College and NFL Football: This Weekend's Best Bets
If the Thursday night game is any indicator of the type of gambling weekend it's going to be, you'd better fasten your seat belts. I was on Baltimore -2.5 (yes, I backed Joe Flacco as a road favorite, not good for your health), and in order to get a cover, I needed to survive a 13-point deficit in the second half, two missed Josh Scobee field goals that would've given Pittsburgh a late six-point lead (and made a 2.5-point cover a near mathematical impossibility), and two bone-headed fourth-down Steeler play calls in Raven territory.
When Justin Tucker finally won the game with a 52-yard field goal in overtime, amidst my giddiness, I had the harsh realization that I may have used up all my luck for the weekend. Still, that won't stop us! We will trudge on and try to go 6-0! Here are this weekend's picks….
Alabama +2.5 over GEORGIA
Any time a new, potentially lucrative dynamic presents itself, it must be examined. How long have we been waiting for Nick Saban to be a highly doubted, back-against-the-wall underdog? The answer is 72 games. It's been 72 games since Alabama has been an underdog in a college football game. So Nick Saban gets to dust off the "underdog" chip on the Crimson Tide's shoulder. Add in the fact that the team that's supposed to upset him is led by one of the worst big-game coaches and a renowned vanilla, predictable play caller. Are we really ready to bury Alabama, QB issues and all? Derrick Henry can't carry them on the road? I'm buying this up to three and rolling with the Tide.
Notre Dame +1 over CLEMSON
As big games go, Dabo Swinney is just Mark Richt with a more ridiculous first name. Notre Dame comes to Clemson as a small underdog trying to keep alive national title hopes, despite losing five starters since the preseason. The comparison for this game, if you're a Notre Dame fan, is the Oklahoma game in 2012 (although ND was a much bigger underdog in that game, 12 points) — big-name opponent, night game, title hopes. I was at that OU game in Norman, and the Irish did a tremendous job of taking the crowd out of the game. They'll need to do that here. One big variable is the weather. Joaquin could be rolling in by game time, which, to me, favors the team that can run the football behind its offensive line. That team is Notre Dame.
Ole Miss/FLORIDA UNDER 51.5
Ole Miss predictably struggled with a Vanderbilt team last week that may be better than we all think. That's a normal letdown the week after beating Alabama. Florida is riding high after a gifted win from Tennessee at home last week. I'm not sure if Ole Miss can cover a touchdown on the road, but I do think it could take until Monday for both of these teams to reach 52 points combined. Luckily, they only have until Saturday night if you're taking the UNDER.
Raiders -3 over BEARS
How bad is Jimmy Clausen as an NFL quarterback? Bad enough to where I'm backing the Raiders as a road favorite and I'm not even batting an eye. I feel GREAT about backing the Raiders on the road. Read that sentence again — I FEEL GREAT ABOUT BACKING THE RAIDERS ON THE ROAD. Yes, you suck at football, Jimmy Clausen.
FALCONS -6 over Texans
Matt Ryan is playing quarterback at an elite level right now — well, to be clear, he is throwing the ball to Julio Jones at an elite level. I'm still not sure Matt Ryan is a QB who can lead a team to a Super Bowl, but at the very least, he's a smart enough human being to target Julio Jones on every other passing down. The Texans on the road against good quarterbacks are in a bad spot. The only game I can recall them winning in a spot like this over the past four seasons is the Monday night opener against Philip Rivers in 2013. I'm rooting for the Texans but investing in the Falcons.
Giants +5.5 over BILLS
The Giants could very well be 3-0, as they've held double-digit leads in the fourth quarter of all three of their games. They also get Victor Cruz back. The Bills are a fun "flavor of the month" and could very well be a playoff team, but it's too early for me to be backing Tyrod Taylor as a favorite of more than a field goal anywhere, against anyone. I'll gladly take these points.
Last Week: 4-2
Season Record: 14-10
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.
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