Anytime some marquee date on the sports calendar arrives, we always seem to want to make a "Christmas morning" analogy (admittedly ignoring that it's probably slightly offensive to some of the folks out there who value religion).
Revealing the brackets for March Madness, the day before any trip to Vegas, Wrestlemania morning, and the days that we know Aaron Hernandez will be appearing in court are just a few of those "fake Christmas morning" moments.
But oh, the beginning of college football season....this "fake Christmas morning," my friends, might be the one that all other "fake Christmas mornings" are measured by. College football is here, kicking off with a handful of games tonight, including the requisite Hawaii home game kicking off at 11 p.m.! (Hawaii home games should be a weekly mandate by the government, but that's another story for another time.)
I'll have best bets for individual games this weekend up tomorrow here on "Hair Balls," but for now if you want to ride shotgun on a few season wagers with me, buckle up and try these on for size....
KENTUCKY UNDER 4 1/2 wins (-160) The juice is a little strong on this one, having to risk 160 bucks to win 100, but this was my big bet on the futures wager docket last season (hat tip to Clay Travis of FOX Sports for unearthing it) and I'm happy to go back to the UNDER well in the toughest conference in football, and with the Wildcats breaking in a new coaching regime. Mark Stoops will get it right eventually (and "get it right" at Kentucky means 7-8 wins per season and kissing John Calipari's ring once a week), but outside of non-conference games against Alabama State, Western Kentucky (Bobby Petrino!), and Miami (OH), I have a hard time seeing where two more wins are going to come from for the Wildcats.
OREGON OVER 11 wins (+120) This is one of those bets where the value on the opposite not happening is just too good to pass up, if that makes any sense. Allow me to explain -- Oregon is one of five teams in the country this season that's favored in every single one of their games (Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, and Louisville are the other four). Placing the November 7 game at Stanford on the shelf for a moment, the Ducks don't play USC, most of their more difficult games are at home, and the road games (other than Stanford) have almost zero potential for slip ups. So this is a one game season for Oregon, and if they lose, chances are you still push on this wager. The deal closer for me was the +120 juice for 12-0 versus the -160 for 10-2 (The Ducks are not finishing any worse than 10-2, so don't sell me that the -160 also gets me 9-3, 8-4, etc. Sorry.). And I know I just got done saying Kentucky was breaking in a new coaching regime, but not all coaching changes are created equally. Oregon's Mark Helfrich is a Chip Kelly disciple, so the transition should be as seamless as a change could be.
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RICE OVER 7 1/2 wins (-110) I really think this number (and the public being more on the under) is being fueled by two lazy narratives -- "Rice was only 7-6 last season" and "well, they're Rice" -- and fear of an out of conference schedule that's actually much easier than it looks. Texas A&M will be too tall an order, but Kansas and Houston at home, and a roadie to New Mexico State are all very manageable. This is a decent football team, ask head coach David Bailiff who told anyone who would listen last season, even when his team was 2-6, that he had a "pretty good football team." The team responded by winning their last four regular season games and a bowl game against Air Force, all by an average of 15 points. They return their quarterback Taylor McHargue, and 16 other starters, and on top of all that, they have one of the best kickers in the country in Chris Boswell to nail down the inevitable close ones. Plus, they're "SMAHT KIDS," and I know effort won't be an issue. I love this play.
IOWA OVER 6 wins (+100) Another team who, on paper and for handicapping/forecasting purposes, wasn't nearly as bad as their 4-8 record last season would indicate, losing four games by a field goal or less. Kirk Ferentz has had only four losing seasons in fifteen overall since arriving in Iowa City in 1999, and those four teams all improved the following season, winning an average of 6.25 games. With this wager, that's all the Hawkeyes need to be --- average. And nobody is better at being average than Ferentz.
ARKANSAS OVER 5 1/2 wins (-120) I think even if Bobby Petrino hadn't
been run off the road by Jessica Dorrell's fiance and crashed his motorcycle into that ditch back in April 2012, you could have expected at least a slight backslide from 2011's amazing season for Arkansas. But when Petrino nosedived his bike, he also nosedived the program right into the nut house in downtown John L. Smith-ville, and 2012 became a 4-8 disaster. Now Bret Bielema is in town, and while again this is a "new coach" situation, unlike Mark Stoops, this is not Bielema's first rodeo. Also, while it's not LSU/Alabama/A&M level talent, there is talent on that roster. The biggest key to this over is not just the schedule, but the way it lays out -- the first four games should all be wins (Louisiana-Lafayette, Samford, and Southern Miss at home, Rutgers in New Jersey), meaning the kinks are getting worked out without having to take a beating, so then 2-6 in the SEC wins your bet (which basically means they need to sweep home games against Auburn and Mississippi State, doable).
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.