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Hedge your bets with Scott: Sports picks of the week

Graphic illustration titled "Trash Talk" for the sports desk depicting different sports equipment
(Graphic illustration by Rachel Macias | The Collegian)

Slowly, we are encroaching on one of my favorite seasons of the year. Is it because classes are almost over or that the holiday season is near, you ask? Neither. 

This is the time of the year when football and basketball seasons overlap, resulting in college and professional games in both sports running rampant on our screens over the next couple of months. The sports fanatic in me is excited; the gambler in me is very worried. You see, over fall break I was very much in the giving spirit. Unfortunately, this mainly materialized in the form of me giving my money to sportsbooks because I could not cash a bet to save my life. 

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Now that the column is back up and running, hopefully the tides will turn. Taking into account the last edition, which was published prior to fall break, the column currently has a record 17-18, with the parlay standing at a measly 1-3. In order to make up for a week of absence, we’ll have a couple of college football picks, a couple of college basketball picks and the elusive NFL Sunday parlay.

Unfortunately for college basketball, DraftKings does not offer updated spread, moneyline or over/under lines multiple days out from tipoff, so while I will have some picks, the odds will remain unknown. Also, like many other sports, college basketball has been subject to frequent cancellations due to COVID-19-related complications, so do not be surprised if one or more of these games ends up getting canceled or rescheduled. 

Sports betting has provided me with added levels of entertainment but only because I bet within my means. If you feel you need help, call the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700.

College Football

Utah State University Aggies vs. Colorado State University Rams

Spread: USU +13.5, CSU -13.5
Moneyline: USU +380, CSU -530
Over/Under: 53.5 points

Both Utah State University and Colorado State University have just one win apiece this season, so while this game will not have any playoff ramifications, it will be very significant in terms of morale heading into next season. Only four wins, in favor of the Rams, separate these two teams in the history of their rivalry. However, Utah State is on a two-year win streak, having beaten the Rams in 2018 and 2019, according to Winsipedia. 

Although recent history may be on the side of Utah State, this season, the team is averaging just 18.9 points per game. The Colorado State Rams are just two spots above them, averaging 22.3 points per game. However, I think it’s fair to argue that Colorado State has explosiveness on its side. Dante Wright and Trey McBride are receiving powerhouses, and A’Jon Vivens and Marcus McElroy Jr. have shown flashes of rushing dominance throughout the season. 

This is bad news for a struggling Utah State defense, which is giving up 235.5 rushing yards and 256.8 passing yards per game. In both categorical statistics, they are ranked second to last in the Mountain West Conference.

Verdict: CSU -7.5 points. I chose an alternate spread here because even though all signs point to CSU, 13.5 points is a lot. The offense is explosive, but this season it has not always been consistent, which results in the cautious alternate spread choice here. 

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Rutgers University Scarlet Knights vs. University of Maryland Terrapins 

Spread: Rutgers +8, Maryland -8
Moneyline: Rutgers +220, Maryland -278
Over/Under: 58 points

Statistically, Rutgers University and University of Maryland are about as even as it comes. Rutgers is allowing 423.4 yards per game, while Maryland averages a little higher at 442.8 yards per game. However, Rutgers is scoring 27.4 points per game, while Maryland falls slightly below, scoring 23.5 points per game. 

The difference in this game will come down to how Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa plays. If Tagovailoa plays up to the level seen in his wins against the University of Minnesota and Penn State University, the Scarlet Knights’ secondary will be in for a long day.

Both teams have had chances to topple some college football giants but have ultimately come away with somewhat mixed seasons. That being said, the ability of Rutgers and Maryland to cover the spread this year as some huge underdogs has been immaculate. 

Verdict: Rutgers +8. This pick might come back to bite me, but I have faith in the Scarlet Knights. They have played some very uncharacteristically good football this year, and while I think Tagovailoa is a great quarterback and Maryland will probably win this game, I think these teams are just too close in comparison to warrant a victory of larger than eight points. 

College Basketball

Colorado State University Pueblo ThunderWolves vs. Colorado State University Rams 

This will be the first opportunity to see the Colorado State University men’s basketball team in action, as it suffered a couple cancellations already this year. The Rams have retained a lot of their roster from their exciting 20-12 season last year.  The Colorado State University Pueblo ThunderWolves are coming off a record of 11-2 from last year and as of now, will have games against Adams State University and the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs prior to coming to Moby Arena on Saturday.

Of the ThunderWolves’ four players who averaged over 10 points per game during the 2019-2020 season, only two — David Simental and Bryce Sanchious — will be returning. In contrast, the Rams will have Isaiah Stevens, David Roddy and Adam Thistlewood returning, all of whom averaged 10 points or more per game last season. 

Verdict: CSU. While we may not know entirely what to expect of this year’s CSU team, I am confident head coach Niko Medved’s squad will start strong and be able to build off of its success from last year. 

University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. University of Kentucky Wildcats

The University of Kentucky Wildcats have gotten off to a very rocky start. Despite being ranked #10 in week 1 of the AP top 25 poll, they have lost three games straight and since fallen out of the rankings. While the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish may not have the record to back it up, they may have just had their best game of the season thus far. They lost to an undefeated Ohio State University by five points after leading them by eight at the half

For Kentucky, this will be a game that either firmly establishes their downfall this season should they lose to the Fighting Irish or indicates that they are back on the right track of their winning ways. For the Irish, this will be an opportunity for them to show that they can complete in games against significant opponents. 

Verdict: Kentucky. I think Kentucky bounces out of its rut and gains an important win for team morale. Notre Dame will play up to the challenge, so definitely consider them to cover the spread if they are the underdogs, but ultimately, I think the Wildcats squeak this one out. 

NFL Sunday Parlay

The National Football League saw some insane results in their most recent slate of games. The New York Giants upset the Seattle Seahawks, and the Washington Football Team dethroned the then undefeated Pittsburgh Stealers to name a few. As the playoff race begins to tighten going into the final few weeks, expect more unpredictability as teams rise to the occasion in order to make a bid for their spot. 

Washington Football Team +3.5 points with odds of -114, Arizona Cardinals -2.5 points with odds of -109, New Orleans Saints/Philadelphia Eagles over 44.5 with odds of -110.

These three picks combine for odds of +589, meaning if you bet $5 you will return $34.47. Lets see if the first parlay of December starts off the holiday season with something to take to the bank. 

Scott Nies can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @scott_nies98.

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