NCAAF Week 3 Early Value Picks

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Top-rated sportsbooks have released their odds for this week’s college football action.

Two games, interest me as worth investing in because I find value in their NCAAF odds at this early stage of the week: Purdue vs. Syracuse and Marshall vs. Bowling Green.

For reasons that I will explain, you should play the spread for both games.

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Purdue Boilermakers vs. Syracuse Orange

Saturday, September 17, 2022 – 12:00 PM EDT at JMA Wireless Dome

Purdue's Offensive Style 

As it was last year, Purdue is heavily inclined to pass the ball. Currently, the Boilermakers own the nation's second-highest pass rate. They pass 72.29 percent of the time.

Perhaps statistics do not illustrate the extent of Purdue's inclination to pass as well as observations of its game against Penn State. Leading late and in a position to run the clock, the Boilermakers were actually rather averse to running the ball. In such a position, a team might indeed reasonably want to pass a lot.

For example, the defense might load the box, in which case an opposing offense could counter by executing high-percentage passes, but Purdue was actually trying to complete low-percentage passes.

The Boilermakers, in other words, weren't passing out of some inconvenient and perceived necessity to do so, but they were determined to pass.


Why This Matters 

Purdue's run game is already rather weak. Against Penn State, for example, the top Boilermaker ball-carrier averaged 3.8 YPC.

The Boilermakers' weakness in this offensive aspect is compounded by their disinclination to try to make it any kind of a strength.

So, they will rely on passing the ball, which entails that they match up poorly against a team that defends the pass well.


Louisville, A Case Study 

Against Syracuse last year, Cardinal quarterback Malik Cunningham completed over 70 percent of his passes for over 200 yards and four touchdowns while throwing no interceptions.

This year, Cunningham's completion percentage against Syracuse was likewise solid, but he mustered 152 passing yards while throwing 2 interceptions and no touchdowns.


Syracuse's Improvement in Pass Defense 

Defensive coordinator Tony White brought an immense improvement to Syracuse with his defensive scheme being designed to combat the popular spread offense.

Last year, the Orange defense became as good as it had been in around a decade. Against the pass, Syracuse ranked 34th.

This year, Syracuse continues to improve against the pass as it masters Tony White's 3-3-5 concept.


Syracuse's Pass Defense

In brief, the Orange secondary features significant returning experience and continues to grow and be solid; meanwhile, the defensive line entered this season as a retooled unit and a question mark but is turning out to be better than expected.

The secondary is headed by Garrett Williams, a former All-ACC selection who has played for Syracuse since White arrived.

For the last two years in a row, Williams led the ACC in pass breakups. Last year, he ranked second in the conference in passes defended.

But the Orange secondary is a deep one, which is why Cunningham repeatedly struggled to find open receivers despite having multiple pass-catching options on the field.


Does Purdue's Pass Attack Have More to Offer?

Logically, it remains possible that Syracuse's pass defense is improved yet not strongly enough improved to contain Purdue's pass offense. But the Boilermakers lost key wide receivers in the offseason. David Bell is in the NFL now and Milton Wright is academically ineligible.

This year, Aidan O'Connell is relying heavily on Iowa transfer Charlie Jones. Whereas Purdue's second-leading pass-catcher has 59 yards through two games, Jones has 286.

One good receiver won't suffice against Syracuse's plethora of good cornerbacks and its 3-3-5, defensive back-heavy scheme.

Scouting reports observe Williams' fluid movement and great footwork as well as fellow, physical cornerback Duce Chestnut's ability to disrupt opposing receivers' routes. Either cornerback is primed to limit Jones whose strength is route-running.


Purdue's Run Defense 

Last year, Purdue ranked third-to-last in the Big Ten in run defense.

The Boilermaker run defense has not been tested this year, facing, so far, Penn State's annually anemic ground game and Indiana State.

Purdue will have to improve massively in this respect despite suffering some key departures in all three levels of its defense.


Syracuse Rush Offense 

Running the ball is Syracuse's strength, which is why the Orange own the nation's 19th-highest run-play percentage. As the best NCAAF pick, the Orange have a dangerous rush attack that features All-American Sean Tucker.

Tucker is allowed to be more dangerous now because quarterback Garrett Shrader, normally thought of as a dangerous runner, accomplished tremendous work on his footwork and other aspects of his passing technique. Shrader is now completing 79.2 percent of his passes, which takes attention off Tucker.

In sum, Syracuse's offense will do what it wants, leaning, especially, on its ground game against Purdue's hapless run defense. Meanwhile, Purdue's pass attack will be too limited thanks to Syracuse's deep and talented secondary in its solidly executed 3-3-5 defense.

NCAAF Pick: Syracuse PK (-110) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Syracuse PK (-110)
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Marshall Thundering Herd vs. Bowling Green Falcons

Saturday, September 17, 2022 - 05:00 PM EDT at Doyt L. Perry Stadium

Sandwich Spot 

Know for your best bets that this is a classic 'fade' spot for Marshall. The Thundering Herd are coming off a tremendous upset, beating Notre Dame as three-touchdown underdogs.

This emotionally tremendous triumph creates a let-down scenario as the Herd have to come back down to Earth and find a way to be motivated to face lowly, heavy underdog Bowling Green, but there's still another motivational wrinkle in play here. Marshall has its Sun Belt conference opener next week when it hosts Troy.

Given this additional circumstance, Marshall must somehow also find a way to avoid looking ahead to its next opponent. For both reasons, it will be hard for Marshall to concentrate on Bowling Green.

NCAAF Pick: Bowling Green +18 (-108) at Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review)

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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.