College Edition: The Revenge Factor Takes the Field

Three of the five Division I games this week are rematches, which should be taken into consideration when handicapping them.
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We were 4-2-1 last week (the line on the

Ole Miss

vs.

Mississippi State

game was unavailable when the column was written and "opened" with Mississippi State as a 3-point favorite. Thus, we'll consider the game a tie since the Bulldogs won by 3 points). Our season record is 53-42 (56%). Thus, if you had

bet $110 to win $100 on every game recommended in this column, you would have won $680 -- a successful season.

This will be our last regular Vegas Vice column on college games. On Dec. 30, we will have the final college column, which will discuss some of the bowl games being played Jan. 1-2, as well as the Jan. 4 national championship game between

Virginia Tech

and

Florida State

. Although there is no official line on that game yet, we believe Florida State will be favored by between 9 and 11 points.

This week, there are five Division I football games on the card. Interestingly, three of the games represent rematches of games already played this season. Therefore, the concept of revenge needs to be taken into consideration in handicapping these games.

This Week's Picks

Western Michigan (plus 20 1/2) over Marshall (Friday evening)

Marshall

defeated

Western Michigan

on the road (as 12-point favorites) earlier this year by a score of 31-17. Tonight, Marshall is playing on its home field. Marshall merely needs to win this game to be invited to the

Motor City Bowl

. The margin of victory will be irrelevant. According to a Provo, Utah, newspaper, the Thundering Herd's opponent is likely to be

Brigham Young University

. We can't imagine Marshall pouring it on in this game for two reasons. First, why embarrass a team in your own conference when you will have to play the same team year after year? Second, and more importantly, why show BYU (or whoever the bowl opponent is) anything other than a conservative offense? We know that Marshall will be looking ahead to the bowl game and a chance to beat one of the "Big Boys." While we have no doubt that Marshall will win this game, we think its focus will wane in the second half and permit Western Michigan to earn the cover.

Navy (minus 6 1/2) over Army (Saturday)

Six of the last seven games between these teams have been decided by four or less points. So why are we choosing

Navy

to win by 7 or more? Because the

Army

offense is simply not productive this year. The teams had one common opponent this year -- the Cadets lost to

Air Force

28-0, while the Midshipmen lost to the Falcons 19-14. Navy's problems this year have been against passing teams -- something the Midshipmen don't have to worry about in this game, since Army averages less than 100 yards per game through the air. Army averages 21 points per game but gives up 30, while Navy averages 28 points per game and gives up 27. Many of Army's points this year have also been scored late in the game in losses, when its opponent is in a "prevent" defense.

We just don't see the Cadets being able to trade points with the Midshipmen, who are able to pass the ball, and we think Navy will almost double the points scored by Army. Navy's coach, Charlie Weatherbie, also has a large coaching edge over his Army counterpart, Bob Sutton. We're looking for a final score around 35-20. One caveat: The playing surface at

Veterans Stadium

in Philadelphia is artificial turf, which is the same surface as the Cadets play its home games on.

Nebraska (minus 7 1/2) over Texas (Saturday)

One of our best predictions this year was calling for

Texas

to upset

Nebraska

when these teams met in Austin, Texas, earlier this season. So why is it that we are going the other way in this game? First is the revenge factor. Second is the fact that this game is on artificial turf, where the speed possessed by Nebraska is enhanced. Third, although the game is in San Antonio, there will be almost as many Big Red fans in attendance as Longhorn fans.

Fourth, the Nebraska coaching staff has had an opportunity to review the films of the first game and make the required adjustments to stop the Texas passing game. Fifth, somewhere along the line, turnovers even themselves out. In the first game, Texas did not turn the ball over while the Huskers turned the ball over three times. In the first game, Nebraska had 429 yards of total offense, while Texas had only 275 yards. Using the measuring stick of one point for every 15 yards, the "theoretical score" of the game (without turnovers) should have been 29-18 in favor of Nebraska.

You can bet that Nebraska worked on its passing game in practice this week, and I expect to see the Huskers performing at peak efficiency this week because of the revenge factor.

Alabama (plus 7) over Florida (Saturday)

Florida

has the revenge factor in this game being played in Atlanta's

Georgia Dome

on an artificial turf field. Interestingly, this is the first game this year for both teams on an artificial field, and we will admit that we do not know which team such a field will favor. What we do know is that Florida played its most important game of the year two weeks ago against Florida State and, to our dismay, put in a pathetic performance on its home field. On the same weekend,

Alabama

came from behind to beat in-state rival

Auburn

, with its backup quarterback at the helm.

Florida has simply not played well enough this year to rate being a 7-point favorite on a neutral field. Shaun Alexander is a gamebreaker for the Tide, and the two weeks of rest after the Auburn game should have healed his injured ankle. While Florida has the superior big-play capability, the Gators are simply not clicking on all cylinders, and we think that there may be a hangover effect from the team's game with the Seminoles -- particularly since coach Steve Spurrier was so openly critical of the team after that game. We look for a high-scoring, nip-and-tuck game, with the last team to have the ball winning the game. We'll take the 7 points as a cushion.

Miami-Temple (no selection) (Saturday)

This game, postponed from earlier in the season by a hurricane, is essentially meaningless to both teams.

Temple

is going home after this game, while the Hurricanes are going to the

Gator Bowl

. Once Temple gets down, we don't know if it will put up the effort to keep the score manageable -- although we kind of doubt it based upon the team's performance in allowing Virginia Tech to score 62 points against it in a 62-7 rout. On the other hand,

Miami

will be disinterested as well and, because of an injury to starter Kenny Kelly, is forced to play freshman Ken Dorsey. We'll pass on this game.

Barry Lieberman is the general counsel for a Las Vegas gaming company and an associate of James Padinha. He's been an amateur gambler for more than 20 years, and welcomes your feedback at

barrylieberman1@prodigy.net.

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