Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:56 AM
Week 13 Upset Alerts
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The three underdogs I was on last week was essentially par for the course this year, as the small underdog (Texas) managed to get the ATS win, while the two larger underdogs (Nebraska, and Arizona) both came up short. A 1-2 ATS record is never good, but considering Nebraska missed the cover by two points, and Arizona missed by a single point, it made the card a little tougher to swallow. Those plays were right there and had another bounce or two gone my way, that record would be much different.
But those bounces haven't really gone my way all year with those big dogs, especially on weeks where many big dogs not only covered point spreads, but won games outright and were nowhere to be found on this weekly feature. But the good news is there is still time to finish this regular season off strong, and this week's board does have some very good teams on our side, even as one of them goes against the 2019 nemesis of this piece. Don't mind taking at least one more crack at taking down this team from at least an ATS standpoint though.
So let's get right to it:
Upset Alert #1: Underdogs in the +1 to +9 range
YTD: 3-9 SU; 8-3-1 ATS
SMU (+3.5) vs Navy
After losing in their showdown with Memphis at the beginning of the month, SMU responded with what was essentially a clunker in a 59-51 win over East Carolina the following week. They got a week of rest after that game and prior to this one, and sometimes the timing of a bye week can make all the difference in the world.
Let's start with the obvious, an extra week to prepare for a game against a service academy team is always a plus for college football programs. Given that these two schools are conference rivals again, seeing the triple-option is nothing new for SMU. But simply knowing it, vs knowing it and preparing for it for two weeks are two very different things, and I expect SMU's defense to be the unit that shines early while the Mustangs look to build a lead.
The second plus about the bye week coming when it did for SMU is that it's given them ample time to clear out the disappointment from that Memphis loss. The entire team was content with getting in a track meet in that East Carolina game – a 59-51 SMU win as -23 favorites – because the Mustangs rightfully assumed they had the more talented team and chose to ride that thought to win out in the end. That's not particularly the case here with both teams being among the Top 30 or so in the country. Winning the West division in the AAC if SMU can get some help with a Memphis loss, so it's not like all hope is lost on the year yet either. It was always going to be tough for them to rebound post-Memphis, but it's been more then two weeks now and I would figure that it's nothing but a distant memory for this team now.
And finally, we get a Navy program who's potentially got some fragile confidence right now as it is, after getting blasted by the Irish last week. Notre Dame really picked Army apart on every possession, an the 284 passing yards on just 14 completions QB Ian Book had is something that bodes well for SMU and their prolific passing game.
That's more then enough for me to jump on grabbing the points here, as last year's OT win (31-30) by SMU to end an eight-game losing streak in this rivalry, becomes a much bigger margin of victory this year for a much improved Mustangs team in a very nice spot this week.
Upset Alert #2: Underdogs in the +10 to +19 range
YTD: 1-11 SU; 3-9 ATS
Penn State (+18.5) vs Ohio State
If you've followed this piece all year long (and hopefully faded many of these big underdog selections), you'll be well aware of my fondness for going against Ohio State and failing each time. The Buckeyes are the team that I referred to in the open as my “2019 nemesis”, as I've gone against them four times already this year in this piece, and lost every time. Backing the likes of Indiana, Miami (OH), Nebraska, and Wisconsin against Ohio State didn't pan out, so why am I going back to this very dry well for one more trip?
Well for one, Penn State's by far the best team of all of them, and I'm actually getting more points with them then I did with all three of the other Big 10 rivals I backed vs Ohio State. That right there speaks volumes into just how much Ohio State's value has grown in the market, but the results they've had against the number will do that.
Secondly, Ohio State's bubble burst – at least from an ATS perspective – when they failed to cover a huge number against Rutgers. There is no way the Buckeyes players care about that, nor will it affect their game in all likelihood, but it is something, especially for someone like me who's under ranked the Buckeyes all year long. Sometimes all it takes is one of something for the floodgates to open up, and with two tough tests remaining this year (vs Penn State, @ Michigan), maybe Rutgers did indeed open up the door to cashing tickets against Ohio State. After all, this point spread is still quite up there – after all, it's easy to say Ohio State didn't cover vs Rutgers because the line was so big at -52, and then completely abandon that notion in this game because the optics of the spreads (from -52 to -18) look quite appealing.
Finally, from Penn State's perspective, the loss to Minnesota two weeks ago stung, but by no means did it kill their season. An outright win this week puts them tied atop the East division with the Buckeyes, while subsequently holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Ohio State at the same time. They might have been a bit flat last week vs Indiana, but that was to be expected given the sandwich spot that game sat in. This week against the Buckeyes is essentially the season for Penn State, and you give me that scenario, with a Top 25 team catching this many points, I'll bite nearly all of the time.
Upset Alert #3: Underdogs in the +20 and above range
YTD: 2-10 ATS
Arkansas (+44) vs LSU
Arkansas hasn't covered a point spread since the last time they found their way into this +20 and above range back at the end of September. In that game I expected them to hang tough against a Texas A&M squad that had just lost to Auburn which had effectively ended their season of the biggest goals they had, and it was a week before they went off to play Alabama. It was easy for the Aggies to overlook this Arkansas team, and I think the same can be said for LSU this week.
LSU ends the year with two home games (this one, and vs Texas A&M next week) and it's the latter that easily looks like the tougher test of the two. Considering last year's LSU/Texas A&M game prompted an OT rule change this year after that one ended 74-72 in favor of the Aggies, it's safe to say that LSU may already be plotting their revenge on Texas A&M next week.
But first they've got to deal with an Arkansas team that just fired their coach, have been a disaster nearly all year, and will provide next to nothing in terms of resistance – at least on paper – for LSU this week. That's got 'overlooked' written all over it for Arkansas here, as LSU has got much bigger fish to fry down the road. And yet, here they need to win by nearly 6+ TD's. I'm not buying it.
For as good as LSU has been this year, the defense can still get sloppy and burned at times, and you give them an opponent they are barely concerned with, and breakdowns in coverage are usually the end result. Furthermore, LSU has been guilty at times of playing up or down to the level of their competition, simply believing (and rightfully so) that they are the more talented team and that will win out. But giving up 38 points to Vanderbilt, and 37 to Mississippi are little signs that show you they can get lazy and caught playing down to the level of their opponent.
Arkansas may have given up on the year as a whole and know big changes are coming to the team, but a chance to see what they can do against the #1 team in the country is about as Super Bowl-ish as it gets for these guys. The talent isn't there to compete from an outright perspective, but Arkansas should have enough to hang within this number.