Fab 4 picks
The picks are a fluid and organic thing. (And side note: My casual picks on the radio, like Troy on Tuesday night, are hitting at a much higher rate than my actual picks. Maybe because no one is keeping score on those. Maybe it's only because we remember the winners when we don't write them down. Thoughts?)
Thursday picks are a little uneasy at times. And for those new to the program, these lines were what we saw at VegasInsider.com this morning. (Side note, II: I know of at least one 'entertainment broker' locally who tweaks his lines in accordance of my picks. That's high praise, and when I asked him ab out it, he was quick to note that we are a smidge over 60 percent since the start of the 2011 season.)
Last week for example, we had Alabama-Tennessee over. In the morning, the threat of serious weather was a concern. It cleared up and UT scored a TD that made Alabama angry and the Tide went over the 57 by themselves, as we now know. But still, the late-breaking news of this kid being suspended or this guy with a rolled ankle. You know?
That said, you have to remember your keys. Picking games is like defending Paul Johnson's Georgia Tech/Amish offense that is allergic to the forward pass. You have to remember your keys and know your assignments. You can't get distracted by the eye candy — games with lines that look too good — and you can't get greedy for a tackle for loss — get out of your lane/entertainment budget — are two very real overlaps. Another one: A fast start, be it Thursday night on the Saturday nooner — not unlike stopping Tech on first down — makes everything else easier.
Here are the quick rules we live by when hunting entertainment. 1) Lines that look too good to be true almost always are; 2) Public trains crash, and that's why Vegas had shiny buildings and $5.99 lobster dinners and local entertainment brokers drive Cadillacs and players don't; 3) Picking losers is every bit as entertaining as picking losers; 4) Ride the hot horse — good and bad — until they buck you; 5) Never bet against Saban in SEC games and never bet on him in regular-season out-of-conference games. Questions? Did I leave anything out?
West Virginia minus-13.5 over Baylor. Mountaineers at home. Almost two weeks after getting punched in Ames, Iowa. (More on Ames in a moment.) Here's betting — sorry, entertainment searching — that Will Grier has been a) a handful yelling at his teammates in the last 10 days; b) chomping at the bit to get back on the field; and c) licking his chops to get at a Baylor defense that allowed 66 points against Oklahoma, 34 to Kansas State and 40 to Duke. (Yes. Duke.) It's at home on a Thursday night. Giddy up, and get the week off to a fast and entertaining start to the weekend. (Side note, III: There are several 'playable games tonight. We are leaving this one on the card, but let's just say we may make a phone to a guy who knows a guy who may know a guy whose best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with a girl who saw Ferris pass-out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious. Here's a nod to a Va Tech-Georgia Southern-West By God Virginia parlay tonight. Thoughts? Yes, we love Va Tech laying a field goal and GSU catching 10 at home, too. This is a Thursday night three-play. Giddy-up and go.)
Purdue plus-3 at Michigan State. The Spartans are beat up. The Spartans were demoralized last week. Yes, the bounce back for MSU, and the riding the high for the Boilermakers is a real possibility. But Purdue slings it, which nullifies MSU's strength of being the best runs defense in the country. We'll buy the half here because that's what we do.
Houston minus-7 over South Florida. The only side to play here is the Cougs, who are unranked and still a 7-point favorite over unbeaten South Florida. Vegas is begging you to take USF, which is 7-0 but has flirted with disaster almost every week. This is one of those lines that make you think "What. USF is unbeaten and ranked and getting points?" Yes, the uncertain status of Ed Oliver is a bit scary, but we think Houston rolls the Bulls.
Iowa State minus-3 over Texas Tech: The week off helps the Cyclones, who rolled West Virginia on Oct. 13. Texas Tech is climbing, but this is a bad match-up and bad timing. Here's a stat for you: The last four years the week before facing Oklahoma, the Red Raiders are 0-4 against the number and 1-3 straight-up. Hmmmmmm. Iowa State is a Big 12 rarity in that it has a quarterback under center and likes to run it between the tackles. Buy the hook here because a man has to live by a code.
Texas A&M plus-3 at Mississippi State. We think the wrong team is favored here. Sometimes it's just that easy. Mississippi State's defensive front is crazy good. Like two NFL first-rounders good. But A&M's shifty quarterback will wear them down. Plus, MSU does not throw it well. At all. Side note: We have missed a chance to make some entertainment by ignoring what Jimbo is doing in College Station. The Aggies are 6-1 against the number. Of course, the only time they did not cover was when we had them in the picks.. Uh oh.
Last week: 4-3 against the spread (57.1 percent)
This season: 31-21-1 against the spread (59.6 percent)
College football items of interest
Cocktails for everyone. GameDay is in Jacksonville. SEC Live is in Jacksonville. CBS gets its best match-up since LSU-Auburn for the high-profile 3:30 slot. We're in. And we're ready for what figures to be a low-scoring affair. Two things: Coming off an off week, we are supremely interested to see how many snaps — and pass attempts — Justin Fields gets. Also of note, one of three drunkest trips we ever took in college was to this game. Dear Lord. Several friends tell me I was the live of the party. I'll have to take their word for it.
All Hallow's Eve eve. Next Tuesday is the first release of the only ranking that really matters — the rankings in the eyes of the college football playoff committee. Alabama is off, so the Tide will be a unanimous 1. Period. End of discussion. The positioning of the rest of the contenders will be a topic of discussion all weekend long, including The Tide is off as they get ready for the biggest regular-season game of the season in roughly 10 days against LSU. Monster game. For both teams and for all the folks making the decision on the college football playoff selections. (While we are here, one of the bigwigs at the Westgate Las Vegas put on Twitter this week that Alabama would be a 24.5 favorite over unbeaten and 10th-ranked UCF. Clemson would be a 17.5 favorite and Notre Dame a 7.5 over the Knights.)
Tennessee takes its first swing at the postseason. The Vols' upset at Auburn recalibrate a lot of things. It destroyed Auburn's season. Seriously. It also put the postseason as a very real possibility in Year 1 of Jeremy Pruitt. Saturday at South Carolina is the first swing for that clinching win. (Yes, it would only be UT's fifth win but a November date with Charlotte makes the next SEC win the swing game.) How will UT respond in a game that a) has potential swing for both program; b)
Can Kentucky keep its magic happening? According to ESPN stats ace Chris "Bear" Fallica, the signs are pointing toward no. The last eight times an unranked team (like Missouri) was a TD-or-more favorite over a top-12 team (like No. 12 UK), the unranked team is 8-0 straight-up and 7-1 against the number. We mentioned that Justin Fields' status and snaps will be a monster item of interest. In some ways, the UK quarterback rotation also is of major interest. UK can not keep winning conference games throwing for 18 yards passing. (That's great insight friends.)
OK, the money runners for the shoe companies and the agents were found guilty Wednesday.
That's not a big surprise when their biggest line of defense was theoretically "Everyone does it" so it's not fraud. Which has only worked in the PED scandals in baseball.
That said, there's no way to know what the future holds for big-name coaches and the big-time programs.
The only hard fact we have right now is that Kansas is holding a kid out until the NCAA decides whether he's eligible. (And that may be the most telling factor moving forward.)
We have to wonder if Duke is having similar conversations about Zion Williamson since the freshman phenom was also prominently mentioned in the transcripts of the wire taps.
And really, unless the convicted money runners decide to turn on coaches and those above them — and really then the question becomes if the Feds are even interested in that — then it's a real possibility this ends here.
Which is exactly what the NCAA wants.
This and that
— Speaking of gambling, this is from ESPN super BID-ness ace Darren Rovell: "@WilliamHillUS signs sponsorship deal with @NJDevils. Prudential Center will have lounge that looks like a sports book, with TVs and odds boards. No kiosks or windows allowed, but live bets can be made through company's mobile app." Man, in stadium sports books game-changers friends. And if you think folks want new stadiums now, let this become the norm and everyone will want new digs — or at the very least a new sports bar/betting parlor.
— Sometimes you just wake up and need some good news, you know? Well, thanks to these Tullahoma, Tenn., grade-school kids who learned how to do "Happy Birthday" in sign language for the school's custodian who is hard of hearing. https://twitter.com/CBSNews/status/1055289765635997697 This is worth your time. Thanks little people for getting my day started properly.
— If you are a Jags defender and giving years off your life for a team that has a Super Bowl ready defense, and you are standing there knowing the coaching staff is picking between Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler Is that not the definition of the rock and the hard place? And the Jags defensive dudes probably are trying to decide whether to bang their heads against the rock or that hard place too.
— Boston grabbed a 2-0 lead Wednesday night with a 4-2 win over the Dodgers. Is the World Series done before it heads back to L.A.? Maybe. But if the Red Sox continue this torrid production with two outs and runners in scoring position, well, they could beat the NL All-Stars and the 1927 Yankees in 5 games. In those situations with 2 down and guys in scoring position, the Sox are hitting .415 and slugging .756. Yes, you read that correctly. Egad.
— While we are here, Dave Roberts and his stupid all-righty lineup can take a long walk off a short dugout roof. C'mon Dave, get Max Muncy some ABs dude. He has almost a .900 OPS against lefties, so it's not like he's lost up there.
Here's another one of the feel-good clips friends. http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=25076454 And are we along thinking that of all the folks in Bristol, SVP maybe the No. 1 overall pick for who would be the ESPN TV personality you'd want to have a beer with.
As for today, Oct. 25, the original Halloween debuted on this day 40 years ago. Wow.
Payne Stewart died on this day in 1999. Wow, again.
At the other end of the ESPN "have a beer" pool, it's also Bobby Knight's birthday today.
Who you got in the ESPN have a beer pool?