College football Week 15 betting primer: What’s the best play in Army vs. Navy?

Gambling on the 2020 college football season has been a wild ride.

On a weekly basis, you need to be aware of the ins and outs of so many programs. Which programs have had virus issues? Which programs are coming off long layoffs? Which programs are just waiting for the season to end? It all factors into the decision-making.

Last week was one of my better weeks in a while. I went 4-1 to put my season-long record at 38-30. Considering I’m picking games early in the week during a pandemic-affected season, I’ll take it.

Now it’s time to look ahead to Week 15 (and hope none of these games get canceled like the Ohio State vs. Michigan game did).

(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)

Illinois at No. 14 Northwestern

Time: Noon | TV: ESPN2 | Line: Northwestern -14.5 | Total: 43.5

Illinois started 0-3 but has quietly been playing pretty well since getting a bunch of guys back from the Big Ten’s COVID-19 protocols. The Illini beat Rutgers and Nebraska on the road and led Iowa at halftime last week.

Northwestern is a better team, but the Wildcats’ offense is not explosive at all. In six games, Northwestern only has 18 plays of 20-plus yards and ranks last in the Big Ten in yards per play: 4.36. Illinois is 6-3 ATS as a double-digit underdog over the last two seasons, and I expect the Illini to cover this two-TD spread.

Pick: Illinois +14.5

Houston at Memphis

Time: Noon | TV: ESPN+ | Line: Houston -4.5 | Total: 63.5

I tend to avoid picking against the same team in consecutive weeks, but I really think this Memphis team is pretty bad. This team doesn’t have the explosive offense that Memphis has been known for in recent years. I don’t think the Tigers will have anywhere near the level of juice Houston will have to play this game. Houston may have been more snake-bitten by game cancellations than any other team this year. The Cougars haven’t played since Nov. 14 and are trying to pick up some wins to potentially earn a bowl berth.

Pick: Houston -4.5

Navy at Army

Time: 3 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: Army -5.5 | Total: 40.5

You should know the drill. When two service academies play, the under hits at a ridiculous rate. According to Action Network, the updated figure is 36-9-1 for the under since 2005 in games involving two of the three service academies.

Specifically in the Army-Navy game, the under is 16-4 in their last 20 meetings. Sure, 40.5 is low, but you should take it anyway. There have been fewer than 40 points scored in this game in the last six seasons.

Pick: Under 40.5

Michigan State at Penn State

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Line: Penn State -14.5 | Total: 49.5

If you’ve watched either of these teams play in 2020, there is no reason to believe this will be a high-scoring game. Penn State’s offense has been very run-heavy recently. Most of PSU’s scoring drives have been very methodical, and when PSU gets into the red zone it has finished off those drives with a touchdown just 43% of the time. That’s the worst percentage in the Big Ten and tied for No. 122 nationally.

Michigan State’s offense is the Big Ten’s worst in both yards per game and rushing average. The Spartans are averaging a measly 2.75 yards per rush have a total of nine red zone attempts all season. Penn State has the Big Ten’s second-best passing defense, so it doesn’t feel like there will be many avenues for the Spartans to score points. I don’t trust PSU enough to cover 14.5, but the under feels like the play here.

Pick: Under 49.5

Penn State quarterback Will Levis (7) rushes against Rutgers during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Piscataway, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Penn State quarterback Will Levis had 17 carries last week while rotating in with Sean Clifford. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Duke at Florida State

Time: 4 p.m. | TV: ACCN | Line: Florida State -4.5 | Total: 58.5

This is a good spot for Florida State to get a win. The Seminoles are just 2-6 on the year and haven’t won a game since upsetting North Carolina on Oct. 17. Heck, Florida State hasn’t even played a game since Nov. 14 and should be motivated to get back on the field.

Jordan Travis, the team’s best QB this year, is healthy and should be back on the field. Travis leads the team in rushing and could be in for a big day against Duke. Duke has been really bad against the run this year and has gotten blown out in its last three games by an average margin of 34.3 points.

Duke told the ACC it didn’t want to play another game on Dec. 19, so this is its season finale. I think the Blue Devils are content to just get this season finished.

Pick: Florida State -4.5

Virginia at Virginia Tech

Time: 8 p.m. | TV: ACCN | Line: Virginia Tech -2.5 | Total: 63.5

Virginia Tech has lost four straight games to drop to 4-6 on the year but you have to think there will be some level of motivation for the Hokies to get back on the field against their biggest rival. Virginia Tech had its streak of 15 consecutive wins over Virginia broken last year and will want to start a new streak.

Virginia, meanwhile, bounced back from a 1-4 start with a four-game winning streak to sit at 5-4. The Cavaliers have been scoring a lot of points too and are coming off a game where they gave up 513 yards to a Boston College team playing without its top quarterback and running back. With Hendon Hooker apparently healthy and ready to play, I think VT will be able to put up plenty of points. The over is the play.

Pick: Over 63.5

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