College Football Betting Guide: 12/4/21

The college football landscape has completely changed over the last week or so with typical conference stalwarts Ohio State and Oklahoma falling to their rivals, Michigan and Oklahoma State, respectively. The Buckeyes and Sooners, along with Alabama and Clemson, are the only teams that have qualified for the College Football Playoff four or more times. Now, if all the favorites prevail this week, we could have Georgia qualifying for the second time along with three newcomers.

The Bulldogs are likely safe this week whether they win or lose in the SEC Championship. Michigan, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, and Alabama have to win and they’re in, but Notre Dame could sneak in if a couple of those teams lose. Baylor, Oregon, and Iowa only have an outside chance if utter chaos happens this weekend.

This makes for a compelling weekend, but it’s also our most difficult betting slate of the season. Our model has no pick for either the Big 12 Championship and AAC Championship, and Iowa is a one-star pick to cover the 10.5-point spread. The Hawkeyes have an excellent defense, ranking amongst our model’s top ten teams in both rushing and passing defense. However, after Michigan’s dominant performance against Ohio State last week, it’s tough to see Iowa breaking through for their first outright Big Ten title since 1985.

The premier matchup on Saturday will take place in Atlanta and decide the SEC title. Georgia has been dominant this season while Alabama has had some close calls, but the Tide have beaten the Bulldogs all three times they faced off with Kirby Smart as the Georgia head coach. We’ll start here with analysis using our model this week.

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.

Georgia Bulldogs vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama +6.5 (-110): 2-Star Rating out of 5

These teams have been on a collision course all season long to play for the SEC title. Georgia has breezed through their schedule, even with quarterback J.T. Daniels only appearing in five games this season. Alabama, on the other hand, lost to Texas A&M and had close calls against Florida and Auburn.

The Crimson Tide have the current Heisman favorite at quarterback in Bryce Young and two NFL caliber receivers in Jameson Williams and John Metchie. Alabama’s passing offense is the second-best amongst Power Five teams according to our model’s rankings behind Ohio State. Georgia has our model’s best passing defense and that is where the game is likely to be decided. The Bulldogs have a 10.0% sack rate per Football Outsiders and have several defensive players that will likely be first-round draft picks, such as sack leader Nakobe Dean.

The best offense that the Bulldogs have played so far this season belongs to Tennessee, ranked eighth according to ESPN’s SP+ rankings. Alabama has the third-ranked offense and the personnel to put up more than just 17 points against Georgia like the Volunteers did. Young and the Tide lost to the best defense they’ve played but they allowed the Aggies to score 41. If Alabama’s defense can get to quarterback Stetson Bennett and get off the field, then Bryce Young will have his opportunity for a Heisman moment and Alabama could bring home a third SEC title in the last four seasons.

Our model gives the Crimson Tide a 61.1% probability to cover the 6.5-point spread against Georgia, which is good for a two-star rating. Georgia has been the best team all year long, but Alabama has a similar level of NFL talent to stick with the Bulldogs.

Michigan Wolverines vs. Iowa Hawkeyes

Over 43.5 (-110): 2-Star Rating out of 5

The spread isn’t that appealing in this matchup, but the total has a little more value according to our model. Iowa’s offense has been lackluster all season long and they have a great defense, but Michigan’s offense has found another level, scoring 42 points on Ohio State last week and 58 against Maryland the week before that.

Michigan’s offensive line has been stellar this season; the Wolverines rank 18th in average line yards and 2nd in sack rate according to Football Outsiders. Quarterback Cade McNamara has been sacked six times has only thrown three interceptions in Michigan’s 12 games. Iowa leads the nation in interceptions but the Wolverines have protected the ball well all year long with McNamara under center.

There are two advantages for Michigan in this game. First, they’ve played defenses as good as Iowa’s already and have come away with wins in those games. Iowa has the fourth-best defense per ESPN’s SP+ rankings, while Wisconsin and Penn State have the second and sixth-best defenses, respectively.

The second advantage Michigan has is its depth. McNamara has done everything Jim Harbaugh asked this season, but the Wolverines have another weapon at quarterback in freshman J.J. McCarthy. McNamara has the poise and decision-making skills to lead this team to another win, but McCarthy’s ceiling for big plays is higher with his cannon-like arm and his running ability. Hassan Haskins has been superb as the Wolverines’ starting running back and Blake Corum has brought a great change of pace as the lightning to Haskins’ thunder. However, Corum hasn’t been 100% healthy and Michigan has been able to turn to freshman Donovan Edwards, who has averaged 5.6 yards per carry and 14.0 yards per reception this year.

Our model projects this game to go over the total with a likelihood of 60.2%. Iowa’s defense is great, but Michigan is playing their best football right now and has a deep offense that can put up points on the Hawkeyes.