Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, October 3, 2011 at 12:57 PM
Last week in my “College of Advanced Handicapping” series, I listed all the college and pro teams who were in danger of being exposed as pretenders this past weekend. We certainly saw quite a few teams with strong records get embarrassed once they faced a quality opponent. Some were embarrassed while NOT playing a quality opponent!
*Virginia Tech carried a 4-0 record into its home game with Clemson. They only managed a field goal in a stunning 23-3 loss as a 7-point favorite. This is supposed to be the best team in the ACC. It now looks like Clemson is the best team given the Tigers’ impressive victories over Auburn, Florida State, and Virginia Tech. The Hokies had struggled on offense vs. lesser defenses, and were clearly exposed as pretenders at least in terms of the national rankings in this one.
*Nebraska didn’t even look like they deserved to be on the same field as Wisconsin in that Saturday Night game you probably watched on ABC. The Cornhuskers were a ridiculous eighth in the AP poll at kickoff. Did they even look like a top 30 team to you in their 48-17 loss? Nebraska allowed almost 500 yards to Wisconsin, and turned the ball over three times.
*South Carolina had dodged a few bullets to stay undefeated heading into what was supposed to be a huge revenge game with Auburn. You’ll recall South Carolina got obliterated in the SEC championship game last season. In fact, they hadn’t beaten Auburn for YEARS going back through many coaching regimes. They still haven’t beaten Auburn. South Carolina (-10) lost at home to Auburn 16-13.
*Florida should probably go on this list too, after falling to Alabama 38-10 as just a four-point home underdog. There are some extenuating circumstances here though. Florida lost its starting quarterback John Brantley midway through the game. And, losing to a superpower doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a pretender. Florida may still end up being the best team in an SEC East race that’s going to be very interesting in the next few weeks.
Lesser surprises came when Baylor lost as a road favorite at Kansas State, blowing a late lead; and Iowa State lost by a much bigger margin vs. Texas than was expected. But, it’s not like Baylor and Iowa State were top 10 powers expected to run roughshod over opponents this year. I’d give “minor” exposures to Illinois…who was VERY lucky to stay undefeated as about a 10-point favorite over Northwestern (the week after barely surviving Western Michigan)…and Houston in a relatively unimpressive win over UTEP. The Cougars should have fallen to Louisiana Tech earlier this season.
*Buffalo fell from the ranks of the undefeated with a loss to Cincinnati. If not for a defensive touchdown off an interception…the Bills wouldn’t have been in position to win at the end. I can’t say this is a very big surprise given how low expectations were for Buffalo entering the season. But, any delusions of grandeur fans were having after the 3-0 start should be tempered a bit. Cincinnati is a poor team.
*The NY Jets are one of a few teams who had been 2-1 entering the week but played way below expectations. Mark Sanchez was absolutely horrible in their 34-17 loss in Baltimore. Given that the Jets should have lost their season opener to Dallas…and did lose two of their next three…this is a team that clearly has the look of a pretender to me. The two-time AFC runners-up may not even make the playoffs this year.
*Pittsburgh continues to play very sloppy football. Everyone’s talking about the injury to Ben Roethlisberger Sunday in Houston. He wasn’t playing well before he got hurt! This team may have gotten old very fast…and is clearly on the short list of probable pretenders at the moment. Pittsburgh is 2-2, with the wins coming over very poor Indianapolis and Seattle teams.
*Dallas has to be on the list of pretenders too because this team is always so overhyped. If the media just told everyone they’re going to be a 7-9 win team that makes a lot of turnovers…Dallas wouldn’t be a pretender. They’d live “down” to that assessment. But, suggestions that this is a playoff caliber team…or even a possible Super Bowl contender usually end up looking ludicrous once Tony Romo starts firing interceptions all over the field.
I’ll also note that Cleveland and Oakland fell from 2-1 back to the .500 mark…and they don’t strike me as winning teams at the moment (particularly Cleveland). Tough to call them pretenders. But, they did miss their Vegas spreads this past Sunday by large margins after entering the weekend playing .667 ball.
Advanced Handicapping means looking for value on the Vegas board wherever you can find it. Betting against overrated and overpriced teams is the hallmark of professional wagerers out here in the sports betting capital of the world. I’m proud to say that’s been my profession for many decades.
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