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Spread Options: Week 3

By Tom Fornelli | College Football Writer
Can Tyler Bray become the first Tennessee QB to beat Florida since Erik Ainge? (US Presswire)

Every Monday in Spread Options 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.

While I didn't have as nice a week as I did to open the season with my Spread Options picks, I did go 3-2 last week with my recommended bets, and I'm now 6-3 on the season. So if you like winning bets twice as often as you lose them, you should probably continue reading.

I've got five pretty interesting games to break down for you this week, as both the SEC and Pac-12 have some big conference games, and there are a couple nice nonconference games in the Big Ten as well.

At least, as nice of a game as you can have involving a Big Ten team at the moment.

Game One: Ohio State (-17) vs. Cal, Over/Under 52 ½
Saturday 9/15, Noon (All times Eastern) ABC

2011+12 Against The Spread
Overall: 7-8Overall: 7-8
Home: 4-5Road: 2-3
Home Fav: 3-5Road Dog: 2-1
NonCon: 3-4NonCon: 2-4
Over/Under: 7-7Over/Under 6-8
Under Current Head Coaches
Overall: 1-1Overall: 64-59-1
Home: 1-1Road: 24-29-1
Home Fav: 1-1Road Dog: 13-10-1
NonCon: 1-1NonCon: 20-18

On paper this isn't exactly a close matchup, but when we look at the trends things aren't nearly as clear. It's not easy to just take Ohio State and give up 17 points against a Pac-12 team. Plus, as you can see by the chart above, Ohio State is far from a sure thing against the spread whether at home or overall.

Meanwhile, Cal has had a history of success against the number under Jeff Tedford and has a winning record as an underdog on the road and outside the conference.

VERDICT: Trends are nice, but the one thing those numbers don't show is that Cal lost to Nevada to open the season and allowed 31 points against Southern Utah on Saturday. That's not exactly inspiring play from the Bears, and I can assure you Southern Utah didn't have a player of Braxton Miller's caliber on its offense.

Because of that, I'm not as scared to take Ohio State -17 as I'd normally be in this situation.

Game Two: Michigan State (-4) vs. Notre Dame, Over/Under 43 ½
Saturday 9/15, 8 p.m. ABC

2011+12 Against The Spread
Overall: 11-5Overall: 6-9
Home: 5-3Road: 1-4
Home Fav: 4-3Road Dog: 0-1
NonCon: 4-3vs. BCS: 3-9
Over/Under: 6-8-1Over/Under 5-8-1
Under Current Head Coaches
Overall: 36-28-3Overall: 13-13-2
Home: 17-16-2Road: 4-4
Home Fav: 14-14-1Road Dog: 2-1
NonCon: 13-12-1vs. BCS: 8-11-1
Last Five Meetings
2011: Notre Dame 31-13
2010: Michigan State 34-31 OT
2009: Notre Dame 33-30
2008: Michigan State 23-7
2007: Michigan State 31-14

Michigan State and Notre Dame renew their rivalry this week with both teams ranked and 2-0. Not unexpectedly, the Spartans are a 4-point favorite in this one. That's because this game is being played in East Lansing, and if you look above you'll see that the home team has won the last four games in this series. What's not above, however, is that Michigan State is 3-1-1 against the spread in those five games, with its only loss coming last season.

VERDICT: There are a few ways worth going in this game. Given Notre Dame's recent track record against BCS opponents and Michigan State's record against the spread, leaning toward Michigan State -4 makes sense. However, you also notice that in the past five meetings these two teams have averaged 49.4 points per game, with only one of the five meeting finishing under the 43 1/2 listed for this game.

So which way do you go? Well, I believe that under is low for a reason. Michigan State is young on offense, as is Notre Dame and both defenses are stout. So I'd go with Michigan State -4 if you're dying to place a bet right now. However, let's remember that Notre Dame is 2-0, and that may lead to fans getting a bit too excited about their Irish. Don't be surprised if that -4 gets smaller the closer we get to game time.

Game Three: Stanford vs. USC (-10), Over/Under 57 ½
Saturday 9/15, 7:30 p.m. Fox

2011+12 Against The Spread
Overall: 12-3Overall: 8-6
Home: 6-3Road: 4-1
Home Dog: 0-0Road Fav: 2-0
vs. Pac-12: 7-2vs. Pac-12: 6-3
Over/Under: 7-7Over/Under 7-7
Under Current Head Coaches
Overall: 12-3Overall: 13-14
Home: 6-3Road: 8-4
Home Dog: 0-0Road Fav: 4-3
vs. Pac-12: 7-2vs. Pac-12: 11-7
Last Five Meetings
2011: Stanford 56-48 3OT
2010: Stanford 37-35
2009: Stanford 55-21
2008: USC 45-23
2007: Stanford 24-23

This game is not easy for many reasons -- the first being this series has been so closely contested in recent seasons, and the second being we don't really know how good Stanford can be without Andrew Luck yet. All that being said, it's so hard to ignore the fact that Stanford is 12-3 against the number since the beginning of the 2011 season! There's also the fact that Stanford is 4-1 against the spread in its last five games against the Trojans.

Of course, that's all countered by the fact USC has been pretty good against the spread while on the road, so it's hard to figure out which way to go on that end.

VERDICT: And that's why I'm not going to recommend you play the spread. No, I think you should go for the Over 57 1/2. The last five meetings have averaged 73.4 points per game, and neither defense has shown me anything that causes me to believe it'll be able to keep the other team off the board. This could easily be the type of game where the first team to hit 40 wins.

Game Four: Arkansas vs. Alabama (-14), Over/Under 54
Saturday 9/15, 3:30 p.m. CBS

2011+12 Against The Spread
Overall: 8-7Overall: 10-5
Home: 6-3Road: 4-1
Home Dog: 0-0Road Fav: 4-1
vs. SEC: 4-4vs. SEC: 7-2
Over/Under: 9-4Over/Under: 7-7
Under Current Head Coaches
Overall: 0-2Overall: 39-27-1
Home: 0-2Road: 14-8
Home Dog: 0-0Road Fav: 13-7
vs. SEC: 0-0vs. SEC: 24-18-1
Last Five Meetings
2011: Alabama 38-14
2010: Alabama 20-14
2009: Alabama 35-7
2008: Alabama 49-14
2007: Alabama 41-38

Are you kidding me? Not even a point spread can stop Nick Saban's Death Machine. Look at those numbers! Look at how the last five games in this series turned out! There isn't a whole lot of thought needed here, folks.

VERDICT: Run -- do not walk -- sprint to your nearest book and put money down on Alabama -14. If you wait too long and we find out Tyler Wilson is going to miss the game you'll be sorry you didn't get it while the number was still that low. Even if Wilson does play, this is an Arkansas team that just lost at home to Louisiana-Monroe. Why are you still even reading at this point!?

Game Five: Tennessee (-3) vs. Florida, Over/Under 47
Saturday 9/15, 6 p.m. ESPN

2011+12 Against The Spread
Overall: 5-9Overall: 6-9
Home: 4-5Road: 2-3
Home Fav: 3-2Road Dog: 1-2
vs. SEC: 1-7vs. SEC: 2-6
Over/Under: 7-6-1Over/Under: 6-8
Under Current Head Coaches
Overall: 12-15Overall: 6-9
Home: 7-9Road: 2-3
Home Fav: 6-3Road Dog: 1-2
vs. SEC: 6-10vs. SEC: 2-6
Last Five Meetings
2011: Florida 33-23
2010: Florida 31-17
2009: Florida 23-13
2008: Florida 30-6
2007: Florida 59-20

Tennessee seems to be a team that is definitely trending up in 2012, but it's hard to know anything for sure when we haven't seen the Vols take on an SEC foe -- especially one like its hated rival from Gainesville. Unfortunately there are a lot of reasons I could come up with to bet against both of these teams when looking at recent trends.

Like the fact both teams are a combined 3-13 against the spread in SEC games since the start of last season. It almost makes me wish I could bet on a push.

VERDICT: In the end, though, I feel like the best bet here if you have to make one would be to take Florida +3. Not only have the Gators won the last seven meetings, but the Gators are 4-1 against the number in this game over the last five years. Also, the team that rushes for more yards has won the last nine games and 21 of the last 22 in this series, and Florida has the edge there at the moment. Not to mention the better defense.

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