Los Angeles Dodgers' Justin Turner, right, scores past Atlanta Braves catcher Travis d'Arnaud on a single by AJ Pollock during the eighth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Welcome to the show

The Fab 4 picks have become one of the many staples around these parts.

And that got me thinking which, yes, Spy, is a dangerous thing.
What are the staples around these parts? Contests on golf majors and college bowl games. We have tried a couple of survivor pools. There will be a new bracket challenge starting next week that we will share and want input on from you guys and gals.

— There's an overabundance of movie quotes, and far too many misspelled words — though that has improved greatly with the added layer of another set of eyes on the daily product. Side question: What word do you frequently mis-type the most? For me, it's writing form when I mean to write from.

— I am going to bemoan cancel culture wherever I see it.

— Chas is not going to agree with me on most things, and that's OK.

— JTC wants to stay as far away from non-sports topics as possible, and that too is OK.

— We have a great crew of regulars — that features the above two — and even more who converse with me through email rather than share in public forums.

What did I miss?

There also are some betting staples. Here is the lay of the land, as Rudy might say, of some of the basic gambling tenets I've crafted in doing this for more than 40 years. Yes, I started picking parlay sheets and weekly NFL pools with my dad. And yes, I can remember the days and times when the old Kickoff was the bees' knees when it came to insightful pre-weekend gambling research.

— Nothing is due but postage and library books. If you think you're going to hit a bet because you're "due" or that Akron is going to win because the Zips are "due" then you should save your money.

— Any line that looks too good to be true almost always is.

— Picking losers can be every bit as financially beneficial as picking winners.

— Trains almost always crash. (Reminder: A train is one side that is universally backed by every person and expert you hear. Granted, UT on the money line tonight vs. BGSU is a train, but at minus-10,000, no one is listening anyway.)

— Err on the side of coaches. Respect tendencies. Stay humble and steady.

— Sharps and pros are sharp and make their living by betting for a reason, and they are doing it for a reason. And part of that reason is they play way more underdogs than the general public.

I feel like there are a few more, but as we head into the first full weekend of the college football season, it felt like a time to share what we know before we offer what we think.


To the picks

So, what does that tell us? Well, after almost a decade of hitting close to 58 percent of my against-the-spread college picks, last year was terrible. We needed a winning bowl season to get to 45 percent.

No es bueno. Here's hoping you followers did not have to sell your laptops. Here's hoping those of you who went against the Fab 4 used that extra cash to practice random acts of kindness.

While I can make no promises, I do like the ride on which I enter the season. Let's just say the FanDuel and BetMGM accounts are trending in a very positive direction with the recent rides of the Dodgers (yes, please) and the Orioles (yes, please) in opposite directions.

Good times. Like Ralph Wiggum's nose in allergy season, let's do some picking, and yes, we have more than four. God bless you, college football.

UT-BGSU over 60. We have to be on a Thursday game, right? Right? And we feel like we need to make a pick here. (That said, we miss on the Vols early, well, they may not make another appearance in the Fab section for a while.) How about this stat — research alert — but last year the Vols completed 13 out of more than 300 passes for 30-plus-yards. In the spring game under Josh Heupel's offense, there were five 30-plus-yard completions in 47 attempts. Now consider the need for Heupel to generate confidence — among players and fans — that his offense is going to be fun, and the very real fact that if UT is not going to put 45-plus on BGSU, then wowser, this is going to be a long year in Knoxville.

LSU minus-3 over UCLA. Count me among the group of folks who love, Love, LOVE the fact that a lot of the talking heads are now backing UCLA. While the hurricanes and distractions around LSU are real, the relief of getting on the field will be embraced by a Tigers program that had arguably the roughest offseason of any major program around. Yes, the quarterback turnover gives me a second of pause, but just a second. Let me ask you this: LSU has, what, the five best players on the field? Seven, maybe?

Syracuse minus-1 over Ohio. The Orange were rotten last year. But so was I. The change? A bunch of transfers, especially on what was the worst FBS offensive line in the country. A couple of years ago Syracuse made us a lot of money. Last year, if we had gone against Dino Babers' bunch, they would have made us a lot of money.

Michigan State plus-3.5 over Northwestern. Michigan State was rotten last year. So was I. So, like any good non-SEC team with an SEC connection like Mel Tucker, Sparty hopped into the transfer portal and got some dudes, including an Alabama DB and a UT linebacker. Now remember that last year was a magical ride for Northwestern, a school that returns only 34 percent of its offensive production and lost two NFL first-rounders. Yes, Pat Fitzgerald is one of the best coaches in the country, but schools like Northwestern have to build for those special seasons. Last year was that special season. This starts the rebuild.

Georgia plus-3 over Clemson. I am on the Dogs outright here. In this one — and the next one — comparable SEC programs > comparable SEC programs. Both fact and truth.    

Ole Miss minus-10 over Louisville. Get on this now. Like right now. Think of what we know. Lane Kiffin in a spotlight all to himself — for his ego and his program's recruiting profile — on a Monday night. Kiffin will flex his play-calling and his players for the nation to watch. I considered the over, too, and it's trending in the upper 70s — but know there's no way I'd play the under, because Kiffin will try to get to 60 on his own.  

Last year: Forgot it.

Last week: 2-2, to quote that Irish waitress in "Caddyshack," "Tanks for nuttin'" Scott Frost.

Season: 2-2 against the number.

All time: I know it's out there somewhere. I'll do some interweb digging when I have more time.


Better baseball

The Dodgers are the class of baseball. On this I believe we can agree.

The Braves are fighters. Gamers, who will be there to the end, but more times than not the end against superior clubs will be bitter rather than better.

And that was the takeaway from the Dodgers' three-game sweep of Atlanta. Another takeaway: I think Brian Snitker should cede all bullpen decisions to, well, anyone that's in the dugout. Or has a cell phone. Or can shoot an email to the Braves' brass.

Bullpen miscues cost the Braves the last two games of this series, and the juggling of the pitching staff heading into the "er" months is quite telling.
Drew Smyly will miss his next turn in Colorado considering that the Braves do not want the homer-prone lefty to get any of the Rockies fans in the outfield seats injured with 500-foot bombs.

The movements of the relief corps leave lingering questions like, a) Do we trust Will Smith, and b) Can Tyler Matzek pitch every day, and pitch effectively?

I don't know the answers to either of those. But I do know that Snitker clearly does not know them either. As a clubhouse guy, Snit is strong. As a steady hand in the marathon that is the regular season, Snit is aces.

Managing a bullpen, Snit is bull, well, you know.  


This and that

— Sneaky big change in the NCAA football eligibility rules happened Wednesday. The NCAA allowed Mustafa Johnson to return and play for Colorado. The second-team All Pac-12 defensive lineman declared for the draft, went undrafted, did not sign and did not accept any training camp invites. Wow, so that's a first — at least as far as I know.

— This would be a great 30-for-30 if he would cooperate. Art Schlichter, the former quarterback for THE Ohio State and the Colts, was released from prison and at 61 is living in Ohio on parole.

— Mocs 38, Austin Peay 21. If you can find that local line, take that one, too.

— By almost all accounts considering the mounting evidence and what have you, disgraced former game show bigwig Mike Richards is not the nicest guy in the world. But if James Holzhauer had a beef with Richards, taking a victory lap after the fact is not a move that exudes courage in my view. Richards is done; dancing on his professional grave makes Jeopardy James look like a tool.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on the variety of emotional season openers for the Vols.


Today's questions

Happy football, everyone. Got a prediction — outlandish or not-so-out-of-the-ordinary — fire away.

On this day William Sherman burned Atlanta in 1864. He was among America's all-time war criminals, if you ask me.

The first ATM was used on this day in 1969.

Does ATM make the Rushmore of most universally identified three-letter abbreviations?

Go, and remember the mailbag.