Kramer: A bettor's guide to Week 3 in college football

By Adam Kramer  ( 


Forget what you spent the last six months learning. 

No, really. 

All those hours you spent studying Ball State’s backup offensive line? I want you to take that information you gather, throw it an imaginary trash can and light it on fire. That information will do you no good now.

I’m telling you this, because I’m telling the same thing to myself. So often do we, as gamblers, take months of research and let it linger far too deep into the year. I am guilty of this, of course, although I am mindful enough of this yearly ritual that I am able to let it go.

I thought Texas would be a much better football team. I was wrong.

I thought Ohio State’s defensive line would be dominant. I was wrong.

I thought Texas A&M would be a viable challenger to Alabama. While it’s early, I am pretty sure I was wrong.

And that’s OK. I spent many hours trying to figure out the college football season. You might have done the same. I am willing to admit that some of these were, well, off. It happens every year.

What I am unwilling to do -- and what we simply cannot do together -- is allow stubbornness to get in the way of results and whatever your eyes tell you.

We are getting results now. It’s been only a few weeks, but games are being played. The sample size is still small, although it’s growing quickly. The more games we get, the more we adjust.

Let pride fade away. Don’t hang onto predictions that shouldn’t be saved. Don’t leap to conclusions, but adjust to the season as it progresses.

And don’t consider those offseason hours wasted or change your routine. There were futures to be bet and money to be made.

Plus, it’s the offseason. What else are you going to do?

The Appetizer: Football Tidbits and Observations

1. Ohio State is a flawed team. That much is clear. The Buckeyes lost outright as a 15-point favorite in Columbus, which is a big deal. What stood out even more during that game, however, is how awful the defense played. It couldn’t set the edge, and Oregon was able to get massive gains with little resistance. The secondary has major holes as well. The offense is talented enough to make up for these deficiencies in most games, but this will be a problem again. And these holes are all on tape now.

2. Speaking of flawed teams, let’s talk about Texas. I’ve been higher on the Longhorns and Steve Sarkisian than most, although the loss at Arkansas shows just how far this program is away. Texas closed a six-point favorite and lost by, well, a lot. On the other side, much love for Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman. His arrival has generated a wealth of enthusiasm in that program, and it shows when they play.

3. Let me rant about targeting for a minute, because I forgot to do so last week. (Also, it’s never a bad time to rant about targeting.) The fix is pretty simple; have a Targeting 1 and a Targeting 2. You cannot and should not be ejecting players for questionable hits, and most of the hits being punished now are questionable. Targeting 1 would be a 15-yard penalty and a first down. Targeting 2, the severer of the two, would be a 15-yard penalty and an ejection. Think about this; we have more nuance in protecting punting than we do with everything else. It needs to be changed.

4. I don’t know how Iowa’s start will translate over the course of a season, although what a start it is. The Hawkeyes are 2-0, and both wins have come against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 (at the time the game was played). Iowa cruised against Iowa State as a four-point underdog, and it did so once again with the help of turnovers. Through two games, Iowa has forced seven. In that time, Iowa has thrown for less than 250 yards combined. The defense looks great, although will the offense be able to do enough? We’ll see. Great start either way.

5. One more on Iowa-Iowa State. I bet the over (46), and I scratched and clawed my way back into the game. Down 10, and with 44 points on the board, Matt Campbell hurried out his kicker as time was winding down in hopes of making it a seven-point game. For a moment, I had hope. However, the play was rushed, and the kicker snapped off well left of the goal posts. I really shouldn’t have won this bet, but I had a chance. Hope can be a dangerous thing.

6. Florida State. I don’t know what to say. After such a promising Week 1, even in defeat, all the goodwill bottled up against Notre Dame is now gone. The Seminoles lost on a last-second, 59-yard touchdown pass to Jacksonville State. Terrible defense. Terrible strategy. Just, well, terrible. FSU lost outright as a four-touchdown favorite, and that about says it all. Well, no. One more thing. Florida State is now a six-point underdog to Wake Forest this week. Yikes.

The Buffet: The Five Best Games of the Weekend

It’s a top-heavy slate, and maybe that’s being kind. (You’ll see after we get beyond the top three games.) That said, as always, plenty of gambling opportunities.

All lines, which will move plenty, current as of Sunday night.

1. No. 1 Alabama (-15.5, 57) at No. 11 Florida

There’s a quarterback controversy brewing in Florida, even if head coach Dan Mullen won’t acknowledge it. Freshman Anthony Richardson dazzled when he replaced starter Emory Jones against South Florida on Saturday. And although he appeared to tweak his hamstring, this conversation—whether it surfaces against Alabama or not—is not going away. Alabama, meanwhile, failed to cover the 54.5-point spread against Mercer in a 48-14 win. QB Bryce Young looked sharp, although now he’ll hit the road for the first time as a starter and deal with what will be a hostile environment. While ‘Bama is a machine, it wouldn’t shock if this one is perhaps a little closer than expected.

2. No. 8 Cincinnati (-3.5, 51) at Indiana 

I’ve had this game circled for many months, and its significance has not changed. For Indiana, having been blown out by Iowa at home as a 3.5-point favorite in Week 1, this is a chance to get right in a hurry. For Cincinnati, fresh off two blowouts against inferior opponents, this is a chance to validate its place in the AP Poll—currently No. 8—and march toward consideration for the College Football Playoff. The fact that a top 10 team is only laying a small amount of points against an unranked foe is bound to draw some interesting action. And while I’ve been somewhat down on the Hoosiers, I am certainly intrigued by the dog and how this line moves.

3. No. 10 Penn State (-6.5, 53) vs. No. 22 Auburn

I want to take a moment and just say how much I appreciate this game and the fact that it’s being played on a college campus. With that out of the way, let me transition to praising Penn State. I thought the Nittany Lions might let down against Ball State after beating Wisconsin, although they cruised 44-13 and covered the 22.5-point spread. That’s a telling win, which is not something we have with Auburn right now. The Tigers are 2-0, and they have outscored opponents 122-10. Those opponents? Akron and Alabama State. The running game, led by Tank Bigsby, should be a quality test. I actually could see defense being the theme of the game here.

4. No. 19 Arizona State (-2.5, 50.5) at No. 23 BYU

For BYU, it’s like déjà vu. The Cougars are 2-0 this season, and both those wins have come against the Pac-12. They didn’t cover the opener against Arizona, although they followed that up with an electric performance against Utah in Week 2. BYU won outright as a touchdown underdog. (For what it’s worth, I liked and had Utah. That was a mistake.) This week, that spread has largely condensed. Arizona State cracked the top 20 in the AP Poll, although the Sun Devils struggled early in Week 2 against UNLV before pulling away in the second half. They did not cover the five-touchdown spread, all the turnaround was noteworthy. One player to watch here? Jaren Hall. The BYU QB was a force as a runner and a thrower against Utah. If ASU can’t figure him out this week, look out.

5. No. 12 Notre Dame (-7, 59) vs. Purdue

I know what you’re thinking. “Adam, is this really a top-five game this weekend?” The answer to that question is, well, maybe. At the very least, it’s in the running. And after a pretty woeful showing against Toledo as a 16.5-point favorite, the Irish are now just a touchdown-favorite against Purdue. The Boilermakers just beat UConn 49-0 as a 35-point favorite, which doesn’t tell us much. However, I loved what I saw from Purdue against Oregon State the week prior. While the win won’t get a ton of attention, it got mine. On the flip side, Notre Dame’s thrilling win over Florida State in Week 1 suddenly feels a bit off. The Seminoles loss to Jacksonville State, as mentioned above, might be the most interesting piece of data to process before placing a bet.

Last Call: Parting Shots on Other Games of Note

No. 3 Oklahoma (-22, 62) vs. Nebraska

The good news for Scott Frost is that Nebraska has rallied since its Week 0 loss. The bad news is that it rallied against Fordham and Buffalo, and playing at Oklahoma seems suboptimal. This is a huge number, although it’s hard to argue with.

No. 24 Miami (-6, 54.5) vs. Michigan State

It’s a curious game and a curious line. Miami was demolished against Alabama and then pushed to the brink against App State. Michigan State is 2-0, with its best win coming against Northwestern in the opener. Feels like Sparty could be live.

Boise State (-4, 58) vs. Oklahoma State

The Pokes have struggled in back-to-back weeks against Missouri State and Tulsa. That is not ideal when heading to play on the blue turf. Odd line for an odd game, although the chalk might be the right side given what we’ve seen

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