College Football Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 10/29/2012
Does anyone honestly care who wins the Big Ten Championship Game this year? Because Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible to play in the conference title game, the Big Ten’s Leaders Division is a flat-out joke.
It was presumed Wisconsin was the class of that eligible group, but then the Badgers went and lost at home to Michigan State on Saturday, 16-13, in overtime. The Spartans ended the Badgers' 21-game home winning streak, which was second only to LSU for tops in the nation. Now it’s quite possible that Wisconsin finishes 4-4 in conference play yet still represents the Leaders Division in Indianapolis. UW and Indiana are the only eligible teams in the division to win a conference game thus far.
The Hoosiers ended an 11-game Big Ten losing streak dating to 2010 with a 31-17 win over Illinois on Saturday. IU hosts Iowa this week as a one-point favorite. Then the Hoosiers host Wisconsin (off this week) on Nov. 10 in what is essentially the de facto Leaders Division title game. And UW will have to finish out the season without starting QB Joel Stave, who broke his collarbone vs. Sparty. Backup Danny O’Brien was 5-for-11 passing for 44 yards and was sacked three times in Stave’s spot. O’Brien presumably will be the starter again, although there’s talk coach Bret Bielema could instead turn to senior Curt Phillips because O’Brien hasn’t been very good while in there this season. Bielema will split first-team reps between those two during the bye week before making a decision.
The news is better for Michigan, which lost a huge game 23-9 at Nebraska on Saturday. QB Denard Robinson left the first half of that loss after re-aggravating a nerve issue in his throwing arm and didn’t return. UM couldn’t do anything offensively without “Shoelace”. Michigan has now failed to score a touchdown in each of its past two games, but Robinson should be fine to play this week vs. Minnesota. The victory gave Nebraska the crucial head-to-head tiebreaker with the Wolverines – both are tied atop the Legends Division at 3-1. The Huskers are 1.5-point dogs at Michigan State this week. Nebraska leads the Big Ten in scoring and total offense, while the Spartans are tops in points and yards allowed.
Heisman Trophy Update
Not too much movement in the Heisman race last week. Kansas State QB Collin Klein didn’t do anything to lose his lead, scoring four touchdowns in a blowout win over Texas Tech as KSU improved to 8-0 for the first time in 13 years. Kansas State has scored 50-plus points in back-to-back conference games for the first time since 2002 and just the third time in school history. Klein is the -250 favorite on Sportsbook.ag.
One guy you can likely write off is preseason favorite Matt Barkley of Southern Cal, who is now +1000. Barkley threw for 493 yards and three scores but also two interceptions as the Trojans were upset by Arizona to see their national title hopes disappear. Perhaps the only legit challenger to Klein is now Alabama QB A.J. McCarron at +450. He had another typically efficient day in an easy win over Mississippi State, completing 16-of-23 for 208 yards and two scores. McCarron still hasn’t thrown a pick this season. But he gets his toughest test so far this week at LSU.
Week 10 Trap Games?
Two stand out to me this week more than any others: Georgia vs. Ole Miss and Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh.
The Bulldogs now control their destiny in the SEC East after Saturday’s impressive 17-9 win over Florida, only the Dawgs’ third win in their past 11 games vs. ranked teams. If there’s a better player in the nation than Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, I’d sure like to know who it is. Against the Gators, Jones finished with 13 tackles, three sacks and forced two fumbles, recovering both. He might be the No. 1 overall pick in next April’s NFL Draft, depending on who gets that pick (i.e. if it’s Kansas City, it is taking a QB, but if it’s Carolina or Jacksonville one of those might take Jones since it has a young QB in place). But the Dawgs seem almost assured of a big letdown this week as an opening 14-point favorite vs. the Rebels, who won at Arkansas on Saturday.
As for the Irish, they had the performance of the weekend in a stunning win at Oklahoma. The victory all but assured a BCS bowl berth and certainly Notre Dame will be playing for it all if it runs the table (I still say the Irish get pounded at USC to close the regular season). Pitt is just so-so this year but does enter on a two-game winning streak. The Irish are opening 17-point favorites, and I couldn’t love Pitt and the points more.
Last week I hit on Notre Dame covering at Oklahoma but missed on Clemson vs. Wake Forest and Alabama vs. Mississippi State (took dogs in both). Do want to mention, however, that in this column I did nail two trap games: Southern Cal vs. Arizona and Rutgers vs. Kent State – both ranked favorites lost outright. This week I will preview Virginia Tech at Miami (Thursday ESPN game), Alabama at LSU (game of week) and Arizona at UCLA (final kickoff of Saturday).
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