Welcome back to Don’t Call It A Picks Competition, our weekly column where Matt, Bob and I pick five college football games against the spread and make appalling jokes at pretty much everyone’s expense. As always, you’re invited to pick with us in the comment section and we’ll post the standings each week.
What a night of college football last Saturday, gang. Matt, Bob and I returned from Sun Life Stadium after a full day of tailgating and watching Miami nearly lose in historic fashion to a not-all-that-good Nebraska team on the hottest day that I’ve ever attended a football game in my life to relax and watch football at my fraternity house and the games did not disappoint.
From watching Texas lose on a missed extra point to salivating as USC imploded against a terrible Stanford offense to seeing UCLA pull one out of the fire against a plucky group of Mormons, the best sport on earth delivered non-stop entertainment from the start of the night games to well into early Sunday morning.
But by far the best part of night happened to be The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year: when Alabama loses a football game! The holiday season came early this time around, with the Tide falling in particularly excruciating fashion AT HOME to Ole Miss. Sure, the Tide were clearly the better team, losing by only six points despite FIVE turnovers to Ole Miss’s zero and allowing one of the most flukey touchdowns I’ve ever seen in my life. But that only makes it all the more fun, folks.
Alabama losing brings with it a special joy that simply cannot be obtained by watching any other team lose. (Yes, even Ohio State and USC. But seriously how much fun was it to watch the Trojans make freaking Kevin Hogan look like John Elway? As our good friend Bret Bielema—more on him later—would say, that was borderline erotic. But I digress.) Bama fans simply cannot handle losing in any way, shape or form. While most schools have something else to fall back on when their team loses (Oh, Miami plays at Florida State in three weeks? Hey look, the beach!), all Alabama fans can really do is head back to their trailer parks and [redacted tasteless incest joke here].
So, in celebration of such a glorious holiday, let’s run down the Top 5 photos of Sad Alabama Fans (TM) from the weekend:
The anguish here is palpably hilarious, but it only comes in at number five because it was done literally one week before by a sad Virginia fan in the wake of the Hoos’ gut punch home loss against Notre Dame. Look, you can’t deny that there are few better fan bases to teach another how to lose than Virginia’s, but let’s go for some originality here, Alabama.
“Shit, I totally left my Bagel Bites in the toaster oven before I left for the stadium today. There goes my one high class meal of the year.”
So much irony here. Even if Alabama won by 50 points, claiming that the “BEST HONEYMOON EVER!” could possibly be spent in Tuscaloosa, Alabama is like saying Caitlyn Jenner is the “BEST DRIVER EVER!” [Matt: The best part of this is definitely her expression. She looks like she’s watching a live demonstration of ISIS torturing methods, but darn it if she isn’t still holding up that sign.]
When your wife of thirty years dies right next to you but you’re too upset about the big game to notice.
I would call this “The Thinker”, but I’m pretty sure critical thought has been outlawed in the state of Alabama since its founding. Roll Tide.
In games we picked last week:
- North Carolina (-9.5) took the wood to Illinois and somehow beat the Illini by 34 points in a game where they only out-gained them by 72 yards of offense. Football is weird sometimes.
- It’s too early to definitively say that Northwestern (+3.5) is for real, but this week we gained two big pieces of evidence indicating that they are. The Wildcats picked up a road win over a decent Duke team and Stanford won on the road at USC, a Cardinal team that the ‘Cats beat handily in Week 1.
- Nebraska (+3.5) somehow covered this spread in an overtime loss against Miami where the Huskers trailed 33-10 with under nine minutes to go in the game.
- Notre Dame (+2.5) continues to shrug off season-ending injuries to major contributors and win football games, this one impressively so against Georgia Tech.
- BYU (+17) proved this line was just as ridiculous as the three of us said it was in a one-point loss at UCLA.
Here are the standings after Week 3. My winning will surely hold up for the rest of the season. (Note: It will not.)
And the splits:
|We All Agree||5-1|
Let’s move onto the peanut gallery, where it was a pretty rough week for some folks. Next week you’ll need 10 picks to stay on the board. (Not ten correct picks, ten picks total. This is simply because the table takes more time to put together than you would think each week.)
|Winning Percentage||Season Record||Last Week|
Let’s get to this week’s games. All game times are eastern and on Saturday and lines come from Vegas Insider. Miami has a bye week, so we’ll pick three national games.
Middle Tennessee at Illinois (-6), 4, ESPNews
Illinois looks to bounce back from a road beatdown at the hands of UNC by welcoming the potentially frisky Blue Raiders into Memorial Stadium. What could possibly go wrong?
Harry: This line seems like a huge overreaction to an Illinois game last week that doesn’t seem to be nearly as bad as the final score indicated. (Then again, I’m proud to say that I didn’t watch a second of it; I’m just looking at stats.) Illinois beat the pants off of two cupcakes in the first two weeks of the season. While Middle Tennessee is a step up from those squads, I’m happy to lay less than a touchdown with the Illini. Illinois -6
Bob: Middle Tennessee isn’t bad, but I agree with Harry about the line overreaction. Illinois should win this without too much trouble, and I’ll happily drop the six points. Illinois -6
#3 TCU (-7) at Texas Tech, 4:45, FOX
After beating down college football’s biggest asshole Bret Bielema and then—to the joy of myself and college football fans everywhere—merrily pissing on his grave, Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury will try to pull off a massive upset in Lubbock to push the surging Red Raiders to 4-0.
Harry: While Tech has looked surprisingly feisty this year, this line really should be about three points higher. I feel quite comfortable taking the Horned Frogs. TCU -7
Bob: TCU won this game 82-27 last year. Last year, TCU scored 82 points against Texas Tech. Texas Christian University scored almost 12 touchdowns in a conference game last year, against this same team. 82 Christians scored Texas University. TCU has had a number of defensive injuries but is effectively the same team, while Tech is maybe better? Easy pick. TCU -7
Matt: Why can’t this line be 10.5? It’s tough to pick against a TCU team that has demolished everybody in its path over the last couple seasons, save for Baylor and Minnesota’s weird Jerry Kill voodoo magic that causes good teams to forget they’re good at TCF Bank Stadium. Still, Texas Tech is coming off an 11-point win over the Razorbacks in impressive fashion and there’s a good chance Kingsbury’s offense is going to put up some points against a depleted TCU defense.
— SB✯Nation CFB (@SBNationCFB) September 11, 2015
Still, Trevone Boykin appears to be rounding into Heisman form after a tough start to the season. I’m not going to pick against TCU in a toss-up spread until they prove they won’t win this game by two touchdowns. Yeah, it’ll probably be like 56-42, but still. TCU -7
Ball State at #17 Northwestern (-20.5), 8, BTN
Northwestern finishes off its non-conference slate with a contest against a MAC cupcake at Ryan Field that should see them easily get to 4-0. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, but could the Wildcats get to 10 wins this year? If you look at their remaining schedule, it’s in play.
Harry: As far as cupcakes goes, Ball State is a pretty competitive one, ranked 67th in F/+. Couple that with Northwestern’s offensive struggles so far this year an this line is a bit high for my liking. The Wildcats are far from being put on UPSET WATCH (TM), but a three-touchdown victory may be a bit of a tall order. Ball State +20.5
Bob: This line echoes the general sentiment around this game. People see a non-power-five school with a weird name and assume it has a total scrub football team, but Ball State is a pretty good program in a pretty good conference. My calculation of S&P+ margins adjusted for home-field puts this spread at around 12, more than a touchdown below the real spread. Basically, there’s a good chance this game ends up pretty close, and it will be interesting to see the #119 Northwestern offense take on the #105 Ball State defense, with NU’s 7th-ranked defense on the other side of the ball. It could be a decently close game and end with a 21-point result, but I still think this spread is a bit much. Quite simply, it’s too many points to give up from an offense that has been atrocious against a team that isn’t terrible. Ball State +20.5
Matt: What they said. I’m gonna be betting against Northwestern a lot this season, especially if they keep winning and the hype train keeps rolling. Ball State +20.5
#9 UCLA (-3.5) at #16 Arizona, 8, ABC
I’m pretty fired up for this one. It’s the first major test of the season for a pair of supposed College Football Playoff contenders out west. There are many intriguing storylines to comb through here, but I can definitively say that one of them is not “Is Arizona an academically rigorous university?”
Harry: Wait…UCLA is a favorite in this game? BY MORE THAN A FIELD GOAL? Since his coming out party in Week 1 against Virginia (VIRGINIA!), UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen has looked every bit like the true freshman he is. Add in that this is going to be on the road in primetime and I can’t possibly lay 3.5 with UCLA. That doesn’t mean that the Bruins won’t win; I just can’t believe this line. Arizona +3.5
Bob: Looking at my favorite table and my other favorite table, the word “Arizona” comes below a lot of bad teams (including Miami!!!), while the acronym “UCLA” comes above Baylor and other top teams. I generally use those as no more than reference points, but the combination of the egregious gap between the two and the fact that an arguably relatively weaker UCLA team won this game 17-7 last year makes me feel reasonable about taking a road favorite. UCLA -3.5
Matt: Look at Arizona’s wins this season:
This team has done nothing to deserve the hype except be good last year. We still don’t know if Arizona is good this year, and we’re almost positive that UCLA is. That’s enough for me to give up some points on the road. I’m a little worried about Rich Rodriguez’s ability to game-plan against the best teams on his schedule (see: Arizona-Oregon 2014), but overall I like the Bruins to take this one by a touchdown. UCLA -3.5
#18 Utah at #13 Oregon (-11.5), 8:30, FOX
Now here’s another Pac-12 game between two ranked opponents tha—YAAAAWWWNNNN. Okay, sorry, this is really a game that should excite me and I’ll give it the respect it deserv—YAAAAAAWWWWNNNN. Pac-12 football is relevant outside of the West Coa—YAAAAWWWWWNNNN. Okay, fine. Fuck this game, but it’s one of two games between ranked opponents this week, so we feel obligated to pick it.
Bob: Looking at my favorite table and my other favorite table, the word “Utah” comes below a lot of bad teams (including Miami!!!), while the acronym “Oregon” comes above Baylor and other top teams. The problem here: The spread is pretty large, and no one knows whether Vernon Adams will play. HOWEVA, Vernon Adams hasn’t been that good, and recall that Jeff Lockie almost won the starting job anyway. With the obligatory qualifier that this Oregon team is a lot different than last year’s, I will also add that Oregon won this game 51-27 in Salt Lake City last year. Oregon -11.5
Matt: Utah is pretty good this season. I’m pretty sure I say every year that one should not bet against the Ducks, even if the line seems a bit crazy. That mantra doesn’t apply if Oregon is playing a top team, but Utah is not a top 15 squad. I’ll take the Ducks by two touchdowns in Eugene. Oregon -11.5