dominant showing against Notre Dame’s star back Audric Estime.
The Cardinals’ own offense doesn’t have a perfect matchup in this one either, but Jawhar Jordan should be able to find a couple of big plays in the run game, and Jack Plummer will have opportunities through the air against a less-than-healthy Miami secondary. Miami appears to be a completely broken team, and even with head coach Mario Cristobal potentially coaching for his job, and plenty of players essentially auditioning for the transfer portal, they simply won’t be able to compete with a Louisville squad that is still clinging onto a shred of hope to make the College Football Playoff.
Best Bet: Louisville ML (-105)