Late Friday morning in Las Vegas, first day of major league baseball playoffs. Bettors are starting to roll in at the MGM Mirage to place their bets for the afternoon ball games and Saturday’s college football as they arrive to Sin City for the weekend.
As per usual at just about any book, the real flood of money has yet to flow in as bettors ponder who’s mascot head Lee Corso will don this week.
But there is a bit of a drip coming in on one team. It’s a squad you might not expect that’s making some noise in college football and bettors are starting to believe with their wallets.
I’m talking about Northwestern. The school better known for its brainiacs than its football maniacs is now 5-0 straight up and against the spread, meaning the Wildcats are tied as the most profitable school for college football bettors. You know, along with the usuals like San Jose State, Western Kentucky and Fresno State. Of course.
Northwestern sat as a 3-point road underdog at Penn State as of Friday afternoon and the question is: Are these guys as legit as their SAT scores?
“They really know how to hang in a football game,” says Johnny Avello, executive director of race & sports at the Wynn in Las Vegas.
“I’ve liked Northwestern the last two or three years,” says MGM Mirage sportsbook director Jay Rood. “(Head coach Pat Fitzgerald) squeezes every last drop out of them. Most people probably haven’t caught onto that yet – which is good for us.”
The wildcat may be out of the bag now. But there’s another problem to handicap – Northwestern typically stinks in October. The Wildcats are 10-15 in October and 36-17 in the other three months of the regular season in Fitzgerald’s seven years at NW.
And then there’s that thing about the drops and the squeezing and this is a detail not lost on the man holding the vise grips.
"October's our month," Fitzgerald told the Daily Northwestern. "We talked about it in the offseason. We talked about a plan of time managing better, of making sure we get done what we need to get done when we need to get it done, being professional in how we approach it and really challenging our leaders to get the guys in and not let the NCAA hold them back."
Count me in as a believer. Taking Northwestern +3 as my first pick this week.
I’m coming off my best performance of the year last week (3-0-1) to put me at 11-8-1 on the season.
West Virginia at Texas (-7, 74)
“I don’t know if this one will turn out to be like the Baylor game because of Texas’ defense,” says Avello.
It’s hard to imagine anything turning out to be like the Baylor game last week when Geno Smith went video-game and threw for 656 yards and 8 touchdowns in a carnival ride that saw 133 points scored. But Avello said it wouldn’t surprise him if it did up being high scoring – especially if they pile on a bunch late if the game gets a little out of reach.
Highest total on the board this week. I gotta think it’s inflated a little.
Pick: under 74
LSU vs. Florida (+3, 42)
Most of the straight action is on Florida for this game at the Wynn and most of the parlay action is on LSU.
Even though LSU has chowed down on a handful of cupcakes to start the season, Avello says he isn’t convinced a greatly-improved Florida team is quite of the same caliber as LSU just yet.
Pick: LSU -3
Iowa State at TCU (-7, 41.5)
The best thing that happened for bettors in this game is that Casey Pachall rolled through that stop sign Thursday night. Now you can get the Frogs at -7 instead of -14 where they opened.
Pick: TCU -7