NCAA Football Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 9/2/2013
The problem with when FBS teams play FCS counterparts is that often the lines on those games won't be posted until very late in the week because they are such big mismatches. There was one game on the college football board I loved more than all others last week, but I didn't mention it in this space (but I darn sure bet on it): North Dakota State at Kansas State.
The Bison, the two-time reigning FCS National Champions, were 12.5-point favorites against a KSU team that won the Big 12 last year but also had to replace star QB Collin Klein, among others. Much to not my surprise, NDSU went into Manhattan and won, 24-21. It was the Bison's fourth straight year beating an FBS team, although Kansas State was certainly the biggest name of the four.
That is what's great about Week 1: So much unpredictability. Any college or NFL coach will tell you that a team improves the most in a season from Week 1 to Week 2. With so much turnover in the college game and no preseason games to tune up, it's easy to find upsets. Frankly, NDSU winning wasn't even the biggest upset. Eastern Washington winning at No. 25 Oregon State was. It's just the third time an FCS team has beaten a ranked team. I think we all remember the first: Appalachian State over Michigan in 2007. Eastern Washington is also a big-time FCS power, so those doing their homework should have taken the Eagles and the 26. In total, seven FCS teams upset the big-brother brethren in Week 1. From now on if it's relevant, I will include these games among my traps of the week even if there's no line early in the week. Lesson learned.
Clemson, Boyd Big Week 1 Winners
The books won't release updated BCS Championship odds or for the Heisman until after Monday night's Week 1 finale between Florida State and Pittsburgh, but look for Clemson's odds to win it all get significantly shorter as well as the Heisman odds of Tigers QB Tajh Boyd, I guy I loved on that prop. (Clemson dropped from 25-1 to 15-1 to win the BCS title at one prominent Las Vegas book)
Boyd threw for 270 yards and three scores and ran for two more touchdowns as Clemson (+2) beat No. 5 Georgia 38-35 in a terrific game. It was the second straight win for Clemson over a Top-10 SEC team as it did the trick against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl to close 2012.
I see no reason why Clemson shouldn't be unbeaten when it closes the regular season at No. 6 South Carolina, which has had the Tigers' number in recent years. The Tigers should be favored in every game, with the biggest test coming Oct. 19 in Death Valley against Florida State. No Miami or Virginia Tech on the regular-season schedule but perhaps in the ACC title game (the Hokies' defense actually outplayed Alabama's in Saturday's loss, but the offense and special teams were terrible). With that said, expect a MAJOR letdown this week for Clemson against South Carolina State.
The Heisman hopes of Georgia QB Aaron Murray might be over now, but the Bulldogs' national title hopes are not. The benefit of playing in the SEC is that we all know a one-loss team that wins that conference still is all but assured of playing for the national title. So if the Dawgs win out they will be fine. However, they are beaten up and face South Carolina this week. The Georgia offensive line didn't look good against Clemson, and South Carolina's defense is way better than that. Georgia opened as a three-point favorite and also lost top receiver Malcolm Mitchell for the season when he tore an ACL while celebrating a touchdown against Clemson. Mitchell was Georgia's leading returning receiver, having totaled 40 catches for 572 yards and four touchdowns last season. On the bright side, JuCo transfer WR Jonathan Rumph should play against South Carolina. He was one of the top-rated junior college players in the country but sat Saturday with a hamstring injury. Rumph caught four passes for 98 yards, including two touchdowns, in the G-Day Game.
Week 2 Trap Games
I'm feeling pretty good about myself as I pointed out three trap games last week, and the favorites failed to cover in all three: USC (-22) beating Hawaii 30-13, Florida beating Toledo 24-6 as a 24-point favorite, and Miami beating Florida Atlantic 34-6 as a 32-point favorite. The Gators and Hurricanes play in one of Week 2's marquee games on Saturday in South Florida. UF opened at -3.
Texas A&M (TBA) vs. Sam Houston State: Gee, think the Aggies might be looking ahead just a bit to the Week 3 visit from Alabama? And I'm not sure Johnny Manziel can last a full game nowadays without making some boneheaded decision to force Coach Kevin Sumlin pull him from the game as Sumlin did Saturday against Rice after Manziel taunted some Owls players. The guy seems awfully immature, but he's must-watch TV.
TCU (TBA) vs. Southeastern Louisiana: The Horned Frogs are physically beaten up after losing to LSU on Saturday night. That loss will linger at least a week, plus TCU will be more concerned with its Big 12 opener in Week 3 against Texas Tech.
Stanford (-26) vs. San Jose State: Remember how I said Week 1 can be so unpredictable? This is the Cardinal's opener, while San Jose State opened with a 24-0 win over Sacramento State. The Spartans were 11-2 last year and only lost 20-17 at Stanford in Week 1 of 2012. SJSU also has the better quarterback in Saturday's game in David Fales. As an added attraction to watch this game, it's the final one on the schedule Saturday night.
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