Line Study: The Rematch of the Century

By Tom Fornelli | College Football Writer

Can Johnny Manziel do it to the Tide again
Can Johnny Manziel do it to the Tide again? (USATSI)

Every Monday the Eye on College Football's Tom Fornelli takes an early look this week's most interesting point spreads in Line Study.

Did you know that Alabama and Texas A&M are playing this week? Don't worry, if you didn't you'll hear plenty about it over the next six days, as the Game of the Century of the Year of the Week will certainly dominate college football chatter this week, and deservedly so.

Well did you know that Alabama is an eight-point favorite on the road? It is, and we'll get to that and more in this week's Line Study.

The Games You'll Be Watching

Alabama (-8) at Texas A&M

So why is Alabama an eight-point favorite over the Aggies even though the Aggies beat the Tide in Tuscaloosa last year? Well, the line actually opened with Alabama as a seven-point favorite and it has grown to eight since then. So the general public seems to be of the opinion that Nick Saban is going to get his revenge, and when you consider he's made this game a priority since Alabama finished off Notre Dame in January, it's understandable.

Also not helping matters is the fact that, through two games against Rice and Sam Houston State, the Texas A&M defense has allowed 899 yards, 6.16 yards per play and 59 points. Yes, the Aggies were missing plenty of starters against Rice, but those are still some troubling numbers.

Of course, it's not like the Alabama offense looked marvelous against Virginia Tech, but the Tide took last week off and likely spent that time addressing the problems it saw against the Hokies.

So which way should you be leaning? Well, I'm not going to tell you what to do, but you should know that since the 2011 season the Crimson Tide are 8-2 against the spread on the road. Do with that information what you will.

Tennessee at Oregon (-25 ½)

I know Oregon has been one of the best programs in the country for a few years now, and I know the Ducks will be at home, but that spread seems pretty large considering the opponent is an SEC team, no? Well, it opened with Oregon as a 20 ½-point favorite, so it's been the betting public pounding the Ducks in this matchup.

And it could be for good reason.

While Tennessee forced an amazing seven turnovers against Western Kentucky on Saturday, in those few instances the Hilltoppers were able to hold on to the football, they averaged 5.6 yards per play and ran for 5.0 yards per rush against the Vols defense. In other words, it's a good thing Tennessee forced all those turnovers because things would have been a lot closer if it hadn't.

However, it should be noted that Oregon isn't exactly a spread-covering juggernaut at home, as the Ducks are 9-10-1 at Autzen since the 2010 season. Meanwhile Tennessee is 7-6 against the spread on the road. So, in my opinion, this is a line you should stay away from.

UCLA at Nebraska (-5)

This line opened with Nebraska as a four-point favorite and has moved to five since. There are a few reasons for this. First and foremost, this game is being played in Lincoln, which is an obvious advantage for the Cornhuskers. Another reason would be that this game is being played at 11 a.m. local time, or 9 a.m. Pacific.

That's a very early game for the Bruins.

However, my initial response to this line is to stay away from it. If I were to make a play here I'd be much more inclined to play the over/under which is at 69. Let's not forget that these two teams combined for 66 points and 1,092 yards in last year's meeting. The over/under opened at 68 ½ and has already moved up. I might wait a bit to see if it moves up any higher before playing the under.

The Games You Can Exploit

Ole Miss at Texas (-4 ½)

As we saw on Saturday night the Longhorns defense has a bit of trouble stopping the run. It cost defensive coordinator Manny Diaz his job, and while the Longhorns will have a new man in charge of the defense this week, I have a hard time believing the problems will be fixed in a week.

And these will be the things that the general public is telling itself when looking at this game. However, it should not be forgotten that Texas beat Ole Miss by 35 points last season when the game was in Oxford. So this 4 ½-point spread seems like an overreaction to me.

Boston College at Southern California (-14)

Much like Texas the sky is falling on the Trojans as well, and while this line isn't as small as the Texas game, it probably isn't as large as it needs to be, either. Sure, Boston College is 2-0, but its two wins have come against Villanova and Wake Forest. Even if the Trojans offense struggles in this matchup the Trojan defense will keep the Boston College offense in check as well.

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