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College FB -- Mismatches and Defense
by Bryan Leonard - 09/27/2005
Offenses get all the publicity and certainly too much interest with the
general betting public. But good defenses are more important than offenses,
when it comes to winning championships and often times covering numbers.
This comes to mind after Saturdayâ€™s college football games where I backed
two teams from the Mountain West Conference.
I had TCU as a road dog Saturday at BYU. TCU has an improved defense,
something that was a serious weakness last season. This was on display in
the opener when they stung Oklahoma, winning on the road as a +24 dog. TCU
addressed its major weakness, run defense, and completely dominated a fine
Oklahoma running game. TCU was No. 1 in the MWC in total defense heading
into the BYU game.
They did give up a lot of passing yards to the Cougars, but took away BYUâ€™s
ability to run the football, something that was important as BYU had an
early 21-10 lead, but couldnâ€™t control the ball or the clock. And TCUâ€™s
offense is balanced and potent enough to come back, which they did,
eventually winning the game as a road dog.
Defense is something that San Jose State doesnâ€™t play, being a small,
undersized program. That was another play I had, taking San Diego State at
minus-14 over the Spartans. SDSU not only had the better defense, but this
was a complete mismatch on the field on both sides of the ball. I recognized
that San Jose didnâ€™t have the offensive punch nor the defensive muscle to
hang with SDSU, especially on the road.
San Jose is now 0-8 straight up and 2-5 against the spread on the road the
last two seasons. In their first road game this year, they failed to cover
in a 40-19 loss to Illinois. Illinois may be a weak Big 10 program in
rebuilding mode, but they are a huge step up for a school like San Jose
State, which is one of those â€œmiddle groundâ€쳌 programs between Division 1 and
1-AA. Technically theyâ€™re Division I, of course, but thatâ€™s only because
there is no Division 1-B class. They got outscored by 21 ppg last season on
the road, and are getting beaten by 26 on the road this season, so laying
the 14 was not a concern.
Mismatches like this are common this time of year, as there are fewer
conference games. In addition, San Jose didnâ€™t have the passing game to
mount a late comeback, which can lead to a back-door cover. Thatâ€™s another
thing to look at when assessing mismatches â€“ does the weak opponent have a
chance at a late cover? Analyzing defensive ability and mismatches in
September and early October can unearth outstanding wagering opportunities
on live dogs and undervalued favorites.