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CFB (Week 9)

   by Larry Ness - 10/26/2006

While there were a number of scares this past weekend, the highest-ranked team in the BCS standings to lose was No. 14 Oregon (34-23 at Washington State). The latest standings saw Ohio State maintain its place at the top but also saw Michigan move past USC into the No. 2 position. For USC, it's the first time the Trojans have not been either No. 1 or No. 2 in the BCS since the final standings of the 2003 regular season.

People may just remember that caused quite a stir, as the Trojans were ranked No. 1 in both the AP and Coaches' poll that season but finished just No. 3 in the BCS and got left out of the 2003 BCS championship game that year. LSU went on to beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl (14-7) claiming the BCS title, while USC beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl (28-14) to claim the AP title.

Michigan's rise to No.2 in the BCS standings gives the Big 10 the nation's top-two teams. The last time a conference held the top-two spots in the BCS standings was October 27, 2001 when Nebraska was No. 1 and Oklahoma was No.2. Not for nothing, but neither Nebraska nor Oklahoma won the BCS title that season, Miami-Florida did!

Conventional wisdom (never very accurate, by the way) says the winner of the Michigan/Ohio State game on November 18 will meet an undefeated USC team in this year's national title game. However, it's hard to argue with that logic, as it seems highly unlikely Ohio State or Michigan will lose before their showdown. Also, after watching Oregon lose (see above score), Cal struggle to beat Washington in OT and Notre Dame edge UCLA in the game's final 30 seconds this past weekend, USC seems just as unlikely to lose at home (Trojans have won 30 straight in the Coliseum) in a three-game November stretch against the Ducks, Bears and Irish.

The gap between the nation's top three teams in the BCS standings is huge, as 4th-place West Virginia is .1879 behind No. 3 USC. West Va and Louisville (which meet in Louisville November 2), will both need help to reach the No. 2 spot, even assuming the winner of that game stays undefeated. If Auburn and Florida both stay unbeaten until a SEC championship meeting on December 2 (Auburn beat Florida 27-17 October 14), the winner may also have a shot at reaching No. 2 in the BCS standings, but like the West Va/Louisville winner, they'll need help.

CFB's Week 9 gets underway with an excellent matchup on Thursday night, as No. 10 Clemson (1st top-10 ranking in the AP since 2000) visits Blacksburg to take on Va Tech. Clemson, the nation's top-scoring team at 42.3 PPG will face a Hokies team that's already lost two games this year, including a Thursday night visit to Boston College (22-3). That loss ended an 11-game Va Tech winning streak in Thursday night games, in which Frank Beamer's team had gone 10-1 ATS. Clemson, fresh off a 31-7 win over Ga Tech last Saturday night (held Calvin Johnson without a catch for the first time in his career), is favored by 4 1/2 points. While this is a "down-year" for Va Tech, it should also be noted that the Hokies have been home 'dogs' just three times since 1995 (all against Miami-Florida), winning outright twice, while covering all three!

Seven teams remain unbeaten in Division I-A, entering this final weekend of October (Boise State, Louisville, Michigan, Ohio State, Rutgers, USC and West Va). All but USC played last week and the teams went a collective 4-2 ATS (Boise and Louisville didn't cover), giving them a very-profitable collective ATS mark of 31-16-1. However, none of the above schools can claim what 5-3 Central Michigan or 7-1 Wisconsin can. The Chippewas may have three losses but they are also 7-0-1 ATS, while the Badgers enter the weekend 6-0-1 ATS! For the record, Central Michigan is off this weekend while Wisconsin hosts Illinois (Badgers are favored by 21 1/2).

Ohio State owns the nation's longest active winning streak with 15 straight victories (14-1 ATS!) and will play its Homecoming game on Saturday, entertaining Minnesota. Entertaining may just be the right description too, as the Buckeyes are 31-2 SU vs the Golden Gophers since 1969. Ohio State is favored by 27 points. As for West Va, the Mountaineers are getting ready for their "showdown game" next Thursday night in Louisville, against the Cardinals.

The three-longest home winning streaks belong to USC (30), Louisville (15) and Florida. However, USC is on the road at Oregon State, Louisville is off and Florida is "cocktailing" in Jacksonville with Georgia. However, the Trojans also own the nation's longest active road winning streak as well (18 straight / 10-8 ATS) and are favored by 10 1/2 points in Corvallis, in an effort to extend that mark to 19 in a row. Texas, which escaped Lincoln with a 22-20 win last Saturday, will put its 14-game road winning streak (9-5 ATS) on the line in Lubbock (Texas Tech) on Saturday, where the Longhorns are also favored by 10 1/2 points over the Red Raiders.

After wins by Eastern Michigan (17-13 over Toledo) and San Diego State (19-12 over Air Force) last Saturday, there remains just four winless schools in Division I-A. The list includes Duke and Florida International (both 0-7), as well as Stanford and Temple (both 0-8). However, all but Stanford (which is 1-7 ATS), have done OK vs the pointspread. Duke is 3-3, Florida International 3-3-1 and Temple 3-4-1. Last week was typical for the Owls, as they fell behind 40-0 at Northern Illinois, but "came back" to lose, 43-21 and cover the 32-point spread.

Temple owns the nation's longest active losing streak at 20 straight losses, but is a much more respectable 8-11-1 ATS. The Owls' 19-game road losing streak is also 'tops,' but like their overall ATS mark, the Owls come in at a respectable 9-9-1 ATS on the road. Temple plays at home this week and here's a shock, Temple's eight-game home winning streak (but 4-4 ATS) ties Duke for the nation's longest. It's Homecoming for the Owls this week and they are home underdogs of 19 points to the 4-4 Falcons of Bowling Green.

Speaking of Duke, the Blue Devils played hard last Saturday vs a suspension-riddled Miami-Florida team, losing at home 20-15. The loss was Duke's 15th in a row overall (5-9 ATS), as well as its eighth straight at home (1-6 ATS). The Blue Devils are at home again this Saturday, as they host Vanderbilt. Vandy is favored by 8 1/2 points. Stanford's 10-game losing streak (2-8 ATS) is the nation's third-longest active losing streak but the Cardinal luckily have the week off.

San Jose State owns the nation's second-longest road losing streak (behind Temple's 19-game streak) at 15 straight losses but the Spartans are home this weekend. Duke's lost 14 in a row on the road (9-5 ATS!) but is also at home (see above). UNLV will be on the road this week (at Utah) and the Rebels have dropped 13 straight road games (2-11 ATS) after losing 52-7 last Saturday at BYU. Saturday, the Rebels are 20-point underdogs in Salt Lake City.

While both Fresno State and North Carolina have each won once in 2006, neither school has yet to post an ATS win! North Carolina's lone SU win came back on September 16 over I-AA Furman 45-42 in a non-lined game, while Fresno State opened the 2006 season with a 28-19 win (Bulldogs were 12 1/2-point favorites) over Nevada on September 1. Beginning with the Bulldogs' near-upset at USC last November 19 (lost 50-42), they are 1-10 SU and are 1-9-1 ATS after getting a 'push' at LSU last Saturday (lost 38-6 as 32-point dogs). Fresno is off this week, while the Tar Heels host No. 24 Wake Forest (Demon Deacons are favored by 8 1/2 points).

The only game this weekend matching top-25 opponents (AP ranking), is No. 19 Oklahoma at No. 23 Missouri. These schools met every year from 1919 through 1995 but since the formation of the Big 12, will be meeting for just the fifth time in the last 11 years. Missouri is favored by 1 1/2-points.

Let's not forget No. 11 Notre Dame (9th in the BCS standings), as the Irish will try to extend their winning streak over Navy to 43 straight wins. ND's current 42-game winning streak over Navy, is the longest-ever (one school over another) in NCAA history. While Paul Johnson has taken the Midshipmen to three straight bowl games, he's yet to beat Notre Dame. He came close his first two seasons at the Naval Academy, losing 30-23 in 2002 and just 27-24 in 2004.

However, Notre Dame has beaten Navy 27-9 and 42-21 these last two years. Saturday's game is in Baltimore and Notre Dame is favored by 13 points.

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