Welcome to The Old College Try. Each week, I’ll be here, attempting to grow a starting bankroll of $1,000 by making picks on NCAA football games. To see previous weeks’ picks, click the link below.
And we’re back! Week one was a bit of a mixed bag. We went 2-2 with a couple of anxiety-inducing victories, and while I’m happy to come away with a profit (+159.09 on the week from our $1,000 starting point), I’m not sure it will cover the cost of the blood pressure medication my doctor prescribed as a result of this weekend’s games.
The Michigan State under was very clearly the right side, despite multiple defensive scores that contributed to 32 total points in the first half. Some minor under sweats ensued, but in a game that didn’t even see 400 combined offensive yards from both teams, the under of 48 was always relatively safe.
USC looked to be the right bet early in the game, but a season-ending injury to wunderkind quarterback JT Daniels dashed both the Trojan’s PAC 12 title hopes and our hope of a cover. I can’t complain too much here – mainly because it would be pretty shitty to complain about a bet when a kid has to go through a year of rehab just to get back on the field, but also because the biggest bet of the week – Kentucky -11.5 over Toledo – was probably aided by a quarterback being knocked out of the game as well. Prayers out to both Mitchell Guadagni and JT Daniels for a swift and smooth recovery.
As for the Northwestern game…
Pointsbeat has it as the 8th worst beat of 2019 so far using their Bad Beat Index – that’s across all sports for the calendar year – which is always a fun list to participate in. But for those who didn’t watch or bet (you lucky bastards), I’ll walk you through it, and I’ll skip right past Northwestern fumbling on the Stanford 5 yard line in the 3rd quarter.
Northwestern, a 6-point dog at the time of our week 1 picks, is down 10-7 and gets the ball with 30 seconds left on their own 22 yard line. This is the point when, if you happen to be at an actual Sportsbook, you would start lining up at the window to cash your ticket. The very next play, however, Hunter Johnson tried to make something happen. Johnson, who started at quarterback but was then pulled in the second quarter due to poor performance, was in the game because his replacement was injured in the second half. With 28 seconds left, Johnson rolled out of the pocket and all the way back to Northwestern’s own 6-yard line, where he was walloped by a Stanford defensive end while attempting a pass. The ball bounced inauspiciously into the Northwestern end zone, where a Wildcat offensive lineman rolled over the top of it before Stanford eventually recovered.
So, yeah. That was tough. Regardless, wins are nice and losses suck but what matters for the rest of the season is how the results of this week will affect our future picks.
What did we learn in Week 1?
Probably not as much as we think. Between top programs underestimating first week match ups, scheduling causing some teams to look ahead, and new coaches implementing their systems, it is hard to get a read on what is real and what is a blip. With that being said, take the following first impressions with a grain – or a bottle – of salt.
- The SEC east seems to be returning to lesser version we have seen in years past. After a 2018 when many of the programs seemed to be on the rise, only Georgia made it out of the first week without serious questions emerging. Florida, while over ranked, should be fine. Missouri, Tennessee, and South Carolina, however, will be doing some serious soul searching if results don’t improve in the coming weeks.
- After a long off-season full of conversation about the new look B1G West and the multitude of teams with a shot to make it to the conference championship game, Wisconsin stood out above the pack. No, this USF team probably isn’t great, but Nebraska, Northwestern, Minnesota, and Purdue looked varying levels of incompetent against bad to mediocre competition. So far, Iowa looks like the other contender to challenge and likely get demolished by the East’s representative.
- Louisville is ready to fight. Although Notre Dame’s true ability won’t be evaluated until later in the season, the Cardinals’ performance in week one showed a lot of promise. Most importantly, it showed that a team that quit last year (on a coach who very much deserved it) is going to show up and compete under new coach Scott Satterfield. I still don’t think they will have a passing game this year, and they are far from competing in the ACC, but the first game had several encouraging signs for a program coming off a depressing 2018 season.
* I think A&M is a class below the other two, and will likely get trampled by Clemson this week. I don’t know that an Auburn-Clemson matchup would result in a closer game, though.
Ok, my extended preamble is over. Now let’s get to the part you came here for. Here are the week 2 picks:
The Obligatory Prime Time Pick
LSU at Texas, Under 55.5 (-110)
Bet: $150 to win $136.36
I know, I know, you want to pick a side in the big game. And despite the line movement from 3.5 all the way up to 6.5, I still think LSU is the right bet if you are going that direction. That being said, Tom Herman has an immaculate record as an underdog playing at home, and the combination of those trends and the extra three points has scared me off of taking the favorite here.
But I still love the under here. Big point totals for both teams in week one have set this under a bit higher than I would expect. And while LSU’s offense in particular looked much better than in previous years, I expect the play calling to tighten up in this marquee match up.
The Tigers have a lot of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, and if coach O gets up, I see him leaning pretty conservative on offense. I’m hopping on the under here and betting that points won’t come easy for either side.
The Ugly Game Under of the Week
BYU at Tennessee, Under 52.5 (-110)
Bet: $200 to win $181.82
Yeah I get it, I like unders, sue me. There’s nothing like watching a game with money on the under, especially when one or both teams relies heavily on the ground game. Cheering for the clock, hoping the quarterback continues to milk time as he cycles through reads at the line, holding your breath every time a running back breaks through to the second level. Every three yard run is a Godsend and every big play or defensive score is a disaster. It’s a wonderful mix of excitement and terror.
This total has actually creeped up since opening, which makes absolutely no sense to me. Two defensive minded head coaches with conservative offensive strategies, I could see this game being a punt fest. While it is tempting to buy low on Tennessee after a horrendous loss to Georgia State, I’d rather trust these coaches’ play styles to make this game a low-scoring affair.
BYU’s defense was a little better in week 1 than the score indicates. 13 of Utah’s 30 points came off of defensive scores, and Utah only amasses 370 yards in the game – a solid total, but nothing spectacular. Count on both defenses to show up in this one, and don’t expect any offensive highlights. If you don’t bet it, I’d avoid watching this one.
The “Too Much Talent” Pick
UCLA -7.5 vs. San Diego State (-110)
Bet: $200 to win $181.82
This isn’t the Rashaad Penny-led Aztec team from a few years ago. San Diego State was bad last year and should be bad again this year. UCLA, with a couple of breaks, could have had a chance to beat a Cincinatti team that I expect to be pretty decent this year.
UCLA also gets their best offensive player back from injury this week in running back Joshua Kelly, and they really just have more talent at nearly every position. I could be overestimating both Cincy and UCLA to start the year, but if I made the spread on this game it would be closer to two touchdowns than one. As just a 7.5 point favorite at home, UCLA feels like a no brainer.
The Late Night Chaser
Washington -14 vs. California (-105)
Bet: $150 to win $142.86
Every gambler has had that unfortunate Saturday where they lose in the morning and afternoon, then look up to the board for one last wager to get it all back (don’t do this. This is dumb.) Well, if you’re looking for this week’s late game bet to chase your losses (seriously, this is a terrible idea), then look no further than this bit of PACtion at 10:30 ET.
Yes, Washington beat an FCS school last week. No, beating Eastern Washington is not the same as beating any other FCS team. That’s a good program that made it to the FCS championship game last year, so while it isn’t a marquee win, blowing that team out is still an accomplishment.
This will be a nice first test to see if Eason and Washington are legit this year. I certainly believe in the arm strength, although the accuracy is still a bit of a question. Still, Eason at minimum should be a big enough threat with the deep ball to keep defenses honest, which is something that Washington has lacked recently. Chris Petersen’s tendency towards conservative play calling makes me a little hesitant, but Washington’s solid defense combined with a more versatile offense should be enough to make this a three score game.
The 2010 Wale Black and Gold Showdown
Vanderbilt + 7.5 at Purdue (-115)
Bet: $115 to win $100
Two color-coordinated foes of dubious quality take the field in a game that few will probably watch, but many will certainly overreact to as a testament to the quality, or lack thereof, of the teams’ respective conferences. This constant conference bickering is simultaneously one of the most intriguing and irritating aspects of college football.
These teams are a bit of a Rorschach test for how an individual views week 1 games. How do you weigh a squad who looked completely impotent matched up with a dominant opponent against a team who started out strong but blew a lead to a Mountain West program whose best wins in 2018 were against the second best schools in Arkansas and Oregon, respectively?
And the answer, I think, is to try to avoid putting too much stock in either. That being said, Vanderbilt fared about how we expected them to against a much better Georgia team. Purdue performed well under expectations against Nevada, but looked pretty good in the first half before a spectacular letdown in the second half.
Despite weak showings from each in the first week, these two teams do have some talent. Boilermaker receiver Rondale Moore is an electrifying playmaker with the ball in his hands. If nothing else, you should know his name from his work dismantling Ohio State single-handedly as a freshman. Ke’Shawn Vaughn (who had one of his best games as a collegiate athlete against Purdue when he was a freshman on Illinois) could be the best running back Purdue sees this year.
Vanderbilt should have the better defense in this game, and Purdue should have the superior offense. I’m a defense guy, though, and despite home field advantage for the Boilermakers, I don’t think they can stop Ke’Shawn Vaughn on the ground. I’ll happily grab at touchdown and the hook in a game that I feel should be closer to a pick ’em.
The One I Definitely Shouldn’t Bet
Syracuse ML at Maryland (+120)
Bet: $100 to win $120
This opened at Syracuse -2, and that line made sense to me. Since then, it has swung hard towards the Terps. Maryland has some explosive playmakers and Syracuse struggled a bit offensively in week 1, but this feels like an overreaction. Syracuse should have the better defense in this game, and I have some faith in their offense rebounding in week 2. A line moving against the pick this hard makes me a little nervous, but the extra juice on Syracuse straight up makes this worth a flyer with our smallest bet of the week.
Aaaaand now, for everyone’s favorite weekly segment:
Can we bet on the Dawgs this week?
No. I mean, first of all, why? The line for UGA – yes, against an admittedly awful Murray State team – is 49.5. That means Georgia can win by SEVEN TOUCHDOWNS and you can still lose the bet. Will they cover the 49.5? Maybe! You could even convince me to say probably? But that doesn’t mean you need to be cussing at the television at seven o’clock on Saturday when Stetson Bennett is kneeling the ball up 47 instead of kicking a field goal. Have some self-respect.
So watch the game. Overreact to how Zamir White or Nolan Smith or Dominick Blaylock looks after a big play or penalty. Sit back, have a beer, and try your hardest to relax. Oh, and if you’re actually wanting to bet the favorite on a 49.5-point spread? Maybe look for some help while you’re at it.
As always, I hope you enjoyed the post. Feel free to let me know what you thought about the picks either here in the comments or on twitter – @slapnslide.
Current Bankroll: $1,159.09
Total Bets: Risking $915 to win $862.86