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Sportsbooks have had an “Alabama or Clemson vs. the Field” prop on the board since the season kicked off. It took seven weeks, but we finally have an idea of who the other contenders are. The field finally has a defined scope.
Per the Action Network’s power ratings, there are a handful of teams that are College Football Playoff contenders. Ohio State, LSU and Oklahoma would be one-score underdogs on a neutral field, while Georgia and Wisconsin would be within two touchdowns against Clemson or Alabama.
There is a case to be made for Penn State, but the Westgate Superbook released its national title odds at 50-to-1 on Sunday.
At plus-110 the field may have value, considering the odds imply over a 55 percent chance that Alabama or Clemson win the title. Our havoc ratings indicate Wisconsin, Ohio State and Penn State are the top disrupters in the nation. The Crimson Tide have a havoc rating of just 52, but both Clemson and Alabama have a havoc allowed rating in the top 20.
Wisconsin, Penn State Ohio State and Georgia all rank top 10 in defensive success rate, while Alabama is 28th. The Tide also ranks 40th in limiting explosive plays, the bulk of which comes from their 74th-ranked rush defense. The best team in rush explosiveness out of the playoff contenders? The Oklahoma Sooners, who rank 12th in the nation in that metric. Jalen Hurts may be the biggest threat to Alabama.
We’ve put a little on the field at plus-110 because Clemson will head into the playoff untested and Alabama is showing some flaws. The second half of the season is sure to provide many more statistical answers for future betting.
As for Week 8, let’s look at some numbers we’ve already hit.
College football games we bet early
Kansas at Texas (-23)
We like the underdog in this spot for a combination of reasons. Texas is dealing with injuries, it’s a bad spot and the advanced stats reveal this game could be closer than the spread suggests.
Texas could be without 10 of its regulars on Saturday. Defensive backs Caden Sterns, Jalen Green and Josh Thompson remain sidelined. Wide receiver Collin Johnson entered concussion protocol, while senior linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch suffered a dislocated shoulder. There are others to mention, including defensive end Malcolm Roach, who will miss the first half due to an ejection against Oklahoma.
Les Miles fired his offensive coordinator on Oct. 6 and hired Brent Dearmon during the bye week. Dearmon will likely be bringing in the run/pass option, which should spark the Jayhawks on offense. The timing is good, too, as Texas ranks 50th in opponent rush success and 74th in rushing yards allowed per attempt.
Not only has Kansas been strong at finishing drives this season, ranking 20th in red-zone scoring percentage, but the Jayhawks also are solid defensively when they are backed up, ranking 26th in red-zone scoring percentage allowed.
Rock Chalk could surprise this Saturday.
The pick: Kansas +23
Old Dominion at UAB (-14.5)
There are not many times that we end up backing a double-digit favorite at home when openers come out on Sunday, but the Blazers fit the same profile as our piece on Navy vs. Tulsa last week.
UAB ranks 17th in havoc through half its season. Led by nine forced fumbles and 46 tackles for loss, the Blazers have been one of the most dominant defending teams in the Group of Five.
This is not the best of news for an Old Dominion offense that is 125th in havoc allowed. The Monarchs have specifically had trouble with tackles for loss at 53, enough to rank 123rd in the nation. Old Dominion currently ranks 128th in offensive success rate and will take on a UAB team that is sixth in the nation in defensive success rate.
The Monarchs have kept games close in the first half, but with the Blazers heading into a bye week there should be no slowing down UAB.
The pick: UAB -14.5
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