College faves

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Prior to Hawaii falling badly to Tulsa as 10½-point favorites, the favorites of the first six bowl games had all covered.

Even though there is no correlation with one game to another, it always seems like during the stretch run we’re about to see this week, things level off in the favorite to underdog ratio.

The trend of taking underdogs at +8 or higher in pre-New Year’s day bowls is 1-2 thus far, but if playing money lines, you’re well ahead with Tulsa. This week we have two other opportunities to make the trend hold up with Army getting 8 against SMU and Washington +13 facing Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.

Even though the Huskies got blasted at home by the Cornhuskers 56-21 in September, Nebraska’s current squad isn’t the same. Amid several internal squabbles is one with quarterback Taylor Martinez, who orchestrated all those early season blowouts.

While Nebraska is somewhat in disarray, Washington rallied to make a bowl by winning its final three games. The major wild card in all this is Jake Locker. The Huskies QB has the ability to single handedly take over games. Take Washington +13 and look for Locker to close out his collegiate career with a great performance.

Before I get to my favorite bowl of the week, I have action on Notre Dame +3 OVER Miami in the Sun, South Carolina -3 against Florida State in the Chick-Fil-A and Michigan +5½ OVER Mississippi State in the Gator.

When reflecting back just four years ago, it’s amazing to believe Stanford was 1-11 compared to its current 11-1. Here they are the No. 5 team in the nation piloted by the probable No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, QB Andrew Luck. Monday’s Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech (11-2) will be the first meeting between the two and first-ever ACC-Pac 10 matchup.

Virginia Tech also had a major turnaround of sorts, starting the season 0-2 with a loss to Boise State and then the letdown setback at home against James Madison. The Hokies got back to basics, played their traditionally tough defense and won out, securing a fourth ACC title since joining in 2004. VT is the only team in the nation to win at least 10 games seven straight years.

The transformation of Stanford into a power house can be attributed to Luck and head coach Jim Harbaugh. Since taking over in 2007, Harbaugh has mixed the best of both worlds into his offensive attack stemming from his college days as QB for Bo Schembechler’s Michigan teams along with adding some modern wrinkles.

Only Boise State other than Stanford was top-10 in the nation in passing efficiency on VT’s schedule. If not for a second half meltdown at Oregon, which trailed 31-24 at the half, Stanford would be playing Auburn for the title game. Laying only 3½-points against a team that padded its record against weak ACC teams, seems one of the better bets in New Year’s bowls and beyond. Stanford, 38-21.

Twitter value: Nowhere does sports information come quicker than Twitter. Twice last week alone key information was found first on Twitter before any of the sports books paid services relayed the info.

On Tuesday night, the Kansas State basketball team had its two best players, including preseason All-American Jacob Pullen, suspended for its game against UNLV. The news was first displayed on Twitter and didn’t reach the sports books until 20 minutes later ,giving a huge window of opportunity for bettors to take advantage.

K-State was a 4-point favorite prior to the suspensions and closed -2. The Rebels won outright in a game that probably should been shaded closer to UNLV being a slight favorite after the news was known.

Another opportunity occurred last Wednesday where rumors of Ohio State’s star football players might be suspended, including QB Terrelle Pryor, were swirling on Twitter over an hour before news got to the sports books from their paid consultants. Though revealed a day later that the NCAA would strangely allow the five to play in the Sugar Bowl and begin 5-game suspensions next season, there was a large gap where the books were left unprotected.

Had the Buckeyes players been left out of the bowl, Arkansas likely would have been -6 or higher, making it a 10-point swing.

For bettors looking to take advantage of this relatively new phenomenon, just sign up for a free account, follow a few sports writers around the country and ask to see key words such as “injury,” “suspension” or the actual name of a player. Quality information that I do see is passed along as a re-tweet. You can follow me at MicahRoberts7.

College Basketball: A quiet week, but we were further enlightened to a few teams that may have been perhaps rated too high. Baylor, Michigan State and Tennessee all took a step backwards with losses.

Of the three, Michigan State will be the team to keep trusting as conference play begins. All four Spartan losses on the season have come to ranked opponents. Last week Texas took down the Spartans. Before that, it was Syracuse, Duke and Connecticut — a regular Who’s Who of college basketball this season.

Baylor’s 77-71 loss to Washington State in Hawaii as 4-point favorites came as somewhat of a surprise even though the Cougars had been 9-1 coming in. Two days later, WSU lost to Butler as a 2-point favorite.

We’re still trying to figure out the best team in the weak Pac-10, but thus far, it could be the Cougars. Klay Thompson is averaging 22.3 ppg, up 3-points from his sophomore season last year. WSU can take a major step in taking conference supremacy this week at UCLA and USC. That’s certainly possible despite both the Trojans and Bruins playing well now.

Tennessee is fading fast and the rating may be adjusted too much, providing some value. The Vols are free falling, once ranked in the top-10 after beating Villanova and Pittsburgh. Rocky Top ended a three-game losing streak by sweating out a home win against Belmont 66-65. This week they should rebound with home games against Tennessee-Martin and Charleston before a big Jan. 5 game clash with in-state rival Memphis. Then, the eight game SEC suspension of Coach Bruce Pearl begins.

The Games of the Week both feature No. 18 Notre Dame (11-1) in Big East play. The surprising Irish welcome No. 9 Georgetown (11-1) on Wednesday then go to No. 5 Syracuse (13-0) Sunday. The following Tuesday, ND plays No. 4 Connecticut (10-0).

The Irish have played only one ranked opponent (Kentucky) this season, losing 72-58. Look for them to play Georgetown tough and squeak out a home win, but stumble by 10 at Syracuse. After those games are played, a better assessment can be made for how the Irish will perform against UConn.

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