Last week, we were 6-4, bringing our season record to 21-17, or 55%. This week marks the approximate midpoint of the college football season, so our handicapping lesson will discuss the effect of a bye week during the middle of the season. A number of teams have played five consecutive Saturday games. Other teams have benefited from a bye week. It is obvious that a bye week gives the players a chance to have those nagging injuries heal. Perhaps less obvious is the fact that the players are mentally exhausted after having to prepare for games five weeks in a row. The bye week also provides good coaches with an opportunity to really hone their game plan for their next opponent, including putting in new plays that have not shown up on the films of previously played games.
Coach Steve Spurrier is now 7-3 ATS in his last 10 games after a bye week. This year, the Gators' opponent off the bye week is
on Oct. 30.
is 9-1 ATS after its bye week, which occurs Nov. 4th with the
Misssissippi State Bulldogs
as the opponent. The
are 8-2 after their bye week. They are off this week and meet
next week. Teams coming off a bye week during the last three weeks of the season cover an amazing 69% of their games against nonrested opponents. Who are the teams coming off bye weeks this week?
Let's look at this week's Efficiency Top 10:
This Week's Picks
Virginia (Pick'em) over North Carolina State
Last week, we were surprised that a young
team, with a second-string quarterback at the helm, was a favorite over a North Carolina State team coming off a bye week. This week, we think a veteran Virginia team deserves to be a favorite over the Wolfpack. Although N.C. State won last week, it was not a pretty sight (15 penalties), and the Wolfpack had two of its running backs go down with leg injuries and lost star receiver Coleman with a broken arm. This is a must-win situation for Virginia if it wants to go to a bowl game, since it is now just 3-3. The best player on the field will be the Cavs' running back Thomas Jones, who has gained 888 yards rushing this year. Virginia's coach, George Welsh, will have the Cavs ready to play this week after they were crushed by Virginia Tech two weeks ago and lost to Duke last week.
Stanford (minus 8) over Oregon State
We will test our "bye week" theory in this game. Stanford did not play last week and was upset by
San Jose State
two weeks ago. Oregon State started the season strong but has lost its last two games -- to Southern Cal 37-29 and Washington 47-21. The scores in those losses, however, are misleading since the Beavers trailed USC 37-7 and Washington 47-0 before scoring meaningless late-game touchdowns. Oregon State beat Stanford last year, and that means that the Cardinal has circled this game on the calendar for revenge. Stanford is still 3-0 in the PAC-10 and it is the leading candidate to go to the
if it can run the table in conference. Todd Husak is back at QB for Stanford, and the extra week of rest, we believe, will rejuvenate the Cardinal.
Southern Miss (minus 24) over Army
There is a huge talent disparity between these teams. Southern Miss is huge on both its offensive line and its defensive line, and we don't think Army will be doing too much running up the middle. If the option offense is to succeed, QB Gerena is going to have to do it on the corners. We don't think he can since the Golden Eagles have good speed at the linebacker position. On the other side of the ball, Southern Miss can name its own score, and it will not surprise us to see Southern Miss score more than 50 points. Army has a miserable pass defense (witness the second half against
last week) and Southern Miss has two excellent receivers in Todd Pinkston and Sherrod Gideon. Jeff Kelly is an adequate QB for the Golden Eagles. Our only hesitation in making this pick revolves around the fact that Southern Miss is rarely this big a favorite and we don't know if they can keep their full intensity for the entire game. Nevertheless, the talent disparity is so huge here, that we think Southern Miss will cover this big number. It's worth noting that Army is only 2-18 straight up on natural grass fields and 6-17 ATS on a grass surface since 1986. Insiders also suggest that the Army players are not particularly enamored with the coaching ability of Bob Sutton.
Duke (plus 17) over Georgia Tech
QB Spencer Romine returned from an injury for Duke last week in its upset overtime victory over Virginia. Big things were expected from the Blue Devils this season because they returned 19 starters. Romine was injured early, and the backup QBs could not get the job done. We lost some bets on Duke earlier this season because we thought that the Blue Devils Head Coach (former Florida offensive coordinator) Carl Franks would have more success in installing the fun and gun offense for the Dukies. Georgia Tech and its diminutive quarterback, Joey Hamilton, (our choice for the Heisman Trophy) have had no problem putting points on the board --averaging 41 points per game. The Rambling Wreck also gave up a lot of points -- 24 points per game. Surprisingly, the net YPP differential between Duke and Georgia Tech is not that huge: 2.9 for the Rambling Wreck and negative 3.6 for the Blue Devils. Duke also has one of the best place kickers in the country in Sims Lenhardt. We think the Blue Devils will keep this game close in a high scoring affair.
Illinois (plus 2 1/2) over Minnesota
Illinois is coming off a bye week while Minnesota is coming off a disappointing home overtime loss to Wisconsin. We think this is a tough spot for the Gophers to bounce back against an Illini team that has been competitive in every game this year. Blowing a 28-7 lead in the third quarter in losing to Indiana two weeks ago was inexcusable, and we imagine that the Illini have stewed over the loss during the extra week. We will probably know whether we are going to win this bet within the first 10 minutes of the game since we expect Illinois to come out for this Homecoming game breathing fire, while we expect the Gophers to start sluggishly. Both QBs in this game, Cockeringham for Minnesota and Kittner for the Fighting Illini, have shown an ability to successfully pass the ball -- although Kittner has thrown for 11 TDs with only one interception while Cockeringham was only 12 for 27 last week with one interception.
Utah-Air Force (under 46 1/2)
Air Force's starting QB, Cale Bonds, is out of the game -- although there is little dropoff in efficiency with backup Thiessen. The Utes' QB Arceneaux (a Hawaii native) will start this week despite a bruised foot, and star RB Anderson will also play. The forecast for the game is temperature in the low 40s with a wind chill in the 20s and snow. Utah has a net YPP differential of 12.5 and has held its opponents to an average of less than 100 yards per game. Air Force has averaged only 20 points per game this year. There will be a lot of rushing in this game, which will chew up the clock, and we see the game being a fairly low scoring game, particularly for two former WAC teams.
Utah State (plus 30) over Kansas State
Make no mistake about it -- this Kansas State team under Head Coach Bill Snyder is a bully that runs the score up whenever it gets a chance. It is 19-6-1 ATS against nonconference opponents since 1990 and 10-1-1 ATS while laying double digits at home. This line opened at 31 before floating down to 29 1/2. By game time, it will probably be back to 31 in light of the spread statistics compiled by the Wildcats. We think the first line move is telling us something -- and that is that the talent disparity between Utah State and K-State is not all that great. Utah State has a wonderful little runner in DeMario Brown (averaging 5.4 yards per carry) and a decent QB in Jeff Crosbie, who has thrown for 200 yards or more in eight of his last nine games. RB Frank Murphy is out of the game for the Wildcats. This is one of the games where the point-spread load gets so heavy that the favorite cannot get over the hump even if it's trying. Utah State hung tough with BYU (losing in overtime) earlier this year, and we think they can hang with K-State.
San Diego State (plus 6 1/2) over Colorado State
The people in San Diego are breaking their legs jumping off the Aztec bandwagon. Last week, they lost 4 fumbles and were defeated by New Mexico as 16-point favorites. The fact remains that SD State has two good running backs in Larry Ned and Jonas Lewis and a decent QB in Jack Hawley, who has averaged 270 yards passing in his last three games. Colorado State has RB McDougall back, but the team was handily beaten by Fresno State last week. The Aztecs are 4-1 ATS in their last five conference road games. The Rams are 20-12 ATS in Fort Collins. We think this game will go down to the wire, and the points are worth taking.
Michigan State (minus 2) over Purdue
We've been on the Spartans in most of their games this year, and we see no reason not to be on them again this week. It is a potential letdown situation for Michigan State after its triple-revenge victory over Michigan last week, and Purdue is attempting to bounce back from a tough loss against
last week. Nevertheless, Michigan State has its sights set on a national championship and with Florida State looking more vulnerable, (with Warrick out) we don't think it will let down against Purdue. The Boilermakers are 10-4-1 ATS at home under Coach Tiller while the Spartans are surprisingly 10-3 ATS after the Michigan game since 1986. Michigan State also remembers the miracle comeback engineered by Drew Brees two years ago against the Spartans (scored 12 points for the win in the last few minutes of the game). The Spartans are balanced on all sides of the ball while Purdue is a one-dimensional team. Brees will get his yardage, but Michigan State will notch its sixth victory.
Temple (plus 33) over Miami
The weather forecast for Saturday in Miami is for heavy rain and gusty wind. We always take a bunch of points when the weather is bad -- particularly on a natural grass field when it is windy. This has all the markings of a low scoring game. We're afraid that by the time you read this the oddsmakers will have adjusted the point spread or taken the game off the board. If you can't get more than 30 points, it's a no-play. Check the
to get the latest update on Saturday.
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.