Handicapping Conundrum Solved: Air Force vs. Utah St. Picks

Joe Gavazzi

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 6:24 PM UTC

Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014 6:24 PM UTC

In making College Football picks for Air Force vs. Utah State, we notice they are headed in opposite directions in the pointspread wars & we seek value with the avenging road dog.

Air Force at Utah St. (-7) 10:15 ET ESPNU
This is a prime example of the handicapper’s conundrum each week of the College Football season.  When evaluating the opponent’s play from the previous week, the handicapper is asked to conclude whether each team will play with positive momentum, or letdown, following a victory, or whether a team will play with negative momentum, or bounce back, following a defeat.   In this week’s example, we find each, Air Force and Utah St., to be playing this week following games in which they recorded outright underdog victories vs. rivals.  But, the nature of the situation of each victory, as well as the emotions that follow, are the key to this week’s College Football pick pointspread winner.

In retrospect, we may well find that Utah St. reached their pointspread peak at the conclusion of 2013.  Under then 1st year HC Matt Wells, the Aggies built on the momentum of the 4 year coaching tenure of current Wisconsin HC Andersen to conclude a 2 year run of 20-7 SU, 19-6 ATS.  Their performance last season is even more impressive, considering the fact they lost their best player, QB Keeton, in the 6th game of the year at BYU.  Consider it to be no coincidence that with QB Keaton again injured for that BYU game, that the Aggies rallied last week in a revenge romp of the rival Cougars for a 35-20 upset as +21 point road dog.  The irony of that victory was that BYU saw their own high-profile signal caller, QB Hill, go down with season-ending injury in that contest.  Now, the Aggies must try to gear up once again, following that huge emotional victory, against an Air Force team whom they defeated (52-20) last season in totally dominating fashion.  This is a clear example of a team who will play with a letdown, rather than positive momentum from that upset victory.  This situation is further negatively compounded by the fact a team normally rises to an outstanding level of play when asked to step up without their fallen leader.  The following game (this week) is when the letdown occurs.

Rounding out our conundrum is an Air Force team which is on the rise under 8th year HC Calhoun. The Falcons dipped to the nadir of their discontent in last year’s 2-10 SU season.   That capped a 2-year run of 6-17 ATS.  A defense that allowed 40 PPG and 490 YPG was largely to blame.  This season, with the pointspread adjusted, the Falcons are soaring with a 4-1 SU, 3-2 ATS mark.  The only loss has been by 4 points at likewise improved Wyoming.   As always, the ground game is powerful at 298/5.0.  But, it is a defense that is now allowing just 21 PPG and just 119/3.6 overland that has made the true improvement.  Last weekend, in the 30-21 victory over rival Navy, they avenged a negative history against that rival.  Behind QB Pearson, Air Force has a stable offense to match their much-improved defense.  Key to the success in this game will be the emotional approach of Air Force.  The military teams are so disciplined that they rarely have letdowns following important rivalry wins.  The motivation of the 52-20 loss of last year will be plenty of reason to sustain them today. 

Free College Football Pick: Air Force plus the points at 5Dimes

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