Updated September 13, 2019 - 7:31 pm
Two years ago, Howard pulled off the biggest point-spread upset in college football history when it beat UNLV 43-40 as a 45-point underdog.
The next week, the Rebels bounced back with a 44-16 road upset of Idaho.
Sharp bettors are banking on UNLV to respond in similar fashion Saturday as 17½-point underdogs at Northwestern. The Rebels are coming off an ugly 43-17 home loss to Arkansas State, but the sharp money has been on UNLV at Las Vegas sportsbooks since the line soared to 20½.
“Northwestern looked hopeless on offense against Stanford a couple weeks ago,” Westgate sportsbook manager Ed Salmons said.
The Wildcats lost 17-7 to the Cardinal in their season opener, as quarterback Hunter Johnson, a Clemson transfer, threw for 55 yards and two interceptions and fumbled into the end zone in the final seconds to deal Northwestern bettors a brutal bad beat.
Rebels QB Armani Rogers was equally inept against the Red Wolves, throwing for 42 yards and an interception. But history is on UNLV’s side in this matchup, as it’s 4-0 ATS on the road against Power Five teams under coach Tony Sanchez, covering against Southern California, Ohio State, UCLA and Michigan.
“If UNLV doesn’t put up a little bit of a fight this week, I don’t think Tony’s going to survive,” Goldsheet.com handicapper Bruce Marshall said. “UNLV should actually be a pretty good bet this week. They’ve been pretty formidable as big road (underdogs), and Northwestern has been a poor home favorite. Their offense isn’t that dynamic.”
The Wildcats were 0-4 ATS as home favorites last season.
Here are some other sharp plays, starting with two common ones at the Westgate and CG Technology in Air Force and Eastern Michigan.
The Falcons are down to consensus 3½-point underdogs at Colorado after the line was as high as 5.
“Here’s the tricky game of the week,” Salmons said. “When you look at that game, your memory is that Colorado just beat Nebraska. And now it’s only laying 3½ against Air Force at home? That looks too easy to be true. I definitely lean to the Air Force side. I’m high on Air Force this year.”
Circa Sports opened Illinois as a 9-point favorite over Eastern Michigan, but the consensus line is down to 7.
“We had a sharp bet us Eastern Michigan, and I can see that,” Salmons said. “Illinois played Akron and (Connecticut), two of the worst teams in Division I. This spread seems a little high.”
CG Technology took sharp action on Ohio State as a 15½-point road favorite over Indiana, but Salmons suggests buying back on the Hoosiers now that the line has shot up to 17½.
“That spread’s just crazy,” Salmons said. “Indiana is at least as good as Cincinnati, and last week they were taking Cincinnati against Ohio State like it’s free money. Now this week Ohio State’s on the road at Indiana, and it’s a higher spread? That’s an overadjustment.”
Salmons also recommends buying back on Temple, a 7-point home underdog to Maryland after Circa opened the line at 4. The Terrapins smoked Syracuse 63-20 last week after opening with a 79-0 rout of Howard.
“I don’t know if Syracuse’s defense is that bad or Maryland is that good. But I took my Maryland (power rating) and jacked it up eight points and still have Temple as a play here,” Salmons said. “Maryland will be a public side.”
Salmons also expects the public to be all over USC — a 4-point road favorite over Brigham Young — after true freshman QB Kedon Slovis threw for 377 yards and three TDs in the Trojans’ 45-20 win over Stanford.
“BYU’s good this year. I like BYU in this game,” he said. “Everything went right for the freshman QB last week, but it’s a lot different when you go on the road. USC has to play at elevation here. There are a lot of things working against them.”
Other sharp sides include Akron and Troy.
Not ready for prime time
“These games stink this week, by the way,” Salmons said.
In one of Saturday’s prime-time games, No. 1 Clemson is a 27½-point road favorite over Syracuse.
“It’ll probably close 28½. Clemson is just toying with teams right now. It’s a joke,” Salmons said. “They really need to move to the SEC West to get some competition.”
In another featured matchup, Oklahoma is a 23½-point road favorite over UCLA.
“I thought UCLA would be dramatically improved this year, and they’ve just been awful,” Salmons said. “It just looks like Chip Kelly is ready to go to the FCS after this.”