Leagues designed to promote absolute parity can make the fog of shallow hype even harder to squint through. How many times has an NFL player gone on a talk show, and when asked if his team can potentially win the Super Bowl, he says, “Hey man, sky’s the limit. Lotta talent on this team.”
That’s probably my favorite political-sports tripe of all, “Lotta talent on this team.” It’s impossible to lie when you say that unless you’re playing on the Bad News Bears (at the beginning of the movie) since even a winning Little League team has a “lot” of talent. It all depends on the definition of “a lot.” What the NFL player on The Late Show actually means to say is, “Look, I play in an engineered-parity pro league. I could win 5 Super Bowls or keep losing until they trade me, how the hell should I know.”
Enhanced-parity leagues have the benefit of making lots (note: relative) of fan bases happy, like Arizona’s legions who’ve waited decades for a Kyler Murray to come along. But a top-heavy environment like college football has 1 little advantage. When the “weak sisters” come alive, everyone knows it. There’s no denying it when Top 25 teams – not struggling legacy brands – are going down like firing-range targets on behalf of fine-tuned G5 rosters, in addition to Power-5 lineups with the “benefit” of having fewer NFL Draft blue-chips coming through the system.
Yes – just this once, it’s a benefit indeed. Cincinnati’s statement win over Notre Dame coincides with Clemson falling out of the Top 20. Schools like Missouri, often held aloft by a few NFL prospects whose performances are outstanding, appear helpless in league play. Vanderbilt is still Vanderbilt and Alabama is still Alabama, but especially outside of the SEC, it’s the Wild West out there.
As for the Cincinnati Bearcats? Heck, Oprah, I’ll attest personally that there’s a lot of talent on that team. Sky’s the limit.
Week 6 FBS Betting Odds, Lines, and Predictions
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at Arkansas State Red Wolves (Thursday 10/7)
Sports handicappers with nicknames like “Nostradamus” or “The Clairvoyant” shouldn’t get much attention from serious gamblers. If analysts are really fortune tellers, then why did no one have Myrtle Beach fingered as a college football hotbed of the current decade?
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers were once used as a slang-term example of a rival’s weak opponents, as in “We play Alabama, they play Coastal Carolina.” CCU has smashed that reputation to bits in 2020 and 2021, now 5-0 and ranked 15th after having knocked BYU out of the unbeaten ranks late last season. In fact, the Chanticleers haven’t lost a game in regulation in almost 2 years.
CCU is the heavy favorite (-15.5) at Arkansas State, and the crux ATS betting angle is whether or not CCU is destined to blow away the Sun Belt. Coastal’s 59-6 destruction of ULM in its 2021 conference debut is promising, but the Warhawks are sluggish on offense this season and have been unable to respond to explosive teams. Ark State boasts a healthier attack despite a 1-4 record, having averaged close to 40 PPG so far this year.
If the Red Wolves do manage an upset bid, it most definitely will include defensive stops and turnovers, allowing the momentum to swing and a mid-sized crowd to get rowdy. But that’s not likely to happen against CCU given the defensive woes in Jonesboro.
Arkansas State has allowed 50+ points against every FBS opponent except Tulsa, which scored 41, and even let Central Arkansas of the FCS throw for 300 yards in a late-summer contest. Georgia Southern rushed for 503 yards last weekend while embarrassing the Red Wolves 59-33.
Recommended bet: Coastal Carolina (-15.5)
Temple Owls at Cincinnati Bearcats (Friday 10/8)
When unbeaten teams like Coastal Carolina and BYU reached Thanksgiving of 2020 with borderline double-digit AP rankings, a round of editorials declared that Power-5 conferences had gamed the CFP system to the point where no team from an “outsider” league stood a chance to reach the 4-team playoff. Wouldn’t you know, it was right then that COVID-19 and “Super-Seniors” made college football’s Top 25 vulnerable and gave the Group-of-5 a chance to make its presence felt.
Notre Dame lost any ugly one to Cincinnati 24-13 in Week 5, as the Bearcats picked off the Fighting Irish twice while holding UND to less than 100 rushing yards. Cincy couldn’t have picked a better time to improve its CFP resume with a win over a legacy team, as the Irish were following 2 victories in which Brian Kelly’s squad beat the Big Ten by an average of 3 TDs. With the Bearcats favored by nearly 30 points on a massive point spread vs Temple, the conundrum for Week 6 becomes whether Top-10 dominance or an AAC rivalry will impact the results more.
It’s not Cincy’s style to crush weaker opponents until a real cupcake comes along. Murray State only lost to the Bearcats by 35 in Week 2, and no, Ja Morant didn’t show up to hit 3-pointers from the hash marks. Temple is 3-2 coming off a nice 34-31 win over Memphis and should have enough moxie on the road to escape a blowout.
Recommended bet: Temple (+29.5)
Oklahoma Sooners at Texas Longhorns (Saturday 10/9)
Though they call the Texas vs Oklahoma matchup the Red River Showdown, in reality it’s the Fry Bowl. Fried pickles, fried candy bars, fried soda pop. If you’re hungry for an O/U pick on a Big-12 rivalry, then WagerBop has you covered. (We can’t provide any fried candy bars, but nothing’s perfect.)
The O/U line of (63.5) feels strangely “standard” for what’s often an offensive shoot-out. Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler had a career accuracy-day with only 3 incomplete passes as the Sooners out-scored Kansas State 37-31, but the team has labored to score vs. non-top 25 opponents in the 2 prior games. Texas won similarly last week and put up 70 points on TTU before that.
However, the Longhorns are now set to face the best and most prepared defense that the team has faced all season, a psychological “double whammy” that could lead to a lot of short possessions.
Recommended bet: Under
Vanderbilt Commodores at Florida Gators (Saturday 10/9)
Other, more expected lines on a predicted SEC whitewash at The Swamp include Florida (-38.5) on the point spread and (59.5) points on the Over/Under. There’s only 1 problem, however, and that’s the 21-point gap between UF’s expected margin-of-victory and the O/U point-tally that is handicapped as though the Gators won’t completely shut the Commodores down.
Florida’s defense has played exceptionally well against a brutal schedule, and will relish the chance to stonewall an inferior group on Saturday. If the Gator upperclass racks up 7 TDs and takes a seat with Vandy still scoreless, how will the other 10 points be scored?
Recommended bet: Under
Connecticut Huskies at Massachusetts Minutemen: Saturday 10/9
The Minutemen have been lousy in 5 straight losses but did show an optimistic pulse on offense against the ACC and upper tier of the MAC. Connecticut has been trending down for years and could be the worst team in the FBS, making it a mystery why UConn is a moneyline favorite on the road in 2021’s Consolation Bowl.
Recommended bet: Massachusetts (+142)
North Texas Mean Green at Missouri Tigers (Saturday 10/9)
FBS bettors are buying Mizzou minus (19.5) points on Homecoming. Columbia actually invented the Homecoming Game and Homecoming Dance, so it’s a nice thought that the Missouri Tigers could rally against Conference-USA and put an end to their recent slump. But something is very, very wrong with Missouri’s defense, opening the door for a pesky underdog to cause problems, just like MTSU did as a Homecoming visitor 5 years ago in 2016.
Recommended bet: North Texas (+19.5)
SMU Mustangs at Navy Midshipmen (Saturday 10/9)
Sharks can take credit for ignoring Navy’s history of upset wins in Annapolis. While it’s true that Navy (+440) is very hard to beat when playing at home, the Midshipmen began 2021-22 by losing 2 games on their home turf by a combined 9 TDs. Southern Methodist is 5-0 and could be poised to have the best season that the school has seen in the American Athletic era.
That being said, the point spread action tells another story. Gamblers are mistaken to have jumped on SMU’s spread with reckless bets, pushing the line to (-13.5) or 2 touchdowns taken from the Mustangs. Navy and SMU played 3 tight games in a row prior to last year’s 51-17 snoozer, and the last time Navy lost to SMU by 14+ points was in 1993 at the Academy.
Ken Niumatalolo’s playbook puts its main burden on the QB, and Navy’s long search for Malcolm Perry’s replacement could be coming to a close as QB Tai Levatai appeared to settle an anxious offense down in Navy’s 34-30 upset of UCF last week.
Recommended bet: Navy (+13.5)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Virginia Tech Hokies (Saturday 10/9)
Betting markets are at war over the upcoming Notre Dame and Virginia Tech showdown. Notre Dame is a half-point underdog on FanDuel’s point spread for Saturday’s marquee prime-time bout while Virginia Tech is the (-105) underdog on the moneyline.
Bookmakers would say that such subtle, collective differences of opinion between speculators in different markets occur all the time, and they’re 100% right, but it rarely happens when a game is so evenly matched. The terms “favorite” and “underdog” are a matter of controversy and also a bit of a moot point for this upcoming matchup.
Will it be the favorite or the underdog to emerge victorious this weekend? Erm…check that. Who’s going to win? Notre Dame is often overrated at the betting board, but this week, the Irish are suffering from Power-5 bias despite being affiliated with it themselves.
Notre Dame’s Week 5 nemesis, Cincinnati, has a special 2021 team that will likely reach the College Football Playoff if they hold serve in the AAC. Brian Kelly’s team is good at bouncing back from embarrassing losses or they would never have returned to the CFP after being humiliated in a debut appearance. But the Irish would be more highly touted to snap back from the loss to Cincy if the Bearcats weren’t still undervalued by association.
Imagine if UND had lost 24-13 to a Big Ten powerhouse in Week 5. Pundits would be praising the Gold & Blue for going 2-1 against the 2nd-best P5 conference in all of college football.
Recommended bet: Notre Dame
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.