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, 10/30.
All good things come to an end, and our hot streak ended in Week 9. Last week’s picks went 1-4, dropping the bankroll to $567.47. As for the season record, it currently sits just two games above .500 at 25-23. It was a frustrating week of losses, with Sam Ehlinger imploding to throw more interceptions on Saturday than he had in the prior 7 games, and LSU failing to cover in a game that they dominated from start to finish.
We’re hoping to bounce back this week with 6 games on the card. Maybe we should shoot for a smaller selection of games to get back in the groove, but the season is rapidly coming to an end, and you have to risk money to make money, right? Right?
Yeah, whatever. Here are the best bets of the week, and here’s to hoping they pan out better than last week’s.
From Worst to… well, Not Worst
Tennessee – 11.5 vs UAB
Bet: $50 to win $45.45
I’m taking Tennessee as a best bet for the second time this season, and while you may be hesitant to back the Vols, that first bet turned out pretty nicely. Still, Tennessee as a double-digit favorite? It does feel a little bit weird given the way they started the year.
UAB comes into this game at 6-1, but they’ve managed that record without a single impressive win on the schedule. In fact, the FBS teams that they’ve beaten have combined to go 5-34 on the season. Sounds like a fairly fraudulent 6-win team to me.
While the Volunteers had an atrocious start to the season, they’ve righted the ship – to an extent – in the last three weeks with wins over Mississippi State and South Carolina sandwiching the expected loss against Alabama. When Brian Maurer gets snaps at quarterback, Tennessee’s offense opens up and is able to stretch the field a bit more, and their defense has impressed since the Georgia game. I think Tennessee continues its course correction this week and takes down the Blazers by two touchdowns or more.
The Ugly SEC Under of the Week
Vanderbilt at South Carolina Under 51.5
Bet: $50 to win $45.45
I have no desire to write at length about either of these teams because both make me sad at the moment – Vanderbilt due to general incompetence and South Carolina due to the unfortunate event from earlier this season – so I don’t have much to say here, other than I just flat out don’t know if Vanderbilt will be able to score in this game. There’s a legitimate chance that Vanderbilt only makes it to 10 points. If that happens, can the Gamecocks put up 42? I don’t think so. The game total is set at 51.5, and I don’t think we will have to sweat it too much. Bet the under.
The Undefeated Casualty of the Week
Memphis -6 vs SMU
Bet: $50 to win $45.45
SMU comes into this game still undefeated despite a scare in a tight game against Houston. Now they line up against a 7-1 Memphis team that’s been tested throughout the year. With a spot in the AAC championship potentially on the line, both teams are going to be ready for this one.
An undefeated team coming into a game as a 6- point dog should raise a warning flag. Usually, the public loves betting on teams that haven’t lost, so Vegas making Memphis nearly a full touchdown favorite here probably means that they feel strongly that the Tigers are the better team. I happen to agree.
SMU has a slight defensive yards per play advantage over Memphis, but Memphis has been much better offensively. In fact, they’ve been one of the most efficient offenses in the country, averaging 6.9 yards per play. Their knack for creating explosive plays has caused nightmares for opposing defenses all year, with the exception of an ugly loss at Temple.
This is the end of the road for the undefeated Mustangs. I think both teams are going to put up points, but I don’t think SMU can keep up with the explosive Memphis offense. I’ll take the one-loss favorites to cover, but I’d be hesitant to bet it if the line gets up above 7.
The Treme Tsunami of the Week
Tulane -10 vs Tulsa (-115)
Bet: $50 to win 43.48
Willie Fritz has the Tulane offense humming, with the Green Wave currently ranked 15th in the country in yards per play, with the majority of those yards coming through the ground game. Tulsa runs a more balanced offense (and at a much faster pace), but is much less efficient, coming in at 102nd.
This game will be played in New Orleans, in what is expected to be pretty nasty weather. This should benefit Tulane, who prefers to keep the ball on the ground anyway. Tulsa’s passing attack, on the other hand, should suffer with strong winds around game time.
Tulane’s the better team in the better situation, not to mention they might have the coolest logo in college football. I’ll lay the 10 points and watch as the Green Wave rolls in this one.
The Moneyline Dog of the Week
Boston College ML at Syracuse (+145)
Bet: $50 to win $72.50
There are two ACC underdogs that I considered picking this weekend to win straight up, and the final decision to go with Boston College came down mostly to the extra juice as Virginia is only +115 to beat UNC at the moment.
I can’t say that I have a great read on these teams as I’ve intentionally avoided watching either extensively (as any sane person would). The obvious starting point is that both are very bad. Syracuse has been slightly better on defense, but significantly worse offensively as they are ranked number 122 out of 130 FBS teams in yards per play.
Boston College will have the best player on the field in AJ Dillon, and I don’t think Syracuse has enough on defense to stop him. On the other hand, it hasn’t required much resistance at all to slow down the Syracuse offense this year. It’s hard to trust Boston College at this point, but with odds this favorable against Syracuse, I’ll take the Eagles to win straight up.
Can We Bet on the Dawgs?
Georgia -6 vs Florida (-110)
Bet: $50 to win $45.45
My head says to lay off this one until this team shows us we can trust them against a decent opponent, but my heart still believes Georgia can win convincingly. So I’m going to be on the Dawgs in this one. But just to make sure I’m not betting completely with emotion, I’ll try to justify it with a few stats.
The general perception is that Georgia’s offense has been a disaster and Florida’s has been a nice surprise. Well, Georgia is 11th in the country with 6.8 yards per play so far this year. Florida, meanwhile, is 48th, averaging 5.8 per play. While one yard may not sound like a lot, it’s a pretty significant difference through 8 games (7 for Georgia). Florida has faced better competition in the early going, although there’s a chance they will both be going up against the best defense they’ve played so far this season.
Yes, you can look at each team’s game against South Carolina and come away thinking that Florida had a much better performance. A closer look, though, shows that Georgia actually outgained the Gamecocks by a greater margin than Florida. In fact, the Gators were actually outgained by 33 yards against South Carolina.
The real difference in those two games? Turnover margin, which tends to be much less consistent as a predictor than yardage. Now, Florida gets a few key players back for this game (defensive ends Greenard and Zuniga in particular could cause problems), but Florida does have its issues. The Gators have struggled to run the ball consistently, and they’ve had problems stopping the run as well. If there’s any weakness that UGA can easily expose, it’s an inability to stop the run. If the Gators do manage to stop D’Andre Swift, Zamir White and maybe a newly healthy Brian Herrien, they will also have to contend with Georgia’s passing attack, which returns its most consistent receiver in Lawrence Cager.
If Georgia can avoid being as predictable as they were offensively in the South Carolina and Kentucky games, they should walk out of Jacksonville with a win by at least a touchdown. That’s a big ask, but I’m willing to take the chance this week.
Thanks for reading another week of The Old College Try! Let me know what games you like this weekend in the comments or on twitter (@slapnslide), and feel free to share the post with anyone who might be interested! Whether you’re fading (wouldn’t blame you after Week 9 results) or tailing, best of luck on your bets this weekend, and I’ll see you back here for an exciting slate in Week 11.
Total Bets: Risking $300 to win $297.78