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Lou Pickney's Online Commentary

Against the Spread

December 13, 2008

My cousin Patrick Pickney e-mailed me earlier this week asking for advice in his college football bowl game pick 'em pool. Last year I helped him out with his picks and he won his pool, so this year's he asked for help again... which I gladly delivered. However, in 2007 his pool was done with confidence points, 32 for the most confident pick, 31 for the second-most confident, all the way down to 1 for the least confident.

This year is different -- the picks are all ATS (against the spread) and don't involve confidence points. Pat didn't send me the spreads being used, so I had to use the internet for info.

So, most likely setting myself up for public embarrassment, I thought I'd share my picks for this year.

Note -- for some reason his pick 'em this year doesn't include certain bowl games, including #9 Boise State vs. #11 TCU, which is crazy since that is one of the three or four most compelling matchups for me (and, I suspect, many others). Boise State and the WAC will get less than $1 million for playing in the Poinsettia Bowl; if they had made the Fiesta Bowl (instead of Ohio State who made it over Boise State despite Boise having a higher BCS ranking). Never forget: the bowl game system is a big money hustle.

From: Lou Pickney
To: Patrick Pickney
Date: Sat, Dec 13, 2008 at 9:07 PM
Subject: Bowl pickem and spreads

It's too bad that your pick 'em doesn't include the Poinsettia Bowl, which has unbeaten Boise State against TCU (who lost only to Oklahoma and Utah). Boise State and the WAC were screwed out $17 million by the Fiesta Bowl taking Ohio State over Boise State despite Boise State being ranked higher in the BCS rankings. Life is not fair.

Hawaii: Naturally this terrible matchup is in there. Hawaii is -1 or -1.5 and I expect Notre Dame to be distracted. Neither team should be in a bowl and Hawaii has already played 13 games this year which is crazy; I like Hawaii in a virtual home game minus the points.

Meineke Car: Pat White is an X-factor but NC is strong (albeit inconsistent) but playing in Charlotte will be an edge. Take North Carolina -1 or if you're lucky as a pick 'em.

Champs Sports: Florida State -5. Wisconsin is terrible.

Emerald Sports: Take Miami +7 or +7.5. Yes they have to travel cross-country to play Cal but they are a good team, but I think the Hurricanes will take it to them, at least enough to beat the spread.

Independence: Louisiana Tech is better than many realize and I'd take them in Shreveport +1.5. This bowl has fallen a long way from the famous "snow bowl" matchup of BCS conference teams in Mississippi State and Texas A&M in December 2000.

Alamo: Missouri -13.5 or -14. They will break Northwestern's back and make them humble. Chase Daniel will go out with a bang.

Humanitarian: I don't see any spread out there so I don't know that, but I'd take Maryland if it's close due to phenom WR Darrius Heyward-Bey. Maryland has been wildly inconsistent this year (MTSU beat them!) but I like them over Nevada.

Holiday: I'm torn on this one. Go with Oklahoma State -3 but Oregon is a good team. Oklahoma State couldn't win any of the big ones this year, though the Big XII was tough so it's hard to judge OkSt. Anything -3.5 or above take Oregon.

Armed Forces: Take the points with Air Force +3, but Houston if it's only -2.5. Amazing that this game made the cut but Boise St./TCU didn't.

Sun: Great RB matchup of Jacquizz vs. Shady McCoy. Had UCLA beaten USC, it would have been OSU playing in the Rose Bowl. Take Oregon State -3 over an up-and-down Pitt team.

Music City: My heart says Vandy; my head says Boston College. Take BC -4 if you can bring yourself to do it. Vanderbilt limped down the stretch.

Chick-Fil-a: Fascinating matchup (plus it means one the two teams won't get to wear white). LSU has some great players but overall their team is down seriously from 2007, while Georgia Tech is playing in Atlanta and should have good crowd support. Georgia Tech -4.

Outback: Don't doubt Spurrier. South Carolina +3 and +3.5 over an overrated Iowa team. Besides the Penn State win, it's been mostly easy matchups that Iowa won. They play teams close when they lose and Iowa has a great RB in Shonn Greene, but SC's defense should handle the challenge.

Capital One: Georgia -7.5. Michigan State is good but Georgia with plenty of prep time will be out for blood. Matthew Stafford will carve up the Spartans' pass defense.

Gator: Clemson -2 or -2.5, but Nebraska +3 (the line varies quite a bit here). Both teams are in transition; it's hard to know what to expect here (which explains the line variance).

Rose: USC -10. The Trojans will complain all off-season about being left out of the BCS; their conference will do nothing to change the broken system.

Orange: Cincinnati -1.5. Virginia Tech was the best of a bad bunch in the ACC, and Cincinnati doesn't receive the national respect it deserves.

Cotton: Texas Tech -5.5. Ole Miss is much improved but beating T-Tech in Dallas (or covering the spread) is too much to ask, even though Ole Miss has two great players in OT Michael Oher and DT Peria Jerry.

Liberty: Kentucky +2. I know the Wildcats were up-and-down but being an underdog against East Carolina is surprising. Tulsa had seven turnovers against ECU, but strangely they played ECU down to the wire despite all the giveaways.

Sugar: Alabama -10.5. Nick Saban looked to have aged 10 years from the start to the end of the SEC Championship Game against Florida. He will have the Crimson Tide ready to end Utah's unbeaten run.

Fiesta: Texas -9.5. Ohio State has some talented players and it hurts to give this many points, but the Longhorns are that good.

BCS Title: Florida -? I am writing this without looking at the spread; Urban Meyer has beaten spread after spread after spread since the Ole Miss game. Oklahoma is very good and this should be an exciting game, but remember that Alabama looked invincible all year yet lost to Florida by 11.

(Note: the spread is Florida -3. I like it even more now.)

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