Is Penn State football the new Duke basketball? You know what? Maybe it is. Let's run down the checklist:
Maryland vs. spread: Lost (4-3)
Maryland straight up: Won (5-2)
Overall vs. Spread: 1-4-1 (23-22-1)
How you all fared:
Maryland (5-3, 2-2) at Penn State (4-3, 1-3)
Opening line: Penn State -3
Current line: There's no consensus here, with the range being either 3, 3.5 or 4, depending on which book you visit. We'll middle it and use 3.5 as our operative line this week. No more pushes.
Trends: When the line opened at 3, it immediately (and predictably) inspired 95 percent of the public to pounce on Penn State. Vegas has chased it up a little bit, and now with the mix of 3.5s and 4s, it's 74-26 in favor of PSU at the time of this writing Wednesday a.m.
What it means: When you consider Maryland's sh**show at Wisconsin and Penn State's near-upset of a Buckeye team that utterly destroyed Maryland at Byrd, you have to admit: this is a surprisingly small line. When I learned what the line was, I knew bettors would be fighting over themselves to back Penn State. You guys should know me well enough by now to know what I'm going to do here. This is Contrarian Gambling 101, a textbook trends play. Line doesn't make sense? Seems way too easy to pick the favorite? That's where I live.
My pick: Let me be clear here. Without Vegas's influence, there's absolutely nothing I like about Maryland in this matchup, but the way I gamble lends little weight to minor details like who the actual teams are, that the home favorite is the better team and not laying many points, and that the visiting team has to start a quarterback who, to quote the great Crash Davis, "couldn't hit water if he fell out of a (expletive) boat" last week. Show me an 80-20 split on a 3-point line, I'll start sniffing around for an upset every time. What's the path to an upset here? Well, either Maryland will have to pass really well since PSU is going to show no respect to that facet of the game and stack the box vs. the run, or else it'll have to be a stinker game dictated by defense, turnovers and who makes less mistakes. Mistakes sounds like the more realistic path for the Terps.
Pick vs. the spread: Maryland +3.5
Game pick: Maryland 23, Penn State 21
5 I like
@ARMY (+3.5) vs Air Force: The trends here are 98% Air Force and Vegas isn't budging -- they appear to love the Black Knights and they don't care if it's weighted 100-0 toward Air Force. So this one is general principle. I'm not going to lie, though ... Army and I have a checkered past. We contrarians have to bet Army all the time because, well, they always suck and nobody ever wants to bet them. I can't tell you how many times I've had to be on Army in the Army-Navy game and then watched my money fly away when they come out running swinging gates and statues of liberty and - suprise! - can't move the ball. So, yeah, I got Army. I recommend y'all take Air Force though.
@OLE MISS (-2.5) vs. Auburn: 76 percent of the action on Auburn here as a road dog. Ole Miss is devalued, I guess, because they couldn't run the gauntlet in the brutally difficult SEC and lost a nailbiter to LSU. Ole Miss is good, and I can get them with Vegas on my side, at home and laying less than a field goal? I'm in.
FLORIDA (+13) vs. Georgia (neutral site): Everyone has abandoned UF and they do probably deserve that. It's 93-7 in favor of UGA, but the Gators are coming off their bye week and have had 2 weeks to read about what chumps they are and how they've gotten their coach fired. This is a great rivalry that plays out in a great environment. I think it's a 50-50 game and the line is entirely too big.
VIRGINIA (+3.5) @Georgia Tech: I don't care for Virginia -- we all know this. But gambling is impersonal. It's 84% GT and I'm standing by my policy that I'll always play 80-20 games in the ACC Coastal because all those teams stink and none of them deserve that much love from the public. I'll hold my nose and play the 'Hoos.
@SOUTH CAROLINA (-7) vs. Tennessee: Yet another 80-20 and again I get to side with the superior team at home. I don't have much in the way of reasoning here other than that Tennessee is winless in the SEC and I love to listen to Steve Spurrier tweak the Vols.