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, 9/18.
We’re back again and ready for week 4 of college football – it’s certainly a much more exciting slate of games, but the lines look a lot tighter this week. Last week I went 3-1, but only managed a profit of $30.90 as the one loss also happened to be the biggest bet. That brings the bankroll to $274.99 this week and my record to 5-9 so far.
On the bright side, though, the column has been profitable 2 out of the first 3 weeks this year, and the “Can we bet on the Dawgs?” segment has been a perfect 3-0 (not included in the total record as I haven’t given out an official pick on Georgia games yet).
As the picks ran a little long this week, and as there wasn’t a single top 25 matchup on the slate in week 3, we’re going to skip our “What we learned last week” segment. Instead, and in light of our going 3-1 only to win 30 bucks, here’s your “Trying is futile, stupid, and ultimately painful” highlight of the week:
This thrilling moment has been sponsored by nihilism. Now we’ll return to your scheduled programming.
Ok, on to the best bets of the week. Here are my picks:
The Bloodbath of the Week
LSU -23.5 at Vanderbilt (-115)
Bet: $50 to win $43.48
Vanderbilt is 0-2 against the spread so far this year, and their road doesn’t get any easier this week. In week 2 I made the mistake of thinking this would be the same old LSU – relying on defense and running game to strangle opponents after establishing a lead. They proved me wrong, and I think Vegas is being a bit slow here to adjust to LSU’s newfound ruthlessness.
In their first conference game of the year, I expect Joe Burrow and the Tigers to come out with their foot on the pedal and not look back. With a bye next week and nothing to look forward to, the Commodores should have LSU’s full attention, and that is rarely a good thing. I’m looking for Coach O and company to run up the score in this one and win by 4+ touchdowns.
The Battle of the 2018 ACC Embarrassments
Louisville +6.5 at FSU (-110)
Bet: $50 to win $45.45
Louisville did well for us last week, and I’m going right back to the well. This Cardinals team has looked solid this year. I’m not ready to trust Florida State as a full touchdown favorite over anyone, much less a pretty decent team with a solid running attack. FSU’s defense has already looked gassed late in games, and now they have a co-starter at linebacker out for the game on Saturday. Another hit to their depth here is painful against a team that runs well and will stay on the field for long drives.
The Seminoles looked better last week in the first half against Virginia and James Blackman showed a pretty significant improvement, but it will be tough to get up for this game after suffering a deflating loss. I’m not going to take Louisville to win outright, but I trust Satterfield and the Cardinals to keep this one close. If they can cover for us again, Louisville is in danger of becoming this column’s favorite team.
The Show Me Something Game
Wisc -3.5 vs Michigan (+100)
$50 to win $50
Sure, Wisconsin has played nobody – but they’ve looked damn good doing it. Through two games, they’ve allowed a grand total of 0 points. And while they haven’t played great teams, neither has Michigan. The Wolverines looked mediocre against Middle Tennessee State and almost dropped a game to Army. While you should never overreact to a close game with a military academy (see: 2018 Oklahoma Sooners), the fact that they struggled to score is a bit concerning. So far, Michigan is 98th in the country in yards per play. Wisconsin – who, once again have yet to allow a point in 2019 – is by far the best defense that they’ve faced this year.
Both teams come off a bye this week, so there isn’t much of a play on the spot here. If you’re a big Harbaugh believer, then maybe you give them the edge in preparation for this game. Suffice to say that I’m not one of those people. Since 2015, Harbaugh is one of two full time Power 5 coaches without a win as an underdog (minimum 5 games). He is 0-6. Michigan tends to be overvalued, and the way this year’s team was built up over the offseason feels particularly unearned. I’ll happily lay 3.5 with the Badgers and dare Michigan to show us something this week.
The One Nobody will Watch
Coastal Carolina -17 at UMass (-110)
$50 to win $45.45
I know what you’re thinking – taking Coastal Carolina to cover a 17 point spread seems like a stretch, right? The team that only scored 12 points in its win over Kansas? Well, most of the time I would say that you’re right. For the exception, let me introduce you to the University of Massachusetts Minutemen.
So far this year, UMass has lost to Rutgers by 27, Southern Illinois by 25 at home, and Charlotte by 35. They are making a really solid case as the worst team in the FBS. I don’t think Coastal is great, but I’m pretty sure the Chanticleers are a heck of a lot better than Southern Illinois, and that FCS team would have covered this spread by more than a touchdown.
My only concern here is that Coastal hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire from an offensive standpoint this year. Still, they managed 46 points last week and hung tough with a pretty solid Eastern Michigan team* in their only loss of the season. I think they can manage to hand UMass one more 20-point loss this week.
*Fun stat of the week: Since 2017, Eastern Michigan has more wins against Big 10 teams (they are 3-0) than Big 10 conference member Illinois (2) and is tied with Rutgers.
The Late Night Lottery Ticket
Colorado Moneyline at Arizona State (+255)
Bet: $24 to win $61.20
Here’s a stat for you: teams that won but were outgained in the previous week so far this year are 8-15 against the spread. That’s pretty solid trend, and we have a few more opportunities to take advantage of it this week. This Arizona State-Colorado game is one. Arizona State won outright against the Spartans, but Michigan State had several opportunities to win the game and continually gave it away.
The Sun Devils have a stout defense, and matched up perfectly with the Spartans’ bland, plodding offense. Colorado, however, is about as far from Michigan State, style wise, as a football team can be. They have a quarterback who can pass, for starters, and an all-world monster of a receiver in Laviska Shenault. If they punch Arizona State in the mouth early, I’m not sure that the Sun Devils will be able to keep up. For +255 odds, I’m taking a shot with the high-flying offense of the Buffaloes to pull the upset in Tempe.
Can We Bet on the Dawgs?
UGA -14 vs Notre Dame (-110)
Bet: $50 to win $45.45
There’s certainly some bias here, and I was hoping for a number closer to 10 or 11, but let’s try to logic this one out. One major point in Georgia’s favor: UGA’s strengths match directly with Notre Dame’s weaknesses. ND has a strong secondary, but has been run all over this year. Georgia, coincidentally, pretty damn good at running the football.
Want some stats? Ok, here you go: UGA is currently 5th in the country at 7.61 yards per rush attempt. Notre Dame, meanwhile, is giving up 4.91 yards per carry, good (or bad) for 107th in country. If that seems like a massive advantage for Georgia, well, it is. If Notre Dame loads the box to make up for this deficiency, Jake Fromm is good enough to make them pay, and Georgia’s new look receiver corps will be ready to provide some highlights.
The major concern here – besides the fact that 14 is a lot of points – is that Ian Book’s mobility will be enough to move the chains and keep Notre Dame in the game. That’s not enough to scare me away from taking Georgia in this game, though. Go Dawgs.
Thank you for reading once again, and let me know what you think of the picks below in the comments or on twitter (@slapnslide). If you want to subscribe to these posts and don’t have a WordPress, there is a link on the right hand side of the page where you can sign up for email alerts. As always, best of luck in all your gambling endeavors this weekend.
Total Risk: $274.00 to win $336.48