Make no mistake about it, I am a horrible gambler. My annual bottom feeding performances in March Madness pools and fantasy football leagues are all the indicators you need. But because I am such a crappy handicapper, I am giving you the recipe of what not to do, which is just a valuable as what some Vegas shark’s lock if you think about it. So below are my picks for this weekend’s NFL and college football slate. I will usually pick 5-10 games per weekend, so fade me and make money.
Green Bay (-7) vs. Chicago
Aaron Rodgers looked awful against the Cowboys Sunday. Every year we seem to go throw the same old narrative of what is wrong with the Packers and Aaron Rodgers and every year they snap out of it, so what better formula to right the ship than then Brain Hoyer-led Bears coming to town on a short week. Chicago beat the Packers last Thanksgiving in Lambeau, but as crappy as the Bears were last year, they are even worse this season. Despite the loss of Eddie Lacy, the Packers will roll the Bears.
Cal vs. Oregon (Over – 89)
That is a preposterous over-under line, but these teams have some of the worst defenses in the country. Not touching the line with Cal -3, but points are a given in this game. Cal has scored at least 40 points in all but one game this season, while Oregon has scored 32 points in all but one game. Cal’s defense has given up 40 points per game, including 47 points to Oregon State last weekend and the Ducks are giving up 44.6 points per game including giving up a 70 spot to Washington at home in their last game.
This is a #pac12afterdark special on Friday night, with the game wrapping up right about when Gameday goes on the air Saturday morning.
Iowa (+4) vs. #10 Wisconsin
A crucial game in the Big 10 West race. If either teams wants to get to Indy for the Big 10 Championship Game, a win here is a must. After nearly upsetting Ohio State one week ago, look for the Badgers to have a letdown in Iowa City. Wisconsin’s offense found some life against the Buckeyes last week, but expect Iowa’s defense to force Alex Hornibrook into a few turnovers, while the Hawkeyes do just enough on offense against the stingy Badger D to come out with the upset home win.
Boston College (-4.5) vs. Syracuse
Nothing gets the juices following like a 12:30 kickoff between two bottom of the barrel ACC teams right? Syracuse is coming off one of the biggest wins in recent memory for the program last week against a ranked Virginia Tech – the kind of win that can really jumpstart the Dino Babers regime. The last time we saw BC, they were annihilated by Clemson at home. So why the hell are they favored over Syracuse? I have no idea, but somebody knows something that I don’t know.
Stanford vs. Colorado (+2)
Stanford stinks. The only reason they beat Notre Dame last week is because ND stinks more. Even if Christian McCaffery comes back to play, the Cardinal offense is still extremely limited with horrible play at the quarterback position. The resurgent Buffaloes have finally established themselves in the PAC 12 and have a real chance of winning the PAC 12 South. They destroyed Arizona State a week ago and look for them to keep that momentum going with the outright upset of Stanford. Fun Facts: This is game kicks off at 11 a.m. PT, which is the first Stanford home game to kickoff at noon or earlier since 2007. So don’t expect much of a home-field advantage from those “die-hard” Cardinal fans who usually have a tough time filling in their 50,000 seat stadium during the best of times.
#1 Alabama (-19) vs. #6 Texas A&M
Rarely do you see this kind of spread between two ranked teams, let alone two teams in the top-10. This is undoubtedly the game of the week, Bama is head and shoulders above the rest of the SEC and country. Their dynasty has been predicated on great defense, an exceptional running game, and a QB who can manage the game (Blake Sims was a backup DB before they moved him to quarterback and they still made the playoffs). Now with Jalen Hurts, the offense is approaching Bama’s defense in terms of dominance. Hurts’ dual-threat ability allows Kiffin to open up his playbook. A&M’s strength on defense is their ability to rush the passer, but their D line is undersized and Bama will run it right at them and negate that pass rush. On the other side of the ball, Trevor Knight is one of the few quarterbacks of the last 10 years to have success against Alabama. Before transferring to A&M, Knight tore up the Tide in the 2014 Sugar Bowl and led Oklahoma to a surprise victory.
Bama is susceptible on defense to the pass as witnessed by Chad Kelly’s 400-yard performance against them a month ago, but Knight’s success this year has been mostly on the ground. He is not accurate enough to hurt Alabama through the air and while mobile quarterbacks have been a bugaboo for the Tide under Saban (Johnny Manziel, Nick Marshall, Everett Gols….maybe not), Knight does not have the same playmaking potential.
When the Aggies come to Tuscaloosa, it is either feast or famine. In 2012, they defeated then #1 Alabama behind Johnny Football’s theatrics, then in 2014, the Tide enacted some revenge and trounced Texas A&M 59-0. Sidenote: if you are ever bored, watch the highlight’s of that 2012 game. I know Manziel has been a screw up pretty much ever since, but his performance in that game was truly incredible.
Saturday’s game will be tight in the first half and Bama will roll in the second half and cover the spread.
Missouri vs. Middle Tennessee State (+8)
It was just two years ago that Mizzou was in the SEC Championship game. That seems like a long time ago. With Vandy upsetting Georgia last week, the Tigers have a strong case for being the worst team in the SEC. As a continuation of last year’s offensive woes, Missouri is averaging 14.5 points per game against their Power 5 opponents this season and they are 0-4 in those games. If there is one thing the Blue Raiders can do, it is score points. Middle Tennessee has score 30 points in five of their six games. Not calling for the straight up upset, but look for the Blue Raiders to keep this to a one score game.
SMU vs. #11 Houston (-21)
Much of the luster has come off the Cougars since losing to Navy, but they still have a real shot at a New Year’s Six Bowl. SMU has only one win over a D1 team this season and although Houston struggled with Tulsa last week, expect a banged-up Greg Ward to find the offensive groove they had early in the season and cover at the Mustangs.
Texas Tech vs #16 Oklahoma (-14)
After stumbling early in the season, Oklahoma has won three straight and Baker Mayfield is starting to find the form that made him a Heisman contender a year ago. Texas Tech has two wins over D1 teams this season and they came over Kansas and Louisiana Tech – a pair of real juggernauts. As always, they can score in Lubbock, but Tech’s defense is one of the worst in the country. The game will be high-scoring, but Oklahoma will win comfortably.
Penn State (+19.5) vs. #2 Ohio State
Penn State is an average team with an above average home field advantage. This game is scheduled to be their annual “white out.” Two years ago, a much better Ohio State team needed overtime to defeat the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley.
Last week’s close call at Wisconsin exposed some of the Buckeyes’ flaws. While Penn State’s defense is not on the same level as the Badgers, they do have a potent running game led by Saquon Barkley, which will allow them to control time of possession and keep the Ohio State defense on the field. This game will be low scoring, with Ohio State pulling out a close one, but Penn State will cover easily.