It's Thursday and you know what that means - it's time to make some college football picks. And I'm just going to keep it real - man oh man have the picks stunk of late. After five straight winning weeks to start the year, we have now had four straight losing weeks.
At this point, I don't know to say about the picks that hasn't already been said. I've tried everything to get myself out of this funk. Putting in more prep work, less prep work, focusing on the good teams, focusing on the small schools, consulting with friends, nothing is working. I've been casually betting college football and college basketball for close to a decade and have never hit a cold streak like this. The term "please gamble responsibly" was literally made for me at this exact moment in time, because if I didn't, I'd be living out of my car the rest of the season.
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Anyway, let's get to the picks. Obviously with four SEC games canceled this week, most of the picks are a bit off the radar. Still, here are this week's selections:
No. 10 Indiana at Michigan State (+7.5): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC
Last week I picked Michigan to cover against Indiana. Along with my haircut in my third grade class picture, it was one of the most embarrassing, least defensible moments of my life.
Still, in my defense, while the pick was awful because Michigan is awful, I still believe that my other premise "Indiana is overrated" holds some value. Don't believe me, let me put it to you this way: Even after steamrolling Michigan, they still rank 12th of 14 Big Ten teams in total offense, ahead of only Rutgers and Illinois. Not great.
At the same time, I also don't believe Michigan State is as bad as they looked at Iowa last week. Remember, the Hawkeyes entered that game 0-2 and desperate for a win, while Michigan State was playing a noon kickoff, in it's second straight road game, coming off a massive win against a hated rival. Of course a young football team with a first-year head coach was flat. How could they not be?
Therefore, with the Spartans coming home for the first time in three weeks, Indiana slightly overrated and with a mega-game against Ohio State looming for the Hoosiers, I think they could be looking ahead a bit.
I looooove Michigan State as over a touchdown underdog at home here.
Wake Forest (+14 - bought up from +13.5) at North Carolina: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ACC Network
A couple thoughts, and a couple thoughts only on this game:
* Wake Forest has won four straight games against the spread, and are one of the best against the spread teams in the country this season.
* Wake Forest is coming off a bye, while North Carolina is playing their seventh straight game
* Wake Forest doesn't turn the ball over at all. Like, almost literally. In total, they have one turnover in six games this season, the only team with zero or one turnover this season that has played more than two games. And they've played SIX! For comparison's sake, USC had four turnovers in one game last week.
* North Carolina has a game at Notre Dame next week - it's hard to imagine them not looking ahead.
Oh, and finally, here are North Carolina's last five games: Big win (versus Virginia Tech), loss (versus Florida State), big win (versus NC State), loss (versus Virginia), big win (versus Duke).
Sensing a trend here?
This is one of my favorite bets of the year.
Colorado at Stanford (-7): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Colorado was one of the single best stories of the opening weekend. After having to replace their coach in the middle of February (when Mel Tucker left for Michigan State) they ended up with a guy nobody wanted (Karl Dorrell) and had no time to gel (no spring practice) this off-season. Despite it, they went out and beat an opponent with the highly-paid, underachieving coach (UCLA and Chip Kelly) which also happened to a place where Dorrell once worked and was fired.
Watching Dorrell celebrate stomp on Chip Kelly's grave was like a Hallmark Christmas movie come to life.
Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration. But even if it was an awesome story, it doesn't mean I'm buying Colorado.
If you watched closely, Colorado was basically gifted two scores early from UCLA off turnovers, with Colorado's first two scoring "drives" coming from 25 yards and one-yard respectively. They also let UCLA gash them for nearly seven yards per attempt on the ground in the run game.
Therefore, when I look at this game, I don't know how Colorado couldn't come into this one a little flat off that big opening win and they are facing a Stanford Cardinal team that does the the one thing well that the Buffaloes can't stop: Run the football. Last week, Stanford averaged over six yards per rush against the best defensive front in the Pac-12 (Oregon) and should have no problem doing the same here.
Put a different way: Colorado put up 48 points last week in a win, and is still a touchdown underdog here.
Vegas isn't buying Colorado. And I'm not either.
Temple at Central Florida (-14 - first half): Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ESPNU
I can't lie, Central Florida is so fun to watch, that every week I want to bet them just so I have an excuse to pay attention to their games. And then every week the line comes out, it's preposterously high, and I end up staying away. I almost did that this week, when I saw that Temple is a 24-point favorite in this game.
But, instead of betting the game, I decided to only hit the first half and here is why: In recent games, Central Florida has been really good early, but then has gotten up so big in the first half that they let their foot off the gas. Three weeks ago, they were up 37-14 on Tulane at the half, but were outscored 20-6 in the second half. Two weeks ago against Houston they were up 23-7 at the half, and then were outscored 21-14 in the second half. Last week they were on a bye.
Well off a bye, I expect them to come out with plenty of juice, especially against a Temple team that is playing its sixth straight game after not beginning its season until early October. However, I also worry about the game spread since Central Florida has its biggest game of the season next week against Cincinnati, and may want to pull its starters first chance it gets.
The first half line is the play to make here.
South Carolina at Ole Miss (-11.5): Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
With four SEC games postponed, the league's slate is obviously pretty quiet this weekend. But while I'm staying away from the other two games, I love the Rebels here.
Look, if you've made it this far in the article you are clearly sensing a theme here, and that's that I really like teams coming off a bye. Ole Miss was one of the last SEC teams to get a bye, and man did they need it. By the time they got last week off, they were beat up and worn down. Yet the crazy thing is, despite it all, they were actually playing some of their best football before that bye. They steamrolled Vanderbilt, would've beaten Auburn (if not for a blown referee call) and had Arkansas on the ropes despite seven turnovers (SEVEN!!). Literally, if they had "only" turned the ball over four times instead of seven, they would've won going away.
So take a rejuvenated offense off a bye, put it up against a defense that has given up an average of 50 points per game the last two weeks, and put them at home, at night with fans in stands and what do you get?
The Rebels cruising to victory at home.
No. 13 Wisconsin (-5) at Michigan: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
All week long I've convinced myself that this game was a stay away. You simply can't bet Michigan right now, and there is a possibility that Wisconsin will be down to its fourth-string quarterback. There is just no way to handicap this game.
Except the more I thought about it, the more I realized there is a way to handicap it. And it's more than just "Michigan stinks."
That's certainly part of it, but among the many things Michigan stinks at (besides "everything") is blocking up front. I'm not kidding when I say that they might have the worst offensive line in the Big Ten, a staggering thought considering that Illinois, Rutgers and Purdue are in this league. Last week they ran for - and I'm not making this up - 13 yards on 18 rushing attempts, good for a cool 0.7 yards per rush. To make matters worse, their quarterback Joe Milton is wildly inaccurate.
So when I break it down, it doesn't matter to me who Wisconsin is starting at quarterback, because they have one of the best defensive fronts in all of college football. Remember, last year they finished fourth in total defense - and that was after playing Ohio State twice. Well, they return nine starters off that unit.
Point being, if Michigan couldn't move the ball against Michigan State and Indiana, they have no hope against Wisconsin.
Penn State (-3.5) at Nebraska: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FS1: Fun fact: The first year I can remember watching college football was 1994. I specifically remember reading a "TV Guide" bowl preview magazine cover to cover, which shows you just how old I am. I only bring that up to say in that first year I watched college football, Nebraska finished ranked No. 1 in the country at 13-0 and Penn State finished No. 2 at 12-0. They enter this game a combined 0-5. I know it's been 25+ years since that magical day skimming the TV Guide bowl preview, but my brain truly can't process how bad these programs have become. I'd lean Nebraska, but not with enough confidence to bet it.
No. 9 Miami at Virginia Tech (-1.5): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN: So every ounce of my being wanted to take Virginia Tech here, but I just couldn't do it. The bottom line is that Miami basically hasn't been the same team since the Clemson game, putting together three sloppy straight sloppy performances, including last week's survival at NC State. This is their second straight road game and a noon kickoff, against a team that can put up yards in a hurry. So man, it has all the makings of a Miami letdown. At the same time, Virginia Tech's defense is just so bad I couldn't pull the trigger.
No. 2 Notre Dame (-14) at Boston College: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC: Another game where I absolutely wanted to pull the trigger, but couldn't. Notre Dame is coming off its biggest regular season win in years, and traveling to a frisky Boston College team, that gave Clemson fits two weeks ago. They're due for a sloppy game, right? RIGHT? Probably, but I just can't do it. If anything, I'd bet Boston College first half, but even that is a little too rich for my blood.
Arkansas at No. 6 Florida (-17.5), Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN: Just a game I can't even comprehend picking a side on. Arkansas is 6-0 against the spread this year, but enters the game without Sam Pittman on the sidelines. Do they try to win one for the coach? Or will his loss absence be too much? Then there is Florida. Coming off their biggest win of the year, do they come out completely flat? Or take advantage of a Pittman-less Razorbacks team? This is a mega-stay away to me.
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