Oddsmakers Post a Perplexing Point Spread for One of This Week’s Marquee Games. Is it a Trap?

NCAA Football: Miami at Florida State

Photo by Melina Vastola/USA TODAY Sports


Ohio State -12 at Minnesota (Best Bet)
Florida State -1.5 at Miami
Missouri +5.5 at Texas A&M
Texas -2.5 at Oklahoma State
Lions +2 at Cardinals
Broncos -9.5 at Rams
Chiefs -1.5 vs. Seahawks

Newsflash for you kids out there: Once you hurdle—make that gingerly step over—the 40-year-old barrier, you start piling up losses at a rate double that of the Oakland Raiders. Among other things, you lose your patience, your memory, your energy, your hair, your metabolism, your memory and your ability to sleep through the night without waking up to use the bathroom. Twice.

Thankfully, there is one loss that is actually a net gain: You become so cynical about everything that you lose the capacity to be surprised. Really, if you’re north of 40, rare is the occasion when society throws a curveball that truly buckles your knees. I point this out not as a means to segue to the fact that this 44-year-old wasn’t the least bit stunned last week when the Detroit Lions scored a touchdown with 29 seconds left to beat Miami by four as a three-point favorite. (I had the Dolphins, and that late TD turned my winning week into a losing week.)

No, the reason I’m bringing this up is because I just experienced one of those rare knee-buckling moments, and it relates to the point spread of one of this week’s marquee college football games. Consider these blind résumés:

Team A is 9-0 this season, has won 25 consecutive games dating to November 2012 (the nation’s longest current winning streak) and has scored 37 points or more and surrendered 20 points or fewer in 19 of those 25 contests.

Team B is 6-3 but only 3-2 in conference, and only one of those three victories came against a team with a winning record. In fact, while Team B has won three straight games convincingly (combined score of 132-60), those three opponents are 13-13. Conversely, Team A’s last three victories were against opponents who are a combined 18-11.

What’s more, Team A has beaten Team B each of the last four years by scores of 45-17, 23-19, 33-20 and 41-14.

Now here comes the shocking part: Team A is just a 1½-point road favorite over Team B.

Team A is No. 2-ranked—and defending national champ—Florida State. Team B is Miami, which not only is unranked, but received exactly one vote in this week’s Associated Press poll.

How can this be? After all, when these schools met last year at Florida State, both were 7-0, yet the Seminoles were—talk about surprising—a 21-point favorite. Despite a sluggish first half, Florida State outscored the Hurricanes 20-0 in the second half and covered in the 41-14 victory.

Granted, the ’Noles—and particularly quarterback Jameis Winston—have been far less dominant this season than last. And after spitting out cash like an ATM during the 2013 regular season (11-2 against the spread), FSU has been a money-suck dating to the national championship game (2-8 ATS). But with this spread ranging from 1½ to 2 (as of November 11), the oddsmakers are telling us this is nothing more than a toss-up—when back in June, this line was Florida State minus-14½!

Look, I get it: Winning on the road—in a rivalry game, no less—is never a gimme (even though the road team has won six of the last eight in this rivalry, with the Seminoles winning four straight in South Beach). And Hurricanes freshman QB Brad Kaaya has been terrific of late, with 17 TDs and five interceptions in his last seven games (by comparison, Winston has six TDs and six INTs in his last three). And while Florida State struggled last week to beat Virginia at home—managing just two field goals in the second half of a 34-20 win—Miami had a bye.

Perhaps this is the proverbial trap game. Perhaps Florida State is simply overdue for a loss. Perhaps Miami is on its way to becoming “The U” once again. Perhaps I should break out my worn-out copy of the The Book of Clichés and reread the chapter titled “If It Looks Too Good to be True …” Nah. Give me Florida State. And directions to the nearest bathroom.

Last Week: 3-4 (2-2 NFL;
1-2 college; 0-1 Best Bet).
Season Record: 34-36 (18-19 NFL; 16-17 college; 4-6 Best Bets).

Matt Jacob appears at 10 a.m. Thursdays on Pregame.com’s First Preview on ESPN Radio 1100-AM and 100.9-FM.

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