Welcome to the inaugural week of my college football picks column, in which I’ll try to take a hypothetical starting budget of $1,000 and turn it into… well, more than $1,000 would be nice. Each week of the season (or until I bust and go broke), I’ll make picks here and try to win some money for myself, and more importantly any of you that decide to read. If a bet outside of college football comes up that I love, I may throw an MLB, NFL, or EPL line out, but only NCAA picks will count for or against the budget.
If you make money betting the picks, great! If you make money fading the picks because you think I’m an idiot – well, that will suck for me – but great, I’m glad you got something out of this endeavor.
Like every degenerate, we need a list of ironclad rules to convince ourselves that all our vices will be kept within reason. These set in stone (likely to be abandoned by week 5) rules are as follows:
- Starting bankroll of $1,000 in capital
- One buyback if I bust and lose it all – if the picks are awful, you need a chance to fade me. No one wins if the picks disappear
- Minimum of 3 picks each week and a maximum of 7
- Parlays count as one pick
- Parlays will only be played if the account is over $1500 – only playing with house money here
- At least 40% of the bankroll risked every week – no playing it safe if we win early
- All lines from Sportsbook.ag (lines for this post are accurate as of 8/29)
Before we get to the picks each week, we will look back on what we learned in the previous week. So, without further ado:
What did we learn in Week 0?
Did we learn anything?
Damn right, Denny. If anything, Week 0 doubled down on our suspicions about each of these teams.
- Florida’s defense is the most pure Grantham defense that we could imagine. With twitchy athletes coming hard off the edge every possession, Florida is going to create a lot of 3rd and longs. If the Miami game is tells us anything, though, Florida’s defensive backs will give you every chance to convert that 3rd and 24.
- If you thought Florida’s offense would be more predictable or at least steadier than Florida’s defense, I’m not sure you’re familiar with the Feleipe Franks experience. The combination of idiotic interceptions and random scramble success was expected, although trash talking opposing fans was a surprising addition to the redshirt junior quarterback’s repertoire.
- Week 0 is an awful name for anything. Do better, NCAA.
- Miami has some athletes on defense, but might struggle to block anyone this year. To be fair, the Gator defensive ends are not the easiest dudes to hold back. On the bright side, it looks like the Hurricanes may be able to complete a few throws past the line of scrimmage this year, which is already a significant improvement over their 2018 QB play.
- Kevin Sumlin has proven once again that he is never to be trusted, especially as a favorite. You should know this already, but Sumlin is always happy to remind you.
- Hawaii is a fun place to visit, but a tough place to play football.
And now, for the picks:
SEC Homerism Pick of the Week – Kentucky -11.5 vs Toledo (-110)
Bet: $300 to win $272.73
At the beginning of the week, this may have been South Carolina at -7, but with that line up to 11.5, we move over to a MAC-SEC matchup. Listen, if you’re going to jump off this diving board (maybe more like a cliff? Let’s go with cliff.) with me you need to know what you’re going up against. In this case, it’s every trend in the book. Kentucky is 1-8 ATS in its last 9 home games as a favorite. In addition, MAC teams are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games against SEC teams.
And look, I like Toledo this year. I think they have a decent shot to win the MAC, and have a solid young coach. Jason Candle has gone 37-15 in his first four seasons as the Blue Rockets’ head coach, and Toledo tends to be one of the better teams in the conference year in and year out, with an explosive offense which has carried the rather iffy defense to four consecutive bowl appearances.
Their results in the bowl games? Ok, maybe a little less impressive. But all of the usual indicators for a public side (for non-gamblers, read: dumb bet) are here for Kentucky. You have a Power Five school coming off a historic season set for regression after losing two all-time Wildcats in Josh Allen and Benny Snell. Sounds like a prime time to jump on the plucky underdog and watch them hang in for a close game, maybe even an upset! Right? Well, it certainly sounds great, and I fully expect some sharp money to come in on Toledo for all of these reasons.
But this is where I jump off the bandwagon. Because while I expect Kentucky to take a step back this year, and I especially expect that to show in their win-loss record, they are being priced for major regression, both with their season win total (6.5, I expect them to win 7-8 games) and in the spread for this game.
The fact is that Kentucky is better in the trenches on both sides of the ball here. Despite losing Allen, Kentucky will start a front 7 that will be the toughest Toledo will face all year. Toledo will try to establish the run early, and I expect Kentucky to plug up those holes pretty well.
On the other side, I expect Kentucky to pound the ball often and effectively on the ground, aided by quarterback Terry Wilson’s legs. There will certainly be a drop off at running back after the departure of Benny Snell, but Wilson and running back AJ Rose should have plenty of holes to exploit in a porous Toledo front. When Kentucky has to throw the ball, All-SEC second teamer Lynn Bowden will be available on screens and crossing routes. Kentucky’s offense, while not the most potent in the SEC, shouldn’t have much trouble with a defense that has traditionally been below average in the MAC.
The real question is whether Toledo can exploit Kentucky’s inexperienced secondary – UK lost its top 6 defensive backs from last season – to keep this game close. Toledo threw the ball very well last year and this year returns a quarterback in Mitchell Guadagni who was extremely effective in 2018. Once again, though, we have a large “but” here. Toledo’s top three receivers from last year have all moved on to the NFL – shocking but true. I, for one, have a hard time seeing a MAC team replacing that much talent at one position.
I’m going to take the more talented team who should dominate in the trenches, and I’m ok with laying the points.
Clash of the Nerds: Northwestern +6 at Stanford (-110)
Bet: $150 to win $136.36
I’m just not sure I believe in this Stanford team, guys. I was really close to taking Northwestern straight up at +200, but turning your nose up at a free 6 points in a Northwestern game, especially one played against puntophiliac David Shaw’s Stanford team, is a Cardinal sin.
Northwestern has covered 10 straight spreads as underdogs on the road, with 8 wins straight up in those 10 games. After going against the trends in the Kentucky game, taking Northwestern here should get the gambling gods back on our side.
After losing star running back Bryce Love, and top three receiving targets from 2018 JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Trenton Irwin, and Kaden Smith from a year ago, quarterback KJ Costello will be forced foro look to new faces to contribute on the offensive side of the all. In fact, Stanford will be forced to look for new contributors all over the field as David Shaw’s team only returns 9 starters. Without dominant play on either side line, Stanford might be a team without an identity in 2019.
Is it a little scary to bet on a team without a starting quarterback announced? Of course. That being said, I’m not sure that Pat Fitzgerald has ever needed quarterback play to cover the spread in a game like this. I’m expecting plenty of punts, ugly offense, and a close game. I won’t blame you if you go with the under instead – Northwestern/Stanford under is almost a play on principal – but I’ll take the Wildcats with the points.
The “Sam Hates Fun” Under of the Week – Michigan State vs. Tulsa, Under 48 (-110)
Bet: $150 to win $136.36
Michigan State unders. Not much to explain here. Michigan State has a solid defense which shouldn’t have any trouble against AAC bottom-dwellers like Tulsa, and year after year it seems that the Spartans pair that meat grinder of a defense with an uninspired offense. The Spartans should control the pace of this game, and that’s a perfect recipe for an under.
Trends also point in the direction of a cover by Tulsa as Michigan State seems to come out flat for home games as double digit favorites, and I do think Tulsa is the right side if you are intent on taking one. This early in the season, though, I’m not risking money – even imaginary money – by betting on Tulsa to cover anything. I’ll be pulling for the clock.
The Reggie Bush Classic – USC -13.5 vs Fresno State (-115)
Bet: $100 to win 86.96
I really hate to bet on this Clay Helton team as they really haven’t shown anything to make you trust them in this type of spot. However, Fresno State seems like they are getting the benefit of the doubt here. This has been a very solid Bulldogs team with 22 wins over the the first two years of coach Jeff Tedford’s tenure. Tedford, whose name sounds like the alias created by three toddlers disguised in a trench coat, is a really good coach, but he won’t have a lot to work with this year.
Fresno State is going to be replacing a ton of starters from last year’s 12-2 team, and the talent discrepancy between the Trojans and Bulldogs here should be worth at least two scores. No Trojan in this contest is a threat to rack up 500 all purpose yards in this one, but I expect USC to pull away pretty early and stay out of reach.
And now, the question 15 out of the 18 people reading this post have been asking all week…
Can we bet on the Dawgs?
Eh. Sure, why not. Felt a lot better about this when the line was -20.5, but it’s your money and it’s the first game of the season. If you want to lay 22 and the hook against the ‘Dores, Georgia certainly has the talent to go up there and win by four scores. I wouldn’t doubt the crowd being majority red and black, either. So go ahead. And if it miraculously comes back below 21? You have my permission to hammer the line. It’s an extremely talented Georgia team that should be highly motivated. A three score victory is certainly within reason.
For the purpose of this post, though, no money on UGA this week.
That’s all, folks, but I hope you enjoyed the read enough to check back next week to see how the picks pan out. Feel free to trash my picks in the comments or on twitter – just make sure to let me know how bad they are before the game starts. Whether you plan on taking these picks or fading them, here’s to the start of a profitable season.
Week 1 Total Bets: $700 to win $632.41