Last year was a betting disaster in college football — I finished right at .500 with an impressive 3-17 stretch mixed in. But since that disaster of a football season I’ve been pretty hot with my picks in the NBA and golf. Will the run continue? We’ll see.
Generally my picks will go up on Wednesday morning every week. But this week I’m posting them on Monday because there’s no Starting 11 to put up on Monday morning.
Betting on college football is always pretty wild — how many punts can a team fumble with the line on the game in play?! — when you have no idea what to expect in the first week. Seriously, go back and look at the week one lines and compare them with the last week line. It takes a couple of months of games to get a handle on what to expect from most teams.
So without further ado, I have 12 picks for you for the opening week of college football.
1. Western Kentucky at Vanderbilt under 64.5
Western is presently a two point favorite over Vandy. That represents a 19.5 point swing since a disastrous opening line in the Golden Nugget preseason game of the year, when the Dores were favored by 17.5.
I’m taking the under here for two reasons: 1. I don’t believe Vandy’s offense can score many points and 2. If Western Kentucky scores forty points on Vanderbilt in week one then Derek Mason is done at Vandy before the first Saturday of the season.
Vanderbilt absolutely, positively has to win this football game. But I have no faith in them winning, which is why I won’t even take them as a two point underdog.
The under is the play here.
(I will also be at this game, so say hi if you see me. If you aren’t sure what I look like, I’m the really sexy guy with a beard checking his phone.)
2. South Carolina -2 vs. North Carolina
Here’s the deal, if you can bet Steve Spurrier against the ACC for less than a field goal, you take Steve Spurrier against the ACC for less than a field goal. Also, and this might just be me, but I don’t believe I can name a single North Carolina football player. And I only bet on football teams when I don’t know a single player on their team when they are playing against Kentucky.
So I don’t even need to know anything else about this game other than Steve Spurrier is coaching against an ACC team to love this bet.
That’s because in his career Steve Spurrier is 146-3 against ACC teams not named Florida State. (Note: this is an entirely made up stat, but it feels right.)
3. Jim Harbaugh +6 against Utah
There is a word for what to call a team from Utah being favored by six points against Jim Harbaugh — madness.
I don’t even think Michigan is going to be that good this year, but you can’t favor Utah by nearly a touchdown against Jim Harbaugh. You just can’t.
(Note: I asked Fox’s Joel Klatt to break this game down for Outkick readers and his text response was, “Sure.” Thirty seconds later, he sent a new text, “The SEC sucks.”)
(Double Note: That text conversation is made up. But like my Spurrier stat, also 100% accurate).
4. Louisville +11 vs. Auburn
Bobby Petrino is 10-0 in his career as a head coach in opening games. Granted, six of those wins are against Kentucky, but still.
The lesson is pretty simple — if you give Petrino months to prepare the result is impressive. As good as Will Muschamp’s defense will eventually be, it’s early in the season and you can’t prepare for Petrino while you’re still getting the basics in place. Petrino vs. Malzahn is as good of an offensive battle as you can find anywhere.
Auburn wins, but eleven points is just way too many to give up against a Petrino coached opponent.
5. Wisconsin vs. Alabama -10 and the under 52
Wisconsin is not scoring an offensive touchdown against Alabama. They can’t throw the ball and the Bama front seven will stifle the Wisconsin run game. Honestly, this is a game Saban’s defense was made to play. Now, I’m not sold on Alabama’s offense either, but I think the defense will put them in great shape all day.
This game won’t be close, Tide rolls 28-6.
6. Texas A&M -2.5 vs. Arizona State
This is the best game of the opening weekend and whichever team wins will become an even trendier underdog pick for the college football playoff. Consider, Arizona State’s schedule is entirely front loaded — they’ll be big favorites in the final four games, but this the only game in the first eight other than at UCLA and maybe at home against USC where they will be an underdog.
Meanwhile, Texas A&M has nine games in Texas, seven at home and “neutral site” games in Dallas and Houston. (So much for that small sliver of Texas, right?) A&M then has road games at Vandy — if that counts — at Ole Miss, and at LSU. Win this one and the Aggies will be 3-0 when they face Arkansas in Dallas.
This is also the only regular season game all year featuring a team from the SEC West playing a team from the Pac 12 South, so prepare to hear it discussed ad nauseum as a de facto preview for how the two divisions would do against each other top to bottom.
If you can only watch one game this weekend — side not, why would you only watch one game, are you in prison? — here you go.
7. Texas vs. Notre Dame, the under 55
The Texas offense is awful. The Notre Dame offense should be much better, but Charlie Strong has had several months to try and develop a game plan that works against Notre Dame. While his team isn’t very good, surely Charlie can at least devise a decent defensive game plan?
Otherwise you’d have to believe that Strong isn’t a very good fit at Texas and there has been absolutely no signs of that. (That’s sarcasm, Longhorn fans).
My prediction is this is an ugly, ugly football game that Notre Dame wins something like 21-10. The under is the play here.
8. Louisiana Lafayette +17 at Kentucky
Louisiana-Lafaytte has won nine games in each of the past four seasons. Kentucky hasn’t won nine football games since 1984. Granted that’s partially the difference between playing in the Sun Belt and the SEC, but the Wildcats being 17 point favorites over Louisiana Lafayette is crazy. Hell, if you’ve watched Kentucky football over the years, the Wildcats being 17 point favorites over air is pretty insane.
Give me the Ragin’ Cajuns.
9. Tennessee -20.5 vs. Bowling Green
“The Vols are back baby!” (That’s a direct quote from my buddy Alan in the immediate aftermath of Derek Dooley’s triumph on the road at LSU in 2010. Yep, that was before the flag for 13 men on the field was discovered).
Now that the Vols are back, baby I will bet on them every week this year. (Except for the Florida Gator game, when, as promised, I will bet my entire mortgage on the Gators).
10. Virginia +19.5 at UCLA
I believe Mike London will be the first big five conference coach to be fired this season — not counting Illinois because they already fired their coach and also because I’m not sure that Illinois counts as a big five member — but first he and the ‘Hoos will give freshman phenom Josh Rosen a decent road challenge at UCLA.
Nearly three touchdowns is way too much in this one.
11. Ohio State at Virginia Tech +11
Did you know that Virginia Tech is the second toughest team on Ohio State’s paper thin schedule?
Did you know Lane Stadium at night is a difficult place to play when Tech has the ability to actually do things on offense? It is. Did you know that Urban Meyer doesn’t coach well as the favorite against decent teams? He doesn’t. Ohio State wins, but this will be a tight game entering the fourth quarter.
12-0 coming, get rich.
Remember, boys and girls, the usual picks column will go up every Wednesday all season long.
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