Get college football best bets for the Friday 9/22/23 slate. This article features an analysis of Wisconsin vs. Purdue, Air Force vs. San Jose State, and NC State at Virginia.
College Football Week 4 Best Bets – Friday Slate (9/22/23)
Ladies and gentlemen, the Weekend. Before we jump into an absolutely loaded Saturday slate of college football, our staff brings you our favorite bets from the Friday slate. While there aren’t any ranked matchups on the docket, we can still find plenty of value o the board. Check out our YouTube channel for further coverage of all four Friday night games and the loaded Saturday card. Good luck with all of your wagers this weekend.
Jacob Wayne’s Record: 8-11 (-2.3 units)
Kody Malstrom’s Record: 2-5 (-3.5 units)
Will Schwartz’s Record: 7-3 (+3.7 units)
Wisconsin Badgers at Purdue Boilermakers
The vaunted Phil Longo offense isn’t really working. Wisconsin was expected to completely modernize their offense with pace and vertical passing, but that hasn’t been the case. Wisconsin ranks just 114th out of 133 FBS teams in offensive explosiveness.
Tanner Mordecai has underwhelmed, and while he’s not turning the ball over, he’s not doing much to help the team win. He has two touchdowns and two interceptions through three games despite facing a fairly easy schedule that included home meetings with Buffalo and Georgia Southern.
Wisconsin beat Georgia Southern 35-14 last week, but that final score doesn’t reflect how close the game was. Wisconsin was losing 14-7 in the third quarter, but Georgia Southern’s Davis Brin melted down the stretch, throwing five picks and losing a fumble.
That might sound like a recipe for disaster against Purdue, who had an absurd seven fumbles last week, losing three of them. However, I see it as an opportunity for regression on both sides, especially for quarterback Hudson Card who had a strong day despite the fumbles.
Card completed 70% of his passes for 320 yards. He fed 14 targets to Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen, a redshirt junior who had a career day with 10 catches for 108 yards. The next step is to find a way to get Devin Mockobee more involved as his numbers have declined to start this season.
Purdue’s defense returns a lot of production and should elevate as players get more comfortable with Ryan Walters’ system. Walters was the defensive coordinator at Illinois last year, where he coached one of the best defenses in the country. Kydran Jenkins is an early star for this Purdue unit – he has 19 pressures, the most in the FBS per PFF.
The Boilermakers haven’t beaten Wisconsin since 2003. They’re well aware of this fact – Walters referenced it in his press conference. Wisconsin is vulnerable, and I believe Purdue is a live dog on Friday night.
Best Bet: Purdue +7.5 (play to +6)
Air Force Falcons at San Jose State Spartans
Air Force proved me wrong last week as they made quick work of Utah State, and their defensive pressure was very impressive to me – they finished with a 46.2% havoc rate in the game. That’s troublesome for a San Jose State offensive line that ranks 95th in havoc allowed this season.
If the Spartans can’t buy Chevan Cordeiro time in the pocket, it will complicate what’s already been a rough season for him. Cordeiro was very productive for San Jose State last season, but his top two wide receivers are gone. Elijah Cooks is on the Jacksonville Jaguars while Justin Lockhart is out for the season with an injury.
Predictably, Cordeiro’s downfield efficiency has fallen off a cliff. The deep ball was a big part of his arsenal last year with a 91.7 PFF passing grade – that’s down to 74.4 this year. The lack of explosiveness is a huge issue for an offense that ranks just 100th in success rate overall.
San Jose State’s defense was always going to be a problem, too – they lost their top four players with 500+ snaps from last year’s front seven, including Viliami Fehoko, who’s now on the Dallas Cowboys.
They’ve struggled to stop the run as a result, ranking outside the top 110 teams in run defense EPA and success rate. Enter Air Force, whose triple option offense is in full force – they rank top 20 in EPA and success rate this season.
Ultimately, San Jose State’s market rating is still influenced by their strong 2022 season, but this is a worse version of that roster. The Air Force defense will make Cordeiro uncomfortable with a less potent receiving corps while they dominate time of possession with their run game.
Best Bet: Air Force -3.5 (play to -5.5)
Wisconsin Badgers at Purdue Boilermakers / North Carolina State at Virginia Cavaliers
After a bumpy start for the new-look Wisconsin offense, they have seemed to find their footing by going back to their roots with their run game. The pass game is still mightily struggling to generate any sort of consistency, but the ground game has crept back up to respectable metrics by ranking 25th in Rush Success Rate and 36th in Rush PPA.
As for Purdue, it’s a new year same story as they round out to be a pass heavy unit that fields little to no defensive threat. They rank an abysmal 78th in Def Overall Success Rate, 115th in Def Explosiveness, and 92nd in Def Havoc.
While their quality of talent serves as a step up from the Badger’s recent competition, the Boilermaker defense still has serious issues with limiting any sort of downfield progression. Especially on early downs, an area the Badgers will have a massive advantage should they opt back into a heavier dose of the run.
By limiting Mordecai’s pass attempts on early downs and banking on more of the run, Wisconsin can routinely cut the distance to gain by more than half. With a shorter distance to gain comes less risk by relying on the vertical threat. An area Wisconsin has struggled to generate any sort of consistent success with.
While I certainly would play their current spread of -6, I am opting into the idea of tying in their moneyline with another team I like on Friday’s slate and that is the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
Virginia had a nice early outing against Maryland in their most recent contest but trick plays and fortunate field possession could only take them so far before their anemic offense outdid themselves. The lack of consistency was on full display in the second half as the Cavaliers rank a near league worst 131st in Off Success Rate.
North Carolina State is certainly not the defensive juggernaut that they used to be, but they are more than capable of stalling out the Cavaliers offense with their advantage in defending early downs through the air. This forces Virginia to convert at longer distances, bringing in a higher rate of punts and added possessions for their anemic offense.
Speaking of offense, this game may serve as the perfect bounce back opportunity that the Wolfpack needs after a rocky start. Like their offense, Virginia’s defense ranks just as bad in terms of Success Rate and will routinely give up chunks at a time to the NCST offense.
It’s not exactly settling on the stomach to back two reeling offenses on the road, but their matchup against two below average defenses serves as the perfect opportunity to get back on track. Factor in both Wisconsin and North Carolina State’s ability to stall out their opposing down field progression and both teams will be in a favorable position to pull out the win.
Best Bet: Wisconsin/North Carolina State ML Parlay