In the words of Colin Montgomerie after Team England bogeyed the 18th hole to lose a match, “well, that changes all that, then.”
Forget that tripe about Alabama getting a “mulligan” at #5 just so Cincinnati could be left dangling at #4, waiting to be nixed from the 2021-22 College Football Playoff as soon as the SEC Championship Game and Big Ten Championship scrums took place.
Cincinnati has been ranked up to #2 after walloping another AAC stronghold by about 50 points in Week 7, showing that CFP committee members are at least capable of understanding 1 objective rule of team vs team analysis. It’s fine to say that a Group of 5 program doesn’t face the schedule of an SEC team, but you’ve got to compare a G5 team’s outcomes with what an SEC outfit would be expected to do against the same “rivals.” Alabama and Georgia might romp through an exemplary G5 schedule of opponents with an average 30-point winning margin, but not many fellow Power-5 teams in the Top 25 could also say that.
Alabama asserted itself as a genuine Top 10 team with a nice blow-out win at Mississippi State. But there are plenty of weak point-spread favorites out there in a chaotic season, such as Wisconsin’s soft 2-touchdown line over Army West Point in what would become a back-door cover for the Black Knights. The SEC’s mid tier (and most of the Pac-12 and ACC middle tiers) are blowing their chance at a momentous season full of veteran “Super Senior” performances by playing porous defense, as if tacklers have grown tired of chasing RBs for 6 years. Missouri’s defense is kaput and LSU’s defense isn’t far behind, leading to strange SEC handicaps in ’21.
But it’s a plain old garden-variety point total, not an exaggerated margin-of-victory wager, that’s catching WagerBop’s eye headed into a busy Thursday night (and weekend) of FBS action.
2021-22 FBS Week 8 Lines, Previews, and Picks
October 21st: Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns at Arkansas State Red Wolves
FBS point totals are often handicapped way above NFL point totals, but Thursday night’s kickoff between Arkansas State and Louisiana takes the cake. FanDuel Sportsbook is offering O/U picks on a line of (70.5) total points, predicting that the 3-TD Sun Belt favorites from Lafayette will score at least 6 touchdowns and a field goal. Such a scoring prediction is not an absurd angle considering Ark State’s woes on defense in 2021. The traditionally stubborn Red Wolves are ranked dead-last in the conference in total defense, giving up a ghastly 46+ points per game. Against Coastal Carolina last week, Arkansas State gave up 600+ total yards and 52 points.
Despite showcasing yet another physical, well-balanced team, the Ragin’ Cajuns haven’t traveled well on offense this season. Louisiana rushed effectively in a fighting loss at Texas, but later produced only 48 points in 2 quarters in a pair of grudging road wins over Georgia Southern and South Alabama. Ragin’ Cajun coaches bely their team’s mascot brand when blessed with a lead, and nurture a solid running game that tees-up a brutish defense to inflict maximum damage. But that’s not really conducive to a 70-point Over/Under line, especially if the 4th quarter sees less offensive action.
Recommended bet: Under (70.5)
October 22nd: Memphis Tigers at UCF Knights
The main reason Memphis (+1.5) is a slight underdog at Central Florida on Friday night is because of the team’s history against their opponent. UCF has owned the Tigers throughout most of a spirited American Athletic Conference rivalry series, including a furious postseason comeback win in 2018 that helped to define an era of Orlando football going forward.
Sports almanacs are not always applicable to modern era matchups, however, and college football programs can let-down a legacy on Fridays and Saturdays alike. UCF is what it was when the Knights used to wallop the Tigers by 30 points, and Memphis is due to win a tight league contest following hard-luck outcomes in 2 out of 3 AAC games to date. The Memphis Tigers made an improving Navy side look like a cupcake in Week 7, and also own a victory over the SEC, something the 2021-22 Knights probably couldn’t hack with their current lineup.
Recommended bet: Memphis (+1.5)
October 23rd: Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Army Black Knights
Though sportsbooks can undervalue service academy teams, the Army Black Knights (+3.5) could be a little overvalued at FanDuel on the basis of last weekend’s brave 20-14 loss against Wisconsin. Wisconsin and Army’s similar physical styles were always going to lead to a close game, especially since the Badgers don’t have a dominating aerial offense in 2021. Wake Forest, meanwhile, has a special, veteran roster that will prepare diligently and sacrifice bodies as necessary to slow Army’s offensive drives.
A veteran roster is not the only good reason to take Wake Forest minus a FG. Wake head coach Dave Clawson knows that simply going unbeaten isn’t enough to impress AP pollsters or the College Football Playoff committee – the 6-0 yet #16 ranked Demon Deacons already have ample evidence of that syndrome this season. Clawson will try to “claw out” a small lead on Jeff Monken’s underdogs and hold it into the 2nd half, but if the superior side gets a chance to put the hammer down in the final minutes, Wake will score as many points as it can to secure the victory.
Recommended bet: Wake Forest (-3.5)
October 23rd: Kent State Golden Flashes at Ohio Bobcats
Bobcat HC Frank Solich has been leading Ohio for approximately 200 years of a career that spans 3 centuries. We don’t have to check the record to know that in the 128th year of Solich’s reign in Athens, the Bobcats almost won the MAC title and managed to out-play several favorites with the aid of pure fundamentals.
Close calls are the thing for Ohio Bobcat pigskin, except this year, the team is in dire danger of finishing below .500 and possibly even in the cellar. An unlucky out-of-conference draw that included games vs Syracuse, Louisiana, and Northwestern has led right into a tougher-than-usual MAC slate, resulting in a 1-6 record by the river. Ohio is only a (+5.5) underdog against visiting Kent State thanks to 6 straight seasons of defeating the Golden Flashes. The prospect of an Ohio “get well” game against a familiar, beatable defense has the kickoff’s O/U line soaring at (66.5).
Despite the Golden Flashes’ status as a MAC division leader, the team’s defense has been problematic. In their last game, Western Michigan rushed for 341 yards and 5 touchdowns in a 64-31 win over KSU that totally clobbered its pregame Over/Under line. But we’re expecting a different kind of outcome on Saturday in which Solich’s downtrodden team nurses a small lead carefully and tries not to succumb to 4th quarter fatigue.
Recommended bet: Under (66.5)
October 23rd: Wisconsin Badgers at Purdue Boilermakers
It’s time to forget that thing about how FBS point-totals tend to be handicapped above NFL totals. Picks aren’t usually made on college football lines in the 30s, but that’s the scenario in Indiana on Saturday as the Purdue Boilermakers and Wisconsin Badgers are drawing bets on a O/U line of (39.5) total points.
Understanding why a power-rushing visitor would garner a “Shield”-style Over/Under market at Purdue is fairly simple. The Boilermakers (+2.5) could be fielding Purdue’s best defense of the modern era, having held the brutish Iowa Hawkeyes to 7 points in a Week 7 victory. Purdue will ride on the momentum of a signature win and a Top 25 bid, but the prior game could also represent a ceiling of performance for the Boilermaker front-7 and safety Cam Allen. After all, Allen can’t hope to grab 2 interceptions against every Top 5 school that his team faces off against.
Meanwhile, the Badgers’ offense is dying to take the field for a “normal” Big Ten game after watching West Point work to move the chains for 4 quarters. Purdue’s attack has been good enough to produce 30+ points twice already, and the hosts’ previous efforts on defense against tougher opponents Notre Dame and Minnesota were less extraordinary.
FanDuel clients do not want to be holding an “Under (39.5)” bet slip in the 4th quarter of a close Big Ten contest, especially with NCAA timing rules that include automatic clock-stoppages after every 1st down. A potential OT finish looms as a fail-safe in case the teams fight to a 17-17 stalemate.
Recommended bet: Over (39.5)
October 23rd: LSU Tigers at Ole Miss Rebels
Is it possible that the LSU Tigers (+9.5) can make like the Las Vegas Raiders and respond to a coaching change with a victory? While such a result may be doable, the news cycle surrounding Ed Orgeron’s dismissal at Baton Rouge is nearly as confusing as the St. Louis Cardinals firing of Mike Shildt.
Orgeron was said to be coaching a dead-in-the-water team and in danger of losing his job due to diminishing returns. LSU went out and beat Florida in a shoot-out last Saturday, seemingly giving “The Crocodile” a final chance to secure a longer tenure. But the HC was terminated on Sunday anyway, with the AD’s office allowing Orgeron to finish-out the season even though the coach’s short-order pink slip appears to be motivated by a sexual-harassment allegation and other off the field factors.
Should that allegation be true, then what is Orgeron still doing at the helm? If LSU officials believe the story is drummed-up, then why announce such a big change right now? In either case, the program is acting with some kind of profit or PR motive in mind, while the Tigers themselves must feel as though they’ve been punished for winning. It puts LSU in a bad psychological place going into a challenging road trip.
Ole Miss has a NASCAR-style offense that will drive right through an unsound Tiger defense that couldn’t stop Florida. Lane Kiffin’s not known for being the merciful type.
Recommended bet: Ole Miss (-9.5)
October 25th (12 AM): New Mexico State Aggies at Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Notre Dame-USC viewers and other die-hard SEC football fans will be too wrung-out for any overnight pigskin, but you can wager that a percentage of gamblers will be tuning-in to Hawaii (-17.5) vs New Mexico State early on Sunday morning. Depending on your POV and Saturday picks record, this matchup provides either a “bonus” or a “bailout” opportunity for football bettors.
The handicap for Hawaii vs NMSU is also interesting thanks to a quirk of COVID-19 era Mountain West Conference scheduling that pits the Warriors and Aggies against each other for a 2nd game in less than a month. Halawa’s traveling troops won the contest on September 25th by 20 points behind a characteristically “sneaky” ground game led by Dedrick Parsons, a Football Championship Subdivision transfer.
The announcing crew at Hawaii likes the slogan “Momentum is the 13th Man,” and the host Rainbow Warriors have been without suitable game-to-game momentum in 2021 in spite of a handful of strong performances. Hawaii’s defense can play, as shown by a 27-24 upset win over Fresno on October 2nd, but the Warriors have no reason not to fall back on running again if NMSU isn’t any more inspired in Week 8. What’s more, the Aggies will have cooked-up enough fancy plays for the rematch to produce half-field drives and leave UH in bad field position, making the U(60.5) a better option.
Recommended bet: Under (60.5)
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.