Ohio (-6.5) versus Bowling Green (Tuesday) - Opened at (-10)
Bowling Green has had some fortunate breaks over the second half of the schedule, facing backup quarterbacks in victories against Miami (OH) and last week in a 42-35 win over Toledo who was without starting QB Dequan Finn. The trend continues this week as the Falcons face a white-hot Ohio team that is 5-0 overall and against the spread over the five contests, but could be without their star quarterback Kurtis Rourke. That would be an especially heavy blow considering the Bobcats rank a scorching 13th in overall passing performance and just 88th in rushing, though RB Sieh Bangura has rushed for 293 yards and three touchdowns over the last two games.
Defensively the Bobcats are woeful against the pass, ranking 106th against the pass and 105th in explosiveness allowed. Which plays to BG's strengths as they rely heavily on 6th year QB Matt McDonald's connection with TE Christian Sims and WR Odieu Hilaire. McDonald sports a solid 80.2 PFF offensive grade to go with a tidy 21-to-5 ratio. Last week against Toledo he lit up the Rockets for 395 yards, 11.0 YPA and four touchdowns, so you can expect the Falcons to test Ohio's secondary early and often. The drop from -10 to -6.5 is a direct result of Rourke's injury, but is one injury enough to sink an Ohio team that is an astounding 13-3 against the spread over their last 16 games versus MAC opponents?
The motivation factor is there, as Ohio secures a spot in the MAC Championship if they manage to win. With Ohio HC Tim Albin indicating that Rourke could still suit up against the Falcons, and the Bobcats defense surging over the last few weeks allowing an average of 19.5 points per game, I'm taking the all around better team with more to lose in Ohio, but wait until game time to make the wager so you can grab the CLV if Rourke doesn't play.
Ole Miss (-2.5) versus Mississippi State (Thursday) - Opened at (-5.5) | Over/Under - 58.5
The Lane Kiffin-to-Auburn rumors have taken off with this electrifying Tweet, and subsequent rebuttal by the Portal King himself.
But Kiffin didn't stop there when it came to calling out the Tweet's originator, Jon Sokoloff, as Kiffin put out an anonymously sourced press release regarding the reporter's own job situation with WBICNews:
Clearly the market is under the impression that this turmoil is going to affect the team's motivation/preparation for their Egg Bowl matchup against Auburn. Not an unreasonable position, let's be honest. On the surface it looks like a bad matchup for the Bulldogs' porous 85th ranked rush defense, with Ole Miss churning out 278 rushing YPG which is more yards per game than any non-service academy in the nation. Their 1-2 RB punch of Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans could legitimately be the best backfield combo countrywide, but it didn't matter on Saturday when they were down 42-6 to Arkansas' 111th ranked rush D entering the fourth quarter. Jaxson Dart has a long way to go as a passer, failing to complete 60% of his passes in four of his last five games but is a credible threat with his legs which helps balance Dart's gambling ways, as his 21-to-13 big time throw-to-turnover worthy play ratio indicates.
Mississippi State has dropped each of the last two Egg Bowls and have been shut down by LSU, Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky. While those teams all have much more formidable defenses than Ole Miss, their common thread is the ability to run the ball and control the line of scrimmage when things are clicking. MSU is running the ball more effectively than in the past, but they will be throwing 50 times (#1 in pass attempts) in true HC Mike Leach fashion and forcing Ole Miss to defend sideline-to-sideline. They've been efficient on both sides of the ball earning a 7.3% net success rate with a 33-to-6 ratio from their QB position. It's a thankless task being an air raid defensive coordinator, but former SDSU DC Zach Arnett has done an exceptional job the last two seasons building a secondary that ranks 27th against the pass, while the defense as a whole ranks 20th in EPA/Play allowed.
I'm of the mindset that Kiffin is indeed going to Auburn and that this is his last hurrah with the Rebels and might even have superstar freshman RB Quinshon Judkins in tow. This Ole Miss program is going to look drastically different next season if the Lane Train does indeed pull out of the station from Oxford, MS in a few days. Give me the Mississippi State money line (+110) and the Over 58.5 points in what should be another memorable Egg Bowl this Thanksgiving.
Iowa (-10) versus Nebraska (Friday) - Opened at (-3) | Over/Under 38 - Opened at 40.5
The Friday kickoff caused FanDuel to list it at (-3) on Saturday 7:07PM with the line slowly ticking up to 7.5 by the end of the night before continuing the upward trend on Sunday, with the line settling at the current -10.5 points at 1:33 PM. The Hawkeyes are once again defensively driven, ranking first overall in defensive performance and third in suppressing explosiveness, having allowed more than 13 points in zero of their seven Big Ten Conference games that were not against the B10 powerhouses Michigan and Ohio State. Additionally Iowa is on an impressive four game win streak versus Northwestern/Purdue/Wisconsin/Minnesota, with three of those decisions coming by 14 points or more. Offensively OC Brian Ferentz has been much maligned for his lackluster play calling, with the run game churning out just 2.8 YPC and the offense ranking 129th overall according to CFB Winning Edge's advanced analytics.
Nebraska is coming off an emotional 15-14 loss to Wisconsin and is mired in a five game slump with their only FBS victories coming against Indiana and Rutgers in a game where they only had a 42% win expectancy. NU will at least have QB Casey Thompson under center after missing some time with injury, which is vital because without Thompson their 42nd ranked passing attack absolutely craters. Even with their starting QB, I cannot envision Nebraska being able to advance the ball forward on a consistent basis against the Hawkeyes given the lame duck status of their 3-8 season.
These two teams are a combined 16-6 to the Under this season, and I doubt a checked out NU is going to magically turn into Alabama circa 2020 against the best defense in the country. Give me the Under 38 points and maybe Iowa if the line crosses to -9.5 territory approaching gametime.
Arizona (-4.5) versus Arizona State (Friday) - Opened at (-3.5) | Over/Under 64.5 - Opened at 62.5
Talk about two programs headed in polar opposite directions, with ASU reeling after former HC Herm Edwards' dismissal and Arizona improving significantly from their 1-11 2021 campaign. It's easy to forget just how far AZ had fallen in the wake of HC Kevin Sumlin's disastrous tenure, with the Cats going 4-13 in the two seasons prior to Fisch's takeover. One of my favorite Overs of the year was Arizona, as Jed Fisch's transformation of this program in just his second year at the helm has been one of the better power five turnarounds of the last two years and looks to have staying power with the way they're recruiting. Defensively AZ is still a long way from being considered a credible Power Five unit as their D ranks dead last with a 53% success rate allowed, 129th in EPA/Play and 128th in points per drive (3.5). Fortunately on offense Wazzu transfer QB Jayden de Laura has stabilized a position that has been a source of consternation since Khalil Tate left. They're averaging 6.7 yards per play (10th in FBS) while ranking top-25 in EPA/Play, success rate (48%) and yards per pass attempt (8.4) and have a fleet of excellent wideouts in Jacob Cowing, Dorian Singer and blue chip recruit Tetairoa McMillan.
Arizona State's defense isn't much better, ranking 113th overall while allowing a 47% success rate (117th) and 3.1 points per drive (125th). They get killed on the ground allowing 4.86 yards per carry (116th) but are at least average against the pass allowing 7.5 yards per attempt with a 15-to-8 ratio. It will be strength vs. strength with the AZ passing attack vs. ASU's secondary, with the Over/Under 64.5 likely resting on that key element of the game. I lean AZ but don't feel comfortable enough in the defense stopping Xazavian Valladay to lay four points despite being at home. Jayden de Laura has thrown for over 300 yards in six of his last eight games, with the two exceptions being against Utah and Oregon, so i'm not concerned about him moving the ball vertically on the Sun Devils. I'm taking the Over 64.5 points in this heated Pac-12 desert rivalry.