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December 19, 2014

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College football by the odds: Vegas picks and perspective of week 8

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Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp yells at head linesman Lane Thomas in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Knoxville, Tenn.

Sun's NFL betting game of Week 7

What’s the right side to bet in Arizona at Minnesota?
Vikings -6.5 — 60.1%
Cardinals +6.5 — 39.9%

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.

The following details how this blog entry is typically produced.

I study every college football game during the week, taking a longer look at the marquee matchups in order to write about them in this space. Most of the other games mentioned feature numbers I feel strongly enough about to use in the “six pack of plays” at the bottom of the page.

The list of games I like stretches 10 to 15 deep on most weeks. The challenge becomes whittling it down to six.

This week, I felt confident with only three sides. Maybe four. The difficulty switched from trimming to fattening.

It’s a tough week, the hardest-to-handicap slate of college football action this season for my money. As a bettor, it’s important to remember that playing a diminished card is OK.

There’s no specific percentage of a bankroll that should be in play on any given week. Some weeks deserve significantly more than others.

Or at least that’s what I’ll tell myself.

Look below for the usual extended betting breakdown of the two biggest games, quick slants on a handful of others and picks at the bottom of the page.

No. 7 South Carolina +3.5 at No. 2 Florida; over: 41.5

A man primarily known for throwing visor into the ground as hard as a football in his quarterbacking prime, gloating after his triumphs and greeting media members with a dose of “dadgummits” leaves no room for nostalgia.

No, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier focuses on the present. Nothing more than winning the next game. This could partly explain Spurrier’s success against Florida, the school he won a Heisman Trophy with in 1966 and coached to a national championship 30 years later, since taking over at South Carolina.

Spurrier has covered in five of seven meetings against the team that has a statue of him outside their stadium since joining the Gamecocks. Although only three of the covers have resulted in straight-up wins, Spurrier’s squad is on a two-game winning streak against the Gators.

He brings a group he refers to as the best he’s ever had at South Carolina into The Swamp Saturday afternoon.

Much like Florida, South Carolina boasts a top-10 defense and has gone undefeated against the spread since the first week of the season.

South Carolina, however, dropped a 23-21 decision at LSU last week as 2.5-point underdogs. This came seven days after Florida got 2.5 points from LSU and beat them 14-6 at home.

South Carolina hasn’t lost consecutive games in three years. Florida should have an advantage defensively, but South Carolina possesses a more potent offense.

Gamecocks junior quarterback Connor Shaw is far better than Gators sophomore Jeff Driskel. Marcus Lattimore, at his best, also edges Mike Gillislee as a running back, but the former blue-chip recruit has battled injuries all season long and won’t start at Florida.

The last three meetings in the series have all gone under the total with an average of 35 points per game. The total may look a tad high, as well as South Carolina’s +160 price on the money line.

No. 4 Kansas State +3 at No. 13 West Virginia; over/under: 73

Public bettors are as fickle as a reality-television show contestant scrambling to join an alliance.

Just look at West Virginia. The Mountaineers were one of the most popular plays on the board last week as 4-point favorites at Texas Tech.

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Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein (7) prepares to throw during an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

In an obviously dangerous situational spot with its second trip to Texas in two weeks, West Virginia fell 49-14. Now tickets on West Virginia are as rare as steak dinners on “Survivor.”

West Virginia opened as high as -4.5 against Kansas State around town. The Mountaineers are as low as -2.5 four days later.

That’s not to say there’s a lack of valid reasons for backing the Wildcats. To the contrary, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has gone 9-1 against the spread in his last 10 contests as a road underdog.

Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein may be second in the Heisman Trophy race behind West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.

Good news for Klein is the Mountaineers defense ranks a pathetic 119th against the pass this season. Bad news for Klein is he’s a better runner, and West Virginia has been slightly more effective in limiting opponent’s rushing yards.

Smith will have to contend with one of the nation’s most underrated pass-rushing duos in defensive ends Meshak Williams and Adam Davis. West Virginia running back Andrew Blue has the crushing hits of KSU linebacker Arthur Brown to not look forward to.

It’s still daunting to back Kansas State in Morgantown, W.Va, one venue where it’s never played before. These teams haven’t even met since 1931, a decade before the invention of the point spread.

The Wildcats won that game 19-0. Oddsmakers expect these two teams to score four times more than that Saturday night.

Quick slants

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Virginia Tech assistant coach Shane Beamer leaps into the arms of his running back Michael Holmes after Holmes scored a touchdown to give Virginia Tech a 17-13 lead over Cincinnati during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, in Landover, Md. Cincinnati defeated Virginia Tech 27-24.

• Before losing to Clemson twice last season, Virginia Tech hadn’t lost in the series since 1989. The Hokies are 8.5-point underdogs at Clemson Saturday morning. Wynn opened Virginia Tech at +11, but money poured in Frank Beamer’s disappointing squad. The movement makes sense. Although Clemson is coming off of a bye week, the Tigers have allowed an average of 37 points per game in their last three contests and shown their defense hasn’t improved as much as hoped.

• Revenge games are typically overrated, hence why those two words have never previously been typed here. But Iowa State legitimately ruined Oklahoma State’s season last year. The Cyclones ensured the Cowboys couldn’t play for a national championship when they won in double-overtime as 19-point underdogs late in the year. Oklahoma State, sporting a paltry 1-3 against the spread record this season, has looked forward to Iowa State’s trip to Stillwater for nearly a year. Oddsmakers favor Oklahoma State by 14, which doesn’t sound like enough for this explosive offense on its home turf.

• One handicapping concept that has made recurring appearances here are letdown games. It looks like Texas Tech is an emotional soft spot this week after pummeling West Virginia, traveling in state to TCU as 1.5-point favorites. But don’t be fooled — Texas Tech is a far better team. New Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin, a freshman, may have thrown for 261 yards and four touchdowns last week but those stats don’t mean much against Baylor’s pass defense that’s ranked dead last in the nation. The Red Raiders rank in the top 10 in both yards per play and opponents yard per play.

• Incredibly, the underdog in the Florida State vs. Miami rivalry has covered in 11 straight contests. All trends eventually reverse course. The young Hurricanes, giving up more than 500 yards per game, will be hard presser to stay competitive with the veteran Seminoles, registering more than 500 yards per game. Giving three touchdowns on the road is never advisable, but Florida State is that much better than Miami.

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The Michigan State football team meets at midfield before during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Ohio State at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich., Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012.

• Speaking of rivalry games, Michigan hosts Michigan State as 10-point favorites Saturday. Beating Sparty is the final immediate frontier for Michigan coach Brady Hoke, who led the Wolverines to a BCS bowl victory and win over their other hated rival Ohio State in his first season. This matchup has been far more one sided than Florida State vs. Miami recently. The green team has won and covered four consecutive times with seven victories in the last 10 games.

• Spreads of more than 40 points in a BCS conference game are as rare as Bigfoot sightings on Las Vegas Blvd. Sports books posted USC as 40.5-point favorites over visiting Colorado in week 8. The Trojans and Buffaloes are a combined 2-9 against the spread this season, which means bettors should react similarly to the way they would if a mysterious hairy beast made eye contact — turn the other way and run.

• California’s 1-3 against the spread start to the season is looking less troublesome every week. Those four opponents, all straight-up losses for the Bears, have gone a combined 23-3 on the year. California has blown out two teams, UCLA and Washington State, since by a combined score of 74-34. The Bears welcome Stanford, coming off of an emotionally draining overtime loss to Notre Dame, to Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon where the home team gets three points in the annual “Big Game”.

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Notre Dame's Manti Te'o reacts following a tackle during the second half against Michigan during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, in South Bend, Ind. Notre Dame defeated Michigan 13-6.

• Does Notre Dame ever play on the road? The Irish lay 13.5 points and host the BYU Cougars in their seventh game of the season Saturday. Notre Dame has only played one true road game so far. BYU has lost both times it’s traveled this year, failing to cover as a favorite at Utah but cashing at Boise State. Two touchdowns counts as a truckload of points with two defenses averaging a combined 23 points per game. The over/under in South Bend, Ind., for this matchup is 40.

• If a bettor would have wagered $100 on Western Kentucky 15 games ago and let the winnings ride in every ensuing contest, according to pregame.com, he or she would now have $1.63 million. The Hilltoppers 15-game covering streak is one of the craziest Vegas sports accomplishments in recent memory. They host Louisiana-Monroe as 3.5-point favorites Saturday in a game that looks like it pairs the two best teams in the Sun Belt Conference.

• Speaking of the Sun Belt, the league’s teams have gone 16-4 against the spread as non-conference underdogs this season. Middle Tennessee State, which already stunned Georgia Tech outright as 27-point underdogs, gets 19 points at Mississippi State Saturday. Standout senior running back Benny Cunningham should keep the Blue Raiders within striking distance of the Bulldogs, who are coming off of a huge win over Tennessee with an even bigger showdown against Alabama scheduled for next week.

Six pack of picks: Virginia Tech +8.5, Texas Tech -1.5, California +3, Florida State -21, Oklahoma State -14, Middle Tennessee State +19,

Year to date record: 25-22

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

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