Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 8:15 AM EST. Odds subject to change.
Massachusetts +35 over Auburn
Jordan-Hare Stadium – Auburn, AL
3:30 PM EST. We understand the reluctance that comes with getting behind a side like the Minutemen, UMass only won three games spanning from 2019 – 2022, which came against an FCS team, Akron (might as well be a FCS team), and UConn when they were as bad as UMass was, However, even a team like UMass can bode equity if the circumstances are right.
Last week, as a 6½-point underdog, the Minutemen took to the road and squared off with New Mexico State and not only covered but won by double-digits defeating the Aggies in New Mexico. Generally speaking, we would be hesitant to come back on UMass the week after such a positive result, as we would be concerned of betting a side a week too late but there are exceptions and this is one of them because it is clear that the market is still a long way off from catching up to Massachusetts. This is evidenced in the fact that UMass opened as a 35½-point pup and now has been given an additional four points.
By virtue of Auburn’s SEC affiliation and who they are playing host to on opening weekend, it is unsurprising to see the Tigers priced in this range. No question that UMass has the market credibility of a Pop Warner team, even if they are clearly an improved iteration of themselves, as they managed to put up 41 points on a team led by a respected coach like Jerry Kill. This is overshadowed however by the big story surrounding Auburn’s hiring of coach Hugh Freeze whose reputation precedes him. Where Freeze has gone, teams have had success. That much has been evident in what he did at Ole Miss and most recently at Liberty where he took a fledgling FBS independent and turned them into a team that garners a top-25 ranking and produces NFL prospects at quarterback (we see you Malik Willis). With a team of Auburn’s history and their clamoring to return to prominence, Freeze seems to be the right hire at the right time for War Eagle. As such, the expectations for improvement are lofty and that is reflected also in the price and the market response here.
In 2022, Auburn went 5-7 and did not qualify for a bowl game and yet they are posting an “Alabama/Georgia/Clemson/ like number to an undervalued team with a game under their belt. Auburn meanwhile has yet to take the field.
It is no coincidence that Power-5 schools schedule opening games against cupcakes. They all want to win and will not take a chance of scheduling a game against anyone that can beat them. Starting 0-1 is not an option.
While we are not here to compare the quality of both sides, we can say that opening games, particularly of this type, are when big favorites work out some kinks or wrinkles. It is basically a glorified practice before playing a “real team”.
The Minutemen indeed ended a 24-game road losing streak with that 41-30 upset at New Mexico State. That took a monkey off their back. There was a little bit of fortune mixed in, as the UMass did benefit from a +3 turnover differential, but QB Taisun Phommachanh gives the Minutemen a dynamic on offense that they haven't had in a long time. The former Clemson Tiger threw for 192 yards and added 92 yards on the ground, including 26 yards on a big fourth down conversion.
The Tigers and Minutemen have never played before, but there is a little bit of familiarity. Hugh Freeze was at Liberty last season where UMass was able to play a competitive game and stay within the point spread. The Minutemen should have a general idea of the kind of offense Freeze wants to run but aside from that, this is an incredible amount of points to be taking back with a team that is “free-rolling” and will play with absolutely nothing to lose. Just one TD by the underdog here puts the onus on Auburn to score an insane amount of points to cover in a game in which the total is just 51½.
Massachusetts +35 -105 (Risking 2.10 units - To Win: 2.00)