By REED NELSON
Note: This is not necessarily a “Picks” column, rather a brief team-by-team analysis of preseason future bets. If you enjoy gambling, this might be for you. If you have an addictive personality, this might be for you. If you have been making a head-nodding motion to the last two “if’s”, this is certainly for you, but probably shouldn’t be.
And a quick set of guidelines for gambling-related pieces: Don’t blame the author for losses; totally not cool. Don’t think that the author is taking all of these bets either. You can be sure that the author is taking all bets marked with a AAA rating, but you can’t be sure that he isn’t getting reckless and playing Oregon State’s over because the money was right. A AAA is the closest you can get to a guarantee, but the only guarantee it provides is that the author is taking the bet. He will post his pay stubs/receipts/casino tickets, depending on how the bet is filed. He will not be making his bookie write a receipt, however. That would be rude. For those wagers, you’ll just have to trust him (Here’s a hint: If he’s joking, he probably won. If his rhetoric favors the damned, the fiery or the brimstone, he did not fare so well.). If nothing else, you can follow the ups and downs of an enthusiastic (he dislikes the term compulsive) college football gambler.
Oh, and if you find yourself salivating over the opening week matchup between South Alabama and Texas-San Antonio, because, like, ‘San Antonio is getting 6. 6. Can you believe that?’, you should probably not be reading this; you’re in over your head and you should probably get some sleep. Or help. Or both. Preferably both.
Welcome to Keanu Knows Best, a section devoted to gambling, inspired by our adolescent gambling king, the hard-on-his-luck Miami-by-4-and-Chicago-covers! man himself, Keanu Reeves (more on this at a later juncture. Don’t worry.)
This is Part 1 of a two-part over/under future’s series. If you can call a two-parter a series. We’ll call it a mini-series, or maybe a To Be Continued… But the split isn’t Newsroom-inspired, just more of a geographic consideration. The North goes first, and, just for fun, I have assigned ratings to the individual bets. But these aren’t just any ratings, these particular ratings were devised to assess the most important markets in the world, rate things like AIG. So, without further ado, I proudly introduce you to… The Moody’s NCAA Future’s Ratings! That’s right! The wonderful folks at the prestigious Moody’s Investor Service have kindly lent their expert dispensation to us for this very purpose.
Or, because Eddie Murphy has taught us all that Wall Street executives sound “like a couple of bookies”, we’ll just use their odds-making service to assess the volatility of preseason NCAA Futures. Either way, know this: A AAA rating means it is a safe bet. Just as a “AAA” bond credit rating meant a nearly-guaranteed return, a “AAA” rating on a future is a good bet and a tough rating to earn. A “AA” might have higher returns than “AAA”, but it is far from guaranteed. A “A” is toxic. It could go either way, and the returns are usually in the same ballpark as a “AAA.” If you are choosing to use this as a guide (rather than the suggested usage, in which the reader uses this as a way to vicariously gamble, and lose, through me) than stick with the AA’s and AAA’s, I know I will.
(All odds from the LiveLines at 5dimes.com)
Cal — Over/Under: 7.5 (+260/-380) ***
OVER— AA RATING
High risk, high return. Eight Cal wins yields returns of +260, so its an odds thing. Odds-wise however, she’s a ten. At least five regular season games should feature Cal as a double-digit favorite, but —altogether now— they’ll be double-digit-dogs at USC and against Oregon. Opening against Nevada is no picnic, not to mention tough games at Utah and Ohio State. The swing games then become Washington and Stanford, both at home. If you like Jeff Tedford enough to think he wants to keep his job (or if you just think Jeff Tedford wants to keep his job), then take the over. Otherwise, -380 is a steep price to pay for a middle-of-the-Pac-12 squad slated to win seven games.
Oregon — Over/Under: 10.5 (+120/-160)
OVER— AAA RATING
This is a bet I will be taking. In Chip Kelly’s three years in Eugene, the Ducks have averaged 10.67 wins a season. They could travel down to Los Angeles, pour cold oatmeal in their cleats, put their pads on backwards and break our hearts for a second straight season… and still be in a position to win the 11 games they (or, more applicably, I) need in order to cover. The +120 money line doesn’t hurt either.
Oregon State — Over/Under: 4.5 (-280/+200)
UNDER— A RATING
This is a tough bet to play either way. If there was a way to win 4.5 games in college football, I’d actually consider the push, but the nifty college overtime rules have taken care of any indecision in that department. The Beavers last three games come at Stanford, then home against Cal and Oregon. If they don’t have their five wins by Nov. 3 (a 5-4 record), it’ll be a legendary cover if they manage to pull it off. “Legendary” and “Corvallis” go together like sardines and peanut butter. Stay away.
Stanford — Over/Under: 7.5 (-155/+115)
OVER— AA RATING
By no means is an eight-win 2012 Stanford team a mortal lock, even after crashing back-to-back BCS parties with At-Large credentials. They lost the best college quarterback since (Insert superstar here) and a brilliant coach in the last two seasons. They should be in shambles, but thanks to rock-solid recruiting (‘Sup Barry Sanders Jr.???) and what experts call “The Really Smart Kid” effect, Stanford doesn’t look to be headed toward the Pac-12 cellar anytime soon. They open with kickball games against San Jose State and Duke, and get Oregon State and Washington State at home. Throw in a road game at hapless Colorado, and and the Cardinal should have five games locked. Throw out the Usual Suspects, and David Shaw’s (an outstanding coach, by the way) team just needs to find three wins in the pile of what-ifs. That pile includes a home game against the Arizona RichRods, and road games at Cal, Notre Dame, Washington and UCLA. Stanford goes 3-2 in those games, which they should, then they cover.
Washington — Over/Under: 7.5 (+175/-210)
UNDER— AAA RATING
The spreads at LSU (Sept. 8), at Oregon (Oct. 6) and home against USC could total 50 points, so count the Huskies 0-3 before the schedule opens. To cover, they need to post an 8-1 record in other games. While they should take care of home contests against San Diego State and Portland State, they also have to deal with tough Utah and Stanford teams at home, and clear a road schedule that includes Cal and Arizona. Washington has a tough road to eight wins, and if things go even slightly sideways in the first six weeks, the under could cash by Oct. 13.
Washington State — Over/Under: 5.5 (+120/-160)
OVER— AA RATING
Mike Leach might have given the media-starved Cougar faithful something to talk about this offseason, but it didn’t exactly do wonders on the ol’ recruiting trail. But, even after assembling a recruiting class with the assistance gum and paperclips, under the right circumstances WSU could start 3-1. They avoid USC (good), but catch Stanford and Utah on the road (bad). If the money was better, this would be a fun bet to play. The Pirate is back in college football, and his track record — for winning at least — is rock solid. They could easily steal games in Tempe (untested everything) and Corvallis (not a grand heist by any means) and find a way to beat Washington or UCLA at home, and be six-game winner. And they could easily act like a dog with worms, and drag there ass in a circle for the first four weeks and show up in Eugene 1-3 with their lone victory coming against Eastern Washington in a nail-biter at home. Did I mention I’m happy to have Leach back?
Coming soon: Moody’s Ratings: Pac-12 South