We usually don’t use weekly intros to soapbox, but rather to introduce overall betting angles to think about when preparing a round of picks. This time, though, the 2 genres are kind of connected.
Alabama should absolutely not be a 5th-ranked team after losing to an unranked school with a .500 record like Texas A&M. It’s not so much about “SEC bias” or even Power-5 bias, because you’d shudder to think what would happen to Kentucky or Ole Miss if they opened with a win streak, then lost to a program ranked as low as the Aggies.
Nothing against Texas A&M, of course, or even Alabama, which passes the “eye test” as a potential 2021-22 CFP squad on offense and special teams, but clearly needs some work on defense. It’s just weird to have a brand with such a devastating loss sticking so doggedly to the national-title picture without even a week of #7 or #8 AP poll numbers in the interim. College Football Playoff committee members are proud to hold 1 very marked difference of opinion with at least this blogger – they operate on scouting reports and injury prognostications in addition to analysis of on-field outcomes.
At least the infamous “BCS computer” never so much as said, “Hey, Miami has a superior record to Florida State this season, but I really think when the linebackers get healthy FSU will be a better group in January, so here’s a #5 ranking for FSU.”
Such “objective opining” from Ox Y. Moron and the self-contradictory CFP board is coldly rejected in Las Vegas, where bookmakers have no problem casting Alabama or Clemson or Ohio State as an underdog if the team is performing like a mid-tier brand. Right?
Perhaps not. Some of college football’s point spreads for Week 7 seem to have been handicapped by people who forgot that 2021 is the Wild West in college football, and expect everything to revert to the ordinary very soon.
Georgia and Kentucky have the most exaggerated in-conference spread between Top 15 teams that I can remember outside of spreads attached to Alabama’s best lineups vs finesse offenses early in a season. Especially when you consider that defense will be each SEC team’s go-to calling card down the home stretch. But before we get to the Dawgs and ‘Cats, here’s a look at some other ‘dogs who’re getting too many points in Week 7.
FBS Week 7 Lines, Previews, and Picks
October 14th: Navy Midshipmen at Memphis Tigers
Academy plebes have enjoyed watching epic Navy wins over the Memphis Tigers at the Liberty Bowl. But the average football played by Annapolis early in the 2021 season has Navy cast as a (+10.5) point spread underdog in the Home of the Blues.
Does Memphis require a second opinion as a towering double-digit favorite against a 1-4 Navy team? The Memphis Tigers are scoring TDs in the Red Zone with as healthy a run game as you’ll find in the AAC. Memphis tailbacks are averaging around 5 YPC and starter Brandon Thomas has scored 6 times on the young season. QB Seth Henigan has also been efficient enough despite a less than ideal completion rate of 60.5%.
But despite some offensive positives, the Memphis defense has been poor in almost every outing this season. The Tigers allowed Tulsa over 200 rushing yards in a 35-29 loss in Week 6 and are coming into Thursday’s kickoff on a 3-game losing streak that includes OOC opponent UTSA. Navy has shown enough flashes of improvement on offense to score 25+ points on the Tiger defense, and as the Middies get better with the ball, look for the improved athleticism of Navy’s D to put pressure on the Memphis offense.
Recommended bet: Navy (+10.5)
October 15th: California Golden Bears at Oregon Ducks
Oregon’s visit from California provides yet another case in which handicappers are focused on the wrong team.
Obviously, a big question on the media’s mind is whether Oregon has the emotional toughness under coach Mario Cristobal to snap back from a crushing upset loss to Stanford in the Ducks’ last outing.
There’s been 2 weeks for the shock to wear off, however, and Oregon is now welcoming play-makers back to the lineup. It seems wiser to focus on California’s ability to frustrate a hard-hitting offense in the 1st half instead of Oregon’s past woes.
Despite opening the year at 1-4, Cal (+13.5) has had a few impressive showings on defense. The Golden Bears held Nevada to 66 rushing yards, stood tall at the LOS in an overtime loss to Washington, and limited Washington State’s passing game in Week 6. However, the Bears chronically can’t cash sustained drives and have even failed to cover ATS against Sacramento State by not capitalizing on a 1st-half advantage.
Ideally, Anthony Brown would face fewer 2nd-and-9 situations than what Friday’s game will present. Bookmakers are taking the correct angle with a cautious (53.5) O/U line, but it’s not enough of an adjustment from the usual “Oregon vs Underdog” number.
Look for the Ducks’ ground game to work into plus territory followed by mishaps and field goal attempts, while California’s chances to score TDs diminish as the scrum wears on.
Recommended bet: Under (53.5)
October 16th: UCF Knights at Cincinnati Bearcats
FanDuel Sportsbook clients were offered the chance to bet on marquee NFL and FBS dates well ahead of time in 2021, and they even got to wager (if desired) on point spreads for late-autumn games between teams with 5-10 other match-ups to go in the interim. Those wagers are risky for gamblers, but they can invite losses for a sportsbook too. For instance, how would you like to have a Cincinnati (-3) betting slip for the Bearcats’ contest with visiting UCF?
Cincinnati-UCF’s point spread is taking (-20.5) points from the Top 5 ranked host. Devout fans of the American Athletic Conference could never have dreamed that Central Florida would be a 3-touchdown underdog against anyone in 2021-22, let alone against an opponent UCF beat 3 times straight before losing by a field goal apiece in the last 2 meetings. The Knights have been devalued in Las Vegas after coughing up Navy’s only win of the season, but does that angle overlook other, more positive results?
Chris Petersen, the former Boise State coach, liked to say that margin-of-victory didn’t affect a Group-of-5 team’s national prospects. But this is 2021, and Cincy’s Luke Haskell has no such illusions. Cincinnati will try to win by as many points as it can, even against opponents like UCF who are capable of taking revenge for mop-up TDs in years to come. But a wide-open style might not fit the bill even if Cincinnati’s #1 goal is to impress the CFP committee.
A 35-0 defeat of Central Florida would stamp the Bearcat defense as perhaps the best unit in America, while a 61-34 win would have the pigskin media calling Haskell’s team flashy and flaky. If optics come into play against a conference rival that’s beaten Boise State this year, it is most likely to involve Cincinnati coffin-corner punting to preserve another shut-out of a strong rival.
Recommended bet: Under (57.5)
October 16th: Kentucky Wildcats at Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia fans who watched their beloved Dawgs struggle to score on an indifferent Clemson team in Week 1 might have wondered if the Bulldogs would fall short again in ’21. Since then, UGA has steamrolled a series of SEC opponents by an average of 5+ touchdowns, soaring into a #1 ranking in the AP poll and garnering a massive (-21.5) spread vs. Kentucky in Week 7.
However, the point spread is exaggerated, even for a kickoff between the hedges. UK might be Sin City’s most undervalued SEC team as of mid-season, having conquered Florida and LSU on consecutive weekends.
If Texas A&M can go .500 and then defeat Alabama, who’s to say Kentucky won’t make it a battle of their own?
Recommended bet: Kentucky (+21.5)
October 16th: TCU Horned Frogs at Oklahoma Sooners
This week’s CFB picks have given favorites’ bettors the short end of the stick, so here’s an olive branch of a friendly recommended bet on the Big-12.
Oklahoma (-13.5) could be expected to have a Red River hangover if the Sooners had either lost to Texas in Week 6 or traveled to play a patsy after winning in a romp. The 55-48 final score combined with TCU’s marginal success should be just enough to get the OU dressing room’s attention, and a QB change to talented Caleb Williams will give the Frogs too many hurdles to hop over.
Recommended bet: Oklahoma (-13.5)
October 16th: Air Force Falcons at Boise State Broncos
Saturday’s Utah-ASU and Washington-UCLA kickoffs provide gamblers with 2 potential late-night “bailout” bets within the Pac-12. That being said, neither game will be as colorful as a bout between the Falcons and Broncos on Boise’s iconic blue turf.
A 4-1 model of efficiency under HC Trey Calhoun, Air Force is a field-goal road underdog against the Broncos. Colorado Springs has matched Annapolis and West Point in upping the athleticism of its defense and special teams, but the Falcons also utilize a “multiple” offense that helps Air Force play even more resourceful pigskin against their Mountain West counterparts.
Meanwhile, BSU’s 3-3 record could be a mirage. The unranked team’s takedown of BYU in Week 6 was classic Boise Blue, and we can chalk up the 10-point loss to Nevada 2 weeks ago as a product of opposing QB Carson Strong’s skill and a generally overconfident team. Air Force will hang tough and make it interesting, but Boise’s eventual win will probably come by more than a TD.
Recommended bet: Boise State (-3.5)
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.