Last week I was correct in three of seven predictions, not up to expectations, but I survived in a week where many bettors were taken to the cleaners. For example,
, who won more than $150,000 last year in the
Las Vegas Hilton Handicapping Contest
by hitting 66% of his
selections, ended up 1-4. Sounds a lot like the stock market, doesn't it? You've just got to hang in there until things go your way.
Based upon requests from readers, I will provide weekly power ratings. You can access them by clicking
here. My football power ratings give the best teams a lower number. For example,
is a minus 6 in my power ratings. The next-best teams in the country are
(3). Point spreads are calculated by comparing the teams' power ratings, and then giving the home team a varying amount of points based on its home-field advantage.
Some teams that play in packed stadiums have distinct home-field advantages. Other teams that do not attract huge crowds or have small stadiums have a lesser advantage. This week, the betting line on the game between Florida State and
is 6 1/2 points. This is calculated by taking Florida State's power rating of -6 and comparing it to Miami's rating of 4, and then giving Miami 3 1/2 points for home-field advantage. Power ratings are subjective and if the bettor's power ratings are better than those of the oddsmaker, the bettor will have a large advantage.
This week, for instance, I believe the oddsmaker has either overrated Nebraska or underrated
This Week's Picks
Purdue (minus 2) over Michigan
I believe this is a bad matchup for Michigan. The Wolverines are 69th in the nation in pass defense, giving up an average of 207 yards a game and allowing 6.92 yards per attempt. Purdue is a passing team and
is probably the best passing quarterback in the country.
put up big offensive numbers against Michigan, and I think the Boilermakers will do the same.
One concern is the breakdown of the Purdue special teams last week against
. Purdue allowed the Nittany Lions to block two punts. I suspect the breakdowns will be addressed this week. Purdue is 18-3 straight up at home under head coach
. Michigan was unimpressive last week in defeating
, and I don't believe this Wolverine team is as good as prior editions.
Texas Christian (minus 37) over Hawaii
There is no question that this is a huge number for a team with a running-oriented offense to cover. Still, in order to get into a major bowl at the end of the season, TCU needs to be undefeated and move up in the polls to one of the top six slots. The Horned Frogs' head coach,
, has an impressive point-spread record. Since 1996, Franchione's teams (including
) are 23-8 against the spread when favored, including 7-0 at home in his last seven games.
Hawaii is a poor team, having lost all three games, including one against a lesser
opponent. What makes me willing to lay 37 points is the fact that Hawaii has no rushing attack and will throw the ball often. This means more possessions for the Horned Frogs, which should allow them to wear down Hawaii in the fourth quarter and give
a chance to pad his statistics. I have confidence that Franchione will pour it on in his quest to get his team to a major bowl game.
Minnesota (minus 6 1/2) over Penn State
I won my bet on Penn State last week because the Nittany Lions played an emotional game and got the victory against Purdue with a little assist from the Boilermakers' special teams. Minnesota plays extremely well at home (9-4 against the spread), and I give them a home-field advantage of 7 points. The Golden Gophers rolled up 546 yards in a resounding victory over
. Penn State is 1-5 against the spread in its last six games on artificial turf. Minnesota is superior in all phases of the game.
Pittsburgh (plus 7) over Syracuse
I do not put much weight on Syracuse's blowout victory over a tired team from
. I believe the offense of Pittsburgh is superior to that of the Orangemen, and Panthers quarterback
is one of the premier college quarterbacks in the country. Syracuse has a nine-game winning streak in this series, but I believe that will end. The Panthers were off last week and will be well prepared for Syracuse. Pittsburgh can trade points with the Orangemen, and I think this game will be high scoring and will go down to the wire, with the Panthers eking out a victory.
Alabama-Birmingham (minus 1 1/2) over Louisville
Statistically, both of these teams have excellent defenses against the run. Louisville is ranked 10th in the nation in that category, while Alabama-Birmingham is 12th. UAB lost to Louisville last year, but the Cardinals had NFL draft pick
at quarterback. This year, they are going with first-year starter
. The Blazers have a number of injuries, but wide receiver
are returning. Quarterback
should put points on the board against Louisville, and I believe the home-field advantage and a solid defense will allow Alabama-Birmingham to get revenge.
Iowa State (plus 16) over Nebraska
Both teams are unbeaten, but while Nebraska is 0-4 against the spread. Iowa State is 12-7 against the spread as an underdog when playing at home. The key to this pick is that Iowa State has both a good quarterback in
and a solid running back in
, who gained 241 yards on 39 carries in a victory over
. The Cornhuskers had a tough time against
, and I like the number of points I am getting in this game. Nebraska will probably win, but the margin will likely be less than 16.
Buffalo Bills (plus 2) over Miami Dolphins
Miami has been winning with mirrors thus far. While the Dolphins have an excellent defense, they have played only one offensively potent club, the
. Miami lost that game, 13-7, and gave up 468 yards.
Last week the
had the Dolphins down, 13-3, before Cincinnati collapsed in the second half. The Bills are 5-1 against the spread in the last six games in this series, and I believe
is a far superior quarterback to
of Miami. The Bills lost to the
last week in a game that they should have won, and this contest takes on added importance since the
are threatening to open a wide lead in the division.
Oakland Raiders-San Francisco 49ers (over 48 1/2)
Both of these teams have high-powered offenses and mediocre defenses.
, the majority owner of the Raiders and the team's de facto general manager, hates the 49ers and will not hesitate to have his team run up the score if given the opportunity. The Raiders are averaging 32 points in their last three games, and the 49ers are averaging nearly 30 points a game. As long as there is no rain in the San Francisco area on Sunday, I can't see the total number of points scored in this game being below 50.
Are the St. Louis Rams the best offensive team you have ever seen in the NFL?
No, the 49ers with Joe Montana were better.
No, the Pittsburgh Steelers with Terry Bradshaw were better.
No, the Dallas Cowboys with Roger Staubach were better.
Barry Lieberman was a litigator with the U.S. Department of Justice for nine years and is currently the general counsel for a company that operates four hotel/casinos in Las Vegas. He has been an amateur gambler for more than 20 years and successfully concluded last football season by winning on 55% of his college and pro selections posted on TheStreet.com. He welcomes your feedback at