NCAA Football Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 10/28/2013
If you like chalk, then Week 9 of the college football season was for you. BCS No. 1 Alabama beat Tennessee by 35. No. 2 Florida State rolled NC State 49-17 in a game that could have been much worse. No. 3 Oregon blew open a tie game with UCLA and won, 42-14. No. 4 Ohio State demolished Penn State, 63-14. The only big upset of the week was Duke winning 13-10 at No. 14 Virginia Tech. Somehow the Blue Devils won despite going 0-for-11 on third down and being outgained by nearly 200 yards. It was Duke's first road win over a ranked team since 1971.
So while there wasn't much movement in the polls, as expected the Ducks' win over a ranked Bruins team did propel them ahead of Florida State and to No. 2 in the BCS standings. Oregon remained No. 2 in the human polls and came in first or second in three of the computer systems, jumping from fourth to second in computer average. It's likely to flip-flop again this week as FSU hosts No. 7 Miami (Fla.) in what could be an ACC title game preview -- Noles a shockingly-high 22-point opening favorite at BookMaker -- and the Ducks are off before visiting No. 5 Stanford on Nov. 7. Neither Oregon nor FSU has scored less than 41 points in a game this season.
The Buckeyes remain the odd man out despite handing the Nittany Lions -- who entered off a bye -- their worst loss in 114 years. OSU will stay ahead of one-loss Stanford if it wins out, but should Baylor and Miami win out, they are both likely to pass OSU because of strength of schedule. The Buckeyes will get no boost this week as they visit Purdue. Baylor is off before hosting Oklahoma.
Not much to update here as it remains a two-man race between Marcus Mariota (-110) and Jameis Winston (-110) on Sportsbook.ag. I could see Winston taking over the betting lead after Saturday. It's a weak schedule overall, and FSU will have the national spotlight in a prime-time affair with Miami (the only regular season game left in the country featuring two unbeatens). Mariota can take it back with a big game against Stanford a week from Thursday.
Probably the biggest injury from last week was to Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall. He was knocked out of Saturday's game against FAU early in the second quarter with a shoulder injury thanks to a sack. It sounds like Coach Gus Malzahn didn't let Marshall return just for precautionary reasons as the Owls had no shot at winning. Marshall should play this week against Arkansas (+9.0).
I probably would have chosen Notre Dame vs. Navy (+17) as a trap game this week if the Irish didn't just play an option team in Air Force. Thus, they will be ready for Navy's attack. However, Notre Dame could be without two key defensive players: tackle Louis Nix and linebacker Ishaq Williams. Nix didn't play against Air Force with knee tendinitis and is questionable against Navy. Williams sustained a knee injury early in the win over Air Force and did not return. He's doubtful.
Southern Cal star receiver Marqise Lee sat out Saturday's win over Utah with a left knee injury but should be able to go this Friday at Oregon State. The Beavers opened at -4.5. The loser can forget about playing in the Pac-12 title game.
Week 10 Trap Games
I was 3-0 on my trap game picks last week because I waited out the NC State-Florida State line, and it closed out at 34 after opening at 30. It looked like the Wolfpack had no chance of covering when FSU took a 35-0 lead in the first quarter, but then the Noles took their foot off the gas and started resting guys for the big Miami showdown. I also hit on Wake Forest at +21 at Miami. The Canes are really playing with fire as it was their third straight win after trailing by at least 10 points. If they get down 10 this week at FSU, it's going to be a long night. Finally, Furman easily covered the 46.5 at a disinterested LSU.
Massachusetts (+22.5) vs. Northern Illinois: I'd hold off until later in the week on this one as all the early money is on NIU, and I expect this number to climb above 24. The Huskies are potentially positioning themselves to be BCS busters for a second straight season as they are up to No. 17 in the BCS standings. The Huskies are likely to look past the 1-7 Minutemen, a team they beat 63-0 last year, and focus more on their next game, Nov. 13 against Ball State in what is the de facto MAC West Division title game. NIU QB Jordan Lynch deserves to be a Heisman finalist and earn a trip to New York.
Colorado (+26.5) at UCLA: Here's another one I'd hold off on as the early lean is all on the Bruins. I could see this climbing over 28. UCLA will clearly win the game, but the Bruins are likely physically and mentally gassed after back-to-back road losses against Stanford and Oregon. Jim Mora will get his guys out of the game as quickly as possible to be ready for the Nov. 9 matchup at Arizona in a crucial Pac-12 South game.
Purdue (+30.5) vs. Ohio State: The Boilermakers are lousy but had last week off to game plan for the Buckeyes. It's only OSU's third road game of the season, and it looked a bit shaky in the first two (wins at Cal and Northwestern; the latter victory doesn't look so great now with the Cats having lost four straight). This is essentially Purdue's bowl game.
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