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. Featured image from The Bossier Press-Tribune. Per play and per game stats taken from TeamRankings.com, and all box score data is taken from ESPN box scores. All lines accurate as of Wednesday, 10/16.
What a week! The column picks went 5-1 in Week 7, good for a $224 profit. The bankroll is back up to $645.64 – well on its way to a miraclous comeback from its Week 2 lows. On the season, we are now sitting on a 21-18 record, pushing the picks over 50% for the first time since week 2. So everything went well in a week where somehow no sports were played in the state of Georgia. None whatsoever. Ok, moving on.
We only have four picks on the slate, but since I’m posting this a bit early, I’m reserving the right to add one more if I find another play I love by Friday night. So check back before finalizing your weekend card. Regardless, it’s going to be a weird week, as it is the first time this year I’ve played more totals than sides. The spreads look pretty sharp this week, but it seems like there is more wiggle room for your over/under bets.
So without further ado, let’s get to our best bets of the week with a little help, in gif form, from 2008 cinematic masterpiece In Bruges:
The Hydro Thunder Boat Race of the Week
Louisiana Lafayette -6.5 at Arkansas State (-110)
Bet: $80 to win $72.73
Laying points on the road on a Thursday Night? Not normally something I like to do. But this Arkansas State team has been giving up yards in bunches, especially on the ground, and the Ragin Cajuns can really run. Arkansas State opponents have averaged 217.8 yards on the ground this year (good – or bad – for 111th in the country) and over the last 3 games their run defense has been even worse. Southern Illinois, Troy, and Georgia State combined to average 251 rushing yards per game against the Red Wolves.
So how does that match up with their opponent this week? Well, the Ragin Cajuns are 6th in the nation with 6.1 yards per carry so far. That seems like a mismatch. I think ULL is going to run circles around the Red Wolves this week, and I don’t think Arkansas State can keep up.
Last week I cashed a ticket on the under in Lafayette’s game against Appalachian State – the least stress I’ve had on a totals bet this season. This week, though, I’m expecting a lot of points. With a high scoring game like this, I don’t mind laying just under a touchdown with the better team, even if it is on the road.
The One-Sided Southeastern Shootout of the Week
LSU at Mississippi State over 61 (-110)
Bet: $60 to win $54.55
Take a look at the scores in LSU games this year and once thing will jump out at you pretty quickly: a ton of points are being scored. In fact, LSU set the record this year for the most points of any SEC team in history through 6 games. The Tigers’ lowest point total so far this year is 42, and they’ve scored more than 61 – the number we have to hit with both teams’ combined scores – twice by themselves. This is not the LSU you are used to seeing on offense. Get it in your head.
Now, if you look at LSU’s plays per game, it might seem like they play at a pretty middling pace. But the truth is that LSU has been scoring so quickly that they don’t get to run a lot of plays. In fact, LSU is currently 3rd in the country in points per play. In the game against Florida last week – facing off against a Florida defense that had impressed a lot of people, mind you – LSU had touchdown drives of 2, 5, and 4 plays. And that was just in the first half.
Now, there might be a defense or two in the country that can slow LSU down, but I don’t expect Mississippi State to be that defense. They allowed 56 points to a comparatively punchless Auburn offense, and have resided somewhere between mediocre and abysmal for the duration of the 2019 season.
Our one concern with the over here would normally be that Mississippi State just can’t score. Well, that’s possible, but I don’t think it will happen. For one, LSU’s defense hasn’t been all that impressive. The defense is full of great athletes and potential future NFL draft picks, but the Tigers have been vulnerable to big plays so far. Part of that could be lackadaisical effort, and there’s a chance they turn it on at some point this season. If that’s the case, though, I don’t think a week 8 match up with unranked Mississippi State will be the game that inspires them to maintain their focus for a full 60 minutes.
Feel free to take LSU -18.5 if you want to count on the Tigers defense to hold Mississippi State to a low number. I think that’s the right side here, and I believe the Tigers will cover pretty easily. Still, I’d rather rely on Joe Burrow and the offense to put up points in bunches.
The Friday Night Rock Fight of the Week
Pittsburgh at Syracuse Under 52 (-110)
Bet: $60 to win $54.55
You knew I needed an under to wash the taste out of my mouth from that LSU over. So here comes a hideous weeknight slog from the ACC.
Pittsburgh is 104th in the country in yards per play. And Syracuse? They’re even worse at 109th. Pittsburgh’s offense is slightly more… competent? But neither of these teams are putting up points in bunches. Syracuse is almost as bad on defense, but Pitt? The Panthers are 14th in the nation in defensive yards per play.
The match up is especially bad for Syracuse’s passing offense. Pittsburgh is 4th in the country with 4.2 sacks per game while Syracuse has allowed 4.8 sacks per game, which is 128th out of 130 FBS teams. Say a quick prayer for ‘Cuse quarterback Tommy Devito.
You might ask with a spread of only 3.5, why not take Pittsburgh to cover? Well, I try not to trust Pittsburgh as a favorite if I can help it. Pittsburgh games just tend to get weird, and it’s hard to rely on a team with an already shaky offense to go cover on the road. Generally, though, Pitt is a team that is willing to win ugly. A win by 3 points is just as good as a win by 30 in Pat Narduzzi’s book – just look at their wins against Delaware and Ohio this year. I expect Pitt to control the tempo of this game, and I think they will slow it down once they get a lead (despite being a pass-heavy team). I don’t think Syracuse can score and I’m not even sure Pitt wants to – and that’s why we’re taking the under.
The “Sam Hates Fun” Second Under of the Week
Oregon State at California Under 51.5 (-110)
Bet: $60 to win $54.55
Two unders in a row?
This is a simple one. Cal is the better team, and they don’t have a high flying offense even on the best of days. With their starting quarterback out indefinitely, the Golden Bears will be content to slow it down. Their defense is rock solid, and Evan Weaver has been a monster with 83 tackles already this season.
Oregon State likes to run the ball, although they aren’t particularly effective either running or passing. Cal has only allowed 20 or more points in two games this year – I don’t expect Oregon State to be the third.
Granted, this also means we’re relying on the Oregon State defense to get a few stops. They are 112th in the nation in defensive yards per play, so I can understand the skepticism. Cal has been just as bad on the other side of the ball, though, as they are ranked 115th in offensive yards per play.
Can We Bet on the Dawgs?
Fine, I lied. Georgia teams played sports last week. None of them went very well, though, and it’s a sad day in our weekly UGA segment. The Dawgs are favored by 24 (a real shocker of a line if you read last week’s segment) after suffering a devastating defeat at the hands of South Carolina.
I’m putting myself in timeout and refusing to bet the Dawgs as a large favorite until they show some signs that they at least have a desire to hit explosive plays. The South Carolina game was a perfect storm for an upset – a defensive touchdown, a blocked field goal, another missed field goal, and a minus four turnovers differential – but Georgia probably should have won despite playing just about the worst game they could play. It’s pretty rare that a team out gains its opponent by 170 yards and loses a game, but that’s what happened last week.
So as a handicapper, this actually may be a good spot to play Georgia coming off of a tough luck loss to face a Kentucky team who just had a fairly emotional win. I can’t do it, though. I need the UGA offense to show me something this week before I can consider backing them in the future.
Thanks for reading another week of The Old College Try. Let me know what you’re taking this week either in the comments or on twitter (@slapnslide). If you’re enjoying the column, feel free to click the “follow by email” ribbon on both the side and bottom of the page to get an alert whenever new picks are posted. Best of luck as always in the quest to beat the book this weekend – and win or lose, I’ll see you back here next week.
Bets: $260 to win $236.38