College Football

MHJ’s Tough Cover Column: College Football and NFL picks for this weekend 10/15-10/16

USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been writing the Tough Cover Column on Fridays so that I could get the most possible information with the most up-to-date lines. However, I think I’ve made a miscalculation on how to help the most people make informed gambling decisions. I am going to take you guys behind the curtain and talk a little “inside football.” I think that I perform an activity every Sunday that sets me apart from the gambler community at-large. After the madness of the Witching Hour of the 1:00 slate of NFL games end, I begin a tedious process that I adhere to every single Sunday. The list below lays out this process, which you should trust, of course:

  1. Carefully curate my Top 25 in the world of College Football and divide them into tiers
  2. Go through the list of games for the upcoming week of College Football and set lines before looking at the line openers in Vegas
  3. Compare your lines that you have set with the lines that have been set by the sportsbooks
  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 in the NFL

I truly believe that this preparation sets me apart from many other handicappers, and I think it’s why I am usually prepared with bets extremely early in the week. Another benefit is that I seem to get the best lines possible early in the week and I want to give you guys a chance to catch the sportsbooks with their pants down and snag some value bets. Going forward, I will try to get my Lookahead Lines out as early as possible and get this published by Tuesday. I will also give my weekly Top 25 for my College Football fans out there who are as sick of the Associated Press Top 25 as I am! So, as Fergie would say, let’s get it started in here.

My Top 25

    1. Ohio State(2)

    2. Clemson(4)

    3. Georgia(1)

    4. Alabama(3)

    5. USC(7)

    6. Tennessee(6)

    7. Michigan(5)

    8. UC(8)

    9. UCLA(11)

    10. Penn State(10)

    11. TCU(13)

    12. Ole Miss(9)

    13. Mississippi St(16)

    14. Wake Forest(14)

    15. Oregon(11)

    16. KState(17)

    17. Kansas(19)

    18. Texas(23)

    19. Syracuse(18)

    20. NC State(15)

    21. Notre Dame(NR)

    22. UNC(NR)

    23. Purdue(NR)

    24. Illinois(24)

    25. Kentucky(22)

College Football picks


Saturday, October 15

12:00 p.m.

Penn State +7 @ Michigan

  • My Penn State fan followers will be absolutely shocked but I think this is a prime opportunity for Penn State to make a statement
  • We know a lot more about this Penn State team than we do about this Michigan team. Penn State had impressive wins over Purdue, who’s looked very good, and Auburn. I know that Michigan ended up blowing Indiana out, but that was a game for far too long. This followed a game that they struggled mightily with Maryland.
  • I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Penn State is definitely a Top 5 team in the country but I can tell you that I’m pretty sure Michigan is not, based on what I’ve seen.
  • And if they’re not? They shouldn’t be a 7 point favorite over an incredibly competent Penn State team. I think Penn State finds a way to not only cover this game but to win.

Kansas +9 @ Oklahoma

  • I know that the Kansas feel-good undefeated story ended last week with a loss to TCU after College Gameday came to Lawrence. But somehow, even with a loss in the game and the injury or their star QB Jalon Daniels, I walk out of that game feeling even better about what Lance Leipold and Kansas are doing.
  • Their backup QB did a great job and kept them in the game. Bean has shown flashes in the past but is no Jalon Daniels, yet they were able to keep it within a TD of a VERY good TCU team. The very same TCU team that blew OU out. And now OU is a 9.5 point favorite coming off an EMBARRASSING showing in the Red River Shootout? Kansas is a live dog.
  • The only reason to believe that Oklahoma will turn this around is the logo on the helmet. Nothing we have seen should make us believe in Brent Venables. Kansas will keep this close, like they did with a MUCH better Oklahoma team and coach last year. Rock Chalk Jayhawk.

3:30 p.m.

Syracuse -3.5 vs. NC State

  • To channel my inner Bill Simmons, “are we sure NC State is good?”. My answer to that question that I just asked myself is no. I have no idea what to believe about this NC State team.
  • They were supposed to be a darkhorse Playoff contender. I don’t believe any of those believers pictured the NC State offense looking this pedestrian.
  • They may have escaped Tallahassee with a win over Florida State but Devin Leary got injured and the offense looked putrid.
  • This NC State defense is legitimate and held solid Florida State and Texas Tech offenses to 17 and 14 points.
  • But if this is gonna be an ugly low-scoring game, give me the Syracuse rushing attack with Sean Tucker leading the way. He has 546 yards and 5 TD’s through 5 games(and is a great Twitter follow) and Garrett Shrader has been incredibly efficient at QB with 10 TD’s and 1 INT.
  • If you would’ve told me in August that I would LAY POINTS with the Orange against NC State, I would’ve told you that you were a liar. Yet, here we are. Syracuse will win this game and move to 5-1 ATS and 6-0 SU while NC State drops to 2-5 ATS. Give me ‘Cuse in the Carrier Dome!

Tennessee +7.5 vs. Alabama

  • I will deliver my report on this game on Saturday on Twitter when the injury report is finalized and the line settles.
  • For now, I’ll just say that Hendon Hooker is the type of QB that changes a program and I’m starting to believe Josh Heupel is the type of coach that changes a program.
  • Nick Saban has struggled mightily on the road and the way to beat Alabama has usually been with a dangerous dual-threat QB which is exactly what Hooker is.
  • Rocky Top will be playing all night long.

4:00 p.m.

Wisconsin -7 @ Michigan State

  • I liked this a lot more when it opened at -4.
  • New Head Coach and Badgers legend Jim Leonard seems to have gotten Wisconsin back on track last week against Northwestern and injected life into their program.
  • The same cannot be said about Mel Tucker and Michigan State. Sparty is one of the most disappointing teams in the country just one year after being the biggest surprise in the country which led to a mega-contract for Mel Tucker.
  • Michigan State has showed up against absolutely nobody, losing four straight outright AND ATS to Washington, Minnesota, Maryland and Ohio State. Make it 5 with a loss to Wisconsin.

7:00 p.m.

Florida -2.5 vs LSU

  • This has to be one of the least relevant Florida-LSU matchups in recent memory. LSU has won the last 3 matchups but this is not your father’s LSU Tigers under Brian Kelly.
  • Last week’s matchup against Tennessee tells you everything you need to know about this LSU team and it’s direction in Brian Kelly’s 1st year.
  • Florida has not gotten off to an inspiring start but I’ve liked what I’ve seen from them far more than LSU. Anthony Richardson has been consistently inconsistent but nothing about this LSU Defense scares me into thinking that he won’t be able to get going.
  • I think Billy Napier gets his era started off right in terms of taking care of business against LSU in The Swamp.

7:30 p.m.

Clemson -3.5 @ Florida State

  • This is a complete and total rat line but I’ll eat the cheese. There’s an argument to be made that Clemson is the most underrated and under-appreciated team in the country right now. I understand that they are #4 in the country, but I think it’s pretty clear that they have a Top 2 resume in the nation thus far.
  • It’s not like Clemson has run through bad teams and this is their first test. Clemson has gotten through the 2 toughest games on their schedule so far in Wake Forest and NC State.
  • Clemson is the #1 most efficient offense in the country in the red zone. We all know what this Clemson defense is but the fact that Clemson is averaging over 39 PPG is what makes this Clemson team scary and a REAL championship contender. DJ has become a legitimate Top 10 QB in the country with 14 TD’s and 2 picks. I think he improves on that in Tallahassee and helps Clemson get by their toughest remaining game on the schedule en route to the playoff.

NFL Picks


Sunday, October 16

1:00 p.m.

Jags +2.5 @ Colts

  • Death. Taxes. The Jags owning the Colts.
  • We saw last week that AFC South trends apparently stay true forever. The Jags have historically struggled with the Texans. In fact, the Jags have made the AFC Conference Championship more recently than they have beaten the Texans. But they’ve made up the trouble they’ve had with the Texans by pummeling the Colts. The Jags are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 against Indy and 1-13-1 ATS in their last 15 matchups. And this is not some narrative from the past that I’m clinging onto. The Jags beat the Colts 24-0 in Week 1 and displayed their matchup edge.
  • But just like the Bengals, this bet has more to do with the opponent. I understand that Indy won the game on Thursday Night Football, but did you guys watch that game? Their offense is a complete and total abomination. Matt Ryan has less pocket presence than I’ve ever seen in a veteran QB. The man has 11 fumbles in 5 games.
  • And this is not Matt Ryan regressing all at once in the way some would have you believe. Matt Ryan is 66-82-1 over the last decade. He is 27-41-1 ATS over the past five seasons which makes him the least profitable QB in the NFL over that stretch. Fade Matt Ryan at all costs.

Bengals -1.5 @ Saints

  • The return for Joe Burrow, or should we say Joe Burreaux, to Louisiana. The last time Joe Burrow played in the SuperDome, he won a Natty.
  • Joe Burrow is the single most profitable QB since he’s been in the NFL. He’s especially profitable while on a road trip. He is 6-2 ATS on consecutive road trips. Burrow has also done an incredible job at dealing with a loss and bouncing back. 11-4 ATS in the week after an outright loss.
  • The Bengals are 11-2 in their last 13 ATS games and 3-0 ATS in their Last 3.
  • But the reason that I’m betting on the Bengals has much more to do with the Saints than the Bengals.
  • Saints are 3-7 ATS in their past 10 home games and the Saints have lost 4 straight games as a home underdog, failing to cover in all 4.

Bengals TT Over 22.5 @ Saints

  • Although the Saints offense has been MUCH improved under Andy Dalton, their defense has regressed just as much(if not moreso). They have surrendered 32 points to Geno Smith’s Seahawks and 28 points to Kirk Cousins’ Vikings.
  • I expect Cincy to bounce back this week, especially offensively. Before the defensive slog on Sunday Night Football, the Bengals offense had gotten going with two straight games of 27 points.
  • This is a low confidence play compared to Bengals -1.5

4:05 p.m.

Cardinals -2.5 @ Seahawks

  • I have absolutely no confidence in this bet but as a gambler, I must have principles. The Cardinals have become a bizarre Auto-Bet for me because you should fade them every single time they’re at home and back them when they’re on the road. Kliff Kingsbury is 10-17 ATS at home and 19-7-2 ATS on the road.
  • The Cardinals are a true “tale of two halves” team. They have been outscored by 54 points in the 1st half and have outscored their opponents by 36 in the 2nd half and OT. This team comes out flat and fights back. Hopefully, for the sake of this bet, Arizona can remedy this and get off to a faster start against a dreadful Seattle defense.

Over 50.5 Cardinals-Seahawks

  • In the same way that the Cardinals have become an Auto Bet with Home/Road splits, the Over is quickly becoming an Auto-Bet in all Seattle Seahawks games. We walked out of Week 1 extremely impresed with Seattle’s defense but we can officially say that that was pure incompetence from Nathaniel Hackett, Russell Wilson and the Denver offense. We have seen in recent weeks that there is absolutely nothing to be impressed about with this Seattle defense.
  • The Seahawks surrendered 39 points to an Andy Dalton-led Saints offense in one of the absolute worst defensive performances of the year. This followed up a Seahawks-Lions game that totaled 93 points!!! Anytime Jared Goff and Geno Smith are the QB’s of a game that is in the 40’s, it is evident that there are serious defensive problems.
  • The last 2 Seahawks games have produced an average of 82 points per game and they are 3-0 in their last 3 games on the Over. The Cardinals have not been an excellent Overs team, mostly due to their 1st Half troubles, but I expect them to play to Seattle’s pace.
  • This strkes me as a potential 38-31 shootout that comes down to the wire.

4:25 p.m.

Chiefs +2.5 vs Bills

  • Patrick Mahomes is a home underdog for the first time in his career. Patrick Mahomes in Arrowhead getting points? Count me in. Honestly, count me in on Patrick Mahomes GETTING points against anyone. Mahomes is 7-0-1 ATS as a dog.
  • Mahomes is also 13-2-1 when he is less than a FG favorite, winning 8 of his last 9.
  • Mahomes is 3-1 outright and ATS against Buffalo, including the Game of the Century last year in the playoffs.

Over 54 Bills-Chiefs

  • Speaking of the Game of the Century, how could you not bet the Over after watching last year’s game? Chiefs and Bills played a 42-36 game last year in the playoffs in a game that I had a GOTY riding on the Over. Funny enough, I also had the Chiefs. Going back to the well for the Chiefs/Over combo.
  • The Over is 3-1 in Josh Allen-Patrick Mahomes matchups, hitting by an average of over 5 PPG. 54 is actually the lowest total that we’ve seen in any of their 5 matchups.

Sunday Night Football, 8:20 p.m.

Jalen Hurts Anytime TD Scorer

  • Do I even need to explain this? Just assume that “The Easiest Value Bet in Sports” is on my card until futher notice.
  • 19 rushing TD’s in his first 24 career games, already breaking Cam Newton’s record.
  • I’m assuming this will be at + money still because Vegas refuses to adjust their odds to the implied probability of Jalen Hurts scoring a rushing touchdown. The stats over a pretty large sample size tell you that it is more likely he scores than not on a game-to-game basis.

You can follow Mark Henry Jr. on Twitter (@MarkHenryJr_) and listen to the Tough Cover Radio Show every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fox Sports Radio The Gambler.

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