Monday, August 29, 2022

The Magnificent Seven: Week I

Hello once again readers and welcome to the weekly degenerate column wherein I make predictions against the betting line that are (hopefully) slightly more accurate that flipping a coin. Home teams in bold. 

*Editor's Note: The initial post included TCU -13.5 Colorado as a pick. After sleeping on that for a few days, I decided I could not in good conscience take a double digit road favorite. So I added another underdog. Enjoy.*

Louisiana Tech +19.5 Missouri
One of the teams that I think had their trajectory most negatively impacted by the pandemic is Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs won ten games in 2019, capping their season with a shutout of Miami in the Independence Bowl. That marked their sixth consecutive bowl appearance (and win) under Skip Holtz and was their first season with double digit wins in school history. The Bulldogs managed to play ten games in 2020 (nine regular season and a bowl) and finished 4-2 in Conference USA. However, their underlying numbers were not great and they were blown out in three of their four non-conference games, including the bowl. Their 2021 schedule, particularly the non-conference portion was daunting, but the Bulldogs played well in their first five games. Though their record was 2-3, they could easily have beaten Mississippi State and should have beaten SMU. They also acquitted themselves well against NC State and won their conference opener against North Texas. However, the wheels soon came off. Louisiana Tech dropped six of their final seven games and Skip Holtz was relieved of his duties. While the season was a disappointment, Louisiana Tech lost five games by a touchdown or less and with better luck could have extended their bowl streak. To replace Holtz, the Bulldogs hired Sonny Cumbie to be their head coach. Cumbie had previously been the offensive coordinator at TCU and Texas Tech and was most recently the interim head coach at Texas Tech when Matt Wells was fired with four games left in the 2021 season. The Red Raiders went 1-3 in the regular season under Cumbie, but that victory happened to be their sixth of the year which got them a Liberty Bowl invite where they upset their former coach (Mike Leach) to bring Cumbie's career record to 2-3. While a 2-3 record may not seem impressive, context is important. The Red Raiders were double digit underdogs in all five games Cumbie coached. They won two and nearly beat Baylor in the regular season finale. As you can see from this point spread, the Bulldogs are double digit underdogs once again. They play Stephen F. Austin next week, so the streak should end there, but their next FBS game is against Clemson. Barring some historic injuries or multiple acts of god in their first two games, Clemson should be a heavy favorite against Louisiana Tech, meaning Cumbie will have been a double digit underdog in his first seven games as a coach against FBS opponents. That's an interesting quirk you don't usually see unless the team in question is a perennial doormat. But I digress. I think Louisiana Tech provides an opportunity to make money based on betting into a great deal of uncertainty. Not only do the Bulldogs have a new coach, they will also have a new starting quarterback. However, both quarterbacks who should see action in 2022 (Matthew Downing and Parker McNeil) have experience playing in Cumbie's system. Downing transferred from TCU and McNeil transferred from Texas Tech. While I don't expect them to be Heisman contenders, they should be quick studies and have the offense at least on par with last season's numbers. I spent most of this write up on Louisiana Tech because I think they represent a good value (at least in the early going) in 2021, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention Missouri's struggles when favored through two seasons under Eli Drinkwitz. The Tigers have been favored in eight games against FBS opponents under Drinkwitz. They have won six of those games, but are just 2-6 ATS, including 1-3 ATS as a double digit favorite. The Tigers failed to cover as large home favorites against both Central Michigan and North Texas last season. I don't think Louisiana Tech can win this game, but they should stay within three touchdowns. 

New Mexico State +36.5 Minnesota
New Mexico State dropped their opener at home to what may end up being a very bad Nevada team, marking the eighth consecutive year they have opened the season with a loss. If you looked closely though, you could spot some signs of life. Freshman quarterback Gavin Frakes played well once he was inserted in the second half in place of the inept Diego Pavia. Pavia tossed three interceptions and lost a fumble in his first action at the FBS level. Frakes also threw an interception late in the game (preventing a nice backdoor cover for the Aggies), but otherwise played well. He completed nearly 70% of his passes and averaged eleven yards per attempt. Had Frakes started the game, New Mexico State could have opened the season with a victory for the first time since 2014. It has to make you wonder what Jerry Kill saw in practice that led him to start and stick with Pavia for so long. Perhaps they valued his junior college experience and didn't want to throw Frakes to the wolves in his first college football game. Regardless, you have to feel like New Mexico State can at least score some garbage time touchdowns with Frakes airing it out. This line is obscenely high, especially for a Minnesota team that has struggled as a big home favorite against lesser FCS and Group of Five opponents. In their past four homes games against non-conference opponents, the Gophers have beaten South Dakota State by seven, Georgia Southern by three, Miami of Ohio by five, and lost outright to Bowling Green. And consider this mental exercise. PJ Fleck has been the head coach at Minnesota for 58 games. They have scored enough points to cover this number (more than 36.5) fifteen times. New Mexico State is not going to win this game, but they should score at least fourteen points. I don't think Minnesota will be able to hang half a hundred on them to cover this big number. 

Rutgers +7 Boston College
This is a relatively unique situation for Boston College. The Eagles have not been favored by this many points at home against a Power Five team in nearly three years. That game also happened to come in the non-conference. And it didn't end well. Head coach Jeff Hafley seems to be well regarded by the public and college football media, but he is just 12-11 through two seasons (8-11 versus Power Five teams). That's pretty much in line with the winning percentages posted by his predecessors. Steve Addazio was 44-44 over seven seasons and Frank Spaziani was 21-29 over four seasons. This is a program that has won between five and seven games over the past decade or so regardless of the man in charge. Hafley defenders can rightly point out Phil Jurkovec's injury last season to excuse some of their struggles. While the offense did improve when Jurkovec returned down the stretch, the schedule, particularly the quality of defenses eased significantly. In their first four conference games, which Jurkovec missed, the Eagles faced teams that ranked first, second, fourth, and seventh in yards allowed per play (ACC play only). Over their final four conference games (which coincided with Jurkovec's return), they faced defenses that ranked third, ninth, eleventh, and twelfth in yards allowed per play. Boston College was mediocre last season and I expect them to be mediocre again in 2022. Does that mediocrity equate to a full touchdown spread against a lower rung Big 10 team? I don't think so. While the Scarlet Knights will likely never reach the same heights from his first tenure, Greg Schiano's has captained two feisty teams in his second stint in New Jersey. The Scarlet Knights are 6-1 ATS as road underdogs with four outright upsets. In fact, Rutgers has beaten six Power Five teams in Schiano's second tenure as head coach, and all of those victories have come on the road! There are not many Power Five teams Boston College should be laying a touchdown against. And Rutgers is not one of them.  

Arizona +6 San Diego State
The late 90's and aughts were not kind to San Diego State. Between 1999 and 2009, the Aztecs did not post a single winning season. However, San Diego State has finished with a winning record each season since 2010 (with the exception of the pandemic shortened 2020 season when they went 4-4). In that span, they have finished with double digit wins five times, including last season when they played in the Mountain West Championship Game and finished in the final AP rankings. They have also enticed six Pac-12 teams to visit their home stadium in that span and are 5-1 in those games. I expect a vibrant crowd in San Diego on Labor Day Weekend as the Aztecs once again welcome a Pac-12 team to town, have the coveted 3:30 eastern slot on CBS, and are opening a brand new stadium. While there will certainly be pomp and circumstance, the actual football game may be a different story. San Diego State lost one of their best weapons from last season's team, in punter (and alleged sex criminalMatt Araiza. Araiza consistently gave San Diego State a field position advantage last season and augmented their already strong defense. However, despite winning seven of their eight conference games last season, the Aztecs YPP numbers were pretty average in Mountain West play. While San Diego State is probably due for a decline in 2022, Arizona has nowhere to go but up. The Wildcats did break a twenty-game losing streak last season, but that was the only game they won. They lost home games to San Diego State and Northern Arizona and their lone victory came against a team that was devastated by Covid cases. Despite the inauspicious start under Jedd Fisch, Arizona upgraded at quarterback in the transfer portal and is likely to force more turnovers in 2022. The Wildcats forced just six all of last season (last in the nation). The Aztecs have been a pretty lousy home favorite the past few seasons under Rocky Long and Brady Hoke, posting a 7-13 ATS record in the role since 2017. I expect them to get a pretty good challenge from the Wildcats.  

Middle Tennessee State +6 James Madison
This early evening showdown on ESPN+ will be the first game as an FBS program for James Madison. The Dukes have long been an FCS power and now they get to show what they can do on a slightly bigger stage. Since 2012, eleven teams have moved up to FBS, either from a longtime FCS membership or from a transitional FCS membership after recently starting a football program. For the curious, those teams are alphabetically: Appalachian State, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Liberty, Massachusetts, Old Dominion, South Alabama, Texas-San Antonio, and Texas State. Perhaps not surprisingly, those teams have rarely been home favorites in their first season of FBS play. Those eleven teams were home favorites sixteen combined times in their first season as FBS members. They went 5-11 ATS in those sixteen games. In a somewhat weird twist, I think James Madison is getting too much public love due to their name recognition. Eight consecutive FCS playoff appearances and a 2016 national title won't allow them to fly under the radar. And this is not the same team that lost a tight playoff game to eventual FCS champion North Dakota State last season. The Dukes lose their starting quarterback, who was also the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year, and have just nine returning starters in total. James Madison is better positioned for long term success than Middle Tennessee State (especially thanks to their conference affiliation), but they should not be laying a touchdown. 

Southern Miss +3.5 Liberty
Like Arizona, Southern Miss also struggled in their first year under a new head coach. Many of their struggles can be attributed to quarterback injuries. The Golden Eagles started three different quarterbacks through the first nine games, including a walk-on, thanks to the aforementioned injuries. Over the final three games, they even resorted to playing running backs at quarterback. What amounted to a hybrid Wildcat/Single Wing offense actually performed surprisingly well. After averaging under eleven points per game in their first eight games against FBS opposition, the Golden Eagles averaged nearly 30 points per game over their final three, winning two of them. Head coach Will Hall proved to be adaptable in his first season as a head coach at the FBS level and with his offensive track record, I expect substantial improvement for Southern Miss on the offensive side of the ball. While Southern Miss should see improved quarterback play, Liberty is likely to see regression on that side of the ball. Malik Willis was selected in the third round of April's NFL Draft, and while the Flames have an experienced quarterback set up to take his place, Charlie Brewer's play has been uneven to say the least since leading Baylor to the Big 12 Championship Game in 2019. Brewer is not a statue in the pocket, but he is not in the same class as Willis when it comes to making big plays with his legs. Liberty has a coach with solid offensive bona fides, so I expect them to be fine as the season progresses, but the Flames will probably not start out white hot on that side of the ball. Bottom line, I think the wrong team is favored here. Prior to last season's struggles as a home underdog (0-4 ATS), Southern Miss was 6-1 ATS with three outright upsets between 2015 and 2020. Look for Southern Miss to get the 2022 season started on the right foot (or wing) with an outright victory. 

Louisville -3.5 Syracuse
For a team that lost seven times last season, I expect a lot from Louisville in 2022. Frequent readers of this site will remember the Cardinals rated as one of the best teams in the ACC in all three of my preferred metrics: Yards per Play, Adjusted Pythagorean Record, and First Half Point Differential. Of Louisville's seven losses, four came by a touchdown or less and six came to teams that finished 9-3 or better (Air Force, Clemson, Kentucky, Ole Miss, NC State, and Wake Forest). Syracuse is just 11-24 (5-21 in ACC play) since their surprising ten-win season in 2018. Suffice to say they do not fit the profile of teams that beat Louisville last year. Also, while Syracuse has pulled off a few shockers at home under Dino Babers, they are not consistent ticket cashers when catching points in the former Carrier Dome. The Orange are 11-12 ATS in the role, but perhaps their reputation is keeping this number artificially low. Finally, if you look at recent history, this series has not been close. All eight meetings since Louisville joined the ACC in 2014 have been decided by at least 22 points. Syracuse's lone win in that span did come at home, but it was in November against perhaps the worst Louisville team this century in what would be Bobby Petrino's final game as coach. Anything can happen in a college football game, but I feel like Louisville coasts to an easy victory to open 2022. 

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Strangers in the Field VII

 Another year, another Vegas trip. Read on to see my investment portfolio. 

College Football Plays

Over/Under Win Totals

Auburn over 6 wins -120 ($100 to win $83.35)
After a 6-2 start, the Tigers dropped their final four regular season games (and the bowl) to finish with a losing record in Bryan Harsin's first season. However, four of their seven losses came by one score and their first half point differential was the middle of the pack in the SEC. They play Penn State in the non-conference, but they should win their other three non-SEC games easily. They do play Georgia in one of their crossover games with the SEC East, but even if everything goes wrong, this team is good enough to get to 6-6 and push. 

Buffalo over 5 wins -130 ($60 to win $46.15)
Buffalo lost their head coach late in the 2021 offseason yet were in bowl contention in the MAC as the calendar turned to November. However, after that 4-4 start, the Bulls dropped their final four games to post their first losing season since 2016. With a full year on the job and a whole offseason to prepare for the 2022 campaign, I expect Maurice Linguist to have Buffalo speaking the only language I care about: cashing tickets. 

California over 5.5 wins -110 ($60 to win $54.55)
The Golden Bears lose an experienced quarterback, but the offense has been remarkably consistent (and not great) under Justin Wilcox, so I don't expect much of a downgrade on that side of the ball. Meanwhile, Wilcox has consistently fielded quality defenses, so I expect that trend to continue. But the big reason I like the Bears is positive regression in close games. Cal was 0-5 in one-score games last season. A little better luck should have them back in a bowl in 2022. 

Louisiana-Lafayette under 8.5 wins +110 ($60 to win $66)
In Billy Napier's four seasons at Lafayette, the Ragin's Cajuns were 4-6 against Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina (regular season and conference title games) and 24-1 against the rest of the Sun Belt. The Cajuns avoid both the Mountaineers and Chanticleers this year, but with Napier and a host of starters gone as well the conference getting stronger with some offseason additions, I see a significant dip in wins. 

Louisville over 6 wins -125 ($100 to win $80)
Every metric I track said Louisville was a good team last season. Their Net YPP was tops in the ACC, their Adjusted Pythagorean Record was second in the conference, and their first half point differential was also the best in the league. If I can't trust these numbers when they come to a consensus on a team I feel is underrated, what is the point of even tracking them?

Marshall over 7.5 wins +110 ($30 to win $33)
I think Marshall is a legitimate contender in their first season in the Sun Belt. The Thundering Herd were probably the third or fourth best team in Conference USA under first year head coach Charles Huff. Even if they only tread water as they move up to a stronger conference, the schedule is what has me enamored with Marshall this season. In non-conference play, the Thundering Herd play two FCS teams and Bowling Green. While the Bowling Green game is on the road, I think there is a good chance they are able to bank three wins outside of the Sun Belt. While the Sun Belt has some strong teams, Marshall gets their toughest league games (Appalachian State, Coastal, Georgia State, and Louisiana-Lafayette) at home. A Sun Belt title would not surprise me and eight wins seems very likely. 

Middle Tennessee State over 5 wins -120 ($30 to win $25)
After back-to-back losing seasons, Middle Tennessee State returned to a bowl game last season, their ninth under long-tenured head coach Rick Stockstill. Even if they can't get to a tenth bowl, they should be able to do enough to get a push. The Blue Raiders have a challenging non-conference schedule with road trips to fellow Group of Five members James Madison and Colorado State. However, I think a split or a sweep of those two games is not out of the question. James Madison is moving up from the FCS and with their personnel losses, I think the Dukes foray into FBS will look a lot like Appalachian State's. The Mountaineers lost five of their first six games as an FBS institution, but rallied to win their final six and become a Sun Belt power. As for their trip to Fort Collins, while Colorado State will be better in the long run under head coach Jay Norvell, this will be his second game in charge. Installing a new offensive system, particularly the 'Air Raid', will take some time. When the Blue Raiders start conference play, they will be significant underdogs to UAB and UTSA, but every other league game is winnable. 

North Texas under 6 wins +100 ($30 to win $30)
The Mean Green won their final five games last season to save Seth Littrell's job. Despite the strong finish, North Texas did not rate out particularly well in Net YPP or first half point differential. They won five conference games last year and I would expect at least some regression in 2022. Couple that with a somewhat challenging non-conference schedule (SMU, at UNLV, at Memphis) and its hard to see North Texas winning seven games. 

Northern Illinois under 7 wins -110 ($60 to win $54.55)
After a winless campaign in 2020, Northern Illinois won a surprise MAC title despite a near universal last place projection. The Huskies won a ton of close games (7-2 in one-score games in the regular season) en route to a MAC Championship Game appearance where they dominated Kent State. The Huskies return a lot of production and should be better in 2022, but I don't think that will equate to a better record. The Huskies had a great deal of good fortune last season and I think regression will come for them in 2022. 

Oklahoma under 9.5 wins -135 ($30 to win $22.20)
Like Northern Illinois, Oklahoma won a ton of close games last season (6-1 in one-score games), but unlike the Huskies, the Sooners were not able to parlay that into a conference title. A first time head coach, close game regression, and a deep conference has me believing this team will lose at least three times. 

Oregon State under 6.5 wins -110 ($30 to win $27.25)
After a rough first season, Jonathan Smith has brought the Beavers back to respectability (11-14 in Pac-12 play the past three seasons). However, respectability does not mean a team can count on a bowl bid. Oregon State won just seven regular season games last year despite beating Southern Cal, Stanford, and Washington. Those three teams posted their worst combined conference record ever. The Trojans and Huskies upgraded with new coaches and David Shaw has a pretty solid track record at Stanford, so I would not expect a perfect run against that trio in 2022. The Beavers also have their in-state rival Oregon on the conference schedule as well as non-conference games with two of the best teams in the Mountain West (Boise State and Fresno State). Ir Oregon State matches last season's win total, I will tip my cap. 

Pittsburgh under 8.5 wins -125 ($100 to win $80)
Pitt finished 10-2 in the regular season in 2022, but before that breakthrough, the Panthers had lost at least four regular season games in each of Pat Narduzzi's first six seasons. The Panthers defense should be one of the best in the ACC, but they lose their offensive coordinator, quarterback, and star receiver. Plus, they play ten Power Five teams in 2022. While six of them come at home, Narduzzi is always due for one head-scratcher (see Western Michigan last season) and the road slate is daunting (Louisville, Miami, North Carolina, and Virginia). I expect Pitt to return to their baseline level in 2022. 

Rice over 2.5 wins -130 ($40 to win $30.75)
Rice has only one definite win on their schedule (McNeese State) and could conceivably finish 1-11 if things break bad. However, Conference USA is competing with the MAC to be the worst FBS conference, so I think the Owls will find at least two conference wins over the course of a long season.

San Jose State over 5.5 wins -145 ($40 to win $27.60)
Almost everywhere I looked, San Jose State's win total was 6.5. However, I found a stray 5.5 and had to fire. After finishing 5-7 last season, I think the Spartans have a great chance to get to their second bowl game under Brent Brennan. The Spartans should win two games minimum in non-conference play (Portland State and New Mexico State) and they have a real chance to win a third with Western Michigan traveling to California for a regular season game for just the fourth time in school history. In league play, the Spartans have four very winnable home games (Colorado State, Hawaii, Nevada, and UNLV), so even if they do not win a single road game, they can still make this ticket a winner. 

South Alabama over 6 wins +110 ($60 to win $66)
I was salivating over the Jaguars all offseason, and truth be told, this win total might be a shade high. I had hoped for 5.5 or 5, but I'll risk a push on a team that I feel has a lot of upside. South Alabama lost four Sun Belt games by a touchdown or less last season as they failed to capitalize on a 3-0 start in non-conference play. South Alabama plays in the weaker Sun Belt division and in their crossover games, they avoid all the top teams in the East (Appalachian State, Coastal, Georgia State, and Marshall). If Louisiana-Lafayette slips a notch like I think they will, South Alabama could qualify for the Sun Belt Championship Game. 

Southern Miss over 5.5 wins ($30 to win $36)
Southern Miss struggled in Will Hall's first season in charge. Injuries forced Hall to get creative and six players, including two non-quarterbacks, threw at least ten passes last season. Better health, improvement in Hall's second season, and a placement in the Sun Belt West should allow the Golden Eagles to get back to a bowl game. Southern Miss does draw Coastal Carolina and Georgia State in their crossover games against the Sun Belt East, but there is enough chaff at the bottom of the West for them to win six games. Southern Miss also has the good fortune of drawing a Liberty early in non-conference play. The Flames must replace quarterback Malik Willis and they may struggle offensively in the opener as they travel to Hattiesburg. If Southern Miss can pull the slight upset, I'll feel pretty good about my chances to cash this ticket. 

Texas State over 4.5 wins -110 ($30 to win $27.25)
For those keeping score at home, this is the third Sun Belt West team that I project to go over their win total. The Bobcats could conceivably be 3-1 before they open Sun Belt play. Texas State opens at a rebuilding Nevada and then plays Florida International (lost 18 straight games versus FBS opponents) and Houston Baptist at home sandwiched around a trip to Baylor. In Sun Belt play, they also draw FBS newcomer James Madison in one of their crossover games with the Sun Belt East. Its now or never for Jake Spavital at Texas State (9-27 record through three seasons), and while I wouldn't bet on him being the coach when the Bobcats open play in 2023, I think he can guide them to five wins in 2022. 

Vanderbilt over 2.5 wins +120 ($30 to win $36)
I know this looks dumb, but hear me out. Vanderbilt enters 2022 having lost 21 consecutive SEC games. However, they could cash this ticket even if they run that streak to 29. The Commodores play an FCS team (Elon) and two Group of Five teams (Hawaii and Northern Illinois) in non-conference action. While both Group of Five games come on the road, I don't think its out of the question they win both and I expect at least a split. If they have two wins entering SEC play, I think they can manage one upset. If we assume the Georgia game is as close as you can get to a 100% chance of being a loss, the Commodores still have seven other chances to eke out a win in conference play. If we give their opponents a 90% chance to win each game, Vanderbilt still has better than even odds to win one (.9 to the seventh power equals .478). The Commodores have played four one-score SEC games over the past two seasons and eventually they will break through in one of those. 

Wake Forest under 8.5 wins -130 ($40 to win $30.75)
I actually placed this bet before the unfortunate news about Sam Hartman came out. Wake's offense has been fantastic with Hartman taking snaps (under center and otherwise), but their defense has allowed at least 28 points per game each of the past five seasons. I see no reason to expect substantial improvement in that regard. With tough road games at Florida State, Louisville, and NC State as well as a home game against Clemson, I thought four losses was among the best case scenarios with a healthy quarterback. 

Washington over 7.5 wins -120 ($60 to win $50)
After a decent abbreviated first season under Jimmy Lake, the Huskies began 2021 by losing to Montana while scoring seven points. That pretty much set the stage for the rest of the season. Washington scored more than 30 points in regulation just twice and wasted a solid defensive showing. Lake was canned before the year ended after a physical altercation with a player. Washington replaced lake with Kalen DeBoer. The Huskies had previous success poaching a coach from a Mountain West school and I think they will be one of the most improved teams in the country. The defense has been good for the past seven seasons or so, and I expect significant upgrades on offense. A run to the Pac-12 Championship Game would not surprise me, so I think they can definitely get to eight wins. 

College Football Game of the Year Lines

September 10th
Arizona +13 Mississippi State -110 ($25 to win 47.75)
SEC teams do not have a great track record in what I deem unfamiliar non-conference road games. These would be non-conference road games against teams they do not play annually. In the playoff era (since 2014), they are 17-7 straight up when favored in these games, but just 9-15 Against the Spread (ATS). SEC teams are also just 2-7 since 2000 ATS as a favorite at Pac-10/12 schools. Arizona should be better under second year coach Jeff Fisch and the unfamiliarity should give them an advantage and allow them to keep this one close. 

September 16th
Louisville -1 Florida State -110 ($50 to win $45.45)
I already outlined my affinity for Louisville. If they are going to hit their win total, they need to be able to win this game at home. This won't be the last time you see a bet on the Cardinals. 

September 17th
Washington +2 Michigan State -110 ($100 to win $90.90)
If you look at 2021 records, this seems like a mismatch. Washington went 4-8 while Michigan State finished 11-2 with a Peach Bowl win. However, the Spartans were a little fortunate to finish with such a sterling record (4-0 in one-score games) and I expect significant improvement for Washington. I'm always wary backing a road favorite, particularly one traveling so far from home. 

September 24th
Iowa State +1 Baylor -110 ($25 to win $22.75)
Iowa State is 19-8 at home in Big 12 games under Matt Campbell. They are 16-2 in such games since 2018, losing only to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in that span. I expect a little regression from Baylor in 2022, so I'll take the Cyclones catching a small number. 

September 29th
Utah State +18.5 BYU -110 ($75 to win $68.20)
Utah State has been competitive their past few trips to Provo, winning two of the past five with two of the three losses coming by exactly three points. I'll take them getting this relatively large number especially with the Cougars having Notre Dame up next. 

October 1st
Navy +12.5 Air Force -110 ($75 to win $68.20)
This is one of the few bets I am having second thoughts about. As a general rule, I like service academies catching double digits, especially when they are playing each other. However, I think I significantly underestimated Air Force in my offseason work. Oh well, its just money right?

October 22nd
LSU +2 Ole Miss -110 ($75 to win $68.20)
Since 2000, LSU has lost at home to Ole Miss once (2008). Why are they catching points at home to Ole Miss when they have the better roster and better head coach?

November 19th
Louisville +3 NC State -110 ($75 to win $68.20)
Once again, I'm all in on Louisville this season. Plus, NC State would never struggle to live up to expectations right?

College Football Futures

Louisville to win ACC +3000 ($10 to win $300)
Will Clemson rebound to their previous level with two new coordinators and uncertainty at quarterback? If they don't, there will be a power vacuum in the ACC and Louisville could be there to fill it. 

College Football Parlay ($25 to win $65 -- both must hit)

August 27th
New Mexico State +12 Nevada
The Aggies have a competent head coach and are playing at home against a rebuilding Nevada team.

September 3rd
Louisville -3 Syracuse
I'm always wary laying points on the road especially in the opener and especially in the former Carrier Dome, but I'm backing the Cardinals with everything I have. 

NFL Plays

Over/Under Win Totals

Carolina Panthers over 6 wins -125 ($100 to win $80)
The Panthers have won five games in each of Matt Rhule's first two seasons in charge, so they will need to win at least two more games to cash this ticket (math!). With the acquisition of Baker Mayfield, I think they are in position to do that. The Panthers ranked 32nd (that would be last) in net yards per pass attempt last season. Baker is not an elite quarterback, but when healthy, he is above average. He played most of last season with a should injury and still put up numbers that would have been the envy of last season's Panther team. If he can put up average passing numbers, this team will cruise to seven wins. 

Cincinnati Bengals under 9.5 wins -110 ($50 to win $45.45)
The Bengals nearly won the Super Bowl last season, but they only won ten games in the regular season. They won those ten games with a last place schedule while sweeping division rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh. This year, the Bengals have a tougher schedule and while Pittsburgh has question marks at the most important position, there is no way Baltimore can have as many injuries as they did last season. I'll bank on some regression in Cincinnati.

New Orleans Saints over 8.5 wins-120 ($50 to win $41.65)
In games not started by Ian Book or Trevor Siemian, the Saints went 9-3 last season. Sean Payton retired and the Saints replaced him with a coach with a career record of 8-28. However, Dennis Allen was the defensive coordinator last season when the team finished fourth in points allowed. I think the continuity on defense and better quarterback play will allow the Saints to at least match last season's win total. 

Philadelphia Eagles under 9.5 wins +105 ($25 to win $26.25)
I know the schedule is easy, but I'm skeptical. Jalen Hurts ran for nearly 800 yards last season and if he gets hurt carrying the football, the prospects for this team change dramatically. 

Tennessee Titans under 9.5 wins -145 ($25 to win $17.25)
Despite finishing with the top record in the AFC, Tennessee was outgained on a per play basis last season. Ryan Tannehill is still the starting quarterback, so I think the upside of this team is limited. Plus Derrick Henry is now 28 years old and poised to fall off a cliff at any moment. 

NFL Playoff Yes/No

Cincinnati Bengals No +120 ($50 to win $60)

New Orleans Saints Yes +135 ($50 to win $67.50)

Philadelphia Eagles No +140 ($25 to win $35)

Tennessee Titans No +100 ($25 to win $25)

NFL Division

LA Chargers to win AFC West +240 ($25 to win $60)
This is a stacked division, but the Raiders were not as good as their record last season, Denver's defense was not quite as good as their points allowed last season (3rd in points allowed but 16th in net yards allowed per pass), and Kansas City lost their big play receiver. I'll take Justin Herbert and an analytical head coach to steal the division. 

MLB Division

New York Mets to win NL East -185 ($20 to win $10.80)
The Mets had a decent lead when I made this bet and I knew Jacob DeGrom would be back soon.

Milwaukee Brewers to win NL Central -280 ($20 to win $7.15)
The Brewers also had a decent lead when I made this bet, but they traded their closer and the bullpen has been trash since.

Thanks for reading my annual Vegas trip summary. The season gets underway in just seven days with a relatively busy Week Zero. I won't be making any Week Zero picks, but check back in about ten days for the first Magnificent Seven post of 2022.