Week 12 CFB Big Early Line Moves and Best Bets

Central Michigan (-10.5) vs. Western Michigan - Opened at (-4.5) (Wednesday)

CMU started the year out in ignominious fashion by losing five of their first six games, then losing star running back Lew Nichols in their 17-16 loss to Ball State on October 8. Since Nichols went down, HC Jim McElwain was forced to reevaluate his approach and began giving more mobile backup quarterbacks Jase Bauer and Bert Emmanuel Jr. some reps alongside middling starter Daniel Richardson. The new run-based approach has worked with the Chippewas winning three of their last four including a 31-27 MACtion special against Buffalo last week with Emmanuel Jr. rushing for a jaw dropping 293 yards. They also return both Lew Nichols and Bauer who will look to exploit Western Michigan's 82nd ranked rush defense that is allowing a 46.4% success rate (110th). That's a major problem considering WMU is trotting out the 6th worst offense in the country that is averaging just 308 total yards and 19.5 points per game. The Broncos have dropped six of their last seven with their lone win coming against Miami (OH) without their starting QB Brett Gabbert. I think this line climbs to around -14 by game time and CMU cruises.

Purdue (-20.5) vs. Northwestern - Opened at (-17.5)

Northwestern wasn't expected to be much of a factor in the Big Ten after a 3-9 showing in 2021, but when they pulled off an upset over supposed contender Nebraska in Week 0, people started wondering if HC Pat Fitzgerald had his Cats back in bowl contention after a brief dip. Instead that initial victory was merely a dead-cat bounce with Northwestern losing every single game since then, including L's to MAC schools Miami (OH) and Western Michigan. They've been defeated by 20 points or more by Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota but managed to stay within two scores against Ohio State, Penn State and Maryland. The big story here is that both starting QB Brendan Sullivan and primary backup Ryan Hilinski departed with injuries, leaving untested signal callers Carl Richardson and Cole Freeman to take reps in their stead. Their instability under center is especially troublesome against Purdue since their rush defense is the 20th best in the country while their pass D checks in at 102nd, allowing 8.1 yards per pass (111th). It's going to be difficult for an already struggling pass attack that ranks 8th worst in explosiveness and 126th with 1.16 points per drive to beat Purdue with a third string quarterback. The Boilermakers had trouble with slow-paced, physical teams like Iowa and Wisconsin, but thrived against Illinois, Maryland and Minnesota whom they defeated. I think Purdue can score enough against a beaten down Northwestern team who just wants the season to end at this point.

Hawaii (+11) vs. UNLV - Opened at (+8.5)

This is a matchup of true MWC cellar dwellers, as each team is riding a losing streak of 4+ games heading into the contest. The Rebels are island bound against a Hawaii team that has stayed within one score of their opponents in five of their last six games, with a 31-16 victory over Nevada sprinkled in. Despite their 2-9 record, the Rainbow Warriors are 7-4 against the spread and 8-0-1 in their last nine games as a home underdog. UNLV's rushing offense is their best weapon with the Rebels ranking 27th in rushing performance. However their passing attack is woeful, ranking 119th overall, while their defense checks in as the 108th unit nationally. With UNLV putting up a sub-10% win expectancy in four of their last five games, they simply aren't playing at a level where i'm comfortable laying double-digits on the road following a mega-trip all the way to Hawaii. Too many factors at play for me to back the Rebels, give me Hawaii and the points.

Oklahoma State (+7.5) at Oklahoma - Opened at (-5.5) | Over/Under is 64.5 - Opened at 67.5

Oklahoma State's promising season was derailed when Spencer Sanders got hurt causing the Cowpokes to drop their next two games against Kansas State and Kansas in blowout fashion. On Saturday OSU faced Iowa State with Gunnar Gundy drawing the start with Spencer Sanders as the emergency QB. As fate would have it, Gundy performed how you'd expect an inexperienced quarterback to perform going against ISU's top flight defense, going 5-for-12 for 103 yards, a 1-to-2 ratio and a dirt-low 9.3 QBR before Sanders rode to the rescue completing 9-of-13 for 84 yards and the game-winning 14-yard fourth quarter touchdown pass to Jaden Nixon. With an extra week to recover for Sanders, the fourth year starter is adamant that he will start this week against Oklahoma in the legendary Bedlam Game, with HC Gundy saying,

“We're going to have to treat him the same way we've treated him the last five weeks,” Gundy said. “But that's good news, though, if he feels like that because we need to get him ready to play. “But he's the one making the decisions on whether he's playing or not.”

Oklahoma is coming off a two game losing streak, with their 23-20 defeat at the hands of West Virginia last week being the fifth Big-12 conference loss for the once dominant Sooners. Neither of the defenses are anything to write home about, but it just feels like Oklahoma is far too unpredictable to depend on. In Big-12 play, Oklahoma posted just one game with greater than a 30% post game win expectancy, as even their win against Kansas was so luck-tainted they only had a 17% chance of winning. With Oklahoma State smelling blood in a rivalry game, and OU just wanting to turn the page to Spring, i'm more than happy to take the 7.5 points.