Tiger Woods, of the United States, plays a shot from a bunker on the second hole during the first round of the US Open Golf Championship, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Mamaroneck, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Fab 4 picks

OK, I think heading into Week 2/3 — depending on the teams, and for some Week 1 — this is the best time to remind folks of the overarching rules that we try to live by in the entertainment hunting realm. That's right, we make picks for entertainment only — wink, wink, nod, nod at least until Nov. 1 when sports betting in the state of Tennessee becomes legal.

Sure, we would love for some Hunger Games love and hope the odds are ever in our favor.

But odds are just that odd. We're right at 60 percent entering our 10th season of posting our Fab 4 (plus 1) college football picks on this platform.

So we have some guidelines — man's got to have a code after all — that shape the philosophy and point us to the picks in the sea of possibilities.

Rule 1: Trains crash. Always. The public side — the team that is backed heartily and heavily by the general betting public — is more often than not wrong. That's why Vegas has hotels with $5.99 lobster dinners and the fella at the corner who answers the phone and writes down your picks drives a nicer car than your dentist.

Rule 2: If a life looks too good to be true, it is. This could be Rule 1A in some ways, those lines are crafted for one specific reason — to separate the entertainment hunter from his money. So they want to make the spreads enticing. The lines makers also know that teams like the Cowboys and the Fighting Irish and the Tide are very popular with fans, so those lines are frequently skewed because Joe Public Entertainment Hunter is going to watch his favorite team, and he knows, "There's just no way the Irish are not going to cover 20 against Duke. Duke is a basketball school for Pete Rozelle's Sake. Hail Mary, Mother of Grace, Pray for us."

Rule 3: Games on the magic numbers of 3, 7, 10 and 14, but the half. Buying the half, gives your side half a point so if you're on the favorite minus-7, buying the half turns a 28-21 win into a win rather than a push. If you lose the bet, you pay double the entertainment brokerage fee — known as juice or big — that is 10 percent of every losing bet. So if you had FSU minus-3 (and why you back these Seminoles is a much bigger question) for 100 entertainment duckets, bought the half and FSU only won 16-14, then you owe 120 entertainment duckets rather than the normal 110. Got it? Good.

Rule 4: Picking losers is every bit as profitable in terms of entertainment as picking winners. Couple of teams to watch for in this unprecedented time and unpredictable season: Syracuse stinks; keep an eye on Southern Miss (more on that in a moment); Navy (more on that in a moment, too). There are a few more. Did anyone see that Texas Tech allowed 600 yards to Houston Baptist? No es bueno.Feels like I am forgetting a couple, because, again, these are guidelines more than hard and fast rules, but hey, there you go.

To the picks       

Louisiana-Lafayette minus-17 over Georgia State. I am all in on Billy Napier, who took his Cajuns to Iowa State and thoroughly handled a ranked team. Georgia State is more of a rank team. (Thank you, thank try the veal and remember to tip your wait staff.) If the U of L defense is going to make Iowa State and future NFL QB Brock Purdy look as uncomfortable as a lactose intolerant man at an ice cream social, then Napiers defense will be as tight as Atlanta traffic against the Panthers.  

Georgia Southern pick 'em over FAU. OK, let's review the betting principals in 2020. Yes, we had rules and postulates that have shaped closed to a decade a smidge under 60 percent against the number. Some of the above rules overlap and are even reinforced in the Year of COVID. I always look for teams that have played a game against teams making their season opener. Biggest improvement between week 1 and week 2 and all. But the Corona creates scenarios like that and multiplies them. This is a prime example: Georgia Southern is at a bargain price because on paper they were dang lucky to escape the Campbell Camels 27-26 last week. Well, Spy's Eagles had 33 players — including seven starters and two preseason all-conference picks — unavailable because of Corona or discipline issues. In fact, Vegas professional gamblers have loaded so heavily on the Eagles that the line opened at FAU minus-5.5 and will continue to tumble. Now the kicker FAU cancelled practice on Tuesday because of Corona. Forget the pendulum, in this college football entertainment hunting season, for home the pandemic tolls is a monster factor.

Duke minus-6 over Boston College and under 52.5. Duke has played; BC has not played. Duke has  continuity under head coach David Cutcliff, who is back calling players; BC has a new staff and a new system. Duke has Clemson transfer quarterback Chase Brise, who sounds like a five-star recruit; BC has a new QB named Phil Jurkovec, who sounds like a five-star accountant.  

Tulane minus-7 over Navy. Yes, friends, buy the half, and this is a game that if it was played in late October the line would be reversed. Yes, the Navy name and the recent tradition and excellence carry weight in the casual entertainment hunters' eyes. But this is a Navy team that does not have an experienced trigger-man running its offense, b) misses Malcolm Perry more than any team misses any one player in the country (Joe Burrow included) and c) did not tackle or have legit physical drills in its preseason. On the other side, Tulane has played — and won — a game, just extended head coach Willie Fritz for five years, and has arguably the most experienced defense in the country. That experience — of Tulane's 11 defensive starters, the youngest is a junior and there are six seniors and two grad students among the first team — truly helps against a Navy offense Tulane has faced each of the last five seasons.

La Tech plus-5.5 over Southern Miss. Run, do not walk, to your betting apt or your friendly neighborhood entertainment broker and the get the Techsters here. In the greatest unknown time in the history of college football, is there a team in more of a state of flux than Southern Miss, who got walked to the shed into its opener and then had their coach resign. The wrong side is favored here friends.Last week: 3-2 (60 percent against the spread)

This season: 5-5 (50 percent against the spread)


US Open (and Intimidator Pool)

OK, we got a couple of challenges/games circulating at the same time.

We have the US Open golf contest, and we're running behind, but we got about 50 entries on this. Thanks to all of those who are playing. And yes, Dustin Johnson was a very popular pick. Very popular. Like as popular as Paulina Gretzky on InstaGram. (Yeah she has 820,000-plus followers on that social media platform.)

My quick thoughts on the Open.

Super excited to see the best in the world fight for par.

Everyone around these parts knows the Masters is first and foremost in my golf-loving heart. That's not going to change.

Beyond the tradition, the tract, the patrons and the badges, the logo and all the things that have made that week in Augusta the single best event in sports in the world, the golf is simple and the reasoning is blessed:

The PGA Championship is a crap shoot that is still trying to find out its true identity.

The British Open is the snotty English cousin that drinks 'Ale' and orders 'Pints' rather than beer, corrects you about the real and right term that is 'futbol' and, as a tournament, the Open is about the elements and the varied challenges of the game. (Side note: One of the best things about the British Open is that it happens super early in the morning. Dispute that if you'd like.)

The U.S. Open is about the USGA trying to make the best in the world look like the best at Mac Bend. Par is your friend, and by every report, this week at Winged Foot, 72 pars will win the whole thing. That's cool, and it's fun occasionally because it brings a different type of pressure.The Masters has it all. There are normally elements — when it's spring in Georgia, elements and weather changes are commonplace — and the pressure is through the roof.

But the Masters, unlike all the rest, is the major the organizers want the players to go win.

This weekend will be about survival. Of course, I would love for Phil Mickelson and/or Tiger to be in the mix, but hard to see it happening. Here are my picks

Jon Rahm, Rory, Xander Schauffele — who is putting it out of this world right now — Harris English (of course I am a homer, but Harris has been great and amazingly consistent since returning from Corona) and. Tommy Fleetwood.


Playing by the rules

Speaking of rules, well, you know the rules. When TFP college football expert David Paschall writes about college football, we read and link Paschall's prose on college football. It's just that easy.

Here's Paschall on some Alabama — get on the Tide for Mizzou right now, regardless of what the number is friends it's a house note game — COVID news and Missouri having some folks out.

Seriously, that's Alabama 59-10 if the Tigers get 10 that is.

Also of note in today's TFP, here's Paschall on UT's Trey Smith, who is one of my all-time favorite Vols.

Which leads us to two different conversations that interest me.

First, speaking of Smith, this is such a great topic: Favorite SEC player from like your second- or third-favorite SEC school.

As an Auburn fan, and since my dog is named Bo Jackson, well, you likely have a pretty good idea of my favorite AU player.

But because of rivalries and such, my second favorite SEC team has always been UT — my mom went there too — and my favorite UT player is Eric Berry. Carl Pickens was a dude too. Trey Smith just seems like a cat every team, coach and fan would love to have.

Speaking of that leads me to this: Should we be OK knowing the rooting interests of every talking head in sports? Admitted bias and preference on the front end is excellent transparency, but if you are a Patriots fan, you know right away that Mike Greenberg is a Jets fan.Think about that change in this day and age, and the pros and cons.

The pro is connectivity to fans and reliability. The suits and talking heads have rooting interests and hurt feelings like all the rest.

The cons are more than perception of bias but the admittance. (Greenie for example frequently admits he's a "Big Ten guy" after going to Northwestern.)That's fine and typical — and I'm certainly not pointing the finger because you guys and gals know where I went too — but should it be?



This and that

— Speaking of golf, here's the tale of the birth of the Mulligan, which was named after a member at Winged Foot, the host site for the Open this weekend. Cool story friends.

— Speaking of contests, there are a little more than 20 of you who are still in the Intimidator Pool. If you want the Browns or the Bengals tonight, let me know. (Must win for Cleveland, right? Hard to pick one side or the other because I thinK Joe Burrow has the goods. Give me the over 43.5 friends. Let it ride.) All Pool picks must be in by COB Friday. (That's close of business, Spy.)

— Well that got length. Quickly, Cole Hamels returned to work last night and made his Braves debut. Thoughts? Is there a letter grade for Hamels' effort last night? He allowed three runs before hitting his pitch limit in the fourth. Discuss.

— Here's today's A2 column on the Power of several P's — politics, passion, pressure and profits — that helped the Big Ten back to the football field this fall.

Today's questions

There are a slew of items above feel free to chime in.Also, remember the mailbag. We got a spot or two this week.
M*A*S*H debuted on this day in 1972. What a great show, especially the Henry Blake episodes.

On this day in 1941, Stan "The Man" Musial debuted for the Cardinals. Today is also Billy the Kid's birthday.

Rushmore of "The (blank)" nicknames (and if there are multiple, like The King or the The Man then you only can pick one.)

Go and have a great Thursday.