2019 CFB Picks: Week 3

Last week was brutal. I could sit here and make excuses or complain about the teams I backed, but it’s all on me. It sucks to start the year in a hole, but I suppose you can’t win all the time.

PICKS

TEMPLE (+7) over Maryland – 2u
Temple/Maryland under 67 – 1u

Could be walking in to the lion’s den here, but I can’t help it. The Terps have looked awesome so far, but this wouldn’t be the first time they’ve looked good in the first two weeks and not been able to sustain success.

In 2016, they opened with a 39 point win and followed it up with a 41-14 Week 2 victory at FIU as 10 point favorites. Week 3 they needed 2 OTs to win and didn’t cover the -10 against an eventual 6-6 UCF team.

In 2017, they won 51-41 at Texas as 17.5 point dogs. Week 2 they beat Towson by 46 as 25.5 point favorites. Week 3 they lost by 28 at home to UCF as 4.5 point favorites.

Last year, they beat Texas as 13.5 point dogs and then won by 31 the next week at Bowling Green as 15 point favorites. Week 3 they lost to this Temple team by 21 as 15.5 point favorites.

Now, this is a new regime with Mike Locksley and the Terps have looked especially good, covering by 48 and 42 points the first two weeks. Josh Jackson has been a big upgrade at QB. There are shades of 2016 Louisville with their start.

But again, Temple beat the hell out of Maryland in College Park last year, only allowing 195 yards of total offense and limiting the running game. As big of an upgrade as Jackson has been, the Terps running wild on Syracuse last week was the bigger reason for their 63 points.

If you look at Maryland last year, the rush offense dictated almost everything. Six times they had over 6.0 yards per carry in a game and in the other six games they averaged less than 4.5. When they had over 6.0 they averaged 44.5 PPG and in the other six games they averaged 12.5 PPG.

Temple had a pretty good run defense last year and held the Terps to 4.3 YPC in their win. They’re only expected to be better this year with most of their front seven back and one of the best LB groups at the Group of 5 level. They also brought in NIU’s defensive coordinator, where they gave up less than 3.0 YPC the last two years. Bucknell’s terrible, but I guess it’s worth noting that the Owls only gave up 0.8 YPC against Bucknell in the opening week with a long run of 7.

If you like ATS trends, Temple is 11-3 ATS in their last 14 games as a home underdog with six straight up victories. Their average scoring margin ATS in those 14 games is +10.2. Rod Carey is the new HC here, but even he is 10-4 ATS in his last 14 games as an underdog regardless of venue.

Maryland is just 4-12 ATS in their last 16 road games.

For whatever it’s worth this early in the season, Temple is coming off a bye.

Air Force (+4) over COLORADO – 2u

I’m guessing the handicap for many that are on Air Force start with the letdown, look-ahead sandwich that the Buffs find themselves in. They’re coming off that dramatic win in a big game over Nebraska last week and they start Pac-12 play next week with a road game at Arizona State.

It’s certainly a factor for me, especially when first-time head coach Mel Tucker is the one who has to get his team ready. Tucker is an impressive guy, but it’s still his first time going through this.

But I like this one more for who the Buffs have to play. Air Force – like the other service academies – are a tough team to prepare for regardless of the situation.

Colorado has been decent defending the run and they were good last year, but the triple option is a different animal. Tucker’s defenses at Georgia did well in their annual game against Tech’s option, but obviously Colorado doesn’t have near the athletes that he had in his time at Georgia.

Heading in to this one, I wanted to look at a pretty specific trend: Air Force as a road dog in August/September. The reason for September is that it’s the only time they don’t play a league team or a fellow academy.

The Falcons are 19-5 ATS in that situation in their last 20. Four of those losses are to conference foes or another academy. Congrats to 2009 Minnesota for bucking the trend.

Navy and Army have also been on similar trends, pointing to the fact that teams unfamiliar with the option tend to struggle.

Like Temple, Air Force is also on a bye. Their ATS trend on the road after a bye: 11-2 in their last 13. Several of those have been in September and again, the only people who covered against them were a conference foe and a fellow service academy.

UCF (-8) over Stanford – 2u

We’ve already lost some value here, but it just feels like this is UCF’s Super Bowl of sorts. They’ve been bitching, moaning, and complaining for more Power 5 teams to come play them in Orlando and now they have another opportunity. Pittsburgh did last year and the Knights beat them by 31. With a 3:30 EST kick on ESPN, I expect a big performance from UCF.

So far, UCF has looked about the same that they have the past couple of years when they’ve gone 25-1. With Darriel Mack back in the mix, the offense should be even more explosive.

Stanford feels like they’re going in the opposite direction. They won an extremely sloppy, close game at home against Northwestern and then got eviscerated by USC’s backup QB in LA. KJ Costello was also out, but the 45 allowed to USC’s unheralded backup doesn’t speak well to their hopes against UCF’s explosive offense.

Costello is back this week, but he’s now without his two starting OTs. His LT – Walker Little – was considered one of the best in college football.

UCF has been very good at home. Against their fellow FBS teams, they’ve been 8-2 ATS at home since this reign of dominance started a couple years ago. They’re 10-0 SU and they’ve won every game by at least a TD.

Stanford has been a mess on the road early in the season lately. They’re just 1-5 ATS and 1-5 SU in their last six. They’ve been off by an average of  a -15.8 ATS margin. They’re now playing their second straight road game and it’s about as far from Palo Alto as you can get in the Continental 48.

David Shaw has a reputation as a coach that gets his team to bounce back from losses, but some of those numbers were built up early in his tenure. They’ve lost 12 games the last three years and 10 of those have been part of back-to-back losses.

Louisville (-10) over Western Kentucky – 2u

No big trends or specific matchups with this one, I just think Louisville is trending up and they should be able to handle this one comfortably. WKU had a bounce back last week after the loss to Central Arkansas, but I’m afraid to say that my FIU Panthers might just suck.

I thought maybe the reaction was overblown after Louisville hung with Notre Dame for a while, but I thought it was more of an overreaction to Notre Dame than Louisville. The Cardinals did look to be very improved and they quietly kept that going last week.

The Cards were hanging tough with the Irish on opening night until three straight fumbles on possessions kind of derailed the whole thing.

Last week, they beat Eastern Kentucky 42-0. I know what you’re thinking, but EKU is a solid FCS team that competed on the road with both Marshall and Bowling Green last year. And don’t forget, last year at this time Louisville was having a hell of a time with Indiana State a week before struggling with this WKU team.

Against EKU, the Cards were dominant defensively, never allowing the Colonels inside the red zone. The offense had its ups and downs in the first half, but scored touchdowns on all four of their second half possessions and the defense forced punts on every possession. For a team that just needs to keep building confidence, that should help them this week.

Buffalo/Liberty under 55.5 – 2u
Buffalo (-5.5) over LIBERTY – 1u

The Bulls might’ve played the closest 45-13 game in the history of football last week with Penn State. As someone who has some investments in the Nittany Lions, that game was not comfortable, nor very encouraging. Buffalo outgained PSU by more than 70 yards and controlled the clock. And it wasn’t just Buffalo piling on a bunch of meaningless yards at the end of the game. They went for several long drives in the first half.

Turnovers, special teams, and a couple of costly penalties were the key. Buffalo had a fumble in the first half that gave Penn State a short field and a quick touchdown. It was the only points the supposedly high-octane Nittany Lions would have in the first half. A pick-six in the second half started the “rout” for PSU.

Here’s why I like Buffalo this week: Liberty isn’t Penn State.

The most noteworthy report from the Flames so far this season has been tracking which type of medical furniture Hugh Freeze is going to use to draw attention to himself on a week-to-week basis. Freeze is back to practice this week on a golf cart.

I had high hopes for the Flames this year – specifically the offense – but they’ve been lifeless so far. They got shutout by Syracuse a week before Syracuse gave up a 63 spot to Maryland. They could only muster 14 against a Lafayette team that is known for shootouts.

Now Liberty will be matched up with this Buffalo team that is playing a bit of a different style this year on offense after all their pass-game power left last year. The Bulls have preferred the running game and ball control, throwing the ball less than 30% of the time.

Liberty is much more prone to throw, but it hasn’t gotten them very far. They’re only averaging 5.6 YPA through the air and even when they do complete, it hasn’t been for many big plays.

VIRGINIA (-7 (-120)) over Florida State – 2u

Florida State has gotten off to a couple of decent starts, but holy hell have they not been able to maintain. You can see glimpses of greatness, but it hasn’t lasted for a full 60 minutes.

I went through this last year with the Seminoles as I clang to any shred of evidence that they were eventually going to be good and maybe make a run at the season total over. They were never good and they still aren’t.

Sure, they played a good half against Boise, but Boise was also playing with a true freshman QB in his first start. On the other side of the country and dealing with a last-minute venue and time change, no less. After settling down, Hank Bachmeier lit them up in the second half. The Broncos could only muster 14 against Marshall at home the next week.

Last week, UL Monroe gave the Noles 44 in Tallahassee, with 37 of that coming after halftime. The same ULM team who only scored 31 against Grambling State and could only combine for 31 last year in road games at Texas A&M and Ole Miss.

Virginia isn’t an elite offense, but they’ve got plenty to put up some points against a defense that has fallen apart in two straight second halves.

The FSU offense looks improved, but they’ve been pretty reliant on big plays to generate points. We’ll see if they can take the offense on the road with them to Charlottesville. The Noles have only averaged 20 PPG in their ten road games the past couple years.

The Virginia defense has looked steady as a rock, although Pitt and William & Mary aren’t exactly elite offenses. Still, the Cavs held Pitt to just 3.7 yards per play at Pitt. They allowed just 71 yards of total offense in the first three quarters against W&M.

YTD: 3-7 (-10.2u)

LEANS

K-State +8

Penn State -17

BYU +4

Purdue +2.5

EMU +7.5

SMU -17.5

WMU -8.5

Ball State +2.5

Army -17

Marshall -5.5 and the under 49.5

 

 

 

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