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College Cram Session: Betting the letdown may be the best hangover cure
By Joe Fortenbaugh
The phrase “letdown game” is popular verbiage in the gambling lexicon because it refers to a situation in which a given team may perform to a level below what is normally expected due, in large part to a “hangover” sustained from an upset win or marquee victory over a highly-regarded opponent the week before.
A perfect example of a letdown game took place in 2013 when the 7-1 Stanford Cardinal upset second-ranked Oregon 26-20 despite entering the matchup as 10-point underdogs.
After stunning the undefeated Ducks and grabbing the national spotlight, Stanford took nine days of rest down to Southern California and promptly lost 20-17 against an unranked USC team that entered the Pac-12 showdown having already lost three games on the season.
Sure, USC wasn’t a complete slouch that season. But if Stanford was good enough to rock the Ducks, they were good enough to defeat the Trojans just like Washington State, Arizona State and Notre Dame had done earlier that season.
We focus our attention on letdown games this week because two very big situations exist Saturday that warrant letdown game analysis: the California Golden Bears and future first-round draft pick Jared Goff notched a marquee victory for third-year head coach Sonny Dykes last Saturday night with a 45-44 win at Texas against the Longhorns, while at approximately the same time the Mississippi Rebels trashed the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa to the tune of a 43-37 upset that rocked the foundation of the always-proud Southeastern Conference.
Both teams enjoyed the spoils of success, both schools partied the night away and now both programs look to avoid a letdown situation Saturday.
For Cal, the challenge lies in a tricky road trip to Washington to face a Huskies team that limited the Bears to a season-low seven points in a 31-7 home defeat last October. Not only is this a tough environment coming off a marquee win, but it’s the second half of a back-to-back scheduling spot that could prove to be too much for a Bears defense that has been absolutely abysmal since Dykes’ arrival in 2013. At the moment, Cal is currently posted as a 3-point favorite.
As for Ole Miss, the Rebels have been in this spot before. Maybe Mississippi fails to cover the 24-point spread against Vanderbilt Saturday, but the Rebels found a way to trash Texas A&M in College Station 35-20 last season following their upset win over Alabama the week before. If Ole Miss could handle the situation last year, chances are they’ll handle it again this season against an inferior opponent.
Or, as some situational handicappers are no doubt betting, both teams experience a letdown following such grand successes enjoyed last Saturday night.
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 Chris Andrews, a good friend of mine with more than 30 years in the bookmaking business.
*Point spreads current as of Thursday evening.
Sharp sides: Kent State (+7, vs. Marshall) and Texas Tech (+7, vs. TCU)
The Kent State line hasn’t experienced a lot of movement, but that’s because Andrews says it’s flying under the radar at the moment. Texas Tech, on the other hand, has already been bet down from +7 to as low as +6 for Saturday afternoon’s marquee encounter with third-ranked TCU, as the home team is 5-1 ATS over the last six meetings between these two schools.
After Kliff Kingsbury’s Red Raiders smashed Arkansas to the tune of a 35-24 beat down in Fayetteville last Saturday as 9.5-point underdogs, many in the industry immediately began circling this revenge spot for Texas Tech.
Public sides: LSU (-24, at Syracuse) and Texas A&M (-7 at Arkansas)
No surprises here as LSU absolutely throttled Auburn on national television last Saturday in the form of a 45-21 ass-kicking that vaulted Tigers running back/antelope Leonard Fournette to the front of the pack in the early race for the Heisman Trophy. And coupled with Syracuse barely squeaking by Central Michigan 30-27 in overtime last weekend, the perfect recipe now exists for the public to jump all over Les Miles and his LSU Tigers.
A similar situation is in play for Arkansas-Texas A&M, as the Razorbacks fell to a disappointing 1-2 last Saturday after losing 35-24 vs. Texas Tech while Texas A&M advanced to 3-0 with a 44-27 victory over Nevada.
Sharp totals: FIU Golden Panthers at Louisiana Tech Bulldogs UNDER 53
The biggest line move of the week, Florida International at Louisiana Tech opened with a total of 62 before being steamed nine points south to where it currently sits at 53.
Rather than provide you with any trends as to why this adjustment took place, we’ll leave you with this: the value that once existed for this total is now long gone, so anybody looking to jump on the train would be getting the absolute worst of the number.
Public totals: UCLA Bruins at Arizona Wildcats OVER 66 and USC Trojans at Arizona State Sun Devils OVER 61.5
This is Andrews’ best guess as to which totals the public will be heavily backing this weekend, as public money on Overs and Unders doesn’t tend to show itself until Saturday.
Games experiencing the most action: TCU Horned Frogs (-6.5) at Texas Tech Red Raiders, BYU Cougars at Michigan Wolverines (-6.5), UCLA Bruins (-3) at Arizona Wildcats and USC Trojans (-5.5) at Arizona State Sun Devils
BONER OF THE WEEK AWARD
The first thing you need to do is watch this Vine from last Saturday’s California-Texas showdown in Austin:
Notice how Texas defensive end Charles Omenihu’s sideline dance appears to be cut short by something that took place out on the field? Well, take a look at this next Vine for context as to why Omenihu stopped his celebration dead in its tracks:
As the recently departed Yogi Berra once memorably said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
MIND-BLOWING TREND OF THE WEEK
The Boston College Eagles are 11-1 ATS over their last 12 games following an against the spread loss. The Eagles fell 14-0 vs. Florida State last Friday night as 9.5-point underdogs and are currently posted as five-point favorites for Saturday’s home date with the Northern Illinois Huskies.
Fun fact: Our two previous “Mind-blowing trends of the week” sided with teams who both failed to advance the trend in question (Army covered two weeks ago, Syracuse failed to cover last week), so you may want to consider fading the Eagles in this spot thanks to my mush powers. Just a thought.
BIGGEST LINE MOVES OF THE WEEK
Bowling Green Falcons (from +2 to -5) at Purdue Boilermakers: Bowling Green may own a lackluster 1-2 record three weeks into the 2015 campaign, but quarterback Matt Johnson and the Falcons are averaging 39.6 points and an astounding 609.3 total yards of offense per game this season.
But the key reason for the significant line move that has taken place in this matchup comes courtesy of the Purdue quarterback situation, as the Boilermakers are benching junior signal-caller Austin Appleby for this Saturday’s game in favor of redshirt freshman David Blough, who boasts a grand total of just eight career collegiate passing attempts. Be advised that Purdue is 1-5-1 ATS over its last seven contests overall.
Tennessee Volunteers (from +2 to -1) at Florida Gators: The Jim McElwain era in Gainesville started off promising enough with a 61-13 railroad job against New Mexico State, but the Gators followed up that performance with back-to-back scares against East Carolina (31-24) and Kentucky (14-9) in matchups that saw Florida commit a highly undisciplined total of 22 penalties.
McElwain made it official on Wednesday that cornerback Jalen Tabor and quarterback Treon Harris have been suspended for Saturday’s rivalry game with Tennessee, which is part of the reason why this line has moved three points toward the Volunteers. Additionally, be advised that the road team is 6-0-1 ATS in the last seven meetings between these two schools.
Eastern Michigan Eagles (from +1 to -2) vs. Army Black Knights: Not only is the home team 4-1 ATS over the last five meetings between these two programs, but the key ingredient in this equation is the fact that Army is an unbelievably poor 5-21 ATS over its last 26 road games.
The Black Knights are already 0-3 this season with losses against Fordham, Connecticut and Wake Forest while Eastern Michigan is just 1-2 but averaging a healthy 33 points per contest.
Ohio State Buckeyes (from -28.5 to -31.5) vs. Western Michigan Broncos: This is the final tune-up for the top-ranked Buckeyes before conference play commences at Indiana next week, which many would argue is nothing more than yet another tune-up on a Big Ten schedule that strikes fear in the heart of absolutely no human being whatsoever.
Early action came in on Ohio State because many believe last week’s sloppy 20-13 victory over Northern Illinois served as a wakeup call for one of the most talented rosters in the nation. Western Michigan beware.
Florida International Golden Panthers at Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (from 62 to 53): See “Sharp totals” above.
DAILY FANTASY VALUE PLAY OF THE WEEK
Michael Gordon, RB, Arkansas State Red Wolves ($6,600 at FanDuel): The 5-foot-9, 187-pound senior with 36 collegiate appearances under his belt has already notched 226 rushing yards with two touchdowns on just 38 carries this season (5.94 YPC).
He should see a heavy workload once again this weekend against a 2-0 Toledo Rockets defense that has surrendered an average of 155 rushing yards per game through its first two outings of the season.
As an added bonus, note that Arkansas State is averaging an ultra-healthy 47 rushing attempts per game so far in 2015. Be advised that Gordon is available only in “Late Game” FanDuel college football contests.