Upset Watch: Week 2

Well that was disappointing. I felt pretty good about six of the seven games last week, admittedly iffy on Michigan, but went 1-6. There’s always good weeks and bad weeks, so hopefully week two will be better than the first. The good news about week two is most teams have a game under their belts, so to speak.

If you followed the Upset Watch last season, you know I pick five underdogs to cover the points, a favorite to cover, and I preview the Michigan game.

Be sure to check out my website, Before Visiting the Sportsbook, throughout the week, for more content.

Recap:

Wins

@ Iowa State (1-0) +1.5 Tulsa (0-1). Result: Iowa State 38 Tulsa 23.

Losses

Eastern Michigan (0-1) +6.0 @ Ball State (1-0). Result: Ball State 37 Eastern Michigan 26.

Western Michigan (0-1) +10.0 @ Illinois (1-0). Result: Illinois 24 Western Michigan 7.

Auburn (0-1) +3.5 Clemson (1-0) (Atlanta, GA). Result: Clemson 26 Auburn 19.

Kentucky (0-1) +14.0 @ Louisville (1-0). Result: Louisville 32 Kentucky 14.

Colorado (0-1) -6.0 Colorado State (1-0) (Denver, CO). Result: Colorado State 22 Colorado 17.

Michigan (0-1) +14.0 Alabama (1-0). Result: Alabama 41 Michigan 14.

This Week

Surprisingly, not one game this week will pair top 25 teams against one another.

Upset Watch

Maryland (1-0) +13.5 @ Temple (1-0). Maryland is 6-1 against Temple, but Maryland is 2-7 in true road openers and Coach Randy Edsall is 3-4 against Temple as a head coach. Last year, Maryland got drilled, 38-7, at College Park. Temple Coach Steve Addazio is 10-4 (10-4 ATS, 7-4 ATS as a favorite); Maryland Coach Randy Edsall is 68-56 (64-50-2 ATS; 31-27 as an underdog) since 2002. Outside of last season, Maryland has outscored Temple an average of 26.67-13.33, dating back to 1997. Unfortunately for Terps fans, this season’s team is likely closer to this last year’s team, rather than those that have dominated the Owls. The team with more rushing yards is 6-1 in the series. Maryland’s win over William & Mary was ugly last week, compared with Temple’s dominating performance over Villanova, but these teams are closer talent-wise than the spread indicates.

North Carolina State (0-1) +2.5 @ Connecticut (1-0). These teams last met in 2003, with North Carolina State winning 31-24. Connecticut Coach Paul Pasqualoni is 22-27 (24-24 ATS, 12-10 ATS as a favorite) since 2002; North Carolina State Coach Tom O’Brien is 78-49 (68-50-3 ATS; 35-20-1 as an underdog) since 2002. Connecticut pounded FBS newcomer Massachusetts last week, 37-0 in Storrs. North Carolina State fell to Tennessee in Atlanta, on Friday, 35-21. A mark of a Tom O’Brien coached team is success in non-conference play. Over the past three seasons, including bowl games, the Wolfpack are 11-3 in non-conference play, with only one loss each season (Cincinnati in 2011, East Carolina in 2010, and South Carolina in 2009). Don’t expect to see another non-conference loss for O’Brien’s guys. Wolfpack cover and get the win, here.

Washington (1-0) +23.5 @ LSU (1-0). These teams last met in 2009, with LSU winning in Seattle, 31-23. LSU has won 17 straight home games – they are 32-1 in non-conference play under Coach Les Miles. LSU Coach Les Miles is 100-32 (61-62-5 ATS, 40-38-3 ATS as a favorite) since 2002; Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian is 20-19 (20-19 ATS; 10-12 as an underdog). LSU looked largely unimpressive against North Texas. Because the spread was so high, 42, the bet was essentially whether North Texas would score. The Mean Green scored 14, covering the points. Washington struggled against San Diego State, but ultimately eeked out a 9 point win, failing to cover the 16.5-point spread. Look for LSU to get the win, fairly easy, but I like the Huskies to keep this right around 21.

New Mexico (1-0) +41.0 @ Texas (1-0). Texas Coach Mack Brown is 104-26 (65-62-2 ATS, 49-46-1 ATS as a favorite) since 2002; New Mexico Coach Bob Davie is 1-0 (1-0 ATS; 0-0 as an underdog) since 2002. New Mexico is 41-38-1 ATS as an underdog since 2002. The Lobos are 5-7 ATS (2-4 ATS in 2011) as 28 point or more underdogs since 2009. By contrast, Texas is 2-4-1 ATS as 28 point or more favorites since 2009. These teams last met in 1988 – Texas has outscored New Mexico 94-0 in their two meetings! Talent-wise, New Mexico is MUCH better than they were last season. Seeing Texas’ performance against Wyoming, one has to wonder if or when Texas will solve their offensive problems. This may be the week, but 41 seems a bit much.

@ Northwestern (1-0) +3.5 Vanderbilt (0-1). Northwestern won the only recent meeting, in 2010, 23-21 in Nashville. The Wildcats have won five straight home openers by an average of 27 points per game. Vanderbilt is 4-14 in road openers, but 2-2 in the last four years. Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin is 6-8 (10-4 ATS, 5-1 ATS as a favorite); Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald is 41-36 (32-41 ATS; 21-18 as an underdog). I’ll admit, Vanderbilt seems like a tempting pick, especially with how they played defensively against South Carolina. But Northwestern played a decent defense team in Syracuse, and dropped 42 on them. Since 2006, Northwestern is 19-11 straight up in non-conference games and 10-14 ATS in those games. In the past three seasons, the Wildcats are 2-4 in non-conference games against BCS opponents (2-3-1 ATS), by contrast, Vanderbilt is 2-5 in non-conference games against BCS opponents (3-4 ATS). In their last ten games decided by a touchdown or less, the Wildcats are 7-3 straight up. Take the Cardiac Cats to cover, and win.

Sure-fire Favorite

Wisconsin (1-0) -7.5 @ Oregon State (0-0). Wisconsin has won ten straight road or neutral site games by an average of 13 points per game. Last year, Wisconsin beat Oregon State 35-0 in Madison. Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema is 60-19 (40-34 ATS, 29-22-1 ATS as a favorite); Oregon State Coach Mike Riley is 64-49 (58-49-1 ATS; 26-22 as an underdog) since 2003. The line opened up at Wisconsin by 11, but has since dropped to 7.5, in just two days. Oregon State hasn’t played a game yet, as Nicholls State had to postpone their opening season game. The Beavers should be much improved from last season. Many are likely leery of Wisconsin after a five point victory over Northern Iowa. Remember, Wisconsin has a new quarterback and it was Montee Ball’s first game back after sustaining a concussion off the field. I like Wisconsin in this one by double digits.

Gameday Prediction

Troy Calhoun is 42-24 straight up. Coach Calhoun is 15-13 on the road sites, 18-9 in non-conference play, and 0-11 against teams in the top 25, at the time of the game. Coach Calhoun is 34-27-1 against the spread and 12-8-1 ATS as an underdog.

Brady Hoke is 58-53 straight up (13-12 at San Diego State, 34-38 at Ball State, and 11-3 at Michigan). Coach Hoke is 57-45-4 ATS (38-30-1 at Ball State, 12-10-2 at San Diego State, and 7-5-1 at Michigan) and 26-17-2 (16-8 at Ball State, 5-6-2 at San Diego State, and 5-3 at Michigan) against the spread as a favorite.

Michigan and Air Force have only met once, in 1964, with Michigan getting the win, 24-7. For all intensive purposes, there is no history between these teams, so from that standpoint its’ tough to use history as a guide. Still, as of late, Air Force has been the most successful service academy in football, although the other two have a better program historically.

Michigan hasn’t lost a home opener since the 2008 season; the Wolverines are 8-2 in home openers since 2002 (average margin of victory of 17.3, average MOV of 16.6 against non-BCS teams – both numbers include losses to Appalachian State and Utah).

Air Force is 7-3 in road openers since 2002 (average margin of victory of 4.1, average margin of defeat of 1 against BCS teams). Air Force is 6-9 against BCS schools, straight up, since 2002 (wins: 2002 Northwestern [52-3], 2002 California [23-21], 2003 Northwestern [22-21], 2005 Washington [20-17], 2007 Notre Dame [41-24], and 2010 Georgia Tech [14-7]; losses: 2002 Notre Dame [21-14], Virginia Tech [20-13], 2004 California [56-14], 2006 Tennessee [31-30], 2006 Notre Dame [39-17], 2007 California [42-36], 2009 Minnesota [20-13], 2010 Oklahoma [27-24], and 2011 Notre Dame [59-33]) with an average score of 27.2-24.4, favoring their opponents.

Under Calhoun, the Falcons have only been a three touchdown or more underdog once, last season, to Boise State (29 point underdogs, lost 37-26). As double-digit underdogs, Air Force is 0-7 SU and 3-4 ATS under Calhoun.

Michigan is 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS as a double-digit favorite under Coach Hoke (he is 9-0 SU and 3-4-2 ATS at San Diego State and 6-2 SU and 3-5 ATS at Ball State since 2007). Finally, Coach Hoke is 1-1 against Air Force SU, but 2-0 ATS, at San Diego State.

Expect a bit of a let down for Michigan with the thrashing they took at the hands of Alabama. Still, Michigan has more talent that the Falcons, but the triple option could be the great equalizer. Like most service academies, Air Force returns very few starters this season; they lost QB Tim Jefferson and TB Asher Clark, to name a few. Coach Calhoun also kicked five players off the team – S Anthony Wooding (was expected to start), WR Mikel Hunter (was expected to start), WR Brandon Hirneise, LB Jamil Cooks (was expected to start), and TE Devin Durden. Michigan gets back Fitzgerald Toussaint and Frank Clark, but has lost Blake Countess for the season. The loss of Countess shouldn’t be evident in the next two weeks, but look for it to be a factor in the Notre Dame game.

Michigan -20.0 Air Force.

Michigan 38 Air Force 17.

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