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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 09:56 AM

Week 9 Upset Alerts

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Considering last week's college football landscape was shaken up with numerous big upsets across the land, going 1-1-1 ATS with my three selections and having no outright winners is actually pretty disappointing. Had you waited until later in the week and caught one of those +6.5's that were hung on Maryland for awhile, you could have been 2-1 ATS, but the Terrapins did enough to earn a push in their six-point loss to Indiana there.

And when there were a couple of +20 and greater underdogs to win their games outright (Illinois, Vanderbilt), backing a Nevada team that looked like they wanted to part of dealing with the cold weather at night in Utah was the biggest disappointment. The Wolf Pack were just a backdoor score away from getting inside the number for most of that game, but quitting early in the 4th quarter slammed that backdoor shut rather early as they allowed Utah State to pull away.

The lone win on the week came courtesy of New Mexico as they had little trouble staying within the number against an offensively challenge Wyoming squad. In hindsight, that lofty spread of nearly 20 points with a team that struggles to score like the Cowboys reminds me a lot of what Buffalo Bills backers had to deal with this week laying -17 against the Dolphins. Sometimes teams just aren't capable enough offensively to cover big numbers and that proved to be the case in both of those situations.

It's on to this week's selections though, and all of them have a common thread. That is, while the validity of getting caught in “look ahead” games can be up for debate in terms of how important those spots may be before the game, after the fact, it's hard to deny that some teams that slip up did indeed get caught looking past a certain opponent and ahead to a better one.

And while I am on the side that suggests look ahead games/spots do exist, I am more of the mindset that when teams do get caught in those spots, they are the teams you want to back when said look ahead game finally arrives. The logic there is that the team's focus has already been on that foe for awhile, there is likely value in the market backing them when coming off a disappointing performance, and the majority of the market only looks to fade these squads because of that recent SU and/or ATS blunder.

With that in mind, here are the three teams that I believe fit that line of thought in varying degrees, as hopefully at least one of them can pull off the outright upset as well.

Upset Alert #1: Underdogs in the +1 to + 9 range

YTD: 1-7 SU; 5-2-1 ATS

Miami (+5.5) vs Pittsburgh

This is probably the game where it wouldn't take much convincing to suggest that the Hurricanes aren't a program that “looks ahead” to Pittsburgh, because I'm not completely sure they did either. But the Miami/Pitt rivalry has taken on more of a big-game feel in recent years, ever since Pitt managed to knock off this Hurricanes program in late-2017 to give the Hurricanes their first loss on the year, knock them out of the CFP Playoff conversation, and ultimately ruin what was a great campaign for Miami up until that point.

Furthermore, I don't think you can deny that the Hurricanes took Georgia Tech rather lightly last week as a near 20-point home favorite. Miami couldn't get anything done in the second half of that game, continually shot themselves in the foot with missed opportunities everywhere (missed FG, unable to keep drives extended, fumbled in end zone for a Georgia Tech TD) and just never came close to sniffing an ATS win. Granted, the 2019 version of Miami may not be a good team in general, but the ACC Coastal division is still a wide open race for the most part, and even at 1-3 SU in the conference, the Hurricanes still have plenty in front of them to make the most of this 2019 season.

Pitt is one of those teams the Hurricanes will have to go through to get there, and with Pittsburgh's stock value in the market basically increasing every week since they held tough against what now appears to be a great Penn State team, the Panthers are a great 'sell high' team now. Since that seven-point loss to Penn State, Pitt has gone on to end UCF's near 30-game regular season win streak, had a lazy win against FCS Delaware, and went out on the road and knocked off Duke and Syracuse in successive weeks. Everyone loves a winner and Pitt's 5-1 ATS run (5-1 SU) coming into this week's game is something many would prefer to get behind relative to what they've seen from Miami of late.

However, these two teams do have one common foe on their resumes already – both hosted Virginia this year – and Pitt went into that game as 2.5-point underdogs while Miami was laying that number against the Cavaliers. Yes, the timing of playing Virginia does matter in terms of context given that Pitt opened their season against Virginia, but the Panthers got smoked by 16 points on their home field in that game, while Miami got a late score to win by eight a couple of weeks ago. That only adds to the notion that Miami's a great “buy low” team in this spot, and buying low (Miami) and selling high (Pittsburgh) are great betting situations to get behind.

Upset Alert #2: Underdogs in the +10 to +19 range

YTD: 1-7 SU; 2-6 ATS

Wisconsin (+14.5) vs Ohio State

If you've read these pieces from the start of the college football season, you'll know that a few of the losses that have piled up have come courtesy of fading Ohio State at big numbers. But after a couple of weeks in a row of avoiding Buckeyes games completely, I'm taking another crack at seeing Ohio State's 6-0 ATS run come to an end with Wisconsin coming to town.

Wisconsin was on the wrong end of the “upset of the week” last week, as their trip to Illinois last Saturday ended up with the Badgers – as a 30-point road favorite – losing to a team that's coached by Santa Claus. The loss made all the highlight shows, humiliating Wisconsin over and over again with how poorly they played in that game. That kind of embarrassment is something I don't mind seeing at all in terms of wanting to back the team the following outing, because as I touched on with Miami, the stock price in Wisconsin dropped dramatically after last week.

And while nobody outside of that Wisconsin locker room knows for sure if they were looking past Illinois and ahead to this Ohio State game, it's pretty easy to assume that was the case given the line (-30) and results (SU loss) of that game.

Now that look ahead game with Ohio State has arrived, and I fully expect this Wisconsin team – that owns four shutout wins already this year – to be at their best on both sides of the ball and give this Ohio State team all they can handle. Even with last week's embarrassing loss, Wisconsin is the most complete team on both sides of the ball that Ohio State has faced so far this season, and quite frankly this is too many points to give them in this role.

It's understandable that oddsmakers had to put out a number like this after the Illinois loss, but had Wisconsin won that game by 30 as expected, what do you think this spread vs Ohio State would actually look like? I'd venture a guess it would be in the single digits, and this just presents the ultimate buy low opportunity that there is. As a bettor you can't last past failures betting against a particular team stop you from betting against them again in the future – it's always better to bet numbers not teams – and while Ohio State has knocked the bankroll down numerous times this season, I do think we get some of that back with Bucky Badger on Saturday.

Upset Alert #3: Underdogs in the +20 and above range

YTD: 2-6 ATS

California (+21.5) vs Utah

California is still in the youthful changes of changing the culture and turning that football program around under HC Justin Wilcox, and they might not be considered “good enough” yet to really look past one foe and ahead to another. Wilcox has built this team to be a stout defensive squad that can hang around against more talented teams with that unit, and hopefully that's what they can do this week when they travel to Utah.

Given that the Golden Bears fell flat as -10 favorites at home vs Oregon State last week – losing outright 21-17 – I do think there was some inkling of them taking the Beavers lightly and looking ahead to this game vs a ranked Utah team. That, and that Oregon State game was sandwiched between facing Oregon and Utah on the road, and if you want your program to take the next step in development, showing up and showing out against quality foes like that is a must. California were able to give Oregon all they could handle from a defensive standpoint in the 17-7 Ducks win – covering the number as +21.5 underdogs – and this game vs Utah should play out to a similar tune.

Utah prefers to play defensive slugfests as it is, and while they have gone 3-0 ATS in their last three by holding their foes to 13 or fewer points, the defenses that Washington State, Oregon State, and Arizona State have don't compare at all to what California brings to the table. This game has a sub-40 total as it is (37.5), so points will be at a premium, and like I mentioned at the open, sometimes when games are lined that way – like Wyoming/New Mexico last week or Miami/Buffalo in the NFL – it's really hard not to like the points given that it's simply too big of a number for the favorite to cover.

Even something like a 28-7 Utah win gets us an ATS win by the hook with California here, and given the notion that this should be a strong bounce back spot for California as it is, along with Utah having a road trip to Washington on deck, grab the points here.

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