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Line Study: The real ACC Championship

By Tom Fornelli | College Football Writer

Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins will face their toughest test of the season on Saturday
Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins will face their toughest test of the season on Saturday. (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.

It's a good time to be the ACC. When this conference expanded nearly a decade ago, it did so with the idea of having a few college football powerhouses within the conference. Well, it took a while, but it seems it has finally happened.

If you look at this week's AP Poll you'll not only see two ACC teams in the top five and three teams ranked in the top ten. But as good a season as the ACC is having on the field, don't get confused and think this isn't really a two-horse race this season. And on Saturday those two horses are going to get together for a game that will probably decide the ACC champion in 2013.

THE GAMES YOU'LL BE WATCHING

No. 5 Florida State (-3) at No. 3 Clemson

That's not weird or anything, is it? You've got two top five teams meeting and it's the home team -- which is ranked higher, mind you -- is an underdog. And I can't help but feel like it's an overreaction to Clemson's performance against Boston College, but it's not like the Tigers are the first team to ever get caught looking ahead.

This is the first time the Tigers have been a home underdog since the final game of the 2010 season when they hosted South Carolina. Clemson was a home dog twice that season and failed to cover both times. However, Florida State went on the road as a favorite five times last season. It failed to cover all five times.

So far this season the Seminoles have been road favorites twice and they've split those games. And Florida State also failed to cover on the road against Boston College just like Clemson did.

So which way should you be leaning right now? Honestly, I'm not all that comfortable with either play at the moment. I'd wait this one out a bit.

No. 9 UCLA at No. 13 Stanford (-5)

I don't want to accuse anybody of anything, but is it possible that the person in charge of making the schedule in the Pac-12 is a USC grad? I mean, I think UCLA is clearly the best team in the Pac-12 South, but have you seen its schedule this season? As if getting Stanford, Oregon and Washington as cross-divisional games in one season isn't enough, the Bruins have to play Stanford and Oregon in consecutive weeks on the road?

That's just mean.

As for this game, Stanford may be 5-1 on the season but it's not performing nearly as well against the spread. The Cardinal are 2-4 on the season, which includes a 1-2 record at home after going 1-5 as a home favorite last season. Meanwhile UCLA is undefeated on the field and against the spread this season, and 6-2 against the spread in its last eight road games. It's somewhat hard to ignore those trends, isn't it? I'm leaning UCLA +5 here.

No. 24 Auburn at No. 7 Texas A&M (-13.5)

Well I wasn't expecting this to be a game of ranked teams before the season started, were you?

Before I even started looking at the trends I was already leaning toward Auburn here because the Tigers have played very well the last few weeks (they've covered in three straight) and the Texas A&M defense just has that knack for allowing Aggie opponents to stay in the game, so two touchdowns feels like a bit too much.

Combine that with the fact that while A&M may be 3-1 against the spread at home this season, two of those covers were against Sam Houston State and SMU. The other was Alabama, which is somewhat hard to knock.

But more than anything it's that Texas A&M defense that's allowing over 500 yards and 40 points per game against SEC opponents this season that has me being a heavy lean toward Auburn +13.5.

THE GAMES YOU SHOULD EXPLOIT

No. 20 Washington (+3) at Arizona State

It's not that I think Arizona State is a bad team or anything, but I'm confused as to why Washington is an underdog in this game. I know that Washington has struggled on the road in conference play in recent years, but this is a different Washington team. It outplayed Stanford on the road a few weeks ago but got done in by a couple Ty Montgomery kick returns, and I believe Stanford is a better team than Arizona State.

Also, while Arizona State has played well at home this season, this is still a run defense that gives up a lot of yards and touchdowns. Having to face one of the country's best running backs in Bishop Sankey isn't going to help them fix that. I'd take Washington +3 here and feel good about it.

No. 25 Wisconsin (-10.5) at Illinois

Illinois is coming off a bye week and is at home, which provides some hesitation, but did you see what the Badgers did to Northwestern on Saturday? Now, I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I say that Northwestern is probably a better football team than Illinois is.

Also, this is a Wisconsin team that is averaging nearly 300 yards rushing per game and is averaging 7.07 yards per carry. And that Wisconsin rushing attack is going against an Illinois defense that is currently allowing 195.4 rushing yards per game and 4.91 yards per carry. Those numbers rank No. 98 and No. 103 in the nation respectively.

I just have a hard time imagining a bye week can fix that, and I think Melvin Gordon and James White are going to have huge days. Take Wisconsin -10.5.

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