Sorry this is a day late, folks. I was waiting until the last possible second to see which games would be affected, cancelled, and how Delta would impact the lines. Incidentally, be safe down there on the coast and along the Mississippi River, folks. It’s appropriate that this behemoth is named Delta, because after it makes landfall in Louisiana it will be traversing its way straight up the river, into the Delta, and all-in-all drenching the area...And that means I am going to have to mow the lawn one last time this year. Insert bad words.
Mortal Lock of the Week: 5-0 (thanks again, BYU!)
2020 Record: 37-24
Last Week: 6-9 (the worst single week we’ve had in three years here at GAM).
What Went Right? Very little. The totals were nice to us. Alabama covered, but the SEC and ACC were just monstrous all the way around. The Big 12 wasn’t any better. It was a nice weekend to be an underdog. Many a Vegas actuary were able to buy a new house in Aruba after last week’s bonus.
What Went Wrong? Take your pick — Mizzou? Florida taking their foot off the gas? Pitt outright losing at home to a bad NCSU team? UNC looking like butt? And on and on. Nine times. There’s a reason we have a strict #NoRefunds policy here at RBR.
On with Week 6.
Not with a 10’ Pole and Stolen Money:
Clemson -14 1⁄2 vs. Miami — Recall me saying how much better UM has looked after its opener, and that they seem good, but I don’t know how good? If the ‘Canes play lights out, they can beat Clemson. The problem is, I don’t know if playing lights out alone is going to be enough to do it for the visitors. As for the Tigers, aside from that road trip to Notre Dame, this is one of two games on the schedule they actually have to sweat. Have they gotten soft? Lost their edge? Become entitled? We’ve seen rot settle in on a dominant Tide team on more than one occasion. More importantly, has Clemson lost too many playmakers to turn it on at will? I think Clemmie wins; I don’t think they cover. But CU easily could rout the ‘canes and get those 2-plus touchdowns, just as they can outright lose. Duck this one.
LSU -14 1⁄2 at Mizzou — Mizzou has gotten blasted off the lines by two Top 25 teams its first two games of the season — roadies to Neyland and hosting the No. 1 team in the land isn’t a gentle welcome for new coach, Eli Drinkwitz. We still have no idea what this team looks like against a regular-ish 7-5 kind of bowl team. On the other side, LSU was lit aflame in week one (L34-44) only to travel to Vandy for a rebound, where they struggled for 30 minutes and ran it up late (41-7). The ‘Dores aren’t exactly a good barometer for what LSU will be in 2020 either. Throw in a Who practice schedule that got rearranged and this new, unexpected road trip for LSU, and this could make matters thorny on Saturday. Too many questions in this one.
Houston - 6 1⁄2 vs. Tulane — The Green Wave are a veteran, battle-tested team at this point of the season. While the Cougars are finally getting to play their first game. Houston returns 19 starters, and the passing game should give a weak TU secondary fits (and Tulane’s secondary has been putrid). But has a month-long practice sesh knocked the rust off a team that hasn’t played a competitive snap in 10 months now...especially to host a triple option team in Week 1? Give the Cougs a week. But, gun to my head, I think Houston gets them in the end, 37-28
Pitt -6 at Boston College — The BC Eagles have been a very odd team to watch this year. They can’t score out of the 20s, but they often haven’t needed to. And that’s particularly odd for a squad that routinely throws 45 passes a game. Pitt got somewhat exposed last week at home against a soft NCSU team that was willing to air it out...just like the Eagles prefer to do. It’s a whole new era at BC, at least offensively. That makes this game a tossup. And while I like a low scoring one, I don’t think it will be as low-scoring as the totals suggest (maybe 27-24 winner). If you must play this game, play over 44.
Red River Shootout. (OU -2 1/2) LOL. Not a chance.
We’re already closing in on 1000 words before I even get to the picks (and I actually do need to get some other work done), so I’m going to dispatch these as quickly as possible.
Underdogs With Bite
Syracuse + 2 1⁄2 vs. Duke — When Duke doesn’t turn it over, they are very competitive. But the Orange’s defense has been outstanding this year, and the Carrier Dome is one of the toughest, loudest places to play in the country. So, the Devils will turn it over, and that’s the difference. I have no idea why SU is an underdog, TBH. ‘Cuse covers and likely wins straight up. Syracuse 26 — Duke 24
Mississippi State +3 at Kentucky — IYRC, I said that I still think this is a quality MSU team if it can cut down on turnovers. This contest in some ways reprises last week’s UK-Ole Miss game: running team vs. passing team. The difference is the ‘State defense won’t give up 409 yards on the ground. Also, the Kentucky defense allowed almost 600 yards last week and made Bo Nix look competent in Week One. They allow 10 yards per completion and have yet to force an interception. That’s terrifying if you’ve got the Air Raid up next. The biggest wild card (aside from perpetually erratic Mike Leach), is the light rain and drizzle expected on Saturday. That favors the ‘Cats ground game...but it also helps the MSU wideouts on a wet surface. In the end, I think a bad Ken’tuck secondary being asked to cover cutting and slanting and accelerating WRs in the rain for 4 hours is too tall a task. State covers, but may not win. I still think they do. UK 32 — MSU 35
East Carolina +4 1⁄2 at USF — I don’t think people realize just how dreadful this South Florida team is. The pantry is bare; the system is new; the staff is new; the offense is abominable; the defense a sieve. ECU is a smidge better than you think, particularly on offense. I suspect the Pirates not only cover, but get the road win here too. If USF does win, it will by the barest of margins, and not enough to cover 4.5. ECU 31 — USF 27
Bet the House, Baby
Marshall - 6 1⁄2 at Western Kentucky — Battle of the hillpeople! The Thundering Herd are just the better squad this year. WKU, breaking in many a new starter, meanwhile, have lost a ton of games a ton of different ways. This week should be no different, because Marshall is, for now, the cream of the C-USA crop. Marshall 30 — WKU 20
UNC-Charlotte -3 at North Texas (0/U 67 1⁄2 ) — These two teams are in the Top 10 in passing offenses. Charlotte is also in the Top 20 in forcing turnovers...and North Texas turns it over a whole bunch. I like the Miners with the win on the road. I also like over the total. UNT can make this one interesting...or they can get blown out and put up some garbage scores late. Either way, it’s not unreasonable to expect to see a final that looks something like UNCC 41 - UNT 35, especially on that fast track in Denton with clear skies above and green fields ahead.
USM + 2 1⁄2 vs. FAU — You recall how I’ve advised you to bet against the Eagles on every game this year so far? And I’ve been right every time. Well, they have improved over the last few weeks. They almost pulled off a W last week, and now they’re home against a Willie Taggart FAU team. It will be cloudy, but no inclement weather at kickoff. I think USM finally gets off the schneid here with its quick, controlled passing game and just enough defense. So. Miss 28 — FAU 27
Temple -2 1⁄2 at Navy — The Naval Academy got worked over like a Uyghur in a Xianjiang iPhone factory last week. And there’s a common thread to everything that’s scorched Navy this year: 1. defense; namely they can’t play it or run against it. And, 2. offense; they can’t stop any of them and can’t muster much on the ground in return. You know...football. Bad combination this week. Temple drops a rock on their head. Temple 31 — Navy 16.
In fact. Ignore everything I wrote below. This is your true Mortal Lock of the Week.
For Your Consideration
Florida -6 1⁄2 at Texas A&M — See below. I do expect a high-scoring game that is fairly close. But Aggies’ secondary is going to doom them in the end. Take the Gators, even with Dan Mullen in a big road game.
Alabama -24 at Ole Miss — Alabama on a dry track would give up 38 points to Lane Kiffin’s brutal scheming...but it would score 66. On a wet surface, where the big uglies get to come out and play, with the far superior defensive talent, and better overall coaching, we’ll modify that just a bit. Alabama will only give up 28 points instead; and it may only score 59. In either case, Saban covers against another one of his assistants. Kiffin really shouldn’t have made that wisecrack about Nick being elderly. The dogs aren’t being called off. Let’s call it Alabama 59-Ole Miss 28. And, no matter how bad the weather is, I do think we’re going over 70. WARNING: The backdoor cover is always in play with Lane Kiffin, but you can reliably pencil in 70-80 points per game; he loves garbage time scoring.
Troy -7 vs. Texas State — Both of these teams have improved remarkably in just one year. For the Bobcats, it was a matter of coaching (especially on defense). For the Trojans, it has been a function of improved QB play. That latter part matters too, because that’s the difference in this game. Troy 34 Texas State 24
UTEP at La. Tech — The Bulldogs haven’t lost a beat in the passing game, while the Miners air attack has somewhat improved. To top it all off, both of these secondaries are putrid. I think this one gets a little zany at times, so take over 51 1⁄2 .
Florida State + 20 1⁄2 at Notre Dame — This Seminoles team has already played three quarterbacks, is without their offensive coaching staff, is softer than baby squirts after a trip to Chipotle, is full of quitters and headcases, plays fundamentally dumb football, and is on the road against one of the most fundamentally sound teams in the country. Godspeed with that. It won’t be a pretty game. But Brian Kelly crush porn rarely is. Notre Dame 37 FSU 6
Georgia -12 1⁄2 vs. Tennessee — I don’t think Tennessee is actually that good. But, they do know who they are...in fact, both of these teams are what Auburn wants to be: Strong up front, an actual feature back, ball control passing that won’t lose games for you. The problem is, Georgia is so much better at these things, and with far more talented players, and make far fewer mistakes at it, than the Vols. Another battle between former Saban defensive coordinators results in a home win for Great Value (tm) ‘Bama in Athens. This will be the day’s most violent game; so if that track meet in Oxford makes you long for 1961 football, switch over to CBS at 2:30. Georgia 23 Tennessee 9, in the Cade Mays Finger Bowl.
This Week’s Mortal Lock
Sorry, BYU, we’re going another direction this week. It’s not that I don’t think you’ll beat UTSA by 35 1⁄2 points (and I don’t BTW. This is a much, much improved Roadrunner team). It’s just that I think there is one game that cries out for my money and upon which to stake my reputation — Texas A&M vs. Florida and the totals.
Florida’s defense is godawful for a title contender; they’ll give up more scores than Alabama, for sure — especially with a lead, when they simply DGAF. The Gators can’t cheat any of the safeties up to defend Mond’s legs, simply because they’re not good enough at corner. That’s going to leave the TE seams open all day and those passes underneath that Jimbo runs. They are also soft on the line, while Aggie is not: Ainas and Kellen will get some gainers.
On the other side of the ledger, the A&M defense is...yeah...Yikes. While UF doesn’t have players in the backfield like Najee Harris, they do have athletes (Toney in particular) who can make explosive plays out of nothing. Couple that with a red-hot Kyle Trask, Mullen’s career-long desire to pick on safeties and linebackers, an over-aggressive Chris Elko defense, and a crystal-clear 90-degree day in College Station, and I think you’ll see Trask go over the top for some easy scores this week too. We’ve not even touched on turnovers. These teams are combining to throw two interceptions and lose one fumble a game. That’s going to lead to many gimmes.
I think this all adds up to a shootout, ladies and gents. If not a shootout, certainly enough to cover over 57, which is this week’s mortal lock. (And I suspect the game itself will be as close as the oddsmakers think. He who trips over the wang the least wins. Florida 38 Texas A&M 30).