Starting this week, I will be penning a weekly column where I break down anywhere from 3-5 games from the coming college football weekend from a gambler's perspective. Big line moves, the "too good to be true" spreads and games that are relevant to Buffaloes and Pac-12 fans.
Why am I qualified to discuss betting on college football? Quite frankly, I'm not. But I play a lot and I have been on both sides of the equation so I know enough to be dangerous. I will make picks, but I'm certainly not advising you to take them as well. I will also make sure and update a season long record here, as scary as that prospect is, so that we can see how terribly I do throughout the year. Away we go...
All lines as of 12:30 p.m., on 9/14
Arizona St. Sun Devils at Illinois Fighting Illini (-1)
When I saw this line open with ASU favored by 1.5 I marked it down as a game to watch. Arizona State is coming off of an emotional, close win at home over Missouri last Friday night and now has to travel half way across the country for a night game against Illinois. The Illini opened against two cupcakes in blowing out both Arkansas State and South Dakota State. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is very similar to Missouri quarterback James Franklin and he has the weapons on offense to move the ball against the Sun Devils. In fact, I see this game playing out just like last Friday night's, but this time Arizona State doesn't have the crowd on their side and Zooker pulls out a close one.
The pick - Illinois -1
West Virginia Mountaineers at Maryland Terrapins (-1)
This is another game with a pretty big swing from the original line. When it opened West Virginia was a three point favorite. Now it's swung four points to Maryland -1 (I'm even seeing -2 at some books). West Virginia's retooled offense has started slowly in both of their first two games, but rebounded in big wins over Marshall and Norfolk State (wish I could hear Holgerson's halftime speech in that one). That first half lull against Norfolk, combined with the attention that Maryland's opening win over Miami received (in large part because of those damn uni's) have caused this one to swing. Danny O'Brien is a good quarterback, and he will be able to score points, but too much credit is being given for a win over a team we really don't know anything about yet (who was playing without their starting QB). If this was a night game, with the benefits of an energetic crowd, I may go with Maryland. But an early 12:00 start will reduce the impact of the fans and Geno Smith and the Mountaineers will win a shootout.
The pick - West Virginia +1
Texas Longhorns (-4) at UCLA Bruins
So many angles to look at in this game. Last years result in Austin, Texas' struggles against BYU, UCLA's awful performances in the first two games, the quarterbacks on both sides. I could sit here and analyze this one all day long, but for me it comes down to one thing, the Bruins seem on the verge of falling apart. UCLA has the talent to win this game (as they showed last year), but I think their psyche is fragile. Even with Case McCoy and David Ash quarterbacking their first games on the road, I think the Texas offense can strike with a big play early. If that happens and the Longhorns can grab momentum, UCLA won't be able to grab it back.
The pick - Texas -4
Washington St. Cougars at San Diego St. Aztecs (-6)
The Aztecs started this one favored by 9.5 but that number has fallen to 6 on Wednesday. Washington State has roared out of the gate to the tune of 123 points in two blowout wins without starting quarterback Jeff Tuel. Backup Marshall Lobbestael has used a schedule that included Idaho State and UNLV to pass for 591 yards and seven touchdowns. But in week three the competition increases as the Cougars hit the road to take on MWC member San Diego State. The Aztecs have plenty of weapons in quarterback Ryan Lindley and superb sophomore running back Ronnie Hillman and they seem to have found a replacement for Vincent Brown with sophomore receiver Colin Lockett. Washington State has improved, but on the road they fall to a SDSU team that is going to challenge for a Mountain West title.
The pick - SDSU -6