The mental psyche aspect of college football will be on full display this weekend with three teams in particular — Michigan, Notre Dame and Texas A&M.
They suffered losses in “step up in class, statement” games this past weekend and I’m fascinated to see if they will respond to these setbacks in a positive fashion with a strong performance. Or will those losses lead to some deflated minds and spirits this Saturday as these teams take the field for their respective games.
Having a correct gauge on those teams’ mentalities will be critical to whether or not these teams get the money for their backers on Saturday.
Michigan was trounced by Wisconsin 35-14. Notre Dame valiantly battled to the end against Georgia but fell short in a 23-17 loss. Texas A&M couldn’t hang in the trenches with a very stout Auburn squad and struggled offensively for most of the game losing 28-20. Of the three, Notre Dame was the only team to cover the number in defeat.
Michigan gets what should be a good opponent to bounce back against as they face Rutgers at home as nearly four-touchdown favorites. Notre Dame hosts a very good Virginia team laying double digits at home while Texas A&M hosts Arkansas as more than a three-touchdown chalk against a reeling squad that just suffered a horrible loss at home to San Jose State last week.
I often let coaches and players do the talking for me in these instances. My advice would be to look for some very good and revealing quotes from players and coaches in local beat writer reports on these teams as those are often a good indicator of a team’s focus and mindset coming into games like this when they are trying to respond from a losing effort in a game they had circled on their schedule prior to the season.
Negative sounding quotes dwelling on what just happened could lead to a stronger ‘bet against’ situation with these teams. Quotes that point toward focusing on the next opponent and moving past the disappointment of the previous game could lead to more of a ‘bet on’ situation and an indication that the team might be ready to re-focus and not be shaken from their most recent loss in such a high profile game.
Here are this week’s picks:
Duke +2.5 at Virginia Tech: This is the No. 1 role for Duke and head coach David Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils have been magnificent underdogs going 6-1 ATS in their last seven games as a ‘dog.
Virginia Tech in contrast is 0-3 ATS to start the season and their schedule has been very weak, notching unimpressive ‘closer than expected’ wins against Furman and Old Dominion while losing to Boston College in their opener.
Virginia Tech failed against BC in their only game against a quality opponent this season and Duke’s defense has been solid. Let’s not forget Alabama only had 14 points against Duke at halftime of that first game.
The wrong team is favored here. I like Duke to win outright. DUKE
Penn State at Maryland +6.5: It’s OK to be unimpressed with Penn State’s 3-0 start. There was a fraudulent one against Illinois where Penn State came back from a 24-21 deficit as to cover as 25.5 point chalk in a 63-24 win.
Penn State’s offense hasn’t clicked yet but Maryland has found an offense this season under head coach Mike Locksley and QB Josh Jackson. Maryland lost their last game to Temple after two blowout wins but they were plagued by miscues and turnovers in the red zone multiple times. Live home ‘dog on Friday night. MARYLAND
Virginia +12.5 at Notre Dame: Notre Dame is prone to a physical and mental hangover in my opinion following its loss to Georgia. It was an extremely gritty and physical effort from the Fighting Irish, especially considering they were undersized in the trenches especially their defensive line against the massive Georgia offensive line.
Virginia was in a bad sandwich spot last week against Old Dominion in between big games against Florida State and Notre Dame. It showed as they played poorly and did just enough to get by in a 28-17 victory. This is still a good Cavaliers team with dual-threat senior QB Bryce Perkins leading the offense and a stout defense allowing just 263.8 yards per game this season.
Virginia was 5-1 ATS as underdogs last season. Expect more point spread success in that role here. VIRGINIA
Last week: 1-3