You know what's hard to write on three days rest? A gambling column.
You know what's (probably harder) to play on five days rest? A football game.
It's FCS week, which means a playbook boring enough to help Joey nurse his weeklong Tallahassee hangover, and hopefully one for me to get my picks back on track.
Brian's record last week: 1-5
Joey's record last week: 5-1
Why are we keeping score again? Did I just get hustled by the new guy? Is this going to be embarrassing for me?
Before I doubt myself with any more self-reflection, let's just get to the lines.
Over/Under: 3.5 Turnovers forced by the Virginia Tech defense
Brian: Give me Caleb Farely, or give me death. To be honest, I was still too jacked up from the Florida State win to make this line anything close to rational, so I made it too high and I have no regrets. All I can think about is Farley chasing errant passes and using his Brandon Facyson body and Deangelo Hall speed to total success. But if there's any reason to pick the over, it's that there are a lot of different guys who can cause a turnover. Divine Deablo, Reggie Floyd, and Khalil Ladler roaming sideline-to-sideline. Trevon Hill, a strip sack waiting to happen. Ricky Walker and Jarrod Hewitt can set up a picnic in the B-gap and gobble up runners at the line of scrimmage.
Is this line too high? Yes. Is this going to come back to haunt my record vs Joey? Yes. Am I still going to pick the over because I'm too emotionally attached to this defense just three days after throttling the 'Noles?
You bet your ass I am. Life's too short to bet the under.
Joey: For some reason, I have this mental image of William & Mary being an overly conservative offense stuck in my head. Perhaps it's the sheer boringness of Colonial Williamsburg, or maybe it's the continued presence of longtime big whistle Jimmye Laycock roaming the sidelines. Either way, after a bit of #research, I've confirmed the fact that William & Mary rarely turns the ball over. That's not to say they've been good offensively (15 ppg in 2017, actually bad!), but they managed to tally just 19 giveaways last year during a stellar 2-9 campaign.
Bud's Foster's defense promises to challenge that so-called strength, but I like William & Mary to punt just enough to stay at 3 turnovers.
Over/Under 2.5 quarterbacks who get playing time
Brian: This bet is broken into two different thought processes. What I'd do, and what I think Fuente will do.
(Note: both of these scenarios involve Tech winning by a lot. The last time I talked like this, I wanted Logan Thomas to play a full half against JMU. So take this with the saltiest grain of salt.)
If it were me, I'd pull Jackson at the end of the first half, or maybe one possession into the third quarter. I wouldn't want to risk anything with the starters coming off just five days rest. After that, I'd give Ryan Willis the rest of the third and I'd give Hendon Hooker the fourth. My thinking is relatively simple: Willis seems to be the player who could most readily replace Jackson for a long stretch, should the starter go down with an injury. But Hooker could be a guy who gives the Hokies a different look in short yardage packages. After watching the QB keep be completely ineffective for the 13th game in a row (dating back to Jackson's dad-bod scamper against West Virginia), it's reasonable to think that Hooker can give them a little extra, and this may be his only opportunity to prove it.
But Fuente's going to stick with Willis for any mop-up duty he sees fit. He's only played two quarterbacks in both of the FCS games in his tenure in Blacksburg, and I don't think he'll change it in 2018. Pick the under.
(And for all of you freaking out about Quincy Patterson, chill. There's a really good chance he's not ready for major college football yet, no matter how talented he is. Don't rush it, let things develop at his own pace. We don't want any Dwayne Lawson situations.)
Joey: Working under the assumption that Saturday afternoon gets out of hand rather quickly, the over seems like the play here. Josh Jackson's day should be all but wrapped up by halftime, leaving Justin Fuente 30 minutes of gametime to play with a multitude of toys — some shinier than others — in the quarterback room.
I'd expect Ryan Willis to get the first look off the bench, primarily because it feels safe and he deserves to know what victory tastes like after going winless at known football power Kansas. Next up figures to be Hendon Hooker, a former four-star talent out of North Carolina whose name has been eerily quiet since arriving in Blacksburg.
That leaves none other than Quincy Patterson, THE SECOND COMING OF GOD HIMSELF, A QUARTERBACK WITH THE SPEED OF MICHAEL VICK, THE MOXIE OF TYROD TAYLOR, AND THE ARM STRENGTH OF LOGAN THOMAS. In all seriousness, even with the new redshirt rules, I'd be a bit surprised if QP4 (big miss not going with QP3) sees the field against the Tribe, less a concern around Patterson's potential than it is an expectation that Fuente desperately wants to identify an experienced backup quarterback before the meat of the schedule hits.
That said, Jackson, Willis and Hooker are all good bets, so it's an over.
True or False: Deshawn McClease will outrush everyone else on Virginia Tech
Brian: I'm going to ride the "McClease as a workhorse" movement until it throws me off and gallops away. I think the sophomore should get 20 carries a game, and the offense should only bring in Steven Peoples as a change-of-pace guy. I know it may seem like the sucker bet, but I'll take McClease to win here. Not only because I think he'll run well again, but because any sack Jackson takes would set back the rest of the rushing yards.
Joey: First instinct says true here, but I don't think McClease ends up getting enough carries to take this one home. Continuing to work under the assumption of a blowout, I'd expect some combination of Jalen Holston, Terius Wheatley, and the Southwest Virginia soul-crushers to get the lion's share of second-half carries.
Moving on to more pressing topics, I'd like to propose a nickname contest for the "I died and went straight to football heaven" backfield duo of Coleman Fox and Cole Beck. 2005 USC had Thunder & Lightning, 2007 Arkansas had the Wild Hog, and Virginia Tech 2018 has...
- Cream & Sugar
- Wild Moonshine
- True Grit
- Beck Dynasty
- Cole Train
We'll work on it.
Over/Under 5 Virginia Tech offensive touchdowns
Brian: I don't think Fuente and Cornelsen will come in with a full playbook here, similar to what they did against Delaware last year and Liberty the year before that. I have a feeling that this game won't be much fun to watch, and will probably bring us down off the FSU high more than anything else could.
Expect clunkiness. Expect teaching moments. Expect a lot of conservative pass calls and throws short of the sticks. As much as I'd love to see the Hokies pull an Oklahoma and absolutely beat the brakes off of an inferior opponent (lol Lane Kiffin), I'm thinking this one will play to the angstier portion of the fanbase. Give me the under.
Joey: Last year's 27-0 victory over Delaware in similar circumstances (inferior opponent, short rest coming off a primetime season-opening win) scares the hell out me here. My heart, fresh off an adventure of a weekend in Tallahassee, says to pound the over. My head, nearly recovered from an adventure of a weekend in Tallahassee, says to take the under.
Over it is!
Clemson (-13.5) @ Texas A&M
Brian: To me, this has nothing to do with how much Trevor Lawrence plays or how conservative Dabo may go with Kelly Bryant. It's all about not being able to trust Jimbo Fisher. It's not knowing what to think about Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond. It's about looking at A&M and seeing a young, talented roster who's a year away from being ready for a game like this. It reminds me a lot of Clemson's trip to Blacksburg a year ago, and I think the Tigers will cover.
Joey: This is another tricky line, mostly because nobody really knows what to expect from Texas A&M yet. Sure, Jimbo's offense looked the part in Week 1 against Northwestern State, but facing off against the freak show that is Clemson's defensive line poses a slightly larger challenge than what I can only assume is an athletically challenged Demons' front seven. Meanwhile, I'm still not sold on Kelly Bryant, and throwing five-star freshman Trevor Lawrence straight into the fire at Kyle Field seems like an outsized ask to make of an 18-year-old (if you can't tell, this is me trying to talk myself into A&M).
While buying the half point to get to +14 is crazy enticing (and, from what I'm told by Brian, "not allowed"), I ultimately think Clemson runs away late on the shoulders of a dominant defensive performance. Tigers -13.5.
Insufferable game of the week: Penn State (-7) @ Pitt
Brian: Tell me it didn't put a smile on your face while watching Josh Jackson throw those Jerod Evans moon bombs against Florida State. It will always make me think of Pat Narduzzi and his dumb transition lenses, yelling until he had more veins popping out of his neck than he did fans in the crowd. But doesn't this seem low? Penn State struggled with Appalachian State last week, but can they really not win by a touchdown? Yes, I know it's on the road. And yes, I know what they say about playing at Heinz Field under the lights on a Saturday night.
Oh what's that?
They don't really say anything at all about it, and it's possibly the worst home field advantage in the ACC?
Nittany Lions by 13.
Joey: I have literally no opinion on this game beyond the fact that I find both Pat Narduzzi and James Franklin to be insufferable (one because he whines incessantly, the other because he steals all Tech's recruits). Forced to choose a side, I think Penn State and Trace McSorley rebound from a near-disaster in Week 1 to beat Pitt by low double-digits.
The Joey Coogan Memorial "Navy Hits the Over" Lock of the Week.
Brian: I'll admit it.
I made fun of Joey's lock in the column, but when the time came to wake up on Saturday morning and start placing bets, you better believe I took the Navy over. I couldn't help it, he's just too in love with it and it's rubbing off on me (and my wallet).
But I'm not picking it here again this week, because there's something so egregious that I just can't look away. I know that Michigan State struggled against Utah State on Friday night, but how in the world is Sparty just a six point favorite on the road against Arizona State this weekend? Herm Edwards still coaches in Tempe, right? The same Herm Edwards who hasn't coached in a decade, and was pretty bad when he left? The same Herm Edwards who once said Brodie Croyle was the future of the Kansas City Chiefs? The same Herm Edwards who's coaching his first game against a competent head coach since November 16, 2008?
Michigan State 31, Arizona State 20.
Joey: I'M JUST GOING TO LEAVE THIS HERE:
This week in "Do You Like Free Money?", Navy takes on Memphis (!), with the over/under set at 69. Memphis is good for at least 50 against a porous Midshipmen defense, and the Navy offense should rack up 30+. Easy over.
Virginia Tech-William & Mary Over/Under: 52
Brian: Over, because William and Mary will score a touchdown in garbage time to push the score to 45-10. The defense will be so mad that they didn't get a shut out that they'll take out their aggression painfully against poor Scottie Montgommery and ECU the next week.
Joey: Let me start by saying that I can't envision a scenario in which William & Mary scores more than 10 points on Saturday. Given that undeniable fact, this line boils down to one question for me.
"Does Tech get to 42?"
"I have no clue."
Faced with that uncertainty, my brilliant gambling brain often pairs this kind of mismatch into a double bet that on the surface feels like a sure thing. The strategy is simple — take a big underdog (William & Mary +42) and the over, and you can't possibly lose both. (If Tech covers, you should hit the total running away. If William & Mary puts up a fight, the under likely hits but you take a boatload of points and go 1-1.)
Where you run into trouble — like clockwork, I might add — is when Tech wins 45-0 and you're left picking your nose wondering how you went 0-2.
Screw it, I'll take the over.
Spread: Virginia Tech (-42)
Brian: This seems high. To be perfectly honest, we had to make this up because we couldn't find a real line on a reliable oddsmaking website in time. But I stand by my guesses of vanilla playcalling and offensive mediocrity. Give me the Fighting Laycocks +42.
Joey: Already committed to it at this point, so I've got William & Mary +42. Don't @ me.
Disclaimer: Some of these are real betting lines, but many of them are fake and none of this is real advice that should be taken seriously.