College Football: Big Ten singing the betting blues

While the Ohio State Buckeyes was being routed on the Left Coast by the top-ranked USC Trojans, the rest of the Big Ten wasn't faring much better against the spread. Joe Paterno's Penn State squad is the only ATS unbeaten among the not-so-Big 11 right now, and they'll take that 2-0 ATS mark into their home tilt this week against Juice Williams and Illinois who barely topped UL-Lafayette in Week 3.

The easy part’s over – if there is such a thing in college football. After a successful opening week against the betting odds, favorites have already hit a wall, going 18-23-2 against the spread (35-8 straight up) in Week 3 to fall to 61-62-4 ATS (100-27 SU) on the season. Some of these big-time programs that have failed to reach the pay window against substandard opposition are in for a rude awakening.

The Big Ten, we’re looking at you. The big story coming out of Week 3 was the Ohio State Buckeyes getting taken out to the woodshed by the USC Trojans. USC mauled OSU 35-3 as an 11-point home chalk, handing the Buckeyes their first loss of the season and dropping them to 0-2 ATS. But while Ohio State was taking on the best team in the nation, the rest of the Big Ten was going 3-4 ATS, including 1-3 ATS as double-digit favorites.

How much can we expect going forward from a team that can barely beat UL-Lafayette? The Illinois Fighting Illini held off a fourth-quarter comeback attempt to down the Ragin' Cajuns 20-17 as 25-point home faves. The final score didn’t come close to threatening the total of 61 points. Illinois has an injury-riddled defense and a relatively one-dimensional offense relying on QB Juice Williams. After a bye week, Williams will have to visit the Penn State Nittany Lions, the only 2-0 ATS team in the Big Ten. Williams, meet woodshed.

Let’s not get too hopped up about Iowa while we’re at it. The unranked Hawkeyes are one of five teams in the conference at 3-0 SU, but they’re just 1-1 ATS after beating the Iowa State Cyclones (+13) by a final score of 17-5. Iowa actually had a payday secured before willingly conceding a safety with 28 seconds remaining. However, this game was 3-3 going into the fourth, and the Hawkeyes had to dig deep to beat their rivals in soggy conditions.

Iowa gets a struggling Pittsburgh team (1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS) this Saturday before opening conference play versus lowly Northwestern. The Hawkeyes could be 5-0 and in the national rankings before anyone notices how average this team really is. Meanwhile, the rest of the Big Ten will try to fatten up some more against non-con opponents, mostly from the MAC.

Uh-oh. Yes, the MAC is back on the betting radar at 19-13 ATS to start the 2008 campaign (11-11 SU, 14-8 ATS non-con). Among their victims during the first two weeks were the aforementioned Panthers, who lost to Bowling Green in the opener and rallied to beat Buffalo in Week 2. The MAC continued piling up the cash in Week 3 when the Falcons held the Boise State Broncos (-17˝) to a 20-7 victory. But the MAC has done its best work against the Big Ten at 4-1 ATS thus far – something to keep in mind for Week 4 and later on during bowl season.

Speaking of the mid-majors, the Conference USA’s East Carolina Pirates had their toughest game of the season against the Tulane Green Wave. Patrick Pinkney found Jamar Bryant in the end zone with less than two minutes remaining to give No. 14 East Carolina (-11) a 28-24 win at the Superdome. This comes after major upsets over Virginia Tech (-9) and West Virginia (-7˝) to start the Pirates season. Tulane is 2-0 ATS this year; sticking close to East Carolina is a sign of better things to come. Meanwhile, hold off on the undefeated/BCS bowl talk for the Pirates for now.