UNC is in the Top 5 of Pick Six Previews’ Game Grader, while Florida State is in the bottom 5. UNC is on a 6-game win streak and is 5-1 ATS (83%) during that run. I had predicted a huge year for UNC’s offense and they are proving me right so far with 7.6 yards per play (#4 nationally) and 6.3 yards per carry (#5 nationally). But the surprise has been the improvement on the defensive side of the ball. Combining both sides of the ball, UNC leads all of Power 5 in yards per play differential.
Even six weeks into this win streak, I refuse to leave the UNC train. Expect the offense to continue to put up big numbers against a Florida State defense that allowed 52 points to Miami and 42 to Notre Dame. UNC is a better offense than both of them. While Jordan Travis was a positive, and could be Florida State’s quarterback of the future, this program is clearly stuck in a transition/rebuilding year.
Top 5 vs. Bottom 5 (Game Grader). Top 5 offense vs. Bottom 10 defense. Top 10 defense vs. Bottom 10 offense. Full advantage UNC.
PREDICTION: NORTH CAROLINA 45, FLORIDA STATE 24
PICK: NORTH CAROLINA -13.5 @-110
On Labor Day, BYU stomped AAC-member Navy 55-3, then dominated perennial Sun Belt contender Troy 48-7, then beat C-USA Louisiana Tech 45-14. The yardage differentials in those contests were almost as impressive as the scores: +430, +480, and +200. BYU leads the nation in yards/play differential, and in my opponent-adjusted Game Grader, BYU is ranked #6 nationally.
It is not a fluke – this is a complete team. On most plays, the defense drops eight players into coverage, enough to confuse most opposing quarterbacks and lead to coverage sacks or mistakes. Normally, a consistent three-man rush would open running lanes, however BYU’s nose-tackle Khyiris Tonga is both a space-eater and a disrupter.
On offense, quarterback Zach Wilson resembles Johnny Manziel at times in how he can extend plays in and out of the pocket. He is a sharp passer, leads the nation in completion percentage (81%), and is top 3 in QB Rating and Yards/Attempt. BYU also has a Top 15 offensive line, and is 2nd nationally in yards/play.
BYU started 3-0 against-the-spread but had a close 7-point win over 35-point underdog UTSA Saturday. This opening -3 line was an overreaction to an otherwise perfect 2020 campaign. It has since shifted to -5 due to the uncertainty of 15 Houston players.
PREDICTION: BYU 31, HOUSTON 20
PICK: BYU -5 @ -110
My weekly “Big 12 Total Points OVER” bet is 3-0 this season, but with 8 of the 10 Big 12 teams not playing this week, I am flipping the script and calling an SEC UNDER. Has Ole Miss been incredible on offense? Yes. Of all teams, they were able to get Alabama’s defense into a high-scoring shootout. At one point, the teams combined to score touchdowns on 10 straight possessions!
But 77.5 points is an overreaction. Arkansas fielded the worst statistical defense in all of Power 5 over the past three seasons, but the unit looks much improved under new defensive coordinator Barry Odom.
All three of Ole Miss’ games went over their points totals, but 2/3 of Arkansas went under (averaged just 48 total per game).
PREDICTION: OLE MISS 35, ARKANSAS 30
PICK: TOTAL POINTS UNDER 76 @-110
Over the past decade, Pittsburgh has the most losses by a touchdown or less (32), and also the most losses by one point (7). Saturday night in Chestnut Hill they missed an extra point in overtime to cost them their second loss of 2020. Both were by one point.
Does this matter for the upcoming Miami game? Yes, partially. I am confident the public betting view of Pittsburgh would be different if those two one-point losses were one-point wins. There are no moral victories in football, but from a forward-looking predictive angle, not all losses are created equal. I point to Pitt leading the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss. They are #3 in total defense, and this pass rush will disrupt a Miami offensive line that was dead last in sacks allowed last season, and just allowed five sacks to Clemson.
Beware of the “Clemson Effect” where teams fresh off of a Clemson beatdown loss perform far below their statistical averages the following week.
PREDICTION: MIAMI 27, PITTSBURGH 23
PICK: PITTSBURGH +13.5 @-110
Georgia Tech’s September looks even worse now in retrospect. The once-impressive win over Florida State has lost value after seeing how poor the 2020 Seminoles are. A 28-point blowout loss to UCF looks worse after they lost to Tulsa. The Clemson Machine rolls on.
PREDICTION: CLEMSON 48, GEORGIA TECH 17
PICK: CLEMSON -27.5 @-110
Look for Mississippi State’s offense to get back on track against an A&M defense that struggled against the vertical passing attacks of Alabama and Florida. Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach’s favorite pass concept is the ‘four verts’ which should be a problem for the Aggies. A&M can score themselves, behind a poised Kellen Mond and a young, but explosive group of playmakers around him.
PREDICTION: TEXAS A&M 34, MISSISSIPPI STATE 27
PICK: TOTAL POINTS OVER 54.5 @-110