College Football Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 10/1/2012
I am going to lay off the Big Ten bashing this week and instead shift my focus to the ACC. While I am a big believer in Florida State, which is now 11/2 at Bovada to win the BCS National Championship Game, there doesn’t appear to be much else in that conference.
Georgia Tech entered Saturday’s game with Middle Tennessee just two field goals from being unbeaten and a Top-25 club. But somehow, the Jackets were stomped at home, 49-28, by the Blue Raiders. It was Georgia Tech's first loss to a non-BCS school since 1996 and it has lost consecutive home games for the first time since 1988. Things aren’t likely to improve this week for Tech as its defense has been shredded the past two weeks and now has to deal with high-powered Clemson in Death Valley. Defensive coordinator Al Groh is probably a goner after the season if not sooner.
Virginia also lost to a mid-major on Saturday, falling 44-38 at home to Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs were down 24-10 in the second quarter but put up 34 consecutive points. Look for a QB change with the Cavaliers as Michael Rocco threw three picks in the loss. Alabama transfer Phillip Sims is a good bet to start this week at Duke (no opening line; Blue Devils are 3-0 ATS at home) after nearly engineering a fourth-quarter comeback from a 20-point deficit. Sims finished the game 10-of-17 for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Virginia outgained Louisiana Tech 625 yards to 385 but had 16 penalties for 145 yards and a minus-3 turnover differential. The Cavs (0-4-1) and Arkansas (0-5) are the only two teams without an ATS win this year. Duke, meanwhile, is off to its best start since 1994 at 4-1 and has scored 185 points through the first five games, the highest five-game total to open a season in school history.
(As an aside, you might want to bet on Louisiana Tech going forward has it has won 11 straight regular-season games and eight straight on the road -- 3-0 ATS in away games this year).
But perhaps the worst loss for the conference was Virginia Tech dropping a 27-24 decision at Cincinnati to fall to 3-2. The ACC is now 3-4 against the terrible Big East this season and 5-10 overall vs. the other BCS conferences. The Hokies have won at least 10 games in a national-high eight consecutive seasons but that streak is in major jeopardy now as Virginia Tech still has to play Florida State and travel to Clemson and resurgent Miami.
Speaking of those Canes (4-1, 4-0 over/under), they are one of the good-news stories in the ACC after another big comeback Saturday for a 44-37 win over N.C. State. It’s Miami’s first three-game winning streak since 2009 and its first 3-0 ACC start since 2004 -- the first season in the conference. Stephen Morris threw for a school and ACC-record 566 yards vs. the Wolfpack. But don’t get too excited yet about UM. That offense managed only 13 points in a blowout loss in Week 2 at Kansas State.
We should find out more about Miami this week when it faces Notre Dame at Soldier Field in Chicago with the Irish as opening 13-point favorites. Notre Dame (4-0), off to its best start in a decade, is in the Top 10 for the first time since 2006 and is the only FBS team out of 120 that has yet to trail this season. Miami is averaging 35.6 points per game but is facing a defense that has permitted only 36 points and ranks No. 3 nationally in scoring defense (9.0). The Irish also were off this week so should be well-prepared.
I missed on the spread on Stanford-Washington and Ohio State-Michigan State (I am done with the Spartans for 2012!) last week, but I loved the “under” in both of those games more than the spread and hit both. Also missed on Oregon covering vs. Washington State thanks to a late garbage TD by the Cougars that also cost me on the total. In fact, of the 15 Top 25 teams that played unranked FBS opponents in Week 5, only three -- No. 6 South Carolina (at Kentucky), No. 12 Texas (at Oklahoma State) and No. 17 Clemson (at Boston College) -- covered.
I do want to mention that I absolutely loved South Florida to cover vs. FSU in this column last week and the Bulls did so. This week I will preview Southern Cal at Utah (Thursday night game), West Virginia-Texas (game of week, although it was tough to pass up LSU-Florida and Georgia-South Carolina, but there will be plenty of SEC choices down the road; plus, I simply have to write about Geno Smith after his ridiculous game vs. Baylor on Saturday) and Washington-Oregon (final kickoff of Saturday).
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