Sports gambling can be called many things – exciting, risky, foolish, even an unhealthy obsession. I prefer to think of it as a sport all its own.
You might play a solitary, recreational round of golf on a prairie-land course, where it’s rare to lose a lot of balls. The score you record during the round – good or bad – has absolutely 0% to do with your financial destiny, and you can reuse those $12 sleeves of Titleists next time. But you still care about making birdies…in fact you might even care more about the golf score than the size of a given paycheck.
Betting can be a similar experience. Making money on a big wager is great, but $$$ often serves as just the excuse to take-on a cheering interest. It feels awesome to beat that evil bookmaker even if it’s for $5. I will order a $15 appetizer without a 2nd thought while rooting passionately for a tiny gamble to pay off.
When sports-gambling becomes a sport of its own, it also enhances the ability to enjoy any match-up between any 2 teams. Not just the contenders.
Even an obscure Division 2 college game can be a whale of fun when combined with action on that pesky Over/Under. The immutable laws of competition govern Little League every bit as much as Clemson vs Alabama.
Speaking of Clemson, I’m absolutely stunned to see the defending national champs ranked #4 in the Associated Press poll. The Tigers are undefeated, and they play in the ACC –1 of the top 3 conferences in the game if not the top conference. 6 or 7 blow-out wins are marked on Clemson’s calendar of results already and we’re not even to Rivalry Weekend (on which Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers will probably kill South Carolina) yet.
But – as a handicapper and a gambler – I’m just as intrigued by what’s going on in the bottom-half of the ACC. Georgia Tech appears to be getting the benefit of the doubt from high-rollers, which isn’t common considering that ‘cappers like to put talent-first and the Yellow Jackets don’t have a ton of talent.
Furthermore, Georgia Tech is a sorry 1-6-1 ATS in 2019. Yet the point spread for this Saturday’s GT-at-UVA clash in Charlottesville is moving toward the Ramblin’ Wreck despite Virginia standing at 6-3 and having covered in 2 of the last 3 meetings.
So for those recreational viewers who only care how hard Trevor Lawrence can throw or how fast Travis Etienne can run, by all means scroll-to-bottom for a hot take on NC State vs Clemson this Saturday.
But fellow gambling enthusiasts who love “the number” as much as cheering national titles? They won’t want to skip over our UVA vs GT pick…or any other potential winners buried in the Week 11 slate.
Florida State Seminoles at Boston College Eagles
How to handicap the Willie Taggart-less FSU Seminoles? Well, it’s unlikely that an offense which has scored more than 20 points in a game only once since September could go on the road and whip Saturday’s hosts from Boston College, especially considering the Eagles are a solid 5-4 and 6-3 ATS.
On the other hand, student-athletes often enjoy a brief “jailbreak” surge of production once a controversial head coach is gone, just as NFL teams do. The combination of 2 factors – poor Seminole efforts in October + a potential “healing” day for a motivated squad vs BC – has Las Vegas handicapping Saturday’s clash almost right down the middle with a (+2.5) line on Florida State.
BC is 2-2 against comparable-to-FSU league rivals Wake Forest, NC State, VT and Louisville.
Florida State has a pretty good defense which hasn’t been giving up a ton of points even while controversy and rumors swirled around the coach’s chair. The main question headed into Saturday is whether Taggart’s absence will help Alex Hornibrook and an offense line which is struggling to pass-block (Miami’s Gregory Rousseau demolished the edge with 4 sacks) to relax and find some kind of rhythm on the road.
There will be no drawn-out “interim” HC reign in Tallahassee. Plans are to potentially bring-in a new skipper before the season ends, with Bob Stoops as a #1 target. Players will work hard in their “audition” for a legendary coach, but it may affect FSU’s production on special teams and defense more than on offense. BC’s offense is limited and FSU’s offensive line won’t learn how to pass block in 1 week…especially without a full coaching staff to guide it.
That makes the Under (62) a fabulous gamble…in fact the 60+ point Las Vegas total is as big of a mystery as any in the ACC this week. Maybe there’s something I’m missing, but I think it’s a bad line that has a 60% chance to lose on the Under.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Virginia Cavaliers
Geoff Collins has the safety of 1000 excuses…for now. Former Ramblin’ Wreck skipper Paul Johnson is being indirectly blamed for a 2-6 record this season, since the ‘Jackets had been recruiting low-block specialists who must learn Collins’ unfamiliar (yet ultimately generic) playbook. But that alibi is wearing thin. Georgia Tech is never going to be the most-athletic team in the ACC – the team’s success under the previous regime was based on a unique style that often bamboozled opposing defenses. Now that GT is playing a typical style of pigskin, the realization is beginning to set-in that 2 and 3-star recruits are bound to lose to 4-star players if each side is trying to accomplish the same goals on offense.
Gamblers seem to like Georgia Tech to cover, though, moving the spread to (+15.5) on the visitors. It’s probably the removal of anti-Flexbone prejudice from the equation that is responsible. Pundits want to see GT play better now that the team runs the same crap as 100+ other teams. As Brandon Spano put it during Tebowmania in 2011, “people hate different.”
Also, UVA is a historically 2nd or 3rd-tier program, it’s easy to assume that the Cavaliers’ current 6-3 record represents the ceiling of what Bronco Mendenhall’s team can do, and that Charlottesville fans should be pleased with bare-minimum bowl eligibility. That might be a mistake. Virginia has in fact fought through a pretty impressive schedule and could easily have more than 6 wins on the mantle. Following a 4-0 start in which the Cavaliers beat Pitt and Florida State, UVA has lost to Notre Dame, Miami, and Louisville by tight scores while whipping Duke by 34 points. Last week’s 38-31 win at North Carolina was also noteworthy since UNC is a much-improved ACC rival under Mack Brown.
Virginia’s offense is becoming a Bryce Perkins concerto. The upperclassman QB was terrific by ground and air in Raleigh, responsible for an overwhelming majority of Virginia’s 500+ yards. Perkins scored every point that wasn’t notched by PK Bryan Delaney, and he’s already got 2000+ passing yards on the season, though he doesn’t always know what to do when under big-time pressure…having thrown 8 interceptions and eaten the ball on 29 sacks-against.
Luckily the Cavaliers have some pretty good pass rushers, including LB Jordan Mack. That wouldn’t have mattered much against GT in years past but it sure matters now, making head-to-head trends irrelevant.
I’m liking UVA to cover (-15.5) against a soft opponent at home.
Wyoming Cowboys at Boise State Broncos
In some respects this is a typical year for Boise State. The Broncos are 7-1 and standing atop the MWC’s Mountain division. Late summer brought another classic BSU-over-Power-5 victory as the team mounted a successful comeback to whip Florida State on its home turf in Tallahassee. But the past 2 kickoffs have been unexpected trouble. BYU upset Boise State 28-25 in October despite another furious comeback attempt in the 4th quarter, and the Broncos followed-up with a shaky performance and a 52-42 win over San Jose State.
Wyoming (+13) possesses a burly DL and a quality run defense which held New Mexico (quietly among the better running teams in the Mountain West) to around 150 yards on the ground in a 23-10 October victory. That’s good news for the Cowboys, especially now that the program’s offense has suffered a tremendous blow headed into a visit to Boise State on Saturday night.
QB Sean Chambers has been knocked-out for the season with a knee injury, leaving former starter Tyler Vander Waal to take over the reigns once again.
It’s strange that the Las Vegas lines haven’t really moved at all since the news of Chambers’ prolonged absence broke on Monday afternoon. It’s not like press conferences are held at 6 AM Nevada time, but the Over/Under for Saturday at Albertson’s has actually ticked-up a point since Craig Bohl’s announcement.
Perhaps gamblers are convinced that a less-dynamic QB behind center for Wyoming means Hank Bachmeier will find ways to punish the Cowboy defense given enough chances and ball-control. Logical enough, but it’s not like Bachmeier is red-hot after throwing for 0 TDs and a pick vs San Jose State. Nor did the Bronco defense shine in giving up 500-ish combined yards and 42 points to the upstart Spartans. Only a monster outing for tailback George Holani saved the day.
I’m liking the Under (48) here as well, and not just because of Wyoming’s QB injury. Vander Waal is a limited and inconsistent player – that’s why the Cowboys replaced him. Boise State’s defensive lapse vs SJSU was probably an outlier – the program has staked a reputation on rushing the passer for over a decade. Not that whatever happened 10 years ago counts now, but Wyoming is hurting on the OL and should be worn-down in what could turn into a slow-paced 2nd half and a 28-7 or 24-13 type of victory for the hosts.
3 More Recommended Wagers for Saturday of Week 11
Clemson is probably a solid gamble to cover (-32.5) against a .500 North Carolina State program that has quashed its own hype with recent blow-out losses to Wake Forest and Boston College.
Why is the line holding in place when the Tigers are really a 5 or 6-touchdown favorite? That stupid #4 ranking could have something to do with it. Casual bettors can be pretty lazy about their version of our “sport.”
Kansas State is a sandcastle that may be washed-away by Texas Longhorns (-7) in Austin this Saturday. Bettors have picked-up on the initial mispricing of UT vs KSU enough to expand the spread by 2 points, but it’s still a good idea to buy-into the market until if and when the line reaches (-7.5).
Visiting Utah State (+175) can easily win its contest at Fresno State and is a terrific underdog pick on the moneyline.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.