Each week during the college football season, renowned Las Vegas wiseguy and Covers Expert Bruce Marshall looks at the NCAAF odds and tells you which spread to bet now, which one to bet later, and which total to watch as the week plays out.
Spread to bet now
Boise State Broncos (+3) at Fresno State Bulldogs
How soon they forget!
The immediate knee-jerk reaction from the oddsmakers was to fade Boise State as it prepares to face Fresno State Friday night in the Central Valley. Perhaps because memories of the Broncos’ 38-6 opening day loss at Washington are still fresh in the minds.
Or maybe because Boise failed again to cover a big spread on the blue carpet last Friday night versus Air Force. And with the assumption that the host Bulldogs got some benefit from an unexpected weekend off when last Saturday’s game at Colorado was postponed, the earliest pricing on this game had Fresno laying 4.5-5 points at most Las Vegas wagering outlets.
Those prices are nothing but a memory now as the sharps jumped in quickly and dropped the price to 3, but we still believe there will be downward pressure on the number as the week progresses. After all, the Broncos haven’t fallen that far from their recent high perch, and are still an eye-opening 86-9 straight up since HC Chris Petersen took over in 2006. (Plus three points, Petersen’s Broncos would have lost versus the number only four times in 95 tries!)
Moreover, as the wagering public digests the series trends that have been all Broncos in the Petersen era (Boise has won and covered the last seven versus this old WAC foe, winning all games by double-digit margins), we expect the masses to wonder why FSU is favored at all, which should preclude serious Bulldog money from appearing until this number gets bet down close to pick’em. Especially since the Bulldogs have not yet resembled their pointspread force of a year ago (when their only regular-season spread loss was inflicted by...Boise State) while failing to cover their first two and fortunate to survive the opener in OT vs. Rutgers.
Considering the combatants and series trends, and where we forecast the number trending this week, we suggest Boise backers to grab any available 3s ASAP before the price dips beneath that very-key number.
Spread to wait on
West Virginia Mountaineers (+5.5) at Maryland Terrapins (at Baltimore)
We don’t know about the wisdom of bucking a rejuvenated Maryland side that has broken a quick 3-0 from the game for the first time since former head coach Ralph Friedgen’s first season in charge back in 2001. But that’s precisely why we expect the price to inflate a bit more as the week progresses with the Terps preparing to tackle West Virginia in nearby Baltimore on Saturday.
The earliest movements in the number have indicated an appetite for Maryland in the marketplace, as the original 4.5 posted late Sunday night gradually moved to 5, 5.5, and even 6 at Las Vegas wagering outlets by Monday afternoon.
Expect increased talk of Randy Edsall’s Terps as one of the “it” squads to watch as the offense and flashy QB C.J. Brown have been lighting up the scoreboard (41 ppg) while winning and covering handily in the first three weeks...just the sort of combination that will add to the buy pressure.
Meanwhile, West Virginia continues to fly under the radar post-Geno Smith, and the most recent visions of the Mounties in the marketplace are of their struggle versus big underdog William & Mary in the opener and an unspeakably dull (although spread-covering) effort at Oklahoma on Sept. 7.
Dana Holgorsen’s side is a long way from the “du jour” days of early last season, and with Maryland on the verge of becoming a new “public” team in 2013, expect this number to test a resistance point at a full 7 sometime before kickoff.
Those interested in WVU might as well sit tight and wait to see if this price reaches that key number, or maybe crashes through it, later in the week.
Total to watch
Missouri Tigers at Indiana Hoosiers
Oddsmakers are no fools, and sensing the uptempo offenses and higher-scoring trends in modern college football, have been adjusting their totals upward accordingly, seemingly daring the public to create buy pressure on “over” wagers. Which has been the case the past couple of weeks with the epitome of new-wave college offenses, Indiana, running plays in rapid-fire fashion for third-year head coach Kevin Wilson and en route to setting Hoosiers scoring records after scoring a whopping 50 ppg in their first three games.
Interestingly, because of initial totals pricing that reflected these new high-scoring realities (also a reaction to the 73-point bomb that IU dropped on Indiana State in the opener), there was not much movement toward the Over in IU’s last two games versus Navy and Bowling Green.
Indeed, the total even dropped slightly from the mid-60s prior to last week’s kickoff versus the MAC-rep Falcons.
We’re curious, however, the see the reaction of the oddsmakers and the marketplace when the Hoosiers host the most potent force they have faced yet this season, SEC Missouri, on Saturday in Bloomington.
The Tigers are also scoring nearly 50 ppg, and unlike IU’s last two foes Navy & Bowling Green, own some real dynamism on the attack end with electric (and now healthy) senior QB James Franklin.
If there is going to be a shootout on this week’s slate, Mizzou-Indiana looks to be the best candidate. How high might the oddsmaker post this total to dare the Over money from the marketplace to jump into the fray?
And how will the public react on the totals side to what might be the gridiron equivalent of the George Foreman-Ron Lyle “no defense” slugfest from 1976?