In order to make the best College Football Picks, the key is to try to figure out which teams the oddsmakers aren’t giving enough credit to or perhaps giving too much to, then act on it. Check out what we’ve found for Week 3.
So far, so good for the underdog bettors this young football season, especially with NFL picks where teams getting points in Week 1 were a more than impressive (11-5 ATS) to start of the season (68.8%). In college, the underdogs haven’t barked quite as loudly this season—going 46-39-0, (54.12%) according to our stats—but with so many games already having been played, and much larger point spreads and winning margins on the collegiate/amateur level, that’s to be expected. Both NFL and NCAAF underdogs overall should revert back to a statistical mean nearer the 50% mark by December.
One small problem with identifying and trying to bet on (and writing) about underdogs which have a perceived chance to cover a fluid point spread, is that many of the so-called 'Wise Guys' around the globe have already grabbed the best plus (underdog) number(s) at the time of their posting, meaning the 'Little Guy' or the recreational gambler taking that steam-affected underdog is going to get at least a point or two—or even more ’less’ than Mr. Wise Guy who is a professional gambler and who probably has the odds screen implanted in his forearm as to see any line movements the split-second they happen. Worrying about someone—who has vast resources and does this for a living— who has already done something (moved the point spread) is pretty silly for the simple gambler losing his or her mind about not getting that mirage-like opening line (which few really end up getting) in an Iowa-Iowa State game (current working example) in which the college football odds screen shows that favorite Iowa had a 13-point line for possibly a millisecond. So, just work with what you have at the time you have it. You’re not Billy Walters. No sense bitching about a Bentley or a Benz brother when your reality is more like a Toyota or a Honda.
Underdogs Have Fared Well Recently in The Battle of the Hawkeye State
Iowa State (+11½, bet365/bwin) at Iowa, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT (ESPN/WatchESPN): It’s off to the the 319 we go, Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa for this annual battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy, which I imagine that only people in Iowa actually have ever even heard about. The game is usually very competitive, although in recent years, it seems Big Ten representative Iowa has improved more than the Big 12’s Iowa State has which seems to be down just a little bit from recent years. Iowa State (0-2 SU, 1-1 ATS) lost to #20 Kansas State, 32-28 as similar 11½-point underdogs (to this spread) and lost its opener to rugged FCS school North Dakota State (34-13) as 6-point favorites, so, the Cyclones have played two really good and disciplined teams heading into this rivalry game. In the loss last Saturday at Ames against the Wildcats, Iowa State WR Jarvis West caught, threw for and returned a punt for a TD so Iowa had best keep its eye on him come Saturday afternoon.
Iowa (2-0 SU, 0-2 ATS) will playing its third straight home game to open the new season, and the talented Hawkeyes beat Northern Iowa 31-23 to open up the season as 17-point favorites and then defeated Ball State 17-13 on Saturday as 17½-point chalks with 14 points in the 4th quarter. Oddsmakers here have made the host Iowa 11- or 11½-point favorites and the Hawkeyes -435 favorites on the money line to win outright (Iowa State +325, bet365). A big factor when considering taking Iowa State and the 11½ points here is the injury to WR Quenton Bundrage (knee), who is out for the season and who had a really nice season in Ames (9 TDs) last year. The Cyclones will need to cut down on the turnovers against their intrastate rivals—ISU has 18 TOs which have resulted in 51 of Iowa’s 144 points over the last five meetings (Phil Steele’s College Football Preview).
But the trends favor the underdog Cyclones here with Iowa State going 7-3 ATS in its L10 in the series and an even more impressive 7-1 ATS in Iowa City over the L8. Iowa was favored by 17 and 17½ and won by 8 and 4 in its first two games this season, so getting 11 in what should be a close, low-scoring end of the summer battle in the Midwest seems smart. The Cyclones will be looking for the outright win and the big upset to light their proverbial fire after an 0-2 start, so, taking Iowa State +11½ or even +11 is the call in this Battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy. To win this wager, and possibly even the game, the Cyclones defense will probably have to hold Iowa under 28 points—and establish a slower pace to the game, trying to keep the ball out of the Hawkeyes’ hands—while the Iowa State offense (or special teams or defense) generates at least 17 points of their own, no small feat for a team which hasn’t scored a single point yet in the second half. That should definitely change for the Cyclones on Saturday afternoon, with emotions and state pride running high in Iowa City.
Razorbacks Looking for Outright Win in Lubbock Against Red Raiders
Arkansas (+2, Westgate, formerly LVH SuperBook) at Texas Tech, Saturday, (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT) Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock is the site of what seems like a conference mismatch of minor sort (SEC vs. Big 12) with Arkansas and second-year coach Bret Bielema facing host Texas Tech (2-0 SU, 0-2 ATS) in a game where the visiting Razorbacks look like a good bet and like the outright winner. The Red Raiders may be 2-0, but Texas Tech were very heavy 33½- and 21-point favorites in games they only won by 7 (42-35) and 4 points (30-26) against less than braggable opponents (Central Arkansas, UTEP). So, the line seems just a little bit off (26½ and 17 points using spreads against final scores) in Red Raiders games to start the season. And anyone who saw (or bet on Texas Tech) against the Miners in El Paso last weekend saw that they weren’t clicking and were a picture of frustration with no chance at all of ever covering the closing 21-point line.
On Saturday afternoon in Lubbock, Arkansas will look to keep the ball out of Texas Tech’s hands, and with running backs Alex Collins (1,066 rushing yards last season, 4 TDS) and true freshman Jonathan Williams (919 yards, 4 TDs)—who became the first Arkansas freshman ever to have two 70+ yard TDs in the same game—and the Razorbacks can and should do just that, especially on the FieldTurf surface which will make for easy footing for the dynamic duo. The two running backs already have 5 TDs this season after two games and with QB Brandon Allen (6 passing TDs to 6 different receivers) able to mix a solid aerial attack, 2-point underdog Arkansas (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS) can definitely win this game.
The trends actually point to underdog Arkansas here if you truly think they apply in this case—these teams honestly hardly ever play each other any more (Arkansas is 28-7 SU lifetime vs. the Red Raiders) and those stats can probably be tossed out the window—with Texas Tech just 1-3 ATS over the L4 against Arkansas overall and 1-3 ATS the L4 ATS in Lubbock. Those placing sports picks will notice that oddsmakers have Arkansas available at +110 (Pinnacle) on the money line for those who think that the visitors can win this game outright. And I do. If the Red Raiders and coach Kliff Kingsbury had as much trouble as they did stopping UTEP last weekend, then Arkansas—which rolled to a 71-7 win over Nicholls State as 41½-point Megamouth-Chalks on Saturday—should be able to score at least 35 points against the Red Raiders in a game which could very well evolve into a high-scoring Texas-sized shootout. I’m in the mud with the Hogs in this one bubba. So, ‘Woooo. Pig Sooie.’ Sorry. Just didn’t have the onions to use the exclamation marks there. I’m from Chicago.
Free College Football Pick for Point Spread Underdog: Iowa State +11½ (Bet365, Bwin)
Free College Football Pick for Money Line Underdog: Arkansas M/L +110 (Bet365)
Free College Football Pick for Underdogs Worth Looks: Massachusetts +17, Fresno State +10