I once perplexed a High School football coach (who has limited hours to spend watching games at the next level) by calling his team the “Ohio Bobcats” of Missouri pigskin. He tried to go along, but was clearly unfamiliar with Frank Solich’s outfit in Athens.
What I meant was that his prep school team wasn’t always big enough to beat massive foes and wasn’t always a conference winner, but darn it, over time the W/L results were consistent, and once in a while the squad played way over its head against a truly elite opponent.
That’s Ohio if you substitute “massive Power-5 programs.”
The Ohio Bobcats are built for consistency – and consistency is the school’s calling card on the gridiron. Ohio has been a bowl-eligible team for 10 straight seasons. As for prevailing in late-summer OOC games, however, the ‘Cats have shared the struggles of their Mid-American Conference breathren. Every once in a while, though, Solich’s team makes noise against a P5 contender. Ohio was written-off by ‘cappers after barely getting past the Howard Bison last season, but the well-coached Bobcats bounced back and bothered Virginia and Cincinnati for 60:00 each.
Pittsburgh, facing Ohio at Heinz Field this Saturday, lost to Virginia in Week 1 by 16 points – worse than the MAC squad fell to the Cavaliers in ’18.
But propelled by the ACC’s obvious strength as the fresh season gets underway, Las Vegas spreads are offering bets on the Panthers to cover vs Ohio at (-6), predicting a TD winning margin for the favorite. Pitt’s moneyline has also shrunk to (-190) in August.
I can’t believe I’m saying this as a genuine Ohio fan – but it’s not enough. Pittsburgh is mispriced and should be at least a (-225) favorite.
Pitt’s Disappointing Opener Leads to Overvalued Underdog
Pitt has lost a lot to graduation and even the NFL, and summer betting opened with Ohio only a FG underdog. Despite the line-movement, I’m not convinced Ohio still isn’t being overvalued against Pittsburgh – a strange circumstance indeed in a landscape where G5 underdogs are often undervalued.
Futures gamblers have been skeptical that Pittsburgh can repeat a surprise run to the ACC Championship Game in its 4th season under Pat Narduzzi. All eyes will be on junior QB Kenny Pickett who hopes to improve upon his 1,969 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2018, but the 2019 Pitt recruiting class is nothing special no matter what coaches say.
Could the lousy recruiting haul have caused the media to view Pitt through too dark of a lens? Possibly. The new freshman class won’t bring down the program have a major impact right away.
Yes, the Panthers lost 30-14 to Virginia last weekend, but the Cavaliers are a legitimate program in 2019 and UVA is no longer the weak sister of the ACC.
Pickett had a bad day in the 30-14 loss, plagued by a ground game that just wouldn’t work consistently, and lousy pass protection. Most of those problems will go away against a less-physical MAC defense, no matter how many drives Nathan Rourke and Ohio are able to put together.
The visiting QB’s offense played pretty well in a 41-20 win over FCS opponent Rhode Island last weekend. But there have to be questions about the D, considering URI’s production vs Ohio in Week 1. Bobcat defensive backs played well in limiting QB Vito Priore to about 50% completions. But the front-7 did not play well against the run, especially considering the level of competition.
Ohio has not shown enough so far to make me think the Bobcats can shut down an ACC offense. It helps to think of Pittsburgh as having practiced with a weighted bat last weekend – the ground game will naturally get better against the Bobcats compared to the struggle vs UVA, and so will Pickett’s pass protection.
Pitt is my moneyline lock of the week at (-190) odds.
Check below for a few more tips on betting the 3rd weekend of (mostly) out-of-conference college football.
Army Black Knights at Michigan Wolverines
I’ve written about the implications of this match-up for WagerBop already, but set aside all of the fun College Football Playoff speculation and look at the moneyline for the Big House this Saturday.
Army opened as a 13-to-1 underdog. That’s too long for a squad that nearly beat Oklahoma last season, and a big reason why the line has shrunk to (+1100) with the betting action. If you gave Jeff Monken’s team 10 cracks at it, would the Black Knights’ eventual record in Ann Arbor be 0 wins and 10 losses? Nah.
Pick: Army (+1100)
Wyoming Cowboys at Texas State Bobcats
The Cowboys are being overvalued thanks to an upset win over Missouri last week. But the SEC’s Tigers (or, the Tigers of the SEC East anyway) are finally running a new offense around QB Kelly Bryant, the 1st time in 100 years that Mizzou hasn’t used 5 wide receivers on every play.
Missouri has a big transition to make from Arena football to tackle football, so Wyoming’s upset win has to be taken with a huge grain of salt from a handicapping POV.
Texas State may have lost to Texas A&M by 34 points in its opener, but the Bobcats are an excellent ML wager at (+215).
Pick: Texas State
Miami Hurricanes vs North Carolina Tar Heels
All due respect to Mack Brown, whose dancing is almost as impressive as his UNC squad’s 1-0 record.
But the growing pains of a new regime are likely to hit North Carolina in Week 2, and Miami had a noble start in a 24-20 loss to Florida, making the Hurricanes the true favorite by a whopping margin.
It’s uncertain if this game will be affected by Hurricane Dorian, though it appears as though the storm has turned back toward the Atlantic Ocean. If the contest kicks off as scheduled on Saturday night, the ‘Canes are a wonderful ML pick at (-200).
Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Fresno State Bulldogs
The defending Mountain West champs from Fresno State are a (+140) underdog wager to beat visiting Minnesota late on Saturday night.
Power-5 prejudice is at work. Minnesota barely scraped past FCS opponent South Dakota State in the Golden Gophers’ opener, while Fresno was every bit a match for USC in a losing cause.
There is no objective reason to consider the Bulldogs a true underdog against the Gophers…except that the Gophers are coached by P.J. Fleck and play in the Big Ten.
Try an experiment. Write down “Fresno State 35, Minnesota 17” on a piece of paper and yell “Big Ten!” and “P.J. Fleck!” at it to see if it changes.
Pick: Fresno State
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.