Welcome to week 4 of the college football season, or as it’s also known, Snoozefest ’13. This week’s schedule is more disappointing than the final season of “Dexter.” The biggest game of the week is Notre Dame vs. Michigan State. That’s like having a concert where the headliner is Spacehog. I love “In the Meantime,” and I’ll still go and get drunk, but you can’t expect me to pay attention to every song. This is a great weekend to enjoy the last throws of summer and/or satiate your significant other’s non-football requests. I’ll probably spend some time with my girlfriend this Saturday, so that later in the season, when she asks me to do something during Alabama-LSU, I can be like, “Hey, I just passed up on a week of football to hang out with you... stop being greedy!” She won’t know that the week I took off featured the marquee match-ups of Wake Forest-Army and Penn State-Kent State.
If you’re not the outdoor type, don’t worry. Even in this down week, there are still a few nice lines available. Since a $5 bet can turn a mediocre Big Ten game into a battle of Super Bowl-level proportions, you might as well spice up this lackluster week with a little gambling.
Here are my picks for the week...
Alabama / Colorado State OVER 51.5
Theoretically, Alabama is primed for a letdown game, but as long as Nick Saban is around that won’t happen. He’s so much better than every other coach, and all it cost him was any semblance of a personal life outside football. I expect Bama to put up at least 49 in this game, so if Colorado State can help me out with a field goal, then we should be all set.
Stanford -8.5 over Arizona State
I was going to get into a whole thing about karma coming back to get Arizona State after last week’s fraudulent victory against Wisconsin, but after I thought about it, it’s not that complex. Stanford is simply a better team. Plus, if we start talking about karma, everyone from Arizona State will think I’m referring to one of the strippers in those Campus Confidential videos. (Since all those videos take place in ASU dorms.)
The Cardinal will run the ball and control the clock against Arizona State’s flimsy D, and their great front seven should prevent Taylor Kelly from having the necessary time to get ASU’s high-powered offense going. I know the Sun Devil offense is good, but they’re not nearly as prolific as Oregon, and look what happened last time Stanford faced the Ducks. You see, Stanford uses this really old school technique that allows them to win games. It’s called “playing defense.” You might not recognize the term because no one else in the western half of the United States does it, but it’s what allows the pro-style Cardinal to compete with fancy spread offenses, and it’s what will lead them to victory on Saturday.
This will be one of those games where Stanford is up by three points late in the third quarter, I’m cursing Kevin Hogan and wondering why I made such a stupid bet, and then magically they’ll win by 17. That’s Stanford football, they wear you down and then run you over in the fourth quarter. The key is to not smash your TV remote before that happens. Stanford 41, Arizona State 24.
Indiana +4 over Missouri
I do not recommend watching this game. You can definitely find something better on TV, like for example a high school golf match or the new reality competition “Watching Paint Dry With the Stars.” However, I do believe there is a gambling opportunity here. Indiana has some juice this year. I'm not saying they'll win the Big Ten, but they'll give opponents headaches. The days of underestimating Indiana and looking ahead on the schedule are over. (At least until next year.) I like the Hoosiers to pull off the upset, straight-up. Look for a high-scoring affair, lead changes, all that good stuff. I'll take IU by a field goal at home.
Florida State -39.5 over Bethune Cookman
According to Wikipedia, “Bethune-Cookman University, or B-CU, is a private historically black university in Daytona Beach, Florida, United States. White Hall has been added to the US National Register of Historic Places.” Not to get all racist, but it has to be weird having a black college in the middle of the biggest white trash city in America. I went to Daytona for spring break my senior year. A 400-pound man tried to fight me at a bar, then I accidentally stumbled into a Christian missionary party while drunk and played George Michael's "Faith" on a guitar for the missionaries. And that was just the first night. I had fun, don't get me wrong, but the thing that really stood out about Daytona was how white-trashy it is. I'm a guy whose regular summer apparel includes a cut-off Smirnoff t-shirt and a Larry Johnson Charlotte Hornets jersey*, so if I'm uncomfortable, you know it's bad. Death metal-era Vanilla Ice performed there during my trip and there was a line around the block. I can't imagine being a member of a black college and living there. And to top it off, the most famous building on campus is named White Hall.
I don't know anything about Bethune Cookman's football team, but if they're anything like Florida State's usual September opponents, you can expect a 70-3 blowout. Florida State is a legitimate top ten team and Jameis Winston is the real deal. I assumed he got the nickname "Famous Jameis" because it rhymed, but as it turns out, the guy is an amazing football player. I don't know if any freshman can run the table in the ACC, but when it comes to playing cupcakes, I think Winston will rack up huge numbers in a dominating performance. It's tough to find a site that will let you bet on this game, but if you can find one, go for it. FSU, woodshed.
[*An original LJ jersey, not that throwback shit.]
Michigan -18.5 over UConn
It's easy to make jokes about the UConn Huskies… so that's exactly what I'm going to do. I can't believe I picked this team to go 7-5 in my season preview. Miley Cyrus twerking at the VMAs was a better decision than that. Hank Schroeder following Walter White to the desert was a better decision. "The Decision" was a better decision. This team is about to be 0-3 with Louisville, Cincy, Rutgers and the upstart Central Florida still to come. If UConn fans ever stopped tailgating and actually went into the game, they'd be pretty disappointed, but of course they don't, so hey, maybe no one will notice. UConn Football: There’s a game, too!
Speaking of questionable decisions, my prediction of Michigan as a BCS team might have been premature. I've currently got them penciled into the Outback Bowl. Hope you like blooming onions, Brady Hoke. That said, UM's game against Akron was a classic letdown game after the high-profile Notre Dame match-up, so I won't overreact too much, although the way that the Wolverines struggled to move the ball is certainly a concern. If they don't improve, they'll be fortunate to get through the Big Ten with three losses. You have a choice to make, Michigan. Come out this week and blow the doors off the Huskies, or win a sluggish game and be resigned to a 3rd place Big Ten finish and a mediocre bowl. I'm betting on a bounce back game, partly because I believe in Brady Hoke and Devin Gardner, and partly because… well, it's UConn. Michigan 52, Huskies 19.
[On a serious note, UConn has to fire Paul Pasqualoni. He and Lane Kiffin can set up a doubles tennis league for fall 2014. This team had made strides under Randy Edsall and should have become a perennial contender in the Big East by recruiting more heavily from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, etc. Instead they've taken a step back. A 4-7 season is going to totally destroy any equity built up from the Fiesta Bowl year. Make a move before you return to the basement-dwelling, new-to-D1 territory from whence you came. I say this as a state resident and, umm, "fan" is a little much, but someone who would like to see you do well. Or, keep doing what you're doing. I'm happy to cash in.]
Notre Dame -5.5 over Michigan State
Ah, our aforementioned game of the week. Depending on where you look, you can grab this line anywhere from 5.5 to 7. I'm not thrilled about this year's Notre Dame team, but at 5.5 points, I'll take them in this game. Michigan State is the same old MSU team we see year after year; a solid defense and running game, great receivers and a 6'3" stiff white guy quarterback who can't get them the ball. Andrew Maxwell is a significant step down from Kirk Cousins and Michigan State QBs of yore. I read an article before the season about how Maxwell had won the starting job after a heated spring competition. This guy started every game last year! There should never have been a competition in the first place, and the fact that he won only tells me the rest of their quarterbacks are awful. This year's Spartans team is aggressively mediocre, and I wouldn't trust them in a big-time road game. Like I said, I'm not a huge fan of the Irish or Tommy Rees: Part Deux, but they can score points and the defense will load the box and force Maxwell to beat them. He can't. I'll take the Irish by 10, and I don't mind the OVER at 41.5 either. Notre Dame 30, Michigan State 20.
Listen to this week’s Take the Points podcast, featuring discussions of Notre Dame-Michigan State, LSU-Auburn, Michigan-Connecticut, Florida-Tennessee and much more.
Take the Points: @take_the_points
Tom Z: @thefaketomz