The classic rivalries in the major conferences of college football are starting to unfold each week. And while the betting public in general gets extremely enamored of these high-profile matchups, I prefer to turn my attention elsewhere. I am looking for the “under-the-radar” opportunities that sometimes exist with teams that reside in the mid-majors. These “diamonds in the rough” can oftentimes provide an excellent return if you know where and how to look.
Week’s 5 record was a forgettable 1-2 to drop my top plays on the year to 6-8-1. However, after digging much deeper into this week’s pile of potential gems, I came up with the following three college football picks using the lines provided by 5Dimes.
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Bowling Green Falcons (-4.5) vs. Akron Zips
The Falcons gave No.10 Florida fits on opening day in a 27-14 loss as 28-point underdogs on the road en route to a 2-3 start both straight up and against the spread. What makes this team so attractive in this matchup is a defense that is giving up an average of just 22.4 points a game.
It has also been a rough start for the 1-4 Zips with nonconference games against UCF, Florida International, and Tennessee. Akron’s passing offense is ranked fifth in the country behind quarterback Dalton Williams, but its defense is giving up an average of 41.2 points a game.
Bowling Green has won four of the last six meetings SU and is 4-1-1 ATS. It covered as a 12-point home favorite the last time they met back in 2009. Neither of these teams is going anywhere in the Mid-American Conference this season, but the Falcons clearly remain the deeper and more talented of the two overall.
Take #321 Bowling Green (-4.5) over Akron (Saturday, Oct. 5, 2 p.m.)
Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (-3) vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Louisiana-Monroe kicks off play in the Sun Belt with a 2-2 SU record in nonconference games that includes an upset of Arkansas and two tight losses to both Auburn and Baylor. It has covered the spread in all four of its games. The Warhawks are putting up an average of 321.5 yards through the air and 41.8 points a game behind the elevated play of quarterback Kolton Browning.
Middle Tennessee stunned Georgia Tech this past Saturday, 49-28, as a 24.5-point underdog on the road to move to 3-1 SU and ATS this season. The Blue Raiders continue to do most of their damage on the ground behind running backs Benny Cunningham and Drayton Calhoun. The one cause for concern could be a defense that has given up 27 points or more in three of its first four games.
The Warhawks have just two SU wins in the last 10 games between these two, but one just so happened to be a 42-14 romp as six-point home favorites the last time they met. Look for Browning to come out firing on Saturday as Louisiana-Monroe builds an early lead that it never relinquishes.
Take #407 UL-Monroe (-3) over Middle Tennessee (Saturday, Oct.5, 3:30 p.m.)
SMU Mustangs vs. Texas-El Paso Miners (-2.5)
SMU has probably had its fill of teams from the majors after posting losses to Baylor, Texas A&M, and TCU in the nonconference portion of its schedule. The Mustangs come into their C-USA opener at 1-3 SU and 2-2 ATS. One of the positive takeaways has been running back Zach Line, who leads the team with 343 yards on the ground.
UTEP has also played an aggressive nonconference schedule with losses to Oklahoma and Wisconsin. It did cover against the Badgers as a 17.5-point road underdog. The Miners also have a solid running game, led by Nathan Jeffery, who is averaging 5.7 yards a carry.
Neither of these teams is going strike any fear into their opponents with a defense that is giving up far more points than their offense can ever hope to score. The reason I like the Miners in this matchup is their recent success against SMU. The Mustangs are 0-5 ATS in the last five meetings and 2-5 ATS in their last seven trips to El Paso.
Take #404 UTEP (-2.5) over SMU (Saturday, Oct.5, 7:30 p.m.)
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