Welcome to the second season of The Old College Try. I’ll be here each week, trying to beat the book by betting on college football. All lines accurate as of Wednesday, 9/17.
Previous Weeks: 1
We went 2-1 in the column last week, with Louisville and the Syracuse under coming through easily for us while Dabo decided to give snaps to the children of every coach, graduate assistant, and waterboy on the team rather than covering the spread. No, I’m not bitter about it. Why do you ask?
We enter week two up $90 (.9 units), and hopefully with a better idea of what to expect out of some of these teams. We’ve got some pretty weak match ups this weekend, but we’ll have a full slate of SEC, Big 12, and ACC games on the way to save football next Saturday (COVID permitting). Thus far, we’ve seen that teams are going to be pretty rusty after having their practices limited by the pandemic.
Even I clearly need some work to get back into mid-season form. I mean I wrote a whole four paragraphs about UNC and failed to remind you that they have a defensive back named Storm Duck, who, as far as I can tell, must be the much more athletic alternate evolution of Psyduck.
We’ve got a reduced number of plays again this week as there is a smaller slate of games, and frankly I don’t love the board. But there are still a few lines that look like they have some value. So let’s take a look at the board and find some locks for Week 2.
The One Where We Bet on Syracuse Not to Score… Again
Syracuse at Pittsburgh Under 50.5
Bet: $110 to win $100
Pitt returns fifteen staters and has a chance to be one of the better teams in a deeper-than-normal ACC. I’m still not a huge believer in Kenny Pickett, though, and the Pittsburgh running game struggled to get on track in 2019. Beyond all that, Pat Narduzzi’s Panther teams have never been a squad that likes to run up the score. They don’t try to push tempo and bury people. Yes, I know they crushed Austin Peay last weekend, but I’m writing that game off as an exception, not adapting it as the new rule.
The strength of the Pittsburgh defense is in its defensive line, and Syracuse’s sack problem that we talked about last week hasn’t magically gone away. They gave up 7 sacks to UNC’s defense in their first game, and Pitt’s defensive front should be significantly better than what the Tar Heels have to offer. All of this promises to make this Saturday’s game a long one for Syracuse QB Tommy Devito, who is likely to take more hits this season than Kenny has in 24 seasons of South Park, and it makes for an easy lean towards the under.
Taking unders in college football, especially with relatively low totals, is not for the faint of heart. It’s almost always going to be a sweat. But, in the immortal words of Michael Cheritto, “The action is the juice.” What’s the point of betting if you’re not gonna enjoy the sweat?
The Egregious Favorite Fade of the Week
Louisiana Tech +5.5 at Southern Mississippi
Bet: $110 to win $100
La Tech is replacing a lot of talent from the squad that won 10 games last year, including a quarterback, leading receiver, multiple pieces on both the offensive and defensive lines, and their entire defensive backfield. So why are we still going to pick them on the road when they have yet to play a down this year? And when continuity seems like such an advantage in the early going after an offseason with limited practice?
Well, the opponent and the line. Southern Miss looked terrible in their first game against South Alabama on their way to being outgained by 42% per play. They moved the ball a bit, but their defense put up about as much resistance as a wet paper towel would to a charging rhinoceros. South Alabama is pretty good this year and held their own against a solid Tulane squad, but a quick look at the box score (or the game tape) shows that that game was way worse than the 11-point loss indicates. Hell, Southern Miss was plus-two on turnover differential and they never looked like they even had a chance to win. Now they’re favored against a team that won 10 games last year?
On principle, I can’t take Southern Miss as a 5 and a half-point favorite against anybody with a pulse. And I expect Louisiana Tech to be at least half-decent. Skip Holtz has fielded a solid team for six straight years. They should have a solid linebacking corps and return two solid running backs, plus five of their top six pass catchers (just not their best). I’ll take the Bulldogs as more than a field goal underdog against what might be a pretty bad team here, and I wouldn’t hate taking them on the Moneyline either.
The Holier-than-Thou Hugh Freeze Fade of the Week
Liberty at Western Kentucky – 14 (-120)
Bet: $120 to win $100
We picked against Western Kentucky last week and won. Now we’re hopping on the Hilltopper hype train.
You could think about this game by breaking down the two teams and their strengths and weaknesses. You could talk about Western Kentucky’s defense, led by reigning Conference USA player of the year and future NFL edge rusher DeAngelo Malone. They had a tough time against Louisville’s high-powered offense last week, but I wouldn’t hold that against them. Louisville is going to be a problem for a lot of teams this season.
Liberty should be able to patch together a decent offense at some point this season, but they lost their starting quarterback, running back, and star receiver, who is now playing on Sundays. I expect them to have some trouble moving the ball to start the season. Their pass rush should be fine, but they are replacing a lot and they might really struggle against the run this year.
I’m not a huge Tyrone Pigrome believer, and neither he nor the Western Kentucky offense impressed against Louisville, but he should be mobile enough to avoid the Liberty pass rush. The Hilltoppers’ veteran offensive line will open up enough holes for both Pigrome and Gaej Walker to gain some chunk yardage on the ground, and if Pigrome can avoid making negative plays, this team will move the ball well against Liberty. The Hilltoppers get up early here and never look back.
So you could do all of that analysis and come up with Western Kentucky as the easy choice in this game. Or you could just think of winning money at the expense of Liberty as karmic payback for a school that maintains harsh moral scrutiny of their students’ behavior and then turns around and hires Hugh Freeze. Yeah, that Hugh Freeze. Oh, and their president Jerry Falwell. And their AD Ian McCaw. Seems like an easy decision to me.
Can We Bet on the Dawgs this Week?
No. But almost. We’re almost there. You can wait one more week can’t you? One more week until the Dawgs take the field in red and black to take on 30 to 50 feral hogs in Fayetteville? I believe in you. You’ve made it this far through a pandemic, multiple hurricanes, a country that is quite literally on fire, and thousands upon thousands of insufferable political ads. You can make it through a subpar slate of football.
That wraps it up for week 2. Shout out to the editor and fellow Sideline Warning contributor John for the photoshop work. If you want to get weekly updates when this article comes out, you can follow this blog through WordPress or email (links below and on the side of this article), follow Sideline Warning on Facebook or Twitter, or follow me on Twitter (@slapnslide).
Fading or following these bets, or have any other lines you like for the week? Let me know in the comments here or on twitter. Thanks to everyone for reading this week, and best of luck on all your gambling endeavors!