This is it. The college football regular season is almost over. The final week is a great time to back teams playing for bowl eligibility or fade teams that are already bowl-eligible. As an underdog bettor, it’s only fitting that I back three home underdogs for Week 13.
Cal +10.5 vs. UCLA, +295
This is a play based on quarterback splits. Cal senior quarterback Jack Plummer has thrown 12 touchdowns at home vs. five on the road, while averaging a full yard more per completion when playing in his home stadium. UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a fine quarterback that I hope to see in the NFL one day, has just six touchdown passes on the road compared to 18 at home. Now, DTR and the Bruins have to hit the road and show up after a devastating 48-45 loss at home last week to USC? It’s a tough spot for UCLA.
These splits matter because both Cal and UCLA are top 35 in passing yards, and both their defenses are bottom 15 against the pass. Plummer could have a great final home game against the Bruins’ secondary. In their last road game at Arizona State, the Bruins allowed Sun Devils backup quarterback Trenton Borguet to pass for 350 yards as ASU scored 36 points. I love Plummer and Cal to keep pace, and because of the letdown spot, they could even pull out the +295 upset.
Stanford +7 vs. BYU, +200
Stanford is playing in its final home game of the season. Quarterback Tanner McKee has had competitive home losses, including a 1-point loss to 8-3 Oregon State. Looking at splits, McKee has been serviceable both at home and traveling, however, a key data point comes in quarterback protection. McKee has been sacked only 11 times at home and 25 times on the road. The uptick in home performance should help McKee and Stanford remain competitive against BYU because the Cougars are bottom five in quarterback pressure. McKee will have all the time in the world to find an open man.
With BYU already bowl-eligible, McKee and Co. could be more motivated to exploit a defense that allowed 420 yards — 340 passing — to Utah Tech last week. The Coogs are bottom 20 in opponent points per play and touchdowns allowed. Grab the points with Stanford and sprinkle +200 for a home win to close the season strong.
Temple +10.5 vs. East Carolina, +300
Temple and East Carolina are coming off losses in which they scored three points each. Which team shows up to play to close the season? Let’s hope it’s the Owls, who have three wins this year — all at home. Temple freshman quarterback E.J. Warner has an opportunity to prove that he should continue as the starter next year by facing an East Carolina secondary that’s bottom 15 against the pass. The unit allowed 10 yards per pass to Tulane before getting whacked against Houston and allowing 435 passing yards. Warner has passed for 344 and 486 yards in two of his last three games.
Pirates quarterback Holton Ahlers is coming off his worst game of the season with 182 passing yards, a 50% completion rate and zero scores. Unfortunately for Ahlers, Temple happens to be top 30 against the pass with a solid top-20 pass rush. Though unlikely to occur, a small sprinkle on a Temple upset is worth a shot in case East Carolina is ready for its bowl game rather than a road trip to Philly.