Greetings, Coug fans, and welcome to the first installment of Gamble-Tron 2014, where I put my pretend money where my mouth is, and pick college football games against the spread. In other words, I'm going to predict outcomes of games played by 18-22 year-olds, whose play in a given week will largely depend upon whether or not they're having relationship issues, and if they were up for 20 hours per day playing XBox.
What could go wrong?
The inspiration for the column's name came from the great Professor John Frink, of Simpsons fame. He once invented the Gamble-Tron 2000, a foolproof machine that would predict the outcome of sporting events. Unfortunately, all I could find was the audio. Apparently the folks at Fox crack down pretty tightly on Simpsons clips on the internet.
I'm going to start with 1,000 pretend dollars and wager a variable amount on each Pac-12 game per week (FBS matchups only), depending on my confidence in the outcome. I'll even throw in a national game or two. I figured $1,000 was a realistic budget for the season, so if I'm doing well, I'll probably get a little more loose with the cash. However, if it goes south early (the more likely scenario), I will probably get a little more conservative, if only to make sure I still have $10 left to bet on the season's final games.
If any of you would like to make picks and go head-to-head with your own pretend $1,000, feel free to do so in the comments. I'll keep a running tally throughout the season for anybody who wants to make picks every week. If you miss a week, I will no longer keep your totals. If you beat me there is no prize, because it's not like I know what I'm doing any more than any of you. Away we go...
Rutgers at WSU (-8): This game makes me more nervous as the days go by, for some reason. This is despite the fact that the Rutgers defensive backfield is approaching tire fire status, and two of Rutgers' top three receivers are out. The Rutgers running game and defensive line are better than many think. Still, if Connor Halliday gets even a modicum of protection, it should be bombs away.
The Pick: $20 on WSU
Colorado State vs Colorado (-3) in Denver: This is one of the more underrated rivalries around. We all saw how explosive CSU can be on offense at the end of last season. However, they lose Kapri Bibbs, and face rebuilds along both lines. On the other side, Colorado returns some young talent, but loses Paul Richardson. Although I don't think Mike McIntyre will be able to work the same magic he worked at San Jose State, I like the Buffs here.
The Pick: $15 on Colorado
UNLV at Arizona (-23.5): Seems like an easy play. Arizona went to Vegas last year and poleaxed UNLV, 58-13. However, UNLV rebounded nicely and made a bowl game. UNLV also returns an experienced QB in Nick Sherry. "Experienced" should not be confused for "good" though, as Sherry was replaced by a converted receiver last year. Despite a stable of talented receivers, Arizona is starting a freshman quarterback, and replacing Ka'deem Carey. Also, their defense is, to use a technical term, lousy.
The Pick: $15 on UNLV
UCLA (-21) at Virginia: Ahh, the dreaded 9 a.m. (PDT) start for a West Coast team playing back east. This is a case of two programs going in opposite directions. We all know UCLA is headed upward with Brett Hundley, Myles Jack et al. After trending upward in the first couple season under Mike London, the Cavaliers have cratered, going 4-8 in 2012 and 2-10 last year. Still, give me the home dog and three touchdowns.
The Pick: $10 on Virginia
Cal at Northwestern (-11): At first glance, this looks like a comfortable Wildcats win. However, they've lost both their leading rusher and receiver in the last 10 days, with Venric Mark transferring (following a suspension), and Christian Jones going down with an injury. These teams opened the season last year, before Cal suffered 500 injuries (values approximate), and it was a three point game headed into the 4th quarter. Also, this line opened at 13 and has gone down to 11. The sharps like Cal, and so do I. Northwestern wins, but Cal gets a late TD for the old backdoor cover.
The Pick: $10 on Cal
Fresno State at USC (-21.5): Here's another line that has moved, as it's come down from 23. We know USC has much more talent, and they whipped Fresno in the Vegas bowl last year. Also, Fresno lost Derek Carr. On the other hand, they did pick up transfer Brandon Connette from Duke, who rushed for 14 touchdowns and passed for 13 more as a Duke Blue Devil last season. USC will be without its best defensive back, Josh Shaw, who apparently broke out the Jeff Kent guidebook on injury explanations, and did his best Rashaan Shehee impersonation in the process.
The Pick: $10 on Fresno State
Washington (-17) at Hawaii: Possibly the strangest line of the week. It opened at 21.5, and has fallen a full 4.5 points. The only explanation is Washington's quarterback situation. But there's this: Washington is going to be really good this year, and Hawaii is terrible. #analysis
The Pick: $15 on Washington
Florida State (-17.5) vs. Oklahoma State in Jerry World: Hide ya kids, hide ya wife, because this is the Antoine Dodson game of the week. FSU may cover this spread by halftime.
The Pick: $20 on Florida State