Plenty of Mismatches on the Non-Con Buffet
Back after taking Week 1 off due to the heavy load of midweek action, but rest assured many lessons were learned over the first full weekend of the “Welcome Back!” 2021 season. A byproduct of the laudable effort by leagues like the B1G to put marquee matchups, often conference tilts, in Week 1, is that Week 2 ends up feeling like a downgrade to the typical non-con warmup of September. If you want P5 vs FCS action and the opportunity to sweat -42.5 covers, this is the week for you.
Typical themes for Week 2 are to try and spot the largest overreactions due to Weeks 0-1, and try to buy low thanks to recency bias. The team likely foremost in line for an overcorrection after the last two weeks is UCLA, vaulting from 17th most votes outside the AP Top 25 (ie. 42nd) to a debut position of #16, but unfortunately they’re on a bye. The next biggest mover went in the opposite direction, and that was North Carolina, falling from a now-obvious overrated #10 to #24 on the heels of an awful offensive showing in a 17-10 loss at Virginia Tech. UNC’s fall has more to do with the eye-test and how bad Howell looked than shock factor of losing to VT, as they were only a 5.5pt favorite. UNC is -26 at home vs Georgia St (o/u 66.5, 6:30pm CST; all lines from PointsBet) in their first ever meeting with the Sun Belt team. So is -26 a discount, did the showing vs VT bring it down from something like -35? Considering GSU lost their opener to Army 43-10, it very well might be. It’s not like the 33 point loss was a misleading final, Army doubled them up in total yardage and were up 20 by half. GSU wasn’t able to do anything on offense, totaling just 177 yards as a 2pt home favorite, also being dominated more than 2 to 1 in time of possession, as Army successfully shortened the game. Unfortunately I don’t see an advantage for UNC at -26. In fact, I think Georgia St +26 is a good play here. The spread versus Army is a tell. Army went 9-3 in 2020, being favored over them is the sign of a respectable Sun Belt team. GSU went 6-4 and returned all 11 starters on offense and 92% of their total production. Army’s triple option is in a category of its own, the type of X-factor that can produce results that look unbelievable months later. I’m betting that GSU bounces back sufficiently to keep it close with UNC well into the 2nd half, and well short of a 4 TD margin.
Two of the prominent nationally televised games also feature big Week 1 movers:
#10 Iowa at #9 Iowa St -4.5, o/u 46, ML +165/-196; 2:30pm on ABC
Iowa shot up 8 spots in the polls thanks to their dismantling of Indiana, while ISU dropped a couple spots following the struggle it took them to outlast Northern Iowa by 6. The initial impression this spread screams out, is that Iowa is too good to be true. How can anyone who’s watched them win their last 7 games by an average of 22.7ppg not take Iowa and the points, if not moneyline as well? Two words – Spencer Petras. There’s nothing in this stretch of Iowa domination to strongly criticize, but the 2nd year starting QB is the closest thing to one. And when you think of what it takes to go on the road and win at a top-10 team, strong quarterback play often comes to mind. It wasn’t the case the last time Ferentz led Iowa to a road top-10 win, when they beat #5 Penn St 21-10 in 2009, in spite of an 11 of 26, 135yd, 0 TD 2 INT night from Ricky Stanzi. I don’t think Ferentz will luck out again. There’s too much else on the board to feel strongly, but if one is determined to bet this game, I think Iowa St is the right side.
Washington at Michigan -7 (+100), o/u 48.5, ML +215/-270; 7:05pm on ABC
Washington embarrassed themselves in the Jimmy Lake’s 2nd season opener (but just 5th total game as head coach) in an inept offensive showing losing at home to FCS Montana 13-7. The Huskies turned it over 3 times, and failed to gain 300 total yards. They fell from #20 to completely out of the poll. But let’s get one thing clear initially. Montana is one of the better FCS teams out there. They were ranked 6th among teams in the division at the end of the last full season in 2019. A loss isn’t so unfathomable, it is the self-inflicted offensive failure that should draw more concern than the actual loss. Michigan, on the other hand, was impressive in their home opening 47-14 win over Western Michigan. Everything other than Ronnie Bell’s health went well, with their leading receiver being ruled out for the year during the week following Saturday’s injury. If Michigan is looking for sympathy over WR injuries, they’re playing the wrong team. A large part of the Montana loss was that UW was without their top 4 receivers after the first play of the game (top 3 were inactive). It’s expected that at least a portion of their top trio (Terrell Bynum, Rome Odunze and Jalen McmIllan) should be available Saturday. What this game will come down to is Michigan’s ability to run the ball in spite of Washington loading up to stop it. If UW can’t force Cade McNamara to beat them, they’ll lose easily. However, even if they prove tough defensively, it just isn’t clear enough that the offense led by Dylan Morris will hold up its end of the bargain. Look for momentum to really take over in the 2nd half as Michigan -7 hits with relative comfort.
Best of the Rest:
- Utah -7 (-115) at BYU, 9:15pm ESPN; BYU was outgained by Arizona and is sending an inexperienced starter (Jaren Hall) out against a capable secondary in a series Utah has thoroughly dominated. Good Charlie Brewer game here.
- NC State -1 at Mississippi State, 6:00pm ESPN2; NC State is a legitimately good team, what Dave Doeren has built is on a different level from Season 2 Game 2 of the Mike Leach era.
- Top Pick – Wisconsin -26 vs Eastern Michigan, 6:00pm FS1; Buying low on the Wisconsin offense. The defense acquitted itself very well vs Penn St, in spite of Mertz’s game costing red zone struggles. I see a motivated team coming out to erase the memories of a bad loss. Four touchdowns is very manageable when it’s virtually inconceivable to see EMU scoring over 10 points, if that.
Enjoy the games. Thanks to the early 10am ACC Network kickoff (Illinois at UVA), you can binge an extra hour!
(1-1 ATS on the season)