Last Week: 8-3
What went right: Nearly everything, to be honest. Because I did not have access to internet, last week was a Twitter-only special. But, had you followed our picks you’d have nailed an 8-team parlay (though some books would have been a push on Penn State, thus a 7-teamer): Penn State, Georgia, Texas, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, South Florida, Maryland, Missouri — and, one of our readers, in fact, did win over $1700 on a $10 bet. You’re welcome.
What went wrong: Auburn, Iowa, Nebraska
As usual, the composite spreads are here at Sportsline. And below are our baker’s dozen of picks for this week, the midway point of the 2019 season.
Not with a 10’ Pole and Stolen Money:
The Big 10 generally. Vegas is going to clean up this weekend on the Rust Belt action. The fact that nearly all of these lines are so agonizingly bad tells you the actuaries did their jobs well — and I didn’t even include Minnesota.
If you think you know what Purdue is going to do at home (+4) vs. Maryland, you’re kidding yourself. Likewise, as bad as the Terps have done on the road, this seems like the perfect sort of upset waiting to happen. Steer clear. You could say almost the same of Michigan State (+10.5) at Wisconsin. That hook seems a killer in a game that is probably played close to the vest.
Penn State -4.5 at Iowa — If you trust James Franklin on the road, against a ranked team, you’re a braver man than I: He’s 0-13 in such situations. Michigan -21.5 at Illinois — Yes, Illinois is awful. But, like James Franklin, if you trust Jim Harbaugh (or this really gross Wolverine offense) on the road, you’re suicidally brave...especially with this big number.
Is UVA (+2) really a Top 25 team? Is Miami as bad as they’ve looked at times this season? Last week was as brutal a chokejob as you’ll ever see. And the offensive line still isn’t where it needs to be. But, can UVA score enough on the road to pick up a win? My gut says yes; my wallet will stay in my pocket though. This is going to be one of those customary 17-13 ACC specials....but only the football gods know which team comes out on top.
Bet the House:
Alabama -16.5 at Texas A&M. The strength of the Aggies defense is its run defense, a phase of the game Alabama hasn’t been determined to win with yet. Its secondary can get abused in space. Oh, lookie who’s coming to town! Alabama rolls in a lower-scoring one, but still no real contest. Think 34-10ish. Enough to cover.
UL-M at Texas State (+3.5). This is a better Bobcats team than it has fielded the last few seasons. And, there are some pieces in place to rebuild. But, the Warhawks’ balanced offense is too potent, while the San Marcos kitties couldn’t run if a wolverine was chasing them. Take the visitors.
Florida +14 at LSU. This is the first defense LSU has played with a pulse. The best overall defense Joe Burrow has faced? Utah State — at 59th. But, for what they want to do, the two teams that LSU faced that are bowl-bound are abominable in the air: Texas is 126th in passing efficiency, Utah State is 114th. What I’m saying is, let’s hold off on Burrow’s September Heisman. Florida, meanwhile, is 18th — and they’ve forced as many INTS (12) as allowed TDS. The Gators also lead the nation in sacks. So, we’re left to trust LSU to win up front if they have to pound the ball 45 times. I don’t. The difficulty lies in scoring for the Gators. But, short fields, a tight game, a weaker LSU defense than usual, and some turnovers will decide what should be a close one. LSU won’t win by three scores to cover this one, even if they win S/U. And I’m still not sure they do even that.
NC State -4.5 vs. Syracuse. This is not last year’s ‘Cuse squad. The offense is struggling; they’re turning the ball over way too much; and they’ve played awful on the road. NCSU’s offense has picked it up the last few weeks, especially on the ground — the weakest link for the Orange. Syracuse excels in forcing turnovers in the passing game, but that’s neutralized here. The Wolfpack ground n’ pound to a tidy home win. Shane Doeren’s team runs for at least 250. You read it here first.
Washington State at Arizona State (+1). By now you know how poorly Mike Leach’s squad travels. And you’ve seen that trainwreck of a defense he trots out too, especially this year. Take the Sun Devils at home for those two reasons alone.
BYU -6.5 at USF — Why on god’s earth is this a one-score game? BYU is a better team by every metric. This and NCSU are my mortal locks of the week.
Boise State -11.5 vs. Hawaii — Death. Taxes. Hawaii getting smoked on the Smurf Turf. Some things you just schedule with the turning of the calendar’s page. This is one of those.
Long Shots Worth a Shot
Tennessee +7 vs. Mississippi State — The Vols have found their QB of the future, and for about 18 minutes, UT played inspired ball against a team so much better than them. It was a different team, one with hope for 2020, and with some of their conference games now becoming winnable ones. That’s more than the Bulldogs can say. I’m not ruling out a huge S/U win for Baldy here either. Take the Volunteers; this is a winnable ball game.
Texas +10.5 vs. Oklahoma. This is the first team that Oklahoma has played that has enough talent to hit them back — but it will have to be in a shootout. And, not to be cruel, but I don’t trust Jalen Hurts or that Sooners defense after competing against one of the worst early schedules you’ll see. The Horns are at least battle-tested, and Herman lives for this kind of game. To beat the Longhorns you have to be able to throw the ball consistently — and Jalen Hurts does not have a track record to prove that he can do that. It’s not a good secondary, no. But it’s a lot more physically talented than the likes of Kansas and South Dakota.
Western Michigan -13.5 vs. Miami (OH). The Broncos have had games of great defense and ones of great offense. This is the week they put it together. I know the smart play isn’t to bet on hunches. But call this one just that — a hunch.
Wyoming +4 at SDSU — A sneaky-good, under the radar defensive battle in the MWC. But, the Aztecs just don’t lose at home to conference teams. And the Cowboys don’t travel that well. A close one, but call it SDSU by a touchdown.
FSU +27.5 at Clemson — I’m by no means calling for an upset here. But, I do think that the ‘Noles can put points on the board and keep this one a bit tighter than the rankings and records suggest. This isn’t as good a Tigers team as its No. 2 ranking suggests; the ‘Noles secondary will make Sunshine look a lot better than he has too. Maybe 41-24ish.
Mizzou -12 vs. Ole Miss — Even if Kelly Bryant can’t go, the Tigers have more than enough in the tank to get this done at home. The book is out on the new-look Rebels offense, which seems to consist of a circus catch, overthrows, and scrambling out of the pocket. That’s not nearly enough to compete in a conference game. Derek Dooley turns loose the hounds and lets that outstanding backfield run wild. Happy Homecoming, M-I-Z.