Despite the final score and crazy ending at the pylon, Penn State thoroughly outplayed Indiana and actually outgained them by 280 yards. This is a rare case where my Game Grader formula gives a higher score to the losing team. It is not meant to re-write history or give moral victories, but from a forward-looking predictive angle, Penn State was the better team.
Their pass coverage and pass rush both stood out. Defensive backs were blanketed all over Indiana receivers, and in (what should have been) the defining series, Penn State’s defensive line got two consecutive sacks and nearly forced a third.
It will be strength vs. strength when Ohio State throws the ball. Justin Fields was 20 of 21 (95%) passing, and his stable of 5-star receivers were often spaced out and open by 10+ yards. Expect tighter coverage here. But also expect Ohio State to take advantage of their first national primetime stage. In 2017 and 2018, you could argue Penn State outplayed Ohio State – they held large halftime leads and led late before blowing leads. However, Ohio State statistically widened the gap last year, and, in Penn State head coach James Franklin’s words are “an elite program.” Penn State’s best two players are out with All-American Micah Parsons opted-out, and running back Journey Brown injured.
PREDICTION: OHIO STATE 37, PENN STATE 20
PICK: OHIO STATE -12 @ -110 (Click to Bet)
Virginia is riding a 4-game losing streak, and while they got within a score against Miami, the previous two games they lost against-the-spread by margins of 24 and 14.5 points. UVA is ranked #11 (of 15) in the ACC in my Game Grader formula, a measure of statistical dominance that adjusts for opponent strength. In the same formula, UNC is #2 behind Clemson.
UNC’s loss to Florida State will simply never make sense. They left points on the field, they went just 3/12 (25%) on 3rd downs, and a brutal 0-3 on 4th downs. UNC outgained them by 130 yards, but couldn’t execute in the keys to the game – not to mention the uncharacteristic dropped passes on that final drive.
Last week they knocked off the rust and proved that loss was a fluke, by beating (and covering ATS) rival NC State. UNC is riding a 7-1 streak straight-up and is 6-2 (75%) ATS over that span. The trends continue Saturday night.
PREDICTION: NORTH CAROLINA 38 VIRGINIA 21
PICK: UNC -7 @ -110 (Click to Bet)
Last week, I picked Northwestern here to cover their 11-point spread – they covered by 40 points. This is one of the most undervalued teams in America right now. Yes, last year was a trainwreck due to extreme youth and injuries that decimated the quarterback position. But now here in 2020, all that youth flips to a veteran roster, and former Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey has fixed that spot.
At Indiana, Ramsey set the school-record for completion percentage, and continued his accurate passing last week going 23/30 (77%). It was one of the more lopsided Power 5 games this entire season, with Northwestern outgaining Maryland by 330 yards.
Meanwhile, Iowa lost a coin-flip game to Purdue, a team that was forecasted towards the bottom of the Big Ten West. This one may prove to be another 50/50 game, but expect Northwestern to win outright.
PREDICTION: NORTHWESTERN 23, IOWA 20
PICK: NORTHWESTERN +3 @ -110 (Click to Bet)
Another week, another BYU pick. Not only is BYU surging up the polls and drawing national attention, they are now 5-1 (83%) ATS this season. The best part – they are covering by an average of 22 points above the spread. In order to push into the New Years’ Six, or even Playoff discussions, BYU needs to continue to win and win big.
PREDICTION: BYU 49, WESTERN KENTUCKY 20
PICK: BYU -28 @ -110 (Click to Bet)
After failing to cover spreads against bottom-tier ACC opponents the first two games of October, Notre Dame flexed their strength last week against Pitt, winning 45-3. Pitt entered the game as the nation’s leader in sacks and tackles for loss, but Notre Dame’s powerful offensive line held their ground, and the Irish outgained them by 270 yards.
Notre Dame is hitting their stride right in time for the Clemson showdown next week. In the meantime, a Georgia Tech opponent that lost by 70 to Clemson, and by 21 to Boston College (18 points below the 3-point spread).
PREDICTION: NOTRE DAME 41, GEORGIA TECH 17
PICK: NOTRE DAME -20 @ -110 (Click to Bet)