College football Week 13 picks from Steve Makinen

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Steve Makinen is our main numbers guy here at VSiN, and his weekly best bets are a “greatest hits” compilation of system matches, betting trends analysis, and his proprietary power ratings, which can only be found here at VSiN.com. Follow up with Steve’s weekly content, which is linked in the explanations for his picks.

 

A bad couple of weeks has me chasing profits again as we head into the final full week of college football games. Plenty of great games to choose from on this rivalry week, but having learned the unfortunate lesson that I have been better performing when choosing fewer games, I have limited my plays down to 11 for the week, seven off of last week and about two off the norm. I don’t have a very strong opinion on the Ohio State-Michigan clash, but it should be a great game. Good luck on the Week 13 action!

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(odds as of November 21, 5:54 p.m. PT)

 

Ole Miss at Mississippi State

I’ve heard a lot of reasons to this point as to why Mississippi State will be able to compete with Ole Miss on Thursday night in the Egg Bowl. They range from needing to win to go to a bowl game, to just getting its starting quarterback, to the intense nature of the rivalry. I have yet to hear that the Bulldogs might just be overmatched and too emotionally spent to take on this challenge.

MSU just fired its coach, who was a very popular replacement at this time a year ago after the untimely passing of Mike Leach. The team rallied around Zach Arnett and went on to an impressive Gator Bowl win. Less than a year later, Arnett is gone, and his former team has just one conference win. Ole Miss meanwhile, is 9-2 and taking care of business against lesser teams. In fact, as favorites this season, the Rebels are 8-0 SU and 5-2-1 ATS and winning by almost 23 PPG. This is also a good revenge spot for Kiffin’s team, who will be backed by this angle: College football teams seeking revenge and having at least four more wins on the season than their opponent have been very successful, going 88-14 SU and 68-30-4 ATS (69.4%) since 2016.

I’m going to lay the 10 with Ole Miss (+/- 1.5)

Oregon State at Oregon

You won’t find many games in a college football week in which the double-digit home favorite scoring a lot of points is not getting heavy public backing, but that is the case in the “Civil Conflict,” where bettors seem to think that Oregon State might have something for Oregon. I disagree, and a lot of it stems from OSU coming up short last week against Washington and putting a damper on an otherwise solid campaign.

For as much as I don’t feel there will be an emotional letdown because of the nature of the rivalry, what are the chances that the Beavers can bring another incredible (but losing) defensive effort this week. They hold teams 14.5 points below their season scoring averages typically. That would put Oregon on pace for 32 points here. But considering the Ducks score 24 points more than their opponents allow, that would mean 44. Averaging that out, if Oregon gets to 38+, the chances of an OSU cover are slim.

We also have a ranked game home team and from the Analytics Report, you will find that when the home team has been ranked better, those teams have gone 101-17 SU and 74-40-4 ATS (64.9%). The Ducks, and QB Bo Nix, still have a ton to play for. Beating the rival Beavers is #1 on the list.

Lay the 13.5 (+0.5/- any) with Oregon

Texas-San Antonio at Tulane

UTSA has competed quite well in its first season in the American Athletic Conference and has a chance to clinch a spot in the league title game next week with a win here. Standing in the way is might Tulane, who has certainly got more press and attention despite each team boasting a 7-0 AAC record.

The Roadrunners started the season 1-3 but two of the losses came without multi-year starting QB Frank Harris in the lineup. In fact, since his return on October 7th, UTSA is 7-0 and scoring 41 PPG. This looks to be a very live underdog on the schedule for this week. That in itself should be of note, as this team is 10-5 ATS in the dog role under head coach Jeff Traylor. You have to sort of nitpick to take anything away from Tulane, but it should be noted that despite the 10-1 record, the Green Wave are 4-7 ATS, including 1-5 ATS at home. They haven’t exactly been overachieving in 2023, and that is of major concern as they prepare to host a hungry and hot UTSA team.

Take the 3.5 points (+/-1) with UTSA

Florida State at Florida

The season-ending injury to Florida State QB Jordan Travis was obviously devastating to their playoff hopes, but in terms of this upcoming contest with Florida, it could be argued if its even the more significant quarterback injury that will be affecting the contest. If you missed it, Gators’ QB Graham Mertz was also lost for the year. He was having an incredibly productive, although far less publicized season than that of Travis. He completed just under 73% of his passes and boasted a 20:3 TD-Int ratio to go along with four rushing TDs. His backup has only thrown 12 passes this season.

Meanwhile, FSU turns to Tate Rodemaker, who has thrown 62 passes, with seven TDs, in mop-up duty the last two years. The Seminoles also still have the motivation to accomplish all the goals they set out for and are still favored accordingly: In games Week 12 or later in the season, ranked road teams are now 102-27 SU and 73-54-2 ATS (57.5%) vs. non-ranked home teams since 2017.

I trust Florida State to still bring it this week -6.5 vs Florida (+/-1.5)

Northern Illinois at Kent State

In pegging Kent State for less than 2.5 wins at the outset of the season, I wrote this: Nevada became the first team to post a ZERO stability score on my scale last year, and for 2023, three teams equal that dubious honor. One of those is Kent State, who brings back the fewest starters in the country with just four, including none from the offense. Well, at 1-10, the Golden Flashes have fulfilled their destiny for me. They might just be the worst team in the country. And now for the season finale on Saturday, their top two QBs are listed as questionable. This has the looks of a team just ready to get the season over with.

Meanwhile, Northern Illinois has a chance to clinch bowl eligibility with a win, and they come off an impressive 24-0 shutout of Western Michigan. KSU’s effort last week at Ball State wasn’t quite as successful, as they gained just 97 yards of offense in a 34-3 loss. This, we are set up with a nice system: College football teams that gained 100 yards or fewer in a game have not bounced back well in the next, going just 23-33-1 ATS (41.1%) in their last 57 tries. Motivation, talent, and situational angles are all backing the Huskies here.

Lay the 18.5 points (+/- 1.5) with Northern Illinois

Vanderbilt at Tennessee

For as much as Vanderbilt has won just twice this season and owns a nation-worst 1-10 ATS mark, this might just be a spot where the Commodores could be trusted with your money. Very little in SEC play gets the blood boiling for Vandy like a game against Tennessee, and the Volunteers come into the game off of humbling back-to-back drubbings that have essentially soiled the 2023 season. I really don’t feel that they will derive the same motivation with taking on Vanderbilt as vice versa.

In my opinion, the betting public (85% handle, 78% bets) backing Tennessee is missing the motivational picture here and simply following the won-lost records. Take a look at this season finale system showing how difficult it is to lay big numbers at this time of year: Since 2015, home favorites of more than 20 points are 53-6 SU but just 23-36 ATS (39%) in season finale games. Don’t be surprised to see a less-than-polished effort from head coach Josh Heupel’s downtrodden team.

Take the 27 points (+/-1) with Vanderbilt

Notre Dame at Stanford

Stanford has three wins on the season and just lost its rivalry game last week to Cal. Notre Dame comes off a rout of Wake Forest and is seeking payback for a stunning 16-14 loss at home last year to the Cardinal. This game, to me, has the makings of a likely rout.

This revenge angle agrees: Teams seeking revenge against a team that is currently allowing 35 PPG or more have been very successful, going 203-160 ATS (55.9%) since 2016. My effective strength numbers peg the Irish for about 45 points here, and it’s tough to see Stanford getting anywhere near 20. When ranked road teams are favored by more than 6 points against non-ranked hosts, they have gone 87-10 SU and 58-37-2 ATS (61.1%%) in that same Week 12 and later time span. This one should be easy for ND.

Lay the 26 points (+/- 2) with Notre Dame

Alabama at Auburn

Recent history in the Iron Bowl suggests that it has been very beneficial to be the home team in the rivalry, as hosts have covered the last six games in the series. The last time these teams played at Auburn, it came down to the last minute in a 24-22 Alabama win. The difference between then (2021) and now? The line for the game, Tide -21, was far more fitting of the difference of the teams and more motivating for Auburn to pull a surprise.

In this year’s game, I don’t think the line accurately reflects the current strengths of the teams. In fact, head coach Nick Saban’s team has played some of its best ball of the season over the last month, going 4-0 SU and ATS while outscoring opponents 191-79. During that same stretch, Auburn appeared to be building momentum in wins over Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas, but those wins were heavily impacted by the quality of the competition. The Tigers responded to a more motivated team last week by getting whipped 31-10 by New Mexico State. In fact, against winning teams this year, Auburn is 0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS, losing by 16.4 PPG. Speaking of the loss to NMSU, teams that lose in a college football game as favorites of 19.5 points or more have gone just 38-64 SU and 34-64-4 ATS (34.7%) in the follow-up contest since 2012.

Let’s go with Alabama -14.5 (+/-1.5) to win the Iron Bowl comfortably 

Northwestern at Illinois

Northwestern clinched its bowl bid last week and did so in an improbable fashion. The Wildcats have won their last five games ATS and have pulled two double-digit upsets in that span. Does that mean the streak is a lock to continue this week at Illinois? I don’t think so, and if anything, I would say that a “mission accomplished” Northwestern team might be due for a letdown, especially with the Illini looking to clinch their own bowl eligibility.

There are two season finale systems supporting my logic: First, college football season finale underdogs of 4 points or more that have a better record than their opponent have gone just 3-16 SU and 5-14 ATS (26.3%) in their last 19 tries. Second, some of the best season-finale types of teams to fade have been the winning teams that don’t score a lot, as teams with winning records and scoring 24 PPG or fewer have gone just 13-17 SU and 7-24 ATS (22.6%) in their season finale games. The Wildcats score just 20.7 PPG overall and have been held to 14 points or less five times. I expect a good defensive outing from a hungry Illinois team here.

Lay the 6 points (+/- 1) with Illinois

Texas A&M at LSU

In hindsight, fading Jayden Daniels last week with a Sun Belt team doesn’t seem too smart, even though Georgia State was at 14-14 midway through the second quarter. The fears I had of Daniels erupting and breaking the game open manifested. With the Heisman Trophy in sight, he has the same potential this week to explode on Texas A&M. If he does, even to a lesser degree, I am not sure the Aggies can keep up, and already down their starting QB, backup and former Tigers’ QB Max Johnson is also questionable for this week.

This, of course, is a ranked host vs. non-ranked visitor late season game, and the lesser line suggests LSU could win big: In games week 12 or later in the season, ranked home teams as less than 12-point favorites against non-ranked visitors are 31-4 SU and 23-12 ATS (65.7%) since 2017. Prior to last year’s double-digit upset win by A&M, LSU had covered 11 straight games against the Aggies. Let’s get that trend back in action.

Let’s lay the 11 points (+/- 1) with LSU

Louisiana-Monroe at Louisiana-Lafayette

On the list of teams looking to clinch bowl eligibility for 2023 is Louisiana, but at some point, do you have to stop and question whether or not said team is actually a worthy bowl team? Most bettors (83% handle, 75% bets at DK) seem to think the Ragin’ Cajuns are worthy and that they will easily take care of business against rival ULM. However, the understated nature of this rivalry suggests that it is never easy, regardless of the status of the teams.

In fact, underdogs are on a run of 18-5 ATS in the series. On top of that, prior to last year’s 21-17 home upset win by ULM, road teams had covered the last 12 games in the set! Louisiana isn’t exactly clicking right now, having lost three straight while scoring just 24 PPG. Going to be hard to cover a double-digit line with that low production.

Let’s take LA Monroe to cover the 12.5 points (+/- 1.5)

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As one of the original founders of StatFox, Steve Makinen has been in the business of sports betting and data analysis for almost 25 years now. In his time in the industry, Steve has worked in a variety of capacities on both sides of the betting counter, from his early days of developing the StatFox business, to almost a decade of oddsmaking consulting for one of the world's leading sportsbooks, to his last seven years as Point Spread Weekly and Analytics Director with VSiN. Steve has always believed that number crunching and handicapping through foundational trends and systems is the secret to success and he shares this data with VSiN readers on a daily basis for all of the major sports.