2018 GOY - Best Bets
July 11, 2018
By Brian Edwards
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Odds per Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook
South Carolina +14.5 vs. Georgia
I’ve already explained how bullish I am on South Carolina this season. I made this number UGA -4.5, but fully expected it to come out around seven. When South Point opened it at -11 back in June, I was salivating. Turns out, the book moved it to UGA -14 quickly, and now The Westgate SuperBook has opened the Bulldogs at -14.5. Will Muschamp’s team has a great chance to win this game outright. Catching more than two touchdowns at home with a veteran QB, two of the nation’s top wide receivers and Muschamp’s defensive game plan? This is a Week 2 gift! Remember, USC easily cashed tickets in Athens last year as a 24-point road underdog in a 24-10 loss. Let’s also note how Deebo Samuel didn’t play in that game, either. This is a heavy play for me. I’d suggest at least five units and when the money-line return becomes available, at least one unit on that as well.
Syracuse +9.5 vs. Florida State
Let’s start by stressing how Syracuse’s 4-8 record last season was such a poor indicator of what sort of team this was. Dino Babers’s second squad was off to a 4-3 start with a win over Clemson, a team that finished 12-2 with its only other loss coming to Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinals. At that point, the Orange’s only defeats were in a trio of close games. They lost 30-23 at home to Middle Tennessee when the two Blue Raiders’ stars, QB Brent Stockstill and WR Richie James, were healthy. The other two L’s were easy spread covers as double-digit underdogs at LSU (35-26) and at N.C. State (33-25). The Tigers and Wolfpack combined to outgain the ‘Cuse by merely 48 yards of total offense. Syracuse took its 4-3 record down to Miami and committed four first-half turnovers. Nevertheless, the Orange rallied in the second half and they were driving deep in UM territory late in the fourth quarter while trailing 27-19, only to come up short. Then in Tallahassee the next week, star QB Eric Dungey injured his foot early in the first quarter and missed a good chunk of the first half. He would return in the second quarter and lead the Orange to 463 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, FSU could muster just 343 yards of total offense. However, Syracuse kicker Cole Murphy, who would earn third-team All-ACC honors and came into the FSU game with 16-of-18 field-goal accuracy, would go 1-of-3 including a 43-yard miss on the game’s final play that would’ve forced overtime. In addition, Babers opted to pass on a short field goal deep in the red zone on a fourth-and-three play with less than a minute remaining in the first half. The 'Cuse failed on the fourth-down attempt. Furthermore, FSU was inexplicably not called for a clear neutral-zone violation on a fourth-and-one stop in the final stanza that proved to be crucial. ‘Cuse fans were also irate about two holding calls that weren’t flagged on a 54-yard TD run from FSU RB Cam Akers. Dungey wouldn’t play in the last three games, all losses, including a home setback to Wake Forest when the Orange allowed a double-digit halftime lead to get away. Before those final three outings sans Dungey, Syracuse was +817 vs. its first nine foes in total yardage. The Orange was minus seven in turnover ratio in those final three games. They bring back eight starters on offense, six on defense and lost just 18 lettermen. I like the home underdogs here for two units in Week 3 and don't be surprised if the Orange wins outright.
South Carolina +2.5 vs. Texas A&M
USC is 53-16 in its home games at Williams-Brice Stadium since 2008. The Aggies will be playing their third game outside of College Station in a four-week span, while the Gamecocks will be playing their fifth home game in seven weeks. Since 2009, South Carolina owns a 9-3 spread record in 12 games as a home underdog. Meanwhile, Texas A&M is 6-9 against the spread in its past 15 games as a road ‘chalk’ since 2011. I’d make Muschamp’s bunch a 3.5 or four-point favorite on a neutral field. Let’s go with 2.5 units on USC here for this Oct. 13 encounter.
Mississippi State +3 at LSU
Mississippi State has two weeks to prepare for this trip to Baton Rouge on Oct. 20. On the flip side, LSU will be playing its eighth game in eight weeks. The Tigers are at Florida and then host Georgia before facing the set of Bulldogs from Starkville. That’s a brutal three-week span and let’s remember that Ed Orgeron’s bunch must take on Miami at Jerry World and travel to Auburn in September. Before MSU blasted LSU by a 37-7 count last season, the three previous encounters had been decided by 10 combined points. The Bulldogs won 34-29 at Tiger Stadium in 2014 and lost a 23-20 decision in ’16. This is only a one-unit wager for me simply because I’m a tad hesitant with MSU until I see that star QB Nick Fitzgerald is healthy after that gruesome injury at the Egg Bowl. Both schools finished 9-4 last year, but MSU brings back nine starters on offense and eight on defense. LSU return just 10 total starters, five apiece on each side of the ball.
Utah +4 vs. Southern California
Three of the past four games in this rivalry have been decided by eight combined points. Since 2012, Utah is 6-3 ATS in nine games as a home underdog. As for USC, it has limped to a 15-24 spread record as a road favorite dating back to 2008. This will be the fourth road assignment for the Trojans in seven weeks. Utah hosts Arizona on a Friday night the previous week, giving it an extra day of preparation. The Utes will be in revenge mode after allowing a 21-7 intermission lead to get away at The Coliseum last year. They missed a two-point conversion with 42 ticks left in a 28-27 loss. Utah went just 7-6 straight up last season, but it finished 10-3 ATS with four defeats coming in one-possessions games. Three of those L’s were by seven combined points. Kyle Whittingham’s punter and place-kicker are back and they were both All-Americans last season. Let’s go with 1.5 units on the Utes in this Oct. 20 Pac-12 showdown.
Arizona pick ‘em at UCLA
UCLA lost its head coach, a QB who was the 10th overall pick in the first round of the NFL Draft, its two best wide receivers and its best player on defense. We have a huge edge at the QB position with Arizona’s Khalil Tate, who rushed for 230 yards and two TDs in a 47-30 win over the Bruins last year. I think UA is a Pac-12 South contender, while I have UCLA pegged for the basement of this division. We also have an extra day of preparation with the Wildcats playing at Utah the Friday before. This is another 1.5-unit wager on Oct. 20.
Stanford +9.5 at Washington
I’m bullish on both teams this year. Washington is playing its 10th game in 10 weeks in this spot. Stanford has beaten the Huskies in four of the past five season and 10 of the last 13. The Cardinal has lost by double digits only seven times during David Shaw’s seven years at the helm that covers 95 games. They’re 13-4-1 in 18 games as underdogs on Shaw’s watch, winning outright in all three contests in which they were ‘dogs of 9.5 points or more. Stanford has the nation’s best RB (Bryce Love), perhaps the country’s best TE (Kaden Smith), a solid QB (K.J. Costello), two outstanding WRs (J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Trenton Irwin) and the fourth-best offensive line (per Phil Steele’s national unit rankings). Other than at Alabama, I’d probably take the Cardinal +9.5 against any team at any venue. Two units here on Stanford in this Nov. 12 scrap that’ll likely decide the winner of the Pac-12 North.
South Carolina +23 at Clemson
Clemson has outscored South Carolina by a combined score of 90-17 in the past two meetings. However, this is Muschamp’s best team and I’d take the Gamecocks +23 against any opponent at any venue this season. Clemson wins by 10-17 points. Just a small one-unit play here.
Several other leans not mentioned include Stanford pick ‘em at Oregon (9/22), Wisconsin -16.5 vs. Nebraska (10/6) and West Virginia +9.5 at Texas (11/3).
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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