Minnesota over IOWA by 6
With the race for an invitation to the Big Ten championship game heating up with every passing week, it’s hard to imagine how Minnesota blew such a golden opportunity last week against Illinois. As Blake Ruane of the Daily Gopher put it, “This week, Minnesota stood alone atop the Big Ten West standings for the first time this season, checked in at No. 20 in the College Football Playoff committee’s first Top 25, and even signed head coach P.J. Fleck to a new seven-year contract. It all culminated in a face plant.” Yes, the 14-6 home loss to the Illini was as ugly as they get, but the Gophers still control their destiny in the West division – though they’ll have to win out against Iowa, Indiana, and Wisconsin to earn the right to be humiliated by Ohio State in the conference title game. With a total of nine winning teams residing in the Big Ten, the top half of the West division looks like a Walmart parking lot on Black Friday, with each of these two teams locked up at 4-2 with Purdue and Wisconsin heading into this weekend. It’s good to know that the MIDWEEK ALERT reports the once 6-0 Hawkeyes are allowing more yards per contest than they are gaining this season, as they were outyarded in last week’s feeble 17-12 win over Northwestern, and are currently leaking oil at 0-3 ITS (In The Stats) in their last three overall games. Yes, Iowa has gone 4-0-1 ATS in the last five series meetings, but the Hawkeyes are only 2-6-1 ATS of late versus conference revenge, and their plodding, ineffective offense has scored just 31 points in the last three contests. We’ll skip Wally World, and opt for valet parking instead, as we hand it off to the THE CLINCHER: Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck is 30-15- 13 ATS in his career, including 6-0 ATS versus greater than .750 opponents.
Michigan over PENN ST by 11
We looked up and down today’s schedule, and eventually decided that no other Saturday game is bigger than this one – it’s ‘sayonara’ for the loser in this high-noon showdown in Happy Valley, as they’re officially out of the Big Ten East race with Ohio State. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh caught a lot of heat for bitching about the officiating in his team’s loss to Michigan State two weeks ago, but was somewhat vindicated on Monday when the league brass admitted that mistakes were made. “Yeah, as we all expected, all saw, mistakes were made,” Harbaugh said. “That was the response – they made a mistake.” Now, we don’t own a degree in the psychology of motivation, but it would seem like Jimbo should move on from this fixation, and prepare his Wolverines for one of the toughest opponents they’ll see all year in Penn State. However, we don’t like laying points with inferior teams this time of the season, especially those with over .200 percentage points the worst of it. Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin checks that box, as well bringing a 13-23 SU and 16-20 ATS career mark into games against opponents with a better win percentage, including 5-11 SU and 4-12 ATS versus .875 or greater foes. This will mark the fourth time in the last fi ve years these two teams will meet as ranked teams, so neither side should fi nd the stage too large. However, to Michigan’s credit, the Maize-and-Blue did not buckle beneath the weight of the “bubble burst” following the contested loss against Sparty, methodically grinding out a 29-7 win over Indiana last Saturday, holding the Hoosiers to just 195 total yards. The feeling here is the Wolverines are the better team, and they’ll be out to avenge a season-ending home loss to the Lions last year, one that denied them a .500 campaign. Considering Michigan has cashed in five of the last seven series meetings, we cement the call with THE CLINCHER: Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh is 40-8 SU and 30-18 ATS when coming off a win and owning the better record, including 10-1 SUATS when facing greater than .600 opponents.
BAYLOR over Oklahoma by 8
Remember the scary 2019 Boomer Schooner crash in Norman when the beloved wagon got stuck in the turf? Happy to remind you, no one was injured including the beautiful horses, but we think the Sooners are headed for a similar fate in Waco. The cause of the accident will be the Sooners’ appearance in this week’s SMART BOX, plus an 0-6 ATS failure under Lincoln Riley as conference road favorites. OU is still unbeaten but not ATS under Riley, instead they’re a middling 9-14 in that category. There is one Jimmy the Greek style checkmark in the Sooners column, a powerful 14-2 ATS mark as road chalk of 8 or fewer. BU is coming off a surprise loss to TCU last week but in their series with OU, Da Bears are 3-0 ATS in the last three and 7-1 ATS as a home dog when coming off a loss. In conference revenge games, Baylor is a sturdy 10-2 ATS, plus, BU is 20-5 SUATS in Waco since 2011 against foes coming off a win, including 8-0 ATS as the dog. It’s only the eighth time in this long series both teams have been ranked, all of them since 2011, and OU is 4-3. Time to settle this debate with THE CLINCHER: Marc’s Figure 4 Leglock with his “BETCHA DIDN’T KNOW article on Page 2, coupled with the SMART BOX on page 3.
New Orleans over TENNESSEE by 8
The Titans applied the “next man up” theory when they went into Los Angles and rocked the Rams sans star RB Derrick Henry, ripping off their fourth consecutive underdog win a row. Impressive, to be sure, but one has to wonder how long recently signed RB Adrian Peterson (26 yards) will remain Tennessee’s go-to rusher with Derrick Henry sidelined until the playoffs. His No. 8 uniform looks odd enough, shaped like an hourglass, but it may also signify he’s one number short of having his run of 9-lives in the league. The Saints, fresh off a Halloween upset of the defending Super Bowl champion Bucs, were looking to avoid suffering a letdown against the three-win Falcons last week. In past years, they could lean on QB Drew Brees to help carry them to a win, but it was on Trevor Siemian’s shoulders in this contest… and it didn’t work out so well. Despite throwing for 249 yards and a pair of TDs in his fi rst start in two years, ¬Siemian couldn’t keep the Saints rolling, and didn’t score in the fi rst half of last week’s loss. But, New Orleans dropped 22 points on Atlanta in the 4th quarter to take the lead, after trailing by 18, then failed on a 2-point conversion to leave the door open for a fi eld goal win by the Falcons. That’s exactly what happened, so we expect to see a frustrated bunch of Saints in Music City this afternoon, taking it out on a Tennessee team that suddenly looks unbeatable. We know better. The visiting squad in this series has cashed four straight tickets, and the chest-puffi ng Titans have collapsed after rumbling with the Rams, going 1-6 ATS of late. The fi nal word comes from THE CLINCHER: The WOM (well-oiled machine) informs us that NFL teams coming off four consecutive underdog wins in a row are 2-5 SU and 1-5-1 ATS since 1999 as a favorite the following game.
Minnesota over LA CHARGERS by 10
QB Justin Herbert led the Chargers on a 15-play fi eld-goal drive with just over 6 minutes remaining to lift the Bolts to a 27-24 come-from-behind win over the Eagles last Sunday. He is the only player in NFL history to reach 600 completions in his first 25 starts. Herbert went 32-of-38 for 356 yards and two touchdowns, while leading “San Angeles” to a 5-3 record, with two of the losses coming by a fi eld goal apiece. Meanwhile, the hard-luck Vikes let another one get away last week at Baltimore, losing in OT after looking to be in control early, establishing a big lead with some huge plays. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins found Justin Jefferson for a 50-yard touchdown to open the game, and then RB Dalvin Cook burst through for a 66-yard gain to set up another Minnesota score. The Vikings went up 17-3 just prior to halftime, but some more miserable time management allowed the Ravens to score a touchdown in the fi nal seconds before intermission (that’s on you, Mike Zimmer). Still, the much-maligned Cousins had a nice performance, despite the loss, as he went 17-of-28 for 187 yards and two passing TDs and a running touchdown. The bottom line is Minnesota’s season – and possibly Zimmer’s job – is on the line in this contest. With seven of Minny’s eight games this season having been decided by 8 or fewer points, including three overtime sessions, we’ll hand it off to THE CLINCHER: Minnesota is 15-5-1 ATS as a dog in non-division games when coming off a loss under Mike Zimmer, including 9-1-1 ATS versus .600 or greater opponents.
LAS VEGAS over Kansas City by 4
The word in Vegas last week was that the Raiders were on a Bye, as they headed cross-country to meet the Giants in the Big Apple last Sunday. They must have thought so, too, after falling 23-16 to the G-Men despite out-yarding them, 403-245. So, after the final gun sounded last week, three of the league’s top QB’s, who could do no wrong this season – Josh Allen, Derek Carr and Dak Prescott – were fl at out awful. Their efforts combined were 80-of-132 for 812 yards, 3 TD passes, and 5 interceptions for an average passer rating of 69.7. We call that hardly MVP-mentionable. But Carr has been famous for bouncing back after a poor performance, and we expect just that tonight. And speaking of quarterbacks, as we’ve been alluding to, something is simply not right with Patrick Mahomes these days. Once again, he threw some terrible passes against the Packers last week, including one potential interception that was dropped. He overshot Tyreek Hill twice for big gains, and fi red behind Kelce once. Mahomes went 20-of-37 for only 166 yards and a touchdown. With it, the Chiefs won back-to-back games for the first time this season, yet still remain just 3-16 ATS over their last 20 games. And nobody turns the ball over more than Kansas City this season (-2.1 net TO’s per game). In fact, under Andy Reid the Chiefs had only 16 turnovers total from 2013- 2020. They have 19 this season alone! Until they clean up their act, we’ll continue to keep last year’s Super Bowl losers on our fade list. With the Raiders 5-1 ATS in their last six games as a division home dog, you know exactly what to do