College Football Betting Guide: Saturday 9/26/20

As the SEC starts their season this Saturday, college football fans can sense the season slowly moving back to a new normalcy. The conference starts the year with four teams in the top six of the AP Poll without the Big Ten and PAC-12 seasons underway. Similar rivalries -- Alabama-LSU and Florida-Georgia -- will likely decide who goes to the SEC Championship and ultimately earns a playoff spot. Week 1 for the SEC (Week 4 for most of the rest of the country) offers some intriguing matchups with value for bettors.

numberFire has built comprehensive algorithms to pinpoint the bets with the highest probability of returning money, whether you are betting on the total, the spread, or the moneyline. For those new to numberFire, we use a five-star system to show which bets you should be targeting for any given game. Stars represent how much you should risk on a wager relative to what you would normally bet.

For example, if you would normally bet $110 to win $100 on a -110-spread wager, if we give a 3-star ranking, we suggest risking three times that amount: $330 to win $300. Here are the best bets for this weekend with guidance from our model.

Please note that lines are subject to change throughout the day after this article is published. Please check here to make sure you are seeing the most updated information.

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. LSU Tigers

LSU -16.5: 4-Star Rating out of 5

The defending champions have lost many of their star players in last year’s NFL Draft, but they’re still amongst the top-10 ranked teams due to their abundance of talent. Even without JaMarr Chase, this year’s best receiver prospect, who opted out of the season and declared for the draft, LSU has high expectations for their 2020 season. The Tigers need their inexperienced players to step up in a major way to replace the lost talent, but the upside is there for another season in contention for the title.

Mississippi State doesn’t have the same talent level as LSU, but they do have a highly regarded NFL prospect of their own in running back Kylin Hill. One in-game situation bettors should be aware of is short yardage on third and fourth down, where LSU’s defensive line ranked third in power success rate in 2019, according to Football Outsiders. If the Tigers can contain Hill, especially on crucial third and fourth downs, they may be able to run away with this game.

LSU has a 66.75% probability to cover this spread according to our model. Per ESPN’s SP+ rankings through last week, the Tigers (13th) are 26 spots higher than the Bulldogs (39th), which goes to show why our model predicts an LSU win with 95.08% probability. Bettors should back LSU in what could be a blowout.

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Missouri Tigers

Missouri +27.5: 5-Star Rating out of 5

Similar to LSU, Alabama lost a lot of their starters from last season to the draft, including star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and receivers Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy. However, the Tide have the players to replace them, indicative of their SP+ ranking of second. Missouri will have their hands full on Saturday, but their defense could keep them within four scores in order to cover.

The Tigers have the 13th-ranked defense per SP+ and will look to stop quarterback Mac Jones and the Alabama offense. Missouri has a top NFL prospect at linebacker in Nick Bolton, who led the team last season with 100 tackles while no other Tiger defender had more than 50. Missouri has the means to make the game difficult for Alabama when the Tide has the ball, and that is their path to cover since their offense is expected to be lackluster (ranked 72nd in SP+).

Our model gives the Tigers a probability of 82.40% to keep the game within the 27.5-point spread. Alabama is the heavy favorite for a reason; they’re once again a contender for the national title and have loads of NFL talent. However, it’s unlikely the Tide will be in championship form in the first game of the season with so many new starters. Alabama should win the game handily, but our model predicts this game will not be a blowout.

Kansas State Wildcats vs. Oklahoma Sooners

Kansas State +27.5: 4-Star Rating out of 5

We have another 27.5-point spread in this early afternoon Big 12 matchup as Kansas State looks play spoiler to the Sooners after being spoiled themselves a couple weeks ago against Arkansas State. This is a classic example of the public fading a team that played below their level of talent the week prior. Per our oddsFire betting data, the Sooners have 68% of the bets placed on this game. The Wildcats were outplayed last week, but the public is underestimating this team.

The Sooners are the third-ranked team in the country, and they cruised to a 48-0 win over Missouri State two weekends ago. They have a fantastic offense led by a strong offensive line that ranked fourth in line yards, per Football Outsiders, a season ago. Oklahoma’s line is anchored by consensus all-Big 12 first-teamer Creed Humphrey, who was named to the 2019 all-conference first team as a sophomore. However, their defense isn’t particularly good, leaving an opening for quarterback Skylar Thompson and company to try to upset the Sooners for the second straight year.

Kansas State is unlikely to actually win this year, but our model does predict a Wildcat cover with 67.67% likelihood. The Sooners can get into trouble when their defense allows the game to turn into a shootout, so if Thompson can move the ball on offense, the Wildcats have a chance to keep this one close.