I ended this past week going 1-3 against the spread in picks I gave out in the write-up on Northwestern. It was a sickening bad beat the way Northwestern lost and failed to cover. However, my expectations for Hunter Johnson were very wrong. We got some luck back when Bo Nix tossed a game winning touchdown to Seth Williams with 9 seconds left. After the 1-0 start with my Miami pick in week zero that brings the overall record to 2-3 in the write-ups. Now we have a little more data moving forward after a wild Week 1. It was a difficult choice for this week’s write-up, but the Cincinnati vs Ohio State game gets the nod.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ryan Day had no trouble getting to 1-0 in his debut as the full time head coach. Despite getting the win, the Buckeyes did fail to cover as a massive four possession favorite. It did look laying the points was the right side early as Justin Fields was dominating with his arm and otherworldly athleticism. The Buckeyes went up 28-0 in the first quarter when Fields found a wide open Chris Olave for 6 points.
This was a good tune up game for a team and coaching staff that is still new to each other. Despite the large talent gap between Ohio State and Florida Atlantic, the final three quarters were won by the Owls, as Ohio State was unable to keep pulling away. The Buckeyes should continue to improve as the team becomes more familiar with each other. They will also face much tougher tests than the outmatched Owls.
Justin Fields looked phenomenal in his first game vs an outmatched opponent. Fields went 18 for 25 with 234 yards and 4 passing touchdowns. He used his superior athletic ability to run for another 61 yards on 12 carries. The receivers played well and got wide open for Fields.
The offensive line paved the way for 4.9 yards per carry. JK Dobbins was one of my favorite backs his true freshman season, but did not seem to have the same burst his sophomore year. I didn’t really see it on Saturday either, as he only managed 4.3 yards per carry with a long of 17 yards. Keep in mind that Florida Atlantic gave up more than 4.3 yards per rush attempt to any competent opponent last season. That includes 6.4 yards per carry that Charlotte ran for against the Owls.
Similar to the offense in this game, it is difficult to judge the Buckeye defense. They only gave up three scoring drives of more than 20 yards. However, this was vs an FAU team that struggled to score on Oklahoma’s poor defense last season. The Buckeye defense is loaded with talent, but we have yet to see them produce at an elite level. Cincinnati does not have a powerhouse offense but they are certainly better than Florida Atlantic.
Luke Fickell got off to a phenomenal start in his third season as head coach for the Bearcats. On Thursday night his team beat UCLA 24-14 to cover as a three point favorite. I was on UCLA in that game because I trusted the odds-makers lines and Chip Kelly too much. Cincinnati was a 14 point dog last season and a 3 point favorite this season. I handicapped that game completely wrong, as Fickell had the coaching advantage and the better team. It is important to realize that the odds-makers adjusted the line 17 points from last seasons match-up between these teams. I expected UCLA to be improved by a lot. I think UCLA will be all right, but clearly I didn’t value Cincinnati as highly as I should have. The Bearcats out-gained UCLA by 199 yards! Fickell has completley turned this team around and should be garnering some respect.
Some additional information regarding Fickell is that he played nose guard for the Ohio State Buckeyes from 1993 to 1996. He also was the interim head coach at Ohio State in 2011 and defensive coordinator for the Buckeyes for four seasons. This is valuable information because by returning to his old school, I would expect his team to be extremely focused.
With 7 returning starters and Desmond Ridder at quarterback, the Bearcats offense took care of business in Week 1. They were not spectacular on that side of the ball averaging 5.56 yards per play and 0.32 points per play. That production offensively is mediocre and it was against a defense that I expect to be slightly above average. The offense will need to improve if they want to challenge Ohio State this week.
The Cincinnati defense was stout last season only giving up 0.266 points per play which ranked 11th nationally. They did not miss a beat this past Thursday by shutting down Dorian Thompson-Robinson and the UCLA offense. Despite facing a dual threat quarterback, Cincinnati only gave up 1.7 yards per carry in Week 1. They dominated at the line of scrimmage and were living in the UCLA backfield.
I am going to have to take the points in this one. The line opening at 16.5 is fishy because it is below the key number of 17. This suggests that odds-makers do not want sharp action on Cincinnati +17 or +17.5. Another game I was looking at was the Clemson and A&M game which is at 17.5 or 18 depending on the shop. That suggests they want A&M money to be coming in because the line favors the underdog if the game falls on that key number.
Ohio State is certainly a step up in competition for Cincinnati. But at this point I have to give Fickell and his staff the coaching advantage. The defense is very well coached and productive for Cincinnati. I expect them to provide a lot more resistance than an FAU team that was leaving guys wide open. Fickell and Cincinnati have two extra days to prepare for his Alma Mater. Cincinnati goes into The Shoe and loses by only ten points, as his defense shocks the inexperienced Buckeye offense for most of the game.
Stanford ML (+103)
Clemson (1H -10, Full Game -17.5)