College Football Betting Guide: Saturday 9/25/21
Florida made a statement last week by coming within a failed two-point conversion attempt of tying Alabama with only a few minutes left in the game. For the first time in a while, the Crimson Tide seemed vulnerable in a regular season game.
In fact, all four of the usual College Football Playoff suspects looked shaky in wins: Oklahoma beat Nebraska by only a touchdown, Clemson needed a goal-line stand with an eight-point lead in the final minute to stop Georgia Tech, and Ohio State was up just a touchdown on Tulsa at halftime before pulling away in the fourth quarter. Alabama and Ohio State will get some reprieve this week by facing Southern Mississippi and Akron, respectively, at home, but Clemson travels to Raleigh to take on an upstart NC State team and Oklahoma hosts West Virginia off the Mountaineers' major win against Virginia Tech.
That’s not all college football fans have to look forward to this week. Notre Dame and Wisconsin meet at Soldier Field in Chicago for the week’s best matchup between two ranked teams, and Texas A&M has a test against Arkansas in Arlington at AT&T Stadium with their backup quarterback now that Haynes King is on the sidelines indefinitely with an injury. There are many intriguing games for bettors this week, especially these two. Let’s take a look at where our model sees value in these games.
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.
Notre Dame +5.5 (-108): 4-Star Rating out of 5
The Irish are still undefeated, but they didn’t play well against mediocre opponents, Florida State and Toledo, in their first two games. This week’s game against the Badgers is the start of a five-week gauntlet for Notre Dame; they host Cincinnati next week, followed by a road trip to Virginia Tech and home games against USC and North Carolina.
Notre Dame has regressed on both sides of the football, compared to their playoff campaign in 2020. Offensively, Wisconsin transfer quarterback Jack Coan has shown he can move the chains, but he has taken drive-killing sacks. Coan’s Expected Points Added on sacks, according to ESPN’s QBR calculation, is the worst in college football this season. When he started for Wisconsin in 2019, he was closer to average. The Irish have strong weapons around him, such as running back Kyren Williams and tight end Michael Mayer, so if Coan can regress toward the mean in the sack impact, Notre Dame’s offense could be much better.
Notre Dame has been strong against the run defensively. They haven’t been as good at stopping passing attacks, but they have managed to pressure opposing quarterbacks with 13 sacks on the year. The main problem for the Irish has been giving up key plays. For example, they allowed a 67-yard run from Toledo to set up a touchdown and also two scoring plays of 60 yards or more against Florida State.
Notre Dame cleaned it up against Purdue last week in their best defensive performance of the season, which is much more indicative of their true ability on that side of the ball. The Irish have a standout at safety, Kyle Hamilton, who is in line to make the All-American team and to be drafted within the top 10 picks. Hamilton’s impact will be vital for Notre Dame to continue to limit explosive plays like they did last week.
Wisconsin has a great defense; they’re second in yards allowed per game through two games. The Badgers dropped their opener at home against Penn State, but they allowed the Nittany Lions just one drive of more than 10 yards in the first half. However, after the half, the Badgers allowed a couple of huge gains in the air and had a crucial pass interference penalty that set up Penn State with scoring opportunities.
Wisconsin is the only team in the country to have allowed fewer than 100 rushing yards so far, and even though most teams have played an extra game, the Badgers’ average of 33 rushing yards allowed per game is highly impressive. Notre Dame will have to rely on Coan to move the ball through the air if Wisconsin is able to stop Williams on early downs. Luckily for the Irish, Coan has familiarity with his former team, which could be an advantage. On the flip side, the Badgers know him well, too.
Our model gives Notre Dame a 68.3% probability of covering the 5.5-point spread. Notre Dame has the personnel to win the game outright if Williams has a good game. Even if Wisconsin stymies him, the Irish should keep it close with stingy defense and strong quarterback play from Coan.
Over 46.5 (-110): 3-Star Rating out of 5
Bookmakers clearly anticipate a defensive battle with this low total, and it makes sense because Texas A&M has been the best passing defense by yards per game in the country through Week 3. The Aggies are also coming into this game starting their backup quarterback, Zach Calzada, for the second week in a row. Arkansas has a prolific passing defense of their own -- they’re 12th in yards allowed per game -- and could give Calzada some trouble. However, the Aggies have a strong rushing attack behind Isaiah Spiller, and the Razorbacks are much closer to average with their run defense.
Spiller had a rough game in Week 2 against Colorado in which he had 8 carries for 20 yards, but he rebounded last week against New Mexico with 15 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown. Between Spiller and Devon Achane, the Aggies have a solid one-two punch.
The Razorbacks will probably have to rely on their running game, too, and they’ve been better than Texas A&M has thus far, even though Spiller is arguably the best back in the SEC and made the preseason all-SEC team. Arkansas has spread the carries out a bit more as they have four running backs with at least 100 yards on the season, as opposed to Texas A&M’s two.
Arkansas also benefits from a dual-threat quarterback, K.J. Jefferson, which could keep the Aggies honest in passing situations. The Razorbacks’ quarterback situation is more stable, too. When Calzada took over for the injured King in the Colorado game, he completed just 18 passes on 38 attempts for 183 yards. That could potentially give over bettors pause, but Calzada was much better against New Mexico last week, completing 19 of 33 for 275 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Both of these teams have great defenses, but they have the means to establish their offense on the ground and the quarterbacks to keep the chains moving. Our model gives this game a 62.4% likelihood to go over the total. Isaiah Spiller is the key for this bet; if he can cement his status as one of the best running backs in the SEC, the Aggies should pass this test and the over should hit.