SabreBetrics: Week 13 Betting Guide – Rivalry Week

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This is the final week of the regular season for many college football teams, which means that many rivalry games will be on the docket. A popular refrain you will hear from commentators is that you should “throw out the record books” when a rivalry trophy is at stake. From a betting perspective, this is not good advice.

While some rivalry matchups have been more volatile than expected in recent years (Alabama-Auburn and Florida-Georgia come to mind), most pairings follow normal college football statistical trends. As a result, you should not use “rivalry week” as a reason to talk yourself into choosing an inferior team. Stay true to what you have seen on the field, particularly over the last month of the season.

No mailbag this week. Just as you don’t want to fill up on bread before Thanksgiving dinner, I am saving room for the picks.

Virginia Week 13 Forecast

  • VPISU +7 vs. Virginia
  • Total: Over 62.5

Despite Brennan Armstrong’s triumphant return from injury, the Cavaliers made too many unforced errors on defense and special teams at Pittsburgh to remain in the hunt for the ACC Coastal Division title. Though Virginia is no longer competing for an ACC Championship, there is still much to play for this week against Virginia Tech. There is a drastic difference in perception between a 6-6 year that ends in four straight losses and a 7-5 year with a victory over your primary rival. The Cavaliers can also keep the Hokies from earning bowl eligibility, which Virginia Tech had achieved for 27 consecutive years before last year’s COVID-shortened season.

Tech’s offense has been hit or miss throughout the season. Nothing exemplifies this inconsistency better than the usage and play of running back Raheem Blackshear. After rushing for 117 yards and a touchdown against Duke, Blackshear was only given 2 carries for 3 yards the following week at Miami. Quarterbacks Braxton Burmeister and Connor Blumrick are threats to run as well, which should challenge a Virginia defense that ranks 121st nationally in rushing yards allowed per game.

Speaking of quarterbacks, there is some ambiguity about who will start for the Hokies this weekend. Burmeister has been the more effective passer, but he has dealt with injuries for most the season and was forced out of the Miami game for undisclosed reasons. Blumrick played well as his replacement, completing 5 of 11 passes with 2 touchdowns. However, Blumrick has only attempted 16 passes in his entire collegiate career. He is much more dangerous with designed running plays than having to make reads in the pocket on traditional passing downs. I expect VT to take the air out of the ball and try to control time of possession, especially if Burmeister is unavailable. Virginia’s defense needs all the help it can get and having a more one-dimensional offensive approach from the Hokies would allow the Cavaliers to bring extra defenders to the line of scrimmage.

I have picked the Hokies twice in my “Best Selections” this year. Both times, Virginia Tech lost outright and failed to cover. I would be negligent in my duties as a Virginia fan to not pick Tech again to keep the streak going. Nothing has come easy for Virginia this year, so I expect this to be a one-score game until late in the contest. Prediction: Virginia 34, VPISU 33

Week 13 Best Selections

  • Record to date: 27-34-2

Two consecutive weeks of near misses and bad luck. One of the worst things you can do as a gambler is to “chase your losses” by betting on more games after you have lost money. However, I have found six selections this week that you can act on as if the game has already been played. It’s not chasing if you only pick winners.

Mississippi +1 at Mississippi State

For the fifth consecutive year, the Egg Bowl will be played on Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holiday traditions even though I have no connection to either school. Both teams have exceeded expectations this year and are fun to watch offensively. However, I think this game will come down to which defense can force the most turnovers. Mississippi has the best turnover margin per game in the country and has an effective pass rush, sacking the opposing quarterback on 9% of its plays. This figures to be a close game, but the Rebels have the better quarterback in Matt Corral and a defense that can generate key turnovers when needed.

Boise State -2.5 at San Diego State

If you have read my columns this year, you know that I am very high on San Diego State. The Aztecs were one of my best bets during the preseason because of their elite defense. However, despite being ranked, playing at home, and having a 10-1 record, San Diego State is an underdog against Boise State. This made no sense to me until I investigated the underlying statistics. Of San Diego State’s 10 wins, six have been in one-score games (including two overtime victories). Usually, teams that play in this many close games eventually run out of luck. Meanwhile, the Broncos have won their last three games by an average of 24 points. Embrace the strange line and pick Boise State.

Illinois -6.5 vs. Northwestern

Illinois has had a confounding season. This is a team with losses to Maryland and Rutgers but wins at Penn State and Minnesota. Northwestern is a much more consistent team … by being a punching bag each week. By virtue of the wins on each schedule, the Illini have the superior talent, especially on defense. It may take a few years for Bret Bielema to seriously contend in the Big 10, but his program has made significant strides in his first season.

Oklahoma +4 at Oklahoma State

The loss at Baylor two weeks ago was head coach Lincoln Riley’s first loss in November during his tenure at Oklahoma. Though the Sooners are no longer competing for a trip to the College Football Playoff, they can secure a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game with a win in the “Bedlam” game. The Cowboys have one of the best defenses in the country, allowing only 14.8 points per game. Still, I have a tough time believing that Oklahoma State can successfully slow down quarterback Caleb Williams and an offense that ranks 8th nationally in yards per play. In a coin flip game, I will take the points and rely on Riley’s history of winning in November.

Notre Dame -19 at Stanford

In the past three weeks, Stanford has been outscored 128-32. After missing close to a month with an injury, Cardinal quarterback Tanner McKee struggled in his return against Cal, throwing 2 interceptions. Meanwhile, Notre Dame is playing its best football of the season, particularly on defense. The Irish have only allowed 9 points over the last three games and have covered the spread in the last six games. Look for Brian Kelly to run up the score to give his team an outside chance at squeezing into the College Football Playoff.

Alabama at Auburn Over 56

Once again, it is the Crimson Tide offense that is carrying Nick Saban to the precipice of the College Football Playoff. Alabama has scored at least 40 points in six of its last eight games. Auburn struggled in a home loss to South Carolina last week without Bo Nix at quarterback. After orchestrating two first quarter touchdown drives, TJ Finley could only manage one scoring drive the rest of the game. Still, if Auburn can manufacture two or three touchdowns this week, Alabama should take care of the rest of the scoring.

Specialty Bet of the Week

  • Record to date: 3-7-1

The Georgia Bulldogs are the consensus top team in the country with a defense that may be one of the best in the history of college football. Unfortunately, betting on Georgia can be difficult because the lines are always so big. For example, even though the Bulldogs should handily beat Georgia Tech this weekend, you might not want to lay 35 points on a team that might rest starters with more important games forthcoming.

For this reason, we are going to bet on Georgia to cover a spread of -20.5 points (-145) in the first half. The Bulldogs have led by at least 20 points at the half in seven of their 11 games this season. Georgia Tech enters this game having just allowed 45 points to Notre Dame in the first half last week.

Random Fact to Impress Your Fellow Tailgaters

At halftime of the UVA-Pittsburgh game, I couldn’t help but feel a strange sense of déjà vu. The game felt eerily similar to Virginia’s performances against North Carolina and BYU. The defense struggled mightily, but the offense kept the game close and gave Cavaliers’ fans reasons to feel optimistic.

Unfortunately, these three games all ended in losses. However, they shared an ignominious quality that is worth sharing. Per Danny Neckel (@DNeckel19 on Twitter), schools from Power 5 conferences have scored at least 38 points 202 times this season. In those situations, only three times has the team lost by double digits:

  • Virginia vs. UNC (59-39)
  • Virginia vs. BYU (66-49)
  • Virginia vs. Pittsburgh (48-38)

Have a happy (and profitable) Thanksgiving!

The SabreBetrics column is written by a Virginia graduate and long-time fan of The Sabre. The opinions expressed in this article are not directly associated with and are intended for recreational use only.

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2 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I have enjoyed this series and read it almost every week. Betting about 6 games each week has been fun. I would brag if I had made some coin, but that is not the case.

    1. Appreciate you following along! The last two weeks have been a struggle…but this is the week it all turns around.

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