2011 College Football Week 4: Picks Against the Spread

Jeff Grant@@JeffGrantSportsContributor ISeptember 19, 2011

2011 College Football Week 4: Picks Against the Spread

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    The 2011 college football season quickly moves into its fourth week, and bettors are starting to gain more comfort in backing teams across the nation.

    One of the keys to sports handicapping is staying ahead of the betting market, while also comparing what oddsmakers have done on a week-by-week basis.

    Let’s take a closer look at 12 games from a betting perspective.

UCF at Brigham Young

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    What in the world happened to the BYU Cougars last week in their biggest rivalry game? 

    Taking a 10-7 lead into the second quarter and then allowing 47 unanswered points is going to certainly leave a mark for the rest of the season.

    Thankfully for us, the Cougars opponent this week is also off a loss, giving up the necessary line value to back the underdog.

    Both teams have played solid schedules thus far, outside of UCF hosting Charleston Southern in the season opener. 

    The Knights 17-10 road loss to the FIU Panthers as 6.5-point road favorites may be deflating, but the team has managed to out-gain all three opponents this year.

    I also don't mind backing a program that is 21-7 ATS over the past two-plus seasons.

    Recommendation: UCF Knights (+3)

San Diego State at No. 22 Michigan

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    The betting odds for this contest have raced up from its original line, which I correctly predicted on Sunday afternoon.

    This gives us the 2.5 points of value necessary to make a play on the road underdog.

    San Diego State will benefit from one of college football's greatest motivating factors—having a coach leave the program for another.

    Enter Brady Hoke, who has guided Michigan to a perfect 3-0 start, including a 35-31 come-from-behind win over Notre Dame as 3.5-point home underdogs.

    Somebody needs to tell the early bettors that the Aztecs possess one of the better quarterback-running back combinations in college football.

    Michigan is a money-burning 5-17 ATS in its last 22 tries as a favorite.

    Anybody have a lighter?

    Recommendation: San Diego State Aztecs (+10)

Notre Dame at Pittsburgh

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    Another game that was sent out with the same number that I predicted Sunday afternoon, but Notre Dame has since been bet up to a touchdown favorite.

    It's definitely no surprising due to the Irish coming off a 31-13 win over the Michigan State Spartans as six-point home favorites, which also served as their first victory over the season.

    The line has also factored in Pittsburgh's fourth-quarter collapse in Iowa, failing to hold onto a 27-10 lead with 12:09 remaining in the game.

    This game represents an opportunity for Panthers first-year head coach Todd Graham to capture a defining moment in rallying his troops, while also capturing a second consecutive victory over Irish front man Brian Kelly.

    Graham led the Tulsa Golden Hurricane to arguably its biggest win in school history last year, handing Notre Dame a 28-27 at Notre Dame Stadium.

    Too many early turnovers this year for the Irish to be laying a touchdown away from South Bend.

    Recommendation: Pittsburgh Panthers (+7)

No. 14 Arkansas at No. 3 Alabama

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    Playing time is over for the Arkansas Razorbacks, as they head into Tuscaloosa for the SEC opener for both teams.

    Last year's contest was a thriller, ending with Alabama capturing a 24-20 win as 6.5-point road favorites over Arkansas star quarterback Ryan Mallett.

    The tall presence in the Razorbacks' pocket has now departed to the NFL, and he will be missed in this one.

    Alabama has been handed another week of motivation due to the pollsters dropping the squad from No. 2 to No. 3 behind LSU. 

    Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban is a master in getting his team cranked up in September, posting an 11-3 ATS mark, including a 27-11 win over the Penn State Nittany Lions as 10-point road favorites.

    B-L-O-W O-U-T inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.

    Blowout of the Week: Alabama Crimson Tide (-11)

Temple at Maryland

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    My first initial reaction to this matchup was to take the underdog, but I've changed my mind due to examining the Miami Hurricanes win over the Ohio State Buckeyes this past weekend a little closer.

    Why would I do that?

    Maryland has played the much tougher schedule, handing the Hurricanes a 32-24 defeat as four-point home favorites on Labor Day.

    The Terrapins nearly completed a furious comeback last week in dropping a 37-31 contest to the West Virginia Mountaineers as one-point home underdogs.

    Temple doesn't possess that type of speed.

    Recommendation: Maryland Terrapins (-9)

No. 7 Oklahoma State at No. 8 Texas A&M

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    It's hard to imagine that traveling on the road for a second consecutive week is going to be an easy task, especially when your previous game finished at 3:35 a.m. Sunday morning.

    That's the situation that Oklahoma State is faced with this week.

    The Cowboys were fortunate enough to play that game inside the state, handing the Tulsa Golden Hurricane a 59-33 loss, which resulted in a cover as 13.5-point road favorites.

    Texas A&M will be playing its third consecutive home game to start the season, tallying wins over SMU (46-14) and Idaho (37-7), which should be the difference.

    The Aggies are 5-1 ATS as a favorite of under three points, while the Cowboys are 2-5 ATS as a field goal or less underdog.

    Recommendation: Texas A&M Aggies (-3)

No. 11 Florida State at No. 21 Clemson

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    This is why you get paid the big bucks if you're Florida State's Jimbo Fisher.

    His team was defeated soundly in a 23-13 loss to the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners as three-point home underdogs in a prime-time matchup last week.

    Seminoles quarterback EJ Manuel went down with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder and is being seen by a specialist today.  His status is unknown at this time.

    I expect the team to bounce back in its ACC opener, making them 4.5-point road favorites yesterday.

    My initial thoughts haven't changed.

    Recommendation: Florida State Seminoles (-2.5)

Colorado at Ohio State

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    Colorado first-year head coach Jon Embree has plenty of motivational factors to throw at his team leading up to this contest in Columbus on Saturday.

    He'll likely start with the fact that the Buffaloes are a 15.5-point road underdog.

    It's not a money-making spot for this team of late, dropping four consecutive games versus the number when getting 10.5 or more points.

    Ohio State is still being lined as if head coach Jim Tressel is still walking the sidelines, failing against the spread in two consecutive games.

    Throw out Colorado's first road game of the season, as it's never easy to open up in Hawaii. 

    Recommendation: Colorado Buffaloes (+15.5)

Missouri at No. 1 Oklahoma

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    This is a fun game to handicap in trying to determine what the oddsmaker is doing with this line.

    Personally, I made Oklahoma a 18.5-point home favorite in this contest after last week's 23-13 win over the Florida State Seminoles, covering as field-goal road favorites in the process.

    Some will see this as a flat spot in the schedule, but looking closely at last year's results for the Sooners—this game stands out in a big way.

    Oklahoma rolled into Missouri in 2010 with a perfect 6-0 record and left with its first defeat, losing 36-27 as three-point road favorites.

    It looks like too many points at the surface, but the Tigers are also just 1-4 ATS as an underdog of 10.5 or more points.

    The line betting odds have also gone above the key number of 21.

    I'm not about to get trapped.

    Recommendation: Oklahoma Sooners (-21.5)

No. 2 LSU at No. 16 West Virginia

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    The Big East Conference's No. 1 team over the past decade is set to play host to one of the heavyweights of the Southeastern Conference.

    I think it's very important to note that LSU will be away from home for the third time in four weeks, coming off an SEC-opening 19-6 win over Mississippi State as 3.5-point road favorites.

    West Virginia's lack of a running game concerns me in this contest, but the box score from last year's meeting shows me they couldn't get things going on the ground as well, rushing for just 59 yards on 26 carries.

    Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith is the difference between the two teams, thriving under first-year head coach Dana Holgorsen's system.

    West Virginia is not afraid of playing this type of competition and is 5-2 ATS versus the SEC.

    Upset of the Week: West Virginia Mountaineers (+6)

No. 10 Oregon at Arizona

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    It's a great thing to correctly predict an opening line for a contest and then get 3.5 points of value the following day.

    Oregon quickly raced up from 11.5 to 15-point favorites over the course of 24 hours.

    That's enough for me to play the reeling Arizona Wildcats, who have failed against the number in two straight games against quality opponents.

    Public perception is back to sky-high levels for the road team in this contest, but the underdog is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings.

    Recommendation: Arizona Wildcats (+15)

No. 23 USC at Arizona State

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    It's always dangerous to play a road underdog that is ranked against an unranked home team that is favored. 

    USC is also one of the more publicly backed teams due to its close proximity to Las Vegas.

    Arizona State's loss last week is certainly excusable, traveling to a Big Ten school after a thrilling home win over Missouri on national television the previous week.

    I'm probably walking into a trap, but the Trojans have been favored in this series for at least the past 10 years.

    That's enough for me, sitting alongside the program's 10-2 ATS mark as a road underdog.

    Recommendation: USC Trojans (+3)