Nov 13, 2019
Week 12 Upset Alerts
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After a brutal Week 10 where there was nowhere to go but up afterwards, last week's selections finished with a 2-1 ATS record and one outright winner with Troy winning easily as a small home dog. Still nowhere near where I wanted to be at this stage of November, but that's just how it goes at times. Minimizing the damage for the rest of the year is the primary goal now, and hopefully these next few weeks can get me there.
It's a very interesting week in college football now that some of the debate at the top sorted itself out to the expected degree with the losses by Alabama and Penn State. Clemson had to just continue to win to get their spot – as they rolled yet again with plenty of style points – and are favored to do so with plenty of flare again this week. LSU/Georgia likely meeting in the SEC Championship game will sort things out one way or the other in regards to Alabama's potential for getting back in the Top 4, and there we can still have uprisings in the Big 10 too.
Plenty of football left to be played out there, and the surprising results likely aren't done. Hopefully at least one of these next few underdogs this week can be responsible for one of those surprising results, so let's get right to the plays.
Upset Alert #1: Underdogs in the +1 to +9 range
YTD: 3-8 SU; 7-3-1 ATS
Texas (+7) vs Iowa State
I know it's only Wednesday, but the usual “Tom Herman as an underdog” sentiment that shows up early Monday of Texas/Oklahoma week is seemingly a lot quieter this week. Can't argue with Herman's ATS record taking points, and it's got to be considered a plus with this play, especially given how both teams come into this game.
Shaky outings by Texas since losing to Oklahoma a few weeks back probably is behind much less vocal support for the Longhorns as an underdog, and likely because some may wonder if the Longhorns are actually any good. But is Iowa State really 7 points better then a team that was preseason projected to be one of the likeliest teams in the Big 12 Championship game?
I just don't see it with this Iowa State team, who always look like world beaters after putting a scare into Oklahoma, seemingly every year. The Cyclones don't have the same favorable recent history against the Longhorns, as Texas has won this game by double digits in each of the past three seasons, never allowing Iowa State to put up more then 10 points against them. No more then 10 points scored against the Longhorns defensive scheme of recent memory, and Texas is the one catching 7 points?
The Longhorns win this game, and then go into Baylor and beat a Bears team who, if you're a Longhorns fan. Is potentially reeling from suffering their first loss to Oklahoma. That happens and the Longhorns go into Baylor and win that game, and all of a sudden the Big 12 Championship game really starts to look like a Texas/Oklahoma rematch. That's what was expected at the start of the season, and the route may not have been a straight line, but I do believe that end result is what we get from the Big 12 by the end of the season.
Texas does their part this week with a win against an Iowa State team that's too highly thought of at the moment. Herman gets his guys to show up in what may be his favorite role – as an underdog – and this Texas team shows that after a couple of shaky efforts, a school they always beat up on is the one that gets them back on track.
Upset Alert #2: Underdogs in the +10 to +19 range
YTD: 1-10 SU; 3-8 ATS
Nebraska (+14.5) vs Wisconsin
There may be questions for some regarding if Texas can still be considered a “good” team, or at least what they were perceived to be. For me, that team is Wisconsin right now, who have really started to doubt themselves mentally since that loss in Illinois.
It's clear that loss was a huge wake-up call for the Badgers, but I'm not so sure they liked what they saw in the mirror when they did wake up. This team is far from what it's cracked up to be, as the defense is all of a sudden average at best, and those huge running holes aren't there any more. When a team like Illinois beats you by scheming up certain things – because they don't have the same level of talent – that tape travels fast, and teams with more talent then the Illini can really make Wisconsin look bad. Ohio State did it the following week, and Iowa did it last week in crunch time when Wisconsin was in the midst of giving up their lead. Wisconsin kept the Hawkeyes from getting over the hump, but I don't believe Wisconsin can blow out anyone right now, and more importantly, I don't think they believe they can either.
From the Nebraska view, three straight losses coming in to sit at 4-5 SU really puts the goal of being a Bowl-bound team in jeopardy. They've got three games left, two of which are at home. They host Wisconsin this week, and finish the year with Iowa in town. Pending they get a win @ Maryland in between, the Cornhuskers need to steal one of these two remaining home games, and even at the large spread, I do like this to be it. A win as big underdogs would be one of the first main positive memories in the Scott Frost era at Nebraska, and they are getting a Badgers team that appears to be a little mentally fragile at the moment.
The Huskers have gotten a bit healthier in recent weeks, and if they bring their best stuff, they should stick within this number. The underdog has covered in four straight games between these two, and Wisconsin is on a 0-5 ATS run against losing teams as it is. This game continues both of those runs.
Upset Alert #3: Underdogs in the +20 and above range
YTD: 2-9 ATS
Arizona (+27) vs Oregon
Last week we saw the first of what will be many dominoes to fall in what eventually will be the college football playoff picture. And while the losses in the SEC and Big 10 were going to go to someone last week, you know what conference has spent weeks avoiding relative disaster and just plugging away? The Pac-12.
The Pac-12, the conference that's known for beating up on each other too much and not having a dominant team, is still on a collision course between Utah and Oregon in the conference title game. Depending on how the rest of things shake out, holding out the Pac-12 winner from the Top 4 (as Utah or Oregon) won't be done without some controversy. Yet, the problem is Utes and Ducks still have to stay on that course right now. And do you trust that to happen?
Of course you can't! This is the Pac-12 after all, the conference that always beats up on itself too much to not have a team garner significant national recognition. I mean, I wanted to put UCLA (+21) over Utah in this part as well, because of that thinking, but settled on Arizona instead. Utah and Oregon probably win these games comfortably, but would it really be that shocking to see at least one of them lose?
I don't believe it would be, and it's why I settled on Arizona ATS as the play. That's because I always look at games like this from the perspective of which of these big favorites would be more receptive to playing the style most comfortable to the other team and still winning. And Oregon is always going to be willing to play fast and get into a 40-30 type game because they believe that their talent will more often win out in the end in that style. The Ducks are right to believe that for sure, but it also means that the worst team will be more comfortable themselves in what they are running, and should find success as well.
Getting a few extra points (relative to UCLA) helped with the Arizona selection as well, but I do really believe they are less likely to get bottled up by the opposing defense – as Utah could easily do to UCLA – and from there you get a big underdog that's frustrated offensively and needing to score to even keep the back door slightly ajar.
Arizona should be able to put up points on this Ducks defense regardless, the Wildcats just can't give up too many runs of not scoring in between Ducks tallies. And with Oregon off three straight intense weeks with the road wins at Washington and USC, along with the nail biter over Washington State, this is a game from Oregon's perspective that they could come into as a lazy bunch. The Ducks will expect their offense will do just fine in getting them the win, and that is probably true in the end.
But if this game turns out into the shootout that is likely to happen (Arizona allowed 41+ points in four straight games), it means Arizona is pulling their weight offensively as well, and that always leaves a back door cover open if you need it.