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July 30, 2014

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College football by the odds: Vegas picks and preview of week 7

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, left talks with defensive back Tony Jefferson, right, during an NCAA college football game against Kansas State in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

Sun's NFL betting game of week 6

Which team would you bet on in Dallas’ trip to Baltimore?
Ravens -3.5 — 72.0%
Cowboys +3.5 — 28.0%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Seats at local sports books should fill up a little earlier this Saturday.

The football-scheduling Gods can take credit. For what feels like the first time this season, the day’s most significant college football games are adequately spread out.

No. 13 Oklahoma and No. 15 Texas renew their contentious rivalry bright and early at 9 a.m. on the West Coast. No. 7 Notre Dame looks to stay undefeated against No. 17 Stanford in the afternoon headliner at 12:30 p.m. Two top 10 teams, No. 3 South Carolina and No. 9 LSU, should command the most eyes at night with a 5 p.m. kickoff in Baton Rouge, La.

It’s a major improvement over the last three Saturdays in particular where a combined eight of 11 matchups between ranked teams had night kickoffs.

That made for eight hours of watching dull Big Ten games and MAC showdowns with as much significance as a middle-school dodge ball match before the big boys took the field. Or at least that’s how it seemed during the day.

Take note television executives. Gamblers — and fans alike — prefer some separation.

Check below for a betting breakdown of Saturday’s two biggest games, quick slants on other games of note and picks at the bottom of the page.

No. 15 Texas +3.5 vs. No. 13 Oklahoma; over/under: 59

Imagine two co-starring actors getting together before shooting a movie and mutually deciding to switch roles.

That’s almost what it feels like the Sooners and Longhorns have done this season. Many pegged these two teams as the Big 12 Conference’s elite, but they were way off in profiling their personalities.

Texas was supposed to have an iffy offense with a ferocious defense to make up for it. Preseason hype had Oklahoma’s offense as one of the best in the nation with the defense more of a work in progress.

Talk about a role reversal. Texas’ defense has gotten trampled and given up at least 30 points in four straight games — including last week’s 48-45 defeat in Austin to West Virginia as 7-point favorites — while quarterback David Ash has thrived as the nation’s third most efficient passer.

Quarterback Landry Jones and the Oklahoma offense has gone through lengthy lulls, particularly in a 24-19 home loss to Kansas State when favored by two touchdowns, but the defense ranks ahead of Texas in most major categories.

The Sooners and Longhorns wavering nature makes it difficult to figure out which team’s blood will make the rivalry river truly run red. Reports out of sports books indicate the action is split.

Oklahoma has won and covered two straight in the annual showdown. Texas had won two in a row and compiled five straight covers over its Northern neighbors before that.

Streaks have defined the series, as the Sooners took five straight at the start of the decade. Is another run just beginning?

With the way these teams have performed, there’s no telling.

No. 3 South Carolina +2.5 at LSU; over/under: 39.5

No one saw this game turning out to hold this much significance.

The Golden Nugget, for instance, did not release odds on the matchup this summer when it came out with more than 100 Game of the Year lines to much fanfare. Even more recently, CBS chose to air Alabama at Missouri over the Gamecocks first trip to Baton Rouge in five years.

Turns out South Carolina at LSU should have more national title implications than any other game this weekend. If South Carolina can beat LSU a week after pummeling Georgia 35-7, it’s a victory against Florida away from all but locking up the SEC East title.

LSU, coming off of a 14-6 upset loss to Florida, must win or else any thoughts of an SEC West crown are straight delusional.

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South Carolina Gamecocks's Jadeveon Clowney (7) warms up before a NCAA college football game against East Carolina in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011. South Carolina defeated East Carolina 56-37.

The public, for what it’s worth, are cozying up to the Gamecocks. Wynn opened the Bayou Bengals as a six-point favorite before the number dropped three points in a matter of hours despite LSU’s well-documented positive results in night games at Tiger Stadium.

South Carolina also failed to cover in eight straight games against SEC West opponents before this season.

It’s not difficult to understand the love affair with coach Steve Spurrier’s bunch, though. South Carolina is in the midst of a school-record 10-game winning streak dating back to last year, going 8-1 against the spread in that span (one was against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent and the line was not widely available).

Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney looks to have NFL Hall of Fame potential. Like South Carolina, LSU also has one of the nation’s top 10 defenses.

But the Tigers are better in coverage, whereas the Gamecocks strength is pressure. It’s scary to think how much better LSU could have been with dismissed All-American Tyrann Matheiu joining Jalen Mills and Eric Reid in the defensive backfield.

As stout as the defenses are, both teams have offenses capable of putting the arctic-low total of 39.5 points to shame.

Quick slants

• In the final game mentioned at the top as a premier contest, Notre Dame gives Stanford seven points in South Bend, Ind. The undefeated Irish are 4-1 against the spread. They’re also the only team in the country that hasn’t trailed in a game all season. Stanford looked like a different team in its only other road game so far this year, falling 17-13 to Washington as a touchdown favorite.

• Fresno State can lay claim to one-upping Notre Dame, as the Bulldogs are a perfect 5-0 against the spread this year. Oddsmakers appear to be catching up now. Fresno State is a seven-point underdog at Boise State Saturday, the fewest points it has ever gotten on the blue turf. Most of the Bulldogs success has come from quarterback Derek Carr, but the Broncos have two future NFL cornerbacks in Jevell Gavins and Jamar Taylor.

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Miami quarterback Stephen Morris (17) celebrates the Hurricanes' 42-36 overtime win over Georgia Tech in an NCAA college football game in Atlanta on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

• Miami and North Carolina look like mirror images of each other — young teams that excel at home and struggle on the road. So why have gamblers bet the Tarheels up five points to -8 at Miami? It’s a terrific question with Miami’s 41-3 loss at Notre Dame last week as a possible answer. But the Hurricanes also lost 52-13 at Kansas State earlier this year before bouncing back to beat Georgia Tech and North Carolina State. So, yeah, the movement still makes minimal sense.

• Enjoy talking about how West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith has thrown 24 touchdowns without an interception now because the super-impressive but ultimately unattainable rate comes to an end in Lubbock, Tex. Texas Tech, four-point underdogs, is ranked No. 1 in the nation in pass defense. Everyone is down on the Red Raiders after last week’s blowout loss to Oklahoma. The Mountaineers are national darlings because of their offense. In other words, there’s no better time to bet against them.

• Temple played in its first ever Big East Conference game last week and upset South Florida. The Owls were picked to finish last in the new conference, while the Bulls were favored to grab the Big East’s BCS bid at the start of the year. Temple’s contest at Connecticut, which has one of the nation’s top 10 defenses, sets up perfectly as our letdown spot of the week (3-2 on the year). Connecticut lays five points after falling 19-3 to Rutgers.

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UNLV players roll out the refurbished Fremont Cannon two weeks after beating UNR in 2000. Fans broke the cannon in the post-game celebration that year, but the UNLV athletics department repaired it in time for the Rebels next home game against Wyoming.

• UNLV is established as a covering machine at home, but the Rebels haven’t beaten the number against rival UNR at Sam Boyd Stadium since 2004. In addition to winning the Fremont Cannon for seven straight years, the Wolf Pack cashed tickets in six of those. If quarterback UNR quarterback Cody Fajardo doesn’t play, however, UNLV should still be around a worthwhile +300 on the money line. Hey, it could happen.

• Alabama has downed five opponents by an average of 33 points, but the Crimson Tide are a losing 2-3 against the spread. That shows how highly oddsmakers and bettors think of Bama, which is possibly getting too much respect. Unperturbed, gamblers once again bet coach Nick Saban’s crew up four points to -21 at Missouri Saturday.

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Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Tyler Bray (8) during the first half of an NCAA college football game between Akron and Tennessee on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, in Knoxville, Tenn.

• Mississippi State’s five opponents this season have gone a combined 8-20. No wonder the Bulldogs are 5-0. The confusing part is that they’re three-point home favorites against Tennessee Saturday. The Bulldogs have beaten the Volunteers once in school history. That was 18 years ago. Tennessee — with quarterback Tyler Bray, receiver Justin Hunter and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson — dropped close games to both Georgia and Florida. It’s hard to downgrade the boys in orange for that, but sports books apparently felt it necessary.

• I took Louisiana Tech +6.5 over Texas A&M in this same space the first week of the season, but Hurricane Issac forced postponement until Saturday. Louisiana Tech is undefeated at 5-0 and 4-1 against the spread now, but gets one more point from visiting Texas A&M than it did a month-and-a-half ago. Even with 7.5 points, I can’t jump back on the Bulldogs. The Aggies have a quarterback, Johnny Manziel, and defense that have proven better than expected.

• Want to show some cojones? Bet Hawaii when the Warriors host New Mexico in Sunday’s lone college game. Hawaii has failed to cover by a combined 78 points in its three most recent games, but oddsmakers last favored New Mexico on the road in 2008. It’s not easy for a team just as poor to take a seven-hour flight to the middle of the ocean and win by more than four points.

Six pack of picks: Tennessee +3, Texas Tech +4, Boise State -7, Connecticut -5, Miami +8, South Carolina vs. LSU over 39.5

Year to date record: 21-20

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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