Lion’s Den: Weekend Picks Mega-Column

The Lion Joins the ESPN College Gameday to Pick Winners this Saturday in FCS NCAA

The signs of Fall are here. Leaves are changing, its getting dark early, and the Lion is picking College Football Games.

LION’S DEN SPECIAL EDITION: COLLEGE FOOTBALL HARVEST

Believe it or not it’s the 5th Weekend of College Football. Can you believe it’s been a month since Labor Day already? Fall is officially here and we are starting to get a taste of some serious games before October and November get wild. The Lion had a .500 week last week but hit on UCLA last night and is now 21-14 for the season. In honor of autumnal equinox and the first real decent slate of college football games, I am giving you a bountiful harvest of College Football Picks and some extra analysis. So grab your Oktoberfest or Pumpkin Beer, put on a sweater, tell your WAG to go F herself because you aren’t going apple picking, and get ready for some college football. The Lion plans to harvest some wins.

FAVORITE BET OF THE WEEK, HOMER PICK OF THE YEAR: ND -12 over Syracuse: It’s no secret that the Lion loves ND. I try to be objective though and not just blindly bet them. Let me tell you the trick to betting ND. They are the most polarizing team in college football. You need to stay ahead of the public. It’s the same cycle; everybody thinks ND is overrated at the beginning of the year. This results in ND actually being underrated, so the spreads are too low and the Irish cover. Then the hype machine starts going and the subway alumni and old guys in Philly, Chicago, NYC and Boston wake up and get on the bandwagon and it goes too far the other way. ND fails to cover and then comes the backlash. The key is to stay ahead of this cycle. I think I am keyed into the cycle this year (which if you look at the Den, I am 2-0 on ND bets). Follow along with me here: underrated v. Mich, (cover), overrated v. Purdue (non-cover). Now comes the backlash. The media is pointing out that Michigan, Rice and Purdue suck apparently. (They do, but ND beat Rice by as many points as A&M did, just saying). The media is pointing out that ND couldn’t run the ball this week and is changing around its OL. (It is). This game is in NY, and is an away game for ND. Cuse outgained MD by 200 yards and lost because of some costly turnovers and special team blunders, that won’t happen again. (It’s true, ND will get Cuse’s best effort, much like it gets everybody’s best). For all of those reasons, Vegas concluded that ND must be overrated. So, this week they are merely 12 point favorites at Met Life Stadium versus a Syracuse team that barely beat Villanova in the Carrier Dome. The Lion watched Cuse get blown out by Maryland last week at the Dome and really the game was not close. MD is very similar to ND offensively, although I think Everett Golson is a better QB than the Terps QB, so I expect a similar offensive output from ND to what MD put out. However, ND’s defense is significantly better than MD’s. Cuse has a very one dimensional offense with Terrell Hunt basically running around until he can make a play. He is a freak athlete, similar to a college Donovan McNabb. ND has played 2 mobile, athletic QBs so far this year and has been able to reel them in. Cuse is missing its number 1 WR Ashton Broyld due to injury. Notre Dame gets Austin Collinsworth, Andrew Trumbetti, and Torji Hunter Jr. back from injury this week to give them a boost. People forget that this will actually be more of a home game for ND in Giant Stadium and I think ND wins this by 14. PICK ND-12

Bonus Favorite: South Carolina -5.5 at home over Mizzou: Last week, the Gamecocks were in the classic letdown situation following the upset win over Georgia. Predictably, they had a much tougher than expected outing with Vanderbilt, winning 48-34. The game wasn’t as close as it looked as the Cocks allowed two long kickoff return touchdowns. Quarterback Dylan Thompson has been the lone constant, as he is averaging 285 yards per game with an 11-3 TD-to-INT ratio. While the South Carolina defense is allowing a very poor 36 points per game (after allowing just 21 the previous seven years), its first three opponents (Texas A&M, East Carolina and Georgia) have combined for just two losses to date, with both coming at the hands of the Gamecocks. Those offenses have also put up Video Game numbers against the other teams they played. Mizzou isn’t the team it was last year. It just lost to an Indiana team that lost to Bowling Green the week before. While I have concerns about SC’s Defense giving up tons of yards to Mizzou QB Matty Mauk, I expect the Cocks to be fired up from a visit from ESPN’s College GameDay. They cannot afford another conference loss, and they know it because they are once again in the driver seat in the SEC East. I am rolling with JPOWW’s squad. PICK SC -5.5

MORE PICKS: The Lion also likes an underrated Kentucky -14.5 at home over a Vandy team that played its best ball against SC last week as I described above. The Lion will also ride with BC -5.5 at home against a Colorado State team that has to come all the way east for a 12:30pm EST kickoff.

FAVORITE DOGS OF THE WEEK: This has been the season of the Dogs for me. (This Lion is more Stark than Lannister after all). Picking underdogs have lead to most of my wins. I have a lot more I like this week.

BIG TEN DOGS: First I like Minnesota +12 at Michigan because Michigan is a train wreck. They have no reason to be laying double digit points because they can’t score that many. Sure UM can win this game and probably will, but they aren’t winning by 12 unless they pitch a shutout. I imagine the Wolverine defense has to be tired of getting left out to dry by the UM offense. The damn is going to break eventually. I also am going out on a limb and taking Northwestern +10.5 at PSU. The Wildcats have been every bit the train wreck Michigan is, but I actually believe in their coach Pat Fitzgerald and I think PSU has been flirting with a loss in too many games to blow them out. QB Christian Hackenberg is to PSU what Luck has been to the Colts, but Hackenberg is no Luck.

UWash +7.5 v. Stanford: I am rolling with NTMVW’s Huskies this week because they are at home and Stanford’s young OL is making its first road start in one of the loudest stadiums in the country against a Washington defense that leads the nation with 19 sacks. Stanford showed in its loss to USC that it had trouble protecting the QB. USC had timely sacks to kill Stanford drives throughout the game. Last year this game resulted in a 4 point Stanford win and I expect this year’s game to be similar. In fact, the past two meetings have been decided by a combined seven points. While Stanford needs this win, and I expect them to come out and play well off the bye, I can’t see them winning by more than a TD. Its possible Huskies can win this game outright. PICK UW +7.5

Duke+7 v. Miami: I am less confident about this game than I first thought because Miami keeps becoming more and more favored at home. I am not sure why. I suspect it’s because Duke remains thought of as a basketball school and people still think of Miami as a football power. I have news for you; Duke is a decent football team. They have excellent special teams, one of the best WRs in the ACC in Jameson Crowder, and a half decent defense. I am out on Miami. They are a fraud. Miami’s winning “tradition” is based on the most epic cheating in college football’s history, and that is saying a lot when you think of history of college football. The Cane’s success was also due to being the first school to realize and monopolize the talent in Central and South Florida. Miami is no longer cheating and it can no longer monopolize Florida talent. The city of Miami doesn’t even care because they all jumped on the Miami Heat bandwagon instead. I will take it a step further. Al Golden is a fraud. He is one of Joe Pa’s minions who gets venerated by the same stooges who venerate Joe Pa. People think he is a class act because he wears a tie on the sideline like his mentor. Come on. Here is a dirty little truth, Golden didn’t beat a single winning team while conducting Temple’s renaissance, and so far at Miami, he can claim just one win over a team that won more than seven games. Duke is going to win that many games this year. Even if Miami wins this game, they aren’t covering 7. I do like Miami’s RB Duke Johnson, but he can’t do it by himself. PICK DUKE +7

Tennessee at Georgia -19: The Bulldogs took out their aggression from a terrible spot by the refs that cost them the South Carolina game by burying Troy 66-0. I have no doubt that UGA has a great offense. RB Todd Gurley rightfully deserves to be mentioned as a Heisman Candidate. I just think the Vols are underrated and UGA is due for a tough game. In UGA’s two games against real teams, they gave up a ton of points. Clemson looked like an offensive juggernaut after playing UGA and they haven’t come close to scoring like that since. The Gamecocks scored at will against the Dogs. Here is a stat for you courtesy of the Lions’ favorite College Expert Phil Steele. UGA has won four in a row in this series, and the Bulldogs’ only previous five-game series win streak was from 1909-14. That’s a long time ago. It says more about the Vols current state than anything else really. Tennessee went to Oklahoma and kept it close before losing by 24. They are coming off a bye and I think they keep this one closer. Last year Tennessee took UGA to overtime. I don’t know if that is going to happen but this is a two score game, not a 3 TD game. PICK UT+19.

GAME OF THE WEEK: Arkansas v. Texas A&M -8.5 in Jerry World. The Lion is unusually pumped up about this game because it is a battle of styles. I think it is because I am curious to see which style of play wins out. (By curious I mean I really hope one side wins because I built this game up in my head to a referendum on how to play the game.) In one corner you have the high-flying Aggies. You all saw what they did to South Carolina week 1. They are averaging 613 yards per game, and their new household name QB Kenny Hill is averaging 340 pass yards per game with a 70 percent completion rate and a 13-2 TD-to-INT ratio. They have scary good WRs and some excellent OL that will be starting in the NFL. (Coming in November, the return of my way too early scouting report for the NFL draft). In the other corner, you have the smashmouth Razorbacks. The Hogs have rushed for 1,145 yards in the past three weeks, led by Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams (881 combined yards). Arkansas has already played at Auburn and at Texas Tech while A&M has been coasting against Lamar and Rice. I think America and Vegas is overvaluing what the Aggies did to South Carolina. I am still not sold on the Aggies defense, they allowed 240 rush yards to Rice a couple of weeks ago. Arkansas is better at running the ball than perhaps any team in the country. Texas A&M is the more talented team, but I look for Arkansas to shorten the game with its ground attack and keep this game close. Plus there has to be some mojo working for Arkansas in Jerry World because Jerry Jones himself graduated from Arkansas. Come on, did you really think the Lion would go against the Ground and Pound? You know me better than that. Passing is for pussies. While I will most likely regret taking this pick later, I am rolling with ARK +8.5

Good luck this week. I know I will need it.

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