Try as we all might, there’s no such thing as objective sports fans when they’re talking about their own teams.
Apparently, we’ve all decided to cordon off a no-fly zone over the reasonable area of the brain for our sports-designated neurons, forcing them to circulate only in the hopelessly pessimistic and unfailingly positive regions of the cerebral cortex. Honestly, I know people who are more realistic about their kids than they are about their squad.
Every year without fail, college football fans reach the height of our utter irrationality between the first and second weeks of the season. After last Saturday night’s uneven performance in a 31-24 win against the Utah State Aggies, fans of the Oklahoma Sooners seem pretty down in the dumps. With the talented Florida State Seminoles coming up this weekend, the sense of fear and trembling emanating from Sooner Nation would put Kierkegaard to shame.
Now, it’s Homerism’s official policy to avoid gambling on the Sooners unless the angle is just that sweet – it’s horrible karma and altogether unnecessary from an entertainment standpoint. (Happens about once a year.) However, when the psyche is shaken, I always find it helpful to at least try to put myself in that frame of mind for a little perspective.
So, what do the trends say?
In the summer, the oddsmakers pegged Oklahoma as a healthy 10-point favorite. This week, Vegas has shaded the line down to OU -8.5.
Significance: The move towards Florida State makes sense in terms of public perception. OU struggled with a WAC team in the opener; FSU pasted its first opponent. That should push public money to the Seminoles, and according to Sportsbook.com, the split in tickets being written is roughly 80-20 for Florida State.
Under coach Bob Stoops, OU is 67-2 at Owen Field. The Sooners have won 31 straight games at home, the last loss coming at the hands of a very good TCU team in the first contest of 2005.
Florida State is 34-22 on the road during that period. Since 2005, the ‘Noles are 12-13.
Significance: Don’t think you need me to spell it out for you.
Under Stoops, the Sooners have gone a perfect 11-0 straight up in the second game of the season. Against the spread, OU is 6-3-1. Six of the 11 games have been played against BCS conference teams, so OU hasn’t been exactly beating up on chumps.
Significance: As noted in my review of Utah State, the Sooners have historically given lackluster efforts in the first game of the year. Conversely, Stoops’ teams tend to make big strides in game two, creating a classic “bounce back” effect.
Even though Jimbo Fisher has been in Tallahassee for a while, this year is really the first that he has had a chance to put his own stamp on the program. More importantly, FSU is installing a complicated defensive scheme under coordinator Mark Stoops that is a far cry from what the previous regime was running.
Significance: Conventional wisdom among wiseguys holds that teams will typically underperform relative to expectations in a new coach’s first season as they adjust to the new sheriff in town. The Seminoles didn’t exactly show any signs of that in week one, but that’s to be expected against Samford.
Florida State has plenty of key returnees on the offensive side of the ball, including stud quarterback Christian Ponder and the guts of possibly the best offensive line in the nation. The defense is working in some new faces and appears to be particularly young at defensive line and cornerback.
OU has nine returnees on offense, including Landry Jones under center and an offensive line featuring eight guys who started at least one game in 2009. Much like the ‘Noles, OU has some youth on defense at tackle and corner.
Significance: This tends to be a bigger factor for visitors than the home team, although Ponder and the o-line definitely improve FSU’s chances.
It probably won’t ease the anxiety among fans of the Crimson and Cream, but if the trends hold, fortune seems to be smiling on the Sooners.