NCAA Football Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 10/7/2013
I think you can go ahead and pencil in the Ohio State Buckeyes for the National Championship Game. Do I think OSU is one of the nation's two best teams? I do not. However, after winning 40-30 at Northwestern on Saturday night, the schedule sets up quite easily the rest of the way. Yes, I know the Buckeyes have to play at Michigan in the regular-season finale, but have you seen the Wolverines? They aren't very good. I also don't see any Legends Division team -- maybe Michigan again -- touching OSU in the Big Ten title game. OSU is -200 on Sportsbook.ag to win the Big Ten.
Here's Ohio State's remaining schedule: vs. Iowa (after this week's bye), vs. Penn State, at Purdue, at Illinois, vs. Indiana, at Michigan. Cakewalk. Saturday's win no doubt had some Northwestern bettors smashing their TVs. Ohio State closed as a 3.5-point favorite and turned an ATS loss into a win when it scored on the final play of the game as the Wildcats were attempting desperation laterals. Urban Meyer still has yet to taste defeat as the OSU coach.
There was a big injury this weekend among the mid-majors, and it will certainly affect the Mountain West championship as Utah State's Chuckie Keeton, one of the nation's best quarterbacks, was lost for the season. He was hurt Friday night in a loss to BYU. Keeton was 136-of-196 for 1,388 yards with 18 touchdowns and only two interceptions this season. He also rushed for 241 yards and two TDs. The Aggies, who lead the MWC West Division, host Boise State this week. The Broncos are seven-point favorites and certainly wouldn't have been if Keeton was healthy. USU is +550 to win the Mountain West title game.
Meanwhile, Georgia suffered two huge losses as running back Keith Marshall and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley were each lost for the season with torn ACLs in their right knee. Marshall had rushed for 246 yards this season and was carrying the bulk of the tailback load with Todd Gurley out injured. He's iffy to return this week against a much-improved Missouri team (Dawgs are -9.5). Scott-Wesley had 16 catches for 311 yards and two touchdowns and had emerged as perhaps Aaron Murray's top target. Remember, Georgia lost projected No. 1 receiver Malcolm Mitchell to a season-ending injury in the opening loss to Clemson.
Georgia has a path to the national title game otherwise after escaping at Tennessee on Saturday. Missouri and Florida are the only ranked teams left on UGa's regular-season schedule, and neither is a true road game (UF in Jacksonville as usual). So Georgia could get a shot at Alabama in the SEC title game, and we all know a one-loss SEC Champion will play for it all. Georgia is +2500 to win the national title -- pretty good value right now despite the injuries.
The big injury news was that of South Carolina star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney sitting out Saturday's win over Kentucky. Apparently he was medically cleared but told the coaches before the game he wanted to sit. If you saw Steve Spurrier's press conference afterward, you could tell he was quite annoyed. Clowney is costing himself millions of dollars potentially as he has not been much of a factor this year and clearly doesn't want to be playing free football. Asked about Clowney's commitment to the Gamecocks, Spurrier said, "You'll have to ask him that." Clowney is questionable for this week's game against Arkansas, with the Gamecocks as six-point favorites. You can write it down in pen that Teddy Bridgewater and not Clowney will be the No. 1 overall choice in next year's NFL Draft.
Oregon's Marcus Mariota remains the +200 favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, and he certainly did nothing to lose his favored status on Saturday as Mariota threw for five touchdowns and ran for two more. I'm already fascinated to see if Chip Kelly takes this guy in next year's draft, presuming Mariota leaves Eugene early. The Ducks, who still haven't scored less than 55 points this season, have a big one at Washington on Saturday after the Huskies gave Stanford all it could handle. Oregon is a 14-point favorite.
Johnny Manziel has closed the gap on Mariota, now at +300. He threw for 261 yards and two scores in a win over Arkansas on Saturday. The guy I now worry about beating Mariota out is Florida State freshman QB Jameis Winston (+700). He was phenomenal again on Saturday, throwing for 393 yards and five touchdowns as FSU destroyed previously-unbeaten Maryland in the most impressive performance of the weekend. It all will come down to what Winston and the Noles do at No. 3 Clemson on Oct. 19, with FSU on a bye this week. Winston's counterpart in that game, Tajh Boyd, is at +600 on the Heisman odds.
Week 7 Trap Games
Back on the winning side of the ledger in Week 6 as I hit on Temple +33.5 against Louisville and Tennessee +10.5 against Georgia. Missed on Mississippi State +9.5 against LSU. I'm shocked the Tigers looked that good a week after a draining loss to Georgia. They have a big one this week against Florida.
Boston College (+24) at Clemson: The Eagles were good to me a few weeks ago against Florida State, and I expect them to easily cover this number. Clemson will be totally looking ahead to next week's ACC title game eliminator against Florida State.
Utah (+9) vs. Stanford: The Cardinal were very fortunate to beat Washington on Saturday as they were outgained 489-284 and they would have lost if not for Ty Montomgery, who had 290 all-purpose yards and two scores. I'm still not sure whether that late pass by the Huskies' Keith Price was complete or not -- officials originally ruled the fourth-down throw was but then overturned it. Stanford will be drained this week and has a big one against UCLA next week.
Arizona State (-25) vs. Colorado: ASU had a chance to become the first team ever to beat USC and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks but lost 37-34 to the Irish at AT&T Stadium outside of Dallas on Saturday. I think the Sun Devils will be a bit down this week against the Buffs. Playing a big nonconference game this late in the season will do that.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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