College Football Betting: Five Value Teams Down the Stretch
by Trevor Whenham - 11/05/2008
As we get into the final stretches of the college football regular season, bettors are looking for every way to get an edge to pad their bankroll, or to salvage earlier setbacks. One way to do that is to put your faith in good teams. Not just any good team will do, though. The key is to look at teams that have three things: the proven ability to win and cover spreads, the schedule down the stretch to do well, and the motivation to win and win big. Teams that fit that profile are the ones that are most likely to be able to provide a relatively secure investment for your hard earned sports betting dollars. Here are five teams that could fit into that criterion:
Texas - Texas is coming off one of the toughest four-game stretches that any team has had to face in recent years. Over the course of a month they had to meet four tough, high scoring, highly ranked conference rivals. They didn't come through unscathed, but they sure gained respect along the way. In the end they came one play - a truly spectacular 28-yard TD catch by Michael Crabtree - away from an almost certain undefeated season. Normally a loss is bad news for an undefeated team. This is not a normal year, though. The BCS picture is wide open, and Texas is far from eliminated from the national championship picture. To get there, though, they need to keep winning, and they need to win big. They have the schedule for it - Baylor, Kansas, and Texas A&M. They can win two of those games in their sleep, and Kansas shouldn't be that close, either. Texas is well coached and they are talented, so you can expect them to be up for the challenge of proving that they still belong. That should make them a solid value down the road.
Florida - Much of the argument for Texas applies here, too. They have an unfortunate loss on their record, but if they keep wining impressively then they are in a very good position to play for a national title. Like Texas, they don't have a particularly tough road ahead of them - Vanderbilt, South Carolina, The Citadel and Florida State. Unless they slip up badly they will win all four games. They need to not only win but also look impressive doing it. They are on the fast track to the SEC Championship Game, but they need to make their record look as good as they can so that they can be sure to be the most popular one-loss team in the country if they win that game. If we learned one thing from the game against Georgia it is that Florida is very good and in fine form. They seem like a team likely to cover some games down the stretch.
Penn State - The Nittany Lions got the ultimate slap in the face - they got dropped in the polls when they weren't playing. They too have a soft schedule down the stretch - Iowa, Indiana, Michigan State. They are very likely to end up at 12-0. The problem, though, is that the Big Ten is in such a sorry state these days that 12-0 out of the conference may not be enough to keep them ahead of a one-loss Florida or Texas. To ensure their spot in the big dance they need to win and win big. They have the ability to score when they want to, and they will need to score like crazy down the stretch. They should be motivated to succeed, and that should make them attractive. As an aside, the matchup between running backs Evan Royster and Shonn Greene in the Iowa game should be fun to watch.
Boise State - Several players on the current roster have been around long enough to know what it takes to make it to the BCS. They won't make it as far as the national championship, but they can find themselves in a pretty impressive game if they keep winning. They are currently ranked 10th overall, and there is room for them to move upwards if they end up undefeated - especially if they post some gaudy numbers. They are going to have two big blowouts, or at least they should, against Utah State and Idaho. That leaves tough but winnable games against Nevada and Fresno State. This team has a short but impressive tradition of winning, and they have all sorts of talent on both sides of the ball, so it seems likely that they will be motivated to succeed down the stretch and cover some spreads.
Minnesota - This team ends up on this list for a different reason than the other four - the national championship is obviously an impossibility. I don't think that that makes them any less likely to close strongly, though. Last year this team won just one game. They are currently 7-2, and the second loss is only because of a heartbreaking finish against Northwestern in a game that they played well in. Tim Brewster is perhaps the best coach in the country that no one knows, and this turnaround he has engineered is no fluke. The team is already obviously bowl eligible, but with the struggles the conference has faced the Gophers have a good shot at finishing third in the conference and playing in the Outback Bowl. That would be an amazing story, and Brewster knows it. This team is already 6-2 ATS, and the table is set for them to continue treating bettors kindly.