There are a trio of top-10 games on Saturday’s docket, including No. 6 Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State. Let’s break down the angles for that matchup, along with No. 4 Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech, for my Week 9 college football best bets.
You’ll also find the betting perspective of Motoi Pearson, WynnBET Sportsbook’s senior trader, below. You can access WynnBET’s exclusive first-time offers here.
No. 6 Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State
On Wednesday at PointsBet Sportsbook, 73% of the spread bets and 88% of the spread handle were on the underdog Spartans. A similar percentage is backing the under, which has ticked down after opening at a total of 52.
When Michigan has the ball, its offense revolves around the ground game, and I expect Jim Harbaugh to employ it at will — at least in the first half.
The Wolverines have the seventh-highest rushing usage (65.8%) across Division I — even more than Wisconsin — and ranks No. 25 in expected points added (EPA) per carry. Michigan’s duo of Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins are the first and fifth-highest graded running backs, respectively, via Pro Football Focus.
EPA is calculated by expected points scored based on the down, distance, and field position at the start of a play — juxtaposed with the play’s conclusion.
Michigan State’s premier defense ranks No. 45 in expected points added (EPA) per carry. I’m anticipating Mel Tucker’s bunch to be up to the challenge.
When Michigan State has the ball, it boasts a top-50 rushing play percentage. Harbaugh’s defense has an advantage here, as Wolverines defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald runs a 3-4 base scheme while mixing it up often. Michigan has been successful to the tune of allowing the sixth-fewest EPA per carry.
This matchup sets up for a defensive battle over the first 30 minutes. Let’s wait to see how whether the betting market drives the total back up enough, though.
Behind The Counter
“We were the first market to open at Michigan -5 with a total of 52.5,” Pearson said. “We stayed pretty strong at that spread, taking all Sparty money, but eventually got pulled down and met the market at 4.5.
“There’s great two-way action on the total. I’ve seen some sharper money at 51 and 51.5 on the over.”
Eli’s Potential Bet: Waiting on a first-half under 24.5 (market dependent)
Best Available Odds: O/U
Texas Tech at No. 4 Oklahoma
As of Wednesday at PointsBet, 66% of the spread tickets are on Oklahoma while 69% of the spread handle is on the Red Raiders.
Before Heisman candidate Caleb Williams permanently took over at quarterback in the Cotton Bowl, Oklahoma was averaging 6.35 yards per play (YPP). Over the last two-plus games, Williams & Co. are tallying 8.40 YPP — sitting behind only Coastal Carolina during that stretch.
The Sooners’ attack should thrive against a Red Raiders defense allowing the 35th-most EPA per play across college football. But where does Alex Grinch’s defense find itself in that department? No. 91.
Moreover, Oklahoma is allowing the fourth-most EPA per dropback — a metric in which Texas Tech’s offense ranks in the top 15. Even without signal caller Tyler Shough (broken collarbone), senior Henry Columbi is posting 8.1 yards per pass attempt (YPA) since taking over midway through Week 4.
Betting a team after its head coach is fired is a risky move, but I’m willing to back interim coach Sonny Cumbie over three possessions.
“We opened this a bit lower than the market (-18.5),” Pearson said. “OU hasn’t really commanded our respect to be laying a lot of points, and that performance against Kansas last week didn’t help (outgained 10.25 to 7.74 YPA).
“With the news of Matt Wells getting canned at Texas Tech so abruptly, we saw the market shoot up on Oklahoma, and bets came with it. We’re hanging around 20 now, so I’m interested to see where this line closes on Saturday.”
Eli’s Bet: Texas Tech +18.5 or better (+19.5 at FanDuel Sportsbook — placed at 2pm ET on Wednesday, Oct. 26)
Best Available Line: Texas Tech
Pearson’s Best Bet: Texas at No. 16 Baylor
“I had Texas as a 1.5-point favorite here, and I’d expect the Longhorns to win a game like this — where all the pressure is on Baylor,” Pearson said. “Although I respect what (Baylor coach Dave) Aranda has done with this team, look for Texas’ offense to match up well here and make enough defensive plays to win the game. But I’ll take the points.”
Mo’s Week 9 College Football Best Bets: Texas +3
Best Available Line: Texas