Thor Nystrom

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Week 7 CFB ATS Predictions

Thursday, October 12, 2017


 

 

TCU -6 at Kansas State

 

Straight Up:

Against the Spread:

 

Kansas State, which will be playing without injured starting QB Jesse Ertz, must be even more Kansas State-y than usual with backup QB Alex Delton. Ertz didn’t offer much as a passer; Delton offers nothing. After coming on in relief of Ertz last week, Delton ran for almost double the yards (79) than he’s passed for in his entire collegiate career (41).

 

So the Wildcats will attempt to grind away at the Horned Frogs with an extremely run-heavy ethos. Against certain teams, this is the type of spot you’d want to back Bill Snyder’s Wildcats as home underdogs. The Horned Frogs aren’t one of those teams, however.

 

TCU plays vicious defense. Ask Oklahoma State, which was lighting up the world until the Horned Frogs came to town. Against Kansas State’s one-dimensional offense, TCU’s athletic front seven will key in on the run. If the Wildcats aren’t able to pound the ball consistently on Saturday, they’ll get run out of their home stadium. With TCU allowing less than four yards per rush, Kansas State has no choice but to go strength-on-strength against a superior unit.

 

TCU QB Kenny Hill (10/3 TD/INT rate) is enjoying a bounceback season after he was done in by an FBS-high amount of dropped passes last year. TCU has athletes all over the field offensively, and they cleverly use those athletes in such a way that it’s impossible to know what play is coming next, regardless of down and distance. The Horned Frogs lead the FBS in third-down conversions (58 percent).

 

We don’t like opposing Kansas State when they’re a home underdog, and we don’t like that the weather is calling for rain and wind—which favors the run game—but we think TCU is a Playoff contender. And if they are, they should beat an Ertz-less Kansas State squad by double digits. This group wants to avenge last year’s 30-6 embarrassing home loss to KSU, and they should succeed on that front.

 

Miami -6.5 vs. Georgia Tech

 

Straight Up:  

Against the Spread:

 

If you primarily bet spots, then this is the game for you. Georgia Tech comes in off a bye and has had two weeks to prepare for this game. Miami, on the other hand, is in a letdown spot after beating archrival Florida State for the first time since 2009. The Hurricanes were forthright with the media that they celebrated that win through the weekend.

 

That game against the Seminoles was essentially the opposite of a bye, a physical, hard-fought, down-to-the-wire win in a crucial game for the program. While the Canes secured the victory, they lost star RB Mark Walton for the season after he suffered an ankle injury which required surgery. Without Walton, the pressure increases on QB Malik Rosier to be a playmaker and backup RB Travis Homer to give the team 80-90 percent of Walton’s production. Jury is out on both fronts.

 

Not only are the Hurricanes out Walton, but they’ll also be without starting OL Navaughn Donaldson and in all likelihood starting DBs Dee Delaney and Sheldrick Redwine. Star WR Ahmmon Richards, meanwhile, is highly questionable. It’d be a blow to Miami’s chances of winning if Richards can’t go. With Walton out, the team will rely heavily on Richards for big plays down the stretch. It was reported earlier this week that the offense is preparing as though Richards won’t play. If he can, he’ll be “in a limited role,” according to Canesinsight.

 

While Miami is among the nation’s leaders in TFL, facing a finely-tuned triple-option attack is a much different assignment than playing Florida State’s true freshman quarterback or Duke’s creative-but-limited attack.

 

On top of all this, Georgia Tech’s defense is playing better than you may realize. It has allowed only 11.3 points per game since the opener (when the defense played well against Tennessee early before collapsing late) and ranks No. 4 in the nation in 3rd-down defense (23.9-percent conversions against).

 

Miami’s offense ranks only No. 68 nationally with a 39.1-percent conversion rate on third downs. If the Hurricanes struggle to run on early downs without Walton, they’ll find themselves in the type of 3rd-and-long scenarios that have been bugaboos in the early going. To repeat: The pressure is on Rosier.

 

We love the spot, and we’re buoyed by the fact that Miami comes in banged up. We think the Yellow Jackets will pull off the outright upset.

 

Air Force -7.5 vs. UNLV

 

Straight Up:

Against the Spread:

 

We faded Air Force against Navy last weekend, and it turned out to be one of our few misses of the weekend (12-0 SU, 9-3 ATS). Lesson learned. We tuned into the entirety of that one, and found the Falcons to be far more impressive in the eyeball test than we’d assumed they’d be.

 

Air Force is only 1-4, but a quick peak at the schedule will cause you to forgive them for it. After annihilating FCS VMI 62-0 in the opener, the Falcons dropped a 16-point decision to Michigan (as 23-point underdogs), a four-point decision to San Diego State (before we realized just how good the Aztecs were), an 18-point decision to a solid New Mexico squad (more on them in a bit) and a heart-breaking, last-second, three-point loss to Navy last weekend.

 

UNLV, on the other hand, has only beaten FBS lightweights Idaho and San Jose State during their 2-3 start. Among the losses, that shocker-defeat to FCS Howard in the opener. Last week, the Rebels struggled to stop the run in a 41-10 loss to San Diego State. On paper, Air Force’s triple-option against UNLV’s run defense is a huge mismatch in the Falcons’ favor.

 

The Falcons must win this game to keep alive its dim postseason dreams. We expect they’ll do so in convincing fashion.

 

Oklahoma State -26 vs. Baylor

 

Straight Up:  

Against the Spread:

 

Don’t look now, but Baylor has become a bet-on team after a brutal start to the year. The past two games, the Bears covered against Oklahoma and Kansas State. We backed the Bears both times. And with another reduced price, we’ll do so again.

 

At the beginning of the year, Baylor was dealing with myriad injuries and suspensions while attempting to acclimate to Matt Rhule’s systems, which were the polar opposite of those run under former HC Art Briles. Baylor was upset by Liberty (48-45) and UTSA (17-0) in the first two games of the year, but has been competitive since, narrowly missing a cover at Duke before cashing the last two times out.

 

A key for the team has simply been welcoming back players who were injured or suspended to begin the year. This week, they’ll get back safeties Taion Sells, Chris Miller and Davion Hall, as well as RB Jamychal Hasty. RB Terence Williams is probable to return from his disciplinary absence, and TE Ish Wainright may be back too.

 

Houston -13.5 at Tulsa

 

Straight Up:

Against the Spread:

 

The Cougars aren’t as good as the public thinks they are. We attempted to fade them last week and fell a bit short with SMU. Once more into the breach, dear friends.

 

It’s terrifying to buy a ticket on the 1-5 Golden Hurricanes, but hear us out. Tulsa’s five losses have all come against teams that are going to go bowling this year: Oklahoma State (59-24), Toledo (54-51), New Mexico (16-13), Navy (31-21) and Tulane (62-28).

 

The loss to the Cowboys was understandable, while the margin of loss to Tulane was inexplicable. But Tulsa hanging with Toledo, New Mexico and Navy is notable, because Houston belongs in the neighborhood of those three teams.

 

The Cougars remain overvalued for a few reasons. Firstly, because they’ve been dominant the past few years. Secondly, because their defense has been really good this year. That first factor owed plenty to departed HC Tom Herman, and the second factor is unsustainable.

 

While the Cougars rank No. 12 in the FBS with 16 ppg allowed, the total defense ranks just No. 78 (No. 94 against the pass, No. 84 against the run). Last week, the Cougars won despite allowing 544 total yards and 399 passing yards to SMU. That just isn’t a sustainable formula.

 

Star DT Ed Oliver played against SMU, but he’s still being bothered by a leg injury. After the win, he posted the following on Twitter: “At 75% and a aggravating contraption on my leg I did ok in my opinion.”

 

Tulsa’s defense is awful, granted. But it’s coming off three-straight games against triple-option teams, matchups that amplified the Golden Hurricanes’ defensive weakness. Tulsa will find Houston’s mistake-prone offense far more forgiving.

 

The Golden Hurricanes’ offense remains strong, despite the recent struggles of QB Chad President, who was pulled in last week’s ugly loss to Tulane. QB Luke Skipper looked solid in relief and may get the start here. Tulsa is averaging 33.8 points per game and has averaged more yards per game, more rushing yards per carry and more yards per throw than Houston.

 

The Golden Hurricanes are chock-full of skill position talent. The offense becomes flammable if the quarterback is executing. Between President and Skipper, hopefully Tulsa’s coaching staff will find a guy who can shepherd an attack that has been one of the nation’s most explosive in recent years.

 

Tulsa is facing a must-win proposition as they welcome Houston to town for homecoming week. Whether they can pull the upset, we’ll find out on Saturday. Regardless, we think they hang tight.

 

Mississippi State -23.5 vs. BYU

 

Straight Up:

Against the Spread:

 

As mentioned last week, we’ll be fading BYU until further notice. The Cougars are 1-5 SU and 0-6 ATS. We’ve cashed multiple tickets against them already this year. While the Vegas number is finally beginning to account for just how bad the Cougars really are, it isn’t quite high enough for us to disembark the Fade-BYU train.

 

We can thank Mississippi State’s consecutive blowout losses (at Georgia and at Auburn) for the opportunity. In a prime spot to get their mojo back, and coming off a much-needed bye week, expect the Bulldogs to drill BYU.

 

Oklahoma -7.5 vs. Texas (in Dallas)

 

Straight Up:

Against the Spread:

 

We are big proponents of betting the line, and not necessarily the team. But we particularly like to discount shop when we’re buying a powerful team. And that’s the scenario here.

 

The Sooners should probably be double-digit favorites against the Longhorns, but we’re getting a deflated number because Oklahoma got upset at home by Iowa State’s third-string quarterback last week.

 

Texas is bit overvalued after beating Kansas State in overtime, knocking off Iowa State by 10 (the Cyclones would have had a chance to win that game if they’d have pulled an ineffective QB Jacob Park earlier), and staying competitive with USC in an overtime loss (before we knew that the Trojans had a few glaring weaknesses).

 

Laying the points here requires a belief that Oklahoma can get off the mat one week after that demoralizing loss to the Cyclones, one of the biggest upsets of the past few seasons (though less of an upset, by the Vegas number, than the Howard-UNLV game).

 

Last week, Texas true freshman QB Sam Ehlinger lit Kansas State up for 380 yards throwing and 107 yards running. Oklahoma showed that it can contain dual-threat quarterbacks when it shut down QB J.T. Barrett (21.1 QBR) earlier this season in knocking off Ohio State.

 

If Oklahoma is motivated—and we don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t be, playing a hated rival with the Big 12 championship game and a Playoff berth still in play—they should whip Texas, which is a year or two away from closing the talent gap on their bitter rivals.

 

West Virginia -3.5 Texas Tech

 

Straight Up:  

Against the Spread:

 

Over the past year-plus, we’ve picked against West Virginia in this column so many times that it became a running joke on Twitter between Fantasy Heisman (a great follow) and your author.

 

But we invest where we see value, and at long last, we think the Mountaineers have become undervalued in Las Vegas. Equally important, the Red Raiders are now overvalued.

 

West Virginia is 3-2, with both losses coming away from home against good teams (Virginia Tech on a neutral site and last week at TCU; ironically, both games ended 31-24).

 

The Red Raiders are 4-1. While West Virginia lost two close games, Tech has excelled in tight games, beating Arizona State by a touchdown and Houston by a field goal.

 

The Raiders probably get more credit than they deserve for keeping it “close” in a seven-point loss to Oklahoma State a few weeks back. The Pokes had every opportunity to win that game by double-digits and didn’t due to a confluence of offensive and special teams miscues in the red zone.

 

Tech’s other two wins were against FCS Eastern Washington and FBS cellar-dweller Kansas. Their start has been impressive, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

 

We love to back unranked teams that are laying points to ranked teams, an indication that Las Vegas thinks there’s a separation between perception and reality. It’s in that space, and in that space only, where sports bettors can win money. 

 

Morgantown historically is a difficult place to play, and Tech, a team that is better at home than on the road, has to travel a good ways to get there. We like West Virginia by double-digits. Don’t @ us.

 

Middle Tennessee -6 at UAB

 

Straight Up:  

Against the Spread:


Speaking of perception against reality, this line is a classic example of its manifestation. Why are the 3-3 Blue Raiders laying nearly a touchdown on the road against the 3-2 Blazers?

 

Because MTSU has been dynamite in recent seasons, whereas UAB is coming off a two-year hiatus. Middle Tennessee is perceived to be a good team, but it is not. Not without QB Brent Stockstill (sternum/collarbone) and WR Richie James (ankle).

 

Since those two were hobbled, MTSU has only managed to beat two Group of 5 punching bags (Bowling Green and FIU), while getting annihilated by a mediocre Power 5 team (Minnesota) and a mediocre G5 team (FAU).

 

UAB, on the other hand, just upset a solid Louisiana Tech team. Prior to that, it only lost by three on the road to North Texas, which made a bowl game last year.

 

The Blazers know they need to win every game they can to pull off the trick of an unlikely bowl berth in their first season back on the gridiron. They have a prime shot to bag another one here with an upset win over a team that is so decimated that it shouldn’t be considered an upset.

 

Fresno State -2.5 vs. New Mexico

 

Straight Up:

Against the Spread:

 

One last line that looks off before we leave you for the week. Both of these Mountain West teams are 3-2, but their resumes don’t look very similar once you dig deeper.

 

In their first year under HC Jeff Tedford, the Bulldogs have beaten FCS Incarnate Word and two of the worst FBS teams in Nevada and San Jose State. Fresno was understandably leveled in their two games against Alabama and Washington. We haven’t seen them play a team that is closer to the middle of the FBS’ 130 teams.

 

That’s where the Lobos reside. New Mexico also beat an FCS team, but their other two wins are far more impressive than Fresno’s (a close win over Tulsa and a blowout win over Air Force, two teams that we think are better than their current records indicate).

 

New Mexico only lost by two to New Mexico State, and the 14-point loss to Boise State occurred when starting QB Lamar Jordan got knocked out early, discombobulating the offense (third-stringer Coltin Gerhart had to close out the game).

 

New Mexico is coming off a bye week, which helped the squad get healthier. We don’t think that Fresno State has the horses in the front seven to consistently hamper the Lobos’ unique triple-option attack, and Fresno must prepare for it on normal rest after playing the last two against Air Raid teams.

 

Three for the road:

 

Arizona State +18 vs. Washington

Arizona +2 vs. UCLA

UConn +10 at Temple

 

*** 

 

2017 Record: Straight-Up: 53-22 (70.7%); Against the Spread: 39-34-2 (53.4%)

2014-2016: Straight-Up: 350-197 (64.0%); Against the Spread: 286-250-11 (53.4%)

 



Thor Nystrom is a former MLB.com associate reporter whose writing has been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to Rotoworld's college football writer on Twitter @thorku.
Email :Thor Nystrom



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