Another .500 week, another trend toward the mean. While my record ATS is 11-13 across the first four weeks of the season, money-wise we're actually in the green, because I've been 3-1 picking dogs in my "Dog Player" segment below. I'm right above the line, at +.09 units on the season -- but we've climbed out of an awful Week 1 pit and profitable clouds muster on the horizon.
And let's be honest -- it's been unbelievably tough beats in the early going of the season. So it is with betting -- that's why we get skin in the game. To lose it.
Lock Of The Week
Washington State (+6) @ Utah (8:00 PM EST, Saturday)
I've got deserved flack for an early 1-3 start on my Lock for the Week -- as a matter of fact, if you bet everything I recommended save for the Lock of the Week, which you faded, you'd be doing pretty well so far. That said, I've been taking a passive approach with the locks, fading teams I thought were juiced in the beginning of the season; no longer! Now, I'm getting aggressive
Mike Leach's Cougars are 1-3 ATS, but have yet to play as a dog this season; under Leach, they've been 25-15 (62.5%) as a general underdog against the spread, and as a road dog, make it 18-8 (69%). They've covered in their last four matches against the Utes -- all with Kyle Wittingham as the head coach, including two in Utah. So, historically, this is a spot for the Cougars to cover.
Contextually, it makes sense as well. Utah just got eviscerated by an Air Raid offense in Utah, and Leach has been running the Air Raid successfully against Utah for seasons now, averaging almost 400 passing yards and 30 points per game in the last three outings. But USC's Air Raid is watered down and nubile, especially so when third-stringer Matt Fink has to step into the starting job on the first drive; Washington State's is as potent as ever. Utah is likely going to deploy much the same strategy as they did against the Trojans -- tight man coverage and the hope of disruption at the line that translates into pressure from their front four.
Leach usually eats this strategy alive.
Meanwhile, the Utes are 1-3 against the spread, having played tighter games against both BYU and Northern Illinois than the final score would indicate. RB Zack Moss is almost certainly out with a shoulder injury and dual-threat QB Tyler Huntley, if he plays with a foot injury, will likely be limited as a runner, which is the strength of his game. Unless Utah keeps Washington State's offense stifled for four quarters -- which is wildly unlikely -- this is a spot to smash Washington State.
Given some of their late-game fiascos -- looking at you, UCLA -- it's worth doubting the money line, which is why I'm only recommending this game ATS here. But I will also have money riding personally on the money line for this game; I think Washington State wins straight up.
Arizona State (+4.5) @ Cal (8:00 PM EST, Friday)
Last week, we made a killing off of Cal -- especially if you follow me on Twitter, where I provided further recommendations as we approached kickoff. As the nation grows more familiar with Cal, we're moving them into fade territory here.
On a quick turnaround week after a ton of travel to the SEC, Cal -- the last undefeated team left in the Pac-12 -- is in a huge trap situation. They've got a season-defining game waiting for them in Eugene next weekend; they've got a bad, but weirdly competitive Arizona State team coming to town; they had an arduous and emotional victory against Ole Miss last weekend; and it's, by golly, the Pac-12 on a Friday night. Bad juju happens to good Pac-12 teams on Friday nights.
I think Cal is gonna beat this Arizona State teams by multiple scores, which is why this juicy line scares me. I think I'm being lured into a sandpit, and I'm not buying it. I truly think Cal is a contender and not a pretender, but I'll step carefully here.
Maryland (+200) @ Penn State (7:00 PM EST, Friday)
After a 3-1 start in this segment, we're up almost 5 units, so I'm willing to get a little frisky and take a bigger dog than I usually recommend here. And if I'm gonna take a big dog -- Maryland's a 6.5 put underdog in most spots -- it will almost invariably be a team that can score points in a flurry.
That's Maryland. With a veteran QB in Josh Jackson and a homerun hitter in RB Anthony McFarland, the Terps simply bring more consistent firepower to a matchup with an inflated Penn State offense and young QB Sean Clifford. Pitt's tough to score on for a lot of teams, but Penn State only dropped 17 points on the Panthers, illustrating the lie that was their bullying of Idaho and Buffalo to start the season. Maryland's a surprisingly stingy defense, which ranks Top 10 in such categories as line yards, standard down line yards, and power success rate: they're great in short-yardage situations, and they're 11th in sack rate as well. Don't be surprised to see Maryland jump to a big early lead, then withstand a late surge from Penn State to walk away with the win.
Four For The Road
Oklahoma State (-4) v. Kansas State (7:00 EST, Saturday)
Oklahoma State is a perfect 4-0 against the spread, against such teams as Texas, Tulsa (a decent Group of 5 squad this year), Oregon State, and McNeese; Kansas State has a perfect 3-0 ATS record against Nicholls State, Bowling Green, and Mississippi State.
So, yeah, I believe a bit more in Oklahoma State. Especially when you consider Gundy's lasting in the Big 12, as opposed to Kansas State HC Chris Klieman, who hails from North Dakota State and has yet to run the Big 12 gauntlet. Oklahoma State's speed is gonna be too much for Kansas State's athletes on defensive, and I don't envision Gundy letting the Wildcats hang around after he dropped the last two he played against ex-HC Bill Snyder.
Wake Forest (-6.5) @ Boston College (3:30 EST, Saturday)
This is another trend play for me, as Wake Forest missed a cover by a half-point in Week 1, pushed in Week 2, and have covered in Weeks 3 and 4. The arrow is pointing up with each week that QB Jamie Newman grows further comfortable in the Demon Deacons nifty offense, with their drawn-out mesh points and third-level RPOs. Two legit NFL receivers in Scotty Washington and Sage Surratt as well, facing a Boston College defense that's giving up nearly 300 passing yards/game.
After this game, Wake Forest has a three-game home stretch that includes Florida State, Louisville, and NC State. There's a bit of a fear of a look-ahead spot here, but I think Wake is well-coached and appropriately aware of their...intriguing position in the ACC. Demon Deacons by a fair bit.
Middle Tennessee State (+23.5) @ Iowa (12:00 EST, Saturday)
I've got no idea what's going on with this line. There's huge sharp action on it despite the fact that it hasn't really budged since it opened at 23.5; and from a game pace and play style perspective, a line over three touchdowns is simply absurd. Iowa plays slow, ball-control offense and cannot generate chunk passing plays to score quickly -- their team's cumulative yards/attempt is under 8 for the season. Meanwhile, Middle Tennessee State showed against both Duke and Michigan that they can show fight for at least a half or so, in two quality losses that were both under this 23.5 point mark. We think Iowa is as good of a team as Michigan? I'm all for making fun of Michigan, but that's rich.
Oregon State (+4.5) v. Stanford (7:00 EST, Saturday)
The Stanford Cardinal would be 0-4 against the spread if not for a blocked punt in the trashiest of garbage time against Northwestern in Week 1; Oregon State would be 3-0 if not for garbage time 2-point attempts in a clear loss to Oklahoma State. Oregon State plays with pace and space, which has given Stanford utter fits in the early going of the year; Stanford cannot find an offensive identity and continues to bash their heads against the wall of an ineffective running game. Oregon State has enough of a defensive line to win some drives and prevent Stanford from salting away a two-possession game. I will be riding the money line here as well.