5 Evening Picks, Including Utah vs. USC, Washington vs. Arizona

Week 7 is as juicy of a college football slate as we’ve seen this season. And the evening window is no exception.

Clemson at Florida State. Mississippi State at Kentucky. Stanford at Notre Dame. USC at Utah. But remember, us bettors don’t need big games to find value.

Our staff dove into five matchups as part of Saturday evening’s slate and put together five best bets. Only one of the games above is featured, but that’s okay because we’re searching for winners below.

Week 7 Saturday Evening College Football Best Bets

The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college football staff is targeting from today’s slate of games. Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific page discussed in this article.

Arizona vs. Washington

By Colin Wilson

Washington has started to fall off the map as a contender in the Pac-12. A loss at UCLA on a short week is acceptable, but a loss to an Arizona State team with an interim coach is a completely different story.

Despite a hot start, the Huskies have struggled to contain offenses this season. Plenty of their statistical categories fall outside the mid-FBS range — from coverage to Havoc to Line Yards.

More importantly, teams that sustain drives and get beyond the 40-yard line are having success. The Washington defense has faced 39 such opponent drives, giving up an average of 5.3 points per trip.

Any offense with a pulse is able to get touchdowns on the Huskies with a methodical possession.

The question is if Arizona is able to do that on the road. While the defense has not improved for head coach Jedd Fisch, the offense has been explosive. The Wildcats are ninth in Passing Downs Success Rate, a category the Washington defense struggles in.

There may not be a defender for the Huskies capable of covering Jacob Cowing from the slot, as the UTEP transfer is averaging an explosive 2.6 yards per route run.

Washington will certainly score at home, but stopping an explosive Arizona passing attack will be problematic.

Pick: Arizona +14

Rice vs. Florida Atlantic

By Patrick Strollo

Two of the worst defenses in Conference USA will square up on Saturday evening in Boca Raton, Florida.

Both defenses have been porous this season, each entering the game in the bottom third of scoring defenses. Florida Atlantic and Rice are ranked 90th and 101st in scoring defense, allowing 29.3 and 31.0 points per game, respectively.

On the other side of the ball, both teams rank in the top 50% of scoring offenses.

Last week against UAB, Rice put up 24 points against the Blazers’ top-20 defense, while Florida Atlantic scored 28 points against a weak North Texas defense. Rice shouldn’t have an issue putting 30 points on the board, while Florida Atlantic should bounce back after getting throttled on the road.

Outside of the generally poor defenses, the keys to covering are twofold.

First, Rice will be able to exploit a Florida Atlantic secondary that ranks 86th nationally in passing defense, giving up 241.7 yards per game.

Finally, the relative strength of Rice’s pass defense will allow Florida Atlantic to emphasize its 26th-ranked rushing offense.

My model has this total getting into the 60s for this game. Take the over as these two programs with permeable defenses get together for a high-scoring affair in South Florida.

Pick: Over 55.5 (Play to 56.5)

North Carolina vs. Duke

By Kody Malstrom

This all comes down to Duke being able to keep scoring pace with the Tar Heels while limiting their explosive offense.

While Duke’s Defensive Pass Success Rate and Pass Rush are average at best, the Blue Devils excel at one metric that can negate UNC’s downfield success: Generating Havoc.

As good and as explosive as UNC’s offense is, the Heels are prone to making mistakes, losing out on much-needed offensive field positions to negate their horrible defense. UNC is currently 92nd in Offensive Havoc, a worrisome metric when it’s not in scoring position.

On the other end, Duke should have no problem moving the ball down the field on the Tar Heels’ defense. It’s Week 7, and we know exactly what this unit is — it’s one of the worst in college football.

The Heels rank 100th or worst in every defensive metric except Pass Rush.

While back field pressure from the defensive line has been their lone bright spot, the Heels will be going against an equally good offensive line. That may put more pressure on the Tar Heels’ secondary, and I am not confident that the unit can succeed for the full length of a game.

Take Duke and the points at no less than +7 in what will be another fun installment in this storied rivalry.

Pick: Duke +7

USC vs. Utah

By Mike McNamara

The first-year magic for Lincoln Riley and USC ends on Saturday night in Salt Lake City. I expect an absolutely raucous atmosphere at Rice-Eccles Stadium for this one — just take a look at those helmets the Utes will be wearing.

Utah is the more physical and experienced team in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and I believe the Utes will win the battle up front.

As dynamic as Caleb Williams can be, Cameron Rising has plenty of experience playing in big games, and he has performed very well in most, particularly at home.

Quite frankly, I don’t think USC is ready for what it will be stepping into on Saturday night, given the schedule the Trojans have played so far.

Utah will rack up stops in this contest, and Rising and the offense should have ample opportunities to move the ball down the field.

Give me the Utes to cover the 3.5-point number, in a game I don’t necessarily think will be all that close.

Pick: Utah -3.5 (Play to -4)

Washington State vs. Oregon State

By Keg

Oregon State pulled out a win at the last second against Stanford — even more impressively, it did it without its starting quarterback.

The Beavers will now try to hold off a Washington State team that had high hopes against USC, but never had much of a chance, losing 30-14.

Chance Nolan is still questionable — at best — as of now, but backup Ben Gulbranson held his own against Stanford, completing 69% of his passes and throwing for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

However, the Washington State defense will present a much more difficult challenge than Gulbranson faced against Stanford. The Cougars rank second in the Pac-12 with 19 sacks on the season so far.

Washington State’s offense, meanwhile, struggled against USC. Cam Ward had his worst performance of the season, and the Cougars are now faced with two of their best offensive weapons likely to be out against Oregon State.

Wide receiver Renard Bell and running back Nakia Watson are both expected to miss the Oregon State game.

Turnovers have been a huge issue for Ward all season, and despite losing to USC, he did not have a single interception in the game. That’s something he’ll need to do again against a Beavers team that is tied for third in the conference with seven picks on the season.

I think Oregon State will struggle against a Cougars defense that will likely pressure the quarterback for the majority of the game.

Washington State, meanwhile, has struggled to perform on the road, and I think that continues in Corvallis. That’s why I’m on the bottom in this Pac-12 matchup. I’d feel comfortable at any number 50 or better.

Pick: Under 51.5 (Play to 50)

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