Archive for October 2016

College Football Week 8 Picks

October 20, 2016

NC State at #7 Louisville -19.5, 11:00 ABC:

On the surface, this looks like an obvious spot to take the points, with the Wolfpack having just taken to overtime a team that beat Louisville outright. There is some strange line movement however, as despite 55% of public support for the underdog, the spread has risen from 18. The FPI/ Sagarin average spread agrees, seeing the fair line around 16. There’s an argument to be made that Clemson’s plethora of red zone turnovers kept that game closer than it should have been last week, but NC State is a tough defensive squad that ranks 5th nationally in rushing defense and should neutralize Louisville’s greatest strength, keeping this one closer than the number.

#10 Wisconsin -3.5 at Iowa, 11:00 ESPN:

This is an odd line on first glance, but not out of whack statistically, as the computers see it around 4. A whopping 87% of the public has thrown its support behind the Badger side, which is never a great proposition for bettors. This is a game that is a perennial grind-it-out slog as two solid defenses usually keep each other’s challenged offenses at bay, with points at a premium. Slight edge goes to Wisconsin’s defense.

#6 Texas A&M at #1 Alabama -18.5, 2:30 CBS:

Enough is enough with these Alabama spreads, right? With the public about evenly split on the game, it has exploded from its opening line of 16. The FPI/ Sagarin computer average fair spread is 13, making this the largest divergence on the card. Alabama lit Tennessee up on the ground last week but looked shaky in the passing game, and there’s reason to believe Myles Garrett and a tough Aggie defensive line can give the Tide a bit of a tougher test, especially rested off the bye week. Those looking for an additional angle might recall how Aggie QB Trevor Knight torched the Tide in the 2014 Sugar Bowl in a stunner while he was playing at Oklahoma.

TCU at #12 West Virginia -5.5, 2:30 ABC

The Mountaineers did an impressive job keeping the high powered Texas Tech passing attack at bay last week, but their overall defensive prowess may be a bit of a mirage, as they still rank just 90th nationally in passing defense. TCU presents another tough challenge, as Kenny Hill leads an offense that ranks 6th in passing. The FPI/Sagarin average fair spread here is 4, but with 66% of the public siding with West Virginia, this has driven it higher. The feeling here is that there is some small edge to be had siding with the dog.

Memphis -2.5 at #24 Navy, 2:30 CBSSN

This line certainly looks bizarre on first glance, with the ranked home underdog coming fresh off an upset of mid-major darling Houston. The computers actually see the spread as fair though, and with 64% of the public on Navy, the line has still risen from 1. This reverse line movement despite public support for the underdog leads us to smell a rat. Memphis has quietly put together an impressive season, and ranks in the Top 25 nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

#19 Utah at UCLA -6.5, 3:00 FOX

Josh Rosen returns at QB in a must win spot for the Bruins. The FPI/Sagarin computer average sees the fair spread at 7.5. UCLA has disappointed thus far, losing four games, but they’ve come by an average of 6 points (including an overtime loss to Texas A&M) and none have come by double digits, and two of them came without their star QB. Utah’s record, conversely, is inflated by narrow wins over some pretty bad opponents. Expect a big performance from Rosen in this spot and for the Bruins to roll.

#17 Arkansas at #21 Auburn -9.5, 5:00 ESPN

This is the reverse line movement play of the day and maybe the most glaring of the season to date, as despite a stunning 81% of public support for the Razorbacks (by far the trendiest dog on the board), this spread has drifted two points towards Auburn. The computers seem to agree, spotting the fair spread around 11 between FPI and Sagarin, which is actually the largest spread divergence on the card for a favorite. Follow the sharp money on an Auburn team that has put together a sneaky tough campaign so far behind improving play ay QB, with its only two losses coming against teams currently undefeated and ranked in the Top 6.

#2 Ohio State -19.5 at Penn State, 7:00 ABC

Happy Valley at night can be a tough environment, but the Nittany Lions catch a tough matchup here due to their inability to stop the run (103rd nationally in rushing defense). Ohio State ranks 4th in the nation in rushing which would seem to indicate that they will be able to dictate the pace of this game and score at will. The FPI/ Sagarin average line is 18, but 72% of the public favors a Buckeye blowout.

#16 Oklahoma -13.5 at Texas Tech, 7:00 FOX

Sure, Texas Tech got embarrassed at home last week by a West Virginia team that was finally able to stop the Red Raider passing attack. Still, that passing attack is ranked 1st nationally by a wide margin even after that subpar effort, and that’s a bad matchup for an Oklahoma secondary that continues to lack answers or show improvement (107th nationally in passing defense). Expect the Sooners (who won’t have star RB Samaje Perine available) to prevail here in a road shootout but Texas Tech should be able to score enough points to cover this spread. The computers agree, as the average line between FPI and Sagarin checks in at 11. The public seems oblivious to matchup discrepancy here, as 67% of spread bets are on the Sooner side, so bettors may receive a bit of edge as the line pushes artificially higher.

#23 Ole Miss at #25 LSU -5.5, 8:00 ESPN

The return of Leonard Fournette combined with a highly susceptible Rebel rushing defense (104th nationally) at night in Baton Rouge could spell trouble for an Ole Miss squad that comes in reeling. We see reverse line movement with 58% of public support on the underdog as the line has risen from 4.5, which is also the FPI/Sagarin average fair spread. LSU seems to be hitting its stride and has been playing much better offensively since the firing of Les Miles, and this should be a re-arrival statement with the return of Fournette.

College Football Week 7 Picks

October 13, 2016

Kansas State at #19 Oklahoma -10.5, 11:00 ESPN:

The computers see this spread as being roughly fair, with the FPI/ Sagarin average coming in around 11. The Wildcats have been sneaky tough defensively, ranking 15th nationally in scoring defense and 3rd in rushing defense. Where the Sooners may be able to exploit them is in the passing game, where KSU ranks just 66th defensively. They may be able to keep OU off balance but the feeling is that this is an offense that has started to click, and that would have covered easily last week if not four careless turnovers. If they can take care of the football, a two touchdown victory seems very reachable.

NC State at #3 Clemson -17.5, 11:00 ABC:

Clemson is the strongest publicly backed side on the card, with 84% of bets falling with the Tigers. That isn’t an in incredibly attractive situation in most cases to support the favorite, especially as the line has hardly budged off the action (opened at 17). However, in this case, it is hard to argue against it. The FPI/ Sagarin average spread of 20.5 indicates a fair amount of edge at this number, and Clemson seems to be gaining momentum currently.

#1 Alabama -12.5 at #9 Tennessee, 2:30, CBS:

Nick Saban is often furious with his team after victories, and such was the case last week after his defense gave up 30 points in a road win at Arkansas. This Vols offense is better balanced and has more weapons than the Razorbacks do, and one would have to think that this is the game that Tennessee has had circled on its calendar for a long time. The FPI/ Sagarin computers see the average fair spread here to be 9, so there is a good amount of edge in siding with the home team here. 67% of the public is supporting the Tide in this spot, which has moved the line a point and provided some extra edge for those on the Tennessee side, as this seems like a lot of points on the road.

USC -8.5 at Arizona, 2:30 FOX:

We don’t have a strong read on this game, but while the computers seem to indicate some small edge in taking the home underdog (average fair spread = 6.5), it is hard to shake the notion that Arizona simply isn’t a team with identity. What do they do well? Meanwhile USC has come on in its last two games and still doesn’t have a truly bad loss on the resume. Maybe Arizona’s 88th ranked scoring defense will give the Trojans an opportunity to improve upon an offense that has underperformed to this point, ranking just 93rd in scoring. In any case, this is a game that Clay Helton and crew absolutely cannot lose.

North Carolina at #16 Miami -7.5, 2:30 ABC:

North Carolina 37- Florida State 35. Florida State 20- Miami 19. So, North Carolina wins by 3 via transitive property. The FPI/ Sagarin computers see this spread as roughly fair, so it is a matter of weighing the angles. North Carolina certainly had some excuses in its blowout home loss last week to Virginia Tech, as the field conditions played away from their game plan. Still, the somewhat surprisingly large point spread here has the public supporting the Tarheels to the tune of 61%, which makes them the trendiest underdog on the card. While the transitive property is far from an exact science for betting purposes, it is hard to go against it when it indicates a different winner than the spread does, especially when the spread is this large.

#10 Nebraska -3.5 at Indiana, 2:30 ESPN 2:

A 5-0 start has the Huskers back in the Top 10, but who have they really beaten? A 3 point home win over Oregon (in a game the Ducks went for 2-point conversions four times and missed) doesn’t hold up very well after the subsequent efforts by the Ducks. The computers see the fair line here as 8.5, which makes this the spread largest divergence for a favorite on the card. Angles are in contrast though which makes this look like a trap, as for the third straight week, we see reverse line movement with sharp money on the Hoosiers, as the spread opened at 6.5 but has fallen despite only 32% of public bets backing the underdog. They’ve covered the last two games when this has been observed. This trend has been the most successful play of the year so far and this looks like a great spot to money line the Hoosiers at home on homecoming weekend.

#12 Ole Miss -7.5 at #22 Arkansas, 6:00 ESPN:

With 58% of the public on the home team here, Arkansas is one of just two publicly supported underdogs on the card this week. The teams have one common opponent in Alabama, but the scores aren’t very comparable as Ole Miss benefited from some late game luck to backdoor cover in their game. The computers see this line to be roughly fair. The hook is a tricky one in this spot but Ole Miss seems like the more well-rounded team so we will continue to fade the public underdog. The Landshark D has been highly effective on third down passing situations, limiting opponents to just a 22% conversion rate, and the passing game appears to be the Razorbacks’ bread and butter considering the extreme weakness of their offensive line.

Stanford at Notre Dame -2.5, 6:30 NBC:

Two teams that have vastly underachieved this season meet, and this looks like a strange spread. Christian McCaffery is listed as questionable, but outside of that, it is hard to imagine why Notre Dame would be giving points to anyone coming off losses to mediocre ACC teams like Duke and NC State, while the pounding they took at the hands of Michigan State continues to look worse and worse as the Spartans falter. The FPI/ Sagarin fair spread average favors Stanford by 3, and that’s enough leeway to take the points here whether McCaffery plays or not.

#2 Ohio State -10.5 at #8 Wisconsin, 7:00 ABC:

The Badger offense is still a work in progress, and it didn’t answer many questions when scoring only 7 points in a loss to Michigan. The Buckeye defense poses a similar challenge as the Wolverines did, ranking 2nd nationally in scoring. Wisconsin’s defense is no slouch itself, ranking 4th, but Ohio State’s high-powered scoring attack ranks 3rd on the offensive side of the ball. This is a tricky hook with the computers seeing the fair line around 10, with the underdog at home and coming off the bye. But, statistically speaking, it seems fair to estimate Wisconsin will score about 3-7 points in this game. Can they keep the Buckeyes under 20 points? That seems to be asking a lot…

UCLA at Washington State -5.5, 9:30, ESPN:

Washington State 42- Stanford 16. Stanford 22- UCLA 13. So Washington State wins by 35 via transitive property. The computers see WSU as just a 3 point favorite on average, but that’s assuming Josh Rosen plays at QB for the Bruins, and he’s currently listed as questionable. Even if he does play, he figures to be banged up, and the Cougars seem to have figured things out following two close losses to start the season and head home fresh off the aforementioned walloping of Stanford on the road. 84% of public bets on the home team have driven the spread higher from its opening line of 4.

Week 6 Picks

October 7, 2016

Texas vs. #20 Oklahoma -10.5, 11:00 FS1:

The underdog has shown a tendency to outperform in this game in recent years, and as a result the Longhorns have 55% of public support, although the sharp bettors appear to be on Oklahoma. (Publicly supported underdogs went 1-4 ATS on our sheet last week, with the one that did cover, Wisconsin, being very fortunate to do so). To our eyes, this has to be viewed as a really bad matchup for the Texas defense, which comes in ranked 116th nationally in scoring defense against a high-powered Sooner offense, and the FPI/ Sagarin average sees the fair spread here around 12. Oklahoma has had their fair share of issues on defense, but believe that last year’s upset loss that nearly (and probably should have) kept them out of the playoff is still fresh in their minds.

#9 Tennessee at #8 Texas A&M -6.5 2:30 CBS:

Tennessee continued their miracle season on a hail mary pass last week right after Georgia had done the same, all right after the Vols had scored on an improbable fumble recovery to take the lead. Can their luck continue on the road here? At 5-0, the Vols could just as easily be 1-4 had a few balls bounced the other direction. Texas A&M seems the more complete team here, and their stout defense led by Myles Garrett up front ranks 12th nationally in scoring defense. That could make the difference against an opponent that has shown moments of ineptitude on offense against far lesser. Aggie supporters receive the hook on the right side of the FPI/Sagarin fair spread of 7. 52% of the public support is on the underdog in this spot.

#25 Virginia Tech at #17 North Carolina -2.5, 2:30:

With 73% of the public on the Tarheels in this spot, the spread has moved down from 3, indicating some sharp players on the Hokies. Is this a potential letdown spot for UNC following an upset win at FSU, complete with a full-blown tomahawk chop celebration by the winning kicker? The computers don’t think so (FPI/ Sagarin average spread is 4), but we smell a rat here. UNC may find the passing threat they used to upset the Noles (12th nationally) neutralized by a much tougher Virginia Tech secondary (10th in passing defense vs 84th for FSU), and thanks to a horrendous rushing defense (116th), they have ┬áhad trouble stopping opponents on 3rd down (103rd nationally in rushing defense). In a tough spot between trips to FSU and Miami, UNC looks ripe for an upset here.

Indiana at #2 Ohio State -28.5, 2:30 ESPN:

There are conflicting angles here. The FPI/ Sagarin average spread is 33, marking the largest differential on the board. However, we see reverse line movement in the opposite direction, as the spread opened at 31 and has fallen despite 66% of public bets on the Buckeyes. Last week, RLM was the superior angle to computer differential, going 2-0 versus 0-2. Can IU keep this within four touchdowns? The Hoosiers currently rank 40th nationally in scoring defense with a much improved unit. The Buckeyes have looked pretty unstoppable offensively but it bears mention that in four games, the best defense they’ve faced so far ranks 83rd, and the average defense they’ve faced ranks 103rd. IU played them down to the wire last year and should enter the horseshoe confidently with a “nothing to lose” mentality off of last week’s upset win that will keep this game closer than most think. The Buckeyes are 4-0 ATS this season but we view that as contrarians, expecting mean reversion.

#21 Colorado at USC -4.5, 3:00 PAC12N

Are the Buffaloes for real? Both FPI and Sagarin see this game as a virtual pick em on a neutral field, so it depends how much stake one wants to place on the Trojan home field advantage. The USC offense finally came alive last week in a 41-20 thrashing of Arizona State that wasn’t even as close as the score indicated. 61% of public bets are on the underdog here which is the highest on the card, and as stated before, that’s a betting trend we like to fade when possible. Colorado’s improvement thus far this season has been a great storyline, but their schedule strength to this point ranks 80th nationally while USC’s ranks 4th. The Buffaloes are 5-0 ATS this season but we view that as contrarians, expecting mean reversion.

#1 Alabama -13.5 at #16 Arkansas, 6:00 ESPN

The FPI/ Sagarin computers see the Tide covering here, with an average fair spread of about 16 points. The public disagrees and supports Arkansas, with 57% of spread bets falling on the Razorback side. With the hook on the right side for Alabama supporters, this looks like a slow-burn cover for the visitors. Arkansas gave up 45 points to Texas A&M and while the nighttime home environment could help, Bama is even more formidable offensively than the Aggies. It is hard to imagine the Razorbacks scoring enough against the Tide defense to cover here if Alabama scores in the 40s, especially as their weak offensive line presents an extreme matchup problem to say the least.

#5 Washington -8.5 at Oregon, 6:30 FOX:

On first glance this line almost appears so obvious as to be a trap, and bettors agree, with a card-high 75% on the side of the Huskies. The FPI/ Sagarin average fair spread of 11 supports this assessment, however. Oregon has won the last 12 meetings and you have to assume Washington is eager to dethrone the Ducks’ reign above the Pac 12 North once and for all. It is hard to imagine the Oregon defense- which is a complete mess at 106th nationally- keeping this game close against an offense that ranks 7th, at home or not. The Ducks start a freshman quarterback and look completely disorganized currently. Take the free square…

#23 Florida State at #10 Miami -2.5, 7:00 ABC:

The Noles have won the last 6 meetings but come in as a road dog after a disappointing start to the season. Somewhat surprisingly, they aren’t a “public dog”, as 55% of spread wagers fall on the Miami side of this line. The FPI and Sagarin computers disagree on the winner, but with an average spread of Pick ‘Em, do agree that the spread is too large. Miami is off to a great start under new head coach Mark Richt, ranking 4th nationally in scoring offense and 2nd in scoring defense (only three other teams- Ohio State, Michigan and Washington- rank in the top 10 in each). The difference is the competition, as Miami’s schedule strength to date ranks 112th and Florida State’s ranks 3rd. We’ll take the points here in a game where FPI likes the Noles to win- the only game on the board where a computer favors an underdog outright.

UCLA -9.5 at Arizona State, 9:30 ESPN2:

Again a few angles we like to play conflict with each other here in the card’s toughest call. The FPI/ Sagarin computer averages see the fair line at 6, which is the largest underdog divergence on the card. However, we see some strange spread action as the line has moved from 7.5 to as high as 10 despite 61% of public bets on the Sun Devils. This extreme reverse line movement and public underdog interest trumps the computers. On a common sense level, UCLA is probably not getting the credit they deserve, having lost just twice to highly regarded teams in games that they had every right to win- in overtime against Texas A&M and against Stanford after leading for all but three minutes. Arizona State ranks 128th (that’s last!) nationally in passing defense, so Josh Rosen and his 24th ranked Bruin passing attack figures to have its way.