Bookmakers Make Oregon Early 7-Point Chalk over Ohio State

The college football national championship game is just one week away. Within just minutes of Ohio State’s stunning upset of 42-35 over Alabama last Thursday in the Sugar Bowl, sportsbooks everywhere, including Bovada and sportsbook.com posted the Oregon Ducks as 7-point chalk to win the national championship over the Buckeyes.

The first ever College Football Playoff National Championship game will be played on January 12, in Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys

The Ducks thrashed the Florida State Seminoles 59-20 on Thursday in the Rose Bowl. In doing so, Oregon made a big impression on the football world and on odds makers.

A big question that odds makers must ask is which team earned more favor of the public with its victory.

Remember, it is not about what team the books believe will win, rather it is all about which of the two will be getting the two-way action.

The Buckeyes finally beat a team from the SEC during a bowl game, as prior to the Alabama win, Ohio State was 0-9 SU. Their head coach, Urban Meyer has won two national championships.

However, the team still must rely on a third string quarterback in Cardale Jones. He has started just two games all season, but they were the two most important of the entire season.

Oregon ended Florida State’s winning streak at 29 and their reign as national champions. The offense for Oregon is something special, as they have speed in nearly every position. The Ducks are 9-0 SU and ATS in their past 9 games overall since their one loss of the season to Arizona.

Over that streak, the Ducks are winning by an average margin of 27 points.

Both underdogs, in the two games on New Year’s Day, were bet heavily by the public and sharp money. However, favorites in games that are high profile usually get more support.

The futures for Ohio State represent a huge risk for sportsbooks especially those that offered the Buckeyes with odds of 50 to 1 in the preseason after Braxton Miller was injured, according to topbet and betonline.

Bettors were all over that figure and eventually the number was pushed down to 12 to 1 before the Buckeyes loss to Virginia Tech on September 6.

Odds makers quickly bumped the Buckeyes back up as high as 40 to 1, but that slowly started to fall after every week.

Ohio State is now sitting at +240 on the money line as an outright winner, while Oregon is currently -280.

Oregon’s odds were as high as 20 to 1 after losing to Arizona.

It was not all that long ago when the talk was how many teams from the SEC West would play in the inaugural College Football Playoff, with the Big 10 and Pac-12 receiving little respect.

The last laugh this season goes to the Big 10 and Pac-12, as they are the only two left standing.

Bowl Season Starts Today and I’ve Got Your Winners

Fleck
Fleck
Western Michigan's P.J. Fleck leads the Broncos against Air Force on the "Smurf Turf" in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Nevada (-1) vs Louisiana-Lafayette (O/U 61) – These are two evenly matched teams that will open the 2014 bowl season. Both average about 31 points per game and surrender about 28 per game.

Trends: ULL is 7-1 straight up in their last eight and 5-1-1 against the spread in their seven games… Nevada is 4-2 SU in their last six games and their total has been UNDER in 14 of their last 18 games.

The Pick: ULL will have a decided home-field advantage but I like the Wolfpack to cover.

Kugler
Sean Kugler has UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl against Utah State today.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl UTEP (+10.5) vs Utah State (O/U 46) – The Aggies had won five straight before being blown out by a hot Boise State team. UTEP was just 2-10 last season under Sean Kugler who has turned the program around with a 7-5 record this year.

The Miners have a solid running game but they will be facing one of the top defenses they’ve seen all season.

Trends: UTEP is 5-2 straight up in their last seven games and their total has gone UNDER in five of their last six games… USU is 5-1 SU in their last six games and their total has gone OVER in four of their last six.

The Pick: I like the Aggies to cover and I like the UNDER.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl Utah (-3.5) vs Colorado State (O/U 57.5) – The Utes enter having lost three of their last five games while the Rams have won four of five. The question in this one is about level of competition.

Did Utah’s Pac-12 schedule prove a better prep than did Colorado State’s MWC schedule? What worries me is that the Rams are very explosive offensively and Utah gives up over 26 points per game.

Trends: Utah is 9-4 straight up in their last 13 games and has beaten CSU in five straight meetings… The Rams have gone 9-1 SU in their last 10 and their total has gone OVER in four of their last five.

The Pick: I like the Rams getting the points and I like the OVER.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Western Michigan (+1) vs Air Force (O/U 58) – The Falcons were 2-10 last while the Broncos were 1-11. It goes without saying these two teams had the biggest turnarounds in college football in 2014. Because of Air Force’s dynamic triple option, Western Michigan has had to revamp its’ entire defense over the last 11 days which can always create some anxiety.

The Broncos score over 34 points per game though and have a great running back as well as solid receivers. Will the step up in competition hurt WMU though?

Trends: WMU is 6-1 straight up in their last seven games… Air Force is 5-1 SU in their last six games and the total has gone UNDER in six of their  last nine games.

The Pick: I want to go with Air Force badly but I think the Broncos cover in a shootout. Take the OVER as well.

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl South Alabama (-3) vs Bowling Green (O/U 53.5) – The Falcons give up 34 points per game and they surrender over 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing per game as well. While that looks dire for Bowling Green they could take advantage of a Jaguars’ team that scores just 21 points per game.

I expect a lot of points in this game despite both teams hitting the UNDER a lot recently.

Trends: South Alabama is 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games and is 1-4 straight up in their last five… BGSU is 1-4-1 ATS in their last six games and is 2-4 SU in their last six games. Both teams have seen the total go UNDER for most of their recent games.

The Pick: Take South Alabama to cover and the OVER.

Auburn at K-State, Tampa Bay at Atlanta Highlight Thursday Night

Rainey
Rainey
Bobby Rainey had a huge game for the Bucs last week and he'll need another one in Atlanta tonight.

Tampa Bay (+7) at Atlanta (O/U 45) – The Atlanta Falcons are a couple of Matt Bryant 50-yarders away from being 0-2 just like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who come to the Empire State of the South tonight for a very important NFC South match-up.

I really had high expectations for the Bucs with new coach Lovie Smith and QB Josh McCown but McCown has been awful and the rest of the team hasn’t done much either in losses to St. Louis and Carolina. Consider that Tampa Bay has lost both games to back-up quarterbacks and that gives you an idea of where this team is right now.

The Falcons should get tackle Jake Matthews back this week and that will help an offensive line that has struggled a bit. Atlanta and Matt Ryan currently have the league’s top passing attack and the second best overall offense.

The bad news for the Falcons is that they are dead last in total defense and 26th against the run. The Bucs enter tonight with the 11th best rushing attack but only a 31st ranked passing game. That means the Falcons will load the box and force McCown and the Bucs to beat them with the pass.

Tampa Bay had a surprise performance last week from running back Bobby Rainey who ran 22 times for 144 yards against the Rams. Atlanta must limit him and force the Buccaneers to air it out.The Pick: I like the Bucs getting the points but I like Atlanta to win. Take the UNDER as well.

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in seven of Tampa Bay’s last ten road games… The total has gone OVER in eight of Atlanta’s last 11 games at home… The Bucs are 1-5 straight up in their last six games in Atlanta… The Falcons are 2-5 against the spread in their last seven games at home against Tampa Bay.

Malzahn
Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn brings his Tigers into Kansas State tonight.

Auburn (-9.5) at Kansas State (O/U 65) – The defending SEC champs travel to the “Little Apple” of Manhattan, Kansas to take on Bill Snyder’s Wildcats. The Tigers are currently averaging 52 points per game in wins over Arkansas and San Jose State.

As for the Wildcats, they are also 2-0. They’ve defeated Iowa State and Stephen F. Austin but the win over the Cyclones was by four and in the final minutes. That’s important because Iowa State has lost to North Dakota State but also beat Iowa so getting a read on these Wildcats might be difficult.

In order to win this game, K-State will need a positive start and a fired up home crowd. Making the Gus Malzahn offense struggle is a key to any team’s success. The Wildcats will need to possess the ball too and take time off the clock.

For the Tigers it will be business as usual. Keep the Wildcats’ defense on its’ heels with a ferocious hurry-up offense and then attack the KSU offense with their speed.

The Pick: This has potential upset all over it. A primetime game with a hostile crowd awaits the Tigers but their talent will prevail. Take them to cover and I like the UNDER.

Trends: The Tigers are 11-1 straight up in their last 12 games… K-State is 2-4 ATS in their last six games at home… The total has gone OVER in four of Auburn’s last six games on the road… The Wildcats are 16-3 straight up in their last 19 games at home.

An Early Look at the College Football Lines for Next Weekend

Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
Pat Fitzgerald and his Wildcats cannot afford a loss to Northern Illinois after losing their opener.

Each week this season I’m hoping to give you an early look at the top college games for the weekend. You should see this Monday or Tuesday.

Northern Illinois 1-0 (+2.5) at Northwestern 0-1 – High expectations in Evanston were shot out of the sky in a hurry last weekend as Cal came in and led 31-7 before hanging on to win 31-24. The Wildcats were thought to be a surprise team in the Big Ten West but they looked anything but and now have to deal with perennial MAC power Northern Illinois. To say this is a must-win against the Huskies is an understatement. Right Now: I like NIU and the points

Missouri 1-0 (-5.5) at Toledo 1-0 – Gary Pinkel returns to the campus that helped him get where he is now. The Rockets will not be a pushover either and Pinkel knows it. Last year, Toledo came into Columbia and gave the Tigers quite a battle before losing 38-23 with the Tigers pulling away in the fourth. Missouri is the defending SEC East champs so they aren’t going to sneak up on anyone. Right Now: I like Missouri to cover

Navy 0-1 (-4) at Temple 1-0 – This game is more fascinating than I ever dreamed it would be three weeks ago. Navy gave Ohio State fits into the fourth quarter before losing to the Buckeyes while the Owls went into Nashville and thumped the Commodores by 30. I expect this to be a close and very exciting game in Philly. Right Now: I like Navy to cover

Southern Cal 1-0 (+4) at Stanford 1-0 – There were a lot of college football people who believe the most talented team in the Pac-12 last season was USC. In-season coaching changes and injuries scuttled the chance for a title but now the Trojans get their shot to prove themselves and it will start with a road trip at defending champion Stanford. SC QB Cody Kessler was outstanding against Fresno State and now gets a shot a much tougher opponent. Right Now: I like USC and the points.

Cook
Connor Cok and the Spartans head to Oregon for a game with massive playoff implications.

Michigan State 1-0 (+11) at Oregon 1-0 – You’ll hear this phrase a lot this season; “This is the most important game of the year in terms of the final four teams in the playoff.” The Spartans and Ducks will be playing in this game this weekend in Eugene. MSU can afford a close loss whereas Oregon needs to win at home. Either way, both teams will still be alive for the playoffs. Right Now: I like MSU and the points

East Carolina 1-0 (+15.5) at South Carolina 0-1 – Remember a few weeks back when Steve Spurrier was ripping on the Big Ten? He said his Gamecocks were better off playing “East Carolina” than a bottom tier Big Ten team. Well, here come the Pirates and what do you know? Spurrier and company are still licking their wounds from that beatdown at the hands of Texas A&M. Right Now: SC covers

Michigan 1-0 (+6) at Notre Dame 1-0 – The Wolverines and the Fighting Irish hook up again in another primetime match-up and they have yet to disappoint in under the lights. Both teams got highly anticipated blowout wins this past Saturday and enter with 1-0 records. The key here will be the Michigan running game against the Irish run defense. Right Now: I like Michigan and the points

BYU 1-0 (+4.5) at Texas 1-0 – The Charlie Strong Era got off on the right foot this past weekend by beating up on North Texas. BYU did the same on the road by beating UConn. This will be the first of many tests for Strong in Austin this year and don’t be surprised if the Cougars pull it off behind a tough defense. Right Now: I Like Texas to cover

 

Mountain West Conference West Division Odds for 2014

Polian
Polian
I like Brian Polian and his Wolf Pack to win the MWC West Division.

I gave you the the Mountain West Mountain Division on Sunday so today I turn my attention to the West Division.

Fresno State 7/2 – The Bulldogs need to replace the two-time defending MWC Player of the Year in Derek Carr who is off to the NFL. Coach Tim DeRuyter will wait to announce his new QB though. Fresno has 13 starters back including eight on defense. The opening three games are not going to be easy. They open at USC and Utah and then host Nebraska before heading into conference play. The biggest game in the MWC is likely the Bulldogs’ date at Boise State in October.

Nevada 7/1 – The Wolf Pack returns 17 starters including 10 on defense and that could be the difference in terms of whether they can dethrone Fresno State or not. The offense took a step back last year averaging less than 4 yards per carry. The schedule opens with two winnable games before Nevada travels to Arizona. The good news is they get Boise State, Colorado State and Fresno State at home.

San Diego State 12/1 – The Aztecs lost 1,000 yard rusher Adam Muema and return just ten starters (6 Off/4 Def). The schedule doesn’t help much either with road trips to North Carolina, Oregon State Fresno State in their first five games. They also have to play at Boise State later in the season. This could be a real struggle for Head Coach Rocky Long to get to .500 in 2014.

UNLV 30/1 – The Rebels have to replace their all-time leading rusher in Tim Cornett who started for four years in Sin City. Head Coach Bobby Hauck enters his fifth season and does have 51 lettermen returning including 13 starters (7 Off/6 Def). Like SDSU, the schedule does the Rebels no favors. They have seven road games this season including four in the first six games with Arizona and Houston being the big match-ups there. UNLV also heads to BYU later in the season.

San Jose State 30/1 – The Spartans have to replace record-setting quarterback David Fales offensively and have journeyman defensive coordinator Greg Robinson taking over the defense and he is switching the scheme to a 4-3 so that worries me in terms of getting prepared. Head Coach Ron Caragher was 6-6 last year and repeating that will be difficult. Like UNLV, SJSU has seven games on the road in 2014 and the first one is at Auburn. They also have trips to Minnesota, Navy and Fresno State.

Hawaii 30/1 – Head Coach Norm Chow enters the season with one of the hottest seats underneath him in the nation. He is just 4-20 in two seasons on the island and things do not look much better with another new quarterback taking over and a new defensive coordinator trying to rebuild one of the country’s worst defenses. The Warriors don’t leave the islands until September 30th when they play at Colorado but the three home games prior include Washington and Oregon State. They finish the season with three of four on the road. Three wins would be a nice step this year.

The Pick: Fresno State will be hard to pick against but with Nevada returning so many guys on defense I’m going with the Wolf Pack. I think they’ll fix their offensive issues and I like their favorable home schedule.

 

Long-Shot Possibilities to Make College Football’s Four-Team Playoff

Cook
Cook
Connor Cook and the Spartans have a favorable schedule in 2014.

On Friday, I gave you the top eight favorites to make the new four-team college football playoff. Today I’m looking at teams that are outside of the favorites that I believe will have a legitimate shot at making the playoff.

The term ‘long-shot’ in college football is used a little differently than in other walks of life. Most of the teams listed below are very viable title contenders but they just aren’t listed among those top eight. Let’s get to it.

Will _____ make the four-team playoff?

Baylor Yes +350, No -600 – The defending Big 12 Champs have Heisman candidate Bryce Petty leading the offense but the question will be how well the defense can play? The schedule is not horrible but they do have to go to both Texas and Oklahoma. If they get wins in both of those locations then the sky’s the limit.

USC Yes +550, No -1,100 – The Trojans enter the Steve Sarkisian Era with high hopes that he can return them to glory. After starting all 14 games last season, Cody Kessler will start again at quarterback. USC will face some tough tests but only Stanford and UCLA are on the road. They get Notre Dame, a bowl-game rematch with Fresno State in the opener and both Oregon State and Arizona State at home. Don’t sleep on this team.

Michigan State Yes +300, No -500 – The defending Big Ten Champions are going to be a very sexy pick despite losing some key players from last year’s team. The Spartans only road tests are at Oregon and at Penn State. They get Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska at home in East Lansing. Head Coach Mark Dantonio will keep this team competitive.

Richt
Mark Richt and the Bulldogs need a big season in 2014.

Georgia Yes +250, N0 -400 – If the Bulldogs can get past Clemson in the opener and then at South Carolina two weeks later then look out. The rest of the schedule is pretty favorable including the final three game at home and that includes Auburn and Georgia Tech. If the defense improves and the quarterback play is solid then UGA could be there.

South Carolina Yes +400, No -600 – The Gamecocks have to replace Connor Shaw and of course #1 pick Jadaveon Clowney but the cupboard is far from bare. The good news is that SC has four of their first five games at home. The bad news is that they have road games at Auburn, Florida and Clemson in the second half of the schedule. Spurrier always has competitive teams but this one will depend on the QB.

Florida Yes +600, No -1,000 – Frankly I find it embarrassing that the Gators are listed here. This team was brutal last year and while you can point to the loss of QB Jeff Driskel, his injury was far from the only reason the Gators finished under .500 for the first time in many years. Florida should open with three straight wins at home before their first road game which is at Alabama. They also have Tennessee and Florida State on the road. Don’t waste your time on the Gators.

Others I like to make it… Wisconsin – If they can get past LSU in the opener in Houston then the schedule is extremely favorable the rest of the way… Arizona State – Road games at USC, Oregon State and Arizona are tough, but they get Notre Dame, UCLA and Stanford at home. The Sun Devils are a long-shot but they made good strides last year.

Of all the teams above, I like the Michigan State schedule the best and give them the best chance of making the final four.