Welcome back to the Old College Try! With the regular season over, it’s time for a new format as we move into the postseason. We finished the season at 42-35-1, good for 54.55% on the year. Unfortunately, the bankroll ended up at $740.75, down $259.25 from our starting $1,000. However, if you were a $100 unit better and placed an equal wager on every pick throughout the year, you would have come out with a profit of $130.75 – it’s not a killing, but you should never take a profit for granted in the world of gambling.
With a reduced slate of games in Championship Weekend, I received a few suggestions for the column. The most popular was that I at least needed a pick for every Power 5 championship game. That’s fair, I thought, but some of the better value can be found in the smaller conference games this week. So, I figured, why not just pick every game on the board? Being an employed person with limited free time, I wasn’t able to do the full deep dive on every game in the column, but you will find the traditional write ups for each of the Power 5 games. Picks for the remaining games are listed at the end of the post.
Is this a good idea? Well, maybe not. Championship weekend is probably the time when game lines are tightest. Vegas has been gathering data every week, and the more data points they have for each team, the better they can project. That, combined with fewer games to set lines for and all the player action concentrated on the handful of games on the board can make it very hard to find an edge. The flip side is, you can pretty much bet on every team to go into these games motivated as everyone has a conference championship at stake.
Bowl games, which we will pick in the coming weeks, are kind of the opposite situation. Since most teams matching up in bowl games have very few similar opponents on their schedule, it is easier to find some value in a line if you have strong feelings about a particular conference or team’s strengths compared to the public perception. However, you have to be much more cognizant of motivation: which team just missed the playoff, whose players are going to the draft, which coach has his eyes on a new job.
So maybe it’s not the best weekend to go all in. We’re doing it anyway, though, because this is a gambling blog and like every good degenerate, we don’t know when to walk away from the sportsbook. Read on for our best bets in every championship game:
The “Why Are We Even Playing This” Beat Down of the Week
Clemson vs Virginia Under 57.5
Bet: $110 to win $100
This is a tough one. Even at 28.5, I’m considering Clemson here. It’s just a terrible matchup for Virginia. Yes, UVA has a good defense with a very solid pass rush. Still, they’ve been susceptible to explosive pass plays all year, giving up the more completions over 20 yards than any other team in the ACC. They are also ranked 112th out of 130 FBS teams in yards allowed per completion. Against Trevor Lawrence, Justyn Ross, Amari Rogers, and Tee Higgins that’s, um… not great news.
On offense, I’m just not sure how UVA is going to score. Clemson may not have the domineering defensive line of yesteryear, but their linebackers and secondary are better than they’ve ever been. Bryce Perkins is a great player who had the performance of a lifetime last weekend, but Clemson has athletes at the linebacker position that can neutralize his athleticism, and Virginia has had issues all year protecting the quarterback. It might be a long day for UVA’s offensive star.
If it was 27.5, I’d probably be on Clemson, and I still like the Tigers if you’re going to take a side. Even with the game heavily tilted in the Tigers’ favor, I think the line only gives you a few points of value, and I could easily see this game being 38-10 or 42-14. So I think it’s safer to bet on the Clemson defense, and to trust in the Cavaliers to get at least a few stops. We might really sweat this one out if Lawrence connects early on a few long passes, but the under is the right play and we’re going to take it.
The Wild West Shootout of the Week
Utah -6.5 vs Oregon
This was an easy lean towards the under earlier in the week, but it’s dropped all the way from 51 to 45.5, and at this point I don’t see any value in the total. On a normal week, I wouldn’t recommend betting this game at all. But we said we’d bet all the Power 5 games, and despite significant evidence to the contrary, the PAC 12 still qualifies. I think Utah has been the better team this year, but Oregon is a tough matchup for the Utes.
Oregon’s offensive line might be able to slow down a strong Utah pass rush, and defensively the Ducks have plenty of athletes on the field. Still, I think the Utes are good enough to prevail.
Justin Herbert is the big name in this one, but Zach Moss will be the best offensive player on the field, and Tyler Huntley has made plays whenever he’s been asked to this year. If the Utah run defense – a unit that’s been dominant this year – can hold up and force Oregon’s offense to be one dimensional, I think this game is over. I see Utah winning by double digits and making its case for the playoffs in case the fourth spot opens up.
The B1G Rematch
Ohio State -15.5 vs Wisconsin
Bet: $110 to win $100
Ohio State is 9-3-0 against the spread this year, blowing out the Big 10 competition week in and week out. That’s not going to change this week, and they should get another cover this week. They beat Wisconsin 38-7 this year, and it would be really hard for me to justify betting on the Badgers this weekend. Wisconsin is a good team, but I don’t think they have the athletes to stick with Ohio State.
The one concern is that Justin Fields tweaked his knee in the Michigan game last weekend and is unlikely to be involved in the run game. The Buckeyes shouldn’t need his legs, though, as JK Dobbins should give the Badgers plenty of problems on the ground.
On defense, Ohio State is stifling, led by All-World defensive end Chase Young. If they can shut down Jonathon Taylor, which they’ve done in the past, I don’t think Wisconsin will be able to put up enough points to even keep this interesting into the second half. Ohio State in a blowout.
The One With All The Points
Baylor vs Oklahoma over 64.5
Bet: $110 to win $100
Vegas got super creative with this total, setting it right near 65, which just happens to be the exact total from the first matchup of these two teams earlier in the year. And that means I’m taking the over. In a game that Oklahoma only scored 3 points in the first quarter and 10 in the first half, the over still would have hit with this number? Easy decision for me.
Overs are always tempting with Lincoln Riley coaching, and Oklahoma really seemed to figure out Baylor’s defense in the second half of that last game. With the Sooners looking to make a statement for the playoff committee, Riley will be pulling out all the stops trying to run up the score in this one.
Still, I’m a little hesitant to take the Sooners as almost double digit favorites over a good Baylor team. The Bears will be able to put up points against the Oklahoma defense, and could easily cover the 8.5 point spread. This game could be 45-30 or it could end 38-35, but I’m pretty confident it won’t end 27-17. So throw some money on the over, sit back, and enjoy the fireworks.
Can We Bet on the Dawgs?
UGA +7 vs LSU
Bet: $110 to win $100
The LSU Tigers and Georgia Bulldogs will face off in the game that, quite literally, just means more this year. If Georgia wins, it is likely (nearly guaranteed) that both SEC teams will make the playoffs. If the Dawgs lose, however, the fourth spot in the playoffs is up for grabs between Utah, Baylor, and Oklahoma.
These squads are about as different as two teams in the top four can be, especially two from the same conference. LSU has been the more impressive team in 2019, coming into this game undefeated with probably the best win of the season in their game against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. If you’ve been paying attention this year, you likely don’t need me to tell you that they have maybe the most explosive offense in college football this year and the likely number one draft pick in quarterback Joe Burrow.
I don’t have a strong play on the total; the number is about right for me. I think the Georgia defense has the personal to slow down LSU’s offense, but I still think the winning team will need to score at least 30 points, so 55 points sounds just about perfect.
Vegas set this line at LSU -3, and since the George Pickens suspension news and a potential D’andre Swift injury it has shot up to 7. The signs point to Swift playing, though, and a full touchdown is too many points to give in what should be a close game. The only game that LSU has played against a defense comparable to Georgia’s was against Auburn— and LSU won that game by 3 (although the margin of victory should have been larger). Georgia’s offense, notwithstanding all of their issues this year, is a much better unit than Auburn’s, and I think they will be able to move the ball against the Tigers.
This may be wishful thinking, but I believe the Georgia defense will be able to keep them in the game in the SEC Championship, even with all the firepower that LSU has. If they can get a few big plays in the passing game, they might even walk away with a win and a playoff berth. Either way, though, I think this line is just a bit too big.
The Ones I’m Not Writing Up Because I Have Other Things to Do
Bets on each of these games will be $110 to win $100.
App State -6 vs Louisiana Lafayette
Miami Oh vs Central Michigan over 54.5
Florida Atlantic -8 vs UAB
Hawaii at Boise State under 64.5
Memphis -9 vs Cincinatti
I hope that you enjoyed the read this week, and that it helps you win some money on Championship Weekend. Reach out to me on twitter (@slapnslide) and let me know which games you like this week. Best of luck to all you degenerates this weekend.