I got an email from a reader named William, who pointed me to this story over at The Big Lead, noting that 40 percent of all sports writers gamble. Honestly, I'm surprised the number is that low.
In the past, I may have dabbled in a bit of sports wagering, and had Delaware made the whole thing legal, perhaps I may have tried my hand again. But the problem for me has always been this: I have terrible luck. If I have cash riding on a game, you can pretty much guarantee you'll hear the announcer use the phrase "this has never happened before in the history of college football" at least once during the broadcast. So, I tend to stay out of the betting business.
Having said that, I've also been looking for a regular Friday feature for the blog that won't take up too much of my time. For road game weekends like this, I'm usually rushing to get to the airport (where I'm heading in about an hour). On home game weekends, Fridays have the potential to be my lone off days during the season. But since I care so deeply about you, dear readers, I don't want to leave you high and dry.
So I was discussing this particular quandary with my good friend, Dan, himself an accomplished predictor of college football outcomes, and he suggested a weekly picks column. I liked the idea if for no other reason than it gives me a good reason to do some research on and pay attention to the rest of the college football world, rather than simply obsess over Georgia and whichever team the Dawgs are playing that week.
Of course, as I said, I'm not the best at picking winners, so I asked Dan to submit his picks, too, so you at least have one person who might be passing along some good advice -- not that you should be gambling at all.
So, here are our Week 1 picks... for entertainment purposes ONLY.
(Side note: Dan and I have agreed we should place a "friendly wager" on our records for the season here. I'm taking suggestions on what the wager should be though. Any ideas? The more embarassing, the better.)
Kentucky (-14) at Miami (OH)
David: If you're dumb enough to throw cash down on Miami (OH) you may want to talk to John Calipari about arranging someone else to take your SATs for you. Kentucky 35, Miami 14.
Dan: Miami (OH) was 2-10 last year. Every loss was by double digits. Kentucky is not much better and they definitely don't blow teams out but you'd have to be nuts to take the Redhawks here. Even if they are a double digit home dog. Kentucky by 20.
BYU at Oklahoma (-22)
David: Is it just me or does Oklahoma seem a little overrated this year? The defense is iffy, Sam Bradford can't possibly repeat his performance from last year, and the Sooners are essentially breaking in an entirely new offensive line. I think they'll win, but I'm not sure they beat a decent BYU team by more than 3 scores. Oklahoma 24, BYU 21.
Dan: Not only did Oklahoma win games last year they killed people. Each of their wins last year was by more than 20 points except for the Kansas game. Yes, they lost to Texas and Florida. But BYU is no Texas or Florida. BYU has a nice offense but no defense. Like the over better here but have to go with Oklahoma.
Minnesota (-6.5) at Syracuse
David: My roommate from Syracuse is actually a huge Minnesota fan -- and yes, I was as surprised as you to learn that there was a such thing as a huge Minnesota fan. Anyway, my roommate had a tendency to throw down some ill-advised wagers from time to time, and during one particularly stressful Saturday, he developed a theory that the more shots of vodka he did, the better the team he bet on would do. The problem for the rest of us was, his theory seemed to have some merit, which led to several ugly Saturday nights. Anyway, I look at this matchup and know two important things: 1.) Syracuse is using its starting QB job as a publicity stunt, and 2.) My old roommate is likely to be doing a lot of shots during this game. Gotta go with the Gophers. Minnesota 24, Syracuse 10.
Dan: Last time I checked Greg Paulus couldn't even start for his college basketball team. So now I'm supposed to back a football team that has him as their starter? Please. Says a lot about the state of Syracuse football that a guy who stepped away from the game for four years is now the starter. I am a sucker for a home dog but not here.
La Tech at Auburn (-13.5)
David: Will Gene Chizik even be the best coach on the field Saturday? Derek Dooley brings some family tradition back to the Plains, which is more than Chizik has done. And has Auburn found a quarterback yet? Or, you know, any other offensive weapons? I'll take the points. Auburn 14, Louisiana Tech 13.
Dan: I won't lie to you . . . I don't know much about Louisiana Tech. However, what I do know is that Auburn's offense is horrid. They make my Hokies of Virginia Tech look like world beaters on offense. So where does Auburn get off laying almost 2 td's to anyone? The same Auburn that decided to hire Iowa St's head coach to come coach them this year. Yes . . . the same Iowa St. that only beat Kent St. and North Dakota St. last year. Give me a break. Take Louisiana Tech to lose by just 10.
LSU (-16) at Washington
David: I do think Washington will win a game this year. I don't think it will start this week. Jordan Jefferson picks up right where he left off last season, and the Tigers' defense (which should be a big concern this year) won't get tested. LSU 35, Washington 13.
Dan: Washington went 0-12 last year. That included a loss to Washington St. who I personally thought was the worst team ever last year. Yes Jake Locker is back. Won't matter. A guy who walks into a bar and slams down 10 consecutive car bombs (I like to call him John) has a better chance of then scoring the hottest girl in the bar two hours later than Washington staying within 3 td's.
Western Kentucky (-30) at Tennessee
David: Tennessee only scored 30 points twice last season -- vs. UAB and Mississippi State -- and I don't think that offense has improved a bit. I'll be happy with the points. Eric Berry 14, Tennessee 7, Western Kentucky 7.
Dan: The Lane Train pulls into the station this weekend for Tennessee's first game. Well guess what? Tennessee won't win by 30 points. End of story. Vols fans will be begging for Fat Phil by the end of the year. This is just the start of it.
Ole Miss (-16.5) at Memphis
David: I've only been to Memphis once. I was driving cross-country from Delaware to San Diego and stayed there the first night of my trip. I went to Graceland the next morning, which wasn't at all what I expected, but I did enjoy the jungle room. Also, as an Eagles fan, I hate Eli Manning. All of that should add up to me picking Memphis, but I just can't do it. Ole Miss 55, Memphis 17.
Dan: Ole Miss is a very trendy pick this year. Well one thing I always try to avoid is going against the double digit home dog. Well looky here. I get to pick against the trendy pick AND i get a double digit homedog. Good enough for me! Yes I know Memphis is not very good but I think they only lose by 2 scores.
Cincinnati at Rutgers (-6)
David: The Cincinnati Bearcats! The Rutgers... Um... Bon Jovis! Big East Action: It's Faaaaaaantastic! And yet somehow Syracuse continues to suck. What was I talking about again? Oh, right. Cincinnati 20, Rutgers 17.
Dan: Have you ever been to New Jersey let alone Rutgers stadium? It's a dump. They make you park in some commuter lot and then you need to take a bus to the game. It is not fun. By the time you get to the game your buzz has worn off and you aren't even in to it. Add to the fact thats it Rutgers football and you get the drift. Yeah Cinci loses most of their defense but they do return most of their offense. Rutgers lost every single playmaker from last year. I like Cinci to keep it within the 6.
Miami at Florida State (-5)
David: Dr. Lou picked Oklahoma State to beat Georgia because of the Cowboys' new defensive coordinator Bill Young. Well, I'm going to pick Miami in this game just because Young left. How do you like that, Dr. Lou? Now go back to doing magic tricks on camera (like making NCAA violations magically appear each time you leave a school). Miami 31, Florida State 28.
Dan: I honestly did not know what I wanted hear so I flipped a coin. It came up Florida St. Go Noles!
Virginia Tech vs. Alabama (-5.5)
David: I bow to Dan's superior wisdom on Tech, but I know this about Alabama -- last year, when no one was picking them, I saw a veteran O line and a veteran QB and picked them to win the West. I looked pretty smart (a rarity, I know). This year, I look at the consensus pick to win the West and see a weak O line and a first-time starter at QB. I see a down year for 'Bama, and I bet I look pretty smart again. Virginia Tech 17, Alabama 13.
Dan: Five years ago Virginia Tech was up 10-7 in their season opener against the soon to be national champ USC Trojans and were driving for what looked like another TD in the third quarter. Yes the USC team that had Matt Leinert, Reggie Bush and Mike Williams. Virginia Tech’s Bryan Randall made an incredible throw down to the USC 20. The Hokie faithful erupted. Until a penalty flag was thrown. Offensive interference. Virginia Tech had to then punt and all momentum was lost. Matt Leinert hit Reggie Bush for a 53-yard td pass and the game was over. USC went on to win 24-13.
What does this all mean? Well there once was a time that Virginia Tech actually showed up for big non-conference games. That hasn’t been the case lately as they were thumped two years ago in Death Valley by LSU and then lost to Kansas in the Orange Bowl.
This year hopes are high for the Hokies. I, myself a diehard Hokie fan, am trying to figure out if this is really is a top-10 team. Well things got off to a rough start with Darren Evans going down during the pre-season. Still . . . there is lots to like about this Hokies team that returns most of their offense and a large part of their defense (minus their linebacking core and Macho Harris).
I think this Hokies team has something to prove and is looking to bring some much needed respect to the ACC. Add in that Alabama plays in some tight games and is breaking in some key personnel to their offense and I think that this will be a game that comes down to the wire. The Hokies might not win but I believe they’ll stay within the 5 ½. And hopefully this year the refs decide to hold their flags.
And finally, if you're looking for my thoughts on the Georgia game, I did a Q&A with The Chapel Bell that should fill that void.
(One more note: Chris Low picked Georgia on his blog. Robert Smith picked Oklahoma State because "they have too much from an offense against Georgia, who's breaking in a new quarterback." I really wonder how many "experts" remember that there are other positions on a football field besides QB, RB and WR.)
Hope to see a few of you in Stillwater. Can't wait for game day!