It’s known to the sports blogosphere that I have a fascination with wide point-spreads.
How wide? Well, to this day some of my favorite “lock” predictions on point spreads have been on total mismatches, such as the tropical storm-affected contest between Clemson and Georgia Southern in Death Valley last season. I knew that the Eagles would cover because they’ve been underrated since Eagle Creek has been running in wet weather, and because I knew the Tigers would be anxious to get the game over with and leave campus.
Big, fat, wide Vegas point spreads on college football are like that – handicapping mismatches involves a dose of common-sense and a certain relaxed logic that lends itself to a few extra wins-per-season without so much of the stress. Plus, as profitable as moneyline gambling on underdogs can be, it’s definitely a high-anxiety vocation, as shown by Hawaii’s 1-yard-line save on Khalil Mack and the Arizona Wildcats in Week 1. Gamblers who took the Rainbow Warriors against the spread were relaxing with a win long before the fateful last drive in Halawa.
New Mexico State – which just got its block knocked-off by Mike Leach’s Washington State Cougars in Week 1 – must now travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the 2018-19 FBS runner-up Alabama Crimson Tide.
Whoops – apologies, mid-week readers! Like 40% of Americans, your author forgot which league New Mexico State is currently in…or rather than New Mexico State is not currently in a conference at all. The Mountain West avoids embarrassment! But the Aggies may not be able to do the same this Saturday.
Who: New Mexico State Aggies at Alabama Crimson Tide
When: Saturday, September 7th, 4 PM EST
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL
Lines: NMU (+55) at Alabama (-55) / O/U Total: (63.5)
Our typical format at BetFirm is to run through a recap of where each team stands prior to imagining how the contest will flesh-out. That’s not really necessary here, as we pretty much know what we have in both teams without having to think about it too much.
Alabama didn’t start fast against Duke, but the Tide finished strong as Tua Tagovailoa shined once more. The wideout duo of Jerry Jeudy and Jaylen Waddle has returned to campus after posting over 2,000 receiving yards and 21 TD catches last year, and Jerome Ford has already proven to be a more-than-adequate option in the backfield alongside Najee Harris. ‘Bama partisans are none too pleased with the ground game however:
Far be it from me to make a terrible pun about a fictional Alabama running back, but sometimes you can’t see the Forrest for the trees — and “Run, (insert any running back name here), Run!” might have been the easiest answer. In simpler terms, when watching the replay of the Duke game, there were not a lot of instances where the running back hit the hole with authority and moved forward. Too often, the Alabama backs seemed to meander through downtown Atlanta like I-85.
That’s not to be too harshly critical. It’s certainly not to say that the offensive line couldn’t get better. Because of off-the-field circumstances, Alabama started (and finished) with a talented but inexperienced redshirt, Jerome Ford, as its starter and finisher. That’s also not to say the offensive line was perfect — inevitably in an opening game, there’s a search for chemistry, some shuffling of personnel. But sometimes there were holes that weren’t hit explosively.
For my part, I think Duke rightfully keyed on the LOS when on defense and that the Alabama running game will be fine in Week 2. However, the Crimson Tide defense isn’t as dominant of a wrecking-crew as we’ve seen in some modern seasons. The 1st half wasn’t a farce – Duke moved the ball but couldn’t punch it in.
Almost the entire New Mexico State effort in Pullman was a farce. Aggie QB Josh Adkins and RB Jason Huntley converted a share of 1st downs, but Adkins coughed-up the ball with picks, and the pass rush was nonexistent, giving the Cougars easy throw-and-catch plays all the way down the field. Anthony Gordon of Washington State had 420 yards passing and 5 touchdowns with 0 interceptions, marking NMU as 1 of the worst pass defenses in college football…and we’re hardly 2 weeks into the season.
The game is headed for garbage time as Alabama pushes the Aggies around for 4 quarters. But that’s the key verb – push. The Crimson Tide are surely just as unhappy with their running game vs Duke as the hometown pundits are – Nick Saban is rarely pleased with any facet of the school’s game.
That means the Tide will probably focus on the ground attack vs NMSU – and since even the 2nd-string Alabama OL can block the 1st-string DL from the Mountain West, the 3rd and 4th quarter will be taken-up by boring time-consuming ‘Bama drives with the favorites leading 38-0 or 42-3.
But since they’ll be few chances for a mop-up TD drive, I don’t see New Mexico State scoring more than a late FG…and I doubt ‘Bama will be interested to score 60+ points with an aerial circus. Look for the spread to touch (56) as visions of Tua touchdowns dance in their heads, and pick the Aggies to cover on Saturday.