Get college football best bets for the Saturday 10/14/23 slate. This article features an analysis of Texas A&M vs. Tennessee, Missouri vs. Kentucky, Miami vs. North Carolina, USC vs. Notre Dame, and Oregon vs. Washington.
College Football Week 7 Best Bets – Saturday Slate (10/14/23)
Jacob Wayne’s Record: 13-17-1 (-3.9 units)
Kody Malstrom’s Record: 8-6 (+1.4 units)
Will Schwartz’s Record: 12-4-1 (+7.6 units)
Ohio State Buckeyes at Purdue Boilermakers
The last time the Buckeyes traveled to West Lafayette, Purdue earned a monumental upset the likes of which are spoken of in ancient lore. #2 Ohio State entered that game as 14-point road favorites and lost by 29 points to unranked Purdue. While I’m not necessarily staking my claim on another massive upset, this Ohio State team is deeply flawed.
Ohio State’s market rating is inflated due to a win over Notre Dame where the Fighting Irish had a 96% postgame win expectancy. Since then, the Buckeyes had their bye week before facing Maryland. However, the Terrapins led 10-0 in the second quarter there and the Buckeyes didn’t have an offensive touchdown until the second half.
Kyle McCord has looked terrible under center for the Buckeyes, and his adjusted completion rate of 72.1% ranks just 72nd among 156 qualified quarterbacks. As we’re watching C.J. Stroud soar as a rookie in the NFL, the dropoff here is obvious. The offensive line has also regressed after multiple starters left for the NFL.
Ohio State’s run game also hasn’t been as advertised – they surprisingly rank just 116th in rushing success rate. Across the board, this supposedly elite Ohio State offense has lacked juice, and whether it’s due to play calling or a deterioration in talent, they aren’t what we expected heading into the season.
While this Purdue team lacks elite talent on defense, it’s a well coached group under new head coach Ryan Walters, who coordinated one of the best defenses in the country last year at Illinois. Walters will have his team fired up for this massive opportunity. Meanwhile, Ohio State could get caught sleeping with a critical matchup with Penn State on deck.
I bet Purdue +21 on the open, and it’s been sitting at +19.5 throughout most of the week. I’d play it down to +17.5, and I wouldn’t be mad at a small Moneyline sprinkle. History repeats itself, and Ohio State has had issues traveling to face Purdue for a long time. Perhaps the Spoilermakers strike again.
Best Bet: Purdue +19.5
Missouri Tigers at Kentucky Wildcats Prediction
Kentucky fell flat against Georgia last week, losing 51-13 in a game that was never close. Mark Stoops took it upon himself to call out Devin Leary, his quarterback, after the game, saying, “there’s no excuse to not hit some of those passes. We had some guys wide open.” That’s a clear signal of a disconnect between coach and quarterback on this team.
Stoops is right, though. Leary, a transfer from NC State, hasn’t been close to as advertised. Leary is completing just 54.2% of his passes, and that’s despite facing a schedule that includes perhaps the two worst teams in the MAC, an FCS team, and Vanderbilt, the worst team in the SEC.
I can’t trust Leary to take advantage of a vulnerable Missouri pass defense here. Missouri ranks 117th in EPA per pass allowed but 50th in EPA per run allowed. The Tigers’ run defense will be much more equipped to handle Ray Davis, Kentucky’s best offensive player. Missouri held Davis to 15 carries for 28 yards (1.9 YPC) last year and the Tigers rank 13th in rushing success rate allowed this year.
Meanwhile, Kentucky’s secondary has looked lost at times this season, especially last week when they allowed Carson Beck to complete five 20+ yard throws for 161 yards and two touchdowns. They rank 117th in passing success rate allowed despite that easy schedule.
Missouri’s Brady Cook is one of the best deep ball passers in the country – he ranks sixth in the Power Five in PFF’s grades and has 13 big-time throws to no turnover-worthy plays on 20+ yard throws. Luther Burden is arguably the best wide receiver in the country – he has 100+ yards in five straight games.
Kentucky gets home field advantage here, but Missouri has the advantage on both sides of the ball with its elite passing offense and stout run defense. Kentucky beat Missouri in Columbia last year, and I expect the Tigers to return the favor by beating the Wildcats in their house this week.
Texas A&M Aggies at Tennessee Volunteers Prediction
In arguably the best SEC matchup of the week, I like Texas A&M to cover on the road. Tennessee is playing this game at home and they’re coming off a bye week, but that’s where their advantages stop as far as I’m concerned.
Texas A&M’s defensive front is the best unit on the field in this game. With 26 sacks this season, the Aggies have been terrorizing opposing offensive lines. Walter Nolen and Edgerrin Cooper lead a dominant group that will shut down a Tennessee run game that’s feasted on a weak schedule. The Aggies rank third in rushing success rate allowed this season.
The Vols will need to lean on Joe Milton, and Texas A&M’s secondary has been burned at times – they’re 90th in EPA per pass allowed. I have questions about Milton and the Tennessee receivers, however. Milton hasn’t come close to replicating Hendon Hooker’s production from last season – he’s averaging over 2 yards less per attempt.
Tennessee will also enter this game without Bru McCoy, and they already lost their top two wide receivers from last season – Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman. Outside of sophomore Squirrel White’s breakout, this wide receiver room hasn’t shown a ton.
Texas A&M, on the other hand, has Evan Stewart and Ainias Smith, two outstanding wide receivers who will put pressure on a Tennessee secondary that’s still unproven. Max Johnson has been excellent under center – his 91.0 PFF grade is the fifth-highest in the FBS and he held his own last week against a tough Alabama defense.
I backed this Texas A&M team last week, and Jimbo Fisher’s horrific in-game management led to an Alabama win. There’s a decent chance you’re shaking your head at something he does on Saturday, but I’m deciding to forgive him and trust in this matchup.
The Aggies haven’t won a road game since 2021, the same year that the Volunteers lost a game at home. I believe that’s buying us value on the line as it should be much closer to a pick ‘em. I love the value with Texas A&M against Tennessee, who I’ve had as a team to fade.
Best Bet: Texas A&M +3.5
Miami Hurricanes at North Carolina Tar Heels Prediction
If it wasn’t for Miami’s head coach making the most mind numbingly dumb mistake possible, then this game would have a far more serious tone. Especially with the winner staying in full control of their own destiny in terms of making it to the ACC championship, most likely having to battle it out against Florida State.
Before looking ahead, both teams must battle it out this Saturday. It may seem impossible to get up off the mat after a deflating loss to Georgia Tech after how it ended, but the sheer thought of making it to the conference championship should serve as more than enough motivation for the Hurricanes.
Should they come into this contest mentally ready then they will be in a good position to keep this contest close as they shape up to be the Tar Heels kryptonite. Kryptonite as in the way they operate, exploiting the UNC weakness while flexing their own strengths on defense.
Starting with the Hurricane offense, this unit uses a heavy dose of the run at a successful rate. They rank top-25 in Rush Success Rate and Rush PPA, meaning they excel at cutting down on the distance to gain and find success when in scoring position.
This spells immediate doom for the UNC defense, a unit that mightily struggles with defending the run. While they drastically improved from last year’s near dead last ranks in the pass defense department, they still rank well below average with defending the run. UNC’s rush defense currently ranks 96th in Def Rush PPA, 87th in Def Rush Success Rate, and 82nd in Def Rush Explosiveness.
On the other side of the ball, Miami is more than capable of limiting the new-look UNC offense. Sacrificing speed and explosiveness for more methodical short throws, this plays right into Miami’s hands as they rank well above average in both Def Pass Success Rate and Def Rush Success Rate.
With key advantages on both sides of the ball and plenty of motivation to get back in form after a deflating loss to Georgia Tech, expect Miami to keep within scoring pace in an effort to cover the spread.
Best Bet: Miami +4
USC Trojans at Notre Dame Fighting Irish Prediction
Best Bet: Notre Dame -2.5
First things first, whoever came up with Notre Dame’s schedule should be reprimanded. Calling it a head scratching decision on why they did not schedule a bye in the midst of a stretch involving Ohio State, Duke, Louisville, and USC is an understatement to say the least.
That stretch proved to be too brutal for Notre Dame to keep up with, giving a severely underwhelming performance in their last game out against the Louisville Cardinals. That may have been a blessing in disguise for us bettors, creating an over reaction to the market as this reopened at a PK.
Bettors were quick to be the wiser by immediately backing Notre Dame up to -3, especially shortly after how USC’s defense performed against Arizona and their backup quarterback. It hasn’t just been one bad performance, this is now a common theme as USC has serious holes in all three levels of their defense.
Especially when defending the run, now having to deal with Notre Dame’s Audric Estime who is playing as a top-5 running back in the nation. USC’s defense currently ranks 93rd in Def Rush PPA, 88th in Def Rush Success Rate, and 104th in Def Rush Explosiveness.
Factor in the advantages Notre Dame has in the trenches and Audric Estime should find himself with plenty of holes to exploit on the line while getting to the second level of the defense. This will churn out chunks at a time, giving their offense friendlier distances to gain while constantly moving the sticks into scoring position.
On the other end, those advantages in the trenches continue with their defensive line as they should be able to push back the USC offensive line with ease. Especially on the edges, collapsing the pocket and forcing Caleb Williams to scramble up the clogged gut instead of keeping plays alive on the outside where he thrives.
This will drastically halt USC’s offensive consistency, bringing in a higher chance of stalling them out and getting the ball back into their own hands. Should their corners hold up with defending Explosiveness, then Notre Dame will be in a great position to anchor their linebackers in an extra effort to contain Williams in the open field.
The forecast is also currently saying that there may be a heavy chance for rain, playing into Notre Dame’s strengths as USC will be reduced to a more simplistic offensive attack. All while not affecting an expected heavy dose of the run on Notre Dame’s end, now giving them massive advantages on both sides of the ball in a bounce back opportunity.
Missouri Tigers at Kentucky Wildcats Prediction
After losing a thrilling shootout against LSU, Missouri will look to keep the scores flowing as they go on the road to Kentucky, needing a win to retain their one-loss status. Similarly, Kentucky is in desperate need of a win to re-establish themselves a premier SEC squad after taking an absolute beating from Georgia, the two-time defending champions. Kentucky has a different approach as they prefer to win with their ground game and defense, but the formula actually exists for Missouri to exploit some of the same weaknesses that Georgia leveraged to pull off the huge win.
But before we get into that, let’s address the fact that Kentucky will absolutely be able to execute part of their game plan; running the football. Ray Davis is ninth in the nation and tops in the SEC in terms of rushing yardage, leaving Kentucky in the top-20 for rushing EPA. He’s positively gashing defenses for 7.2 yards per carry, and should be able to do his thing against a Mizzou run defense that has been pretty good, 50th in the nation as far as EPA, but not too much better than the Florida unit against which Davis racked up a ridiculous 280 yards and three scores.
The success on the ground should give opportunities to the pass game, where Devin Leary absolutely must have a bounce-back game after a rough start to the year, and he’ll be positioned well to do so. Amidst Leary’s early struggles, Kentucky’s pass offense is right around average in terms of EPA, but they’ll be going up against an air defense that has struggled even more.
Yes, Missouri faced a highly prolific LSU air attack, but six games in, that’s not their entire sample size, and their EPA per play against the pass ranks a dismal 117th in the country. Leary has looked off, but he’s not a broken player and his NC State career was no fluke; he at least has the ability to have a better-than-usual game against this terrible Missouri unit, enough to compliment Davis on the ground.
Now for the other side of the ball, let’s take a look at that prolific Missouri air game, led by quarterback Brady Cook and wideout Luther Burden III. Cook has thrown for the fifth-most passing yards in the country, and he’s done it efficiently with just five turnover worthy throws on 188 attempts, compared to an impressive 15 big time throws. Burden has helped to maximize that output, as he’s turning an average depth of target of just 7.6 yards to an average of 14.6 yards per reception. He leads all receivers with 793 receiving yards, and will be a huge problem for a Kentucky pass defense that has been just average.
The Wildcats have a top-20 defense against the run, but Missouri, with a rushing EPA that ranks them in the mid-80s, won’t mind being pass-heavy, and this will push the pace and thus support our over.
Best Bet: Over 50.5
Oregon Ducks at Washington Huskies Prediction
I don’t like to hyperbolize or oversell, but this is the game of the year to this point, and it might just end up being the best matchup of the entire regular season when all is said and done. These two teams are undefeated at 5-0, making this the latest matchup of perfect teams in almost two decades in the Pac-12, and both teams will be fresh as they are coming off of a bye. The stage is perfectly set for a marquee clash, the crown jewel of an incredible schedule for the final year of Pac-12 football.
It starts with an excellent quarterback matchup, which could potentially define the Heisman Trophy race when we look back at the season’s end. Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. is second in the country in total passing yards, third in touchdowns, fourth in passer rating, and at the very top of PFF’s grades this season- even ahead of Caleb Williams.
Penix also has the nation’s best receiving corps at his disposal with three bona-fide NFL wideouts, Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk, and Jalen McMillan. With three legitimate top wideouts on the field, it’s nearly impossible to even begin to cover this air attack. Oregon’s defense is actually top-10 in EPA against the pass, but that track record was built against teams that are so far below Washington’s caliber that it borderline does not matter at all.
While Bo Nix has been awesome through the air as well, and leads qualified passers with a remarkable completion percentage of 80.4%, but it’s actually Oregon’s rushing attack that ranks first in EPA per play. PFF considers their o-line to be a top-25 run blocking unit, while the rushing workload has been essentially split between Bucky Irving and Jordan James, with some contributions from Noah Whittington. All three backs are averaging over 7 yards per carry, topped by James’s ridiculous figure of 8.7. Against a Washington run defense that is essentially average, the Ducks will be able to run roughshod.
These defenses are far better than most of the porous units we’ve seen from Pac-12 “contenders” of years past, but the offenses are in completely different categories, as they rank first and second in the country in success rate with Oregon owning the miniscule edge. Overall, I tend to lean towards Washington’s key advantages in the areas of head coach, quarterback, and of course playing at home, but instead of taking a side that could easily get busted by a huge play from a star player, let’s sit back and enjoy the fireworks, and bet on the scoring to get well past the low 30’s for both teams.
Best Bet: Over 67.5