Last Week: 7-3
No Action: Baylor
Mortal Lock of the Week: 2-0
What Went Wrong — Good lord, Kansas, that was embarrassing. I shoulda’ trusted my data instead of my gut on Texas State. FSU’s OL is a tire fire. Shoulda’ trusted Texas, but I did not. My loss.
What Went Right — The very good midmajors continue to be the best value overall, and the merely good ones are nice ‘spread busters — ULL, Arkie State, Army. Charlotte etc. And, weirdly, I went 6-1 in the NFL this week. I don’t ordinarily make those picks, but maybe I’ll start sharing them.
One thing that I did notice over the past two weeks is that overall it seems as though the more stable or larger programs have been able to weather new protocols and uncertainty and produce solid efforts on the field better than the marginal ones or ones with new staffs. The ‘Rona has amplified a lot of depth issues and has really shown up some lesser coaching staffs. That’s something to keep an eye on going forward, esp. when SEC play begins in two weeks.
Without further ado, here are several ways that we are going to help you earn the down payment on that little getaway in Donostia - San Sebastián you’ve always wanted.
Not with a 10’ Pole and Stolen Money
Duke -4 1⁄2 vs. Boston College — We simply have no idea what the Eagles are going to look like under a new staff, or who will key the offense. Did Duke play way over their head last week against ND? Or is that defense actually decent? Let’s wait another week to find out.
Navy +7 1⁄2 at Tulane — Two ground-and-pound option teams with small student bodies and a very niche recruiting base? Nope, Imma’ pass on this one, especially since the Middies are on the road. We’ll learn a lot more about both teams this week though. Are the Green Waves the team that struggled against South Alabama? Is Navy better than they looked against BYU? This will probably be a fun one to watch, less so to wager upon. That hook makes this one definitely a no-no.
Long Shots Worth a Shot
Georgia State +17 vs. ULL — Ordinarily I wouldn’t take a three-score SBC favorite on the road. Shawn Elliott has done a great job here, and returns plenty of talent. But what he does not return is an entire starting backfield. And a season opener against the salty Cajuns is too tall a task to play keep-up. That is compounded by ULL returning the conference’s second-best defense and a GSU front that gives up 5.5 YPC on the ground. Cajuns pound the rock and win convincingly, if not sexy. Gimme’ U-La-La 34-13.
Pitt -21 1⁄2 vs. vs. Syracuse — The Panthers are going to be a very solid-ish ACC team this year. Senior QB, plenty of returning starters, continuity, located in a city that hasn’t gotten curb-stomped by the ‘Rona, etc. But 1. this is a rivalry, 2. Pitt is an old-school defense-first club, 3. the ‘Cuse D looked improved on their own last week, 4. Pickett is a senior but not nearly the talent of Ben Howell — and SU did a solid job on the road against him last week. I don’t think that SU will upset Pitt, or even come close to it. But that hook on a three-score spread is killer. I think this dog hunts. Pitt 27 — Syracuse 12
Western Kentucky -14 vs. Liberty — Oh, hey! Western tried to play some defense last week but were simply outmanned by a superior Louisville club. On offense, Tyrell Pigrome looked quite competent running and passing too. At home against a rebuilding Flames team, with nothing in the tank on offense in return, he’ll find his sea legs. The Flames will play better than you think (Freeze’s teams usually do), but it won’t affect the final outcome too much Hilltoppers big-ish, or at least enough to cover 38-23
Underdog with some bite
Appalachian State - 3 1⁄2 at Marshall — Call this one a hunch, but I think Marshall can win this. Lack of coaching continuity, a tough road environment, and App. State coming off a game where they actually had to pay attention may all actually matter. Marshall will get scored on with that secondary, but the offense is there to create havoc. So, while I’m not sure the Thundering Herd spring an upset outright, I suspect they get the cover. This is as big a regular season game as Doc Holliday has had in eight years, and if Marshall can somewhat slow down ‘Eers three-headed monster at running back, an upset can happen. If not, then ASU stomps the Herd. It’s that simple. This is probably the riskiest pick on the board this week, with my lowest confidence. The final score in the formulae I use predict a close game, with a swing of +1.7 Marshall to +4.1 Appalachian State. But at least that means that this could turn out to be the best game of the week? We’ll subtract MU’s -3 for the homefield and call it App. State 31 — Marshall 30
La. Tech + 5 at Southern Miss — Southern was ghastly in their opener, getting mauled by South Alabama. It was so bad that, coupled with some off-field stuff, Jay Hopson was canned after one game. While the Golden Eagles have the talent advantage, it’s fair to say they’re reeling a bit. Steady Skip Holtz’s Bulldogs, despite breaking in a ton of new starters, can pull off the outright road upset here with error-free play by his team...and if they can slow down that USM running game. I think they do just enough to get by, actually. La. Tech 26 — USM 23
Bet The House, Baby
Oklahoma State -22 1⁄2 vs. Tulsa — Last year Tulsa was a very nice underdog to take; they came up big in some of their biggest moments (Memphis, Texas come to mind). Keyed by a defense that was better than their jerseys, the Golden Hurricane were an obnoxious opponent. The problem was their inability to score against quality teams. This year that defense is gone, but the offense should be improved. That’s reversal is unfortunate in this opener too. Because, while TU may get a few deep shots against one of the nation’s most loaded returning teams, I’m not sure how they stop OSU from rolling up 550-600 yards. The only thing that worries me about the Pokes is the offseason stuff regarding some of Gundy’s political stances that greatly upset many members of his team. We’ve not heard anything since a contrite statement in early June, so it may have dissipated. (Hate to bring that up, but it matters — if your team hates you, they’re not going to give a damn.) I’ll play the odds that it’s blown over. Gimme’ the Pokes in a romp, 41-10
Baylor -3 1⁄2 vs. Houston — Holgo is going to have to show me that he can win a road game of note anywhere, with any program, and particularly facing a talent deficit. This is strength vs. strength, as the Cougs’ passing game vies to move the ball against BU’s secondary. Dave Aranda won’t let that happen. It was already a good defense; he’s just made them that much more formidable. It won’t be pretty in Waco, but the new era begins where it left off when Matt Rhule departed: with a hard-nose defensive-minded coach committed to winning the Big 12 with MANBALL. Baylor 27 — Houston 20
Louisville -2 1⁄2 vs. Miami — That point spread is not a mistake. Louisville is the better team. Miami’s offensive line gives me the heebie-jeebies. They were manhandled by UAB, and D’Eriq King looked like just-a-guy. The Cardinals defense isn’t great by any stretch, and Miami will get some plays on it — especially chunk plays on the ground. But the UL offense is supremely potent. I think they take a lead early and never relinquish it. Satterfield is also the better coach. It’s hard to deny that, even if Miami’s talent dictates they shouldn’t be quite as bad as they look on the field. Luhvl 34 — Miami 27
For Your Consideration:
Troy -3 1⁄2 at MTSU — I think Troy gets off the mat in 2020. Meanwhile, aside from experience, there’s very little I like about this MTSU team. Murfreesboro is often a tough trip, and I don’t expect the Raiders to be as bad as they were last week, but I don’t think they get it done here either. The athleticism advantage is the difference in this one...if Troy’s Gunnar Watson is actually as good as advertised. He’s got his top four wideouts back and his entire backfield, so that helps a ton. The defense was the biggest bugaboo last season though. Let’s see if Lindsey has straightened that out with a starting 11 that are all upperclassmen. 34 - 23 Troy
SMU -14 at North Texas — Speaking of getting off the mat, coming off a disappointing 2019, Seth Littrell and the Mean Green must now replace a 4-year starting quarterback in a system that runs through the passing game. More saliently, can that godawful defense defend anyone with a pulse? They were dreadful against the passing game. Guess who comes to town this week, by the way? Oh, HAI! It’s an air raid team! SMU cannot humanly be as bad as they looked in the opener. And against the forgiving defense of a mid-tier C-USA team, it’s time to get the offense on track. SMU 44 - North Texas 20
NC State -2 1⁄2 vs. Wake — Rebounding is the theme of this section. Both of these teams were woeful in 2019. And though Wake promised improvements in 2020, they looked significantly worse in their opener versus Clemson. The Tigers will have that effect on teams, sure. But Wake also looked slow, and that can’t be coached-around. The Wolfpack are more in the Deacs’ punching class, but after a rebuilding season, I suspect NCSU gets back to some respectability — especially up front on defense, where they had to replace an entire front four in 2019. This has the potential to be a very ACC-ish game. NCSU 27 — 12 Wake
Mortal Lock of The Week
Notre Dame -26 at USF — Rebuilding team under a first-time head coach with a ton of transfers and exactly 16 total practices to learn and install the schemes? But, at least the Bulls already sucked! Did I mention USF is on the road? Sorry, there is just not much to say about this one. The Bulls will struggle to find the end zone. The Irish will dink-and-dunk in the passing game and control both lines of scrimmage. Meanwhile, the Domer secondary will do what their secondary normally does — force turnovers. In the end, it’ll be ugly and forgettable. The Irish strangle USF 38-7 in yet another grim, joyless Brian Kelly special.