Thursday, September 6, 2012

Vegas Rundown - Week 2

I hope I finally learned one important lesson last week, never bet against Nick Saban when he has extra time to prepare for a game. This lesson should have been learned last year when Alabama came back with extra prep time and handily beat LSU in the BCS Title Game, but somehow over the summer I forgot that. So, we won’t be making that mistake again here in our little piece of the World Wide Web.

In the honor of full transparency, I made the recommendation last week to take Notre Dame/Navy under at 55. However, when I meandered into my local sports book the number had dropped to 52.5. Yeah, I took the over at 52.5 and won some cash. A great reminder that you must keep in mind the line moves when you place your wagers. Between when I write this column, generally Wednesday night, and kickoff, lines could potentially move two or even three points. When the big Vegas players and the betting syndicates start firing off three and four thousand dollar wagers at every major book in town, the books take notice and lines adjust accordingly.

Anyway, here are my picks. Take them or leave them, I still don’t care.

Maryland Terrapins v. Temple Owls – Saturday, September 8, 9:00 PST – ESPNU (Temple, -10, O/U 46) 
Last year Maryland came out of the gates with a big win against Miami and played then 18th ranked West Virginia tough in Week 2. Then, in Week 3, they lost to Temple 38-7 at home, none-the-less, to add insult to injury. Last week, Maryland won a nail biter against Colonial Athletic Conference juggernaut William and Mary. I think this team has a motivation problem. With 15 starters returning from last year’s squad versus a Temple team with only 8 returning starters I think I am going to go with the underdog in this game in Maryland. If the Maryland players cannot get motivated to avenge last year’s humiliating loss then we should get ready to bet against them the rest of the season. However, for this game I am taking the 10 points and Maryland. The Pick: Maryland +10

North Carolina Tar Heels v. Wake Forest Demon Deacons, September 8, 12:00 PST – No TV Coverage (NC, -10.5, O/U 53) 
Tar Heel Head Coach Larry Fedora has his work cut out for him trying to motivate a team that is not eligible for post season play. However, last week North Carolina came out and took care of business against lowly Elon (62-0). The one take away from this game is that North Carolina did what good teams are expected to do and bury an inferior opponent early. Wake Forest on the other hand had difficulty putting away Liberty (20-17). Unlike my previous pick, where I discounted a rough week one, I think this may be the beginning of the end of the Little Engine That Could in upstart Wake Forest. Week 2 rarely offers few stats that define a matchup, so in this one I am going to go with college football guru Phil Steele’s prognostication for each team. He has the Tar Heels slated to win double digit games this season with a 12-0 record not out of the question. On the other hand he has the Demon Deacons staying home during bowl season. I will give the points and take the Heels. The Pick: North Carolina -10.5

Michigan Wolverines v. Air Force Falcons, September 8, 12:30 PST, ABC (Michigan, -21.5, O/U 62) 
So what happens when you spend eight months preparing to make your big splash against the defending national champs, only to realize you're not on the same level as them? Brady Hoke has a big job picking this team up and getting them ready to face a run oriented Air Force program. I think Michigan wins this game by double digits, but the line move from an opening of -20 to -21.5 is an indication that the public is convinced Michigan is going to bounce back immediately. I am not sure of where Michigan’s head is at, which opens up a good betting opportunity. With Denard Robinson's ribs bruised, look for fewer big plays from him rushing the ball and more passes from the pocket. He completed only 3 of 14 passes over 15 yards last week, certainly something the coaching staff wants to work on before heading into the Big 10 schedule. Also, the possible loss of starting DB Blake Countess may have some impact on the Wolverines' ability to stop the Falcons' rushing attack. Assignment football is critical in stopping this type of offense and having one of your starters out is a concern. I like the Falcons to cover the 21.5 points with Michigan winning the game easily but somewhere closer to 17. The Pick: Air Force +21.5

Ohio State Buckeyes v. Central Florida Knights, Saturday, September 8, 9:00 PST, ESPN 2 (Ohio State, -18, O/U 50.5) 
As much as I hate to say it as a Seminole fan, Urban Meyer gets things done. Ohio State could be looking at having a Rose Bowl caliber season without the fanfare of actually going to Pasadena due to their post-season suspension. I just don’t think that Central Florida has the talent to go to Columbus and keep this one close. Last week Ohio State destroyed a decent Miami (OH) team 56-10 while Central Florida put it to Akron 56-14. The difference in these games is that Akron could very well be the worst team in the FBS and Central Florida should have put up even bigger numbers (see the UNC pick earlier). This line opened at 14.5 and has moved to 18. In my mind this should not make a difference, the Buckeyes win this game easily by three touchdowns. The Pick: Ohio State -18 

Florida Gators v. Texas AM Aggies, Saturday, September 8, 12:30 PST, ESPN (Texas AM -1.5, O/U 50.5) 
As we saw with Houston’s embarrassing loss last weekend, coaching matters. And their former head coach Kevin Sumlin is now in College Station. However, learning new offensive and defensive schemes is a challenge even when you open the season with a lesser opponent. I think Florida’s perceived lack of defensive skill last week against Bowling Green State was due to a dialed back game plan. The Gator’s have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball and with this being the first game of the season for the Aggies, I'm taking the under. All we really have to go on is: Florida is talented on defense and we have not seen AM play under the new coach. So the under it is. The Pick: Under 50.5

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