College football gambling season is drawing to a close, which for me, means the end of a sometimes joyous, sometimes agonizing, often inebriated and always interesting stretch of the year. We've got one last Maryland game to break down before Vegas View officially retires until the fall. It's the iconic Foster Farms Bowl, played in football haven Santa Clara, California, home to the hallowed grounds of that grand old gridiron cathedral, Levi's Stadium. If that doesn't get your heart pumping, ponder the fact that our beloved Terps have drawn the most prestigious of time slots ... Tuesday at 10 p.m.! If you don't have goosebumps right now like I do, you're made of wood. But let's fight through it together, collect ourselves and figure out how to make some money on this game.
First, a quick thank you to all of you who played along this season. I really appreciate the participation in the comments, even as I omitted some of you, left out some records and miscalculated some others. Among those of you that stuck it out to the bitter end, ESterps08 leads the way in total wins with 41 (but I plan on passing you this week, sir) while Testudo's Attorney has the best win differential (+10). A couple others, cliffhanger45 and TerpsRising, were working on terrific seasons before missing last week. If you guys, and whoever else, come back and pick this week's slate, please tell me what your most recent record was in the comments and I'll add you back into the standings. Most of all, I'd like to thank everyone who had fun with these lines and picks like I do. I really enjoyed reading your picks and comments.
Here's the leaderboard:
How FlaTerp fared (season record in parenthesis):
Maryland vs. spread: Won (8-4)
Maryland straight up: Won (9-3)
Overall vs. Spread: 3-3 (40-35-1)
How you all fared:
TerpsAught1 5-1 (36-33-1)
chiterp 4-2 (8-4)
ESterps08 4-2 (41-35-1)
nyterp1 4-2 (32-38-1)
Testudo's Attorney 4-2 (39-29-1)
umcp96 3-3 (23-18-1)
Maryland (7-5) vs. Stanford (7-5)
Opening line: Stanford -13.5
Current line: Stanford -14
Trends: There were a couple interesting things about the opening point spread of 13.5. First, it was the largest spread of any bowl game, for whatever that's worth. Second, you always have to notice a line like 13.5, 6.5 etc. that is a half-point above or below a touchdown number. It's important to monitor line movement whenever that little half-point bump hits as meaningful a number as 7 or 14. In this case, the public jumped all over Stanford at an 80% clip even as they were laying more points than anyone else in the postseason, and Vegas quickly responded with a bump to 14. It didn't have much impact in the early going, as the trends remained about 75-25 in Stanford's favor, though Maryland has slowly crept back into the betting picture since. At the time of this writing (Saturday night -- what does that say about me?) the Terps were drawing 35% and the line has been holding steady at 14.
What it means: Whether it's 75-25 or 65-35, the fact that the money has remained solidly weighted toward Stanford while the line has held firm at 14 tells you Vegas is OK with sticking its neck out a little bit for the Terps -- or at least for the Terps' ability to not get routed. If I saw the wiseguys bump the line up to 15 and chase a little more Maryland money, I'd start to get a little worried about a blowout loss. Right now, I feel like the betting public is being a little too generous toward Stanford and a little bit too dismissive of a Maryland team that will be healthier than it's been in a long, long time.
My pick: One of the fun things about bowl games is that they offer teams a season reboot of sorts. You get a full month or more to heal your wounds and gameplan for just one opponent. I think coaching really matters in bowls because of all that extra preparation. I don't want to start another Fridge-Edsall debate, but I do want to mention that one of the undeniably best things about the ol' Fridge, love him or not, was his 5-2 bowl record. Give the big man enough time and he really could draw up a solid gameplan and fire up the coaches & kids. Anyone remember Maryland 30, Tennessee 3? Great, great game. But that's neither here nor there. The point is, coaching really matters in bowls and it's a great opportunity for Randy Edsall to win some of us laggers over by stepping up with a gem of a game in a hostile environment against a heavily favored opponent. Can he do it? You know what, why not? I've steadfastly avoided being a homer in this space this season, but I'm going to step off that path now. The Terps are getting too many points here so they're an easy pick vs. the spread. For the win? I think Maryland has shown the ability to muck it up with uninspiring offensive teams (PSU, Michigan), which Stanford definitely is. It's going to be close, much closer than 14, and maybe a highlight-reel offering by someone like Stefon Diggs or Will Likely will give us all a jolt of excitement -- at about 1 in the morning on a Wednesday.
Pick vs. the spread: Maryland +14
Game pick: Maryland 23, Stanford 20
5 I like
OLE MISS (+3.5) vs. Texas Christian: Love this one. I think Ole Miss is the better team and should be the favorite, but they're getting more than a field goal and the public still backs the Froggies at a 72-percent clip. My favorite bowl play was Marshall, but this one is right up there too.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (-7) vs. Georgia Tech: I always feel like GT is just gimmicky enough that if you get a month to prepare for them, their limitations and talent-deficit get exposed. Mississippi State used to be like Georgia Tech, but they've graduated.
MICHIGAN STATE (+3) vs. Baylor: I'm just not buying either Baylor or TCU (and their ridiculous 61-58 final score when they played each other) and I'm glad neither one of them got into the playoff. My hunch is that Sparty is just the tougher team and will prevail here.
FLORIDA STATE (+9) vs. Oregon: I have the same basic opinion about both of the playoff games: The line is so big that you either take the underdog or stay away all together. On the one hand, FSU is too proven and too talented to be a nine-point dog to anybody. On the other hand, FSU can't defend and they're playing freaking Oregon. I think, given a month to prepare, the 'Noles can fix their defensive issues and find a way to put their superior talent to good use. Give me the points.
OHIO STATE (+9) vs. Alabama: People are reading too much into the Cardale Jones thing. He's every bit the stud that Barrett and Miller were and he'll be sitting on a month of first-team reps when he takes the field vs. an Alabama team that got lured into close games this year vs. WVU, Tennessee and Arkansas. I think Ohio State can win this game, just like I think FSU can beat Oregon, so in both cases I'll take the fat chunk of points Vegas is offering.