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, November 25th. Picks appear in bold.
Man, writing these posts in 2020 is exhausting. Another week, another four-paragraph write up (and maybe my favorite bet of the week) left on the cutting room floor after a COVID cancellation of the Colorado State-Air Force game.
But this is a week for giving thanks, so let’s skip past the complaints. I’m thankful that the column has managed to stay positive despite a rough stretch of luck, as we are $95 up on the year after a 2-2 Week 11. And I’m also thankful that we’re even able to watch and wager on college football this year. For a while it seemed unlikely.
So let’s make the best of a less than perfect situation. Whether you’re spending the weekend with family or quarantined on your own, we still get to watch and talk about football this week. So we might as well place some bets while we’re at it. So let’s dig in.
The Post-Turkey Trauma Total of the Week
Notre Dame at North Carolina Under 69
Bet: $110 to win $100
In 2020, as always, we are thankful for unders. And we’re going to take one here. The Tar Heels have a high-powered offense and they’ve won me some money at points this year, but Notre Dame is far and away the best defense they’ve faced this season. Plus, just one day after Thanksgiving, has anyone really recovered enough from the tryptophan overload to put up 70 points?
Quarterback Sam Howell has been great, but he’s had a lot of help this season. UNC relies a lot on their running back tandem of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter to pound the ball, and for good reason. Unfortunately for that duo, the Irish are allowing only 2.9 yards per carry, good for 6th in the country. Notre Dame has a chance to turn the Tar Heels into a one-dimensional team.
Yes, Notre Dame has had a few barn burners recently, but their best-in-show offensive line is missing two starters this week. If UNC can get some pressure on Ian Book, who has had more time to throw this year than just about anyone in the country, the Irish offense will struggle.
If you’re going off of the recent scores of both of these teams, it seems like the over is the easy play here. But 69 is a pretty high number, and I believe both of these offenses are fallible. I think at least one will struggle this weekend, and that should be enough to get us our under.
The “Don’t Watch, Just Pray” Ugly Underdog of the Week
Kentucky +27 at Florida (-110)
Bet: $110 to win $100
This one may very well backfire on me. Florida already came out flat against Vanderbilt last week, and I don’t expect them to make the same mistake twice, especially against a team that beat them just two years ago.
That’s the thing, though: Kentucky has played Florida close for three straight years, with the largest margin since 2017 being an 11-point Kentucky win. Now, this Florida team is a heck of a lot better than any of those Florida teams offensively. But we don’t need the Wildcats to win this game.
Nope, the book is spotting us 27 points to take Kentucky. UK’s football team hasn’t turned out great this year, but they are pretty good at one thing: running the football. Florida’s defensive weak spot? Stopping the run. They’ve allowed 4.8 yards per carry over their last three contests, which would put place them 90th in the country if extrapolated over the full season.
Florida will have success when Kyle Trask and company are on the field, we can be pretty certain of that. But will their defense be able to get Kentucky’s offense off the field often (and quickly) enough to cover 24 points? I’m not sure. I’ll take the Mark Stoops and the Wildcats in this one.
**Editor’s note: Since this write up was created, Kentucky has announced that they will be missing at least 18 players due to injury or COVID for this game.
The Abominable Akron Annihilation of the Week
Miami Ohio -14 at Akron (-110)
Bet: $120 to win $100
The MAC has been back for a few weeks now, and unfortunately the timing of this weekly article usually prevents me from taking these games. Not this week, though.
Akron may not be the worst team in the MAC this year, but it is very close. Miami, on the other hand, is a pretty solid football team. Miami got destroyed by Buffalo last week, but this should be the perfect opportunity to bounce back.
Sure, we love great football. But we’re just as thankful for easy fades. The Zips certainly qualify, as they are allowing over 50 points per game (last in the country) and only scoring 19.3 points per game(111th).
Miami has the better offense in this game and the much, much better defense. At just 14 points, this spread is more mystifying than the fact that we built a whole (wonderful) holiday around the blandest, least exciting meat in the animal kingdom. Take the Redhawks.
The Fun Belt Face-Off of the Week
Troy at Appalachian State -14
Bet: $110 to win $100
Sure, App State lost to Coastal last week by double digits, but they looked like the better team for most of that game, and a pick-six in the final minutes made the score appear a lot worse than it was. While they aren’t the best team in the Sun Belt this year, they‘re not far behind.
App State’s defense is their strength this year, particularly their pass defense. The Mountaineers are allowing only a 47.83% completion rate (best in the country) and 5.7 yards per attempt (8th). This matches up well with Troy, who throws the ball over 61% of the time.
Zach Thomas appears healthy despite a tough hit sustained against Georgia State two weeks ago, and that is great news for the Mountaineers. Despite a tough game last week, Thomas is one of the winningest quarterbacks in college football and provides veteran leadership for this team. He’ll provide enough air support to stretch the defense for Camerun Peoples and the App State backs. I’ll take the Mountaineers to cover in a bounce back game.
Can We Bet on the Dawgs?
We are, of course, thankful for the Dawgs, but we shouldn’t bet on them this week. Look, I’m just trying to look out for you. We barely scraped by with a win last week against a thoroughly depleted Mississippi State team. On the bright side, though, Dawgs fans still have something to be thankful for. It looks like UGA has finally found a quarterback that can make use of the cornucopia of talent the Dawgs have at the receiver position. Jermaine Burton, George Pickens, and Kearis Jackson have to be salivating when they see the ball come out of JT Daniels’ hand.
It remains to be seen whether Georgia can put it all together and match the newfound downfield passing attack with a competent run game and the dominant defense that it showcased earlier in the season. Until they do, 21.5 points is still too big a spread to trust them with.
If you want to talk about these games or any others, hit me up in the comments or on twitter (@slapnslide). Thank you for reading, and feel free to share this weekly post with your cousins or uncles as you lay around in your annual turkey coma. Most importantly, though, stay safe and have a happy Thanksgiving!