We are back for a sixth season of Giving Away Money, and to our relief we’ve made it: Actual football this Saturday to throw our precious ducats at! While Week Zero presents us just a few opportunities, we also have some updated Natty odds, and if you failed to buy in early, you need to do so now.
And, for a second year, our thanks to DraftKings sponsoring Roll ‘Bama Roll (skål!) For more degenerate gambling, fantasy, and sportsbook posts, you can check all of those out at the SBNation DraftKings Supergroup hub.
For current odds, check those out here.
Last Chance To Make Practically Free Money
Final Preseason CFP Championship Odds
Ohio State +320
USC, TAMU +2400
Texas, Oregon +6000
Wisco, Ok. State +6600
Penn State, Miami, Baylor +7500
Field +11000 to +200000
Two months ago, when these opened, Ohio State and ‘Bama were the slight favorites at +360, with Alabama right on their heels at +330. UGA wasn’t too far behind that, at +450. At the time, I advised you to buy into the Tide. A productive, strong fall camp has only only deepened that conviction. After three weeks we know that the offensive line is static and improved, there has been just one major camp injury, the corners are improved, all the DBs are getting quality snaps, Bryce looks a lot sharper than he did even when running away with the Heisman, and rumors of a depleted wide receiving corps were greatly exaggerated — four, perhaps as many as six players, will feature heavily in the rotation (including a lot more looks to a surprising tight end group).
But most importantly, the distractions and headcases that surrounded the young bunch last year have made their way to the portal (often with a boot in the keister to accompany them). This is now a veteran, deep team with tons of leadership, and it won’t be denied.
Since then, a lot of structural weaknesses are being known about the Domers; doubt is creeping in on DJU and the CU Tigers; and early money faves USC and OU have plummeted. There really are just two teams this year that people love, with a third right on their heels.
Your best bet is Alabama, and I’d get in at +190 now. At 2:1, you won’t find better value this year, this late.
If you want a dark horse sort to throw a few bucks at, why not try the Michigan Wolverines. They return 16 starters from last year’s excellent team, have gotten faster and more physical at every position, and Harbaugh seems to finally be trying to modern-up...after almost a decade. They don’t leave Ann Arbor for a month; they also get Sparty, Nubber, and Penn State at home. The Wolverines really just have a two-game road schedule, though they’re daunting: At Iowa and at Columbus, and both are tough places to pick up a W. Yet UM does get to duck Purdue, Minnesota, and Wisconsin out of the West. So, at +3800, that’s worth ten bucks for such long odds on such a good team with such a favorable schedule.
(Shockingly, the Big 10 gave Michigan and Ohio State cripple-kicking slates. Neither leave home for a month).
Now, on to the picks. As usual, all spreads and odds via DraftKings:
Week Zero Picks:
Utah State -28 vs. UConn:
I don’t even have to do the data on this one to know that a godawful UConn secondary traveling 3000 miles away to play in a city almost a mile above sea level, against an offense that is straight passing oriented — all with a new coaching staff — is a horrific mismatch.
I’m just going to say go ahead and take USU anyway. Aggies: purely for the poops and giggles of it, 45-13
EDIT: Okay, I ran the numbers and I was surprisingly close spitballing up there. All six models have a cover, and run the gamut from -32.63 to -34.91
Why not? Uconn is dreadful, Utah State is the defending MWC Champ and hella’ good at covering at home.
Not with a 10’ Pole and Stolen Money
FAU -7 vs. Charlotte — I think Charlotte can be a potential bowl team this year, and I actually really like all the pieces that FAU is returning. Assuming Willie can get it together, the Owls can compete this year. However in this game, with the FAU defense intact, and the Charlotte offense intact, you’re looking at strength vs. strength — one which both teams probably (and rightly) see as a must-win for their bowl chances.
Going a little more granular: FAU takes too many penalties; Charlotte turns it over too much; neither team is particularly good on 3rd down (either side of the ball); as good as FAU’s defense is at forcing turnovers, they also give up a lot of 3DA and the offense doesn’t do much with them. Charlotte is also a fairly bad road team, particularly ATS...and the simple fact is that I don’t trust Willie Taggart.
There are better games this week. But the money is moving towards UNCC — this opened at FAU -7.5, with an awful hook. I’d stay away, but for the sake of completeness, this derpfest should be competitive, with an FAU cover: FAU -9.14 to FAU -13.08.
Gun to my head? FAU 27 UNCC 17
You’ve been warned though. Don’t touch it...or do. It’s your money, and I’m not your real dad.
Week Zero Mortal Lock
Hawaii +7 vs. Vanderbilt
Hawaii is going to make even a bad Vandy team look like the 1995 Cornhuskers. The Warriors were decimated by graduation and transfers. UH recruited poorly, even for Hawaii. It lost its veteran coaching staff and slummed it instead with local legend Timmy Chang to restore the Run n’ shoot glory...and let’s just say that his coaching pedigree is not exactly sterling (he’s never even held a D1 coordinator gig).
For all of Vandy’s foibles, they were much more competitive down the stretch, and likely weren’t as awful as their record. They played hard at least? And they have the benefit of returning a much more veteran and stable team than do the Warriors. (Hawaii is bringing back just 6 starters, and only two on defense).
A lot of bloom has fallen off the rose of the Hawaii road trip too. What was once a 9+ point home field spread historically, has now fallen to just over 6 points: and the Rainbow Warriors have been downright grody of late. Finally, with the game being scheduled at the beginning of the season, the travel won’t be quite as daunting: the ‘Dores have a chance to get acclimated to the time zone, get the touristy stuff out of the way, and get focused on beating the hell out of this bad UH team.
And they will.
Survey says: Vanderbilt bullies the Warriors up front, flexes their speed, forces some turnovers, takes home a must-win and covers the spread — even for the 6+ point differential. I like this game.
God help me, I’m making Vandy a Mortal Lock: Vanderbilt 30 Hawaii 17
Want some more of these?
I drop another dozen or so every week over at (Almost) Giving Away Money, including the rest of the opening Week Zero games.
In the meanwhile, please take this quiz.
Do you trust Willie Taggart’s FAU squad to cover a touchdown at home vs Charlotte?
This poll is closed
Not even Willie can screw up -7 at home against a bad road team, with his squad returning 18 starters.
If anyone can screw that up, it will be Willie Taggart. A home loss is not out of the question either.
Here comes the one-score game and a push!