College Football Betting Guide: Saturday 12/12/20

The college football slate is essentially devoid of stakes this week, as the title games are set for four of the Power 5 conferences, with the Pac-12 as the lone exception. Only two of the top eight teams are in action this weekend (Alabama and Florida) and both are favored by more than three touchdowns. The Game has been cancelled, meaning Michigan and Ohio State will not meet for the first time since 1917, but there are still a couple rivalry games to keep an eye on.

numberFire has built comprehensive algorithms to pinpoint the bets with the highest probability of returning money, whether you are betting on the total, the spread, or the moneyline. For those new to numberFire, we use a five-star system to show which bets you should be targeting for any given game. Stars represent how much you should risk on a wager relative to what you would normally bet.

For example, if you would normally bet $110 to win $100 on a -110-spread wager, if we give a 3-star ranking, we suggest risking three times that amount: $330 to win $300. Here are the best bets for this weekend with guidance from our model.

Please note that lines are subject to change throughout the day after this article is published. Please check here to make sure you are seeing the most updated information.

USC Trojans vs. UCLA Bruins

UCLA +2.5: 4-Star Rating out of 5

One of this Saturday’s great rivalry games can decide who goes to the Pac-12 Championship from the South Division -- if USC beats UCLA, they’re in, but if not, the Trojans will need help from Utah. USC has been on a roll over the last two games, beating Utah and Washington State by 16 points and 25 points, respectively. However, the Trojans struggled in their first two wins against Arizona State and Arizona, pulling out highly improbable victories in both games. According to ESPN, the Sun Devils had a 99.9% chance to win with around three minutes to go, and the Wildcats had an 85.1% chance to win with just under two minutes to play. USC won both games, so their 4-0 record isn’t quite as good as it looks on paper.

UCLA has played well after an opening loss to Colorado; they outgained Oregon in their only other loss. The Bruins have the second-best rushing attack in the Pac-12 behind Oregon, which can be attributed to Demetric Felton, who has averaged 100 yards and a touchdown over UCLA’s five games. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson has also contributed to the Bruins’ offensive success both through the air (7.7 yards per completion) and on the ground (5.8 yards per carry).

USC is only 76th in opportunity rate on defense, per Football Outsiders, meaning UCLA should be able to consistently move the ball on the ground, with Thompson-Robinson giving them different looks. The Trojans’ offense relies on quarterback Kedon Slovis, who has led USC to the best passing offense in the Pac-12 with help from receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. The Bruins should be able to disrupt them, though, since they’re ranked 11th in sack rate on defense.

UCLA is projected to win this game, according to our model, so bettors shouldn’t fret over the spread being on the wrong side of key number three. Our model gives the Bruins a probability of 67.34% to cover the 2.5-point spread. The spread has slowly moved against UCLA throughout the week, as it opened at 3.5, according to oddsFire. Most of the bets have been placed on USC, however, which suggests there are large bets made by professional bettors driving down the spread, since it hasn’t moved with the public.

Navy Midshipmen vs. Army Black Knights

Army -6.5: 1-Star Rating out of 5

Army to cover receives only a one-star rating from our model this week, but we’d be remiss to not cover one of college football’s greatest rivalries. Navy won last season after three losses in a row, which broke a streak of Midshipmen wins dating all the way back to 2002. This season, the Knights are 7-2, with their only two losses being on the road to Cincinnati and Tulane. Meanwhile, Navy is on a four-game losing streak after starting the season 2-2 with blowout losses to BYU and Air Force.

The Black Knights are the favorite in this game for good reason; Army's defense is a huge mismatch for Navy, since they’re fourth in the country in yards allowed per game. Army’s defensive line has been phenomenal, ranking seventh in line yards and sixth in opportunity rate, per Football Outsiders. Navy’s offense is in trouble, as quarterback Dalen Morris has a completion percentage barely over 50%, and they’ve handed the ball off to fullback Jamale Carothers 93 times even though he averages fewer than 4 yards per carry. (Nelson Smith is Navy’s leading rusher, averaging 5.3 yards on 117 attempts.)

Our model gives Army a 75.7% chance to win the game, even though it projects the Knights to cover with just 54.75% probability. Bettors should jump on this spread before it hits key number seven, as the value will all but disappear according to our model’s projections. However, Army bettors can be encouraged since the line jumped to 6.5 or 7.0 at many sportsbooks after opening at 5.5, suggesting there was a surge of sharp money after the line opened.