Week 7 College Football Best Bets & Predictions
Heading into Week 7, we’re now 34-13 over our last 47 plays (72.3%) and 68-45-3 YTD (60.1%). I’ve been very much enjoying that hot streak, but it’s important to stay level-headed and not force plays, nonetheless.
This article will focus on my best bets for the Saturday slate in college football this week. As always, be sure to follow me on Twitter @wayne_sports_ to see all of the latest plays I’m making on college football and NFL games. I won’t be quite as active on Twitter this weekend as I’m headed to a wedding (I know, I’m missing an absurd slate of games, it is what it is), but I’ll do my best to give updates throughout the day. Alright, enough small talk. Let’s get to work.
College Football Record YTD: 68-45-3 (60.1%)
Oklahoma State Cowboys at TCU Horned Frogs
Game Info: Saturday, October 15, 3:30 PM EST
It hasn’t taken long for Sonny Dykes to turn TCU into arguably the most fun offense in college football. The Horned Frogs rank fourth in the country with 46.4 points per game, and they’ve been insanely efficient with the 12th-best passing offense and fourth-best rushing offense by EPA. Max Duggan has a passer rating of 139.4, the best in the FBS, and has 14 touchdowns to just one interception. Last week, TCU figured out how to maximize Quentin Johnston’s potential in the offense as the likely NFL first-round pick had 14 catches for 206 yards and a score.
Duggan is also a huge part of the team’s rushing offense. When opposing defenses play back, he can pick up chunk yardage with his legs – he has eight runs of over 10 yards this year. TCU ranks top ten as a team in 20+ yard rushing plays despite playing one less game than other teams. Kendre Miller is top-25 in elusiveness and breakaway run percentage per PFF while Emari Demercado is averaging over four yards after contact per run.
Oklahoma State is ill prepared to face that type of offense. The Pokes rank 88th in defensive EPA per play allowed and last week allowed Texas Tech’s Behren Morton to throw for 379 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start. Their schedule hasn’t been particularly overwhelming to this point, and TCU is by far the best offense they’ve had to face.
On the other side, Spencer Sanders is having a great year, with 1,395 passing yards and 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions, and he should put up points against a TCU defense that ranks 130th in passing downs explosiveness. However, it’s worth noting that the Cowboys’ wide receiver Braydon Johnson left last week’s game after entering concussion protocol. In addition, the Cowboys have had an inconsistent rushing offense.
This should be an incredibly high-scoring game, and it has one of the highest over-under totals on the slate for good reason. However, I believe TCU is elevating to a different level as a program, and their offense is well-equipped to take advantage of an Oklahoma State defense that has taken a significant step back from last season. Sanders has a bad habit of forcing throws at times, and I’ll bet on TCU winning the turnover battle as a result. With a far more reliable run game and the benefit of home-field advantage, give me the Horned Frogs all day here.
Best Bet: TCU -3.5 (bet to -4)
Alabama Crimson Tide at Tennessee Volunteers
Game Info: Saturday, October 15, 3:30 PM EST
I have a confession to make. I love this Tennessee team. Josh Heupel’s offense has been outstanding, and Hendon Hooker is playing like a Heisman candidate while leading Tennessee to the second-ranked offense in points per game and the sixth-ranked offense in EPA per play. Jabari Small is coming off his best game of the season while Jalin Hyatt and Bru McCoy have helped step in while Cedric Tillman has been out. Keep an eye on the injury report to see if Tillman and starting left tackle Gerald Mincey will be playing.
However, as eye-popping as the Volunteers’ offense is, it hasn’t been a one-sided effort. The defense has improved week by week, and they are coming off their best performance of the season in a complete dismantling of the LSU offense. Bryce Young remains questionable for this game, but whether or not he plays, the Crimson Tide will attempt to establish the run here. However, Tennessee ranks sixth in rushing defense EPA after facing Pitt, Florida, and LSU, three very run-heavy offenses, in recent weeks.
Who throws a better deep ball than Hendon Hooker? pic.twitter.com/5Gt63xBTxs
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 11, 2022
On the Alabama side, I had concerns about Jalen Milroe heading into the game against Texas A&M, but I never felt confident enough to pull the trigger given my lack of faith in the Aggies. However, that game was far closer than anyone expected and Alabama needed a goal-line stand to pull off the win. The primary reason was Milroe’s carelessness with the ball as he had a whopping five turnover-worthy plays per PFF.
Alabama’s defense also showed some warts last week as they allowed Haynes King, who had previously been benched, to throw for 253 yards and two touchdowns. Of course, Will Anderson Jr. remains the most dominant pass-rusher in college football, but Hooker has excelled under pressure this season. However, against teams with future NFL pass-rushers in Florida and LSU, Hooker performed very well. It’s not a massive concern this week.
Bryce Young might be back on Saturday, and this line might jump to -10 in their favor. If that happens, you won’t win taking this number ahead of time. However, I decided that I like Tennessee enough to back them at this number even if Young does play. If he’s out again this week, you would be getting a fantastic value in a game I would pick the Volunteers to win outright.
Best Bet: Tennessee +7.5 (bet to ML if Bryce Young is out, bet best number available if he plays)
NC State Wolfpack at Syracuse Orange
Game Info: Saturday, October 15, 3:30 PM EST
We have yet another quarterback injury situation in this game as Devin Leary left last week’s game against Florida State. We likely won’t have full confirmation about Devin Leary’s injury status until Saturday morning. However, this number is very telling to me, as I can’t imagine this would be set above three points if the books were confident Leary was set to play. With that being said, Leary had already regressed this season. Check out his decline across the board from 2021 to 2022 via PFF:
- Adjusted completion rate: 76.4% to 72%
- Big-time throw rate: 6.8% to 3.9%
- Turnover-worthy play rate: 1.8% to 3.2%
- Yards per attempt: 8.0 to 6.6
Even without the injury, I would have concerns about Leary in this matchup against a Syracuse defense that ranks 30th against the pass by EPA and 12th in coverage grade. The losses of the team’s two leading rushers, Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr., has left the offense more one-dimensional, and I don’t believe they can take advantage of Syracuse’s biggest weakness in its run defense.
On the other side, I have ongoing concerns about the NC State run defense. They rank just 63rd in EPA against the run this year, and they caved against Florida State last week as they allowed 7.4 yards per carry. With the dynamic duo of Garrett Schrader and Sean Tucker leading the way, Syracuse should have no problem running the ball behind an offensive line that ranks 26th in the FBS in adjusted line yards.
— Jaime Eisner (@JaimeEisner) September 4, 2022
The NC State defense has been solid, but it’s started to weaken as the offense can’t stay on the field for long enough to keep it fresh. The Wolfpack ranks just 91st in tackling per PFF, and that will be a problem against Syracuse’s playmakers. Along with Tucker and Schrader, Oronde Gadsen II has started to emerge with 23 catches for 366 yards and three scores this season.
NC State is coming off two brutal games against Clemson and Florida State, and they were lucky to beat the Seminoles last week. Meanwhile, Syracuse has clearly emerged as a threat in the ACC, and they should be well prepared off their bye week. Given the uncertainty with Devin Leary, I like taking the value in this line, as the Orange could win by more than a touchdown if he doesn’t play.
Best Bet: Syracuse -3.5 (bet to -3.5 if Leary plays, bet to -6.5 if he’s out)
Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan State Spartans
Game Info: Saturday, October 15, 4:00 PM EST
I was tempted to back Wisconsin last week against Northwestern, but I needed to wait a week to see how their offense looked in the first game under new interim head coach Jim Leonhard. The early results were highly encouraging as the Badgers put up 42 points and 7.6 yards per play against a Northwestern defense that’s much better than what they’re facing this week in East Lansing.
Michigan State has had a dreadful defensive season as they rank 122nd in EPA per pass allowed. Graham Mertz should have plenty of success this week coming off a five-touchdown effort against Northwestern. Mertz has been very good this season with 15 big-time throws to just three turnover-worthy plays per PFF, and the higher pass rate under Leonhard will allow him to put up more gaudy numbers.
Graham Mertz hits Chimere Dike for a 52 yard Wisconsin Touchdown! #CollegeFootball
— The College Football & Basketball Experience (@TCEonSGPN) October 8, 2022
However, Wisconsin still has a dominant ground game behind Braelon Allen. Last week, Allen registered 135 rushing yards at a 5.9 YPC clip, and he’s averaging 6.1 YPC this season behind an offensive line that ranks 23rd in run-blocking per PFF. It should be a long afternoon for Michigan State’s defensive line that ranks 79th in average line yards.
It’s been a long year for the Spartans offense, as well. Michigan State lost Kenneth Walker to the NFL draft, and they’ve struggled to find a consistent run game without him as they rank 121st in rushing EPA. That has put a lot more pressure on Payton Thorne who simply isn’t very good – he has eight turnover-worthy plays to seven big-time throws per PFF, and his 54.4 QBR ranks just 78th in the FBS.
Wisconsin’s offense is likely to improve considerably under the new coaching, and their defense remains stout as they rank 17th in FEI and 43rd in average EPA per play allowed this year. The Spartans are still overrated in the market, and the Badgers are on the rise. I got this line at -5.5 earlier in the week and posted it on my Twitter, but I’d still be comfortable taking it at the current line of -7.5.
Best Bet: Wisconsin -5.5 (bet to -7.5)
Kent State Golden Flashes at Toledo Rockets
Game Info: Saturday, October 15, 3:30 PM EST
Toledo was the preseason favorite to win the MAC, and it’s been evident as to why so far. They have handled their two conference games against Central Michigan and Northern Illinois with ease as they’ve won those two games by an average of 20.5 points. This week, they enter another conference game against the team that lost in the MAC championship last season.
Kent State has had a brutal start to the year, partially due to a schedule that’s somehow included Washington, Oklahoma, and Georgia. Impressively, their offense ranks 40th in EPA per play despite facing those teams, and Collin Schlee has had a great year with 9.1 yards per passing attempt. However, the Golden Flashes can’t finish drives as they rank just 91st with 3.62 points per possession past the opponent’s 40-yard line.
Other than giving up 77 points to Ohio State, Toledo’s defense has been excellent. They have allowed just 4.2 yards per play outside of that game against the Buckeyes and are ranked as the 19th-best run defense, 35th-best coverage unit, and 10th-best tackling team by PFF. That elite coverage unit will help them handle Schlee as a passer and force Kent State into more of a one-dimensional offense.
Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn is having an awesome season with 1,502 combined passing and rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns through six games. He’s an elite dual threat player who will pick apart a Kent State defense that ranks 110th in EPA per play and 118th in yards per play allowed. Even against Ohio (63rd in EPA/pass) and Miami (104th in EPA/pass), they have given up 9.3 yards per pass attempt.
This matchup is a lot more lopsided than it appears on the surface, and it’s one of the first bets I made when the lines first came out. The number has quickly shifted from 7.5 to 9 at most sportsbooks, but I have no problem taking Toledo at that price. SP+ makes it 16.8, so you’re still getting value at that number. The Rockets have dominated in conference play so far, and Toledo has a considerable edge in almost every facet of this game.
Best Bet: Toledo -7.5 (bet to -9.5)
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at North Texas Mean Green
Game Info: Saturday, October 15, 4:00 PM EST
I’ve had a lot of fun watching Austin Aune play football this season, and while I’ve been hit or miss when backing the Mean Green, I believe this is a great spot for them to have success. Louisiana Tech is coming off its first conference win against a UTEP team that North Texas dismantled on the road earlier this year with a final score of 31-13. Now, they have to travel to face that Mean Green squad.
Aune has led a North Texas offense that averaged 34.3 points per game, which ranks 38th in the FBS, and 44th in passing EPA. He’s particularly been effective on downfield passes with twelve big-time throws to just one turnover-worthy play on 20+ yard passes per PFF. The Bulldogs struggle against explosive passing, ranking 107th in that metric this season. Aune should be able to find some splash plays through the air.
— unlvrebelx (@unlvrebelx) September 19, 2022
The Mean Green run game hasn’t been effective as its pass game as they rank just 108th in rushing EPA, but their two leading rushers Oscar Adaway III and Ayo Adeyi have combined to average over six yards per attempt. Louisiana Tech’s run defense is awful as they rank 125th in defensive line yards and are ranked second-worst in tackling per PFF, so look for North Texas to be able to run the ball, as well.
The Bulldogs’ offense has been heavily reliant on big plays, which can often be unsustainable, as Parker McNeil is averaging a lofty 8.5 yards per attempt but has a QBR of 56.3 that ranks just 74th in the FBS. The Bulldogs rank ninth in passing explosiveness but just 77th in passing EPA. The Mean Green defense recently limited Memphis and Florida Atlantic, two top-50 offenses in passing EPA, to under 6.0 yards per pass.
Louisiana Tech also has no run game to speak of to help support McNeil. The Bulldogs rank 130th in offensive line yards, 130th in yards per attempt (1.9), and 116th in rushing EPA. With their big–play passing offense limited and no run game to fall back on, the Bulldogs could struggle to find consistent enough offense in this game.
Louisiana Tech is just 1-5-1 ATS in its last seven road games and 2-6-1 ATS in its last nine conference games, and I believe they are overvalued this week. This should be a very high-scoring game, but North Texas has more answers on offense and defense, and I’ll back the Mean Green at a touchdown or better at home this week.
Best Bet: North Texas -6.5 (bet to -7)
USC Trojans at Utah Utes
Game Info: Saturday, October 15, 8:00 PM EST
I’ve had this game circled all season as a spot to back Utah, and I’m excited to do so at a number that’s likely shortened due to the Utes’ loss to UCLA last week. This is the most difficult test that USC has faced all season by far, and I don’t believe they’re up to the task, mostly due to their defense. The Trojans rank 71st in FEI this year and are especially poor against the run where they rank 124th in EPA. Tavion Thomas will gash this defense frequently on Saturday.
TAVION THOMAS FOUR 1ST HALF TDs#CFB
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 6, 2021
You might ask yourself how a team with those defensive metrics can be 6-0. It’s mostly due to their incredible ability to generate takeaways- they lead the country with 25.5% of opponents’ drives ending in a turnover. However, that’s unsustainable, and it won’t work against a Utah offense that only turns the ball over on 8.7% of drives. That ranks 27th in the country. Compare it to the following offenses that USC has faced:
- Rice – 25.6%, 130th
- Stanford – 20.5%, 127th
- Fresno State – 17.1%, 111th
- Oregon State – 18.2%, 118th
- Arizona State – 10.4%, 50th
- Washington State – 15.7%, 98th
Utah’s defense ranks 28th against the pass this season by EPA, and the six defenses that USC has faced thus far average out to the 90th ranked pass defense by EPA. Clark Phillips III is the top cornerback in the country per PFF, and he’ll be a lot for star wideout Jordan Addison to overcome, particularly after Addison seemingly picked up a knee injury last week.
Caleb Williams has mostly been as advertised for USC with 14 touchdowns to just one pick, but the underlying numbers aren’t as impressive. He has six big-time throws to five turnover-worthy plays, and he’s looked vulnerable at times. In his games against Oregon State and Washington State, two of the better defenses he’s faced, he completed just 47.6% of his passes. It’s easy to forget, but this is still a 19-year-old kid learning to play the position.
Overall, I believe Utah can lean on its defense and run game against a USC team that’s primed for a letdown after an easy schedule to open the season. You likely aren’t going to see this line move too far in the direction of Utah by kickoff, especially since USC is such a popular public side. In fact, you might even get a -3 on Utah again by the time the game starts. However, I’m happy locking it in at the current number of 3.5 and I’d play it up to -4.
Best Bet: Utah -3 (bet to -4)
Half Unit Quick Hitters
The plays above are my most confident sides for Week 7, but there are a handful of other half-unit plays that I’ve made for the Saturday slate. You can find a brief summary of those plays below:
Iowa State Cyclones vs. Texas Longhorns Under 49.5: Texas is coming off a very impressive 49-0 win over Oklahoma, but this game arguably profiles as a double-dip of letdown and lookahead as they travel to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State next week. Iowa State has had an excellent defensive season under Matt Campbell as they rank 9th in FEI and 8th in EPA per play allowed. They should do enough to limit what could be a lackadaisical Texas offense coming off that win.
However, I don’t have enough confidence in Iowa State’s offense to lay the number. They rank just 88th in EPA per play after losing both their starting quarterback and running back from last year. Facing the Texas defense that ranks eighth in FEI won’t be easy, so I’ll just play the under on what we’ll hope is a sluggish Saturday morning for both teams.
Oklahoma Sooners 1H -5.5: The betting line in the Kansas and Oklahoma game is fascinating as it opened with Oklahoma as seven-point favorites and has moved to -9 despite Kansas getting 89% of the tickets on DraftKings. The return of Dillon Gabriel can explain that movement as Oklahoma’s offense was hopeless without him.
Dillon Gabriel I think is a sleeper candidate to win the Heisman trophy award.
— Brandon Carr (@bcarr_13) September 3, 2022
Brent Venables’ defense has looked terrible over the last few weeks, but this is a great buy-low spot as they face a team whose quarterback, Jalon Daniels, is out. Jason Bean looked solid last week, but Oklahoma’s defense is better than they’ve shown and will come out in this game hot. I’ll circumvent the full-game spread as Kansas could figure things out on offense as the game goes along and play the first half spread instead.
LSU Tigers Moneyline: I faded the Tigers last week, and they laid a complete egg at home against Tennessee. However, we need to have a short memory sometimes in handicapping games, and LSU should bounce back here. The Tigers still rank very well on defense despite that blowout loss, and their run defense ranks 32nd in EPA. That’s a problem for a run-reliant Florida team that hasn’t had a consistent passing offense.
Anthony Richardson has struggled under pressure this season, and now he has to face LSU’s defensive line that ranks 7th in passing down sack rate. In addition, Florida’s struggling defense will have problems as they rank just 115th in rushing EPA allowed. The Gators are also the worst defense in the SEC in terms of third down stop rate. At the time I’m writing this, the best number appears to be +120 at PointsBet, but I’d take the chance with anything in plus money as I believe there is a better than 50% chance that LSU wins this game.
Florida State Seminoles +3.5: Of all of my plays in this half-unit section, I’d say Florida State is the most likely to be upgraded to a full-unit play on Saturday. According to the SP+ win expectancy formula, the Seminoles should have beaten both Wake Forest and NC State over the last two weeks. If they had, this game likely would have been a pick ‘em, and that means you’re getting good value with the hook for Florida State at home.
Jordan Travis has had an excellent season, and he’s the second-highest graded Power Five passer on PFF. He can challenge the Clemson secondary that ranks just 46th in EPA against the pass this year, particularly with their defensive line underwhelming and ranking just 83rd in sack rate. Meanwhile, Florida State’s defensive line led by Jared Verse can put pressure on D.J. Uiagalelei behind an offensive line that ranks 53rd in sack rate allowed and 59th in pass-blocking per PFF.
Jordan Travis has been ELECTRIC ⚡️pic.twitter.com/JC3p27QJQE
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) October 12, 2022
I have to give credit to D.J. Uiagalelei, who has had an incredible resurgent season. His stats have improved across the board, and his adjusted completion rate has jumped 7% despite having a deeper aDOT. He should find success against a Florida State defense that ranks 59th EPA against the pass. However, I’m bought into the Seminoles’ offense keeping this game close, and the line in this game has dropped from 4.5 to 3.5 despite Clemson getting 83% of the tickets on DraftKings. Florida State is the sharp side here.
Duke +7: In Mike Elko’s first season as head coach, he has completely transformed the Duke program into a highly competitive outfit. The Blue Devils win in the trenches consistently on both sides of the ball, and their offensive line has been elite this year. Duke ranks 30th in rushing EPA this season on the strength of an offensive line that ranks 10th in average line yards. They will have no problem running the ball against UNC’s 108th-ranked defensive line by average line yards. UNC is ranked 94th in run defense by PFF.
On the other side, Drake Maye is the great equalizer. He has 1,893 yards and 20 touchdowns to just three picks, and he’s one of the best passers in the country. However, Duke can make their offense one-dimensional with the ninth-ranked run defense by EPA. Behind an underwhelming offensive line that ranks just 79th in sack rate allowed, the Blue Devils can get home against Maye. Notre Dame has a similar make-up to this Duke team, although it’s a far better roster, and UNC had all sorts of problems with them. Sharp money is coming in on the Blue Devils, and I love getting the full seven points with them at home.