Wednesday, October 18, 2017

College Football: The Week 8 FIVE

First: Some housekeeping.

There will be no FIVE next week.  I am taking a week off.

Now, for week 8 I'm including a pick  that is a sea change for me.  Over the past few years I've refrained from including the University of Houston in my picks because I was a graduate of the UH System.  My rule is to not include teams in my picks for which I have a rooting interest.  This means that Michigan, UNLV and Houston will not appear in the FIVE.

That changes this week because I watched Houston lose to Tulsa and I didn't care. Not that I was rooting for them to lose, I just didn't care that they did so.  Because of that I'm including their Thursday night game in this week's FIVE and will continue to include them if I believe the lines are correct.

Let's get to the games.

Standard Disclaimer: The lines are as accurate as I can get them at the time of publication. I pull my lines from the Westgate Superbook when available. If they are not available I use OddsShark. These may, or may not be games that I'm personally playing. You get what you pay for (the picks are free after all) and if you choose to follow an accountant from Houston in respect to game picks you might want to get some professional help.

1. Memphis @ Houston (-3) T: 60.5

On paper, Houston's 17-45 loss to Tulsa last week looks horrible. But the game was much closer than the score suggests and Tulsa is much better than their now 2-5 record suggests. That said, the Golden Hurricane are NOT among the top teams in the American while Memphis is. In fact, the only game that Memphis has lost is on the road to UCF, a team that I'm currently ranking at #10 in the country. Thursday night road games are notoriously tough on the visiting team, but I think this Memphis team is head and shoulders better than a Cougar team that seems to be reverting to Tony Levine form under Major Applewhite. Pick: Memphis to win on the M/L.

2. Air Force (-6) @ Nevada-Reno  T: 67.5

The problem for Air Force has been their schedule. They've been in tough against Michigan, Navy, New Mexico and San Diego State. They played a horrible half of football against the Desert Rug Rats before the latter tired and they pulled off the win (at home) against a UNLV team that I think is better than their record suggests. The problem for Nevada-Reno is that they are NOT a good football team. They only have a home win against a Hawai'i team that travels poorly. Blowout coming. Pick: Air Force to cover -6.

3. University of Central Florida (-7.5) @ Navy T: 66

I have UCF slotted at number 10 in my 2nd top 10 and I don't think their being there is a fluke. They won at Maryland, versus Memphis and they have a home win over a FIU team that we're finding out is pretty good. Navy barely beat Air Force at home, and lost to the only good team they played in Memphis.  UCF has one of the best offenses in college football, I foresee that being a central factor in this game. Pick: UCF to cover -7.5 (I think this number moves toward Navy in the coming days, patience could be a virtue here as you might get under a touchdown)

4. North Texas @ Florida Atlantic (-3.5) T: 65

In a match-up pitting the two first place teams in the C-USA I like the Mean Green's chances here. Florida Atlantic hasn't beaten anyone of note, while North Texas has already notched wins over UTSA and a surprisingly good UAB team. Seth Littrel doesn't get half of the press as Lane Kiffin, but he's likely the better coach, and has the better team, at this point in time. Pick: UNT to win on the M/L

5. Southern Miss @ Louisiana Tech (-2.5) T: 55.5

At the beginning of the season I was very high on the Bulldogs. I thought they had ample talent to win the C-USA and I still stand by that assessment. I thought Southern Miss was going to be hot garbage on the field and I was wrong there. They're not as bad as I thought.  If head coach Sonny Dykes can't pull this game out of his hat then he won't be long for LaTech. This is a must win for the Bulldogs if they want to stay in the conference mix. Pick: Louisiana Tech to cover -2.5

Unlike previous weeks, there's no Wednesday night #FunBelt action to divert your attention from either the baseball playoffs, or the snooze worthy NBA regular season (that said, get well soon Gordon Hayward!) so there's no bonus pick this week.

Enjoy the games.

BadSports: Last Night Astros fans were reminded of a horrible truth.

In sports and life, Evil. Always wins.

When Aaron Judge launched a ball into the seats at Yankee Stadium and A.J. Finch overreacted by pulling his starter (who had, up until then performed admirably) from the game you knew this was not going to end well.

Up until that point Lance McCullers had performed admirably. His curve ball was working, he was placing his fastball, everything was going OK until one bad pitch, a hanging curve to new-media-darling Aaron Judge, and it all started to come undone.  To copy an old saying "Judge hit that ball so hard it should have had a flight attendant on it serving drinks".

But that should have been OK.  Because all six-foot seven inches of Aaron Judge does that. He hits home runs.  And that particular home run was at the best possible time because the bases were empty, the Yankees were still down 4-1 in the 7th inning and I've a feeling McCullers would have had the gumption, and stuff, to close out the inning and turn the ball over to the bullpen to close out the 8th and 9th innings without the stress of men on 2nd and 3rd and nobody out. But it didn't happen that way.

Because Evil.Always.Wins.

Whether it's the Yankees in baseball, the Patriots in the NFL, the Warriors in the NBA, Chelsea in the Premier League, Alabama in college football or Kentucky in NCAA basketball evil reigns supreme.

Yes, there is a year when the plucky upstart rises above adversity and plucks the crown from the King, we've seen that recently with the Cubs, Cleveland, Villanova, Leicester City but eventually the sea finds its level and evil returns to the throne.

I've often heard people ask why the WWE is so popular, despite being scripted and generally un-PC. At heart it's because they understand that while good must constantly struggle, their wins can only be fleeting and temporary before they come crashing down in the inevitability of darkness.

Leicester City had a magical run to the top of the Premier League Table two years back, they've been languishing near the relegation zone ever since. The Cubs broke the curse of the Billy Goat, and are in the process of being dismantled by the mercenary band masquerading as the LA Dodgers. Villanova won, but Louisville rode Rick Pitino's wealthy coattails to power, and now Kentucky is taking over the throne. Clemson won last year, but Alabama is right back at it running rough-shod over a shoddy SEC while looking all the world like world beaters. If they can't do it the only slightly less evil Ohio State Buckeyes will usurp the crown.

That's just sports y'all.  And life.


Which is why heading into today I have little faith in the Astros ability to pull a win out of this series, but a ton of hope.  Because historic victories over evil have always occurred when one man stood in the breach and said enough!  That man tomorrow afternoon will be one Dallas Kuechel.


Until they don't.

Go Astros.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

College Football: Making Sense of the Week That Was (Or: Darn you Week 7)

For me, 'twas an ugly week.  I said last week in the lead-in to my FIVE that I had given some thought of taking the week off. I didn't LOVE any of the games I was picking and, to be honest, I didn't even LIKE most of them.  The results were telling.  I went 1-4 here and 1-1 for Bet the Rent which lowers my record for the season to a pretty disgusting 11-17-2 for the FIVE and 20-21-2 for all selections.

That's bad.

It's embarrassingly bad.

It's "What in the hell is going on around here?" bad.

But, I own this. I never claimed to be an "expert" nor do I sell my picks (thank goodness) nor do I advise you follow along.  I do this because I have fun doing it and it's a good release from my day job.  It also makes college football more fun, for me. Hopefully you, as a reader, enjoy it to.

I will say that "SU" is a figure that I don't track but I'm doing fairly well there. I can pick winners OK, just not winners at the betting window.

But enough with that.  Let's take a peek back.

Week 7 was a disaster for my top 10 as Clemson and Washington State lost on Friday, and then Auburn, Washington and San Diego State spit the bit on Saturday.  It was carnage all around. In addition to those teams Navy fell from the ranks of the unbeaten and Texas Tech was upset by West Virginia. It was one of those weeks where you just shrug your shoulders say "sure" and move on.

It's also why we love college football so much.  Because every team is flawed and every team can be beaten. Upsets like this happen. And while every tout in the world is going to tell you they "knew it was coming" that's crap, because no one knew that Syracuse over Clemson was coming and if you bet Syracuse it probably wasn't on the money line unless you are a fan of the Orange or were throwing up a Hail Mary bet.  That's why there are called "upsets" after all.

With that in mind, here's my updated "top 10" which is unremarkable in the fact that it's not too far away from the AP Top 10, with just a few changes.

1. Alabama. While I don't think the Tide are unbeatable I do think that the SEC is so down this year that they might finish the season undefeated.

2. Georgia. Have looked like the 2nd best team in the SEC and the win over Notre Dame is looking better and better as time passes.

3. Penn State. Their test starts this week.

4. TCU. Clearly the class of the Big XII. The OU matchup makes or breaks their season.

5. Wisconsin. A relatively easy schedule puts them in the catbird seat for the B1G title game.

6. Clemson.  Yes, the Syracuse loss hurt, but they still have a better resume than most.

7. Ohio State. Starting to get things ramped up now. Slotted just below Clemson because the Tigers have more quality wins.

8. Miami. Undefeated but it feels as if they're holding it together with spit and bailing wire.

9. Oklahoma State. The TCU loss is the only blemish on what is a fairly impressive resume.

10. University of Central Florida. Their matchup against USF could be the game of the week and probably deserves a Game Day visit.

Outside looking in:  Oklahoma, USF, USC, Notre Dame

Conference Rankings:

1. ACC
2. B1G
3. Big XII
4. SEC
5. American
6. Pac-12
7. MAC
8. Mountain West
9. Conference USA
10. SunBelt

There will be a FIVE landing tomorrow, but there might not be one for week 9 because of real-life obligations.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

College Football: Week 7 - Beware the Soft-Gooey Center of Conference Play

Unless you live in the South (In Houston today the high is 91 degrees) the afternoons are getting cooler, the leaves are turning and Fall is stretching out and making itself comfortable. It's football weather, and there is nothing better than tailgating for your favorite team while sneaking a flask (or three) of warming bourbon, rum or whatever into the stadium for a 3rd QTR tipple.

Winning a conference game on the road is no easy thing, and several teams go in as big favorites to do just that. I'm not predicting too many upsets this weekend but it would not surprise me in the slightest to see on (or three) happen.

It's also Red River Shootout Rivalry Showdown week as OU fans begin their annual pilgrimage to Dallas to gorge themselves on beer, fried food and (allegedly) set fire to Big Tex*.  With that in mind, let's take a look at the games....

Texas State @ Louisiana - Lafayette (-13.5) T: 55.5

We kick off Thursday night football with two teams that are entrenched at the bottom of college football rankings. Whether you prefer CBS' bottom 25 or ESPN's Bottom 10 both teams either are in the lists weekly, or are hovering around the fringes.  The thing is, neither team should be THAT bad. Both are in good college towns (San Marcos is what Austin used to be before the latter sunk into a fug of body odor and political consultants and Lafayette is in the heart of Cajun Country) that happen to be in a fertile recruiting area where even picking up 3-Star recruits and coaching them up should make you competitive. The loser of this game probably has a shot at winning the title of "worst team in the FBS" at year's end.  Prediction:  Texas State 9 ULaLa 17

Clemson (-21.5) @ Syracuse T: 56.5

Friday brings us two ACC schools whose programs are headed in different directions. Clemson is my top team in the Country while Syracuse is struggling to rebuild from shambles under 2nd-year head coach Dino Babers. It's Thursday, on ESPN so the Carrier Dome should be loud, for about 3 minutes. After that the Orange will be purple, black and blue. Prediction: Clemson 52 Syracuse 7

Washington State (-14.5) @ California T: 55.0

The late Friday night game gives us a very good football team coached by a very odd man in Washington State versus a California team that is......?  To be honest I'm not sure. After starting the season 3-0 it was thought the Bears might have something but then we realized they beat UNC, Weber State and Ole Miss. Ugh. The Golden Bears are finishing up a brutal run of schedule where they played USC, Oregon, Washington and now Washington State in back to back to back to back games. They should be a tired team by this point.  Prediction: Washington State 42 Cal 24

Florida State (-7) @ Duke T: 44.5

Did the Miami Hurricane break the Blue Devils?  I'm starting to think so as this team looked awful against a fairly pedestrian Virginia team. The bad news for Duke is that the Seminoles seem to be on the cusp of "putting shit together" after a brutal start that saw starting QB Francios end up injured and a true Freshman with the build of a willow branch take his place. The Seminoles are sorting it out however as the win last week against the Hurricane has revealed. Prediction: Florida State 38 Duke 10

Texas Tech @ West Virginia (-3.5) T: 76

My gut feeling is that both of these teams are overrated by quite a bit.The Mountaineers have lost to every good team they have faced (Virginia Tech and TCU) while beating up on one FCS foe and two FBS bottom-feeders. Texas Tech on the other hand will point at their win over UH and jump up and down swearing to all who will listen that this proves they're "good".  The problem with this logic is that the Cougars, at that time, were still figuring things out post Harvey and outside of a loss to Okie State, they have nothing else to hang their hats on. Finding out these two teams are smoke and mirrors could really hurt the currently inflated image the Big XII is enjoying. Prediction: Texas Tech 42 West Virginia 45 (I would take the over here)

TCU (-6) @ Kansas State T: 52

At the beginning of the season I stated that Kansas State was one of the more overrated teams in the country when they were ranked #19 in both the AP and Student Information Director "coaches" polls At this point I'm not even all that confident saying that K-State is a mediocre team. They lost to a Texas team that I do think is pretty good but the inability to move the ball against Vanderbilt is troubling.  This line is almost laughably low except for the fact hat Bill Snyder Family Stadium is a difficult place to play. It's also hard to win a conference game on the road. Prediction: TCU 27 K-State 13

Virginia (-4) @ North Carolina T: 50.5

It was not all that long ago that North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora was being held up as "the next coach to be given a job at a power school". Now there's serious talk that he could be done as the head man at North Carolina if he doesn't turn this mess around. There's also the question of how a so-called "quarterback guru" could find himself with so many bad ones. While I'm not entirely sure yet what to make of the Cavaliers I'm pretty sure Bronco Mendenhall is a good head coach. With that in mind I lean Virginia here. Prediction: Virginia 28 North Carolina 10

Northwestern (-4) @ Maryland T: 51.5

All things being equal, I'd take Maryland in a game between two teams that I projected to finish in the bottom half of their divisions within the B1G this year.  That said, all things aren't equal and I think Maryland is going to be a very beat up team after taking a walloping at the hands of Ohio State last week. Yes, Northwestern played Penn State, but they hung with the Nittany Lions for 3 quarters, which should give them some confidence.  Prediction: Northwestern 24 Maryland 20.

Oklahoma (-7.5) @ Texas - Austin T: 65.5

Ah the Texas State Fair, aisles and aisles of cheap beer, fried food and a big dallop of rivalry football smack dab in the middle. Even though I have no rooting interest, this game is one of my favorite to watch every year. You have two teams that genuinely do not like each other playing for bragging rights and a shiny gold cowboy hat that looks good on no one when they inevitably put it on. Both teams are fairly even on talent, but OU has a much better QB, both teams appear to be even on coaching but OU might, just might, come in angry for this one after getting embarrassed by Iowa State last week, at home. Prediction: OU 35 UT - Austin 20

Auburn (-7) @ LSU T: 44

After beating Florida last week the alumni have stopped clawing at Coach Orgeron's heels, for now. Beating Auburn would go a long way to silencing them for the rest of the season. I think Auburn's defense is nastier, and their offense is slightly less dysfunctional. That said it's hard to walk into Baton Rouge and escape with a win, unless you're Troy, on homecoming and LSU pays you almost a Million to do so. Prediction: Auburn  17 LSU 16

Texas A&M @ Florida (-3.5) T: 51.5

I'm probably not going to watch this game for one reason: Florida's "swamp green" uniforms are evil and a pox on football and they should be punished for that. That said, I think the Aggies need this game desperately if Sumlin is going to keep his job after the season. Given that I said I think he won't be the head coach at Aggie after this year, you can guess which way I'm leaning. A bigger problem for the SEC is that this is the second game that's got #gosec terrible game between two sub-par teams written all over it.  Prediction: aTm 10 Florida 16

Washington (-18) @ ASU T: 57

In between feuds with ESPN and Kirk Herbstreit over the relative weakness of their schedule, Washington has been just as good as I thought they would be so far this year. Outside of an opening week performance against Rutgers (which, they still won) they've handled everything in front of them fairly easily. Arizona State meanwhile has been up against much tougher, and have struggled to a 2-3 record while doing it. Fans of Rice University and the Marching Owl Band will be happy to know that this is going to be another stop on the Todd Graham farewell tour. Prediction: Washington 42 ASU 13

Oregon @ Stanford (-10.5) T: 58.5

This game is the "first game out" of my FIVE. I really like the Ducks here at that line but I'm not entirely sure about them with QB Hebert out. Stanford's offense does one thing really well, that's run the ball with Love. When SDSU shut that down the Cardinal were all out of answers, will Oregon be able to ask the right questions?  Not this year methinks.  Prediction: Oregon 24 Stanford 34

Utah @ USC (-12.5) T: 53

You won't hear a lot of people say it but these two teams are awfully similar. Utah was cruising along undefeated until getting upended by Stanford. There were warning signs of this however when they barely beat a bad Arizona team the week before. USC was cruising along undefeated until being beat by Washington State. There were warning signs of this however when they barely beat a bad Texas team a couple of weeks before. This game is huge for both team's plans to make the Pac-12 Championship Game as the loser is out barring something silly happening. I typically trend toward the team with the better QB when all things are equal.  Prediction: Utah 17 USC 31

Games involving teams I have some connection to.

Houston (-13.5) @ Tulsa T: 66

If head coach Phillip Montgomery doesn't turn this Tulsa mess around rapidly he's going to go from the top of the P5 candidate pile to coaching for his job next year. Houston has bounced back from that confusing loss to Texas Tech by finding a quarterback in Kyle Postma and looking much better. The next two weeks after this feature Memphis and USF for the Cougars so they better not sleep on the Golden Hurricane.  Prediction: Houston 24 Tulsa 7

UNLV Desert Rug Rats @ Air Force (-7.5) T: 46.5

After being outclassed by SDSU last week UNLV heads to the Air Force Academy to play a team that's smarting from a hard-fought loss to the Naval Academy. This is going to be a tough game for the Desert Rug Rats to win and could see them drop to 2-4.  The good news is the schedule gets much easier after this and an 8-4 finish with a bowl bid is still very possible. Air Force has lost out on the Commander in Chief's trophy and has yet to beat an FBS team, it's only win coming over FCS member VMI. Call me insane, I like the Rug Rats here.  Prediction: Desert Rug Rats 35 Air Force 31

And Finally......

Michigan (-8) @ Indiana T: 56.5

OK, OK, I know. You're not laughing with me you're laughing at me. Last week's loss to Michigan State was a gut punch that I probably saw coming, I even stated as much when writing up the game. That said, I chose to be optimistic and pick Michigan to win over State. The challenge for the Wolverines this week is to not let Michigan State beat them twice. I am more frightened of this game than any other I've been worried about this season.  All season long I've hated Michigan's lines. This week is no different.

Prediction: GoBlue 24 Indiana 23.

Outside of the South, it should be a gorgeous weekend.  Take advantage of it, on Sunday. Thursday, Friday and Saturday there's football watching to do.

Good luck.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

US Men's Soccer: It's time to burn it all down. #BadSports

It wasn't just that the US Men's National Team lost 2-1 to Trinidad & Tobago last night, it was the lackluster manner in which they did it.

It's that USMNT Head Coach Bruce Arena said "no excuses" and then made several.

It's that people are actually asking if appealing a Panamanian goal is viable.

It's that US Soccer still doesn't get it.

And that's the problem.  If an entity rots from the head then it's time for US Soccer President Sunil Gulati to do the honorable thing and step down.  In fact, he should have done so immediately after the loss. 

But soccer in the US, and the world to be honest, is a clubby atmosphere at the top in most cases and little things like wins and losses only matter to the fans. Barring arrest, and sometimes not even then, the leadership in world soccer is more entrenched than both sides in WWI.

What US Men's soccer needs right now is a full house-cleaning. They need to blow the whole thing up, break up the foundation and start fresh. With all of the money, resources and talent that the US has at its disposal failing to qualify for the World Cup in a 2nd Tier qualifying group (CONCACAF is not as weak as people say, but it's certainly not top-flight) is unacceptable.

It's so bad right now that fans are griping at Mexico for not doing the US a solid. Mexico, a team that was down four years ago during qualification but found a way, a team that has firmly planted itself atop CONCACAF with no legitimate threat to it's crown. 

Yes, the USA won the CONCACAF Gold Cup but that's a tournament that few take seriously outside the US. Mexico had other, bigger designs, and a plan to get there.  The US has always failed to understand that thinking, incorrectly, that winning local tournaments are a big deal.

In retrospect we should have seen this coming. During qualification for the last two Olympics the US Junior Men's National Team failed. Many of the same players that couldn't get that job done are on the senior roster today.  And while it's easy to blame Klinsmann or Arena for this (and they share a lot of blame) the entirety of the US Soccer system is the real culprit.

It starts with the Junior leagues, where kids are taught a clinical game by coaches who, in some cases, don't know anything more about the sport than they learned from TV or in a workshop. There are high school coaches who's only knowledge of soccer is that they have read a book. I'm not kidding.  And what has US Soccer done to address this?  *crickets*

Pay to play will suck up a lot of the oxygen (rightly so) but, as the linked article states, it is just a symptom of the overall disease that is US Soccer right now. But in the US we're so worried about kids earning a soccer income that we outlaw the very thing that could make us more competitive. We also do a horrid job identifying talent, another systemic problem whose poison flows down from the top.

So, we don't find the best players, we don't coach the game correctly and then we take steps to ensure that US Soccer is one of the least diverse sports available.  The result?

When Major League Soccer formed a horrible decision was made. It was a decision to administer the league like the National Football League, which ignored the successful model of the rest of the world (Promotion/Relegation) and removed any incentive for the owners to consistently produce a winning product. They also decided to play on a different professional schedule than the rest of the world, which certainly hurts come qualification time.

There's also the reality that MLS is not doing a very good job developing top-flight players at the international level. All of the truly great USMNT players in the last 20 years began their careers playing overseas, before some of them came back to the MLS and stagnated.

Clearly then the rot goes from top to bottom.  Sunil Gulati should be the first to go, followed by Arena, followed by several more.  The entire youth system needs to be scrapped and rebuilt from the bottom up, College Soccer needs reform, as does the MLS.

The problem is, I don't think this will ever happen.

Already the excuses are being made that "The US was just 'between generations' of players and what we saw were the unfortunate results. The MLS is making money and there's no way the cabal of owners is gong to OK a system where they might have to be responsible for their poor decisions by getting shunted to the USSL for example, and Sunil Gulati will probably survive with his job.

Why?  Because that's the way US Soccer is. Both US Soccer and a large portion of the media who cover it are a giant echo chamber that refuses to even listen to dissenting opinion. All of the players who act as commentators were players on the team and many are still beholden to the people in power. There is no onus to change as long as the golden goose continues to lay golden eggs, even if those eggs are getting smaller and smaller as time goes on.

There will be no meaningful change, and in four years from now the USMNT will try again, possibly with new players and a new head coach.  They might even succeed this time, and might accidentally make it out of the group rounds.  They'll lose in the Quarterfinals however because once there they will have to face a legitimate team.

If nothing changes that's the ceiling. What we're seeing now is the floor.

That alone should depress the hell out of you if you're a fan of the team.

On the bright side, I can start rooting for Spain from the jump in 2018.

College Football: The Week 7 FIVE

At this point of the season we've hit a little rut. Yes, last week we had a winner going 3-2, but the semi-bad, and bad beats start to discourage even the most foolish of betters. (hi)  There was a point, when looking at these games, I almost said forget it and lets just take a week off.  But we're here for you, and what about all of those who (smartly) fade my plays.  What would THEY do?

So, for the people, and into a fairly interesting slate of games, we soldier on....

Standard disclaimer time: These are picks, made by an accountant. Buyer beware. Also, the lines are as current as I can get them at the time of publication according to information gleaned from the Westgate Superbook. THEY WILL MOVE by game time.  This is just the way it is.

1. Navy @ Memphis (-3.5)  T: 75.5

This FEELS like the battle for the title of "third best team in the AAC" behind UCF and USF, sorry Houston.  Navy is one a role and is undefeated, their best win (in a mile surprise) looking to be Tulane early in the season.  While Memphis only has a loss to UCF which does not a tragedy make. My question: Will anyone be able to play defense in this game?  Pick: Over 75.5 (I feel pretty good about this for about 4 more points)

2. Texas San-Antonio (-3) @ North Texas  T: 58.5

Probably the only thing you know about UNT football is that they sent a cease and desist letter to ESPN regarding the latter calling Michigan State "Mean Green" which is North Texas' official team name.  They are a good team that constantly seems to hang in against better teams.  Head to head UTSA lost to Southern Miss at home while North Texas beat USM at home. Those in the "know" will be leaning UNT, I still think UTSA is the better team. I also think that even good teams have bad weeks. Pick: UT-SA to cover -3 (I would wait and see if the line moves UNT's way, as I think it might before kick-off)

3. UCLA (-1) @ Arizona  T: 52.5

This line opened at -1.5 Arizona, and I would have liked to publish this then but since I always run these on Wednesday, and try not to run stale lines at the time of publication, I held off. OF COURSE the line corrected to the better team.  That said, I still think there's leeway in the current line toward UCLA. Pick: UCLA to cover -1 (You can probably feel pretty good up to -3)

4. Boise State @ SDSU (-7)  T: 45.5

Even though they've fallen off a bit, Boise State is still at 3-2 and still undefeated in the Mountain West. But SDSU is head and shoulders the best MW team by a long way in my opinion. Plus, the game is not being played on the Smurf Turf where Boise is much better. I think the physical, run-the-ball-down-your-throat style of the Aztecs dominate.  Pick: SDSU to cover -7 (I wouldn't go much higher though. If it moves to 7.5 back off)

5. South Carolina @ Tennessee (-3)  T: 49

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is probably coaching for his job in this game. After the embarrassing 41-0 loss at home versus Georgia the team appears to be in free fall. I'm expecting a disaster this week.  Pick: South Carolina to win on the ML.

The same as last week, the College football week starts tonight with some Wednesday Evening #FunBelt football....

South Alabama @ Troy (-16)  T: 49.5

Troy is a fave-rave of the betting folks after beating LSU at home, two weeks ago.  They face a South Alabama team that's been somewhat of a disappointment so far this year. I expect the Trojans to be on cruise mode until the end of the season, when they travel to Arkansas State to play a game that should decide the winner of the Sun Belt conference.  Pick: Troy to cover -16  

Prediction:  USA 3  Troy 42

Enjoy the games.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

College Football: My Inaugural Top 10.

After six weeks of play I think we're starting to get a better idea of where these teams sit.

Here we go:

1. Clemson - The defending CFP Champions appear to have not missed a beat despite having to reload in several key positions.  They still have the best defensive front seven in football and a ton of talent.  They also have the best resume.  Easy number one for me.

2. Alabama - The Tide have done nothing wrong, but they haven't done anything spectacular either. Yes, they've handled their opposition but they really haven't played anyone yet.  We thought the Florida State game was big but the Seminoles have deep issues.

3. Georgia - The Bulldogs are the 2nd best team in the SEC and actually have a legitimate chance to run the table and, surprisingly, beat Alabama. The Bulldog defense is nasty and the win, on the road, to Notre Dame is looking better and better.

4. Texas Christian University - Wait, what about Penn State you're saying?  Agreed, I think the two teams are about even but good wins, including at Stillwater and over WVU last weekend, give them the slightest of edges.

5. Penn State - The meat of the season is right in front of the Nittany Lions, they have an off-week and then welcome Michigan before going on the road to face Ohio State and Michigan State respectively.  IF they survive that gauntlet unscathed they could potentially jump Alabama for 2nd place.

6. Wisconsin - A relatively easy schedule provides the Badgers with the most likely path to the B1G championship and possible CFP inclusion should they win there. A big plus for them is that they avoid Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State this year.

7. Washington State - This is probably the team that many will say I have overrated, but they have two quality wins over USC and at Oregon respectively, the latter of which they were never seriously threatened with losing. Stanford and the Apple Cup will be HUGE for Wazzu.

8. Ohio State - Yes, I know, they lost to Oklahoma at home a few weeks ago, but they still have a disgusting amount of talent and they are starting to look like that old Buckeye team that is getting things rolling. They're also aided by the fact that their two toughest remaining games, Penn State and Michigan State, are at home.

9. Washington - I like the Huskies a lot, but I also think that we're not quite sure what this team really is. I've spent a lot of late-nights up watching them in #Pac12AfterDark games and I think they're going to shoot up the board later in the season.  For now though I think 9 is about right.

10. San Diego State - Here's the problem for SDSU, while I think we're seeing that the Stanford win was solid, I don't see any games coming up on their schedule that helps them build their case to jump higher.  This could be their peak, unless teams in front of, and slightly behind them, fall.

Just outside looking in:  Auburn, Miami, UCF

My rankings are based on a couple of factors.  1st: quality of wins in games played. 2nd. My eye test. At this point I've seen all of these teams play multiple times. Going undefeated is important, but it's not the only factor. This is why Ohio State ranks above both Washington and SDSU despite having a loss to OU on their record.

I also don't buy-in entirely to the "power conference" myth.  If you're going to say that a Power 5 school beating Stanford is a big win then it's equally as big for a Group of 5 school like SDSU, who has at least a good of a resume right now as any team in the top 10. 

What say you?

Monday, October 9, 2017

College Football: The Weekend that was. (Week 6 Recap)

Lo, I am defeated.

Ah Michigan, just when you think things are on the upswing, Michigan State comes to town and you mysteriously decide to have your quarterback continue to throw the ball to them.  This gave the Spartan offense too many short fields to work with and resulted in a 14-10 loss that was soul-sucking for Wolverine fans.

Now, some perspective.....

No, it's NOT time to call for Harbaugh to be fired and no, it's not correct to say that he's overrated. Despite all of this there will be unsteady fans and gleeful media types who are going to sift through the ashes of unrealistic hopes and take some type of perverse pleasure in continuing to kick the corpse.

Yes, as many have pointed out, the records of Harbaugh and Hoke, to this point in their tenures, are exactly even at 24-7, in fact, Hoke actually went 2-4 in the rivalry games while Harbaugh went 1-5 in the same.  The rumors of Wolverine dominance were way overblown.


Can anyone seriously argue that the program as a whole is not 100% better than where it was under Hoke?  Recruiting is better, the talent is better, the energy is better, nearly everything is better except for the fact that beating Sparty and Buckeye continues to be an elusive dream.  So as I sat Saturday night and downed another Bourbon and watched the season slip away, I was struck by the fact that it did hurt. Unlike the Hoke era where I had lost hope, I did still hold out hope that the defense would do it, that the offense would somehow make a play to turn it around, that Eddie McDoom would....oops.

I will admit to being slightly mystified as to why Harbaugh, another in the long-line of "quarterback gurus" in coaching cannot seem to find a competent QB to run this offense. I'm also not entirely sold on the offensive line, which is more sieve than solid and seems to have trouble both in the run game and passing game against even mediocre schools.  And the play calling, my goodness. Why do you continually try and throw the ball into a monsoon?  Especially when you consider the team is loaded at Running Back and should have been able to just plow down Sparty to score at least one more TD.

Next week is Indiana, which should be a win, before Penn State and Saquon Barkley come to town. Looking at the remaining schedule it appears that, barring a big upset somewhere, 8-4 is the likely finish, and some minor bowl game against some Group of 5 school that's going to be way more fired up than we.  Currently the team is ranked #17 in the most recent round of polls.  I think that's about right.  It should be better however.

Moving on....

Last week the FIVE went 3-2 which improved my season record to 10-13-2. For the Bet the Rent Newsletter I went 1-1, bringing my season record to 8-3, for a total published picks record of 18-16-2. Not world beating, but not half bad.

Some other random thoughts....

1. Clemson is the best team in the country full stop.

2. Alabama should have beaten aTm by more, but the Aggies did them selves justice by hanging around.

3. Ooooh U.  Not only does their loss severely damage their CFP hopes, but it dings Ohio State as well.  Right now it looks as if TCU is the standard bearer for the conference.  Who saw that in the cards?

4. This just in:  UCF is really good.

5. This also in:  The Pac-12 is not very good this year.

6. Speaking of bad conferences, outside of Alabama, Georgia and possibly Auburn the SEC is a hot-mess.

Conference Rankings: (After week 6)

1. ACC
2. B1G
3. Big XII
4. SEC
5. Pac-12
6. American
7. Mountain West
8. Conference USA
9. MAC
10. Sunbelt

Tomorrow I'm planning on talking about my first Top 10 of the season.  There are some teams in there that will be higher than you think and some that will be lower.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go drink some brain bleach to get the taste of Michigan's Saturday night game out of my system.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

College Football: The Toughest Rivalry (for me)

I am a Michigan fan.  I also hate being a Michigan fan because the teams make it so damn hard.  From the Fab Five and the timeout that wasn't to Appalachian State to Punt-six to losing every.single.damn.time to Urban Meyer Michigan's record of spectacular failure is only second to the fact that we've won a bunch of games.

That said, this week is the return of the rivalry with Michigan State, a team that we've only beaten once since Mike Hart called them "little brother" which might be accurate in fact but has not been so on the field (or court) of late.

For the rest of the nation this appears to be one of those weeks where conference match-ups provide us with a plate of unsightly college-football food. Double-digit lines abound and it's unlikely that many of the games will provide many sparks.  All that said, this is still college football so there's bound to be some things that sneak up and surprise you. (In a good way)

To the games.....

Louisville (-3.5) @ NC State  T: 65.5

This is a HUGE game for the Wolfpack. Maybe one of the biggest this season.  Without this game they have no chance at winning the ACC. Fortunately, for them, Louisville has an offensive line that is somewhere between not-good and awful, and we saw the impact of that on the best player in college football against Clemson.  NC State's defensive line is not as strong as Clemson's (no one's is) but they are pretty good and should give Lamar Jackson some issues as he tries to keep the Cardinals on track.  I think this turns out to be a dandy.  Prediction: Louisville 28  NC St 24

LSU @ Florida (-2.5)  T: 45.5

You would be forgiven for falling asleep during this game when you figure neither team should do much on offense.  However, it could be that the injury to Gator QB Luke Del Rio turns out to be a net positive for the Florida offense. Instead of relying on a shaky passing game the Gators are now going to be forced to lay to their strengths and run the ball more behind QB Felipe Franks.  And, let's face it, LSU is a damn mess right now.  Prediction:  LSU 3 Florida 17

Southern Miss @ UT-San Antonio (-13.5)  T: 51.5

I have been banging my RoadRunner drum all year to those of you who are listening and there's now a chance that UTSA could wind up the season undefeated. Their toughest remaining game is at Louisiana Tech at the end of the season which should be for the C-USA championship. Honestly, it looks now as if the hurricane did UH a favor because if the two teams played I'd lean UTSA.  Prediction: Southern Miss 20  UTSA 52

Washington State (-2.5) @ Oregon  T: 61.5

This game opened at -2.5 Oregon. If you were able to grab Wazzu on the moneyline "huzzah" to you. with  starting QB Hebert likely out for significant time it will be interesting to see what the Oregon offense is able to put together. Meanwhile, Wazzu's defense is much improved and QB Luke Falk is quietly increasing his draft stock game by game.  Prediction: Wazzu 35  Oregon 24

Stanford (-5.5) @ Utah  T: 50.5

The unstoppable force (Stanford RB Bryce Love) meets the immovable object (Utah's running defense, which has been spectacular) Utah's run defense ranks 10th in the country only allowing 2.66 yards per play while Stanford's rush offense ranks 11th in the country getting 8.44 yards per rush. Clearly something in this scenario has to give. The Utes are a little hard to figure out because they haven't played anyone, but Stanford has, and they've lost to every really good team they have played. I think Utah gets them at home.  Prediction: Stanford 17 Utah 23

West Virginia @ TCU (-13.5)  T: 68.5

This is the least "big game" feeling big game I've ever seen.  Even Game Day coming to their city doesn't inspire me to care much about this one.  West Virginia has looked OK, but all of their wins are against bad teams. The one time they played a good team they hung in for a half, and then couldn't sustain in the 2nd.  Meanwhile we kind of know that TCU is good. Arkansas, SMU and Oklahoma State is a pretty solid 3-week run.  Add to that the excitement of Game Day, home field and an October day that's expected to be beautiful and I think the line is about right. Prediction: WVU 20 TCU 42

Alabama (-26.5) @ Texas A&M  T: 54

I'm only commenting on this game to point something out. As bad as things have been for the Aggies this game, and Auburn, are the only two games remaining on the schedule that you look at and say "they lose here."  Every other game is winnable.  If the Fighting Sumlins can pull a surprise against Auburn this team could finish 10-2. The more likely scenario is 9-3 and you have to wonder if Aggie is paying attention to the teams that have fired coaches off of a 9-3 season (Hi! Nebraska [twice]).  I'm starting to think Sumlin is going to make it. Not this week though, Alabama is on a mission.  Prediction: Alabama 49 Texas aTm 3

And now, games involving teams I follow......

SMU @ Houston (-6.5)  T: 63

I have a sneaking suspicion this might be the game of the weekend. SMU only has a loss to a very good TCU team but they were able to move the ball on them.  UH loss to Texas Tech revealed a weakness in my mind, and they've been struggling offensively.  That said, I think Kyle Postma is a much better quarterback for this offense and another week practicing with the starters should bear that out.  Ed Oliver being healthy or not is a HUGE factor because he's the defensive anchor for this Cougars team. I'm expecting a shoot-out.  Prediction: SMU 49 UH 45 (Take the over)

SDSU (-10.5) @ UNLV  T: 57.5

In a perfect world the plucky Rebels would come together in the wake of last Sunday's tragedy and pull out a miracle win against the Aztecs, who are probably the best Group of 5 team in the country right now.  Alas, as we've been horrifically reminded, this is not a perfect world and miracles rarely happen. I think that SDSU is too good, and UNLV's defense is too bad, for the Rebels to have a shot. One area in which they will win however is the uniforms.  These helmets are straight fire. That said, I'm pulling for them to cover  Prediction: SDSU 35 UNLV 28

And finally.....

Michigan State @ Michigan (-10.5)  T: 40

It's all on you Mr. O'Korn.  Michigan State's running attack should be nullified by Michigan's excellent defensive front. It's hard to imagine since Ed Oliver is so good but Ra'Shaun Gary is only the 2nd best interior defensive lineman in college football.  IF O'Korn can get Michigan's offense fired up and not replicate Wilton Speight's habit of throwing the ball to the other team then Michigan SHOULD win handily.

I know, I know, I don't have any faith either.

Prediction:  MSU 10  Go Blue 17 (But I hope it's more)

Good luck this weekend and enjoy the games.

Las Vegas: My Issues as a Gambler post-massacre

Anyone who knows me understands that I'm not usually a navel-gazer. It's not in my nature to be entirely self-reflective. I do what I do, and tend to continue to move forward.  From time-to-time however things effect me and I've been known to bash out a post like this.

If you're used to my flippant tone, please forgive me this little indulgence.

Las Vegas Massacre: In Defense of Video Poker. Me, YDOP

I wrote this piece earlier tonight, for publishing on Thursday, right before this post is published, to defend a game that I love.  Video Poker.  I decided after that to write this piece before heading to bed because a couple of things hit me.

The profile of the Las Vegas shooter struck a nerve.

Video Poker Player
Frequent Vegas Visitor
Plays for, and understands comps.
Often visited Las Vegas with his significant other.

If you've paid attention to my writings historically, that's me. Granted, at a much lower level (I play 25-cent video poker Paddock played $25 video poker) but he and I have a lot in common despite having, obviously, many differences.

But it still stings.  I wonder now, when I visit Vegas, if people will be looking at me because I'm a Caucasian male playing video poker.  Will they side-eye when I sit down and start touching screens and pressing buttons.  In short, I'm a little shaken and I'm not afraid to admit it.

Now, I have no plans to ever shoot anyone.  While I'm a supporter of the 2nd Amendment (All of the Bill of Rights actually) I only own 3 guns, two pistols and a shotgun, that I keep in my house. I don't have a concealed-carry permit and, to be honest, I'm not that enamored with firearms in the first place. I don't like shooting guns, I'm unimpressed, and don't follow, the gun-fetishists on Instagram etc. I don't hunt (although I did used to duck hunt a little) and I have no desire to. From that perspective Steve Paddock and I have nothing in common. 

I'm an accountant, but I work to live instead of living to work. I don't like the idea of a quiet accountant sitting in a corner staring at my Spreadsheet, although I've done that (It's the job) I really prefer to be teaching and interacting with people.  Even when I play video poker I'm known to talk to people, within reason.

And that's where I take solace.  Vegas for me is fun, not a job. It's a chance to get away with my wife at a place where we can let our hair down (well, she can, what's left of my hair doesn't go down anymore) and just generally forget our cares while chasing the elusive hand-pay or royal flush.  From that perspective, the shooter and I are polar opposites. I don't gamble at a level to receive many comps, he was given suites and meals and high-end bottles of alcohol.  Typically the wife opens a tab and pays for her drinks because she doesn't like to gamble.

This is the first time in my adult life that I've had anything, other than species, in common with a murderer and, to be honest, it's a fact that's really weighing on my mind.  But for the grace of God go we type stuff.

I've got a trip to Las Vegas coming up soon and I've never once considered canceling. The people that work there need not only a return to normalcy but to have tourists to pay their bills. The only way to get back to normal get back to normal.

My worry is that we've lost normal for good in Las Vegas because of how fractured society is these days.

In that case the shooter has ultimately won.  We cannot allow that to happen.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

College Football: The Week Six FIVE

For the first time since week one the FIVE experienced a winning week. Unfortunately, for the first time this season I lost a game for Bet The Rent. In fact, I lost both games on the newsletter lowering my record to a still-respectable 7-2 for the season there. 

My 3-2 FIVE finish elevated my season total 7-11-2 which means by combined season total is just peeking above .500 at 14-13-2.

Not exactly a profit turner but still on-par with most "tout" sites if you truly count their results.  We're starting to roll a little bit now and I have a better feel for these games which, historically, means that you should probably start fading if you're so inclined. As always, you get what you pay for if you're taking betting advice from an oil and gas accountant in Houston.

Standard Disclaimer:  The lines presented below are accurate at the Westgate Superbook at the time of publication (Wednesday) to the best of my ability to determine.  Lines may change after time of print, so I try to address that.  I judge my results off of the odds I present here, which would be where I would bet them (If I bet them) Shorter: Do your research folks.

On to the games (plus, a bonus)

1. Eastern Michigan @ Toledo (-13.5)  T: 60.5

The Eagles started off strong against pretty bad teams, and then had a falling off against Ohio and Kentucky.  While Toledo feasted on FCS Elon, beat a pretty bad Nevada team by 13 and eeked by a puzzling Tulsa team by 3. I think Toledo is the better team, especially at the Glass Bowl, but this line feels good to me because a.) EMU has a solid team and b.) their style of play.  I see EMU keeping this close.  Pick:  Eastern Michigan to cover +13.5  (Maybe stay away if the line dips under 13 but I don't think it will)

2. Miami (-3.5) @ Florida State  T: 48.5

The Hurricanes blew away (sorry) a pretty good Duke team last week on the road, while Florida State needed a beautiful pass by their Freshman QB to beat Wake for their first win of the season. Yes, Talahassee is a tough place to play and yes the Hurricanes don't have the best record there but there is something terribly wrong with this year's Seminole's and I don't think they can fix it in one week. Pick: Miami to cover -3.5 (If anything, I see this number moving more toward the Canes)

3. Tulsa @ Tulane (-4)  T: 58.5

Golden Hurricane head coach Tim Montgomery has been on the short list of coaches in line for a big program for two years now. This year he's in danger of falling off as Tulsa has lost every game except one, against Louisiana-Lafayette including a head-scratcher against New Mexico. I hinted, in my pre-season review of the AAC that the Green Wave would be much improved under 2nd year head man Willie Fitz and might make a bowl. This game is central to those hopes. I think Tulsa is a fundamentally flawed team and Tulane should handle them at home. Pick: Tulane to cover -4. (I think this number might drop in the coming days so it might pay to wait here. You might even grab -3 if patient.)

4. Louisiana - Lafayette @ Idaho (-7) T: 64.5

In what is likely the last FBS season for Idaho (they've announced plans to join the FCS Big Sky conference) the Vandals from Moscow (IA) appear to be on-pace to possibly make 2nd consecutive bowl under head man Paul Petrino. Meanwhile, the Rajun Cajun's are suffering, and it's questionable whether their starting quarterback plays this week or no.  Could be big times in the Kibbe Dome this weekend. Pick: Idaho to cover -7 (I keep half expecting this line to drop toward ULaLa but it seems to be holding on. Beware that drop though)

5. K-State @ Texas-Austin (-4)  T: 50.5

You can call this the "haven't beaten anyone" bowl because neither of these teams has a quality win against a quality opponent. Texas-Austin lost to Maryland, beat an awful San Jose State team, lost in "gritty" fashion to USC (which might not be as good as we thought) before hanging on against an Iowa State team that gave up 44 points to an Iowa offense that can barely tie it's shoes. Meanwhile, K-State feasted on FCS Central Arkansas and FBS bottom 10 member Charlotte before losing to a Vanderbilt team that lost 58-0 to Alabama before beating a winless Baylor team.  UT-Austin gets the nod from the linemakers because they are home. I think this is a close game decided at the end by a field goal.   Pick: Kansas State to cover +4 (I would love for this line to move down to 3 so wait and see)


Arkansas State (-9.5) @ Georgia Southern  T: 55

I'm only including this because it's the official start of FunBelt football on Wednesday evenings.  Yes, Georgia Southern is bad right now and what head coach Tyson Summers has done to a once proud team is borderline negligent, but the Red Wolves are a pretty salty group and I still say it's too early to close the book on the Eagles. Losses to Auburn and Indiana are forgivable, and while the one at New Hampshire hurts it's just one game.  Arkansas State has played a brutal early season schedule losing to Nebraska and  SMU while being spared a drubbing at the hands of Miami (FL) due to that bitch Irma. The game is in Statesboro so there's that.  And Wednesday night FunBelt football is always worth a peek. That said, I think the Red Wolves are the much better team. Pick: Arkansas State to cover -9.5  Also, the OVER)

As a reminder, the bonus game does not count toward the stats in my FIVE. (But, if you must, you can hold a loss against me, I don't know you so it doesn't matter.)

Monday, October 2, 2017

Las Vegas: Much more important than sports.

Last night at around 10PM Vegas time a very deranged man by the name of Stephen Paddock broke his hotel room window on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino and proceeded to fire hundreds of round of bullets into approximately 20,000 people who were attending an outdoor country music festival.

The horrific result was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US History with a (current) count of 58 dead and 400+ wounded. It is a tragedy that knocked a hole into the collective psyche of a city that I love and, more importantly, has permanently damaged the lives of thousands due to loss of a loved one or injury.

There will come a time to discuss next steps but, for now, I would encourage you to either donate blood (if you're able) or make a donation if you can.

Until then, this blog offers up thought and prayers to everyone who is suffering from this.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

College Football Week 5: Pay No Attention to those Rankings Behind the Curtain...

We're getting close to the part of the season where everyone (especially ESPN) is going to make much ado about nothing.

In short, in a couple of short weeks the initial CFP rankings will be released, revealing once again that the entirety of the committee may not know much about football, but they understand how to troll. They also understand how to drive interest in what is, basically at this point, a meaningless exercise.  With so much football left to play the interim CFP polls are ridiculous. Not as ridiculous as say...the AP poll (which is less ridiculous than the Coaches poll and so on) but ridiculous nevertheless.

Just ignore it all and pay attention here starting in week 8.  I'll release my preliminary top 10 and that's all you really need to know.*

On to the games.... (reminder: All lines are current as per the Westgate Superbook at the time of publication. I cannot track moves up until game time, I leave that up to you.)

Tasty spread this week, with a few nothingburger games sprinkled in for good measure.

Nebraska (-5.5) @ Illinois.  T: 46

The Cornhuskers are in a bit of a free-fall while Illinois has been looking marginally better this year. The Illini hold the "best" win between the two teams with a 20-7 win over Western KY, a fairly decent Go5 team.  At the beginning of the season I said I would not be shocked if Illinois pulls off an upset or three in the B1G this year.  Prediction: Nebraska 17 Illinois 24. 

BYU (-3) @ Utah State T: 46

Call this "Holy War lite" as two teams that don't like each other all that much face off in a game that could be important for both team's bowl aspirations. At 1-3 the Cougars have been showing signs of fatigue the last few weeks, in large part due to the brutal schedule they are forced to play every year due to their independent status. The Aggies have lost to every good team they've played, but they've dominated the rest. Prediction:  BYU 17 Utah State 20

University of Southern California (-3.5) @ Washington State T: 64

The game that every serious pundit in America must say, by contract, that they're "very interested" in watching. Sam Darnold has shown a tendency to throw the ball to the other team this year and Washington State is always interesting because of head coach Mike Leach. Pullman is a tough place to play.  Take the over.  Prediction: USC 42 WSU 41

Maryland @ Minnesota (-13) T: 43

Gopher's head coach PJ Fleck's boat has relocated and added a motor. The Gophers have looked solid against lesser competition. Maryland started off strong before folding like a fan against a pretty good UCF team. I think the boat rows, but the line here is wonky.  That said I've got no faith in the Terrapins so this didn't make the FIVE. Prediction: Maryland 17 Minnesota 27

Central Michigan @ Boston College (-7.5) T: 50.5

Here is this week's "first game out" of the FIVE. Yes, Central Michigan has been crap the last two weeks, but they opened the season dominating Kansas who is not significantly worse than a Boston College team that's been pathetic all year, are just coming off a whupping from Clemson, and who have Virginia Tech next week.  Cue the upset or at least a cover.  Prediction: CMU 23 Boston College 24.

Georgia (-7.5) @ Tennessee T: 47

I don't think the Vols can hang with the Bulldogs, nor do I think they are as bad as last week showed. Yes, UMass is bad but you can forgive the Vols their peek ahead to Uga coming to town this week. The Bulldogs need to win big here to solidify their standing as the thin red line between Alabama and total conference dominance. Prediction: UGA 34 Tennessee 14

Arizona State @ Stanford (-17)  T: 62.5

This game opened too big toward the Cardinal, and has been trending further their way since then. For the life of me I cannot figure out why? I think Stanford wins this, but I don't see them as being appreciably better than the Sun Devils.  Playing at the Farm helps a lot. Prediction: ASU 17 Stanford 21.

Mississippi State @ Auburn (-9) T: 52.5

I'm going to say this again: Auburn is the most overrated team in college football.  Prediction: MSU 17 Auburn 10.

Memphis @ University of Central Florida (-4) T: 68

This game is the playing of a game that should have happened 2 weeks prior but for that bitch Irma. Two of the top teams in the American going at it. I'm expecting a barn-burner.  Give the nod to UCF due to them playing at home. Draw a line through Memphis game last week, clearly looking ahead. Prediction: Mem 38 UCF 41.

Oklahoma State (-9.5) @ Texas Tech T: 85.5

I'm not sure you could make this line high enough for me to feel comfortable taking the under. Although TCU gave Tech some good tape to stifle the Cowboy's offense, I don't think Tech has near the players on the staff to do it.  Plus, I think the Pokies are Maaaad..... Prediction: OSU 52 Tech 42

California @ Oregon (-13.5)  T: 68.5

Your #Pac12AfterDark special of the week.  Cal is much better this year than everyone is used to, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and Oregon has improved, but they're not yet what people seem to want them to be. I know we all want the Ducks to return to glory, but they still have many holes to fill.  Prediction: Cal 24 Oregon 31

Teams for whom I have a connection or rooting interest.....

Michigan:  Improvement week. Need to get the offense on track before heading to Camp Randall to play Wisconsin next week.  Go Blue!!

Houston (-14) @ Temple T: 46

Last year this was the game that put the nail into the coffin that was UH "best non-power 5 school in the country" narrative although I think they struggle to do it again. That said, UH offense has not looked even mediocre behind signal caller Kyle Allen, who I'm beginning to suspect is not a very good quarterback. If the Cougar's offense struggles early, I would be surprised to see Postma enter the game.  Prediction: UH 27 Temple 10

San Jose State @ Desert Rug Rats (-13.5)  T: 66.5

After a brutal start against Ohio State last week the DRR's bounced back against the Buckeye's 2nd and 3rd teams and actually covered. San Jose is not a good team so if the DRR's want to keep their slim hopes of making a bowl game alive a win here is a must. Prediction: SJSU 28 DRR's 45

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

College Football: The Week 5 FIVE

Typically, on Mondays or Tuesdays, I like to do a recap of the prior week's FIVE, good bad or ugly. However, this was one of those silly weeks where real life got in the way of blogging, so no recap  post this week but we'll discuss the results here.  (Hey, you get what you pay for)

C'est la vie.

Last week I took a shot at a lot of ML upsets and they didn't pay off.  It's times like these that I remind myself the game is a marathon, not a sprint, and I take solace in my 7-0 record over at for their newsletter.

As it lays thought last week's FIVE was a rather uninspiring 1-4, that brings the FIVE season total to a rather unimpressive 4-9-2 for the year.  But, if you add in the BTR newsletter picks that means I'm a much better 11-9-2 for the year.  See, it's all a matter of perspective.

Now, for the usual disclaimer:  Selections are for entertainment purposes only.  The lines presented herein were accurate, and available at the time of publication to the best of my ability to determine. When placing any bet it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to understand that lines move, and what's printed here might not be available when you go to cast your bet. 

Also, if you're taking betting tips from an oil and gas accountant in Houston please, get some help.

OK?  Now, on to the FIVE:

1. Texas (-6.5) @ Iowa State  T: 63.5

The Longhorns are, well...erm. not BACK per se but not really making much progress from the Charlie Strong era and despite putting up a good front at USC they really haven't done much this year to inspire much faith.  Iowa State dominated a fair Akron team last week and the week prior to that they hung, at home, close with a pretty good Iowa team. So both teams have "good" losses to good teams with many people thinking the UT-Austin win is the best. But the Longhorns have the worst loss as well.  Giving up 51 points to Maryland does not bode well for the Bevos here.  Pick: Iowa State to cover +6.5 (I would avoid this line if it drops to +5 Iowa State)

2. Miami (-6.5) @ Duke  T: 56

In recent years this "rivalry" has heated up a touch because of some questionable officiating and just the general fact that no one really LIKES the Hurricane. Duke is 4-0.  Let me repeat that, Duke is 4-0  and has good wins over North Carolina, Baylor and Northwestern. Miami is 2-0 with a solid win over Toledo, who are projected (by me) to win the MAC. The Hurricane won at home however, and I think the Blue Devils want some payback. Emotion matters in college football.  Pick: Duke to cover +6.5 (Again, avoid if it drops to +5 Duke)

3. Baylor @ Kansas State(-17) T: 51.5

This is a textbook, "good line" IMO for the savvy sports better.  The public, irrationally at times, loves K-State at home thinking (wrongly IMO) that Bill Snyder Family Stadium is an impregnable fortress that cannot be overrun. But the Wildcats were wildly overrated this season (pre-season AP ranking of 19) and have lost to the only decent team they played (Vandy, and we all saw what happened to them last week).  Meanwhile Baylor has, admittedly, struggled out of the gate struggling to shake off "Sexual Assault U" issues and try and rebuild under new HC Matt Ruhle. Against the Sooners however I think the Bears found a quarterback, and I think they keep this one close. I LOVE getting 17.  Pick: Baylor to cover +17. (There's a lot of leeway in this line. I would take it all the way down to +14 which is a place I don't think it's going to get)

4. Clemson (-7) @ Virginia Tech. T: 51.5

I'll make this one simple:  I think Clemson is the best team in the land right now and it's not close. I like the Hokies, and I think this game portends a rematch in the ACC Championship game, but I think Clemson's front seven should have a felony named after them.  Pick: Clemson to cover -7. (I'm pretty comfortable here all the way up to -8.5)

5. Colorado @ UCLA (-7)  T: 68.5

Only the five could take you from the first game of the weekend, straight through to one of the last (Hi, HI!) and of all the picks I'm making this is the one that inspires the least confidence, but it still belongs in the FIVE. Colorado was cruising along against weaker competition before running into the best team in the PAC-12 (IMO) in Washington and getting spanked. UCLA was riding "chosen" Rosen to the promised land until their defense forgot how to stop anyone in an opposing color. That said, I think the Buffs pull a surprise in LA. But not THAT big of one. Pick: Colorado to cover +7 (Again, if it drops below +6 you might want to stay away)

Monday, September 25, 2017

Houston Texans: O'Brien's biggest mistake was not the time out.

Bill O'Brien not calling a time out with time dwindling down is the easy target and it was a mistake, but it wasn't his biggest blunder at the end of the game.  The biggest mistake that O'Brien made happened about 2 and a half minutes of game time earlier, when the team had the ball on the 18 yard line with 4th and 1.

The Texans had the lead and the ball, up 30-28 over the Patriots with around 3 minutes left in the game.  They had driven the ball down into the red zone and had a chance to put a dagger in the heart of the Patriots.  But they didn't.  They kicked a field-goal, giving them a 5 point lead and turned the ball over to the greatest quarterback of all time with 2:39 seconds left in the game and 75 yards to travel.

We all know the ending.

I said at the time, on Twitter, it's out there, that the Texans should go for it and I stand by that even after the fact. I get what the coaches and football people will say (the BOOK etc. "we trust our defense" blah blah blah) but the fact is this is Tom freaking Brady.  You give him the ball down 5 and "the book" says that you're going to lose a vast majority of the time.

And lose the Texans did.

And this highlights a bigger problem in the NFL, the coaches, and game strategy, or too conservative. That the 'book' doesn't take into account aggressiveness is part of the problem. I don't entirely blame O'Brien for kicking the field goal, because that's what mediocre teams and coaches do.  I don't think O'Brien is a bad coach per se but I don't think he's an especially good one either. He's the saltine cracker of coaching, just meh.

He's also probably tiring of his job, as his failure to call the time out showed.

The bigger point is that when you're on the road against the defending NFL champions the strategy has to be to take chances to win.  Kicking the field goal there was not taking a chance to win, it was playing not to lose.

This ignores the fact that the vaunted Texans defense, the unit on which most of fans' hopes relied, is NOT exactly distinguishing itself against competent NFL offenses and those holes that I mentioned preseason (LB, DB) are being exposed.

Still, Watson looks like he has what it takes to be an NFL quarterback in this league, a fact that brings up this question:

Given how good Watson looks now and how bad Savage looked in his debut, how in the world did O'Brien think the latter should have been the opening day starter?

Unless, as I posited, he's trying to get out of Houston.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

College Football: Week 4 promises loads of fun.

I'm very excited about this week's slate of games.  So let's get right to them.....

Army @ Tulane (-2.5)  T: 44.5

I'm all over the Golden Knights in this one to pull the upset. I think this is the best Army team we've seen in over a decade and I think they're going to handle the Green Wave in short order. Prediction: Army 37 Tulane 13

Texas A&M @ Arkansas (-2.5) T: 55.5

Call this the "Hot Seat Bowl" because the coach that loses is going to find himself sitting on the college football equivalent of a nuclear bomb.  My feeling is that aTm doesn't have enough offensively to do much against Arkansas who seem to have the Aggies number when playing in the Dallas Area. Prediction: Texas aTm 10  Arkansas 16

Idaho @ South Alabama (-4)  T: 57.5

I'm still pretty high on the Jaguars despite a rough start to the season. Idaho is an FCS team and they're not even playing in the Kibbe Dome this week.  I think -4 is a "good" line for bettors and I would suggest hitting USA hard to cover that and then some. Prediction: Idaho 3 USA 27

Ohio @ Eastern Michigan (-2.0) T: 52.5

Eastern Michigan is a great story, a historically bad program that's experiencing somewhat of a boost of late is cool, but that doesn't mean that they can beat Ohio, one of the strongest teams in the MAC, a favorite to win their division, and my pick to win the conference this year. Prediction: Ohio 24 EMU 21

Wake Forest (-4.5) @ Appalachian State T: 48.5

Wake Forest (3-0) is a trendy pick this season as a dark horse in the ACC. I'm not buying it. Their three wins are over FCS Presbyterian, and FBS Bottom 10 teams Boston College and Utah State. App State did lose against Georgia in Athens and they did struggle at Texas State but this team is much, much more difficult when they get to play in the Mountains.  Prediction: Wake Forest 13 App State 20.

Duke (-2.5) @ North Carolina T: 66.5

Duke's 41-17 win over trendy Northwestern is the most impressive win on the early-season schedule of either school, and North Carolina is struggling to replace many losses from last year's team. Head Coach David Cutcliffe of Duke has found his home. Larry Fedora is a good offensive mind, but he needs to rebuild.  Prediction: Duke 38 North Carolina 24.

Alabama (-18.5) @ Vanderbilt T: 43

Beware games with big spreads and teeny-tiny totals.  Except with 'Bama.  The ONLY elite team in the SEC is getting faded because Vandy has good wins over Middle Tennessee State and Kansas State but Bama demolished Florida State, which is a much better team than the Commodores. Don't fade Saban against the SEC. Just don't. Prediction: Bama 38 Vandy 3.

San Diego State (-3) @ Air Force  T: 47

Games against the service academies are always tough, and I don't think this game is any exception. I do however think the Aztecs are one of the top teams in the Group of 5 and have a legitimate shot at the New Year's Six bowl.  That said, I think Air Force will get yards and points.  Could turn into a pop-gun shoot-out. Prediction: SDSU 45 Air Force 20.

Syracuse @ Louisiana State University (-22.5)  T: 56.5

LSU star running back Darrius Guice will sit out this game, but that's not my biggest concern. My concern is that Tiger Head Coach Ed Orgeron is a good coordinator who is masquerading as a head coach.  Yes, Syracuse is not good, but they did beat a Central Michigan team that's an average Group of 5 side and with LSU's offensive woes I don't see them scoring 23 points. Prediction: Syracuse 3 LSU 17.

University of Texas - San Antonio (-12.5) @ Texas State T: 45

Last week UTSA demolished Southern 51-17. I'm not entirely convinced that Texas State could beat Southern. This is a 'good' line that should be taken advantage of IMO. Prediction: UTSA 48 Texas State 10

Oregon (-14.5) @ Arizona State University  T: 75.5

The Oregon "Stomp out cancer" gear was so solid last week my wife bought a hoodie despite not being a fan of the Ducks. I'm certainly not a fan of their defense, but I'm not much of a fan anything ASU has to offer, even their coach, who I've gone on record as saying gets fired after this season. No defense in this game, take the over.  Prediction: Oregon 56 ASU 35

Notre Dame (-4) @ Michigan State  T: 54

Irish head coach Brian Kelly is one of the true all-time college football jerks. He practices "the buck stops somewhere over there" style of leadership always blaming others for his poor planning, sub-par recruiting and disappointing on-field results.  I wouldn't bet this game but I hope he loses. (and yes, that's difficult for me to say because I dislike Michigan State more than tofu) Prediction: Notre Dame 17 Michigan State 18.

Eastern Carolina University @ UConn (-4.5)  T: 66

I'm only including this game because it's being played at 11 o'clock, on SUNDAY.  That means that you will have something to watch instead of the morass that has become the NFL.  Despite the fact that ECU might be the worst FBS program this year and UConn is desperately missing Bob Diaco. This is one of those games that could be known for its punting, may they be sexy. I think the Huskies eek out their first win over an FBS program this year. Prediction: ECU 10 UConn 12.

And now, for the teams in which I have a rooting interest.

Texas Tech @ Houston (-6)  T: 71.5

Take the over. Because I don't think either team is going to be able to stop one another, but I do think Houston DL Ed Oliver will make at least one big play to swing this game toward the Cougars.

Prediction:  TTU 52  UH 63

University of Nevada - Las Vegas @ Ohio State (-40.5)  T: 64.5

The Desert RugRats looked pretty good last week, albeit against Idaho, and Ohio State has been struggling on offense.  40 points is a ridiculous line for Ohio State given their offensive issues, but the DRR's defense could be historically bad. the DRR's do have a mobile QB which tends to give Ohio State fits......OK, I'm reaching.  Drink heavy RugRats fans, this one's gonna hurt.

Prediction: RugRats 6 Ohio State 52

And FINALLY......

Michigan (-10) @ Purdue  T: 52

Purdue is not as bad as we all expected them to be prior to the season, and Michigan's defense is better than many thought it would be as well.  Unfortunately, for both, Michigan's offense is yet to leave the starting gate and Purdue's hang-tough loss to Louisville lost a lot of luster via a domination by Clemson over the fighting Petrinos. Harbaugh's Wolverines have been workmanlike in all of their wins, I'm hoping this trend continues and they're not looking ahead to Sparty coming to the Big House.

Prediction:  Michigan 26  Purdue 9

Postscript:  Temple is playing South Florida tonight in a game that promises to be much more watchable than the NFL's force-feeding to you of San Francisco vs. LA.  Will probably be more people in the stands for the college game to boot.

Can we all just give up and admit that the NFL flirtation with Thursday Night Football has been an unmitigated disaster?  Just stop NFL and give the night back to College Football.  It would be better for all involved.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

College Football: The Week Four FIVE

To be honest, last week I was more interested in getting away to Lake Charles for a weekend than I was actually picking the games.  As a result, the results were below what I've come to expect from this little adventure in trying to finish above 55% for the year. (In case you're wondering, that's the amount you have to exceed to beat the Vig and turn a profit.)

I called Week 3 "sneaky" good but I'm just flat out declaring that Week 4 in college football is going to be Goooooo--ood.  Especially in the Pac 12 and SEC, which feature in four of the FIVE this week.  I think you're also going to see another trend in here that I'll discuss at length in the Bet the Rent newsletter.

So let's get on with it:  As a reminder, all lines are correct as of the time of publication as published by the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas.  THEY WILL MOVE by kick off, which is something I try to note.

1. Utah (-3.5) @ Arizona  T: 58.5

I've a lot to say about the Wildcats and none of it is any good.  They've basically beaten two FCS teams (UTEP is awful, look it up) and lost, at home, to a Houston team that was playing it's first game and still struggling with Harvey issues back home. The Utes pounded two bad teams (one FCS, the other might as well be this year) and won, on the road, in the Holy War.  Two things I like about this game but I'm only using one in my pick.  The other, the over, is due to the fact that Arizona can move the ball, they just can't stop anyone.  Pick: Utah to cover -3.5 (wait a bit however, I think you might get this at less than three if you're patient. If it starts moving the other way, grab it before it gets to 5)

2. Toledo @ Miami (-13.5)  T 57.5

Toledo is, probably, the class of the MAC this year and a win at Miami would put them in the early-season discussion to be the Group of Five representative in the New Year's 6 Bowl Game.  While I think that's going to be a tall order against the 'Canes I DO think it's a possibility.  However, I think two better possibilities are the over and the pick.   Pick: Toledo to cover +13.5. (This line is plunging toward Toledo. I would jump on it in a hurry as the offshore books are already showing -12.5)

3. Mississippi State @ Georgia (-5) T: 48.5

Yet another game where I'm betting the road dog starts barking. I'm a little bit more confident in this one however.  This line has moved Georgia's way and the total has gone down. Last week's 37-7 thrashing of LSU by MSU was the 2nd most impressive win I've seen all year behind OU over Ohio State. I think people are still underestimating the Bulldogs. Pick: MSU to win on the M/L. (If you don't like that, take them to cover anywhere down to +3)

4. Florida (-2.5) @ Kentucky T: 44.

The most impressive win between these two teams is Kentucky's road win over South Carolina. Florida's offense is still struggling and I think it's too early to suggest they found a quarterback because Feliepe's Hail Mary was answered.  If ever there was a year the Wildcats could break through, this is it.  What's life (and gaming) without some chance right? Pick: Kentucky to win on the M/L. (If you can't get that in Vegas try to see if the line moves to +3 and take them to cover at home)

5. UCLA @ Stanford (-7.5) T: 57

Pac 12 After Dark is one of the greatest things about College Football.  And while I don't think this game has true "AD" potential, I DO think it's got the makings of a giant upset.  True, Stanford has lost to a couple of good teams in USC and SDSU but UCLA's loss to Memphis is nothing to hang your head about. They also have that miraculous come-from-behind win over the fighting Sumlin's. I like the Bruins here a LOT. Pick: UCLA to cover +7.5 (I would also probably make a small bet on the M/L if I could find it, because I think the upset potential here is very real).

As you can see, I'm heavy on the underdogs this week.  It will be the same for my Bet the Rent Picks but, if you're a subscriber, you won't see those until Friday.  As a reminder I am 4-0 on picks for BtR and I'm hoping to make it 6-0 this week.

Monday, September 18, 2017

College Football: Week 3 Wrap-Up

The FIVE was awful this week, I hope you faded.  I went 1-3-1 which brings my season record to 3-5-2 so far. Not good.  On a brighter note I went 2-0 for the newsletter which brings me to 4-0 this season on that front.

The problem that I'm having is that I'm using my best picks for the newsletter and not the FIVE.  And I'm getting killed on the "replacement" games.  Still, the last few seasons I went 0-5, 1-4 and 0-5 to start the year so it's not all bad.


1. Clemson is the best team in the country (right now). Their defense is scary good and it appears that they haven't lost all that much on offense. They've got two big wins under their belt already (Auburn and Louisville) with Virginia Tech upcoming after what should be a snoozer versus a bad Boston College team. (Beware! Sandwich week).

2. Oklahoma is the 2nd best team in the country (right now). They have the "best" win, on the road against Ohio State and they demolished Tulane last week.  The problem for the Sooners is that they really don't play anyone until Bedlam on November 4th.

3. Alabama is still pretty good. They handled an average Colorado State team as you would expect them to and now they enter conference play in what appears, early, to be a down year for the SEC. It's possible, just, that Mississippi State could be the toughest opponent remaining on the Tide's schedule.

4. Top 25 rankings at this point in the season are worthless. So ignore them. Also, ignore pretty much everything that the 'media' is spouting and calling "analysis".  The big media outlets all have an interest in pimping up their conference affiliations.  So CBS will tell you that the SEC (the only property they have) is the best, while Fox will pimp the Pac-12, Big XII and (now) the B1G, while ESPN apes the SEC and ACC the best they can.

5. LSU is in trouble. They looked gormless against Miss State and were out coached on every level. Ed Orgeron's team looked like Orgeron's Ole Miss teams. That's not a compliment. Still, they get a little softer over the next two weeks before starting their mid-season conference run.  Maybe the Tigers can turn it around, but I have my doubts.

6. San Diego State is REALLY good. And while I still think Stanford is a program in decline the win by the Aztecs was impressive.  My early season pick for the Group of Five New Year's Six representative was USF. I still think the Bulls will be there but  the race with SDSU should make for some interesting week-to-week poll watching.

7. Kevin Sumlin will not survive the year. The Aggies are not a good football team. And they're poorly coached to boot.  aTm is going to have to find some money and pay-off Kevin Sumlin. The question is, who next? I would argue for UTSA coach Frank Wilson but that pick would likely face resistance from alumni who would be leery of getting another small-school coach from a Texas college.

8. Kentucky and Purdue on the rise? Both teams are 3-0, and while both have been in relatively soft (South Carolina is OK thought) both have handled their business. The Boilermakers get Michigan at home on Saturday while Kentucky welcomes Florida.  Good acid tests for both teams IMO.

9. Abandon Hope, all who enter here. Kansas, ECU, New Mexico State, Nevada, Boston College, Charlotte and Missouri can all start looking forward to basketball season. Baylor is in for a long season, as is UConn. The line between the haves, and the have-nots in College football is getting glaring.

And finally.....

10. Texas is not "back". Yes, they played hard against USC, just losing in 2 OT's but that Longhorn's offense is going to get them murdered in Big XII play.  There's also ample evidence that Tom Herman's "jerk" routine is growing stale in Austin.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

College Football: Week 3 - Sneaky Good

I've stated before that last Saturday was an epic one in College Football history. There were many good games and a couple of below-the-radar great games (Boise St/Washington State anyone?) and, as is usual, several dogs.

On paper this week the match-ups don't seem as compelling, but (think back to week two of last year, we've been fooled before. One thing we do know, it's becoming increasingly more difficult for a bad FBS team to guarantee themselves a win by paying an FCS school hundreds of thousands (or Millions) to come into their house and meekly take a whuppin.

While some of the games we thought might be marquee games probably won't be (Hi Texas) there's still the main-event of Clemson and Louisville on the board that should be quite the spectacle.

Let's dig into the rest of the games, the ones that I didn't include in my FIVE or on the BTR newsletter.  Yet, I still have an interest. (Reminder: All lines are as accurate as I can make them at the time of writing.  They could change by Saturday of course.)

Oklahoma State (-12.5 or 13.5) @ Pitt  T: 65 - Oklahoma State has looked spectacular in their opening games, while Pitt has looked like a team that's still trying to find themselves.  IF Oklahoma State is a championship contender they cover here.  If they don't?

Iowa State (-10) @ Akron  T: 61 - After playing their guts out in El Assico, the Cyclones travel up to Fear the Roo! land try their luck against a pretty good Akron side. I would take Akron plus the points in this game and might even take a peek at the ML if  I could find it in Vegas.

Tulsa @ Toledo (-8.5 or -9.5) T: 73 - In what promises to be a high-scoring affair we're going to get a pretty good look at what these teams are. Many (Including me) think Toledo can win the MAC this year.  Take the over, both teams can score tons.

Clemson (-3) @ Louisville T: 58.5  - Clemson has one of the best defenses in the land and Louisville has Lamar Jackson. There's your match-up. I have no real lean on this game. I expect it to be a good one however.

Arizona State @ Texas Tech (-7.5) T: 76  - The last time these two teams played was an all-timer match-up for offense. It was something to forget for defense. I expect this year to be more of the same. I lean ASU here but not enough to strongly endorse them. I do LOVE over 76 however. Two coaches on the hot-seat in this game that I fully expect to not be coaching their respective teams next year.

Kentucky @ South Carolina (-6.5) T: 52. -  What to make of the Gamecocks?  Seemingly improved they are threatening to make some noise in the down (very down) SEC East.  Kentucky is having a good season because their students are not yet looking totally forward to basketball season. I think SC is real.  But I'm not sure enough on that to say they can win by almost a TD. I also have no faith in Kentucky so this game is a pass for me.

Ole Miss (-3.5 or 4) @ Cal. T: 71.5 - Normally I'd take Ole Miss here every day and twice on Saturday.  But this is a Rebels team that's reeling from off-field issues. I don't think Cal is very good, but I suspect they might be good enough here.

Texas @ USC (-15.5 or 16) T: 67.5 - Is USC the title contender I think they are?  Has Tom Herman started righting the good ship BEVO?  We'll see, but I'm still not sure exactly where either program is right now so I'm passing.  If I had to lean it would be toward USC.

LSU (-7 to 8.5) @ Mississippi State  T: 51.5 - I think the Tigers should handle the Bulldogs in easy fashion. I can't see MSU generating much, if any, meaningful offense against LSU. But LSU is one of those teams in which I have no faith to do what they need to do so this game is a pass.

Purdue @ Missouri (-7) T: 78.5 -  Lord help me I like Purdue here. To pull the upset even.

Kansas State (-4) @ Vanderbilt. T: 51 - Every inch of me wanted to pick Vandy to pull the upset at home. So much so that this game was "Game Six" the game that could have been in my five except....I'm just not that convinced the Commodores are all that good.

The Desert Rugrats are off this week.

And Finally.....

Air Force @ Michigan (-24) T: 47.5 - Michigan lines have been silly so far this year, and this one is no exception.  I think Michigan wins but I think 24 points is venturing into silly land, especially when you consider the total.  Go Blue!!

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