9/17, 8pm ET: Thursday/Friday Week 3 Thoughts
I was delinquent in using “The Notebook” last week, since I was doing so much writing for other places, but we’ll get that turned around. I wanted to just give some notes on the 4 Thursday/Friday games, things I’m thinking about, etc. that can maybe help you make smarter decisions. As of now I will have bets on 0 of the games, but in one case, that is definitely subject to change.
Thursday: Tulsa at Temple (-7.5): The cat’s out of the bag on Temple unfortunately, so this game is now being rated appropriately. A lackluster effort by the Owls last week at Maryland and you could have had a great number here for the eventual obvious bounce-back. Instead, Temple throttled Maryland by 3 touchdowns in College Park and there’s just no way you’re getting a lot of value anymore. Temple +16 on Saturday was a game I had written down and eventually passed on for a few different reasons, proving once again that sometimes I make incredibly atrocious decisions.
Tulsa is well-coached and should provide some resistance here even on short rest. There are very marginal talent differences between the teams and you could make a pretty good argument that Tulsa has a small coaching advantage. The game to close last season is probably a throw-out because Tulsa was 2-9 with absolutely nothing to play for. I want no part of either side. I do think it will be interesting how Temple plays with Frank Nutile back at QB, since the team had their most dominant performance by far in the 1 game he didn’t play in last week. Temple was a team I thought could make noise in the American, and they still can, starting this week. Pass.
Friday: Florida Atlantic at UCF (-13.5): One of two games I may end up betting in this group. I am pretty interested in FAU here and curious what number I may get if I wait. I think UCF is still being given a lot of benefit of the doubt despite essentially two walk-over games where they’ve had to prove nothing. The win over UCONN in Week 1, who can only marginally be called an FBS school at this point, was actually deceivingly close, and UCF’s defense was shredded a number of times. Other than that game, we haven’t really seen UCF since. What are they at this point? This will be the first game that actually shows you what they have returning this season in a meaningful way aside from McKenzie Milton. I am actively looking for spots to fade Josh Heupel as well, and we finally may have one.
Meanwhile, FAU got publicly embarrassed by Oklahoma (unsurprisingly) and has beaten Air Force and Bethune-Cookman but is 0-3 ATS. It’s unlikely they are being rated properly due to their poor results. It’s worth noting in last week’s potentially surprising scoreline against Bethune-Cookman that FAU didn’t play either starting safety (each of whom was very important to last year’s success, and they’ll play this week) and also led 29-0 to start. Yes, they took their foot off the gas, but I’m not downgrading them for doing so. S&P has this rated as UCF -19, I have other power ratings that have it 2 touchdowns or more also, so I’m hoping everyone follows that trend. I’m not the best at predicting line movement, but let’s see what happens here. The differences between the 2 teams here in talent, coaching and production aren’t nearly as drastic as you may think.
Penn State (-28.5) at Illinois: Here’s a word you may hear a lot this week with this game: look-ahead. Sometimes there’s merit to it. Penn State has Ohio State on deck, and that may lead some of you to think Illinois is a great idea here. The funny thing is, you may be right, but I’d like to dispel the idea of the look-ahead notion in this game right now. Here are James Franklin’s results in his 4 years as coach the week before Ohio State:
2014: +2 at Michigan, lost by 5
2015: -6 vs Indiana, won by 22
2016: pick-em vs Maryland, won by 24
2017: -9 vs #19 Michigan, won by 29
Tell me where the look-ahead trend is. I’ll wait.
The reason to take Illinois here, if you’re so inclined, is pretty simple: Penn State has absolutely eviscerated 2 opponents in a row, and if they closed -35 against Kent State, the idea that now on the road vs. a much more talented team they’d be -28.5 is probably wrong. The problem is, I never want Illinois right now, because with all their suspended-but-maybe-not-anymore players and quarterback injuries I don’t know what I’m going to get. They were outgained by a billion against USF last week, and that didn’t show up in the final score, so it’s quite possible THEY’RE not being rated properly either. What a mess. No thanks.
Washington State vs USC (-3.5): I’ve only been thinking about this game for about 10 days, so I kind of just want to happen and be done with it. I’ve thought about betting USC here. Who hasn’t? The game-of-the-year line on this was more than 2 touchdowns, and now it’s 3.5. Sometimes a move like that is completely justified, but I would just ask what Washington State has done to merit any credit at all? They went to Wyoming and won, which is something Wofford almost did last week. No credit given. Since then, 2 walk-overs at home showing nothing. We still have no idea what Washington State is, and going into the season I was extremely skeptical of them given lost production and the loss of excellent DC Alex Grinch to Ohio State. This is the type of game where those concerns would (finally) show up. If you can answer the question “is this rock bottom for USC?” (a question that Collin Wilson posed to me earlier today) then you know everything. It would be tempting to look at the potential talent advantages for USC and think that rating these two teams as equal (when removing home-field advantage) is laughable, but with the buckets of injuries for the Trojans at so many positions, and the absolute coaching mismatch in play here, that talent advantage starts to shrink significantly. This may be rock bottom for USC, and you may never get a better deal on them, but for me, I think I’m just waiting for better spots to put my money (this is where you say “Yeah, like Ole Miss +21 last week.” Touche, fake critic). I may revisit this later if 3 ever shows.