My goodness what a weekend we have in store for ourselves. The MLB playoffs begin today with four games. Unfortunately, only one of those games is being played after you receive this letter, and I don't like anything in it! So there's no bet for it tonight (though you can check out Matt Snyder's favorite postseason bets here).
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However, we've got four college football games tonight, and I have a bet I love for one of them. We also have a Saturday and Sunday filled with even more football and soccer, and I've got a whole lot of bets for them to get you through the entire weekend. It's the most wonderful time of the sports year, and I don't want to waste any of it with too many words in this introduction, because as my editor will soon inform me, there are too many words in the rest of this newsletter. But it's Friday, and you know I'm not about to send you into the weekend without plenty of betting ammunition.
But first, we fill our minds with knowledge of the news of the day.
- Seven potential MLB postseason heroes.
- The toughest Week 5 fantasy lineup decisions.
- Would the Mets really not start Jacob deGrom until Game 3?
- College football's Week 6 storylines.
I hope you're ready to place some bets.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
Houston at Memphis, 7:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN2
- Key Trend: The under is 5-1 in Memphis' last six Friday games.
- The Pick: Under 57.5 (-110)
Houston has been one of the more disappointing teams in the country. They're 2-3 with losses to Texas Tech, Kansas and Tulane. Considering their first game of the season was a 37-35 win over UTSA in overtime, there's an argument to be made the Cougars are lucky not to be 1-4. Even so, I don't think the Cougars are a bad bet with the points tonight.
The failure to meet expectations has had a heavier impact on their market value than it should, and this Memphis team isn't as good as its 4-1 record suggests (the schedule has been pretty light). But what I think the move to make is taking the under. Memphis ranks 60th in points per drive (2.43), 75th in success rate (41.5%) and 94th in explosive play rate (11.0%). Houston ranks 76th in points per drive (2.24), 84th in success rate (40.5%) and 101st in explosive play rate (10.5%). Both are below the national average in all three stats.
Of course, neither team has been great on the defensive side of the ball, but far more often than not at the college level -- particularly in the G5 -- it's the offense that dictates things. Furthermore, neither team moves slowly on offense, but they aren't going up-tempo often. All of that, combined with a weather forecast calling for some high winds in Memphis tonight, make the under the most attractive option on the board.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model disagrees with me and sees value on the over, so if you're torn, SportsLine expert Zack Cimini has a play on the spread for you.
🏈 College Football
No. 17 TCU at No. 19 Kansas, Saturday, 12 p.m | TV: FS1
The Pick: Kansas +6.5 (+105) -- I'm in an awkward position here. I've been betting the Jayhawks every week, and they've been exceedingly good to me. Not only have they covered all five of their games, but they've won them, too. Unfortunately, I think the winning streak comes to an end for Kansas on Saturday. As good as the Jayhawks have been, TCU is the best, most complete team they've faced. I fear the Horned Frogs will be too much for them.
However, I do not believe the Horned Frogs will be so much that Kansas won't cover the touchdown! The Jayhawks had their worst offensive performance of the season against Iowa State but still won the game with their defense. That's an encouraging sign moving forward. Also, while TCU is the most complete team the Jayhawks have faced, it's not particularly special on the defensive side and has given up plenty of explosive plays. That's not good news for a team facing this Kansas offense. I expect a lot of points and neither team to pull too far away from the other.
Purdue at Maryland, Saturday, 12 p.m | TV: Big Ten Network
The Pick: Maryland -3 (-115) -- Purdue picked up a nice 20-10 upset over Minnesota last week, which has boosted its street cred a little too much this week. Purdue's defense certainly deserves credit for the win, but the Gophers were also without star running back Mohamed Ibrahim. Meanwhile, the Boilermakers' offense was ineffective. The Boilermakers cannot afford to have another performance like that against a Maryland team that will score on you.
The Boilermakers haven't faced an offense like this Maryland group. The Terps have NFL talent at the receiver position and are efficient in the passing game. Maryland ranks 28th nationally in success rate on offense and is scoring 3.02 points per possession (22nd). That includes 27 points and nearly 400 yards of offense on the road against Michigan. If the Terps can do that on the road against the Wolverines, they shouldn't have too much difficulty with Purdue's defense.
No. 11 Utah at No. 18 UCLA, Saturday, 3:30 p.m | TV: Fox
The Pick: Utah -3.5 (-110) -- I was impressed by what I saw from Dorian Thompson-Robinson and the Bruins against Washington last week, but it's had too much of an impact on the line in this game. Yes, there were questions about the Bruins entering the game because they'd played a soft schedule to that point, but a solid offensive performance against Washington hasn't convinced me much. The Huskies effectively moved the ball against the UCLA defense and offered little defensive resistance.
That won't be the case against a Utah defense that ranks 13th nationally in defensive success rate, 15th in points allowed per drive and fourth in EPA (expected points added) per snap. What would worry me even more if I were a UCLA fan is that the Utes rank eighth nationally in pressure rate, and Thompson-Robinson has never fared well when pressured.
Cowboys at Rams, Sunday, 4:25 p.m | TV: Fox
The Pick: Rams -5.5 (-110) -- OK, so I'm betting on a few things happening here or correcting themselves. The first is that I don't think the Rams are as bad as they've looked. I don't think they're Super Bowl contenders this season, but there's too much talent on the roster for the team to continue playing as poorly as it has been. On the other side, I don't see how Cooper Rush can continue winning games, seeing as how he's Cooper Rush.
The Cowboys rank 28th in the NFL in offensive success rate but are third defensively. While having a great defense is a very good thing, it's hard to continue winning in the NFL these days with an offense as inefficient as what Dallas has. As bad as they've looked, the Rams rank 6th in offensive success rate but only 16th in points per drive because they've been well below average in the red zone. I'm expecting the coming improvement to begin this week.
Bengals at Ravens, Sunday, 8:20 p.m | TV: NBC
The Pick: Bengals +3.5 (-115) -- I'm perplexed by the Ravens, as they sometimes look like a juggernaut and sometimes look like a rebuilding team. Usually, during the same game. They've already blown two big leads this season, which isn't supposed to happen, but the Ravens haven't been great on offense. They're fourth in the league in points per drive, but it's somewhat misleading because they've been so ruthlessly efficient in the red zone (5th in TD%). On a down-by-down rate, they rank 16th in success rate, and their turnover rate ranks 15th in the league.
Meanwhile, this Bengals' defense has been outstanding. Cincinnati ranks second in defensive success rate, third in points allowed per drive and seventh in defensive red zone TD rate. They've also been outstanding against the run, as they rank 5th in success rate against the rush and allow only 3.77 yards per carry. The Bengals' defense should keep the Ravens close in this one, and their offense could pose problems for a Ravens defense that has been overly turnover-reliant to get stops so far.
AC Milan vs. Juventus, Saturday, 12 p.m | TV: Paramount+
The Pick: AC Milan (+105) -- It's the Derby Della Delusioni, as AC Milan and Juventus square off in a battle of teams who are not playing nearly as well as they're supposed to. Milan won Serie A last season, but it enters the weekend in fifth place behind teams like Atalanta, Udinese and Lazio. This season could see mid-tier clubs making a run for European spots, but I don't expect all three of those clubs to finish above Milan. Besides, Milan is still only three points behind league-leading Napoli.
The same cannot be said for Juventus. Juve is in seventh place with 13 points. It has won only three of its seven matches and is playing some of the dullest soccer that even the old stereotypes of Italian soccer are offended. But while Juve has been outstanding defensively (5 goals allowed on 9.1 xG), it's been a lot better at home than away. It hasn't won any of its three away matches in Serie A and scored only a goal. While it's allowed only two, it has an xG against of 4.8. I expect regression to hit, as Milan has played better than its record shows. Juve struggled to get by Maccabi Haifa Wednesday in the Champions League, while Milan was able to chill while getting spanked by Chelsea at the same time.
Arsenal vs. Liverpool, Sunday, 11:30 a.m | TV: USA
The Pick: Over 2.5 (-160) -- It's the return of Arsenal Overs! While I'm tempted to do the same thing I did last week and bet against Arsenal, I'm genuinely concerned that this Liverpool start isn't a fluke. I think this team is washed. Not permanently, but at least until the January transfer window. They look tired and slow and checked out. That said, I don't like the price on Arsenal here, as my numbers say there's absolutely no value to be found there.
So let's bet on goals. Arsenal matches feature a lot of goals! Seriously, Arsenal's Premier League matches have averaged 3.5 goals per match. Liverpool's have averaged 3.86. Liverpool have been worse defensively outside Anfield, not winning a single match in any competition so far. This match could look a lot like last week's 3-3 draw with Brighton, or it could be lopsided one way or the other. Whatever the outcome, it will likely feature at least three goals.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine prop guru Alex Selesnick has released all his favorite NFL props for this weekend, and you can find them right here.