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College Capper: Handicapping Week 3

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

Just a week after their monumental win over the Virginia Tech Hokies, the Boise State Broncos suffered what could end up being their only defeat of the season – and they weren't even on the field!

Though many pundits thought it was impossible, as the Broncos sat at home last Saturday, their schedule suddenly got worse. Virginia Tech's loss to James Madison suddenly puts into question just how much of a quality win the Broncos earned during the first week of the season. I for one feel the Hokies simply were bit by the hangover from their tough opening week loss to Boise, but that's certainly no excuse to drop a game to James Madison.

Boise State's fight all year is to stay on the radar, to stay relevant and while they were certainly both last week, it wasn't for the reasons it had hoped. The worst thing that can happen to the Broncos is to get slowly disregarded throughout the season. The process started last week and it will continue throughout the season, unless the Broncos shut the door to those critics. The only way to do that is to dominate each and every game they play for the remainder of the year. A seven-point victory within the conference simply will not suffice. Here's the rub though, you, me and everyone else who follows college football is fully aware of this fact. I'm curious to see how the odds-makers respond going forward.

The avoid list:

Texas: Two weeks into the season and the Longhorns have failed to cover the number. I can see this getting ugly if I continue to keep the faith in Texas, yet if I switch sides, the Horns will probably find their groove. For now, I'll simply stay clear.

On the radar:
USC: I was concerned by their opening week victory over Hawaii because I wasn't sure about their defense. Well, I'm glad they cleared that up. Now, about that offense…

Weekly recap:

Record: 6-5

Record YTD: 12-11

Units: + 2.5

Units YTD: + 3.0

Best Win: Eastern Michigan: Anytime you back a bad team and they come through with ease, it's a great feeling. Eastern Michigan might not win a game this year, but as long as it continues to fight like it did on Saturday, there will be value there all season.

Worst Loss: Florida State: There were a couple of games last week that were over before they started, but this game was easily the worst. I can't quite explain what happened here. Maybe Christian Ponder isn't as good as I thought? Maybe Oklahoma is a lot better than I expected? Most likely a combination of both, though I wouldn't give up on Ponder just yet.

Take a Note:
Michigan may or may not be back. The Wolverines have impressed over the first couple weeks, but anyone who's actually watched the games is fully aware that Robinson is carrying too much of the load right now. The question is, can the rest of the team step up once conference play starts? Honestly, there's no way to tell right now as it's really been a one-man show to this point. The good news is, as long as Robinson is upright, the Wolverines will always be in the game.

The Houston Cougar offense is really fun to watch. They've added the run element to the mix and it looks like they'll make another undefeated run into mid-season again this year. Up next is a tough trip to Pasadena to face a Bruin team that was shut out last week, but I think Keenum and crew will be up to the test.

Quick Heisman rant. Is there any doubt that Denard Robinson is the clear front runner right now? I guess there is because I keep seeing polls on major sports sites asking if he's the favorite. Here's my problem with that question and how the system is set up. The trophy is supposed to be a reward for an individual season, yet since Robinson started the season with no hype, he's fighting an uphill battle. It's just like the rankings, if you are unranked at the beginning of the year, you have to go above and beyond everyone else just to get considered. Now, this isn't to say he'll be in the race at the end of the year, but if you were voting after two weeks, he's the clear-cut choice.

Week Three:


Cincinnati at North Carolina State: A very tough match-up here as the Cincinnati Bearcats are off to a poor start and the NC State is undefeated after two weeks. The strange thing is, Cincy is favored in this match-up. I think the reasoning behind the line is two-fold. First, Cincy is off to a rough start, but part of that can be blamed on the regime change as Brian Kelly moved on prior to the end of last season. The Bearcats had their moments at Fresno State two weeks ago, but everything fell apart in the second half. Second, the Wolfpack's fast start might be a little deceiving, yes they picked up a nice road win last week at Central Florida, but they needed every bit of the five turnovers they forced to get that win. I highly doubt the Bearcats will be as generous this week and as such, Cincinnati will get the win here.

Side: Cincinnati -1 (1)


Kansas at Southern Mississippi: Strange situation here as Kansas, which just came of a win against a ranked Georgia Tech team is a healthy underdog to Southern Mississippi, which picked up it's first win last week against Prairie View. Even more odd is the movement in the line since it opened at Southern Mississippi minus four, it's jumped up to five and a half. The reasoning behind that move is twofold. First, Southern Mississippi is at home and this is a nationally televised game. These games are always big for teams that don't get much publicity throughout the season, there's no doubt the Golden Eagles will be jacked up for this one. Second, the Jayhawks are coming off a big win last week against Georgia Tech, but let's not forget their opening season loss to North Dakota State. The reason they lost that game is the reason they'll lose this game. Any decent team that loses their home opener to an FCS team must have an issue with focus. If we can go as far as to say the Jayhawks have that issue, then why would be expect them to be focused for this game when only five days prior they earned what will likely be their biggest victory of the season?

Side: Southern Miss -5.5 (1)


Arkansas at Georgia: Georgia comes into this match-up off a hard-fought loss at South Carolina last week and Arkansas enters off of two easy wins against less-than-stellar competition. The competition that the Razorbacks have faced up to this point is actually going to hurt them in this game. While the Bulldogs are now battle-tested, the Hogs have gotten fat on the backs of Tennessee Tech and Louisiana Monroe. Georgia will come out steaming this week after dropping its first SEC game last week and show something Arkansas something it has not seen this season – some defense.

Side: Georgia -2.5 (1)

Georgia Tech at North Carolina: The Tar Heels showed some grit earlier this year when they played better than expected two weeks ago against LSU and the Yellow Jackets showed nothing of the sort last week when they fell flat at Kansas, but I'm expecting a complete reversal from both teams here. North Carolina was hit with several suspensions prior to its opening game and they used the “nobody thinks we can do it” mentality to hang with LSU for one night, but that mentality can only last so long. Instead of facing a team like LSU, who most likely overlooked the suspension laden Tar Heel team that week, they get Georgia Tech which suffered a horrible loss last week they it overlooked an opponent. That won't happen again, at least not in consecutive weeks. Back Georgia Tech which gets back on track this week.

Side: Georgia Tech +2 (1)

East Carolina at Virginia Tech: I can only imagine what the practices this week are like in Blacksburg. You know the reasons why. An opening loss to Boise State is understandable, not being ready to play James Madison is not and here comes East Carolina to take the brunt of the anger. East Carolina has shown the ability to move the ball this year, the Pirates have scored 100 points in two games against FBS opponents, but they've also struggled to stop anyone. East Carolina has surrendered 76 points this season and Virginia Tech is going to add a significant amount to that total this week. Virginia Tech has the defense to slow down East Carolina and the offense to abuse it. Tech might not punt until the fourth quarter on Saturday.

Side: Virginia Tech -17.5 (1)
Total: Over 57.5 (1)

Tulsa at Oklahoma State: It appears as both of these teams are going to be involved in high-scoring match-ups all season and when they face each other, you can throw out the defensive play book. Tulsa was involved in a 100-point game earlier this year and the combined points in the two OSU games this season have been 82 and 79 points. Last team with the ball wins this one.

Total: Over 69 (1)

Alabama at Duke: This is a horrible match-up for Duke. The Blue Devils don't play defense and while their offense can move the ball on the likes of Wake Forest, they won't fare nearly as well against a stout Bama defense which thrives on turnovers. My only hesitation here is that Bama is coming off a big win last week against Penn State and the Tide could easily let down in this spot.

Side: Alabama -23.5 (1)

Florida at Tennessee: This line would suggest that the Gators are back on track after beating up on South Florida last week, which would make sense if they in fact did beat up on the Bulls last week. That game in fact was close into the second half, which would indicate the Florida still has plenty of issues to work out. Now they travel on the road for the first time all year and they face what can only be described as a hostile environment. Tennessee played well for a half last week against Oregon before the wheels came off in the second half, but luckily for the Vols, they are not facing an offense with as much firepower this week. The Gators are going to need a huge advantage in the turnover department to cover this number and their defense is bound to get their share, but with the green QB running the offense, they are bound to give up the ball themselves.

Side: Tennessee +16.5 (1)

USC at Minnesota: I'm not sure what to say here. This line makes no sense to me. The Gophers not only lost to an FCS team last week, but they surrendered 41 points! I guess this line is being held in check because USC hasn't exactly impressed this season, but let's not forget, we are talking about USC here, and it is only a matter of time before the Trojans hit their stride. There are other factors in play here as well. First, Lane Kiffin is flat out not happy with his team's performance this season. Yes they are 2-0, but he's not happy. He will not take it easy on his players this week. Second, Tim Brewster was selected to coach the Gophers instead of Lane Kiffin. Do you think there is any doubt that Kiffin wouldn't run up the score if given the chance? The Gophers are going to need a lot of breaks to go their way to cover this number, check that, they will need every break to go their way. I am certain they will come out fired up after their pitiful performance last week, but with little to no shot at slowing down the Trojan offense, they will need to score at least 35 to stay within the number.

Side: USC -14 (3)

Central Michigan at Eastern Michigan: It's going to take a while for the odds-makers to catch up to the fact that Eastern Michigan is not as bad as it was last year. Until that time, I'll side with them. CMU is in a rebuilding year and they will have trouble covering a number of this size on the road.

Side: Eastern Michigan +9.5 (1)

Texas at Texas Tech: Similar situation to the Florida game in that I don't like the inexperienced QB going into a hostile environment. Add to that the struggles that the Longhorns have had on offense this season and I think the Red Raiders get an outright win here.

Side: Texas Tech +3 (1)

Houston at UCLA: Watch the status of Keenum in this one. If he doesn't play, I like the Bruins. Sure, they were shut out last week, but that was against a team with a defense. Houston has no such defense and the Bruins are about to find some offense this week because of that. The Cougars are simply a different team without Keenum behind center. They were able to run the ball against UTEP at home last week, but the going will not be as easy this week and once the running game slows down, the backup QB will be asked to do more than he's capable of.

Side UCLA +3 (1) *Only if Keenum does not start