Week 14 college football best bets
Welcome to Week 14 of the college football season, better known as Conference Championship Weekend (plus Akron vs. Buffalo).
Each week, our VSiN experts will combine to give their best bets on select games.
We had a 5-5 showing in Week 13, and we’re looking to get back on the right track in Week 14. Odds are from DraftKings (unless noted) as of Wednesday night. Go to VSiN.com for Betting Splits and live odds across the college football market.
Season record: 63-63-1
Saturday, Noon ET
Adam Burke: It is a real bummer that the MAC division champs are limping into the title game. Toledo QB Dequan Finn inexplicably started last week and then left the game, only to return on the sidelines wearing a walking boot. Finn, a dual-threat signal caller that will be highly sought after in the transfer portal if he opts to leave, has accounted for 29 total touchdowns with a 58.6% completion rate as a passer and 5.5 yards per carry as a runner.
Backup QB Tucker Gleason has managed 4.4 yards per carry on 42 attempts, but he has only completed 47.5% of his passes across 118 attempts. Leading rusher Jacquez Stuart has only managed 45 yards on his last 16 carries in the month of November, so the Rockets’ running game has also faltered down the stretch without Finn at full strength.
The Bobcats haven’t won the MAC Championship since 1968, so it’s a great opportunity to end a long drought, but Ohio is missing star QB Kurtis Rourke. Rourke had a 25/4 TD/INT ratio and a completion rate of 69.1% as the conference’s top offensive player. He was hurt two weeks ago, and backup CJ Harris was 10-of-21 for 196 yards and a touchdown last week in the lopsided win over Bowling Green. Don’t let the 38-14 score fool you, as Ohio was +4 in turnover margin.
With both quarterbacks out and huge drop-offs to the backups, this should be a game with a lot of running and likely very little tempo. This will be about not making mistakes for each offense, and that should simplify the gameplans for each defense.
Pick: UNDER 55
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Wes Reynolds: We faded Coastal Carolina in this column last week, and the Chanticleers were routed 47-7 by James Madison, who was essentially playing its bowl game as they are ineligible for postseason play due to transitioning from FCS to FBS.
Coastal Carolina was locked into this Sun Belt Championship Game anyway. Star QB Grayson McCall (2314 yards, 68.9% completions, 21 TD, 1 INT, 4 rushing TDs), recently named Sun Belt Player of the Year for the third time, has missed the last two games with a foot injury suffered back on November 3rd versus Appalachian State. Backup Jarrett Guest was a combined 17-for-37 passing for 262 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions in his two starts versus Southern Miss and James Madison.
Nevertheless, there are rumors abound that McCall may return, and this number will certainly drop a few points if he is back.
There are also rumors that this could be Jamey Chadwell’s last game as Head Coach of Coastal Carolina. He has been linked to vacancies at Liberty and South Florida. Chadwell took this program to a season-ending No. 14 ranking in 2020, along with a Sun Belt Championship, and got the Chanticleers their first bowl victory in program history in 2021.
Meanwhile, Troy has won nine straight games after losing on an improbable Hail Mary at Appalachian State on September 17. First-year Head Coach Jon Sumrall has engineered a tremendous turnaround that will have his Troy Trojans going bowling for the first time in four years.
This is a somewhat speculative play considering McCall’s status is very much in question, but this line will close several points lower if he is cleared and worth taking against a Troy team that was a surprise divisional winner and now has to deal with the expectations of winning the conference title as the unexpected favorite.
Pick: Coastal Carolina +8.5
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET
Tim Murray: It was not a banner year for the Mountain West Conference, but Saturday should be one of the more entertaining and competitive conference championship games of the day. Fresno State and Boise State enter with a combined 15-1 record in the Mountain West with the lone loss coming from Boise State’s 40-20 win over Fresno State on Oct. 8 (the Bulldogs played without QB Jake Haener that night). Haener missed five weeks due to a high ankle sprain he sustained against USC on Sept. 17. Since Haener’s return from injury on Oct. 29, the Bulldogs are 5-0.
Outside of Coastal Carolina QB Grayson McCall, Jake Haener could be the most important player in college football to the point spread. On Oct. 8, Fresno State closed as an 11-point underdog against Boise State. The Bulldogs are a consensus three-point underdog as of Thursday morning.
Boise State’s passing defense is statistically one of top units in the country allowing just 161.7 yards per game. However, if you remove Fresno State (who played Boise State with backup QB Logan Fife), the Broncos have only two passing offenses currently ranked in the top 100 in the FBS (BYU, UTEP) and lost both of those games. BYU QB Jarren Hall threw for 377 yards in the Cougars 31-28 win at Boise State on Nov. 5. BYU is currently ranked 33rd nationally in passing offense. BYU, as 9.5-point underdog, outgained Boise State, 532-324, four weeks ago. In the eight games that Jake Haener started, Fresno State averaged 321.5 passing yards per game (which would rank sixth nationally). In a 35-32 loss to Oregon State, Haener threw for 360 yards against the Beavers. USC QB and Heisman favorite Caleb Williams threw for 180 yards against Oregon State this season. Washington QB Michael Penix, the current FBS leader in passing yards, threw for 298 yards against the Beavers.
Boise State has improved offensively since turning the offense over to Dirk Koetter after the Broncos’ 27-10 loss to UTEP. QB Taylen Green has excelled since becoming the full-time starter against San Diego State on Sept. 30. Green has thrown 10 touchdowns and no interceptions over the last five games.
Lastly, Fresno State head coach Jeff Tedford is in his first year of his second stint with the Bulldogs. Tedford led Fresno State to its last Mountain West Championship, winning the 2018 Championship game at Boise State, 19-16 in overtime. Saturday will be Boise State head coach Andy Avalos’ first championship game as a head coach.
Pick: Fresno St. +3.5
Saturday 4 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: UCF went into Yulman Stadium down in New Orleans and beat Tulane 38-31 back on November 12. The line for that game was Tulane -1 pretty much across the board. The Knights racked up 468 yards of offense and ran for 6.2 yards per carry on 54 attempts in the slight upset victory. UCF outgained Tulane 486-391 and went 10-of-18 on third down while running 18 more offensive plays.
So, why is this line even bigger for the rematch with a conference title on the line? In the two games since, UCF has lost to Navy (which is why this game is in NOLA and not Orlando) and beaten a hapless 1-11 USF team by a mere touchdown. Tulane responded to the loss with wins over SMU and Cincinnati to earn a place in this game and host it.
The bigger reason is because John Rhys Plumlee is not 100% for the Knights. He returned from a hamstring injury last week to face USF and went 9-of-9 for 73 yards and had eight carries for 133 yards before pulling up lame on his second rushing touchdown of the night. He left the game and backup Mikey Keene took over. Plumlee had 18 carries for 176 yards in the first game against Tulane, so his legs are the biggest key to UCF’s chances. If his mobility is limited—and it appears that it will be—Tulane should be able to have more success making adjustments off of the first meeting. This line moved from -3 to -3.5 on Tuesday, likely as a result of Plumlee’s practice availability.
My line on the game is Tulane -5.5, though the Green Wave did qualify for one of my bigger home-field advantages this season based on their performance at home over the last few seasons. I’ll ride with the Green Wave to get revenge and be the Group of Five representative in a New Year’s Six bowl.
Pick: Tulane -3.5
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: Clemson is fortunate to be 10-2 this season. The ACC has been a poor conference all season long and the Tigers managed to survive against teams like Wake Forest and Syracuse in some of this season’s stiffer tests. Clemson did not survive against Palmetto State rival South Carolina last week, a game that seemed to be building for a while. In that loss, the once-vaunted Clemson defense allowed 360 passing yards to Spencer Rattler and the Gamecocks.
It really makes you wonder what Drake Maye will be able to do against this defense. Maye, who got some late Heisman buzz before North Carolina wet the bed against both Georgia Tech and NC State at home, will eclipse 4,000 passing yards for the season in this game and owns a 35/5 TD/INT ratio He’s also the team’s leading rusher with 629 yards on 161 attempts. Maye and his teammates have struggled the last two weeks, but the Tar Heels had nothing to play for in that stretch.
The Clemson pass rush will define what happens in this game. The Tigers have 36 sacks in 12 games, and Maye has been sacked 34 times this season. If North Carolina can protect him, the Tigers aren’t nearly as stout at the defensive back position as they’ve been in previous seasons. If the Tar Heels can’t, will the Tigers be able to run and hide on offense? Considering D.J. Uiagalelei had just 99 passing yards on 29 attempts last week, that task may be tricky. The Tar Heels rush defense went from 4.95 yards per carry allowed in the first four games to 4.34 in the next four and then 3.9 in the final four, so they’ve improved throughout the season.
Anything over a touchdown just feels too big for Clemson here. I also like the under in this game, as the Tar Heels offense has looked a bit disjointed, and Clemson can get to the quarterback. This game could be rather sloppy in Charlotte.
Pick: UNC +7.5 and UNDER 63.5
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: The explosive plays that Michigan used to stick it to Ohio State were not exactly the norm during the regular season. The Wolverines tied for 58th in plays of 10+ yards and were 38th in plays of 20+ yards. They were obviously better than the national average in both categories, but a lot of their dominance came from long, sustained drives using the running game to wear down the opposition.
On the Purdue side, despite having Aidan O’Connell and finishing sixth in pass attempts for the regular season, the Boilermakers only ranked 36th in plays of 10+ yards and 108th in plays of 20+ yards. Even on the fast track at Lucas Oil Stadium, explosive plays may not be plentiful in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Michigan also has the third-ranked defense by yards per play allowed. If this game is going to play out as the spread and total suggest, the Wolverines should just be able to take the air out of the ball in the second half and let the clock run. The Purdue defense has only allowed 3.81 yards per carry to this point. The Boilermakers are clearly better against the run than the pass, which should allow them to hang around defensively for a while.
I’m not expecting anything close to a shootout here, and this has the feeling of a 31-13 type of game where Michigan doesn’t do anything crazy in the second half with a comfortable lead.
Pick: UNDER 52
Wes Reynolds: Last year, the Michigan Wolverines broke an eight-year and 15-of-16 losing streak to Ohio State. Then, No. 2 Michigan theoretically was primed for a letdown in the Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa. Well, all the Wolverines did was blow out Iowa 42-3. Iowa was a team that was unable to play catch up and could not throw the ball to stay with Michigan. This year, the Wolverines are No. 2 again and off another win against their archrivals. However, they now get an opponent that is a big underdog, but one that can also throw the ball in Purdue.
Purdue QB Aidan O’Connell has been away from practice for a couple of days this week due to the passing of his oldest brother but returned on Wednesday. O’Connell leads the nation’s 21st-ranked passing offense into Indianapolis on Saturday, looking to pull off a stunning upset.
Last year, Boilermakers Head Coach Jeff Brohm sat with his son in the stands of Lucas Oil Stadium and got a close look at Michigan. This is going to be a tough task for Purdue, but they have the ability to hang around the number with the passing game.
Purdue is 7-1 ATS in its last eight games as conference underdogs of eight points or more. Meanwhile, Jeff Brohm is 28-14 ATS in his coaching career as an underdog.
Michigan gets the Big Ten Championship but may not get the margin it got last year against a good passing attack that never quits. Plus, the Wolverines do not have near as much pressure as last year to get the margin here.
Pick: Purdue +17