By Tom Z
10:12 AM EDT, August 31, 2012
When I was a young child, I looked forward to the start of college football for months. The only thing that could offset the start of a new school year was the joy of watching 12 straight hours of football on a Saturday. Of course, you eventually grow older and your priorities shift. Job and family take precedence over sports, and you develop a little perspective on life. More importantly, it becomes hard to root for college athletes after you go to college. When you're 12, a college football player is a role model you look up to. When you're 20, a college football player is someone who skips class, cheats on his tests and sexually assaults a cheerleader at a house party. It's not the same.
Fortunately, there's gambling. Whatever interest I lost in college football due to aging, I quickly regained thanks to betting. Nothing makes a game more exciting than placing a nominal wager on the outcome. Even a simple $5 bet can turn a Thursday night MAC game into a contest of Super Bowl-caliber importance.
With that in mind, I present the first edition of Tom Z's Highly Unethical College Football Gambling Picks. As you read these picks, I want you to keep one thing in mind. I am not some guy spouting off hypothetical guesses. I put my money where my mouth is. Then, when I'm done licking my money, I upload it to my Sportsbook account and I actually wager on the games below. A lot of sports columnists will dance around the illegality of gambling or give you some hypothetical like, "if gambling were legal, I'd do this…", like they're the OJ of sports betting or something. Not me. My name is Tom Z, I'm a degenerate gambler, and these are my picks.
NC State +3 over Tennessee
Two of my favorite quarterbacks in the country square off in this Friday night matchup. One, NC State's Mike Glennon, is surrounded by a roster of up-and-coming players and should put on a great show. The other, Tennessee's Tyler Bray, just saw his best receiver suspended and lacks another proven threat. Also it should be noted that Tennessee's coach looks seventeen years old. I like NC State to win this one outright.
Boise State vs. Michigan State - Stay Away
One of the most important things about gambling is knowing when to stay away. This is a big-time Friday night game and it would be tempting to place a wager. Don't do it. Michigan State has a new quarterback who by all accounts is mediocre. Boise State is a great program that lost 15 starters last year.
Week 1 is the toughest week of the year to predict and this game is a prime of example of why. Right now we know too little about either of these teams. Stay away.
Ohio +6.5 over Penn State
Ohio / Penn State - Under 44.5
I've been a Penn State fan for 30 years. The past year has been, let's just say, not fun. But right now it's time to focus on the future. No, not the future of Penn State University, or the football team. The future of your wallet. This year's Penn State team is going to suck. They have a decent defense and their offense will be abysmal. What that means for you is this: Bet against the Lions, and bet the under. Always. You won't win every game but you'll win plenty. Penn State could pay off that entire $60 million fine from the NCAA by just betting against themselves all year.*
Let's not make this all about Penn State, though. Ohio quietly won 10 games last year and has a decent shot of repeating that feat this year. They're a very good team from an underrated conference and they deserve respect. I think they keep this game within a field goal, and possibly win outright.
[*Note: I do not encourage this tactic, but it would work.]
West Virginia -25.5 over Marshall
Watch out for this year's West Virginia team. They have a shot of winning the Big 12 and earning a BCS berth. They’re highly-ranked and Geno Smith is a Heisman candidate. The state of West Virginia hasn't received this much national attention since the show "Hoarders" came out. The Mountaineers need a strong week 1 performance to let the rest of the Big 12 know they're for real. No better way to send a message than by pounding your cross-state rival. Expect a barrage of points from Geno Smith and co. Marshall is a decent team but they won't be able to hang with the Mountaineers for four quarters.
Oregon -37 over Arkansas State
Another problem with week 1 is the number of incredibly high lines. For example, USC is favored by 42, Texas by 31.5, and Oklahoma by 30. That’s simply too many points. Pretty much any line over 30 points should be a stay away game. Even if the favorite dominates, they could ease up, rest starters, and surrender a few garbage touchdowns that allow the underdog to cover.
That said, I love this line. Why? Because Oregon doesn't let up. The Ducks are like a 100-year old man behind the wheel of a Cadillac; they never take their foot off the gas. They are going to DESTROY Arkansas State. If this line were double, I would still consider it. I will be wagering heavily on this game.
Virginia Tech -7 over Georgia Tech
SMU / Baylor - Over 58
Now would be a good time to introduce you to my team of experts. That's right, I have a team. I'm what they call in the business world an "effective leader." I know how to smile and let other people do the real work for me. Every week, I send my prospective picks to three people: my brother Dave, my friend Dan P, and my other friend Spills. They let me know when I'm way off base. Case in point, I originally thought Georgia Tech would give Virginia Tech a game. I was quickly overruled on that one. VA Tech minus 7 is a consensus pick among everyone.
The SMU/Baylor pick is all Dan P. "Way way way over" is his direct quote. The rest of us don’t disagree, we just don’t watch SMU football. I'll believe in Baylor when they send some guy named “RG4” out as quarterback. Dan was adamant about this pick, though, so I trust his judgment.
Michigan +14 over Alabama
Well, we've saved the best for last. This is undoubtedly the marquee matchup of the week. I love the fact that the first Saturday of college football offers us a game between #2 and #8, two college football powerhouses that are both aiming for BCS-caliber seasons. This type of game is the exact reason I watch the sport.
Alabama has more talent than Michigan. Let's get that out of the way. All you need to know about Alabama is that, at the Republican Convention, their delegate introduced them by saying they produced the last three national champs. The state is like 47th in education, but nobody cares, because the Tide is preseason #2. It's all about football down there.
Do yourself a favor and pay attention to the Alabama offensive line tomorrow. They're so good that they moved senior, All-American and Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones from guard to center. He was the best lineman in the country and they made him move positions, because their other linemen are that good. That's like if Kate Upton went to a photo shoot and they made her stand in the back because all the other girls there were way hotter. Those would be some good photos. Alabama's got a good line. I'd also like to note that, according to rolltide.com, Jones won something called the Wuerfful Trophy. I didn't know that award existed, but based on a quick Google search, it's an award for outstanding community service, not for the best college player who will suck in the NFL as I originally thought.
Behind Alabama's tough O-line is running back Eddie Lacey. I think he'll have a tremendous season. Trent Richardson was a beast, but don't expect much drop off this year. Running the show is the MVP of the National Championship Game, quarterback A.J. McCarron. McCarron is one of the 10 best QBs in the nation, but he's often overshadowed by the defense and running backs.
There is good news for Michigan fans. First off, it's a neutral site game, and although it's in the south, UM fans travel better than anyone, so there shouldn't be a definitive home field advantage. Secondly, you have Denard Robinson, who would have won the last two Heisman trophies if the Heisman was given out in September. I know that sounds like an insult, but this game is in September, so really it's a compliment. Thirdly, your linemen are no slouches either. Brady Hoke is a good coach and a very good recruiter, and I expect a bunch of new Michigan stars to emerge this year. Finally, and this is the most important thing, it's week 1. We talked about the unpredictability of week 1 earlier. Alabama starts seven new players on defense, and a few new players on offense. You can't expect them to instantly click. There are going to be mistakes. Sure, Michigan will make mistakes as well, but fortunately they have a quarterback who thrives on broken plays.
If Michigan wants to win this game, they need to play great defense for four quarters, they need a couple big mistakes by Alabama, and they need a few big plays by Robinson. They're in the tougher position, but success is not impossible.
I think Alabama wins this game by 13. Final score, 27-14. I think they control both lines of scrimmage and the time of possession. If this game were played in November, I think Bama wins by 30. But being week 1, I think the veteran Denard makes some big plays, and the revamped Tide are just sloppy enough to keep Michigan in the game.
The spread is 14, so my pick is Michigan to cover. However, I would urge you not to wager heavily on this game. The showdown between two historic college football programs, the powerful Alabama offensive line and the antics of Denard Robinson should be enough to keep you entertained.
And if that doesn't work, there's always alcohol. Sweet, delicious alcohol.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @thefaketomz
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