Last Week: 1-1
What Went Right? Hawaii not only got the underdog cover but won outright at home. The defense stiffened when it needed to and held on for a S/U win...despite the Warriors losing six turnovers. It’s going to be a long year for the Wildcats, esp. on the road. But I did warn you of that.
What Went Wrong: Florida turned the ball over four times and gave the ‘Canes 13 free points in a game they otherwise mostly dominated. Let’s put the brakes on the Feleipe Franks Year Two Miracle as well — he was putrid. Just as bad, the defensive backs looked soft. I’m going to lay off the Gators for a few weeks until we know if they’re frauds or not.
Without further ado, here are 15 games (and 17 spreads) I like this week. Let me help you make money and put a twinkle in the eye of your loved one as you unexpectedly treat them to Red Lobster.
Bet the house
Holy War, baby! BYU +5 at home versus a Utah team some people love as a dark horse playoff team (because talking heads have to pretend to engage the rest of the country). The Utes don’t exactly light the world on fire on the road, but any pretensions of being a Top 10 team come with dispatching a hated rival who knows exactly what you’re going to do. Expect this one to be low-scoring, but the Utes should slog out a 10-point win in a very dirty game.
A motivated, angry Saban team that has spent nine months hearing about how much they suck vs. a middling ACC team that lost its senior quarterback and gives up a ton of explosive plays. Yikes. The nation’s best offense is going to light up the Blue Devils like a Roman Candle. And a much improved defense will play 60 minutes to remember what it feels like to taste blood in their mouth. Saban won’t run it completely up, not with the respect he has for David Cutcliffe, but Alabama big, big, big. The Crimson Tide cover -34.5.
Cincy -2.5 at home vs. UCLA should be free money. The Bruins were all over the place last year, come into this one missing several defensive starters, and having done little on the recruiting trail. The Bearcats have a revamping offense, but the defense is going to be lights out. Fickell may be doing something special in the Queen City soon. Bearcats by a touchdown.
I ordinarily hate big spreads. But mercy, is FAU’s defense really, really bad. And the Buckeyes have the most talent in the country this side of Georgia and Alabama. Ryan Day’s quick-strike offense is also far more explosive than Urban Meyer’s. Despite my reservations about Justin Fields, the Buckeyes will destroy the Owls in the ‘Shoe. OSU covers the 27.5 without breaking a sweat. You may want to take over 63.5, as well. The OSU defense isn’t all that great, but FAU’s is a war crime — tOSU may cover that total by themselves.
Mizzou is going to do criminal things to Wyoming in Laramie. The line is -18, and I think they could probably cover twice that. An angry, on-probation Tigers team waxes the Cowboys in convincing fashion. Evil Dooley unleashes his new plaything, Kelly Bryant, who may be the biggest player on a football field Wyoming faces all season.
Not too bad
Kent State is a bad team that particularly plays bad on the road. I like ASU this year to give the Utes a tussle in the South. A 24-point Sun Devil is the spread, and that feels about right. Feel free to buy a half point if you must, but 38-13ish has a nice ring to it.
FIU could very well win C-USA this year (I pegged them to do so in the Spring.) Tulane has a very good defense that will only get better, a deep RB group, Memphis’ former OC, a lot of imported grad transfers, and they play well at home. Willie is getting it done slowly but surely in NOLA. This one is likely to be razor-thin, but if you’re going to take it, ride the Green Wave at home at -2. And, if that bet is too dicey (or you’re up for a parley), under 57.5 between two sound defenses is too good to pass up. Low scoring game between two defense-first coaches: 23-20 territory.
Virginia Tech is supposed to compete for a division this year. But, after losing three coaches and 11 players in the offseason to the portal, I have my reservations. The Eagles, meanwhile, have one of the nation’s best backs and play outstanding at home. Virginia Tech is a four-point favorite, and I think that’s probably completely backwards. Take the Eagles +4 at home, and I even think BC will get a straight-up win to boot.
Long shots worth a shot
Rice had a bad year last season. But, they weren’t completely blown out as much as you’d expect a 2-9 team to be, and they showed signs of life in both defensive games and a little firepower in shootouts. Incremental improvements are the name of the game for Mike Bloomgren, and that starts against Army. Army is going to win this game, and pretty handily, but I think the Owls send notice that they’ve improved yet more. Rice covers +23.5 vs the Knights.
Why is Okie Lite only a -15.5 favorite against Oregon State — one of the five worst P5 teams in the country? The Pokes are going to get scored on; live with that fact. But they’ll light Corvallis on fire before it’s done. I don’t like the total here (o/u 74), but I like the Cowboys, even on the road. Something around 41-20ish.
What if I told you that Florida State is only a 5.5-point favorite at home vs. Boise State? Even with a freshman quarterback, the Broncos are super dangerous here with 9 months to prepare: this is their chance for another program-defining win. Meanwhile, FSU has done nothing to convince me that their offensive line issues — or penchant for getting nibbled to death over the middle — have improved. FSU may win, and they undoubtedly have a huge talent advantage, but I think it will be close; close enough to justify taking the Broncos as a road ‘dog.
Not With a Ten-Foot Pole and Your Money
Clemson is probably not 36 points better than a decent ACC team, but you may not be able to tell in this season-opener. The ‘Jackets are undergoing a radical change on offense that sees linebackers playing running backs; former QBs at nickel back; just two tight ends; a revamp on defense, etc. That big number isn’t out of the question; the Tigers will score a ton. But GT could get the backdoor cover on a defense that lost a lot up front.
Texas State is about five touchdowns less talented than A&M — they also open on the road in a night game in the Hate Barn and have an entirely new coaching staff. That said, how many times have we seen a motivated small team with an offseason to prepare give powerhouses trouble — especially when they’re an in-state schlub? With these schools only 120 miles apart and A&M looking to find answers at several critical areas and a notoriously flaky Jimbo, I don’t like this formula at all; especially not when the spread is -34.5
Wisconsin -13 in Orlando to face South Florida? In late August? With their love of playing up or down to the competition early in the season? The Badgers should win by a few scores. Still, something tells me that this one is going to be a lot weirder and closer than it should. Hard pass.
Memphis -5 at home in a game where the Ole Miss Rebels can’t stop the pass and the Tigers can’t stop the run? Both should light it up. But with the recruiting footprint of both being so insular and confined — and largely drawn from this area — and the genuine bad blood between these two towns, colleges, and mindsets, this absolutely isn’t worth it. Literally no result in this game would surprise me. And that alone should scare you away. Save your money for that Red Lobster.
Okay, these are mine. What do you have this weekend?