Those who don’t believe in the age-old theory that having one loss can kill your season in college football were smiling big this weekend.
Almost as wide as Alabama fans.
As the upsets continued to pile up, knocking the BCS computers into a tizzy, the Crimson Tide took care of business versus Georgia Southern and sat back and watched their destiny -- and more importantly, their shot at the BCS title game -- improve.
“There was nothing about what our players did this week,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said after Saturday’s tougher-than-expected 45-21 win. “They worked, they respected this, and they worked hard to try and get this stuff right.”
And all the while, everyone else in the BCS mix, for the most part, got it all wrong.
Down they went. Oklahoma State. Oklahoma. Oregon. Clemson. All faltering against inferior opponents, almost clearing the way for Alabama to meet LSU in an all-SEC BCS national title game in New Orleans.
Wouldn’t that be something? But first thing’s first. Both the Crimson Tide and Tigers have big games this holiday weekend to tackle, so let’s journey into those first.
LSU’s defense, which throttled Alabama and contained Oregon, will have another tough task on its hands vs. Arkansas on Friday. A true wild-card in this mix, Arkansas is 10-1 and has as good a shot as any team not named LSU or Alabama at making New Orleans.
That said, the books know what’s stake. And they know just how talented LSU truly is.
“Well, it should be a good game, and Arkansas is good,” Pete Korner of Esportclub, LLC, in Las Vegas told Covers.com. “But with all that is at stake for LSU, we wanted it to go over the standard two-touchdown line.”
Korner established LSU as a 14.5-point favorite. The Wynn Las Vegas, the first sportsbook in Nevada to post weekly college football lines, went with Tigers -14.
In what’s expected to be less of a game, the Crimson Tide get an opportunity to exact revenge on the Tigers, after Cam Newton and Co. rallied past them last season. This could be a tricky step for Alabama, especially after scuffling some vs. Georgia Southern, and this is, after all, the Iron Bowl, where anything can happen. But the pros have to lean on the chalk, for sure.
“Things broke right for Alabama, and I don’t know what Auburn has left,” Korner said. This really looks like a mismatch. And it’s all Alabama. It looks like a big number, but that’s the way it has to be.”
Korner established Alabama as an 18-point favorite. The Wynn went with a bigger spread, making Saban’s boys 21-point faves.
And with that, let’s take a look at some of next week’s other marquee games relying on the Wynn’s opening numbers and getting Korner’s odds and thoughts.
Texas (+8) at Texas A&M
We throw this one on the docket because it’s the Thanksgiving Special, and it will be watched and bet outside of the state. But, really, not great teams in not great situations, as this winner will only be notching its seventh victory of the season.
“Texas is just a mediocre team,” Korner said. “There’s nothing special here at all.”
Iowa State (+28) at Oklahoma
If you’re a hangover/bounce-back player, you have to either love or hate this one. After all, which way do you go? The Cyclones will be sky high after knocking off Oklahoma State. And the Sooners have to be ultra-motivated after losing at Baylor. Or will they not even care anymore? Something has to give.
“We stuck it at the highest number (-30) we could,” Korner said. “Oklahoma had some things fall into place, and they couldn’t take advantage of it. Here, at home, with still a shot at something, they need to play big.”
Wyoming (+32) at Boise State
The Cowboys, with seven wins, can play a little, but whatever Boise State has left in the tank has to come out here at home on the blue turf. Where they are headed with regards to the BCS is still out there, and all they can control is this margin of victory.
“With Boise, you’re talking about a team that is not covering now, all of a sudden,” Korner said, who recommended Boise State -34. “But they should win big here. It’s really all about how much do they want it at this point.”
Virginia Tech (-5.5) at Virginia
With this being the ACC title game semifinal, there’s a little more juice in this matchup. The Cavaliers have battled valiantly, and deserved every bit of that win at Florida State this weekend. But the Hokies have more balance, more talent, and more at stake.
“Interesting game. We went back and forth on this one,” Korner said. “And I do see this going lower during the week. I like what Virginia has done, and they’re coming off a big win. So, this one is very interesting.”
Oregon State (+29) at Oregon
The Civil War figured to be a blowout anyway, but now that the Ducks are coming off a loss, with their title game chances shot, it’s going to get real ugly, real fast, one would think.
“Not much to discuss on this one. Oregon had it all in front of them, and they let it slip,” Korner said. “For whatever’s left, they have to play big and win big. It was such a brutal time for a loss.”
Penn State (+16) at Wisconsin
The Big Ten title game semifinal finally gives the Badgers a chance to undo their upsets and truly flex their muscle as the conference’s best team. With all due respect to Penn State, consecutive road wins in the Big Ten -- against the likes of Ohio State and Wisconsin -- is going to be a tall task.
“It’s been interesting with Wisconsin and how dull they’ve been,” Korner said. “With Penn State, yes, they won a big game, but Wisconsin has all the makings of a bounce-back bet here.
“And you never know how Penn State is going to come out. Beating Ohio State was a good win for them, all things considered, but how good is Ohio State anymore?”
Clemson (+4) at South Carolina
Boy, were the Tigers exposed against N.C. State. We’ll truly see what Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is made of here, as the next two games feature the Tigers’ biggest rival, and then an opportunity to win the ACC. Not the best time to be coming off a pasting at the hands of the Wolfpack.
“Should be a good, tight, rivalry game,” Korner said. “We went back and forth here, and after all the debating, we basically just went with the standard home-field line (-3) here.”
Notre Dame (+7) at Stanford
The Cardinal returned to the win column on Saturday, but a 31-28 win over Cal in “The Big Game” wasn’t exactly the bounce back it should have been. Who knows, maybe this team just isn’t that good. Certainly, the defense has been whacked the last two weeks. Let’s see what the improved Irish can do against it.
“Big game for Stanford here, a good game, and a good opportunity for them to bounce back,” Korner said. “It’ll say a lot for them if they can put up a pretty big score. We want to keep this as high as we can because of Stanford’s ability on offense, obviously.”