We are less than two weeks from the start of college football! And, by that, I mean the Tennessee vs App State and South Carolina vs Vandy games on Thursday night. That also means it is time for me to inundate you all with my fantasy advice and less-than-professional handicapping advice. No worries, though, since you are getting it all ffoooooo fffreeeeee.
But, in case you wondering if there is a relationship between the cost of my picks and their monetary value....no. Turns out, I went 22-17 last year in the SEC against the spread. And that isn't cherry picking games, yall. That was four or five premier games a week. A 56.4% rate is what Vegas considers "printing your own money." So, take that all you touters who sell your picks.
Typically I pick only the top four picks, but since this weekend is massive, I will pick all the games of note.
Thursday September 1st
South Carolina at Vandy
South Carolina opened as a four point favorite in Nashville but the consensus line is now Vandy -3.5 with an over-under of 42.5. To get there, the 'Dores are projected to win 25-18. Vandy scored 25 or more points just twice last year, once in a win and one in a blowout loss to UT. The line scares me, though I would take the under on the points. As far as the spread, new coach Muschamp hasn't fielded a competent offense yet and Vandy was quietly one of the very best defenses in the country. The Commodores will be better on offense and will hand the ball of to Ralph Webb early and often. The Gamecocks were 109th against the run in 2015. Take Vandy to cover.
Appalachian State at Tennessee
The great orange hype trains starts against App State, the giant killer. It's been a long time since the opening day victory against Michigan. App State isn't an out of division team anymore. Now they play with the big boys. UT is a 23.5 point favorite with an over-under at 57.5 points. Before you go throwing down money, consider a few things first. App State was 10-2 last year with their two losses coming to Arkansas State (a Sun Belt foe) and the Clemson Tigers. And, before you think they are some gimmicky offense with no offense, you better educated yourself. App State ranked 48th in all of FBS in total offense while sitting at 30th in total offense. They held Clemson to three points in the first quarter, seven in the third, and three in the fourth. A 28 point second quarter killed them, but consider that App State tossed three picks in the quarter, one for a pick-six.
Meanwhile, UT was 110th in total defense and 50th in total offense. Sure, UT's schedule is a far sight harder, but it bears knowing. In addition, the bulk of the Mountaineers production in QB Taylor Lamb and RB Marcus Cox are back. I am taking the over on points and Appalachian State to beat the cover.
Saturday September 3rd
Clemson at Auburn
The line has held steady at Clemson -8 and an over-under of 59 points before dropping a point to -7. Dating back to 2008, Clemson is 2-2 against SEC teams in openers, having beaten Auburn and UGA, but having lost the return game to UGA while being dismantled by Alabama in 2008 in Swinney's first game as a head coach. Meanwhile, Gus Malzahn has never lost an opening game at Auburn, though he hasn't fared well elsewhere with teams the like of Clemson (Arkansas vs USC, Arkansas State vs Oregon). Though Clemson has one of, if not the best, offense in college football, it also has a completely retooled defense that returns only three starters. Meanwhile, Auburn's offense and defense were dreadful last year. However, the chances of Gus Malzahn reaching new lows after his worst college offense ever are slim to none, even if he doesn't have a true returning skill position player of note.
The thing is, Auburn has seen the length and breadth of the Clemson defense against Alabama which makes Clemson totally exploitable. No such film exists on Auburn, who will field a completely different offense in 2016. In addition, the Auburn defense looks poised to have an incredible year while the Clemson D will take a step back from a defense that was really just "meh", checking in at 44th overall. This game is a terrific game to throw caution into the win and rack up some big bucks, but as a responsible better, I have to take Clemson and the points, though I would take the under in a surprisingly low scoring game.
Georgia vs North Carolina
UGA is a very slim 2.5 point favorite in a very good matchup. The over-under sits at 54.5 points. What's the status on Nick Chubb and Sony Michel? Will true freshman Jacob Eason start? No one really knows. UGA's defense ranked 9th nationally in 2015, but a lot has changed, including the defensive coordinator. That can't be said for the other team. North Carolina's defense The defense gave up a ton of yards (100th), but ranked 35th in points allowed, which is saying something in the ACC.
Questions remain for USC on if Mitch Trubisky can replace Marquise Williams. Williams was both electrifying and mystifying. He was as likely to run for a 50 yard TD, throw a 70 yard bomb, or gift the opposing defense a TD. However, Elijah Hood is back after a nearly 1,500 yard season where he averaged 6.7 yards per carry. Much of that was due to William's ability to pull the ball, which Trubisky won't do. What he will do is pick defenses apart. In his limited duty, he was nearly flawless, albeit in mop-up duty. Still, UNC is primed for a big-time upset. I am taking UNC and the over on points.
LSU at Wisconsin
A few years ago, this would have been the premier game of the day. LSU is still LSU, but the Badgers are a far cry from where they were. LSU is a 9.5 point favorite and the over-under sits at 44.5. Wisconsin's lone chance at staying in this game would be a Dave Aranda defense, but he will be on the other side of the field. The only question will be, will Leo Fournette stay in the game after half? Just kidding. Even if he is pulled, his back up, Guise, is just as capable. I am taking LSU, the points, and the under on the points.
Florida State vs Ole Miss (neutral field)
It's amazing that the line slipped just one point with Deondre Francios, the freshman, being named QB. Still, Free Shoes U is favored by 4.5 and the over-under is 57.5 points. Ole Miss has to rebuild their defense after losing Nkemdiche. But, you know, he wasn't exactly an every down or even an every game player. Chad Kelly is, perhaps, the best QB in the country. While he did lose a lot of talent in reliable Treadwell, he does get Washington State transfer Stringfellow and tight end Evan Engram back to go along with two of the other leading WRs. The issue will be up front. Can Ole Miss retool that line and let Kelly throw?
This game is already picked tight, but I just can't see going against Ole Miss. I will take Ole Miss in the upset and the under on the points.
UCLA vs Texas A&M
I caution against betting on TAMU, regardless of what the lines are. You simply don't know which team is going to show up. Right now, TAMU is a 2.5 point favorite with an over-under of 56.5. UCLA lost their lead back Paul Perkins to the NFL and that is a bigger loss than people think, especially for how it helped freshman phenom Josh Rosen last season. I don't think he is that good and I do think TAMU's defensive backfield is. After all, they were one of the leaders in college football in pass yards allowed. The Aggie defense will get better under John Chavis. The question is, will the Aggie defense return to form? One thing we know is, Sumlin's team is pretty dang good in openers, having covered in their two marque matchups. I am taking TAMU and the over on the points.
Alabama vs USC (Neutral Site)
Now the game you all want to hear about. Alabama is currently a 10.5 point favorite and the over-under is 54 points. Now, this seems like a severe trap game. Alabama is now flirting with starting a dual threat freshman QB and will have a new defensive coordinator for the first time in forever.
It's hard to go against Saban and the Tide in openers considering how they have been dominate in these openers. USC is just another in a long line of big names without the ability to back it up. To me, the lynchpin to your bet will be if Hurts is named QB. If he is, I would caution against playing Bama. USC does have a lot of talent and could really make Bama pay for sloppy play, which they have showed in these openers. Conversely, a safe start at QB means Bama will cover. At this point, we have to assume one of the older QBs will start, so I will take Bama and the points and the under.