Here’s a look at the highest highs and most crushing lows of the week in college football from a betting perspective. Not to give away the punch line before the joke, but we’re going to spend a lot of time looking at how bad the Big Ten is. It seemed like the conference had bottomed out last week, but it turns out it wasn’t even close. The league heads into conference play now, and that’s a relief for the reputation of the Big Ten — at least when the teams play each other one conference team is sure to come out with a win.
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Ohio State 29, UAB 15
The Buckeyes won. That’s the good news. The problem, though, is that they let the very underwhelming Blazers score the first nine points, and they never really dominated like they should have. They were favored by a tick over five touchdowns, and they won by only two. That’s now three games in a row that they have failed to cover the spread. The 4-0 record is impressive, but you need to be sure to look closer before you get blinded to their issues. Of course, they are now entering their conference season and, as we will see several times in the next few minutes, the Big Ten is really, really lousy right now.
Central Michigan 32, Iowa 31
Exhibit No. 1 regarding the pathetic nature of the Big Ten is Iowa. The Hawkeyes were at home and were favored by 14.5, but a touchdown and a field goal in the last 45 seconds of the game gave the Chippewas the win. They have now failed to cover in three of four games, and the one time they did cover they did so by just half a point. I’m not sure anyone expected this team to be great, but at this point they aren’t even somewhat good.
Michigan State 23, Eastern Michigan 7
Exhibit No. 2. The Spartans were favored at home by 31.5, but they were trailing 7-3 at the half, and they didn’t exactly light the world on fire after the break against what should have been a hopelessly outclassed team. This offense is very bad right now, and that means that despite a very solid offense it is going to be tough for them to improve on their 1-3 ATS start until they get rolling. As further proof of the mess of the conference right now, their only covered spread was during a 41-7 decimation of Central Michigan — the same team that just beat Iowa.
Notre Dame 13, Michigan 6
Exhibit No. 3. How bad was Michigan’s offense? The Wolverines threw interceptions on five consecutive possessions in the first half. It was ugly. Ridiculously ugly. The storyline this week and beyond, though, will be that Notre Dame is back. Don’t believe it. The Irish were incredibly lucky to win this game, and they aren’t nearly as good as it might seem. Their offense is really bad, and it’s not going to get any better in a hurry with the quarterbacks they have on board. Their defense is much better, but not nearly as good as it has looked the last two weeks against Michigan State and Michigan. The Spartans are lousy offensively as we already said. In this game the Irish get credit for forcing the interceptions, but each one involved horrifyingly bad decision-making by Denard Robinson — or running back Vincent Smith in one case. Robinson was moving the ball well against the Irish, but it’s not hard for a defense to shine when the quarterback keeps throwing it right at the defenders. This is not a team destined to be a BCS National Championship contender. In fact, given their schedule, less than three losses would be a victory. Don’t be fooled — this game was about what Michigan couldn’t do, not what Notre Dame could.
Louisiana Tech 52, Illinois 24
Exhibit No. 4. The Illini were favored by three playing at home. It’s embarrassing enough for a Big Ten squad to only be given that much of an edge over a team from the WAC. It’s even worse, though, that they got humiliated like they did. Illinois, like most of their conference, is just lousy. They have been crushed by their best two opponents, and they don’t give us a lot of reasons to believe things will get better. On the other hand, it’s important to start paying attention to this Louisiana Tech offense. In three games this was their lowest-scoring effort, and they haven’t played a particularly weak schedule. They play at Virginia next week in a game that suddenly is very interesting.
Oregon State 27, UCLA 20
The Beavers have played two games, but in both they were underdogs, and in both they totally stifled their opponent en route to a win that was easier than the score suggests. Things get tough for the Beavers at the back end of their schedule, but they have a good chance of starting as well as 8-0 if they keep playing like they have — and they could continue to be very kind to bettors as well.
Colorado 35, Washington State 34
Colorado had been very bad in the Buffaloes three opening games — embarrassingly so. In this one, though, they scored 21 in the final fame to steal the win on the road. Washington State has gotten a lot of press because of Mike Leach. Make no mistake, though — it will be a long time before this terrible team looks like a true Leach squad. They are 0-3-1 ATS, and that’s against the weakest part of their schedule. Things will get ugly for the Cougars this year.
LSU 12, Auburn 10
LSU was favored by 18 and was ranked No. 2 in the country. Auburn had struggled mightily and seemed to have serious issues. Yet LSU was trailing 10-9 before scoring the winning field goal in the third quarter. It’s not a totally damning performance, but it didn’t exactly inspire confidence. Given LSU’s weak schedule through the first five weeks, it’s harder now than ever before to believe that the SEC really is a two-team race
Kansas State 24, Oklahoma 19
The Sooners have had a bad habit in recent years of losing games they should definitely have won to derail a promising season. This most certainly was not one of those situations. Kansas State was a 15.5-point underdog on paper, but they certainly didn’t play like it. In a very good game, the Wildcats proved that they belong with the best of the Big 12. They are now 3-1 ATS, and their Oct. 20 trip to West Virginia looms as one of the most intriguing games of the next month.
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