Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:57 AM
Week 3 - Upset Alerts
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Last week's play turned out to be a case of what could go wrong did go wrong, as two of the plays (Texas, UTEP) from last week's card ended up losing by a half-point against the number, and in the case of Texas, there were full +7's out there later on in the week. Those days will happen and when they do, there is nothing you can do but get out the fork and knife, eat your crow as quickly as you can, and move on to the next game.
Hopefully this week's underdog card ends up producing much better results – they can't be any worse then 0-3 ATS – as the entire country creeps closer to full blown conference play. With conference rivalry games on deck for most of the country after this week, it's another week where these underdog plays are more about fading the favorite then backing the underdog, as these favorites are either coming off big wins, have huge games on deck, or both.
Upset Alert #1: Underdogs in the +1 to +9 range
YTD: 0-2 SU; 1-1 ATS
Air Force (+4) vs Colorado
As I mentioned in the opening, this week's plays are more about fading the favorites then providing strong cases for the underdog, but with this game between Air Force and Colorado there is both.
On the Colorado side of things, it's really a tough spot for them this week coming off that amazing comeback OT win over Nebraska last week, one week after smoking Colorado State in a rivalry game, and now having to deal with service academy school and their triple-option attack. There is no more then six days for the Buffs to come down from the high of beating Nebraska and prepare for an option attack they rarely see, and if you've been involved in betting college football for some time now, you know that short prep time for a one-off type scenario like this is tough to deal with.
That's a lot for head coach Mel Tucker to deal with this week even with him coming out and stating that he “doesn't expect a hangover from the Nebraska game”. It's one thing to say that, and it would be more convincing if he was going up a conventional offense, but facing the triple-option is going to be quite foreign to a lot of the Buffaloes players, and they've got to cram it all in this week – hungover or not – a week before they go out and play their first road game of the year, against Pac-12 rival Arizona State no less. That's about as bad of a spot as it gets, but the bad news doesn't end there for Colorado this week.
On the other side of the field, Air Force is coming off a bye week as they are physically fresh and likely will be sharp mentally having had two weeks to prepare for this game. They've seen Colorado's defense give up 31 points in each game so far, so offensively they'll have a good chance at putting up plenty of points, and with their ball control style of attack, bleed away the clock in hopes of pulling off the outright upset. Service academy teams tend to thrive in situations like this, and I expect Air Force to do the same this week.
Upset Alert #2: Underdogs in the +10 to +19 range
YTD: 0-2 SU; 0-2 ATS
Indiana (+16) vs Ohio State
Ohio State doesn't have nearly as bad of a situational spot as Colorado is dealing with this week, but it is their first road game of the year, and more importantly, the first true road game start for QB Justin Fields. Fields did see time on the field in hostile territory with Georgia last year, but nearly all of it came when the game was already in hand for the Bulldogs and there was next to nothing in terms of pressure on his shoulders. That's not the case as “the guy” at Ohio State this year, and this week, and even with by far the more talented team around him for support, that's a lot of points to lay on the road in your first career road start.
Furthermore, while Ohio State did look great last week in demolishing Cincinnati 42-0, that's not exactly as good of an omen as some may believe for the Buckeyes this week. Over the past four years, Ohio State is just 3-8 ATS when coming off a game where they didn't allow the opposition to score a TD, and if you take out the games in that scenario where they weren't laying at least double-digits, that record drops to 2-8 against the number. Put them on the road as a double-digit favorite in that scenario and they are just 1-3 ATS the past four years, and as Indiana proved to me last week (I backed Eastern Illionis at +37), they are a better team on both sides of the ball then most believe.
Add it all up, the bad history for Ohio State in this role, Fields making his first career road start, and the notion that Indiana's home field will be rocking all afternoon as their team tries to pull off a monumental upset, these points are just something I've got to take. Last year Indiana nearly knocked off Penn State in a similar role (+14 home underdogs), and I believe they keep this game with the Buckeyes much closer then this spread – and early market movement against them – suggests right now.
Upset Alert #3: Underdogs in the +20 and above range
YTD: 0-2 ATS
New Mexico (+35) vs Notre Dame
As is the case the majority of the time with these huge underdogs, they are always going to tend to be a play that fades the favorite and this week is no different.
Notre Dame does have a nice situation for themselves this week in terms of coming off their bye week last weekend, but with a trip to #3 Georgia on deck, how much time do you think the Irish spend specifically preparing for New Mexico as opposed to Georgia? I can't imagine it being all that great, especially with the way the 2017 meeting with Georgia still looming in the back of their minds, as this week's game against the Lobos is the prototypical “get in, get the win, and get out healthy” game for Notre Dame.
I can't imagine Notre Dame has any concern with covering a number like this, even with their desire to be sharper on both sides of the ball after their win in Louisville. While it will likely be an easy double-digit outright victory for the Irish this week, asking them to win by more than five TD's is a big ask with Georgia on deck.
Throw in the fact that as a program, Notre Dame is just 8-8 ATS this decade as a favorite of 20+ points, a record that includes two ATS wins by 1.5 points or less, the number and the situation line up quite well for a fade of the Irish. New Mexico is coming off a bye as well so they've got plenty of prep time on their side too, and on top of all the negatives on the Notre Dame ATS side of things, it will be that extra prep time that helps the Aggies grab the cover.