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Electricity in the air, but not in the Thursday night underdogs

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

September 29, 2017 12:16 AM

Electricity was in the air Thursday, but not because of great football! The big story of the night was a lightning delay in Green Bay…as favorites cash in pro and college yawners.

NFL: Weather extends misery of Bears fans in LONG 35-14 loss at Green Bay

Maybe the market shouldn’t have made that big line adjustment because of all the Green Bay injuries. Well, at least not against a mistake-prone Bears team that’s prone to give away cheap points. 

Green Bay (-7.5) 35, Chicago 14

  • Yards-per-Play: Chicago 4.8, Green Bay 4.9
  • Total Yards: Chicago 306, Green Bay 260
  • Third Down Pct: Chicago 42%, Green Bay 50%
  • Rushing Yards: Chicago 103, Green Bay 91
  • Passing Stats: Chicago 21-33-2-203, Green Bay 19-27-0-169
  • Turnovers: Chicago 4, Green Bay 0
  • Touchdown Drive Lengths: Chicago 72-75, Green Bay 75-3-60-63-42

It might as well have been a replay of Chicago’s other road game…where the Bears self-destructed on the way to a 26-0 halftime deficit at Tampa Bay (21-7 here). That was a 4-1 turnover loss, and the Bears finished with 310 total yards despite playing catch-up the whole way. 

We’ve talked about this a few times this season. Chicago’s still getting way too much media credit for “almost beating Atlanta” in the season opener where they were outgained 6.8 to 4.8 on a per-play basis. Teams generally play to their composite indicator stats in future action, rather than fluky short-term scoreboard stuff. 

While turnovers have fluctuated (0-4-2-4), the Bears offense has been consistently sub-par…

  • Points: 17-7-17 (in regulation)-14
  • Yards: 301-310-304-306
  • YPP: 4.8-5.0-4.9-4.8

That can be enough cover medium or large underdog spreads if turnovers aren’t making things easy for opponents. Tonight, the Bears made things too easy. Aaron Rodgers knows how to finish drives and cash in field position. 

Green Bay moves to 3-1 on the year…and will go back to putting up bigger offensive stats when healthier. Chicago falls to 1-3, and may accelerate the debut of the Mitchell Trubisky experience since doom seems rather imminent.  

Next up…

  • Green Bay: at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday October 8
  • Chicago: vs. Minnesota on Monday night October 9

Both will be underdogs next week. Green Bay didn’t fare well indoors on a fast track at Atlanta, but will enjoy a few extra days of rest and preparation this time around. Right when they need it health-wise. 

College Football: Texas grinds out 10-point win at Iowa State

It ended up being a very ugly game. Both head coaches used conservative approaches on offense and preventative measures on defense. Then Texas efficiently ran clock with a fourth quarter lead, making 4.0 yards-per-play (very low for college football) seem like a steamroller. 

Texas (-6) 17, Iowa State 7

  • Total Yards: Texas 312, Iowa State 256
  • Yards-per-Play: Texas 4.0, Iowa State 4.0
  • Third Down Pct: Texas 48%, Iowa State 25%
  • Turnovers: Texas 2, Iowa State 3
  • TD Drive Lengths: Texas 81-60, Iowa State 28

The key statistic turned out to be third-down conversions. Texas went 11 of 23 despite not showing much stat volume. That allowed them to win time-of-possession about 2-1, and play count 78 to 64. Iowa State was 3 of 12 on third downs, 0 of 2 on fourth downs, and gave the ball away three times. Tough to score like that!

On the whole, the Texas defense proved that the performance at USC was no fluke…and that pundits should stop talking about what happened against Maryland a month ago. Until new coach Tom Herman has enough confidence to take the reins off either of his quarterbacks…expect more conservative defensive-minded games like this. Texas/Iowa State stayed Under the market total by 38 points. The OT loss at USC was Under by 32 at the end of regulation. 

Next up for Texas is a gauntlet featuring Kansas State, Oklahoma (in Dallas), and Oklahoma State. Iowa State visits Oklahoma next week, and will have to look to future contests with TCU and Oklahoma State to score potential home upsets. 

College Football: Friday ESPN twinbill features #14 Miami at undefeated Duke, #5 USC at #16 Washington State

How’s that for a doubleheader?! Quick Notes on all four teams…

Miami: The Hurricanes have only played two games this season because of Hurricane Irma. And the first was a virtual scrimmage against Bethune Cookman. They sure impressed in the second half last week of what might as well have been a season opener against Toledo. Miami won the last two quarters 42-14, on its way to a 587-446 yardage advantage with an even more impressive 9.5 to 5.3 superiority in yards-per-play. You can tell the market was impressed. Miami is laying -6.5 on the road against a Duke team that has won every game straight up and against the spread. 

Duke: Yes, it hasn’t exactly a murderer’s row for the Blue Devils. But they did beat Northwestern 41-17…and the Wildcats were supposed to be a potential spoiler in the Big 10 West. They beat North Carolina on the road last Saturday 27-17 in a game that fluttered around pick-em all weekend. Also, double digit wins over Baylor and North Carolina-Central. The market has underestimated Duke every week so far. Have they done it again? Both Duke and Miami are untested in 2017 against the caliber of opponent they’ll be facing Friday night. There’s at least potential for a great game. 

USC: We looked at USC’s disappointing YPP stats on offense earlier this week when reviewing its win over California. The Trojans aren’t moving the ball nearly as well as the market expected. Sam Darnold is still interception-prone, and still acting like a gunslinger rather than a youngster who needs to learn from his mistakes. That could be a problem at an awkward road site. 

Washington State: It knows this is its biggest home game of the season…and is bringing all the hype and pageantry that you would expect. The problem is, the Cougars could be all hype given their very soft early schedule. 

The Cougars are 4-0 against…

Washington State had to go overtime to beat what’s been a very disappointing Boise State team…one that was physically embarrassed last week by mediocre Virginia. Otherwise, nothing that would prepare them for the talent on USC’s roster. 

We have a request from a reader we’d like to insert here…

Can you...address scheduling dynamics and venues?  I think the audience would find it interesting. Example: USC opens at -4.5 over Washington State. Wazzu has played nothing but cupcakes so far and now steps way up in class. The Palouse can be a tough venue even when it's warm and dry, which it probably won't be. USC is coming off three grueling physical games and might be wearing down. Who has the edge?

David (in) Reno

We appreciate the question David. And we encourage all VSiN City visitors to feel free to send in requests!

Let’s start with venue. Generally speaking, this factor is overrated by the media and public. Everyone remembers the short stretches where teams seem invincible on their home field. Then, the magic ends and everyone starts talking about something else. Boise State is a great example, which we touched on recently (1-11 ATS in last 12 on the “fabled” blue turf). Remember when Oregon could cover any spread at Autzen Field? The networks wouldn't shut up about it! The Ducks are 4-11 ATS in their last 15 at home. 

It’s worth considering whether something unique about the venue is likely to encourage mistakes from an inexperienced visitor, ideally one that hasn’t played in that stadium recently. USC hasn’t played on this field since 2014, which means Sam Darnold hasn’t been here as a Trojan. 

Scheduling dynamics are always important. But they can be tough to put a number on. And an informed market is aware of them! It becomes your assessment against their a world where any assessment is at best an informed guess

That probably doesn’t answer your questions in terms of finding a winner here. Honestly, it’s just impossible to know for certain what those issues are “worth,” and it’s hard to be confident that your personal assessments will be better than the market’s composite assessments (too many casual bettors are WAY too overconfident about this). Once the game is played, the result will be attributed to those reasons. If USC wins big, Washington State was a pretender. If Wazzou pulls the upset, then the help of a “dangerous home site” will get some of the credit. 

Our best suggestion is to experiment with your own numerical assessments for those issues as aggressively as possible on a weekly basis WITHOUT BETTING THEM…learn what you can…and then only apply them in the future once you’re confident you have an accurate read. 

College Football: Beware possible illusions regarding Virginia Tech’s defense

One of the media themes for Saturday night’s marquee matchup featuring the #2 Clemson Tigers and the #12 Virginia Tech Hokies is that the “great” defense of the host has a chance to keep this close. In fact, some are casually suggesting Virginia Tech has the superior of the two defenses. 

Clemson’s got the better defense…and might be significantly better. If you’re laying more than a TD on the ROAD, and your starting quarterback only has 2 passing TDs with 4 INT’s so far…you’re favored by that much because of your running game and defense!

Defensive Rankings

  • Scoring defense: Clemson #3, Virginia Tech #6
  • Yards-per-game: Clemson #3, Virginia Tech #28
  • Yards-per-play: Clemson #4, Virginia Tech #28

If there’s a strength of schedule adjustment to be made…that would favor CLEMSON. Both teams faced versatile offenses in the form of Louisville (Clemson) and West Virginia (Virginia Tech). 

  • Clemson allowed 433 yards on 6.3 YPP on the road to potent Louisville
  • Virginia Tech allowed 592 yards on 6.7 YPP at a neutral site vs. W. Virginia

Clemson’s other opponents were Auburn (#14 in the nation according to Jeff Sagarin’s computer ratings at USA Today), Boston College (#93), and Kent State (#174). Virginia Tech’s other opponents were Old Dominion (#114), East Carolina (#125), and Delaware (#160)

Virginia Tech is great at keeping patsies off the scoreboard. That's why they have a stellar "points allowed" ranking one month into the season. But they almost allowed 600 yards at a neutral site to West Virginia. That’s the stop-unit you want to hang your hat on against Clemson’s playmakers? 

Virginia Tech can definitely keep this one close, or spring the upset. And, Clemson’s offense could definitely make some key mistakes at this site (though the Tigers dodged that bullet on the road at Louisville). If the Tigers take this one for granted because the Louisville game was so easy, the defending national champs will be in for a long night. 

But the line is Clemson -7.5 because the market is aware of the defensive weaknesses VT showed vs. West Virginia. The game priced is accordingly because Clemson has a very good, balanced offense rather than something similar to East Carolina, Delaware, or Old Dominion. 

That wraps up another week in VSiN City

If you haven’t yet subscribed to our Point Spread Weekly digital betting resource (full season price just $99), you can take care of business after clicking here. Do that NOW and spend the rest of Friday studying for the weekend.

Are you following us on twitter yet? That’s very important on weekends when special guests pop in on the fly. Download the new app that everyone’s raving about by clicking here. Thanks again for all the great app reviews in this debut week. If you have any questions or comments about anything in the VSiN universe, please drop us a note or post a comment in the Facebook widget below. 

Have a great weekend!

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