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, 9/25.
Another solid week in the book – the picks went 4-2 last week without a single true stinker in the bunch and brought us to 9-11 on the year. A fumbled punt and a roughing the kicker – while not necessarily the deciding factors – played a huge part in blowing our covers on the two losses last week. Still, though, the bankroll is up $100 to $375.12 from last week. It’s going to be a long road to make it back above $1,000, but this makes 3 out of 4 weeks with a positive return. Let’s keep up the momentum in week 5.
Before we take a look at the picks, a quick recap from some of the bigger games of week 4:
What did we Learn this Week
- Auburn might be for real. I came into last week thinking that the SEC had three really good teams – LSU, Georgia, and Alabama – and two pretenders in Texas A&M and Auburn. While I definitely don’t think that Auburn is in the class of those first three teams, this weekend they did at least look significantly better than A&M. Derrick Brown is an absolute monster (in all fairness, he has been for a while), and the Auburn defense is elite. Freshman quarterback Bo Nix hasn’t been great in the early going, but has plenty of talent to put together a couple of very good games. I don’t think Auburn can win an SEC title this year, but Malzahn is just tricky enough to put one of those elite 3 on upset watch this year – so watch out.
- We were already pretty sure (take a look at the write up in last week’s picks if you don’t believe me), but now we can pretty much eliminate Michigan in the Big 10 race. They still have Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State left on the in-conference schedule, and more importantly, they haven’t showed any evidence that they are a decent football team. Harbaugh’s job should be safe for the year, but if they go 7-5 (they also have Notre Dame on the schedule) and start off slow in 2020, the seat’s going to get pretty hot under those khakis.
- Notre Dame is tougher than we expected, but the main takeaway from the Georgia game is that the UGA offense could learn a few lessons from LSU. Georgia played extremely conservatively in the first half, and wasn’t able to move the ball much. Once they opened up the game plan in the second half and let Jake Fromm throw the ball downfield, the Dawgs looked like a completely different offense. It will be interesting to see if Kirby and company will come out more aggressively in games against Auburn, Florida, and Texas A&M later in the year.
Well, I hope we all learned something. It’s a tough slate this week, and the spreads looked pretty tight for the most part, so you know what that means – Totals Week! Three out of our seven bets are on the totals, and we have our first over of the season. Without further ado, here are my best bets of the week:
Back to the Badgers
Wisconsin -24 vs Northwestern (-110)
Bet: $55 to win $50
Back to back bets on the Badgers! Wisconsin came up big for us last week and dominated Michigan, and as a reward they get a repeat feature in the picks. In any other year, I would hate to lay 24 with Wisconsin against almost anyone and I’d hate to lay 24 against Northwestern with most teams. Both of these teams traditionally play pretty close games, not blowing many teams out and rarely getting blown out themselves. This year is different though.
Northwestern has been one of the least explosive offenses in college football, and hasn’t been able to throw the ball downfield at all. Their defense just gave up 31 points to Michigan State, and Wisconsin’s offense is much more of a threat than the Spartans’. The new-look Badgers are throwing the ball pretty well this year and the increased versatility has opened even bigger holes up for Heisman contender Jonathan Taylor.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin has allowed a total of 14 points this season, and all 14 came in garbage time against Michigan. They opened the season with 10 straight quarters without giving up a point. 24 points is a big number, but I’m willing to lay them with Wisconsin in this one. Plus, I feel obligated to bet against a coach that thinks you can include hashtags in an email address.
“I understand there are 40,000 experts on Twitter that can call plays for me. My email address is hashtag I don’t care.” – Pat Fitzgerald pic.twitter.com/LaOY9NPfPj
— Dustin Schutte (@SchutteCFB) September 23, 2019
The “Finally, We Can Cheer For Points!” Game of the Week
Alabama @ Ole Miss Over 60 (-110)
Bet: $55 to win $50
Our first over bet of the year! It takes a lot to get me betting on an over, especially in a game this one-sided, but the argument here is pretty simple. This game has gone over 60 points in the four previous match ups. And for the last two, Alabama has scored more than 60 by itself.
Now, the coaching situation in Oxford has changed, but I still think Saban holds a grudge against the Rebels for beating him in back to back years in 2014 and 2015. If there’s anyone Saban is willing to run the score up on, it’s this Ole Miss team.
What’s the main concern, then? Well, is Ole Miss going to be able to score at all? I’m not sure. And it’s fair to argue at that point that we should be taking Bama to cover the 38-point spread. I think the Crimson Tide is the right side in this one, but their defense looked a little bit sluggish in the game against South Carolina. So I’d rather bet on Tua and his arsenal of weapons in that offense to explode for a bundle of points in this game. If we can get two touchdowns out of the Rebels, I think this should be an easy over.
Moneyline Dog Of the Week
Washington State Moneyline @ Utah (+190)
Bet: $40 to win $76
The one thing that you can always bet on in games involving Mike Leach: the game won’t go how you expect it to. Some weird stuff is going to happen, and if it doesn’t happen during the game just wait for the press conference. Well, we got plenty of unexpected happenings during the Wazzu-UCLA game last week. UCLA, who had become an auto-fade for much of the gambling public, managed to come back from a 32-point deficit and win despite a 9 touchdown performance from Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon.
Now, there are two ways to read into this spot for Washington State – the first is that the team will feel defeated after a huge comeback loss and will come out slow and uninspired against a ranked Utah team. The other way to look at the game is to realize that if Washington State does show up for this one, then they are being undervalued by the current 6.5-point line.
Yes, the Cougars lost to a bad UCLA team last week. But they outgained the Bruins by a decent margin and managed to fumble the ball 4 times, failing to recover a single one. If Washington State can manage to hang onto the ball in this one, they have a real chance.
Running back Zach Moss, Utah’s best player, is probably out for the week, despite coach Kyle Whittingham’s refusal to report any injury news. QB Tyler Huntley is likewise banged up, although it looks like he will play in this one. Utah’s defense is solid, but I don’t think they can totally contain Mike Leach’s air raid offense. Their one loss this year came to USC – a team playing with a back up quarterback running a knock off version of Leach’s offense. So yeah, I think Washington State has a real chance here and I’ll take the extra juice for the Cougs to win straight up.
The Triple Option Under of the Week
Navy @ Memphis, Under 54.5 (-110)
$50 to win $45.45
Triple option unders are a principal of many a degenerate due to a constantly running clock, long drives, and reduced chances for defensive scores. Teams that run the ball on every down tend to burn out the clock and play in lower scoring games. On a Thursday night game in particular, 54.5 points seems like a lot.
These teams have a history of strong offenses, and I think those reputations might be holding this total up at the moment. So far this year, both Memphis and Navy’s defenses have been pretty strong on a per-play basis. In fact, both teams rank in the top 20 in yards allowed per play. If Navy can avoid giving up big plays to the tigers and string together a few long offensive drives, the under should cash on Thursday night.
The No-Defense Death Match of the Week
Wake Forest -6.5 @ Boston College (-110)
Bet: $50 to win $45.45
Last week, Boston College had a chance to do something historic. One week after being embarrassed on their home field by Kansas (yes, that Kansas. Yes, I’m sure, it wasn’t Kansas State. And yeah, they were playing football. Now stop asking questions.) BC went into halftime barely leading Rutgers, 17-13. Had they lost that game, they would have been the first team in the entire history of organized football* to lose back to back games to Rutgers and Kansas.
Unfortunately for all of us, Boston College tightened up in the second half and we didn’t get to witness that piece of history. Still, though, close games with Kansas and Rutgers are not good signs.
Now, we need to understand that we are laying points on the road with a pretty bad defense. That’s usually not a great idea. Boston College also might have the best player in the game in AJ Dillon. We’re going to risk it this week, though, because Wake Forest’s offense is more explosive, and I trust the Deacons to get just a few more stops than BC.
*Yeah, I completely made this stat up. But it has to be true, doesn’t it? Unless an FCS team has scheduled those two back to back, it’s really hard to imagine anyone losing to both the perennial worst team in the B1G and the perennial worst team in the Big 12.
The “Too Close to Pick a Side” Under of the Week
Iowa State @ Baylor Under 56.5 (-110)
Bet: $50 to win $45.45
I saw the spread for this game (Iowa State is -3 at the moment) and the immediate lean is towards the Cyclones. I think they are a solid team with a good defense, and I think they may be a little bit undervalued after giving the game away against Iowa two weeks ago. Baylor enters the game 3-0, but they have played three of the worst teams in the country.
So I think Iowa State is the better team. However, Baylor is at home, and head coach Matt Rhule is 11-3 straight up when he has been an underdog of 7 points or less. Since he’s been at Baylor, he’s 3-0. That’s enough of a trend to scare me off of the side. However, I like both of these defenses better than their offenses – crazy to say in a Big 12 game, but here we are – and I think 24-17 is more likely than 35-31. Baylor had some trouble blocking Rice last week, and the Owls don’t have what you would call a dominant defense.
I think this total is inflated by a combination of Iowa State’s seventy-something points last week (does the exact number really matter when it’s over 60?) and Baylor’s showings against inferior competition. And the nail in the coffin? Weather forecasts have projected 15+ mile per hour crosswinds during this game. Crosswinds – when the wind is blowing from one sideline to the other as opposed to blowing from one endzone toward the other – tend to drive scores down because they negatively affect both the passing and kicking game. It’s not my favorite pick of the week, but I think we can stay below 8 touchdowns in this one.
The “Why Is This On Friday” Game of the Week
Penn State -6 @ Maryland (-110)
Bet: $50 to win $45.45
Both of these teams are coming off of a bye following a disappointing performance. Maryland with a loss at Temple, and Penn state with a close win over Pitt. This one is a tough read, because I don’t really think we’re sure how good either of these teams is right now.
I’ve already been burned betting against Maryland this season, but I’m jumping right back into the fire here. I’m convinced my earlier loss was more of a miss on Syracuse than on Maryland. Penn State has more talent at just about every position, and Maryland’s offense was completely shut down by Temple. I trust the Nittany Lions to be able to cover a touchdown on Friday night in College Park.
Can We Bet On the Dawgs?
No. You very literally can not bet on the Dawgs. They aren’t even playing this week. Are you just blindly trying to throw money on games? Do we need to have an intervention? Just wait till next week, damn.
That concludes our picks for the week. As I said earlier, it’s not my favorite slate of games. Hopefully, though, we can put some winners together and keep building the bankroll back up. Got any games you like this weekend? Let me know in the comments or on twitter – @slapnslide. Win or lose, I’ll be back next week for a new set of picks, and I hope you’ll be back to read.
Bets: Risking $350 to win $357.80