With the FBS bowl season fast approaching, it’s another excuse to bring-up how pigskin gamblers are actually some of the most “wholesome” and “optimistic” sports-watchers out there, in direct defiance of old-fashioned countryside writers who argue that gambling detracts from the audience’s genuine sporting interest.
For example, virtually 100% of minor bowl games are trashed by a faction of the CFB media and “old-fashioned alumni” fan base of college football. Bettors and Fantasy sharks, always seeking an angle on the next game’s forecast, are more encouraged to get deeply into a team’s narrative and live-out the gameday drama much as an alumni or a booster’s club would, except without the cynicism of “we only made the stupid Holiday Bowl this year.”
Another edge Saturday (and weekday) football bettors have on the general public is that we’re competing in a sport of our own, which can put you in a “zone” that’s free of distractions and difficulties. (WagerBop will NEVER argue that sports are an escape from “real life.” Sports certainly aren’t life and death, but they’re a massive part of life for untold billions of people, and that’s just as important as anything else in the “real” world.) Wednesday night’s college football games may not be as unfortunately scheduled for TV as Tuesday’s games this week (really, guys?), which will serve predominantly as commercial-break relief for American voters who’re otherwise obsessed with election results. But in mid-week, when millions of people are overjoyed and others depressed by the gavel’s fate in Congress, and thousands of lawyers are mobilizing to contest election results on behalf of 2 parties and a half-dozen Libertarians, there will be 500,000-or-so quiet dens across the country where people are ignoring the din and enjoying MAC-tion.
Because so many of the same folks likely to be upset about Tuesday’s results are responsible for the “Anti-Sports” sections in The Nation, Huffington Post, and elsewhere, the (lower-case) nation’s quietly tuned-out (and tuned-in) speculators can probably look forward to a better time than others will be having, including those aforementioned college grads.
There’s only one problem – unlike candidates across 50 states in an election year, the Week 11 weekday slate comes with a distinct lack of variety. WagerBop will pick-out our best predictions and leave the “obligatory” – aka careless – everyday picks to the (depressed) people at CBS and Sports Illustrated, but that’s a chore that proves easier when there’s more than 1 conference to pick from. Only the MAC and other lower-tier conferences will compete in Division 1 until late this Friday night, when USC hosts Colorado as a prohibitive favorite.
The betting public will be chomping at the bit for Saturday and the SEC schedule to come around, especially after watching Alabama fall in another upset and Georgia cement another statement-win last weekend. Could the week’s distractions and general impatience play into the early-bird investor’s hands at the sportsbook?
Perhaps. In fact, there’s already a FanDuel spread on a sun-squinting early Saturday kickoff that must be seen to be believed. (The betting line, not the kickoff.) The odds may not be fated to move as quickly as they might in a non-election week. We’re tagging that game’s prediction for a nice full run-down on the scroll below.
But first, here’s a look at a MAC clash that may just interest more than those 500K “hardcore” viewers on Wednesday evening.
Kent State Golden Flashes at Bowling Green Falcons (Wednesday, November 9)
Kent State’s (-2.5) point spread at Bowling Green is the first of this week’s quizzical Las Vegas lines, and it’s not because the Golden Flashes don’t have an incredibly high ceiling for a Group-of-5 contender. KSU’s fighting 39-22 loss to Georgia was a true “flash” of greatness that helps to maintain an outside shot at a bowl berth for Kent State, which would be a more natural-than-usual pick for a committee at 6-6 given the amazing result vs #1.
However, KSU doesn’t really fit the mold of a road-favorite against 5-4 Bowling Green. Hype around QB Collin Schlee has died down as the upstart suffers the bumps, bruises, and sit-outs of a rugged campaign. KSU just had a long-term winning streak at Dix Stadium snapped, and may be angry enough to take some vinegar out on the road, but a dull-ish ground game and a porous defense have cast the ‘Flashes 5th in MAC standings in ’22.
Bowling Green has stayed healthier than Kent State overall, and it’s mostly BGSU’s relatively poor team-stats rankings (along with the Falcons’ not-so-unique problems when visiting the Golden Flashes) which have led to Wednesday’s plus-odds on the superior W/L team. Bowling Green was probably fortunate to defeat Western Michigan 13-9 in the Falcons’ last outing, but the squad has a 3-game winning streak and a far more realistic opportunity to play in December (or January, given its handful of G5 bowls) than Week 11’s anxious guest.
WagerBop’s Pick: Bowling Green
Georgia Southern Eagles at Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (Thursday, November 10)
Thursday’s O/U (59.5) point-total line on a ULL vs GASO kickoff presents a conundrum of conflicting angles. On one hand, Georgia Southern’s fall from grace as a long-time scrappy contender is largely characterized by bad defense and catch-as-catch-can offense that no longer has a Paul Johnson or a Jeff Monken to out-scheme an opponent, leading to turnover and 3-and-out issues which actually cause point-totals to swell instead of shrink. ULL is performing on short rest and a 2-game losing streak, with the Ragin’ Cajuns bowl quest on a razor’s edge.
On the other hand, we’re talking about a pair of downtrodden teams whose last line of defense is – wait for it – furious pursuit on defense. Louisiana QB Ben Woolridge only produced 45% completions and just over 100 yards against vulnerable Troy in last week’s loss, even though ULL ran the pigskin fairly effectively.
GASO has played in almost nothing but high-scoring scrums this season, though that trend could change if the team’s play-selection continues tacking toward a scheme to protect the pocket for QB Kyle Vantrease. The Eagles force-fed the offensive backfield against Old Dominion in Week 9’s 28-23 victory, a precursor of how GASO could start to look in big games.
WagerBop’s Pick: Under (59.5)
Colorado Buffaloes at USC Trojans (Friday, November 11)
USC (-34.5) and Colorado are expected to score around O/U (65.5) points, a line that may also be set at too generous of a number. CU’s offense has been so poor against strong defenses that there won’t be any need for Southern Cal to score 50+ points to cover the spread, or to do anything but finish-out the contest with a “JV” offense executing the school’s methodical NFL-style playbook. (If there’s a team out there who can make USC’s underachieving ‘D look sharp, it’s CU.) USC’s offense tends to get in its own way in perceived mismatches.
WagerBop’s Pick: Under (65.5)
LSU Tigers at Arkansas Razorbacks (Saturday, November 12)
The point spread on Saturday’s early kick-off in Fayetteville may represent the season’s biggest gap between a gambling line and what team-rankings stats and simple W/L outcomes to date would indicate. Not to mention LSU’s shiny record against the programs’ common opponents in 2022-23.
Arkansas is 5-4 against a fairly weak schedule for an SEC team, having been beaten by Texas A&M, Liberty, and Mississippi State convincingly while nearly getting embarrassed by Bobby Petrino and the Missouri State Bears of the FCS on home turf. If that 38-27 outcome over UMS wasn’t enough to convince bookmakers that Arkansas isn’t a splendid host, consider that 2 of Arkansas’ other shakiest performances on defense have come in Fayetteville, including last weekend’s loss to the independent Flames, and a 44-30 anxiety-inducer vs South Carolina.
LSU, of course, comes off a scintillating upset win over Alabama that adds to the 7-2 team’s surprise win streak. Brian Kelly’s charges have developed faster under his tutelage than predicted on this blog, and Louisiana State boasts a Heisman candidate at QB and a well-earned Top 10 ranking…as opposed to the thin ranking Arkansas once enjoyed. There is some concern about LSU playing an early-day game given that the Tigers’ worst loss of the campaign (40-17 to Tennessee) came on a noon kickoff. But the Vols have proven their power since then.
Louisiana State could fool around and lose to a physical side like Arkansas, but the Tigers are a good execution day (or a 3-quarter execution day) from defeating a well-inferior team by at least 14 points. Arkansas is dealing with negative press after the arrests of 2 players on Monday and won’t be prepared for an all-time great effort. Arkansas defeated LSU in a memorable OT game last season, but that’s not relevant to how ’22 shapes up.
WagerBop’s Pick: Louisiana State ATS (-3)
Liberty Flames at UConn Huskies (Saturday, November 12)
Speaking of Liberty, the bookmakers also appear to have undervalued the Flames’ stock (or at least overvalued rebuilding UConn) in taking just (-13.5) points from the indie powerhouse this Saturday. It would be pithy, if true, to say that the Liberty Flames aren’t the kind of team to suffer a hangover after scoring a marquee win, having whipped UAB and fought in a classic with Wake Forest following the team’s OT triumph in Week 1. But we already know what the 8-1 Flames are about – it’s the Huskies whose flaws should lead to a wider spread.
UConn has been eagerly gobbling-up wins over the dregs of the FBS to get to 5-5, scraping past dead-in-the-water Boston College and tripping 1-8 rival Massachusetts. There’s no evidence, though, that Connecticut can cut it (connecting-ly or otherwise) against anything approaching a Top-25 entity. UConn’s outings against similarly talented foes in 2022 have gone badly without exceptions. The sound Huskie defense will fight a hard pitched battle to avoid a potential desperation-duel at West Point in Week 12, but a tied score at half followed by a downturn and a 14-point loss may be the best-case-scenario for UConn vs Liberty, which makes the Flames a formidable pregame pick ATS in addition to a potentially smart half-time wager at generous odds.
WagerBop’s Pick: Liberty ATS (-13.5)
New Mexico Lobos at Air Force Falcons (Saturday, November 12)
Saturday’s mid-afternoon Big Ten kickoff between Iowa and Wisconsin can be considered the “Under Bowl” of the weekend, with O/U lines handicapped in the mid-30s for a game in which a prop bet of “Under 50” must be offered at infinitesimal payoff. Even if Wisconsin has success on offense at Iowa, the Hawkeyes’ dogged containment will keep the clock ticking on extended UW drives, while Iowa can be counted on to produce “time-consuming” 3-and-outs, as the team faithfully runs up the middle before calling on punter Tory Taylor – the Hawkeyes’ MVP in 2022 – to boot the pigskin away.
But a pick on either side of Iowa-Wisconsin’s total may turn into a nail-biting crapshoot. For instance, a high-side O/U pick on the Big Ten game may make sense for a lot of Saturday betting systems, based on the barrel-bottom line offered for a game with Power-5 playmakers on the field and college timing rules in effect. Yet with virtually no chance that the squads will produce a high-scoring final tally, such speculators will be forced to watch and hope for a dramatic 4th quarter (and perhaps an OT period or 2) that forces the offenses to get busy.
There’s no such need for pinpoint predictions when looking at the O/U line on Air Force vs New Mexico, also offered via an extremely low-balled market at (37.5) total points. Air Force and Army did combine for a vintage under-total-points outcome between service academies in Week 10, thanks to each coaching staff going conservative and failing to goose their speedy QBs to success in plus-territory. Combined with the previous weekend’s 19-14 loss to Boise State, a team with a desperate defense trying to hold up the world, the Falcons’ trendline could be at its lowest point for O/U picks, like a stock that’s down and about ready to come up.
New Mexico is eliminated from bowl contention at 2-7, and is in no psychological condition to prepare suitably on defense for Air Force’s tricky multiple offense. That makes UNM into a likely get-well opponent for a Falcon attack that still ranks impressively in overall output and is full of interchangeable parts that help to salve injury woes. It’s still hard for a service-academy defense to athletically overwhelm a Group-of-5 also-ran, meaning that New Mexico will have Red Zone chances with which to add to the point total. But even should the Lobos merely kick 2 FGs and score a safety, the threat could spur Falcon HC Trey Calhoun to run tempo and add more TDs.
WagerBop’s Pick: Over (37.5)
Washington Huskies at Oregon Ducks (Saturday, November 12)
Many of college football’s familiar prime-time brands – like USC and Air Force – are playing relatively early on Saturday. But there’s no ignoring the eye-popping odds on Oregon vs Washington, a Pac-12 game in which the favored Ducks (-530) and visiting Huskies (+13.5) are expected to score around O/U (72.5) total points by the time nightfall sets-in for Eugene. While each high-powered program is likely to play with sugar-huddle tempo throughout much of the showdown, it also bears mentioning that Over (72.5) is not a gamble that’s won automatically when 2 opponents are each moving the football. Oregon and Washington could trade TDs and converted field-goals on 4-minute drives for 3 quarters, and still need 2 more touchdowns to cover the line. Speculators betting the high-side must hope for big plays, while sportsbook users who pick Under (72.5) are counting on solid containment-defense and sleepy 1st-down conversions without explosive gains.
Which camp is likely to win by 10 PM EST? The very consistent 6th-ranked Ducks have scored 40-49 points against every conference rival on the slate so far, making it unlikely that Washington will fare much better on defense after allowing 39 bones to the humble Arizona Wildcats in a recent home game. However, the Oregon offense isn’t as greedy with a lead as the Ducks often were in their previous era of dominance, in which teams would produce a “16-13” stalemate with Oregon at halftime, only to lose 77-26. Washington, meanwhile, has hardly played an elite defense since the season began. We’re not convinced Oregon will cover ATS easily, however the O/U total could begin to fall down on live-betting boards as early as Quarter 2. UW is likely to surrender a significant early lead to Oregon due to the shock of facing better athletes in such a noisy environment, followed by a slow-crawl comeback bid against a host bent on preserving its edge.
WagerBop’s Pick: Under (72.5)
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.