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FILE - In this Sept. 31, 2019, file photo, Fresno State quarterback Jorge Reyna, left, looks to throw a pass as Southern California USC Trojans defensive lineman Christian Rector approaches during an NCAA college football game in Los Angeles. The NCAA's Board of Governors is urging Gov. Gavin Newsom not to sign a California bill that would allow college athletes to receive money for their names, likenesses or images. In a six-paragraph letter to Newsom, the board said the bill would give California schools an unfair recruiting advantage. As a result, the letter says, the NCAA would declare those schools ineligible for its events. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong, File)

Fab 4 picks

For a lot of college football fans the slate of this week's games may not be overly entertaining to watch, but it could be extremely entertaining to risk.

If we try to review teams we believed in at the start of the season — I bought into FSU and UCLA and even UT — and try to find the difference between struggles and stinky.

Those teams are trending downward and I refuse to buy into the Chip Kelly hype, the visual of UT less than four TDs over anyone or FSU 'actually' getting 7 against Virginia, which seems like a dream for the better part of the last two decades.

Same goes for Miami, which covered the number against a Florida team that certainly is still an unknown and gagged their 'Canes off at UNC.

So let's embrace what we have seen rather than what we have experienced over the better part of the last quarter century. Deal? Deal.

As for teams we underestimated, Washington State could be there. As could be Kentucky and UNC and a few others. Remember gang, the biggest challenge this week is differentiating between gold and fool's gold, ya dig?

Find your horses and ride friends — and I am extremely tempted but have been burned picking against UNC — whether they are my horses or not. Giddy-up.

> Alabama minus-15.5 in the first half and minus-25.5 in the end over South Carolina. Feel free to over-analyze all the games on a week in which there are no top-25-on-top-25 match-ups this weekend. Here's a strong feeling that with all the angst and bellyaching, Tricky Nicky and Alabama will surely flex their triceps and  this is 35-3 at half and 56-14 at the 0:00.

> UCF minus-7 over Stanford. Buy the half, because that is what we do. As for the game, Stanford going across the country trying to match-up with the speed and flair of UCF? Yes, please. Now add in the factor that UCF relishes the chance to challenge and beat and, if possible, embarrass any Power 5 team. UCF is going to roll.

> Penn State minus-17 over Pitt. How's this stat for you Spy? In Pitt's last offensive 54 drives, 27 of them ended without a first down. Read that again. Not without a score, without a first down. Plus, is there any coach in college football who likes to drop the hammer more than James Franklin? Gang, this one will be 55-plus-to-something in the teens — and that's with Pitt adding a cosmetic score.

> Charlotte minus-17 over UMass. UMass is our Week 3 choice of the worst team in the country. Yes, we are fond of Charlotte coach Will Healy — the Chattanooga native who is an all around good dude — but this is about entertainment and the nose in the know knows that UMass is flat-out rotten.

> NC State minus-6.5 over West Virginia. The Mountaineers are 1-1 but that first one is a 20-13 win over James Madison in which WVU was outgunned and survived because they were plus-3 in turnovers. Also, now know that NC State co-defensive coordinator Tony Gibson was the DC for the Mountaineers for the last five years, so he's got a pretty good understanding of the strengths and not-so-strengths of WVU roster. West Virginia is right there with UMass as the candidate to "pick a loser" for the foreseeable future.

> Michigan State minus-13 over Arizona State. ASU is 2-0 but there's always a but right Spy? the Devils have a true freshman quarterback making his first road start against a defense as good as MSU. This will be an interesting trend to follow in terms of line movement with double-digit favorites with very good defenses: MSU has gone from minus-10 to minus-13 (and it will likely climb) as the under has gone from 45.5 to 42. Hmmmmmmmmm.  

> Boston College minus-18 over Kansas. This game is Friday night, and this game is going to be unwatchable. BC 55-10, and we have to turn the channel. That also means we turn the channel and cash the ticket though, right?

Last week: 3-2 (60 percent) against the spread

This season: 9-10 (47.4 percent) against the spread

 

College football items of interest


OK, let's move quickly.

> The picks were tough this week, because we left several on the cutting room floor, including picks on THE Ohio State, Oklahoma and a few others. But in a week in which there are zero ranked-vs.-ranked games, do not be surprised if there are a few upsets this weekend as the heavy favorites could be susceptible to sleep-walking efforts. The last time there was a week with no ranked match-ups was in 2017, and there were seven unranked teams win the games outright and three of them were double-digit underdogs.
 
> UT facing UTC in a game the Vols simply have to have. I believe UT pulls away on talent, but buckets who thought this would arguably be the biggest game in Jeremy Pruitt's young tenure?

> Georgia continues to roll. Man, the Bulldogs are good.

> LSU and Auburn playing patsies before getting into the teeth of the SEC schedule.

> Can Mack Brown continue the September fairy tale that has been his 2-0 return to Chapel Hill?  

 

Fair pay

We mentioned this earlier this week, but let's discuss it.

California state legislature unanimously passed the Fair Pay for Play bill. It waits the governor's signature.

Technically it's known as 'California Senate Bill 206.' Theoretically, it could be a total game changer.

It allows college athletes to cash checks on their NIL — Names, Image and Likeness — with anyone who wants to pay them.

This of course puts the NCAA's skivvies and wallet in a bunch. (How dare those athletes get money from people buying their jersey or using their image? We are the ones who get to make money on people buying their jersey or using their image.)

It's a game changer in a lot of ways, and get ready for the cavalcade of "This could open the door for boosters paying players." (Uh, guys, those boosters are already paying players.)

The NCAA's first response was a sternly worded letter to the state of California that a) had a warning that players profiting off their NIL could be ruled ineligible for NCAA championship competition, and b) it would disrupt the "level playing field" the NCAA strives for nationwide.

Likewise there are schools in California who are lobbying legislators to vote against Bill 206. (Again it passed unanimously.) The schools at their cost altruistic do not want to mess with the potential NCAA red tape. Or, more likely, the schools do not want to share the revenue and want to continue making that coin from sponsors and endorsement deals.

Which leads us to this: If all athletes get this chance — and the state of North Carolina is already looking at similar legislation — then how much will Nike pull from a Duke or UCLA hoops or a UNC or USC football and just earmark that directly for the athletes? Hmmmmmmmm.

As for the NCAA discussion on a 'level playing field' just shut up with that Mark Emmert and your band of merry nincompoops.

College athletics is a lot of things, but a level playing field is never among them. If we are committed to a level playing field, regulate the amount a school can spend on facilities or how many support staff members they can employee or the recruiting budgets or so many other things that are 100 percent the opposite of a level playing field.

Never mind that if the level playing field is the biggest concern against Bill 206, then make it level by allowing all athletes to cash NIL checks.

If signed by the governor, Bill 206 will not take effect until 2023, so there's time to adjust NCAA.

But this is coming. And you best be ready, because once it passes in California and then North Carolina, you know that Texas and Alabama and Oklahoma and the rest of the states with power programs — states in which the highest paid state employee is a college coach, mind you — will be ready to roll in 2023 too.

Hey, then the NCAA can get that level playing field in terms of NIL after all.
This and that

— This could be a sign of the times of college football scheduling moving forward, but Friday's UNC-Wake Forest game is a non-conference title. Seriously. Rather that scheduling an Elon or a NC A&T, these teams will play each other in a game that will not count in the ACC standings. Interesting, no?

— Braves played. Braves won. Hey, that Dallas Kuechel signing turned out to be a pretty good decision, no. Not surprising since everything ol' Alex 'Midas' Anthopoulos touches turns to gold. (That said, someone threw out one of my previous Tweets about the how big a mistake it was for the Braves to not include Austin Riley in a deal for JT Realmudo, and I'll fight on that hill folks. Realmudo is going to be a dude at catcher for a while and the Braves could use his skills for a while. Riley? Not so sure what he's going to be, and truth be told, if you're the A-T-L and Double A-A, you have to be seriously considering resigning Josh Donaldson, right?)

— The single season home run record was reset last night, and there still is more than a couple of weeks left. Yeah, nothing really different about the ball after all, right Commish?

— I will have my NFL picks tomorrow, but I'm on Carolina minus-5 tonight.

 

Today's questions

Do you have a mailbag question or a fantasy football question? Email me at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

As for today, Sept. 12, on this day in 1910, the first female cop was appointed in Los Angeles.

Rushmore of TV female police officers. Go.

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