Each week, during college football season DPB’s Kyle Magin and Andrew J. Pridgen pour on the prose with Pints and Picks™. Who to wager and (sometimes) what to drink while doing it. This week: #allmichiganallthetime
Here we are, three weeks in and I’m already having to bust out what I usually get to wait till Thanksgiving (or after) to say: I am sorry.
I’m not apologizing to the readership — the loyal, the intrepid, the anti-deplorables already know what (and who) they’re getting and getting themselves into when they come here: I am apologizing to you, one. Kyle. Magin.
Whether you know this or not Kyle, one of my great pleasures in life is to run up the sportsbook score on you for the first three or four weeks of college football and build a nice 8-2 or 10-3 cushion with my picks and then wager conservatively for most of the rest of the season trying to go .500 or slightly above week in and week out to come in just over the the bettor’s equivalent of hitting .333 or better at .600-plus.
The strategy I employ during the first few weeks is two fold: 1) Find the discrepancies in the games with the too-big spreads and exploit them for cash. And 2) Do my research on the mid-major schools (especially in the west) and try to glean some information that the bookmakers may not have, or care to find out — and exploit them for cash.
Instead, I have succumbed to the marquee matchups and have been pretty well banged up thanks to the likes of UCLA/Texas A&M, USC and Bama and even Boise State and Washington State (not a marquee game but a sexy matchup that sucked me in and had me betting against logic nonetheless.)
During that time, I always look in the rearview to see you, the consummate slow-starter, trying to find your purchase and make sense of the Big 10 while wondering out loud just what is to be the fate of Notre Dame.
But it’s been a bit of a Freaky Friday and while I’ve confidently gone off script to my own detriment, you have arguably stuck with your gameplan and seem to be playing .500 or better ball, which is a good thing as you get into the heart of your season.
…So, let me again, try to write the good ship karma by publicly apologizing for delighting in your early season malaise along with offering a sneak peek at what’s to come in this column, I will — for the third time in three tries — pull the ultimate bettor’s no-no and, well, chase this week with five game picks and at least three over/unders.
Yes Kyle, that’s going to be a six-pick parlay that will either put me back in the hunt, or possibly make me McConaughey in the pre-redemptive moment of the third act of Two for the Money (which I’ve watched seven times already this week, just to make sure I’m getting my hair right…)
So, here we are. You’re in the catbird seat and firing with midseason precision and me churning the legs to stay afloat. Have you any advice for me and are you willing to talk me out of betting Oregon/Nebraska…because now’s the time to strike.
As much as I’d like to take credit for flipping the coin correctly half of the time so far, let’s take a look at a few things.
- Available college football betting data. It’s an immutable truth that no two high school or college football teams are ever like each other in consecutive years. Betting on kids who are 18-22 years old (or 27 if it’s a Utah school…) without a standalone body of work to judge them on is an inherent crap shoot. In this sport, bettors simply have to survive non-conference play before they get on solid, researchable footing.
- Accelerating NCAA football roster turnover. 96 guys entered last April’s draft before their NCAA eligibility was exhausted. The early entry number was 98 in 2014, and has risen nearly every year this decade after 2011 shattered a previous record of early entrants with 56. Guys, more than ever, are deciding that some money now is better than potentially no money following an injury or bullshit benching because of an NCAA violation. This directly relates to point one, because more and more, any standout contributor in his third year of eligibility is likely to be gone the following season. These teams are more unknowable than ever.
This is a long-winded way to say, don’t go too hard on yourself, AJ. For the bettor at home, make the same smart choices you should always be making: bet down-ballot games to increase your level of research in relation to the book (they won’t put in nearly as much staff time on WMU-Illinois as they will Ohio State-Oklahoma) and try to make hay on over-hyped big boys with huge fanbases.
My way of avoiding some of the early-season hurdles is to continue laying down on baseball. There are a handful of big-time matchups with wildcard implications this weekend: Yankees-Sox, Tigers-Indians, Astros-Mariners and Cardinals-Giants. The Mariners are on as impressive a tear as I’ve seen in months and I’m pretending I’ve forgotten what an insufferable affair a NY-Boston series with a pennant on the line in September can be. Nothing makes meaningful baseball more fun than having a little extra interest in the outcome.
That said, we’ve also got a pantry full of good-to-great college football this weekend: FSU-Louisville, ‘Bama-Ole Miss, OSU-OU and the return of the series that got me into college football in the first place: Michigan State-Notre Dame. AJ, I’m going to toss it over to you, with more on the rebirth of a matchup that’s as personal for me as any in the sport.
I haven’t been made to feel better about my bad decisions since the wind turbine models for my fifth grade wind power for California science project refused to turn. I mean, opening the doors to one side of the gym on the day of the science fair wasn’t exactly going to be enough to flicker on a tiny lightbulb.
But anyway, I got pizza afterward. So thank you Kyle, for being my week-three pizza.
Because I’m going hardcore double-down this week with sweaty hands gripping my bet slips, I’ll get right to it with these picks. Here we go:
Colorado +20 v. Michigan
You might say after my overtures about the mistakes I made week one and two that I’m falling for a classic bettors’ “trap game.” An up-and-coming and possibly overachieving Pac-12 team vs. a fully-baked Harbaugh headset-and-Haggar-khakis enterprise. Both teams are 2-0 and both teams had decisive week one and two victories. But it’s Colorado that’s thus far been the surprise of college football. Granted, they’ve only faced Colorado State and Idaho State, but their overall pointage has been 100-14. Add to that the emerging quarterback of record in the West, sophomore Sefo Liufau, who at 6’4”, 220 can throw the ball farther than Uncle Rico (and has, in fact, thrown for 522 yards and three touchdowns, adding another 120 yards on the ground through the first two games.)
Michigan, with a patsy five-game homestand at the Big House to open the season, is equally formidable as they’ve put up 114 points in their first two games of the season, the fourth most in program history through the initial two tilts. They’re also a disciplined bunch, committing only five penalties in the first two games of the season (i.e. the equivalent to a single quarter during the Hoke administration), ranking seventh nationally and second in the conference.
Blue also converts. They are 13-of-14 on red-zone chances this season, with 10 touchdowns and a trio field goals. Anchored by one of the more formidable D-lines in the country, Michigan already has 20 tackles-for-a-loss and seven sacks as well as a pair of fumble recoveries. Their 103.5 yards allowed per game puts them 9th in the nation. If there is any weakness, or thus far untested, part of Don Brown’s defense, it is the secondary; enter QB Liufau and whether he has the ability to test corner Jourdan Lewis and safeties Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas.
The aforementioned use a zone style by dropping the CB off a receiver and allowing the safety to patrol from the interior of the field toward the sideline. The linebacker then falls back to take away an option to dump off. It is very, very effective — against teams like Hawaii — and can result in plenty of picks for the outside LBs. Fortunately, Liufau has a height advantage and can get the ball downfield to a young, but unproven, trio of receivers. Knowing Harbaugh, I imagine Michigan is going with a ground game for the first three quarters and then taking to the skies in the last quarter and a half which could open things up and approach the over 56 as time winds down. Because both schools are used to scoring at will this season thus far, I think one-score differential in the final is reasonable. This is Colorado’s biggest statement game in more than a decade and they appear to be up to it, so take the Buffaloes to cover and the over 56.
Final prediction: Michigan 33, Colorado 28
UNLV +13 @ Central Michigan
UNLV came out of their season opener with a 63-13 win seemingly emerging as a program of note in a city that is collecting programs of note like Garbage Pail Kids Series 3 cards (see: an inked deal with the NHL and Mark Davis already auditioning the now-forgotten Real World Suite at the Palms for his new evil Raiders lair.) The first real test to see whether the Rebs have a program on the rise came week 2 against a slow-starting UCLA. Josh Rosen and the Bruins slacked off in the first half but ended up doubling up on UNLV, handing them a decisive 42-21 loss.
Now, UNLV travels to Mount Pleasant, Michigan to take on the Central Michigan Chippewas who took Oklahoma State down in Stillwater on a Varsity Blues-style last-second hook-and-ladder (RIP Billy Bob…and Lance Harbor) last week for the program’s biggest victory. This is the mid-major down-market matchup we’ve been waiting for. Are the Chippewas, at 2-0 with not much of a schedule ahead, worth putting in the conversation? Or could UNLV, no stranger to catching teams unawares on a hangover game, prove themselves worthy of the program they purport to be building in the shadow of Charleston Peak?
The Rebels showed they have soft targets when it comes to allowing a team (UCLA) to establish its running game then take to the air. Last week, they gave up 219 rushing yards, most of those coming in the end of the second quarter and on. This enabled Rosen, after a nothing first quarter, to go on to complete 23-of-38 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown in Pasadena.
UNLV does have a show (and run) stopper in senior linebacker Ryan McAleenan, who basically plugged all the holes in the dam last week vs. the Bruins with 14 tackles (a dozen of them solo.) If McAleenan can get a little help in the secondary against quarterback Cooper Rush, who looked like a sure-footed third rounder vs. Oklahoma State completing 30-of-42 passes for 361 yards and four touchdowns with an interception, then it might be a game. Neutralizing tight end Tyler Conklin and wide receiver Jesse Kroll (who combined for 13 caRyan McAleenantches, 187 receiving yards and two touchdowns against the Cowboys) is job one. And creating pressure from the interior line, which UNLV did with varying degrees of success even though they were outsized by the Bruins’ front five, will be crucial.
UNLV quarterback Johnny Stanton had a marginal 11-of-28 passing performance for 153 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions against UCLA, but he also rushed 10 times for 46 yards and a touchdown. This is crucial. As good as the Chippewas’ secondary has been preventing a home run play, if Stanton can get loose and incorporate running back Lexington Thomas early, it could be a long day in Mount Pleasant. Overall, this spread hiccuped a touchdown in Central Michigan’s favor after the Chippewas ran deep in Stillwater. UNLV ultimately is outsized and outmatched in this fight, but should hang for three-and-a-half quarters. Take UNLV to cover and the under 58.
Final prediction: Central Michigan 24, UNLV 18
Nebraska -1 vs. Oregon
It doesn’t get much sexier than betting against Oregon on the road this season. The line, which started out as pick-’em, moved to as much as Nebraska -3 before settling to -1 Friday morning (though if you’re forced to take the Huskers at -3, please do.) Nobody is saying the ‘16 version of Nebraska is the smartest, fastest or worthiest team in the absolutely stacked Big 10; and the Ducks can thank their lucky swooshes they’re not playing Ohio State or Michigan or Wisconsin or Michigan State or Iowa. But for the moment, Oregon away from Autzen simply looks too streaky on offense led by graduate transfer quarterback Dakota Prukop, who seems capable but is yet to find his groove with new offensive coordinator Matt Lubick. On the other side of the ball, the thus far #godawful Brady Hoke-led 4-3 defense makes one want to see what kind of voodoo they can do to reanimate Nick Aliotti or at least discover his playbook Jumanji-style in the catacombs of the Knight Library.
Oregon’s front seven defenders, after almost a decade-and-a-half of producing NFL-ready talent especially on the interior, are slow and portend to showcase a lot of the jersey nameplates of whatever stupid uniform combo standing around watching some Pac-12 RB scamper toward Bob Ross-sized swaths of daylight as the season gets into conference play. Hell, that happened (multiple times) against UC Davis and Virginia. Speaking of the Cavs, the Ducks allowed 11 rushes for 10-plus yards, more than they had the entire ‘13 and ‘14 campaign combined, and the second-most in the Helfrich era.
And speaking of Helfrich, known as a decent recruiter and good up in the box with the headset, Oregon’s captain my captain is trending to be the first Ducks “system” coach to be dismissed in more than two decades. Letting offensive coordinator Scott Frost get away to UCF, in my mind, was a mistake the Ducks (not to mention Frost) will pay dearly for over the next season or two. Helfrich, coming off a 9-4 season with a career-changing and historic “Remember the Alamo Bowl” come-from-ahead loss last December, may be turning his final expense reports in at the Cas Center should this season end similarly with a second-tier bowl bid (please let it be Vegas. Please let it be Vegas.) I say the coach’s fourth season is his last as he gets to updating his LinkedIn sometime during the second half in Lincoln Saturday. Take Nebraska and the under 70.
Final Prediction: Nebraska 33, Oregon 19
OK Kyle, take us home with some of that pre-playoff roundball!
Before we get to baseball, I have to admit that my full attention will be on Notre Dame tomorrow as Michigan State heads to South Bend for the first time in three years. That’s because in the interim—since the great conference explosion and Notre Dame’s entry into a de facto common-law marriage with the ACC—I’ve missed this game so very, very much. For MSU, it’s been a barometer—can they handle the pressure that comes with the circus that is a week of Rudy and Rockne, NBC and big expectations? For me, the game is an autumnal rite, as I grew up in a house with an MSU alum (my mom) and a rabid ND fan (my dad). The game usually inspired some consternation as my father can’t stand to be in the same room with anyone but hardcore Domers for the matchup and his wife and oldest son rooted for MSU. So he would retire to the garage to listen to it on radio and we’d hear shouts of joy when it went well for him and the sounds of his worn-out Chuck Taylors slapping the ground toward some spur-of-the-moment chore he’d invent when things weren’t going so well for the Irish.
I remember, vividly, the silence on the other end of the door to the garage after Charles Rogers housed a third-and-six prayer to take the lead in the fourth quarter of a game during my youth because it contrasted so convincingly with the hooting and hollering on our end. For me, the Notre Dame game is about sharing an event from two diametrically opposed viewpoints.
Let’s get to it…
Michigan State +7.5 @ Notre Dame
I make no predictions of a Spartan win. Notre Dame (1-1) has been through the fire and seen literally every offensive set in the sport between their matchups with Texas and Nevada. Michigan State (1-0) quarterback Tyler O’Connor looked very shaky against Furman in a week one matchup, completing just 72.2 percent of his passes for 190 yards, while taking two sacks and throwing one pick. That’s not a world beater’s tune-up against a lesser opponent; that’s a first-year starter’s baby steps against the easiest defense he’ll see all year.
O’Connor rarely looked deep and just once found the big TE Josiah Price—they hooked up on a 21 yard TD reception when he did, though. This is all a long way of saying that O’Connor could have used a little more seasoning before running out under the lights in South Bend. On the flipside, though, the Spartan defense looked just a few ticks short of fully operational. That’s what the Irish haven’t seen, yet: a run-stuffing D with ballhawks waiting on you to slip with your longball. DeShone Kizer has been lights-out good so far for the Irish, heaving 7 TDs to 1 INT in two clean starts. How will he react, though, with recently re-activated sixth year senior linebacker Ed Davis bearing down on him? Davis can get to the quarterback—he recorded 7 sacks during his redshirt junior season in 2014, the last time he played. Having played through multiple Bullough administrations in the Spartan linebacking corps (Max and now brother, Riley, have manned the MLB position since Kubrick faked the moon landing), Davis can be deployed with extreme precision on third down blitzes if his defensive quarterback calls for it. Watch the Spartan pass defense slow this game to a field-position grind and gum up the works on an otherwise humming ND attack. Notre Dame may still win on Saturday, but I don’t think they can cover.
Western Michigan -3 @ Illinois
The Broncos (2-0) are looking to claim their second B1G scalp of the season in Champaign on Saturday against Illinois (1-1). They’ll get it. Illinois’ quarterback situation is a mess right now. Illini QB Wes Lunt fixates on the deep ball—which is fine when it hits with TD tosses of 68 and 30 yards so far—but it means he’s almost never focused on the pass rush bearing down on him. Lunt has been sacked 4 times already this year—including a particularly galling fumble last week against North Carolina in a 48-23 loss. That’s not the sort of QB you want leading you into battle against the fifth-ranked offensive attack in the nation, a road-tested team (Western already beat Northwestern in Evanston) who are helmed by QB Zach Terrell (5 TD, 0 INT) and WR Corey Davis (3 TDs, 17 yard per catch average). Western will look to go deep early and often against a soft Illini defense and Lunt will find himself looking downfield playing catch up.
St. Louis +104 @ San Francisco (FRIDAY)
Wet your whistle tonight with a little NL baseball. Luke Weaver goes for the Cards in their visit to the Bay, and although he’s winless in has last three starts, he’s managed to strike out 23 during that stretch. Can a team like San Francisco—which managed just 5 runs in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Padres this week—really afford to strike out 7 times tonight if Weaver holds pace? The Cardinals also come in cold on offense, but they thump–four players have more than 20 home runs. The Giants have none, and their offense is consistently more station-to-station than St. Louis’s. At this time of year, you need a game-changing slugger to shift momentum, especially with 13-man bullpens being deployed with rosters expanding. I like the Cards to eke one out in AT&T.
Detroit @ Cleveland Under 7.5 runs (FRIDAY)
This call is really all about Tigers starter Michael Fulmer (2.76 ERA) and the Tribe’s Corey Kluber (3.05 ERA). Kluber is closing in on a potential Cy Young, given that he’s 5-1 with a 2.70 ERA in his last seven starts. Fulmer is in the running for Rookie of the Year, and gave up just two in a duel with the Orioles last weekend. Fulmer also comes in on six days’ rest, which can’t hurt a rookie pitcher with 143 innings under his belt. Kluber has the number of almost every Tigers hitter save Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. I’d look for a primetime pitching matchup at Jacobs’ tonight.
Enjoy the weekend!
Last Week: 2 and 2
Overall: 4 and 4
Michigan State +7.5 @ Notre Dame
Western Michigan -3 @ Illinois
(Friday) St. Louis +104 @ San Francisco
(Friday) Detroit @ Cleveland Under 7.5 runs
Last Week: 1 and 3
Overall: 2 and 5
Colorado +20 v. Michigan
Colorado vs. Michigan over 56
UNLV +13 @ Central Michigan
UNLV @ Central Michigan under 58
Nebraska -1 vs. Oregon
Nebraska vs. Oregon under 70
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