Always two of the most underrated programs in NCAA College Football, Northwestern and Utah State both face hot opponents Saturday night but both could very well win outright as Money Line odds underdogs.
Utah State vs. Colorado State: Aggies Looking to Slow Rams in Fort Collins
Colorado State -5½, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook for Saturday, 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT
Colorado State (5-1 SU, 5-1 ATS) is enjoying a positive start to this 2014 football season, but, like #19 Nebraska below, the Rams have played a schedule that warrants a little bit of scrutiny, especially in the context of their 5-1 SU record. Colorado State has played rival Colorado, Boise State, UC-Davis, Boston College, Tulsa and Nevada so far this season—most of those schools programs that have slipped considerably over the last several seasons. Utah State (3-3 SU, 2-4 ATS) has steadily improved through the years but this year’s Aggies squad isn’t as tough as the last two seasons (9-5 SU, 8-5 ATS in 2013) but still tough enough to win games and cover spreads (Utah State 20-10-1 ATS L31). One seeming problem here for Utah State is the absence of star QB Chuckie Keeton who is out for the season with an injury but Aggies backup QB Darell Garretson (1,008 yards) has stepped in and done an admirable job in Keeton’s stead. And look for clutch WR Hunter Sharp (642 yards, 5 TDs) to contribute here as he always does for Utah State.
These teams have played three times with the Aggies 1-1-1 ATS, the lone cover coming in last year’s 13-0 win as 11-point favorites at Home in Logan. Utah State has proved to be a very solid Road Underdog over the last 2+ seasons (7-3 ATS) and it honestly seems that oddsmakers have been 2-3 points off Utah State game spreads for at least 3 years now. This game could very well be Colorado State -2½ or -3½ and nobody would even blink an eye. But it’s -5½ (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) so, thus the recommendation on Utah State. But can the Aggies win outright here on the FieldTurf at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium? They sure can. Utah State is +175 (Pinnacle) with the host Rams priced as -210 favorites in the Money Line (Winner) marketplace and Utah State is 1-0 in Mountain West Conference Mountain Division play and have visions of winning it and a victory at Colorado State (1-1 MWC) would go a long way to knocking off one of its toughest competitors in the division, along with Boise State. This Utah State team is one to never underestimate with your College Football Picks and one to try to back at the betting window as often as possible.
Free College Football Pick: Utah State +6½
Nebraska vs. Northwestern: Wildcats Welcome Cornhuskers to Evanston
Nebraska -6½, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook for Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT
Although Nebraska (5-1 SU, 5-1 ATS) has gotten off to a hot start both straight up and against the oddsmakers’ numbers, a closer look at the Cornhuskers schedule reveals that Nebraska opened with five beatable and beige opponents (Florida Atlantic, McNeese State, Fresno State, Miami (Fla) and Illinois) before actually facing a solid team last weekend in East Lansing where #10 Michigan State handed the Huskers their first setback, 27-22. Here at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois on Saturday night, Northwestern (3-3 SU, 2-2 ATS) certainly deserves to be the 6½-point underdogs (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) they are against a Nebraska team which ranks #6 in the nation in Rushing (303.5 ypg) and #12 in Scoring (41.5 ppg). So it will be up to the Wildcats disciplined defense (#11 in nation, 17.5 ppg) to try to stop the Cornhuskers from rolling here in this Big Ten Western Division clash and Northwestern has played 6 straight Unders to start the season so to assume this will be high-scoring because of Nebraska’s presence may be a mistake (last year’s meeting went Under the Total Points).
Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian (1,323 yards, 5 TDs) and the Purples offense is led by freshman RB Justin Jackson (112 rushes, 502 yards, 2 TDs) and WRs Dan Vitae (24 receptions, 260 yards, TD) and Kyle Prater (23 receptions, 243 yards, TD) and will look to try to keep the ball out of the hands of Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. (1,325 yards, 10 TDs) by trying to slow the game down and make it a game it can win in the 20s or 30s (points scored) as opposed to one it would likely lose in the 40s.
The three times these two have played since the Cornhuskers (1-1 Big Ten) joined the conference have seen three games played in a distinct, tight scoring range—Northwestern scored 24-28 points while Nebraska scored 25-29 points—with the Wildcats going 3-0 ATS. So, all of these games have been closer than close and this fourth meeting could very well mimic those previous three. As far as taking your chances on underdog Northwestern as a potential Money Line (Winner) +210 (Pinnacle; Nebraska -260) bet, it’s definitely worth consideration as the public and polls perception of Nebraska (2-5 L7 ATS as Road favorite) is probably somewhat high for the opposition it’s played to date while Northwestern’s (2-1 Big Ten) is definitely low—the Wildcats beat both Penn State and Wisconsin in back-to-back weeks, holding them to 6 and 14 points respectively. The probable key for Northwestern in this game will be trying to stop Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah (138 rushes, 878 yards, 10 TDs, 6.36 ypc) and it should be evident early on whether or not the Wildcats rush defense (#25 in nation) will be able to stifle the talented Abdullah like the Spartans did last Saturday.
Taking a quality home team like Northwestern with a solid defense that’s played a tougher schedule so far than its opponent and getting a generous 6½ points seems like the type of game that’s the reason for this weekly Sportsbook Review column. And, the Wildcats could very well win this.
Free College Football Pick: Northwestern +5½ at Bwin
Another College Football Picks Worth a Wager: #21 Texas A&M +11½ (at #7 Alabama)