9-2-09: Commence Au Football Festivale

Hello again everybody...

Only 5 days of Fair broadcasting left for me, and they can't go by soon enough. So far, we've avoided any major disasters (insert Dan knocking furiously on the nearest wood-based product here), and I'm hoping that trend holds up.

The Twins have won two against the White Sox and go for the sweep this afternoon. The Tigers dropped a game Monday, so the deficit is down to 3.5 games. The Wild Card race in the NL is still being hotly contested. And Texas is scrambling to keep up with the Red Sox (whom I hate) in the AL.

So I'm going to write about baseball today, right?

As you may have guessed from the title of today's blog, not so much.

Tomorrow marks the kick-off of the 2009 College Football season, and while baseball remains a big part of my sports-consciousness, I'm excited to see what happens on the gridiron this year.

Can the Gators repeat? Will Texas overcome Oklahoma in the Big 12 standings? Who will be this year's BCS-buster? How many points will the Badgers beat the Gophers by this year?

We'll learn the answers to all these questions over the next few months.

Today, I begin the quest for faux football gambling greatness once again. That's right. It's Picks time again!

Let's do this!

”The thing I hate about an argument is that it always interrupts a discussion."
G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936) , English writer

Sports breeds a lot of passion. But it's at it's best when we can have a reasonable discussion instead of trying to shout over each other. Funny that I say that while working for a talk radio station, isn't it?

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First off, allow me to catch up those readers who missed last year's football columns.

Each week, I provide you, my dear readers, with four picks against the spread for that weekend's college football games. Three of those picks are my "Locks", meaning that they're the three most skewed lines I can find. And the fourth pick is my "Flier Pick". That could be a game I have an emotional attachment to, or the game I think is the highlight of the week. Whatever causes me to pick it, if it's the "Flier Pick", I don't have that much confidence in the pick, so I only count it if I win.

(Aside: This rule has caused controversy in the past, so I'll just say this: It's just a blog. No actual money is being wagered here. If you use my picks to make actual bets, then that's on you! So if I don't count "Flier Picks" as losses, it's my blog, and my rules, so deal.)

Then, the following Monday, I provide you all with my "Post-Mortem" of the past weekend's picks. I break down what I know about each game and tell you how or why I was successful, or unsuccessful.

I'll also tell you "What Dan Learned". In fact, that segment was SO popular last year, that I combed through each of the "Post-Mortem" columns, and found 20 Maxims for this year's "Picks" columns.

So before we get to the picking... here are...

20 Maxims for College Football Picking in 2009

1. Home Field Matters - be very careful about taking a road dog

We start with a simple one. But don't underestimate its importance. I'm not saying never take a road underdog, but you'd better have a damned-good excuse for doing it. We'll be focusing most on home favorites, sneaky home underdogs, and some road favorites as well.

2. SEC > ACC - Don't pick an ACC team over an SEC team unless you're getting double digits. And even then, be careful!

Again, simple-sounding, but easy to forget. I got caught on this one early in the year. I don't care if it's a bottom of the barrel SEC team, I'm not picking an ACC club over them unless I'm getting 10+ points.

3. Each year, an emerging team will be giving too many points on the road. DON'T get sucked into taking them!

Both East Carolina and Ball State sucked me into this trap last year. Some mid-major team will try this year. But I'm not falling for it!

4. Arkansas was awful in the early going, but started covering late in the year. Plus the kid that transferred from Michigan will be playing QB. Don't sleep on them.

Just because a team from a major conference blows in the early goings of a season, doesn't mean they will all year. I'll give the Razorbacks a few weeks to show me what they have before I start considering their games.

5. It doesn't matter what the spread is in the Florida/Tennessee game, take Florida.

I warned my favorite Volunteer fan that a note like this was coming, so hopefully he won't stop reading here. The bottom line is that new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin has spent a good portion of the off-season antagonizing last year's national champs. Perhaps he missed the ass-whipping that Florida put on Georgia after the Bulldogs tweaked them the year before? I'm not kidding. If the line is Florida -35, I'm taking the Gators. Book it.

6. Ohio State was up and down til they settled on Pryor at QB. They won't beat USC, but look out during the Big 10 season.

And it's that game against the Trojans that may end up costing them. Penn State has a silly-easy schedule this year, so Ohio State has to beat the Lions to have any shot at a BCS game.

7. Michigan scares me (and not it the way Hammer's hoping).

They finally have a QB that can run Rodriguez's offense, but with this potential NCAA violation hanging over them, plus the old-school Michigan crowd down on them, I just don't know. Like Arkansas, I'm going to wait a few weeks before dipping my toe into those wagering waters.

8. Don't bet on ASU to cover. Just don't do it.

I got burned way to many time by the Sun Devils. I don't care how weak their competition seems, I'm staying away if they're the favorite.

9. Ball State graduated their QB... we need a new darling team.

East Carolina started the year as the Sports Take darlings, but fell off opening the door for Ball State. But I'm not sure the Cardinals will qualify this year. Anybody have an underdog suggestion?

10. Don't second-guess. You'll give yourself an ulcer and it doesn't change the outcome a whit.

This not only works for college football picking, but for life as well. Make the best decision you can, and then stop worrying about it. Whatever happens after that is out of your hands, so there's no use stressing over it.

11. The SEC is tough enough to predict. Don't mess with the dregs of the conference.

Picking Vanderbilt may seem like a good idea. It's not. Stick with the power teams.

12. F@#$ Auburn. I'm done with them.

Pardon my crass language. But I got burned by the Tigers more than any other team last year. I'm not betting on them. I'm not betting against them. I'm going to do my best to pretend then don't exist.

13. Georgia Tech's going to be tough to beat in the ACC.

If they're getting points at home, we may have to automatically take them. For some reason people underestimate Yellowjackets head coach Paul Johnson. Maybe it's the unique offense. Maybe it's the fact he came from Navy. Whatever it is, I figure we'll get some juicy lines on Tech in the early goings.

14. Texas Tech is for real.

Yes, Crabtree is gone, but the Red Raider scheme is what makes them so dangerous. They're still 3rd behind Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12 South, but don't doubt them against the North teams.

15. The Gophers are still the Gophers.

No matter how well they start, they'll find a way to lose games they should win down the stretch. Don't trust them in-conference, no matter how tremendously excited Tim Brewster may be.

16. Stay away from the Big East.

They all suck. It's just a matter of who sucks less than the rest. Remember Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl last year? I'm trying to forget too.

17. Nebraska could be the favorite in the B12 North.

Is my relationship with the Kelley family strong enough for me to try and continue the "good luck charm" bit this year... I think so. We'll see if I can pick them in Week 1!

18. I don't want to pick LSU, because I don't like Les Miles.

But they're going to be good. I may not be able to avoid it. Put it on your calendars now. Florida visits Baton Rouge on October 10th. That should be a dandy.

19. Washington will be undervalued early on.

Sure Sarkisian won't turn them around right away. But they'll be more competitive under his leadership. The trick is going to be finding the right undervalued line to pounce on.

And finally...

20. Nothing, repeat, NOTHING is better then an underdog winning outright.

Presuming you picked them of course.

So there's the guidebook for 2009. Let's see how close I can stick to it!

In 2008 I went 33-17 (.660) on my picks. If I come close to equaling that, I'll be thrilled. So let's get to the picking, shall we?

As always, were recreational gaming legal, and were I to have the wherewithal to make a worthwhile wager, these are the games I'd be betting on...

Nebraska -23 vs. Florida Atlantic (6pm): The Cornhuskers went 9-4 in 2008. The Owls went 7-6.

That's right. We're kicking things off by blessing Nebraska's season in Week 1. Yes, 23 is a lot to give. But the Cornhuskers are at home, and I'm not a big fan of FAU on the road.

If any member of the Kelley family (the biggest Nebraska fans I know) care to take issue with my pick, they're free to attach a comment below!


Wisconsin -16.5 vs. Northern Illinois (6pm, Big Ten Network): The Badgers went 7-5 in 2008. The Huskies went 6-7. *This is this week's Sports Take Flier Pick.

I saw the Huskies take on the Gophers to open the 2008 season. I wasn't impressed. Now they have to go to Wisconsin and face the Badgers running game.

I'm not confident in the Wisconsin quarterback situation, but John Clay will be a beast in the backfield, and I like Wisconsin's chances to roll in this game.


Alabama -6.5 vs. Virginia Tech (7pm, ABC): The Crimson Tide went 12-2 in 2008. The Hokies went 10-4.

The Tide are breaking in a new QB, but I'm not holding that against them. This is Nick Saban, folks. Alabama will be just fine.

If this game were in Blacksburg, I still think 'Bama would win, but I wouldn't like the 6.5 one bit. But since it's in Tuscaloosa, we'll give the near-touchdown and take the Tide.

(Ed.'s Note: It came to my attention shortly after publishing this column, that this game was NOT in fact in Tuscaloosa, but rather at a neutral site in Atlanta. This decreases my confidence in the pick, but I made it, so I'll stick with it. Does the fact that Virginia Tech's campus is twice as far from Atlanta as Alabama's? Maybe a bit)

And finally...

California -21.5 vs. Maryland (9pm, ESPN2): The Golden Bears went 9-4 in 2008. The Terrapins went 8-5.

Think 21.5 is a lot to give? Here's why I'm good with that.

First, Cal is going to be good this year. Their offense has a ton of weapons and will have no trouble scoring points.

Second, it's a revenge game. Last September 13th, Maryland beat Cal 35-27 in College Park. This year, the game's in Berkley. And the Golden Bear coaching staff has had all of camp to remind their kids of last year's embarrassing loss.

I expect Cal to hit the gas early and not let up.

Plus, my new co-worker Michele Tafoya is a Cal grad, and I'm not above sucking up!

So there you have them. My first slate of picks for the 2009 season. If you have any thoughts, please attach a comment!

That's all for today. I'll be back on Friday to wrap up the week.

Until then, thanks for reading!


  1. I dunno, you didn't pick a single dog in any of those games. Seems so unlike you.

    I'm hoping Bo puts some fire in the Blackshirts this year, I'd like another year of OPP SCORE less than 100. :-)

  2. Hard to find a good underdog this early in the year.

    If the Blackshirts pull THAT off, then you're guaranteed a trip to the Big 12 championship game.

  3. Ok, I finally found it.

    Even in '94-'97, Nebraska didn't keep opponents to less than 100 points. It was 150.