College football betting: Fade or get right?

·6 min read

We're four weeks into the college football season, and it's fair to say it's been a bit of a weird start to the year. Sure, Alabama looks dominant and Georgia is right there too. However, outside of those two programs, it feels like a lot of the nation's biggest programs have looked entirely unimpressive. 

With the college football season being so short, a lot of our opinions of teams is based on factors such as program history, recruiting grades and returning production. However, this could often be a flawed way to judge teams. If you wait for a larger sample size, you can often lose a lot of money in the process. 

All five teams listed below have failed to meet expectations. All of these schools are either currently ranked or were ranked very recently. Which of these schools is fade material? Which of these schools have a real chance of turning it around? What do this week's lines suggest?

Clemson

The Clemson Tigers are currently 2-2, losing straight up against Georgia as a 3-point favorite and NC State as a 10.5-point favorite. They beat Georgia Tech by just 6 points as a 27.5-point favorite. 

The issue for Clemson has clearly been their offense. In three games against FBS schools, they've scored just 12.7 points per game. They rank 124th in yards per play with a mark of 3.7. They're averaging just 226 yards per game offensively, ranking them 126th of 130 teams. 

D.J. Uiagalelei has not come close to replacing Trevor Lawrence at quarterback. In three games against FBS opposition, he's averaging 138 yards per game while completing just 51.7% of his passes. He's thrown two touchdowns and two interceptions. 

Defensively, Clemson has been their normal self, if not better. They are allowing just 15 points per game on average while ranking top ten in yards per play against. 

However, with Clemson's pedigree they will almost always certainly be large favorites against the rest of the ACC. With this offensive ineptitude, it's going to be hard to cover large spreads. I'm not sure that I'm rushing to lay a lot of points with this team in its current form. 

Up Next: Clemson -16 vs. Boston College

Ohio State

Ohio State sits with a 3-1 record, but has covered the spread just one time in its first four games. This past weekend, they beat Akron by 52 as a 48.5-point favorite. Before then, they struggled with Tulsa as a 24.5-point favorite. They lost to Oregon as a 14.5 point favorite. 

COLUMBUS, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 25: Antwuan Jackson #52 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates after sacking DJ Irons #0 of the Akron Zips in the first half during their game at Ohio Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Ohio State celebrates a sack against Akron in Week 4. (Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

Offense hasn't been a real issue for the Buckeyes, as they lead the country in yards-per-play. They rank 4th in yards-per-game and 7th in points scored per game. The Buckeyes are averaging over 43 points per game. 

Quarterback C.J. Stroud is a little banged up, but when healthy, he's been shaky at times. Despite that, the offense is still producing. They're averaging 10.6 yards per pass which is the 6th best mark in the nation. On the ground, they're averaging 6.7 yards per rush which is the second best mark in the country. 

Defense has been the issue for Ohio State, but a lot of the damage was done in their loss against Oregon. Outside of that, they've been an average group. With the talent on the defensive side of the ball, I'd expect the defense to improve as the season moves along. I don't think the defense is as bad as narratives would suggest. 

Up Next: Ohio State -15.5 at Rutgers

Wisconsin

Wisconsin has lost twice in games where they were favored against good teams. I'm not surprised, as I see this version of Wisconsin as the definition of the classic "bully team." Wisconsin will be able to impose their defensive will against most teams and completely shut them down. Additionally, they should be able to run the ball down the throats of most defenses in the country. 

However in games where the other team's offense could be expected to move the ball, it's hard to envision Wisconsin being able to keep up. Additionally, if a team is able to stop the run defensively, Wisconsin's offense will struggle. Over his last eight starts, Graham Mertz has thrown 3 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. This passing attack is ugly. 

Up Next: Wisconsin -1.5 vs. Michigan

Iowa State

Iowa State was definitely overrated to start the season, but the question is if it is still overrated. 

It feels like Brock Purdy is in his 12th season of college football, but it's hard to argue he's developed like many expected. Purdy's ceiling seems capped as a game manager of an average-at-best passing attack that doesn't love pushing the ball down field. The offense runs through Breece Hall, who's been solid but unspectacular in a year where many expected him to take a huge step forward. 

Defensively, the Cyclones are elite. They keep teams to under 200 yards per game on average while also keeping teams to just 3.5 yards-per-play. Turnovers have put the defense in a bunch of bad positions to open the season, but they're still performing admirably. 

AMES, IA - SEPTEMBER 4: Quarterback Brock Purdy #15 of the Iowa State Cyclones takes part in pregame warmups at Jack Trice Stadium on September 4, 2021 in Ames, Iowa. The Iowa State Cyclones won 16-10 over the Northern Iowa Panthers. (Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images)
Quarterback Brock Purdy of the Iowa State Cyclones warms up prior to a 2021 game. (David K Purdy/Getty Images)

Similar to Wisconsin, I see Iowa State as a team that could bully lesser competition. However, I think they are closer to a mid-tier Big 12 team than they are to Oklahoma.

Up Next: Iowa State -34.5 vs. Kansas

Oklahoma

At this point, I feel very confident in saying that Spencer Rattler is not Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray. He might not even be Jalen Hurts. The Heisman hype got out of control for the Oklahoma quarterback, and he's definitely failed to deliver. 

However, I trust Lincoln Riley to figure something out. He's one of the top offensive minds in the country and I don't expect Oklahoma to finish the season ranked 60th in yards-per-play and 68th in points scored. There's talent at every position on this offense and Riley is a guy I trust to make it work. 

After Week 1, it looked like the Oklahoma defense was once again going to be an issue. They've rebounded nicely since that point, keeping Nebraska to 16 points and West Virginia to just 13. 

The offense might not be as good as we expected, but the defense might be much better than we expected. Lincoln Riley is one guy I have confidence in fixing an offense. I think we'll see an offensive explosion by Oklahoma soon. 

Up Next: Oklahoma -10.5 at Kansas State

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