By Tom Z
11:09 AM EDT, September 7, 2012
I learned a lot last week. For example, if you and your friends go to a sports bar at 12:30 in the afternoon, and you’re the only people there, I’m pretty sure the waitress assumes you’re raging alcoholics. If you tell her you’re there for the Penn State-Ohio game, that does not help your cause. And most importantly, Alabama is hands down the best team in college football. I watched a little bit of all the major teams, and not one could hold a candle to the Crimson Tide. It’s tough to know what to expect before a season starts, but now that teams have played a game, one thing is abundantly clear: Nick Saban is going to get hit with massive recruiting violations in about 5 years. Until then, enjoy the free money.
Here’s my top five after a week of action.
5) Florida State
And the five most disappointing teams.
5) Virginia Tech
Which brings us to week 2. This is a rough week, schedule-wise. There's not one top 25 matchup, and very few of the lines stand out as great picks. With that in mind, I've flushed out this week's picks with a bunch of non-picks. Don't despair, though. There are a couple games this week that I think can be big winners.
As always, I’ve consulted with my crack team of experts, Dan P and Dave. Here are our picks.
Cincinnati -4.5 over Pitt
Yes, this game was played last night, and no, you can't go back in time and place a bet on it, Back To The Future 2 style. I just want to emphasize how horrible the Pitt Panthers are this year. Should they have another game against a legitimate opponent this year, and the line is within 10 points, you must bet the house. If this game was on Saturday, or if I published this column on Thursday, I would've told you to bet your life's savings. Alas, such is life. Moving along…
Ohio State -18 over Central Florida
Ohio State / Central Florida OVER 51
This is a good bet. My second favorite of the week. Ohio State is still being viewed as a Jim Tressel team by fans and oddsmakers. We've seen the Buckeyes grinding it out with running and defense for so long, it's difficult to accept that they could score points and blow teams out. We all have that friend from college who used to party all the time. Then you graduate and don’t see him for ten years. He’s married, he’s got a kid, and he’s working as an accountant. But in your mind, he’ll always be Shotgun Steve. That’s Ohio State. The Buckeyes are now an Urban Meyer team, and we need to adjust our mindset accordingly. They should put up at least 40 points in this game, making both the cover and the over strong bets.
Miami / Kansas State OVER 58
When I started preparing for this column two days ago, this line was at 53.5. At that point I thought it was a great bet. It climbed to 55.5 and I was still OK with that. Now it's at 58 and I'm not so thrilled. That upward movement means a lot of people are betting the over, and since most people are stupid, therefore via the transitive property this has become a risky bet. Ideally you should wait and hope for this line to drop back down a couple points, but at 58 I say it's still OK to bet a small amount. Sometimes I like to bet $5 on a game just to make it more interesting. I think that’s a sign of a serious problem, but whatever, the point is, this will be one of those games. Make a small wager and root hard for the Wildcats. But if the line climbs any higher, absolutely stay away.
Dan Says: Chris Klein may have sucked in American Pie, but he can run that read option pretty damn well.
North Carolina -10.5 over Wake Forest
My favorite bet of the week. It's going to be a tough year for Wake. After beating Liberty College -- which I think is one of those online schools that advertise at 1AM on Comedy Central -- by only 3 points, Wake has sent us a strong message that they are not interested in football in 2012. It's cool, they still have a great engineering program. Meanwhile, over at North Carolina, all those recruiting violations have really paid off. The Tar Heels looked strong in week 1. QB Bryn Renner is the real deal, RB Gio Bernard was impressive, and the Heels should be able to handle the Deacon Demons easily.
USC / Syracuse OVER 64.5 SCRATCH
I grew up in Syracuse, and Orange fans do a thing I like to call “Cusebrags.” It’s pretty much the opposite of a humblebrag. They brag about an achievement that would disgust an Alabama fan. For example…
“Ryan Nassib looked great in that loss to Northwestern!”
“That 9-4 team we had with Donovan McNabb was the best!”
“We played a lot better than people expected!”
I bring this up for two reasons. First, it shows how people from Central New York are the greatest human beings on the planet. Second, because the USC-Cuse game offers the perfect set-up for a Cusebrag. Picture this: It’s Sunday morning, there’s an article about this game in the newspaper, and a Syracuse fan is quoted saying, “nobody thought we could score 24 points against the number one team in the country, but we did it!” Then right next to that is the final score, USC 49, Syracuse 24.
Dan Says: Over. Ryan Nassib set a school record for completions last week. Somewhere Don McNabb ate another Double Double at In-N-Out Burger.
UPDATE: I’ve received word that the weather report for this game calls for heavy rain and wind. That changes everything. No way these teams combine for 65 points in the Meadowlands in a downpour. Keep an eye on the game time forecast and adjust your bet accordingly.
Florida / Texas A&M UNDER 50.5
This is a Dan P pick.
Dan Says: Under. Muschamp is a hick. Tons of new skills players for both teams. Under all day.
If I was forced at gunpoint to pick this game, I would go with Texas A&M in an upset win and the under. A&M 24, Florida 20. But I HATE* Florida and want nothing to do with any game they're involved in.
[*When I say I hate them, I mean from a gambling standpoint. I have nothing against them personally. They give us yellow Gatorade, how can I complain about that?]
New Mexico +38 over Texas
Listen, New Mexico isn't going to win this game, but 38 is a LOT of points. I'm not convinced Texas can score 38 points, let alone win by that much. This is a slightly above-average Longhorns team. Take the points.
Oklahoma State / Arizona UNDER 70
In order to bet on a team, you need to trust them. By "trust" I mean this: Can the team consistently move the ball? Can they score points against decent defenses? Do they have reliable upperclassmen leaders? Can they get a defensive stop when they really need one? Do they give a consistent effort week in and week out?
That last point is by far the most important. You don't want to bet on a team that scores 70 points one week and 17 points the next. You need to know what you're getting into. Listen to me now. This Arizona team cannot be trusted. Rich Rod's coaching abilities are questionable and the team lacks talented skill position players. On the flip side, I loved last year's Oklahoma State team, but they've got too many new guys, and haven't been tested enough (sorry, Savannah State) to know what they're all about. Take the under and bank on new quarterbacks making mistakes in their first high-profile game.
(Despite everything I just said, keep an eye on Oklahoma State as the year goes on. There's a big difference between having a good recruiting class and being a big time program. This season will determine which category Oklahoma State falls into.)
Dan Says: 70 is too many points without Weeden, Blackmon, Foles and Criner. 38-30 Oklahoma State win and Under.
Penn State +10 vs. Virginia - STAY AWAY
R.I.P. Penn State football. It was good while it lasted. Don't bet on Penn State for the next 4 years. You can bet against them, or bet the Under, but don't bet in their favor. I say this as a lifelong fan. The next few years are going to be even rougher than anyone thought. Anyway, it's become abundantly clear that I need a new team to follow for the next decade…
Oregon -35 vs. Fresno - STAY AWAY
…which bring us to Oregon. Last week I wasn't just watching games. I was secretly in the market for a new favorite team. The Ducks are everything Penn State is not. They're exciting, they're progressive, they have playmakers, they score points, they win games, they recruit well, they have awesome uniforms, they don't molest children… they've got it all. I was on board after watching last week's game, but it was this video of the Oregon mascot and cheerleaders covering the South Korean rap hit "Gangnam Style" that really did it. The last year has been rough, but I'm finally ready to move on. I'm ready to open up my heart and my television set to a new team. I'm ready to get over my blues, and don my shiny new greens and yellows. I'm ready to believe in college football again! GOD BLESS OREGON, AND GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! GO DUCKS!!
(This game is a bad line though. Stay away and count your money, because the Ducks are going to win us all a bunch of cash later in the season.)
Follow Tom on Twitter: @thefaketomz
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