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What’s wrong with the USC-Utah spread? Looks can be deceiving
By Joe Fortenbaugh

Help me try to make sense of the following:

TEAM A: 6-0 straight up, 4-2 against the spread, plus-12 turnover differential, ranked No. 3 in the country and outscoring the opposition by 17 points per game.

TEAM B: Has both lost outright and failed to cover the spread in three of its last four games and fired its head coach last week.

Team B is currently a 3.5-point home favorite over Team A on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Sounds suspicious, right? Well, that’s the situation taking place heading into a Saturday afternoon showdown that will pit the USC Trojans against the undefeated Utah Utes in a game that’s sounding off all sorts of alarm bells when it comes to the pointspread.

That’s not to say we suspect that any sort of foul play is taking place here. Far from it. What’s really happening in regards to the USC-Utah matchup is that bookmakers are demonstrating their superior knowledge of the college football landscape.

Through six games this season, 3-3 USC has outgained the opposition in total yardage five times. Meanwhile, 6-0 Utah has outgained their opponents only three times in 2015, which indicates that the prevailing theory is that Utah may be a tad overrated while USC is simultaneously being undervalued at the moment.

And this isn’t the first time this season that sharp bettors have pegged the Utes as ripe for a fall. Just last week, we saw the Utah-Arizona State line steamed from the neighborhood of Utah -8 all the way down to as low as Utah -3.5 at kickoff.

Granted, the Utes found a way to both win and cover against the Sun Devils, but it took a wild fourth quarter that began with Utah trailing 18-14 before the final horn sounded and the Utes emerged with a 34-18 victory.

Perhaps this week will serve as a reckoning for one of college football’s biggest surprise teams this season.

SHARP VS. PUBLIC: BEHIND THE COUNTER

Each and every week this column will converse with a Las Vegas insider in an effort to provide you, our loyal and dedicated readers, with enough inside information possible to make more educated and informed wagers. This week we speak with Jay Rood, the vice president of race & sports for MGM Resorts International.

*Point spreads current as of Thursday evening.

Sharp sides: Texas Longhorns (-7, vs. Kansas State Wildcats)

Kansas State has dropped three straight games by a combined total score of 143-79, which includes a 55-0 thrashing at the hands of the Oklahoma Sooners last Saturday on their own home turf.

And while the Wildcats’ recent struggles have no doubt played a role in this line move, the bigger reason for such an outpouring of support on behalf of the Longhorns has to do with the fact that Texas is coming off a bye which took place one week after Charlie Strong and company finally put it all together for an impressive 24-17 upset win over Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout.

Public sides: Baylor Bears (-37, vs. Iowa State Cyclones)

Since 2011, Baylor is 25-5 ATS when playing at home. That, combined with the fact that the Bears are scoring an astounding 63.8 points per game this season are no doubt the reasons why public money continues to poor in on Art Briles and company each and every week.

Sharp totals: Clemson Tigers/Miami Hurricanes OVER 56

Through six contests this season, undefeated Clemson is averaging a healthy 35.2 points per game while Miami is averaging 33.6 points per contest, so it’s not exactly a shocker to learn that this showdown was bet up from a total of 53 points earlier in the week to its current price of 56 points.

What is a bit interesting is the fact that these two schools are a combined 5-7 to the Over so far this season, so there’s clearly something going on here that the sharper bettors like.

Public totals: Per Rood, the MGM properties will have a better understanding of which college football totals are experiencing the most public money come Saturday morning.

Games experiencing the most action: Texas A&M Aggies at Mississippi Rebels, which was opened Ole Miss -4 before being bet up to Ole Miss -5.

BONER OF THE WEEK AWARD

You knew this was coming…

Here’s where we get serious for just a second. It’s one thing to make a couple of jokes or create a couple of memes at the expense of Michigan senior punter Blake O’Neill in the wake of his horrific gaffe in last Saturday’s 27-23 heartbreaker to rival Michigan State that will cost the Wolverines a shot at the four-team college football playoff.

It’s another thing entirely to send this poor guy death threats because of a stupid mistake he made on a football field. O’Neill isn’t getting paid to play football and, trust me on this, nobody feels worse about what happened at the Big House last week than he does.

So for the self-conscious morons of the world who feel the need to step way out of line when it comes to situations like this, why don’t you just chill the hell out for a minute and find something better to do with your time?

Speaking of morons, how about former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke weighing in on the aforementioned situation early this week, telling the media that he would not have punted on fourth down in that same situation.

Thanks, Hoke. How’s unemployment treating you?

MIND-BLOWING TREND OF THE WEEK

The Under is 14-3 (82.3 percent) in the Nevada Wolf Pack’s last 17 home games.

Not only that, but the Under is 20-6 in Nevada’s last 26 games overall and 6-2 in Hawaii’s last eight games overall.

Hawaii travels to Nevada Saturday for a 4:00 p.m. ET showdown with the Wolf Pack in a game that currently features a total of 50.5 points.

BIGGEST LINE MOVES OF THE WEEK

Western Michigan Broncos (from -22 to -26) vs. Miami (Ohio) Redhawks: Since recording a 26-7 victory over Presbyterian to open the season, Miami (Ohio) has dropped six straight contests by an average of 29 points per game with 19 turnovers committed.

Western Michigan, on the other hand, has notched 90 total points over its last two outings while averaging an explosive 522.0 total yards per game in the process. Take note that the Broncos are 9-1 ATS over their last 10 games following a win and 14-4 ATS over their last 18 games overall.

Texas Longhorns (from -3.5 to -7) vs. Kansas State Wildcats: It was easy to pile on the Longhorns after Texas dropped four of its first five games to open the season. But look a little closer at the schedule and you’ll notice those losses came against quality opponents in Notre Dame, California, Oklahoma State and TCU.

All of that changed two weeks ago in Dallas when Charlie Strong’s crew dug down deep and upset the Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Shootout by a score of 24-17. Now with an additional week of rest, the sharp action is pouring in on a potentially rejuvenated Texas squad set to face a Kansas State team that is just 1-4 ATS over its last five road games against teams with a losing home record.

Boise State Broncos (from -31.5 to -35) vs. Wyoming Cowboys: Simple explanation here that is rooted in two key factors: First, Wyoming is 1-6 SU this season and just 1-4 ATS over its last five games against Boise. So, needless to say, this is a struggling program with little to get excited about.

Second, Boise State embarrassed itself in a big way last Friday night by committing seven first-half turnovers in a 52-26 blowout loss at Utah State. Expect a focused, pissed-off Broncos team that is 22-8-1 ATS over its last 31 games following a loss to come out firing Saturday.

Army Black Knights (from +11 to +7.5) at Rice Owls: Rice is all about the ground-and-pound thanks to a rushing attack that is averaging 200.0 yards per game through six outings this season. And while Army is just 2-5 straight-up on the year, the Black Knights have flashed an ability to avoid being torn apart by the opposition’s running game (4.3 yards per carry surrendered in 2015). Note that over its last three games, Rice has turned the ball over eight times while committing 27 penalties.

Clemson Tigers (from -4.5 to -7) at Miami Hurricanes: A perfect 6-0 on the season and currently located within the Top-6 schools in both the Associated Press and Coaches Poll, Clemson is taking it one game at a time with its eye on the big prize.

Meanwhile, Miami has dropped two of its last three matchups and is operating under the storm cloud that head coach Al Golden may not be back for the 2016 campaign.

Clemson’s passing game has turned it up a notch in recent weeks with 756 yards amassed through the air over the school’s last two outings, while Miami has permitted opposing signal-callers to complete an astounding 68.8 percent of their passes over the Hurricanes’ last three showdowns.

DAILY FANTASY VALUE PLAY OF THE WEEK

Jay Lee, WR, Baylor Bears ($6,500 on FanDuel): When it comes to wide receivers at Baylor University, it starts and ends with the unstoppable Corey Coleman, who has already notched 41 receptions for 877 yards and 16 touchdowns through six games this season.

Coleman, however, costs a staggering $9,600 on FanDuel this week and the purpose of this section is to locate a value play who can deliver plenty of bang for your buck. So we turn our attention slightly down the depth chart to 6-3, 220-pound senior Jay Lee, who is averaging a rock solid 23.5 yards per reception this season with six touchdowns.

And, as the 12th-ranked receiver at FanDuel for the early games on Saturday, the price is definitely right, as Iowa State has surrendered an average of 487.3 total yards and 38.5 points per contest over the school’s last four outings.