One of the most important handicapping processes of the college football season is not only projecting where teams are going but also looking at where they’ve been.
Some bettors who create their own numbers will go back and regrade performances based on teams’ current trend lines. For example, Washington State’s win over Wisconsin in Week 2 doesn’t look quite as impressive now as it did back then.
The lines are even blurrier now with so much parity across college football, but it’s important to look back, while also looking forward.
This week, I talked with professional bettors Brad Powers (BradPowersSports.com; @BradPowers7) and Kyle Hunter (HunterSportsPicks.com; @KyleHunterPicks), as well as BettingPros CFB/NFL analyst Thor Nystrom (@thorku), about Week 8 and more.
Now that we’re a little more than halfway through the regular season, which teams have you nailed from your preseason projections and which ones have been your biggest misses?
Powers: I bet 85 different teams as far as their season win total went, so there are plenty of them for me. I’ll give you three positives and three negatives:
— Tennessee was one team I was really high on. I thought the Volunteers were clearly the second-best team in the SEC East and I had them No. 11 in my preseason power ratings. I bet them Over 7 Wins, 100-1 to win the SEC and Hendon Hooker 80-1 to win the Heisman.
— Syracuse was a team that I thought was valued way too low in the early-summer market. Their early season win total was only 3.5 and, despite a tough schedule, I thought they would flirt with bowl eligibility. Now, I didn’t think they’d get there in six games, but keep an eye on second-year DC Tony White, who in two years has knocked off 20 PPG and 200 YPG from what Syracuse was allowing in 2020.
— Everyone seemed to be down on Colorado this summer, including me. I didn’t like the Karl Dorrell hire and thought their 2020 COVID season was a fluke. The Buffaloes faced one of the toughest schedules in the country and I thought they could be an underdog in every game. Safe to say, we were all right (so far) betting Under 3.5 wins.
— One of my biggest misses is James Madison. I bet Under 7.5 and Under 6.5 wins. They had to replace their multi-year starting QB, their top WR transferred to South Carolina and their best defensive player transferred to Texas. The Dukes were making a huge step up in level of competition coming from the FCS. I thought with an 11-game schedule in a super-competitive Sun Belt, they’d be a 5-6 or 6-5 type of team this year. I was wrong.
— I also didn’t buy into the USC hype like everyone else in the summer. I had the Trojans as the most improved Power 5 team in the country and yet I also thought they were the most overrated. I just didn’t see them as a top-10 team this year as I thought depth issues on the offensive line and the defense would hurt them. I bet them Under 9.5 wins but can’t see them going anything less than 10-2 right now.
— I bet Illinois Under 5 wins. They lost a ton on the offensive line and I also thought their defense would take a step back. Only Rutgers and Northwestern were rated lower in the Big Ten by me. I thought the Big Ten West race was wide open and I took a chance on a few long shots like Purdue and Minnesota. Safe to say I bet the wrong teams in the division.
Hunter: Biggest miss — Louisville. I really thought the Cardinals would be very good this year. This was a big season win total wager of mine on the Over. It technically still has a chance, but I’m worried. The injury issues haven’t helped, but this team has underwhelmed.
Biggest hit — Virginia. The Cavaliers are really bad. I was extremely low on them coming into the season and that has been dead on thus far. I feel bad for Brennan Armstrong playing in this offense and behind a terrible offensive line.
Nystrom: Some of my hits on both sides of the ledger are TCU, Toledo, Western Michigan and Colorado.
My biggest misses — by far — played last week. History said James Madison wouldn’t be this good. And simple common sense would say the same of Georgia Southern. I’ve been confronted with two existential questions:
1. Are high-end FCS teams closer to the middle of the FBS than previously thought?
2. More problematically — and I can’t believe I’m typing this — is Clay Helton a good coach?
Which underdog of more than a field goal has the best chance at an outright upset this week (and why?)
Powers: There’s a few like Buffalo (+ 7.5 vs. Toledo) and Boise State (+ 3.5 vs. Air Force) that I think are very live. My favorite one at the current numbers, though, is Kansas State (+ 3.5). I just think, situationally, it’s a great spot for Kansas State off a bye playing a TCU team playing their fifth straight big game. What do the Horned Frogs have left in the tank? They aren’t Ohio State or Georgia when it comes to quality depth. Also, the windy weather forecast should help the more ground-oriented Wildcats, who take care of the football as well as any team in the country. In fact, they are the only team in college football that hasn’t thrown an interception yet.
Hunter: California (+ 7.5). This is a pretty big underdog, and I understand why no one could be excited to bet on the Golden Bears. Still, Justin Wilcox is 16-3 ATS as an underdog of a touchdown or more. Washington lost at Arizona State and is at least capable of losing here.
Nystrom: New Mexico (+ 11 vs. Fresno State), UL Monroe (+ 6.5 vs. Army) and ECU (+ 5 vs. UCF). All match up extremely well. Depending on your book and when you see this, Virginia and UAB could qualify as well. If at least three of these underdogs don’t win outright, I’m back to the drawing board.
What is your favorite bet on the board this week (and why?)
Powers: Boise State + 3.5. Boise State has extra time to prep for the option off a bye week. Boise is also fundamentally a different team than what they were a month ago. QB Hank Bachmeier transferred out and new QB Taylen Green (6-6, 215 pounds) gives them a running threat. Also, Boise has a new OC in Dirk Koetter (former Boise State, Arizona State, Tampa Bay Bucs head coach). That’s an upgrade in both areas for Boise, while the market originally thought it was a downgrade. Don’t believe me? Boise’s previous high point this year was 327 yards versus UT Martin. Since the changes, they put up 450 yards and 443 yards versus San Diego State and Fresno State. The 316 rush yards was the most rush yards allowed by San Diego State in any game in five years!
Hunter: I’ll go Georgia Southern/Old Dominion Over 65.5 (up to 67 across the board as of late Wednesday night). Clay Helton has done a great job getting the pass-heavy attack going right away for the Eagles. Old Dominion just put up 10.9 YPP against Coastal Carolina. Both teams rank in the top 25 in the country in tempo. They also both rank in the top 20 in the country in percentage of plays that are a pass.
Nystrom: LSU-Mississippi Under. My system says we’re getting almost 20 points of line value on the Under and the game script figures to oblige. And, since we’re here, I like LSU to win this game as well.
If I gave you $100 for a Heisman Trophy future on somebody not named C.J. Stroud, who are you taking (and why?)
Powers: USC QB Caleb Williams 8-1. I’d say Hendon Hooker, but I think Tennessee is going to lose to Georgia and the Vols don’t have those big, standout games down the stretch in my opinion. USC plays UCLA, who could be entering 9-1 or 10-0, and also Notre Dame in the final two weeks of the regular season. I think a pair of big performances there makes Williams a shoo-in to be sitting in New York as a finalist.
Hunter: I would want to take Stroud, but without him included I would put a small flier on Caleb Williams. Even in a loss, he showed very well for himself against Utah. USC has some more high-profile games left on the schedule for him to boost his chances.
Nystrom: A player of titanic talent who has more passing attempts and just as many INTs as Stroud — Iowa QB Spencer Petras, baby! (We Iowa grads must joke to stop from crying — but the stats are real. I promise!)
In actuality, I’m betting Adam’s $100 on Bryce Young at 20-1 odds. Based on the voting block’s history, only about 10 teams will have players up for discussion, and those players preferably should play QB, but should play RB if not (a CB had won more recently than a WR prior to DeVonta Smith).
Young, of course, qualifies. His counting stats aren’t as far off pace as some might assume, and he’s getting that invite to NYC if ’Bama wins out and he doesn’t miss another full game. I also don’t think the voting block will penalize him for last year’s Heisman. This is a contrarian take, but I promise I wholeheartedly agree with it: As long as he’s deserving, I actually think Young might win a tiebreaker over an analogous candidate. Voters are mostly the media. And what the media defers to as a voting tiebreaker is the best story — because it makes their job easier. The second two-time winner in history, the first since the mid-’70s, the only QB in history to do so, a player who dragged a down Alabama team to the playoffs despite a significant shoulder injury … I would think that qualifies.
I’d absolutely take Stroud right now — who wouldn’t if forced? — but I don’t agree that Stroud is the lock he’s being painted as currently.