Betting against the public or “fading the public” is the most time-honored sports gambling advice of the last century. We’re almost a score of years into the new millennium now, though, and perhaps it’s time for an update of the old maxim. Wagering against the public still works. But an even better angle might be to bet against the media.
Much like cable news, everyday sports media is now controlled by a handful of big-moneyed interests which may or may not hold fairness and even-handed punditry as its abiding principle in all situations. ESPN had some embarrassingly-dumb things to say about SEC football after LSU’s impressive road defeat of Alabama last Saturday, with Stephen A. Smith declaring the Tigers “lucky” even though they led the Crimson Tide by 20 points at 1 point during the contest. But that’s an anomaly – the SEC is a cash cow and big-media sources usually won’t be biased toward 1 team or another in the conference…so long as they’re playing each other.
Canards used against unique mid-major programs are worse, and there’s nobody there to call-out a high-priced analyst when she or he uses them. My favorite example is the description of service-academy “Flexbone” offenses as “the triple option” – merely a play that Air Force, Navy, and Army each have in the playbook. Imagine if other schools’ offenses were treated in that way! “Well Mike, I think USC can beat Washington State, but who knows, that Quick Screen To A Skinny Wideout offense is tough to defend.”
Another falsehood about the academies is that they can’t play good defense. It used to be true when generals and admirals were strict about how much weight a recruit could carry on campus as a freshman, but teams like Air Force are now allowed to bring 2 and 3-star big boys into the fold and keep them lifting weights all summer.
Navy’s defense is superb in 2019, shattering the myth. It’s only a question of whether fellow CiC-division programs can follow suit. So far Air Force has been up to the task, playing 3-unit football en route to a 7-2 record.
But the Air Force Academy’s rising Over/Under total for a scrum at CSU this Saturday evening shows that not all gamblers are buying the Falcons as more than an offense-minded, ball-control-at-all-costs team…for now.
Who: Air Force Falcons at Colorado State Rams
When: Saturday, November 16th, 7 PM EST
Where: Canvas Stadium, Fort Collins, CO
Lines: AF (-10) at CSU (+10) / O/U Total: (64.5)
The 4-5 Colorado State Rams are coming off of a decisive 37-17 victory against UNLV at home last week. Senior cornerback Anthony Hawkins went 99 yards to the house to start the game and the Rams never trailed. But Nevada-Las Vegas is sinking deeper and deeper into a slump that could result in coaching changes, and not a suitable opponent to gauge strength against. Mike Bobo’s CSU squad has been the epitome of mediocrity all season in the MWC, and CSU ranks fair-to-middling in every team category.
The strengths of DC John Jancek’s defense may be opposite of what is required to slow down the Falcon rushing attack. Colorado State boasts the best passing defense in the MWC, allowing just 191 yards per game, but ranks in the bottom 3rd of the conference in terms of rushing yards allowed.
Offensively, CSU has a balanced attack that features capable running backs led by senior Marvin Kinsey Jr. and his 100.4 rushing YPG. Despite being down to the backup QB in Patrick O’Brien, the passing game is solid.
Air Force is currently riding a 4-game winning streak and coming off of a 17-13 win over Commander in Chief rival Army last week. QB Donald Hammond III has thrown just 15 passes combined in the 4 games, and even though opposing defenses know the run is coming, it can’t be stopped most of the time.
The players are getting a lion’s share of credit as per standard. Timothy Jackson led the charge last week with a 20-155-1 rushing line, but there’s more where that came from in the most-prolific crew of running backs (actually “A” and “B” backs in the Flexbone, though Air Force is known to shift into a standard shotgun-spread attack sometimes).
Kadin Remsberg and FB Taven Birdow have over 100 carries on the season, and as a group the ball-carriers are averaging just under 5.5 YPC.
But it’s not an overwhelming force of talent – it’s the Flexbone, the best offense in the FBS save for 4 and 5-star recruits being allergic to it (see Khalil Tate’s “ain’t gonna run no tripple opshun” tweet from a couple of years ago when Ken Niumatalolo was interviewing for the Arizona job).
Forget the offense for a moment. As alluded to earlier, the Air Force defense is the secret weapon keeping the Falcons well above the water-line. The defense faced Jordan Love and Utah State in late October and gave up almost zilch on the ground, holding Love to just over 100 yards passing in a 31-7 beat-down.
Air Force is beating opponents by an average of 14 points. That’s not just a ball-control ground game at work, but a much-stouter and more-athletic defense backed-up by momentum-swinging explosive plays on offense.
I’m loving the Under, since CSU will be motivated to tackle hard with bowl-eligibility still on the line. However the Rams should also have tougher sledding against Air Force’s defense than is expected.
Falcons-to-cover (-10) is also a solid pick.