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 14 of the 2015/16 NCAAF season…
(Handicap is denoted by +/- for the home team)
BOISE STATE at SAN JOSE STATE
(+7.5, Total Points 58)
Boise State have a problem. They can’t defend teams with a triple option attack. They are 1-3 against teams who use such a diverse scheme.
The Broncos were overturned 37-30 by Air Force last week, meaning they had lost home games in consecutive weeks for the first time since 1989, having earlier dropped a 31-24 decision to the New Mexico Lobos. It is also the first time they have lost two consecutive conference games on the blue turf.
The Broncos allowed 271 yards passing against New Mexico and then 279 against Air Force. The Falcons racked up 607 total yards.
There were some positives. Receiver Thomas Sperbeck set the Boise State record for single receiving yards, breaking the mark set by former Detroit Lions wideout Titus Young in 2010.
The San Jose State Spartans will have added incentive to beat Boise State this week, as they will gain bowl eligibility after beating Hawaii 42-23 before the smallest UH crowd in the history of Aloha Stadium.
Spartans’ attack is based on the speedy and versatile Tyler Ervin, who has rushed 253 times from 1,417 yards and 13 touchdowns, and QB Kenny Potter, who has completed 144-of-210 passes for 1,559 yards and 11 TDs to four interceptions in his six starts. He has also rushed for 300 yards and six TDs.
The Spartans are No.1 in the nation against the pass (149.6 yards per game), but rank 109th against the run (207.9 ypg).
Let’s keep this simple: the Broncos’ attack should keep the SJSU defense on their heels and extend their 11-0 record against the Spartans, especially if receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes returns from an ankle injury. It might not be as close as the line would indicate.
BEST BET: BOISE STATE -7.5 @ 1.92
TEXAS TECH at TEXAS
(-1.5, Total Points 72.5)
For most of College Football, this is rivalry week. After Texas A&M left the Big 12 in following the 2011-12 season, Texas has had no real ‘derby’ opponent.
Texas Tech (6-5) does not represent an intense rivalry, since Texas (4-6) has a 49-15 series edge, having won all but two games since 1999. So this is just another game for the Burnt Orange, who face a distant cousin – a loud and annoying one at that.
Fans have not bought into this void, with poor attendance in each of the last two years. They would sooner stay at home and be with their families on Black Friday. Baylor would be a more natural rivalry opponent for the Longhorns, but we digress.
Texas should be a firm favourite had it not been for injuries to their power rushing attack, which will limit what they can do. D’Onta Foreman, who has looked a top talent, is likely to miss the game after surgery on a little finger, picked up in defeat at West Virginia.
Senior running back Jonathan Gray is also unlikely to play with a turf toe injury. Offensive guard Patrick Vahe is also ruled out, having picked up a knee injury in Morgantown.
Still, the Red Raiders’ porous defense should mean this is a high-scoring encounter and the pressure is off the Red Raiders, who are bowl eligible. They defeated Kansas State 59-44 to become eligible and snapped a three-game skid in the process.
We still fancy the Longhorns to come through and give some hope to beleaguered head coach Charlie Strong some respite. He is a good coach and hopefully his rebuilding programme will take a step forward next season.
BEST BET: TEXAS -1.5 @ 2.00
IOWA at NEBRASKA
(+1.5, Total Points 57.5)
This promises to be a fiercely contested clash, with Nebraska (5-6) looking to become bowl eligible and Iowa (11-0) looking to remain unbeaten ahead of the Big Ten title game.
Nebraska has lost several close games and has a couple of strange losses on it seasonal cv, but the Cornhuskers are on a two-game winning streak.
Mike Riley’s team are the only ones to have beaten Michigan State and they have a chance to be the only team to beat the two who will contest the Big Ten championship.
The Hawkeyes could get into the playoff at 12-1 with a Big Ten title win, even if they lose here. It is certainly a possibility but, should they lose, they must hope that Notre Dame loses to Stanford.
Yet we reckon one of only two teams to remain unbeaten – Clemson is the other – by winning this week.
Turnovers have plagued Nebraska, while Iowa has played solid, ball-control offense. They are not explosive, but are well coached and concede few penalties. They thrive on the ground and pass only when they have to.
Nebraska has had issues with defending the ball deep, but it has been good against the run, not allowing over 150 yards on the ground all season. In game when conceding over 100 yards on the ground, they are 1-6.
The biggest question is whether or not Nebraska can play mistake-free football. If they can they have a chance of a major win and will go bowling. The Huskers have won five of the last six at home against Iowa, who have never won on back-to-back visits.
It won’t be pretty but the Hawkeyes should get the job done and create a little bit of history.
BEST BET: IOWA -1.5 @ 1.92
NAVY at HOUSTON
(-1.5, Total Points 57.5)
Houston’s (10-1) ninth-ranked offense, which averages 41.09 points per game, takes on No.16-ranked Navy Midshipmen in a cracking match-up, which can be seen live on BT Sports.
The winner will host the AAC Champipnship game against the East division representative, which will either be Temple (9-2) or South Florida (7-4).
The Midshpman (9-1) have found their groove on the ground, averaging 361.4 rushing yards during the past five games.
And their pass defense has been solid as well, albeit against modest opposition, averaging 235.6 yards per tilt. They are aiming to win the American Athletic Conference championship in its first season as a member, and are beating conference opponents by an average score of 40-18.
Houston’s pass defense is similarly stout, averaging 237.4 yards in their last five outings and their special teams play has been good, too, notably in the return game, with a 110.6 return yards per game average.
Houston lost a close one to Connecticut 20-17 last week while Navy routed Tulsa 44-21.
The Cougars have an efficient passer in Greg Ward Jr, who has 2,194 yards and 13 TDs, but he missed last week’s game with an ankle injury.
QB Keenan Reynolds has got Navy off to its best start since 1963, with 18 rushing touchdowns in 2015.
He has 82 TDs in his 46-game college career for an average of 1.78 rushing TDs per game, which puts him second in FBS history behind Steve Owens (Oklahoma 1967-69), who had a 1.839 TD per game average in 31 games.
Significantly, Reynolds is ahead of O.J. Simpson (1.636 average – 36 TDs/22G), Marshall Faulk (1.629 average – 57 TDs/35G) and Barry Sanders (1.600 – 48TDs/30G). There is no question Reynolds should be under consideration for the Heisman Trophy.
Houston may have the edge in preparation time. Navy had to fly back and forth from Oklahoma, then turn around and go to Texas on a short week. It puts them at a disadvantage.
While Houston’s run defense is allowing just over 188 yards per game, Navy’s ground game is a different animal entirely from the spread passing teams that do not usually emphasise the run.
We see Navy pulling away in the fourth quarter and having the ability to grind out the clock.
BEST BET: NAVY +1.5 @2.00
OHIO STATE at MICHIGAN
(-1.5, Total Points 47)
Ohio State’s loss to the Michigan State Spartans last week was a setback, not only because it all but saw their hopes of a national championship die, but because the programme’s seemingly invincible image took a shot.
Getting one over on superstar coach and a Michigan programme that is once again relevant would go a long way to helping recruitment.
Michigan has been made a favourite just once in the last 10 meetings with the Buckeyes, who lost as a 14.5-point favourite to the Spartans, who were without their starting quarterback.
Ohio State is 10-1 and 8-3 against the handicap in its last 11 meetings with the Wolverines (9-2), who also lost to the Spartans on the last play of their contest a month ago.
The Buckeyes were ranked third in the playoff rankings until their 17-14 loss to the Spartans.
There is still plenty at stake for Ohio State. They could still make the Big Ten title game for a third straight year with a combination of a win at Michigan and a loss by Michigan State at Penn State later in the day.
There is little between these two powerhouses. Tune in to watch if you want a festive feeling – snow is forecast and as a result, the scoring could be on the low side.
This is already factored into the points total line. We think there could be a few errors, particularly with run blocking, so we take the Buckeyes with the points, with the total points eclipsing the current line.
BEST BET: OVER 47 POINTS @ 2.00
PENN STATE at MICHIGAN STATE
(-10.5, Total Points 46.5)
After upsetting unbeaten Ohio State, despite an injury to QB Connor Cook, the Spartans can wrap up a spot in the Big Ten championship game with a victory. A win for Penn State will send either Michigan or Ohio State into the title game.
Michigan State’s biggest weakness is their shaky secondary, so they will need pressure up front on QB Christian Hackenberg, who has been sacked 36 times this season. He does have the ability to hurt the Spartans deep, however.
Hackenberg holds the Penn State career records for passing (8,061), TD passes (46), completions (663), attempts (1,182) and total offense (7,818). The Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten with 33 plays of 30 yards or more.
Michigan State could also be without QB Connor Cook, who missed last week’s upset with an ankle injury. Tyler O’Connor only managed to throw seven passes against Ohio State, so you have to wonder if the Spartans don’t get much going on the ground, will they trust their back-up passer to win the game for them.
Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib, who had to sit out the 28-16 loss to the Michigan Wolverines on senior day, may well return – and when fit, he is vital to the Lions. If he doesn’t it is hard to see Penn State covering the handicap, much less improving head coach James Franklin’s 0-18 record against end-of-season top-25 teams.
BEST BET: MICHIGAN STATE -10.5 @ 1.80
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