This football season’s rollercoaster ride took a major turn upwards this past weekend with a 6-3 record that resulted in a final tally of +15 Units. We hit on all three of our top selections, and I finally got a grip on the Big Ten Conference; going 2-0 for +10 Units in games that were never in doubt.
The Ohio State Buckeyes continued to prove that they are clearly the best team in the conference by knocking off Wisconsin in overtime last Saturday in Madison. The Badgers had little on the line considering that they already clinched the Leaders Division title, but they still wanted to prove that they were a championship-caliber team in light of Ohio State’s and Penn State’s postseason ban. Wisconsin’s defense showed up against the Buckeyes, but sloppy play on special teams helped create an early 14-point deficit that took the rest of the game to erase. The Badgers dominated field position in the second half, but a Montee Ball fumble on fourth down late in the game appeared to seal things for Ohio State. I have to give a ton of credit to Wisconsin’s never-say-die attitude as it did manage to tie this game up with under 10 seconds to play. The Buckeyes rallied in overtime on a long Braxton Miller run that could have easily been called back due to holding. This led to a touchdown that Wisconsin was unable to answer. The win puts Ohio State in great shape to run the table and finish out the season 12-0 with one more victory this Saturday against Michigan. Our play in this game was on the” under” for 5-Units, which was well in hand unless the game went to a second or third overtime.
The main conversation among the Wisconsin faithful has centered around Coach Bret Bielema’s decision not to go for two points and the win after their late touchdown. I happen to agree with him playing for the tie and overtime, as the repercussions of not making it are just too high. The media would have jumped all over the coach; making it extremely hard to explain his reasoning. Generally, the coaches that take these kinds of risks have a team that is already out of postseason contention and playing with nothing to lose. In this case, Wisconsin had been playing solid defense all game long so you had to like its chances . The Badgers now have to take their show on the road to Penn State in their final regular season game in what should be another low-scoring affair.
Our second big play in the Big Ten was Michigan over Iowa, and the end result was never in doubt, although a late Hawkeye’s touchdown brought them within eight points of covering the spread. The fact that Devin Gardner ended up getting the start for Denard Robinson did not shake my confidence level as he is more than capable of running the Wolverines offense. The downside to this victory is that running back Fitzgerald Toussaint suffered a broken leg, making Saturday’s task of knocking Ohio State from the ranks of the unbeaten all that more difficult. Michigan actually has an outside shot at winning the Leaders Division to get into the conference championship but would also need Nebraska to lose to Iowa, which is highly unlikely.
It is still hard to believe that this is the same Iowa team that went into East Lansing early in the season and beat Michigan State in double overtime. Head coach Kirk Ferentz’s ballclub will not being going to a bowl game for the first time since 2007 as a result of a few shaky losses at home to Iowa State, Central Michigan, Penn State, and Purdue. The Hawkeyes are a big underdog this week against Nebraska, which almost ensures they will finish a dismal 2-6 in conference play this season. The Cornhuskers, on the other hand, are licking their chops for another shot at playing Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game next Saturday in Indianapolis. The heat has been turned up pretty high on Ferentz’s already, and another ugly loss at Kinnick Stadium will certainly not help matters.
I am pleased to announce that Doc’s turned in another profitable week in the NFL thanks in part to a gritty comeback from our hometown Packers. Green Bay trailed by six points with less than two minutes to play but took a one-point lead on a 22-yard scoring strike from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb. The defense then stuffed Detroit on four straight downs to get the ball back on the Lions 20-yard line. We lucked out on Green Bay’s inability to run out the clock with a first down, and the ensuing field goal gave us the four-point spread we needed. I must admit I was not sure Coach Mike McCarthy would even attempt a field goal since kicker Mason Crosby had missed two attempts earlier in the game, but he also knew that three more points would seal the win. These late-game developments created a huge swing for our clients, as it meant the difference between posting a small gain on our selections to cashing in on a big one. There is a lot to like about this week’s NFL card, so this Sunday we are going with our second 7-Unit NFL Game of the Year. You may remember that our first game of the year had Detroit (+6) over Chicago. The line eventually moved to 6.5, meaning that some of our customers hit it big on Chicago’s 13-7 win while others took a push depending of which spread they secured. This week, my staff and I took a real hard look the current line on our Game of the Year selection and were all in agreement that it was just too good to pass up. That is why Week 12 presents the perfect opportunity to release our NFL Game of the Year, Part 2. I have to admit, the confidence level is running high at Doc’s and we are fully confident that we will get the outright win for all of our customers this Sunday.
Switching gears, Doc’s Sports Service has started releasing selections for the men’s college basketball season, and after going 2-0 and +7 Units this past Saturday, we unfortunately gave most of that back on Sunday by dropping our 6-Unit play on Penn State over Akron. We could not manufacture the same luck that we had on the Packers after six minutes into Sunday’s game, Penn State lost Tim Frazier to a lower left leg injury. While I have always stated that I believe that injuries are one of the most overrated factors in handicapping football games, the same is not true in college basketball, especially when you lose your top player. Frazier was Penn State’s leader in points, assists, rebounds, and steals last season, and once he went down I knew that our pick was dead in the water. While a few customers emailed us to voice their displeasure over the Lions’ 25-point loss, you now know the main reason why that occurred. Penn State was actually in the lead before Frazier went down and the end result was catastrophic collapse in the second half. This is the primary reason that our top play in any sport is never more than 8 units. Most of our football and basketball plays are usually in the 3- to 4-unit range and are probably just as strong as out top plays (6- to 8-units). Situations such as Penn State’s loss can occur in any sporting event, and that is why there is no such thing as a LOCK in this business. That is also why you will never see Doc’s releasing a 20-unit, 50-unit, or 100-unit play like other handicappers may choose to do.
The Big Ten regular season comes to a close this Saturday, and so does my Fourth-and-Inches weekly betting report. I have always enjoyed writing this column and hope that I have been able to provide you with a few useful insights along the way. I truly believe that we are all in this together and feel like I am right there with you celebrating the highs when we win as well as lamenting the losses when we lose each and every week of the season. If you ever have any questions please feel free to give me a call at our Wisconsin office (800) 356-9182, as I always love to talk football. Happy Holidays and best of luck for the remainder of the football season. I look forward to picking up where I left off come next September.