CFB betting cheat sheet: Why is Texas favored over TCU?

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Fittingly on this Veterans Day weekend, we are poised for a scenario the inimitable Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, a Navy man and Purple Heart recipient, coined: It’s like deja vu all over again.

The undefeated No. 4 TCU Horned Frogs travel to Austin as a sizeable, 7.5-point underdog to face the No. 18 Texas Longhorns. The betting public is backing the Horned Frogs in overwhelming fashion (about 70% consensus), fostering memories of last weekend when then top-ranked Tennessee visited Georgia. The Bulldogs took a wave of sharp action on Saturday, steaming the line higher and easily covered the 10 points.

“I think this is the Tennessee-Georgia game,” SuperBook head football oddsmaker Ed Salmons told ESPN. However, the sharp money arrived a day earlier with Texas. The point spread sat a seven points all week, but started to rise Friday morning, setting up another standoff between professional and recreational bettors. “(Pros) have constantly bet on Texas since (quarterback Quinn Ewers) came back from injury and they fade TCU weekly.”

At the current spread of 7.5 points, this is the largest underdog an AP top-five team has been against a school outside the Top 15 since the FBS/FCS split in 1978. In such scenarios, the higher-ranked underdog is just 4-8-1 ATS.

“I don’t necessarily like to defy the sharp money. At the same time, I’m not afraid of it,” professional bettor and Texas resident Paul Stone told ESPN, sharing that he made the line five points and has bet TCU. “Texas has had difficulty protecting second-half leads. The backdoor is always open. I am going to ride the hot hand.”

TCU is 7-1-1 against the spread this season. The Frogs continue to have doubters, due to a few late comebacks and an improbable cover as 7.5-point favorites at West Virginia on Oct. 29, thanks to a 29-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 20 seconds left for the 10-point win.

“I’ve bet against TCU at least three times this year, including the debacle at West Virginia. I lean Texas. They should score at will but I can’t lay more than a full touchdown,” professional bettor Ron Boyles told ESPN. “Also, TCU gets to play the disrespect card with the No. 4 team in the country as a 7-point dog. Sonny Dykes will certainly use that.”

Perhaps the key to TCU’s unblemished mark is the schedule. The Horned Frogs have mostly been able to host their toughest opponents and caught some luck with their away games. But that changes with the Longhorns, who Stone calls “probably the best three-loss team in all of college football.”

Late money is usually the right money. I have to respect it, but I do like this TCU squad and feel they, and the conference, are unfairly dismissed. I will likely grab the points closer to kickoff, since this line seems headed higher. But the wisest move sure feels like a pass, embracing another Yogi-ism: When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

Favorite Plays

No. 9 Alabama Crimson Tide (-12, 65) at No. 11 Ole Miss Rebels

For the first time since 2010, Alabama has two regular-season losses. How the Tide will respond is a giant unknown. After all, this team has racked up penalties and other sloppy plays. Also, they have a knack for playing down to their opponent on the road. Meanwhile, Lane Kiffin is eager to beat Nick Saban, and the Rebels are coming off a bye. By no means would I be shocked if the Tide roll by double-digits, but I also would not be surprised if they lose by double-digits. I would look for some alternate lines, given the huge variance this unique situation presents.

Pick: Ole Miss +12

No. 12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-17, 40.5) at Navy Midshipmen

The handicap is simple. The Irish are coming off their best performance by handling Clemson. How much do they have left in the tank for Navy and the unique option offense? This is still a Notre Dame team that lost at home to Marshall and Stanford. Navy is actually a decent squad, so I like grabbing all these points and definitely feel they can catch the Irish flat.

Pick: Navy +17

Boston College Eagles at No. 16 NC State Wolfpack (-18.5, 41)

The bottom line is this total just feels too low. I realize Boston College’s offense has been inept, and the Wolfpack have a stout defense. However, Eagles freshman QB Emmett Morehead is expected to make his second straight start after throwing for over 300 yards and four touchdowns. Now, there’s a decent chance that Duke’s defense contributed to those impressive numbers. But even if he does struggle, that should create turnovers and short fields for NC State. The Wolfpack are also relegated to a backup freshman quarterback, but MJ Morris should be able to do some things against BC. I can see a final score along the lines of 34-13.

Pick: Over 41

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Texas A&M Aggies at Auburn Tigers (-1.5, 48)

In this battle of 3-6 teams, there is only one team that looks like it still cares. The Tigers rallied back last week and nearly beat Mississippi State. They played inspired football behind interim coach Cadillac Williams, feeding off his energy. Meanwhile, Jimbo Fisher’s club has been a giant disappointment this entire season and is coming off a blowout home loss to Florida. This has serious potential for an embarrassing performance by the Aggies. On paper, they are more talented, but I do not trust them.

Pick: Auburn -1.5

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