Aidan O Sullivan: There's nothing like Life on the Road

15 min

As we ease our way into November we approach the business end of the always topsy-turvy world of College Football. Long residing in the top spot Alabama have fallen a notch to be overtaken by a resurgent Georgia Bulldogs unit. The biggest surprise this year has arguably been the rise of perennial underachievers Notre Dame. Head Coach Brian Kelly was under immense pressure coming off the back of a dismal 4-8 2016 campaign but has righted the ship this season with the assistance of an awesome Defense and the strong play of QB Brandon Wimbrush.

Latest College Football Playoff Rankings:

1. Georgia
2. Alabama
3. Notre Dame
4. Clemson
5. Oklahoma
6. TCU
7. Miami
8. Wisconsin
9. Washington
10. Auburn

This weeks slate is loaded with some tasty inter-conference games and below I will reveal where my ‘hard-earned’ money is headed.

In a hat tip to the great Willie Nelson I’m off out on ‘the road again‘.

Michigan State (12) at Ohio State (13)

Opening Line: Ohio State -17
Opening Total: 54

Holy Buckeyes!! One week out from a stirring comeback win over Penn State, Ohio State came crashing down to earth last weekend with a 55-24 thumping on the road to Iowa. Buckeyes QB JT Barrett turned from hero to villain in less than 7 days with 4 Int’s in Iowa City. The ‘Bucks’ went into this one as a whopping 21 point road favourite which further highlights the ability of recency bias to drive a number way beyond its real value.

While Ohio State has long been the darling of public bettors Michigan State has often been overlooked in big spots. Already this season in conference play they have spotted Michigan 12 points and Penn State 10 and not only covered both numbers in the process but won outright in both games.

With 10 Ohio Natives on this Spartans starting roster, there will be no lack of motivation on their part heading into Columbus.

Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio also an ex-Buckeye coach more often than not has his team primed and ready in these underdog spots and I expect nothing less on Saturday.

Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio has a great record against the Buckeyes.

As a ‘Sparties’ backer at this spot I would have loved this line at the opening 17 but with the current number hanging at 15 I’m not going to turn down the 2 Touchdown start here. As alluded to above the Spartans have played the Bukeyes tough in recent years and are 4-2 ATS in their last 6 meetings between the two. Take the points and get your Saturday slate off to a flier.

Georgia (1) at Auburn (10)

Opening Line: Pk
Opening Total: 51.5

Expect an SEC battle for the ages on Saturday evening on the Auburn Plains as Georgia rock into Jordan Hare Stadium. Georgia have exceeded expectations and have raced out to a 9-0 record but Auburn are arguably the strongest opposition they have faced thus far. Yes they went to South Bend and beat Notre Dame earlier this season but the Fighting Irish were still finding their way at that juncture.

Both Defenses come into this one with superior stats and both have excellent depth beyond their starting 11’s. It’s very much like for like as both units will aim to counter the strong running games of their opposing offenses. Georgia’s Freshman QB Jake Fromm has been more than adequate through 9 games but Head Coach Kirby Smart will hope his Running Back tandem of Nick Chubb and Sonny Michel can penetrate the Auburn Defensive Line and keep this Bulldog Offense on schedule.

The sight of Georgia running back Nick Chubb leaving defenders in his wake has been a regular one this season.

Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn has been under pressure in recent times mainly in part due to the inconsistent play of an Offense that shows much better on the stat sheet against inferior opposition.

The knock on Malzahn and this Auburn Offense is their inferior performances against the better teams.

Case in point earlier this season would be their thumping at the hands of Clemson in South Carolina.

Both Coaching staffs will veer away from resting this game on the shoulders of their respective QB’s and will look to pound the rock with their talented backs. Expect both punters to see plenty of action on Saturday as the respective Defenses buckle up and stifle the flashy Offensive plays.

The Total opened at a mind-boggling high of 51.5 but was quickly hammered back into 47 at the time of writing. Yes, there was clearly more value at a 50+ number but this games looks, talks and smells like an absolute dogfight. Barring Overtime this game stinks like a 21-17 game for me. The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Georgia’s last 6 games when playing Auburn and has cashed on 10 of Georgia’s last 15 road games. Play the Under and enjoy Defensive SEC Football at its best.

TCU (6) at Oklahoma (5)

Opening Line: Oklahoma -7
Opening Total: 66.5

The Big 12 has been known for some time as a conference with PlayStation like final scores with wide open up-tempo Offenses and minimal Defense in comparison. The TCU Horned Frogs very much buck that trend. Yes they have a pretty decent Offense of their own under ex Texas A&M QB Kenny Hill but it’s their All American Defense that makes this unit so special. Under Head Coach Gary Patterson TCU have always been above average on that side of the ball but this year especially they have excelled.

OU QB Baker Mayfield has had a Heisman Trophy winning type season thus far.

The Sooners fresh from a 62-52 win over their in-state rivals Oklahoma State head into this one with QB Baker Mayfield an odds-on Heisman Trophy favourite. Mayfield went off against the Cowboys last weekend throwing for 598 yards and finding the endzone on 5 different occasions. His ability to extend plays with his legs under pressure from advancing D-Line players while still keeping his eyes downfield and maintaining his throwing accuracy has made him a nightmare to defend of late.

From reading the above you may be thinking – who’s going to stop this Mayfield guy? Step forward Gary Patterson and TCU.

The Horned Frogs have the scheme and the athletes to slow down this potent Offense.

Playing on the road in Norman won’t be an issue for TCU as they have shown already this season and expect their Offensive play-callers to keep the Sooners Defense on their heels. The let down factor of a post bedlam week is also a major factor to consider when opposing OU here.

TCU is 3-1 ATS in its last 4 games against Oklahoma and I like them getting a 6.5 point start here.

Notre Dame (3) at Miami (7)

Opening Line: Notre Dame -1.5
Opening Total: 57.5

If you haven’t seen the ESPN Documentary Catholics v Convicts then it would be worth your time to get a bit of context ahead of this one. While the rivalry has been somewhat diluted since the heydays of the 80’s, the introduction of Notre Dame to an ACC schedule in recent times may just reignite a whole new one.

Compared to last season dismal 4-8 record Notre Dame have been a different unit on both sides of the ball. Their Defense has clearly been much improved but it’s the Offense under dual-threat QB Brandon Wimbrush that has really got this team rolling.

Backed up by star running back Josh Adams the Irish have had scoreboard operators working overtime of late averaging 43.4 points and 512 yards a game since their early season loss to Georgia.

While the Irish were favoured in that game, Georgia’s subsequent run through the SEC has displayed well for Notre Dame.

Notre Dame RB Josh Adams has averaged 132 rushing yards a game this season.

Yes Miami are 8-0 and Head Coach Mark Richt has done wonders with this team but it’s hard not to feel that this is a false 8-0 record. A case in point would be the last second Malik Rossier TD pass to beat the Florida State Seminoles. FSU has since given a greater sample size of how poor they have been especially on the Defensive side of the ball.

On a neutral field, I have the Irish as a 7/8 point favourite so I am not overly perturbed by laying 3 points on the road. Miami’s current home stadium which they share with the Dolphins is not half as intimidating as they would like and with a large traveling Notre Dame fanbase attending this game has more the feel of a bowl game. Yes the public have latched onto ND early this week but I expect a bit of buyback on the Hurricanes if this line heads further north. For now I’m taking Notre Dame -3.

Happy Hunting this weekend folks!

My Picks:

  • Michigan State +15
  • Under 47.0 Georgia v Auburn
  • TCU +6.5
  • Notre Dame -3