I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it was a dark fantasy of mine to write a NCAA gambling column and get paid to do it. Of course the second part of that fantasy was that I was a multi-millionaire living in a mansion in Las Vegas, which served as one of my seven homes that I owned around the world. And yes, I accumulated all of my wealth in that scenario by kicking the crap out of Vegas on NCAA football, NCAA basketball and NFL. Alas, only one part of that fantasy has come true, but I ‘m prepared to make the best of my opportunity this season.
I will keep the format of this column similar to my predecessor Dan Rubin and pick five games each week. One game will be designated as a lock, and one of the games I will force myself to take the game that BC is involved with. Away we go!
Last Week: N/A
Boston College (+3.5) vs Georgia Tech (in Ireland)
In college football 3.5 points isn’t the same cushion as it is in an NFL point spread. That is of course unless you are talking about two teams that love to run the ball. For as much as BC fans love to talk about how much Steve Addazio loves to run the ball (and he surely does) it is nothing compared to how much Paul Johnson loves to run the ball. Since 2008-2009, Georgia Tech has been top five nationally in rushing attempts per season, except for last year when they dropped all the way to 8th. So we have two teams that love to run the ball and it’s the first game of the year which means neither offense will probably be clicking. That means possessions will be at a premium and there won’t be a lot of snaps to go around. It would be surprising if either team won by more than a touchdown.
The reason I lean BC is because of the points (with the hook) and the BC defense. The unit as a whole has never been more athletic and I think that bodes well against the GT option. Not only is the BC defense smart enough to diagnose the option, but unlike past teams I don’t think the D is going to get by the speed of the GT offense on the outside. The BC defense should hold GT under 20.
What about the BC offense? Well I guess it remains to be seen how much the BC offense line has improved. However, I can tell you that Patrick Towles is a huge upgrade compared to any other QB that BC put on the field last season. Hilliman is back to 100% which is also an upgrade to some of the RB combos that BC used last season. With even a moderate amount of improvement from the offensive line the Eagles get to 21.
The Eagles cover and I think have a shot to win outright on the road.
Miami (Ohio) (+27.5) at Iowa
This one is a straight system play. When I looked at this game I admit I knew nothing about Miami, but I did have memories of Iowa being a bit of a letdown team at home from time-to-time, especially early in the season. My degenerate instincts were right as Iowa is 8-17 ATS in the last four years as a home favorite, including 1-3-1 ATS against the mighty MAC in September home games.
As a warning, Miami has won exactly five games in the last three years. However, they do have 16 returning starters and in the last two years covered the spread three of four games in road contests against Michigan, Wisconsin and Cincinnati (2).
Clemson (-7.5) at Auburn
This game has bounced back and forth between 7 and 8 points depending on when you looked at the line.
Gus Malzahn named Sean White the starting quarterback last week and that actually made me pull the trigger on the Tigers. I thought the only way that Auburn could pull off the upset is if John Franklin III won the job, and maybe even if Jeremy Johnson won the job. Both quarterbacks are running threats and that is the type of quarterback that usually thrives in Malzahn’s offense.
White is categorized as a "game manager", which is fine in some instances. However, when you are going against the Heisman Trophy winner and a high-octane offense, and when your defense is considered pretty good but not great, you need a quarterback that can make some plays with his feet and get you a couple cheap explosive plays. I don’t see White as the type of quarterback who can do that and I don’t see White being able to keep pace with Auburn.
Colorado State (+8) vs. Colorado (in Denver)
This is a "show me what you can do before I lay more than a touchdown on you" game. Colorado hasn’t had a winning season in over ten years, so the fact that the Buffs are favored by over a touchdown caught my eye. I do realize that Mike MacIntyre is slowly turning this program around in Boulder, but in a rivalry game if you are going to give me more than a touchdown, a competent QB in Nick Stevens (2ND Team Mountain West in ’15) matched with four returning offensive linemen I will take the points.
Lock of the Week
USC vs Alabama (-10.5) (in Arlington)
This has potential to be the most entertaining game of the weekend because each team has really impressive skilled position players on offense. USC has playmakers like WR Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster and RB’s Justin Davis and Ronald Jones, while Alabama has arguably the best WR/TE combo in America in WR Calvin Ridley and TE O.J. Howard, not to mention a stable of young highly touted running backs. On top of that both teams have very good offensive lines, with USC’s arguably the best in the country. Interestingly enough, both teams also have two highly rated but inexperienced quarterbacks matched with those great offensive lines and play makers.
The difference between these two teams is the defenses. Alabama’s front seven is probably the best in the nation and is stacked with players that will be drafted next spring. Meanwhile, USC has LB Cameron Smith (78 tackles) and edge rusher Porter Gustin (5.5 sacks) that have had good production but besides that it’s a lot of players that come as highly touted but with no history of production.
At the end of the day I think these two teams are just in different classes right now. In horse racing terms ‘Bama is a Grade I horse while USC is Grade II or III. In the last four years the Crimson Tide have earned one national title, two title game appearances, and have been in the playoffs or a BCS bowl in each year while the Trojans appeared in the Holiday Bowl twice during that span of time. USC is on the way back up but I see a opening loss by two touchdowns to ‘Bama.
You can follow Hoff on Twitter at @EAHoffses