Last Week: 3-4
Virginia +10 Pittsburgh
On the surface this pick looks a little nuts right? Virginia's last game was a nightmarish home beatdown at the hands of Boise State in front of a national audience (of losers who had nothing better to do than watch a football game on Friday night). Meanwhile, Pitt opened ACC play with a road upset of Virginia Tech, wherein they held the Hokies to 100 yards of total offense and under two yards per play. Why would anyone in their right might take Virginia in this game? For starters, the Cavs are probably not as bad as they appeared against Boise State. They committed five turnovers in that game, giving them nine on the season. In addition, the Cavs have played a tough schedule thus far, travelling to UCLA and nearly upsetting Notre Dame at home. They have also yet to force a turnover this season. While turnovers do involve a modicum of skill, they are also highly random and dependent on luck. One would think the Cavs will force a few extra turnovers over the last two-thirds of the season. Finally, Pitt is probably a little overvalued after their road upset against a Virginia Tech team that may struggle to qualify for a bowl. And lest we forget, this Pitt team is not an offensive juggernaut. The Panthers have failed to exceed 24 point against any FBS team this season. This game will likely play out like most 12:30 ACC games. Borderline unwatchable, but close.
Miami (Ohio) +17 Ohio
Miami of Ohio is playing their fourth road game in five weeks as they travel to Athens, but that is the only trend I would be concerned about in this game. While the Radhawks have just a single win on the season, they have been competitive against both Cincinnati and Kent State in recent weeks, losing both games by a combined ten points. Now, Miami has been eviscerated twice as well, but those teams featured either a humongous offensive line with a punishing running game (Wisconsin) or a high-wattage passing attack (Western Kentucky). Ohio is a solid team, but they do not boast the beef of Wisconsin or the aerial potential of Western Kentucky. I would be very surprised if Ohio lost this game, but they are just 3-5 against the number as a double-digit home favorite since 2012 while Miami is 6-2 against the spread as a double-digit road underdog under Chuck Martin. Take Miami to keep this one within about two touchdowns.
Boston College -7.5 Wake Forest
Chalk this low number up to recency bias. Most causal observers probably see that in their last game, Wake Forest stood toe to toe with the defending ACC Champions. While the Deacons did lose by just eight points, the Seminoles significantly outgained Wake Forest on a per play basis, averaging nearly two additional yards per play (6.3 to 4.5). Let's also not forget the fact that Florida State has been putrid against the number a double-digit favorite since the start of last season, going 2-9 versus the spread (and 0-3 on the road). The trends, the homefield, and an early injury to Dalvin Cook combined to make the Deacons look good in the eyes of degenerates. Now the Deacons leave the friendly confines of BB&T Field to take on a Boston College team fielding one of the best defenses in the nation. No opponent has yet to average four yards per play against the stalwart Eagles defense. While Wake Forest is certainly improved over last season's ghastly offense, asking them to score multiple touchdowns in this game is probably too tall a task. The Deacons are just 2-5 against the number as road underdogs under Dave Clawson and the Eagles are 4-2 against the number as home favorites under Steve Addazio. The Eagles should win this one by double-digits.
Syracuse +4 South Florida
This line really surprises me. I figured Syracuse, even with their injury issues, would be a small favorite down in Tampa. South Florida is better than they have been the past few seasons (of course, with the debacle that was 2013, that is not saying much), and they are a pretty good play when catching points, but expecting them to win a game by more than a field goal does not seem prudent. South Florida has not been in the position of home favorite very often under Willie Taggart. In fact, it was happened just twice against FBS teams. The Bulls are 1-1 straight up and against the number in those games, so its hard to gleam a lot from a two-game sample. This is the first road game for the Orange, so that is cause for some concern, but South Florida has a very rudimentary offense that struggles when they are forced to throw (just 5.3 yards per pass against FBS foes). Take the Orange to cover and win outright here.
Wisconsin +1.5 Nebraska
While this is just the second conference game for both schools, it amounts to a must-win if either has designs on the Big Ten
Minnesota -2.5 Purdue
Like the low number in the Wake Forest/Boston College game, this line is likely a product of recency bias. In their last game, Minnesota was blown out by a quality (and potentially elite) Northwestern team, while Purdue lost by just a field goal on the road to the team currently ranked fourth in the nation. I'm not sure what else Michigan State has to do this season to prove they are not an elite team (perhaps losing at Rutgers this weekend?), but they certainly do not appear to be one. Despite posting very few wins in Darrell Hazell's two-plus seasons in West Lafayette (just five thus far), the Boilermakers have been decent as double-digit underdogs (8-7 against the number) as they were last weekend. However, against more narrow spreads, the Boilermakers have had a much more difficult time holding down the margin of defeat (1-5 against the number). With a number this low, you have to have decent faith in Purdue winning this game. I don't. Take the Gophers to win by at least a field goal.
Ball State +10.5 Northern Illinois
Has Northern Illinois lost their stranglehold on the MAC West? Last week, the Huskies dropped their MAC opener against Central Michigan (their third consecutive loss), and failed to score at least 20 points against a conference foe for the first time since...last year's game against Central Michigan. The Huskies were also held below four yards per play by a MAC opponent for the first time since 2007! Quarterback Drew Hare has been absolutely atrocious the past three games (granted two were against Ohio State and Boston College), completing just 44% of his passes while averaging 3.2 yards per throw with zero touchdowns and three interceptions. His stat line won't likely be that bad against a permissive Ball State defense. However, Northern Illinois is just 1-5 against the number under Rod Carey as a double-digit home favorite while Ball State is 9-3 against the number as a double-digit road underdog under Pete Lembo and 8-2 as a MAC road underdog of any kind. Look for Ball State to keep this one close.