Week 6 Picks

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  had 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.

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