We're three weeks in and things are going well! I'm making some money and hopefully some of you are as well. Maryland's season graduates now from the preseason phase (Grade: C-. I'd say we had two wins that, if looked at in a vacuum, were perfectly acceptible, as well as one horrendous loss that feels like it submarined the entire season and direction of the program ... I'll try not to overreact to either, so C- feels about right. ) to the real-season phase.
First, let's take a look at the week that was.
How FlaTerp fared (season record in parenthesis):
Maryland vs. spread: Won (3-0)
Maryland straight up: Won (2-1)
Overall vs. Spread: 4-2 (12-6)
Thoughts: Well, I haven't taken any significant damage yet this season, which feels both great and ominous at the same time. There's always a week where you get too proud of yourself and your theories, pick a couple extra games, spend a little extra money then get utterly destroyed, sell some family heirlooms and take out a second mortgage. OK, that's never really happened but things can get ugly fast in the world of sports betting. You have to keep your feet on the ground and approach your fourth or fifth week the same cautious way you approached your first, regardless of what your account looks like or how well you've done. Discipline matters. I actually did step out of my comfort zone last week and got stung - I took Michigan State laying a big line with the support of about 40% of the public money, which is much higher than the 80-20ish spreads I'm always focusing on. It bit me and killed a straight bet as well as a bunch of high-paying parlays in which the other legs all hit. Had I picked, say, Northern Illinois or some other 20% team that came through instead as my fifth game, it would have been one hell of a week. None the less, nobody wants to hear a gambler complain about a winning week.
As for Maryland, it was sports betting 101. You take your heart out of it and do what your homework tells you to do. No Terps fan felt good about things with Maryland coming off a horrific loss and USF coming off a pretty darn game performance in Tallahassee. It didn't feel right, but the trends were telling us to hold our noses, take the Terps and lay the points. Same deal with Texas as touchdown dogs at home against middling Cal, as well as injury-ravaged Notre Dame against Georgia Tech. These were bad lines considering the teams involved. When the public overreacts to things that happened the week before in a wholly different matchup and set of circumstances, you have to recognize it and pounce without overanalyzing. Trust the system. Don't think, just throw.
How you all fared: Courtesy of Statjax, here are the results ...
Week 3 results
Year to date (min 12 games).
Congrats to sleteach for a 6-0 week. Those don't happen ever. I had a perfect week once a few years ago when Kentucky and Mississippi State beat South Carolina and Florida, respectively, on the same night and I was on top of both of them. I had them parlayed on a wheel both vs. the spread and on the money line with a couple other winners. (Funny, I never tell the stories about the many, many weeks where I got my ass kicked). Pretty sure I drank the good stuff after the dust settled that night. I don't know if you actually gamble sleteach, but I hope you were rolling in it last Saturday.
Anyway, let's move on to this week's games, starting with our beloved Terrapins.
Maryland (2-1) at West Virginia (2-0)
Line: The Mountaineers are laying a robust 17.5 points, up just a half-point from the opening line of 17.
Trends: We're not getting any help from the trends this week. It's a dead-even 51-49 at the time of the this writing Wednesday. Since the house takes 10% of all winning tickets, a line in the neighborhood of 50-50 is essential a guaranteed win for the sportsbook. They don't need to care if their line was good or bad at that point because they found the sweet spot that divided the public in half. When that happens, it's up to you, the gambler, to get the game right without Vegas's help. These are games contrarians like me steer clear of, because I don't want to do the real work of breaking down matchups and guessing what's going to happen on the field, especially when I'm totally partial to one of the teams as a fan, which clouds my judgement.
My pick: West Virginia has played exactly nobody thus far with two big wins over creampuffs, plus they're coming off a bye week, which gives them ample time to prepare for this matchup. In general, I find the bye week to be a litmus test of sorts for a coaching staff. You have an extra week to both get healthy and gameplan, so what are you going to do with it? I happen to like WVU's new regime so that in itself makes me worried. That's the bad news. The good news is that you could hardly blame the 'Neers for looking past a Terps team that played like ass-clowns at home vs. a BGSU team that does similar offensive things to WVU. After all, looming right after Maryland on WVU's schedule are four straight daunting matchups against #15 Oklahoma, #24 Oklahoma State, #5 Baylor and #3 TCU. That makes Maryland a classic trap game. So that's good, I guess, although it's also indicative of the state of things in Year 5 of the Edsall Era, that the Terps are the type of team that would qualify as a trap game for an unranked team like WVU. Anyway, I don't like the coaching matchup for Maryland, I don't like the Terps on the road against a better program, and I don't like how Maryland fared two weeks ago the last time they played an analytical, offensive-minded coach. The Terps are going to have to keep up and score points with their erratic passing game and non-existent running game, or else they're going to have to play their game of the year defensively against a good offensive coach and system. As I said above, it's not a game I'd normally play as a contrarian, but if I have to, I just don't like Maryland at all in this spot.
Pick vs. the spread: West Virginia -17.5
Game pick: West Virginia 45, Maryland 20
5 I like
@PENN STATE (-26.5) vs. Army: Hate doesn't motivate me, see. I'm all about the dollar. Penn State has won its last two vs. the spread and was rewarded with a surprisingly big line here. Not unlike this week's Maryland-Michigan trends/line activity, Vegas responded to the public's affinity for Army by adding points and making the Black Knights even more attractive. It's a classic 80-20 breakdown in favor of underdog Army, so look for vastly superior talent to do what its supposed to do in this mismatch.
@GEORGIA (-1.5) vs. Alabama: When was the last time Alabama lost two in a row? And when was the last time I picked two favorites in a row vs. the spread? You'd have to do research to find either answer, but I'm guessing it's been a while. Even after a shaky showing vs. Ole Miss last week, Alabama remains the Patriots of the NCAA who the public backs up pretty much no matter what. It's 80-20 so I'll take
@FLORIDA (+7.5) vs OLE MISS: IAnother 80-20 split. Nobody believes in the unbeaten Gators, I guess, but this is just silly. I'm not buying Ole Miss as 7.5-point road favorites in a SEC game at a very hard stadium for a road team to win. Ole Miss seems to be for real and Florida's questions are valid after three straight squeaker wins over opponents who aren't in the Rebels' class. This one's general principal. It's too many points but the public doesn't care. Vegas is trying to steal it.
@AUBURN (-2) vs. MISSISSIPPI STATE: Staying in the SEC, we have a remarkably similar game to the UF-Tennessee matchup above. Auburn, coming off a bad outing in Baton Rouge is at home, where they should be favored by more than 2 against an evenly matched opponent. 87% (!) of the public likes Dan Mullen's squad in what is essentially a pick'em on the road against a very good team that was humbled last week by a road loss to another very good team. Count me among the minority.
@INDIANA (+22.5) vs. Ohio State: This isn't exactly the same thing as Ole Miss-UF, because the Hoosiers are a far cry from the Gators when it comes to both talent and homefield advantage. However, Ohio State hasn't pulled things together yet this year and barely beat NIU two weeks ago, while Indiana