Welcome to the midway point of the college football season. It’s been a tumultuous season so far. I had one perfect gambling week, a few break-even weeks, and a couple weeks where I lost all my money. What a wild ride. Oh yeah, the games have been pretty good, too.
I’m keeping this week’s introduction short as there are a lot of games I’d like to get to. Unfortunately I hate all of the lines this week. Vegas is very good at what they do, and this week they really nailed it. Nothing’s easy and there are no “locks of the week” so to speak.
Therefore, while I am offering picks and commentary about a lot of games, I’d also like to urge everybody to wager small amounts, or to even consider laying off the betting this weekend. Watching games without gambling on them… I know, what a novel concept.
Anyway, here are my picks. Use at your own discretion…
UConn vs. Syracuse UNDER 44 (Friday Night Game)
This game should be banned from TV as a public service to America. I would rather watch AT&T’s channel 1800, the channel that shows HD clips of mountains and underwater shots while classical music plays in the background. I don’t even know why that channel exists, but those mountains and rivers will score just as many touchdowns as the Huskies and Orange, with a lot fewer missed field goals. I’ll leave you with an email from my good friend Dan P, a UConn graduate who grew up in Syracuse.
“Uconn / Syracuse UNDER Any Number - Doug Marone + Pauly P = Gross Football. Me and Spills went to the game in 2010, bet the over, and it never had a shot. That was with some offensive ‘weapons’ which are no longer around. Key Matchup -The TE from Solvay vs. The Linebacker from Mystic. Blazing 5.95 40’ speed.”
Yep, pretty much.
Rutgers -5 over Temple
Rutgers is a solid team who plays inferior competition week after week in the Big East. Rutgers is like the show “How I Met Your Mother.” It’s really not that great, but sandwiched between “Two Broke Girls” and “Rules of Engagement” it feels like comic gold. Keep riding the Knights until further notice.
Stanford -2.5 over Cal
Stanford is clearly the better team here, and they’re coming off a tough loss. The Cardinal should be in full-on revenge mode. I expect to see a LOT of Stefan Taylor. I’m talking a 150+ yard performance. Stanford 31, Cal 17. I’d also like to vote that we retire all video of “The Play.” Yeah, it’s cool to watch Cal players trample the Stanford band, but this rivalry has been coasting off that game for 30 years now. What have you done for me lately?
Texas Tech vs. TCU OVER 55
I love how Big 12 teams just plug in brand new QBs with no noticeable effects. TCU star Casey Pachall goes down? No big deal, Trevone Boykins steps in and 7 days later no one can even remember Lasey Paigel’s name. Meanwhile, Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell finishes a fantastic career, goes off to become Aaron Rodgers’ backup, and 18 months later Seth Doege looks like he could end up being even better than Harrell. One guy leaves, the next guy fills in, and there’s barely any difference. The Big 12 Conference would have been Eli Whitney’s wet dream. Because of the interchangeable parts. Eli Whitney invented other things besides the cotton gin, you racist.
South Carolina +3 over Florida – STAY AWAY
Let me explain the “stay away” pick here. I personally like South Carolina in this game. Florida isn’t making it through the year undefeated. Watching Florida is like watching the show “Dexter.” You know Dexter is going to jail at some point, in fact he should be in jail already, but somehow he keeps hanging on. I like the Gators, they’re just not a #2 caliber team yet. Maybe next year. On the other hand, I think a disgruntled South Carolina team can come into the Swamp, pull some Spurrier hijinks and emerge with a win. I picture a very close game decided on a last minute field goal. South Carolina 20, Florida 19.
This is where we bust out the “not so fast, my friend.” As I’ve mentioned before, I have a team of experts with whom I discuss my picks each week. Two of the three like Florida to win this game and cover the spread. The third expects a low-scoring affair and likes the UNDER (currently at 41 points). It should be noted that the four of us agreed on almost every other pick this week, so given this variance in opinion, I can’t in good conscious advise anyone to gamble on this game. And if gambling on college-aged athletes is about one thing, it’s morals. Bet at your own risk.
By the way, you can read more picks from my team of experts, Dan, Spills and Dave, by clicking here. I’ve thrown in my own bonus 10-team teaser pick as well.
Pittsburgh vs. Buffalo UNDER 54.5
Asking these teams to combine for 55 points is like asking Vince Young and Pacman Jones to combine for 1800 on their SATs. Not gonna happen.
Indiana +2.5 over Navy
Off-the-radar pick of the week. I’m going to let you in on a secret. Indiana is not a terrible football team. They’re not good, per se, but they’re not an automatic win anymore. Navy, on the other hand, is a bad, one-dimensional team. I like the Hoosiers in an upset.
Louisville -6.5 over South Florida
For the record, I will not be watching this game. This is one of those match-ups where you bet on Louisville, it’s 20-19 with 7 minutes remaining, South Florida is in the red zone, and you’re like, “Goddammit Louisville, that’s the last time I bet on you!” Then you check after the game and the final score is Lousville 34, South Florida 19, and you’re like, “What the hell just happened?” That’s every Louisville game. Can’t wait to see them lose by 50 to Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
Florida State -20.5 over Miami
Speaking of the Seminoles, I like them to blow out the hapless Miami Hurricanes this weekend. This is both a vote for Florida State, who are undoubtedly still frustrated by their loss to NC State, and a vote against Miami, who are just plain terrible. I’m sure someone has made this joke before, but the Hurricanes have been so bad, it’s time for them to downgrade their nickname. They came into the season as the Miami Tropical Storms, now they’re more like the Miami Scattered Rainshowers.
Louisiana Tech -30.5 over Idaho
A lot of people might not even realize this, but up until last week Louisiana Tech was undefeated and ranked in the top 25. Then they lost a competitive game to the also-underrated Texas A&M Aggies and fell out of the polls. The Bulldogs are a good team, though. This week they face an Idaho squad that unfortunately doesn’t have the firepower to hang with a decent opponent. This should be a complete woodshed game. LA Tech 66, Idaho 13. The OVER of 74 is not a bad bet here, either.
Alabama -20.5 over Tennessee
Alabama has one of the most dominant defenses in college football, and quietly one of the nation’s best offenses as well. They have Heisman finalist A.J. McCarron (you’ll see) at quarterback, and their top 6 running backs could all start at Iowa. And they’ll never have a letdown game, because Nick Saban is unrelenting. Saban is every angry hockey dad in America times 100. It’s not fair. I’m officially betting on Bama the rest of the way, unless something absurd happens. By absurd, I mean a meteor would have to strike Tuscaloosa, or McCarron would have to start dating a Kardashian.
(Now that I’ve made this proclamation, watch them lose on Saturday.)
Notre Dame -13.5 over BYU
Notre Dame vs. BYU OVER 40
ND 33, BYU 10.
Let’s start with BYU. The Cougars got a lot of pub early in the season thanks to Boise State’s opening week loss. BYU was deemed this year’s “BCS buster” by people eager to see a mid-major team upset one of the big dogs. I love what teams like Boise or Utah have done over the past decade, and no one likes to see a mid-major get a chance at the BCS more than I do. The problem is, BYU’s not that good. Their most impressive win – and I use the word “impressive” loosely – is a 30-6 stomping of Washington State. They play an old-school style of smash mouth football, except they don’t have the athletes to compete against big name teams. That’s why small market teams usually go with the spread offense; to create mismatches against bigger, more athletic opponents. You can’t play that style against a more physical team, and unfortunately for the Cougars, Notre Dame’s defense is one of the most physical in the country.
OK, let’s talk about the Irish now. They have one of the strangest schedules I’ve ever seen. Do you realize we’re now in week 8 and Notre Dame has played only one true road game? They had a “neutral site” game in Chicago, and the season opener in Ireland, both of which absolutely should count as home games. Their one road test was in East Lansing, MI, a short drive for Irish fans. Again, that’s 8 weeks, 1 road game. Ah, America’s team.
Now let’s give credit where credit is due. Brian Kelly has done a fantastic job with this team. The measure of a coach is whether they can get their team to play above their talent level. For example, Les Miles and Bob Stoops are excellent recruiters, but a lot of coaches could win with that same talent. Penn State’s Bill O’Brien has done a great job with minimal talent. John L. Smith has pro-level talent at Arkansas and can barely beat a middle school team, and that’s why he’ll be working at a Chick-Fil-A next year. Nick Saban is a great recruiter and a great coach, because he gets the best players and keeps them playing at a high level every week. Someone like Chris Peterson at Boise is a phenomenal coach. He had the Broncos outplaying their talent level for so long that eventually he was able to recruit that top talent he had beaten in previous years. Brian Kelly falls into that same realm. What he did at Cincinnati was remarkable. He took a basketball school and turned them into a BCS-caliber football squad. Now he’s taken the same Notre Dame team that struggled for years, and has them playing like champs. Wait until a year or two from now, when Kelly has more of his own recruits, and Notre Dame could finally return to their glory days.
Juxtapose Kelly’s success against a former Notre Dame coach, Tyrone Willingham, who coached the Irish from 2002-2004. Willingham went 21-16 at Notre Dame and lost two bowl games before being fired. He went on to a disastrous career at Washington University before “retiring” (much in the same way that Richard Nixon “retired”). That’s a guy who vastly underperformed with his team’s talent level. But don’t feel bad for Tyrone. You see, he’s back in the coaching game. As a volunteer assistant coach for the Stanford women’s golf team. That’s right. I don’t to be too hard on Tyrone, since he came into a tough situation. The last time Notre Dame was a great team, I was wearing size small skidz, I had lines shaved in the side of my head, and I was rocking out to a Cece Peniston song on terrestrial radio. I know, crazy right, I used to listen to terrestrial radio. It’s pretty embarrassing in hindsight. The point is, do you think Brian Kelly will be the assistant coach for Cincinnati women’s golf in 2019? Doubtful. Notre Dame fans, be thankful. You’ve found a tremendous coach, you have a physically overpowering team, and you should beat BYU by three touchdowns.
And all you Notre Dame haters… well, just wait until next week.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @thefaketomz