Bet The Farm: Giving the Points

Bet the Farm gets into a little theory before getting to the good stuff – picks. Who do we like this week and by how much? We're a combined 15 games over .500 this season, so not that we'd endorse gambling, but you could do worse than read this column…

First, the theory portion. Zhihao's Facebook earlier this week linked to an article detailing how the sports books are getting absolutely killed in NFL action because they aren't favoring decent teams by enough over really crappy teams. Sports books have some intrinsic aversion, no doubt rooted in historical trend, to posting mundo spreads, especially spreads over 20. That might have been a great strategy in other years, but right now, the books are getting killed because the Rams, the Bucs, the Titans, the Lions and the rest of the league's awful teams have no aversion whatsoever to losing by 20. But even though those teams are probably losing games by an average of 42-10, the books simply aren't going to start posting 32-point lines, and so there's an opportunity for arbitrage.

The same theory applies in college football, albeit with a twist. Here, we're not looking at the worst half-dozen or so teams in the league, but the best six or eight teams in college football – as they're simply 20-plus points better than the rest of their peers. When No. 3 meets No. 15, as Texas/Oklahoma State proves this weekend, No. 3 simply won't be much more than a 10-point favorite. Obviously the potential for profit exists, and that's a major trend this series attempts to exploit. We return to this theme throughout our weekly picks...

Survivor Pool:

Last week, Arizona smoked UCLA. This week, though, we are leading with the Survivor Pool because we're taking a major risk. Notre Dame/Washington State is on the schedule, but we are going with USC over Oregon. Cross your fingers, but we're not playing for a top-ten finish – we're playing to win, and we're going to need Wazzu as the games thin out in late-November/early-December. So guess I'm rooting for USC, as long as I don't have to hear the fight song.

Cherry Picking:

Last week: 8-8.
Winners: Georgia Tech, Florida State, Oklahoma State, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, TCU/BYU under 52.5, Penn State
Losers: Connecticut, Miami, Notre Dame, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa/MSU over 41.5, Arkansas, PSU/Michigan over 47.5
Season: 36-27-1. We'll take 50 percent in an off week. Time for better returns this week by zeroing in on fewer games.

This week: West Virginia -3 at South Florida, Boston College -5.5 vs. Central Michigan, Wisconsin -6.5 vs. Purdue, Miami -7 vs. Wake Forest, Oregon State -9.5 vs. UCLA, Cal -6.5 at Arizona State, Michigan -7 at Illinois, Kansas State +28 at Oklahoma, South Carolina +6 at Tennessee, Louisville -3 vs. Arkansas State.
Lot of small favorites who, we think, should be big favorites.

Big Games

Last week: 3-0, TCU and Penn State killed their sacrificial lambs, while Oregon State made it respectable against USC.
Season: 13-10-1 ATS

This week:

USC -3 at Oregon

Never bet against USC in a big game ever. For all the people saying that this time is different and going with the latest the flavor of the year (Oregon), one of these times you are going to be right. Until then, we'll keep racking up wins with the Trojans, who went 12-1 against the spread last year and last lost to a ranked opponent in the Jurassic Era.

Georgia +14.5 vs. Florida (Jacksonville)

We're going against the house, and perhaps Zhihao, on this one, as the Bulldogs were once 16-point dogs, so the smart money's going in their direction. That's fine. Like USC, Florida hasn't looked great recently, but folks, have you no long-term memory? Florida might just be the best team in the country. Georgia is unranked with a mercurial quarterback (Joe Cox), a running back-by-committee approach (i.e. no running back) and only one single playmaker on the entire roster in A.J. Green. The defense also stinks.

Everyone's wondering what's wrong with Florida's offense. Here's what's wrong with Florida's offense: All-Universe quarterback Tim Tebow had a freaking concussion. Tebow, Urban Meyer and the Gators remind the world that they're the undefeated national champions here, in style.

Texas -9 at Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State's best win, over Georgia, looks a lot worse than it did at the time, as does its loss to Houston. They have yet to play Texas, Texas Tech, Iowa State or Oklahoma, so their best win to date is over Missouri. Plus their star receiver Dez Bryant is out for the year. We have no idea how good these guys are. Texas, on the other hand, had one ugly win over Oklahoma and now everyone thinks they stink. Oklahoma's pretty darn good, even this year. Texas' other wins are 59-20, 41-10, 34-24, 64-7, 38-14 and 41-7. Each of those finals would cover against the Pokes in Stillwater, and we think the Horns, feeling disrespected, make a statement. We're going hard with the top-five favorites this week, the classic Bet the Farm strategy that's produced winning seasons for 2.5 years now.

Zhihao's Picks

Last week: 2-1. Michigan State -1 came mighty close, while Clemson +4.5 at Miami and Oregon -10 at Washington were easy covers.
Season: 9-6.

This week:
ASU +7 vs. Cal
Wake +7 vs. Miami
Syracuse +15.5 vs. Cincinnati

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