Each week, I’ll sort the Saturday games into three categories to help you decide which games you will spend time watching.
Ain’t Come To Play School Game: A game you cannot miss. The players on the field aren’t at their respected universities to play school. This category, of course, is a tip of the cap to Cardale #12Gauge Jones.
Sneaky Good Bill Snyder Game: A game that you wouldn’t typically tune into, but if you are in front of the TV you should highly consider putting on. These games will be high scoring and/or competitive. This category is a tip of the cap to Bill Snyder, who has provided the college football world with more sneaky good teams than I
Butt Diaco Game: A game that is going to SUCK. Don’t watch this. Unless you have money on the game, there are 10 bajillion better things you could do with your time. This category is a tip of the cap to Bob Diaco, the buttiest of all butt coaches in college football history.
USC (-4.5, O/U 62) @ Washington State, Fri. 10:30 ESPN:
A game under the lights, on a Friday night, on ESPN, against a top 5 team? I can’t think of a bigger game to occur in Pullman. The fine folks of Wazzu have been talking about this game since the schedule was released. Mike Leach has his chance at a defining win for his program against Clay Helton’s undefeated Trojans. As much as I would love to see the leader of the pirate ship take down USC, I don’t see a Cinderella ending for the Cougars.
I’ve been hearing a lot these past few days about USC not looking great in their past two games. That storyline isn’t 100% wrong, but I haven’t heard Washington State’s struggles mentioned in those same conversations. USC struggled with Cal and Texas, but Washington State hasn’t had themselves a clean slate. Yes, they’ve blown out Nevada & Oregon State like 80% of the country would, but I keep thinking about the Boise State game earlier in the season. Washington State shouldn’t have even made it to OT in that game (Boise was up 21 in the 4th) let alone win it. Seeing how Boise State has performed since, specifically getting blown out by Virginia, doesn’t increase the strength of Washington State’s resume considering their 3 other opponents.
Wazzu hasn’t run the ball well this year, one place where USC struggles on defense. Maybe Jamal Morrow can break out for them, but I doubt it looking at his past few games. Leach’s attack has thrown the ball just under 56 times a game this year, which plays right into USC’s 14th ranked S&P+ pass defense. The Trojans offense won’t be fully healthy, but if WR Deontay Burnett can give 80% or so, Sam Darnold can have himself a game that puts himself back into the Heisman talk. RB Ronald Jones may be back, but if not Freshman sensation Stephen Carr will handle the duties just fine for Clay Helton’s offense.
The hype for this game is great for us fans, but may not be great for Washington State. USC is hearing the buzz and will come with their best punch for a nationally televised game on ESPN. It’s also a plus for USC that they are catching this Wazzu game early in the season, as the forecast calls for mid-70’s at game time.
Pick: USC -4.5
Georgia (-7.5, O/U 47) @ Tennessee, 3:30 CBS:
Butch Jones is broken. After almost losing to UMass (!) at home last week, Butch spent the week rambling about fake news while begging the media to not do their job and pretend everything is going great at Tennessee. To put it simply, Butch Jones is currently the dog in the “this is fine” meme.
Georgia, on the other hand, is in the complete opposite situation. After going into South Bend and escaping with a victory against the Irish, Georgia STOMPED on Mississippi State at home this past weekend. Slumping vs. streaking makes for an interesting matchup come 3:30 Saturday on Rocky Top.
Looking at this through a betting market scope, it’s fairly easy to point out who is undervalued and overvalued. The Dawgs won’t be as great as they were last week and the Volunteers won’t be as bad. Similar to what you are told about buying stocks, it’s best to buy low and sell high in betting. Just using this theory alone, the play would be Tennessee.
Following a system in gambling is not the worst strategy in the world. They allow a gambler to become more of an expert in a specific part of the gambling world. For example, if you were to bet on undervalued teams playing against overvalued teams (e.g. Tennessee this week because of media perception and past few games), you would be able to identify situations involving those teams like a champ. The problem I find with systems is they are not perfect, but the followers of them think they are. Even the best system won’t hit more than 60% on a great year. So, following them blindly may give you a profitable year, but leaves you betting a lot of games that you shouldn’t have. A system is perfectly executed when you know it’s shortcomings. This Tennessee-Georgia game is a perfect example of a situation where blindly following a system is detrimental if you don’t know it’s flaws.
Tennessee is undervalued for a reason and is going into an unfavorable matchup against Georgia. If you were to give any compliments to Tennessee’s offense it would be the success they have when John Kelly runs the ball. I’m not really breaking any news here, but the guy who gives Kelly the ball, Quinten Dormady, ain’t beating any top quality SEC defenses. You know who Tennessee is playing on Saturday? A top quality SEC defense from Georgia. Kirby Smart’s boys from down south can playyyyyy. They rank 9th in S&P+ defense efficiency, 3rd in rushing defense success rate, and 24th in passing success rate. Tennessee won’t be able to do much of anything on offense.
On the other side of the ball, Georgia won’t have much problem getting on the board against Tennessee, who ranks 41st in S&P+ defense and 65th in defense according to ESPN’s FPI. Where Tennessee struggles the most on the defensive side of the ball is stopping the run, another advantage for Georgia. Saturday will be the first time all season where RB’s Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, and D’Andre Swift will all be healthy. That three-headed monster is going to attack Tennessee’s 123rd ranked defense in S&P+ rushing success rate. I also have been a fan of how QB Jake Fromm has played since Jacob Eason went down. Georgia will get ahead of schedule with early down run success, which will allow Fromm to keep his throws simple.
I’d also be failing myself if I wrote up this game without mentioning last year’s ending:
Georgia isn’t close to getting the taste out of their mouth from the final play of this game. Seeing Tennessee run around on their field thanks to a lucky hail mary left a mark in Georgia players minds. Along with having the matchup advantages, Georgia is in revenge mode. Time for them to go into Neyland and flatten the Volunteers.
Pick: Georgia -7.5
Clemson (-7.5, O/U 51) @ Virginia Tech, 8:00 ABC:
Enter Sandman at night in Blacksburg is on every college football fans bucket list. The environment come Saturday at 8:00 will be electric for the Hokies. Will those fans be happy once the final whistle is blown? I’m not too sure.
When Clemson went into Louisville, I wrote about my confidence in Kelly Bryant and Clemson in tough road situations. Yes, Bryant hadn’t played in any road environments yet, but he was apart of a team that had. The leadership shown by guys like Dexter Lawrence, Ray-Ray McCloud, Christian Wilkins, and Dabo Swiney allowed Kelly Bryant to be comfortable in Louisville and lead Clemson to a big win.
Now Kelly Bryant is going into Blacksburg for another test, with one road victory under his belt. Justin Fuente is doing great things for the Hokies, but his team is a bit overrated in my book.
Take a look at VT’s season so far. They squeeze out a win against West Virginia while allowing 542 yards and 6.02 yards per play. The following three weeks they played miserable opponents Delaware, East Carolina, and Old Dominion. We can say that Virginia Tech is a good football team this year, but are we sure they can compete with Clemson? Some may disagree, but I would respond to that question with a hard no.
Virginia Tech fans have been parading around Josh Jackson’s 11-1 TD-INT ratio. That is impressive, but Jackson isn’t playing against East Carolina (who allowed 38 points to UConn!) or Old Dominion’s defense on Saturday. He will have to sift through the coverage’s of the #2 pass defense in the nation according to S&P+. Clemson hasn’t been dominant against the run, but it will be unlikely for the Hokies, who rank 33rd in rushing success rate, to take advantage of that. Points will be hard to come by for VT, as Clemson hasn’t allowed big plays all season (they rank 8th in IsoPPP, which looks at explosive plays) and the Hokies rank 85th in points inside the opponents 40.
Virginia Tech is on an upward trend and will be a force to reckon with in the ACC Coastal later in the year, but they won’t have the athletes to compete with Clemson on Saturday. Yes, playing at night in Blacksburg is tough, but this Clemson team is battle tested. Don’t get me wrong about my confidence in Kelly Bryant. #2 is no Deshaun Watson and he will be going up against a solid defense that is run by defensive savant Bud Foster, but I think the Tigers offense still has enough talent to put up 21-28 points while the defense puts on another dominant performance on national TV against Jackson & Co.
Pick: Clemson -7.5 & Under 51
Wild Card Games:
USF (-22.5, O/U 76) @ East Carolina:
East Carolina, ranked 122nd overall in S&P+, played on Sunday. South Florida, ranked 27th, played on Thursday. Advantage: USF.
East Carolina stinks. They are so, so bad. Yes, they will have some success on offense once in awhile, but the defense is awful. They rank 129th in S&P+ in defense and 126th in ESPN’s FPI. They allowed 596 yards to UConn last week….UConn!!!!!
South Florida’s strength so far this year has been their defense. It seems like every time their offense is starting to click, a turnover happens. I don’t want to ruin this game for you, but I don’t see ECU causing a lot of turnovers on Saturday (they rank 120th in expected turnovers). This is a perfect spot for USF to have their offense click on all cylinders and put up video game numbers. D’Ernest Johnson and Quinton Flowers are going to have a field day.
Pick: USF -22.5
Syracuse @ NC State (-14, O/U 62.5) 12:20 ACCN:
Hell of a performance last week by NC State. One for the ages. I’m glad Dave Doeren showed that he could win the big one.
Now comes the hard part of pulling off an upset, playing the next week against a not well-respected opponent. Put yourself in the shoes of Bradley Chubb. You just went into Tallahassee, beat FSU, and ended it by spitting on the Seminole. Now, you have to get up to play Syracuse. That’s a tough thing to do.
I love the situation for Syracuse but have also been impressed with their play since the loss to Central Michigan. Dino Babers has a tough job to build a solid ACC program in upstate NY, but he will trot out a decent team on Saturday with a few athletes. Plus, they are coming off a good loss at LSU, where they pushed Coach O’s team to the wire. QB Eric Dungey can keep the Orange in it with his playmaking ability and the 25th ranked pass defense will slow down Ryan Finley and a pretty damn good Wolfpack passing attack.
I don’t see an upset here, but I do see Syracuse keep this game well within 2 scores. Also, if NC State does come out and stomp on Syracuse, Babers led offense is more than capable of sneaking in the backdoor for a cover.
Pick: Syracuse +14
UConn @ SMU (-17, O/U 76). 4:00 ESPN News:
AS much as I love my Huskies, I’m betting against them until this team proves they can keep a decent team under 35 points. A part of me is concerned that SMU’s poor defense will open the door for UConn to stick around in this one, but SMU’s QB Ben Hicks and future top-15 draft pick Courtland Sutton are going to have a field day.
UConn will also be playing on a short week (played last Sunday) on the road. Bad defenses don’t travel well, especially those that can’t stop the pass. Pony up.
Pick: SMU -17
Ole Miss @ Alabama (-27.5, O/U 57.5), 9:00 ESPN:
Somebody needs to send a message to every single player and coach in the nation: STOP POKING ALABAMA’S BEEHIVE.
Ole Miss is down. They are a wounded animal. The animal that once terrorized Nick Saban’s Alabama is vulnerable. Now it’s time for Saban and his team to strike and I have a feeling it’s going to be a strike we’ll remember for a very long time. Bo Scarbrough, Jalen Hurts, Damien Harris, and Najee Harris may combine to rush for 400 yards. Time for Nick Saban and Alabama to send another message.
Pick: Alabama -27.5
North Texas @ Southern Mississippi (-8, O/U 58.5) 7:00:
I’m a big fan of this Southern Mississippi team. Their new QB Kwadra Griggs has been great and Ito Smith is this years version of as the best RB you haven’t heard of ala-Kareem Hunt. North Texas defense has been shaky all year, even against inferior competition. They rank 100th in 3rd down defense and 95th in overall S&P+ defense. Southern Miss will be able to put up points.
On the other side, Southern Miss has been impressive on defense, ranking 4th in rushing success rate and 6th in passing success rate. North Texas has an explosive offense, but they haven’t faced a defense like Southern Miss outside of the Iowa game, where they only scored 14 points. This being a home game is only another advantage for the Golden Eagles.
Pick: Southern Miss -8
San Jose State @ UNLV (-14, O/U 64), 10:30:
UNLV has been one of the biggest surprises in CFB since they lost to Howard. Their offense currently ranks 6th in overall success rate and 2nd in rushing success rate. This is all thanks to a dynamic QB-RB duo Armani Rogers and Lexington Thomas. Rogers and Thomas will only continue their impressive 2017 against a terrible San Jose State rush defense (rank 120th in rushing success rate).
San Jose State hasn’t been able to score much since dynamic QB Montel Aaron went down. UNLV’s defense is nothing to write home about, but I don’t see San Jose State finding a way to keep up with the Runnin’ Rebels.
Pick: UNLV -14
Maryland @ Minnesota (-13, O/U 44), 12:00 FS1:
Maryland is down to their 3rd string QB and going up against a defense that held an explosive Middle Tennessee team to 3 points. This is the first home Big Ten game in the PJ Fleck era and Minnesota is coming off of a bye. It’s going to be a long day for the Terps.
Pick: ROW THE BOAT -13
#JackieGambling (14-13) Picks:
Chalk city this week. Sometimes you can’t outsmart yourself. CHALK. CHALK. CHALK.
Southern Miss -8
ROW THE BOAT -13