College Football Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 9/24/2012
Perhaps I should re-name this column the “Weekly Big Ten Bashathon.”
The conference really is making it easy to pile on. Iowa was beaten at home by Central Michigan on Saturday after previously losing at home to Iowa State. Louisiana Tech destroyed Illinois, 52-24, thanks to six Illini turnovers. Did I mention that game was in Champaign? Michigan committed six turnovers as well in losing 13-6 at Notre Dame. Denard Robinson was 13-of-24 for 138 yards and four picks – his Heisman hopes are gone.
Ohio State looked lousy in beating a terrible UAB team, and I have no earthly idea what’s up with Wisconsin this year as the Badgers beat UTEP by only 11. UW lost Montee Ball in that game to a head injury but he expects to play this week in the Big Ten opener vs. Nebraska. And it’s probably a good thing that the Big Ten openers are this weekend as at least its members won’t embarrass themselves against nonconference teams any longer.
Michigan State remains the +200 favorite at Sportsbook.ag to win the title and it hosts Ohio State (which is ineligible for the title) on Saturday in the biggest of the Big Ten openers.
Clear Sailing For Noles?
Last week when I previewed the Clemson-Florida State game I wrote that the winner could have a potentially clear path to a spot in the National Championship Game because of the weakness of the rest of the ACC.
That really looks true for FSU following its 49-37 come-from-behind victory to take control of the Atlantic Division. The Seminoles are now the biggest conference favorites in college football on Sportsbook.ag at -600 to win the ACC. Florida State is +600 to win the BCS title game, behind only Alabama (+160) and LSU (+400).
FSU has one of the nation’s top defenses even having allowed that many points to Clemson, which has future NFL players all over its offense. And if the FSU offense is humming like it was in the second half Saturday, the Seminoles are going to be tough to beat. QB E.J. Manuel had a signature game by completing 77 percent of his passes for a career-high 380 yards and two touchdowns, plus rushing for a career-best 102 yards. He was the first FSU QB since former 1993 Heisman winner Charlie Ward to throw for 300 and run for 100 in a game. That performance put Manuel, who missed the 2011 Clemson loss, in the Heisman conversation and he is +1000 on Sportsbook to win the award. West Virginia’s Geno Smith remains the slight +175 favorite.
In addition, FSU has a stud running back now in Chris Thompson, who had 103 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries vs. Clemson for his second straight 100-yard game. Only Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas (+180 second-favorite for Heisman) has run for more yards per carry than Thompson this season (10.82). All Thompson needs to do is average around 64 yards a game the rest of the season to become Florida State’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 1996.
My one concern with Florida State is how it handles success, which has been a problem in recent years. The team has a huge potential trap game this week at South Florida, which clearly got caught looking ahead last week in losing to Ball State. The Bulls have a Manuel-like quarterback in B.J. Daniels. Unfortunately, the inconsistent Daniels has thrown five interceptions in the past two games, both USF losses. But he’s capable of winning the game by himself.
USF doesn’t often have a raucous, sellout crowd, but that will change on Saturday as FSU makes its first visit to Tampa (vs. USF anyway). The only time these schools have played was in 2009 in Tallahassee. Daniels, then a freshman, announced his presence to the college football world with 215 yards passing and two scores and adding 128 yards on the ground. He will be jacked up this week as Daniels grew up in Tallahassee and was largely ignored by Florida State recruiters.
FSU is a 16-point favorite (love USF to cover) and should be favored in every regular-season game from here on out. The only currently ranked team remaining on the Seminoles’ schedule is Florida at the end of the season, and that game is in Tallahassee (road games at Miami and Virginia Tech won’t be easy). That weak schedule could potentially cost FSU with the computers in the BCS standings, however. Originally, Florida State was supposed to play West Virginia in Week 2, but the Mountaineers bought their way out of that game after joining the Big 12. They were replaced by FCS pushover Savannah State.
Last week, I was 2-1 in my NCAA previews. I missed on Boise State (-5) but I loved that under there and that was a winner. I hit on Clemson (+14.5) at Florida State and Oregon (-21) vs. Arizona, although I am stunned that the Ducks were able to shut out Rich Rodriguez’s club. Overall I am 5-4 vs. the spread this season. This week, look for previews of Stanford at Washington (Thursday), Ohio State-Michigan State (game of week) and Oregon-Washington State (final kickoff Saturday). RichRod couldn’t figure out that Ducks defense, but perhaps Mike Leach can.
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