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, 10/1. Featured image from Dirk DBQ on Flickr. Picks appear in bold.

Previous Weeks: 1 | 2 | 3

So we might as well address the elephant in the room. No, not me. Sure, I’ve gained some weight during quarantine. But I’m talking about the fact that the column has had three winning weeks in a row and is now 7-3-1 with a $360 (3.6 unit) profit on the year after a very solid 3-1-1 week 3.

You might be wondering: is now the time to fade Sam? And my answer to that, as it always is: probably. I don’t even really love the board this week. It took me two days of staring at lines to find three bets I liked enough to put in the column. So the smart move, obviously, would be to take a step back, play it safe, and only write up a few games this week.

Naturally, I did the complete opposite, staring at the board until I talked myself into the biggest card we’ve had all year. Hey, this is a gambling column, not a guide on how to manage your 401k. So let’s tear off the floaties and dive into our locks for the week.

The Weeknight Underdog

Louisiana Tech +24.5 at BYU

Bet: $110 to win $100

Might as well start with the first football game of the week (no, Jets-Broncos does not count). We’re taking Louisiana Tech to cover a massive spread against BYU. The Cougars, led by Mormon Manziel himself, have been dominant over their first two games. But they went up against a Navy team that hadn’t practiced blocking or tackling all offseason (I really admire the commitment to protecting your players, but not the ideal way to prepare for a college football season) and a Troy team that they dominated on both sides of the line.

I don’t think they’ll be able to manhandle La Tech in the way they did those other teams. BYU should win this game, and they should win it pretty comfortably, but the Bulldogs’ offense has been coming along nicely after a slow start in their first game. Quarterback Luke Anthony is by far the best passer that the Cougars have faced thus far, and I think he can put up enough points to cover this spread easily. With a 24-point spread and a decent La Tech defense, they should only need 14 or so to cover easily. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.

The Principle Play of the Week

Oklahoma State -21 at Kansas (-120)

Bet: $120 to win $100

We have two principles we’re following in the Big 12 so far this year. We’re only testing one of these today, but we’ll keep following both throughout the year. They are as follows:

  1. No Big 12 team should be a double digit favorite over anyone else in the conference (see: Texas vs Texas Tech, Oklahoma vs Kansas State).
  2. Except for Kansas. Everyone should be favored over Kansas by somewhere between 15 and a million points.

This line is more than 15 but it’s way less than a milion so I think it’s at least worth a look. Kansas is really, really bad. Having almost no expectations for Baylor this season, I bet the Bears -16 against this Kansas team last week, and I regretted not taking it in the column. I’m not quite sure what this line would have to be to scare me away (28? 30?) but 21 certainly doesn’t do it.


I’m not going to waste my breath going into detailed analysis of why Kansas is bad. Just know that they’re awful. Oklahoma State might be starting a backup qb again and has a lot of problems on their offensive line. And I really just don’t care. A good defense and some very talented skill players is still a heck of a lot more than Kansas will have on the other side. Fading Les Miles and the Jayhawks all day.

The Big 12 Barn Burner of the Week

Oklahoma at Iowa State Over 63.5 (-110)

Bet: $110 to win $100

Our first over bet of the year! I think Iowa State stays in this game at least until late in the game, and I would be surprised if either team finished the game with less than four touchdowns. Spencer Rattler is very talented, and the Oklahoma offense will have plenty of explosive plays. He’s also shown himself to be pretty turnover prone. Both of those things are generally bad for under bettors and good for people who take the over.

Oklahoma’s kind of like your buddy that makes a good bit of money, but spends somewhere between 99 and 101% of those paychecks every month. Their offense is the high paying job and their defense is the private jet to Ibiza that will soon lead to mounting credit card debt. If the offense scores it, the defense will give it up. Take the over, and see if the Oklahoma offense can cash the check its defense writes this week.

The Lane Train Fade of the Week

Ole Miss at Kentucky -6 (-110)

Bet: $110 to win $100

Kentucky was able to move the ball against Auburn, outgaining the Tigers by 60 yards on the game and gaining five more first downs. That’s not to say that Auburn shouldn’t have won the game, but the final score is pretty misleading (and also ignores the fact that kentucky suffered from one of the worst replay decisions in recent memory that brought back a touchdown).

Ole Miss is the more explosive offense, but Kentucky should control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and I’d rather bet on the team that will win this game in the trenches than the one that will rely on skill players to repeatedly generate 30+ yard gains through the air.

Not to mention, it’s bad karma to start your second best quarterback, and everyone that read this column last year knows that this is a pro-John Rhys Plumlee space.


The Ugly SEC Under of the Week

LSU at Vanderbilt Under 50.5 (-110)

Bet: $110 to win $100

LSU’s best player (Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.) should be back this week, and he’s by far the most important part of their defense. They got embarrassed without him against Mississippi State and KJ Costello last week, but their defense this year is really built around a dominant corner shutting down one side of the field. They didn’t have that last week, and everything fell apart.

Beyond the expected improvement from LSU, Derek Mason is not Mike Leach and Vanderbilt is not 2020 Mississippi State. They won’t have the same success on offense that the Bulldogs had. And on that same note, Myles Brennan is not Joe Burrow. If LSU is going to have success this year, they need to go back to their pre-Burrow philosophy: play great defense, and score enough by complimenting talented pass catchers with an effective run game. I expect them to try to establish the run and smother Vanderbilt in this one, resulting in a total closer to 40 than 50.

The Service Academy Under of the Week

Navy at Air Force Under 47 (-110)

Bet: $110 to win $100

This is a principle that I’ve been playing as long as I’ve bet on college football. When service academies play each other, take the under. Now, it is a little bit harder to blindly bet these lines when Air Force is in the game. They throw the ball a bit more than Navy or Army, and more passing leads to more explosive plays and more chances for the clock to stop ticking away. Still, these teams are very familiar with each other, and every yard is a hard fought battle in these games.

Air Force, at least until very recently, was expecting this to be their only game of the season. With the team preparing like this is their super bowl, I wouldn’t expect the rust or flat start that we’ve seen from so many teams in their first game of the season this year. For that reason, I think a shot at the Falcons on the moneyline* is an interesting idea as well.

*I recognize that, divorced of context, “Falcons on the moneyline” is a terrifying phrase.

Can We Bet on the Dawgs?

Auburn at Georgia -6.5 (-110)

Bet: $110 to win $100

We shouldn’t. We really shouldn’t. Georgia needed a huge second half to come up with a miraculous cover of the -26 number we bet against Arkansas last week. The offense looked awful, and they will either be starting a transfer with limited mobility and even more limited practice time, a redshirt freshman who was almost impressively unproductive last week, or the undersized, lightly recruited upperclassman who led an improved Georgia offense in the second half last week.

And yet… the closer you look, the more that everything outside of the quarterback situation makes you lean towards the Dawgs. Auburn struggled to move the ball at all on the ground against Kentucky, and while I like Kentucky’s front 7, Georgia has a lot more talent on defense than the Wildcats.

For Auburn to score, they’re going to have to rely heavily on quarterback Bo Nix and their (admittedly very talented) receiving corps. Auburn’s replacing four starting offensive linemen from last year, and if the UGA pass rushers can pin their ears back and rush the quarterback, it should be a long day for Nix and company.

On the other side, Georgia struggled to run the ball last week, but it is worth mentioning they were going up against Sam Pittman, the architect of that Georgia run game and the man who knows the UGA offensive line better than anyone in the country.

So we’re taking the Dawgs -6.5. But that’s not even my favorite bet of the game…

Auburn at Georgia Under 45 (-110)

Bet: $110 to win $100

Yep, two plays on this one. Either I have a great feel for the game and it works out or I’m left regretting that I played this one at all. Do I really have to explain this bet after you read the previous paragraphs? I think Auburn’s going to really struggle to move the ball against Georgia, and UGA hasn’t exactly shown themselves to be an offensive juggernaut this year (or for most of Kirby’s tenure). I think Coach Smart will be perfectly happy to slow the pace down and win by a touchdown or two.

I expect this game to end up somewhere around 24-13 in Georgia’s favor. Maybe that’s an optimistic outlook, but we’ll see how it all shakes out on Saturday.


As always, thanks for reading The Old College Try! If you’ve got some extra time, check out our brand new daily fantasy sports series for all your Draftkings and Fanduel needs, as well as our recent piece on the trades that built the Braves. Let me know whether you’re following the hot streak or fading us for the inevitable collapse either here in the comments or on twitter (@slapnslide). Good luck!