I have to get something off my chest.
Leading up to the college football playoff games, I swore up and down that I would be full throatily pulling for Boomer Sooner and Clemson. As a long time Tennessee fan, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. Watching our rivals succeed while we flounder and meddle in mediocrity is downright depressing and I’m bitter dammit. But about halfway through the 2nd quarter of the Rose Bowl, something really strange happened to me. Somewhere in the midst of Baker Mayfield’s trash talk, social media hot takes, and the aftermath of a poor SEC bowl season, I started to sense too much freaking disrespect. I got hot. I don’t know the reason. Maybe its the fact I’ve lived in the south my whole life. Maybe southern pride runs deeper in my veins than I even know. But the SEC is and always will be the best conference in college football and you better recognize.
Unlike the years 1861-1865, where the south was out manned and out gunned (yet could still whip Yankees), fighting with smooth bore barrels vs the North and their far more accurate grooved barrels, things are different in modern day college football. The SEC brings the best players to the fight and boosters pay good money to ensure that happens (wink wink). The SEC drafts the most players to the NFL, has the most national championships, and has the best fan support because college football is king down here. It honestly does mean more to us. So to set the record straight, yes I despise Georgia and yes I pulled for them in that Rose Bowl game. I guess I’ll blame it on my southern pride. An all SEC national championship, in Atlanta, with TV sets around the nation turned off, is a referendum from the football Gods that this sport was meant to be enjoyed by people in SEC country.
Rose and Sugar Bowl Takeaways
Roquan Smith and the UGA defense play DIRTY AS HELL. I first noticed this in the SEC Championship when defenders were repeatedly and purposively falling on top of Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson after plays. Obviously this was tactical as everyone knew that he had a busted shoulder. The strategy paid off for Georgia then and they did it again against Oklahoma. The first time it made an impact was when a Georgia defender drove the OU running back out of bounds, flipped him on his back, and then put his entire weight on top of him and laid there for added effect. The player was shaken up bad, and the entire OU sideline took a knee. Perhaps the most obvious time this happened was when a Georgia player quite obviously intended to ram his knee, with his full body weight, into Baker Mayfield when he was down. Honestly, this may be one of the biggest plays of that whole game. Baker didn’t quite seem like himself afterward. You are naïve if you don’t think this type of thing happens in football but this happens so frequently on that UGA defense that its apparent to me the behavior is taught. Kirby Smart isn’t afraid to play in the grey and let this be a lesson to all you kids that that type of strategy can pay off. A win at all cost attitude can be brutal but all is fair in love and war.
Big 12 football with its arena league type play is entertaining, but at the end of the day that’s not the blueprint to winning championships. Strategies in football have changed over the years. Formations change, players change, and systems change. But one thing remains constant. The path to championship football includes stout defense, a solid run game, and above average special teams.
Speaking of stout defense, holy balls Alabama. Of all the picks I’ve missed this season, I’m most upset with myself for missing on this one. Nick Saban and Alabama, coming off a ton of rest, with more public doubt and motivation they’ve had in years, was the PERFECT spot to bet Bama. I believe as time marches on, we will look back and think more and more highly of Deshaun Watson. Yes, Clemson has upped their talent, putting them in these positions, but Deshaun Watson was ultimately their ace in the hole. Without a passer that could be relied on for his accuracy, the Bama defense had an absolute field day. They continually got pressure on Bryant and won that game off of turnovers. In case people forgot, Bama still has the most talent, they still have the best coach, and they’re still king of the hill.
Another note: What UCF did this season is incredibly commendable. Their performance against Auburn was stellar and they were no doubt the better team on the field that day. Our current playoff system is clearly broken. If the powers that be would just listen to me (peak my post on fixing college football) we would have the perfect formula. That being said, those that argue UCF defeating Auburn means they would have faired well in this year’s playoff are clearly delusional. Yes Auburn beat both Bama and UGA but they were a Jekyll and Hyde team all year. They also didn’t play well away from home. UGA dominated that same Auburn team 28-7 on that exact same field UCF beat Auburn on, in a game I guarantee Auburn was much more motivated to win. I agree that its totally criminal that a team like UCF didn’t have a path to a legit shot at the title. But if you don’t think UGA or Bama would curb stomp UCF right now then you’re not being honest with yourself.
The Money Train’s Bowl Meltdown
Let me take this second to do something that needs to be done. From the bottom of my heart, I want to apologize to all Money Train passengers on an absolutely ABISSMAL bowl season performance from yours truly. It was bad. It was really bad. I kept thinking surely it would get better. At some point it had to turn around. And it just never did. From the Bowl Betting Extravaganza lineup we went 4-9. Our only wins were Stanford +3, Ohio State -7.5, Wisconsin -5, and Georgia -2, and we had to sweat out two of those. Overall we went 8-15 for bowl season. I mean good Lord, I’m sorry. Perhaps we were due this. The gambling God’s came down hard on us after having such an impressive regular season (68-47-4, 59.13%). I will say, if its any consolation, our record now stands at 76-62-4 which puts us at 55.07% on the entire year. If you know anything about sports betting, the magic number to hit is 55 percent. If you do that, you can’t complain. So with one game remaining it seems we will at least hit our goal, and ultimately all loyal Money Train passengers go home with cash. On another note, after suffering through that bowl season, we’re now loaded up on good karma that’s due to come our way. I’m saying full steam ahead for the National Championship and the NFL playoffs. We press on.
Alabama -4.5 vs Georgia
At the end of the day, win or lose this one, I’m not picking against Alabama. I’ll be angrier with myself if I pick UGA and lose than if I pick Bama and lose. Its like betting on the Patriots in the NFL. Why even fight it? We’ve watched this movie more than a few times before. And you know what? Usually it ends the same. Sure there are times it hasn’t, but Nick Saban is in full on F U mode. Kirby Smart has a great team but Saban would not stomach a loss to them well. He prides himself on owning his former assistances. Hell he prides himself on owning all of college football. The dude is a psycho and he’s not ready to let his grip on the game slip anytime soon.
Something to watch in this game is how will Jake Fromm react under pressure. He has played decent, making the plays he needs to make. But something I’ve noticed is I don’t think he handles the pass rush well. There was a moment in the Oklahoma game when the pass rush got to him and he kind of carelessly flipped the ball in the air. Jeremy Pruitt is going to be dialing up the pressure in this game. That Bama defense knows only one way to play and that’s aggressive. If they can somehow find a way to contain the Georgia running backs (that’s the big catch), they will force Fromm to turn the ball over. On the reverse side, Jalen Hurts and the Bama offense have a chance to do a little damage. Georgia could not stop the run against Oklahoma early in the game and Baker Mayfield had time to throw. The strength of the Georgia defense seems to lie in the linebackers and secondary. Their D line remains suspect to me. The way to beat Jalen Hurts is to bottle him up and contain him. If Bama gets the run game with Hurts and the running backs going, I think they could put a dent in that defense. Ultimately, I think this game comes down to offensive and defensive line play. I think those match ups favor Bama.
NFL Wild Card Picks
I have to admit, I’m not the greatest regular season NFL fan. With that being said, I am a huge sucker for the NFL playoffs. Its just now getting good. Yes, I pay attention, I check lines, I make mental picks, but I don’t get serious about wagering until Wild Card weekend. There’s just too many moving parts during the regular season. But now, teams are fully focused and dialed in. Plus the NFL is rigged so we just have to figure out who the league wants to win. Last year I was on a tear during the playoffs. Let’s see if we can duplicate that. This season there’s a interesting batch of teams that are in the hunt and in the mix. Last year the favorites overwhelmed the dogs during this weekend. However, I’m feeling this year is different. These playoffs feel very fluid. A lot of teams could make a run. I hear a few dogs parking in this lineup.
Titans +9 @ Chiefs
At first glance, you may call this a bit of a homer pick. The Titans skidded into the playoffs. They lost 3 straight before pulling out a victory against a Jags team with seemingly little motivation. But hear me out. That Jacksonville team would have loved to have sent Tennessee home and I think they played hard to try and do that. The Titans responded in a must win situation which is something they’ve struggled doing in the past. Despite the score being 15-10, they dominated throughout the game. When it comes to playing in Arrowhead, the Titans should be unfazed. They’ve won there 4 out of their last 5 trips, and that stat includes a win last season where Kansas City was at the top of their game. This Chiefs team doesn’t look like they did earlier in the year. They still have the weapons to make a deep run but don’t we have to fade Andy Reid come playoff time?? The Titans are by no means very good, but given the situation it just seems like too many points.
Falcons @ Rams -6.5
Atlanta found its way into the playoffs despite suffering from the Super Bowl blues. Their season has been fraught with inconsistency which has to be frustrating for Falcon fans considering that team’s potential. Even though Los Angeles doesn’t project much of a home field advantage, Atlanta has struggled when playing away from their dome. Honestly Steve Sarkesian’s offense vs Wade Phillip’s defense seems like a straight up mismatch. The Rams are a complete team with a pass rush, weapons on offense, and a nice coaching staff. I’ve got my eyes on the Rams. I think they could be a real Super Bowl contender.
Bills +9 @ Jaguars
The fact that the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville are squaring off in a playoff game tells you things are changing in the NFL. The league is built on parody so things are bound to change but this game still looks funny. Typically, I like to fade the team that’s most excited to have made the playoffs. The emotion of getting in and just being there can cause a letdown come game time. However. Last I checked the Jacksonville quarterback is still Blake Bortles. Blake. Bortles. HOW CAN ANYONE LAY 9 POINTS IN A PLAYOFF GAME WITH BLAKE FREAKING BORTLES. If Buffalo was playing literally anyone else I would fade them but the Blake Bortles fade is at the pinnacle of my fade list.
Panthers +7 @ Saints
The Saints in the nasty NOLA are back baby. They have a great atmosphere and the Superdome will be rocking on Sunday. I love what they have in Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram with a solid qb and a much improved defense to boot. However. I’m not sleeping on Scammy Cammy. Cam Newton and the Panthers took a bad loss to end the season. Most have reserved them as an afterthought in these playoffs. But I wouldn’t underestimate Cam Newton when all the chips are down. He’ll be scrambling and doing whatever it takes to put the Panthers in a position to win. I’m not necessarily calling for an outright upset but I get the sense this game will be close. I’d play the Panthers getting a full touchdown.
Parlay and Teaser for the Weekend
This teaser looks nassssttttyyyy gross but its what I’m playing.
Teaser: Titans +15, Rams -0.5, Bills +15, Panthers +13
Parlay: Rams -6.5, Panthers +7, Bama -4.5