Friday’s Tip Sheet

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No. 12 Penn State at Maryland

Venue/Location: Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD
Time/TV: Friday, Sept. 27 (FS1, 8:00 p.m. ET)
Line: Penn State -6 ½ , Total 61 ½

Recent Meetings:
2018: Penn State (-12) 38 vs. Maryland 3, Under 51 ½
2017: Penn State (-23.5) 66 at Maryland 3, Over 57
2016: Penn State (+1) 38 at Maryland 14, Under 55 ½
2015: Penn State (-5.5) 31 at Maryland 30, Over 46 ½
2014: Maryland (+3) 20 at Penn State 19, Under 44

It was nice to connect with the USC Trojans last Friday, as even having another QB go down wasn't enough for a Trojans team that's quit a few times in recent years to do so again. The Pac-12 continues to be the conference where parity within the conference continues to occur, and sadly it's because of that that generally takes any one of their programs out of the national conversation.

This Friday we get another showcase of Pac-12 foes with Arizona State and a ranked California team doing battle, but that's not the only high profile Power 5 conference in action. Duke and Virginia Tech put the ACC up first for the evening, but it's the other contest featuring a ranked squad – Penn State – that I want to start with.

The Big 10 gets a piece of the Friday night stage this week, and after Penn State and Maryland both had last week off to prepare for this tilt, we should expect both sides to be rather sharp. For Penn State, it's all about getting back to their efficient ways on offense as tough weather and a tougher Pittsburgh defense had them grinding out a 17-10 home victory the last time they were on the football field. That's a rivalry game for the Nittany Lions that does tend to be much tougher then the point spread usually suggests, and Penn State never sniffed an ATS cover that day.

At the same time, Maryland's offense is looking to rebound after a tough outing against a tough defense themselves, as a 20-17 loss @ Temple was the last time they stepped on a football field. That defeat really let a lot of the air out of a very impressive start for the Terrapins – they had put up 142 points in their first two games – and then just couldn't sustain drives against the Owls. The 24% conversion rate on 3rd down (5-for-21) was the biggest issue for Maryland that day, and even their 1-for-6 number on 4th down just showed how desperate things got for that offense.

So this game sets up with two teams off a week of rest, off games where they both scored just 17 points, after they both averaged at least 62 points scored per game in their previous two games this year. Obviously, both found a big step up in competition level to be a challenge offensively, but at the same time, it's easy to figure that won't last, especially after a week off.

Understandably, the 'over' has seen plenty of support in the betting market, out of the gate and continually, as many believe those 17-point efforts by both sides were just a blip on the radar. Maryland's on a 4-1 O/U run at home dating back to last year, and are 6-0 O/U after scoring fewer than 20 points. At the same time, Penn State is on a 7-1 O/U run away from home, 12-4 O/U off a SU win, and 8-3 O/U themselves after scoring fewer than 20 points. Without question the 'over' appears to be the look for this game, but after opening sub-60 at some places, going 'over' 61.5 now with it being the “public” look can be tough to swallow.

Arizona State at No. 15 California

Venue/Location: Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, CA
Time/TV: Friday, Sept. 27 (ESPN, 10:30 p.m. ET)
Line: Cal -5 ½, Total 40

Recent Meetings:
2016 Arizona State (-3.5) 51 vs. California 41, Over 85
2015 California (-4) 48 at Arizona State 46, Over 67

It's always interesting how quickly a 'culture change' can happen at the collegiate level, as both of these schools have changed quite a bit since they last met in September of 2016. You don't need to look any further for proof of that point then the totals posted between then and now, as that meeting in 2016 had the total close at 85 points! It's more than half of that just a few years later.

Cal coach Justin Wilcox has built a ferocious defense fitting of the “Bear” name, while Herm Edwards has implemented his pro experience at this level to help the Sun Devils be much better on that side of the ball too. A flat '40' is an extremely low total for college football, and just like the Big 10 game on Friday night, a strong majority of the action has come on the high side of things. Just keep in mind, even with that support, the number really hasn't budged since opening and that's the difference.

But it's the side that's more appealing to me, as this Cal team definitely looks to be for real with that defense they've got. There was still some skepticism after they upset the Washington Huskies up in Washington as two-TD underdogs in that that game could have been a lightning in a bottle-type effort, but going on the road to Ole Miss for a 9 am body clock start time and winning there was what convinced me that California is for real this year. It's because of that defense – who allowed 20 points for the first time in that 28-20 Ole Miss win – as to why the Golden Bears appear to be legit, and I'm still not sure the market has completely caught up with them.

Herm Edwards brought his own skeptics with him in regards to him succeeding at this level, and even with a 34-31 home loss to Colorado last week, he's 2-0 SU vs Michigan State the last two years, and has brought a level of accountability – especially on defense – to this ASU program that they were lacking for years. That being said, there are still too many mistakes that this team makes during a 60-minute football game, and against a defense as good as the one Cal's got, that just can't happen for an underdog.

With current betting percentages showing there is plenty of support for ASU outright in this game, I believe that on this national stage late Friday night, Justin Wilcox and his Cal Golden Bears announce themselves on more of a national level.

Without question there is still plenty of room for growth offensively for Cal going forward, and if even half of that potential growth is realized, together with their defense, this team could be really scary. They aren't a team that's going to win too many 44-41 type games you can get in the Pac-12 yet, but unless they suffer numerous injuries on the defensive side of things, that's not a realistic potential outcome as it is. The total being set as low as it is suggests that this will be a 21-14 type game, and it's hard not to back this California team that's on a 6-1 ATS run in conference play if that's the case.

Best Bet: California -4 ½

Friday Best Bet YTD Record: 2-2 ATS

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