Stanford Steve and The Bear: College football picks and best bets for 2021
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"Stanford Steve" Coughlin and Chris "The Bear" Fallica preview the college football season as only they can, offering their top bets, nuggets and totals worth wagering on.
Note: Conference-only win totals from South Point. All other lines from Caesars Sportsbook.
This is a creative way to play North Carolina to win the ACC at better odds than they currently are, or would be, on the money line in a potential ACC championship game versus Clemson. The Tar Heels might be a bit trendy, but the entire O-line is back, Josh Downs
is a star in the making at WR, the RB should be fine and the defense will be much improved. UNC might be favored in every game; we'll see how the Notre Dame season/potential line plays out. If UNC is 12-1 and beats Clemson in the ACC championship game, it would mean Howell was a huge reason why, and I would expect him to be the Heisman Trophy front-runner with all the momentum at that point.
With the opportunity the Cincinnati schedule brings this year -- which includes national TV games at Indiana and at Notre Dame -- I think Ridder has the ability to shine in those contests and become a Heisman favorite. He will be directly tied to the team's success this year, and I think the Bearcats will have a very successful season. Totally worth a shot at that price.
I do like the hire of new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, but there is no letup in the schedule. They start the season in Madison, Wisconsin, and also have to go to Iowa and Ohio State. They do get Indiana at home, and the white-out game will be versus Auburn. But when you look at the roster, the lack of depth and experience at QB worries me. I love Sean Clifford
-- just love the way he plays with reckless abandon. He's as tough as they come. But now with Will Levis
transferring to Kentucky, the Lions don't have a quarterback with one snap of college football experience behind Clifford. Plus, only 11 guys remain on the roster from that great 2018 recruiting class. I love what PSU has coming in for future years, but I'll take under nine wins this year.
Even if the Ducks lose in Columbus, Ohio, 9-3 is a worst-case scenario, and I think 10-2 is still very likely. Joe Moorhead will have plenty of weapons at his disposal on the offensive side of the ball. Kayvon Thibodeaux
and Noah Sewell
will give opposing offenses tons of problems. Maybe the Ducks get tripped up on the road in Seattle or Salt Lake City, but this roster is better than any Pac-12 team they will face.
Outside of the Youngstown State and Western Kentucky games, I can't assume a win anywhere for MSU. It's far from a given the Spartans will win at Northwestern, Rutgers or Purdue. And it's far from a given they win at home versus Maryland or Nebraska. Some transfers were brought in to help both the defense and the QB position, but this was a program on the decline prior to 2020, and last year showed how far the talent level has fallen. I can see the Spartans sitting on four wins when they host Maryland, and that would offer an opportunity to figure out how you want to play it.
When you look at the schedule, I see five guaranteed wins versus Sacramento State, Washington State, Colorado, Oregon State and Arizona. So, between Nevada, USC, at Stanford and at UCLA, the Bears need two wins to hit the over and one win to push. I'll take my chances with those. I do have them losing at Oregon (even though the Ducks were defeated by the Bears last year) and at Washington. The Bears only have to replace four starters. They have been plenty successful when QB Chase Garbers
is on the field. And you would have think they will finally rank higher than the 100's in offense under Justin Wilcox. I even see improvement on the defense, with Wilcox's college teammate Peter Sirmon coming into call the signals. It's tough for me to say this, but I expect the Bears to be over .500 this year.
There is so much to love about this Chestnut Hill squad this year! First, the schedule: No Notre Dame, no North Carolina and no Miami. The offensive line returns all five. The QB, Phil Jurkovec
, looked pretty damn good last year with not having spring ball and barely knowing if he was going to be eligible until right before the season commenced. The Eagles have great talent at the wide receiver position with Zay Flowers
along with transfers Jaelen Gill
and Alec Sinkfield
. Expect a monster season from Jacksonville State TE transfer Trae Barry
. I truly trust Jeff Hafley when it comes to defense, and I also love the fact the Eagles went toe-to-toe with Clemson last year. Now the Eagles haven't won eight games since 2009, but I expect nine or 10 victories this year.
This team returns talent all over the field, including 21 starters. They have a great coach in Jason Candle, and the Rockets have plenty to add to the 35 points per game they averaged last year. The defense has possible NFL players in safety Tycen Anderson
, who finished second on the team with 34 tackles last season, and veteran Samuel Womack
, who is among the league's top corners. You add to that back-end talent with all-MAC LB Dyontae Johnson
, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior who led the Rockets with 47 tackles to go with a sack and 4.5 tackles for loss last season. I expect big things in the Glass Bowl this year!
They have a huge opener, as they host my beloved Stanford Cardinal
at Jerry World in Arlington, Texas, but I do expect the Wildcats to win that game. In fact, I expect them to start out 3-0 and then back to reality the next 3 games, against Iowa State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Health will be a factor, as people forget that they were undefeated in league play last year. That included a win over Oklahoma for the second straight year. But then-starting QB Skylar Thompson
went down with a season-ending injury. Now that injury provided great experience for then-true freshman QB Will Howard
, so the Wildcats are way ahead of last year at the QB position. They do return every offensive lineman who started a game last year, and the back end of the schedule has some very winnable games. Big year in Manhattan. We'll take the over!
We will know if this is a winner or loser before Halloween, as the Huskies end the season with games at Clemson, at UCF and hosting Houston at "The Rent". Even though they opted out of the 2020 season, I have to think Randy Edsall can beat Yale, Holy Cross and UMass. That's all we need, those three. Go Huskies!