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Bet The Game: 3 Takeaways from the Betting Weekend

By Zack Schlegel

Underdogs dominate NFL Week 4, creating a huge weekend for the books. 

I can still hear the dogs barking from this weekend, and I’m not just talking about the Cleveland Browns dog pound making noise and celebrating their recent rise to the top spot in the AFC North standings. However, we do need to take a second to give credit to the Brown’s offense who racked up 530 yards of offense and 40 points on a tough Ravens defense in Baltimore. This of course coming after a MNF performance in which Cleveland was only able to muster up half as many yards and 13 points at home, against a Rams defense that just allowed 55 points to the ever-so average Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Browns and the Bucs were not the only underdogs to cover the spread and pull off the out right victory. There were eight NFL teams that pulled off the out right victory as underdogs this weekend — the most this season. It all started with the Philadelphia Eagles winning on the road in Green Bay as 4.5-point underdogs on TNF. Roughly 66% of the public bets came in on the Packers. The Eagles defense of all things was the unlikely hero that stepped up with two goal line stands late in the fourth quarter to help Philly seal the victory. The win for the Eagles ended up being huge for them in the divisional race, as the home underdog New Orleans Saints took care of the Dallas Cowboys on SNF.

The other underdog winners that have not yet been mentioned, were the Panthers, Raiders, Titans, and Jaguars. All in all, underdogs finished 10-4 (71.4%) against the spread this weekend as we head into MNF tonight. If the Bengals came pull off the win tonight against the Steelers, the books will certainly cap off their best weekend of the football season thus far.

Never doubt Arizona State as a road underdog under Herm Edwards. 

Since Herm Edwards took over as the Sun Devils head coach in 2018, Arizona State has been an absolute nuisance to home teams who are favored against them. How do I know this? Well, let’s just say it’s from personal experience. I happen to remember three different occasions during the past two seasons where I was invested in the wrong side of an ASU football game. All three of these games have one thing in common — I was betting against ASU as a road underdog.

It all began last season when I took USC -3, hosting an ASU team who was coming off of back-to-back conference losses and could have very well just thrown in the towel sitting at 3-4 on the season. The Sun Devils took a 24-14 lead into halftime, and although USC regained the lead in the third quarter, ASU proceeded to pull off the narrow 38-35 victory. The win turned the season around for Herm Edward’s squad, as they went on to win four of their final five regular season conference games.

ASU has played two road games so far in the 2019 season, and in both of those games they have been underdogs. A few weeks back, I went “back to the well” and took Michigan St to cover against the Sun Devils as double digit favorites. ASU has a freshman quarterback, and this same MSU team had a motive of revenge from the previous season. Neither of those things mattered to Herm Edwards or any of the ASU players for that matter. Freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels carried himself like a seasoned veteran, and the Sun Devils play calling and execution was perfect when it needed to be. Daniels put together a game-winning drive to knock off No. 18 MSU on the road 10-7.

The Sun Devils were back on the road again this past Friday night. This time against the only undefeated team left in the Pac-12, the California Golden Bears. The Bears were 4-point favorites. Now, you should first understand the following: I grew up a Cal Bears fan. The Oregon Ducks were on a bye and a win by Cal would set up a top-15 match-up in Eugene the following weekend. Finally, I had already bet on Maryland +7 at home against Penn St (which was the game played just before Cal vs ASU).

Now that you know all of us, you might be able to tell where this is going. I was emotionally invested in a Cal victory, regardless of whether or not I decided to bet the game. It didn’t help that Maryland decided to play their game blindfolded in a 59-0 Penn St beat down. Naturally, now I had to bet the Cal game to make up for the Terps disgusting performance. Cal quarterback Chase Garbers left the game with a right shoulder injury during the final minutes of the first half… awesome.

Devon Modster took over at quarterback for Cal, and all I could do was pray that mistakes would be held to a minimum and the Cal defense would show us why the Bears were the last undefeated team left in the conference. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Modster went 5-14 for 23 measly yards, and ASU running back Eno Benjamin took over the game with two second half touchdowns. Benjamin was a workhorse, carrying the ball 29 times for 100 yards and 3 TD’s.

With the score 17-14 Cal leading late in the fourth quarter, the Sun Devils play calling and execution was perfect once again when they needed to be. Jayden Daniels led a 15 play, 75 yard drive, capped off by Benjamin’s 3-yard TD run to give them the lead. Once again, I was left shaking my head in disappointment as ASU pulled off the outright victory.

Jayden Daniels was quoted after the win, “We like playing on the road, we like playing the tough teams. We like being the underdog team. People doubt us… If you don’t believe in us, we believe in ourselves.” The Sun Devils are now 5-1 against the spread as a road underdog, and 4-2 straight up in the regular season against ranked teams under Herm Edwards.

Clemson is no longer the No. 1 team in college football. 

If you have principles and are under the strong belief that the champ is always the champ until someone knocks them off, then you must have the Toronto Raptors ranked as the No. 1 team in the NBA this season. Trust me, I admire people who are stern with their standards and beliefs, but when it comes to ranking sports teams I’m one of those who likes to begin with a clean slate each year.

The Clemson Tigers went on the road this weekend to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels. Clemson was a 27.5-point favorite, and the Tigers were 32-7 straight up as a road favorite under Dabo Swinney heading into the game. UNC held a 14-7 lead in the second quarter and took the game into the fourth quarter tied at 14-14. Clemson was in trouble for the first time this season, and really the first time since they played Syracuse almost exactly a year prior on Sept. 29th, 2018.

Heisman hopefuls Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne looked human as the Clemson offense was limited to just 331 yards of total offense — the least amount of yards since the Tigers lost to Alabama in the 2017-18 CFB Playoff Semifinal. UNC hung in the game until the end, scoring a touchdown to make it 21-20 Clemson with just 1:17 left in the ball game, but came up just short of the monumental upset after a failed 2-pt conversion.

It’s important to not overreact to performances like this, as Clemson will most likely bounce back with a big win at home against Florida St after a their bye week coming up. However, it’s acceptable to question where the Tigers stand among the other top teams in the country following Week 5, especially when teams like Alabama, Georgia, Ohio St, LSU, Oklahoma, and Auburn are performing the way they are.

Looking at Clemson’s schedule, I would consider a 24-10 home win over now No. 25 Texas A&M to be the Tigers best win so far. To be fair, the new No. 1 team in the latest AP Poll, the Alabama Crimson Tide, haven’t necessarily faced any major competition yet either. However, Alabama has won all of their games by an average of 37 points per game.

Teams like Georgia and LSU both have wins over top-10 teams in the country. Georgia hosted No. 7 Notre Dame in a game where they played extremely conservative on offense, which ultimately led to a much closer game than most had predicted. LSU arguably has the most impressive win of all, knocking off No. 9 Texas on the road, 45-38. The Tigers’ senior quarterback Joe Burrow is putting together a Heisman worthy season so far, completing 80.6% of his passes for 1,520 yards, 17 TD’s and just 2 INT’s — he had 16 TD passes all of last season, and 4 of them came in their bowl victory over UCF.

Ohio St and Oklahoma have been rolling over their competition all season long, with dual threat quarterback’s Justin Fields and Jalen Hurts posting gaudy numbers for each of their offenses. Finally, Auburn and Wisconsin remain undefeated and continue to win convincingly, posting a combined 8-1 record against the spread this season. There is a case for any of these teams mentioned to be in the conversation for the CFB Playoff this year, and you could argue that they all have performed equal to or better than Clemson has so far.

Unlike the last four seasons, where it has essentially been a coin flip between Alabama and Clemson to win it all… this season feels a bit different. Similar to how the NBA is looking heading into this season, there seems to be a solid 8-10 teams vying for a chance to play in the championship game. One can only wonder if this seemingly leveled playing field will cause the CFB Playoff Committee to rethink the size and structure of the current 4-team playoff format.

 

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