Each week I pick five games against the point spread with the intention of making someone some money out there - you know, if gambling were legal or if you lived in either Las Vegas or Atlantic City. I've been pretty good so far - undefeated in my locks of the week and overall winning more than I'm losing.
Last week, I felt really good about myself. Miami beat up on Florida Atlantic, and someone gave me a point spread on that Clemson vs. Appalachian State game that just seemed like it was stealing. In something of a gamble, I was right about Louisville, who outright lost to Houston (where I picked the Cougars to cover the spread).
All I needed was the UMass offense to show up and for UConn to handle an Army team that lost by multiple scores to Fordham.
The lesson as always? UMass and UConn never get anything right. UConn, favored by seven over Army, somehow managed to only win by five, deep-sixing anyone who a) took Army to win outright or b) took UConn to cover the spread. UMass, meanwhile, apparently failed to acclimate to the altitude of playing in Boulder, Colorado, because they were positively steamrolled by the Buffaloes, 48-14.
On with this week's picks. Remember that different companies and websites offer different betting odds, so the odds and spreads you find may be different from what is listed below:
Last Week: 3-2
Season Total: 7-3
Wake Forest (-5.5) at Army
Really? That's all Wake Forest is getting heading into West Point? I don't know if Vegas has noticed yet, but Army just lost to UConn by five and lost to Fordham two weeks ago. Wake Forest at least beat an FCS team before losing last week to Syracuse.
Every week, I say it. I want Army to be so good, it hurts. But then I see a point spread like this, and until the Black Knights can actually prove that they're capable of covering with regularity (or outright winning), I can't justify this game.
Anyone who says they covered last week has to remember that they did so against UConn, a team that could somehow manage to play themselves into a Vegas disaster without even trying.
NC State (-18) at Old Dominion
ODU showed it was capable of putting up points when they dropped 38 in a season-opening victory against Eastern Michigan. Then last week, they inexplicably struggled at home against crosstown rival Norfolk State, only winning 24-10. They host NC State this week in another of the Wolfpack's cream puff start to the season.
NC State did a very good job of beating up on two lesser opponents to open up the season. They dropped 49 points on Troy, then added 35 in a shutout over Eastern Kentucky last week. I don't necessarily think they'll do incredible amounts of damage to ODU, and I'm a little sold on the Monarchs being a sleeper team to go to a bowl this year.
But I can't bet against NC State when they're giving 18 against a non-power team. Even if they pull away and put together a score like they did against Troy, this amounts to a three-score game. I can absolutely see them sleepwalking to a two score lead, followed by a pick six by accident to win by 21.
I can also see Old Dominion going with a backdoor cover at the end of the game, but if that happens, I don't know what to tell you. See also: Pittsburgh Steelers Week One at New England.
Stanford at #6 USC (-10)
Stanford rebounded last week with a 31-7 win at home against Central Florida, but that week one loss on the road to Northwestern is leaving a stinky taste in my mouth like I tried to eat a rotten apple. Meanwhile, this is the first game of the season where USC might have to actually play after they pummeled Arkansas State and Idaho.
This game resembles much of the Boston College-Florida State game, except Stanford lost to Northwestern at the beginning of the season. Stanford is a team searching for an identity, while USC is a national powerhouse. The Trojans should be competing for a spot in the CFP as long as they don't do what they did last year at BC.
I don't think the Stanford-USC physical challenge is going to happen like it always does. I think the Trojans are too talented and have been licking their chops for a real football game. Meanwhile, Stanford's going to wind up on the right path, just not this week.
SMU (+37) at #3 TCU
WHO MADE THAT SMU SCHEDULE? The Mustangs lost to Baylor (who managed to cover the point spread) to open up the schedule. Now they finish out their Big XII audition tour by going to Fort Worth to take on the Horned Frogs.
I still don't think TCU is the national powerhouse they proclaim to be, but this is just cruel and unusual punishment for the Mustangs. Still, I don't think they lose by 37 because they accidentally lost to Baylor by the point spread. They would've covered if not for an injury to their quarterback. So I'm taking SMU because while I think TCU is going to score 45 points in their sleep, I also think SMU is capable of putting 20-plus against the best of the Big XII.
After all, Big XII teams don't exactly play defense. Ever. They just outscore teams.
LOCK OF THE WEEK
#23 Northwestern (+3.5) at Duke
Northwestern is a ranked team that's a road dog at an ACC school that hasn't really beaten anyone. Although Duke ranked relatively high in my ACC power poll, I also don't think anyone in the league with wins has beaten anyone. They've sure as heck lost to teams, but they haven't really had a marquee win yet.
As for the Blue Devils, they've beaten Tulane and North Carolina Central. Northwestern beat Stanford by 10. Even though 3.5 isn't a ton of room, there's no reason to think Duke will win this game. As a result, picking the underdog is relatively easy.
By the way, this is one of those games where two schools meet, and they both have insanely high academic requirements. Northwestern already scheduled one earlier this year when they played Stanford, and now they have a second against Duke. Ogre, take me away!