We’ve reached that time in the season when you really have to pay attention to the college football coaching world. We saw Matt Wells get dismissed at Texas Tech last week, and the Red Raiders responded by getting blown out by Oklahoma. This week started with the news that TCU and Gary Patterson would part ways effective immediately.
Coaching questions may wind up with answers, but the unanswered questions that leave a coach’s seat extremely hot are also going to be prevalent the rest of the way. Those can create some good situational betting angles. We also still have rivalry games, lookahead spots and huge games with division and conference implications.
Let’s highlight the ones that stand out the most for Week 10.
Georgia State at No. 24 Louisiana (-12, 54)
Louisiana is used to the national spotlight from having played several high-profile games on ESPN or other major media networks over the last few seasons. Georgia State is less accustomed to the bright lights, but that isn’t why I think this is a bad spot for the Panthers.
The road underdog on a short week comes into this game having just won the rivalry game against Georgia Southern. Furthermore, the Panthers scored the game-winning touchdown with 26 seconds left after giving up the game-tying touchdown with 1:39 to go. Georgia Southern got to the Georgia State 21 on the ensuing possession, but a sack ended the game.
Neither the Panthers nor the Ragin’ Cajuns could practice Tuesday due to an NCAA rule that forbids practice on Election Day, a rule that went into effect last year. The lack of a practice day seems worse for the traveling team that has to leave Wednesday for the road game, especially as the lesser of the two teams.
Louisiana’s game was far less eventful. The Ragin’ Cajuns beat Texas State 45-0 and almost doubled the Bobcats in yardage. The defense faced only 50 plays. This is a terrible short-week spot for Georgia State against an opponent that did not spend much energy. This line should probably be higher, and I think it will grow as we approach kickoff.
Army vs. Air Force (-2.5, 37) at Arlington, Texas
Army gets a break that this game will not be played in the elevation of Colorado Springs. It will instead be played at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, home of the Texas Rangers. Air Force can win the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 2016 with a victory after beating Navy 23-3 earlier in the season.
Army has won three of the last four years against Air Force and won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy each of those seasons. This is certainly about more than just bragging rights, though those matter a lot too. Both teams are well-rested coming off the bye.
One thing I do want to point out is the familiarity among all the service academies. For whatever reason, Air Force’s games against Navy have been fairly high-scoring, but that has not been the case recently with Air Force’s games against Army. Dating to 2014, the combined score for the two teams has been 29, 23, 43, 21, 31, 30 and 17.
The obvious starting point here would be to look at the total with that run of low-scoring games. It is a low line, but these teams face this offense and defense every day in practice.
No. 20 Houston (-13, 53.5) at South Florida
This one might be my favorite situational spot of the week. We’ve got a lot happening in this game. We’ll start with the fact that Houston slid into the Top 25 this week on the strength of a 44-37 win over SMU. The Cougars won with a kick-return touchdown with 17 seconds left after SMU booted a game-tying field goal.
Houston was the right side and deserved the win, as the Cougars rolled up nearly 500 yards. USF deserved a better fate against East Carolina, as the Bulls had a big edge in yards per play, 6.5 to 5.5. USF is a better team than its 2-6 record.
Houston’s big win over SMU sets the stage for facing Cincinnati in the AAC championship game. The two will not play during the regular season. All Houston has to do is beat USF, Temple, Memphis and UConn.
The “fat and happy” theory really applies here to the Cougars, though. They’re now in the Top 25 and just beat an in-state rival to get there. The lowly Bulls are a hard team to be focused against. Hopefully this line inches higher, but I do like USF based on the spot.
No. 14 Baylor (-6.5, 58) at TCU
This has become quite the situational spot for TCU. Coach Gary Patterson stepped away from the program Sunday after 22 years. Patterson oversaw the move to the FBS level and saw multiple conference affiliation changes. It is the end of an era in Fort Worth, to say the least.
Patterson had lost some zip on his fastball in recent years, as the game seems to have passed him by to a degree. TCU is getting tested more in the Big 12, but this is a defense that regularly ranked among the best in the nation and is 124th in yards per play allowed this season.
The program will be in the capable hands of Jerry Kill for the last four games of the season. Kill had successful stops at Minnesota and Northern Illinois but hasn’t been a head coach since 2015, when he resigned for medical reasons.
Obviously you still have to worry about TCU here. Baylor’s improvements are legit, and the Bears are significantly better than expected. They are also very well-coached with head coach Dave Aranda, OC Jeff Grimes and DC Ron Roberts. The Patterson announcement came about abruptly, but maybe the players had a feeling it was coming. Either way, you have to really wonder about TCU and the preparation level against a Top 15 opponent.
No. 5 Michigan State (-3, 54) at Purdue
It won’t be hard for Mel Tucker to say the right things to his team to keep them focused this week. Everybody in the Big Ten noticed when Purdue knocked off Iowa, and the Boilermakers picked off another impressive upset with a road win in Lincoln as more than a touchdown underdog against Nebraska.
Words and actions are two different things, though, and no matter what a coach says to his players, we still see these deflating letdown spots come through year after year. For starters, let’s just look at this line, as it gives you a pretty good idea of how oddsmakers and bettors have Michigan State power-rated. The Spartans may be 8-0 and a Top 5 team, but they are not priced like one.
Rather than dwell on the common-sense angle with Michigan State, let’s also talk about Purdue here. Between the big road wins, Purdue went from beating No. 2 Iowa to flopping at home against Wisconsin. The Boilermakers have alternated wins and losses since the second game of the season. Purdue is a box of chocolates, and sometimes you’re going to get that gross nougat-filled one.
While everybody is busy figuring out if Michigan State is good enough to overcome this spot, I’m wondering if Purdue is good enough for it to matter. Truthfully, I have no idea whom this spot favors, given that Tucker seems to be a really good coach for this Michigan State program.
UNLV at New Mexico (-2, 44.5)
UNLV was embarrassed last week by rival Nevada to fall to 0-8. At least the Rebels didn’t blow a halftime lead this time. They trailed 20-0 at halftime, and a 49-yard pick-six on the first possession of the second half removed any hope of a comeback. The Rebels have lost 14 straight games since beating Nevada to end the 2019 season. That means coach Marcus Arroyo is 0-14.
This is a winnable game against New Mexico, as the line would imply. UNLV doesn’t get many of these, so it would be wise to take full advantage. On the other hand, New Mexico doesn’t get many of these either. The Lobos are on extra rest after a stunning win at Wyoming to snap a five-game losing streak in which the team was outscored 159-37.
You’d like to think both teams give it their all here with how hard it is for these programs to win. Let’s see if UNLV can rally and end this miserable skid. At least getting blown out is better than losing a close game in terms of getting back to work.
Still, it feels like New Mexico or pass here and more questions about Arroyo’s future with the program.