Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Jordan-Hare Stadium was the only venue in the country that erupted louder in celebration than Las Vegas sports books when Auburn stunned Georgia with last week’s Immaculate Deflection.
Nick Marshall’s deflected 73-yard touchdown heave to Ricardo Louis on a 4th-and-18 play with 30 seconds remaining gave Auburn an improbable 43-38 victory that covered the 3.5-point spread. The Tigers just happened to be one of the most popular sides of the week for public bettors, leaving sports book directors to shake their heads and hand over a fortune.
Talking Points can commiserate with the casinos. The bad beat was enough to knock the blog down to an overall losing record for the first time this season. At 37-39-3 against the spread, an Auburn-like miracle is needed to salvage the hope of a profitable regular season picking the 10 biggest games of the week in these final few slates.
Check below for a betting breakdown and picks of week 13.
Michigan plus-6 at Iowa, 9 a.m., Big Ten Network
The Wolverines and Hawkeyes running out onto the field from opposite sides of Kinnick Stadium should finally disprove a sneaking suspicion that they’re actually the same team.
Their statistical profiles are near carbon copies of each other. Michigan gains 5.5 yards per play and gives up 4.9 yards per play. Iowa gains 5.5 yards per play and gives up 4.8 yards per play.
Out of 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the nation, Michigan ranks 34th in Football Outsiders’ F/+ ratings. Iowa is 35th.
The only difference is Michigan throws the ball better with quarterback Devin Gardner, while Iowa goes to the ground first with running backs Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock.
Naturally, Michigan’s defense is stronger against the run and Iowa fares better slowing the pass.
Pick: Michigan plus-6. With teams this equal, I’d take whichever one was getting more than a field goal regardless of location.
Oklahoma plus-4.5 at Kansas State, 9 a.m., Fox Sports 1
By most measures, this pupil’s coaching career has surpassed his mentor’s.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has won a national championship and eight conference titles, figures that far exceed what former boss Bill Snyder has done at Kansas State with twice the length of service. Gambling-wise, however, everything changes.
In sports books, Snyder is far more accomplished than Stoops, who played under him as a defensive back at Iowa 31 years ago. Snyder’s career record against the spread is 145-99 to Stoops’ 98-87.
The purple icon has covered in five of nine meetings against Stoops, who could become the all-time winningest coach in Oklahoma history with a victory Saturday, despite losing seven of them straight up.
Pick: Kansas State minus-4.5. Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell is hurt, leaving freshman Trevor Knight to make his first career start. Bill Snyder Family Stadium isn’t an ideal venue to make a debut for a visiting team.
Oregon minus-20.5 at Arizona, 12:30 p.m., ABC
A cutting-edge new television show called “Survivor” had just debuted on ABC the last time oddsmakers favored Arizona to beat Oregon.
Ever since, the Wildcats’ annual chances of beating the Ducks have been about as slim as a reality-show contestant complaining about starvation after the first 24 hours, though they have pulled off the deed twice. With a Game of the Year spread of Oregon minus-12 this summer at the Golden Nugget, this looked like one of Arizona’s better opportunities against its Pac-12 conference foe.
Alas, Arizona has disappointed with no threat of a passing game to speak of. The Wildcats are on a two-game losing streak and a stretch of three straight without covering.
They do have at least one trend in their favor, though. Oregon has only covered once in the past decade in the game before it takes on Oregon State in the annual Civil War rivalry game.
Pick: Oregon minus-20.5 No way I’d shack up with either side, but the Ducks should at least be sharp with the promise of once again controlling their destiny to the Pac-12 Championship Game due to Stanford’s loss to USC.
BYU pick ’em at Notre Dame, 12:30 p.m., NBC
This season must feel like an unwelcome opponents’ vengeance tour to Notre Dame, as every week it seems to face a team it slipped past during last year’s magical run to the national championship game.
Pittsburgh scored its payback for an overtime loss in Notre Dame’s last outing by winning outright 28-21 as 4.5-point underdogs. Now it’s time for BYU, which squandered several opportunities in losing to Notre Dame 17-14 in South Bend, Ind., last season, to have its turn.
Some of the Irish’s more disappointing results — the aforementioned Pittsburgh game and a 35-21 smack down by revenge-minded Oklahoma — have overshadowed their finer performances. The Irish did beat Pac-12 foes Arizona State and USC, two teams that have established themselves near the top of the heap, on successive weeks last month.
BYU’s been more consistent with a 6-4 against the spread record to Notre Dame’s 3-6-1, but three of the Cougars' noncovers have come on the road.
Pick: Notre Dame pick ’em Look for this one to come down to the wire, where hopefully the Irish play more like the 2012 team.
Texas A&M plus-4 at LSU, 12:30 p.m., CBS
The Tigers roar at home. The Aggies march on the road.
Something’s got to give Saturday afternoon in the SEC’s game of the week.
Since Kevin Sumlin took over as the coach of Texas A&M, it’s gone 8-0 in the visitors role but only covered in four of them. LSU has won 25 of 26 at home dating to the start of 2010 but has underwhelmed against the spread at 12-14 in the games.
This game shapes up as something Tigers Stadium has never seen before, however, as the over/under of 72 points is the highest in LSU history. Neither Texas A&M nor LSU boasts a defense that could pass as average, but both make up for it on the other end.
In the F/+ ratings, Texas A&M ranks second and LSU sixth in the nation in offensive efficiency.
Pick: LSU minus-4 With the majority of tickets flowing in on Texas A&M, the Aggies are dressing up as a public underdog. That’s reason enough to take the other side in this toss-up.
Wisconsin minus-17 at Minnesota, 12:30 p.m., ESPN
The official Big Ten Championship Game is still three weeks away. Las Vegas’ version takes place Saturday in Minneapolis.
The Badgers and Golden Gophers will likely finish no better than second in their respective divisions, the Leaders and the Legends, but they’re the best in terms of covering the spread. Combined, the two teams have gone 16-3-1 versus the number this season.
Oddmakers aren’t rewarding Minnesota, as it’s not even given better than an 80 percent chance to win Paul Bunyan’s Axe in this rivalry game for the first time in 10 years. That’s the trouble with facing Wisconsin, a team that ranks seventh in the nation in rushing and seventh in defense according to the F/+ ratings.
Pick: Minnesota plus-17 As great as Wisconsin has played, this seems like a few too many points to give on the road.
Arizona State minus-2 at UCLA, 4 p.m., Fox
The Bruins broke out of a three-game against-the-spread slide by making a two-way star out of freshman linebacker Myles Jack, who’s rushed for five touchdowns and 9 yards per carry in two straight wins and covers.
Maybe Arizona State needs to start running plays for one of its defenders — ballhawking cornerback Robert Nelson might work — because the Sun Devils are the ones not cashing tickets all of a sudden. Despite two straight-up wins, they’ve failed to cover against Oregon State and Utah in successive weeks.
That’s dropped Arizona State’s against-the-spread record to 5-5 on the year while UCLA is up to 7-3 after beating small numbers in wins against Washington and Arizona.
This is a spot of the schedule where UCLA typically shines, as it’s covered eight of 10 against Arizona State and won the past two meetings outright as an underdog.
Pick: Arizona State minus-2 Expect both teams at their best as the driver’s seat for a berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game is at stake. And at their best, the Sun Devils edge the Bruins.
Vanderbilt plus-3 at Tennessee, 4 p.m., ESPN
History and reputation have a way of seeping into the betting line every so often.
The Commodores have served as nothing more than a sacrificial offering to the Volunteers for the better part of multiple eras, as Tennessee had won 34 of the past 35 meetings heading into last year’s game. That’s when Vanderbilt flipped the ritual over and blasted Tennessee 41-18.
The Commodores were the far better team and should have been favored by more than 2.5 points. There’s an even wider gap this year as Vanderbilt leads Tennessee by almost any measure, including ranking 47th in F/+ ratings to its in-state rivals’ 76th.
Tennessee will have motivation as it needs to win both of its final two games to become bowl eligible, but fire is something Vanderbilt never lacks under coach James Franklin. He’s gone 21-12 against the spread since arriving in Nashville.
Pick: Vanderbilt plus-3 With three straight noncovers falling short by an average of 16 points per game, oddsmakers have gotten into a habit of giving the Volunteers too much credit. They might have done it again.
Missouri minus-2.5 at Ole Miss, 4:45 p.m., ESPN
Playing on the road in the SEC is regularly described as one of the toughest tasks in all of college football.
Missouri has dealt with it just fine since joining college football’s dominant conference a year ago. The Tigers have beaten the spread in four of six SEC trips and gone 3-3 straight up.
They’ll have extra help in the land of vodka waters and Hotty Toddy, as quarterback James Franklin returns for the first time in five games after nursing a separated shoulder. Ole Miss gets back one of its best players too as running back Jeff Scott, who played in last week’s 51-28 win and cover against Troy but wasn’t at full health, is recovered from a bone spur.
The Rebels are even better at home than the Aggies on the road, as they’ve gone 6-2 against the spread and 5-3 straight-up in the past two seasons.
Pick: Missouri minus-2.5 At 8-1-1 against the spread with the only loss coming in double-overtime to South Carolina, the betting market hasn’t caught up to the Tigers’ true value all season.
Baylor minus-9.5 at Oklahoma State, 5 p.m., ESPN
This line has swung with the swiftness of a Baylor scoring drive from where it opened just a few months ago.
It’s a near unprecedented three-touchdown move, as the Cowboys were minus-11 in their home game against the Bears in the Golden Nugget Game of the Year lines. Baylor’s record-setting offense behind quarterback Bryce Petty, who has 24 touchdowns and one interception on the year, threw everything out of whack.
But it’s not as if Oklahoma State has disappointed on the season, especially not recently. The Cowboys ride a five-game covering and six-game winning streak into the battle for the top of the Big 12 standings.
Their covering streak is one better than Baylor’s, which endured its only spread loss this season in a 35-25 win over Kansas State as 17-point favorites. Oklahoma State beat Kansas State but failed to cover too in a 32-29 victory.
Statistically, the two teams’ games against the Wildcats look awfully similar.
Pick: Oklahoma State plus-9.5 No strong opinion here, but tiring of taking all the road favorites.