NCAA Football Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 8/27/2013
I don't know about you, but I couldn't be more excited that the 2013 college football season kicks off on Thursday night. I will provide you a weekly preview early each week to try and point out potential trap games, do a Heisman update and give perspective on any big news or results from the previous weekend.
I don't think there can be any argument that the top game on opening weekend comes from Death Valley when No. 8 Clemson hosts No. 5 Georgia on national TV Saturday night. The Dawgs are currently 2-point favorites at BookMaker with a monster total of 72 that is easily the highest on the board right now.
This game is really a chance for the ACC to make a statement against its SEC tormentor. Since 1996, the ACC is 50-77 against the SEC and hasn't had a winning record against it in a decade. The ACC has had just two seasons in its history overall in which it finished with a winning record against nonconference opponents from anywhere ranked in the AP Top 25. In each of the past three seasons, the ACC has won only two games against ranked nonconference opponents (2-11 in 2012, 2-8 in 2011 and 2-12 in 2010), according to ESPN. At least the ACC plays a tough schedule, I suppose.
Clemson looks like the standard-bearer for the league, and it was 2-1 against the SEC last year, winning its opener against Auburn (that proved nothing with how Auburn turned out) and beating LSU in a thrilling Chick-fil-A Bowl. However, Clemson flunked a major test at home in the regular-season finale against South Carolina, which cost the Tigers any shot at an large-shot for a BCS bowl. Tajh Boyd, a Heisman candidate this year, was awful against USC, going just 11-for-24 for 183 yards and two picks. It has been shown time and time again that a powerful SEC defense can slow down any type of fast-paced offense. If Boyd can have a monster game against a Georgia defense that lost a ton to the NFL, he's very much a Heisman favorite.
The ACC also has two other chances to stick it to the SEC with North Carolina visiting No. 6 South Carolina on Thursday night (on ESPN and first kickoff of season) and Virginia Tech facing No. 1 Alabama in the Georgia Dome on Saturday. The Hokies have been devastated by injuries in camp, so any chance they had of an upset is likely gone. Bama is a 19-point favorite, and Nick Saban almost always wins games decisively in which he had tons of time to prepare for an opponent.
At Bovada, Ohio State's Braxton Miller has taken over as the Heisman favorite at 9/2. Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel was the favorite until all these allegations came out of him accepting cash for autographs. Manziel has dropped to 12/1. All indications are he will start Saturday against Rice after meeting with NCAA investigators for some six hours on Sunday and denying he ever accepted money. The NCAA is so under fire right now that it would have to have undisputable evidence to dare suspend college football's most popular -- and polarizing -- player.
I don't recommend taking Manziel as I can't see him repeating last year's number if he does play every game. I'm not big on Miller, either. I think the Buckeyes are tripped up at least once this season despite a weak schedule. I'm leaning right now toward Oregon's Marcus Mariota at 12/1, although I definitely like Boyd at 15/1 as well. He is the -3000 favorite to have the most passing yards against Miami's Stephen Morris and Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas in the ACC, and Boyd should win that prop easily. Ditto at -325 against that duo in TD passes.
Mariota is given an “over/under” of 2,900 passing yards and 34.5 passing TDs at Bovada. He was under both last year, and I believe he will be again. I also say his rushing totals will increase and the Ducks will run the table. Miller has an over/under of 2,800 passing yards, 19.5 passing TDs, 1,000 rushing yards and 14.5 rushing scores. Go over on the rushing stuff and under on the passing.
Week 1 Trap Games
USC (-22) at Hawaii: The Trojans apparently will play both quarterback Max Wittek and Cody Kessler and will be without starting running back Silas Redd in the opener. Hawaii is coached by former USC coordinator Norm Chow and was only 3-9 last year but brings 17 starters back. Chow will call the plays this year after not doing so a year ago. I could see the Trojans being distracted here and more looking to next week's home and Pac-12 opener against Washington State. Not thrilled about USC's quarterback situation. Take Hawaii and the points.
No 10 Florida (-24) vs. Toledo: The Gators have definitely played down to their competition at times the past few seasons. Florida was tied with MAC team Bowling Green late in the third quarter of last year's opener and won only 27-14. UF also beat a bad Missouri team by only a touchdown in Gainesville and trailed Louisiana-Lafayette 20-13 in the fourth quarter in 2012 before rallying to win. In 2011, Florida was down 22-7 at one point to FCS team Furman and still only up 37-32 early in the fourth before rallying. UF also will be without projected starting running back Matt Jones and linebacker Antonio Morrison in this game. Toledo can score but not stop anyone. Take the Rockets.
Miami (-32) vs. Florida Atlantic: It's the Howard Schnellenberger Bowl as the former coach of both teams essentially built the programs. Many of the FAU players grew up dreaming of playing for Miami, and this will be their bowl game. In addition, there's no way UM isn't totally looking ahead to next week's visit from the Gators. FAU is 1-25 against teams from Top-6 (BCS) conferences, having allowed an average of 33.6 points per game, but I think it can stay within 28 and cover.
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