NCAAF Week 7 Early Value Picks Include Michigan and Syracuse

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Top Sportsbooks have released their NCAAF odds for this week’s college football action. Two games, in particular, interest me as worth investing in.

For reasons that I will explain, you should play the spread for both games at our top-rated sportsbooks.

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Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Michigan Wolverines

Saturday, October 15, 2022 – 12:00 PM EDT at Michigan Stadium

Series History 

Under James Franklin, Penn State has a horrific history in the Big House.

In their recent non-pandemic encounters in Michigan, the Wolverines won 49-10 in 2016 and 42-7 in 2018.

Until Penn State lost at home to Michigan last year, this has typically been a series history dominated by the home team.

James Franklin Loses Big Games 

Franklin-led Penn State reliably finds ways to lose big games even at home and even when the team is competitive. In his career, Franklin is 11-37 against ranked teams and 2-13 against top-10 opponents.

One of Franklin's recent road wins against a ranked opponent came against Wisconsin, which Franklin has consistently succeeded against, and which also happened to be in some kind of a funk at the beginning of last season, losing three of its first four games.

After winning in Wisconsin, Penn State went on to lose its remaining three road games at ranked teams.

One may suggest that Franklin righted the ship this year, leading his team to a win at formidable Jordan-Hare Stadium where Auburn plays. But Auburn also lost to LSU at home this year and has regressed from earlier versions itself.


Penn State's Misleading Run Defense Stats

Identifying Auburn's overall regression is important in another sense as well. Traditionally, the Tigers are known for having a great rushing attack, and so the success of Penn State's rush defense against them may seem to justify a favorable perception of the Nittany Lion run defense.

However, Auburn's rush attack ranks 95th in rush yards per game, and this after blowing the doors off Mercer in its season opener. The Tiger's offensive line is awful this year thanks to bad recruiting resulting in low-quality personnel.

Given the weakness of its competition, Penn State also faced uniquely pass-heavy Purdue as well as two MAC teams and bottom-feeder Northwestern, Penn State's rush defense is actually quite unproven.

This examination of Penn State's competition up until now justifies total disregard of its current run defense statistics. We need to assess the quality of Penn State's run defense based on its personnel after last season's departures.


Penn State's Actual Run Defense Quality

Penn State lost four of its top six tacklers from last season.

Three of its departures were All-Big Ten linebackers, including linebacker/defensive end Jesse Luketa.

Departed defensive end Arnold Ebiketie was an All-Big Ten first-teamer.

Losing four front-seven studs to the NFL is obviously hard to recover from.

Why This Matters 

Michigan's offensive line, which won the Joe Moore Award for best offensive line last year, is powering the nation's 16th-leading ground game led by Blake Corum and his 6.2 YPC.

Running the ball is what Michigan does best and most often, owning the nation's 20th-highest run-play percentage.

If anywhere, Michigan is probably strongest in the interior, which is advantageous to its need to limit Penn State nose tackle PJ Mustipher and which is fortunate given the near depletion of Penn State's edge-rushing personnel.


JJ McCarthy 

Penn State's pass defense was supposed to be better despite also losing key personnel in its secondary, a top-notch safety and starting cornerback.

But pass-happy Purdue put up 31 points and Penn State hasn't been able to prove itself since that season-opening game because its opposing quarterbacks have been MAC quarterbacks or low-ranking transfers.

Unlike Purdue's quarterback, McCarthy gets to benefit from elite run support. McCarthy has been one of the nation's leaders in accuracy (completion percentage) and clean pocket passer rating.

Penn State, which ranks 87th in sack rate, lacks the pass-rushing personnel to pressure McCarthy. This deficiency entails a problematic level of pressure on its regressed and beatable secondary, which has been hurt by good wide receivers like Purdue's leading one and which therefore seems vulnerable especially to Ronnie Bell.


Michigan's Scoring Offense 

The Wolverine offense is sufficiently well-proven for this game, having cruised to a 20-0 mid-third-quarter lead against an Iowa team that annually ranks among the nation's best in scoring defense.

If Penn State's offense pushes Michigan at all, then the Wolverines can certainly eclipse 30, giving themselves more than enough scoring to cover the spread in view of Penn State's offensive problems.

Michigan's Front Seven 

Penn State's Sean Clifford

The return of Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford to the starting role generated a wide range of positive and negative responses from Penn State fans. A common tactic to defend Clifford is to cite his lack of pass protection.

Indeed, offensive line play has been a notorious problem for recent Penn State squads. This is an even younger Penn State offensive line with variables remaining unknown at best as it faces its toughest test of the season.

Michigan's Mike Morris

Led by Mike Morris and a slew of others, Michigan ranks ninth nationally in sack rate. As in-game reports indicate, Clifford already struggles hitting guys deep, and this is when he has time to throw.

Michigan, meanwhile, enjoys plenty of continuity in its front seven to remain one of the nation's best at limiting opposing run yards.

While Penn State's offensive line is surely better than the group that struggled with FCS school Villanova last season, it still might not be better at all than the one that disappointed against Purdue and is in any case far removed from being able to handle Michigan's front seven.

NCAAF Pick: Michigan -7 (-108) at Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review)

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NC State Wolfpack vs. Syracuse Orange

Saturday, October 15, 2022 - 03:30 PM EDT at JMA Wireless Dome

Banged-Up Devin Leary 

What is decisive for this game is NC State quarterback Devin Leary's status. During his team's game against Florida State last week, Leary took a hard hit to his throwing shoulder and arm.

After being helped up, Leary left the game with his head down, and he did not return. Leary's status is uncertain.

If he can't go, then NC State misses arguably its top offensive player, although its coach's stubborn determination to be balanced in play-calling may create a competing impression.

NC State will have to rely on a steep qualitative drop-off at the quarterback position and a team-leading rusher who has only succeeded against minor programs like Connecticut, East Carolina, and Charleston Southern.


Rushing Quarterbacks 

Not that NC State managed to rank in the upper half nationally in points per game with Leary, but without Leary, its offense will struggle especially to stay on the field.

A Wolfpack defense that already struggles with mobile quarterbacks will be overtasked. After, for example, yielding over 100 rushing yards to Florida State's quarterback, NC State's prospects against Garrett Shrader look dim.

Syracuse's quarterback has always been a run-first quarterback, although his tremendous mechanical improvement during the offseason is enabling him to complete 70.9% of his passes.

Led by Shrader, Syracuse reliably scores 30+ points against Power Five competition except in a sloppy affair against a Virginia team that was obviously familiar with its former offensive coordinator. Given Syracuse's tremendous advantage in scoring ability, play the Orange with your NCAAF picks.

NCAAF Pick: Syracuse -4 (-110) at Bookmaker (visit our Bookmaker Review)

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Syracuse -4 (-110)
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