It is definitely an exciting week to be a college football fan. Even though there are only 18 total games this weekend, several quality matchups headline this week’s slate of games. Even though it wasn’t necessarily intended, we will get to see the “plus-one” playoff model at work, as the winner of the Georgia-Alabama SEC championship will likely take on Notre Dame for the BCS title.
Wisconsin and Nebraska will also have a rematch of their late September contest in Indianapolis on Saturday night. Many people find these rematch games unappealing, but I personally like to see the strategy unfold between two familiar opponents.
Kansas State and Oklahoma are both in the Big 12 title race, but unfortunately they won’t be playing each other on Saturday. For that reason, the Big 12 really needs to add two more teams and bring back a championship game. A rematch of Kansas State-Oklahoma would’ve been an enticing game to watch. A revenge spot for Oklahoma and coach Stoops against a Kansas State team that is no longer under the radar would’ve made for a great matchup.
Anyway, let’s get to the games that are actually taking place this weekend, including my pick of the week which is 8-0 on the year after Penn State beat Wisconsin last week in overtime:
As I mention every week, it is important to remember that these trends and stats are only one piece of the puzzle when trying to figure out which team to place a wager on. They shouldn’t be followed blindly, but instead they should be considered and factored into the broader context and reasoning for selecting a side.
Betting on College Football – Week 14 Quick Hitters
(All point spreads and totals are as of noon CST on Thursday)
Motivation, motivation, motivation. In the last few weeks of the season, motivation often plays a key role in deciding the outcome of a game. Some teams have given up on the year, and others are playing for a bowl bid or BCS birth. Either way, here are some teams that have a little more motivation than their opponents this week:
Oklahoma (@TCU): The Sooners still have a chance to win the conference title if they beat TCU and Kansas State loses to Texas. The K-State/Texas game won’t kickoff until Saturday night, so the Sooners will try to take care of business in their 11 a.m. local time kickoff. (Line = OU -6.5, 60.5).
Connecticut (vs Cincinnati): UConn is one win away from a bowl bid as they host the Bearcats on Saturday. Cincinnati is out of contention for the Big East championship, so give a slight motivational edge to the Huskies in this one. (Line = Cincy -5, 40.5)
Pittsburgh (@South Florida): Pitt is also one win away from a bowl bid as they travel to take on a 3-8 South Florida team that has lost their last two games by a combined margin of 67-19. (Line = Pitt -6.5, 46.5)
Three and Out. There are many uncertainties circling this week’s slate of games. I picked three intriguing situational questions for this weekend’s matchups:
Tomahawk chop on Saturday night? Florida State is in a classic bounce-back spot as they gave up 24 points (and a ten point lead) in the 4th quarter to lose to their hated rival, Florida. The Seminoles might be looking to take their frustrations out on Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game. (Line = FSU -14, 61.5).
Will Nevada’s home woes continue? Nevada is a dismal 0-5 ATS at home this year. They are currently listed as double digit home underdogs to Boise State this weekend. The Broncos are led by a defense ranked in the top ten in almost every critical defensive category. (Line = BSU -10, 59)
Is Kansas State favored by too much? K-State has been outgained in their last four contests (Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and TCU). A large reason of why they won three out of four of those games is due to winning the turnover battle. The only game they didn’t post a positive turnover margin was the loss at Baylor. It may be difficult to lay double digits, given the amount of success opponents have had racking up yardage on the KSU defense. (Line = KSU -11, 63.5).
Pros vs Joes: Week 14 edition. Here are some games that the sharp handicappers are picking despite the public taking the other side at a 70% rate or higher. I usually don’t put too much stock into this sharp money vs public money if I feel I have an accurate read on a game, but sometimes I will take a closer look at a matchup to see why the wiseguy’s are leaning heavy on one side (sharp pick is listed first):
Baylor (+4.5) vs Oklahoma State. Baylor has had some impressive outings in the past several weeks, and the sharps expect that to carry into Saturday in what should be a high-scoring, shootout-style game (over/under listed at a whopping 86.5!).
Florida Atlantic (+9) vs UL-Lafayette. FAU has been solid against the spread all year (8-2), and the sharps like them as a home underdog in this one.
TCU (+6.5) vs Oklahoma: Many sharps bought this at TCU +7, and it is now sitting at +6.5. TCU is coming off an impressive win vs Texas last week, while Oklahoma has played two “down to the wire” games against West Virginia and Oklahoma State in the past two weeks.
In some weeks they actually side with the public more than they disagree. This happens to be one of those weeks. The following list is comprised of teams that the public and sharps both favor strongly going into the weekend (consensus pick is listed first). These picks went 3-0 last week:
Pittsburgh (-6.5) @ South Florida
Kansas State (-11) vs Texas
Boise State (-10) @ Nevada
Tulsa (-2) vs UCF
Hawaii (-6.5) vs South Alabama
Featured Pick of the Week. My “pick of the week” is now 8-0 on the season, as Penn State pulled it off in overtime to cover the 2 point spread. Here is a complete list of my weekly featured picks since I started them Week 6 (you can view all the write-ups at http://openinglinesports.weebly.com/-cfb-blog.html and in last week’s Quick Hitters segment):
Week 6: Pittsburgh +1.5 @ Syracuse (Win)
Week 7: Northwestern -3.5 @ Minnesota (Win)
Week 8: Rutgers -5 @ Temple (Win)
Week 9: Northern Illinois -7 @ Western Michigan (Win)
Week 10: Indiana -1.5 vs Iowa (Win)
Week 11: Oregon State +4.5 @ Stanford (Win)
Week 12: Utah State -3 @ Louisiana Tech (Win)
Week 13: Penn State -2 vs Wisconsin (Win)
Week 14: Nebraska -3 over Wisconsin. Full disclosure on this pick: I am a Nebraska fan, but I lean more on the skeptical side (vs biased side) when it comes to my team. I have taken Nebraska ATS once this season (@ Michigan State) and against them twice (@ Ohio State, vs Penn State). I believe there is a higher burden of proof when it comes to selecting a team that you have a rooting interest for, and I feel Nebraska meets that criteria this week.
These teams have already played once in late September, and Nebraska needed to make a furious comeback after giftwrapping Wisconsin two touchdowns early in the game. Both defenses have made strides since their last meeting, as they both rank in the top 20 in total defense. Nebraska held Wisconsin’s one-dimensional offense to 56 yards rushing and 1.4 yards per carry in their first meeting. Wisconsin’s offensive line has improved over the last two months, but Nebraska’s front seven has proven to be capable enough to stop a downhill rushing attack, whereas they mostly have problems against the spread, zone-read option with mobile quarterbacks.
Like I mentioned last week, Wisconsin loves to beat up on the little guys, especially when they have a huge line of scrimmage advantage. The Badgers pounded bottom of the barrel Big Ten teams Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois, and Indiana in their four conference wins. However, in the past month, Wisconsin’s rushing attack has averaged only 128 yards and 2.6 yards per carry against legitimate Big Ten opponents (Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State). Even without DT Baker Steinkuhler, Nebraska should be able to limit the Badgers rushing attack. Nebraska should be able to utilize their plethora of weapons on offense, including Senior RB Rex Burkhead who showed his power and elusiveness last week vs Iowa (his first game back from injury).
Nebraska is hungry for a conference championship. Many players on the roster have come close to winning one (vs Texas 2009, vs Oklahoma 2010), but they fell short in “down-to-the-wire” games. So far this year, Nebraska has excelled in tight games, pulling off four comeback wins in conference play. Meanwhile, Wisconsin is 1-5 in games decided by a touchdown or less, and they relied on a missed field goal by Utah State to pick up that lone, two-point victory. I think Nebraska has the playmakers on offense and a capable enough front seven on defense to get them over the hump, giving the Huskers their first conference championship since 1999.
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