Monday, August 31, 2015

College Football 2015: This year's picks explained (Updated)

(Note: Updated to include the latest line moves. If the move changes my analysis, then I'll notify that with a strike-through.  If nothing changes I'll just change the line.)

As we're gearing up for the start of the 2015/16 College Football Season I thought it would be a good time to outline what my pick-em blogging strategy would be this year.

In the past, I've gone with the 10 games theory which, given that I have a day job and write most of these in the evening to publish the next day, was quite the stretch on my time.  The simple fact is I cannot fully analyze 10 games in a week, the more realistic expectation is 4 or 5.

So, that's what I'm going to do.  Four or five games per week on which I hope to spend enough time studying to provide some real handicapping advice on.  Of course, given that my job deals with the government and I live in Texas I will not be betting on these games myself. (except during my one weekend upcoming trip to Vegas that is). I realize that online gambling is done by a lot of people but I have too much riding on my day job to risk it.  If ANYONE was ever going to get caught, it would be me.  So I toe the line. What you do on your own time is up to you. I don't offer legal advice. (or gaming advice for that matter).

That said, I have a handful of games that I'm looking at for week number 1.  Given the relative weakness of the schedule (and the fact that I'm mute on Michigan games) it took a lot to come up with Five.

1. North Carolina @ South Carolina (-2)  - I realize that the consensus opinion on the Gamecocks is that they are not going to be any good.  That said, I still think they have way more talent than North Carolina in any given season.  I say lay the Gamecocks to cover at home.

2. Oklahoma State (-23.5) @ Central Michigan - Let's be clear here. Central Michigan is not going to be very good.  That said I'm not 100% convinced the Cowboys are either.  23 1/2 feels like a HUGE number for the Pokes to score on air given their recent history. I'd fire at Central Michigan to cover, but conservatively.  In other words (if I had one) this would not be my SLAM 5-star special.  Hell, it probably wouldn't even get a full star.  But I do think CMU has a pretty decent chance to cover.

3. [2]TCU (-17) @ Minnesota - This is a classic "top team vs. the B1G Early in the Season" game.  And the B1G never seems to do well in these.  I like Coach Kill quite a bit but I like Coach Patterson better.  Again, not a Million Star special but I feel pretty confident the Horned Frogs are going to lay one on the Gophers here.  TCU to cover. Given this line move to 17 I'm not as confident in the ability of TCU to cover. This feels like a 2 TD game to me.  That said, I'm not altering my pick of TCU to cover but it's made with much less confidence than before.

4. Washington @ [23] Boise State (-12) - I think Washington is a fringe contender in the PAC-12 this year and I think Boise State is a program that's taking a step back.  What I see here is a tight, competitive game against two teams that probably should be ranked in the Top 25 at season's end.  What I don't see is Boise State running away with it.  I'd say fade Boise and take the underdog here.  I might even say on the ML if you're brave and willing to absorb some risk.

5. [15]Arizona State vs. Texas aTm (-3.5) - I guess I could see this line were the game played in College Station. It's not, it's played right down the road in Houston but I think AZ State fans will travel OK and will lessen the cacophony that is the aTm crowd.  The Aggies will still be loud, but AZ State will at least see some friendly faces in the lower bowl.  Add to that the fact that I think AZ State is a certified PAC-12 contender, and that the PAC-12 is catching the SEC in terms of overall quality, and I'm not very comfortably saying to sprinkle a small amount on the Devils on the ML.  Not to cover. To win, straight up. I have a lot of aTm friends who hope I'm very wrong about this.

Other games (no play)

 - Louisville @ [6] Auburn (-10.5) - As much as I thought about including this game there's the Bobby Petrino factor that kept me away.  I will say this. I think Auburn is one of the more overrated teams in the country this year and that you'll end up making more money on the fade from them then you will laying them with the points.  Offensively they're going to be pretty bad. Defensively?  Pretty great.

 - Virginia @ [13]UCLA (-20) - Just too big a number here from a team who's bringing a lot back, but is replacing a lot as well, at key positions.  Don't get me wrong, the Wahoos are going to be awful (again) but I'm not sure UCLA is going to be the top PAC-12 team everyone seems to think.

 - UTEP @ [18]Arkansas (-33) - Everything about these teams suggests that Arkansas should wipe the floor with the Miners.  But by 5 TD's?  I can see 34-10 but I could also see 45-0.  When you don't have a clear handicap......pass.

 - BYU @ Nebraska (-7) - If anything, I'd lay BYU here on the ML to pull an upset.  But it's in Omaha, where the Huskers are much, much tougher. You also have a new HC so there are a lot of unknowns there.  Pass.  But I'll be keeping my eye on BYU because I think they're a pretty solid team this year.

 - Sam Houston State @ Texas Tech (NL) - There's no line on this game but it would not surprise me to see SHSU either hang with, or upset what is turning out to be a pretty awful Tech team under "our coach is hotter than yours".

 - Akron @ [19]Oklahoma (-31.5) - This is another one that, were I in Vegas, I might throw a little money toward the underdog but I don't like it enough to put it in my four.  I think OU is due a step-back here and I think Akron will be very good, for the MAC.  What I don't know is how OU's QB play will be and whether or not Stoops is running on fumes.  Pass.

 - Texas @ [11]Notre Dame (-9)  - My gut says Irish to cover at home, but handicapping the game I think Texas has a real chance.  IF they can find average QB play, something they couldn't do last year. Until they show that one way or the other I'm passing on Texas.

 - Georgia Southern @ West Virginia (-19.5) - Georgia Southern head coach Willie Fritz is the best coach you've never heard of.  If I knew more about both of these teams I'd be willing to lay money on GS to cover.  To be honest, I haven't had the chance to read a whole lot so I'm passing.  Don't be surprised to se Georgia Southern on my list of 4 or 5 in the weeks to come.

 - [20]Wisconsin vs. [3]Alabama (-12.5) Another season opening "neutral site" game that really isn't. (Alabama will have a decided advantage) against two pretty good teams who have something to prove.  Wisconsin needs to show that last year's demolition at the hands of the Buckeyes was a fluke and Alabama wants to prove that they are still the top-dog in the SEC.  I think 'Bama wins, but I can't figure out if I like them well enough to win by more than a touchdown, two point conversion and a field goal.

 - [1]Ohio State (-14) @ Virginia Tech - Two things work in the Buckeye's favor this year.  1. They're full of confidence and 2. They're not going to be breaking in a new QB.  Still, the game is in Blacksburg which carries with it a good homefield advantage.  I don't see any path to victory for the Hokies like I did last year, but I don't see Ohio State running over them either.  My problem is I have the spread somewhere around 10-14 in my head. That's a sign to move to the next game.

And finally.....

Michigan @ Utah (-6) - I have two betting rules. First, I won't buy a betting service. You can come close to .500 (or slightly higher) just by doing a little research and watching the games. There is no "inside information" that can let you "bet the games like they've already been played." Anyone telling you that is a liar.  My second rule is that I NEVER bet on Michigan.  As in ever.  Yes, they are my team and yes I'm a fan but I cannot disassociate my fandom from my investment strategy.  That said...It's a shame that the first win of the Harbaugh era is not going to happen at the Big House, but in Utah.  Go Blue!!!!

Remember, if you're looking to this blog for betting advice go have your head examined. I'm an accountant who happens to be a gambler who happens to really, really like college football.  This blogging lets me feel like I'm indulging in all three of those areas without running afoul of the stupid, overly-strict, gambling prohibitions that are present in Texas and the United States.  This is also a long-form experiment to see if I can make it to .500 (or round about) on a consistent basis.

Kick off for the FBS is Thursday.  Make sure you don't get closed out.

(On another note. Congratulations to the Montana Grizzlies for upsetting the NDSU Bison in an outstanding kick-off to the FCS season.)

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