NCAA Football Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 10/21/2013
The first of the last season of BCS standings were released on Sunday, and of course we have controversy. Oregon has been No. 2 in the polls for weeks, but the Ducks are No. 3 in the BCS behind No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Florida State. I wouldn't get too worried yet, Oregon fans.
The Seminoles did have the most impressive win of the season on Saturday, a stunning 51-14 rout at Clemson. Not a shock that FSU won -- it was a three-point favorite -- but the total domination was just unbelievable; it was the most points ever scored by a visiting team in Clemson. Seminoles freshman Jameis Winston, not Clemson senior Tajh Boyd, was the best player on the field, throwing for 444 yards and three touchdowns. Winston also ran for a score.
The computers rank FSU No. 1, and that's why it's above Oregon. But the Seminoles' strength of schedule isn't as good the rest of the way as Oregon's. They play only one team currently ranked, Nov. 2 against Miami, and have three lousy opponents in Wake Forest, Syracuse and Idaho. The Florida Gators could be ranked by the time they meet and FSU then likely will play either Miami or Virginia Tech in the ACC title game. It will probably want to hope for Virginia Tech because it doesn't help strength of schedule to beat the same team twice.
Oregon has No. 12 UCLA this week, No. 6 Stanford the week after that, a decent Utah team, a pretty good Arizona team and No. 25 Oregon State -- followed by the Pac-12 title game against likely UCLA or Arizona State. The computers will start to like the Ducks more. They and Alabama are both +160 to win the national title, with FSU at +300 at Sportsbook.ag.
The team that should be worried is No. 4 Ohio State, because I see no way the Buckeyes will jump any of the Top 3. OSU didn't look great in Saturday's home win over Iowa and won't get any computer boost by beating Penn State, Purdue, Illinois or Indiana. At Michigan on Nov. 30 is the only tough game left and then maybe against Michigan, Nebraska or Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. No. 5 Missouri can take care of business simply by winning out and beating Alabama in the SEC title game. The Tigers appear to have caught a break this week as South Carolina QB Connor Shaw isn't likely to play after suffering a knee injury in Saturday's loss to Tennessee. The Tigers have a two-game lead in the SEC East, so it would take a minor collapse for them to not play in the conference title game. Who saw that coming!?
Winston's stellar performance has jumped him into a tie with Oregon's Marcus Mariota as the Heisman favorite at -110 on Sportsbook.ag. All Mariota did was complete 71.9 percent of his passes for two touchdowns and run for another in Saturday's win over Washington State. I do think the East Coast bias is working against Mariota and for Winston (who is now a lock to be the top pick in the 2015 draft). It's pretty clearly down to those two now as Alabama's A.J. McCarron is next at +1000. Texas A&M's loss to Auburn on Saturday pretty much ended Johnny Manziel's chances to repeat.
Week 9 Trap Games
Yet another 2-1 record in my trap game picks last week -- I've been 2-1 every week but one. I hit on Washington State covering the 39 against Oregon and Kansas at +24 against Oklahoma. If Michigan hadn't scored a garbage-time touchdown on a 27-yard run by Fitzgerald Toussaint against on Indiana on Saturday, I would have hit on all three.
N.C. State (+30) at Florida State: This might be my trap game of the season -- and I think the line only gets bigger. The FSU players will be reading all week about how good they are and how they now control their own destiny, presumably, to play for the National Championship. Not only that, the FSU players likely will have their eyes on next week's Miami game. A lot of players on both sides competed against one another in high school. N.C. State has looked like crap in losing to Wake Forest and Syracuse the past two games, but I think the Wolfpack play inspired football and cover rather easily.
Wake Forest (+21) vs. Miami: Speaking of those Hurricanes, this sets up as a major letdown game. They were very lucky to escape North Carolina with a win on Thursday. QB Stephen Morris looked terrible, and his ankle is clearly bothering him. Top receiver Phillip Dorsett is out up to six weeks with a partially torn ligament, and star running back Duke Johnson is coming off a head injury, although he probably will play this week. This will be one of those games where Al Golden will aim to pull his starters ASAP to rest up as much as possible for FSU. That should mean a late score or two from the Deacons to assure a cover.
Furman (+47) vs. LSU: The Tigers know that both their SEC title and National Championship hopes are gone after Saturday's loss at Ole Miss. How fired up do you think they be to face Furman with Alabama next on the schedule? LSU has a habit of playing down to its opposition in games like this -- the Tigers only beat Towson 38-22 last season, for example.
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