Spread Options: Week 2

By Tom Fornelli | College Football Writer
Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs welcome Mizzou to the SEC this week. (US Presswire)

Every Monday Eye On College Football Blogger Tom Fornelli will take a look at the betting lines for five of the coming weekend's most important games. By looking at recent trends for both schools involved, along with their head coaches, he'll try to get an early read on what the best bet is for you to make, or if it's a game you should just stay away from.

Spread Options had a pretty nice start to the season last week. In the five games we featured, if you took my advice you went 3-1 -- I recommended staying away from Michigan State and Boise State all together -- with my only incorrect call being to take the under in the Notre Dame Navy game.

It was at 57 and then the Fighting Irish had to go out and score 50 points for the first time since roughly 1760 when a young George Washington was quarterbacking the Irish.

This week I'll take a look at the trends involved in five of Week 2's biggest matchups, and hopefully I'll have the same kind of success I did to start the season.

Game One: USC (-27 1/2) vs. Syracuse, Over/Under 57 1/2
Saturday 9/8, 3:30pm (All times Eastern) ABC/ESPN2

2011 & 2012 Against The Spread
Overall: 8-5Overall: 3-10
Neutral: 0-0Neutral: 0-0
NonCon: 2-2NonCon: 2-4
Over/Under: 6-7Over/Under: 9-4
Under Current Head Coaches
Overall: 13-13Overall: 17-20
Neutral: 0-0Neutral: 1-0
NonCon: 2-6NonCon: 10-6

So what is there to take away from this data? Well, first of all, Syracuse was terrible against the spread last season, and is 0-1 to start 2012. Given that USC is one of the best teams in the country, seeing those numbers makes it really easy to just think going with the Trojans and laying the points is the best move, but I'm not entirely sure. However, this game is in New Jersey, and while it's technically a neutral site, New Jersey is a lot closer to Syracuse than Los Angeles.

In the Trojans four wins outside of the Coliseum last season, they won by an average of 15.75 points per game. Of those four wins, only the 31-17 win over Notre Dame came east of Colorado.

VERDICT: Though it may seem crazy, if you're going to place a bet right now I'd go with Syracuse +27 1/2. Under Lane Kiffin the Trojans are 2-3 in games in which they've been favored by 20 points or more, and they've never been favored by as many as 27 1/2 points. Sure, Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib's numbers were inflated a bit against a bad Northwestern defense, but he's good enough to keep the Orange within four touchdowns.

Game Two: Texas A&M (-1 ½) vs. Florida, Over/Under: 52
Saturday 9/8 3:30pm - ESPN

2011 & 2012 Against The Spread
Overall: 4-9Overall: 5-9
Home: 3-4Road: 1-3
Home Fav: 3-4Road Dog: 0-2
Conference: 2-7SEC: 2-6
Over/Under: 7-5Over/Under 6-7
Under Current Head Coaches*
Overall: 27-24Overall: 5-9
Home: 14-7Road: 1-3
Home Fav: 13-5Road Dog: 0-2
Conference: 19-15SEC: 2-6

*Sumlin's numbers at Houston

Life in the SEC officially begins for the Aggies on Saturday when Florida comes to Kyle Field. Obviously, with a new head coach and a new conference, there isn't a lot of data to go off of when trying to figure out Texas A&M. However, it is obvious that the Aggies had problems at Kyle Field last season and within the Big 12.

Then there's Florida which wasn't good against the number under Will Muschamp last season, and looked anything but impressive against Bowling Green last week.

VERDICT: Nobody has gotten a chance to see Texas A&M play under Kevin Sumlin, so it's hard to know how well the Aggies have adapted to his offensive philosophies. Considering this will be the first full game A&M has played in this system, it's against a strong Florida defense, and the Florida offense sure isn't impressing anybody, the best bet to make here is the under of 52.

Game Three: LSU (-23 ½) vs. Washington, Over/Under 53
Saturday 9/8 7pm - ESPN

2011 Against The Spread
Overall: 10-5Overall: 7-7
Home: 3-4Road: 2-3
Home Fav: 3-4Road Dog: 2-2
NonCon: 2-3NonCon: 2-3
Over/Under: 8-5-1Over/Under 6-6-1
Under Current Head Coaches
Overall: 41-47-4Overall: 20-19
Home: 17-29-1Road: 7-9
Home Fav: 16-27-1Road Dog: 6-8
NonCon: 18-14NonCon: 6-6

Last week LSU couldn't cover a 42-point spread against North Texas, and this week it's being asked to cover 23 1/2 against Washington. Not an easy task against a Washington offense that averaged 33 points per game last season and has a good quarterback in Keith Price.

Further complicating matters is Les Miles' history against the number. Yes, overall, LSU was fantastic against the spread in 2011, going 10-4. However, that was far and away the best record LSU had ever had in a season under Miles. The previous best was a 6-5-1 mark in 2005. Miles also has a poor record against the number in Baton Rouge. So there are a lot of reasons to think Washington is the play here.

VERDICT: What is the best play here, though, is the over 53. LSU was able to hit the over last week against North Texas by scoring 41 points, and if you saw the Alamo Bowl last season, you know that Washington's defense isn't exactly stout. So it wouldn't be a shock to see LSU break the 40-point barrier once again this weekend, and if North Texas could muster 14 points against the Tigers, then surely Washington can as well.

Game Four: UCLA vs. Nebraska (-5), Over/Under: 60 ½
Saturday 9/8 7:30pm - FOX

2011 Against The Spread
Overall: 6-9Overall: 5-8-1
Home: 3-3Road: 2-2-1
Home Dog: 2-1Road Fav: 2-0-1
NonCon: 1-4NonCon: 2-4
Over/Under: 6-8Over/Under: 6-7
Under Current Head Coaches
Overall: 1-0Overall: 28-26-1
Home: 0-0Road: 11-7-1
Home Dog: 0-0Road Fav: 9-4-1
NonCon: 1-0NonCon: 12-9

UCLA looked very good in its first game under Jim Mora, but make no mistake, a road game against Rice is quite different than a home game against Nebraska. The last time Nebraska hit the road to take on a Pac-12 team was in 2010 when it lambasted Jake Locker and Washington 56-21. This is also the eighth time that UCLA and Nebraska will meet.

Nebraska is 6-1 in the first seven meetings.

VERDICT: Of the five bets I'm recommending this week, this is the one I feel the safest about. Take Nebraska -5 and don't even worry about Rex Burkhead not being available. Just look at the trends under Pelini with the Huskers on the road, and know that Nebraska has plenty of depth at running back. Also realize that Taylor Martinez had the game of his life against Southern Miss and he'll now be facing a UCLA secondary that allowed Rice to score 24 points last week. I also recommend getting on this line while it's still at Nebraska -5, as it opened at 4 1/2 points and is only going to keep growing.

Game Five: Missouri vs. Georgia (-3 ½), Over/Under: 54 ½
Saturday 9/8 7:45pm - ESPN2

2011 Against The Spread
Overall: 8-6Overall: 8-6-1
Home: 4-3Road: 3-1
Home Dog: 1-1Road Fav: 3-1
Conference: 4-5SEC: 5-3-1
Over/Under: 6-6Over/Under 7-7
Current Head Coaches Since 2002
Overall: 65-58-1Overall: 63-60-4
Home: 30-27Road: 23-19-1
Home Dog: 6-6Road Fav: 17-12-1
Conference: 39-43-1SEC: 40-41-3

Just like Texas A&M, Missouri will be playing its first SEC game this weekend, and it doesn't get an easy opponent in Georgia. Also like A&M, it's hard to get a great read on this game considering we've never seen Missouri make its way through an SEC schedule. In fact, aside from Texas A&M, Missouri hasn't played an SEC foe since beating Arkansas 38-7 in the 2008 Cotton Bowl.

So if we're going to look at trends, the best numbers to consider are the ones under that Georgia logo.

VERDICT: While it may be smartest to stay away from this game, if you are going to bet I recommend taking Georgia -3 1/2. It's just too hard to ignore how successful the Bulldogs have been on the road against the number with Mark Richt in charge, particularly when favored. Yes, Georgia struggled a bit against Buffalo last week, but I expect things to improve quite a bit between then and Saturday.

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