The Oklahoma rally was symbolic of my gambling last Saturday. At first it appeared that Betting Stuff was headed for another ho-hum performance, but not on Caleb Williams’ watch. The 5-star freshman put the Sooners and by extension Betting Stuff on his back and not only orchestrated a massive comeback, but also covered the 3.5-point spread at the Dallas State Fair.

Last week: 4-1, +2.9 Units
Season record: 27-13 (67.5%), +17.7 Units

So with a 4-1 weekend in my rearview, I’m going back to the Group of 5 well with a handful of “bottom of the board” games as well as a play on the colossal SEC East showdown between Kentucky and Georgia.

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San Diego State-9.5 at San Jose State (Friday)

I recommended playing the Aztec moneyline (-350) on a podcast this week, but the more I dig into this game, the more I like SDSU against the spread.

It all starts with the Aztecs’ dynamic defense. Kurt Mattix, SDSU’s defensive coordinator, is setting himself up for a run at the Broyles Award and a slew of head coaching offers. For the second year in a row, he’s coaching up a top-5 defense, and according to Pro Football Focus, only Iowa and Georgia bring more to table against the pass than the Aztecs. In the Aztecs’ Power 5 matchup against Utah, they held the Utes to just 4.4 yards per attempt.

Teams simply can’t beat this unit deep, evidenced by the fact they’ve allowed only 4 competitions of 30 yards or more through 5 games (5th nationally). This suffocating coverage allows them to get to the quarterback early and often (3.6 sacks per game, 8th) without blitzing.

San Jose State is in the midst of a quarterback controversy, having to choose between a dinged-up and largely ineffective incumbent (well-traveled Nick Starkel, 4 INTs in last 3) and Nick Nash, who was unable to get the offense out of neutral against Colorado State (11/22, 154 yards). This is not the kind of momentum a team wants when it’s about to face the nation’s premier G5 defense.

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And then there’s the lack of a home-field advantage at CEFCU Stadium. The east-side stadium renovation has temporarily reduced seating capacity from just over 30,000 to 21,520. And lackluster play has brought the official attendance numbers down to 15,000. That translates to a nonexistent home-field advantage, as you can see below.

This drop is significant, because coming into the season, Collin Wilson’s home-field advantage metrics placed SJSU at 26th nationally. The home-cooking just isn’t the same this season. The Spartans nearly lost outright to New Mexico State two weeks ago and appear to be in a tailspin entering this one.

Over 67 Western Kentucky at Old Dominion

Here’s a fun fact right out of the gate: Western Kentucky is the only team in the nation that has cracked the top 11 in scoring offense while residing in the bottom 11 of scoring defense. That screams “over” in bright shining lights on the gambling marquee.

This also explains why the Hilltoppers have gone over in all 5 games this season, exceeding the closing total by an average of 16.7 points per game. No other Group of 5 program is within 5 points of that “over” average.

Is it possible the lousy Monarchs attack could throw cold water on this over party? At first blush, absolutely. Old Dominion totals have split this season, 3-3, behind the nation’s 100th-rated scoring offense. If you’re hunting for a national ranking in the triple digits you don’t have to strain your eyes when perusing ODU’s metrics. Yards per play, competition percentage, interception rate, sack rate, the list goes on and on for the Monarchs, and frankly, it’s all ghastly.

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But ODU has shown potential on the ground, committing to the run more than 40 times per game while gaining 179 yards per contest. Western Kentucky is absolutely horrific against the run, allowing 211 yards per game.

Given the red-hot state of the WKU passing attack, I’m not concerned about the stingy (by C-USA standards) secondary ODU is trotting out there. The ODU defense has faced 2 upper-tier quarterbacks thus far (Sam Hartman, Wake Forest and Malik Willis, Liberty) and surrendered 7 passing touchdowns against zero interceptions. Bailey Zappe and midseason All-American Jerreth Sterns will have a field day.

If the ODU running game can do the heavy lifting and get the Monarchs into the upper 20s, WKU and it’s aerial attack will do the rest. I would play this up to 72.5.

Kent State ML+210 at Western Michigan

If you bought low on the Golden Flashes and backed Kent State as a double-digit underdog to Buffalo last week, you were handsomely rewarded.

Dustin Crum has finally emerged from a brutal opening schedule that seemed destined to doom the Kent season. Instead of packing it in, he and his band of MAC playmakers are out for revenge. Crum tallied 479 total yards and 5 touchdowns last week. His backfield mate, Marquez Cooper, has now assumed full bellcow duties, having toted the rock 52 times for 232 yards and 3 scores in the past 2 weeks. The offense is back on track, which is bad news for the rest of the MAC.

Western Michigan, which I faded last week against Ball State, does not have the same quick-strike offense it did last season. Kaleb Eleby is still a tremendous G5 quarterback, and La’Darius Jefferson continues to give the Broncos the perfect run/pass balance (435 yards, 8 TDs), but the days of the Eleby quick-strike are over. In 2020, WMU’s yards per attempt average was second nationally, just .1 yards behind mighty Alabama. This season, it checks in at 67th.

I would warn our audience to check the weather in Kalamazoo before pulling the trigger. After a soggy week and with rain forecasted for Thursday and Friday, strong winds are now on the menu for Saturday.

If the passing game is off the table for both teams, I still like Kent State but to a lesser degree. If winds are projected below 15 MPH, this becomes one of my top plays of the week, with Crum positioned for back-to-back big outings through the air.

Kentucky+22.5 at Georgia

This is a good example of the difference between being a college football reporter/analyst and being a gambling expert. To nitpick the Bulldogs from a traditional perspective is just lunacy. The defense has played well enough in the first 6 weeks of the season to garner legitimate consideration as the greatest of all-time. That’s backed up by their suffocating run defense, their opportunistic secondary and a special teams unit that is scoring touchdowns.

It would take a near act of God for Kentucky to lead the Bulldogs in the second half of this game, let alone win outright. But now that this number has bubbled up past 3 touchdowns, I prefer to back the upstart Cats and their balanced offense against the spread.

For starters, UK has the best running game the Dawgs have faced all season, given the fact that Tank Bigsby was banged up for their meeting last week against Auburn. Pro Football Focus ranks the Cats’ run blocking and ball carrier ability in the top 20 nationally. Chis Rodriguez has been a battering ram for Mark Stoops, having toted the rock 120 times for 768 yards and 7 total touchdowns. Toss in the emergence of Wan’Dale Robinson at wide receiver and it’s fair to say the Blue and White have enough weapons to string together a few drives.

If Kentucky can score in the 14-17 point range, it’ll be up to their underrated defense to keep Stetson Bennett and the rugged UGA running game under 38 points. A borderline top-25 unit has been excellent against the run (3 ypc, 16th) and has done a masterful job avoiding big plays through the air (6 ypa, 10th).

These stats indicate to me that UK can “muck” this game up. Which makes 3 touchdowns-plus an attractive line to be catching in this SEC game of the week.

Yale+7.5 at UConn

UConn is the worst team in the FBS by a country mile and when you consult the Sagarin Ratings, which combined both levels of football, the Huskies check in 200th nationally. Yale? A full 33 slots higher at 167.

While UConn is coached by a substitute teacher, now that Randy Edsall abandoned ship, Yale has an FCS legend walking the sidelines. Tony Reno is a great coach at any level. He’s helped the Bulldogs capture 2 of the past 3 Ivy League championships and he is a former Eddie Robinson coach of the year finalist.

Formerly known as an offensive guru, Reno has built a stout defense this season. Yale checks in 10th at the FCS level in total defense, while generating 7.5 TFLs per game.

Griffin O’Connor, the Bulldogss quarterback, has guided an offense that has only turned the ball over twice while spreading the love through the air. Four receivers have collected double-digit receptions in 2021.

This is the first meeting between the schools since 1998 and it’s clear that UConn has quit on the season. Yale, on the other side of things, has a lot to play for and a winning history to fall back on. Give me the Bulldogs on the ML and plus the points.