POSTPONEMENTS & CANCELLATIONS. Those two words defined Week 12, and the games I was left with gave me a 1-2 record on the weekly article, and my overall season record is now 42-37-2 on Tuesday picks show (reminder: watch our live show on Tuesdays at 6:30 pm ET on the SBR YouTube page).
Thanksgiving week lines look really sharp, but I did find a few games and sides that I feel pretty good about. My best college football bets for the week continue to combine trends and stats, so we can hopefully cash even more bets in Week 13.
Iowa State Cyclones vs. Texas Longhorns
Friday, November 27, 2020 – 12:00 pm ET at DKR-Memorial Stadium
On the surface, after last week’s 45-0 beating of Kansas State by the Cyclones, you’d have almost assumed that Iowa State would be the favorite here. Texas has not played in several weeks, due to bye weeks and cancellations from other teams, so they’ve been out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Iowa State is currently alone atop the Big 12 standings, with only one conference loss.
But people aren’t paying attention to what Texas has been able to do since losing back-to-back games to TCU and Oklahoma. Obviously, there are still some issues in Austin, but Tom Herman’s bunch have quietly won 3 straight over Baylor, at Oklahoma State, and against West Virginia. They also beat WVU the week after the Mountaineers hit Kansas State with a haymaker.
Enter Iowa State, who just hit Kansas St with another haymaker, and they have to travel to Austin this week to face a rested Longhorns team who gets back basically everybody that was injured in the last game (thanks to 2 weeks off). Matt Campbell finally was able to get a win 23-21 over a depleted Texas roster last year, but in his 4 years as head coach, they’ve never covered a spread against Texas. Texas has a significant talent advantage, and the best thing Iowa State does on offense (running the football) is the best thing Texas defends (#11 in EPA/Rush).
With Texas a 1.5 point favorite, I’m just going to bet the moneyline here, so we don’t get caught, but I fully expect a Longhorn win, as their demise this season has been greatly exaggerated.
Best Bet: (Visit our Sportsbook Review)
AGAINST THE SPREAD
New Mexico Lobos vs. Utah State Aggies
Thursday, November 26, 2020 - 7:00 pm ET at Maverik Stadium
My father has always taught me to never bet on a bad team to be good. But on Thanksgiving, I’m going to bet on a bad team against a much worse team. Utah State is in an absolutely terrible position. They kicked their starting QB off the team a couple of weeks ago. The backup, now the starter is coming off an injury and is only completing 37% of his passes, and they absolutely cannot run the football.
New Mexico has at least shown a few signs of life under new coach Danny Gonzales, and the one thing their defense has not been successful at defending is the pass. Utah State cannot pass. On top of that, New Mexico is pretty good at running the football (#55 in yds per rush - 4.44), and Utah St is #114 at stopping the run (giving up 5.35 yds per carry). It feels weird to bet on New Mexico, but I’m laying the points on the road with New Mexico at the best betting sites.
Best Bet: (Visit our Sportsbook Review)
Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes
Friday, November 27, 2020 - 1:00 pm ET at Kinnick Stadium
Nebraska got what seemed like a big win over Penn State a couple of weeks ago. However, if you dig into the advanced data, they were basically handed the game by a team that doesn’t really seem to care anymore. Last week, the Cornhuskers played a team in Illinois that had not shown very much fight all season, and they were absolutely whipped by the Illini.
Iowa, on the other hand, took a couple of close losses early (to Northwestern and Purdue) and have rounded into form by dominating the line of scrimmage over Michigan State, Minnesota, and Penn St, all of which were 3 TD+ wins.
In this spot, we get Iowa at less than a TD at home against a significantly weaker team? Iowa is #5 in the country in rushing defense, allowing only 2.64 yds per carry, and running the football is the only thing Nebraska is good at on offense. On the other side of the ball, Nebraska is #89 in the same metric, giving up 4.70 yds per rush, while Iowa is #33, averaging 5.02 yds per rush, including 5.86 yds per carry against the comparable defenses to Nebraska’s (Michigan St, Minnesota, and Purdue).
Iowa will dominate the line of scrimmage, and they don’t lay off the gas, as it feels like coach Kirk Ferentz wants to prove some kind of point this season. I’ll lay 'em with the Hawkeyes.
Best Bet: (Visit our Sportsbook Review)
Northern Illinois Huskies vs. Western Michigan Broncos
Saturday, November 28, 2020 - 12:00 pm ET at Waldo Stadium
I’m not a fan of the coaching staff at Northern Illinois right now. It feels like they went with head coach Thomas Hammock because he’s a coach they believed would stick around the program rather than jump at the first bigger opportunity, after losing their last 3 coaches to bigger programs (Jerry Kill to Minnesota, Dave Doeren to NC State, Rod Carey to Temple). Hammock was the RB coach of the Baltimore Ravens for a season prior to taking the head coaching job in DeKalb, and had been a Running Back coach at Wisconsin and Minnesota prior to that, but never a coordinator.
But enough about that. The truth of the matter is that Northern Illinois is just not a good football team, and Western Michigan has found a little magic with QB Kaleb Eleby, who played a bit in 2018, but didn’t play in 2019 at all. Coach Tim Lester has the offense rolling with the Broncos, who have scored 58, 41, and 52 pts in their 3 games this year.
While WMU hasn’t lit the world on fire with their defense, they won’t have to worry about much from the NIU side, as they’ve scored 30, 10, and 25 in their 3 games so far, while allowing 49, 40, and 31 in their past 3. Western Michigan nearly triples NIU in pts per play (.782 to .289), and WMU gives up only .442 pts per play, while NIU is giving up .638. The Huskies will give up 40+ here again, and I don’t expect them to score more than 3 TDs. This feels like a 49-21 type of game, which would give us a Broncos cover at top sportsbooks.
San Jose State Spartans vs. Boise State Broncos
Saturday, November 28th, 2020 - 4:00 pm ET at Albertsons Stadium
This spread is based solely on name alone. Everyone knows Boise State. Nobody has paid attention to the fact that San Jose State is sitting at 4-0 in the Mountain West, so they’ll still surprise people when they actually make a game out of this.
The Spartans have covered the last 2 against the Broncos, and the line is inflated again. If you just go by the points per play metric, SJSU would actually be favored by 1.87 on the road here. Obviously, there’s more that goes into it than that, but SJSU has covered all 4 games this season, both in the underdog and favorite roles. I fully expect them to keep this game around a touchdown, if not win the thing outright, especially after an unexpected week off to prepare.
Northwestern Wildcats vs. Michigan State Spartans
Saturday, November 28, 2020 - 3:30 pm ET at Spartan Stadium
After scoring 27 points against Rutgers, and another 27 against Michigan, the Michigan State Spartans have scored 7 and 0 points in their last 2 games against Iowa and Indiana… and Northwestern’s defense is even better than both of those.
At the same time, we’ve all seen Pat Fitzgerald’s teams grab a lead and then sit on it. They did the same thing against Wisconsin last week. If both teams punt 7+ times, that’s like a dream game for Fitz. I do think Northwestern will be able to put up 21+ points in this game, but I believe, at most, they’re giving up 10 points, and likely less.
Yes, the last 4 matchups between these teams have gone over… but these coaches don’t know each other either, at least as well as Dantonio & Fitz did. I expect a slow slog, and I’m going under.
Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles
Friday, November 27, 2020 - 4:00 pm ET at Rynearson Stadium
Central Michigan has scored 30 or more in all 3 games this season. Eastern Michigan has scored in the 23 or more in every game. On the other side, both Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan have given up plenty of points this year.
The average points per game metric (pts per game for + pts per game against / avg pts per game scored in FBS) says this total should be closer to 73, and the average points per play metric have the total around 66. I tend to believe those metrics, as I think both offenses will score in the 30s. This feels like a 38-31 kind of game, so for our best bets, I think we’ve got an edge with the over.