In week 3 my Free Analysis sides were 22-21-1 overall but just 2-6 on games with a difference or 4+ points from the spread. Totals were 28-14, including 4-0 on differences of 6 points or more from the line, which are historically profitable (37-29 last season).

 

For the season, the Free Analysis sides are now 57-57-2, and 12-11 on games with a difference or 4+ points from the spread. Totals are now just 57-59-2 and 6-5 on differences of 6 points or more.

 

The record on all Free Analysis sides is now 1683-1488-64 ATS since 2013, which is very good picking nearly every game over 6-plus years. The Free Analysis sides in which my predicted margin was 4 points or more away from the line are now 581-484-22 (99-81-2 last season). Totals on the Free pages are now 1404-1353-18 in the 5-plus seasons I’ve been tracking them .

 

The spreads posted are the consensus lines at the time I posted each analysis.

I ended the 2018 College Football season at 52-35-2 on my Best Bets (75-49-3 on a Star Basis) and 22-18 on my Strong Opinions.

 

This season, I’m 5-1 on my College Best Bets and 6-5 on the Strong Opinions.

 

I’ve posted this week’s Best Bets and Strong Opinion on the Free Pages this week:

 

Click on the link for each game to view the analysis.

 

Friday Strong Opinion: Washington State (-9) Strong Opinion at -10 or less.

 

Best Bets:

(152) *Under (57.5) Memphis at South Alabama, 1-Star Under 57 or higher. Strong Opinion down to 56 points.

 

(155) **Over (61) Colorado State at Arkansas, 2-Stars Over 61 or less, 1-Star up to 63 points (Strong Opinion up to 64 points).

College Football Rotation

(24) USC @
BYU

Sat, Sep 14 12:30 PM PT

Rotation: 143, Odds: BYU +4, Total: 56.5

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Southern Cal (-4)  30   BYU  28

I played BYU over 6.5 wins this season and I figured I’d get one upset among these first 4 games in which they’d be an underdog. That upset came last week in overtime at Tennessee and we could see another one here. I actually thought USC was an underrated team heading into the season and I nearly played the Trojans over as well – and thus far they’ve been even better than expected.

USC’s offensive switch to the Air Raid spread pass attack suits them really well given how athletically talented their offensive skill players are and how much depth the Trojans have at the receiver position, but I’m still surprised at just how good that offense has been. USC has averaged 38 points and 7.1 yards per play against two solid defensive teams in Fresno State and Stanford and the season-ending injury to starting quarterback JT Daniels could end up being a blessing in disguise given how well freshman Kedon Slovis played last week. Slovis has now completed 34 of 41 passes for 434 yards with just one sack taken (10.2 yards per pass play).

BYU has performed about as I expected so far this season but USC is better than I envisioned so far and my ratings actually favor the Trojans by 6 points in this game. However, BYU applies to a 142-49-5 ATS home underdog situation that will have me leaning the Cougars way and hoping they can pull off another upset win to aid my season win total play.

Georgia Southern @
Minnesota

Sat, Sep 14 12:30 PM PT

Rotation: 145, Odds: Minnesota -16.5, Total: 45

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MINNESOTA (-16.5)  30   Georgia Southern  14

UNLV @
Northwestern

Sat, Sep 14 12:30 PM PT

Rotation: 147, Odds: Northwestern -17.5, Total: 52

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NORTHWESTERN (-17.5)  34   Nevada-Las Vegas  17

Northwestern starting quarterback TJ Green is out and new starter Hunter Johnson certainly didn’t live up to his 5-Star recruiting rating by going 6 of 17 passing for 1.8 yards per pass play and 2 interceptions thrown against Stanford. The bye week since then should help and UNLV has a bad pass defense but UNLV is 11-1 ATS as a road dog of 17 points or more in recent years.

Oklahoma St. @
Tulsa

Sat, Sep 14 12:30 PM PT

Rotation: 149, Odds: Tulsa +14, Total: 64

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Oklahoma State (-14)  36   TULSA  25

Oklahoma State looks much better offensively this season with Spencer Sanders at quarterback, as he’s completed 74% of his throws for 10.0 yards per pass play while also running for 173 yards on 23 runs in the first two games. Tulsa, however, returns 8 starters to what was a solid defense last season and the Golden Hurricane have held their two FBS opponents to just 22 points per game and 4.5 yards per play (both on the road), including giving up just 4.0 yppl to Michigan State in their opener. Tulsa also has an upgrade at quarterback with former Baylor starter Zach Smith taking over. Smith struggled against an elite Michigan State secondary in week 1 but he averaged 10.1 yards per pass play last week in the 34-16 win at San Jose State. The Cowboys’ defense looks improved this season but I still see this game a bit closer than expected.

Memphis @
South Alabama

Sat, Sep 14 12:30 PM PT

Rotation: 151, Odds: South Alabama +19, Total: 56

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Note: This play was released to my subscribers as a Best Bet. The line has since moved so pay attention to the line constraint at the bottom of the write-up.

Best Bet – *Under (57.5) – Memphis (-19)  34   SOUTH ALABAMA  15

Memphis is not the same team this season that they’ve been in the past, as the Tigers don’t have the explosive running back to complement their good pass attack on offense and they are much better defensively this season. The Tigers’ offense still has quarterback Brady White, but White’s good raw numbers last season (7.5 yards per pass play) weren’t actually good considering that his opponents would combine to allow 7.5 yppp to an average quarterback. The big problem for Memphis is the absence of superstar running back Darrell Henderson, who ran for 1909 yards on 214 carries for an amazing 8.9 yards per run (he also averaged 8.9 ypr in 2017). New #1 back Patrick Taylor (485 career runs for 5.5 ypr) is out this week and his replacement Kenneth Gainwell is averaging a modest 5.1 yards per rush through two games (162 yards on 31 runs). Despite the rushing attack being worse than average new offensive coordinator Kevin Johns has run the ball 59% of the time in each of the first two games despite White and the pass attack being the strength of the offense (I rate White as much improved at 0.9 yppp better than average).

Memphis racked up 55 points at 8.2 yppl against a horrible Southern U. defense that would allow 7.7 yppl on the road to an average FBS team but the Tigers only managed 15 points and 4.6 yppl in their opener against and Ole’ Miss team whose defense has been terrible the last 3 seasons. Memphis is averaging just 4.4 yards per rushing play despite the weak competition and running the ball 59% of the time is not a good strategy against a South Alabama defense that is much improved in coach Steve Campbell’s second season. The Jaguars allowed just 4.7 yards per play and only 3.5 yards per rushing play to Nebraska in week 1, which is really impressive (they gave up 4.6 yppl and 14 points last week to Jackson State, which is not impressive). I still rate South Alabama as solidly worse than average defensively overall but their run defense has been really good and it appears as if Memphis is committed to running the ball. I am a bit concerned that 2nd Team All-SBC DE Tyree Turner may miss another game with a sprained ankle, which would certainly affect the pass rush, but that injury happened early in their game against Nebraska (he didn’t record a tackle) and they still shut down the Cornhuskers’ rushing attack. Memphis is also running their offense at a much slower pace this season (2.18 plays per minute of possession) under their new OC than they did last season (2.51 plays per minute) and that is certainly not reflected in the total on this game.

South Alabama’s offense was 0.8 yards per play worse than average last season and the Jaguars are about the same this season with an improved rushing attack and a less efficient aerial attack (Evan Orth averaged 7.1 yards per pass play last season but has moved on). The Jags also play at a slower than normal pace (2.23 plays per minute last season and 2.31 so far this season) and the Memphis defense looks much improved with a new defensive scheme and 8 returning starters. Memphis held Ole’ Miss to just 10 points on 173 yards at 3.3 yards per play and the very next week the Rebels averaged 6.3 yards per play against Arkansas. I had projected the Memphis defense to go from 0.3 yards per play worse than average last season to 0.3 yppl better than average this season and I now have that unit rated at 0.5 yppl better than average and projected to hold South Alabama to just 4.5 yppl in this game.

I see value in the under here based on both of these teams being better defensively than expected and because the slower pace that Memphis is running their offense under their new OC is not being fully factored into the line. If Memphis decides to throw the ball 59% of the time instead of running it 59% of their plays then they’ll score 40-plus points but the Tigers should have this game well under control and won’t have the need to throw the ball that often. I’ll play Under 57 points or higher in a 1-Star Best Bet (Strong Opinion down to 56 points).

(19) Iowa @
Iowa St.

Sat, Sep 14 1:00 PM PT

Rotation: 153, Odds: Iowa St. +1, Total: 42.5

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IOWA STATE (+1)  21   Iowa  20

Iowa has been dominant so far, beating Miami-Ohio and Rutgers by an average score of 34-7, while Iowa State needed overtime to beat FCS team Northern Iowa two weeks ago before having last week off. That early season bye should be beneficial, as teams playing their second game of the season off a win and a bye are 114-77-7 ATS (if not facing a team in the same situation).

I don’t expect Iowa State to be as good offensively without NFL receiver Hakeem Butler, who averaged 12.2 yards per target for the Cyclones last season, but sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy should still be very good throwing the ball (although unlikely to come close to last season’s 8.8 yards per pass play without Butler). Iowa is strong defensively an improved on offense and my ratings favor the Hawkeyes by 2 points in this game. However, Iowa State applies to a 94-33-2 ATS non-conference revenge situation and I’ll lean with the Cyclones based on that.

Colorado St. @
Arkansas

Sat, Sep 14 1:00 PM PT

Rotation: 155, Odds: Arkansas -9.5, Total: 64

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Note: This play was released to my subscribers as a Best Bet. The line has since moved so pay attention to the line constraint at the bottom of the write-up.

Best Bet – **OVER (61) – ARKANSAS (-9.5)  42   Colorado State  28

I was surprised when Ben Hicks was chosen to be Arkansas’ quarterback over former Texas A&M starter Nick Starkel. I believe Hicks won the job because he was coach Chad Morris’ quarterback at SMU. Hicks was just mediocre with Morris at SMU in 2017, averaging 7.0 yards per pass play against teams that would allow 6.9 yppp to an average quarterback, and he was worse last season (5.7 yppp against teams that would allow 6.6 yppp) before transferring to Arkansas. Starkel, meanwhile, was the best passing quarterback Texas A&M has had since Johnny Manziel but he lost his job to Kellen Mond, who is a better runner. Starkel took Mond’s job as the starter at A&M midway through the 2017 season and he averaged 8.3 yppp (against teams that would allow just 5.8 yppp to an average QB), which was a huge upgrade over Mond’s 5.1 yppp average early that season (against teams that would allow 6.5 yppp). However, Starkel then lost his job to Mond before the start of last season, as new coach Jimbo Fisher liked Mond’s mobility and thought he’d improve as a passer. Mond did improve but he was just 0.8 yppp better than average for the Aggies last season, which wasn’t close to as good as Starkel was in his time at A&M (2.3 yppp better than average in his 236 pass plays).

Starkel gets another chance to show his talent after being named the starter this week following his 17 of 24 passing for 201 yards in relief of Hicks last week against Ole Miss. Hicks had been horrible in his 1 ½ games, averaging just 4.6 yppp against FCS team Portland State in the opener and just 4.8 yppp last week before getting pulled. I feel that Hicks’ poor performances has Arkansas’ offense undervalued in this game and I expect Starkel to carve up a soft Colorado State defense that gave up 232 yards on just 20 pass plays to Colorado in week 1 before playing better against a weak throwing FCS team (Western Illinois) last week. The Rams are certainly better defensively than they were last season when they were among the worst defensive teams in the nation (1.7 yards per play worse than average). However, CSU was also bad defensively in 2017 (1.3 yppl worse than average) and their average defensive rating in coach Mike Bobo’s 4 seasons is 1.1 yppl worse than average. I don’t think they’ll be much better than that this season and the 7.9 yards per play they gave up in week 1 to the only FBS team they’ve faced certainly validates my opinion that the Rams are still a bad defensive team – even if they are improved.

Colorado State does look much better offensively this season with a healthy and confident Collin Hill at quarterback. Hill had a very promising first half of his freshman season in 2016, averaging 7.5 yards per pass play in his 4 starts before suffering an ACL injury that kept him out for one and a half seasons. Hill got some snaps early last season but clearly didn’t have his confidence – although his performance level improved as the season progressed (he started the final 4 games). Hill had reportedly regained his ‘swag’ this summer and so far that’s certainly proven to be the case. Hill has completed 71% of his passes while averaging 8.9 yards per pass play (against teams that would allow 7.1 yppp to an average QB). I don’t think Hill will continue to play at that yppp level, as that average is enhanced by a 77-yard pass to running back Marvin Kinsey. However, Hill would still be 1.0 yppp better than average so far this season without that 77-yard play and Colorado State’s pass attack had been 1.0 yppp better than average in 2017 and 1.4 yppp better than average in 2016 – so being 1.0 yppp better than average is not out of the norm for the Rams. I conservatively rate Hill at 0.7 yppp better than average but I could be underestimating him based on his first two games of 2019. The CSU rushing attack certainly looks better with Kinsey as the main ball carrier and the occasional fly sweep by speedy freshman receiver Dante Wright, who has 92 yards and 2 touchdowns on 4 runs in addition to averaging 15.0 yards per pass thrown to him (180 yards on 12 targets). I don’t expect Wright to keep averaging 23 yards per run but Colorado State’s rushing attack was average or better for 5 consecutive seasons before last season (0.8 yards per rushing play worse than average) and they should be close to average this season.

Overall, I rate CSU at 0.5 yards per play better than average offensively and the Rams should score a decent amount of points against a Razorbacks’ defense that is better than average defending the run but is once against struggling to defend the pass. Arkansas allowed 8.1 yards per pass play last season and I projected the Razorbacks at 0.5 yppp worse than average this season. The defense had no trouble defending Portland State in week 1 but that unit gave up 6.5 yards per play and 8.9 yards per pass play to Mississippi last week. I actually rate Arkansas’ defense at just 0.1 yards per play worse than average but Colorado State’s offense has the advantage in that matchup.

Both of these teams run their offense at a pretty standard pace but Arkansas should move the ball extremely well with Starkel at quarterback against a soft Colorado State defense and the Rams’ attack, with a healthy Collin Hill at quarterback, have the edge over the Arkansas defense. I look for a high scoring game and I’ll take the Over in a 2-Star Best Bet at 61 points or less and for 1-Star up to 63 points.

Louisville vs
Western Kentucky

Sat, Sep 14 1:00 PM PT

Rotation: 157, Odds: Western Kentucky +10.5, Total: 49.5

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Louisville (-10.5)  33   Western Kentucky  19 (Nashville, TN)

I thought Louisville was a bit underrated heading into this season and the Cardinals played well against Notre Dame (out-gained by just 29 yards) before blasting Eastern Kentucky 42-0 last week as a 21-point favorite. Western Kentucky lost as a favorite to Central Arkansas before pulling off an upset win at FIU last week. My ratings favor Louisville by 13.7 points.

Note: Louisville starting QB Juwon Pass is out but backup Malik Cunningham is an elite runner and was a more accurate passer last season (60% completions on 67 attempts) than Pass is (54% and 52% so far this season).

Arizona St. @
(18) Michigan St.

Sat, Sep 14 1:00 PM PT

Rotation: 159, Odds: Michigan St. -14.5, Total: 42.5

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MICHIGAN STATE (-14.5)  28   Arizona State  14

Michigan State has the revenge motive after losing in the desert last season 13-16 but this line, which opened at 11 points, has gotten a bit out of hand. My ratings favor Michigan State by 13.5 points.

North Texas @
California

Sat, Sep 14 1:15 PM PT

Rotation: 161, Odds: California -14, Total: 50.5

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CALIFORNIA (-14)  33  North Texas  15

Cal’s defense is once again among the best units in the nation (rated 9th in compensated yards per play allowed last season and near the top in interceptions) and the Bears flexed their defensive muscle in last week’s 20-19 upset win at Washington. The Bears held the Huskies to just 4.3 yards per play and should perform well against a North Texas offense that managed just 5.0 yppl last week in their 27-49 loss at SMU. North Texas was not as good offensively last season as their raw numbers suggest, as their 6.3 yards per play came against a schedule of teams that would combine to allow 6.3 yppl. Using last year’s stats would have projected 15.3 points for UNT in this game and 15 points is also what my current ratings forecast for the Mean Green in this game.

The difference for the Bears this season is an improved offense, as quarterback Chase Garbers has improved a bit and the rushing attack is much stronger with Chris Brown and Marcel Dancy combining for 6.0 yards per rush in the first two games. The Bears ran for 210 yards at 6.4 yards per rushing play against a very good Washington defense last week and North Texas has a horrible run defense that’s allowed over 200 ground yards per game at 5.8 yprp, including giving up 212 rushing yards 6.2 yprp to FCS team Abilene Christian. Cal’s run-first approach should work well in this game and I like the Bears here and I’m not worried at all about a letdown. In fact, home favorites of 7 points or more are 152-105-3 ATS after winning straight up as a road underdog of 7 points or more the previous week.