Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 3:30 PM EST. Odds subject to change.
SECU Stadium, College Park, MD
Maryland -14½ -109 over Virginia
7:00 PM EST, Teams off especially difficult losses are often good candidates to fade, but there are factors to consider first. Crushing losses are delivered in many forms: last-minute game winners, big blown leads, losses to bitter rivals, unexpected losses as big favorites. The responses vary too.
Last week, the Cavs were celebrating their 500th game at Scott Stadium, and they were playing well with a lead as a home dog against James Madison. A weather delay sent both teams to the locker room, and when they came out, the Dukes scored two touchdowns en route to a 36-35 win on an emotional afternoon where Virginia was honoring the three teammates who were fatally shot last November.
If the loss was truly crushing, the response mostly involves temporarily losing the will to prepare to win, and consequently playing poorly the following week. This is not sufficiently true to blindly attack teams in these spots, but it's a good start. With a decent read on each team and a solid definition of what qualifies as a particularly demoralizing or dispiriting loss, you're on your way.
First, we have to be sure of our read that the loss is indeed soul-crushing. Most losses are very disappointing, so is this one truly special in some way? Virginia definitely checks this box. The game was dedicated to those kids that lost their lives with their families on hand. Losing was utterly disappointing and devastating.
Review what we know about the team's mental makeup. We don't mean the attitude now, in the wake of the loss, but rather the overall makeup. Tough-minded, unified teams with good leadership and a stronger commitment to values -- finishing, truly taking the schedule one week at a time, or desire to achieve goals still in reach -- are better candidates to bounce back. Weaker, less mentally tough teams that aren't as tight and have fewer leaders, teams that are already inconsistent week-to-week or teams whose goals have been destroyed, are less likely to rebound quickly. We need to understand the downtrodden team's general mental toughness and capacity for resilience. Virginia hasn’t been relevant for five years.
Covering Virginia’s intangibles is beyond the scope here, but it's worth mentioning that the Cavs were destroyed by Tennessee in its season opener so there's some residual pain of the same flavor already in the bank. That's a small plus.
Finally, we have to know our hammer and how they match up. Who are we trusting to beat this downtrodden team that we're trying to take advantage of? Is it a team we're eager to back? Is it a winless bottom-feeder in disarray? Is it a team likely to bring its own A-game this week? Can it match talent and personnel, and will it exploit this opponent's specific weaknesses?
The bad loss points the way to a potentially profitable spot, but that's where the handicapper's work begins. From there, we gather the best answers we can to the questions the factors pose and then put the pieces together and decide if the evidence merits investment. Virginia shows up in body only here against a very good Maryland team that is 2-0 and is coming off a sub-par performance against Charlotte. An investment is warranted.
Maryland -14½ -109 (Risking 2.18 units - To Win: 2.00)