Those who follow WagerBop’s W/L records know that our Daily Double prediction outcomes are far more curious than our results with any other sport or league. We do pretty well on big soccer matches and flop often on also-ran derbies – it’s much the same with UFC (especially yours-truly’s prizefighting picks, which only seem to pay off if the event’s PPV buy-rate matches a certain standard) and NBA basketball. Pigskin forecasting is an annual struggle to get to 60%. Our baseball picks would never, ever hit 60% for a season (or a summer) if only the ordinary stretches counted – in fact most of the time you can find the column’s hardball handicaps coming-in well under the fabled 52.4%.
Except when the hot streaks start to get going. And keep going. And building. And lasting for weeks and weeks. Daily Double has gone whole months barely ever losing a Major League Baseball pick, only to then return to its waterline of 46% or 51%.
Of course it’s not luck and it’s not black magic, and yet there’s no way to determine where the hot prediction streaks come from. If there was, we’d do better at generating and maintaining them. My theory is that solid, reasonable betting picks on games played between teams with mad sample-sizes to draw from (as in, baseball teams) should always win more often than they lose, but variables not included in the forecast – often not even factored-into the betting odds themselves – are like the weather. They flare up frequently just like thunderstorms, tornados, and hurricanes, then back-off and let the sun shine. Thus, our hot streaks on the diamond occur when such “weather” calms down, which leads WagerBop to this week’s main angle on college football odds and picks.
Maybe it’s the infinitely smaller sample-sizes of American football compared to baseball (we’ll stop the comparison before George Carlin gets involved) but the 2021-22 FBS season is giving gamblers fits in a perfect mirror-image scenario to the prediction dilemma described above. We all know that the Top 25 is in for a wild ride and lots of upset and trap-game dangers along the way, due to the specter of Super-Seniors and completely-intact returning rosters at lesser-known programs. Like the top-10 aristocrats on college hardwood, the best FBS teams have found themselves penalized by their own success. NFL teams don’t draft 18-year-old student-athletes like many NBA franchises do, but for once, college football coaches with less 1st-round NFL Draft prospects have come out holding the long straw, blessed with 6th-year talent while the Clemsons and Oklahomas of the world must fill holes left by the missing stars of 2020-21.
Yet the “expect the unexpected” angle only applies to a fraction of the scoreboard. Like a storm, the Top 25 upset-bug is picking out 1 neighborhood to hit with full force.
#1 ranked Alabama has held serve with a 4-0 record, but badly missed Jaylen Waddle while scoring just 10 points in the final 3 frames of a 31-29 win at Florida. Clemson began the season with an epic defensive battle vs Georgia that seemed to show Dabo Swinney’s group in College Football Playoff form once again. But the Tigers have blown a gasket since then, unable to get the offense going against the mid-tier of the ACC and falling to an unthinkable 2-2 following an OT loss to North Carolina State.
Does OU look like itself so far? Sure, since the Sooners are 4-0 with 2 Big-12 victories. But no, Oklahoma’s known as Tornado Alley for a reason. Twister winds might as well have been ripping Spencer Rattler’s inaccurate throws in Week 4 as the Sooners nearly lost to West Virginia. The only team Oklahoma has blown-out so far is little WCU, and that obscure win ATS won’t make up for OU gamblers’ losses in the other 3 games.
Which favored FBS teams will the dark clouds surround in Week 5? There are plenty of perceived mismatches – and wide spreads – on which to try a lick at meteorology.
Week 5 FBS Betting Lines, Odds, and Best Picks
Thursday 9/30: Virginia Cavaliers at Miami Hurricanes
Former Georgia Tech head coach (and current Baltimore Ravens advisor) Paul Johnson has a favorite saying about the ACC standings, “it’ll all work itself out.” Maybe so, but perhaps the ACC’s standings in 2021 should be called the “CCA” standings, since the league has “worked out” to look backwards and flipped-around so far.
There’s FSU at the bottom of the Atlantic Division. Clemson, an annual College Football Playoff contender – until now – is 2-2 overall and middle-of-the-pack. Wake Forest is ruling the 8-team division with a 4-0 overall record. It’s no different in the ACC Coastal, with “powerhouses” like Georgia Tech and Duke lurking toward the top alongside VT and Pittsburgh. Virginia is among the few traditional also-rans to be found in the ACC’s cellar as October draws near, but the Cavaliers have drawn an optimistic (+5.5) underdog’s line for a trip to Hard Rock Stadium to face the 2-2 Miami Hurricanes on Thursday night.
QB D’Eriq King remains an enigma in the Power-5. He threw 2 interceptions in a loss to Michigan State following the Hurricanes’ emotional win over App State a week prior. But his otherwise prolific numbers vs MSU point to a ‘Canes offense with developing weapons that just needs to stay more patient, and that’s bad news for a Virginia defense that could prove to be among the flakiest at a program that prides itself on solid ‘D. Thursday’s hosts worked some nerves out in last week’s whitewash of Central CT.
Pick: Miami (-5.5)
Friday 10/1: Iowa Hawkeyes at Maryland Terrapins
Syd Barrett didn’t make “Terrapin” a heavy metal song, but maybe he would have if he knew what the future held in college pigskin. The Maryland Terrapins are perfect through 4 games of a schedule that has included P5 opponents West Virginia and Illinois.
Tayon Fleet-Davis is as shifty a runner as his name implies, and the Terrapin QB position has been enhanced by the Tagovailoa dynasty. But it’s pass rushers like Sam Okuayinonu and fellow lineman Greg Rose who have blown-up opposing backfields and helped Maryland prevail through a series of tight 4th quarters.
Iowa is also unbeaten and yet only a (-3.5) favorite for Friday night’s road kickoff, underscoring the respect for Maryland’s start.
The cautious O/U line of (48.5) is a clue to the tight point spread. Iowa’s top-10 ranking is as thinly-evidenced as any in the FBS, as the Hawkeyes have only 1 notable win over Iowa State on the ledger so far. Yet the Terrapins are even more unproven and will have to deal with an A+ scheme against the defense’s blitzes on Friday. 5th-ranked teams shouldn’t be automatic TD-favorites against upstart foes…but a field-goal spread is a tad small.
Pick: Iowa (-3.5)
Saturday 10/2: Duke Blue Devils at North Carolina Tar Heels
Why does FanDuel Sportsbook believe UNC (-19.5) will absolutely crush Duke on Saturday afternoon? Duke is 3-1 overall, but did begin the year with an upset loss to Charlotte. Since then, the Blue Devils and their Garrison Keillor look-alike HC David Cutcliffe are 3-0 with Ws over the Big Ten and the Big 12. North Carolina has lost 2 out of 3 conference games and comes off an embarrassing blow-out defeat at the hands of Georgia Tech.
Duke is considered a bad road team and Mack Brown’s Tar Heels are trusted on the road. However, FanDuel’s betting clients must stop and consider that head coaches are only in the business of winning games, especially good head coaches like Brown. North Carolina football has too many immediate problems to worry about margin-of-victory or the next batch of Associated Press rankings. If UNC is fortunate enough to take a 2-touchdown advantage into the 4th quarter on Saturday, the hosts will probably nurse their lead.
Pick: Duke (+19.5)
Saturday 10/2: Nevada Wolf Pack at Boise State Broncos
Boise State (-6.5) is often underrated by Las Vegas after a shaky start, giving gamblers the chance to wager on Boise minus less than a TD against Nevada, another visitor that’s likely to lose on the iconic blue carpet.
Pick: Boise State (-6.5)
Saturday 10/2: UCF Knights at Navy Midshipmen
Navy has fared so poorly this season that a (-16.5) Saturday point spread attached to the traveling UCF Knights isn’t crazy, even though Annapolis remains a difficult place to win. FanDuel is offering a careful (53.5) Over/Under total thanks to the Mids’ ball-control attack, which grinds the clock even when it doesn’t score points. But look for a rash of turnovers going in either direction to help produce a fatter final score.
Saturday 10/2: Boston College at Clemson
Given the Clemson Tigers’ struggles on offense and BC’s spirited win over the SEC in Week 4, does anyone think Clemson is a true 15-point favorite in Death Valley? We don’t.
Pick: Boston College (+15.5)
Saturday 10/2: Auburn Tigers at LSU Tigers
A “tiger” of an SEC matchup headlines Saturday’s prime-time slate. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron might sound like an old crocodile, but he’s got Baton Rouge chomping rivals once again following the team’s lone loss to Chip Kelly’s UCLA Bruins in early September.
Louisiana State was far from perfect in its conference debut. LSU had to hold off a Mississippi State comeback to prevail 28-25 as QB Max Johnson paired 4 TDs with an INT and 9 incompletions on 27 attempts. More alarming for Saturday’s hosts is that even though Nick Fitzgerald graduated some time ago, the Bulldogs out-rushed the Tigers with about a 5 YPC average while Orgeron’s backfield labored to gain 1st downs.
Auburn (+3.5) is ranked in the Top 25 and comes in with an offense that looks great on the season stat sheet. However, the (visiting) Tigers could represent a “get-well” opponent for LSU’s ground game. Auburn was stubborn in its opening contest with Penn State, but the defense has been bruised up and bamboozled since then, giving up a monster day to unheralded RB Tucker Gregg of GSU in last week’s anxious 10-point win. The visitors haven’t shown the point-scoring acumen vs Power-5 defense to keep Auburn ahead of the turns if LSU blocks well enough to get in the Red Zone consistently.
Pick: LSU (-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.