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Kramer: A bettor's guide to college football Week 12

By Adam Kramer  ( 

November 16, 2021 09:32 AM

How do you define what rock bottom looks like in college football? 

That depends, of course, on the level of expectations attached. But let's try to find it. This week, we don't have to search hard. 

Losing as a 31.5-point favorite at home, for starters. That, no matter history or accolades or expectations, is quite bad.

How about losing as a 31.5-point favorite at home to a team that has not won a road conference game since October of 2008?

Not good enough? Let's dive deeper. 

How about losing as a 31.5-point favorite at home to a team that has not won a road conference game since October of 2008 on a two-point conversion caught by a walk-on freshman fullback who had not played until this game?

I’m not sure I have found the words to describe the kind of loss Texas just endured to Kansas, but that about sums it up.

The smattering of Kansas fans who made the trip to Austin found the words. They chanted “S-E-C” over and over as the outcome was decided in front of a stadium that was only partially filled. It looked like a scene straight out of a low-budget zombie movie. 

The Jayhawks could’ve been yours somewhere in the range of + 2500 on the money line. To the brave souls and fortune tellers who partook in this, I commend you on your CFB witchcraft.

For Texas, which has now lost five games in a row for the first time in more than 60 years, failing to cover in all five, it’s hard to find a bright spot. There is none. 

On a day that saw Oklahoma lose, Florida struggle against Samford and plenty of others deliver ”yuck”, the Longhorns are the story.

I liked the hire of Steve Sarkisian. I liked Texas to go over its win total. I thought Sark’s offensive mindset would work wonders on the field and in recruiting, and that Texas could tap into some of the potential that has been lacking across the past decade.

At the moment, this looks incredibly wrong. Sarkisian will certainly get more time to repair this program and bring his own players, as he should. While the sport is impatient, he should be given a fair shake.

Still, this one will follow him. It’ll follow him in living rooms in recruiting visits and on the field in the years to come when the angst and need to win games starts to bubble over.

You just lost as a 31.5-point favorite at home. To Kansas. This has to be rock bottom, because we’re running out of room to fall.

(Also, congrats to Kansas. Nice win.)


The Appetizer: Football Tidbits and Observations

1. Oklahoma’s loss to Baylor is a significant development for Cincinnati. While the Sooners closed as less than a touchdown favorite, the outright defeat puts a significant dent in the Big 12’s playoff hopes. (OK State fans, I see you.) Cincinnati didn’t dazzle on Friday night against South Florida, but a win is meaningful. As more teams continue to fall, the Bearcats' playoff resume looks better and better by default. Huge games this weekend; more on that in a second. 

2. A few weeks ago, it was Florida State-Clemson. This week, it was Boise State-Wyoming crushing the souls of gamblers late Friday night. With the score 23-7, Wyoming completed what appeared to be a mundane pass with 16 seconds remaining. That mundane play ultimately turned into a 74-yard touchdown in a matter of moments, and the Cowboys ultimately added six “meaningless” points to the scoreboard with four seconds left. With the spread at 13, I want to send thoughts and prayers to all of the broken televisions out there.

3. Let’s lean into more gambling weirdness a bit longer. I played Washington (+ 6) against Arizona State on Saturday. The Huskies responded by jumping out to a 14-0 lead, which was lovely. With Washington covering the entire game, the Sun Devils went ahead with just over a minute left. At 28-24, they were still covering... until the Huskies threw a pick six you could almost feel coming to bring the score to 35-24. This was about the point I almost shattered my remote. Two personal fouls and a few big plays later, however, and Washington found the end zone with three seconds left (somehow) to cover once again. This was a roller coaster. I needed a walk after.

4. I’ve seen some things in college football. Some good, some bad, some, well, weird. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a game won on a 62-yard field goal at the collegiate level. Texas Tech kicker Jonathan Garibay did just that against Iowa State on Saturday. The Red Raiders beat the Cyclones 41-38 as a 13-point underdog. Oh, and they did so despite firing their head coach, hiring the replacement and becoming bowl eligible with the win. This sport is wonderful.

5. What the heck happened to Auburn? I had the Tigers (-5.5) vs. Mississippi State, and I felt good about that for a while. Auburn was up 28-3 and cruising. Mississippi State then proceeded to outscore Auburn 40-6 and won the game by nine. This wasn’t a bad beat. It was just a beat. Although you don't normally see games turn this fast. Yikes.


The Buffet: The Five Best Games of the Weekend

No. 5 Ohio State (-20, 68) vs. No. 7 Michigan State

This should feel familiar. Last week, the Buckeyes closed as a 19-point favorite over Purdue. Given how well the Boilermakers have played in spurts, it felt like a lot. Ohio State responded with 59 points and comfortably covered the big number. It was the first time in three games Ryan Day’s team covered the spread. Michigan State, coming off a disappointing loss to the same team Ohio State just blew out, recovered nicely against Maryland. Sparty nearly doubled up the Terps 40-21, covering the 11.5 points with ease. In terms of importance, this game is massive. It could decide the Big Ten East, and it will almost certainly impact the playoff. It also could help swing the Heisman as C.J. Stroud (+ 240) and Kenneth Walker III (+ 280) duke it out as two of the favorites. But the number is this size for a reason, and Ohio State might finally be hitting stride. 


No. 2 Alabama (-20, 56.5) vs. No. 21 Arkansas 

Another big game, another big spread. Arkansas, which has faced a grueling schedule in 2021, travels to Tuscaloosa for another gargantuan tussle. The Hogs outlasted LSU in OT last 16-13, which was either an Arky push or win depending on what number you had. Alabama, meanwhile, absolutely destroyed New Mexico State, covering the 50.5-point spread. The Crimson Tide have now covered five of the past seven games. On the topic of the Heisman, Bryce Young can improve his candidacy (+ 180) with another massive game in a big spot. Nick Saban’s team can also lock up its division with a win, which would guarantee us the Georgia-Alabama matchup we’ve been waiting for. I'm not crazy about the line, although I do lean a bit toward the over.


No. 24 Utah (-3, 58.5) vs. No. 4 Oregon 

Yes, the No. 4 team in the country is catching points on the road against a team that struggled some against Arizona this past weekend. To some, that might seem odd. But if you watched Utah play at home this season—or in recent memory, for that matter—the number here shouldn’t be all that shocking. The Utes fell well short of covering the 24-point spread on the road, which could have been the classic look-ahead spot. Or, maybe not. Regardless, Oregon didn’t exactly dazzle in its matchup against Washington State either. The Ducks ultimately covered the 13.5-point spread, although they needed a late surge to do so. I’m curious to see if this line budges, although I lean Utah early on.


No. 3 Cincinnati (-12.5, 65.5) vs. SMU

For weeks, this is the game we have circled. With Cincinnati’s schedule lacking consistent firepower, SMU felt like the team to test the Bearcats or give the resume a boost. Weeks later and that is still partially the case. Cincinnati has been greater than a three-touchdown favorite in the past four games, and it hasn’t covered the spread in any of them. In fact, the Bearcats have looked largely lackluster over much of the past month. SMU can relate. The Mustangs lost back-to-back games against Houston and Memphis before blowing out UCF last week. In terms of offense, SMU has plenty of it. And the total in this game speaks to the kind of matchup we might get. The end result could be tight and a great deal of fun.  


Clemson (-3.5, 54.5) vs. No. 13 Wake Forest

This sport is odd sometimes, and this particular matchup, given all that we’ve seen to arrive here, speaks to that. Wake Forest is ranked, and Clemson is not. At this point in the year, we shouldn’t be surprised. It still is strange to see. The fact that Clemson is only a three-point favorite would have sounded wild four months ago. Now? I imagine many are surprised the Tigers are the favorite at all. Clemson has quietly won five of six games, albeit against competition it should beat somewhat convincingly. On Saturday, it failed to cover the 40.5-point spread against UConn, although it made a push to do so. On the other side, Wake Forest was able to get past NC State. This was a solid win. The Demon Deacons also covered the spread for the third time in four games. To me, this game is about pacing and style. Wake has not played a defense this good. But if Clemson gives up points, can the offense do enough to counter?


Last Call: Parting Shots on Other Games of Note

Kansas State (-1.5, 50.5) vs. No. 11 Baylor: Oh, I kind of love Kansas State here. Scratch that, I do love Kansas State. The hangover for Baylor, coming off a win over Oklahoma, could be alive and well. And a sneaky-good home team is poised to deliver. Buckle up.

No. 15 UTSA (-5, 53.5) vs. UAB: If UTSA is going to finish unbeaten, it’ll have to earn it. UAB has covered the spread in four of five, and the Blazers just delivered a nice road win at Marshall. This is one worth keeping an eye on this week.

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