Surveying the weekly NCAAF schedule can be a daunting task for even seasoned bettors. So each week, Monty Andrews breaks down some of the underlying betting mismatches on the college football slate, giving you an inside edge when handicapping the schedule.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Miami Hurricanes (-6.5, 52.5)
Georgia Tech's third-down defense vs. Miami's drive extension struggles
The Hurricanes have done a fantastic job dealing with adverse circumstances, remaining unbeaten and leading the ACC-Coastal Division despite already having three games postponed or cancelled due to weather. Last weekend's pivotal 24-20 win over host Florida State made a major statement, but Miami could be in tough this weekend against Georgia Tech; not only did the Hurricanes lose leading rusher Mark Walton for the season, but they face a significant mismatch when it comes to third downs.
Georgia Tech has made a name for itself on offense by averaging a stunning 396 rushing yards per game; only Navy (414.2) averages more in Division I. But the Yellow Jackets have also made a major impact on the defensive side of the ball by limiting opponents to 11 third-down conversions on 46 opportunities - a 23.9-percent success rate that ranks fourth-best in the nation. North Carolina went just 2-for-12 on third downs in last weekend's 33-7 loss to Georgia Tech.
For all that Miami has done well this season, it has been slightly below average in converting on third down; the Hurricanes are 18-for-46 on the season, good for a 39.1-percent conversion that ranks 68th nationally. That includes an 11-for-29 stretch on third downs in wins over Kentucky and Florida State; the Hurricanes escaped with victories in both games, but a similar showing against the Yellow Jackets could result in this game being closer than oddsmakers anticipate.
Michigan Wolverines at Indiana Hoosiers (+6.5, 45.5)
Michigan's ground struggles vs. Indiana's stout run D
The Wolverines' national title hopes took a significant hit with last week's 14-10 loss to rival Michigan State; not only did Michigan lose the game, but will also be without starting quarterback Wilton Speight for "multiple weeks" as he recovers from a back injury. A solid bounceback effort against the Hoosiers is imperative for head coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines, but it won't be easy - particularly on the ground - against an Indiana defense that just pitched a shutout against Charleston Southern.
You can point to several areas in which Michigan underwhelmed against the Spartans, but the ground game was among the most disappointing. The Wolverines gained just 102 yards on a whopping 39 attempts - good for a paltry 2.6 YPC average. That dropped Michigan's YPC average below 4.0 yards for the season, while its six rushing scores rank higher than only the Spartans and Purdue Boilermakers. And with the switch to QB John O'Korn (505 yards, TD, 4 INT), the Wolverines need that run game even more.
Indiana has opened conference play with one-sided losses to Ohio State and Penn State, but is on a high after limiting Charleston Southern to 134 total yards - all on the ground - in a 27-0 triumph. The Buccaneers needed 44 carries to amass that yardage total, as the Hoosiers run defense continued its impressive stretch. Indiana is limiting foes to 3.6 YPC - tied for the sixth-best rate in the defense-heavy Big Ten - and has surrendered just five rushing touchdowns through its first five games.
Washington Huskies at Arizona State Sun Devils (+17, 62)
Huskies' relentless pass rush vs. Sun Devils' shaky O-line
The Washington Huskies are making a run toward the College Football Playoff - and it's thanks to sensational play on both sides of the football. The Huskies enter this week's showdown at Arizona State ranked tied for 11th in points per game (43.0) and third in the nation in points allowed (10.2). Arizona State is no slouch in the passing game, averaging nearly 300 yards per contest - but if it doesn't do a better job of protecting QB Manny Wilkins, it could be a long night at Sun Devil Stadium.
The Huskies have been the class of the Pac-12 in the majority of statistical categories, and are getting to the opposing quarterback at a breakneck pace. Washington is one of only seven Division I schools to have amassed at least 20 sacks so far, and its 3.33 sacks-per-game average ranks 10th nationally. As a result of that relentless pressure, teams are averaging just 150.3 passing yards per game against Washington, which has surrendered just three passing scores through six games.
Wilkins has been strong through his first five games of the season, ranking third in the conference in passing yards per game (290.3) and sixth in quarterback efficiency (153.9). But you have to wonder how much better he would be if the Sun Devils offensive line were stronger. Arizona State has already surrendered 22 sacks - fourth-most in Division I - and is averaging 4.4 sacks against per game, the second-worst rate in the nation. Look for that trend to continue against Washington's vaunted defense.
Kansas Jayhawks at Iowa State Cyclones (20.5, 68)
Jayhawks' possession issues vs. Cyclones' terrific turnover rate
Iowa State might have single-handedly ended Oklahoma's quest for the national title, posting one of the most notable upsets of the year with last weekend's 38-31 triumph over the Sooners. Next up: a home date with a Kansas Jayhawks team allowing the third-most points per game (44.0) in Division I. This one is expected to be a high-scoring affair, and that heavily favors the Cyclones - not only because they're the superior team, but because they have a significant edge in the turnover department.
The Jayhawks are hemorrhaging points like few other teams in the nation, and haven't done themselves any favors on the other side of the football. Kansas has already committed 13 turnovers - tied for seventh-most overall - while only six other Division I teams have racked up more interceptions than the Jayhawks' nine. Kansas has a minus-seven turnover differential on the season, with seven of their turnovers coming in their last two games.
The Cyclones have had an up-and-down season to date, and have failed to string together consecutive victories. But they're on the right track following last week's upset win over Oklahoma, and have the turnover ratio to suggest that their success is sustainable. Iowa State has forced nine turnovers through five games while committing only five itself - good for a plus-four differential that ranks inside the top 30 nationally. Even more impressively, the Cyclones have yet to lose a fumble.