Picking winners is hard. I'm not talking about picking the winning team 83 percent of the time — that's not too tough.
Put a point spread on there, and now we've got a challenge. Unfortunately I'm not one of those people who is good enough to make a living picking games against the spread ... but we'll try anyway. In this space every Friday, we'll present the five best picks of the week (not the five best "bets," because gambling is illegal outside of Nevada and if you're laying down money based on a random sportswriter's picks, you might want to reassess your handicapping). We'll use the consensus Vegas line on Friday afternoon every week.
In practicing the past two weeks I think I went like 27-2, though I might be off by a few games either way. See, it's easy! On to this week:
Arkansas (+20) over Alabama: We start with a contrarian alert. I realize Tyler Wilson likely won't play for Arkansas, but do you know who else knows that? The guys who made this line. This line was Alabama -6.5 over the summer when the Golden Nugget put out its games of the year (h/t to Beyond the Bets). Wilson's injury and a horrible loss to Louisiana-Monroe lead to a 13.5-point shift? I'm betting picking that the oddsmakers are trying to make you pay a premium for Alabama. Is it possible Alabama is up by four touchdowns at halftime and I'm wondering why I'm riding with John L. Smith? Let's just move on.
Notre Dame (+5.5) over Michigan State: If you've flown to the other side of the world, you know it takes a little while to get back to normal. Routines are thrown off a bit. So it stands to reason that college football players might have a little hangover after playing in Ireland the week before. Now that we've figured out Notre Dame's struggles against Purdue last week, jump back on them this week.
Tennessee (-3) over Florida: Two things in play here. I don't trust Florida's offense, especially in the second of back-to-back SEC road games. And secondly, I'm driving the Tyler Bray bandwagon and am considering a back tattoo.
Texas A&M (-11) over SMU: Over the long term, taking road favorites is a pretty fun way to go broke. But SMU might be worse than we think. Against Stephen F. Austin last week, the Mustangs won 52-0. Sounds good. Then you realize SFA also turned the ball over 10 (!!!) times, the Mustangs were outgained 466-328 and Stephen F. Austin had 28 first downs to 17 for SMU (h/t to Phil Steele). If SMU gets outgained by Stephen F. Austin -- and don't forget how it was blown out by Baylor in Week 1 -- the Mustangs might get overwhelmed by Texas A&M.
Missouri (-4) over Arizona State: Does Missouri get the SEC respect yet? (You may not have heard, but the Tigers are in SEC. No, really, they are.) I'm willing to give it to them. Arizona State has scored 108 points in two games, but I'm not buying that the Sun Devils are for real, and neither should you. After playing Georgia last week, this game will seem just a little bit easier for Missouri.
Last two weeks: 27-2 (unverified)
This season: 0-0 (official)