I opted out of the Blog Poll this year. I admire and respect the efforts the bloggers are going through to create their own poll. And I was honored to be included in the voting for two years. But, I hated filling out the ballot every week and trying to parse who deserved the final five or spots more. At times, I couldnt even find 25 teams I wanted to even vote for. More than anything, I wanted to spend some more time working on adding more NFL coverage this fall at the JCB, so I am no longer going through the blog poll exercise to save time. But that doesnt mean we no longer rank teams here at the JCB. Hardly. In fact, now that it’s October, its time to unveil the official JCB top-10. Of course, we only care about records against the spread, so dont be oo shocked if our top-10 differs remarkably from everybody else’s. On to the show:
1.) Western Kentucky, 5-0 ATS (4-1 SU)………Do you remember what you were doing last September 17? If you were Western Kentucky you were losing outright to FCS Indiana State at 14.5-point favorites. The Hilltoppers havent lost to the spread since, covering an astounding 14 games in a row, including all five games in the 2012 season. How good have the Hilltoppers been against the spread? They didnt score a point against Alabama, but still cashed a winning ticket for its backers on the +38 line in the 35-0 loss to the Tide. That was a close call, but in their other four games in 2012, they covered the number by an average of 15 points and won all those games straight up too. They’ve been remarkable in Sun Belt Conference play, logging a 17-3 ATS since the middle of the 2009 season. It’ll be interesting to see if they can keep that up. In that Sun Belt run, they’ve only been favored four times. I suspect they’ll be chalk quite a bit against their league brethern over the next two months. Can their pointspread covering karma continue as they change roles from weekly underdogs to favorites? We’ll see. For now, they enjoy the top ranking in the JCB Poll and are off until next Thursday night when they host perennial Sun Belt power Troy, whose 3-2 SU, 4-1 ATS in their own right.
2.) Texas Tech, 4-0 (4-0 SU)….If somebody asked you who leads the country in total defense, how many guesses would need to get the answer right? Probably not many as Alabama, LSU and Florida State would just roll of your tongue and one of those squads just has to be the correct answer, right? Well, wrong. The statistically correct answer is Texas Tech, permitting just 167.5 yards per game. They’re 8th in total offense, so they enter October has one of the two teams in the top-10 in both offense and defense. The other team is FSU. They covered the spread in the four games they’ve played in by a combined 78 points. When you’re top-10 in total O, total D and you’re undefeated against the spread, you make the JCB top-10. The elephant room is their schedule. Sure, that road win at Iowa State last week was nice, but their other wins and covers came against Northwestern St, Texas St and New Mexico. You probably dont think two of those three schools really exist, but they do and they were all thumped by the Red Raiders. They’re unbeaten against the spread for now, but the longer the remain so, the bigger the story will become. They play Oklahoma, WVA, TCU, KSU and Texas over the next five weeks. They’re 5-point home dogs against Oklahoma, a team they beat on the road last year, in their first real test of the season. Frankly, I’ll be impressed if Tech is still four games over .500 against the line, like they are now, when the season ends.
3.) UL-Monroe 4-0 ATS (2-2SU)….The Sun Belt is a monster this year. Half their teams are 3-1 or better right now against the Vegas line. UL-Monroe is the second SBC team in our top-10 and it was hard to limit the league to just two spots as Troy and Middle Tennessee St have been great against the number during the season’s first month. But, both those schools do have a blemish on their ATS mark and, right now, we only have room for the undefeated. Certainly, no mid-major has made as much news so far this year as UL-Monroe has. They began the Arkansas tailspin by upsetting the Razorbacks in their opener and took Auburn and Baylor down to the wire in losses that were well within the Vegas number. They trounced Tulane 63-10 in their last outing. They average 518.2 yards in offense and score 41.8 points per game. Their defensive numbers are middle of the pack at best, but they have played a pair of SEC teams and an explosive Big 12 through four games. Next up is a stiff Sun Belt test against Middle Tennessee. The Racers have covered four weeks in a row and are fresh off a thumping of Georgia Tech. They’d be in this poll already had they not biffed their opener to McNeese St as 7-point favorites. If they best UL-Monroe, maybe we’ll just be subbing in one conference team for another in our next straw poll. Thats what happens when he best ATS conference so far this year begins going head to head with one another. Bonus note on UL-Monroe: All their games have gone Over the total as well this season.
4.) Northwestern, 5-0 (5-0 SU)…..This might be the only top-10 ranking a Big 10 team gets until basketball season starts. Unless you’re a volleyball fan. The impressive thing about NW’s 5-0 ATS start is that they’ve won all the games straight up and have done so against four teams from BCS leagues. The wart on this resume is that none of Syracuse, Vandy, BC or Indiana are going anywhere near a bowl game. Northwestern never gets into October unbeaten on any front, so its a nice accomplishment for their program. And in the watered down Big 10 this year, who knows they could end up a double digit win team. They seem primed to stay in Big 10 title contention into November. We’ll break down the Cats a bit more later in the week in our Big 10 column. They have an intriguing game on deck this week against the streaking Penn State Nittany Lions, who have covered four games in a row and are 3.5-point chalk against Northwestern. Yep, Northwestern and Penn St, the two hottest league teams, as October begins. There’s your 2012 Big 10 everybody.
5.) Oregon St, 3-0 (3-0SU)….All the other teams have at least four, if not five, covers to their resume, so why does Oregon State sneak into our top-10 despite only three covers. That’s easy. They’re 3-0 against the spread, and we’ve bet on them everytime! That practically earns automatic qualification. Besides, they’ve only played three games, we cant punish them just because they havent played as often. Another thing to consider is their competition. A lot of these teams are in this top-10 because they lost big, but covered a big number. Or they rolled some scrub FCS steam by 40. Or even both. Not the Beavers. Their three wins and covers have been against Wisconsin and two conference games at UCLA and at Arizona. They’re won outright as underdogs in each case too. This really is bizarro world for Oregon State, who has developed a reputation of stinking up the joint in September, then becoming a cover monster in the fall during conference play. They’re the Pac-12′s Everton in that regard. And, like they’re EPL brethern, they’re finally getting off to a good start this year. Sean Mannion has been outstanding at QB, Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton give him two game breaking targets (both already have more than 20 catches and Cooks is going for 19.2 yards a pop), and Storm Woods is averaging just a shade under 100 yards rushing a game. They look like they can be a factor in this Pac-12 race after back to back losing seasons. But will they keep their ATS mojo going? After outright wins as an underdog three times to start the season, the Beavers have to deal with a role change this week. They’re chalk for the first time, laying -15 at home to the reeling WSU Cougars and Mike Leach.
6.) Fresno St, 5-0 (3-2 SU)…..I wonder what Pat Hill, the Great Fu Manchu, is thinking about these days. I wasnt sure what to make of Fresno without their longtime coach who retired after last season. They were always lights out as underdogs against teams from BCS leagues, but otherwise were a pretty dang unreliable bet. They’ve jumped out of the gates under first year head coach Tim DeRuyter and covered five in a row. They’ve done a little bit of everything. They’ve covered as big chalk against Colorado, San Diego St and Weber St. They covered as an underdog against fellow mid-major Tulsa. And, for old time’s sake, they pulled a classic Pat Hill by covering a big number against a powerful BCS foe when they lost to Oregon by 17 points, yet covered the +33 by more than two touchdowns. They’re running a new offense at Fresno and through five games it has to be hailed as a success so far. They’re 15th in total yards. QB Derek Carr is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and has tossed 14 scores to just three picks. Four different targets already have at least 24 catches and longtime Bulldog tailback Robbie Rouse is averaging 111.4 rushing yards a game with a 5.5 yard per carry average. To stay unbeaten against the number, they have to cover for the fourth time this season as heavy chalk. They’re 15-point home chalk vs Colorado St. Look out next week when the Bulldogs play Boise. As great as Hill’s team were against the big boys of college football they struggled mightily to compete with Boise. They’re 1-10 SU, 2-9 ATS against the Broncos since 2001. But that’s next week.
7.) San Jose St, 5-0 (4-1 SU)…San Jose nearly shocked the football world in Week One when the pushed Stanford to the brink before losing by three points. People probably have lost sight of these west coast Spartans since, but that would be too bad since they’re streaked to four straight up wins and covers. After back-to-back road wins against San Diego St and Navy–where they shut out the Middies–San Jose St is now 5-0 ATS this year. They’re 20th in total D and only allow 17.4 points per game. They’re off this week before a big showdown next week against Utah State. Not only does that look like a swing game in the watered down WAC race, its also a battle of two teams unbeaten against the spread this year. Hey, speaking of the Aggies….
8.) Utah State, 4-0-1 (4-1 SU)……Alright, so the Aggies arent perfect. They pushed against the -12 in a 31-19 win over Colorad State in Week 4. But, they still havent lost their backers any money this year, so rather than putting a 1-loss team in this top-10, we’re bypassing all those entrants for the Aggies, who at least remain unbeaten. In the straight up world, they would be undefeated too had they not derped a real makeable field goal at the buzzer on the road against Wisconsin. Nevertheless, they still covered the +14 with ease that evening. They also covered +7 in an outright win over Utah, their first over the rival Utes in years. The Aggies play more than solid D, ranking 19th in total defense and allowing just 14.2 points per game. They have a playmaking QB in Chuckie Keaton, whose insertion into the lineup to start 2011 has really turned around this downtrodden program’s fortunes. Before that shhowdown with San Jose St, they have some important business to take care of this weekend, travelling to Provo to play BYU on Friday night. Its a rare chance for the Aggies to sweep their bigger, more well-known Beehive State rivals and win the state championship. They’re +7.5 to the Cougars. I love the Aggies and will be be on them Friday night. After all, they have covered eight chances in row when installed as an underdog.
9.) Whoever Plays Virginia, 4-0-1, (3-2 SU)…….We hate to bring this up to Cav fans, but your squad is the only team that hasnt covered the spread at least once this year. Uh oh, this for sure means no beer, Cavalier. They beat Richmond in the opener 43-19, but that only pushed the -24 closing line. Since then, its been four straight games without a cover and only one straight up win. They couldnt cover the +10 in a 56-20 woodshed at the hands of Georgia Tech. They couldnt cover the +18 in a 27-7 loss to TCU. And, then last Saturday, La Tech dropped 44 points on them as UVA lost straight up and also couldnt cover against a WAC team a 3.5-point underdogs. How bad is it for UVA right now? They’ve not even favored this weekend against Duke. And its not basketball. Then again, the Dukies themselves are bucking for a spot in these rankings with a 4-1 SUATS mark in 2012. In a battle between one of the worst ATS teams and best ATS teams so far this season, its the surging Blue Devils that are 1.5-point favorites.
10.) Miami Overs, 4-0…..It’s hard to give a shout out to the Over machine the Hurricanes have become in 2012. We brought up these numbers yesterday during our sneak peak at the Week 6 lines, but they bear repeating. Their four games with a listed total–against BC, KState, Georgia Tech and NC State–have averaged 74.25 points per game and bested the Over by an average of 19.5 points. It helps when you’re getting really good QB play, have a pair of big play receivers and have a D that couldnt stop a JV team. But now this Over train faces its stiffest yet in the Irish, who have played games with 37, 23 and 19 total points against Purdue, MSU and Michigan already this year. One team is an Over machine, the other team has played three straight Unders in a row. Saturday night’s total is currently set at 51.5 points. Cue the something has to give cliches. To be fair, lets mention Baylor, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Ball State as teams who have gone Over the total (or pushed) in every game and Bowling Green and Michigan State, who have gone Under the total or pushed in every game this season.