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 OnwardState.com. All lines accurate as of Wednesday, 10/23.
We’ve made it to Week 9, and we’re still alive. And not only alive, as we’ve managed to claw our way back from a huge deficit after week 2. The picks are now 24-19 (55.8%) on the year, and the bankroll is up to $767.47. Still negative for now, but within striking distance of the starting $1,000. In fact, for the first time since week 2, if the picks are perfect this week the bankroll has a chance to go back above the $1,000 mark.
Speaking of the picks, Week 9 should be a really entertaining slate of games. Ohio State-Wisconsin and LSU-Auburn headline the slate as showdowns of playoff hopefuls, but there are interesting games all around the country. So rather than listening to me ramble on, let’s see if we can make some money as we get straight to our best bets.
The Spartan Slaughter of the Week
Penn State -6 at Michigan State (-105)
Bet: $105 to win $100
In the battle of Thermopylae, (exaggerated) legend has it that King Leonidas of Sparta could only muster* 300 men to stand against the mighty Emperor Xerxes and hundreds of thousands of Persians. In a similar vein, the Michigan State Spartans have failed to muster even 300 yards in their last two games against Wisconsin and Ohio State. Unfortunately, the Michigan State defense has been unable to live up to the Spartans of old, failing to overcome lack of offensive support to turn either of these games into a battle.
A lot of people are going to be on Michigan State here anyway, and I get it – it’s a terrible spot for Penn State. They are coming off a big win against Michigan, going on the road against a division rival who is coming off a bye week and has had their number for the last couple of years. Everything is screaming to hold off from betting on the Nittany Lions here.
But here’s the thing – Penn State is a lot better than Michigan State at football. If you’re giving me a line under a touchdown, I have to take the Nittany Lions. It was disappointing to see them let Michigan back in the game last week, and the defensive letdown in the second half allowing Michigan to almost come back from a 21-point deficit should give James Franklin enough kindling to light a fire under his players.
Michigan State has a nonexistent rushing attack, and they have generally struggled to block even mediocre teams this year. A one-dimensional attack won’t get it done against this Penn State defense, and PSU will score enough to cover the number.
*Ok, fine, he sent the rest of the men away because they were surrounded, and there were also other groups of Greeks fighting, and sure, there are a whole lot of historical inconsistencies here. But you have to admit it sounded way better the way I wrote it.
The One Where I Pick the Tigers
LSU -10 vs Auburn (-120)
Bet: $75 to win $62.50
I’m buying the half point* to bring this down to a 10 point spread and then laying the 10 with the Bayou Tigers. I’ve been waiting all week for this number to come down, and it’s finally within striking distance.
Look, Auburn’s defense is great, and they’ve managed to score a bunch of points in their blowouts, but freshman quarterback Bo Nix has looked lost whenever he’s gone up against a decent defense this year. He is young with a lot of talent, and there’s a chance he turns into a really good player for Auburn. On the road this weekend against a freakishly athletic LSU defense, though, I think he’ll crumple like so many shot-sized paper Dixie cups at the Baton Rouge tailgates.
LSU, on the other hand, will be able to score despite Derrick Brown and company’s ability on the defensive end. Joe Burrow has been locked in so far this season, and LSU has too many weapons to stall out completely. I think the purple and yellow tigers win this one by two touchdowns.
*For non-gamblers: the spread is currently LSU -10.5. I’m “paying,” or reducing my return (thus the -120), in order to get a more favorable spread.
The “Not Enough Jet Fuel” Service Academy Fade of the Week
Utah State +3.5 at Air Force (-110)
Bet: $75 to win $68.18
I actually did a double take when I saw this line because I assumed Utah State would be favored. Air Force, as usual, has a very efficient offense and passes a little bit more than you would expect out of a service academy. They still run the ball a whole bunch though, and Utah State has been very solid against the run this year.
Utah State, on the other hand, has a very talented quarterback in Jordan Love and playmakers to spread the ball around to. Utah State is going to score, and I don’t think Air Force has the firepower to keep up. I don’t mind a moneyline play here as I think Utah State can win outright, but I will take the field goal plus the hook with the Aggies.
The Contrasting Style Staring Contest of the Week
Arizona State at UCLA Under 55.5 (-110)
Bet: $75 to win $68.18
Can someone explain this number to me? Because it feels like this is the result of a continued failure to adjust our expectations for UCLA’s offense. Yes, Chip Kelly still has a reputation as an offensive mastermind, but UCLA has scored more than 20 points in only three games this season. Their opponents in those games? Washington State, Oregon State, and a Charmin-soft Stanford team. In their games against defenses with a pulse? They’re averaging under 15 points per contest. Well, not only does Arizona State have a pulse, they are the best defense that the Bruins have gone up against this year.
This is a clash of styles, with UCLA trying to speed up the game and Arizona State wanting to slow it down to a crawl. Herm Edwards has maintained an old school NFL mentality at Arizona State, wanting to run the ball and minimize mistakes. I think the Sun Devils are good enough to control the tempo of this game, and that means a low scoring affair. If you would rather take Arizona State minus the points I think that’s a good play as well, but I’m riding with the Sun Devil defense and the under in this game.
The Sartorial Catastrophe of the Week
Texas -1.5 at TCU (-110)
Bet: $75 to win $68.18
I wasn’t going to bet on this game. Texas has too many holes right now, especially with the injuries they are dealing with, and I think TCU might be slightly underrated at the moment. Plus, Texas’ performance against Kansas didn’t exactly inspire confidence this week. Normally, I would trust Sam Ehlinger to outpace middling Big 12 competition, but Texas’ defense has looked shaky all season.
So I made my decision. No bets on Texas-TCU. I was happy to abstain from this Lone Star State showdown. But then I saw the uniforms.
I mean, look at those things. Briefly, because I think prolonged exposure to such optical atrocities may permanently damage your eyes.
How can you win in those? How can you even take the field in those uniforms and maintain any level of respect for yourself? You can’t. Moving past the fact that they look like an XFL jersey designed by a thirteen-year old in Madden 06, how did they decide on those colors? TCU’s school colors are purple and white. Where did they get blood red and dark grey?
Well, the school has an answer. Apparently, the red in the uniform is inspired by their mascot’s (the Horned Frog) ability to shoot blood out of its eyes in an attempt to intimidate predators. Right. You felt inspired to design a jersey based off a last-ditch instinct your mascot has when its about to get eaten by a much bigger, stronger animal. I’m fading the hell out of TCU; Longhorns by a thousand.
Can We Bet on the Dawgs
Nope. Another bye week. You can start doing your homework to figure out what the line should be for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, though. Or, if you’re going to the game in Jacksonville, you can start working to prepare your liver for the trip. Either way, there’s work to be done on the bye.
Thanks for reading another week of the Old College Try, and an additional thank you to everyone who has shared the articles with friends, family members, and fellow gamblers. Let me know what you’re betting on in the comments or on twitter (@slapnslide). Whether you’re following or fading, best of luck on beating the book this week, and I hope you’ll be back to read in Week 10.
Total Bets: Risking $405 to win $372.04