It's only Week 3 and we Maryland fans are officially bummed, brow-beaten and deflated for the remainder of football season, a season that will be rife once again with awful quarterback play, hyper-conservative playcalling and gaping defensive holes to be exploited. Gotta love the Edsall Era! Here's the good news: Gambling allows you to let go of all those petty, meaningless facets of football fandom such as whether or not you actually win the games, or whether you matter even the tiniest bit in NCAA football's grand scheme of things. Maryland is an afterthought, sure, but hey, my account balance is a juggernaut right now! Hopefully we can ride that wave all the way to basketball season.
Let's take a look at the week that was.
How FlaTerp fared (season record in parenthesis):
Maryland vs. spread: Won (2-0)
Maryland straight up: Lost (1-1)
Overall vs. Spread: 4-2 (8-4)
Thoughts: It was another good week. One thing I always love to do is pick out what I deem to be an overreaction based on some noteworthy result that happened the prior week. In this case, two examples -- one win and one loss for me -- were Temple and Minnesota, who both far exceeded their expected result in the season opener, a big win over Penn State and a narrow loss to TCU, respectively. As we thought, Minnesota wasn't really a TCU peer, they just played a smart game, then reverted back to what they usually are: conservative and somewhat ordinary. I didn't like them as a touchdown favorite on the road and probably never will. Temple is the more interesting case. I wanted to make the same conclusion about people reading too much into a big win over what's looking like a very not-good Penn State team. Then they torched Cincinnati too. So I don't have a read on Temple and neither does Vegas, which missed Owl lines by a country mile both weeks. Are they still going to be undervalued? This is worth keeping an eye on.
How you all fared: Big thanks to Statjax for compiling results for the season. It really makes this more interactive and fun for everyone who is playing along. I'm going to attempt to paste it below. Let's see if it works ...
Week 2 results
Year to date
It worked! Sweet. So, we're all losing to a coin, which might normally be a bad thing, but then on the other hand, MellophoneMathMajor's coin is 9-3 vs. the spread, which is one hell of a record for anybody (or anything, in this case). As hall-of-fame movie character Jules Winnfield might say, "we have to be talking about one charming m*****f***ing coin!" Mello, you may want to consider taking that thing on the road.
Anyway, Temple notwithstanding, it was a great week and could've been greater if not for a double-OT loss by Tennessee that you pretty much have to just throw out rather than wonder what went wrong.
Let's see if we can keep it up.
USF (1-1) at Maryland (1-1)
Line: Maryland opened as a 8.5-point favorite just two days after the Terps looked like complete and total chumps at home vs. a MAC team while USF put a nice little scare into FSU up in Tally. Understandably, the public money piled onto the Bulls ... can you blame them? When I first checked trends this week only 12% of the action favored Maryland laying all those points. Vegas seemed to start the week liking Maryland as a potential cash cow, in other words, but you can't blame the sharps for not liking us that much, so they chipped into the line and it's now 6.5 to 7 depending on which book you're looking at. We'll use 6.5 as our working line, just to take away a potential push.
Trends: Moving the line from 8.5 to 6.5 cut into the massive betting split in USF's favor, but it didn't cut into it that much. As I type this Friday midday, it's still 75-25 toward USF and that still pretty much falls into my wheelhouse as a game I would love as a contrarian player. If that split holds or even widens and then Maryland covers, Vegas wins big. Vegas wins more often than not ... so ...
My pick: Take a deep breath, step away from your tablet, phone or PC for a moment, and try and let go of how frustrated you are as a Terp fan with bad preparation, bad execution, bad decisions, bad attendance, bad ball-control, bad offense, bad defense, bad game results, and really bad coaching. Outside of those few things, Maryland has been just fine!
Looking at this week's matchup with the steely, emotionless glare of a determined gambler on a decent streak, you've got to remember that as bad as things have been for Maryland since its most recent coaching change, they've been even worse for USF and Willie Taggart (who I really want to like). You can debate all day about whether it's Taggart or the circumstances he inherited, but the results have been bad down here in Tampa and there's serious questions about whether they're going to get better this season. Playing FSU, that's the Super Bowl for USF whereas for FSU it's a game you probably aren't taking very seriously with ACC play looming. It was closer than it should've been, sure, but let's not read too much into it. USF is a very limited team that nobody thinks has all that much upside this season. The Bulls can't pass the football and don't have the scheme or personnel to outcoach and out-think Maryland 100-1 like Bowling Green did last week. If Rowe-led Maryland can't pass the ball or if the Terps are turnover-plagued like they were in last year's meeting in Tampa, then this game could devolve into a stinker just like that one (which Maryland still won) did. If that doesn't happen, the hope is that the Terps' QB change will offset USF's obvious-for-any-Md-opponent strategy of putting about 19 guys in the box and then waiting for whoever the Maryland quarterback is to fire errant passes into the turf on 5-yard out patterns. That was a rock-solid defensive approach to the CJB-Hills offenses, but the hope is Rowe can wing it effectively enough to back defenses off a tad.
Last week's gut-punch home loss allowed Edsall to circle the wagons (again!) and get really focused for an inferior opponent at home. If I wasn't a Terp and this wasn't a Maryland blog, you might still find this game below in the "5 I like" section. As a contrarian, sometimes you have to just hold your nose and put your money down because Vegas is telling you that's what you should do. This, to me, is one of those times.
Pick vs. the spread: Maryland -6.5
Game pick: Maryland 31, USF 20
5 I like
@NOTRE DAME (+2.5) vs. Georgia Tech: I like Georgia Tech somewhat frequently when they're an out-of-favor underdog. They're never all that talented but they're gimmicky and smart and they control the clock. But on the road as favorites against a Dame team that has a significant talent advantage even when you factor in some serious injury issues? No thanks. I'm surprised the public is so quick to jump on GT here (it's 71-29 right now). I'll take the better team at home and the points, thank you very much.
@TEXAS (+7) vs. Cal: Texas isn't good. The administration is in shambles, the coaching staff is in disarray, the fans are furious. But c'mon now. It's a home game against a very ordinary Cal team. Your typical Texas team has more physical talent on its bench than Cal does in its starting lineup. The line's too big and the public is buying it by betting Cal 80-20 on the road as touchdown favorites over a team with its backs to the wall. Is Texas good? Definitely not, but let's not go overboard about how bad they are.
RUTGERS (+9.5) @Penn State: This is officially a pattern. I've had the Nittany Lions on here as an ATS loser every single week, which makes me look like a hater. I'm not going to be defensive about my fan-feelings about all things Penn State, but I have not and will not put money down for emotional reasons. Penn State has been on the wrong side of the trends two weeks in a row and so we've played against them two weeks in a row and won two weeks in a row. Am I upset that's the case? No, I'm quite jovial about it. I believe James Franklin is a salesman, not a good football coach, and that makes me feel slightly better about being saddled with our own not-a-good-football-coach (or good salesman, for that matter) at Maryland. Anyway, if there's anyone out there who looks like even more of a sh**storm than Maryland or Penn State ... oh hey Rutgers! What's up? How are things going? Understandably, the public doesn't want any part of Rutgers against anyone, but with or without their head coach and the 48 players who have been suspended or expelled, the Scarlet Knights are facing the very same dysfunctional PSU offense and porous OL that struggled with Buffalo last week and that Temple pounded the week before. It's not about Rutgers. It's about a Penn State team that has given us no reason in two years to buy as a near 10-point favorite in a conference game against anyone ... not even Rutgers.
@MICHIGAN STATE (-25.5) vs. Air Force: Those of you who have been following for a couple years know that contrarians like me rarely get to back the good teams at home because that's where the public money usually sits. When I can get a good team at home, against a vastly inferior opponent, and still be sitting with the house -- albeit at a modest split of 56-44 in AF's favor -- I'll do it. It's a fat line to swallow, but let's lay the points and root for good football to win for once.
PITT (+5.5) @Iowa: Iowa is in favor this year, in my view, because of an easy schedule, not because they're much different than the last couple of pedestrian Iowa teams. I don't have any real hunches here other than that 85% of the public is backing the Hawkeyes, who I just don't think are that special and certainly not a team that can be relied upon to beat evenly matched opponents by more than a touchdown. Pitt hasn't played anyone yet and you could make the case that their last two lackluster wins over crappy opponents could be attributed at least in part to looking ahead at this opportunity for a statement road win for new coach Pat Narduzzi, who I happen to like.