College football’s most interesting lines, Week 10: The Hugh Freeze Bowl, Purdue, and the truest Battle for Texas
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The latest College Football Playoff rankings have been released . Sorry, Cincinnati!

The first iteration of the ratings that will ultimately determine 2021’s national champion placed the Bearcats, No. 2 in the AP Top 25, all the way down at sixth. What was their crime? They were playing in the AAC.

Cincinnati has dispensed with every obstacle in its path and remains the “1” in 10th-ranked Notre Dame’s 7-1 record. Its resume is devoid of any other ranked opponents, so it cannot control its destiny on the road towards a four-team playoff. It is still unknown whether future wins against Houston (in AAC title) or SMU (in regular season) will move the needle. The committee has not ranked both 7-1 teams, so the answer is likely a firm “no”.

This is absurd. The establishment is clearly sending a message, unless the four-team playoff wants to destroy itself — and because this is college football, we can all agree that there are many absurd angles — Because their preseason odds of reaching the playoff are not zero, Vanderbilt, Kansas, and UCF have better chances than Houston, Cincinnati, UCF, and Houston.

Maybe it’s to cause outrage at a ranking that is rarely held up by the end of a chaotic football year. It could be a subtle endorsement of a larger playoff field and the TV revenue that comes with it. It could be part of a bigger conspiracy to promote rising coaches like Luke Fickell into Power 5 positions, before eventually creating its own Super League. All we know is that, as of Week 10, it’s absolutely brutal for Cincinnati and anyone else attempting to climb from the primordial ooze of the Group of 5.

Anyway, Week 10 is here and the Bearcats get to play angry. Let’s get to the bottom of it. All lines provided by Tipico Sportsbook .

Sorry buddy, this is not the way the Golden Hurricane wanted to see Bearcats. Tulsa and Cincinnati should have been a trap game in which the highly ranked favorite is unable to face a legitimate conference foe. Tulsa is now getting Cincy, despite a week of disrespectful play and days after a close-than-expected victory over Tulane 1-7.

This is bad news for a team. The American is where the Golden Hurricane are once again at sea. They have only two winning seasons in their eight-year history. Their scoring offense and scoring defense are not among the top third of FBS teams. Now they have to stop an angry Fickell team that scores more than any other subdivision teams and allows less than one.

Can Cincinnati cover a 3-touchdown spread on road? Tulsa was defeated by Navy without completing one pass ,. I think the answer is yes. The Bearcats have outdone every other Group of 5 team this fall, with the exception of that Navy squad. Only Tulane kept the final margin of victory under 20 points.

The Green Wave made it happen by waking Cincy up and allowing him to jump out to a 9-7 lead. After Tuesday’s slap by the CFP committee, the Bearcats should be awake and alert.

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Here is a line that realizes that the Big Ten is a messy mess of tangled regret. The Spartans are currently 8-0. They would be the conference representative in the playoff if the season ended today. They now face 5-3 Purdue who exposed the former-AP No. 2 Iowa as a fraud, briefly scraped the AP Top 25 for the first time in more than a decade, then returned to its station of being Purdue.

Yet, the Boilermakers are only three points behind the third-ranked team.

It makes sense! The Spartans can look bad against bad teams, no matter how good Mel Tucker’s team is. Indiana was 0-5 in conference play and only two failed fourth quarter drives away from a win at home. Nebraska, 1-5 in Big Ten was a Adrian Martinez brain fart away a victory over MSU and the largest win of the Scott Frost Era.

But trusting Purdue, at home, against a run-first offense is …iffy. State beat Jim Harbaugh thanks in large part to Kenneth Walker’s 197 rushing yards. Two weeks ago, the Boilermakers stared down a Wisconsin team in West Lafayette that called 10 total passing plays. Purdue lost 30-13. This is a simple blueprint that the Spartans can follow, even though their defense may not be as good as the Badgers. They can also keep Cincinnati ranked higher for at least one week.

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After losing Mel Tucker to Michigan State, Colorado went off the beaten path to hire Pac-12 retread Karl Dorrell as head coach. I say this as a Vanderbilt fan who watched him call plays for one of the worst teams in program history: this was the coaching equivalent of carving a jack-o-lantern with a teaspoon .

Dorrell hadn’t coached among the college ranks since getting fired by the Commodores (never a good sign), but still wound up sucked into the Buffaloes’ leadership void in 2020 anyway. This was a temporary success. The weirdness of the pandemic season was perfect for a weirdo like Dorrell, who won his first four games amidst the mess and dragged CU into the top 25.

The consequence of hiring Karl Dorrell was that the Buffs lost their final two games. The Buffs lost their final two games of ’20 by 49 points combined. Their only wins in 2021 have come against FCS Northern Colorado and truly inept Arizona (0-8). They’ve lost each of their non-Wildcat conference games by at least 22 points.

A Beavers team that’s rarely trusted to be a double-digit road favourite looks like Boulder. Oregon State is just one win away from ending an eight-year drought in the bowl. Jonathan Smith’s team scores a lot of points and gives up a lot as well, making it a perfect Pac-12 team. On Saturday it gets the nation’s 123rd-best scoring offense and a chance to juice its defensive stats heading into the holiday season.

There aren’t many circumstances where you would trust the Beavers with a road-wide spread as large. This was possible because of Colorado.

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UTEP probably never had a chance of hosting College Gameday, but any entries in ESPN’s lottery were torched when the Miners’ comeback effort against Florida Atlantic fell frustratingly short last week. We’ll settle for 8-0 San Antonio or 6-2 El Paso instead of a match between one ranked team and a conference foe chasing it.

While the Roadrunners had cracked the AP Top 25 at No. 16, UTEP has yet to receive a single vote — fair, considering its ignominious history and weak schedule. They have two losses against FAU and Boise State on their record. They have beaten one team with at least two wins. They have been able to reach bowl eligibility due to their excellent timing. Every team they have beaten (and in the case New Mexico State) has been a baaaaaaaaad this season.

UTSA is more credible thanks to a Power 5 win in Illinois and a victory against a. 500 Memphis squad. It also gets UTEP, one of two significant road blocks en route to 12-0 (the other is UAB), in a stretch where it’s scored 142 points over the last three games.

El Paso’s selling point has been a defense that’s allowed only 16.3 points per game in conference play, but again, that’s been against unfortunate competition. This is still the team that gave up 54 to Boise State back in September. The Roadrunners may be able to win the over on Saturday night.

As such, a Miners team en route to perhaps its best season since 2005 or even earlier, is probably going to get smoked by an in-state rival that didn’t sponsor football until 2011. For UTEP, a team with five wins between 2017 and 2020, that’s still a pretty good deal.

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The Hugh Freeze Bowl is here. The former Rebels head coach, having resigned in disgrace in 2016 for, well, a bunch of decidedly un-Christian things, arrived at Liberty less than three years later. He’s had nothing but success there, rolling up a 25-8 record, a pair of Cure Bowl appearances, and a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Malik Willis.

In that time, he has played seven Power 5 opponents — most of them from the ACC — and been a respectable 2-5 against each of them. That includes a 2-2 record since 2020, with each of the losses coming by three points or fewer. He has covered the spread in every game except one.

That all explains why the Flames, facing a 16th-ranked opponent on the road with a Heisman candidate of its own, has gone from a 14.5-point underdog to 10.5 in the lead-up to Saturday’s game. You can use whatever tricks Freeze may have. Beating Virginia Tech in 2020 was an appetizer; handling a ranked SEC team on the road would be an entirely different statement for a budding FBS program.

Lane Kiffin is Freeze’s eventual successor at Oxford. His return to the Power 5, following a three-year stint in Conference USA, has been mostly successful at Ole Miss (though your mileage may vary on how you view his self deprecation and eternally online persona). The Rebels’ only losses this season have come against top 20 teams on the road. They won games over Louisville and LSU — teams roughly on the Flames’ tier, per Bill Connelly’s SP+ rankings — by at least two touchdowns.

This is a hard game to evaluate. Liberty is motivated better than Willis, who needs a solid showing in order to improve his draft stock. Ole Miss is more talented and has a greater homefield advantage. A 10-point spread sounds right, but the only lock in this game is that shenanigans will take place and Kiffin will end the game, win or lose, with a smirk on his face.

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