College Football Week 9 Best Bets: Expert Picks & Predictions For Georgia vs Florida, USC vs Cal, & More
Get college football best bets for the Saturday 10/28/23 slate. This article features an analysis of Georgia vs. Florida, USC vs. Cal, Tennessee vs. Kentucky, North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech, Michigan State vs. Minnesota, and Ohio State vs. Wisconsin.
College Football Week 9 Best Bets – Saturday Slate (10/28/23)
We’re onto Week 9 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 9 slate. Let’s get to work.
Jacob Wayne’s Record: 15-21-1 (-6.2 units)
Kody Malstrom’s Record: 9-9 (-0.9 units)
Will Schwartz’s Record: 16-4-1 (+11.6 units)
Jacob Wayne’s Best Bets
Georgia Bulldogs at Florida Gators
Georgia has won back-to-back championships and has one of the easiest schedules in the country. As long as they don’t make any mistakes on their way to the SEC championship game, they’re essentially guaranteed a spot in the College Football Playoff. That has led to lackadaisical efforts all season, and they have had a first-quarter lead in just three of their seven games.
I entered this season with real concerns about the Georgia offense after losing offensive coordinator Todd Monken and quarterback Stetson Bennett. While their advanced metrics all suggest they remain elite on that end, they haven’t been tested much against the 109th-ranked schedule per FPI.
Florida, meanwhile, is a team I had a lot of love for before the season, and they’ve done everything I expected. Billy Napier has turned Graham Mertz into a hyper-efficient passer who ranks second in the country with an 85% adjusted completion rate. The offense leans on its talented backfield of Trevor Etienne and Montrell Johnson and uses the run game to fuel a heavy play action approach through the air.
The Gators’ defense has also been trending up as they rank 12th in overall success rate allowed. Austin Armstrong’s aggressive defense can be susceptible to big plays at times – they rank dead last in explosiveness allowed – but I’m not confident Georgia can take advantage as they rank 101st in offensive explosiveness.
Armstrong won’t be afraid to send blitzes at a still untested Carson Beck, especially with star tight end Brock Bowers out for the foreseeable future. Bowers is a massive part of this offense, and with injuries on the offensive line and backfield also a factor, I’m not sold on this Georgia offense putting up a big number in a hostile environment.
Both of these teams are coming off their respective bye weeks, and in this neutral site at the “World’s Largest Cocktail Party,” I’m expecting yet another sleepy start for Georgia. I’ll back Florida to make this a real game, and I’d be thrilled to cash my over 5.5 wins ticket with a massive upset win.
Best Bet: Florida +14.5 (play to +14)
USC Trojans at California Golden Bears
I’ve had this game circled all season as a spot where I’d be looking to bet Cal, but I didn’t expect USC to be at this state as a football team. I made the mistake of backing the Trojans as a favorite last week in what I believed to be a perfect bounceback spot against a Utah team playing multiple backups in key positions, but USC lost outright in surprising fashion.
At this point, you have to wonder about the mental state of Lincoln Riley’s team, especially after he opted to not make players available to the media for the first time in 20 years of USC football. This team has a ton of issues, and now with two losses on the season, it’s out of time to answer their biggest questions.
One of USC’s biggest issues is its run defense. They rank outside the top 100 in rushing EPA allowed and PFF’s tackling grades. Last week, Utah ran for 247 yards against the Trojans at an impressive 5.3 YPC clip. Now, USC has to face running back Jadyn Ott, one of my favorite running backs in the country who has forced 24 missed tackles in six games. Cal ranks 10th in rushing EPA/play this season.
The Golden Bears’ defense isn’t quite the same elite unit we’ve seen in previous years under head coach Justin Wilcox, but I still expect a strong game plan against a floundering Caleb Williams. The USC quarterback has more turnover-worthy plays (9) than big-time throws (3) over the past month per PFF.
While its playoff hopes are squashed, USC could still be alive in the Pac-12 championship picture. However, they will need to beat Washington next week to have any hope of that happening, and that puts them in an obvious sandwich spot off their loss to Utah. USC is playing its ninth straight game and runs into a rested Cal team looking for an upset. Bet the Golden Bears catching over 10 points.
Best Bet: Cal +10.5 (play to +10)
Kody Malstrom’s Best Bets
Tennessee Volunteers at Kentucky Wildcats
It was a tale of two halves for the Volunteers as they had upset victory in their sights after an impressive first half. Those upset hopes quickly vanished as Alabama woke up and put together a dominant second-half performance. Tennessee was held scoreless in the second half, failing to cover +9.5 as well.
The loss to Bama practically leaves Tennessee out of the SEC championship picture, now needing help from others while also still needing to win outright against Georgia later in the year. Before that happens, they need to get up off the mat and hit the road against a stingy Wildcat squad.
The quality of defense will not get any easier for Tennessee’s offense to figure out as Kentucky serves as a tough unit in their own right. Especially when factoring the inability for Joe Milton to take advantage of their weak secondary, having to once again lean towards their ground game in an effort to generate downfield progression.
That spells potential doom for the Volunteers offense as Kentucky ranks 24th in Def Rush PPA, 16th in Def Rush Success Rate, and 34th in Def Rush Explosiveness. Impressive marks at all levels of the field, especially when they are backed up into scoring position.
Limiting touchdowns inside the 20 is vital towards cashing an under ticket and both units are in a good position to hold each other out of the end zone for various reasons. In a shortened field, Kentucky is allowed to mask their secondary inefficiencies as they have less ground to cover.
As for Tennessee, scoring in the red zone has been a struggle for the Volunteers as they currently rank 81st in Points per Opportunity. This mightily helps out a Kentucky squad who struggles defending in the red zone by ranking 70th in Def Points per Opportunity.
With a heavy dose of the run expected to be called from both units, as well as points coming at a premium when either unit enters the red zone, this all plays towards an under at no lower than 49.
Best Bet: Under 51.5
North Carolina Tar Heels at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
For a football program that doesn’t have many highlights, North Carolina losing to the Virginia Cavaliers is about as much of a gut punch as it could get. The Tar Heels’ playoff hopes now look bleak, needing a ton of help from others just to have a chance at the fourth seed.
Lucky for UNC, not all hope is lost as it still controls its own destiny in regard to making it to the ACC championship game. This negates a potential let down opportunity, being more than enough motivation for the Tar Heels to get up off the mat as they head to Atlanta.
Winning out is crucial for them to keep their conference hopes alive and that starts with slowing down the Georgia Tech offense. Lucky for North Carolina’s defense, they are in a good position to do so as the Yellow Jackets offensive strengths play towards North Carolina’s defensive strengths.
Georgia Tech has played above preseason expectations, nearly matching its regular-season win total from a year ago at this point of the season. This is in large part to their offense, mainly from their pass attack as they rank 54th in Pass Success Rate, 38th in Pass PPA, and 11th in Pass Explosiveness.
Unfortunately for Georgia Tech, its ground game has struggled to generate any sort of production and has become a non-factor for their offense. This plays right into UNC’s hands as they struggle to contain the run while excelling at slowing down the pass. UNC currently ranks 37th in Def Pass Success Rate and 29th in Def Pass PPA.
It’s tough to stomach the thought of relying on their defense after witnessing Virginia move the ball with ease against them, but North Carolina’s defense is poised for a bounceback opportunity. Should they rush four and drop back the rest in coverage, they can generate more Havoc opportunities and force the Yellow Jackets into early outs.
On the other end, it should be business as usual as Georgia Tech’s defense mightily struggles at stopping downfield success. They currently rank 95th in overall Def Success Rate, giving UNC a higher quality of moving the sticks as they thrive in Success Rate. Couple that with an elite Havoc Allowed metrics and UNC should have no issue with sustaining drives down the field.
Best Bet: North Carolina -11.5
Will Schwartz’s Best Bets
Michigan State Spartans at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Last week, Minnesota participated in a game that was saddled with the lowest total in the history of official betting on college football- 30.5 points, for their contest with Iowa. The under still hit, rather comfortably, as the final score of the ballgame was 12-10, in favor of the Golden Gophers. The Iowa defense didn’t break, but it seems that it bended too much, as Minnesota’s four field goals were enough to trump Iowa’s touchdown and additional field goal.
Meanwhile, Michigan State was busy making my bet of the week from the last edition of this article an absolute no-sweat by getting absolutely dominated by rivals Michigan. The Spartans team total was 10.5, and they ended with exactly zero points. The expectations were low, but in the second start for new quarterback Katin Houser, MSU never came anywhere close to meeting them.
Minnesota’s defense isn’t the same as Michigan’s, but it’s top 50 in the country in terms of EPA per play, more than enough to counter the Spartans’ 128th-ranked offense. It’s not just the Iowa game. Their conference opener against Nebraska was also a 13-10 win, so the Gophers are no strangers to low-scoring Big Ten matchups.
The Spartans’ offense has put up some seriously pedestrian point totals of their own this season. The shutout against Michigan of course, but also 16 points against that same Iowa defense, nine against Maryland and just a single touchdown against Washington. To their credit, Sparty’s defense is also pretty solid, especially given what little help they’ve been given from the offense. They’re 49th in epa per play, just a spot behind Minnesota, and their specific prowess in defending the run stacks up perfectly with a ground game that is the clear relative strength of the Minnesota offense.
While that Minnesota offense is just a tick below average in terms of run efficiency, while being at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the pass, MSU’s offense has shown absolutely no life, especially since Mel Tucker’s dismissal. The Spartans are 118th in per-play passing EPA, and 123rd in the rush, so even if Minnesota’s defense is slightly overrated- which it very well may be- this is another bad opponent for them to shut down and pad the stats.
With two very competent defenses taking the field against completely useless offenses, it’s hard to understand where this line, which would require one or both teams to score in excess of 20 points, came from. The weather isn’t going to help, as Saturday in Minneapolis is expected to be a balmy 34 degrees, with a chance of everyone’s favorite type of precipitation; frozen mix. This is going to be an ugly one, and I’m not sure who will win, but I know who’s going to lose; any viewer with a love of high-quality offensive football.
Best Bet: Under 40.5
Ohio State Buckeyes at Wisconsin Badgers
Ohio State has been an absolute under machine this season, especially in their marquee matchups with other Midwestern powers. After years of running fast-paced offenses without fielding a championship-caliber defense, things have changed in Columbus where the offense under quarterback Kyle McCord struggles against top defenses, but the Buckeyes’ own defense is one of the very best units in the country, ranking 15th in EPA per play.
That number doesn’t quite do justice to what Ohio State has accomplished on the defensive end this season. They’re allowing an even 10 points per game this year, a figure bested by only Michigan and Penn State, they’re fourth in yardage allowed despite the offense sometimes failing to sustain drives and hold the football, and they’ve pulled off impressive performances like holding Penn State to 12 points, Maryland to 17, and Notre Dame to 14 in South Bend.
As surprising as the sudden shift has been for Ohio State, what might be more surprising is the lack of change in Madison. We were told that it was a new era and we would be seeing a new squad this year, with fresh faces in the key spots of head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback. But the Badgers are 91st in passing offense per-play EPA, 35th in the same category for rushing offense and 13th for overall defense.
We’re back to a run-first offense and defense-first Wisconsin team, and for those looking to point fingers at the injury to quarterback Tanner Mordecai, who will be out this Saturday and for the rest of the season, it started long before then. Phil Longo’s offense has not begun to take form the way it did at North Carolina.
Luckily, the defense has been strong enough for Wisconsin to win games anyways, they’re currently 5-2 and positioned nicely to win the Big Ten West once more. The secondary has led the way, as safety Hunter Wohler has contributed some stellar deep coverage, and Ricardo Hallman has emerged as a true top corner. For Ohio State, the stars are largely up front, as edge rushers J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer have driven the Buckeyes to earn PFF’s tenth-best pass rush grade.
As impressive as the Ohio State win over Notre Dame was, it was absolutely defensively-driven, and it was clear that the offense struggled in a challenging road environment. This one should be no different, as Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium will be loud for this Saturday night clash, amidst what is shaping up to be a cold and sloppy Midwestern night.
It’s hard to imagine the Buckeyes offense showing up to this one, or Wisco’s own attack competing with that brick wall of an Ohio State defense, so let’s grab the under for this almost-unbelievable number of 44.5.
Best Bet: Under 44.5