We’ve reached the first football weekend of October. It’s Week 6 of the college football season. Many teams will be reaching their season’s midpoint this Saturday. The season, it’s all going way too fast. Like it always does. We had a pretty good weekend picking games and before settling on this week’s card and any in-depth posting geared towards this weekend, let’s compare current lines for Saturday to the corresponding summer lines. This is a huge showdown weekend with three games between top-11 teams. How do the lines compare to what they were a couple months ago in the heat of summer? We’ve seen changes on every line and, in some cases, we have a different team favored now than we did back in the summer.
Game Golden Nugget, June 2012 LV Hilton, July 2012 Sportsbook, today, 10/2/12
USC at Utah USC -16 USC -10 USC -14
Washington at Oregon Oregon -20 N/A Oregon -24
Miami vs ND ND -9.5 ND -12.5 ND -13.5
WVA at Texas Texas -4.5 Texas -8 Texas -6.5
LSU at Florida LSU -7.5 LSU -3 LSU -2.5
Kansas at KState KSU -21 KSU -17 KSU -24
Nebraska at OSU OSU -2.5 OSU -4 OSU -3
Georgia at South Carolina UGA -2.5 N/A South Carolina -2.5
Va Tech at UNC N/A Va Tech -1 UNC -3.5
Arkansas at Auburn Arky -4.5 Arky -6 Auburn -10
Michigan at Purdue N/A Michigan -8.5 Michigan -3
Navy at Air Force N/A Air Force -3 Air Force -10
The big news is three games have seen a role reversal with a new team favored. The obvious and jarring one is Arkansas now catching 10 points against Auburn after being a near touchdown favorite in the summer. We knew John L Smith was going to be their coach when those summer lines were announced. Oh, to have Auburn +6 right now. Instead, its a shaky, offensively challenged Auburn outfit that’s now a heavy favorite. But when you lose to teams from the Sun Belt and Big East and have lost your two SEC games by a combined 110-10, you’re going to get a lot of line movement against you. It’s science. In John L, has Gene Chizik found somebody he can outcoach? We’ll find out.
We stay in the SEC for the second role reversal on the Games Of The Year big board. Georgia was a short favorite in the summer over South Carolina. But now its the Gamecocks that are a smidge less than a field goal chalk. This game used to be an early September benchmark, but with conference realignment, its in October this year. This is a matchup of the last two SEC East champs. The winner gets a huge leg up in this year’s race, although both have to dance with Florida later in the fall. You would think with UGA getting two key defensive cogs back from suspension might keep them the favored team here, but maybe bettors are reacting to that D, even at full strength, giving up a boatload of points at home to Tennessee. South Carolina has covered four games in a row, they’ve covered five straight home games and own a 4-0-1 ATS mark in this series since 2007. These games are usually defensive driven, with the Under cashing in 13 times in the last 15 meetings, but the two overs have recently: last year’s 45-42 South Carolina win and 2009’s 41-37 UGA win.
Virginia Tech was a 1-point summer favorite, but after losing to two Big East games in September, they have been moved to 3.5-point underdogs in this ACC game against the Heels in Chapel Hill. The line opened this week as UNC -2 and, in some place, has actually grown to -4. I know the Hokies have been struggling, but its not like UNC has been setting the world on fire. They lost to Wake Forest and were being drubbed by Louisville before a spirited fourth quarter barrage of points made the final score close. I still like Va Tech in most of their ACC games and the road team has covered six in a row in this series. Its worth mentioning that the Hokies are on a 2-5 ATS run in ACC play. Maybe I should rescind my statement on liking the Hokies in most leage games.
The power and allure of Oregon is on display here. Washington just beat a top-10 team in Stanford, yet the line moved against them by more than a field goal with Oregon being set as a big 24-point favorite in this one. Of course, maybe the power of memory is in play too. Stanford just isnt in the top tier of college football. But Oregon is. And so too is LSU, who hammered the Huskies in Week 2 in Baton Rouge. Oddsmakers are assuming that bettors are expecting a similar fate when UW travels to Eugene on Saturday night.
Despite Notre Dame’s return to glory in September and Miami’s roller coaster first month of the year, the line hasnt really moved much from the July bar the LV Hilton set on this game. Most people highlight the young Irish secondary, the Achilles Heel of Notre Dame’s top-20 ranked total D, going up against the athletic WR corps of Miami, highlighted by Phillip Dorsett and Rashawn Scott, as the matchup of the game. It’s along similar lines, but my matchup of the night, is Miami’s undefeated record of going Over the listed total vs the Irish’s defensive improvements in 2012 as the game within the game to watch. Miami’s four listed games with totals have averaged 74.25 points per game. Those contests were against BC, KState, Georgia Tech and NC State, so points werent being rolled up against the dregs of FBS football necessarily. Those games have exceeded the Over/Under line by an average of 19.5 points per game, with the closest margin being seven points. The winner in Miami games so far this year has scored at least 38 points and three different times the loser has scored at least 32 points. The Irish, meanwhile, have played games with 37, 23 and 19 total points against Purdue, MSU and Michigan. So far the consensus is on Miami plus the points. It’ll be interesting to see what the eventual Over/Under will be set at later in the week and what kind of action it receives.
Is this weekend’s Michigan/Purdue battle the first of two games between the teams this fall? Michigan has a lot of work to do to win their division and advance to the Big 10 CG, but the Boilermakers are argubaly just a single positive result against Wisconsin later this month from qualifying for Indy. The line in this game has plummeted from 8.5 to 7.5 to 6.5 to 4.5 to the field goal line it is today over the last several weeks. So too have the Boilers odds on winning the Big 10. They were 35/1 shots over the summer, then dipped to 20/1 in mid-September, then 7/1 last week and finally are 5/1 this week. The favorites ahead of them are Nebraska +180, Wisconsin +280, MSU +300 and Michigan +350. So, per the odds, this is the fourth and fifth best Big 10 teams squaring off on Saturday.
The way LSU smacked Florida around last year, I didnt know what to make of them being 7.5-point road chalk in the Swamp against the Gators. After watching them play this year, especially with the way LSU slept walked through that Auburn game, I like the Gators chances at an upset. Five to six weeks ago, I figured it would more like last year. Of course, +7.5 isnt available anymore as the line has been downshifted. LSU remains chalk, but only by a field goal.
Navy-Air Force has been one of the closest annual series we’ve got going. Over the last nine games, the average margin of victory has been 4.88 points with five games decided by a field goal or less. Navy’s 31-20 win in 2007 is the only game between these two during this strech that was decided by at least 10 points. Every other match has been decided by a single score or less. So at first blush catching 10 points on the new line as opposed to the meager three from the summer looks enticing. However, Navy’s lethal triple option offense has disappeared. They were shutout last week by San Jose State. They’ve scored just 17 points in three games against FBS competition. I recall how well Air Force looked when I saw them in person give the Wolverines all they could handle in Ann Arbor last month. I usually play on Navy 3-4 times a year, but its looking like 2012 will come and go without me being on their side much unless they…..wait for it…..wait for it…..turn this ship around. Hey-O, I’ll be here all week.
Speaking of all week, I’ll have more on these and other Week 6 games throughout the week.