Some Improving College Teams Might Warrant a Bet
by Trevor Whenham - 10/12/2006
The college football season is half over, but for some teams it has been over for quite a while now. Temple or Stanford aren't going to be bowl eligible, and that was as certain in week two as it is now. For other teams, however, the season started out pretty rough, but it is quickly getting better. The team that may have been a bit of a pushover to start the season could really create some havoc down the stretch. If the teams improve faster than the perception the public of them has, then betting value can exist for these squads. Here's a look at five teams that you need to keep your eye on because they are quickly improving:
North Carolina State - The Wolfpack are 3-2 and have back-to-back monster wins on their record. After an opening win against Appalachian State the team put up terrible efforts in losses to Akron and Southern Mississippi. But then they shocked Boston College and solidly beat Florida State and the season, all the sudden, took on a very different look. They covered easily as solid dogs in both games. They only need to win three of their remaining seven to become bowl eligible and winnable match-ups against Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, East Carolina and a suddenly vulnerable Wake Forest team make a post season appearance likely. The wildcard with this team is coach Chuck Amato. His boneheaded behavior and decision-making could stand in the way of truly impressive accomplishments.
Miami Hurricanes - College football commentators and fans love to predict Larry Coker's demise, but that might be a bit premature. Sure, he's probably done as Miami's coach at the end of the year, but the Canes should put up some wins before he packs his bags. The 3-2 team is just 0-3-1 ATS, but there are signs of life. The schedule, to begin with, has a lot of soft spots, with games against Florida International, Duke, Maryland and Virginia. Their tougher games are against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Boston College - all teams that Miami can beat if they are at their best. Miami has a very good run defense, and that is joined by the much-needed emergence of a feature running back from a school that has been a running back factory for so many years. Freshman Javarris James has been featured the last two times out and he has responded with 259 yards and two touchdowns. He can take some of the pressure off of QB Kyle Wright. Wright isn't great, but he is more than sufficient if he isn't relied on to be the star.
Penn State - The Nittany Lions have definitely taken a big step back from last year, but they are only going to get better. To see how well this team is improving you only have to look at their two games against major competition - Notre Dame and Ohio State. Notre Dame just tore the Penn State defense apart, with three passing touchdowns and almost 300 yards in a 41-17 blowout. Just two weeks later Penn State became the only defense to shutdown the Buckeyes. Troy Smith was completely ineffective thanks to the smothering coverage, and it was only strong play by the Ohio State defense that made the difference. The team matured with that game against Ohio State and will only continue to get better. They will likely lose against Michigan this week, but they duck Iowa this season and could very possibly win their last five games. QB Anthony Morelli played his best game last time out, and will improve as he gets more comfortable.
South Carolina - The Gamecocks are a far cry from the Gators of coach Steve Spurrier's glory days, but they are finally playing like a solid team. In the second game of the season they were completely shutdown by Georgia. A week ago they played very tight in a loss to Auburn. Even though that performance was downgraded by Auburn's effort last week, it showed the progress that the Gamecocks were making.
The biggest change that Spurrier has made is at QB. Shifting senior Syvelle Newton from receiver to quarterback has definitely paid off. He's been accurate and competent, with eight touchdowns against just three picks. The move was needed after QB Blake Mitchell was suspended from the team for a bar fight, but Newton has added an element of athleticism and offensive potential that Mitchell lacked. The team faces a tough schedule with games left against Tennessee, Arkansas, Clemson and Florida, but none of those teams will be as excited to play South Carolina as they may have been after the Georgia game.
Hawaii - The Warriors are a good team to follow, because they certainly aren't going to get bettors jumping on them because of a lot of media attention. They have the looks of a solid and improving team, though. They are 3-1 ATS, and two of those covers were impressive efforts as large underdogs against Boise State and Alabama. After a challenge this week against Fresno State, Hawaii faces a whole lot of winnable games in a row. They finish the season with two out of conference showdowns against Purdue and Oregon State. Both of those major conference teams are primed for a beating.