The South Point Sportsbook in Las Vegas released their Game of the Year lines in May and there were five games included for the Week 4 slate. Here is a preview for all five games from a handicapping viewpoint.
7 Stanford (-2) at 20 Oregon
This is a huge game for both programs, who have ambitions of competing with Washington in the Pac-12 North. Oregon opened as a three-point favorite for this game in May. Both teams started 3-0 and now Stanford is just under a field goal favorite.
The Cardinal have beaten the tougher competition with wins over San Diego State and USC to open the season. And while Heisman hopeful RB Bryce Love sat out last week’s game against UC Davis with an undisclosed injury, he’s set to return to the field this week. Having an extra week of rest is a positive for the Cardinal workhorse.
Oregon has had one of the weakest resumes of victories in the country after three weeks. They defeated one of the worst teams in the MAC in Bowling Green, FCS opponent Portland State and one of the worst teams in the Mountain West in San Jose State. They only beat San Jose State 35-22 last week and came nowhere close to covering as 41.5-point favorites.
The Ducks have a potential first-round NFL pick with quarterback Justin Herbert. Oregon doesn’t have the same talent as they had in the Chip Kelly days, so Herbert will be the key for Oregon to pull out the win at home.
Neither team should be trusted in the national landscape, and this point spread is spot-on. Consider backing Stanford at under a field goal if you want to bet this one.
18 Wisconsin (-3) at Iowa
It’s still September, but the Big Ten West could be decided on Saturday night in Iowa City. The line for this game opened Wisconsin -5 over the summer and moved to Wisconsin -8 in late July.
Based on Wisconsin’s shocking loss at home to BYU in Week 3 and Iowa’s strong start to the season, the line has gone back in the other direction and the Badgers are now only a three-point road favorite.
The big matchup in this game is the Wisconsin offensive line against the Iowa defensive line. The Badgers have a Heisman hopeful at running back in Jonathan Taylor and he’ll look to find holes to run behind a very talented offensive line.
Iowa’s defense has been one of the most impressive units in the country so far this season after losing their top three tacklers from last year’s team. The Hawkeyes have been a giant killer the last two seasons as they pulled off home upsets against Michigan in 2016 and scored a famous win against Ohio State last year.
This is going to be a night game at Kinnick Stadium, and Iowa is a good bet to cover. Perhaps the best bet in this game is under 43.5 because of Iowa’s excellent defense. If Iowa wins, it would likely need to be a low-scoring game.
17 TCU (-3) at Texas
There are a lot of different things to consider while handicapping this game. First we’ll look at the line movement from the summer. The line opened at pick ‘em in May, and professionals bet on Texas in every Game of the Year they’re in, including this game. The line settled at Texas -3.5 in July when the hype on Texas was still real. After three weeks of play, the line has moved 6.5 points and TCU is a favorite in Austin.
The question now is if the line move that turned TCU into a favorite is justified. I wrote earlier this week about how TCU was unlucky to not beat Ohio State, and they still covered despite allowing two defensive touchdowns.
Texas’ 37-14 win over USC was a misleading final score because of a goal-line stand and a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown. Also, Texas lost to Maryland in the opening week, which looks a lot worse after Maryland lost to Temple last week.
TCU is a favorite for good reason, and the line sets up one of the most popular betting trends in college football in backing Texas.
Longhorns head coach Tom Herman is one of the best underdog coaches since his days as an offensive coordinator. Before going to Texas, Herman was 11-0 against the spread and straight up when his team was an underdog. This includes his stint as an offensive coordinator at Ohio State and his two-years as the head coach at Houston. Last season, the trend continued as he covered five of six point spreads in the underdog role, but Texas was only 2-4 in those games.
The only team that covered as a favorite against Herman was TCU. The Horned Frogs covered a 7.5-point number with a 24-7 victory last season.
In fact, TCU has dominated this series since they joined the Big 12 in 2012. They are 5-1 against the spread and straight up against Texas with the only loss and non-cover coming in 2013.
A lot of TCU’s players were overlooked in recruiting by Texas, so their players traditionally have extra motivation for this game. The stats and recent history favor TCU, but there is a very strong trend in Tom Herman’s favor. It’s one of the most fascinating games of the week, but one to stay away from betting on.
Arkansas at 9 Auburn (-29)
This is a Game of the Year, but it’s not worth watching and probably not worth betting.
It’s been a rough start to the Chad Morris era at Arkansas. The Razorbacks come into their first SEC game after losses against Colorado State and North Texas.
That’s why this point spread has risen six points from where it opened in the summer at Auburn -23. Auburn is now favored by more than four touchdowns, which is a high number for a team that was just upset at home by LSU.
The handicap in this game has to do with the head coaches. Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris are friends dating back to their days as high school football coaches when Malzahn coached in Arkansas and Morris coached in Texas. Because of their friendship and mutual respect for each other, it’s not likely Auburn will run up the score.
That’s the only case for betting the underdog in this game, but there are much better games to spend your time watching on Saturday.
22 Texas A&M at 1 Alabama (-27)
Alabama opened as a 21-point favorite in May and that has gone up six points, as sportsbooks are begging bettors to take a shot with the underdog.
Last week, Alabama closed as a 21-point favorite at Ole Miss and casually covered the number by 34 points in a 62-7 victory. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is a huge upgrade over Jalen Hurts when it comes to covering big point spreads because of his downfield passing ability.
It’s hard to find opportunities to bet against Alabama, but there’s a case to be made for the underdog here. Texas A&M has to be thrilled with how Jimbo Fisher has started at the program. The Aggies are third in the Class of 2019 recruiting rankings behind Georgia and Alabama. Progress has been made on the field as they started 2-1 with the loss coming to Clemson in Week 2. Texas A&M had a chance to win as that game as double-digit underdogs and quarterback Kellen Mond emerged by throwing for 430 yards.
This line might be over-inflated because you have to pay premium if you want to back Alabama. However, I would rather pass this game because it’s scary to bet against the Tide.