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The Firelion’s Week 1 Picks: If It Seems Too Good to Be True, It Ain’t

Gambling is the future of sports. Don’t be the guy or gal from 2006 asking what people see in fantasy football. Much like the LaDainian Tomlinson deniers and that Kentucky lady who denied gay marriages, you’ll be on the wrong side of history! Nobody will be impressed by your ignorance or sympathetic to your stubbornness.

With states legalizing sports gambling faster than marijuana, you’ll be on the clock in no time. Let’s use the 2019 season to get down to it and learn the nitty gritty. I’m The Firelion and I’ll be your gambling guide. First off, three rules you must live by:

  1. You can’t make a living off gambling.
  2. You won’t be able to pay for your annual vacation with your winnings.
  3. You probably aren’t going to make money.

Then why, trustworthy Firelion? Why even do it? Well, it’s the same reason you pay for movies and water parks. Watching football without gambling is akin to watching Netflix at home. You could just queue up the Thursday night matchup of teenagers and see what happens. Or you could throw a quarter ($25) on it and feel like you’re watching IT Chapter Two on IMAX. Exhilarated. Terrified. Think of it as renting a team. Did you know the Ohio Bobcats can sometimes be fun to watch and can be your favorite team for 3 hours!? The possibilities are as plentiful as hard seltzer brands!

I’m not promising you that you’ll “get rich, kids.” There will be no blood bank guarantees or mortgage payoffs. The Firelion chooses only nationally televised games that you were going to glue yourself to anyhow. I’ll use my 17+ years of gambling experience to shepherd you through the darkness of unfamiliarity and into the Light of the Lines. Here’s the plan:

  1. Nationally televised games only
  2. I have the Down Field Stats team at my disposal, but – like every Gene Hackman coaching role would say – it’s about heart. And I’m nothing if not the Grinch after saving Christmas.
  3. Golden Rule: “If it seems too good to be true, it ain’t” – Lt. Aldo Raine

Florida Atlantic vs. Ohio State

• Saturday @ Noon ET on FOX
• Line: Ohio St. -27.5
• O/U: 63.5 points

New Buckeye skipper Ryan Day is going to want to show the world that there will not be a drop-off following the retirement of world-renowned family man and good guy Urban Meyer. I mean, if you didn’t cry when College Gameday showcased the note his daughter made him write or wrote him or something. Never mind, you get where the bit was going. That’s right! I have the testicular fortitude to not even finish my first joke from my first pick in my very first column!

Don’t overthink it. Go with Ohio State to cover the 27.5 and you have my blessing to take it, even if it climbs up to 28 or 28.5. Lane Kiffin will do his best to create offensive momentum, but count on a foggy head and red eyes from Joey Freshwater after doing what he does best in college towns on Friday night.

Duke vs. Alabama (game in Atlanta, GA)

• Saturday @ 3:30 p.m ET on CBS
• Line: Alabama -33.5
• O/U: 57.5 points

Time for another gambling rule! This one is, “What doesn’t make you look foolish?” Thirty-plus point spreads for a game always sets up for a garbage touchdown scored against third stringers to pull the game back from a 40-point loss to a narrow loss. But, much like betting against Tom Brady in the playoffs, is the prospect of winning against the powerhouse if there’s a decent possibility of a 52-0 blowout? Save yourself the Week 1 facepalm, keep your dignity, and find a good playlist to hide from Gary Danielson spending the second half gushing over Rick Neuheisel’s inevitable halftime guitar nonsense.

“So bet on Bama, wise Firelion?” Absolutely not. Duke can slow the game down with SEC veteran David Cutcliffe, senior QB Quentin Harris, and three upperclassmen in their defensive backfield. And with Alabama losing redshirt senior linebacker Joshua McMillon and stud Mike linebacker – the quarterback of the defense – Dylan Moses, the Tide’s defensive scheme may simplify a bit. Bama’s backup defense is better than every non-Clemson matchup on Duke’s schedule, but I’m banking on a conservative defense that limits turnover opportunities.

The play here is going for the under! It’s not nearly as fun as picking overs, of course, but it sure takes the bore out of watching a simplified game plan! And staying tuned to a 45-10 game late in the fourth quarter works especially well with the time slot due to the lack of overlapping games before the 7:30pm kickoffs.

Oregon vs. Auburn (game in Dallas, TX)

• Saturday @ 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
• Line: Auburn -3.5
• O/U: 55.5 points

What a head scratcher, right? Oregon is starting a Heisman candidate at quarterback behind an offensive line touted by many as top 5 in the country. Auburn? While returning all five starters on the O-line, you couldn’t pick a greener QB in true freshman Bo Nix. Jerry’s World in Dallas is among the brightest of stages in college football. At a capacity of 100,000, it houses roughly 13 times the amount of people that Nix’s entire hometown of Pinson, AL counts in its population of 7,542.

But remember Lt. Aldo Raine’s rule! If it feels to good to be true, it ain’t. Just keep fading Pac-12 teams in prime time until they prove you wrong. Auburn is the pick here.

Fresno State vs. USC

• Saturday @ 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
• Line: USC -13.5
• O/U: 52.5 points

Clay Helton is on a hot seat with a school that has less patience than Reggie Bush has Heisman trophies (that’s for that dumb ass pitchback in the ’06 Rose Bowl that cost you the game against Texas, which made me lose my bet AND skyrocketed Vince Young’s prospect high enough for him to get drafted by and derail my Titans for half a decade).

Gambling rule time! You don’t need financial incentives to hold a grudge. If you also hate USC, or any other team on the slate, you can just stay away. There’s nothing worse than losing money while your hated team cruises.

But that doesn’t mean you should ignore that USC’s next four games are 2 home games against ranked conference foes, Stanford and Utah, and road games against feisty BYU and Washington. You should also keep an eye on Fresno State’s QB and WR corps as not one of them started last year. Yikes.

Take USC this one time and this one time only!

Houston at Oklahoma

• Sunday @ 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
• Line: Oklahoma -24
• O/U: 82.5 points

Would you rather be a rapper from the ‘90s still trying to cut it in the modern hip-hop game or on a Big 12 defense? They both seem irrelevant amid industry booms. Even four-time defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma’s defense leaves their fans as solemn as pushing through a Juvenile album on New Release Friday.

They can’t make this over high enough. This game is our penance for sweating out that Bama-Duke under bet. We all know Oklahoma is in good hands with Tide transfer Jalen Hurts. But we also get to have fun cheering for quick scores at the hands of Houston’s returning savior, Dana Holgorsen. Prior to lighting up Big 12 scoreboards at West Virginia, Holgorsen captained the Case Keenum-era Air Raid offenses for the Cougars. Now he’s got QB D’Eriq King, the kid that broke Kyler Murray’s Texas high school passing record, as well as every skill position player on the team returning.

Hydrate extra hard on Sunday to ease your recovery on Monday. I, personally, swear by Pedialyte and then a touch of CBD oil in my coffee. Take the over.

Notre Dame at Louisville

• Monday @ 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
• Line: Notre Dame -20
• O/U: 54.5 points

You’re tired. You’re hungover. You wouldn’t even consider turning this game on in Week 5. And that’s why you need this column. So, I’ll make this quick:

  1. Louisville finished in the bottom three in overall team defense and the bottom 10 in overall team offense in 2018. Then they put up the worst recruiting class in the ACC. They only raked in 15 commits (only one 4-star) and only have one tight end on scholarship. Depth and talent seem to be a real issue.
  2. Notre Dame may have lost RB Dexter Williams and 2 of their top 4 wide receivers from last year. But returning starter Ian Book will look to repeat his 68% completion rate behind four returning offensive line starters, all of whom stand taller than 6’5” and tip the scales at more than 3 bills.
  3. The stats say it’s Notre Dame by a mile. But have you already forgotten that this column follows heart? Has the Too Good To Be True mantra faded behind the glow of Touchdown Jesus? Louisville is bringing in a first-year head coach from Appalachian State and will have a stadium full of Louisvillians that spent their Labor Day getting drunk on Jim Beam and excited to have the national spotlight once again. WE’RE GOING WITH THE CARDINALS, BAY-BAYYYYYYYYY!

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