College Football 2011: Last Minute Vegas Line Changes and Injuries
Week 3 of my Las Vegas line switches and picks is here. If you listened to me last week, you ought to have made out pretty well.
If you liked my idea of Utah over USC outright, but played it safe at took Utah +9, you made out with an easy win. Otherwise, you would've gone 4-3, which includes the Utah Hail Mary pick.
I abstained from Toledo vs. Ohio State and Alabama vs. Penn State games, but if you read it, I did point you in the right direction.
Virginia Tech was 10 points from covering, so apologies there. Mississippi State (-7) was hardly a decent call by me, though I did have LSU (-4.5) last night. I tied the South Carolina vs. Georgia game at -3. Not bad.
I'm at 9-5 for the season. Have you paid off your mortgage with your winnings?
Be sure follow this series each every Saturday morning during the college football season.
No. 1 Oklahoma at No. 5 Florida State
Let's start off with the biggest game of the week and the biggest game of the college football season thus far: the Oklahoma Sooners at the Florida State Seminoles.
The line opened at Oklahoma -3 and has grown slightly to -3.5. In order to pick this line properly, you have to answer three questions:
What happened in last year's matchup? The Sooners demolished the Seminoles 47-17 in Norman, Oklahoma.
Is either significantly different from last year? No, Florida State has a new quarterback in E.J. Manuel, but he saw a lot of action in 2010.
Is home field advantage worth 30 points? Hardly. In a game of this magnitude, it might be worth a touchdown.
I think this game will come down to one or two scores. And when Oklahoma scores, it's a touchdown, not a field goal. That's what I'll be taking.
No. 17 Ohio State at Miami
In a rematch of the great 2003 Fiesta Bowl, the Ohio State Buckeyes are traveling to face the Hurricanes whose namesake accurately describes the state of each football program.
Jacory Harris, once the heralded savior of the 'Canes, has yet to throw a pass this season after losing the starting job to Stephen Morris during his suspension.
Miami is still searching for its first win after a valiant effort at Maryland in Week 1, while Ohio State got a huge scare last week against Toledo in the horseshoe. The game is a far cry from that National Championship matchup eight years ago.
Ohio State, the 17th ranked team in the country, opened as a three point underdog and has remained that all week. I'll take the points with the scarlet and grey.
Tennessee at No. 16 Florida
Disclaimer: I was, am and will always be a Tennessee Volunteer. I'm an alumnus and bleed orange. That being said, my friends know me as the perpetual cynic with my sports teams.
The Tennessee Volunteers opened as a 10 point underdog on their way to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators. It's a bitter rivalry but has been one sided for the past six years.
Bettors came to their senses and eased that line down to Florida (-9), but I still think it's too high. The Gators are certainly the favorites, but the Vols have the most potent passing game in the SEC and will score in the mid to high 20s against an average Gator secondary.
Jeffrey Demps, one of Florida's speedy running backs, has been dinged up this week but is expected to play. Sophomore defensive lineman Shariff Floyd is back for the Gators after a suspension. Great timing.
Will Florida score more points than a Tennessee team that scores in the mid 20s? I doubt it.
No. 6 Stanford at Arizona
The Stanford Cardinal have been Las Vegas gold this year. Not only have they covered two huge spreads, they have made bettors comfortable early, extending large leads into the third quarter.
Andrew Luck is the freaking man. He and the Cardinal beat the Arizona Wildcats last year 42-17, and they are only 10 point favorites this year.
The last time Luck played at Arizona was his sophomore year and Arizona won a barn-burner 43-38. Luck is two years older and light years better. Plus, he's pissed and seeking revenge. I like my Luck...Ba-dong chih.
I've already put my money where my mouth is on this one.
No. 21 Auburn at Clemson
The Auburn Tigers burned me last week when I picked them to lose to the Mississippi State Bulldogs by more than seven. That won't happen this week.
Auburn is picking up speed—easy to do when you have Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb in the backfield—and has surprised many people with their resiliency this season.
Meanwhile, the Clemson Tigers had trouble putting Wofford away last week and went into halftime tied with them at 21.
Tajh Boyd and Andre Ellington are a good one-two punch at quarterback and running back and better continue to shine against the Gus Malzahn-coached Auburn offense.
This line has been steady at Clemson (-3). I could be a jerk and say the Tigers will win but I won't. Auburn will cover and just might win.
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
Yeah, I know, what a boring game to have on this list. But it's on here because it's been one of the most actively moving lines this week.
The 2-0 Vanderbilt Commodores opened as a "pick 'em" favorite at -1, but have grown steadily all week to a 2.5 point favorite. The 'Dores have no clue what to do with themselves being favored in an SEC game, but they earned it.
When the Ole Miss Rebels hired Houston Nutt several years ago, my dad prophetically told me that he'd have them right back down where they belong in a little while.
Now that Dexter McCluster has left, that has proven true. The Rebels lost to BYU in their opener but bounced back with a nice win over Southern Illinois last week.
Starting running back Brandon Bolden hurt his ankle in the first game for the Rebels and is unlikely to play in this one, too. The spread allows for Vandy to win by just a field goal, so I'm on that.
No. 18 West Virginia at Maryland
The West Virginia Mountaineers are the 18th ranked team in the country and are slight underdogs to the unranked Maryland Terrapins. If not for another ridiculous line to be discussed later, this would be the most confusing one.
Maryland survived a late charge over visiting (and decimated) Miami two weeks ago and haven't played since. West Virginia, meanwhile, has won two games in convincing fashion.
The only edge for Maryland here is that they're at home and with their so-so showing against Miami, that doesn't seem to be too much of an advantage.
The Terrapins are favored by one. I might even take the Mountaineers outright.
Texas at UCLA
The speculative bettor might be tempted to take the UCLA Bruins outright at home against a Texas Longhorns team that is not even a shadow of what they were just a couple years ago.
Texas has had five players attempt a pass already this year and has been able only to deduce that Garrett Gilbert may not be the man for the job and Colt McCoy's little brother, Case, might.
I understand if you want to play on this fact. You have to know the other team, though.
UCLA is simply not good. Rick Neuheisel is in his fourth year and has not provided the spark many thought he would. In three years and two games, he has a 16-23 record.
Running back Johnathan Franklin has been a bright spot for the run-first Bruins. The Longhorns won't blow any team out in the road this year, but I think the line of Texas (-4) might be right on. No need to bet a push.
Navy at No. 10 South Carolina
In case you didn't know, I boldly predicted the South Carolina Gamecocks to win the National Championship this year. Anyone can say it'll be Alabama or Oklahoma, but it takes a real man (or idiot) to say it'll be South Carolina.
The Gamecocks have weathered two storms this year. The first was from an East Carolina team that had the lead much of the game. The second, from a strong Georgia squad that has played two tough games.
Before you write off East Carolina, know that they also scared No. 13 Virginia Tech last week.
The Navy Midshipmen run a quality triple-option offense that has made them the best of the military schools for at least the past decade.
This time-eating style of play has yielded 40 points in each of their first games, but that's unlikely to happen in Columbia.
The line has stood firm at South Carolina (-17), but for a team to win by more than 17 over a strong triple-option is tough. I like the Gamecocks by much less, like 11, so fight on Navy.
No. 15 Michigan State at Notre Dame
I'm starting to think that the economic collapse of 2008 was triggered by massive speculation by fans of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish because that's the only way to explain this spread.
The 15th ranked Michigan State Spartans are 2-0 and look just as strong as they were last year when they surprised the nation with their record. They opened as a five point underdog to the winless Irish.
I can't blame the Las Vegas odds makers for this because they simply want equal bets on either side. They let the bettors determine the line and as a proponent of free market capitalism, I have to be OK with that.
But come on, how can a winless team be a favorite against a ranked undefeated team? The game is in South Bend but other than that, I see no advantage for the Irish.
The line has dropped slightly to Notre Dame -4.5, but it's still favorable. I took the Spartans (+5) and will probably flip them a dime and take them outright.