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Giving Away Money: Labor Day Picks against the spread to enhance your filthy lucre

Dunking on your bookie like a moderately athletic street baller unleashed on the WNBA

Las Vegas

Whoo hoo! Back again, for our sixth year of promoting vice and degeneracy (though of the relatively harmless and wholesome sort, not the NAMBLA sort. #BringBackBullying).

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.

Half a dozen games to go through today, and it will be how I do this all year: One we like, one we love, an underdog to consider, one to steer clear of, a ginormous spread worth your time, and a mortal lock.

Not with a 10’ Pole and Stolen Money:

Let’s begin with the realest definition of “toss up” you’re ever like to see. A physical BSU team, with a nasty running game, hits the road to Oregon to face the always-undervalued Beavers. Chalks likes the Beavs by a field goal (Boise State +2.5 at Oregon State), analytics less so. How much of a toss-up? Three formulae call for a Beavers win by 1-3 points; three say Boise by 1-2. And the composite is OSU -.71. Fortunately for Boise, they’ve covered better OTR than at home lately (defense and a running game almost always travel). But their secondary is likely outmatched, not enough in the tank in the passing game, and at the end of the day, Oregon State still has a talent advantage and the surreal weather that a night game in the fog-shrouded firs and maples of Corvallis. That, and OSU has been very good value ATS — for the P12. Peace outta’ this one, no result is surprising.

One We Like:

Memphis +14 at Mississippi State: Memfis is the worst road spread team in the AAC, and among the worst in the country. It’s also notoriously a bad one as an underdog. Did we mention their secondary is a tire fire on par with something Papa Doc would find erotic? Oh, sure, the Tigers offense will get a few punches in. But not nearly enough to make up for that catastrophic secondary vs. Mike Leach. No joke: ‘State may throw 70 times this game. Take CLANGA MSU -22.79.

One We Love:

Oregon +17 at Georgia: I’m less concerned about who’s going to make tackles for UGA than I am who’s going to throw and catch passes for the Ducks — Bo Pix...after hemorrhaging wideouts over the Spring. So, this undersized, ground-first team with a new defensive and offensive scheme heads into the swampass of Athens, and the jaws of a program that recruits along the front seven better than perhaps anyone? And then the sus Oregon secondary squares off against a very physical, highly efficient passing game? Did I mention the Ducks are rebuilding the D-Line too?

Yeah, I don’t like that. And the numbers really don’t like it either. The ‘Dogs are probably going to screw around and lose to someone they shouldn’t this year — but it will not be this week. This week, they’re going to be shot out of a cannon. If they think Utah’s defense is hell, wait till they see how damned good even the walk-ons are in Athens. Take UGA -23.96

Ginormous Spread Worth Your Time:

USC -34.5 vs. Rice: Never bet on food, especially on the road against a coach with a new offense to install, a bevy of NFL talent on hand, a $10M contract for which he has to prove his worth, and big dollar boosters to make happy in the Coliseum.

I don’t actually think USC is going to be about shit this year (nationally, at least. They should be a terror in a terrible PAC 12), but they’ll get the Riley era off to a bang. This could legitimately be one of the worst D1 athletic mismatches you’ll ever see: Take USC -38.39, and perhaps far, far worse.

UTSA v Houston Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

An Underdog With Bite:

Admittedly, this is a bit of a flyer. But I don’t think it would be much of an upset in a weekend that is apt to see a lot of them (keep your eyes on NCSU-ECU, UNC-App. State, and Aggie vs. Sam Houston State, among others). But, UTSA +5.5 vs. Houston would have made for a great bowl game, with two of the best from the AAC and CUSA.

There are a lot of questions in this one: UH lost both starting CBs and then their RB in the Spring. UTSA’s offense is going to be lethal, but they have injury concerns in the backfield. Trend-wise, UTSA is the smarter play. They’re 3-1 ATS as home ‘dogs under Traylor and 12-2 at home...and Holgo is...well, Holgo. The Roadrunners play fantastic as underdogs, and really play their ass off in the Alamodome. This is an iffier ‘dog than most, but we’ll trust the numbers here, even if we don’t get to that magic 80%. And TBH, I think Traylor is a better coach than Holgo. So live a little. This is a potential program-maker for the Roadrunners. UTSA home cover in a field goal game. MEEP! MEEP

Mortal Lock:

There were a lot of potential ones to take the crown this time around. 10 days ago, I projected Alabama at -38 as a damn smart play. That game has now moved to -41.5, and while I think ‘Bama can get there (data projects a 55-13 type game). Texas is going to destroy La-Monroe, but expect to see a pretty vanilla look from Sark as he tries to break in a new QB and rebuilt O-line. They’ll still kill them, sure. But, there’s probably no game better on the books than...

Michigan -27 vs. Colorado State: It was already going to be a tough rebuilding year for the new-look Rams with a new staff and significant roster losses. Their job won’t be made any easier with a brutal road opener to the Big House either. Jay Norvell will eventually succeed. But his work at Nevada was not an overnight sensation: he was getting obliterated by soup cans like Vanderbilt as he built up the ‘Pack. It will take some time in Ft. Collins (though not nearly as much, obviously.

I don’t see how the Rams match UM’s physicality or speed...and I really don’t see how they move the ball. Neither do the numbers. This spread is probably too low and is one of the Labor Day Mortal Locks. Michigan -35.17. Again: CSU isn’t going to be moving the ball with any success in the Big House, especially with that pass-first attack against the best group of athletes the Rams are apt to see...and certainly the best pass rush.

This is the fastest, most athletic team Michigan has fielded under Harbaugh. It’s also one that didn’t bleed out the entire roster after a great season: the Wolverines seem to finally be building for sustained success and to have modernized on both sides of the ball. The taste of UGA’s cleats may still linger in their mouths, but excitement is high in Ann Arbor for a reason. This is a palate cleanser, as we finally say — after 8 years — Michigan isn’t going least not this season. Check back next year to see how Dad Pants lets us all down.

Meat Chicken 45 - Rams 13

Want some more of these? I cranked the data for every single Labor Day game over at my companion site: (Almost) Giving Away Money. Check it out, and prosper.


The Alabama spread has jumped up to -41.5. Does the Crimson Tide cover that?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Yes. This ain’t UConn, son; Will Anderson may have more sacks than the Rams have points.
    (117 votes)
  • 68%
    No. Saban is going to do enough to get a convincing win, but play it close to the vest for the Texas game.
    (259 votes)
376 votes total Vote Now