Week Three Edition
Last Week: 5-1 (.833)
2017: 7-5 (.583)
*Total: 79-64-2 (.552)
*Total dates back to last season
Home team in italics
Pittsburgh (+12.5) over #9 Oklahoma State
You’ll notice a common theme in this week’s Spread Bet Saturday: betting against big public favorites. What I mean by that is this: Oklahoma State, as a 12.5 point road favorite, is being taken by 83% of the public to cover this huge spread. But what’s revealing, however, is that the Cowboys were once a 14-point favorite and have been bet down to 12.5 despite overwhelming public support. Clearly the sharps–the guys who do this for a living–like the home underdog in this matchup, and have thus made huge bets on Pittsburgh.
Memphis (+3) over #25 UCLA
UCLA may be the better team on paper, but I’ll take the home underdog receiving only 19% of bets. Memphis’ offense is prolific and I think people may be sleeping on a weak Bruins defense that allowed 44 points to Texas A&M.
BYU (+16.5) over #10 Wisconsin
Everyone is selling BYU stock. So I’m buying. The Cougars will rebound after two consecutive losses with a motivated performance against a Wisconsin team that doesn’t have a prolific offense. BYU will keep this game well-within 16.5 points.
#24 Florida (-4) over #23 Tennessee
The Gators have had two weeks to prepare for their SEC opener (their game last week was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma). I’m also not as sour on Florida’s offense as others–they won’t face a defense like Michigan’s again this year. I’ll hesitantly bet against the 71% of bettors taking the Vols with the spread.
Mississippi State (+7.5) over #12 LSU
The Bulldogs have three things going for them in this SEC matchup. First, they run the ball extremely well. Mississippi State had one of the ten best running games in the nation last season. Clearly they’ve carried that success over to 2017: they’re currently averaging 8.2 yards per rush (2nd in the country) through two games in 2017. Second, the Bulldogs have a good quarterback, Nick Fitzgerald, who can make plays with his arm and legs (16 rushing touchdowns in ’16). And lastly, Mississippi State is a home underdog–and they’re getting 7.5 points! Upset special of the week: #12 LSU will drop from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Texas (+15.5) over #4 USC
USC will win this game. A Longhorns defense that allowed 51 points to Maryland won’t fare too well against Sam Darnold. In terms of the spread, however, I’ll repeat: it’s smart to side against the public. Nearly 70% of bettors are backing the Trojans as over two-touchdown favorites. I think Texas’s offense (averaging 48.5 points per game this season, albeit against mediocre competition) can keep this game within fifteen points.
Game of the Week
#3 Clemson (-3) over #14 Louisville
Let’s keep something in mind about this Louisville offense. Yes, they’ve been sensational against most defenses, dating back to 2016. But when Lamar Jackson and company have played great defenses, they’ve struggled. Against LSU in their bowl game last year, for instance, Louisville was held to a mere nine points. When the Cardinals last played Houston, a team that once contained Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma’s offense, Louisville scored just ten points. And even in their meeting against Clemson a year ago, they were held to 5.0 yards per rush (their season average was 6.0) and needed five Tigers turnovers to make the game interesting.
More importantly, Clemson’s defense is certainly just as good as it was last season–if not better. The Tigers are currently rated as the fifth best defense in the nation, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. They also just held Auburn, who boasts one of the stronger running games in the country, to only 117 yards of offense in their 14-6 victory last Saturday.
Clemson will contain Lamar Jackson, and I think its offense, even though new quarterback Kelly Bryant struggled mightily last week, will take advantage of Louisville’s average defense (83rd in the nation in points per game) to win this crucial early-season battle that will ultimately decide the ACC.