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.
Michigan Wolverines at Wisconsin Badgers (-7.5, 41)
Michigan's wonky O-line vs. Badgers' sack-happy defensive front
Wisconsin has College Football Playoff visions in its head after remaining unbeaten following last week's 38-14 annihilation of the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Badgers largely control their fate from here on out, making this week's game against the inconsistent Wolverines a critical one in determining whether Wisconsin gets a shot at the national title. Making things easier is the fact that Wisconsin should have a considerable edge in line play when Michigan has the football.
As good as the Wolverines have been on the defensive side of the ball - ranking fifth nationally with 3.3 sacks per game - they have done a terrible job of protecting their own quarterbacks. John O'Korn, Wilton Speight and Brandon Peters have been taken down a combined 27 times, for an average of 2.7 sacks against per game - ranking outside the top 100 in the country. Michigan already relies heavily on the run, and might have to increase that reliance even further this weekend.
Wisconsin has made passing downs miserable for even the most potent offenses. The Badgers are tied for third among FBS schools in total sacks (35) and are fourth overall in sacks per game (3.5). And that relentless pass rush has done more than result in tackled quarterbacks - Wisconsin ranks seventh in the country in interceptions (15) and has returned four of those INTs for touchdowns; only Texas has more. Don't be surprised to see the Badgers hound the Wolverines on just about every Michigan pass play.
TCU Horned Frogs at Texas Tech Red Raiders (+7.5, 58)
TCU's red-zone stinginess vs. Texas Tech's downfield doldrums
With its national title aspirations long gone following two losses in a three-game span, TCU remains focused on reaching the Big 12 championship game - and can do itself a significant favor in that regard with a win over host Texas Tech on Saturday. The Horned Frogs were humbled 38-20 by the Oklahoma Sooners, two weeks after suffering their first blemish of the season in a 14-7 defeat vs. Iowa State. But things are looking up this weekend, thanks to a sizeable edge in red-zone play.
Texas Christian's defense is one of the most formidable in all of Division I - and that's especially the case when it comes to keeping points off the board once the opponent has reached the Horned Frogs' 20-yard line. TCU has limited foes to 15 scoring plays (10 touchdowns, five field goals) in 22 red-zone visits, a 68.2-percent conversion rate that ranks third-best in the country. Only Wisconsin has allowed fewer than the four red-zone rushing scores the Horned Frogs have permitted so far.
That bodes quite poorly for a Red Raiders offense that has visited the opposing red zone with regularity, but has frittered away a number of opportunities there. Texas Tech has 32 scores (27 touchdowns, five field goals) in a whopping 47 trips inside the opponent's 20 - a 68.1-percent success rate that ranks fifth-worst nationally. Trips to the red zone will be scarcer against TCU's vaunted defense - and if Texas Tech can't convert, they could find themselves on the wrong end of a rout.
UCLA Bruins at USC Trojans (-16, 71.5)
UCLA's beleaguered run D vs. USC's solid rush attack
Southern California has locked up the Pac-12 South title but will be hunting for a spot in a premier bowl game as it wraps up regular-season play Saturday afternoon against rival UCLA. The Trojans come in on a three-game winning streak during which they have averaged an incredible 45 points per game - and they're a good bet to rack up the yardage and scoring in their season finale against a Bruins team that has struggled to stop the run for the majority of the season.
By most metrics, UCLA has been among the worst run defense units in Division I; the Bruins are the only team in the nation allowing more than 300 rushing yards per game, and their 5.8 YPC against ranks second-last in the country, ahead of only Air Force. The lowlight of the season? Surrendering an obscene 457 rushing yards in a loss to the Arizona Wildcats on Oct. 14. No matter how good QB Josh Rosen is, if UCLA can't get its defensive house in order, it could be a long day Saturday.
Southern Cal has done plenty of things well this season - and while QB Sam Darnold has garnered most of the headlines on the offensive side of the ball, the Trojans' running game has been impressive, as well. USC averages just over 200 rushing yards per contest - good for 35th nationally - while its 5.2 YPC average sits inside the top 20 among FBS schools. Darnold might not have to do much in this one, aside from handing the ball off to his running backs and letting them do the rest.
Utah Utes at Washington Huskies (-17, 47)
Utah's turnover troubles vs. Huskies' elite ball protection
The Huskies saw their slim chances at a spot in the College Football Playoff washed away with last week's 30-22 setback at Stanford - but first place in the Pac-12 North is still in play - barely - as Washington hosts Utah. The Huskies need plenty of help to claim the division crown, but are in good position to do their part this weekend as a comfortable favorite against a Utes team that has dropped five of six. And when it comes to taking care of the football, these teams aren't in the same neighborhood.
The Utes were already struggling with turnovers before this past weekend - but after coughing up the ball seven times in a 33-25 home loss to Washington State, Utah is now among the worst teams in Division I. The Utes are one of only six schools in the nation with double-digit interceptions (10) and fumbles lost (13), and only four other teams have more than Utah's 23 overall turnovers. Ball security will likely be a top priority at practice week - and if it isn't, it should be.
The Huskies haven't been nearly as accommodating; they've turned the ball over just 10 times all season (five interceptions, five fumbles lost) and are one of just 23 Division I teams averaging no more than one turnover per game. Even in last Saturday's loss to the Cardinal, Washington turned the ball over just once. With the Huskies needing a win this weekend to keep their division title hopes alive, look for them to control the turnover game against a less-than-sure-handed Utah offense.