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Odds and Ends

Group of 5 Spotlight: CFB Week 13

by Zachary Krueger
Updated On: November 25, 2021, 10:16 am ET

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There's not a week of the college football season that I enjoyed more than Week 12. At least from a betting standpoint.

Outside of the week as a whole, my most important games of the season, those mentioned in this Group of 5 article, went 2-0, despite UTEP (-9.5) forcing me to sweat things out in the waning minutes of its game against Rice. UTEP dominated Rice for the majority of the game, but a late touchdown run by Luke McCaffrey cut the Miners' lead to 10, to make things interesting.

On the other end of last week's article was North Texas (-10) vs. Florida International. Opting to roll with the recently hot North Texas (4-0 ATS in the last four weeks), the Mean Green returned my faith in dominating fashion, with a 49-7 win over a flailing FIU team.

Now, with one week left in the regular season, and conference championships and bowl games in site, it's time to close out the regular season on a high note with some Week 13 picks.

Air Force (-17.5) vs. UNLV - O/U 49.5

Air Force vs. UNLV Week 13

It's not a Group of 5 article if I don't get an Air Force tout in once in a while, and what better game to pick than a season-finale that features the Falcons being favored by the most points they've been favored by since Week 1 (-40.5 vs. Lafayette).

The Falcons failed to cover in that Week 1 game against Lafayette, but covering a 17.5 point spread against a 2-9 UNLV that could be down to its third string quarterback this weekend feels well within reach.

Despite their 2-9 record, the Rebels are 7-3-1 ATS this season, and have covered in each of their last three games by an average of 12 points per game. They've even won two of their last three games, with wins coming over New Mexico and Hawaii. With that being said, I'm not buying this hot streak to continue against the Falcons.

Air Force a well-oiled, analytically driven, run heavy machine that ranks 44th in the nation in success rate (45.4%) and 30th in points per drive (2.60). Led by quarterback Haaziq Daniels, and full back Brad Roberts, Air Force is one of the best rushing teams in the nation, and boast four players with 300 or more rushing yards. Wide receiver DeAndre Hughes has even rushed for over 100-yards in back-to-back games this season, which included a 220 yard performance last weekend against Nevada on 22 carries.

Brad Roberts 2021 Stats

Roberts ranks 14th in the nation in rushing yards per game (107.4) and is the leading rusher in the Mountain West Conference with 1,183 yards. Defensively, UNLV ranks 64th in the nation in opponent success rate (42.1%), but ranks 21st in opponent success rate against the run (37.4%). With that being said, UNLV has also faced some of the worst rushing teams in the nation, which is the exact opposite of what they'll be getting against Air Force on Friday.

In addition to their rushing prowess, Air Force has also been one of the most defensively sound teams in the nation, with the eighth best success rate against (36.3%) and a defense that is allowing just 1.80 points per drive (33rd) and the third few opponent plays per game (57.7).

Offensively, UNLV has one of the worst units in the nation, that would likely need several plays/drives to breakthrough the stout Falcons' defense. Unfortunately, Air Force's high-volume rushing attack, when successful, doesn't give way to many offensive opportunities for its opponents.

The Rebels best chance at covering this game could come in the form of running back Charles Williams, who has rushed 238 times for 1,110 yards and 13 touchdowns on the season. Williams has rushed for 100 or more yards on four separate occasions this season, and has twice eclipsed the 200-yard rushing mark.

Charles Williams 2021 Stats

As previously mentioned, UNLV could also be without starting quarterback Cameron Friel (foot), who exited last week's 28-20 loss to San Diego State and did not return. Quarterback Justin Rogers, who played surprisingly well against SDSU (305/2/1) could be in line for the start against the Falcons if Friel is unable to go.

We've seen Air Force blow out bad teams already this year. Despite UNLV's recent improvements, I'm unwilling to buy into a small string of success. I'll take the Falcons at home, despite them laying three possession's worth of points.

PICK: Air Force (-17.5)

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SMU (-6.5) vs. Tulsa - O/U 62

Tulsa vs. SMU Week 13

SMU is coming of a 48-14 drubbing against Cincinnati in a game that some thought would end Cincinnati's hope at a college football playoff berth.

The Mustangs have been reeling as of late, winning just one of their last four games, while going 1-3 ATS in the process. Their lone win over that four game span was also their lone cover, when they defeated Central Florida 55-28 at home in Week 11.

With a shot at a conference title long gone, SMU, who is already bowl eligible, is just playing out a final game ahead of an inevitable bowl matchup in the coming weeks.

Tulsa on the other hand, is fighting for bowl eligibility with a win over SMU this weekend, with the hopes that quarterback Davis Brin and company can help get them there.

Davis Brin 2021 Stats

Brin, despite his careless ways (15 turnovers), is unafraid to air the ball out, ranking first in the AAC in average depth of target (11.1), while ranking fifth in passing yards (2,712) and seventh in passing touchdowns (15). SMU has been known for its aerial attack, led all season by Tanner Mordecai, but the Mustang's pass defense has allowed the seventh most receiving yards per game (281.2) and the sixth most passing touchdowns per game (2.4).

Per Pro Football Focus, SMU's pass coverage grades at 44.6, which ranks as the worst in the conference, behind two and three win teams Temple and Navy. Sticking with PFF metrics for a second, the case for Brin being in line for a solid outing against SMU grows stronger with PFF's adjusted completion percentage.

Brin's raw completion percentage of 59.2% looks much better when you remove the 27 drops his receivers have on the season, which rank as the most in the AAC and the sixth most in the nation. His adjusted completion percentage of 70.7% shows a far more accurate passer, and one who may be capable of sticking with SMU in this game, if not outright winning it.

Wide receiver Josh Johnson has also been one of Brin's favorite targets, as the fourth-year player has racked up 867 yards and four touchdowns while catching 71-of-112 targets (10.2 targets/gm). Johnson has seen 11 or more targets in seven of his 11 games played this season, proving himself to be one of the better slot receivers in the nation.

josh johnson 2021 stats

Tulsa's pass defense ranks middle of the road in passing yards allowed per game (225.7, 69th) and is allowing just 1.3 touchdowns per game. They have won two of their last three games, with their 28-20 loss coming in a near road upset of Cincinnati. Even in that loss, Tulsa still covered as 22.5 point underdogs, and are 3-0 ATS over that span, covering by an average of 10.3 points per game.

With bowl eligibility on the line this week, and a quarterback capable of lighting up SMU should he keep the turnovers under control, I like Tulsa to cover at +6.5 in this one, and wouldn't be shocked to see an outright win in hopes of extending its season.

PICK: Tulsa (+6.5)

2021 G5 Record: 12-8-1

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Zachary Krueger

Zachary Krueger is a college football fantasy/DFS analyst for NBC Sports EDGE, and hosts his own live stream “Roster Locked: A Best Ball Show” in the offseason. He will proudly tell anyone that he was the first to believe in Darren Waller’s elite upside as a tight end - and has the article to prove it.