3 Up 3 Down (College Week 7)

By John Ewing
A review of the week that was with a look at three college football teams that stood out for good reasons and three whose weekends did not turn out as successfully as anticipated.

Three Up
Texas Longhorns
2013 Record: Straight-Up 4-2, Against-the-Spread 3-3
Let’s count the ways in which this was a big win for Texas. One, it ended a three game losing streak to Oklahoma, in the Red River Rivalry that is equivalent to the anguish Kentucky fans feel in their 27-game losing streak to Florida. Two, the Longhorns improved to 3-0 in the Big 12 making a conference title possible, just like we predicted. Three, with a league title possible a BCS bowl is still in play, which seemed improbable just three weeks ago.
The Longhorns, two-touchdown underdogs, scored in all phases of the game including a pick-6 and a punt return for a touchdown. This was the first game that had happened for Texas since 2009. The Horns became our projected winner early in the 2nd quarter and were 99% likely to win with 11 minutes left in the 4th.
Next Up:  Bye week, then they play host to the Horned Frogs
Texas is 1-5 against-the-spread in its last 6 games on the road
TCU is 19-6 straight-up in its last 25 games at home
Utah Utes
2013 Record: Straight-Up 4-2 Against-the-Spread 4-2
Utah’s win over Stanford was the program's first win over a top 5 opponent in the regular season. How unlikely this win was depends on how you look at it. On paper it seemed dubious, just last week Utah’s quarterback Travis Wilson had thrown six interceptions against a UCLA defense that is not nearly as good as Stanford's.
However, for those of you following along at home, you know this game favored the Utes from late in the 2nd quarter on. Though Utah might have been favored the entire second half, Stanford had a 49% chance of winning when they got a first down on the Utes’ 14-yard line. The win keeps Utah in contention in a wide-open Pac-12 South.
Next Up: Road trip to Arizona, the Wildcats are winless in Pac-12 play
The total has gone under in 4 of Utah’s last 6 games when playing Arizona
Arizona is 2-4-1 against-the-spread in its last 7 games
The SEC set a record on Sunday with eight teams in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Like ‘The Skulls’, our Power Rankings supersede those of the outside world. There are eight SEC teams in our top 25 but we substitute Ole Miss for Auburn (No. 27). We also have three of the top four teams hailing from the Southeastern Conference and four in the top 10. But will the SEC still be holding this many spots in the rankings at the end of the season?
During the SEC’s seven-year national championship streak, only twice have the teams that won the title finished the season unbeaten. Alabama and Missouri are the only undefeated teams remaining. It seems unlikely that Missouri will escape the SEC without a blemish on their record, especially with the injury to quarterback James Franklin. In the final rankings last season the SEC had seven teams finish in the top 25 with the worst team having four losses. The eight teams in the AP poll have one loss or less right now, they won’t finish that way.


Three Down
Michigan Wolverines
2013 Record: Straight-Up 5-1, Against-the-Spread 3-3
The Wolverines sneaked out wins over Akron and UConn on their way to a 5-0 record. It seemed like only a matter of time before Michigan would get their comeuppance. Enter Penn State. The Nittany Lions took a 21-10 halftime lead before the Wolverines came storming back with a ten point lead in the 4th quarter, the Wolverines were 80% likely to win up two scores. Four overtimes later and Penn State was victorious. It was the fourth straight loss for Michigan against the Nittany Lions.
Turnovers have killed Michigan this year. The first place to start is with quarterback Devin Gardner. Gardner threw two more interceptions against Penn State, that gives him 10 on the season. Gardner entered the season with the thirteenth best Heisman odds. Midway through the season his odds are off the board and he is not even listed among the top 10 players in his conference.
Next Up: An Indiana team that crushed Penn State
The total has gone over in 9 of Indiana’s last 11 games on the road
The total has gone over in 5 of Michigan’s last 6 games at home
Northwestern Wildcats
2013 Record: Straight-Up 4-2, Against-the-Spread 2-4
Two weeks ago Northwestern was ranked, then they lost a heartbreaker to Ohio State and Saturday they got stomped by Wisconsin. Northwestern allowed 286 yards rushing to Wisconsin, a week after giving up 248 yards on the ground to Ohio State.
Currently, the Wildcats sit in the cellar of the Legends Division. It will be tough for Northwestern to overtake Michigan State and Nebraska as neither team faces Ohio State or Wisconsin this year.
Next Up: Minnesota, the loser sits alone at the bottom of the Legends Divsion
The total has gone over in 5 of Minnesota’s last 7 games
Northwestern is 1-4 against-the-spread in its last 5 games
Against-the-Spread Regression
Past performance does not guarantee future success. I wanted to take a moment to remind everyone that just because teams use to cover against-the-spread, it does not mean they will going forward. Last season, if you rode Northwestern, Utah State, San Jose State and Fresno State against-the-spread you would have gone 40-8 (83% ATS). This season they are a combined 9-11.
In 2011, the four top teams against-the-spread (Louisiana Tech, Stanford, Michigan State, Western Kentucky) went 42-7. The following season they went 24-26.
This season you may be riding Oregon (5-0), UCLA (5-0), or Wisconsin (4-0). Do not be surprised if these teams regress to the middle against-the-spread. If it does not happen this season, it most likely will next year.