Wife pregnant + death in family + Thanksgiving + I'm a procrastinator = FlaTerp is late with Vegas View again. Sorry y'all. I know there's a small but devoted group of you that seeks out, enjoys and participates in this post every week and I really don't mean to stumble to the finish line like I have. It's just been a hectic stretch.
First things first, a happy belated Thanksgiving to everyone here at Testudo Times and especially to you Vegas Viewers who play along every week and enjoy the lines, the picking and all the related analysis as much as I do. I'm also thankful to Pete Volk, who has shared his forum with so many different writers (even a hack like me!) and converted it into a huge, bustling and fair place with a little something for every type of Maryland fan. Every time I see someone in comments pine for the Broman era, I feel like I should send a reminder that while Ben was without question a special talent and great voice, the site itself has expanded exponentially under Pete's watch. Not a day goes by when there's not 3 to 6 and sometimes more new things to read and whether your fancy is football, recruiting, non-revs, legal issues or whatever, you'll find your news here. If you're a Maryland fan, there's no better place on the internet to be. It's not even close. Testudo Times devotees like me used to visit here as part of a process in which we'd also scan daily papers, blogs, twitter and recruiting sites, but there's really not much need for that these days because nobody beats TT to the punch anymore. So thanks, Pete, your site makes it easier and more fun to follow the Terps than ever before.
Now, let's talk football and gambling. Last week was funny. Almost everyone saw the slate of games I put out there the exact same way and almost everyone went 4-2. Other than my own, there was maybe 1 Iowa pick (right) and 2 Syracuse picks (wrong), while all but one of you agreed with my UCLA pick, which was a pretty easy win, and my wrong Nebraska pick. I find it interesting that the public liked USC so much more than everyone here.
ESterps and MellophoneMathMajor (!!) posted 5-1 records to win the week - nice work, guys - and cliffhanger45 leads overall in percentage and TerpsRising in total correct picks. For those of you that don't have your complete season record updated, you'll have to go back into archives and tell me what it was in comments, and then I'll be happy to add it to your current record and change the leaderboard.
Maryland vs. spread: Won (6-4)
Maryland straight up: Won (8-2)
Overall vs. Spread: 4-2 (32-31-1)
How you all fared:
Maryland (7-4, 4-3) vs. Rutgers (6-5, 2-5)
Opening line: Maryland -9
Current line: Maryland -8.5
Trends: The early response to this line was to pound money on Maryland. The first time I looked on Tuesday, the Terps had 87% support, which is always worrisome for me, but the action has totally evened out as the week progressed. As I type this on Friday, it's exactly 50-50.
What it means: It (50-50) means take your best guess. It also means Vegas achieved total balance and has guaranteed itself a profit on spread bets. Generally, I avoid 50-50s because it's an indication that the handicappers took their best shot at the actual point differential of the matchup and then don't really care which side prevails, since they win either way. If I can get a public team (like Alabama, Oregon, Patriots, Broncos, Packers etc.) laying a reasonable spread at just 50%, then I get intrigued because you usually have to pay a premium while laying an extra point or 3 with those teams -- but I would not put Maryland in that category, obviously.
My pick: Maryland is a better team than Rutgers by just about any metric, and when two teams are in the same conference and the same division, the amount of metrics you can use to handicap expands vastly because of all the common opponents. Rutgers and Maryland have faced six common opponents and across the board Maryland fared either just about the same (Wisconsin, Mich. State, Michigan, Ohio State, Indiana) or better (Penn State) -- not worse in any, but they're all close. We Terp fans would like to believe our team outclasses Rutgers this season, but I'm not really seeing any evidence of that. The PSU games were both nailbiters, even though the Terps won and the Scarlet Knights lost. That game -- plus Rutgers' one notably more difficult conference game vs. Nebraska (Maryland got Iowa instead) -- make up the two-game lead the Terps hold over RU in the standings, but the teams are closer than they might appear. It should also be noted that Maryland had a tougher non-conference schedule for whatever that's worth. Rutgers' difficulties on defense could be nullified by Maryland's inability to either pass or run consistently, but then it's been a few weeks since the Terps played a lighter defense, so maybe the more prolific version of the Maryland offense will reappear. Especially if C.J. Brown is able to run a little bit -- as he has been vs. lesser opponents. There's a reason why the Terps are favorites by more than a touchdown in a 50-50 trends game, and so I'm clearly compelled to play the Terps to win straight up when there's such a fat line serving as a cushion. However, I don't completely buy the Scarlet Knights as the big underdogs others seem to view them as, so I'll take Rutgers ATS.
Pick vs. the spread: Rutgers +8.5
Game pick: Maryland 27, Rutgers 23
5 I like
MICHIGAN (+21) at Ohio State: In this, among the greatest of all great rivalries, the public is backing the Buckeyes at an 80% clip even laying three full TDs. The Wolverines are not good - we know this - but they do have talent, and weird things tend to happen in these rivalries where emotions get involved. There's pride in Ann Arbor, even with an apathetic fan base and lame duck coach, and there's a salty defense too. I'll take the points and cross my fingers here.
@PENN STATE (+13.5) vs. Michigan State: I feel the same way about Penn State as I do Michigan. There's too much pride there to be near 2-TD underdogs in a home game against anyone. It showed when Ohio State came to Happy Valley and was nearly upset. Yes, Sparty is the class of this matchup, but the spread is too big.
@MISSISSIPPI (+2.5) vs. Mississippi State: A full 90% of the betting public likes State here, which is just too much. It's a coin flip of a game to me and I've been waiting all year long for State to stumble and they haven't yet (Alabama doesn't count because they were always going to lose that one). Reality will bite the Bulldogs this week and it'll shake up the playoff race.
FLORIDA (+7.5) @Florida State: These last two games aren't even trends plays -- both are about 50-50 -- but the Seminoles have established themselves as a team that just sucks against the spread. UF has a terrible offense and may not be able to capitalize on a 'Noles D that can't stop anyone, but I think the Gator defense is good enough and SEC-battle-tested enough to keep this one very close.
OREGON (-19.5) @Oregon State: This is often a hiccup game for the Ducks, but this year it seems like they've shaken off their early season cobwebs and are steamrolling toward the playoffs. I'll lay the points.