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April 17, 2014

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College football by the odds: Vegas picks and preview of week 9

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Georgia fan celebrates the go-ahead touchdown in the stands during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Florida, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011, in Jacksonville, Fla. Georgia beat Florida 24-20.

Sun's NFL betting game of Week 8

Which side would you bet in Sunday morning’s game?
Falcons +2.5 — 65%
Eagles -2.5 — 35%

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.

Let’s hope for some better games this week.

Talking Points’ two featured contests of week 8 turned out as unfulfilling as Geno Smith’s Heisman candidacy. Florida and Kansas State had all but finished South Carolina and West Virginia, respectively, before halftime.

The combined margin of victory for the Gators, 3.5-point favorites, and the Wildcats, 3-point underdogs, was 74 points.

With a handful of other games as dull as Gene Chizik’s post-Cam Newton tenure at Auburn, a bettor could have easily seen an entire card pass without any significant sweat. That’s not how a college football Saturday should play out in Las Vegas.

Going 2-4 in the “six pack of picks” didn’t help matters.

Check this week’s picks at the bottom of the page after an extended betting breakdown of the two most significant games of the week and quick slants on some of the others.

No. 2 Florida -6.5 vs. No. 10 Georgia in Jacksonville; over/under: 46.5

Mark Richt detractors — of which there are plenty, despite an impressive average of 10 wins per season in the 11 years since he took over at Georgia — will love this statistic.

Richt has gone an alarming 8-17 against the spread when coaching his Bulldogs against undefeated opposition. Oh, everyone thought that lead-in would surely be followed by an illustration of Richt’s failures in this ever-important rivalry game?

Well, he’s not doing well in the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” either. Richt is 3-8 against Florida straight up, but 5-6 against the spread.

One of those victories came last year, however, when the Bulldogs defeated the Gators 24-20 as 3.5-point favorites. Before the season, oddsmakers figured this year’s game would feature a similar spread.

Georgia opened as 4.5-point favorites over Florida at Golden Nugget this summer. Wynn re-posted the spread as Florida -4.5 Sunday, but immediately got slammed with money against Georgia.

The Gators have clearly put together the more impressive season, covering six straight games including last week’s South Carolina romp and a triumph against LSU as 2-point underdogs two weeks ago. The Bulldogs are off a lackadaisical showing against Kentucky, in which they won 29-24 as 26-point underdogs, and a blowout loss to South Carolina as a 1-point underdog.

Georgia has a major situational edge here, though. It was coming off of a bye week to face lowly Kentucky in a classic look ahead spot. This marks the fourth straight week Florida has met an SEC rival.

Florida has leaned on its premier defense all year. Make no mistake — Georgia’s offense is the more potent than Florida’s.

With sports books printing most of the tickets on Florida, the spread might be inflated. Richt just may pull off something Georgia hasn’t done in 20 years and beat Florida two consecutive times.

No. 5 Notre Dame +11.5 at No. 8 Oklahoma; over/under: 48

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Notre Dame wide receiver TJ Jones (7) makes a catch for 31 yards as BYU defensive back Jordan Johnson defends during the second half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. Notre Dame defeated BYU 17-14.

Georgia could sympathize with Notre Dame. Even fewer prognosticators are calling for the Fighting Irish to upset the Sooners.

Gamblers put wagers down on Oklahoma before ever giving Lou Holtz a chance to plead Notre Dame’s case on ESPN, driving the number up two points from -9.5 Sunday evening.

The spread now rests at practically the same spot it was this summer when the Golden Nugget posted Oklahoma as 12-point favorites.

The Sooners, 5-1 straight up and 3-2 against the spread, have turned out almost exactly like they were projected before the season. They’re a well-rounded team ranked in the top 20 in both offense and defense.

But Notre Dame, 7-0 straight up and 4-3 against the spread, are better than anyone imagined. The Irish have an elite defense led by senior linebacker Manti Te’o. He now has legitimate Heisman aspirations and will be the best player on the field at Memorial Stadium.

Therefore, it would seem like the spread should be lower than it was this summer. Someone making a counterpoint would say Notre Dame hasn’t seen an offense like Oklahoma’s yet this year.

The Sooners are highly explosive with athletes like Kenny Stills, Damien Williams and Justin Brown regularly on the field at the same time.

Forget looking at any series history to help the handicapping in this one. These teams haven’t met since 1999. The Irish haven’t traveled to Norman, Okla., since 1966.

Aside from Notre Dame busting out to score a season high in points, no outcome would register as shocking in what’s essentially a national championship eliminator Saturday night in the Sooner State.

Quick slants

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Mississippi State running back LaDarius Perkins (27) rushes past Middle Tennessee linebacker Ykeem Wells (52) for short yardage in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012.

• If any team is temporarily allowed to use the dreaded “no one believes in us” this week, it’s Mississippi State. The No. 11 ranked team is off to one of the best starts in school history at 7-0 straight up and 4-2 against the spread. But the Bulldogs are a 24-point underdog at No. 1 Alabama, the highest spread ever in the series.

• Oddsmakers will post undefeated No. 3 Kansas State as at least three-point favorites in all of its remaining games. After upsets at West Virginia and Oklahoma, Kansas State appears to be the lone non-SEC team controlling its BCS National Championship destiny. The Wildcats are a 7-point favorite Saturday over Texas Tech, a dangerous team that’s gone 6-1 straight up and against the spread but is coming off of a triple-overtime win at TCU.

• The talent discrepancy between Texas and Kansas resembles something like a Broadway actress and one doing community theater in Wichita, Kan. The Longhorns should find no resistance getting back on track at Kansas after dropping three straight games against the spread. Sports books list Texas as a 19.5-point favorite even though it has beaten Kansas by an average of 42 points in the last four meetings.

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Penn State quarterback Matthew McGloin (11) and Penn State offensive tackle Mike Farrell, rear, celebrate McGloin's rushing touchdown during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Temple in State College, Pa., Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

• Bettors apparently like Penn State’s defense more than Ohio State’s offense. The Buckeyes opened as 3-point road chalk, but Nittany Lion money has driven the price down to a pick’em. These are the two best teams in the Big Ten Leaders division and the matchup would normally decide the champion, but neither Penn State nor Ohio State is eligible to play in the postseason year.

• The top two teams in the Big Ten Legends division also square off, but action is more split for the game in Lincoln, Neb. Michigan gets two points at Nebraska. The Wolverines blasted the Cornhuskers 45-17 as 3.5-point favorites last year. Michigan’s offensive numbers are down this year, however, and Nebraska surely remembers the disappointment.

• Maryland’s Randy Edsall finds himself in every football coach’s nightmare with his top two quarterbacks out for the year because of injury. At least the Terrapins have the pitiful Boston College Eagles, 0-6 against the spread, this week, right? Not really because this is perhaps Boston College’s last chance to beat an FBS opponent this year. The Eagles, favored by 2.5 points, have a surprisingly capable signal caller in Chase Rettig. That’s more than can be said about their visitors.

• Navy is riding high after two straight victories against lowly Indiana and Central Michigan. Oddsmakers could be overvaluing the Midshipmen all of a sudden, as they are only a 3.5-point underdog at East Carolina. The Pirates have pronounced edges on both offense and defense. Don’t make too much fun of Central Michigan and Indiana, either, as both schools outgained Navy in the losses.

• Forget about the prolonged against the spread losing streaks New Mexico went on in each of the last two years under coach Mike Locksley. Those days are gone. Under new coach Bob Davie, in fact, the Lobos have covered five straight. They travel to Fresno State, a school that’s left similar covering futility behind to go 7-1 versus the number in 2012, this week. Fresno State lays 14 points in the matchup.

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San Diego State's Gavin Escobar (right) hauls in a touchdown pass during in the Aztecs' 49-41 victory against North Dakota on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in San Diego.

• San Diego State has made UNLV its whipping boy over the last decade. The Aztecs have covered six straight and nine of 10 against the Rebels. UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry is banged up for this weekend’s game where San Diego State is favored by 18 points. Aztecs quarterback Ryan Katz is out, but backup Adam Dingwell performed admirably last week in relief to upset UNR on the road in double overtime.

• In Saturday’s final kickoff, No. 7 Oregon State travels to Washington as four-point favorites. The Beavers won their first three road games this season outright as underdogs. This marks the first time they’ve given points on the road all season and only second time in the last three years. The Huskies are notoriously tough at home, going 13-9 against the spread under coach Steve Sarkisian’s watch.

Six pack of picks: Georgia +6.5, Texas -19.5, San Diego State -18, Boston College -2.5, Washington +4, East Carolina -3.5

Year to date record: 27-26

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

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