Welcome to another edition of Football Friday, the greatest day in the history of gambling newsletters like this one. With soccer returning to action this weekend, we have no shortage of games today that will not only get you through Friday night but Saturday and Sunday as well.
Today's letter includes two college football games tonight, three more tomorrow, two NFL games, and two soccer matches. We're pushing a word count that will surely have my editor cursing my name for eternity, but that's fine. I'm willing to take those slings and arrows to bring you the information you need to have a fruitful weekend.
Speaking of helpful information, let's check out what's been going on this fine Friday.
Now let's make some money.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
San Diego State at Boise State, 8 p.m. | TV: FS1
- Key Trend: The Aztecs have covered six of the last seven meetings
- The Pick: San Diego State +6.5 (-110)
If you haven't paid close attention to Boise State this season, you may be under the impression that it's good. After all, Boise State has been good for a while and has long played the role of David slaying college football's Goliaths. Well, the Boise State you once knew does not exist in 2022. This is a team that's been dreadful offensively.
The Broncos rank 109th in points per drive, 105th in success rate, 111th in EPA per play, and 123rd in explosive play rate. All of which are the fancy stats way of saying THIS OFFENSE STINKS. It stinks so badly that after scoring only 10 points in their last game against UTEP, the Broncos fired their offensive coordinator. As if that wasn't bad enough, the team's starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier then entered the transfer portal. He's gone too.
Jonathan Coachman is joined by Allan Bell , Allie O'Neill and Jake Fetner to dish out Thursday's best bets. Download and follow The Early Edge on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Now, big picture view, a bad offense losing its offensive coordinator and starting QB might not be a bad thing. However, in the short term, it's hard to imagine having a new play-caller, and a new QB will lead to sudden improvement. Particularly considering the QB and play calls were far from the team's only problems. The offensive line has not exactly covered itself in glory throughout the process.
So while San Diego State is far from a great team itself -- its offense is also pretty dang stinky -- Boise State is not in a position to be favored by this much over anybody at the moment. This will be an ugly game, with neither team capable of pulling far away from the other, so we're taking the points.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: If you don't want to take my word for it, there are two other SportsLine experts making the same play tonight.
🏈 College Football
No. 15 Washington at UCLA, 10:30 p.m | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Washington -2.5 (-110) -- In short, I have a lot more faith in Washington than in UCLA at the moment. Both teams are off to 4-0 starts, with Washington winning by an average of 25 points per game and UCLA by an average of 23.8. The difference is Washington has picked up wins over Michigan State, Stanford, and a Kent State team that pushed Georgia last week. UCLA's wins have come against Bowling Green, Alabama State, South Alabama and a Colorado team that might be the worst Power Five team in the country.
Another factor pushing me Washington's direction here is that while both teams have been excellent offensively, Washington's performed much better on the defensive side of the ball and, again, has done it against much tougher competition. Given how empty the Rose Bowl has been for UCLA's home games so far this season and that this game will be played on a Friday night -- LA rush hour traffic on the weekend! -- I can't imagine there will be much of a homefield atmosphere for the Bruins. It will not be lopsided, but I'd take the Huskies at anything under five points.
Key Trend: UCLA is 5-15-2 ATS in its last 22 games against teams with a winning record.
Navy at Air Force, Saturday, 12 p.m | TV: CBS
The Pick: Under 38 (-110) -- We arrive at a long-standing tradition ... and one I fear will come to an end soon. Hopefully, just not this weekend. Service Academy Unders have long been a staple of our diet. The concept is simple. Service academies run option offenses. That means they run the ball more often than every other team in the country. Air Force is No. 1 in the country with an 89.1% run rate, while Navy is third at 82.9%. Army is second. No other team runs the ball more than 70% of the time (UMass is at 69.6%). When teams run the ball, the clock doesn't stop. When the clock doesn't stop, it limits overall possessions. When there are fewer possessions in a game, fewer points are scored.
Also, while option offense can give the academies an edge against other teams that aren't used to it, that's not the case here. These defenses face option attacks every day in practice. Put these factors together and here's what you get: the under has gone 41-9-1 in games between the service academies since 2005. The concern is books have caught on and begun lowering totals for these games in recent seasons. It hasn't stopped the unders from cashing, but they'll crack the code eventually. Until they do, we ride the wave.
Key Trend: The under is 41-9-1 in games between service academies since the 2005 season.
Iowa State at Kansas, Saturday, 3:30 p.m | TV: ESPN2
The Pick: Kansas +3 (-110) -- Speaking of riding waves, I've been on Kansas all season long and I'm not stopping now. The Jayhawks won and covered again last week, improving to 4-0 on the season straight up and against the spread. They have covered by an average of 17.5 points per game. Still,, it's a home dog this weekend against an Iowa State team that sits outside the top 50 nationally in both offensive and defensive success rate.
The Cyclones have been the Big 12's plucky underdog over the last few seasons, but despite their 3-0 start and win over Iowa, they aren't the same team this year. Kansas has taken over their role in the Big 12, and I believe Kansas to be the better team in this game. Not markedly better, but the Jayhawks' offense will be the best unit on the field. That makes it hard to pass up the Jayhawks catching points.
Key Trend: Iowa State is only 2-5 ATS in its last seven Big 12 games.
The Pick: Jets +3.5 (-110) -- It's still way too early in the NFL season to truly know teams, so this week we're fading a couple of teams that have not earned our trust as favorites. The first is the Steelers. Believe me, I am a Chicago Bears fan. I have seen more of Mitch Trubisky than I ever need to see again. He's unfairly maligned in that he's better than the narrative surrounding him suggests, but even so, he's not a QB you want to bet on to cover the spread as a favorite.
The Steelers' offense stinks, and those aren't the kind of offenses you want to bet on to cover as favorites. Now, the Jets offense hasn't been much better, but with Zach Wilson returning this week, I expect there will be more of an explosive element to it than we saw with Joe Flacco. Also, the Jets defense has played better than the overall numbers suggest, and going against this Steelers offensive line will present it with a great opportunity to "get right."
Key Trend: The Steelers are 13-23-2 ATS as favorites since the 2018 season.
The Pick: Titans +3.5 (-110) -- The Colts are another team I don't trust yet. They've scored 1.14 points per possession this season, which is good enough for dead last in the NFL. The primary reason is they cannot score touchdowns in the red zone. Defenses are loading the box to take away Jonathan Taylor there and forcing Matt Ryan to beat them with his arm. He hasn't. The Colts' 40% TD rate in the red zone ranks 28th, and their goal-to-go TD rate of 40% ranks 29th.
On the flip side, the Titans' red zone defense hasn't been great, either, but the Titans' defense has done well against the run overall. It's ninth in the league in defensive success rate against it, so they should be able to implement the same plan against Indianapolis that other defenses have. I don't see this being a high-scoring game, but there isn't much value on the total. Instead, I'll take the 3.5 points in a battle between startlingly similar teams.
Key Trend: The Titans have covered four of the last five meetings.
Inter vs. Roma, Saturday, 12 p.m | TV: Paramount +
The Pick: Inter (+107) -- The stat nerd inside me awaits justice to prevail for Roma. Roma leads Serie A with an xG (expected goals) of 14.8 through seven games but has scored only eight, which ranks ninth in the league. Furthermore, the team's xG of 0.13 per shot is also the best in the league. So, any way you look at it, Roma has been unlucky and should've scored more goals than it has at this point. The theory is that it should correct itself within time, but while I think that's the case here, there's another factor to consider. Tammy Abraham takes more shots than anybody on this team, and he's consistently performed below his xG for his entire career. In NBA terms, he's somewhat like Russell Westbrook in that he scores a lot of points, but he takes a lot of shots to get there.
Whether Roma's luck balances out doesn't matter for this match. I don't expect it to correct itself against Inter because Roma has also been much better at home to start the season than on the road. Its lone road wins this season have come against Salernitana and Empoli. It has a road draw with Juventus and has lost road matches to Udinese and Ludogorets by a combined score of 6-1. Meanwhile, Inter has been much better at home this season, and if I'm going to bet on one of these two underperforming Serie A sides this weekend, it will be Inter every time.
Manchester City vs. Manchester United, Sunday, 9 a.m | TV: Peacock
The Pick: Manchester City -1.5 (-115) -- I'm really excited to watch this match because, while it's not what Erik Ten Hag wants in his ideal world, I've been impressed by how much more competent and organized Man United has looked since a rough start to the year. It is not yet close to a team that could compete with Manchester City for a league title, but it's a team that can compete with City for 90 minutes, and that has not been the case much lately.
But just because I think it's capable doesn't mean I think it will. Sorry if it feels like I pulled the rug out from underneath you, but City has been dominant at home this season. In three Premier League matches, it's allowed a total of 0.6 xG against. Sure, those matches were against Bournemouth, Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace, but Forest and Palace have shown an ability to get shots on net against others. They had no prayer against City. So, while I think United is headed in the right direction, I don't think they're far enough along just yet to ignore the value on betting City to win by at least two goals.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: If you're looking for another NFL play this weekend, SportsLine's Larry Hartstein has gone 24-9 ATS in his last 33 picks involving the Kansas City Chiefs, and he has a pick in for this weekend's game against Tampa Bay.