Every Sunday night I try to project the point spread for each college football matchup. Once the official lines come out, I compare my projections with the actual spreads, and usually I am within a few points. In a few rare instances, there is significant discrepancy between my projected line and the actual lines. This week there are four games where I think the oddsmakers got it wrong. This doesn't necessarily mean they are safe bets or locks of the week, just a small advantage to consider when moving forward with selecting games for the week. Check back to The Pick List on Thursday and Friday of each week for my final selections.
DATE GAME MY LINE ACTUAL
Saturday UConn @ Rutgers Rutgers (-7) Rutgers (-9 to 10)
Rutgers has been playing very well as of late with key wins against South Florida and Arkansas. They are starting to look like a legitimate contender for the Big East title. They get a home game against a UConn team that struggled against the lowly Buffalo Bulls last week. I think the Huskies may have been looking past Buffalo in anticipation for this big matchup against Rutgers. The line discrepancy isn't huge, but I am interested to see which way this one moves in the next few days.
Saturday Arkansas @ Auburn Auburn (-5) Auburn (-9 to 10)
Arkansas ran into a hungry Texas A&M team last week looking to claim their first SEC win. While the Hogs have been playing poorly (to put it nicely), they are still moving the ball up and down the field. Auburn surprisingly played LSU down to the wire two weeks ago, but their offense has struggled all season. I see this game to be a low scoring affair, making Arkansas +10 a good value. Apparently the public agrees with this reasoning, as I think the line has moved to Auburn -8 in some sportsbooks.
Saturday Arizona @ Stanford Stanford (-10) Stanford (-7 to 7.5)
Arizona moved the ball well, but sqaundered many opportunities in their first road test of the year at Oregon (in which they lost 49-0). It's hard to say if the Wildcats had road jitters or just played a bad game. They did look decent at home against a solid Oregon State defense, but can they carry that type of play on the road with them to Stanford, whose defense has looked sharp all season (even in last weeks loss to Washington). Stanford has been up and down all year (almost losing to San Jose State, crushing Duke, huge win over USC, letdown at Washington). One has to think Stanford would be motivated in this game, playing at home and trying to avenge last weeks loss. Also, Arizona plays the 3-3-5 defense, which Stanford should be able to take advantage of with their power running game.
Saturday Michigan @ Purdue Michigan (-6) Michigan (-3)
I think Purdue has a legitimate chance at upsetting the Wolverines in this game, but I was surprised the oddsmakers started this line so low. I think the public will likely bet it up to around 5 or 6 in favor of Michigan, but I will likely stay away from this game regardless.
Saturday, September 8
The biggest factor (or non-factor) of this game will be the health of Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase. Even if the star quarterback plays, he will likely be restricted by an ankle injury. The Fighting Illini offense has had
problems with consistency even with Scheelhaase in the game. They need him to make plays through the air and ground if they want to move the ball and sustain drives. Their rushing attack looked very skeptical last week as Scheelhaase was the leading rusher (7 carries for 21 yards). The defense of Illinois ended up carrying the team last week in a win over Western Michigan. Expect that defense to allow Illinois to hang around, but ultimately Arizona State’s quick-strike attack should pull away in the second half to win the game and cover the spread. Ultimately, the Sun Devils are more stable, disciplined, and healthy than a Fighting Illini program still trying to figure things out with a new coach, injured star QB, playing in a tough environment on the road. Take Arizona State -4.
Saturday, September 8
Big Ten Network
The talent gap between these two teams has been gradually closing for the past several seasons. Iowa State pulled off the big upset last year, and they will look to repeat that success this year in Iowa City. Cyclone QB Steele Jantz looked poised in the season opener, even when Iowa State trailed early in the game against Tulsa. He has established a good connection with his favorite wideout, Josh Lentz. Meanwhile, Iowa QB James Vandenberg struggled in the vertical passing game against Northern Illinois. He had 21 completions for only 129 yards. Iowa had to rely on the ground game to notch a late touchdown to get the 18-17 win. If Iowa cannot pose a threatening downfield passing game, look for Iowa State to load the box and shut down the Hawkeyes one-dimensional offense. Iowa State’s balanced offensive attack led by Jantz should keep Iowa on their heels for most of the game. Even though the spread of this game has decreased from 5 to 3.5, it is still a good play considering ISU has a good chance at pulling off the outright win. After all, the underdog has won six straight against the spread in this matchup. Take Iowa State +3.5.
Saturday, September 8
This matchup between the Cowboys and Wildcats has all the makings for a high-scoring affair late Saturday night. After all, the over/under on this game is set at 68. If this game does turn into a shootout, look for Oklahoma State to outpace Arizona down the stretch. Oklahoma State freshman QB, Wes Lunt, will receive his first true test against a major BCS opponent. Lunt, along with most of the Cowboy’s starters only played in the first quarter of their 84-0 routing of Savannah State. Meanwhile, Arizona’s new starter at quarterback, senior Matt Scott, needed more than four quarters to help his team secure a 24-17 overtime victory over Toledo. Arizona’s offense looked impressive in the game, but they turned the ball over in several critical situations, which kept the game close. As coach of Oklahoma State, Mike Gundy is an impressive 13-4-1 ATS as an away favorite. On the other sideline, new Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez is still trying to implement his system to a program in transition. Take Oklahoma State -10.5.
Sunday, September 2
As of Sunday morning, the point spread on this game has fallen from Baylor by 10.0 to 7.5. The late money in favor of SMU could probably be attributed to the public having less confidence in a Baylor team without RGIII. However, senior Bear’s QB Nick Florence is fully capable of running an offense that still has an abundance of talent returning from an impressive 2011 campaign. The Bears usually play well at home, and they are 21-13 ATS as a home favorite under Art Briles. Meanwhile, SMU only has three starters returning on offense led by Texas transfer QB Garrett Gilbert. They will face a Baylor defense that should be improved, returning its entire secondary from last season. SMU will have a difficult time keeping up with a still potent Baylor offense. Take Baylor -7.5.
Saturday, September 1
Look for the Longhorns to run the ball all over a Wyoming defense that gave up 5.1 yards per carry last season. The Longhorns highly touted defense should overwhelm an outmatched Wyoming offense, creating several turnovers and nice field position to aid in some short scoring drives. Of all the high point spreads in week one, this is the best opportunity to lay the points and reap the rewards. Take Texas -31.5
Saturday, September 1
Clemson, coming off a humiliating 70-33 Orange Bowl loss, will be looking to make a statement in Atlanta on Saturday night. They will play an Auburn team going through a semi-transitional period with two new coordinators, an unproven quarterback, four new offensive line starters, and a void at running back left by their former star Michael Dyer. Clemson put up over 600 yards of offense against the Tigers in last years game. Even though WR Sammy Watkins will not play, expect QB Tajh Boyd to find plenty of other ways to spread the ball around against an Auburn defense that hasn’t really upgraded from last year. Take Clemson -3.