Hello, and welcome to the debut edition of "For Entertainment Purposes Only," Crystal Ball Run's weekly college football gambling column. Every week we'll bring you our five favorite plays from that weekend's slate of games, accompanied by that banter and analysis that only we would classify as "witty."
We may bill these picks as being for entertainment purposes only, but trust us when we tell you that there are plenty of bookies out there who could make a profession out of taking your money from the selections that we'll be handing out. In fact, the name probably is accurate in so far as you'll be funding the house's entertainment.
(Not that it really matters, as we all know that actual money you spent on virtual credits has already been invested in Red Stripe, right?)
But enough with the shameless self-promotion…
Michigan vs. Alabama (-12.5)
Shhh… I'm going to let you in on a little secret.
Michigan is way overrated. The Wolverines are so overblown that even Chipotle is asking what all the fuss is about.
The Maize and Blue are getting the royal treatment reserved for college football bluebloods coming off of an 11-win season and a BCS bowl victory. Behind all the hype, however, is a team that struggled with just about any team of consequence that it faced.
Nick Saban’s teams have historically used these openers as springboards to start the season off with a bang. This year, Michigan is the cannon fodder.
Pick: ‘Bama by about 18. Same as usual.
Washington State at BYU (-12.5)
While new hires are a great way to sell tickets, I generally look to fade first-year coaches early in the season. Strike one against Wazzu.
That goes double when the newbie is facing a disciplined, well-coached defense. Strike two for the men of the Paloose.
Oh, and it’s an opener on the road. You’re out, Mike Leach.
Pick: BYU comfortably.
Navy (+17.5) vs. Notre Dame
Even as an Oklahoma fan, I think the Fighting Irish have had a rough offseason. It only got worse this week when starting tailback Cierre Wood was suspended for the opener across the pond versus the Midshipmen.
Honestly, though, I really liked the Middies here even before Wood’s suspension came down. For most college kids, sending them to Dublin for a football game is a huge disruption. For guys preparing for a career in the armed forces, this kind of physical and psychological break from the norm is their norm.
Navy also brings back a combined seven of eight starters at linebacker and safety from a year ago, which is a huge plus when going up against a spread offense like the one Brian Kelly runs.
Personally, I consider Navy a live dog.
Pick: Irish by not enough – if at all.
Miami at Boston College (+2.5)
Look, I find talking about BC football just as boring as you do, so we’ll move it along here.
For me, this is simple. Miami is a mess, and if Stephen Morris couldn’t beat out Jacory Harris all this time, I will gladly go against him and the Hurricanes’ unproven offense as a road favorite in the first game of the season.
The Eagles do absolutely nothing with any sexiness, but they generally play solid ball on D. A veteran offensive group will do just enough to not blow BC’s shot at a mild upset.
Pick: First of what I suspect will be many losses for The U this year.
Tulsa at Iowa State (+1.5)
Can’t lie – plenty of trepidation about this pick. A Big 12 team getting points at home against a Conference USA squad? Sounds too good to be true.
I get that there’s a look-ahead factor for the Cyclones here with in-state rival Iowa on deck. I also get that the ‘Clones really just weren’t all that good a year ago.
I have some concerns about the Golden Hurricane, However. TU lost three 13-game starters on the offensive line from last year. All-conference linebacker and leading tackler Curnelius Arnick is gone, too. Lastly, although Bill Blankenship did a nice job in his first season as the ‘Cane’s head honcho, I do wonder how much of TU’s success is attributable to the foundation Todd Graham had built when he left for Pittsburgh. (Ironic, huh?)
Feels like a sucker’s bet, but so be it.
Pick: Iowa St. straight up.