College football Week 7 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 right here at VSiN.com. Follow up with Steve’s weekly content, which is linked in the explanations for his picks.

 

Things were improved for me last week with the “less is more” strategy in college football, thus I will stick to that as head into a big weekend of action. I have nine games on my radar for this week:

College Football Odds | College Football Betting Splits | College Football Power Ratings

(odds as of October 12, 12:54 p.m. PT)

Illinois at Maryland

I don’t like the looks of a team heavily favored in a conference game and getting backed by at or above 80% of the betting public, especially when coming off an extremely disappointing result. Maryland has to be kicking itself for blowing the opportunity to take down an Ohio State team that seemed to be sleepwalking early in the contest. Now, the Terps have to pick themselves back up again versus an Illinois team that has not yet covered a point spread in six games. It’s a dangerous spot with a bye looming next for head coach Mike Locksley’s squad.

The Illini haven’t done a whole lot well this season for Bret Bielema but they have proven competitive in the big conference underdog role. However, they did lose 30-13 to Penn State as 14-point dogs earlier this year in one of those James Franklin “gotta get the cover” games. Illinois’ per play numbers on both sides of the ball have actually been much better than their SU and ATS record would indicate, in fact, just slightly less than Maryland’s when considering schedule strength. I expect Illini to be competitive here.

Take Illinois +14 or +/- 1 point and anything higher is gravy

Michigan State at Rutgers

Bettors seem to be on a path of going against Michigan State the rest of the way, not surprising considering what happened with the Mel Tucker situation. However, this could be a good spot for the Spartans, traveling to Rutgers. When you compare the two conference game losses for both of these teams, you have to wonder why Rutgers would be laying so many points. The Scarlet Knights have scored just 20 points in their two Big Ten contests. While granted they were against two of the better defensive teams in the league, their overall season numbers show them gaining just 0.1 yards per play more than their opponents have allowed on average.

When you consider that Michigan State allows just 4.84 yards per play, doing the appropriate calculations, it suggests Rutgers won’t score more than around 22 points. MSU has also only put up 25 points in its two league games, but only because of inefficiency and turnovers. The Spartans actually put up 349 yards on Iowa and 376 on Maryland. In my opinion, the lesser offense is laying points here. I don’t like it. This has also been a road-dominated head-to-head series, with visitors taking the last six ATS.

Take Michigan State +5 or anything down to +3.5

Miami (FL) at North Carolina

The Miami (FL)-UNC game for Saturday is one of four this week pitting ranked opponents against one another. Our analytics report highlights this each week, showing a handful of systems that have been successful for handicapping these huge contests. The simplest one of them says that in games featuring two ranked teams since 2017, home teams are now 153-76 SU and 132-90-7 ATS (59.5%). This is foundational logic in that when good teams collide, that is where home-field advantage usually means most.

The Tar Heels continue to fly somewhat under the radar here, despite the 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS record. They typically look forward to this matchup, having beaten the Hurricanes in four straight head-to-head meetings while putting up 40.5 PPG. What do you think we are going to see from Miami this week after the egregious decision to run the ball last week instead on kneeling on it to run out the clock in the horrific loss to Georgia Tech? Do you think it’s going to be a galvanized team with the resolve of a champion ready to bounce back? Come on…not Miami.

Take North Carolina -3.5, +/- 1 point

Bowling Green at Buffalo

With over 90% of the betting handle favoring Bowling Green this week in its game at Buffalo, I am implored to ask…why? Bowling Green is in a rebuilding season after taking advantage of an experienced roster last season, a campaign that ended with a bowl game appearance. This year, the Falcons are 2-4, having scored just 13 points combined in three different conference games.

On this week’s CFB Analytics Report, you will also find two of the best-rated trends going in opposite directions for this contest: Bowling Green is 11-30 (26.8%) ATS as Underdog since 2019. Buffalo is 18-6 (75%) ATS at home since 2019. While the Bulls aren’t off to a stellar start either in 2023, they have won back-to-back games outright and three straight ATS. They’ve also won five of the last six in this head-to-head series, scoring 42.5 PPG in the process.

Take Buffalo -4.5, and anything up to -5.5

Miami (OH) at Western Michigan

Miami (OH) has lost eight straight games to Western Michigan, including a 16-10 decision a year ago in which the Redhawks were favored by 7 points at home. Why would I be getting on the Miami (OH) bandwagon for this week then? Revenge.

This is easily their best shot at ending the losing streak to WMU, and not only because they are playing to the biggest point spread line during the span. Head coach Chuck Martin’s team is currently playing great football, having won five in a row SU and ATS, and most people probably haven’t noticed because none of it has been on mid-week MAC-tion.

The last three games have seen a combined score of 112-23, and those followed an upset win over Cincinnati. Now, with multi-revenge on their mind, they will be backed by a great betting system: Teams seeking revenge against a team that is currently allowing 35 PPG or more have been very successful, going 202-154 ATS (56.7%) since 2016.

Take Miami Ohio -8.5 and anything up to -10

Wyoming at Air Force

I was a bit surprised to see a double-digit line tagged to the big Mountain West Conference showdown this week between Wyoming and Air Force. The Cowboys are 5-1; the Falcons are 5-0, but Wyoming has played the far tougher schedule to date. Of course, much of the reason behind this big chalk line for head coach Troy Calhoun’s team was because of the way they dismantled San Diego State two weeks ago.

However, they historically haven’t had anywhere near the same level of success against Wyoming. In fact, the Cowboys are on an 11-2 ATS run in the head-to-head series. Even last year, as 16.5-point home dogs, the Cowboys prevailed 17-14, holding Air Force to just 272 yards of offense, a total that missed the season low by just a yard. Anyone thinking that revenge is in order should consider this trend: Teams looking to avenge outright losses where they were double-digit favorites have struggled, going just 94-108 ATS (46.5%) since 2016. I expect a competitive effort from the dogs here.

Take Wyoming +10, and down to +8

Oregon at Washington

The biggest game of the week pits Oregon at Washington, with the Ducks looking to avenge last year’s 37-34 loss at home. They were 12-point favorites in that game and fell despite gaining 592 yards of offense. Thus, the same system I just mentioned is back in place: Teams looking to avenge outright losses where they were double-digit favorites have struggled, going just 94-108 ATS (46.5%) since 2016.

There are also three different ranked game systems backing Washington here, first because the Huskies are at home (59.5% angle), second because they are ranked higher (64.1%), and third because they are single-digit favorites (71.4%). On my Effective Strength tabulations this week for per play numbers, Washington is #1 in the country, with an equivalent Power Rating of 79+, about seven points superior to Oregon’s. I feel the Huskies are a little better and they will feed off the electric home-field atmosphere. Too much for Oregon to overcome.

Take Washington -3, and I’m good with -2.5/-3.5, etc., although I don’t expect late movement

UCLA at Oregon State

Oregon State will be benefitting from the exact same three ranked game systems I cited just above in the Oregon-Washington game so I won’t focus on that aspect as much as I will on the fact that OSU QB DJ Uiagalelei is playing some of the best football he has since his high school days. Here, he plays in a big game with a very manageable point spread of -3.5. Last week against Cal, he was fantastic, throwing for five TDs while leading the Beavers to a 52-40 win on the road.

Again, I will call for the huge disparity mismatch in experience at the quarterback position that will be the decisive factor in the contest versus UCLA and freshman QB Dante Moore. My numbers say this should be OSU -5.5. It’s a bit less, I like it.

Take Oregon State -3.5 (+/- 1 point fine too)

Georgia at Vanderbilt

Last week, I accurately predicted that Georgia would break out of its early season funk and get a first ATS win of the season. The defending two-time champs responded by crushing Kentucky. Now, before heading into their bye week and a daunting four-game SEC slate coming out, head coach Kirby Smart’s team has to find the will to go out and throttle Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Not sure where the motivation is going to come from for spanking the Commodores here by more than 31 points. And unless James Franklin of Penn State comes by to coach this week in place of Smart, I’m not sure they’ll even care where they win by 20, 24, or 34 points. If you’re looking for something beyond my belief in Georgia’s compassion or lack of focus for drubbing Vandy, there are some analytics to back my theory: Teams playing as huge underdogs at home in revenge games have been almost automatic covers, as those catching 30-points or more have gone 1-20 SU but 17-4 ATS (81%) in their last 21 tries. I’d recommend not watching the game, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 41-13 type of decision here.

Take Vanderbilt +31.5 and any more you can get helps

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Steve Makinen
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.