5-at-10: Fab 4 picks, Football betting's new big numbers, Braves big win, Strider or Morton?

Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Raisel Iglesias (26) works during the eighth inning in Game 2 of baseball's National League Division Series between the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Fab 4 picks

Questions soar this week, and they are not about whether my picks will be 3-2 or 2-3 this week.

Across the SEC, quarterback quandaries abound.

Is Will Levis healthy enough to play? If so, the 7 points Kentucky is catching will quickly go to 3ish. If Levis is ruled out, that 7 will become 10 in a hurry. (Side note: Just saw a headline that said Mark Stoops said he expects his star QB to play and the line has moved to MSU minus-3.5. Is Stoops playing head games with his opponents — and in turn gamblers everywhere? Maybe.)

What about KJ Jefferson, the Arkansas signal caller? If he plays, his dynamic ability against BYU is intriguing. If not, the trip to Provo could be a long night.

And of course, some fellow named Bryce Young. If the reigning Heisman winner plays, Saturday’s Alabama-Tennessee shootout could be amazing. If Young does not play, Alabama laying 7.5 feels like a lot for a trip to Knoxville, which will be bonkers.

Good times  

Charlotte-UAB over 63. Death, taxes and the Charlotte 49ers defense. Who knew that Will Healy’s bunch got their nickname from their defensive struggles? Sorry. The 49ers are allowing foes to score 46.3 points a contest. The last five totals for Charlotte games — 77, 77, 83, 78, 65. Ride ‘em till they buck you people.

Clemson minus-3 over Florida State. Yes, our logic was sound against FSU last week. Our luck was sullied. Still, Clemson is a TD better than the Seminoles — at least — and you have to wonder how long before the promise of September becomes the pre-Halloween bellyache for FSU supporters who know that, yes, this team is 4-2 (but that LSU win was exceedingly fortunate) but  Mike Norvell is 12-15 in his third season in Tallahassee and Deion Sanders is 20-5 at Jackson State. These numbers are even more important as Deion becomes the lead name on every short list with an opening, and even some places — like my alma mater — that currently do not have an opening.

Baylor minus-3 at West Virginia. Like most everyone else I expected Baylor to be better than 3-2 at this point. Some of that is because Oklahoma State is better than I — and BU coach Dave Aranda — expected. Side question: Did you realize the “I’m a man. I’m 40!” rant was 15 years young this fall? His news channel choices aside, Mike Gundy can coach a little football friends. Yes, the trip is difficult, but the Bears had a week off, and in truth, any semblance of a season of much promise hangs in the balance Saturday.

Tennessee plus-7.5 against Alabama and over 65. Do I feel like a catfish licking my lips at the floating chicken liver before me? Yes, yes I do. (Side question: What do we make of this whole fishing-cheating scandal? Egad, that stinks. They would have fooled me hook, line and sinker on that one. Man, and I thought the scales never lied. If the charges are true, punish them to the full extent if they are gill-ty. As for the competitors, they can fin for themselves I suppose. Thoughts?) As for this one, I do not believe Bryce Young will be ready to go full steam. He may — and that puts the over in an even better view — but I do believe in Josh Heupel’s offense and Hendon Hooker’s ability to make big plays and protect the ball. The latter is something he does not get enough credit for in my mind. Yes, Vegas has made a mint with the public betting against Alabama in spots like this — the number is dropping despite all the money and tickets on Tennessee — and that’s scary for sure. But if I get hooked, so be it.   

Last week: 2-3 (40% against the spread)

This season: 15-15-2 (50% against the spread)

Shifting points

So, we’re still working out the kinks on an added daily sports gambling product from yours truly. I hope to have more details sooner rather than later.

That said, shall we discuss a growing trend in the grand game of sports wagering.

No, not jai alai. No, not Texas Hold ‘em either.

Football. And while we’ll pick college games in a moment, this is a betting trend that starts on Sundays but has and will continue to trickle to Saturdays.

The wave of analytics embraced by NFL staffs — heck, some of the younger head coaches like Sean McVay have analytics departments — is altering the power point spread numbers in football.

The 10s, 7s, and especially 3s are not as valuable or pertinent as they once were, and this trend will only continue as more and more teams embrace the math of 2 points for 2.5 yards on second-half touchdowns.

Forever, the conventional wisdom was “not to chase points” and that is being viewed in modern football circles as being as dated as the Single Wing. (Although, the Single Wing is a) still around, it’s just called different things like the “Wildcat” and b) a very viable offense in your younger levels.)

Two quick examples from last week. Bucs minus-7 against the Falcons. Tampa Bay is leading all day and grabbed a 21-0 lead late in the third. Atlanta scores a TD, gets a stop and scores again. On the second score, they go for two and get it, making it 21-15, which even Auburn math tells me is six rather than seven. (Side note: Atlanta is 5-0 against the number this season, the lone unbeaten NFL team against the spread.)

Same scenario Monday night with the Chiefs laying anything from 5 to 6.5 depending on the site or the leverage. Kansas City scores to go up 30-23 and goes for 2 and misses it. OK, it’s still 7, but the math feels funky. The Raiders score to cut it to 30-29 and rather than kick the tie, they go for two and miss.

This is triply confounding for those who hear spreads and think points rather than dinner tables.   

There were four minutes left, miss or make the two, that scenario makes 2 the new 3 in terms of points. Plus, the overtime issues are all but eliminated. And if the Raiders had converted, and the Chiefs — who had scored on their previous five possessions before running out the clock — go and score a TD, that changes the fulcrum point around an even 7.

Thoughts?

Braves pull even

They had to have it. They responded like a veteran and experienced playoff bunch should.

With Kyle Wright pushing his chips into the “Hey, am I an ace?” conversation, the Braves opped the Phillies and dazzling starter Zach Wheeler 3-0 in a rain-soaked Game 2 Wednesday night.

The series is even at 1, and the Braves draw breath this morning because of an improbable two-out, three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth against a to-that-point, dominant Wheeler.

He hit Ronald Acuña Jr. with an inside fastball. More on that in a moment.

He walked Dansby Swanson on a close 3-2 slider.

He hung an 0-2 curveball to Matt Olson, who was not close to Wheeler’s 97 mph heater all evening. If the Braves comeback and win this series, that single hanging deuce will be a large part of it.

Olson did not miss the miscue and rifled a single to right. A dribbler from Austin Riley and a huge it from Travis d’Arnaud followed and that felt like an embarrassment of riches for Wright. 

OK, tangents to discuss. Someone Friday needs to put a heater between the 33s on Bryce Harper’s jersey. Yes, the book on Acuña is to pitch him inside. But have your young star’s back, especially in the postseason. I understand not doing it last night; that game was too important and a hit-by-pitch started the Braves’ season-saving rally, so the reverse certainly could hold true.

But at some point defend your star. Because we all see it. The fans, the opponents — who continue to throw up and in on him — and eventually Acuña will see it and wonder who has his back.

Second, d’Arnaud may be the most underappreciated piece in this Braves nucleus. Dude shows up and is a professional hitter in almost every way, especially in critical at-bats like last night. And in the looks like game — yes, DD, Quin Ewers looks like a guy who knows exactly where to get the best price to replace the hood on your Trans Am — Travis d’Arnaud looks like the eager dad who is super stoked you asked him to coach first during your 10-year-old teams scrimmage because your assistant had to work late.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, with the season on the line, do you turn to experience or shutdown stuff? Are you handing the ball to Charlie Morton, who has pitched in 17 postseason games, including 16 starts and is 7-4 with a 3.35 ERA in his playoff career, or Spencer Strider, who throws 100 and has a knee-buckling slider that can make him unhittable when he’s right?

Discuss.         

This and that

— You know the rules. Here’s Paschall’s picks for this weekend’s big college games. 

— So the oldest dog in the world is TobyKeith. He loves this bar(k). Sorry.

— So a goose stole the show as the Padres pulled even with the Dodgers. Big picture, the MLB powers that be have to be holding their breath. This could be an epic round of League Championship Series matchups if it turns out to be Yankees-Astros and Dodgers-Braves. Conversely though, if we get Mariners-Guardians and Padres-Phillies, yeah, can we get some Tuesday night football too?

Today’s questions

It’s an anything goes Thursday.

We’ll start: Strider or Morton? Go.

We’ll also add: UT or Bama, straight-up, who you got?

As for today, Oct. 13, let‘s review.

Jerry Rice is 60 today.

Rushmore of NFL receivers not named Jerry Rice. Go, and remember the mailbag.