Ironically, I lead into this weekend's football bets with a story of a poor Greek soccer team trying to stay afloat financially. Courtesy of the Soccernet area on ESPN.com:
Players on a cash-strapped Greek soccer team now wear pink practice jerseys with the logos "Villa Erotica" and "Soula's House of History," two bordellos it recruited as sponsors after drastic government spending cuts left the country's sports clubs facing ruin.
The amateur Voukefalas club -- whose players include pizza delivery guys, students, waiters and a bartender -- has raised eyebrows with its flamboyant sponsorship choice.
"Unfortunately, amateur football has been abandoned by almost everyone," said Yiannis Batziolas, the club's youthful chairman, who runs a travel agency and is the team's backup goalkeeper. "It's a question of survival."
Prostitution is legal in Greece, where brothels operate under strict guidelines. Though garish neon signs advertising their services are tolerated, the soccer sponsorship has ruffled some feathers in the sports-mad city of Larissa. League organizers have banned the pink jerseys during games, saying the deal violates "the sporting ideal" and is inappropriate for underage fans.
Batziolas acknowledges the sponsorship took his team by surprise. "They didn't believe it in the beginning," he said. "But when they saw the shirts printed, they thought it was funny."
Oh, he's right, it's hilarious! But I think it sends the wrong message to the kids. Let's get these guys some money in a cleaner, more conventional way...like gambling! Here you go, Voukefalas. Here are six winners for you. Put those pink shirts away!
LSU -3 over TEXAS A&M It's easy to get caught up in A&M's 5-1 start as some sort of unexpected surprise, a story of a new head coach instilling a winning attitude and experiencing success ahead of everyone's predicted curve.
And that would be partially true. Johnny Manziel and the offense are well ahead of where many envisioned them, and A&M's ability to close out close games with winning plays is something that was completely foreign to most of this group a year ago. But pumping the brakes slightly, the expectation before the season was that A&M would be 4-2 against the six teams they've played; they're 5-1. Devil's advocates would say that if Bobby Petrino had just been able to keep his motorcycle on the road last April, the Aggies would be 4-2 right now.
My point is that A&M may have further to go still than people think, and they step up in class big time in terms of defensive opposition on Saturday. Taking the Tigers by ten. OKLAHOMA STATE -14 over Iowa State In the last two weeks, the "fade teams #21 through #25 in the AP poll on the road" has gone a sparkling 5-0 against the spread. Only one game fits the bill for that rule this weekend, and it's this one. Iowa State is ranked 24th and facing an Oklahoma State team with revenge in its heart after the Cyclones thwarted OSU's run for the BCS title last season.
Baylor +9 1/2 over TEXAS Would you really trust that Texas defense to cover a near double-digit spread against the fourth-ranked offense in the country? In a week following two losses where they gave up an average of 56 points? I don't get this number, which probably means the Horns win by 24, but I'll take my chances.
TEXANS -7 over Ravens How much do I love this game? Let me count the ways:
5. Joe Flacco has a difference of over 40 points in his passer rating between home games and away games. The Texans will force some "Flacco's unibrow"-sized mistakes.
4. Yes, the Texans are missing Brian Cushing, but they've got a game without him under their belt. This is the Ravens' first full game sans Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis. Terrell Suggs is planning to come back for this game, but he's been out all year, and likely will have to shake off some rust.
3. The Texans are 0-6 in their history against the Ravens, so DAMMIT they're due!
2. The Ravens defensively, even before the injuries, were a shell of their recent selves, ranking 26th against the run and 22nd against the pass. 1. Baltimore has been "smoke and mirroring" their way to 5-1, with ugly, close wins over Cleveland and Kansas City, and a fortunate win over the Cowboys on Sunday.
Texans 30, Ravens 13. Book it.
COLTS -2 1/2 over Browns If I'm going to pick the Colts as my sleeper wild card team, then I have to pick them to cover a 2-1/2 spread against Cleveland at home, don't I?
Steelers/BENGALS over 45-1/2 If I'm going to take the over in the Steelers and Titans game a week or so ago (over 43, if you recall), then I have to take the over in a Steelers game involving the Bengals (a team with a highly competent quarterback). Bengals' division games so far this season have all gone over the total. This one will, too.
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Last week: 1-5 Season record: 17-18-1
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.