NCAA Football Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 12/2/2013
There can be no arguing that we just saw the greatest ending to a regular-season college football game in history on Saturday at the Iron Bowl. I had no rooting interest in Alabama at Auburn, but I sure felt a bit of satisfaction when the smug Nick Saban made a few terrible decisions when it came to kicking field goals, the last of which cost him a shot at a historic threepeat of BCS National Championships.
Just think what we would have missed if replay didn't exist in college football. That game would have gone to overtime and probably ended on a field goal or something. Instead we got Chris Davis' 108-yard field goal return (it will only count as 100 in college) with no time left. It's a better play than The Play (band on the field in Stanford-Cal), the Hail Mary (Doug Flutie against Miami) and the Statue of Liberty (Boise State over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl). This game meant much more in the grand scheme of things than those three.
Auburn's win may have ended the SEC's shot at extending its national title streak to eight straight. Florida State has moved into the favored role at 1/3 and is No. 1 in the BCS. Ohio State is No. 2 in the BCS and on the odds (4/1). No. 3 Auburn (5/1) and No. 5 Missouri (12/1) face off Saturday in the SEC title game with Auburn's Tigers opening as two-point favorites. It doesn't look like either Auburn or Missouri will be able to jump Ohio State for the No. 2 spot barring a Buckeyes loss because OSU plays BCS No. 10 Michigan State. Missouri has no shot, while Auburn has a small one if it wins in a rout and OSU barely ekes out a victory in an ugly game. Even then, it's hard to see how an unbeaten BCS conference team is left out (sorry Northern Illinois).
It also now appears that the decision on whether FSU quarterback Jameis Winston will be charged with a crime won't happen until after this week's ACC title game in Charlotte against surprising Duke, which has to be the biggest conference title game underdog ever at +29. Heisman votes are due Dec. 9. Winston is the huge 1/10 favorite at Bovada. Any shot A.J. McCarron (15/1) had went away with Saturday's loss.
NIU's Jordan Lynch (5/1) is now the second-favorite. A guy from the MAC won't win the Heisman, even as good as Lynch is. He definitely deserves to be a finalist and earn a trip to New York. With Fresno State's loss over the weekend to San Jose State, Northern Illinois looks BCS bowl bound for the second straight season -- probably Fiesta this time -- with a win Friday over Bowling Green (+3) in the MAC title game in Detroit. If Lynch has a monster game and Winston is charged this week, things could change in a hurry.
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller (12/1) would be in the catbird's seat should Winston be charged if Miller hadn't missed a few games earlier this season. The Buckeyes opened as five-point favorites against the Spartans for the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis. It appears as if Sparty will go to the Rose Bowl regardless of what happens. It hasn't played there -- or any BCS bowl -- since 1987. Arizona State is -3.5 at home against Stanford for the Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl berth.
Ohio State will land in some BCS bowl even with a loss. Alabama also is all but a lock for a BCS bowl, probably the Orange (bet heavy on whomever they play, because Tide won't want to be there). Really the only way Bama can play for the national title again is for Florida State and Ohio State to lose -- we could then see a repeat of the Iron Bowl should Auburn beat Missouri. I'm sorry, but the nation is tired of the SEC, and that's the worst possible scenario. Doesn't matter because FSU won't lose.
Week 15 Trap Games
I wasn't going to continue with trap games this week, but a few stand out not because of a big line but circumstances. I'm coming off another great week, hitting on Minnesota at +14.5 at Michigan State, TCU +12.5 vs. Baylor and Southern Miss +14.5 not only covering against UAB but ending the Golden Eagles' national-worst 23-game losing streak.
Missouri (+2) vs. Auburn: There's just no possible way that Auburn doesn't suffer some sort of letdown after a second straight miracle finish. Both of those came at home. Missouri is very much still overlooked; shoot, most Auburn fans are more focused on Ohio State than Missouri. Those Tigers would potentially be playing for a national title spot if not for blowing a 17-point fourth-quarter lead on Oct. 26 to South Carolina. I think that excellent Missouri defense can have much more success against the Auburn one-dimensional attack. The luck runs out this week.
Texas (+13.5) at Baylor: This comes with a caveat: If Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma in a noon start, with this kick at 3:30. Should the Pokes win, as they should, then Baylor knows it can't win the Big 12. Yes, the Bears still might be an at-large team if they win here, but I think that will take the wind out of their sails.
SMU (TBA) vs. Central Florida: The Knights are the AAC Champions and earn the school's first BCS bowl berth with a victory. I think they play a bit tight. UCF hasn't looked great of late, with three of its past four wins by five points or fewer. Every road game the Knights have played has been close with the exception of at terrible FIU. SMU must win to reach a bowl game. I only like SMU here if Mustangs QB Garrett Gilbert plays. He missed this past Saturday's shutout loss to Houston with a sprained knee. Gilbert, once considered Colt McCoy's successor at Texas, has had a huge season. There won't be a line posted until his status is made clear, but I think this is a very close game should Gilbert play and that SMU could win outright.
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