A look at the top offenses in college football
As the 2023 college football season heads into Week 8, the conference races are getting more heated. There are 11 undefeated teams remaining including the top 7 in the AP Top 25. We cashed-in at the leading online sportsbooks on a pair of Top 25 picks in Week 7 including on Notre Dame, who took down the previously unbeaten USC Trojans, 48-20. That improved our Top 25 Picks and Opinions to 18-11, including 15-8 ATS on sides.
As you handicap and bet the balance of the 2023 college football season, you can utilize my annual "200 Club" stats to find more value and winners. These teams that both run and pass for at least 200 yards are more balanced and often more efficient and difficult to defend.
I've been updating these stats since Week 4, while identifying the powerful Pac-12 teams strengths and weaknesses. I suggest you monitor and use these stats along with defensive profiles with similar strengths and weaknesses to identify weekly matchup edges. Of course, you can dig deeper by reviewing team's strength of schedule and noting how teams performed on offense against stronger defensive teams and position units.
I use these stats and profiles as a guide to uncover hidden gems and teams under the radar, along with betting winners in the biggest games, which we did in my coverage in Forbes for the 2019 national championship game noting that Clemson (+6) had elite statistical profiles with a high-powered balanced offense that both rushed and passed for more than 250 yards per game (very rare, by seasons end). The Tigers beat Alabama outright 44-16 as a 6-point underdog with Trevor Lawrence at quarterback and a dominating Tigers defense.
Match-ups are always key, as is isolating value in the betting line when shopping at the top online sportsbooks and reduced-juice sportsbooks that also offer the bettor more value. We'll continue to shoot for more winners the second-half of the season and in the biggest rivalry games. While we just make our picks on these pages at OSGA on Top 25 games and periodically add some bonus picks, there are other games offering value and stats edges to produce more profit and payouts.
As NCAA football teams now play more conference games, you should be able to compare performances and evaluate strength of schedule as a key factor in your handicapping approach. We can now use more realistic numbers and stats from selected opponents and those moving forward. The early-week betting lines including those in Week 8 are not moving as much as early season, but there are other ways to attack the markets by identifying key matchups and stats that matter.
Offensive Balance and Point of Attack Play
While total yards gained, yard per play and rushing and passing numbers are worthy statistics to evaluate, the way in which teams accumulate those yards is significant. In college football, it’s important to control or dominate the line of scrimmage. And teams that can balance their offense and attack are usually more efficient and make it more difficult for opposing defenses and coordinators to defend and prepare.
The ability to run the football effectively also helps on the defensive side of the ball by keeping a defense fresh. When a defense is on the field for more plays per game and facing a hurry-up and spread passing attack, it can wear them out. But clearly if a team struggles at the point of attack and cannot stop or slow an opponent’s running game, it will affect more areas of the game including ball control and the clock. So that’s why having a balanced offensive attack is more effective and efficient and can be counted on when an opposing team does slow one facet of the offense. It's also more important at this time of year when inclement weather comes into play.
Pay attention to on-field performance, especially vs. quality opponents. Yards-per-play differential is something to incorporate into your weekly handicap and match-up analysis. Also note turnovers, special team’s scores and turnover margin when evaluating box scores and not just the final score and result.
200 Club Teams
Through Week 7 and games completed on October 14, 2023 there are 11 teams that both run and pass for at least 200 yards per game (against FBS opponents only - stats don't include FCS opponents).
But I'm including up to 12 other teams on the cusp of 200 Club status with higher offensive efficiency and rushing for at least 180 yards per game. Top teams like Texas, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Ole Miss, Oregon State, North Carolina and Miami, who was averaging 200 rushing YPG until last week's 91 rushing yards in defeat at North Carolina.
These teams also have high powered passing attacks that make their offenses most efficient and among the leaders in scoring and yards per play as well. It's also worth adjusting the rushing guidelines with the clock rules change and no stoppage on a first down until the final two minutes before half and the end of regulation. This has impacted the number of plays being run, so we're adjusting as well to include more teams.
|Team||Rush Yards||Pass Yards||Total Yards||Yards Per Play||Points Per Game|
|Central Florida (UCF)||245||255||500||7.4||33|
|New Mexico State||183||223||406||7.0||26|
Currently there are 17 teams that rush for at least 200 yards per game (13% of the 133 FBS teams). And 75% of college FBS teams are passing for an average of at least 200 yards per game. About 40%, or 52 teams pass for at least 250 yards per game thus far this season.
Additional Stats and Situations
The top 20 teams in the country in offensive yards per play (vs. FBS foes only) are: Washington, LSU, USC, UCF, Oregon, Louisiana, New Mexico State, Miami, Georgia, Florida State, Kansas, Liberty, Oregon State, Michigan, Texas, Oklahoma, Toledo, Ohio State, Missouri, Mississippi, Notre Dame and North Carolina. Note that Washington and USC have top-5 passing, yards per play and scoring offenses, but lack a running game to be included.
So there are other ways to be productive, but when a balanced offensive team lines up against a stronger defensive team, they are more likely to have some success on offense. Likewise, a stronger, balanced attack can tear apart a weaker defensive team.
As you evaluate these teams and update the stats weekly, recognize that statistical profiles are just one way of handicapping games and matchups. Fundamental (matchups), situational (scheduling, look ahead, letdown) and a blend of meaningful technical parameters (patterns, ATS systems) complete the process and profiles. You must also understand the emotional and motivational components of college football teams.
Coaching, cohesiveness, injuries and weather become a bigger factor as teams push towards a strong finish the second half of the season. And of course, using every available advantage, including shopping numbers, odds and betting with reduced juice sportsbooks as available increases your bottom line and ensures that you’re staying on top of your game and putting yourself in the best position to win more close contests when wagering.
You’ll be laying a pretty big price with some of these power teams in the weeks ahead, so continue to evaluate on-field performance and dig deep into the injury reports, box scores and stats. When you get these teams in an underdog role, they are often playable, and especially if they have a strong or capable defense.
Pay attention to key losses and how a team performs so you can project letdown and motivational situations, and recognize when a team has more key factors in their favor. We did that in Week 7 with our bonus pick on Pitt as No. 14 Louisville off a big won over Notre Dame and the Cardinals not stacking up statistically in a letdown spot.
As you become more proficient in evaluating team’s strengths and weaknesses, and use stats, matchups and situations to your advantage, you’ll find yourself with more tap-in birdies, and profit from the experience.
You can bet on it.
FairwayJay is a proven sports handicapper and loves college football. He's been handicapping and betting college football for more than two decades and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. He chips in additional sports betting coverage and reporting on industry news and events. Follow FairwayJay here at OSGA.com and on X (Twitter) @FairwayJay for more sports and betting insights.