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August 29, 2014

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College football by the odds: Vegas picks, preview and spread info for week three

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

In this Nov. 26, 2011 file photo, Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley celebrates the Trojans’ 50-0 win over UCLA in an NCAA college football game in Los Angeles.

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The beginning of this college football season has marked the revenge of the massive underdogs.

A year after the largest favorites covered at an outstanding clip to haunt sports book directors early in the year, the opposite is occurring in 2012. Underdogs of more than 30 points are 10-1 against the spread in the first two weeks.

An uncharacteristically high two of them have pulled straight-up stunners. Louisiana-Monroe knocked off Arkansas in overtime as 30-point underdogs a week after Texas State put away Houston as 34-point underdogs.

Five more games with a spread of at least 30 points take place during week three.

Read below for the usual extended betting breakdown of two main games, quick slants on other interesting matchups and six picks at the bottom.

No. 2 Southern California -8.5 at No. 21 Stanford; over/under: 56.5

4:30 p.m., Saturday, FOX

Everything feels back to normal in the world of Las Vegas sports books with the Trojans once again favored over the Cardinal.

Oddsmakers had given Trojans points for the last two years in this game after an astounding 23 straight years of Stanford sporting underdog status in the series.

Stanford most notably pulled the biggest upset in spread history five years ago when it beat USC 24-23 as 39-point underdogs. But the Cardinal have always fared well against the number when facing the Trojans, including a 4-1 mark in the last five years.

USC is 0-2 against the spread this year, including not even coming close to covering the 24.5 points last week when it beat Syracuse 42-29.

Bettors will continue to back the Trojans, however, as there’s not many offensive nuclei in the country close to the one headlined by quarterback Matt Barkley.

Barkley has started three straight years against Stanford and never prevailed. Will Barkley, and many of his other offensive cronies, really graduate without ever beating the Cardinal?

Despite its 37-point demolition of Duke last week, Stanford has shown signs of weakness in the opening two games. Both Duke and San Jose State, which Stanford only beat 20-17 as 25.5-point favorites, outgained the Cardinal.

Stanford has overcome those struggles with a +5 turnover margin, but USC should take better care of the ball.

No. 20 Notre Dame +6 at No. 10 Michigan State; over/under: 44

5 p.m., Saturday, ABC

Is this the Fighting Irish team equipped well enough to win their first major bowl game in 21 years?

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In this file photo, Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees walks off of the field after an 18-14 loss to Florida State in the Champ Sports Bowl.

The betting market sure doesn’t think so. The Spartans opened as four-point favorites all around town earlier this week before getting bet up to six almost immediately. The Golden Nugget even initially posted Michigan State as three-point favorites this summer.

The movement could be construed as pro-Michigan State as much as it was anti-Notre Dame, though. There’s plenty to like about the Spartans, who are yet to allow an offensive touchdown or sack through two games this season.

The Irish have accounted for an above-average eight touchdowns and seven sacks in their two contests.

Gamblers traditionally shy from teams with any semblance of a quarterback controversy. It looks like one has found its way to South Bend, Ind., after embattled junior Tommy Rees relieved freshman Everett Golson to help the Irish beat Purdue 20-17 last week.

Notre Dame never threatened to cover as 14-point favorites in the game. Both Rees and Golson are expected to receive snaps in East Lansing, Mich., this weekend.

Everyone knows whom to look out for when it comes to Michigan State as 6-foot-4, 244-pound Le’Veon Bell ranks sixth in the nation in rushing.

The home team has won each of the last four meetings in the series, but the visitor has actually gone 8-2 against the spread over the last 10 years.

Quick slants

• Florida State made history last week when the few sports books in town that post lines for games against Football Championship Subdivision teams made the Seminoles 70-point favorites over Savannah State. Tickets were refunded as lightning ended the game prematurely with Florida State leading 55-0 after three quarters. But the Seminoles are back with another outlandish spread in week three. They are 28-point home favorites over Wake Forest. It’s the most oddsmakers have favored Florida State by in an ACC game since 2005 when it beat Duke 55-24 as 31-point favorites.

• It’s difficult to imagine a line shifting as much as the one for No. 1 Alabama’s road game at Arkansas Saturday. Golden Nugget saw Alabama as 6-point favorites at Arkansas this summer and the line stayed steady for months. But the Razorbacks loss to Monroe last week combined with the uncertain status of concussed quarterback Tyler Wilson has driven the spread up to 20 points all around town.

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Arkansas coach John L. Smith, center, watches a college football game against Louisiana-Monroe with cornerback Kelvin Fisher, left, and linebacker Daunte Carr during the fourth quarter in Little Rock, Ark. After the loss to the Warhawks, the pressure is on Smith as the suddenly unranked Razorbacks prepare for No. 1 Alabama.

• The past clashes with the present in the SEC’s other major conference showdown Saturday. Tennessee is a 3-point favorite over Florida at home. The Volunteers have looked superior to the Gators through two weeks this season, but history is kind to the reptiles. Florida has won seven straight against rival Tennessee, including covering the spread in four of the last five.

• Louisiana-Monroe’s SEC tour continues as the Warhawks roll into the Heart of Dixie to face the winless Auburn Tigers. The spread, oddsmakers favor Auburn by 15 points, is cut in half from last week’s game at Arkansas. The Tigers are the ninth SEC opponent the Warhawks have faced in the last 10 years. Monroe is an inconclusive 4-4 against the spread in those games against the SEC.

• Leading 17-10 at halftime, freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel appeared on the verge of leading Texas A&M to a victory over Florida in its SEC debut last week. But the Gators chomped down on defense and held the Aggies to 69 yards and no points in the second half. Manziel and his team travel 200 miles north this week to SMU, where they are 12-point favorites. TAMU coach Kevin Sumlin has faced SMU in each of the last four years while at Houston, beating the Mustangs in every meeting and covering in the last three.

• Arizona State has beaten its two opponents this year, Illinois and Northern Arizona, by a combined 108-20 score. The Sundevils had the good fortune of facing both teams without their starting quarterback. Missouri quarterback James Franklin will indeed suit up for the Tigers when they host the Sundevils as six-point favorites Saturday. Despite Georgia’s misleading 19-point win last week, Missouri led 20-17 with 16 minutes left in the game and had Bulldogs fans scared.

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In this Dec. 3, 2011, file photo, Boise State running back Doug Martin (22) rushes past New Mexico's Bubba Forrest (28) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Boise, Idaho.

• The days of Boise State acting as a bettor’s darling are over, at least when it comes to playing at Bronco Stadium. The Broncos went 0-6 against the spread last year on the blue turf, where they’re a 21-point favorite over Miami (Ohio) this week after losing 17-13 to Michigan State in the season’s opener. Boise State coach Chris Petersen is 0-4 against the spread in the game after a regular-season loss.

• Kansas State picked up where it left off last year as one of the best teams to wager on in the nation when it throttled Miami 52-13 as six-point favorites last week. Led by 122-88 lifetime against the spread machine Bill Snyder, the Wildcats are 10-3 versus the number in the last two years. But they carry a 28-point price tag this week at home against North Texas, which has already covered against LSU. With a game against Oklahoma looming, Snyder may decide to pull his starters early against North Texas.

• Texas coach Mack Brown has traveled to play an SEC team on the road three times in his burnt-orange tenure. Texas has never covered. Nonetheless, the Longhorns are 10-point favorites at Ole Miss this weekend. The Rebels have the 10th ranked offense in the nation through two games, but the Longhorns may have the best defensive line in the country with Jeff Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor. Ole Miss has gone 5-9 against the spread as home underdogs in the last five years.

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UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second half of their NCAA football game against Nebraska, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, in Pasadena, Calif. UCLA won 36-30.

• “The Holy War” looks like another close call. Utah, a week after losing quarterback Jordan Wynn for good to a shoulder surgery, receives four points at home against archrival BYU. The low number makes sense, as seven points or less has separated 12 of the last 15 games. BYU has covered in eight straight widely available lined games dating back to last year. It’s a streak that started shortly after the Utes crushed them, 54-10.

• Saturday’s last game to kick off has the highest total on the board, as the over/under for Houston at UCLA is installed at 75.5. The Bruins, which are 17-point favorites, have the nation’s leading rusher in Johnathan Franklin. The Cougars rush defense, meanwhile, ranks 111th in the country.

Six pack of picks: Missouri -6, USC -8, Arkansas +20, Texas -10, North Texas +28, Texas A&M -12.5

Year to date record: 10-7

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

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