NCAA Football Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 10/14/2013
The ACC hasn't had a team play for the National Championship since the 2000 season when Florida State was beaten 13-2 by Oklahoma in a totally crappy game. Shoot, Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech were still in the Big East back then. That's why it's pretty fair to say that this week's matchup between No. 3 Clemson and No. 5 FSU may be the biggest game in ACC football history. It certainly is this century.
The winner should have a great shot of playing in the National Championship Game because it likely will be favored the rest of the regular season, although Clemson closes the regular season at South Carolina. FSU still has to play Miami and at Florida and obviously the Atlantic Division winner would then play in the ACC title game, probably against either Miami or Virginia Tech. It's conceivable that the FSU-Clemson winner could get shut out of a title game if neither Oregon nor Alabama loses the rest of the way, which is possible. Wouldn't it be almost perfectly fitting if there are a handful of unbeatens at the end of the regular season in the final year of the BCS standings (which will debut next week)?
A trip to New York also is likely on the line Saturday night as the winning quarterback of the game can book a trip to the Big Apple as a Heisman finalist. I think we all know how good Clemson senior Tajh Boyd is, but we should really get a handle on the talent of FSU freshman Jameis Winston in this one. I'm a bit surprised that Florida State has opened as a three-point road favorite on Sportsbook.ag. The Noles are even money to win the ACC title, with Clemson at +150. I happen to like Clemson in this one even though FSU comes off a bye week. The Noles are being slightly overhyped because they destroyed what is clearly a very overrated Maryland team on Oct. 5. Clemson has a win over Georgia -- when the Dawgs were healthy -- on its resume. Clemson has won six of the past 10 meetings with the Seminoles since snapping FSU's 11-game win streak in 2003. The Seminoles were No. 4 when they beat No. 10 Clemson 49-37 last year in Tallahassee.
Probably the two biggest injuries to report on from the weekend are from the SEC. Surprising Missouri, which upset Georgia, lost quarterback James Franklin for 3-5 weeks with a shoulder injury. That's a shame because the Tigers might have won the SEC East with him. Now I'm not sure they don't lose their next two games: Saturday at home against Florida and the following week against South Carolina. Speaking of the Gators, they lost No. 1 tailback Matt Jones for the season. He tore the meniscus in his left knee in Saturday's 17-6 loss to LSU. The Gators are three-point dogs this week at Mizzou.
Are we going to see our second two-time Heisman winner? Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel has pulled even with Oregon's Marcus Mariota at +150 at Sportsbook.ag, followed by Winston (+400) and Boyd (+1000). Manziel didn't have a touchdown pass Saturday at Ole Miss but threw for 346 yards and ran for two touchdowns in leading a fourth-quarter comeback.
Mariota was even better in a blowout of Washington, throwing for 366 yards and three scores while rushing for 88 yards and touchdown. Mariota has scored at least one touchdown in the air and on the ground in every game this season. I still like him to win it as voters have Manziel fatigue, and the Aggies probably aren't even going to win their own conference.
Week 8 Trap Games
Another 2-1 mark last week in my trap games picks. Clemson played like it was looking ahead to FSU in beating Boston College 24-14 as a 24-point home favorite. Utah not only covered against Stanford but it upset the Cardinal to end their National Championship hopes. The miss was on Arizona State covering the 25 in a 54-13 win at Colorado.
Oregon (-39) vs. Washington State: The Ducks looked great in Saturday's win over Washington, but this is the ultimate definition of a sandwich game: next week Oregon plays UCLA in a possible Pac-12 title game preview and the game after that is the de facto Pac-12 North title game at Stanford. The Cougars are a lot better in Year 2 under Mike Price.
Oklahoma (-24) at Kansas: Any long-shot national title hopes that Oklahoma had are gone after the Sooners were surprisingly dominated by Texas in the Red River Rivalry. The Sooners had won the last two games in the series by a combined score of 118-38. Now they don't control their destiny in the Big 12. I could certainly see OU overlooking the Jayhawks toward next week's matchup with Texas Tech.
Michigan (-11) vs. Indiana: The Wolverines will take a while to get over Saturday's 43-40 four-overtime loss at Penn State. It will be easy to take the Hoosiers lightly with a bye week upcoming followed by the schedule getting much tougher: at Michigan State, vs. Nebraska, at Northwestern and Iowa and vs. Ohio State. IU has lost 17 straight in the series but will be amped up to play in the Big House for the first time since 2009.
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