This past weekend, I attended my 10 year college reunion, and I realized a few things. First off, everyone is pregnant, even the guys. Secondly, nobody wants to grow up. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a bunch of 32-year old pregnant women with Director-level jobs slamming Reislings and singing along to Akinyele’s “Put It In Your Mouth” like they were still nineteen. Finally, I learned that time goes on, whether you like it or not. I did my best to relive my glory days, but by the time the clock struck 1AM, I had to retreat to my hotel like a Banana Republic-clad Cinderella. I can’t hang anymore. Even though I have zero interest in being an adult, my fate has already been decided. I’m a grown-up.
It’s a lesson that many college football teams could learn from. Mack Brown is on the hot seat this week because he’s tried to coach Texas the same way he did in the ‘90s and ‘00s. Brown is a legendary coach, but the game has passed him by. You can’t compete as a pro-style offense in a day when Baylor is putting up 70 points a game. Even Alabama and LSU have opened up their offenses. As you watch old-fashioned teams like Virginia Tech or Michigan this weekend, remember that their struggles aren’t related to a lack of talent. Those guys still get 5-star recruits. They’re struggling because they refuse to adapt to today’s style of play. When Mack Brown gets fired later this year, it’s not because he’s a bad coach. It’s because other teams are dancing to Miley Cyrus, and Mack’s still rocking out to Linkin Park.
Let’s get to the lines...
Oklahoma is good, but not good enough to merit a 14.5 point line in a rivalry game at a neutral site. After a hot start against Tulsa (413 yards, 4 TDs), Blake Bell fell back to Earth against Notre Dame (232 yards, 2 TDs) and had a very unremarkable passing game last week against TCU (152 yards, 0 TDs). Yes, you have to consider Bell's rushing contribution, but eventually teams are going to wise up, load the box and force him to throw. If that's not Mack Brown's strategy this week, then forget about being on the hot seat, he should be strapped to the back of a wild horse and run out of town. So, no, I won't be laying the points on OU. That said, I can't put my faith in Case McCoy and the Texas Longhorns either. Everyone thinks they'll play hard for Coach Brown, but if they cared about his job so much, why didn't they show any effort against BYU or Ole Miss? That leaves one option. As I write this, the over/under is 56.5. Last year in this game, Oklahoma put up 63 points by themselves. That wasn't a total fluke. Texas' D is suspect, and Oklahoma's is nothing to write home about either. It's like these teams finally realized they were in the Big 12. Bet the over and hope for a nice 37-30 game shootout.
Pittsburgh +9.5 at Virginia Tech
These are two teams I hate betting on, but for some reason I feel pretty good about this one. Virginia Tech's offense doesn't have the firepower to blow Pitt away. The only way they win big in this game is with some flurry of special teams or defensive scores. Take the points and prepare for a 16-13 barnburner.
Missouri +9 at Georgia - STAY AWAY
Last week for Georgia was not a good one. Keith Marshall is out for the year, which is the most devastating injury since Lance Harbor blew out his knee for West Canaan High. Justin Scott-Wesley is out for the year as well. Michael Bennett may return later this year, but for now, he's gone. Todd Gurley is doubtful with an ankle injury. I haven't seen anyone banged up this much since my ex-girlfriend Kristin. Yeah, that's right Kristin, I know about the guy from your accounting class, you dirty whore!!! Wait, what were we talking about? Ah yes. Missouri is a good team. Georgia lost 33% of their offense, literally, and 50% of their offense, metaphorically. I can’t put money on “Georgia: The New Class” until I see them play. Stay away.
Next week Clemson faces off against Florida State. It's the game of the year in the ACC and one of the biggest games we'll see all season. You know what that means. This week's match-up against BC is a classic trap game. This is like a Friday class the week before Spring Break. No one cares what the professor is saying, they're thinking about pounding daiquiris and trying to bang girls in a tiki hut. Florida State is a daiquiri and Boston College is a history professor who won't shut up. Clemson should win this game by 40, but instead they'll doze off at their desk until they do the head-snap move in the fourth quarter and finally win by 17.
Note: This is in no way a recommendation to bet on Boston College. I would bet on the mule who kicked field goals in that Disney movie before I bet on BC.
Alabama -28 at Kentucky
Take the Points College Football Gambling Rule #1: Bet on Alabama, or don't bet at all.
I've discussed Bama ad nauseum this season, and we'll talk about them plenty more in future weeks. For now, let's focus on Kentucky. Kentucky sucks. I bet on them earlier in the year to cover a 14 point spread against Florida. Not only could they not cover, they could barely even move the ball. I felt like a disappointed dad who lent his daughter the keys to the Lexus, only to watch her crash through the neighbor's fence two minutes later. I don't care if the entire Kentucky team comes to my house with a personal apology and a barrel of bourbon, there's no way I'm betting on them again. You couldn't stay within 14 points of Florida? Good luck with Alabama.
UCLA is sneaky good this year. They've got the offensive firepower to compete with some of the PAC 12's best teams. They only reason they're not in the national discussion is because they play in the same conference with Oregon, Stanford and Washington. UCLA is the Daniel Baldwin of the PAC 12. Yeah, maybe they're not as cool as Alec, but they're still a Baldwin, dammit! Meanwhile Cal's got a terrible defense that can't stop anyone. I like the Bruins to rout the Bears, 56-27 or something like that.
South Florida +5 at UConn - WHO CARES?
I don't have a pick here. After all, this is like choosing between an N'Sync song and a 98 Degrees song. I can't even fake enough interest to throw out a pick. I just wanted to direct you to this week's Take the Points Podcast, featuring myself and my friend Dan P. We spent some time discussing potential replacements for Paul Pasqualoni. Here are a few options:
1) UConn finds the best high school football coach in Connecticut, hires him, and hopes that the state rallies around a hometown hero.
2) They lure Geno Auriemma away from the UConn Women's Basketball team. Yeah, he's never coached football, but at least the guy knows what it's like to win.
3) They hire our friend Jeff, a math teacher at Stonington High School. He's a good motivator and he can double as a math professor. So even if the team doesn't win, hey, at least the guys learn their fractions.
4) Find a kid who's really good at video games. Make him offensive coordinator. Put him in the booth and have him use the Oregon playbook from NCAA Football '14 to call the team's plays.
5) Hire Rebecca Lobo. There's no strategy behind this move, per se, but Connecticut loves Rebecca Lobo.
Michigan -1.5 at Penn State
Not feeling great about this one, either. This should be a big game but both teams feel very uninspiring this year. I grew up a Penn State fan and I have a tough time betting against the Lions, but after a 20-point loss to Indiana, there's no way I can condone picking them. At the same time, Michigan struggled against Akron and UConn, two of the worst teams in college football. I guess at gunpoint I would go with Michigan, just because I know they're going to somehow go 10-2 without racking up a single quality win. But since gunman rarely ask for your college football picks, I’ll probably stay away.
Baylor -18 at Kansas State
Baylor at Kansas State OVER 72
Well well well. I'd like to welcome everyone to the Baylor Bandwagon. I said in my season preview that the Bears would surprise some people, and for the past month they've been my pick to win the conference. And I can't even take much credit because my Take the Point Podcast co-host Dan has been praising Baylor since well before the season kicked off.
Now, all of a sudden everyone with a Tumblr account is anointing Baylor as Big 12 Champions. It's almost enough to scare me into going the other way, since, as every gambler knows, the public is always wrong. But I'm not giving up my seat just yet. Bryce Petty is the most efficient quarterback in the nation. Lache Seastrunk is a legitimate Heisman candidate. The receiving corps is good and the Bears have NFL-caliber players at non-skill positions as well. For the past few years, Baylor has been an up-and-coming squad. Now they've arrived. I'll take this line, and you'll have to set their over/unders at 85 to scare me away.
And now that I've said all that, we can all look forward to a 20 point Kansas State win. Gambling, it's fantastic!
[Ed. Note: This line is moving all over the place. Be careful. And always check the weather when betting over/unders. The More You Know.]
LSU -7 vs. Florida
Florida has been pretty good since Jeff Driskel went out. I have to say I'm mildly impressed. But the Gators can't match up against this LSU team. LSU always has a great defense, but this year they can actually score points. It's like when Happy Gilmore learned how to putt. Now they're unstoppable*. Zack Mettenberger is finally playing like the blue chip recruit we were always told he was. I think it's the beard. He sucked last year when he was clean-shaven. Now with his beard he's more powerful than ever. He's like Samson, if Samson dated cheerleaders and listened to Skrillex**. Anyway, I like LSU a lot in this game. They've got a tough schedule and can't afford to let off the gas. The Gators on the other hand are headed into the meat of their schedule and toward an 8-4 finish. Lay the points on the better team.
*Excluding games vs. Alabama.
Let's start by talking about Ohio State's cover last week against Northwestern. I bet on Northwestern and that final play was the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. A botched hook-and-ladder tossed into the end zone and recovered for a spread-covering touchdown as time expired? To quote Ron Burgundy, "I'm not even mad, that's amazing!" That's the type of play where you instantly know who the gamblers in the room are. The casual observers are like, "well, that didn't work," and all the gamblers are either falling to their knees in prayer or yelling "goddammit you stupid motherfucker!!" and throwing their beer against the wall.
On to this game. If Northwestern kept it to 10 points against Ohio State, shouldn't they fare better against the Badgers? I know this game is in Wisconsin, but it feels like Northwestern is being unfairly profiled with this line. This isn't the same team that used to be the Big Ten's doormat. The Wildcats are a legitimate top twenty team who should have been within a field goal of beating the very good OSU. Wisconsin isn't a wide open scoring threat. If the Badgers win, it'll be through a combination of ball control and ground game. I'll be shocked if this game is a blowout. In fact, I think it's 50/50 that Northwestern wins outright. Take the points.
Washington +14.5 vs. Oregon
Our game of the week. As someone who likes the Ducks, I'm scared. Washington is a good team who looked impressive in last week's loss to Stanford. This week they welcome Oregon to Husky Stadium and what should be a raucous crowd. To make things even more difficult, De’Anthony Thomas may not play. We like to think of Oregon as some talent incubator where everyone runs a 4.2 and players are interchangeable. They’re not. Oregon needs the Mamba to play. The Ducks were my pick for the National Championship Game, but the PAC 12 is not an easy road, and the first real test comes this Saturday. I still think Marcus Mariota finds a way to win en route to the Heisman. But when two great teams face off… well, you know the motto.
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Tom Z: @thefaketomz
Take the Points Week 7 Podcast