I went 5-5 in my predictions last week, bringing my season record to 20-21-1. This week's handicapping lesson will focus on the effect weather has on college football games. Once November rolls around, it is imperative for bettors to take the expected weather conditions into consideration.
The weather is especially critical if one is making a bet on the over-under, the line that predicts how many points both teams will combine to score during a game. If the contest is to be played in certain conditions, for example, it is more likely to be a low-scoring game.
When one is betting simply on one team or the other, the weather is less of a factor. But when there is a large point spread, or if the teams' styles are diametrically opposed (for example, a running team playing against a passing team), the weather may be important.
At this time of year, four weather factors can affect the over-under and the point spread: cold, rain, snow and wind. Of the four, wind is the most important. If it is not particularly cold, a wind of 20 miles per hour will not significantly affect the game.
But if the wind is more than 30 miles per hour, most teams will have severe problems scoring unless they have an extremely dominant rushing game. The direction of the wind is also important, with a crosswind the worst for scoring. A tailwind will often help a team to score, while a headwind will prevent a team from scoring.
Scoring will also be limited when the temperature falls below 32 degrees, because quarterbacks find it difficult to grip the ball to throw a pass and receivers have a harder time catching. Rain will normally
reduce scoring unless it is extremely heavy or causes the field to become a quagmire.
On artificial turf, rain is almost a nonevent and may, in fact, increase scoring, because defensive backs are more likely to slip on a slick field while chasing receivers. Snow will not affect scoring by itself, unless it is particularly heavy, and has the same effect as rain on an artificial turf field. Bettors will often overreact to a prediction of snow -- but if that snow occurs without wind and where the temperature is around freezing, the number of points will not be significantly reduced.
A team's statistics should also be consulted. A team that rushes more than half the time and averages more than 4 yards a carry will not be significantly affected by wind or cold weather, while a team that depends on the pass will have trouble putting points on the board.
Last week we had a couple of outcomes that were affected by the weather. I lost a bet on
(minus 16 1/2 ) over
when gusty winds contributed to a low-scoring game. In Phoenix, meanwhile, unusual October rain caused a slick field and
took full advantage, combining for 111 points and 1,232 yards in a double-overtime game.
All of these observations are, of course, generalities, and each game should be analyzed by trying to visualize how each team's coach and players will react to the predicted weather. On Saturday, it looks like snow or a cold rain may affect the Oregon-
game, while heavy rains are forecast for the north part of Texas into Arkansas.
This Week's Picks
Temple (plus 10) over Boston College
Temple, which is 6-2 against the spread, continues not to get much respect from the oddsmakers. The Owls have played a tougher schedule than Boston College this season, and have an excellent halfback in
. Temple is coming off a bye week and in the last two weeks, teams coming off a bye have a 9-3 record against the spread. Both the Eagles and the Owls are motivated because each team will probably be invited to a bowl game if it wins twice more. Boston College is averaging more than 5 yards per rushing attempt, but Temple is giving up only 3.1 yards per carry. This game will go down to the wire, and I am happy to take more than a touchdown.
Maryland (plus 6 1/2) over North Carolina State
I believe there is going to be a carryover effect on a North Carolina State team after the whuppin' it took from
last week. The team is young and now must go on the road after having its confidence shaken for the first time this season. Maryland is 4-4 and becomes bowl eligible if it wins two of its last three games. The underdog is 12-2-1 against the spread in the last 15 games played between these teams. I have noted that Maryland has been playing with much more intensity in its last two games, and being an underdog at home will give the Terrapins the motivation they need to play hard. Maryland has a premier running back in
, and I expect the Terrapins to control the ball on the ground. I also give Maryland a good chance to win this game straight up, and will be taking more than 2-1 odds on a money-line bet.
North Carolina (plus 8) over Pittsburgh
While readers know that I like this Pittsburgh team, I don't think it deserves to be more than a touchdown favorite over North Carolina. The Tar Heels lost to
last week, but a review of the box score from that game showed that North Carolina dominated it statistically. The Tar Heels' head coach,
, is in jeopardy of losing his job if the team does not perform well in the next few weeks. Pittsburgh has an excellent quarterback in
and great receivers in
, but I think the Panthers will suffer an emotional letdown after last week's last-second loss to
Michigan (minus 7) over Northwestern
Michigan is coming off a bye week and Northwestern is coming off an improbable comeback. Northwestern trailed by 35-14 in the third-quarter before rallying and then beating
, 41-35, thanks to a Hail Mary pass. The extra time Michigan had to prepare for Northwestern's unusual hurry-up offense will pay dividends. Michigan has excellent athletes in all positions, including
, who is averaging 172 rushing yards per game, and I don't believe Northwestern quarterback
will have the necessary time to complete long passes. I believe Michigan will stop the running of
, who is dinged up from the Minnesota game, and turn the Wildcats into a one-dimensional team. This game has blowout written all over it. My only hesitation in is that the Wolverines are 7-14 against the spread in their last 21 games as road favorites, and only 1-5 against the spread against Northwestern.
Mississippi (minus 1 1/2) over Arkansas
It looks as if this game is going to be played in the rain. Mississippi will be getting
back and it appears that Arkansas' first- and second-string quarterbacks are banged up and will not be able to perform at full efficiency. With leading rusher
out for the season, the Razorbacks' quarterbacks must perform well. I don't think they will be able to do so this week. While Arkansas is 15-1 straight up at home, the one loss was a big one, a 38-7 drubbing by
earlier this year. I'll take the team with the better quarterback and running back to win the game in essentially a straight-up bet.
Army (plus 7 1/2) over Air Force
Air Force must travel far from its home in Colorado Springs for the second week in a row, this time to play an Army team that is getting healthier and has a more diversified offense than it has ever had. While the Falcons have won 10 of the last 11 games in this series, I do not believe they should be more than a touchdown favorite because they have given up an average of more than 30 points in their last three games. Air Force may come into this game overconfident, and we may see another straight-up upset in this game.
Arizona State (minus 3) over Southern California
The line in this game opened at 6 1/2 and has come down. Why anyone would want to bet on a poorly coached and demoralized USC team is beyond me. The Trojans always seem to self-destruct at the wrong time. Arizona State played a great game against Oregon last week and quarterback
has gained confidence as the season has progressed. A victory here puts the Sun Devils in a post-season bowl. Arizona State has beaten USC in three of the last four years, and I expect the Sun Devils to make it four out of five.
Arizona (plus 7) over Washington
I suffered a bad beat last week when laying 7 points with Washington. With six minutes left in the game, the Huskies led
by 24-6. Then they allowed the Cardinal to score three touchdowns in a row and had to rally to score with 17 seconds left to eke out a 31-28 victory. Arizona is always a great underdog because of its stellar defense. It is 14-4 against the spread in its last 18 games as a road underdog, while Washington coach
teams are underachievers at home (9-20 against the spread). As demonstrated in a number of games this season, the Huskies lack a killer instinct and, while they will probably win this game, the seven points looms large enough to enable Arizona to get the cover.
Louisiana Tech (plus 6 1/2) over Central Florida
Last week, we cashed a ticket on Central Florida when it beat
straight up as a 19-point underdog. I expect the Golden Knights to still be celebrating that victory when they go on the road to take on a Louisiana Tech team that hung tough in a 42-31 loss to
, one of the nation's best teams. Louisiana Tech has found a freshman quarterback,
, who can operate its high-powered offense. McCown was an eye-popping 42 of 72 for 418 yards last week against Miami. This is a winnable game for Louisiana Tech, and in a high-scoring affair I am happy to take the 6 1/2 points, even though I think the Bulldogs will get the straight-up victory. The first team to 50 wins this one. It's too bad they don't post an over-under on this game because I would have expected it to be around 90 points!
Chicago Bears (plus 7) over Indianapolis Colts
is the starting quarterback for Chicago and has had two weeks to prepare for this game, I am willing to bet on Bears. This game promises to be high scoring if the weather cooperates, since the Colts defense has allowed more than 20 points four times. The Indianapolis offense is slowed considerably by a natural grass surface, which seems to throw
timing off. The Bears are 11-4 against the spread as a home underdog in their last 15 games in that role. The Colts play the
New York Jets
next week, and may be slightly distracted because of it. I will take the seven points in what I think will be a surprisingly competitive game.
Oakland (minus 3) over Kansas City
I am surprised that the line on this game is so low, although it is a game that is far more important to the Chiefs than to the Raiders, since the Chiefs have no margin of error while Oakland can lose and still lead the AFC West. As they showed in the first half against the Chargers last week, the Raiders can be as imposing as any team in the AFC. The problem with Oakland is that it does not play hard for 60 minutes and often leaves the other team in the game. I do not think the Chiefs are a particularly good team and they are going to the West Coast for a second week in a row. Because I am laying only a field goal, I am willing to take the risk that the Raiders might not play hard the whole game.
Tampa Bay (minus 1) over Atlanta, and Tennessee (minus 1 1/2) over Pittsburgh
As I have previously noted in this column, I like to bet teasers when I take good teams down from a touchdown or more favorite to a point spread where the team merely needs to win the game. Tampa Bay is in a must-win situation if it hopes to get into the playoffs, while Tennessee is one of those teams that hustles for all 60 minutes and wins most of the games it is supposed to win. I think there is more than a 70% chance of each of those teams winning these games, and that is the requisite percentage to make a teaser bet an attractive proposition.
At offshore race books,
George W. Bush
is a 3-2 favorite to defeat
in Tuesday's election. Things look good for companies like
based on those odds.
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