NCAA Football Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 9/9/2013
If you are going to bet on NCAA title futures now, drop the money on Louisville. The Cardinals at +2000 on Sportsbook.ag after Week 2. Do I think Louisville is the overall best team in the country? I do not. But its schedule the rest of the way is a joke, meaning the Cards should run the table and get a spot in the final BCS title game before heading to the ACC.
The Cardinals have routed mid-majors Ohio and Eastern Kentucky in their first two games. They will be big favorites the rest of the way, starting at -12.5 this week at Kentucky, which could put up a bit of a fight. However, the American Athletic Conference looks like a joke. Cincinnati was presumed to be the Cards' top competition, and UC hosts Louisville on Dec. 5 in the regular-season finale.
The Bearcats clearly aren't any good. They were blown out 45-17 at Illinois on Saturday, the same Illinois team that scraped by FBS school Southern Illinois the week before. To make matters worse, UC lost starting QB Munchie Legaux for the rest of the season after he suffered a gruesome injury against the Illini (YouTube it if you dare). Senior Brendon Kay replaced Legaux and was 6-of-11 passing for 71 yards against Illinois. Presumably he starts from here on out. That's a significant drop-off.
So who beats Louisville? Rutgers? UL gets that game at home. Central Florida? The Knights are 2-0 but have played two of the worst teams in the nation (Akron and Florida International) and have to visit Louisville. At South Florida on Oct. 26? The Bulls look simply terrible in Coach Willie Taggert's first season. They were routed Week 1 by McNeese State and then saw their quarterbacks go a combined 6-for-26 for 66 yards in Saturday's loss at Michigan State. At Connecticut on Nov. 8? The Huskies were outclassed in their opener by FCS team Towson, 33-18.
Louisville will finish the season unbeaten barring an injury to QB Teddy Bridgewater. The only thing that keeps the Cards out of the title game -- and anything can happen in one game -- is if there are two unbeatens from major conferences, because that strength of schedule will hurt UL in the computers.
Speaking of Bridgewater, he is now the +400 Heisman favorite on Sportsbook.ag. He's been great so far, completing 76.7 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns and a pick, but consider the competition. Bridgewater probably has passed Jadeveon Clowney as the likely No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft.
Now there's a four-way tie for second at +600 between Florida State's Jameis Winston (not even a betting option before the season), Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Ohio State's Braxton Miller.
I liked Mariota before the season and still do. He threw for 234 yards and a score while rushing for 113 and two more in Saturday's very impressive blowout win at Virginia. The Ducks play their final nonconference game this week against Tennessee. Too bad not many people nationally will be watching as it's opposite the Alabama-A&M game. Manziel's candidacy all comes down to that game, and I think the Tide will be ready for him.
Miller left very early in Ohio State's game against San Diego State on Saturday, and as of now he's “iffy” to play this week in a potentially tricky game at California. If Miller sits, the Buckeyes could lose and at worst his Heisman hopes are probably over. You probably won't see an update (or line) on this until later this week. Cal can score -- it leads the nation in passing yards -- but can't stop anyone.
As for Winston, he was brilliant in Week 1 at Pittsburgh and should put up huge numbers this week against Nevada and next against Bethune-Cookman. But let's see what the freshman does against good defenses like Miami and Florida late in the season.
Week 3 Trap Games
Another successful week in picking trap games last week, as I was 2-1. The game I loved the most was San Jose State +26 against Stanford, which was due to have some opening-game rust. The Spartans covered in their 34-13 loss. I also hit on Southeastern Louisiana +40 against TCU, with the Frogs winning only 38-17. TCU also lost starting QB Casey Pachall to a potential season-ending injury in that game. He fractured his left forearm. Pachall is 16-3 as a starter in his career, while backup Trevone Boykin is 3-6. It's a quick turnaround for TCU as well as it visits Texas Tech on Thursday night as 3.5-point favorites. Think I'd take the Red Raiders there.
Meanwhile, my one trap loss last week was FCS team Sam Houston State barely failing to cover in a 65-28 loss to A&M.
Notre Dame (-20.5) at Purdue: How weak is this week's schedule (outside of Bama-A&M)? This is the prime-time national TV game on ABC on Saturday night. Purdue isn't very good, but the Irish are going to be in the dumps after losing their first regular-season game since 2011 last week at Michigan. And this is Purdue's bowl game. Take the Boilers and the points.
Texas (-4.5) vs. Ole Miss: I think this is a reverse trap game: I love the Horns. Everyone is on the “fire Mack Brown” bandwagon right now after Texas was embarrassed at BYU on Saturday night. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was fired soon after the loss and replaced by former Syracuse head coach and UT coordinator Greg Robinson. He's been with the team as a consultant so should know the players, etc. Ole Miss is a school on the rise and probably is going to get a lot of love as the dog here, but the Horns are going to be fired up after last week. They cover.
Michigan State (TBA) vs. Youngstown State: Sparty has some major quarterback problems. Coach Mark Dantonio used three QBs in Saturday's win over South Florida, and they combined to go just 12-of-24 for 94 yards. The Spartans' offense scored only seven points against a USF team that gave up 53 to McNeese State a week earlier. The MSU defense will assure no upset, but Youngstown State is a very good FCS program. Plus, the Spartans might be pointing toward next week's visit to Notre Dame.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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