The Golden Nugget threw college football gamblers their annual summer bone last week with the release of point spreads for some of the biggest games of the upcoming season. We got 'em, so let's smoke 'em.
Here are BH's five favorite way-too-early bets based on the opening lines set by the Nugget:
Sept. 27: TCU (-10) at SMU
The more that I study TCU, the more I'm starting to like the Horned Frogs. Gary Patterson's defense has loads of experience, including a solid secondary that is built specifically to combat air-it-out offenses a la June Jones' Ponies. On offense, Matt Joeckel is no Andy Dalton, but you can't get much worse than what TCU had under center last season.
With SMU coming off a game with Texas A&M the week before, it puts the Pony Express in a tough spot.
Hopefully I'm not ignoring some kind of bourgeois Dallas socialite rivalry. Even if I am, that doesn't sound like much heat to me.
The pick: Round of Cosmos on the Greenville Gang.
Nov. 8: Ohio State (+1) at Michigan State
If they were playing this game a few weeks earlier, I'd like MSU. Gotta get the young Buckeyes early this season. The Scarlet and Grey offensive line looks awfully green, but the newcomers should be plenty ripe by November.
A vengeful Urban Meyer will be looking to shove a Papa John's personal pizza – garlic sauce and all – down Mark Dantonio's gullet when the Buckeyes travel to East Lansing in November. He'll get some pepperoni-powered payback against an over-valued opponent.
The pick: OSU by 7. Eat well, Sparty.
Oct. 4: Stanford at Notre Dame (+6)
Speaking of overvalued, what about Sparty's Rose Bowl foe from last year?
ND has some holes in key spots, but I really like the newcomers recruited by Brian Kelly to fill them. With dual-threat QB Everett Golson back to run the show after some classroom shenanigans, the Fighting Irish could become one of this season's biggest surprises.
The pick: ND outright.
Aug. 30: Alabama vs. West Virginia (+27.5)
'Bama continues to get the respect befitting the most talented squad in the country coached by an all-time great. I've written previously about my concerns about the 2014 Crimson Tide, though. With Jacob Coker, presumably, finding his bearings at quarterback, the Tide could struggle to get rolling on offense against a West Virginia D that is saltier than most realize.
Of course, the Mountaineers' general level of offensive ineptitude makes this something of a risky proposition, but here's hoping Holgo has a little something special cooked up.
The pick: Tide by not enough.
Sept. 13: Tennessee at Oklahoma (-19)
Butch Jones has upped the talent level at UT, but I expect his unproven Volunteers to get off to a rocky start. We're talking about a team that is replacing its entire offensive and defensive lines, after all.
OU has a front seven that will be among the most difficult to block in the country and an offensive line that is stocked with experience, so you can see the problems mounting for the Vols. Jones will be taking his team on the road for the first time in '14, too, and a primetime date in Norman makes for a tough way to start.
Count on Bob Stoops wanting to make a statement against an SEC team in his team's marquee non-conference game.
The pick: Boomer Sooner 41, Rocky Top 13.