Week 9 College Football best bets, predictions, and picks for the midweek slate.
Week 9 College Football Best Bets & Predictions – Midweek Slate
It’s hard to believe that we’re onto Week 9 of the college football season, but it’s been an awesome year and you should be up somewhere in the mid-20s on units if you’ve been following me since the beginning of the season. The Week 9 slate has plenty to choose from, including a handful of intriguing midweek games. I’ll have another article later in the week breaking down the Saturday slate, but first, here are my best bets from the midweek slate.
College Football 2022 Record: 93-63.5-3 (59.4%)
Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns at Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
Game Info: Thursday, October 27, 7:30 PM EST
Tracking early line movement is one of the biggest ways I gain an edge in the college football betting market, and there has been significant action in this game. After opening at Louisiana -2.5, the line has quickly moved to a pick ‘em and I wouldn’t be shocked if Southern Miss closed by a favorite of a couple of points. Let’s look into why there’s been movement.
The Ragin’ Cajuns have won two straight games after a sloppy start to the year with outright losses to Rice and Louisiana Monroe as 12 and 9-point favorites, respectively. Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles are 8-2 ATS in their last ten games, and they are the only team that has been able to knock off Tulane this year. Tulane is arguably the best Group of Five team in the country, so that’s an impressive accomplishment.
Southern Miss’s defense will be the best unit on the field in this game as they rank 34th in EPA per play allowed overall. They’ve been particularly stout against the run as they have allowed just over 3 yards per carry and rank 26th in average line yards per Football Outsiders. While the return of running back Chris Smith will help, I don’t expect Louisiana to have consistent success running the ball.
On the other side, Southern Miss has one of the worst offenses in the country as they rank just 121st in EPA per play overall. However, Frank Gore Jr. has 568 rushing yards at a 4.9 YPC clip, and he should have success against Louisiana’s 60th-ranked run defense by EPA. The Cajuns also rank 74th in average line yards allowed, so their defensive line isn’t anything to be worried about. Gore Jr. ranks seventh in the country in forced missed tackles per carry.
It’s strictly family business for Frank Gore Jr pic.twitter.com/97oHmk7thx
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) December 10, 2020
Southern Miss will make this game a grinder and rely on its defense and run game to win. In their last three wins, they have an average point differential of just 3.3 points. I wouldn’t be shocked if this is a close win against a conference foe, and every point will matter on the spread. I shared this play on Twitter earlier this week, and I’d lock it in ASAP before the line moves more.
Best Bet: Southern Mississippi ML (play to -1.5)
Utah Utes at Washington State Cougars
Game Info: Thursday, October 27, 10:00 PM EST
So far this season, Washington State is 3-1 ATS at home and just 1-2 ATS on the road. Those stats bear out in their overall play on the field. They beat Colorado State and Cal at home by an average of 25 points, and they nearly knocked off an elite Oregon team in a game where they held a 27-12 lead entering the fourth quarter. Pullman remains a very difficult place to play for opponents.
The Wazzu defense has been a big reason for their home success, and they rank 17th in points per opportunity allowed on that end. The Cougars also rank 20th in havoc on defense. The biggest weakness of Washington State’s defense is that they rank just 112nd in explosiveness allowed, but Utah’s offense doesn’t generate explosive plays – they rank just 120th in offensive explosiveness.
I’d love to see the Cougars commit to their run game somewhat here as Utah ranks just 117th in average line yards and 103rd in tackling per PFF. However, the unknown status of Nakia Watson will likely lead them to throw the ball more. True freshman Jaylen Jenkins has looked great, however, as he’s averaging 7.0 YPC and picked up 130 yards on the ground against USC.
Cameron Ward has struggled under pressure this season with seven turnover-worthy plays, and the Cougars’ offense has stalled out at times when they haven’t been able to keep Ward upright – they rank 95th in sack rate allowed. However, Utah ranks just 121st in pass-rush per PFF, so that won’t be as much of an issue in this game. When Ward has a clean pocket, he can deliver darts like the one below.
Utah has beaten Washington State in three straight games, but those games were all in Salt Lake City, and Jake Dickert wasn’t yet the head coach for the Cougars. Under his watch, the Cougs have become a very sound, efficient team that should be well prepared for this home conference game. I’d play anything over a touchdown here.
Best Bet: Washington State +8.5 (play to +7)
East Carolina Pirates at BYU Cougars
Game Info: Friday, October 28, 8:00 PM EST
BYU has been on a downward spiral in recent weeks, and they reached new lows last week as they allowed Liberty to score 41 points with their third-string quarterback and were outgained by almost 300 total yards of offense. With Boise State on deck following this sleepy midweek spot, it’s easy to doubt how prepared the Cougars’ defense will be for what the Pirates can throw at them.
East Carolina’s offense has been loads of fun to watch lately, and they rank 45th in EPA per play. Keaton Mitchell is one of the best running backs in the G5, and he’s ranked as the seventh-best in the country per PFF. He has 26 runs of 10+ yards, the fifth-most in the FBS. BYU’s run defense has been putrid as they rank 122nd in average line yards and 113th in stuff rate.
#CFB's Top 5 Fastest Ball Carriers from Week 2
— Recruiting Analytics (@RAanalytics) September 12, 2022
If the run game isn’t working for whatever reason, the Pirates are very capable through the air, as well. Holton Ahlers is having a career season with the 18th-best PFF grade in the country. Over the last two weeks, he’s torched Memphis and UCF with a combined 78% completion rate and 608 total yards. BYU is ranked 112th in passing success rate allowed and 94th in passing success rate allowed.
The BYU offense has been solid as they rank 19th in EPA per play, but it hasn’t been sustainable as they rank sixth in explosiveness but just 72nd in overall success rate. Jaren Hall has struggled, and he averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt against Liberty. While East Carolina doesn’t have an elite defense, they rank 28th in passing explosiveness allowed. Take away those big plays, and BYU’s offense will struggle.
The only reason I’m slightly wary of this game is the situational difficulty for ECU. After their most significant conference win in quite a while, they have to fly to Provo to play in altitude in a midweek game on short rest. However, I weigh their matchup advantages against a putrid BYU defense ahead of that, and I’m taking them at +3 as my official play. If you’re getting anything under a field goal, you might as well just play the Moneyline in this game as I believe they win outright more often than not.
Best Bet: East Carolina +3 (or ML)
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Florida International Panthers
Game Info: Friday, October 28, 8:00 PM EST
FIU is coming off an incredibly impressive performance as they went on the road as 14-point underdogs and beat Charlotte 34-15. The final score is misleading even, as they led 34-0 before taking their foot off the gas. Charlotte promptly fired their head coach following that loss, and that’s the type of result that can invigorate a program.
I’m not going to lie to you – the Panthers are still one of the worst teams in the country. They rank 128th on SP and 129th in overall EPA. However, if you sift through the garbage, there are some advantages in this game. That’s primarily true on defense where they rank 67th in explosive plays allowed and have the eighth-best highest-graded pass-rush unit by PFF headlined by Shaun Peterson Jr. who has 13 total pressures this season.
Louisiana Tech is coming off a close loss in overtime that was underscored by the loss of their top two quarterbacks, Parker McNeill and Matthew Downing. On a short week, we expect to see true freshman Landry Lyddy to get the start. He had a phenomenal throw last week to get his team into overtime, but it’s a tough ask for him to be making his first career start on the road on a short week.
The Bulldogs’ defense is also quite terrible as they rank 107th in EPA per play allowed, and they’re especially bad against the run where they rank 130th in EPA and 124th in average line yards allowed. Grayson James has shown flashes of solid dual-threat ability at quarterback and Lexington Joseph is averaging 5.5 YPC, so perhaps FIU can find some rushing offense like they did last week.
We’re dumpster diving here – this is not the type of game where I’d be nearly confident enough to make more than a one-unit play. However, sharp money is backing the home underdog here, and for good reason with the quarterback situation and other weaknesses for Louisiana Tech. Florida International has a total enrollment of 55,000 students – let’s hope they show up on Friday night to cheer on the Panthers.
Best Bet: Florida International +7.5 (play to +6.5)