Fab 4 picks
Before we get to the picks, some bad news. This is already week 5 of the college football season.
The summer drips by like frozen molasses. Then you blink and we're already a third of the way through the regular season.
Sweet buckets of Kenny Chesney's "Don't Blink" it goes too fast.
With that, we scuffled through a tight weekend that was slightly entertaining. But it also was a college football weekend that explains the gripping narrative and the added level of drama added with gambling.
Take Alabama-Texas A&M. When the Tide took it from 21-13 to 31-13 in the final two minutes of the first half, this unofficially was a clip of Jimbo Fisher in the locker room. Game over, man.
But the line and whether Alabama was going to cover was the only drama. And we backed the wrong side in an Alabama game for the first time this season.
So it goes. And we are stopping some of the rolls with some of the early season favorites.
Alabama is laying too many, and the Dark Lord has always kept money-game visitors close, especially when the visitor is coached by a former Saban assistant. Georgia-Tennessee with a line bigger than 31? Man, that seems like a lot. UNLV, which has been aces for us, is off this week. Basically, we're shook.
But there has to be entertainment out there, right? Has to be. Let's find it.
Texas A&M minus-20.5 over Arkansas. Arkansas is dreadful. Simply dreadful. Auburn played so poorly last week, we think there are 20-plus FCS teams that would have scared the Tigers, and Auburn beat Arkansas 34-3. Texas A&M went to Alabama and likely left with a little momentum all things considered. And now Jimbo is looking at the springboard to the back half of a season in which the Aggies figure to be competitive in every game. Here's a plug for Kellen Mond as the early pick for SEC offense of the week. (We would lean toward the over here, but this one could very easily by 52-6. Love this pick.)
Michigan minus-13.5 over Northwestern. Northwestern lost by two touchdowns to Duke at home earlier this month. And that was with running back Jeremy Larkin, who was the team's leader in rushing (346 yards and five scores in three games) before he was forced to give up the game because of spinal injuries. Michigan's defense is complete and next-level fast. If Michigan gets to 24, the Wolverines will cover the two TDs. Here's betting they will.
Central Florida minus-13.5 over Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh on the road against an offense like UCF's? Yes please. This Pitt bunch is not as good as previous versions and UCF perpetually has a chip on its shoulder against Power Five teams. Mike McKenzie, the UCF quarterback who had six TDs last week against FAU is a handful to stop. Here's betting the Panthers are not up for it.
UConn-Cincinnati over 55. UConn's defense is dreadful. We discussed this last week. In fact, through four games, the Huskies have allowed 56, 62, 49 and 51 points. Cincinnati is unbeaten and could sleep-walk through this road game, which makes the 17.5-point line a little sketchy. But UConn's defensive holes — through four games the Huskies have allowed 91 plays of 10 yards or more — as well as their big-play offense (UConn is averaging more than 25 points per) give this a strong feel. One more stat on how much UConn is allergic to defense: Alabama offensively leads the country in yards per play at allowed opponents 9.1 yards per play.
Purdue-Nebraska over 56. Nebraska is 0-3 and offensive mastermind Scott Frost is perplexed. Purdue is 1-3 and offensive mastermind Jeff Brohm is desperate. This game feels like 31-31 entering the fourth. We love the price here friends.
Hawaii minus-11 over San Jose State. Yes, this is a Hawaii team that we have believed in, so we have one of our old friends in the mix this week. That's comforting. Until we realize that we are sticking with a team that has forever struggled on the mainland and, according to the computer models, is overvalued in this spot. (The ESPN power index has Hawaii a 1 or 2 point favorite rather than a double-digit pick. That said, you may get a better number on Hawaii come Saturday than right now. Think people.) But here's what we believe in. We believe in loyalty and Hawaii has been good to us. We believe this Hawaii team scores in bunches and the passing offense is truly legitimate. And we know that San Jose State is DFL in yards per play this year with 3.1 yards per snap. If you can not keep the ball from Hawaii, you are going to have a long day.
Last week: 4-3-1 against the spread (57.1 percent).
This season: 16-11-1 against the spread (59.3 percent).
College football items of interest
Hypocrisy of coaches in the transfer rule. Hey, there are two great games this weekend — Notre Dame-Stanford and THE Ohio State-Penn State — a few intriguing games such as Florida at Mississippi State and Kentucky-South Carolina. But the biggest topic of every studio show will be Kelly Bryant's decision to transfer and leaving Clemson right now. The ramifications and ripples are clear — even if unintended — from the new four-game and still able to redshirt rule that was enacted this year. Coaches loved the rule on its face because everyone thought it was going to be a way to get star recruits as few games and keep a year of eligibility in their pocket. But this week has been dubbed college football's trading deadline or the free agent period. But, and we have said this before, coaches who think this should be a mutual decision — like Nick Saban alluded to — are cracked. Is it a mutual decision between catch and team when Saban decided to leave LSU for the Dolphins or Miami for Alabama? Is it a mutual decision when an assistant coach leaves or is fired? Absolutely not. Do I think Kelly Bryant was "slapped in the face" by Trevor Lawrence getting the QB1 job at Clemson? Do I think Bryant is an NFL player? No, I do not. But for transferring to be anyone's decision but his is not only hypocritical. It's wrong, and that's especially true for coaches with a history of processing players or shuffling committed recruits. The expectation on one-way loyalty — from coaches and even fans — from the players doing the heavy lifting in a billion-dollar industry for food, books and lodging is staggering.
Gambling note of interest. If you want a guaranteed $100 winner, take Alabama on the money line, which means you pick Alabama straight-up to beat Louisiana LaFayette, regardless of the score. Of course, to win $100, you would have to bet $99,000 on Alabama. Yes, almost $100K to win $100. In fact, Vegas has reached the "we dare you" part of the season, as in "we dare you to pick" any number of wagers. Vegas is daring you to bet the over in Penn State-THE Ohio State, with the number at 71.5 for the nation's top two scoring offenses that average more than 55 points per. Vegas is daring you not to take Old Dominion, which is getting a touchdown at East Carolina after the biggest win in school history. Vegas is daring you with a number high enough that you would consider picking against Alabama, which is minus-48.5 against Louisiana-Lafayette. (If we had to pick that one we would go against Alabama, but we refuse to take the dare Vegas. You will not break us. WOLVERINES!)
Elimination game with benefits. We spoke earlier about the elimination nature of the Penn State-Ohio State game in Happy Valley this weekend. The winner takes the biggest step toward the playoff we've seen, even more than Alabama in our view. And the winner of THE OSU-PSU also delivers another chief opposition to Alabama in terms of the Heisman. Yes Tua Tagovailoa is the Vegas favorite to win the Heisman. He's at -150, which means you have to bet $150 to win a C-note. But the winner of Buckeyes leader Dwayne Haskins and Nittany Lions senior Trace McSorley, especially if either plays really well in a win on a monster stage, will become a leading challenger. (Side note: Did you know you can get McSorley right now at 25-to-1 to win the Heisman? That seems like a great price.)
Midlevel SEC games with tons of intrigue. The name match-up ofd Georgia-Tennessee got the CBS slot. But it's no better than the third-best game of the weekend considering the drama on Dan Mullen taking the Gators to Starkville and the SEC runner-up bowl between Kentucky and South Carolina. Some stats to know: Kentucky has won five straight over the Gamecocks, but Will Muschamp is 5-1 straight-up in his last six games with a 3-point spread or smaller. Hmmmmmm. Here's betting that each of those games are more competitive than the beatdown the Bulldogs are going to hand UT on CBS at 3:30.
Clemson fall-out. The Tigers are the easiest and best bet to win a Power Five conference. That was true regardless who was at quarterback. It's clear that Dabo Swinney thinks Trevor Lawrence gives his team the best chance to win it all, and we agree with that assessment. We also agree with Kelly Bryant having every right to explore other options. As for Saturday, and this was almost one of our picks, this may be the most scary test the Tigers will face before the playoff. Syracuse comes calling. The same Syracuse bunch that beat Clemson last year, and that was the one reason we did not add the Orange to the Fab 4 this week. Lawrence has been very good and the Clemson wideouts are great. But forget the extreme comfort of coming off the bench, Lawrence is now the guy, and Syracuse can really rush the passer. A slow start could very easily make the home crowd very, Very, VERY nervous. This one could be the game of the day. Or Lawrence may throw for six scores.
He said what?
We will start this with this simple statement: We have talked with Jared Hensley, we have worked with Jared Hensley and we believe Jared Hensley is a good guy who made a potentially career-changing mistake.
But Hensley stepped in it big time with a bone-headed video and awful word choice/terrible attempt at an even more terrible joke that has gone viral.
Here's the story from the TFP and here's the story that was among the morning headlines today on ESPN.com.
In fact, Cher even retweeted the story last night with some shots at Hensley's video. Outstanding.
And Cher, we believe this too: Here's betting Hensley truly wishes he could turn back time and find a way to never do that video.
This and that
— As the NL Central and the NL West are a mess — the lead for the Cubs over the Brewers and the Rockies over the Dodgers is a half game respectively — here's maybe a more stressful stat as the postseason looms. Boston ace Chris Sale's average mph on his fastball Wednesday was 90.1, the lowest of his career. And, according to Buster Ulney of ESPM, in Sale's last start before going on the DL in August, Sale's average was 98 mph on his fastball.
— Marcus Mariota is schedule to play Sunday. Considering how bad the Titans offense has been, this certainly has to be a lift. Right? Right?
— Jacob deGrom dominated the Braves last night. No big surprise there. The Mets ace pitched eight scoreless and improved to 10-9 on the season with a mind-glowingly good 1.70 ERA. How good is that? Aaron Nola is second in the NL with a 2.45 ERA. Nola would need to throw 90 consecutive scoreless innings to get to deGrom's 1.70. And as the Cy Young talk swirls around the hard-throwing deGrom, remember this stat: There have been 105 Cy Young seasons for starting pitchers in MLB history, deGrom's 1.70 ERA is better than 100 of those seasons.
— Speaking of the Braves, terrible news as Dansby Swanson's torn ligaments in his hand leave the shortstop's playoff availability firmly in doubt. No es bueno amigos.
Today is National Chocolate Milk Day. Chocolate milk is the French Dip of beverages. You may not always order it, but it rarely, rarely disappoints.
Today also is national crush a can day. We will handle a few of those tonight after Press Row.
Hey, Meat Loaf is 71 today.
Fushmore of people with 'meat' in their name. Go.