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College Football Betting: UMass vs. Northwestern Should Be One For The Ages


Being a college football oddsmaker gets progressively easier throughout the season. Weeks 1 and 2 are littered with unknowns. The next few weeks you spend trying not to overreact to what took place. Midseason the haves and have nots start to emerge. And by mid-November, making numbers is as as easy as plugging in two established power ratings and maybe cross-checking to see the status of any key injuries. But once in a while, you come across a matchup so obscure, so baffling on paper, that no matter what number you hang, it feels “off.” I can’t say that’s exactly how the guys that opened Northwestern -38 vs. UMass felt, but I’m probably in the ball park.

Full disclaimer, this is not a game I bet. But it’s so fascinating on a number of levels that I had to at least attempt to analyze it. On one hand you have the UMass Minutemen who entered the season labeled by most as one of the worst teams in college football and have lived up to that billing and some. The fact that they beat Akron on the road, by over a touchdown no less, really brings to question whether or not the Zips should eliminate their program. But outside of that lone win, the Minutemen have been nothing short of awful. Over the last three weeks, against the likes of Liberty, UConn, and Army, UMass was outgained 1,815-805. Outside of the Akron win, the Minutemen have allowed no fewer than 44 points including 63 each of the last two weeks. And unlike the Miami Dolphins, who are also historically bad but somehow covering a bunch of numbers, UMass is 1-9 against the spread. According to Sagarin, if UMass were to face Cornell, who is 2-6 and plays in the Ivy League, on a neutral field, the Big Red would be favorite…by a field goal. UMass is so bad that despite beating Akron, who is winless on the season, Sagarin has the Zips power rated 29 spots higher.

On the flip side we have Northwestern who while playing what some will argue has been the toughest schedule in the country, endured a six-week stretch in which they scored 41 points. But even when the offense did show up (435 yards, 5.75 ypp vs Purdue), the Wildcats still found a way to lose to one of the most injury-riddled teams in the country. Northwestern may have a lot of pride which is really the only thing they’ve had to play for over the last month, but a year removed from winning nine games, it’s one of the biggest calendar year collapses in recent memory — something the players and coaches are well aware of.

Now that we’ve run threw each team’s list of low-lights, the question is how in the hell do you come up with a point spread on this matchup? On the surface, -40.5 seems rich if only because a few weeks back, UMass closed +31.5 at Louisiana Tech. Tech is 8-1 and while lacking in the SOS department, if pitted up against Northwestern on a neutral field, the Bulldogs would deservingly be favored. Last week, at Army, UMass closed +34.5. Again, put Army on a neutral field against Northwestern and the Wildcats are laying around -3. And making the -40.5 seem even more outrageous is Pat Fitzgerald’s reaction to hearing his team was favored by nearly six touchdowns.

But before you rush to the betting window with the underdog, I suggest you first read this recap of UMass’ 63-7 loss to Army. Note that it’s the university’s school newspaper so the author has no real motivation to call out the high level of ineptitude that took place. I mean, this is mind-blowing…

The last gasp for the Minutemen came with just over two minutes left in the first half, when UMass faced fourth-and-14 from its own 9. Bell called for a fake punt, but linebacker Chinedu Ogbonna’s pass was just too long for the open Daryan Wiley.

A fake punt from your own nine with a linebacker attempting the pass! I don’t know whether or not to give head coach Walt Bell credit for “taking a shot” or call him out for being a clown. I supposed if I was head coach of the worst team in college football, I too would start to employ video game tactics.

It’s been a long college football season, one that the last few weeks doesn’t always command 100 percent of my attention due to the overlap of college basketball. But finding winners in November is doable and in a weird way, more satisfying that a soft total you won by three touchdowns with in September. Why did I just spend an hour-plus attempting to analyze one of the worst matchups of the entire season? Not sure. In fact, it’s a rare instance where I’ve clearly not maximized my time. But betting on sports full-time can be quite the drag. And there’s something oddly soothing about writing 800 words on a game that I have zero interest in betting.

Andrew Lange

With significant market influence, Andrew Lange has produced a decade-long 58% winning rate on over 750 selections in college basketball. Using a low volume, high return approach, Lange's results in the NFL have been equally impressive with a 61% mark and over +49 units of profit on a 1, 1.5, and 2-unit scale since 2012.