You know those nights during the NBA season when you check Twitter, see Steph Curry is trending, and find out he’s done something absurd like make 12 three’s in a quarter? Then you think to yourself, “man, what I would give to know what that feels like just once in my life.”
I now know that feeling. I am the Steph Curry of college football gamblers right now. Through three weeks, every pick I throw at the board is hitting. The last two weeks I’m 11-2 against the spread, and 16-4 for the season.
Last week, my two upset specials, touchdown-plus underdogs Mississippi State and Purdue won outright by a combined 62 points.
Yeah I’m feeling myself.
Now, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a casual gambler is to not bet games for the sake of betting games. In years past, I’d bet on 15-20 games a weekend. The highs were high, but the lows were way too low. Saturdays became an emotional rollercoaster while juggling six screens at a time just trying to keep track of everything. Is Marshall going to cover 28 against Middle Tennessee? Is the Toledo-Northern Illinois under going to hit?
It was too much.
This weekend’s slate of games is the toughest I’ve seen so far. There are a lot of very tough spreads to choose from. I’ll give my picks on all the big games, then at the bottom I’ll list which ones I would actually invest in.
Let’s keep it rolling.
NC State at Florida State (-12)
In its last three trips to FSU, NC State has lost by margins of 17, 32 and 34. The Wolfpack are a terror when the Seminoles come to Raleigh, but when they hit the field in Tallahassee it goes about as well as a typical Wolfpack trip to the Dean Dome.
The good news for Pack fans (Other than this is a football game and it’s not against UNC) is FSU true freshman QB James Blackman makes Kevin Durant look like The Rock. In his first career start, I can’t see Jimbo Fisher getting too creative. Instead, I think the Seminoles lean on their defense to get the job done.
Final Score: Florida State 20, NC State 14
Alabama (-18.5) at Vanderbilt
You know what doesn’t matter to Alabama? Paycheck games against Fresno State and Colorado State. You know what matters to Alabama? Hearing how Clemson ought to be ranked #1. Hearing how Vanderbilt “wants Bama”.
The Tide needed something to wake them up after the last two weeks. It’s coming on Saturday. Vanderbilt’s defense might be one of the better groups in the SEC, but Commodores ain’t keeping Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris and Jalen Hurts under control for long. Nick Saban will be happy to remind Vanderbilt why they are Vanderbilt. This one isn’t close.
Final Score: Alabama 34, Vanderbilt 6
West Virginia (-21.5) at Kansas
Sometimes, you have to take the names off the jerseys and just look at how two teams have played, what the real talent is on the roster, and then make an educated decision on which way to go.
Kansas is not a Big 12 team in any sense of the word. The Jayhawks are coming off back-to-back losses to Central Michigan and Ohio. They’d be a mediocre MAC team. Would you take West Virginia -21.5 against Akron? That’s essentially what you’re doing here.
The Jayhawks gave up 456 passing yards and five touchdowns to Central Freaking Michigan. The Chippewas had a harder time beating Rhode Island. Seriously, CMU threw for just 260 yards in a three-point win over Rhode Island. A week later they throttled Kansas 45-27.
The only argument against West Virginia here is betting on a completely heartless effort — which is in play…but how the hell does Will Grier NOT throw for 400, maybe 500 yards in this game?
Final Score: West Virginia 52, Kansas 21
Penn State (-12.5) at Iowa
Rule number one of gambling is STAY WAY FROM TRENDY UNDERDOGS. Iowa has won three straight home games against top-five teams. Two of those came a seven years or more ago. The Hawkeyes are 4-2 against the top five since 2008.
…None of that has anything to do with this year’s team. If the only reason I’m talking myself into picking Iowa is that a bunch of guys who are now CPA’s in Des Moines helped knock off Michigan State and Penn State eight years ago, then I’m not picking Iowa.
The Hawkeyes have tried to open it up more this season with Nate Stanley at quarterback, who has 10 touchdowns and one interception so far this season. But here’s what worries me: after shutting down Wyoming in week one, Iowa is giving up over 6.5 yards per play in its last two games against Iowa State and North Texas. That would rank 118th in the country. Also, it turns out Wyoming sort of sucks.
I don’t think the Hawkeyes can slow down Penn State nearly enough to hang around. Even in prime time, even at Kinnick Stadium, Penn State cruises.
Final Score: Penn State 40, Iowa 17
Oregon (-15) at Arizona State
Y’all know how much I love yards per play, right? Well, Arizona State’s defense is 118th. They needed a comeback to beat New Mexico State, who threw for nearly 400 yards against them in the season opener.
Justin Herbert and Royce Freeman are licking their chops. If Oregon can just figure out how to score in the second half, the Ducks might be pretty good. They’ve outscored Oregon and Wyoming the last two weeks 84-24, but have been outscored in the second half 24-7. To me, that means that when Oregon wants to be good, the Ducks are good. The smart money here might be to take the Ducks in the first half, but either way I think we have a slobberknocker in the works.
Final Score: Oregon 52, Arizona State 28
Michigan (-10) at Purdue
STAY AWAY FROM TRENDY UNDERDOGS.
Doesn’t this just seem like a perfect storm for Purdue? The Boilermakers are off to their best start in years. A close loss to Louisville, followed by two convincing wins over average Ohio and Missouri teams. By Purdue standards, they’ve basically won the Big Ten already. Jeff Brohm is one of the best offensive minds in college football. The changes he’s made to the Boilermakers’ scheme has completely turned the program around already.
Ross-Ade Stadium will be sold out for the first time in a decade. Michigan has looked completely average on offense this season. The Wolverines’ leading receiver, Tarik Black, is now out for the season. Purdue’s rushing defense has been shaky so far, giving up 4.1 yards per carry (11th in the Big Ten). I love what Purdue has done so far, and I would love to see Brohm stick it out in West Lafayette a few years, but right now the talent gap is too wide for me to give Purdue a chance.
Final Score: Michigan 31, Purdue 21
TCU at Oklahoma State (-11)
When will Vegas finally catch up to the Cowboys? Mason Rudolph and company are 3-0 against the spread this season, and last week’s number against Pitt crept down to nearly 10 points before finally settling around 14. Regardless, the Cowboys blew the spread out of the water, winning 59-21 — and it could have been 159-21 if they wanted.
TCU has had a rough year or two, but Gary Patterson knows how to game plan for Mike Gundy. The Horned Frogs have held Oklahoma State to 29.8 PPG in five meetings since joining the Big 12. The Cowboys have scored 38.3 in all other games. That’s nearly a 10-point difference! That said, SMU sliced up TCU for 463 yards and 36 points last week. Maybe the Horned Frogs were looking ahead to this week’s game, but I still don’t think anyone’s getting in Cowboys’ path before Oklahoma in early November.
Final Score: Oklahoma State 45, TCU 28
Mississippi State at Georgia (-5.5)
Say hello to the Bulldog Bowl!
So what do we make of Mississippi State? Let’s recount all of the things that can happen after one impressive week:
- Dan Mullen is the hottest coaching candidate in the country
- Nick Fitzgerald is a Heisman contender
- Mississippi State is the 2nd best team in the SEC
These are all real things that literally no one thought a week ago, and now seem to be the consensus after beating LSU 37-7 at home. Could they all be true? Sure! But another important lesson I’ve learned as a gambler is teams are never as good or as bad as they looked the week before. Two weeks ago, this line would have been double-digits. Now it’s less than a touchdown.
Both teams are going to rely on the ground game to win. Both teams have excellent defenses. Only one team is at home. This is a huge test for Jake Fromm, who could secure the starting quarterback job for good with a winning effort on Saturday. I’m not sure you can go back to Jacob Eason if Fromm beats Notre Dame on the road and Mississippi State two weeks later. I’m looking at a low-scoring Georgia win.
Final Score: Georgia 24, Mississippi State 20
GAMES I AM BETTING
Florida State-NC State UNDER 51.5
NC STATE +12 vs Florida State
ALABAMA -18.5 at Vandy
WEST VIRGINIA -21.5 at Kansas
PENN STATE -12.5 at Iowa
OREGON -14.5 at Arizona State