College Football Betting Guide: Saturday 10/23/21

Another week of college football, another top-ranked team goes down. Last Saturday, that team was Iowa, whose quarterback, Spencer Petras, threw four interceptions in a home loss to Purdue.

Georgia is off this week, and the remaining top seven teams are favorites by 20 points or more, so we might have a break from the chaos on Saturday. Even though there are no matchups between ranked teams, there are plenty of interesting games with betting value.

This week, I appeared on Covering the Spread to discuss this week’s games with Jim Sannes and Dr. Ed Feng. My two favorite picks that I made on the podcast were UCLA -1.5 at home against Oregon and Tennessee +24.5 on the road against Alabama. I’ll expand on the UCLA pick below, but our model isn’t as high on Tennessee as I am, so I’ll incorporate some other games instead.

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 after this article is published. Please check here to make sure you are seeing the most updated information.

USC Trojans vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame -6.5 (-122): 3-Star Rating out of 5

Notre Dame has struggled this season on offense at times, and as a result, Brian Kelly has resorted to playing three different quarterbacks.

This week we’ll likely see both Tyler Buchner and Jack Coan depending on how the Irish want to move the ball. Buchner hasn’t even completed half of his attempted passes, but he’s been efficient running the ball. Coan is Notre Dame’s best option for throwing the ball, as he leads the team in completion percentage.

Meanwhile, the Trojans’ defense is bad, and their defensive line ranks 96th in average line yards and 100th in sack rate, according to Football Outsiders. Even though Notre Dame’s quarterback situation is under a shroud of uncertainty, it shouldn’t be too impactful in this matchup if the Irish employ the right game plan to attack the USC defense.

The key matchup will be Notre Dame’s defense against USC’s passing attack; the Trojans rank 11th in passing yards gained per game nationally.

The Irish have a solid secondary led by safety Kyle Hamilton, who is amongst the top five prospects for next year’s NFL Draft. However, USC is powered by quarterback Kedon Slovis and receiver Drake London, who are both amongst the best NFL prospects at their respective positions. Notre Dame looked shaky on defense to start the year, but they’ve been better as of late and should be able to contain the Trojans’ dynamic connection enough to prevent this game from turning into a shootout.

I called Notre Dame a lean on the podcast, but our model is high on the Irish and projects them to win with a likelihood of 66.3%. The spread is below the key number of seven, which is great for Notre Dame bettors, and the Irish should be able to cover and keep their playoff hopes alive.

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Indiana Hoosiers

Indiana +21.5 (-118): 2-Star Rating out of 5

The Hoosiers have had a disappointing season so far based on preseason expectations. After finishing last year 6-2 with wins over Penn State, Wisconsin, and Michigan, Indiana has begun the season 2-4.

However, all four losses have come against current top-11 teams, which is a brutal schedule, especially considering they have two more on the horizon in Ohio State and Michigan.

Last week, the Hoosiers played great defense against the explosive Michigan State Spartans but turned the ball over three times in a home loss. Turnovers also plagued Indiana in a solid effort against Cincinnati earlier in the season.

Ohio State has played up to their typical level after an early-season loss to Oregon and will likely beat the Hoosiers in Bloomington. However, if Indiana can repeat its performance from last week, they should be able to keep the game within three touchdowns.

Indiana’s quarterback situation has been less than ideal with both Michael Penix Jr. and Jack Tuttle struggling with interceptions. After an injury to Penix, the Hoosiers have turned to Tuttle, and even though he hasn’t been the answer, he does have pass-catchers he can rely on to move the chains: receiver Ty Fryfogle and tight end Peyton Hendershot.

Our model projects Indiana to cover with 59.91% probability. The Hoosiers will need their defense to step up again, as well as Fryfogle and Hendershot to take advantage of a weaker Ohio State secondary in order to keep the game close. Indiana’s losing skid likely continues, but they shouldn't let this one get out of hand against the Buckeyes.

Oregon Ducks vs. UCLA Bruins

UCLA -1.5 (-105): 2-Star Rating out of 5

The Ducks are currently ranked 10th in the AP Poll, but that’s much too high for a team that lost to Stanford and looked shaky against California, even if they did beat Ohio State earlier this year.

Our model ranks them at 28th, which is one spot above UCLA. Oregon and UCLA have faced two of the same Pac-12 opponents this season: Stanford and Arizona. The Ducks lost to Stanford and were outgained yards-wise against Arizona, but the Bruins beat and outgained both.

UCLA has a great matchup advantage against Oregon, as well.

The Bruins are the best rushing defense in the Pac-12, and Oregon has been much more reliant on running the ball on offense than passing. The Ducks’ more recent struggles are partly a result of losing their best running back, C.J. Verdell, to injury. Oregon’s offensive line is 10th in average line yards, per Football Outsiders, while UCLA’s defensive line is 21st, so that will be the matchup to watch in this game.

If the Bruins can contain the Ducks’ rushing attack and force quarterback Anthony Brown to beat them with his arm, UCLA likely wins. Brown’s completion percentage this season is just 58.9%.

According to our model, UCLA has a likelihood of 58.3% to cover the small spread. It might be surprising that the Bruins are actually favored in this game considering they’re unranked, but it shows that bookmakers think Oregon is overrated relative to their ranking, as well.