MyClubBetting handicapper and Lindy’s Sports UK Editor Simon Milham takes a look at the betting trends and some of the best bets ahead of Week 5 of the 2015/16 NCAAF season…
(Handicap is denoted by +/- for the home team)
SAN JOSE STATE at AUBURN
(-19.5, Total Points 55)
Auburn failed to bounce back from their loss at LSU two weeks ago, falling to an alarming 17-9 defeat by Mississippi State last weekend as a 1.5-point favourite.
The demotion of quarterback Jeremy Johnson in favour of Sean White was not altogether a surprise, as Johnson had been struggling. Yet he handled that benching with class and if he sorts out his accuracy issues, he still has a future with the Tigers.
Auburn moved the ball well but had issues in the red zone, failing to score a touchdown, and while White was having his first experience in college, much less starting, he handled the occasion well. The moment was not too big for him and we expect him to blossom as he becomes more comfortable.
Running back Peyton Barber has been the focus of Auburn’s attack and he is a workhorse whom they will rely upon against San Jose State.
The Spartans are 20-point dogs and will travel across country for the £1.6million cheque they receive for taking their beating.
However, they will fancy their chances. Auburn was a 40-point favourite over Jacksonville State and needed overtime to get past them.
Make no mistake, there are plenty of growing pains for Auburn’s coaches to overcome and the Spartans won’t be overawed, even after last year’s 59-13 pummelling by the Tigers.
Still, we see this is the ideal sub-division foe fillip for Auburn, who are a confident pick to cover the spread.
BEST BET: AUBURN -19.5 @ 1.92
PITTSBURGH at VIRGINIA TECH
(-4.5, Total Points 51)
Penalties. Yellow flags. Baby yellow ghosts. They have haunted Virginia Tech in their opening three games as they head into their first ACC game of the season.
The Hokies were flagged 11 times for 89 yards in their 35-28 loss to East Carolina last weekend, their third consecutive game of 10 or more penalties, a first in Frank Beamer’s 29 seasons as coach.
They are the most penalised team at 85 yards per game, which ranks 119th among 127 Bowl Subdivision teams.
Clean games guarantee little. Central Florida are 0-4 and are the Bowl Subdivision’s second-lease penalised team. In 2000, Florida State reached the national championship game and were the most penalised team in ACC football history. Oregon advanced to the title game last year, despite ranking 115th in penalty yards.
Yet it does show a sign of pressing too hard, indiscipline or a combination of both. Either way, it makes life harder to win.
Virginia Tech will have to face Pitt without cornerback Kendal Fuller (knee) and running back Shai McKenzie. They will also miss middle linebacker Sean Huelskamp for the first half, as he was ejected in the fourth quarter of the ECU defeat. Fellow linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka is expected to return just two weeks after spraining an MCL in his left knee.
Pittsburgh have been unsettled at quarterback but Tennessee transfer Nate Peterman appears to have secured the role for the time being.
They are also missing a great running back in James Connor, the 2014 ACC Player of the Year, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in a 45-37 win over Youngstown State. He will be replaced by a committee of Darrin Hall, Chris James and Qadree Ollison.
Pitt defeated the Akron Zips 24-7 last week but the running game has been struggling and they are playing a third away game in succession. That will take its toll.
We will side with the Hokies to cover the handicap in a game where the score may be lower than the current line.
BEST BET: VIRGINIA TECH -4.5 @ 1.90
WEST VIRGINIA at OKLAHOMA
(-6.5, Total Points 58.5)
In a battle of unbeaten teams, West Virginia travel to Norman, Oklahoma, to take on the Sooners in the Big 12 conference opener for both schools.
Both teams are 3-0 and both have outstanding quarterbacks. West Virginia is anchored by Skyler Howard, a junior college transfer who is 58-of-84 passing for 916 yards. He has tossed nine touchdowns and only one interception. He is also a threat on the ground.
Oklahoma passer Baker Mayfield ranks second among FBS players in points responsible for per game (28.0) and third in total offense (400.3 yards). The Sooners also have a bruising rusher in Samaje Perine, who ran for 242 yards and four touchdowns in last season’s 45-33 victory over the Mountaineers.
No.15 ranked Oklahoma allowed 31 first downs and over 600 yards of total offense against Tulsa just over a week ago – and 427 of those yards were through the air.
That is worry news against an attack that has relied heavily on passing, but the Mountaineers running game needs to be productive. They finally got things going on the ground last week against Maryland, with junior back Wendell Smallwood sharing he load with Rushel Shell and a handful of other backs, as they compiled a season-high 304 rushing yards.
The arrival of the N0.23-ranked Mountaineers is a stiff test for Bob Stoops’ team, despite the lowly level of competition they have faced thus far. They are executing Dana Holgorsen’s offense well and have run the ball nearly 50 times more than they have passed.
Where Oklahoma can cause some damage is on the ground. West Virginia’s defence has allowed only one rushing touchdown this season, but opponents have been forced to play catch-up through the air. If there is a chink, it is that opposing running backs are allowing an average of four yards per carry.
This may well be the best West Virginia side that Oklahoma has faced since the 2007 Fiesta Bowl and the Sooners are in for a dogfight.
It should be a great game to watch and we side with the Mountaineers with the points, even though their run defence has big questions to answer.
BEST BET: WEST VRGINIA +6.5 @ 2.00
LOUISVILLE at NC STATE
(-4.5, Total Points 50.5)
Louisville has lost five of the last six games when it has been a dog, including a 31-24 loss at Auburn and a 20-17 defeat against Clemson earlier this season. They did, however, cover the spread in three of those five games, including both defeats this term.
While the Cardinals have taken their lumps this season against Auburn, Huston and Clemson, the North Carolina State Wolfpack have built their 4-0 record against the likes of Troy, Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominion and South Alabama. Hardly a murderers’ row.
After routing Samford 45-3 to go 1-3 on the season, they go into this clash in confident mood.
NC State have padded their numbers against lesser opposition. They are ranked No.3 in total defence (205.8 yards per game) and run defence (45.9ypg). Opponents are averaging just 2.1 yards per carry.
This are pretty much the same defensive unit that went down 30-18 to Louisville in 2014, but they appear to have improved significantly, allowing only 26 plays of 10 yards or more in their four games.
The Wolfpack’s running attack is averaging 259 yards per game behind the combination of Matt Dayes and Shadrach Thornton.
Louisville have something of a quarterback controversy, with freshman Lamar Jackson and Reggie Bonnafon vying for the role. Both are excellent runners and neither are easy to defend.
Jackson has speed and incredible football instincts. He will start against NC State. He broke a 41-year-old school record last week, rushing for 14 yards. He also threw for 212 yards.
We feel Louisville are a better team than their record suggests and that NC State will face their first real test of the season and may well struggle to cover the number.
BEST BET: LOUISVILLE +4.5 @ 1.91
HAWAII at BOISE STATE
(-24.5, Total Points 50.5)
Hawaii were thumped 28-0 by 19th-ranked Wisconsin last week and they look sure to take a few more lumps against a surprising Boise State Broncos team that went to Virginia and came away with a 56-14 victory.
BSU are on the upswing. Head coach Bryan Harsin has done a remarkable job since replacing Chris Petersen, energising the program and attracting some big-name recruits.
The Broncos have a very deep defensive line and they also have seven seniors, which means opposing attacks are going to wear down, just as Virginia did last week.
While they dropped a close game to BYU in the last second, quarterback Brett Rypien looked good in making quick decisions against Virginia, but he will be pressured by a marauding Hawaii defence, whose strength is at the linebacker position. Rypien was sacked four times last week and BSU still have a few protection issues to overcome.
They also have to get better in third-down situations.
Hawaii (2-2) lost at Oklahoma and Wisconsin, but they should not be underestimated. After all, they did beat Colorado in their home opener and the Buffaloes have since shown they are not a bad outfit.
The Broncos and Warriors know each other well and while the Broncos should win comfortably, we expect Hawai’i to give a good account of themselves. They can keep within the number.
BEST BET: HAWAII +24.5 @ 1.91
NOTRE DAME at CLEMSON
(+1, Total Points 54)
Unbeaten Notre Dame (4-0) take their highly-ranked team to Clemson, who are on an 11-game home-winning streak, in arguably the top college game this weekend.
Clemson (3-0) has not played since a Thursday night game at Louisville on September 17, which has caused the Tigers to slip to No.12 in the Associated Press rankings. The 16-day lay-off, which is the longest in the program history since 1918, means there has been plenty of time to formulate a gameplan to face the sixth-ranked Fighting Irish.
This should be a classic match-up between Clemson’s secondary and Notre Dame’s talented receivers, who are big and fast. Will Fuller has 22 catches for 454 yards (a 20.64 yards per catch average) and six touchdowns, so the key for the Tigers’ defence will be to shorten the field and prevent the Irish from getting big chunks of yardage that will quieten the fans in Death Valley.
The Irish have started the season 4-0 for the third time in four years and with games against Navy and USC upcoming, this stretch could define them.
Notre Dame picked up a big win over Georgia Tech, but the Yellow Jackets subsequently lost to Duke – so how good are they really?
Clemson will rely on their defence to keep it close and for their sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has completed 74 percent of his passes this season, to win it for them. He is used to the big stage, having almost guided Clemson to a shock win over Florida State in Tallahassee last season and has competed against Georgia, NC State, Georgia Tech and South Carolina.
This is a massive test for the Fighting Irish and we see them sneaking a home win by a narrow margin.
BEST BET: CLEMSON +1 @ 1.91
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