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 Thursday, December 17th. Picks appear in bold.
We were perfect in Week 15, giving us our second perfect card in the last three weeks. Our locks now sit at 36-24-2 (60%!) for a profit of $870. Will we manage to lose all of that between this week and the bowl games? Stay tuned to find out!
Yes, we have some major match ups in college football this weekend, with an offensive showcase in Atlanta and a playoff-defining rematch in Charlotte. I found that my favorite lines of the week were in other games, though. If you’re interested in my thoughts on those games, I’d lean Alabama laying the points and I’d stay way away from the spread in the ACC championship game. I might be more tempted to bet on both of those totals than a side in either game, though. Now, if you’re looking for real locks, the best bets on the card this week, then just read ahead…
The Friday Bet I’ll Definitely Lose of the Week
Oregon at USC -3
Bet: $110 to win $100
The really amazing thing about winning 60% this year is that we’ve done it while being absolutely horrendous on Friday night games. I’m an idiot, though, and it hasn’t stopped me from betting Friday games.
This one is mostly an Oregon fade. Have we seen anything impressive from the Ducks this season? Like, at all? The blowout against Stanford the first week of the season looks good, but other than that, there haven’t been a lot of positives for this team. They had multiple important contributors opt out at the beginning of the season, and I don’t think most people made as big of an adjustment as they should have. I know I didn’t.
Oregon sits at 3-2 after losing two straight games to Oregon and Cal. When their offense is working, their defense looks awful. When their defense gets stops, the offense can’t score. They just can’t seem to put it all together right now.
On the other side, USC doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. They can’t run the ball at all, and their defense has admittedly been a bit leaky from time to time. They do have the better quarterback and skill position players in this game, though, and that should be enough. With USC at home, the line essentially looks at these two teams like a pick ’em (maybe slightly favoring USC as home field advantage is probably less of a factor this year). I think USC is a better team right now, so I’ll roll with the Trojans and lay the field goal. Judging by my history with Friday games, though, you may want to fade me here.
The Dumbfounding Dog Mascot Double Digit Favorite of the Week
Texas A&M -14 at Tennessee (-110)
Bet: $110 to win $100
Does the title have anything to do with the game? No. But I’m still confused. And Sideline Warning never shies away from the tough questions, like how do you get “dog” out of “Aggie” and “Volunteer”. One of the great mysteries of our time.
I’ve bet on A&M a few times this year, and it feels weird. Since Jimbo arrived, I feel like I’ve been much lower on the Aggies than most. This year, though, there have been several spots where it feels like Vegas is undervaluing this team. This is one of them.
We bet on Tennessee last week, and the thesis was this: Vanderbilt’s defense is awful, so Tennessee’s lack of creativity on the offensive play calling front wouldn’t matter. That pretty much played out as I expected. Well, A&M’s defense is a heck of a lot better than Vandy’s. Tennessee has continued to run the ball on first and second down nearly every chance they get. That won’t work against the Aggies.
Tennessee’s run defense has been pretty solid this year as well, but I expect A&M to work with a lot of short fields. I also trust Mond to make a few more throws than the four-headed monster that Tennessee has been trotting out at quarterback. A&M is the much better team in this one, and they still theoretically have a playoff spot to fight for (one they have no chance of getting, but still). I think the Aggies pull away early and keep their foot on the gas. The Sheepdogs take this one over the Blueticks by three touchdowns.
The “We’re Only Playing This Game Because the B1G Catered to Ohio State to Get Them a Chance to Play in the CFB Playoff” Under of the Week
Northwestern vs Ohio State Under 57.5
Bet: $110 to win $100
How many points do we really think Northwestern is going to score here? Do we think they get to 17? 14? I don’t see them scoring three touchdowns. It’s going to be tough sledding against a very talented Buckeyes defense who, yes, have had their slip ups this year.
This line is a bit of a rorschach test because every Northwestern game this year has been under this total, and every Ohio State game has gone over the total. Sometimes you like to lean towards the better team’s trend in stylistic clashes like this one, banking on that team controlling the game and forcing the other to play at their pace. I’m just not sure Ohio State’s pace matters all that much if they hold Northwestern to 10 points.
Yes, the Buckeyes are going to put up points. But this Northwestern defense is probably the best they have faced this season (apologies to the Hoosiers). I think they can slow the Ohio State offense down just a bit, and I think “just a bit” is all we will need to stay under 57.5. Expect to sweat this until the very end.
The Big Brother Revenge Beatdown of the Week
Oklahoma -5.5 vs Iowa State (-110)
Bet: $220 to win $200
These two teams have already played this year, and Iowa State came out with a 37-30 win. Frankly, it was one of the biggest wins in program history. The problem for Iowa State is that this Oklahoma team is not the same one that faced the Cyclones in early October. This Oklahoma team has not played a one-score game since October 10th, and they look like one of the best teams in the country.
The improvement from the Sooners comes in part from players (such as Rhamondre Stevenson) returning either from suspension or injury, and in part from natural progression in the players that were already there. Freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler has ironed out many of the issues that plagued him early in the season, including in the game against Iowa State, and he’s now playing like the five star quarterback all the scouts saw coming into college. The Sooner defense has also improved, allowing 20 or more points in only one of their last five games. Granted, the offenses they faced haven’t been all that explosive, but Iowa State doesn’t exactly have Alabama’s offense either.
Iowa State is a good team and has been a great story this year. They just don’t have the horses to stay with Oklahoma in this one. Sooners by 10 or more.
Can We Bet on the Dawgs this Week?
No, Georgia’s game with Vanderbilt was canceled. We’re not sure yet when we’ll get the next chance to see Georgia take the field, but it seems like there’s a decent chance that the Dawgs will land a New Year’s Six Bowl.
Thank you for reading the Old College Try once again! I’m already looking forward to Bowl Season, which should be an absolute nightmare to gamble on. Outside of your normal “motivation” questions, we’re dealing with teams that have played almost exclusively in-conference games all season, potential last-minute opt outs, and a pandemic that might prevent some of the games from being played at all. We’ll worry about that stuff when we get to it, though.
For now, stay safe and enjoy the the Holidays (and hopefully a well-deserved break) whether they will be spent with family or on your own. Here’s to hoping this Christmas is the last major holiday we need to use that sentence for. Happy Holidays to all the degenerates out there, and I hope that the college football slate brings plenty of presents for all of us this weekend.