College Football Betting Odds, Pick: Why to Play UConn & UMass in Week 3 (Saturday, Sept. 18)

College Football Betting Odds, Pick: Why to Play UConn & UMass in Week 3 (Saturday, Sept. 18) article feature image
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Justin Casterline/Getty Images. Pictured: Josh Wallace.

  • UConn faces Army with an 0-3 record that consists of two games without scoring a single point.
  • UMass hosts Eastern Michigan following to losses at the hands of Pittsburgh and Boston College.
  • Stuckey and Collin Wilson break down why they're taking both the Huskies and Minutemen against the spread.

Yes, we are going dumpster diving on Saturday.

My podcast partner in crime, Collin Wilson, has backed UMass while I reluctantly bet on lowly UConn. At least hear our cases while you laugh. I’m sure this article will age like milk.

Why UConn +34 at Army?

Noon ET on CBS Sports Network

Stuckey: At least we get to bet on the noon Army game on CBS Sports Network to kick off our Saturdays for the first time this season. Nature is healing.

I would first like to begin my dissertation by clarifying that I am, in fact, not betting on UConn. Rather, I’m fading a service academy as 34-point favorites.

I can’t with a straight face tell anybody to trust this Huskies team that has started 0-3 after not playing last spring with a pair of losses against FBS teams by a combined score of 94-0 plus a 10-point home loss at the hands of Holy Cross. Holy Cross. It’s that bad.

They also already made a coaching and quarterback change before we got midway through September. It’s a program in peril, to put it lightly.

So, why did I back this team? Assuming I haven’t just simply lost my mind, which could be true, I just almost will always fade a service academy laying this kind of number.

Army’s triple-option offense usually leads the nation in rush attempts per game and grinds games like this to an absolute halt. There are limited possessions and drives that can take entire quarters, making it much more difficult to cover astronomical numbers as a favorite.

On the flip side, it’s what makes the three service academies so intriguing as large underdogs. Here’s some data to back that thesis up:

The sample size isn’t significant, but for reference, Army, Navy and Air Force are a combined 8-15-2 ATS (34.2%) when laying over four touchdowns and 18-29-2 (38.3%) as 20-plus point favorites. Compare that to a sparkling 21-6-2 ATS (77.8%) when getting 20 or more points, and you get the idea.

I can at least seriously state that the offense did at least look more competent against Purdue than it did against Fresno State in large part due to the quarterback change.

Jack Zergiotis is a walking turnover, while new starter Steven Krajewski is a better decision-maker and can do some things with his legs. It’s still an abysmal offense, but Krajewski at least has a lower chance of turning it over.

At a bare minimum, the Huskies have to at least make Army drive down the field and eat up clock for any shot at a cover.

And in fairness to UConn, last week almost served as a new Week 1 with a new quarterback and coach. Let’s hope it shows some progress, which would entail simply scoring any points against an FCS school.

UConn did see the triple-option in 2019 when it played Navy, but I wouldn’t put much stock into that providing it with any experience given all of the roster turnover.

What is the path here? A fluke or late touchdown and an Army turnover or two.

It also wouldn’t shock me to see Army win by a score of 27-0 or something. Then again, Army beat UMass 63-7 in 2019, which is certainly in the cards — although I at least have UConn rated about 10 points higher than that historically bad Minutemen squad.

Am I petrified? Yes. Will this end badly? Most likely. But I almost always blindly play the underdog in this situation and actually do show a tiny bit of spread value on the Huskies. History is at least on our side.

For what it’s worth, I also fancied under 51, which made the dog more intriguing, but that total has since been bet down.

I would try to get 34 or better on the spread.

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Why UMass +22 vs. Eastern Michigan?

3:30 p.m. ET on FloSports

Collin Wilson: There are plenty of similarities between the financial and betting market in regards to identifying the tops and bottoms of peaks and valleys to identify investment opportunities.

The stocks in the college market are, of course, the teams that will underperform and overperform throughout various points of the season.

UMass is a team that feels like it’s constantly in a dip, reaching new power rating lows for an FBS team in 2020.

In his third season at Amherst, head coach Walt Bell has only one victory, which came at home against Akron in 2019. In fairness, this remains one of the tougher head-coaching positions in the nation from a recruiting perspective.

Leaving the MAC to become an Independent program and a largely lost season in 2020 due to COVID-19 certainly didn’t help.

UMass football is the constant definition of a stock dip. So, why am I buying now?

The Minutemen showed signs of life last week, covering in a home loss against Boston College, although BC quarterback Phil Jurkovec left with an injury after attempting only four passes. That certainly helped UMass stay within a respectable range for most of the game.

Despite Pitt and Boston College putting up 96 combined points on the Minutemen, there are positive takeaways.

UMass ranks 76th in Defensive Line Yards and 86th in Defensive Finishing Drives. Those numbers are massive improvements from 2020 for a team that appears to be bigger and stronger in the trenches.

Offensively, UMass ranks 61st in Finishing Drives and 81st in Big Play Percentage, two categories that are strong indicators of a team’s ability to cover. And it will face a pretty forgiving Eastern Michigan defense.

Eastern Michigan went as low as -17 before the announcement that nine potential UMass starters could miss the game, including quarterback Tyler Lytle.

That news sent the market to 21 in favor of Eastern Michigan, but backup quarterback Brady Olson had three touchdowns and 214 passing yards in his first career start in Lytle’s absence last week. Olson generated a 60% Success Rate in passing downs, double the national average.

Two of the 11 offensive possessions averaged more than 10 yards per play. And Olson will still have his favorite targets in Rico Arnold and Taylor Edwards. Scoring 28 points against Jeff Hafley’s defense was a promising sign that gives the Minutemen something to build on this week.

As for Eastern Michigan, the statistics are not kind after games against St. Francis and Wisconsin. The Eagles rank dead last in Offensive Success Rate, 127th in Finishing Drives and outside the top 100 in Havoc on both sides of the ball.

These are also two of the slower teams in FBS.

Eastern Michigan and UMass rank 83rd and 110th in plays per minute, respectively. Head coach Chris Creighton keeps the Eagles on the ground, averaging a rushing play on 64% of snaps.

With a rowdy UMass campus set to cheer on a team that has life in the defensive trench and some explosiveness in the passing game, it’s time to buy the UMass stock against an EMU team playing its second straight road game after a physical contest against Wisconsin.

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