I’m a 23 year old grad student and avid college football fan. For most, college football brings to mind the visions of school pride and pageantry, a big win over an in-state rival, and, if you’re lucky, Southern Belles sporting cocktail dresses and heels, holding a bloody mary in one hand while helping her date adjust his tie with the other. Although I often replay these vivid memories, they are not the first thoughts to enter my head. Rather, the following questions are of primary importance: What’s the spread? How’s the weather? Will their star running back sit out the first half due to suspension? Yes, that’s right, I am a degenerate. However, I don’t have enough money to be a degenerate gambler. So, I found an outlet: blogging. First, let me tell you a little bit about myself, then I’ll introduce you to the site, and ultimately break down my Week 1 picks.
Unlike most college football fans, I have not 1, not 2, but 3 teams I live and die with every season. I grew up a die-hard Texas Longhorns fan, getting my diapers changed in DKR Memorial Stadium, and will always worship at the altar of Vince Young. The Georgia Bulldogs hold another piece of my football heart, a piece they repeatedly build up and then, without fail, stomp all over. Remember that gorgeous girl, way out of your league, who made you think you had a real shot with her? Well, remember when she decided, at the most inopportune time, to break your heart and tell you she had been cheating on you with your sworn enemy? Yeah, that’s what it is like to be a Georgia Bulldogs fan. Last, but certainly not least, is my alma mater, Ole Miss. Unlike my affiliation with the other two schools, I did not grow up an Ole Miss fan. Hell, I didn’t go there for four years, try two. But, just because it took me a while to come around and discover the art of Groving doesn’t mean my love for Colonel Reb is diminished in any way. Yes, they’re terrible, but we’re looking forward to ushering in a new ice age in college football with the introduction of head football coach Hugh Freeze. And yes, I absolutely love terrible puns.
Enough about myself, it is time to discuss the blog. By Wednesday or Thursday of each week, I will analyze between 3 and 5 picks for the upcoming weekend in college football. The primary focus will center on the spread and over/under of the most intriguing match-ups from that week. I am an amateur. If you take my picks and lose big, tough shit. You were dumb enough to take the advice of a grad-student with enough extra time on his hands to start a blog. On Sundays I will post a follow-up from the weekend that was, unless I have proven myself to have zero knowledge whatsoever about college football and am too butt-hurt to talk about it. Let’s move on to the picks:
Thursday, August 30th:
South Carolina -7 (-110) @ Vanderbilt
The Gamecocks are coming off an 11-2 season despite some mid-season turmoil in 2011. The workhorse, Marcus Lattimore, was down and out half of the season and the Ole Ball Coach had to make an early change at QB after Stephen Garcia was dismissed from the team for being an alcoholic (and being caught). However, the young stud, Connor Shaw, stepped in and had an 8-1 record as a starter. That being said, I think South Carolina greatly over-achieved last year and is poised for a step back. Yeah, I know Lattimore is back and Shaw is a year older, but the Cocks lost 6 players to the early rounds of the draft this year, including Stephon Gilmore and Melvin Ingram. People tend to overlook Vandy as a perennial cellar-dweller of the SEC. While this is usually true, the Dores are coming off a 6-7 season where they finished 6-2 against the spread in their last 8 games. Coach James Franklin has said they are viewing this as their “Super Bowl”, and what better stage to kick off the college football season than with a cover against a top-10 team. Well, maybe a win, but hell, they’re still Vandy. I liked this line a lot better at 7.5 and there has been some reverse line movement despite 68% of the betting public being on the Cocks. I love betting against the public… they’re referred to as ‘the great unwashed’ for a reason.
Picks: Vandy +7 (-110) risking 2 units, Vandy to win (+210) risking 1 unit
Friday, August 31st:
Tennessee -3 (-115) v. North Carolina State (Game in Atlanta)
Despite losing superstar WR Da’Rick Rodgers, the Vols have the talent and potential to be the best passing offense in the SEC. Tyler Bray is a stud, Justin Hunter returns from injury, and Derrick Dooley is coaching for his life. All of those factors could make one lean towards picking the Vols, but let’s take a closer look. NC State is nothing to laugh at. Coming off a solid 8-5 and a bowl win over Louisville, the Wolfpack is primed to take a step forward under the leadership of coach Tom O’Brien and senior, Mike Glennon, a future NFL QB. Despite being an SEC homer, I think this is the year things get shaken up in college football. ESPN needs it so they can shake off allegations of conspiracy directed towards the success of the SEC and their huge TV deal with the ABC/ESPN family of networks. So, let’s start the deconstruction on a national stage. While the public is split 50/50 on this game, “experts” are overwhelmingly on the NC State side. Look for the line to move to 3.5 before kickoff Friday and then go with the Pack. I mean, this is the same Vols squad that is 3-7 in their last 10 against the spread, capping it off with a loss to Kentucky 10-7 to close out their 2011 campaign.
Picks: NC State +3 (-105) risking 1 unit, Over 52 risking 1 unit (why the hell not, let’s see a fun game on Friday night)
Saturday, September 1st:
Notre Dame -15.5 (-110) v. Navy (Game in Dublin, Ireland)
Let’s start the winning early Saturday morning. Notre Dame has quite a bit of suspensions to deal with including playmaker Cierre Wood and QB Tommy Rees. For a few years Navy was giving the Irish quite a fight, with the exception of last year, which resulted in a 56-14 drubbing. I’ll admit I don’t know much about either team, but I do know this. Navy runs all day long, but All-American LB Manti Te’o is physical at the point of attack and stops the run with regularity. Navy also gave up an average of 186 yards per game on the ground last year, and pitted against a real D-1 line, I believe these defenders are undersized and overmatched. Looking at it from Chip Kelly’s perspective, are you going to turn loose a young QB in a nationally televised game, which leaves you nothing to gain from a win, but a lot to lose? I wouldn’t think so. The name Theo Riddick will be called a lot on Saturday as he’ll be carrying the ball for the Irish. I think Notre Dame wins this game up front from the get-go, building up momentum, which will culminate in a dominating effort over the Middies.
Pick: Notre Dame -15.5 (-110) risking 2 units
Michigan +14 (-110) v. Alabama (Game in Dallas, Texas)
You knew it was coming. How could I resist?! The biggest game of the first weekend has to make the cut on my first post, or else this thing wouldn’t be worth reading. Alabama and their dominating D will face a QB who is more of an athlete that just runs around and makes plays, interesting. It sounds like Bama will have plenty of opportunities to force turnovers and start the ball rolling early, right? Quick, aside from Nico Johnson, name an impact player on the Alabama D. (That’s a challenge for anyone that isn’t a die-hard Bammer). Not that I don’t think the D isn’t good, I know they will be. After all, Saban reloads with 5 stars replacing 5 stars and is building a dynasty, yes, but could you imagine being 19 and beginning your career under the bright lights of a stadium packed full of 100,000+ fans and the pressure of millions to be the best in the country? That sounds like enough pressure to shock you to the core for a bit. And, I think that athlete at QB takes advantage of the defense early, makes some wild plays, probably turns the ball over, but scores a couple of touchdowns in the first half allowing the Wolverines to go into the locker room with a double digit lead. Well, that sounds nice, but there is no coach better at making half time adjustments than Nick Saban. So, what happens next? Michigan’s first possession is a dud, followed by a meticulously well scripted touchdown drive by the Tide. Now they’re down 3. Who is going to step up? I think Denard busts a big run at the end of the third to get the Wolverines into the red zone, but Bama D clamps down and we have a field goal. Lead is 6 going into the 4th. From there, we’ll see. I think Bama will squeak by in a close one, which is good for those who bet on Big Blue.
Picks: Michigan -14 (-110) risking 5 units, Michigan to win (+425) risking 1 unit
(Side note: The line opened at -11 and has risen steadily to 14, all the while 55% of the public remains on the Tide. Remember what I said about the public? I don’t think those castles out in Vegas were built by the public winning huge match-ups like this.)
There it is, my first post. I hope you all enjoy and come back Sunday evening for the follow-up. Hotty Toddy, Hook ‘Em, and Go Dawgs!