Seven things to be thankful for as we kick off the holiday season:
1) Houston, Stanford, Arkansas State, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky for all being 9-2 against the spread (tops in college football); and the San Francisco 49ers, whose 9-1 overall record is bested only by their 9-0-1 point-spread mark.
2) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for showing us how to flawlessly play the most important position in all of sports, and Broncos QB Tim Tebow for showing us how not to.
3) College basketball for staging a postseason tournament that crowns a true champion, and the NBA for proving once more that greed isn’t always good.
4) Las Vegas sports books for providing a uniquely electric atmosphere, particularly when the point spread is in doubt on the game’s final play.
5) Seinfeld, Cheers and Married … With Children reruns for reminding us great sitcoms with brilliant, edgy writing once existed; and Modern Family for showing us that brilliant, edgy writing still exists.
6) The backdoor cover for those two times a year when I’m actually on the right side of one.
7) Ashton Kutcher, Lady Gaga and reality-TV personalities worldwide for giving hope to every ne’er-do-well that you can be wealthy beyond your wildest dreams despite having no discernible talent; and the U.S. military for reminding us who the true heroes are.
On to this week’s picks …
$440 (to win $400) on New Mexico State +20 at Louisiana Tech: Is Louisiana Tech riding a six-game winning streak, with five of those victories coming away from home? Yes. Did LaTech cash in each of those six contests? Yes. Has New Mexico State dropped four of its last five, including consecutive road losses at Georgia and BYU by the combined score of 105-23? Yes. Did the Aggies get walloped by LaTech the last two years, losing 41-20 at home and 45-7 on the road? Yes. Did I mention earlier that the Bulldogs are among the six most profitable teams in all of college football? Yes.
Have I finally lost my mind? You’d think! Actually, I’ve got several solid reasons to grab the points with New Mexico State: 1) Oddsmakers know that we know about LaTech’s spread-covering prowess, so this line is inflated; 2) The Bulldogs have been favored against a Division I-A opponent just three times all season, never by more than a touchdown; 3) LaTech would claim the Western Athletic Conference title with a victory (meaning all the pressure is on the Bulldogs); and 4) Lost in LaTech’s impressive ATS run is the fact that New Mexico State has cashed in six of its last eight games overall, including five straight WAC contests.
Finally, after killing it for the first two months of the season, big favorites have taken a beating the last couple of weeks (see Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Boise State and Florida State).
$220 (to win $200) on Florida State -2½ vs. Florida: Florida’s last seven games: a 26-21 victory over Vanderbilt; a 54-32 win over Furman (the Gators trailed 15-0 and needed two fourth-quarter defensive touchdowns to put away a Division I-AA opponent); and five losses in which the Gators were outscored 137-59 and outgained by a combined 634 yards. Florida’s point-spread record during this stretch: 0-7.
Meanwhile, Florida State, which snapped a six-game slide against Florida with last year’s 31-7 rout, has yielded just 12 points per game over its last six contests. And the Seminoles figure to be in a foul mood after last week’s shocking loss to Virginia, which ended a five-game winning streak.
$110 (to win $100) on Iowa +9½ at Nebraska (Nov. 25): Granted, the Hawkeyes haven’t fared too well on foreign soil this season (1-3 road record, including an inexcusable loss to pathetic Minnesota). And yes, Nebraska is 5-1 at home. However, Iowa is coming off its first road win (31-21 at Purdue), and the Hawkeyes’ offense is averaging 30.6 ppg. Conversely, Nebraska has dropped two of its last three, and has failed to cover in six of its last seven in Lincoln and 13 of 17 as a home favorite, while Iowa is 12-4-1 ATS in its last 17 as a road underdog.
BEST OF THE REST (NFL): Broncos +6½ at Chargers ($77); Texans-Jaguars UNDER 38 ($55); Redskins-Seahawks UNDER 37 ($44); Bears +4½ at Raiders ($44).
BEST OF THE REST (COLLEGE): Michigan -8 vs. Ohio State ($66); Arkansas +13 vs. LSU (Nov. 25) ($66); Georgia -6 at Georgia Tech ($55); Wyoming +32½ at Boise State ($44); Oregon State +28 at Oregon ($44).
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 5-7 (+$195); Bankroll: $6,932.