Betting “marquee” or television games is a popular Saturday recreational activity for squares and wise guys that causes radical fluctuations in the spread and can turn a sure winner into a sure loser. To protect us from denting our bankroll in the first weeks of the season we see the value in wagering on NCAA football games that are under the radar. The more obscure the game the better. What does it matter if you win a nickel on Eastern Michigan or on the University of Michigan? This means you won’t see Kirk, Lee and Chris spotlighting these games on Saturday morning.
In this space this college football season you won’t see us recommending a lumber-play on USC, Texas or Iowa. In fact, the games we recommend you’ll have a hard time finding on television, unless you live within the region. So fire-up the gamecast at your favorite online sports news website and flex your “refresh button” finger since the scoring lag will be great and they won’t flash the score in the middle of the Notre Dame-Michigan game. Despite the setback of easily finding an accurate up-to-date score, and if you can bear betting a game you can’t watch, we believe that you’ll get as much value, if not more, betting schools in smaller conferences than you will in the bigger conferences where square money can and often does kill your bet or parlay.
This week, we have two games that the line has moved in our favor, despite being bet up early. We see that EMU has moved from five points to seven points and North Texas has moved from five points down to four. Now lets take advantage of the steam since we see something that the early money has not.
EMU EAGLES (-7) vs. ULL Ragin’ Caguns (56 O/U)
This week we turn our attention to Yipslanti, Michigan. This added game opened with the Eagles as a 5-point “chalk” but was quickly bet up to seven by gamblers looking to get on the offensively minded Eagles before the square money takes over Saturday morning. So far the steam is on the Eagles and that makes me like this play even more. The total has remained locked at 56 points as the odds brokers fully expect this game to be a high scoring affair. We see the number in this game (even at five points) inflated due to several reasons. First and foremost is the 60-3 dismantling of the Ragin’ Cajuns by the Texas Longhorns. While Texas dominated every aspect of the lopsided affair, one has to consider that the Ragin’ Cajuns were one of the only teams in Louisiana playing last week in the aftermath of Katrina and about 20 players are from the New Orleans area. The Eagles dropped their season opener to Cincinnati 26-28, but led at the half 20-14. However, it was the stellar play of the Eagles QB Matt Bohnet and the woeful display of the Cajuns defense against Texas that is also likely to account for the large number. Against the Bearcats, Bohnet went 22-of-33 for 167 yards and a 27-yard scoring pass to Eric Deslauriers in the first quarter. Bohnet accounted for 65 rushing yards on 10 carries making him the Eagles leading rusher.
Looking at this week’s battle between the Sun Belt and Mid-American Conferences, we see a much more favorable situation for the Ragin’ Cajuns-despite going on the road for their second straight week. Both teams bring identical 0-1 records and look at this game as a must win. No doubt about it, the Eagles are loaded with offensive weapons, however, their running game is suspect as is the case when your QB is your leading rusher. On defense, the Eagles had a hard time stopping the Bearcats as they allowed 469 yards of total offense of which 293 yards were rushing yards. Good thing for the Eagles they’ll face an aerial attack by the Ragin’ Cajuns as they get back their star WR Bill Sampy after he served his one-game suspension last week. Last year Sampy led the team with 57 receptions and 6 TDs. You can count on the Cajuns to throw the ball since their starting TB Chester Johnson is nursing an injured shoulder and is questionable for the EMU game. This is the first time that these two teams have met, and we see the teams trading points throughout this game as both team’s defenses have proved porous. One statistic that fell by the wayside in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ loss to Texas was that of the 418 yards allowed, the Cajuns managed to hold Texas’ air attack to 173 yards. If the Cajuns can hold Bohnet to pedestrian numbers they’ll even have a shot at winning this game.
Pick: ULL Ragin’ Cajuns +7
MTSU BLUE RAIDERS (-4) vs. North Texas Mean Green (48 O/U)
Question: How do you not bet North Texas when they’re grabbing four points against a team they have never lost against? Mean Green puts its 25 game Sun Belt Conference winning streak on the line as they travel to the MTSU Blue Raiders this weekend. Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened the Blue Raiders as a 5-point home favorite and set the total at 48 points, the total has not moved while the early action had bettors grabbing the five points for the four-time defending Sun Belt champions. Maybe it is I, but don’t you see something funky in that number, something that screams sucker bet? Due to the devastation from Katrina North Texas’ opener at LSU was postponed, while the Blue Raiders dropped their first game against the Crimson Tide 26-7. In their loss one thing was abundantly clear to all who watched the game, the Blue Raiders will have to figure out their running game if they hope to win this week against North Texas. Against the Crimson Tide’s stingy defense MTSU managed a paltry 34 yards on 25 carries! However, playing against a North Texas team with four new DL starters maybe the balm the Blue Raider running game needs.
We’ll see if having played one game versus a team that has not played a game yet will make a difference. Keep in mind that North Texas has lost eight straight season openers. There is also the revenge factor for the Blue Raiders. Recalling last year at Denton, Texas when these two teams went head-to-head, MTSU held a 14-0 lead over Mean Green (who were a 3-point favorite) until the second quarter when the Blue Raiders gave up 24 points and suffered a tough 30-21 road loss. Last year’s loss was MTSU’s fourth consecutive loss to North Texas. Remember, defensively last year was a down year for Mean Green and certainly this year is still a rebuilding year for the DBs and DLs (four new starters). These are a few of the reasons that the Blue Raiders are the favorite in this game. However, what I believe is the key factor for North Texas in this game is red-shirt freshman Daniel Meager taking over for Scott Hall. True, all Meager has to do is not lose the game by handing the ball off to stud RB Cobbs and Thomas. But this is Meager’s first start in the NCAAs and it comes on the road at Floyd Stadium. For the Blue Raiders I see QB Clinton Marks having a better day than against the Crimson Tide (12-of-18 attempts for just 117 yards and a 14-yard TD toss). On defense, Blue Raider linebacker Jonathan Bonner returned from a season ending neck injury in ’04 and collected 5 1/2 tackles. Bradley Robinson had significant impact against Alabama with 8 1/2 tackles and one interception.
Answer: You bet against North Texas because they are playing their first game of the season on the road with a red shirt freshman quarterback against a team that has one game under their belt and a super accurate passer and is looking to revenge a loss. Despite the power running game the SBC streak ends at 25 for North Texas.
PICK: MTSU -4
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