SabreBetrics: Week 6 Betting Guide – A Game Of Inches

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We were treated to another chaotic and entertaining slate of games last weekend. Alabama and Georgia cemented their stranglehold on championship aspirations. Cincinnati emerged victorious in South Bend, bolstering its outside chances of making the College Football Playoff. Oregon and Florida experienced gut-wrenching upsets on the road. Most surprisingly, John Harbaugh and Michigan won a highly anticipated game!

Here’s hoping for another weekend of pandemonium … just not in the UVA-Louisville game. I am not sure my heart is prepared for that.

Mailbag Question

“Can you do teasers or parlays across sports? For example, when college hoops starts up, can you pair a Friday basketball game with a Saturday football game?” – Kris

Each sportsbook is different, and some are constrained by state-specific rules about what sports you can bet on. However, most commonly used sportsbooks accept bets across sports. Because parlays consist of several individual bets with carefully calculated likelihoods, the odds can be easily added together. So, starting later this month, you can create a parlay using NBA, MLB, NHL, and college football teams if your heart desires.

Teasers are a little different because the standard number of points you get changes between sports. For football, teasers usually provide six to seven points. For basketball, the number is generally four to six points. Because of this discrepancy, most sportsbooks shy away from cross-sport teasers.

However, you can mix college and professional games of the same sport into a teaser. More on this strategy later in the article.

Virginia Week 6 Forecast

  • Virginia +2.5 at Louisville
  • Under 69.5

Football, like life, is a game of inches. Consider how you would feel in this moment had Andres Borregales’ last-second kick stayed true, or if the Brennan Armstrong’s poorly thrown ball had not ended up in Dontayvion Wicks’ lap. In that alternate universe, the Virginia fan base has moved on to basketball season and is starting to ask some uncomfortable questions about the coaching staff. Instead, we are left with a glimmer of optimism heading into an important road test against Louisville.

The biggest challenge for UVA will be defending against quarterback Malik Cunningham. Cunningham shredded the Virginia defense a year ago, rushing for 197 yards and 2 touchdowns. In addition to designed runs and option keepers, Cunningham has a knack for escaping pressure and turning potential sacks into positive yardage. However, his decision-making when passing the ball is where he has improved the most. He has only 2 interceptions through five games, after throwing 12 a season ago. After watching how mightily Virginia’s defense struggled to contain Sam Howell, I am very concerned about the potential for explosive plays. Missing a lane assignment or failing to set the edge on a pass rush can result in catastrophe against an elite playmaker like Cunningham.

On the other side of the ball, the Cavaliers’ offense should be able to find some rhythm against an average defense. Though Virginia has struggled in the ground game this year, Louisville has allowed 4.9 yards per rushing play. The return of running back Wayne Taulapapa certainly made a difference last week, particularly in short yardage situations. Much like in the Miami game, Virginia needs to maintain a balanced attack rather than leaning on Armstrong to throw his way out of trouble. Establishing an effective rushing attack also keeps teams from dialing up pressure. Armstrong has been sacked 12 times in the last three games.

I have gone back and forth with my pick for this game, so I am relying on my gambling experience. With the line at -2.5 for Louisville, we have an example of what is known among sharps as the “2.5-point trap.” This is a very appealing number for casual bettors because they can easily visualize a game where the favorite wins by a field goal. This suggests that sportsbooks would like to see more money come in for Louisville. In fact, 65% percent of bets are for the Cardinals according to Action Network. In my sports betting experience, when everyone zigs, you need to zag. Whenever I see a 2.5-point line, I am inclined to bet the underdog to win the game outright.

My prediction is a nail-biting, soul-draining 31-27 Cavalier victory.

Week 6 Best Selections

  • Record to date: 12-13-1

Following a 3-2 week, I am feeling confident and rejuvenated. Here are six games you can bet on as if they have already been played:

Alabama -18 at Texas A&M

This was one of the most anticipated matchups at the beginning of the season. Unfortunately, the Aggies have not lived up to their potential. Jimbo Fisher’s offense has stagnated since the early season injury to freshman quarterback, Haynes King. Coming off back-to-back losses against Arkansas and Mississippi State, Texas A&M is not playing confident football. That is not an ideal place to be when preparing to face top-ranked Alabama. Having already played in Florida, Alabama, as well as Heisman front-runner Bryce Young, will be prepared for the noise of Kyle Field.

Tennessee -10 vs. South Carolina

Josh Heupel’s decision to play quarterback Hendon Hooker over Joe Milton has already paid dividends for the Volunteers. Hooker’s dual threat potential is a better schematic fit for the offense Heupel wants to run. Last week, Tennessee put up 62 points on the road against Missouri. South Carolina started the year with quarterback issues as well; sophomore Luke Doty missed the first two games with a foot injury. Though he is healthy enough to play for the Gamecocks, he is still not at 100%. Tennessee has the more explosive offense and is playing at home. I expect the Vols to win by two touchdowns.

East Carolina +10 at Central Florida

It has been a difficult two weeks for Central Florida. In a game at Louisville, the Knights lost starting quarterback Dillon Gabriel to a clavicle injury, then lost the game on a buzzer-beating pick-6. The negative energy carried over into the next game at Navy, where UCF had its worst offensive performance of the season in a 34-30 loss. The team simply did not look the same with freshman Mikey Keene at the helm. Meanwhile, East Carolina has played great offensive football in the last three weeks because of the decision-making of fourth-year starting quarterback Holton Ahlers. The Pirates enter this game after putting up 52 points against a respectable Tulane program. ECU also has Ja’Quan McMillan, the cornerback with the highest Pro Football Focus rating this season.

SMU -13.5 at Navy

Speaking of Central Florida, Navy managed to win its first football game of the year last week against the Knights. Though it was an exciting win for a struggling program, the Midshipmen likely would not have won had UCF been at full strength. SMU has an explosive offense that has scored at least 35 points in every game this season. Quarterback Tanner Mordecai has already thrown for 1,569 yards and 24 touchdowns through five games. Keeping the Mustangs offense off the field is Navy’s only chance to be competitive in this game, but that has been a struggle this season for Ken Niumatalolo’s program.

Troy -5.5 vs. Georgia Southern

I cannot talk about Troy without first referencing this play from last week’s game against South Carolina. Please take 20 seconds out of your day to watch it. Setting aside the comic perfection of that play, Troy is a difficult football team to scheme against. Despite having an offensive-minded head coach in Chip Lindsey, the Trojans are anchored by a strong defense that has allowed only 17 points per game this season. Troy is also battle-tested with competitive performances against Liberty and South Carolina. Meanwhile, Georgia Southern is only two weeks removed from firing its head coach for poor performance. Though the Eagles played well last week for interim head coach Kevin Whitley, I favor the stability of Troy’s program.

Penn State at Iowa Over 40.5

It makes sense that this game has the lowest point total of any game on the board this weekend. Both teams have elite defenses and inconsistent offenses. Iowa has a 27-game streak of keeping opponents under 25 points, and the Hawkeyes lead the nation in forced turnovers with 16. Penn State ranks third nationally in fewest points allowed per game (12), one slot behind Iowa. However, I am still siding with the over here. Iowa’s defense frequently puts the offense in short-field situations (or scores on its own). The Hawkeyes scored 51 last week against Maryland with only 428 yards of total offense. Though the Nittany Lions struggle to run the ball, they do have an above average passing game led by quarterback Sean Clifford and wide receiver Jahan Dotson. Though I do not expect this game to match the 62 points scored in last year’s meeting, I am confident these two top five teams can find a way to make it into the 40’s.

Specialty Bet Of The Week

  • Record to date: 2-3

My beautiful money-line parlay of Alabama, Georgia, and Oregon was coasting to victory. Then the Ducks decided to hand Stanford the game. Two penalties for roughing the passer and one defensive holding call as time expired allowed the Cardinal to score a game-tying touchdown and eventually win in overtime. I have never rooted for Oregon in my life prior to last Saturday and never will again.

Inspired by Kris’ question about crossover bets, I have decided to make my specialty bet this week a cross-league teaser using one NFL team and one college team. I call it the “Texas Two-Step.”

Texas (+3.5 –> +10) vs. Oklahoma

Apart from a pay-for game against Western Carolina, all of Oklahoma’s games have been decided by single digits. This includes games against unranked Tulane, West Virginia, and Kansas State. Texas may have its faults on the defensive side of the ball, but Steve Sarkisian knows how to construct a potent offense. Given how the Sooners have played down to every opponent, I’m taking the Horns and the extra points. I will also have a side dish of the Deep-Fried Halloween served at the State Fair outside the Cotton Bowl.

Dallas Cowboys (-7 –> -0.5) vs. New York Giants

I am currently undefeated with my NFL betting advice on the message board. For an encore, I have decided to hitch my wagon to the Cowboys and their dynamic offense. I also never miss out on an opportunity to fade Daniel Jones, who is still winless in his career against Virginia.

Random Fact to Impress Your Fellow Tailgaters

Jim Harbaugh has been a punching bag among the chattering class for his inability to win big games during his seven-year tenure at Michigan. The Wolverines finally broke through with an emphatic 38-17 win in Madison last weekend. It was the first time as Michigan’s head coach that Harbaugh won a game as the underdog. He should get a couple more chances to win games as an underdog this year with matchups against Penn State and Ohio State still to come.

The SabreBetrics column is written by a Virginia graduate and long-time fan of The Sabre. The opinions expressed in this article are not directly associated with and are intended for recreational use only.

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