Situational Handicapping, Defense Takes a Holiday, Saints/Seahawks

  If I told you a football game was going to go 9 overtimes would you put the mortgage on the OVER? Illinois shocked No. 7 Penn State in a 20-18 upset as a 24-point road dog. And it still failed to go OVER the total of 45. The game was also a great example of situational handicapping and how important coaching in football is. Penn State was coming off its first loss of the season, a 23-20 slugfest at Iowa in a Top 10 showdown. Illinois was off a bye with two weeks to watch game film and identify weaknesses that might be exploited. The Illini coaching staff under Bret Bielema stacked the line on first down to contain the Nittany Lion ground game while using fullbacks and dual tight ends to augment its own ground attack. Illinois passed for just 38 yards while running for 357, 5.3 yards per carry. Penn State ran for just 62 yards, 2.1 ypc. 

Another team in a rough situational spot was USC and the betting public was hammering Notre Dame all week. Off a 42-26 home loss to Utah, the dysfunctional Trojans had to travel to Indiana to the raucous house of Knute Rockne and got steamrolled by Notre Dame, 31-16, as a +6 dog. The Irish defensive game plan was to prevent USC from connecting on big plays. USC moved the football (428 total yards) but Notre Dame tightened up in the red zone where big plays are harder to come by with a shorter field, knowing the undisciplined Trojans are prone to self-destructing (2 more turnovers, 9 penalties). It was Notre Dame’s first home contest since Cincinnati ended their 26-game home winning streak, so the team had a chip on its shoulder to start a new streak. And bettors never really had to sweat with a 24-3 lead going into the fourth quarter.

NFL Chalk Eaters: For decades the NFL has coveted parity but Sunday we saw three monster favorites of 12-17 points. Tampa Bay went from -10 to -12 and they had no trouble shellacking the punchless Bears, 38-3. The Rams/Lions featured the two teams that swapped QBs Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff. Los Angeles took all the public money going from a 13 to 16-point favorite, winning the game 28-19 but the underdog got the cash. The biggest favorite of all was undefeated Arizona with the oddsmakers trying to embarrass the Texans making them a 17-point dog. After taking a 5-0 lead, Houston got steamrolled in a 31-5 defeat getting outgained 397-160 as the chalk eaters celebrated. It was the third time in four weeks the Texans failed to score a touchdown, now on a 5-1 run UNDER the total.

Won SNF  Colts over 49ers

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Defense Takes a Holiday: A string of college football teams forgot that Saturday was Game Day. Army had its ground game rolling with 416 yards (595 total yards), but it wasn’t enough in a 70-56 loss to undefeated Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons had 638 yards, 458 of them in the air from QB Sam Hartman. It was 28-21 at the half, so those who bet OVER 53 points were sitting pretty…Florida State went OVER the total by themselves in a 59-3 rout of UMass…The Syracuse/Virginia Tech total sat at 46 all week, after which their run defenses sat on the bench. Virginia Tech ran for 260 yards at home but still lost 41-36 as the Orangemen rushed for 314 yards, a whopping 7 yards per carry! And Hokie coach Justin Fuente was on the hot seat before the game…The Oregon/UCLA total was bet up from 58 to 60 and it sailed OVER in a 34-31 shootout. Underdog Oregon was my Rivalry Game of the Month, getting the win and the money for my clients. Oddly, UCLA has won three straight road games but has lost three straight at home despite being favorites of -11, -3, and -1.

NFL Wagering Notes: Kansas City got the money but Tennessee got the win…and then some. The Titans keep getting better each week and peaked in a 27-3 rout. QB Patrick Mahomes had no TDs, one interception, and was sacked 4 times. Throw in Tennessee’s 34-31 win over Buffalo last week and they beat last year’s AFC Championship game finalists in six days. And Mahomes has now been intercepted in six consecutive games. The Titans were part of my AFC/NFC Parlay, cashing both ends when the Giants stuffed the Falcons, 25-3.  A vote for C.J. Moseley for MVP? The Jets linebacker didn’t even play Sunday but without him the Patriots ran the football at will in a 54-13 thumping. Pats rookie QB Mac Jones keeps getting better each week with 307 yards…The Bengals not only won as a 6-point dog they thumped the Ravens on the road, 41-17. Rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase was unstoppable with 201 yards…Miami opened as the favorite but the Falcons got the money and close as chalk in the biggest NFL line move of the week. The game and the point spread weren’t decided until the final play, an Atlanta field goal in a 30-28 victory.  The Denver Broncos are Top 10 in run defense, but the Cleveland Browns ran right through them in a 17-14 win with 182 yards on the ground, 5.5 yards per carry. All the focus on the Cleveland offense has been the health of QB Baker Mayfield and we got that answer as he sat while Case Keenum started. But the Browns were also minus their top two running backs and still steamrolled the Broncos as D’Ernest Johnson had 146 yards. That great ground attack gave the Browns an edge in time of possession almost 37-23, which they are No. 1 in the NFL at. This offensive line deserves a pay raise and should keep Cleveland in the thick of the playoff hunt alongside a defense that is No. 2 in yards allowed, third against the run.  

Sharp Money Moves: Don’t ignore money moves, especially on smaller college conferences. Underdog Toledo got a lot of money Saturday and the wise guys were correct in a 34-15 rout of Western Michigan. Western Michigan led 15-13 at the half as a small favorite, but Toledo outscored them 21-0 in the third with the Glass Bowl rocking. BYU was another big play moving from -1.5 to -4. The early wise guy money cashed as the Cougars squeezed out a 21-19 victory at Washington State. A late touchdown by WSU was significant after BYU led 21-13, a dreaded backdoor cover for some. Yes, it pays to line shop early!   Public parlay bettors split as Alabama and Cincinnati were thrown into many parlays. Alabama barely covered in a 52-24 win over Tennessee, but Cincinnati never came close in a 27-20 win at Navy as a 4-TD favorite (Navy was one of my releases at +29). Sharp money was all OVER the Georgia Tech/Virginia total moving it from 61.5 to 63.5, an easy win in a 48-40 Virginia victory. Both teams had over 239 yards rushing and 300+ yards passing. The Virginia defense allowed 570 yards, while the G-Tech ‘D’ surrendered 636. Bronco Mendenhall’s Virginia defense was actually better than those stats suggest allowing 195 first-quarter yards, but settling down after that stopping the Yellow Jackets on seven straight third-down tries.  Sharp money also pushed the Kent State/Ohio TOTAL from 64 up to 66.5 and fell just short in a 34-27 Kent victory despite both teams having 457 total yards. Ohio had a first-and-goal at the Kent State one-yard line in the final minute but ended up settling for a field goal with 47 seconds to play – a difference of 4 points that would have cashed for many of those TOTALS bettors. THAT’S the definition of a bad beat.

Saints/Seahawks (Monday): Hurley wins on Monday Night Football with Seahawks and the UNDER. ( all Primetime game s record now a documented 15-2)

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