Outside of the NFL Cardinals, it was not a good week for Arizona football. Both the Sun Devils and Wildcats lost SU as double-digit road chalk. ASU’s second straight choke job now leaves them on the outside looking in at the Pac-12 South Division race as they no longer control their own destiny – and puts us in a quandary as whether to lay doubles with this beleaguered bunch. Thankfully, our PLAYBOOK.com database clears the issue as it notes: teams heading back on the road off a double-digit SU road loss as a favorite are 27-11-1 ATS versus a foe off a SU loss, including 7-0 ATS when taking more than 6 points. On the fl ip side, teams returning home as conference favorites after that surprising loss are just 1-9 ATS when hosting an opponent of a SU favorite loss. Wow, that certainly came together nicely. In fact, so perfect that, with the help of our INCREDIBLE STAT OF THE WEEK on page three, we can confi dently make this our Upset Special.Mix in ‘Zona’s 5-1 ATS mark in LRG’s along with a series history that shows the Wildcats 8-6-1 SU and 11-4 ATS in Tempe since 1981 and we think you’ll agree that the juicy money line in this one is certainly worth a strong look. The points are a must, however, as the Devils don’t get their due.
More than most programs that have fallen short of expectations this year, UCF will look back on 2011 as a season of ‘what-ifs.’ On the heels of an 11-3 campaign (including a bowl win over Georgia) and loaded with a wealth of offensive talent, George O’Leary’s Knights looked fully capable of defending their CUSA championship. However, it was not to be. Puzzling losses to the likes of Florida International and UAB have left the Knights with a precarious 4-5 record, needing wins here and next week at home versus UTEP to gain 6-win bowl-eligible status. And though UCF has played better recently in narrow losses to Tulsa and Southern Miss, asking this team to win out may be putting too much pressure on a squad that’s slipped 76 net YPG in the stats since the opening month of the season. Like the Knights, ECU needs wins in its fi nal two games to return to the alleys and our ATS archives say they’ve got a shot here. Not only have the Pirates won four of the last five meetings outright, they’ve also compiled a 5-2 SU and ATS mark when playing in their Last Home Game. With Ruffi n McNeill’s offense starting to catch fi re of late (477 YPG in last four outings), we’ll call for ECU to hoist the Jolly Roger while scuttling UCF’s post-season hopes today.
TENNESSEE over Vanderbilt by 6
Despite going winless in the SEC this year and getting pummeled by an average score of 35-6 in his last four conference games, Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley has managed to convince Volunteer nation that their team is showing gradual signs of improvement. Until Sunday night, that is, when the Vegas linemakers installed Vandy as the favorite in Saturday’s
game at Neyland Stadium. WTF? The Commies are just 2-27 SU in this series since 1983, they’ve been favored only ONCE (lost that game SU), and they’ve been double-digit dogs in each of their last 14 visits to Knoxville! Still, Vanderbilt has outplayed the linemaker for fi ve straight weeks (5-0 ATS) and needs a win here or next week at Wake Forest to reach just its second bowl game since Y2K. Things are considerably more shaky for Dooley as his Vols need victories today and next week at Kentucky to hit the alleys. Don’t discount the possibility as Tennessee surged to four season-ending victories in 2010 to gain a spot in the Music City Bowl (and if the number remains at Vandy minus 1.5 points or higher, UT won’t even have to win to cash a ticket). The Commies have covered three in a row at Rocky Top but that’s when they were getting 11, 12 and 17 points. Underdog Tennessee might also get a big boost with the expected return of QB Tyler Bray from a broken thumb suffered over a month ago against Georgia. We feel the Volunteers’ tougher schedule – lined opponents are a whopping 53-27 SU this season – and vocal support from unwavering UT fans will prove to be the difference.
WASHINGTON ST over Utah by 3
Don’t tell the 4-6 Cougars that they’ll be home for the holidays for the eighth straight season as they feel a win this afternoon against the Utes, and next week at rival Washington, is achievable. Our database agrees – at least for this week, anyway – as it notes: conference home dogs off a SU home dog win of 7 or more points as a double-digit dog are 9-8 SU and 13-4 ATS. And that ties in nicely to Utah’s 2-7 ATS log as favorites of 13 or less points versus Pac10/12 foes. As it is, the Utes are a little too up-and down for our liking (especially when laying points) and that bowl-clinching win last week against UCLA just may fi nd them a little bit too ‘up’ (and not in a good way if you know what we mean) for this conference road finale. Our Midweek also reminds us that Utah’s last two wins were of the ‘phony’ variety as they have lost the ‘ITS’ battle in each of those contests. Yes, we realize that the last time the Cougars won back-to-back conference games (2006), then-Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a lawyer while quail hunting in southern Texas and Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging (probably should have took the lawyer with him). The bottom line is we say toss out the Elvis Christmas CD – you know the one that says ‘I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me.’ Cougars, outright!
BUFFALO over Miami by 7
Say it ain’t so. Tony Sparano at home in back-to-back chalk roles, off a home win, no less. You read it right and with it, we’re prepared to snap the rubber band. After all, the mafi a-wannabe was 0-7 ATS in his career as a favorite in games off a SU and ATS win until his team managed to squeak past the wretched Redskins here in this very same role last week. Meanwhile, the Bills hit South Beach knowing they are 10-0 ATS in games off back-to-back losses against an opponent they most recently defeated. Toss in Chan Gailey’s garish 4-2 SU and 5-1 ATS career mark in games off two losses-exact and we’re prepared to take anything the man is offering. Sure, the Miami defense has not allowed a touchdown in its last two games, but neither of those foes (28th ranked Kansas City and 27th ranked Washington) possesses an offense close to Buffalo’s. Thwack!
San DIego over Chicago by 10
We know if you play with Norv, you get burned. In fact, we may have just patented that motto. However, it’s not too often you get the Chargers as dogs these days (just seven times in three years) and we feel this is one opportunity we can’t pass up. The Bolts are a modest 4-3 ATS when taking points over that span but there’s far more reason to be charged up about this bunch today in Soldier Field. For starters, the Bears are coming off a huge beatdown of division-rival Detroit (1-5 ATS home after the Lions) and are 0-6-1 ATS as a home favorite off a previous home game. They’re also 0-7 ATS versus a .400 or greater foe off back-to-back SU losses. And take notice of this little palindrome (well sort of): the Bears are 1-11-1 ATS off back-to-back SU wins versus an opponent off back-to-back SU losses while the Chargers are 11-2 ATS away off back-to-back SU losses versus a foe off back-to-back SU wins. Diego is also 10-1 ATS as a road dog in the month of November off a favorite role. We know this is going to sound like a broken record but the Bolts own both the better offense and better defense in this contest. And though this certainly is no palindrome, a big L-E-T-D-O-W-N is in store for the Windy City faithful. We know our credit is good, so we’ll ‘Charge’ this one, hard.