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How A Major Upset Impacts Odds In College Football

We saw a handful of “oh-my-gosh” upsets in Week 1 of the college football season though none of them were bigger than South Alabama upsetting Mississippi State 21-20 as a 28.5-point underdog. 

Actually none of them have been bigger in the last five years. ESPN’s FPI (Football Power Index) gave the Jaguars a 2.3% chance to beat Mississippi State, making it the biggest upset by FPI during that stretch. 

But that’s all in the past. The question on bettors’ minds is: How does this impact this week’s spreads? 

Well, let me try break this one down a little for South Alabama’s and Mississippi State’s games this week.  

Georgia Southern at South Alabama (+13) 

This line opened at +11.5 and it jacked it up to +13.  

“How the hell can South Alabama suddenly be a two-TD underdog to a Sun Belt team after taking down an SEC power school?” you may found yourself asking.  

But this line actually makes some sense. First of all, this is exactly how oddsmakers want you to think. They know they will probably attract a bunch of recreational action on this game because l’il ol’ South Alabama is suddenly on the national radar. Seems like a no brainer to take the home dog. 

Hold up a sec, though. If sportsbooks think that will be the mentality of the bettors, it’s logical to assume the number was actually set a little on the low side. In this case, I actually think it was a lack of action that moved the line up to 13, back to where it was supposed to be rather than a flood of action. 

I also feel the win was more on the luck side for South Alabama even though I expect the Jaguars to be an improved team this year. Mississippi State jumped out to a 17-point lead by halftime and got a little complacent in the post-Dak era and let this Jaguars team crawl back. It was only a missed 28-yard field goal that separated this one from being an ugly win instead of an embarrassing defeat for the Bulldogs. 

What I don’t like about South Alabama is this squad still looks weak in the same places as last year. The Jaguars ranked 112th in the nation against the run in 2015 (221 yards against per game) and they allowed Mississippi State to pound them for 235 yards on the ground on Saturday. 

That’s going to be tough to overcome against a Georgia Southern team that ranked No. 1 – yes, No. 1 – in rushing in college football last year with 363 rushing yards per game. Almost their entire offense returns to a unit that pummeled South Alabama 55-7 last year while piling up almost 500 yards rushing. 

The Eagles are also pretty solid against the pass at 37th in the nation last year and South Alabama is a team that likes to throw the ball. Toss in the fact that the Jaguars will likely be a little distracted through this week now with a huge conference foe looming and this line isn’t as crazy as it looks. 

South Carolina at Mississippi State (-6.5) 

Mississippi State is adjusting to life without Dak Prescott. The first game didn’t go so well but I think the whole second half was a brain fart on Saturday. 

South Carolina, on the other hand, just looked awful in an opener they had every right to lose against Vandy but luckily managed a win. So Mississippi State probably isn’t as bad as a loss to a Sun Belt team suggests and South Carolina probably isn’t as good as a win over an SEC team suggests.

I think books knew that 9.5 was just going to look like too much and they weren't surprised to get Cocks money. Three points is a sizeable move for an SEC conference game that’s below double digits and I think there could be some value here on the Bulldogs. I won't be surprised if money comes back on Miss State at 6.5 and we see this line settle in a little higher at 7 or 7.5. 

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