College Football Betting Guide: Saturday 10/1/22
Last week, the top of the rankings maintained the status quo with the exception of Oklahoma, who lost at home against Kansas State. The only other team in the top 10 to lose was Arkansas, and their loss was against a solid Texas A&M team.
The Razorbacks look to bounce back at home against Alabama on Saturday, which is a lot easier said than done. Clemson barely survived a road trip to Wake Forest in double overtime, and they come home to play NC State this week. There are a few more teams capable of being competitive in games against Clemson, but until someone knocks them off, it has to be assumed that they’re the favorite to represent the ACC in the College Football Playoff. Last year, the Wolfpack knocked off the Tigers, albeit at home, but it’s not often when Clemson has back-to-back weeks of ranked teams on its conference schedule.
Michigan is on upset alert this week in Iowa City; the Hawkeyes can’t seem to score, but their defense makes opponents uncomfortable and picks up the slack. Kentucky can prove whether they’re a legitimate contender in the SEC East with a road win over Ole Miss. The Wildcats already defeated the Gators in the Swamp, but a victory over the Rebels would have to lower their odds for a SEC title.
There are plenty of games on the board to be excited about, but we’ll start in the SEC, where the Tide have a test in Fayetteville.
Note: All college football odds are from FanDuel Sportsbook. Lines are subject to change throughout the day after this article is published. All ratings are out of five stars. Please check numberFire's model to make sure you're seeing the most updated information.
Arkansas +17.5: 5 Stars
The Razorbacks will need quarterback K.J. Jefferson to deliver a career-best performance in order to beat Alabama on Saturday, but they can keep it close if Jefferson is more accurate than he was against Texas A&M. Jefferson has a 69.1% completion percentage this season but completed only 63.2% of his passes against the Aggies.
Alabama hasn’t played any competitive teams outside of Texas, but we saw the Longhorns attack the Tide successfully through the air, particularly before Quinn Ewers’ injury. Arkansas doesn’t have a star wide receiver after Treylon Burks departed, but Jefferson’s running ability and running back Raheim Sanders will force Alabama to respect the run and create opportunities for Jefferson to move the chains with his arm.
Defensively, Alabama has been a menace for its opponents. Obviously, the strength of schedule comes into play when we look at the numbers, but the Crimson Tide rank second in yards allowed per game (behind only Minnesota). Much of the dominance can be attributed to Will Anderson, Jr., who already has 4.5 sacks and an interception return for a touchdown. Many draft experts expect Anderson to be selected first overall in the upcoming overall draft.
It will be interesting to see how the mobility of Jefferson affects Alabama’s performance on defense; if Anderson and company can’t get pressure in the backfield without Jefferson moving out of the pocket and making a play, it’s unlikely they’ll dominate the game.
Ultimately, our model deems the current spread too high and projects Arkansas to cover with a 74.5% probability. Much of the prediction comes down to Arkansas keeping up with Alabama on offense and K.J. Jefferson making a lot of plays to gain chunk yardage. Both of those things are capable of occurring, so the Razorbacks are the pick to cover.
Over 43.5: 5 Stars
The defenses for these teams have been the drivers in each of their successes this year, so it’s understandable that the total is as low as it is currently. Quarterback Devin Leary struggled in NC State’s season opener against East Carolina. Leary is capable of playing at a higher level, though; he had 35 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions in 2021.
Clemson has a similar situation at their quarterback position. We’ve all seen the potential in D.J Uiagalelei, but he had a rough 2021 and the Tigers missed their first College Football Playoff in six years. He seems to be more on track this year with 10 touchdowns thrown to just one pick, but he hasn’t played a defense as good as NC State’s yet -- per Football Outsiders’ FEI metric. The Wolfpack rank 15th on D.
If both of the quarterbacks in this matchup play to their potential, Clemson and NC State should combine to go way over the total. For this bet to cash, we need the defenses to only bend -- not to completely break. Our model thinks the over hits with a 73.4% probability, and not to sound cliché, but it is ultimately in the quarterbacks’ hands on whether it gets there or not.