Pints and Picks: Conference Championship Week

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Each week DPB’s Kyle Magin and Andrew J. Pridgen will pour on the prose with Pints and Picks™. Who to wager and what to drink while doing it. Here then, is their point-counterpoint for Championship Week—the last entry for the 2014 college football season.*

*For entertainment and bathroom reading purposes only

AJ: Well, here we are championship week Kyle. Barring any bowl game special-edition PNP (which is actually likely, bowl game spreads tend to give week-one odds—wide open), this is our swan song for the 2014 college football season.

I just wanted to take this second-graf moment and say a special thank you for sticking in there the entire season (sorry Kyle, that was directed toward the readers). Reading three thousand words/week on Central Michigan’s 3-4 and Utah’s speedy DBs garnished with flowery opines on the best burger/brew combo in Salt Lake is no small task. But there were at least double-digit loyalists to this feature and for that I am ever-so-grateful.

And you too Kyle. I know your expertise was sometimes lost in the fray of my verbose meanderings—that plus you got off to a slow start …but you hung in there and are on pace to end up with a winning percentage north of .650. You can take that (literally) to the bank. Or, for those of you who played along with Mr. Magin, had you seeded yourselves with a grand at the beginning of the season and bet $50 per pick, you’d be banking close to $2,500 now. That’s not bad beer money.

My picks will come around the horn, but for now, a few takeaways from the season that was:

  • Is it FCB or FCS?
  • I don’t need to waste my time railing (even more) about the playoff system here (you can read about it here or here) but I will say, after a year of watching steady, college football is a professional enterprise run by professionals, played by professionals and marketed by professionals. There’s nothing amateur-hour or student-athlete about the top NCAA programs. Pretending otherwise is a disservice not only to the coaches, staff and schools, but the fans and especially the players. Installing a playoff system is the definition of professional. It’s time for the NCAA to start paying its athletes. The long-term negative physical manifestations of the game and mental and emotional ramifications are well-documented and well-publicized in the NFL, but what of the college athlete who suffers the same side-effects twenty years down the road and has nothing—no pension, no settlement, no union and zilch in the bank, to show? Just a pair of dusty cleats and some Nike shit to go along with his broken marriage and pay day loans.
  • Though we inundate this space with inside jokes, craft brew recommends, dated references to dead sitcoms …not to mention picks in the voice of James Franco, this feature is—at its core—about sports betting. This year, the state of Nevada alone will put more than $25 billion of sports wagers on its books. You can pretty much quadruple that number nationwide for under-the-table or otherwise unaccounted-for gambling on sports. This year’s domestic box office total was $8.6 billion. So, yes, that’s one-third of wagers and that includes Guardians of the Galaxy AND Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Though figures are not formally released, wagering on amateur athletics (including the NCAA tournament and bowl season) accounts for more than one-third of all intake: See: above for why college athletes should get paid.
  • So, no. This isn’t a charitable enterprise and real dollars are being won and lost. Fortunately, for both Kyle and myself, we ended up on the plus side this year and though we take our knowledge, research and our picks seriously, we sincerely hope if and when you do wager, you do so for entertainment. If it goes too far, here is the GA website. It’s worth a look if for no other reason than they have an image of a woman on their homepage not some guy with a goatee and a Coors heavy doing his best Stephen Dorff with an e-cig.
  • Was I sent a friendly form email from an attorney from a regulatory organization that reminded me to remind readers that a regular feature based on betting is for “entertainment only”? Absolutely.
  • And finally: There is a lot of parity going on in college football right now (see: The SEC getting popped in the face by the ACC during the season’s final week). Kyle bet early and often on small program or second-tier division matchups. He proved that not only was the quality of football played there exciting, but the spreads were easier to call. That being said, if we truly do have to live with a four-team playoff, I would be bereft if there wasn’t one representative from each: the SEC, Pac-12, B1G and the ACC. A two-loss Oregon, Arizona, Alabama, Missouri, Wisconsin, Ohio State or Michigan State would wreck shop over a Baylor or a TCU. There’s still a difference in competition between the big conferences and, as a traditionalist, a Baylor/Florida State Rose Bowl just isn’t how I want to spend my hangover New Year’s Day.

My picks in a minute, but first …your PNP overall take winner, Kyle Magin:

Kyle: AJ, I’ll join you in thanking our readers, profusely. I’m lucky enough to be creative and write from time-to-time at my work, but this is hands-down the most fun writing I get to do. For somebody else to get some joy out of it, too, is the dream. So a heartfelt thanks to you. And yeah, don’t become an inspiration for an ‘if the fun stops’ advertisement.

When you get too worked up about a betting loss and entertain the idea of chasing/hedging, just remember that when betting sports, you’re guessing that some old guys in Vegas who literally do nothing but watch sports with the express intent to make money off of you–with your full-time job, family/girlfriend, dog and hundred other minute-sucking endeavors–are beatable. Nevada’s sports books didn’t have one. single. bad. month. during the recession. Gamble a little bit and have fun with it, because these guys don’t lose consistently.

A lot of the thanks for any success I had this year goes to you AJ. Readers–this site’s proprietor is taking some chances to provide you with loose, fun and above all, interesting and valuable content. You just don’t get picks on the MAC or Mountain West anywhere–a lot of sites funnel you straight toward the bluebloods and give short shrift to the non power conferences. AJ gives free reign to go find the value picks wherever they are and that’s definitely worth your time on a Saturday morning before hitting the book.

On that note, we’re in deep shit at the ‘mid-major’ level in college football. Just this week, Alabama-Birmingham tapped out of the big-time college football game, citing costs. Most teams heading to bowls will lose money on that trip, and we’re quickly reaching a point where the Power 5–the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC–are going to be the only programs who can clear a profit thanks to their mega-TV deals.

Marshall nearly went undefeated this year and may end up in something called the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Christmas Day for a piece of a $1.2 million conference payout. Meanwhile, SEC headman Mike Slive makes nearly a million more than that a year when you figure in his salary, incentives and bonus. Without some drastic change we could be nearing a day when the Power 5 is all you get–no more tailgates in front of Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo, no more howling with the Wolfpack in Reno and no more having five seats to yourself at Qualcomm while the Aztecs do whatever they do while you watch their co-eds play hey mister.

On a less-serious note, the universities of Florida and Nebraska just made new coaching hires, Michigan is in the hunt (maybe for a certain Santa Clara-based employee) and the Baylor Bears were on the front page of ESPN’s website this week. The new era in college football aint all bad.

Alright AJ, take it away.

AJ: Wow. We’re still two months out from Valentine’s Day and love is in the air. Not to prolong the bro-hug but I completely agree that mid-level college football is shrinking up on itself and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

I know a lot of folks who skied for UNR’s legendary program (35 all-Americans, one recent Olympian—both summer and winter games) and yet, the students in the summer of ’09 were left $124,995 short of the $125k/year it takes to ramble around the West in a broken-down van bumming wax off Swix reps.

Meantime, the Wolfpack football program still eats up the balance of the school’s non-Title Nine-apportioned budget. It’s a conundrum. Pay a disproportionate amount of the school’s budget to attempt to stay competitive in the shadow of a corporate machine like Oregon, or turn your back on the gridiron and dim the stadium lights for good.

For me, the notion that a successful football program can carry other sports is a myth. As Kyle pointed out, oftentimes it’s more outlay for a school to go to a second- or third-tier bowl game than the return—both monetarily and exposure.

And while I do root for the Dukes and the Marshalls and the Boise States, the reality is the bottom line might not reflect kindly on keeping even successful football programs at most schools if audited …but that’s a column for a different day.

And now my picks:

Arizona +13.5 vs. Oregon

Oregon is 7-for-7 and has beaten the spread every time since losing to Arizona on Oct. 2. They’ve shown they can put up massive amounts of points against anemic defenses at Levi’s Stadium of Great America and yet, I don’t like them to win this by more than a score.

RichRod’s Wildcats are the only squad standing in the way of the Ducks and a college playoff/Rose Bowl berth, but they’ll be ready to play (and presumably to play the Pac-12 out of top-four contention with a win). So much has been made of the health of Oregon’s O-line and while they’re in better shape than October, center Hroniss Grasu is still out for Friday’s matchup.

It’s more about Oregon’s revitalized secondary and Mariota’s ability to hang in the pocket one more second and use his scalpel. If he gets that extra tick, obnoxious Duck fans can start ordering lanyards and booking spray tans, but I like AZ to keep it close.

Georgia Tech +3.5 vs. Florida State

It’s silly to think that Florida State won’t fall behind early only to come back to win by a field goal. They’ve basically done that 28 times in a row.

That’s why I like that .5 and the Yellow Jackets continuing their five-game win streak against the spread. If the line falls below three on Friday, take FSU …if you can bear it.

Mizzou +14.5 vs. Alabama

The Tigers are still the SEC team that everyone in the SEC West (I always snicker at that) pretends isn’t an SEC team. Missouri at 10-2 and winning five of their last six against the spread is a strong pick to keep it close against Bama in the Georgia Dome.

After giving up 44 to Auburn during rivalry week (the only SEC game that’s been worth watching thus far this season), the Tide will probably be playing a little tighter so look for Missouri to take an early lead. Bama is horrible against the spread this year (beating it only three times) and Missouri could spoil any argument for the SEC being in the championship round of four forever and ever with a sneaky W.

I’m going for it KM: Missouri and the moneyline.

Ohio State +4 vs. Wisconsin

I’m having a really hard time with this game:

  1. I hate the fact that it’s not MSU vs. Wisconsin
  2. Ohio State’s down to its third-string QB which for other schools might be a problem but for the Buckeyes, I’m pretty sure they could give the flugelhorn player a mouth guard and a pair of shoulder pads and have him hand off the ball and drop back to soft toss a bunch of 3-yard Urban Meyer specials underneath for a solid 24 points
  3. I’m not sure how good Wisconsin is. They’re somewhere between better than everyone else ever and worse than Washington State on the road.

Ohio State is four-point dogs and should be in the final four. They’re six of their last seven against the spread and I have to believe the real Wisconsin (good, but easily intimidated) will show up Saturday.

Buckeyes win by a safety.

Kyle: AJ-I’ve actually got a ‘yeoman farmer’ vision for the future of mid-major football. You only play schools in-state or an adjacent state. Playoff games are at home until the big one. You ramp down to a less obnoxious 9-game schedule and we don’t have to deal with Mississippi smacking the shit out of Austin Peay in week 9. You can actually afford to field a water polo team, an xc-skiing squad and jerseys for the baseball team that don’t have residual mullet-sweat baked into them.

OFF THE SOAPBOX, MAGIN. Onto the picks!

Northern Illinois @ Bowling Green under 63.5

I had the misfortune of watching NIU (10-2, 7-1 MAC) curb-stomp Western Michigan in Kalamazoo last week, coming back from down 21-17 at the half to win 31-21. BGSU has been whalloped by every decent squad they’ve seen this season and ended up in the #MACtion title game because the Eastern division was so, so bad. That said, NIU’s been under in 9/12 tilts this season including pretty much every ‘name’ game they’ve played. The score stays below Vegas’ predictions tonight in Detroit.

Ohio State vs. Wisconsin -4

AJ, I’m breaking with you here only because this would be such a B1G thing to have happen. Your standard bearer gets near the playoffs and goes down in flames, leaving the door open for some sunshine-y state school to come on in. Buckeyes now-starter QB Cardale Jones throws a spectacular long ball and is a big, physical kid, but Wisconsin has the fourth best defense in the country (they give up about 16 points per) and they totally bottle the long ball. That means Jones has to make a living with those ‘Urban Meyer specials’ you alluded to without the realistic threat of even a mid-range out. That puts a lot of pressure on an outstanding run game, but one that Wisconsin can match with the output of star RB Melvin Gordon. That’s a lot of ball control for a newbie QB to overcome.

Mizzou +14.5 vs. Alabama

Tigers coach Gary Pinkel has walked into the SEC and acted like he belonged from day 1 (16 league Ws in the last two years), to the chagrin of every Finebaum caller in Dixie who predicted Mizzou would be at the bottom of the barrel for a generation. He does it by playing exceptionally greedy (12 interceptions) and stingy (opponents converted less than 3/10 third downs in November) defense. Those are all things you can say about Alabama’s Nick Saban, and Saban does almost all of them better. But, I don’t think the Tide do them better enough that they’ll cover.

Fresno State at Boise State -23

The Broncos (10-2, 7-1 MW) are clearly, clearly the class of the Mountain West in the title game showdown on the Smurf turf. They’re also clearly better than Fresno (6-6, 5-3) as they demonstrated in a 37-27 win  in the Central Valley earlier this year. That game actually marked one of only two times in the last 14 meetings that the Bulldogs covered against BSU. The Broncos missed some shots in the red zone in that game and the number to look at is the 492-313 total yards matchup and the 24-14 doubling-up on first down versus Fresno. In front of a home crowd you’re going to see all of those opportunities converted against a team that’s just happy to be relevant in December.

AJ: Phew. That’s a wrap folks. Thanks for reading. And remember: When the fun stops, there’s always the weird rotary-dial phone machine thingy next to the Casino Ca$h ATM to dial up a credit card advance.

The PnP Recap:

Last week:

AJ: 6-8

Kyle: 3-4

Overall:

AJ: 27 for 42

Kyle: 21 for 31

This week:

AJ:

  • Georgia Tech +3.5 vs. Florida State
  • Mizzou +14.5 vs. Alabama (Mizzou and the moneyline!)
  • Arizona +13.5 vs. Oregon
  • Ohio State +4 vs. Wisconsin (Buckeyes and the moneyline!)

Kyle:

  • Mizzou +14.5 vs. Alabama
  • Wisconsin -4 vs. Ohio State
  • Fresno State at Boise State -23
  • Northern Illinois @ Bowling Green under 63.5

 

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