I do the bulk of this column on Tuesday evening in preparation for the On The Line podcast (see below). That is not the best way to bet in real life, in theory. Lines move daily, and it is important to always be ready to snap up value. Getting the best line matters so much.
Now? The line is up to 60 or more. To win the 55 line, Miami needs to win by eight touchdowns. To cover 60, it basically needs to win by nine touchdowns. That's considerably tougher in a 12-possession game. That is not something I want to play.
This week, I like entirely too many favorites, which scares me, as I am usually a player of underdogs, but any good handicapper must seek value in whatever form it may come.
This week's picks
I definitely like Stanford against Arizona State. In my opinion, Stanford has a major advantage on both lines of scrimmage. Stanford really punishes defensive lines who get out of their gaps, and Arizona State's defensive line does that in a major way, though it does shoot gaps and get tackles for loss. On the other side, Arizona State is a much better run team than it is a passing team, and Stanford has a very good run defense. Look for Stanford to control the tempo and put this game away via its ground game and the pay-action pass.
The Florida offense is ugly, but often effective. The Tennessee offense is ugly and ineffective. Tennessee's defense is nothing special, while Florida's might be the best in the nation. Tennessee just had to prepare for a completely different offensive system in Oregon, plus it went cross-country, getting crushed. Florida is off a bye week. And the game is in The Swamp. The line is large, but if Florida takes care of the ball, as it did in big 2012 wins against LSU, South Carolina and Florida State, and not like it did in its 2012 loss to Georgia and its 2013 loss at Miami, it should win comfortably.
Auburn could quite easily be 1-2 or 2-1 right now. But that they are 3-0 has created some value in betting against them. LSU is considerably better than anything Auburn has faced, and now Auburn must leave home and play a night game in Death Valley. LSU's competent passing game will be the difference in this one, as it will keep drives alive for the Bayou Bengals.
I look for an ugly, low-scoring game between Michigan State and Notre Dame. Notre Dame's running game has been very poor, and Michigan State's defense should be able to make them one-dimensional. Michigan State's offense is awful, but Notre Dame's defense has not been special. The turnover battle should be a major factor in this game.
FIU truly awful, and Louisville needs to blow out every bad team on their slate if they want to have any shot at a national title.
Georgia could be looking ahead to the Week 5 game against LSU, and North Texas is a bit better than people believe. Will UGA go up-tempo, as it did in the game against South Carolina? I suspect it will not.
I still believe Purdue is the worst team in the Big Ten and that Wisconsin is a good football team. I don't expect this one to be close, despite Purdue's game showing against Notre Dame last weekend.
Want thoughts on the games involving unranked teams? Head to the comment section to discuss.
On The Line podcast
Every week, I am joined by the former head of Caesar's Sportsbook, Todd Fuhrman; Adam Kramer of Kegs N Eggs; and Drew Collins to discuss the world of college football wagering. It's a lively discussion of about an hour, and an enjoyable listen.
Updated conference championship odds
Unfortunately, odds for the AAC and the Big XII were not available at the time of publish.
Which of these lines are the most interesting to you?
To me, there are two very interesting spots. First, Alabama is a bigger favorite to win the SEC than Ohio State is to win the Big Ten. That certainly was not true in the pre-season. Of course, Ohio State is yet to win an important conference game, and Alabama, according to the spread, just won its most difficult of the year. Getting to the conference championship game, or having the inside track to do so, has a major impact on these lines.
Also interesting is that Northwestern is a better favorite to win the Big Ten than Nebraska or Michigan State, despite the latter two having an easier conference schedule. Again, divisions matter.
How big was that loss to Alabama for the Aggies? Texas A&M is now an equal favorite to win the conference as Auburn. Think about that.