WagerBop apologies to early-bird readers for mistakenly cutting our “title track” out of this weekend’s “album” of predictions. As a make-up gift for those who may well be scrolling 2x in disbelief, here’s TCU-Baylor right on top, followed by the usual spread of Thursday thru Saturday. ‘
TCU Horned Frogs at Baylor Bears (Saturday, November 19)
TCU in the top-5 makes a pleasant story, but it’s hard to know exactly how to take advantage of the Horned Frogs’ newfound (or revived) strength in “futures” odds outside of plain-vanilla bets on a Big 12 title, since the conference still lags so far behind other Power-5 leagues that picking Texas Christian to win the College Football Playoff is a total Moon-shot.
That leaves game-odds as the only path, and it’ll be interesting to see if the legendary “119 point” shoot-out’s memory still lingers enough in Baylor-TCU’s fan-consciousness that an Over/Under (57.5) line expands by Saturday. But we’re interested more in the point spread, which gives the Horned Frogs only a (-2.5) point edge over the 6-4 Bears.
It’s a rare case of the “recreational” pick behind right for the wrong reasons. We recommend picking TCU’s spread before it can widen beyond a FG margin, but not because the Horned Frogs are 10-0 and Baylor is 6-4. Rather, the Bears go into Senior Night with only a single memorable win at home all season, October’s victory over guest Kansas. KSU demolished the Bears on the same field last weekend, and Baylor’s win over Oklahoma must be taken in view of OU’s big issues.
Pick: TCU (-152) or ATS
Whew-ee! Did WagerBop ever have some close calls while squeaking-out a decent week of pigskin picks. Georgia Southern and Louisiana fell a half-point below the O/U total after going crazy late in the 1st half, which is just as good as a 20-point win from a traditional betting POV, but far harder on the nerves. New Mexico needed a rare fumble inside-the-20 from Air Force to grab a field goal and add just enough to the point total to exceed the O/U line and fulfill our prediction. Little did we know that a pivotal (pivotal for WagerBop and for the teams involved) Oregon-Washington scrum would begin slowly, make like a “Baylor-TCU” 100+ point game in the 3rd quarter, then finally, somehow, manage to settle down and once again win for our pick on a close-shave.
Those close-call wins on Las Vegas lines are why so many veteran football handicappers talk about “the number” so obsessively. (“Three and a half? I don’t like the number.”) The problem with worrying about a sportsbook’s numbers first and foremost is that system-style gamblers don’t always relate their all-important bits of information to a common-sense look at the game itself.
For instance, the worst betting mistake Tony Soprano ever made (there were a bunch of them on the TV show) was to pick against Miami’s point spread because the kicker wasn’t “feeling 100%.” Heck, if Tony would have been more keyed-into modern analytics, he’d know an NFL team is just as likely to cover the spread by going for 4th-down conversions on the 40-yard line due to a short-ranged kicker. Sure, a lame kicker is a long-term problem. But that was “information” and a “number” that Tony never should have bit on.
WagerBop maintains that a 60%+ plus betting record involves a lot of run-away wins and not too many nail-biters, or at least a .500 record on the nail-biter outcomes and a 75% record on the decisive scores. Where can we look on this week’s college football calendar to avoid the stress of casino-finishes?
It’s not always best to start with the unpredictable AAC. But any time a Top 25 team is only a (-3) favorite at home against an unranked program, that’s the kind of a point spread that practically cries-out to be investigated.
SMU Mustangs at Tulane Green Wave (Thursday, November 17)
Southern Methodist sits below conference rival Tulane in league and overall standings, and owns the 2nd-from-last ranked defense in the American Athletic Conference. So why is SMU only a (+3) underdog against #21 Tulane on the road? Just look at the last few weeks – and the rising momentum in Big D.
Nope, the Dallas Cowboys aren’t the only Metroplex brand that’s potentially headed for a banner season on the gridiron. SMU hasn’t lost since falling to Cincinnati 29-27 in an October barn-burner. QB Tanner Mordecai is on a “Biblical” senior hot streak that carried the high-motor Mustangs to victory in their own “Baylor vs TCU” variety of scrap against Houston, a 77-63 win in which the signal-caller tossed an instant-legend 9 touchdown passes. Lest forgetting to mention, SMU played the actual TCU pretty well in defeat.
Tulane had its own winning streak kyboshed in Orlando last week, as UCF overcome a modest passing day against the Green Wave to dominate on Read-Option carries and Jet-motion looks, QB John Rhys Plumlee taking the honors on a majority of carries (and TDs) with Isaiah “Koopa Troopa” Bowser as his foil. Tulane’s defense maintains a firmer reputation than SMU’s porous unit, exponentially more-so following the Wave’s splash into the AAC race. That explains the O/U (64.5) point-total line on Thursday night’s kickoff, a conservative number of sorts for a bout between sugar-huddle foes.
WagerBop recommends – paradoxically – either Tulane against-the-spread or the Under – not the Over – total points. That’s not an orthodox betting pattern, but Tulane’s most favorable game plan is practically spelled-out for the Big Easy school prior to the battle getting underway. Tulane, rushing for close to 200 yards-per-game this season already, must attack SMU’s lousy run defense instead of letting the Mustangs tee-off and pressure the pocket. Tulane will attempt to run the clock for long stretches on key drives, and yet it’s also undeniable that the Green Wave needs TDs to win, and its coaches know that. Percentage picks often rely on a team’s urgency to go ahead by 7+ points. Emotionally speaking, Tulane badly wants a rebound on Senior Night.
WagerBop’s Picks: Tulane ATS (-3) or Under (64.5)
San Diego State Aztecs at New Mexico Lobos (Friday, November 18)
New Mexico’s (+14.5) underdog’s point spread is a line weighed between 2 extremes. UNM looked all-too-typically out of gas against Air Force last weekend, a dull and slow offense paired with a defense short on bodies. Motivation, needless to say, is also in short supply for a team with 3 blow-out losses and a rivalry defeat in the immediate rear-view mirror. Any team in Division 1 is capable of a rally on Senior Night against 3-star opposition. However, is the bough going to break with a snoozer-cover for SDSU?
San Diego State may not be the candidate to tack a final embarrassment on UNM’s poor season. This Friday night is an hour for High School playoff games, and Friday Night Lights teaches us that a pitifully mediocre group often cares enough to hang around against a plodding offense, even if a defeat is ultimately in the cards. It’s the lack of point-scoring that stands out vs weaker rivals. San Diego State’s “high-scoring” win over San Jose State from Week 11 could prove to have been a mirage, as the Aztecs were aided by special-teams heroics and tired SJSU defenders who already qualified for bowl eligibility at 6 wins, and who can’t catch Fresno State in the MWC due to having lost to the Bulldogs. Failing that contest, SDSU has been sluggish in victory and defeat, leading FanDuel Sportsbook and others to offer-up a sub-40 O/U line for Friday.
SDSU has proven that it can control the ball, the game, and the scoreboard against vulnerable league opponents. That’s great for the Aztecs, but not for bettors who pick San Diego State to cover 2 TDs. Friday night’s superior pick may anticipate fiery UNM defense early-on, and little else worthy of note.
WagerBop’s Pick: New Mexico (+7) (1st Half Spread Proposition Pick) (-110)
Georgia Bulldogs at Kentucky Wildcats (Saturday, November 19)
Kentucky is not a Senior Night host (and isn’t handicapped like one), with the homestanding Wildcats scheduled to welcome Louisville on Rivalry Weekend. Perhaps UK’s point-spread number would be less pessimistic at (+22.5) vs college football’s unbeaten defending champs, if the Wildcats weren’t A) qualified for bowl-season already at 6-4 overall, B) coming off a truly embarrassing 24-21 loss to Vanderbilt, and C) taking on a Georgia Bulldogs squad that manufactured its best win of 2022-23 so far at UT on 11/5.
WagerBop has warned about the danger of picking favorites-to-cover points at the top of the team’s “market value” wavelength, such as when the Kent State Golden Flashes looked like the Group-of-5’s new giant killer after fighting Georgia for 4 quarters in a hard-won win for the Dawgs. Since then, KSU has been defeated by the Miami RedHawks, and blown-out by Toledo. Not that Georgia’s powerhouse CFP contender is a good parallel comparison with its Week 3 victim, but being #1 doesn’t disqualify a team from Saturday norms.
UGA is coming off a pair of unexpectedly easy wins in key SEC match-ups, and must now travel to take on the most physical lineup that Kirby Smart’s team faces away from the Hedges in a year of otherwise-manageable road trips. Kentucky was blown-out by Tennessee in mid-season, but the UK Wildcats match-up better against fellow smash-mouth teams, and have a victory over Florida and an outstanding defensive performance vs Ole Miss on the 2022 record. Kentucky is poised for a big effort to try to wash away Week 11.
WagerBop’s Pick: Kentucky (+22.5)
Miami Hurricanes at Clemson Tigers (Saturday, November 19)
The retooled Clemson Tigers (-19.5) are considered a national championship hopeful again, which would be a huge ACC story in a normal week. Sadly, the unfathomable murders in Charlottesville make Week 12 anything but normal.
The ACC is enduring a tragedy that makes the Las Vegas Raiders’ 2021-22 season seem like a manageable crisis in comparison. FanDuel Sportsbook has pointedly left Virginia’s upcoming games out of the site’s CFB betting markets for now, and perhaps joins WagerBop in a belief that UVA should not attempt to perform on the gridiron until at least Thanksgiving and possibly bowl season, which could easily make room for UVA in December, even at merely 3 wins.
Vince McMahon’s “PPV main event” after the death of pro wrestler Owen Hart is still considered a black mark on combat sports – real and fictional – decades later. The NFL’s hideous move to keep on playing following the assassination of JFK is now infamously known as “The Day They Played Football.” Virginia’s grieving student body can’t afford the distraction of bad public relations. Football must be put on the back-burner until emotions start to heal.
We also recommend not placing any bets on east-coast pigskin that reflect the football community’s grief in any way. Yes, the memory of 3 fallen Cavaliers could cause players to show up sad, distracted, or inspired to pay tribute on Saturday. Betting on an “Over/Under” line with the prediction of a sloppy, subdued game or an inspired contest is still tasteless, and not worth the churning in a gambler’s stomach that could occur later. There are plenty of alternative chances to beat the bookmaker and win picks this weekend.
Picking against Miami at Clemson, however, is not a matter of players’ mental states this weekend in particular. Miami has played like a distracted, disenchanted side against most of its upper-tier opponents this autumn, save for North Carolina. The “U” going from a classic shoot-out vs FSU and an easy win over Duke in 2021-22 to falling easily to both teams in 2022-23 should help illustrate just how precarious the Hurricanes’ 5-5 record truly is.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has a serious, realistic side beneath his feel-good “all up in the locker room, dancin'” persona, and the veteran CEO’s wisdom will be especially helpful to the ACC as the league looks to heal each distraught campus and move forward into the postseason. But for the #9 ranked Tigers, Swinney’s down-to-Earth angle will come into play this week as the coach watches film of Miami and sees a visitor that’s ripe for a 40-point TKO.
Swinney also knows that a lopsided win over another name-brand rival could go a long way toward earning Clemson enough CFP votes when the time comes.
WagerBop’s Pick: Clemson ATS (-19.5)
Stanford Cardinal at California Golden Bears (Saturday, November 19)
It’s amazing that announcer Joe Starkey is not quite finished calling the Big Game between California and Stanford, 40 years after making what could be the most epic play-by-play call in – as Starkey call itself said – “the history of college football.” But oh, if the band could only run onto the field to help either Stanford or California’s current lineups, who’re responsible for just 6 combined overall victories and a gag-worthy total of 2 combined Pac-12 wins in 2022.
Stanford (+4.5) still plays with a prodigiously high ceiling on defense, but like the Eagles of Boston College, must also rely on everything going right for the other 2 units. California’s not going anywhere fast with the football throughout the Bears’ painful long-term losing streak. But while those factors call a healthy (45.5) Las Vegas point-total line into question, it’s harder to understand why California isn’t a pick’em amidst a 6-game skid on virtual “neutral” turf.
WagerBop’s Picks: Stanford ATS (+4.5) or Under (45.5)
Oklahoma State Cowboys at Oklahoma Sooners (Saturday, November 19)
Lastly, we’re also skeptical of Saturday evening’s (-7.5) point spread on the Oklahoma Sooners. Bedlam just happens to fall on OU’s Senior Night this season, and Oklahoma might just have its best chance to earn 6+ wins and salvage bowl-eligibility in Week 12 with Texas Tech next on the ledger. Conversely, a 6-win season is still considered a monumental let-down for a program of Oklahoma’s caliber, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a 6-6 Oklahoma team choose to skip the “Lime Bowl” and stay home on Xmas.
Oklahoma State’s road record may be the most pitiful of any NCAA team receiving Top 25 accolades. But the circumstances of OK State’s horrible road swing through Kansas can’t be overlooked, as a solid club which slumps in midseason often loses 2 games back-to-back by surprisingly foul scores. Oklahoma is on a losing streak of its own. The celebrated transfer QB Dillon Gabriel was bailed-out by a massive performance from RB Eric Gray last Saturday, and yet the Red Zone-inefficient Sooners lost 23-20. It won’t be routine to generate so many yards from scrimmage vs 2022’s improved Oklahoma State defense, to say nothing of converting for touchdowns.
WagerBop’s Pick: Oklahoma State ATS (+7.5)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.