UTSA vs. Western Kentucky (-2.5) │Total: 72.5
It’s incredibly tough to trust UTSA since entering conference play. A tight game against Southern Miss, should have been a loss to UAB, and a beatdown from North Texas has caused Jeff Traylor’s Roadrunners to show some weaknesses. Currently ranked 87th in defensive passing success rate, UTSA gets Bailey Zappe and the pass-happy Hilltoppers this week who should expose this secondary.
Western Kentucky has played better since their loss to UTSA a few weeks ago. An elite passing game (4th in success rate), an efficient rushing game (40th in success rate), and an improving defense that hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 21 since week 5 (against a UTSA that was playing better), this is an improving unit.
I’m actually considering the under here as well and it seems to be rising across books so you might be able to hold on until tomorrow’s kickoff. The number is just slightly too high given how the Hilltoppers’ defense has been and UTSA still has talent on D. I’m looking for a 73.5.
WKU -2.5 (FanDuel)
Northern Illinois vs. Kent State (-3.5)│Total: 72.5
The MAC Championship game is finally here and it’s glorious. The luckiest team in the country in Kent State is favored here in a rematch of the Week 9 game in which Kent State ended up winning 52-47. The Huskies head into this game banged up with Rocky Lombardi missing last week’s game and no news he’s made progress. The Golden Flashes do bring in the country’s best offense in terms of success rate, ranking top-5 in both passing and rushing and this is a bad Northern Illinois defense, ranked 117th overall in success rate.
I want to play Kent State -3.5, and I’ll recommend it here because I don’t trust Northern Illinois right now. Missing Lombardi here is going to be very tough for NIU to overcome, especially if Kent State can key in against the run which they were able to in the last matchup, limiting the Huskies to 39 attempts for only 131 rushing yards. The Golden Flashes win this game and cover.
Kent State -3.5
Utah State @ San Diego State (-6) │Total: 50
San Diego State unders are fun because the opposing team has to deal with Punt God Matt Araiza (should be a Heisman contender). This year, based on both defensive success and Arazia, SDSU ranks 9th in net field position while Utah State ranks 15th. The field position for the Aggies has been huge and that isn’t going to be in their favor this week. Both defenses here have been solid to end the season, finishing 34th and 4th respectively with the Aztecs going under this number in five straight games, including against better offenses in Fresno State and Nevada.
Given how poor the Aztecs’ offense has been this year, the spread is a stay-away number for me but it does lend credence to the total. The risk we run in this matchup is Utah State plays an incredibly fast pace, a top-10 unit in players per minute and first in players per game at 84. San Diego State, who plays a bottom 20 pace will look to keep the Aggies offense off the field and when the Aztec offense falters, see: Punt God.
SDSU/Utah St u50
Houston @ Cincinnati (10.5) │Total: 53.5
I expect this to be a defensive slugfest and a low-scoring contest for the AAC Championship. Houston is the second-best defense Cincinnati has played this season, allowing a 33.8% defensive success rate, good for 8th nationally. The Houston front-seven could cause serious issues for the Bearcats as they rank 12th in average line yards per play, 5th in opportunity rate, and 12th in standard down sack rate. This is a very good Houston line and while Cincinnati ranks top-25 in offensive line play across the board, that’s a product of their matchups more than excellent play. The decisive advantage here is for the Cougars.
Anecdotally, Cincinnati shouldn’t need to run up the score here. If they take care of business and win, they are likely in the playoff. If they’re in control of this game, they’ll likely nurse the lead and not take risks trying to run up the score which should keep the game total in check. As for Houston, Clayton Tune and Nathaniel Dell are an excellent duo but the Cincinnati secondary led by Sauce Gardner is a very good unit and should shut down the passing offense as they’ve done most of the year. To be honest, it’s hard to see this game hit the over given what both teams are fighting for and their want to keep this game close. Houston ranks bottom-30 in pace and will likely try to run more given that’s where Cincinnati is the weakest. It wouldn’t surprise me if they kept the game tight, slowed it down, and relied on their defense here to upset Cincinnati.
Given the way I expect this game to play out, I don’t love the value on -10.5 in either direction, but I do think Houston ML sprinkle is the way to go. There’s a path for them to win here through the defense and controlling the clock that makes this a legitimate spot to lay some dough on the ML.
Houston ML +340 (DraftKings)