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Has Your Team Packed It In?

   by Bryan Leonard - 10/31/2006

I'm not trying to be flippant, but a question that handicappers need to ask this time of year is “Who Really Cares?â€쳌 Ask it to certain college and NFL teams, that is. We are at that point in the college football season where some teams are fighting for conference titles, winning seasons, and potential bowl berths. Of course, other teams are already out of it, guaranteed a losing season and possibly even knowing that their coaching staffs will be let go soon.

Oregon State was a good example Saturday, a team with a winning record that needs a few more wins for a winning season. The whole team, and the whole stadium, was motivated with USC coming to town, the dominant Pac 10 power the last few years and No. 3 team in the nation. The Beavers were fired up for the game and pulled off the upset as a dog, 33-31.

However, on the other end of the spectrum is a team like Michigan State, the walking zombies of 2006. Sure they pulled off that incredible comeback at Northwestern a week ago, overcoming a 35-3 deficit. But that doesn't matter in Las Vegas where the Spartans were an 8-point favorite. They won, but failed to get the money. That has been commonplace with this team.

Saturday the Spartans went back to their lazy ways in a 46-21 loss at Indiana. Even more stunning was that Michigan State was a favorite again. That makes them 2-7 against the spread this season, money-burners to the core! This team clearly doesn't care anymore, especially on defense, where they surrendered 450 yards to Indiana.

Indiana (5-4) is fighting for a winning season and gave up just 35 yards the rest of the first half after falling behind 7-0. The Hoosiers did not allow another first down until the fourth quarter, a span of 12 possessions by the Spartans and 46 straight points by the Hoosiers! It is no secret that Michigan State coach John L. Smith will be gone soon. Note that the Spartans have been ATS losers for three straight years now, at 11-24 ATS their last 35 games.

Handicapper and oddsmakers must make adjustments on whether certain teams care or not. Some pro players and coaches are not going to be with the same team next year, so they are fighting for jobs, either with their current team or when a future employer comes calling. There is a huge difference between a team that is motivated to play hard, and ones that are far less motivated.

Ask yourself each week: Are teams rallying around the coach? Or have they packed it in? Quotes from players and coaches can provide clues, as well as statistic, especially defensive ones. Teams that are playing hard, even bad teams, can put up a fight defensively each week, while dead teams will get run over often. Teams that care the most will win more often than not ATS!

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