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, 9/23. Picks appear in bold.
The column picks once again went 2-1 in week 2, moving us to a solid 4-2 on the season with a profit of $170 so far. Last week, we had one terrible bet with Western Kentucky over Liberty (man, that Auburn transfer looked really good at qb in his first game), one clearly correct side in the Syracuse/Pitt under as both teams were atrocious offensively, and one of the most intense sweats of my gambling life as a call was overturned with about 5 seconds left in the fourth quarter to give Louisiana Tech a touchdown, a win, and a cover. If you haven’t seen the highlight of that last touchdown, I highly suggest you watch this catch.
Now is the perfect time to fade me as we go from 3 locks per post to a 5-pick week as the slate expands. If you’re looking for some more insight into where we’ve had success through the first two weeks, the column is:
- 1-0 betting on underdogs
- 2-0 betting on unders
- 1-2 betting on favorites
This is the first week of 2020 that feels like a real college football Saturday – the SEC is back, which means we have 3 of the 5 power conferences in play, and we have many more games in general this week than the previous two, despite a few being postponed due to COVID concerns. So let’s fire up the socially distanced tailgating grills and hope our hot streak continues as we dive into our locks of the week.
The Florida Favorite of the Week (Formerly the Talented Underachievers Bowl sponsored by JaMarcus Russell)
Florida State at Miami -11
Bet: $110 to win $100
The arguments I can see against this pick:
- You’re laying double digit points in a rivalry game
- Miami’s trends over the last few years as a favorite against the spread haven’t been great
…and that’s about all I can manage. Florida State looked awful in their first game against Tech, and their brand new coach is going to either be missing this game or coaching remotely after testing positive for COVID.
Sure, Louisville’s defense might not be great, but Miami has looked very good in two consecutive games, and has shown that they have the ability to push the pace and stretch the field. After showing a bit of rust in their first game, D’Eriq King looked like the second best quarterback in the ACC last weekend. Cam’ron Harris, meanwhile, has looked like the best running back in the country through the first two weeks, putting up 268 yards on only 26 carries.
As usual, Miami has a group of monsters on the defensive line, and FSU is flat out bad offensively. Both programs have plenty of talent and have underperformed that talent for the last several years. It looks like Miami has figured out how to turn that talent into on-field production, and without making any judgement on a Mike Norvell era which is just beginning, FSU looks like it is still a ways off from solving that equation. Everything we’ve seen from these two teams in 2020 points toward a line that should be closer to 16 or 17 points in Miami’s favor. At -11, the Canes are an easy play for me.
The Weekly Bet Against Syracuse Scoring
Georgia Tech at Syracuse Under 52
Bet: $110 to win $100
Listen, we’re 2-0 on Syracuse unders this year and we’re going to keep hammering them until we lose one, the books adjust, or Syracuse’s entire defense either opts out or murders their offense out of frustration, leading to prolonged jail time and a brand new Netflix documentary titled Orange is the New Orange. This unit has played incredibly hard — and fairly well — just to keep Syracuse in their first two games, and they have gotten absolutely nothing from their offense in return.
As far as Georgia Tech goes: yes, this team has looked better this year, with a win over Florida State in week 1 and three close quarters against UCF before the Golden Knights pulled away in the fourth. I don’t blame you if you bet them as the favorites, but I still don’t quite feel comfortable laying seven-and-a-half on the road with the Bees from Bobby Dodd. The Syracuse defense has looked at least competent so far, and I trust Tech’s defense just a bit more than I trust their offense at this point.
Syracuse allowed 7 sacks for the second week in a row, which means they are still allowing the most sacks of any offense in the nation. I’m sure you’re getting tired of me telling you how bad this offensive line is, but hey they’re still really bad and this means I don’t have to look for a new stat. Efficiency! Tech doesn’t have the type of talent, especially up front, that Pittsburgh or even UNC boasted. But I still expect Tommy Devito to have a worse time dealing with blitzing bees than anybody since Nic Cage in the Wicker Man remake.
The “Which Game Was Worse” Reactionary Pick of the Week
Louisville +3 at Pittsburgh
Bet: $110 to win $100
It all comes down to what performance you think was more concerning here: Louisville’s defensive letdown against Miami or Pitt’s lack of offensive firepower against Syracuse. I believe Louisville has plenty to be concerned about — I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with the scheme or coaching, but the Cardinals just don’t look like they have the athletes to completely contain a team with Miami’s caliber of playmakers (also, they could stand to improve from a tackling standpoint). I don’t really think that’s a huge concern against Pitt, though.
The Panthers offense showed what I believe to be its true colors last week, struggling to move the ball against Syracuse (and you know this column’s opinions about Syracuse) despite plenty of opportunities. Pitt averaged 4.1 yards per play against the not-so-vaunted Orange defense, good (bad?) enough to rank 41st out of 47 eligible teams on the season. We’ve already been pretty mean to Syracuse in this column, so I won’t tell you who ranks 47th. Instead, I’ll remind you that this Pittsburgh team never even threatened to cover the 23.5-point spread against the Orange last week.
Pitt’s defense is solid and should have an advantage at the line of scrimmage, but Louisville can stretch the field enough to soften up the pittsburgh front against the run. Malik* Cunningham should bounce back from a tough game against the Hurricanes, and I don’t think the Panthers have what it takes to keep up with the Cardinals’ offense. I think Louisville wins this one straight up, but I’ll take three free points if the book wants to give them to me.
*The Louisville quarterback changed his preferred name from Micale back to Malik (what he went by last year) at some point in the last two weeks. Yes, I’m as confused as you are. No, I wasn’t wrong about his name in the week one article. This footnote probably created more questions than it answered, so I’m not sure I’m doing the whole footnote thing correctly**.
**My law student editor has confirmed that the point of footnotes is indeed to make things more complicated.
The Obligatory SEC Under of the Week
Kentucky at Auburn Under 49.5
Bet: $110 to win $100
With all this chatter about the SEC being back, I couldn’t go a full column without betting on one of these games. I really liked Kentucky as the 10.5-point underdog that was released as the opening line at some books, but apparently so did everyone else. It seems like they have a ton of steam behind them and I hesitate to back a public dog in this one, especially as we’ve lost a full 3 points of line value.
Instead, I’ll count on two very solid defensive lines and an expected run-heavy playbook from Kentucky to minimize the number of scoring opportunities. On the Auburn side, plenty of people are singing the praises of Bo Nix to start the season, but I’m going to need to see it before I buy into the hype of yet another Auburn quarterback. Especially one who didn’t look all that special last season.
Both teams running the ball will keep the clock ticking, and the offenses should be rusty in their first game of the season, hopefully preventing the explosive plays that could drive this total up. By the way, there have been 21 games so far this year between two teams who are both playing for the first time in 2020. The under in those games? 15-6.
Can We Bet on the Dawgs this Week?
Georgia -26 at Arkansas
Bet: $110 to win $100
Who am I kidding, I’m not going to stop you. And I’ll even join in and take them myself. There are some concerns here. First, 26 is a big number. I liked it a whole lot better where it opened at -24. And second, we don’t really know what to expect from a Georgia offense with a new offensive coordinator, a quarterback who we didn’t know was starting until a few weeks ago (and who redshirted last season in part because of a freaking cyst in his brain), and a retooled offensive line. The hope is that Kirby will finally hand over the reigns fully to former NFL OC Todd Monken rather than force the offense to play his preferred conservative and plodding brand of football. If you’re going to let your team try it at all, might as well do it against this Arkansas team.
What to say about Arkansas? Ok, I think they’re going to be really bad. Like maybe worse than Vanderbilt bad? Like “will ruin your SEC survivor pool because they don’t get a single W this year” bad? Yeah, that bad. I’m not sure what former Georgia offensive line coach (and co-offensive coordinator) Sam Pittman will look like as a head coach long term, but I expect a really tough start to his tenure. Arkansas hasn’t won an SEC game since 2017 and this year they only play SEC games.
So if Georgia is going to contend this year and sport a more explosive offense than the lackluster 2020 group (they certainly have the playmakers on the edge to do it), then covering a 26-point spread shouldn’t be too much to ask against the Razorbacks. If the spread keeps moving up, it might be harder to justify betting on Georgia here.
Thanks for reading another week of picks! Let me know if you’re following or fading, or if you have any other bets you like this week, either here in the comments or on twitter (@slapnslide). Enjoy another weekend of football, and best of luck as you try to beat the book.