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Value Shopping

   by Ben Burns - 09/16/2009

Both Cougars have caught the public’s eye by taking care of top-five BCS opponents early in the season.

BYU, of course, knocked out Heisman trophy winner Sam Bradford before knocking Oklahoma off its lofty No. 3 perch.

Houston exposed No. 5 Oklahoma State last week in Stillwater.

Neither team will be sneaking up on anyone anytime soon and will likely be taxed with inflated lines due to their newly-acquired media darling status.

Any line value BYU and Houston had certainly will be squeezed by oddsmakers, at least until the hype of their upsets wear down. The Mormon Cougars opened as seven-point home favorites against Florida State. (If that’s inflated, it sure does seem low, especially noting the Seminoles’ struggles against Jacksonville State.)

The Houston Cougars get a week off to let their upset of Oklahoma State go to their heads, before hosting another Big 12 opponent in Texas Tech. It will be very interesting to see what the line looks like for the Cougars game against a Texas Tech team coming off this week’s meeting with Texas. If the Longhorns hammer Texas Tech, would Houston possibly be favored?

Right now, there is plenty of overconfidence flowing at Houston and BYU. It’s only human nature, after all. Non-BCS schools that aren’t used to experiencing BCS-sized success often struggle to handle it. They also struggle to cover the big numbers they’ll be laying in the weeks following their upset.

For example, in 2005, TCU opened the season by stunning Adrian Peterson and seventh-ranked Oklahoma in Norman. The Horned Frogs promptly lost to SMU the next week as 14-point favorites.

Last year, East Carolina pulled of pair of upsets to start the season. First, the Pirates beat No. 17 Virginia Tech. They followed that up with a 24-3 trouncing of No. 8 West Virginia.

East Carolina was favored in its next seven games and went 1-6 against the spread during that stretch.

The fairy tale doesn’t always end poorly for teams that pull off major upsets early in the season. The same 2005 TCU team rebounded from its loss to SMU to finish 11-1, including an impressive 7-1 ATS in conference play.

So are this year’s BYU and Houston teams more like the 2005 Horned Frogs or the 2008 Pirates, who finished 5-9 against the number?

Kevin Sumlin’s Cougars have a much easier road ahead than Bronco Mendehall’s Cougars.

Houston hasn’t received nearly as much love from the polls as BYU, which entered the top 10 this week. Houston just crept into the top 25 at No. 22.

But looking at the two teams on paper, it’s hard to pinpoint the reasoning behind why BYU is considered to be a vastly superior team than Houston.

Both teams returned approximately 12 starters. Both feature star quarterbacks. BYU has 13th-year senior Max Hall. Houston is led by Conference Offensive Player of the Year Case Keenum.

Obviously, BYU has experienced more recent success, having won its last three bowl games. But past success will only get you so far in college football.

Plus, in last season’s Armed Forces Bowl, Houston defeated an Air Force team that led BYU at half last year.

Yet, BYU started the season ranked, while Houston received a lousy two votes.

The discrepancy is a head-scratcher, but also suggests that, as we move into conference play, bettors can expect to find more value betting on the Cougars from Texas than the Cougars from Utah.

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