It's Thursday and you know what that means: It's time to make some college football gambling picks.
And I can't lie, this may be the single, toughest week to preview games since I started doing this years ago. And it's all thanks to Covid.
First off, most of the best teams aren't even playing. It's a list that includes just about every marquee program in the sport, including Clemson, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Ohio State, Michigan, Texas and Oklahoma. Among the teams that are playing, it's almost impossible to figure out who has something close to a full roster, and who is decimated by opt outs injuries and the like. Then there are the schedules. Some schools are on a relatively normal schedule, while others haven't played in weeks. Take Wake Forest, a team that you'd think would be able to handle Louisville - just one problem, this is their first game in nearly a month.
Still, the show must go on, so let's get to the picks. And when you do make your gambling picks this weekend, go ahead and do it with our friends at MyBookie. If you use the promo code "TORRES" you'll double your first deposit. Meaning if you've never gambled before and want to put down $20 on the big game, MyBookie will give you $40 to play with. It's the best deal in sports gambling.
Now, let's get to the picks:
No. 1 Alabama (-17 - first half) at Arkansas: 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
I can't lie, I'm still pretty pissed about last week's Alabama game against LSU, where that stupid dropped ball on the goal line that was ruled a touchdown pushed the game "OVER." Had that not happened, I would've hit my UNDER and we would have golden.
At the same time, that also taught me a very valuable lesson: Never bet against this Alabama offense.
The bottom line is, this unit is just a juggernaut, putting up 48 points in the first half against LSU, with at least 27 points in seven of their nine games this season. They haven't put up less than 21 in the first half all season.
Now they're going on the road against Arkansas team that has played hard all year for Sam Pittman, but does seem to have run out of a bit of juice. Specifically, the defense seems to have taken a step back giving up nearly 700 yards against Missouri last week.
Bama has had a bit of a trend to get up big early, and then call the dogs off late and I would expect the same this year as they get ready to face Florida in Atlanta next weekend.
Ride the Tide in the first half against the Hogs.
No. 9 Georgia at No. 25 Missouri (+13): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Speaking of trends, here is what you need to know about Missouri: They're 4-1 at home straight up this season, and also 4-1 against the spread at home this season as well. The one game they lost was to Alabama, which, not sure you heard, but is pretty good this year. The only game they didn't cover was last week against Arkansas, where they were a 2.5 point favorite and "only" won by two.
So now the Tigers get their third straight home game, and fourth straight game overall, giving them rhythm in a season that has had none. Meanwhile, Georgia had off last week and now goes on the road to CoMo, where it will be cold and drizzly Saturday afternoon. I know that the Dawgs have had new life since JT Daniels has taken over under center, but I just don't know how they'll be geeked up to play this game. They've been off, they aren't competing for an SEC East or national championship and now they're going to be playing in lousy weather on the road. Meanwhile, Missouri is hot and looking to finish off the season in style.
Thirteen points just feels like wayyyyy too many for Missouri to be getting here.
Illinois (+14) at No. 14 Northwestern: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Look, I'm going to keep this short and simple, because it's mid-December, and you're way too busy to read a 1,000 word breakdown on Illinois-Northwestern.
So here's what you need to know: Northwestern is a very, very impressive 5-1 overall. No one would take that away from them. But after beating Maryland by 40 in their opener, Northwestern has won its last four games by totals of one point (vs. Iowa), eight (vs. Nebraska), seven (vs. Purdue) and 10 (vs. Wisconsin) before losing the last time they took the field. Illinois is quietly a half decent team, that has won two of its last three, and was in a one-possession game going into the fourth quarter against Iowa last week.
Illinois will never be mistaken for "good." But they are solid across the board, and solid across the board should be enough to cover a two touchdown spread in a rivalry game.
Tennessee (-7.5, first half and -15) at Vanderbilt: Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
I'm doing it guys. I'm really doing it. I'm betting Tennessee. In a real football game.
Really however, this is a bet against Vanderbilt, more than anything. The Commodores have been decimated by Covid and opt outs, to the point that they weren't even sure they would play this game. Only they are, and even through this week, are moving players around the roster just to fill out the depth chart. Vandy interim Todd Fitch went so far as to admit that he had to move an offensive lineman over to the defensive line just to be able to have enough bodies on that side of the football.
So when you add that in with the fact that Tennessee has been... ahem... not awful the last few weeks, and it's enough for me to take the Vols both with the first half line and the game overall. Speaking of the first half, that might be the stronger play, as in the last three games, the Vols led Arkansas, were tied with Auburn and were only down by 10 to Florida (which in many ways, is a victory in and of itself).
I'm not going to sit here and say things are all hunky dory for the Vols.
But they have a chance to go out and physically dominate Vandy on Saturday. And they will.
USC at UCLA (OVER 62): Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ABC
I'll be the first to admit that at this point, I'm just about the only person paying any attention to Pac-12 football. And in doing so, I've noticed something about UCLA the last few weeks: They're not bad. Well, at least offensively. They can move the ball, especially on the ground, and after quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson missed two weeks because of Covid contact tracing came back last week and played solid.
So when you take a fully loaded UCLA offense and put it up against a USC offense that seems to be finally clicking, I think we get points and lots of them this weekend. I'm predicting something in the neighborhood of a 37-30 final score, and an over play here.
LSU at No. 6 Florida (-23.5): Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
I just, for the life of me, can't find one scenario where Florida doesn't blow LSU out here. Let's remember:
LSU's offense stinks - and that was before leading receiver Arik Gilbert "opted out" this week (and I write "opted out" in quotes because he basically is just about to transfer)
LSU's defense is abysmal - especially against the pass. What is the one thing Florida's offense does, maybe better than anyone? Get the ball downfield
Lastly, how can LSU be fired up to play this game, with the announcement of a bowl ban this week? It's just abundantly clear the few players that are left, can't be all that invested in the final two weeks of the season.
With the way LSU's offense is playing, I really do think 35 points covers this spread for Florida. Considering Florida has scored at least 31 points every game this season, and LSU has given up 40 on four different occasions, the Gators roll.
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