College Football Week 12 Best Bets: UCLA Makes a Statement

I can’t believe it’s already Week 12. This season has been such a blast, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed covering this sport for you guys. As always, you can find all of my plays on the spreadsheet pinned to my profile on my Twitter account @wayne_sports_. Next week brings rivalry week and the following week is conference championships, so we’re almost to the end of the regular season. For this massive slate, I’m including more games in this article and a tad less analysis for each one than I would normally get to. I hope you enjoy that format. Before I get too sentimental, let’s get to work.

College Football 2022 Record: 139.5-116-4 (54.6%)

Navy Midshipmen at UCF Knights

Game Info: Saturday, November 19, 11:00 AM EST

Coverage: ESPN2

UCF is coming off two massive road wins over Memphis and Tulane that have put them right back in pole position in the American. Now that they have the tiebreaker over Tulane, the Knights need just one win in their final two games to clinch a spot in the conference championship game.

Next week, the Knights have a rivalry game against USF in the War on I-4, so it wouldn’t be shocking if they’re looking ahead here. That game will draw a ton of attention, but it wouldn’t be surprising if UCF let their foot off the gas anyways after those massive wins in their prior two games.

Navy’s triple-option rushing attack is notoriously difficult to prepare for, and any lack of focus from UCF will result in the Mids getting rushing plays off like the one in the video below. UCF ranks 79th in rushing explosiveness allowed, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see Daba Fofana and company rip off some big runs.

John Rhys Plumlee will have his fair share of explosive passing plays – everyone does against this Navy secondary – but the Midshipmen match up well against UCF’s run-heavy offense. Navy ranks 14th in run defense EPA, 10th in rushing success rate allowed, and 3rd in average line yards. UCF won’t be able to control this game on the ground the way they want to.

Navy is 5-0 ATS on the road this season, covering by 12+ points in each of those, and service academies catching over two touchdowns are hitting at a 65.1% clip ATS since 2005, per Action. You won’t need to, but I’d play Navy at anything over two touchdowns.

Best Bet: Navy +17 (play to +14.5)

Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns at Florida State Seminoles

Game Info: Saturday, November 19, 12:00 PM EST

Coverage: ESPN3

Florida State is on a heater with an average margin of 34 points in wins over Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Syracuse. However, this matchup comes at a weird time as they have clinched bowl eligibility and will be looking ahead to next week’s matchup with Florida. The last time the Gators traveled to Tallahassee, they earned a 41-14 win, and the Seminoles will be hoping to avenge that loss.

Louisiana needs just one more win for bowl eligibility, and while I’m not suggesting they’ll win this game, they will be hyper focused. Their defense has been excellent, particularly against the pass, where they rank 5th in EPA and 7th in coverage per PFF.

Florida State will lean on their run game as a result, which will keep the clock moving, particularly as the Noles rank 101st in pace of play. The Cajuns aren’t quite as good against the run, but they do rank 31st in rushing explosiveness allowed, so the Noles won’t be ripping off big plays repeatedly.

Ben Woolridge isn’t close to the same caliber of quarterback as Jordan Travis, but it wouldn’t be shocking if Travis is rested in the second half if they have a lead. Outside of a horrendous start against Southern Miss, Woolridge only has two turnover-worthy plays in five games, and he’ll do enough to help this offense avoid mistakes and keep the chains moving. That’s all they’ll need to cover this number.

Best Bet: Louisiana +24 (play to +23)

Florida Gators at Vanderbilt Commodores

Game Info: Saturday, November 19, 12:00 PM EST

Coverage: SECN

Kudos to Clark Lea. After a relentless 26-game losing streak against SEC competition, Vanderbilt finally beat Kentucky last week in an emotional moment for the program. You might be expecting a letdown spot after that win, but I see the opposite.

I see a team instilled with belief that will be fighting to win out for an outside shot at bowl eligibility. They’ll also believe they can get revenge over Florida after the Gators beat them 42-0 in Gainesville last year.

The Gators have been a mediocre team overall, but their one strength is the run game where they rank 5th in EPA. However, Vanderbilt has been much better against the run than the pass. They rank 41st in stuff rate and can stop some runs at the line of scrimmage.

The Commodores’ secondary has been a major weakness as they rank 128th in pass defense EPA and 107th in coverage on PFF. However, I don’t trust Anthony Richardson to be able to beat them consistently after they shut down Will Levis last week.

Vanderbilt should also be able to run the ball after they picked up 264 yards at a 6.0 YPC clip against Kentucky last week. Florida ranks 119th in run defense EPA and 85th in average line yards.

Florida already has bowl eligibility and will be looking ahead to a meeting with Florida State next week. Meanwhile, this Vanderbilt team has matchup advantages and every reason to bring their best game here. Give me the home team catching two touchdowns.

Best Bet: Vanderbilt +14.5 (play to +14)

Boston College Eagles at Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Game Info: Saturday, November 19, 2:30 PM EST

Coverage: NBC

This Notre Dame team is highly inconsistent week to week, but it all stems from their tendency to play to the level of their competition. Per Action, the Irish have gone 4-0 ATS as an underdog and 1-5 ATS as a favorite. That record as a favorite includes upset home losses as double-digit favorites over Marshall and Stanford.

Ahead of their big road game against USC next week, Notre Dame has to play Boston College this week. I’ll likely be backing the Irish next week, for what it’s worth, but I’m fading them here, even against this struggling Boston College team.

The Eagles are coming off a massive upset road win over NC State as freshman quarterback Emmett Morehead has continued to provide this team with a spark. At this point, it’s fair to wonder if Phil Jurkovec was part of the problem, and Zay Flowers seems to love playing with Morehead.

Flowers is preparing for the NFL draft, and he’ll relish the opportunity to put together more great tape against a top defense in Notre Dame. He finished last week with seven catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns, and I’d bank on him being a big factor this week.

The Fighting Irish have a first-year head coach in Marcus Freeman and tons of young players overall, and that has been a major cause for their week to week inconsistency. I’ll happily take advantage of the opportunity to fade them as a double-digit home favorite once again.

Best Bet: Boston College +21 (play to +20)

Texas Longhorns at Kansas Jayhawks

Game Info: Saturday, November 19, 2:30 PM EST

Coverage: FS1

I’ll address the elephant in the room before I dive into this game – I was big on Texas last week. I thought TCU’s mega run was set to end and expected the Longhorns to produce some offensive fireworks against the Horned Frogs. Instead, they fell completely flat in a depressing showing for the team.

Now, they hit the road to face an upstart Kansas team that knows a thing or two about playing this Texas squad. Last year, the Jayhawks upset the Longhorns as a 31-point underdog in a game that helped set the tone for Lance Leipold leading this team to bowl eligibility.

https://twitter.com/PFF_College/status/1459743221173702657

Kansas’s defense has been poor overall – they rank outside the top 100 in EPA against the pass and run – but they have been pretty good at limiting explosive plays as they rank 25th in that respect. Texas generated seemingly no big plays last week against a vulnerable TCU defense, and I don’t have confidence in that changing here.

I will say that this could be a massive game for Bijan Robinson against that poor Kansas defense, particularly after he got hurt and missed the end of his team’s upset loss last year. However, at a certain point, Robinson’s focus will start to turn to the NFL draft, and we might have reached that point.

The potential return of Jalon Daniels this week would be the icing on top, and I firmly believe the Jayhawks have the chance to pull off an upset here if he’s under center. Their defense might not be any good, but they’ll get up for this opportunity for another big win, and their home crowd will be rocking.

Best Bet: Kansas +9.5 (play to +7.5)

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Auburn Tigers

Game Info: Saturday, November 19, 4:00 PM EST

Coverage: SECN

I will back Cadillac Williams to the ends of the earth. I absolutely adore the energy he has instilled in this program, and I believe he should be given every opportunity to become this team’s full-time head coach, even though the rumors are already swirling for potential candidates.

Auburn is playing hard for their interim head coach, and meanwhile, this Western Kentucky team doesn’t have much to play for here. This game does nothing for their bowl eligibility or conference title chances, and they’ll have their eyes on next week needing a win and a North Texas loss to make the C-USA championship.

The Hilltoppers pass at the 12th-highest rate in the country, and that’s good news for the Tigers who rank 115th in EPA against the run but 42nd against the pass, partially thanks to the elite edge-rushing tandem of Derick Hall and Colby Wooden.

Auburn should also be able to get its run game going with Tank Bigsby and dual-threat quarterback Robby Ashford. Western Kentucky ranks just 62nd in run defense EPA, 117th in defensive line yards, and 87th in tackling.

I don’t love laying the points with Auburn here as this team isn’t structured to gain margin on anyone with their play style, but I’ll take it under a touchdown given the situational aspects I mentioned above. If you want to parlay the Auburn ML with something else you like this week, that’s not a bad approach, either.

Best Bet: Auburn -5.5 (play to -6)

USC Trojans at UCLA Bruins

Game Info: Saturday, November 19, 8:00 PM EST

Coverage: FOX

My first thought as we watched Arizona upset UCLA was the value we’d be getting on the Bruins in this game. Arizona was the better team last week and deserved that win, but UCLA was caught looking ahead to this game, and we can forgive them a bit for that.

Last year, UCLA won this game 62-33 at the Coliseum. The Trojans’ defense had absolutely no answers for Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Zach Charbonnet, and they still don’t. The Trojans rank 130th in run defense EPA and are facing the Bruins who lead the country in yards per carry.

The strength of the USC defense is against the pass where they can lean on the play of cornerback Mekhi Blackmon and defensive lineman Tuli Tuuipuloto, but that doesn’t help when they’re facing UCLA’s elite rushing offense. USC’s defense is also well past due for turnover regression as they lead the FBS with an unsustainable +17 turnover margin.

The Heisman hype is building for Caleb Williams, but I still have concerns over his struggles under pressure. Williams’ completion rate drops from 70.1% to 46.2% when under pressure, and his aDOT rises by over four yards as he attempts riskier, lower-percentage throws downfield.

UCLA can take advantage of this with their pass rush. They rank 21st on PFF in pass-rush grades and 45th in sack rate. Laiatu Latu is having an excellent year and the Murphy brothers have made a big difference after transferring over from North Texas. Overall, UCLA will still struggle to get stops, but their pass rush gives them an edge that doesn’t exist for USC.

With one of the higher over-under totals on the week, this game should be an exhilarating display of offense. However, USC’s defense is ill prepared for a mobile quarterback like DTR and their offense is dealing with notable injuries to Jordan Addison and Travis Dye, who is out for the year. I’ll happily take the plus value with UCLA.

Best Bet: UCLA ML

UAB Blazers at LSU Tigers

Game Info: Saturday, November 19, 9:00 PM EST

Coverage: ESPN2

With LSU’s narrow win over Arkansas last week, they have clinched the SEC West and punched their ticket to the SEC Championship. While they need to escape these next two games unscathed to preserve any longshot hopes of making the College Football Playoff, their focus will be fully on Georgia at this point.

Meanwhile, UAB needs just one more win for bowl eligibility, and this game is effectively their Super Bowl. The Blazers have been rather unlucky with five one-possession losses, and they have a -8 turnover margin in those losses. Three of those losses came without starting quarterback Dylan Hopkins, and the market isn’t adjusted to his impact.

Hopkins is completing almost 10% more of his passes than backup Jacob Zeno and has averaged over 3 more yards per attempt. However, the foundation of the UAB offense is DeWayne McBride, one of the best running backs in the G5 who’s averaging 6.9 YPC. LSU ranks 68th in run defense EPA and 80th in rushing success rate allowed, so he’ll have success.

UAB’s defense has been very solid all season, and they have the second-ranked coverage unit by PFF. They also rank third in tackling, and as a result they rank 37th in explosiveness allowed. Jayden Daniels might not even play this whole game, but when he’s in the game, he’ll be facing a Blazers defense that has been successful against mobile QBs all year.

Fading LSU in a night game at home is typically a losing proposition, but this simply isn’t a game they need to go all out for. Meanwhile, UAB has a real opportunity to earn a massive upset for their program and become bowl eligible in the process. I’m not calling for the outright upset, but I’ll happily take them ATS as two-touchdown underdogs.

Best Bet: UAB +14.5 (play to +14)

I've been a huge sports fan for as long as I can remember and I've always loved writing. In 2020, I joined the Lineups team, and I've been producing written and video content on football and basketball ever since. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. My goal is to tell enthralling stories and provide meaningful insight on the sports I write about while helping you cash some bets along the way.

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