College and NFL Trap Game Report
by Trevor Whenham - 11/08/2007
We had a solid week last time around spotting trap games, with three covers in five games, including Minnesota's impressive outright win over the Chargers. This week we have four games identified in which the favorites may be looking beyond who they play this week towards a more important opponent next week. As always, the goal here isn't to point out games to bet blindly on, but rather to identify places where you might want to take another look if you are leaning towards the favorite.
Illinois (+15) at Ohio State (Saturday, Nov. 10, 3:30 p.m.) - Stop me if you've heard this one before - Ohio State and Michigan play next week to finish the season, and the winner will be the Big Ten champion. The games this week don't matter for either team in the race for the Rose Bowl, as they both are undefeated in conference, and each other team has at least two losses. Ohio State has much more to play for than the Big Ten title, of course, as staying undefeated will keep them at No. 1 and in the driver's seat for the National Championship Game. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if Ohio State lets up a little bit this week with an eye on the last big game. Letting up even a little bit against Illinois could lead to a cover for the Illini. Though Illinois hasn't been quite good enough when facing top competition, it has an offense that can be explosive when it finds a groove. They are coming off a massacre of Minnesota that will have their confidence at a high point. Ohio State is unblemished this year, but Illinois is probably the best team they have faced, and they are only 3-3 ATS in games with spreads of more than two touchdowns, so Illinois is worth a look.
Boston College (-6) at Maryland (Saturday, Nov. 10, 8:00 p.m.) - Boston College has to deal with bouncing back after falling from grace with a resounding defeat at the hands of Florida State. Though the National Championship is probably out of the question, the ACC Atlantic title is theirs to lose. All they need to do to wrap it up is beat Clemson next week. If they can beat Maryland first, that is. The Terps are 1-4 in the conference, so that shouldn't be hard. If the Eagles are focused and at their best, of course. Maryland can't be mistaken for a good team, but consecutive wins over Rutgers and Georgia Tech showed that they have the potential to be dangerous. That could work against Boston College if they are still stuck on their loss last week.
Arizona State (-7) at UCLA (Saturday, Nov. 10, 3:30 p.m.) - Arizona State should feel no shame for losing to Oregon last week. Though they didn't cover, it was a hard-fought battle that proved that the Sun Devils' success is not a fluke. They are in a tough spot when it comes to winning the Pac-10 now, but they are still in a position to take advantage if Oregon falters. Even if that doesn't happen, one way that the team can prove their legitimacy is by knocking of USC next weekend. That doesn't mean nearly as much this year as it has in the past, but it is still a solid measuring stick of progress. Standing between that chance and the present is a game at UCLA. Given the way the Bruins have been playing recently it would be pretty easy to totally disregard them. If Arizona State does that, though, they could be in trouble. The Bruins have four losses, and all of them have been ugly, but only one has been at home. They have also beaten solid teams like Cal and BYU while sleeping in their own beds. Arizona State could be vulnerable coming off their first loss so late in the season, and if they aren't focused on this game they could have a second loss before the USC game. South Florida, Cal and others strung together consecutive losses after starting off undefeated.
Atlanta (+4) at Carolina (Sunday, Nov. 11, 1:00 p.m.) - If the Panthers played in a tough division then their season, at 4-4, would be all but over. Fortunately for them, they play in the AFC South and they are in the heart of the race for the top. Despite their offensive woes and quarterback issues, I think that this is still a team that thinks that they are a legitimate contender in the NFC. One way to prove that would be to dispatch the upstart Green Bay Packers in Lambeau next week. Before they get that chance, though, they have to deal with the lowly Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons aren't very good (2-6), but they are coming off a win, and they have been competitive in six of their eight games this year. Carolina has scored just one touchdown each of the last two weeks, and will have to play well to win by at least four here. They may not do that if they are thinking ahead to proving themselves against the Pack.