Welcome back to another year of football pretend wagering! And with it, dozens of opportunities to take part in something whose better alternative is setting your money aflame! After one year with a sponsor, we’re back to life as an independent outlet. My theory is that DraftKings was tired of the Gamble-Tron beating the house every week, while the likeliest explanation is that Vox Media is doing everything it can to hasten SB Nation’s withering on the vine. But whatever, I’m sticking with the former and there’s nothing you can do to change my mind.
tl;dr if you’d like to sponsor this weekly exercise in futility, my DMs are open! I think? I don’t actually know.
Before we get to the opening week’s picks against the spread, we’ll talk about some season totals. That photo you see on the cover is from the last night yours truly spent in Reno, at the end of a two-week work trip. For several days, I kept telling myself that I needed to get to the sportsbook and get some action down. Finally, as evening approached on the last night, I took the plunge, heading to the ATM and then to the window.
And yes, that photo is my betting slip on your Washington State Cougars to exceed six wins in the Pac-12’s final season, as we know it anyway. Because what better way to mitigate the stress that comes with watching the Cougs than also having a financial stake in the outcome? Seems like a great way to make these Saturdays even more fun!
As you can see, we had to loan the book $20 since WSU’s total was juiced to -120 on the over. Since I’m not a fan of that, the goal was to parlay a couple other totals with even more juice, in order to get to the plus side of the odds. In this case, we were huuuuuuuge fans of Auburn over 6.5 (-160) and Minnesota under 7 (-130). But the damn Caesars sportsbook wouldn’t let us parlay season totals, so we had to come up with a Plan B. After perusing the sheet over and over to find some value on the plus side of the ledger, coupled with several dives into season schedules, we also put $100 down on the following:
- Mississippi State under 6 (+110)
- South Carolina over 6.5 (+130)
I just get the feeling that Mississippi State is due for a bit of a letdown, and it’s also significantly changing its offense post-Leach. The real risk is the typical SEC marshmallow-soft non-conference schedule. The Bulldogs face FCS Southeast Louisiana, Arizona, Southern Miss and Western Michigan, all at home. That doesn’t leave us a lot of room in-conference! However, that SEC slate is somewhat daunting, so hopefully MSU trips up in one of the non-con games and sputters the rest of the way.
As for South Carolina, I do not take lightly the fact that I’m placing anything I own on an outcome that depends on Spencer Rattler’s performance. That, my friends, is not a winning strategy! However, I think Shane Beamer has really improved things in Columbia, and this is my chance to root for a bunch of cocks! Woo! This one may well be decided in the first week, when South Carolina faces North Carolina. Win that one and we have some breathing room. Lose it, and...ok guys let’s just win it, ok?
As a reminder, we’ve done pretty well over the past couple seasons. In 2021, we hit 58% of our bets. 53% is considered profitable, so we were rather happy with that! We regressed a bit in 2022, but still made money, hitting 55%. Both of those results include bowl games, which are nearly impossible to predict, and we were above .500 both times.
What I’m saying is that 2023’s swan song will likely make Chernobyl look like that puff of air they hit you with at the eye doctor.
On to the present!
One note that may prove useful, or completely meaningless - I’m curious to see how the new clock rules impact total plays - and thus scoring - this season, and whether it takes the odds-makers a bit to catch up.
Washington State Cougars (-11) at Colorado State Rams
Future conference matchup in the present! I’ve heard in several places that the Rams will be much improved this season. That makes sense when you consider the fact that CSU was a flaming garbage barge in 2022, finishing with a 3-9 record that included a 31-point loss to FCS Sacramento State. Semi-interestingly, CSU scored exactly 17 points in each of its three wins. Probably a rare occurrence!
Then there are the Cougs, opening their final Pac-12 season with a new-look offense and a fair amount of mystery around a defense that lost a good bit of talent in the back seven. Either way, I think Cam Ward and the new receivers will outshine anything the Rams can put together.
And if you’re heading to Fort Collins to catch the Cougs (it seems like it would be a fun place to go), here’s a list of breweries in the area, to include one on campus which is student-run! WHERE WAS THIS WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE 100 YEARS AGO??!!
The Pick: Cougs
Florida Gators at Utah Utes (-7)
Remember when Kyle Whittingham totally lied about Cam Rising’s availability prior the the WSU game last season? Not many people seemed to care. Well he’s being less than truthful again, as Rising is recovering from a serious knee injury suffered nine months ago. The thought here is that Rising won’t be ready.
The Pick: Gators
Stanford Cardinal (-8.5) at Hawaii Rainbows
This matchup will be even funnier when it’s future ACC member Stanford flying allllllllll the way from the Atlantic coast to play this game, and not the Pacific coast. That’s how it’ll work, yes? Meanwhile...
Live look at this line:
We’ve seen the spread as low as 3.5 and as high as 8.5! Pretty good chance to middle this sucker! Hawaii does have a game under its belt, which should portend an advantage. However, that game took place in Nashville and didn’t end until late Saturday. Now the team flies all the way back home on a short week. Oy. The ‘Bows did look decent against Vanderbilt, so we’ll snatch the touchdown-plus and hope they keep it close. Lord only knows what we’ll see out of Stanford.
The Pick: Hawai’i
It’s a (2024 Big 16 conference) matchup of CFP finalist Sonny Dykes and Deion Sanders. TCU returns only one-third of its offensive production from the 2022 squad, and loses transcendent quarterback Max Duggan. Meanwhile, Colorado returns...uh...like four players? This game may not be close, and Colorado will probably stink, but man will they be a compelling watch. For a little while, at least.
The Pick: Toads
Boise State at Washington (-14)
Boise returns a lot on offense and not much on defense. Washington seems to have everyone back from last year’s 10-2, 3rd-place Pac-12 team. I know the games will probably be shorter this season, but it doesn’t seem like that’ll keep Washington from scoring lots of points.
The Pick: Washington / Over 58
Cal at North Texas (+7)
Ain’t no party like a Denton party! That little town north of Dallas will always hold a special place in my heart, as it marked the first time I ever ate Rudy’s Barbecue. I still drool over their brisket, creamed corn (practically a dessert) and banana pudding (an actual desert). I’ve also been to the UNT book store. What were we talking about? Oh yeah.
Cal will probably stink this year, but luckily for the folks in Berkeley, it’ll be tucked safely inside the ACC’s blanket by then, and Justin Wilcox will probably get a contract extension because the folks in the high offices don’t really care about football anyway. The Mean Green return a lot of production, and had a decent season in 2022, but fired its coach. In a sign of “I’m really old and forget most new things” I looked up North Texas’ new coach. Turns out it’s Eric Morris! I’d completely forgotten! Anyway, Morris should be familiar enough with Cal to keep this close.
The Pick: Cantankerous Chartreuse
Nevada Wolf Pack at USC (-38)
Nevada is so bad, not even Alex Grinch can screw this one up, right? Right??!!
The Pick: USC
Coastal Carolina at UCLA (-14.5)
UCLA may well be the biggest mystery in the conference. It loses Dorian Thompson-Robinson, but replaces him with a 5-star recruit (who will start the season behind Ethan Garbers). There are several other key losses, but Chip Kelly has proven rather adept at mining the transfer portal for immediate help. How will that play out this game? This year? Who knows?!
On Coastal’s side, it still features quarterback Grayson McCall, who thought about transferring after 2021, then entered the transfer portal after 2022, only to return for what should be his 16th and final season with the Chanticleers. Chip Kelly says he’s gonna play three quarterbacks. In this day and age, that’s coachspeak for “I’M DOING EVERYTHING I CAN TO PREVENT TRANSFERS!”
The Pick: UCLA
Oregon State (-17) at San Jose State
Man, the Spartans sure seem to have a desire to audition for a piece of whatever the next iteration of the Pac-12/Mountain West becomes! First they faced USC, now it’s a date with another ranked Pac-12 foe in Oregon State. Count me among those who are highly intrigued by OSU’s new quarterback, DJ Uiagalelei. He looked rather subpar last season in Clemson, but is definitely talented. San Jose seems decent, so let’s take those points.
The Pick: Junior Sparty
College football is here. Let’s try and forget about all the conference nonsense and enjoy the games for at least 45 seconds before we get pissed off about backdoor covers. Go Cougs.
Army at Louisiana-Monroe (-9.5)
College football coaches who personally insulted yours truly are a sparkling 185-6-2 against the spread all-time. Jeff Monken will continue the winning ways.
The Pick: Black Knights
Northwestern at Rutgers (Total = 40.5)
This seems like a good way to test the new clock rules, as neither team seems interested in scoring.
The Pick: Under
Clemson (-12) at Duke
Duke’s 2022 was incredible, but it feels like the Devils are kinda due for some regression this season.
The Pick: Dabo’s snake oil
So there you have it, a baker’s dozen picks. The odds that I’m able to avoid tweeting a few desperation plays late Saturday are currently +10000.
Football is here. Let us rejoice and be glad.