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.

Howdy Kyle,

I don’t know if you recall but four years ago, almost to the week, was when we first broke through with this column. And by break through, I’m talking double-digit readership! It sounds funny now, maybe even a little bit charming, but to me knowing someone besides your dad and my mom were reading gave me a little lift.

Fast forward a week or two later, and I checked my PO box in Incline Village to find an envelope with the return address of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Maybe they’d finally caught onto my efforts of drunkenly counting blackjack shoes and convincing myself the last two decks were loaded with face cards. I opened it with nervous anticipation, the kind you get when a cop looks at you even when you’re innocent, when you start making up transgressions you may have committed in your head.

Inside was a form letter (I swear I kept it but after doing an archaeological dig last night only unearthing old tax forms and receipts from T’s Rotisserie, it remains swimming in a sea of completely important but temporarily forgotten papers somewhere) that basically said this site needed to disclose that it was not making game picks for profit but for “recreational purposes only.” I’m assuming at the time they 1) assumed we were getting more than a dozen readers/week and 2) because of my Nevada address maybe there was some necessary extra disclosure involved in running a gaming column.

I sort of half-assed put a disclaimer on the rest of that year’s Pints and Picks efforts, mostly in attempts to highlight that we were on someone’s radar beyond our own.

I’d forgotten about that incident until a couple weeks ago when you and I were talking via text. I had recently found out that a few ‘cappers based in Southern Nevada were regular readers and, once more, it was a really minor stroke of the ego—but a necessary one to continue treading these rarified waters. One of the readers/pros commented, based mostly on your recent successes of window-busting thus far this season, that for “guys who don’t travel” we’re usually pretty on point.

To clarify, guys who don’t travel are ‘cappers like you and me who try to take and distill intel that is largely made available to the public. Scouting reports, injury updates, dispatches from junkie bloggers and historical/institutional knowledge. For me, that mostly also boils down to regional (West Coast) vetting and, though I can’t speak for you Kyle, I believe your edge comes from vetting small- to mid-market matchups from your homelands in the Rust Belt. Together, even though we’re not getting on Southwest flights 3x/week to try to get the dirt from the assistants at Power Conference U, I think it’s known that we do a serviceable job.

There is another side of the conversation about the guys who travel as well. Some become “influencers” on campus. I’ve been told that regular season (especially early season out-of-conference) NCAA basketball games are where the real action’s at, where the right person in the right situation can swing a game’s outcome in their favor. Basketball, because of the small number of people on the court and the tempo of the game (guys get hot/cold anyway) is easy to shave three or four points either way and go 100 percent undetected.

Some of this, I admit, sounds like conspiracy theory or greaseball gambler stuff of legend that died out in the 1960s, so I took it with a grain of salt. And then, of course, the biggest NCAA sports scandal, well, ever, breaks this week.

Ten people were arrested Tuesday and charged with fraud and corruption after a two-year FBI investigation. Rick Pitino, a hall-of-fame coach, was all but fired and may face jail time. A high-ranking Adidas employee was charged with bribery and assistant basketball coaches at Arizona, Oklahoma State, USC and Auburn were also roped in. And this is just the beginning.

It has long been known that top basketball athletes, from the time they’re in 5th or 6th grade competing in AAU, are courted, along with their families, like professionals. By the time they’re visiting potential campuses it is a show of what perks will get them where. It used to be about the legend of coaches getting kickbacks from the shoe companies and boosters leaving shoeboxes full of cash in the players’ locker next to the Aqua Velva, but now, we’ve discovered, there’s layers and layers of middle men and women (financial advisors, fixers, agents and attorneys) who have gotten in the game.

Even major networks like ESPN are calling for these athletes to be vetted and paid as professionals. It is beyond time to regulate college athletics like any industry and create infrastructure for money to flow, legally, directly to the players, instead of perpetuating this false premise that these are “amateur” athletes on any level—the corruption is widespread and mighty and nobody is innocent. Even our little column is a giant contributor. We, after all, (for fun) are advising folks on how to make money off free labor.

I guess for me, the other (literal) shoe to fall will be those “influencers” from the shadows, the guys who do travel and ensure that the athletes do get paid for doing their part—swinging the game a point or two in either direction, to make us all look good.

Kyle?

AJ,

Gambling is the most honest thing about the NCAA these days; don’t lump us in with these vultures from the schools, AAU, and shoe companies. Where once, it’s true, gamblers turned kids out like hookers for a few bones to throw at the cost of living on most college campuses in exchange for a few points, now they are lined up like the nameless rabble you mentioned above to shove cash at these athletes. This is all because we’ve turned the players into giant billboards, characters in a bi-weekly sitcom (in the case of NCAA hoops) who play before an audience of millions on the last show you can’t DVR or get on Netflix.

The Big Ten Network—which shows a parade of also-ran games in addition to classic games the league’s teams win in case your school is mired in a shitty present—pulls in $32+ million annually, and payouts to every conference school from all of its TV rights deals totaled more than $50 million this year. Nike pays millions to mainly old, white coaches to keep their charges in the swoosh each year. It’s little wonder shoe companies—via college assistant coaches—are backing up Brinks trucks for these kids. When a 30 second spot during the NCAA tournament costs about $1.5 million on CBS, getting a kid to play in your shoes over the course of about 3 hours a game for up to six games for $100,000 is a pretty fucking good investment. As with so many hustles in America, there’s the street-level shit that usually gets caught and punished—the bag men, with a few token figureheads like Pitino, in this case—and then there’s the hustle that society usually tolerates. The TV execs, shoe goons, coaches, agents and advisors who get to work within the institution to pull as much money out of it as humanly possible and maybe put a poor kid and his family in a nicer house (or usually, far, far, far less) for relative chump change is the real, and only, scandal here.

The federal DA and NCAA get to scold the few guys who got caught—maybe even give them real, honest-to-God jail time—but it won’t change a thing until these maniacs start sharing the mountain of loot they’re raking in with the (still mostly) unpaid labor sweating for it. The whole system is reproachable, one of the great triumphs of capital over labor since Pinkertons blew strikers away in Pennsylvania with real guns.

So let’s gamble money. Let’s engage in the hustle that takes more skill than signing checks and snowing kids into accepting them.

When it comes back to me, AJ, I’ll have picks in Miami-Duke, Mississippi State-Auburn, Clemson-Va Tech, and NIU-SDSU.

Kyle,

As always, you furnish a little (cross out) a lot of perspective here. I think gambling has always been a somewhat shadowy conceit, but if there’s one through-line in our narrative it’s that these student-athletes have been vetted and treated like professionals since they were twelve and, well, I’ve been betting on games about that long (thanks to my blackjack playing father who figured out a casino loophole was to drop off his youngest at the book and set up a tab for bottomless Roy Rogers…)

To the picks!

USC @ Washington State (Over 64)

Mike Leach’s 4-0 Cougars are scoring an average of 42 ppg this season. USC is slightly depleted on offense and decimated on defense. The fact that this spread is under 78 is dumbfounding. A 34-30 score could well be the halftime total.

Cal +16 @ Oregon

Cal, unusually good closers this year under first-year coach Justin Wilcox, stumbled in the second half vs. USC last weekend which shows they don’t quite have the defensive horses (especially in the secondary) to finish against one of the top programs in the nation. One or two recruiting classes from now, they’ll get there. Over in Tempe, Oregon played mostly lackluster come-from-behind ball last week and was unable to finish as well. Oregon still has more weapons coming out of the backfield and Justin Herbert has shown he can put up serious numbers at Autzen, averaging 480 yards/4 TDs at home per game thus far this season. The spread remains double digits because of Cal’s troubles with the deep ball. Look for Wilcox to throw a little extra at his alma mater during his HC debut at his home field and for the Bears to keep it tight.

Arizona State +16.5 vs Stanford

Did Vegas simply ignore the ASU/Oregon game last week or basically all of Stanford’s performances since week one? Stanford may not be as bad as they’ve been playing and ASU may not (yet) be as good as they showed in the second half against the Ducks, but there is some talent brewing in Tempe and the Cardinal seem to be as mediocre as their 2-2 record suggests. The x-factor is Stanford’s quarterback situation. Starter Keller Chryst went down with a concussion vs. UCLA which paved the way for backup KJ Costello to come in and throw two TDs, no ints with an almost 70 percent completion rate. Look for Costello to get the start again. Even if Costello is the answer under center, Stanford’s anemic defense (ranked 106th in the nation) won’t put up too much a fight against ASU’s emerging young and speedy skill position players. This would be my moneyline pick for the week.

Oregon State +27 vs. Washington

By all accounts, Washington should win this game by 30-plus. Oregon State, with a single win vs. Portland State and double-digit losses vs. Colorado State, Wazzu and Minnesota, is prime cannon fodder for Chris Peterson’s 6th-ranked Huskies. Without the services of starting QB Jake Luton (out for the season with a spine injury) the Beav’s offense runs through RB Ryan Nall who has 323 yards with four touchdowns and is averaging 6-plus per carry. OSU also has a surprisingly effective attack downfield with Jordan Miller and Isaiah Hodgins at wideout and tight end Noah Togiai showing effectiveness blocking as well as finding a way to get open in the flat for key third-down conversions. The real deficiency comes in the form of Oregon State’s defense being arguably the worst of any Power Conference team, giving up 47.5 points and 485 yards per game. The Huskies, by contrast, come in with Jake Browning, the most prolific QB in the nation under center with offensive weapons like RB Myles Gaskin averaging 7 yards per carry and 7 TDs and receiver Dante Pettis with 265 yards in the air through the first four games.

The difference maker here is OSU HC Gary Anderson who has had two weeks to prep for what he considers his team’s biggest home game of the year. Anderson hasn’t been blessed with talent thus far in Corvallis but what he gets out of his players, even in down seasons, is maximum effort and heart. I think Oregon State will give CFB nation pause as they keep the Huskies in check through three quarters Saturday before the Huskies finally get loose for a 10-14-point win.

Alright Kyle, take us home!

AJ,

Quick and dirty for me:

Miami @ Duke +6.6

Duke (4-0) is 4-0 against the spread and they’re at home tonight against a shaky-looking Miami (2-0) squad. The Hurricanes could well be poised for big things this season—quarterback Malik Rosier has 6 TDs against one interception and sets up the vaunted Miami run attack well—but they didn’t look steady against Toledo last week. Duke has dispatched three straight foes of some renown—Northwestern, Baylor, and North Carolina—and I expect they’ll play the ‘Canes tight.

Mississippi State +7.5 @ Auburn

Clemson -7 @ Va. Tech

NIU @ SDSU -10

This matchup is pretty unfair to Northern Illinois. Two weeks after beating Nebraska in Lincoln, the Huskies have to again hit the road for a night game on the west coast against one of the hottest teams in the country. SDSU’s run game—led by Rashaad Penny and his 7 touchdowns—is bulletproof. I expect NIU’s chances to be few and far between at the Murph Q SDCCU Stadium Saturday.

The roundup:

Last Week:

Kyle: 3 for 4

AJ: 4 for 5

Overall:

Kyle: 13 and 2!

AJ: 9 for 17

This week:

AJ:

USC @ Washington State (Over 64)

Cal +16 @ Oregon

Arizona State +16.5 vs Stanford

Oregon State +27 vs. Washington

Kyle:

Miami @ Duke +6.6

Mississippi State +7.5 @ Auburn

Clemson -7 @ Va. Tech

NIU @ SDSU -10

 

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