We are getting deep into the college and pro football seasons, and many teams have played seven games. That means we have a good idea what those teams are all about, even in the face of COVID-19 ramifications.
We know their strengths, their stats, their tendencies and how they might project the rest of the way based on their schedules. Theoretically, the handicapper would have a better chance against the bookmaker with this knowledge. However, it always helps to have a good database at your fingertips to be able to peg good and bad spots on each team’s schedule.
For those of you with a VSiN all-access subscription, you have that database at your fingertips daily. All you need to do is dig into your “Point Spread Weekly” matchups each week or visit the Exclusive Info pages at VSiN.com. The links to look for are the Team Trends under the Matchups tabs for each sport.
This week I have dug through the extensive information available on VSiN.com to uncover some trends I think might define some of the games on this week’s college and pro schedules.
Several sources for trends are available nowadays, including those offered in “PSW” each week on our matchup pages and by Bruce Marshall. As you look at these and continue to refine your own routine for finding games on which to wager, consider the importance you put on trends. Will they stand the test of time? Do they carry over from season to season? Are they valid only as long as the current coach and key players are around? These are important questions because of what seems to be increased changeover from year to year. I tend to focus less on the records or trends than I do on the foundational philosophies behind them. You might think otherwise, and I can tell you that neither of us is right 100% of the time.
Here are those handpicked trends for 10 college and pro football games this weekend. They are in order by game-board number. Hopefully you will get a sense of the vastly varying degree of trend analysis VSiN offers from this small sample and how much deeper you can get into understanding teams and their favorable and unfavorable situational spots.
Top College Football Trends
(109) MICHIGAN STATE at (110) MICHIGAN. Game line: Michigan by 25
Trend: MICHIGAN STATE is 1-8 ATS (L3Y) avenging a loss
Analysis: As I looked at this trend, my first thought was that Michigan State puts itself in revenge spots against teams it does not match up well with. That’s not a coincidence, as revenge becomes a motivational factor only when a team loses. Reversing the reasons for losing is not easy. For this week, the Spartans are massive underdogs. Michigan loves to beat up on Sparty, and after the season-opening loss to Rutgers, I am not sure how much resistance Michigan State is capable of putting up. MSU and new coach Mel Tucker scored a zero on my stability scale for 2020. This will be a long season for the team in East Lansing. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with the Spartans as underdogs of any magnitude.
(111) WAKE FOREST at (112) SYRACUSE. Game line: Wake Forest by 11
Trend: WAKE FOREST is 10-1 ATS (L10Y) against weak teams being outscored by more than 8.5 points per game
Analysis: One reason Wake Forest has been able to scratch into bowl games the last four years despite having a regular-season won-lost mark just five games over .500 in that span is that the Demon Deacons have taken care of business against inferior competition. They’ve lost only one game when favored by more than seven points since the start of the 2016 season. When you’re on the bowl bubble each season, you can’t afford it. This week Wake takes on a Syracuse team that gave it the old college try last week at Clemson, and despite being within one score in the third quarter ended up losing by 26. The Orange are overmatched in 2020, and after coming somewhat close last week, they could be in for a letdown. At 1-5 and scoring fewer than 20 ppg, Syracuse isn’t my version of a live underdog and is facing a team that puts away bad teams easily.
(123) NOTRE DAME at (124) GEORGIA TECH. Game line: Notre Dame by 20
Trend: NOTRE DAME is 19-3 ATS (L22G) on road in October
Analysis: A certain level of pressure and expectation comes with playing in front of the home folks in South Bend. I’ve gotten used to the Irish not meeting that expectation lately. In fact, it seems visitors to Notre Dame are the more excited and motivated team in those matchups. But when coach Brian Kelly’s team has hit the road in midseason games, they’ve been much more relaxed, and hence a better team. Saturday’s game at Pittsburgh was proof of that. After a 1-3 ATS start to the season in four home contests, the Irish tagged the Panthers 45-3 in their best game of the year, winning the yardage battle 434-162. They have one final October 2020 road chance to put on another show this week.
(137) MEMPHIS at (138) CINCINNATI. Game line: Cincinnati by 6.5
Trend: CINCINNATI is 7-0 ATS (L7G) against high-scoring teams averaging 32 ppg or more
Analysis: Alabama’s Nick Saban recently indicated his philosophy had changed and that offense had taken on a greater role in winning than defense. It’s certainly a topic worthy of further discussion, but Cincinnati and coach Luke Fickell feel differently. Just last week, the Bearcats held a previously undefeated SMU team scoring 42.6 ppg to just 13 in a rout. Cincy has essentially separated itself in the American Athletic Conference the last few seasons by being the only defense-oriented team. Fickell’s group has another big opportunity this week against high-scoring Memphis (38.8 ppg).
(149) NORTH TEXAS at (150) UTEP. Game line: North Texas by 5
Trend: NORTH TEXAS is 5-20 ATS (L25G) on road after a conference SU win
Analysis: The ability to string together successes is a key trait of teams hoping to reach new levels. North Texas has struggled to do that. When you think conference victories should be building blocks, not hindrances to growth, the Mean Green’s struggles following conference wins are alarming. They had last week off after winning at Middle Tennessee State. Do you think they’ll be grounded enough to take care of business as road favorites against a UTEP team that is rejuvenated by a 3-3 start after a 1-11 season in 2019? I wouldn’t trust UNT’s defense (44.2 ppg allowed) as road chalk with my money.
(163) TEXAS at (164) OKLAHOMA STATE. Game total: 58.5
Trend: OKLAHOMA STATE is 21-5 OVER (L26G) at home against lesser defensive teams allowing more than 29 ppg
Analysis: Wow, how shocking. A Big 12 team that has been known primarily for its offensive prowess tends to go Over the total at home against bad defensive opponents. Sometimes the trends are both foundational and easy to interpret. Last week’s home game went Under the total against an Iowa State team that doesn’t tend to get involved regularly in lofty scoring contests. The Cyclones also are allowing 26.8 ppg, so that one didn’t impact this trend. This week’s contest finds coach Mike Gundy’s team taking on a Texas squad that has yielded 32.2 ppg in its five contests. The Longhorns are also not opposed to having their offense dictate the pace of a game. With a total that looks a bit low at 58.5, don’t be surprised to see this contest turn into a typical Big 12 shootout.
(181) LSU at (182) AUBURN. Game line: LSU by 3
Trend: LSU is 10-0-1 ATS (L10Y) as unranked team
Analysis: After falling out of the rankings a couple of weeks back, LSU responded Saturday with a dominant performance against respected South Carolina. The 52-24 win was the Tigers’ best game since last year’s national title contest. Was it a coincidence that it was LSU’s first game since going unranked? Well, if you consider this trend, I would certainly say not. It seems the Tigers respond well to perceived disrespect. Playing with a chip on the shoulder can be a huge boost for high-level athletes who sometimes need extra sources of motivation. Despite the big win last week, LSU is still not ranked and taking on underachieving Auburn. Beating a highly competitive rival also serves as a great motivator.
(189) MISSISSIPPI STATE at (190) ALABAMA. Game line: Alabama by 31
Trend: MISSISSIPPI STATE is 1-9 ATS (L10G) on road against dominant teams outscoring opponents by more than 15.0 ppg
Analysis: Unfortunately for Mississippi State, living in the SEC West means several games per season against elite competition. The Bulldogs have floundered in such games, especially on the road. It was hoped that new coach Mike Leach could help shrink that gap and get the program to another level. Early indications are that it will be a bigger job than envisioned. After a season-opening upset of LSU that has since lost a lot of luster, Leach’s team has dropped three straight while scoring just 10 ppg. Leach’s life was never like that in the Pac-12. The schedule gets tougher this week as the Bulldogs travel to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama, which comes off back-to-back impressive wins and is scoring 48.4 ppg. As hard as it seems at times to lay 31 points in the SEC, this trend says it’s the way to go.
(193) GEORGIA at (194) KENTUCKY. Game line: Georgia by 15
Trend: GEORGIA is 5-19-1 ATS (L25G) against poor passing teams averaging less than 6.15 yards per attempt
Analysis: Those of us who have been disappointed after betting Georgia in heavy favorite lines have come to the realization that the Bulldogs are better at limiting explosive teams than at whacking lesser squads. In other words, they don’t take much satisfaction in throttling overmatched opponents. Physically speaking, Kentucky might not be overmatched to a huge degree, but from an execution standpoint in the early going, the Wildcats might be. They are averaging just 5.8 yards per pass attempt, ranking 84th in the country of the 101 FBS teams that have taken the field so far. Historically speaking, though, it doesn’t make coach Mike Stoops’ team a bad play here. In fact, quite the contrary: It suggests Georgia might go easy on the Cats.
(195) MISSOURI at (196) FLORIDA. Game total: 61.5
Trend: MISSOURI is 13-1 UNDER (L14G) against lesser defensive teams allowing more than 29 ppg
Analysis: Quite simply, Missouri’s offensive prowess and style of play lately has not been conducive to taking advantage of porous defensive teams. The Tigers haven’t chosen to win games that way and would prefer to keep the scores low in the face of the SEC’s new prolific scoring strategy. In fact, with most of its league counterparts typically pushing into the 60s lately for combined scores, Missouri’s last 18 SEC contests have produced just 44.5 ppg. Even with a total of 61.5 for this game, I would expect new coach Eli Drinkwitz to do all he can to avoid getting into a shootout with an explosive Florida team scoring 42.3 ppg.
Top NFL Trends
(101) ATLANTA at (102) CAROLINA. Game line: Carolina by 3
Trend: CAROLINA is 0-7 ATS (L7G) at home vs. poor teams with 40% or less winning percentage
Analysis: Carolina has not been a team bettors have learned to trust as the favorite. In fact, it’s quite the opposite and very fitting that the Panthers turned to a new quarterback this season with a tremendous penchant for coming through as an underdog. On Thursday, Carolina hosts struggling Atlanta, which seemingly can’t even avoid falling into the end zone right this season. Even though coach Matt Rhule’s team is two games better in the standings and playing at home, it doesn’t mean this will be a cakewalk. The Panthers have lost their last seven home games against the spread versus teams winning 40% or less of their games. The Falcons have also won in Carolina in back-to-back seasons and continue to put up points, and a good fight, on a weekly basis.
(251) INDIANAPOLIS at (252) DETROIT. Game line: Indianapolis by 3
Trend: INDIANAPOLIS is 18-6-1 ATS (L25G) against decent passing teams averaging more than 6.80 yards per attempt
Trend: DETROIT is 6-18-1 ATS (L25G) at home against decent passing teams averaging more than 6.80 yards per attempt
Analysis: I’ve applied two trends to this game because they contradict one another. Indianapolis and Detroit have been solid throwing the football. The Colts average 7.9 yards per attempt, with the Lions at 7.2, both ranked in the upper half of the NFL. But the teams’ trends are massively different in how they perform against opponents that pass the ball efficiently. Indy has been very good; Detroit has been very bad, particularly at home. With the Lions playing as home dogs, these trends point to a road win by the rested Colts.
(253) MINNESOTA at (254) GREEN BAY. Game total: 54.5
Trend: GREEN BAY is 18-5 OVER (L5Y) against strong rushing teams averaging more than 4.4 yards per carry
Analysis: Stopping the run has been a well-exposed weakness for the Packers in recent seasons, and it literally cost them a shot at the Super Bowl last season. But Green Bay has had Aaron Rodgers on its side and has often been able to overcome that deficiency by scoring more than its fair share of points. That of course has led to a lot of Over games in matchups against teams with top rushing attacks. This week’s game pits the Vikings, who are running for 5.0 yards per carry, and the Packers, who are scoring 32.8 ppg. With the total posted in the mid-50s, even the oddsmakers believe this one has a chance to light up the scoreboard.
(259) LAS VEGAS at (260) CLEVELAND. Game total: 53.5
Trend: CLEVELAND is 24-7-1 OVER (L5Y) against lesser passing defenses yielding more than 6.75 yards per attempt
Analysis: Last week’s shootout victory in Cincinnati proved how potent the Cleveland passing game can be in certain situations. Specifically, the Browns have fared well against defenses that don’t stop the pass well. Their 37 points and 316 passing yards came without stud WR Odell Beckham on the field. With him now lost for the season, it remains to be seen how the offense will fare. Part of me believes that the entire unit, notably QB Baker Mayfield, could be better without the individual pressures Beckham brings. On Sunday, Cleveland faces a passing defense that allowed 369 yards to Tom Brady and the Bucs last weekend. This matchup has the potential for offensive fireworks.
(261) NEW YORK JETS at (262) KANSAS CITY. Game line: Kansas City by 19.5
Trend: NEW YORK JETS are 0-8 ATS (L10Y) on road vs. AFC West
Analysis: This trend is very simple yet explainable and effective. The West Division represents the longest trips for the Jets each year and the most significant difference in weather. It’s natural to expect the performance to vary a bit. In this case it’s off significantly, as New York has lost eight straight ATS at AFC West foes. Typically I tend to stay away from these huge point-spread games, but this is the worst team in the league against the best, and the number actually seems low when compared with how the teams have been perceived. Kansas City has been a low-30s-level power rating consistently, while the Jets have been in the low teens. That’s essentially a 20-point difference without even factoring in home-field advantage or the trend mentioned above. I’m cool with laying the wood in this one.
(267) NEW ORLEANS at (268) CHICAGO
Trend: NEW ORLEANS is 22-4-1 ATS (L5Y) on road on Sunday
Analysis: Bettors have had a major misconception with the Saints in recent years in believing that their true advantage comes when playing in the Superdome. That actually couldn’t be further from the truth, especially when you consider their recent playoff failures as well three straight ATS losses in New Orleans this season. Coach Sean Payton’s team has played its best football on the road lately and goes into Chicago on an impressive 22-4-1 ATS run in Sunday road tilts. Think about just the 2020 season. The Saints won on the road at Detroit on a Sunday afternoon and lost on a Monday night in Las Vegas. Something about the Sunday game traveling routine has worked for Payton’s club. I wouldn’t challenge it until we see otherwise.
(269) SAN FRANCISCO at (270) SEATTLE. Game line: Seattle by 3
Trend: SAN FRANCISCO is 4-13 ATS vs. starting QB Russell Wilson
Analysis: Russell Wilson is putting on a show and legitimately is the MVP favorite right now. San Francisco is used to seeing this from Wilson, though, as he has owned the 49ers since coming into the league, amassing a record of 13-4 ATS in one of the league’s burgeoning rivalries. He seems to have gotten better in the series as well, with Seattle hitting the 20-point mark or better in nine of the last 10 meetings. This week’s clash is a big one, with the NFC West lead on the line. If the Seahawks don’t get it done ATS, I would be willing to assume it won’t be due to Wilson.
(273) TAMPA BAY at (274) NEW YORK GIANTS. Game line: Tampa Bay by 10.5
Trend: NEW YORK GIANTS are 3-13-1 ATS (L3Y) at home against aggressive defenses forcing more than 1.7 turnovers per game
Analysis: This week’s Monday night tilt doesn’t look too appealing on paper, and when you throw this ugly Giants trend on top, it makes it even worse. New York has been a turnover-laden club in recent years, with Daniel Jones and Eli Manning assuming a lot of the responsibility. At home, the matchups against turnover-forcing defenses rarely go the G-Men’s way. The Bucs have forced 12 turnovers in their first seven games, a huge improvement from a year ago, when they fell victim to the turnover differential. Tampa Bay seems to be hitting its stride. It could be a mistake to go against that even in a “Monday Night Football” game with a double-digit point spread.
(275) PITTSBURGH at (276) BALTIMORE. Game total: 47
Trend: PITTSBURGH is 24-5-1 UNDER (L5Y) on road against aggressive defenses forcing more than 1.7 turnovers per game
Analysis: Pittsburgh is the only remaining unbeaten team and has shown the ability to win in many ways. But the Steelers will be tested this week at Baltimore in their most difficult game of the season. The Ravens thrive on turnovers. Pittsburgh won’t be able to compete if playing from behind and struggling to keep QB Ben Roethlisberger upright. Therefore, I would expect coach Mike Tomlin and the Steelers to promote a more physical and conservative style, which is typical of how they’ve strategized on the road recently when matched against aggressive defenses. Play Under in this AFC North showdown.
(277) LOS ANGELES CHARGERS at (278) DENVER. Game total: 44
Trend: DENVER is 19-6 UNDER (L25G) against lesser defensive teams allowing more than 23.5 ppg
Analysis: There was a time, most recently in the early Peyton Manning era, when Under bets were suicide in Broncos games. That is no more, as this team has struggled offensively and leaned heavily on its defense lately. Denver simply hasn’t had the type of offensive attack that can capitalize even on porous defenses. The Chargers are allowing 25.7 ppg and come off a contest in which they yielded 29 points to the lowly Jaguars, and still this total is set at 44, minuscule by 2020 standards. It might seem that oddsmakers are leading us to water here, expecting a low-scoring tilt.