University of Miami

Hurricanes underdogs, Florida Atlantic and UCF favorites on championship weekend

Hurricanes running back Travis Homer is called out inside the 5 yard line against Virginia at Hard Rock Stadium on Nov. 18.
Hurricanes running back Travis Homer is called out inside the 5 yard line against Virginia at Hard Rock Stadium on Nov. 18. adiaz@miamiherald.com

The No. 7 Hurricanes grow as underdogs to bettors while those Over cats at FAU and UCF seem to have sportsbooks in protection mode.

It’s the start of an active college-affiliated football Championship Week around Florida. Not everybody’s playing, of course. Florida’s done at 4-7 and busy welcoming new coach Dan Mullen. Florida State (5-6) would be done as it reportedly prepares to say see ya to Jimbo Fisher, but that Hurricane Irma-lost game against Louisiana-Monroe contest must be played and won for the Seminoles to reach bowl eligibility. After losing the wildest game involving any Florida team this season — or maybe the last 10 seasons — to No. 12 Central Florida 49-42, No. 23 South Florida (9-2) sits idle until its bowl game.

Now that we’ve covered the sidelines, here’s the skinny on the schools still needing to keep their backfields in motion.

▪ Maybe the Hurricanes (10-1) should be happy. Their two best performances, wins against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, came as underdogs. But after quarterback Malik Rosier looked erratic and everybody else looked flatter than day old Sprite during Friday’s loss to Pitt, the money people clearly see them as second best against Clemson (11-1) Saturday in the ACC championship game. According to VegasInsider.com's consensus of sports books, the books installed UM as a 7.5-point underdog Sunday. The early money moved that line to 9.5 points by Monday morning. The Over/Under of 47.5 didn’t move.

▪ Speaking of Over/Unders, the books clearly are worried that people have been turned on to Florida Atlantic and UCF — and even more concerned that their opponents in their conference championship games won’t be able to stop them. First, check out the Over/Under for FAU (9-3) and North Texas in the Conference USA championship game on Saturday at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton: 74. It opened at 74.5.

Mark Richt, the head coach for the Miami Hurricanes, talks to the media after losing to Pittsburgh and ending their chances for a perfect regular season on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017.

A total in the mid-60s is high. This says the defenses can’t find their way out of the locker room. It also says the books don’t believe much has changed since FAU blasted North Texas 69-31 on Oct. 21. The Owls opened 9.5-point favorites, are now at 10, and will be at home with the nation’s 10th highest scoring team (39.8 per game), powered by No. 5 rusher Devin Singletary. The Mean Green, for their part, score 37.5 points per game, but give up 33.3.

▪ The only higher Over/Under this weekend or maybe this season involves Central Florida (11-0), the scoringest team in the land at 48.3 points per game. Though the Knights clobbered American Athletic Conference title game opponent Memphis (10-1) 40-13 on Sept. 30, that’s Memphis’ only loss. The books see a relatively close game — UCF by 7 — but one free of defense. Or, one they think bettors will anticipate being free of defense. Sportsbooks planting the total at a gargantuan 85.5. Bettors moved that down to 84.5.

▪ While waiting to see their bowl invitations, the FIU Panthers (7-4) play UMass (4-7) in what could be called The Epilogue Bowl at noon Saturday at Riccardo Silva Stadium. Needing a replacement for the game at Indiana canceled by Irma on the then-outside chance bowl eligibility might be on the line, FIU found a willing dance partner in UMass. Turns out, after last week’s scorching of Western Kentucky, FIU just needs to stay healthy for the bowl game.

Maybe this confused the books. FIU opened and remains a 1.5-point favorite, but the Over/Under started at 62.5. Bettors saw mortgages paid, economic hedges against bad weekends, early retirement, Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas. Under money pounded that total down to 55.5.

▪ Florida State’s a 27-point home favorite over Louisiana-Monroe (4-7). The line moved a half-point toward ULM while the total also edged down, 66 to 66.5.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal

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