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 links below. All lines accurate as of Wednesday, 9/11.
Well, that sucked. Week 2 picks went 0-6 – which is pretty damn impressive in its own way. Now 2-8 on the season, I’ll keep the week 2 recap short so we can focus on getting back in the green. We are currently working with $244.09 due to major losses last week. If we have another negative week, I’ll utilize the buyback that I laid out in the Week 1 rules. So I’ll add another $1,000 to the bankroll and the new goal will be to finish above $2,000 for the year – our original $1,000 plus the $1,000 re-up. Now, about last week…
The Part Where I Apologize
Listen, there are bad beats and then there are bad bets, and for the most part what I made in Week 2 were bad bets.
In the early parts of the season, one wrong or right opinion can create a domino effect. You think Team A is pretty good? Well, if Team B beats them, do you adjust A’s ranking down, or B’s ranking up? How much better is Team B than you thought, or how much worse is Team A? And what does it mean about the other teams, the ones that already beat Team B or lost to Team A?
If you guess right and make the right adjustments, you have a nice little edge on the Vegas number guys for a few weeks. If your hunch is wrong, though? Well, that combined with a dose of bad luck and you get what happened to us in week 2. So for anyone who took the Syracuse or UCLA bets in particular last week, my bad.
All of that out of the way, can I take just a second to mourn the BYU-Tennessee loss? This was one of the worst beats I’ve ever taken. On a game where I had the under at 52.5, the two teams combined for 32 points in four quarters and still managed to hit the over! College football’s overtime rules are a nightmare for under bettors – if these teams played another quarter, or even another half, I doubt they would have combined for the additional 23 points they scored in two overtimes.
As far as the rest of the season goes, I just want to say one thing…
What did we Learn in Week 2?
- LSU: same animal, different beast. It’s like the inverse of the Kobe system. The safety settings have finally been removed from the Tiger offense, and on Saturday, the Tigers put the rest of the college football world on notice. What do you get when you take the freakish level of athleticism that the program has always had, along with the perennially elite defense, and add in a (potentially) top tier quarterback and an offensive coordinator that will set him loose? Maybe the closest thing to a Bama clone the SEC West has given us so far.
- Despite a rough showing by Michigan this week, the Big Ten finally looks like it has an argument as the best conference in college football. It’s certainly too early to tell, and I still think the SEC – especially at the top with Alabama, Georgia, and LSU – is the better conference, but it has been a while since this has even been a legitimate debate. If Wisconsin, Iowa, Maryland, and Michigan State can maintain hot starts and SEC bottom-dwellers Tennessee, Arkansas, and South Carolina continue to flounder, the B1G will have a pretty convincing case as the premier conference in the country.
Now let’s get to this week’s best bets:
The Favorite Favorite
NC State -6.5 at West Virginia (-104)
Bet: $100 to win $96.15
This looks like a trap, because there’s no way the line should be under a touchdown here. West Virginia has been bad, people. Seems like Dana Holgorsen might have known what he was leaving when he jumped ship for Houston in the offseason. The Mountaineers only managed a touchdown during their 31-point drubbing by Mizzou last week – the same Missouri defense that gave up 37 in a week 1 loss to Wyoming. Now granted, that Wyoming game was very fluky, but WVU only managed 171 offensive yards to Wyoming’s 389.
So this is more of an indictment of West Virginia than any kind of endorsement of the Wolfpack, who are fine. NC State has looked good against nearly nonexistent competition, and it’s worth saying that they will be on the road facing what is probably the best defense (almost by default) that they’ve faced this season. That being said, in a week where a lot of favorites can be a bit scary to back due to potential look ahead games in week 4, NC State has a home matchup with Ball State next Saturday. It should be pretty easy to maintain focus on the Power five team in front of them on Saturday.
The Quest for State Supremacy
Louisville -9.5 vs Western Kentucky (-110) – Neutral Site Game
Bet: $50 to win $45.45
A week after taking down Eastern Kentucky, Louisville looks to assert its dominance over the other directional state school. Unfortunately, the Northern Kentucky Norse don’t field a football team, so Louisville won’t have the opportunity to hit the trifecta, as the people in Kentucky are fond of saying.
We’re throwing it back to last week’s “What did we learn?” section for this pick. Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield, formerly of Appalachian State, already has this team competing at a much higher level than the 2018 Cardinals. Paradoxically-named quarterback Jawon Pass certainly has flaws in his game, but Louisville shouldn’t need to open up the offense too much to grab a double digit win against the Hilltoppers.
The one scare here – Western Kentucky has actually been pretty solid against the run so far, and Louisville likes to run. However, I don’t see the Hilltoppers moving the ball much in this one. They’ve averaged 24 points per game so far against underwhelming competition in Central Arkansas (a loss!) and FIU. Louisville’s defense will be a much tougher test, and if the Cardinals gets up early, this one should be over.
Bucking the Trend
Ohio State -16 at Indiana
Bet: $50 to win $45.45
It pains me to take multiple road favorites on a slate where I’m only picking four games, but the new look defense for this Buckeye team has me believing. Last year, Ohio State couldn’t stop anybody. This year through two games they’ve allowed only 3 first half points. Indiana quarterback Michael Penix (no, that’s not how it’s pronounced) is a talented redshirt freshman, but the new look Ohio State defense should be able to create some havoc in the backfield.
Also, does this game really count as a road game? Ohio State fans probably have an easier time getting tickets in Bloomington than in Columbus. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ticket split is close to 50-50.
OSU has had some trouble against the spread in the past few years against Indiana, but I see this one as a break in the trend, especially since this is the lowest spread for an OSU-Indiana game in years. Indiana allowed nearly 400 yards to Ball State in week one, and Ball State actually had 26 first downs to Indiana’s 25. Justin Fields and company should have an easy time on Saturday.
My only worry is that OSU might ease off the pedal late and open the game up for a backdoor cover similar to their game against FAU in week 1. Against a division opponent, though, I think Day will go for style points and an easy cover.
Underdog of the Week
Arizona State +14.5 at Michigan State
Bet: $44 to win $40
This is a game that I had circled for an under… then the total came out. Both teams have strong defenses and the current coaches for both have shown an aversion to scoring points in the past. At 42 points however, and with solid potential for at least one defensive score, it’s a little low for me.
On the other hand, you’re telling me that in a game with 42 expected points, one side is getting more than two touchdowns? The Michigan State offense had a nice week against Western Michigan, and playing in East Lansing gives me some hesitation, but the Sun Devils defense was very solid last year and should be just as good in 2019. Remember, Arizona State beat the Spartans at home last year as a huge underdog.
Now, I think Michigan State has improved on both sides of the ball, but 14.5 is just too many points. I fully expect to sweat this one out, and I fully expect the Spartans to win. If Arizona State can put up just a couple of touchdowns against this stingy Michigan State defense, though, we should walk away with a win.
Can we bet on the Dawgs?
The 32.5 points you have to lay with Georgia is much more reasonable than the 49.5 from last week. Just remember that there’s a reason – Arkansas State is a legitimate FBS team and a perennial contender in the Sun Belt. In addition, this game is a prime candidate for a look ahead spot as Georgia has Notre Dame on deck next week.
Still, I think it’s ok to lay the points here with the Dawgs. After a slow start in the first quarter against Murray State, I’m expecting Kirby Smart to light a fire under the starters. If you are worried about Stetson Bennet being a bit interception prone, it might be worth it to check out the first half line of -20.5 instead.
Still – and this might be painful as a Georgia fan – but the better gambling situation might be for Georgia to come out slow against Arkansas State and fail to cover. If Georgia looks sluggish and the market overreacts, you might see Georgia appear in the picks section for the first time next week.
That wraps up another week of betting. Best of luck to everyone gambling, whether you’re betting on these picks rebounding or fading the hell out of me. Which, at this point, might be the better strategy. Win or lose, though, I’ll see you back here next week. If you have any questions about games not mentioned here (FSU @ Virginia barely missed the cut), have other bets that you are taking, or just want to make fun of me for a horrendous second week, let me know in the comments or on twitter – @slapnslide.
Total Bets: Risking $244 to win $227.05