Defending national champs FSU haven’t lost in two years but its title and undefeated streak will be on the line here against Oregon in what should be a high-scoring affair and good chance to bet the Over.
#3 Florida State vs. #2 Oregon:
The perfect site for the first game ever in the College Football Playoff, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California is where #3 (CFP) Florida State (13-0 SU, 3-10 ATS) and #2 Oregon (12-1 SU, 9-4 ATS) will meet in the day’s first semifinal with both teams in search of the precious win here to make it to the first CFP national championship game to be held on January 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Odds makers opened up the point spread at -8 Sunday night (Dec. 7) and that number was bet up to as high as 9½ offshore, and in Europe (Pinnacle, Skybet), but was sitting at -9 at most college football odds (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, SIA, bet365) on Monday afternoon (Dec. 8). And for a game 24 days away, the feeling is that this line will likely continue to float up with some waiting to make bets on the Underdog FSU and take the points should the number hit 10½, 11 (and up). And for anyone sitting on an Oregon -8 ticket, the potential to create a nice little middle should exist between now and New Year’s Day. But as quickly as that 8 disappeared, the thought is few are fortunate enough to have the Ducks -8, and that the early bird gets the worm—but he’s probably also the first bird to crap on your car in the morning.
Oregon is priced at -350 in the Money Line (Winner) marketplace (bet365) with the Underdog Seminoles at +275. The Total Points has been set at lofty 71 and is at 71½ is some places (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, bet365). And like the aforementioned Oregon line, this Total should slowly drift up over the next three weeks. The Florida State Total Team Points in this game has opened at 31 (Ladbrokes) with the Oregon Total Team Points placed at a robust 40—very appropriate for a team that plays a combination of pinball-basketball football. And, opening odds from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook to win the first-ever CFP National Championship: Alabama 10/11, Oregon 7/4, Ohio State 7/1, Florida State 8/1.
Florida State Seminoles
No one in good conscience can say that ACC champions Florida State hasn’t played anyone this season—Oklahoma State, Clemson, Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami (Fla), Florida and Georgia Tech may have all been better in past seasons, but navigating through those landmines as well as other tricky games like North Carolina State, Syracuse Virginia and Boston College is no small feat and this Seminoles team deserves to be unbeaten and definitely deserves to be playing in this historic game in Pasadena. Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher (31-32 ATS) does have a squad that can repeat as national champions—this time on the gridiron—but the Point Spread and Money Line odds reveal much and the Seminoles will have to be at their very best and will have to have some kind of solid defensive scheme to stop Oregon to even have a chance of winning here. Covering? That may be a different matter.
Florida State (34.8 ppg, 29th) is led on offense by QB and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston (276 completions, 3,559 yards, 24 TDs, 17 INTs) and the ACC Atlantic Division representatives rank a respectable 14th in the nation in Passing (299.8 ypg) with star WR Rashad Greene (93 receptions, 1,306 yards, 7 TDs), Nick O’Leary (47 receptions, 614 yards, 6 TDs), Travis Rudolph (32 receptions, 459 yards, 3 TDs) and Jesus Wilson (37 receptions, 455 yards, 4 TDs) being Winston’s primary targets. But the Seminoles are 104th in Rushing despite two effective RBs in Dalvin Cook (155 rushes, 905 yards, 8 TDs) and Karlos Williams (138 rushes, 609 yards, 10 TDs). But check the status of Williams who suffered a concussion in FSU’s win over Florida two weeks ago and he did not play in last weekend’s ACC Championship win over Georgia Tech and, like teammate DB Tyrell Lyons (hamstring), is listed as Questionable for this semifinal. Defensively, the Seminoles have been solid enough, especially for the schedule they have played, and rank 29th in the nation allowing 22.5 ppg.
Pac-10 representative Oregon has worked hard through the years—with some much welcome help from Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight—to create a football program that can play with anyone in the nation. That reality and the environment they’ve created in Eugene to recruit and land the best athletes has and should continue to serve the Ducks well through the coming years with this CFP now part of what some school’s teams—at least the elite ones—will now be playing for. Progress comes slow. And everyone’s goal now will be to make it to this prestigious CFP Final Four until that point some years down the road when they decide to expand it to 8 teams.
Second-year head coach Mark Helfrich (16-9 ATS) is the maestro of this team which has gained a reputation offensively for scoring a lot of points and getting down the field like a basketball team. Those green-and-yellow blurs you see every Saturday are Oregon’s skill position players trying to run off your TV screen. The Ducks (46.3 ppg, 3rd in nation) are aptly led by QB and very likely Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota (254 receptions, 3,783 yards, 38 passing TDs, 2 INTs) who has also rushed 117 times for 669 yards and a mind-boggling 14 TDs. And maybe no QB in college football has as many weapons as junior Mariota—who leads FBS with a 91.9 QBR—who conducts Oregon to a balanced Passing (11th, 308.9 ypg) and Rushing (22nd, 237. ypg) attack when they have possession of the football. RBs Royce Freeman (230 rushes, 1,299 yards, 16 TDs) is the Ducks workhorse back while Thomas Tyner (88 rushes, 387 yards, 3 TDs) and others get carries when necessary.
But it’s the sheer number of speedy receivers Mariota has and can continue to throw to which make this Oregon team so deep, so hard to beat and so hard to scheme against defensively. RB Byron Marshall (61 receptions, 814 yards, 5 TDs), WR Devon Allen (41 receptions, 864 yards, 7 TDs, 16.7 ypc) and WR Dwayne Stanford (37 receptions, 557 yards, 6 TDs, 15.1 ypc) have the most receptions and yards but the Ducks have other WRs like Darren Carrington (30 receptions, 539 yards, 2 TDs, 18.0 ypc), Pharaoh Brown (25 receptions, 420 yards, 6 TDs, 16.8 ypc), Keanon Lowe (25 receptions, 359 yards, 4 TDs, 14.4 ypc) and Charles Nelson (17 receptions, 266 yards, 5 TDs, 15.6 ypc) who all have incredibly productive numbers for players who get significantly less playing time than others. That’s just how Oregon rolls. Depth and speed.
On defense, Oregon ranks a respectable 29th in the nation allowing 22.5 ppg—a great number for a team that sets an outrageous pace in games with Totals set in the 70s. And pretty good for a team which has played Arizona twice, Michigan State, UCLA, Washington, Stanford and Utah.
Best Betting Approach and Trends
Much will be made about Winston vs. Mariota, East vs. West, ACC vs. Pac-12 but for bettors, looking for an angle in this game is the thing. And that’s a tough thing with a refined line at 9 and 9½ and a Total appropriately at 71 and 71½ at 5Dimes. Odds makers don’t make many mistakes and the first-to-react public—often the so-called Wise Guys—are quick to jump on opening and perceived soft lines, especially here in The Internet Age. This seems like a good game to expect a lot of scoring in the first and second quarters and with around 40 or more points likely being scored in the First Half, making an Over bet for those first 30 minutes may be the best approach for this college football pick. And it seems in what should look like a game of pinball at times, that TDs should comes as quickly as the barrage of commercials and that the Over 71 makes a great deal of sense—both teams have excellent kickers—assuming neither defense surprisingly dominates.
As far as picking a side here, with Jameis Winston prone to throw the more-than-occasional interception this season (17) and Mariota having just 2 and Oregon (32-17-1 ATS L3+ years) possessing the potentially overlooked advantage of having played in the Rose Bowl before and being in the same time zone as its body clocks—Florida State (3-11 L14 ATS) is on Eastern Time, 3 hours ahead of Pacific Time—the Ducks are the lean especially with the pace they set and the proverbial carrot-on-the-stick appearance championship game in their sights. And with Mariota having more weapons and Oregon being much more balanced offensively (11th Passing, 22nd Rushing) than Florida State is (14th Passing, 104th Rushing), the choice would have to be with the West Coast school with the pretty ATS record (9-4) over the East Coast team with the ugly one (3-10), but beware if it eventually gets to 12 or beyond.
College Football Picks: First Half Over & Over 71