Clemson minus-22 in the first half tonight. I know some folks who made a lot of entertainment last year betting on Alabama to cover the first half spread. (For those wondering what that is, Vegas sets a first-half spread, and Alabama was nearly impossible to properly handicap because if the Tide was laying 30, you would think a halftime line would be around 16 or 17. Well, Alabama would be up 28-plus at the break and then let off the gas, which made for uneasiness for entertainment seekers in the second half. We are going to put the same logic into effect for Clemson this year, and lay the 22 in the first two quarters and count your entertainment when it’s 35-0 at halftime.
BYU-Utah under the 48.5. “Well, ain’t it a small world, spiritually speaking. Pete and Delmar just been baptized and saved. I guess I’m the only one that remains unaffiliated.” This rivalry — The Holy War, which is a great name — may be the most intense one you do not know about. Translation: High stakes for an opener. This total opened at 57.5, and for those of us who jumped on that entertainment early, well, thank you. It has dropped a ton — and likely will continue to drop — but here’s the deal: Utah is very good defensively and runs it. BYU is good defensively and runs it.
Army minus-20.5 against Rice. “Lots of respectable people have been hit by trains.” As Everett’s wife (Holly Hunter) tells him, we want to be that respectable type who finds a go-to each week. Last year it was betting on Syracuse and betting against Louisville. This year, two of our contenders — betting on Army and against a very sketchy Rice bunch — are in the same game. Plus, and we have made entertainment on this in bowl games: You know what you are going to get with the service academies in terms of effort and focus. And if you can’t get behind Army, then you simply do not love your country. #Merica.
Wake Forest minus-3 over Utah State. “I had to be up at that crossroad last midnight, to sell my soul to the devil.” Can you think of a bigger testament to having skin in the game than watching Utah State and Wake Forest? On a Friday night? Tough trip on a Friday for the Utah State folks. That’s part of it, but not a big part of it considering that this the season opener after all. (Buy the half of course because that’s who we are and what we do.)
Georgia minus-20.5 at Vanderbilt over 57.5. “No, the treasure’s still there boys, believe me.” Everett’s pledge to his cohorts rings true for a Georgia team that is as talented as any in the country, Alabama and Clemson included. Vandy has three NFL players at the skill positions. That’s the good news. And that’s all the good news they can offer. Georgia has NFL players at every position, especially across the offensive line. Now remember that this is a conference game and Georgia will only take 70 scholarship players, and about 65 of them are better than their counterparts on the other side.
USC minus-13 against Fresno State. “Damn. We’re in a tight spot.” Everett’s lament is Clay Helton’s realty. The hottest seat in the country can not afford a slow start against an in-state lesser program that us rebuilding on the field and in the coaches’ booths. USC new coordinator Graham Harrell’s offense has had an entire offseason to dazzle in its debut. Now add in all the negativity that Helton and USC has heard all summer as well as a monster talent edge at every position. I think USC is either going to a) be a total disaster or b) a total surprise. Yes, Helton has struggled in openers, but the pressure makes me think Helton’s bunch is going to be motivated.
Ole Miss plus-6 over Memphis. “That’s not the issue Delmar. Even if that did put you square with the Lord, the State of Mississippi’s a little more hard-nosed.” Memphis lost all-world running back Darrell Henderson, who is in the NFL. Yes, the Rebels lost a slew of NFL dudes at wide receiver. But the biggest additions in this one may be the coordinators Matt Luke added in Rich Rodriquez and Mike McEntyre. Here are a couple of other things: Ole Miss is out of bowl timeout, and if they are going to have any shot to get there they need this one. Two, ask yourself who has better players, because almost every kid on Memphis’ roster would have accepted an Ole Miss offer if he had one.
South Carolina minus-9.5 against North Carolina and under 63.5. “I cannot tell you how long this road shall be, but fear not the obstacles in your path, for fate has vouchsafed your reward.” The Blind Seer could be talking directly to Mack Brown as the verbena returned to Chapel Hill to an empty cupboard. The seer also could be talking to Will Muschamp, who is facing a “Get it done” kind of season or he will be the most coveted name on the defensive coordinator carousel in four months.
Northwestern plus-7 over Stanford. “Okay… I’m with you fellas.” As Delmar rightly said as the boys were escaping from the chain gang, we are onboard with Pat Fitzgerald as one of the best coaches in the game. Did you know that Fitzgerald has never had a player drafted in the first three rounds and still has Northwestern playing at its best in program history. Now comes five-star QB and Clemson transfer Hunter Thompson. Yes, regulars around these parts are likely looking around and saying, “What?” One final research tidbit: Northwestern and Fitzgerald have covered 10 straight as road ‘dogs with eight outright wins.
Toledo plus-12 over Kentucky. “Ain’t nobody gonna pick up three filthy, unshaved hitch-hikers, and one of them a know-it-all that can’t keep his trap shut.” As Pete told Everett, I am sure Chas will remind me come Monday if his Wildcats roll. I think UK will find a way to win the opener, but with all those holes to fill, especially with those defensive professionals, I think this is a one-score game. Research alert: Did you know in their last 10 games as a home favorite, the ‘Cats are 0-10 against the spread.
Michigan minus-33 against MTSU. “This stew’s awful good. You think so? I slaughtered this horse last Tuesday… I’m afraid she’s startin’ to turn.” The numbers point to a 63-3 drubbing. Consider the following. MTSU returned one offensive line starter and lost four-year starting QB Brent Stockstill. Michigan has been thinking about the bowl debacle for seven-plus months. Michigan returns five starters on its offensive line. Now remember all the back-ground noise Michigan has heard all offseason and know that Michigan will go three- or four-deep, including at quarterback, that is huge strides better than anything MTSU can offer.
This year against the spread: 0-1 (0 percent).
Last year against the spread: 75-50-4 (60 percent).
All-time (since start of the 2011 season) against the spread: 479-306-9 (61.2 percent).