NCAA Football Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 9/23/2013
One of the great things about betting, other than obviously winning some cash, is that it can turn a lousy game into something worth watching. And about the only reason I can think of regarding the previous week in college football is thank God for betting. Otherwise, it was one of the worst weeks in recent memory in terms of lopsided matchups. How bad? “ESPN GameDay” was at FCS school North Dakota State.
Ohio State beat Florida A&M, 76-0. Louisville crushed Florida International, 72-0, a game in which a running clock was used at the end. I honestly didn't know that option existed in college football. High school or peewee, yes. Georgia slept through its 45-21 win over North Texas. Washington called off the dogs (Huskies) in a 56-0 win over Idaho State. Florida State mopped up on Bethune-Cookman, 54-6. Miami destroyed Savannah State, 77-7, and was lucky that QB Stephen Morris didn't suffer a serious knee injury. He left the game early but apparently is OK and should be able to play this week at South Florida.
Hopefully the addition of the new four-team playoff system eliminates the need for the BCS big boys to schedule really bad teams -- strength of schedule will be a very big component in the new system. But it's the NCAA, so undoubtedly it will be flawed.
Probably the biggest news out of Week 4 was Florida losing starting quarterback Jeff Driskel to a season-ending ankle injury in its 31-17 win over Tennessee. That means Tyler Murphy will be running the show going forward. He was 8-of-14 for 134 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for a score to help the Gators pull away from the Vols for their ninth straight win in the series. I'm not sure that UF isn't better off with Driskel out -- he never lived up to the hype as arguably the nation's top QB recruit back in the day. Driskel was a turnover machine in Florida's loss to Miami and also threw a pick against Tennessee before going down. Murphy has some wheels, adding a new dimension to a Gators' offense that badly needs it. We won't know much on Murphy this week as Florida is a 13.5-point favorite at Kentucky, a team the Gators have beaten 26 straight times. Florida has outscored Kentucky 238-36 in the past five wins. The first real test will be Oct. 12 at LSU.
Oregon didn't play in Week 4, but Marcus Mariota's Heisman odds at Sportsbook.ag got a bit shorter, moving from +450 to +350. He should have a monster game this week against a California defense that ranks 121st in the country by allowing 42.0 points per game. The Ducks are 37-point favorites with an obscene total of 83. Sorry, but I can't ever recommend an “over” total in the 80s. There is no other game as of this writing that is even in the 70s.
Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel are the +500 co-second favorites. Bridgewater was 17-of-22 for 212 yards and four TDs against overmatched FIU. I really think Louisville's schedule will work against him. I also think many Heisman voters have Manziel fatigue. I am very interested to see what Florida State redshirt freshman Jameis Winston (+700) does this week at Boston College. Winston is completing 78.1 percent of his passes and is No. 2 in QB rating behind Baylor's Bryce Petty.
Week 4 Trap Games
I will be sad to see all those crappy matchups end as I was 2-1 in trap/letdown games last week, my third winning week thus far. Alabama was a 38.5-point home favorite over Colorado State bur predictably wasn't all that engaged the week after beating Texas A&M. The Tide beat the Rams 31-6 and were only up 17-6 entering the fourth. I wouldn't want to be at Nick Saban's practices this week. I also hit on Georgia failing to cover the 33 against North Texas. I missed on a really bad New Mexico State team covering the 42 against UCLA.
Miami (-20) at South Florida: This line is inflated because of how scary bad USF has been. It has been blown out at home by McNeese State and Florida Atlantic, but there is plenty of talent on the Bulls. They also had last week off. Even if Morris plays, he's probably going to be a bit gimpy. Miami also has a big ACC opener next week against Georgia Tech.
Stanford (-10.5) at Washington State: The Cardinal played in the only Top 25 matchup last week and had little trouble with Arizona State. Stanford didn't look great in its only other road game at Army, although it was played at 9 a.m. Pacific time. The Cougars are definitely much better in Mike Leach's second season and essentially had a scrimmage last week against Idaho. An outright upset wouldn't shock me here as Stanford could be looking ahead to next week's big matchup with Washington.
Florida State (-21.5) at Boston College: I do think this is a huge trap for Winston and the Noles. Boston College stinks again on offense but usually is a good defensive team. The Eagles had last week off to prepare as well. FSU also could be looking ahead to two huge games next on the schedule: versus unbeaten Maryland and at Clemson in the de facto Atlantic Division title game.
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