Betting Stuff: A loaded Thanksgiving buffet awaits
Betting Stuff is a regular sports gambling column here at Saturday Down South with a focus on college football wagering (though don’t be surprised to see some non-college football insights from time to time). Did you know that sports betting is now legal in Tennessee? You can view the best Tennessee sportsbook apps here.
This is easily one of my favorite gambling weeks of the year. Sportsbooks are offering a cornucopia of action, mixing professional and college football with the first glimpse of college basketball.
So for this week, I’ll be offering up my gambling menu to match a standard Thanksgiving table — from the main course (Turkey/Top Play) down to the sketchy side dish your Aunt Edna made that isn’t 100% discernible (Creamed Onions? Long-Shot Prop Bet). Without further ado, let’s light this candle.
The Main Attraction 🦃
Basketball: Gonzaga-5.5 vs. Kansas (Ft. Myers, Fla.)
When: 1:30 p.m., Thursday
This point spread is meaningful for a couple of reasons. The first is that since taking over in Lawrence, Bill Self has never been an underdog of this size in a season-opener. This spread also represents Gonzaga’s solidification at the very top of the college basketball world. In just 2 decades, the Zags have gone from a plucky upstart to a regional power, and now they’re finally the preseason selection to win the national championship, according to the AP Poll. These former Cinderellas are now world-beaters and the gambling markets reflect that.
On the court, Gonzaga has become an assembly line for dominant frontcourt bigs. From Kelly Olynyk and Domantas Sabonis to Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura, the Bulldogs have been reliably stout in the paint. Last season, the three-headed frontcourt monster of Filip Petrusev, Corey Kispert and Killian Tillie combined for 45 points and 17 rebounds per game. Only Kispert returns this season, but Drew Timme is primed for a jump in minutes and production from the center position.
I have supreme confidence in Mark Few to reload at power forward and center, but this season feels different in the backcourt. A revolving door of transfers has infused enough talent to compete at the guard positions, but incoming 5-star freshman Jalen Suggs is simply on another level. Suggs is an otherworldly athlete who was also a 3-star dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school. He’s the highest-rated recruit in Gonzaga history and has a chance to lead GU in scoring from the jump.
On the other side, Kansas is in a bit of a transition entering this game with a roster that is slightly below its lofty standards. Marcus Garrett is being thrust into the alpha role, and while he may be the nation’s best perimeter defender, asking him to carry the ick: offense may be too much for a senior who has never scored more than 9.2 points per game in a season. As has been the case with KU teams in recent years, you want to draw the Jayhawks in an early-season matchup as opposed to February or March. Bill Self will need to tinker with his lineup to maximize their offensive potential, so I’m comfortable fading them out of the starting blocks against a Gonzaga team brimming with offensive potential.
Star Sides 🌽🥔🥐
College football: Notre Dame-5 @ North Carolina (67)
When: 3:30 p.m. on Black Friday
For all of the number-crunching that takes place in the sports gambling space, it’s often frowned upon to bring up the notion of luck. Fans and bettors alike don’t want to admit that a large portion of the sport they love can be subject to complete and utter randomness. But when it comes to college football, turnover margin and by extension, turnover luck, plays an outsized role in who wins and who loses each week.
Now, to upset an excellent team like Notre Dame, you need to play well and catch a few lucky breaks. North Carolina has the offense to stay in this game for 60 minutes, opening the door for a lucky bounce or penalty to go their way. The Tar Heels are top 15 in points and yards per game. Drilling down further, UNC is 6th in yards per play, and top 5 in explosive plays in excess of 10, 20, and 30 yards from scrimmage. They can beat you through the air or on the ground and know how to turn it up a notch in the second half (21.5 2H ppg, 9th).
On defense, it would appear they’re due to see an uptick in takeaways. The Tar Heels have recovered just 2 fumbles this season, which is the 2nd-fewest of any team that has played 7 or more games. Given their offensive efficiency and explosiveness, winning the turnover margin against the Irish would translate directly to points.
But the real reason I’m backing the underdog on Black Friday is their quarterback. Sam Howell has played against 3 ranked opponents in his career and was within a 2-point conversion against No. 1 Clemson of beating them all. In those 3 contests, he accounted for 7 total touchdowns and 0 turnovers. The stage won’t be too big for him on Friday.
Pick: North Carolina ML+175
College basketball: UNC Greensboro-3.5 vs. Little Rock
When: 7 p.m. on Black Friday
Take my word for it when I say that this matchup is worth your time. The Spartan Showdown features two teams that will likely go dancing come March, and their rosters are filled with intriguing talent. UNCG’s Isaiah Miller is a two-way superstar capable of dropping 30 points or generating a one-man full-court press (2.8 steals per game). Greensboro’s head coach Wes Miller is 104-34 in his last 4 years and is a March Madness trip away from landing a Power Conference job.
On the Little Rock side, I’m tuning in for Ruot Monyyong. The skinny big (6-10, 190 pounds) is a personified block party. The Nashville native rejected 62 shots last season and will shut things down in the lane on Friday night. Come for the Isaiah Miller show, stay for a Little Rock upset.
Pick: Little Rock ML+130
Untouched Side Dish 😱
NFL: Baltimore @ Pittsburgh-5.5 (44.5)
Diontae Johnson, Mark Andrews & Marquise Brown All to Score TDs (17:1)
When: Rescheduled for Sunday
Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. Be that the mystery side dish or tailing a team that has lost 3 of its last 4 games. Add in the fact that I’m counting on a TD from a player who just laid a goose egg last week (Hollywood Brown) and it’s easy to dismiss this prop bet as a born loser. But here’s the thing. The first 2 players on this touchdown parlay are integral parts of their respective offenses. Diontae Johnson has a whopping 37 targets in the past 3 weeks. Mark Andrews has 6 touchdowns in 10 games this season, but more importantly, he has 13 red-zone targets, which is good for 15th in the entire NFL. Can Hollywood Brown come through and complete this parlay if Johnson and Andrews punch in receiving touchdowns? I think it’s certainly possible, and it doesn’t hurt that one of his two touchdowns this season came against Pittsburgh just a month ago.
Pick: Johnson, Andrews, Brown all score (17:1)
Please Reset Your System
A late-game pick-6 was a bad omen for the NCAA ‘14 simulation series last week. Appalachian State’s late-game collapse set the stage for the series’ first 0-3 week, dragging its overall performance down to 14-11 (56%) on the season. But in the immortal words of Meek Mill, “scared money, don’t make no money.”
So we’re back this week with a four-pack of picks that I have selected and then run through the EA Sports simulation. Let’s have a look:
The letdown factor was alive and well for the Indiana Hoosiers after coming up just short in their “Game of the Century” showdown with Ohio State last week in Columbus. Maryland took a lead into the locker room at halftime before a pair of 4th-quarter turnovers torpedoed their upset chances. Taulia Tagovailoa won the quarterback battle (404 total yards, 3 TDs), but his Terps lost the war, 38-30.
The Crimson Tide have been merciless in the past 2 games, winning by a margin of 104-3. Auburn has more punch offensively than Mississippi State and UK combined, but that wasn’t enough to keep pace with the Alabama offense (though Nick Saban wasn’t watching from home in the simulation). Mac Jones bounced back from a quiet game against UK, with a massive stat-sheet stuffer of a performance (423 total yards, 6 TDs). Bo Nix was knocked out of the game in the second quarter, forcing Grant Loy into action. It didn’t go well. Alabama 56, Auburn 20.
On my old podcast, we used to refer to games like NW-MSU as blanket games. Bet the under and then place a thick blanket over the television so you don’t have to watch these offenses struggle. The simulation aligned with my read on the game. The Wildcats and Spartans combined for just 406 total yards and 17 (!!) punts. The Wildcats, currently No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings, survived this trip to East Lansing 20-9.
If those popgun offenses made you sad, the Egg Bowl is certain to put a smile back on your face. Mississippi State finally showed signs of life last week and carried their offensive momentum into this one. Despite the lofty closing number, the Rebels and Bulldogs blew past the 68-point threshold, settling in the upper 80s. After a 49-42 victory, Lane Kiffin now has a chance to end his first year in Oxford with a winning SEC conference record should they defeat LSU on the road in their season-finale.
As promised, now that MAC play has shifted from its hallowed midweek time slot to Saturdays for the remainder of the season, I’m here to offer up my favorite parlay.
Central Michigan @ Eastern Michigan+7
Northern Illinois @ Western Michigan Under 65
Kent State+7.5 @ Buffalo
Eastern Michigan is 24-9 as an underdog since 2016, a trend I’m happy to tail in this spot. Northern Illinois remains a work in progress on offense and cold and windy conditions at WMU shouldn’t do them any favors on Saturday. And finally, Kent State. Yes, the Golden Flashes are a sizable underdog in this spot, but their offense has been a revelation through three games. Kent is averaging 52.5 points per game and has the firepower to keep pace in this MAC East matchup. If you’re feeling really gutsy, playing Kent on the moneyline in this spot bumps the parlay up from 6:1 to 11:1.