College Football, Week 1 — This Weekend's Best Bets
The beginning of football season is also the beginning of gambling season.
Joel Kramer via Flickr creative commons
Finally, it's almost here...yeah, I know we've already had one game played in Australia, and that we have games on Thursday and Friday this week, but on Saturday it's, like, REALLY here. That's the first Saturday of the 2016 college football season!
Indeed, after 235 days since the College Football Playoff championship game, our long national nightmare — the world without big-time college football — will finally end this Saturday. Well, every end is a new beginning, and Saturday may be the greatest opening weekend to a college football season that we've seen in the television era.
It's important to use television as the backdrop for this weekend, because finally, someone in the executive boardroom making the big decisions had some common sense. Instead of cramming all the marquee games into prime time, forcing us to try to watch the best match-ups on five different televisions and/or mobile devices, the TV gods decided to stack the games in a logical, delicious sequence.
Indeed, it almost has the feeling of a Wrestlemania card, from the "dark match" in Dublin, Ireland, early Saturday morning, all the way to the co-main events on Saturday and Sunday night, with four of the winningest programs in the history of college football involved.
I say it every year, and will say it again here — the start of college football means the start of college football betting, so how about we lay out the card here and give out some (hopefully winning) picks for this weekend, shall we? I even picked six games that allow you to gamble from 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning, have a short break for breakfast around 10 a.m., and then get back on the horse through well into Saturday night, with a Sunday night "hair of the dog" chaser.
Hell, in the spirit of Wrestlemania, I'll even give a wrestling doppelgänger for each of these games! Because that's what I do!
So let's go 6-0....
Georgia Tech/Boston College UNDER 44 (at Dublin, Ireland)
A nice Bloody Mary game after you roll out of bed...well, nice if you like very little scoring. Boston College set offense back decades last season, and Georgia Tech runs Paul Johnson's option offense with decidedly average efficiency. Add in several hours of jet lag and nights in strange beds, and this feels like a 16-13 kind of game, well under the total of 44.
WWE Matchup: Heath Slater vs. Kalisto ... jabroni with little offense against jabroni with unorthodox offense.
Oklahoma -11.5 over Houston (at NRG Stadium)
The temptation is to take Houston and the points, what with it being a double-digit spread and all, but usually when Vegas does that, that's exactly the bear trap into which they're trying to pull us. This game is in Houston, but it's not a home game for the Coogs. Houston is sneaking up on no one this season, nor is it catching a Power Five team with a dissimilar motivation level (like the Peach Bowl, no disrespect meant, Coogs). Oklahoma has designs on returning to the playoff, and this is the first step. Houston has designs on joining the Big XII, and this will be a fun gauge on how things could go if it gets there.
WWE Matchup: John Cena vs. Finn Balor...longtime staple against high-flying nouveau chic performer trying to make the jump to the next level.
TEXAS A&M -3 over UCLA
I was honestly thinking of taking UCLA in this game...and then two things happened. First, I checked my weather app for this weekend. Ninety degrees at 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon. The Bruins might melt. Second, I saw this tweet...
"After about 50k people, it all sounds about the same," UCLA QB Josh Rosen says about anticipating crowd noise at Kyle Field.— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) August 30, 2016
Okay, a) 100,000 is twice as loud as 50,000, that's just dumb, Josh, and b) I'm guessing that 100,000 jilted Aggies sound even louder than 100,000 normal, Pac-12-type folk. It's dumb stuff like this that actually increases motivation levels. College football, man.
WWE Matchup: JBL vs. The Miz...somewhat obnoxious, Southern cattle farmer against faux Hollywood hipster
Georgia -3 over North Carolina (at Georgia Dome)
Early season SEC team in a semi-home game against an ACC team that opened last season with a loss to South Carolina? Um, yes please.
WWE Matchup: Chris Jericho vs. A.J. Styles...big name, upper mid-card player against intriguing, dangerous threat (with a Southern accent, to boot!)
Alabama -11.5 over USC (at AT&T Stadium)
When we last discussed USC, its bookstore was selling T-shirts that read "Roll Tears." Nick Saban is roughly 134-0 in season openers when he has like eight months to prepare. Max Browne, USC's quarterback, will be starting his first collegiate game...they should all feel easier after this one.
WWE Matchup: Brock Lesnar vs. Ric Flair...beast incarnate versus big bark, little bite Hollywood celeb.
Sunday, 6:30 p.m.
Notre Dame -3 over Texas
This is the beginning of the journey for Charlie Strong to try to keep his job. Whether the number to do that is eight wins or nine wins or whatever (or if there even is a benchmark number), this is a pretty tough putt right out of the gate, even at home. Notre Dame has two capable quarterbacks (Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer), both of whom will play, a situation that many coaches would botch seven ways to Sunday, but one that ND coach Brian Kelly actually can handle somewhat comfortably.
WWE Matchup: Triple H vs. Sting...independent billionaire who makes his own rules against wounded perennial staple who really doesn't scare anyone anymore.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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