Week 4 – Upset AlertsEditor's Note: Don't miss out on College Football winners from Matt Blunt on VegasInsider.com. Click to win!
No complaints about bad numbers in terms of last week's plays, as they were more about backing bad teams that simply got overwhelmed by superior talent. Indiana and New Mexico just couldn't keep Ohio State and Notre Dame off the scoreboard to fall well short of even sniffing a cover as big underdogs.
The news wasn't all bad though as Air Force managed to take full advantage of the brutal situational spot Colorado found themselves in. The Falcons nearly coughed up the game (and cover) after having lead for the bulk of that contest, but they managed to hold on long enough to get the outright win in OT, to have the selections avoid it's second consecutive 0-3 ATS week.
A 1-2 ATS record last week with the lone cover winning outright as well is the step in the right direction, and while I may have wasted most of my luck with the huge 20+ underdogs last year, I'm confident that things will turn around here soon for all the underdogs in this weekly piece.
So while it's highly understandable that backing these plays this week may be tough to do given recent results, that narrative actually ties in quite well with the specific teams involved in this week's plays. We've got a few teams that the general betting market wants little to do with after what they've seen from them in the first few weeks of the season. There has generally been nothing but criticism, ridicule and laughter for how some of these teams have performed so far this year, and in terms of the perception vs reality notion, that actually does present some inherent value in their point spreads. Now it's just up to these teams (and myself with the selections) to get the job done.
Upset Alert #1: Underdogs in the +1 to + 9 range
YTD: 1-2 SU; 2-1 ATS Back in the summer when I penned this piece for the site, I did so always having this game in mind and circled on the calendar for a spot to back the Wolverines. Even with Michigan narrowly beating Army last time out, and Jim Harbaugh's team on a 0-6 ATS run dating back to the end of last year, I think this is just the spot, opponent, and time for Michigan to get their 2019 season rolling on the right foot.
Michigan (+3.5) vs Wisconsin
The betting market has been quick to get on Harbaugh and the Wolverines this season, talking about how it's the same old, outdated Harbaugh offense that's holding the Wolverines from reaching their full potential yet again this year, and it seems inevitable to most that Michigan will find new and interesting ways to blow it in the biggest games of the year like they have in the past. Going up against a Wisconsin team that's yet to allow a single point this season is a situation that looks like a great spot to further those beliefs as Michigan is a team that very little want anything to do with right now, other then to fade them. Given how well the Badgers have looked so far, it's no surprise that the bulk of the action (70%+) has already come Wisconsin's way.
But being 'tested' early on in a season is something I prefer to look at as a positive for a team like Michigan, because it gets those competitive juices flowing, allows them to know how they'll react when facing adversity, and the more they come out on the positive end of those contests – like they did vs Army – the confidence only grows.
Conversely, Wisconsin has gone up against two cupcakes so far and have yet to had their feet to the fire. There is plenty of confidence having outscored opponents 110-0 through two games, but the Badgers have yet to see any sort of adversity and therefore, we've yet to see how they react when they do so. Sure, they could pass that first test with flying colors, but I'm not sure that will be the case against a team that's as highly ranked or as talented as the Wolverines are. You'd always prefer some early season struggles to come up against a much lesser team where the likelihood of overcoming it is much greater – say like a team like Army, or Illinois, Indiana etc – and I'm not sure this Wisconsin team has what it takes to take the heat when it comes down to it. Yes, Wisconsin could have 'revenge' on their mind after last year's 38-13 loss to Harbaugh's squad, but that score was telling the other way as well in that Harbaugh and Michigan understand how to move the ball against a tough defense like Wisconsin's and will be able to do so again.
The “Redemption Tour” for Michigan might have ended in disappointment for the Wolverines last year with their performance against the Buckeyes at the end of the campaign, but it will be that take no prisoners attitude that serves Michigan well in this game with many doubters lurking out there. With the market's perception already highly negative on Harbaugh yet again, he and his team knows that there aren't many greater feelings then proving the majority wrong, and I expect them to do exactly that in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday.
Upset Alert #2: Underdogs in the +10 to +19 range
0-3 SU; 0-3 ATS Speaking of teams that continually get ridiculed and laughed at in the betting market, we've got the Tennessee Volunteers catching double-digits in the Swamp this weekend. It's definitely hard to defend what we've seen from the Volunteers so far in 2019 having dropped game easily winnable games to Georgia State and BYU, as this is a program that not only can't shake the choke job persona in the market, but sees that notion grow seemingly every week.
Tennessee (+14) vs Florida
Yet, sometimes all it takes for a program in the midst of getting crapped on is to go out and beat up on a little brother so to speak. Tennessee did that last week with a 45-0 win (ATS cover as well) vs Chattanooga, and any internal doubts/issues with confidence inside that locker room had to get a boost. There is no redoing those losses to Georgia State and BYU, especially how they happened, but with those still so fresh in the minds of many bettors, the general market wants absolutely nothing to do with the Volunteers. But any athlete will tell you, being counted out and endlessly ridiculed and doubted, only makes the redemption that much sweeter when it comes around.
On the other side of the coin, we've got a Gators team who is turning to QB Kyle Trask this week after Feleipe Franks went down for the year. Bettors saw Trask step in and lead the Gators to a comeback against Kentucky last week, so there is plenty of positive reinforcement there to further get units down against Tennessee in this game. Yet, it's still Trask's first career collegiate start under center, and that has to bring some concerns in its own right, never mind the fact that he's expected to lead his team to a two-TD victory.
Perception and reality just don't appear to be close to meeting in my eyes for this game, and that's probably why this point spread is a little higher then it should be in my view. Yes, we've seen Trask perform well in limited action this year, but what did he have to lose in that scenario? Had he not gone out and led the Gators to a comeback last week it would have essentially been a free pass for him given the situation he stepped into, and leading the comeback like he did only inflated the general perception about his talent.
But the fact that he had nothing to lose in terms of perception from stepping into that scenario allowed him to play free and easy on those final drives, and relaxed athletes with nothing to lose tend to always perform at their best. This week, the pressure amps up quite a bit as there is much more on his shoulders in terms of potentially suffering a loss here, and it will be interesting to see how he and the Gators react.
Besides, wouldn't it be a complete Tennessee thing to do to lose their first two games of the year in the fashion that they did, and then turn around and go into the Swamp and get an outright upset victory? I'm not sure that will end up being the case, but the Volunteers will put their best foot forward in trying to do so, and keep this game much closer then a number like this suggests.
Upset Alert #3: Underdogs in the +20 and above range
YTD: 0-3 SU; 0-3 ATS As has been the case with my handicapping in other sports this year, there are plenty of times where plays of mine end up being losses as they come a game/week too early. Fading Ohio State on the road last week in their Big 10 opener proved to be a wrong cap by far, but I'm hoping that I was just a week too early on fading this Buckeyes team that's still getting talked up too much in my opinion this year.
Miami OH (+39) at Ohio State
This also isn't the greatest spot for the Buckeyes to cover a huge number like this, facing a weak non-conference foe at home, sandwiched between two Big 10 road tilts. Indiana proved to be no match for the Buckeyes, but a trip to Nebraska next week should be much tougher. This week's game against the Redhawks has all the makings of a “get in, get out” type game for Ohio State, as they'll establish a comfortable lead early and then sit on the ball after that. There is no need to send a message to say, the rest of the Big 10, like they did last week against Indiana, so they aren't likely to keep their foot on the gas late like they did last week, and to win, stay healthy, and give some 2nd and 3rd stringers meaningful reps has to be the goal.
Finally, Ohio State comes into this game with a 2-0 ATS record, and during the regular season, the Buckeyes have only covered the number three straight times on one occasion dating back to October 2016. Put it all together and I believe we see this Miami (Ohio) team that's already 1-0 ATS this year as a 20+ underdog get the ATS cash again.
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