Friday Night College Football Analysis


I have a couple of Strong Opinions on Friday’s slate of college games and I have already released 5 Best Bets for Saturday, and will have a couple more to add.

The NFL continues to be a strength, as the Under on Thursday night upped the record of NFL Strong Opinions to 19-10-2 for the season. The NFL Best Bets are 32-21, including an incredible 23-6 on Best Bet sides. We have 12 NFL Best Bets (10 released already) and 4 (possibly 5) more Strong Opinions for Sunday.

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Strong Opinion – Oregon (+3)  47   CALIFORNIA  44

Both of these teams should be able to score at will against an opposing defense that appears incapable of putting up a fight. Cal has a pretty good pass defense but that won’t do them much good against an Oregon team that is happy to run the ball all night. The Ducks may actually do that, as Cal has allowed an average of 293 rushing yards per game at 6.3 yards per rushing play (against teams that would average 5.1 yprp against an average defense). I just don’t see how the Bears’ soft defensive front will be able to stop Royce Freeman (7.7 ypr) and the rest of the Ducks’ arsenal of quick running backs that have averaged 268 yards at 6.7 yards per rushing play (against teams that would allow just 4.9 yprp to an average team). Speaking of running backs, find out where Zac Stacy is now and how much is his current net worth. I don’t particularly like the switch at quarterback to freshman Justin Herbert but it’s hard to judge him on his one start given that it was against Washington’s great pass defense. I significantly downgraded the Oregon pass attack (by 0.6 yppp) but the math model still projects 649 yards at 7.5 yppl for the Ducks in this game.

Cal’s offense will be able to score easily as well, as the Ducks defense has been even worse than the Bears’ defense so far this season. Oregon has allowed 6.5 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.7 yppl against an average team, which is actually 0.1 yppl worse than Cal’s overall defensive rating. However, the matchup is better, as Oregon is a predominately running team and Cal’s defensive weakness is defending the run. Oregon’s defensive weakness is also stopping the run (1.8 yprp worse than average) and the Ducks are actually slightly better than average defending the pass (6.4 yppp allowed to quarterbacks that would average 6.6 yppp against an average team). That matchup is favorable since Cal throws the ball far more often (52.3 pass plays per game) than they run it (29.5 rushing plays per game). I do expect Cal to run the ball more often in this game but Oregon’s defense is relatively better against a team that throws the ball a lot. My math model projects 657 yards at 7.1 yppl for the Bears in this game.

Basically, what we have here is two defensive teams that are a bit better than average defending the pass and among the worst in the nation defending the run. Oregon’s offense, which has been 1.5 yards per play better than average (6.9 yppl against teams that would allow 5.4 yppl to an average attack) is not only more efficient than Cal’s offense (6.5 yppl against teams that would allow 5.9 yppl) but the Ducks will take advantage of their opponent’s defensive weakness more often by running the ball more than the Bears will. Cal is expected to run more plays and the projected total yards is about even but Oregon has an advantage on special teams and the math favors the Ducks by a few points. I’ll consider Oregon a Strong Opinion at +3 points or more.

Note: The line on this game crashed down to +1 and pick thanks after sending this out to my subscribers at +3. I still favor Oregon to win this game but a lot of the value is gone.


Strong Opinion – SAN DIEGO STATE (-23)  38   San Jose State  9

Laying more than three touchdowns with a methodical team like San Diego State can be dangerous but I don’t see any other option tonight. The Aztecs’ Donnel Pumphrey leads the nation with 1111 rushing yards at 6.7 ypr and he should easily top 200 yards rushing in this game against a soft San Jose State defensive front that’s allowed 258 rushing yards per game at 6.5 yards per rushing play. The Spartans don’t defend the pass well either (7.3 yppp allowed) so SDSU ought to be able to gain some yards through the air if they ever decide not to run the ball.

While Pumphrey consistently leads the way to the endzone the solid San Diego State defense (5.1 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.4 yppl against an average team) should have no trouble limiting a horrible Spartans’ attack that has averaged only 18.2 points and 5.0 yards per play despite facing a collection of bad defensive teams that would allow 33.5 points and 6.4 yppl to an average offensive unit. San Jose State scored 41 points against a horrible New Mexico defense but the Spartans have averaged just 13.6 points in their other 5 games against FBS opponents even though all 5 of those teams have worse than average defenses. San Diego State has allowed just 10 points total in two Mountain West Conference games and I’d be surprised if the Spartans score more than 10 points in this game.

My math model gives San Diego State a solid 55.8% chance of covering but that’s with top WR Mikah Holder playing. Holder is by far the Aztecs’ best receiver (358 yards at 23.9 yards per catch and 11.7 yards per target) and the chance of covering goes down to 54.7% if Holder does not play – even though the Aztecs don’t figure to throw the ball much. This game would be a borderline Best Bet if Holder were 100% healthy (he’s listed as questionable) but his uncertain status is enough to get me off the ledge and to make this game a Strong Opinion (at -24 points or less).


South Florida (-7)  32   TEMPLE  29

Temple was lucky to win last week’s game at UCF but the Owls are good enough to stay close to what’s becoming an overrated USF team. South Florida’s great offensive numbers (518 yards at 7.1 yards per play) have come against a schedule of mostly bad defensive teams that would combine to allow 6.4 yppl to an average offensive team. The Bulls are still a good offensive team but Temple is the best defensive team that they’ve faced so far this season.

The Owls’ offense is a bit below average (5.7 yppl against teams that would allow 5.6 yppl to an average team) but South Florida is only 0.2 yppl better than average defensively (5.5 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.7 yppl) so Temple should have some opportunities to score. The math model is picking this one closer than those that set the odds and I’d certainly prefer Temple plus the points.

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