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The Firelion’s Week 3 Picks: Keep Faith in the Gambling Gospel

Each week, The Firelion uses his eyes and heart to pick college football winners against the spread. But he doesn’t make you follow Ball St. on ESPN+. The Firelion wants to add even more enjoyment to your college football watching by only picking nationally televised games. Read on down to see which teams you should rent to be your favorite team this weekend!

What We Learned

2019 Season Record: 5-8

Looks like the ole Firelion overreacted to Week 1 again. You get so dang excited about football and it just gets in your head and you think Boise State is going to at least have the “well, why can’t they play” narratives come playoff time. You assume Florida State, UCLA, and Tennessee just had minor blips in the road. Week 2 is tough, but there’s no time to cry about it! No need to lose the faith in the Gambling Gospel just yet!

Here’s exactly what we did learn:

Loss (Boise St. -7) –  Boise St. 14 – Marshall 7: The Broncos’ hangover after a road win over FSU in Week 1 looked more like still being drunk. Full of good energy that was wildly impressive until they puked on the carpet, repeatedly. They racked up 437 yards of offense, but all those yards only led to 2 touchdowns, including kneel downs on the Marshall 5 yard line to close out the game. Never underestimate the football hangover. But I’m riding the Broncos all season long.

Win – (Ohio St. -16) – Ohio St. 42 – Cincinnati 0: Ohio State did exactly what we expected… delivered an ass whooping against a Cincinnati team that was overrated after a Week 1 win against deflating UCLA.

Win – (Under 47) – Michigan 24 – Army 21: The Under in the Michigan/Army team seemed inevitable late in the 4th until Army battled on to take the game into overtime. But we somehow escaped under a cloud of incompetence. A win is a win, as we’ll find out with the rest of Saturday’s slate.

Loss – (Clemson -17) – Clemson 24 – Texas A&M 10: Boy does that backdoor burn. Up 21 with 7:00 left in the game, the Clemson backups did not back down. Texas A&M needed all but six seconds to punch in the final touchdown. Gross.

Loss – (Tennessee -3.5) – BYU 29 – Tennessee 26: I didn’t think about the bad karma of serving alcohol for the first time against such a kind people. Vols fans can get back in good graces by living up to their namesakes at local homeless kitchens, animal shelters, children’s sporting events, Habitat for Humanity, or basically anything open on Saturdays.

Loss – (LSU -5.5) – LSU 45 – Texas 38: The Longhorns made it a 6-point game with a field goal with 4 minutes in the game and got LSU to a 3rd and 17 before Bengal Tigers QB Joe Burrows made a contender for Play of the Year and parade waved his way back to Baton Rouge.

Well, hell.

The Week Ahead

(All lines courtesy of MyBookie.ag)

We’re not getting sucked into the shiny tricks that turned our early celebratory mimosas into blubbering, feelings-hiding shots of well whiskey. The season is settling in like overconfident strangers in a hotel hot tub. Like college football, little gratification is ever gained in these sweltering cesspools, but we convince ourselves of its luxury anyways. So add some chlorine to the spa and some liquor to your cups as we forge forward toward another week of predicting the lives of college kids!

North Carolina at Wake Forest (UNC 2-0 Straight Up (SU), 2-0 Against the Spread (ATS) & Wake 2-0 SU, 0-1-1 ATS)

  • Friday Night @ 6:00 pm ET on ESPN
  • Line: Wake Forest -3
  • O/U: 66

There aren’t many better stories in this early season than the return of Mack Brown to North Carolina, especially with upsets over border-rival South Carolina and Dallas Cowboys-like hype machine Miami Hurricanes. Now they must travel to an in-state foe, Wake Forest, on a weekday night where the Demon Deacons look to play their third consecutive Friday contest.

While freshman Tarheel QB Sam Howell has been getting the praise for early high-profile wins, his Wake Forest counterpart, Jamie Newman, has been carving it up with a 74% completion rate with 714 yards, six touchdowns (plus one rushing), and nary a turnover.

Watching Mack Brown dance after his Week 1 win was the public equivalent of your grandparents’ Facebook pages, terrible and sweet and embarrassing and fun. Rooting against him Friday night won’t be easy. But Wake has only played Friday night games so far! The UNC fairy tale has to end at some point, might as well be when nobody’s watching. Take Wake -3.

Arkansas St. at (3) Georgia (ASU 1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS & UGA 2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS)

  • Saturday @ Noon ET on ESPN2
  • Line: Georgia -33
  • O/U: 58

Gone are the Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn days over in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The Red Wolves, while still being perennial Sun Belt contenders, aren’t keeping up with the big boys anymore. Losses last year to Alabama (57-7) and in 2016 at Auburn (51-14) are more about keeping that athletic budget hefty enough to continue to win conference titles.

And Arkansas State now runs into a Georgia team pegged to continue its rise to dominance, averaging 521 yards, 25 first downs, and 46.5 points per game. The Bulldogs came up just four points shy of covering their absurd -49.5 point spread last week against Murray State. Oh, and their defense is giving up 11.5 points per game. Seems like a recipe for a cover! Unless you’ve been on our train. We’ve gotten burned by back doors. We’ve been molded by defeat.

We know Georgia is going to take their starters out early with the upcoming monster rematch with Notre Dame next week. The Red Wolves can put tallies on the board — 73 combined against Southern Methodist and UNLV — so surely they can manage 20 points with their veteran offense – two senior playmaking wide receivers led by a junior QB – and turn a 52-20 loss into a win for the Firelion! Take the dawg, no not the fat one that needs a bed of ice to stay alive, the underdog Arkansas State at +33.

New Mexico at (7) Notre Dame (NM 1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS & Notre Dame 1-0 SU,0-1 ATS)

  • Saturday @ 2:30pm ET on NBC
  • Line: Notre Dame -34.5
  • O/U: 63.5

It’s been two weeks since either of these teams have played football. It’s like that Labor Day holiday coming in the second week of the school year; it’s fun, but we’d rather have it in October. The Lobos needed that week very much after needing to bench their starting quarterback Brandt Hughes, who threw for a 41% completion rate in the first half, and their 8th-year coach – the same Bob Davie who coached Notre Dame from 1997-2001 – leaving the stadium after the game in an ambulance suffering from what was called a “serious medical incident.”

The “win one for the Gipper” parallels are pretty strong for the Lobos as they face a Fighting Irish team that, as mentioned in the previous breakdown, might be looking ahead to their Athens trip next week. But New Mexico only beating FCS Sam Houston State by seven points shows you the expectations of this Lobos squad and makes me as confident as drafting, or legally defending, Antonio Brown.

One thing to think about? New Mexico had two 100-yard rushers in their opener and Notre Dame allowed 249 yards on the ground in their opener in Louisville. So, what I’m seeing is a “let’s do this one for coach” team that can run the ball effectively lining up across from a team looking ahead and not wanting to embarrass its seriously ill alumni. Hell, I might parlay the New Mexico +35.5 and Under 63.5! But since there’s no logical way to score that in a column, I’ll mark down New Mexico +34.5.

(2) Alabama at South Carolina (Bama 2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS & USC 1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS)

  • Saturday @ 2:30pm ET on CBS
  • Line: Alabama -26
  • O/U: 61.5

We all know that Alabama beats the hell out of teams. There’s Tua and Najee and Henry Ruggs and Saban and giving up 129 yards per game this season. What do we know about South Carolina? Nothing. Stunned by Mack Brown in Week 1, they bounced back with a 72-10 drilling of Charleston Southern, a Christian college that had to practice in Columbia all week due to Hurricane Dorian.

This is the first meeting between the Tide and Gamecocks since 2010, when South Carolina pulled its program’s finest upset over Bama, 35-21. That’s bad news for South Carolina as Saban’s Alabama teams are 10-1 in revenge games and tend to make a dick-smashing of it all. I’m betting on Bama to hit its mid-season form and cover the -26.

(9) Florida at Kentucky (Florida 2-0 SU, 0-1-1 ATS & Kentucky 2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS)

  • Saturday @ 7pm ET on ESPN
  • Line: Florida -8
  • O/U: 49

This line is right where it’s supposed to be. In the past five years, Kentucky has won once and Florida has won four, but only once by more than one score.

The Gators were the co-laughing stocks of football after their Week 0 debacle win in Miami. Then they bounced back two weeks later to beat UT-Martin 45-0, although they were only up 3-0 after the first 23 minutes of the game. Kentucky, albeit facing Toledo and Eastern Michigan, put up 38 points in each of their first two games. Bennie Snell has been replaced by Asim Rose and, wait for this, Kavosiey Smoke (Smoke!), the latter having rushed 18 times for 9.4 yards per carry and two touchdowns this season.

But Florida’s strength, even if it’s their only true one, is stopping the run, giving up an average of 74 yards per game on the ground. There’s no reason to trust either of these teams. Stick to the Under 49 and hate-watch this one.

Clemson at Syracuse (Clemson 2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS & Syracuse 1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS)

  • Saturday Night @ 7:30pm ET on ABC
  • Line: Clemson -28
  • O/U: 65

Clemson has proved itself to be the most unstoppable team this side of the Dolphins, errr, let’s say Buccaneers. Trevor Lawrence doesn’t seem nearly as invincible as he did in January, but RB Travis Etienne will be the reason you don’t have any fantasy football keepers next season.

Syracuse has emerged as Clemson’s sole scrappy competitor in the ACC. The Orange tamed the Tigers in ’17 and were 41 seconds short of back-to-back upsets last year. But this game got much less interesting after Maryland outscored Syracuse by 43 and outgained them by 250 yards last week.

Bottom line? This line is awful. I don’t want to overreact to Syracuse’s loss or sit and watch another last-minute backdoor, but the Orange’s quarterback, Tommy DaVito, has more picks than touchdowns and no runner has broken away in the backfield. Winning by 28 points seems both too high for a recent rivalry and also too low after a seven-touchdown loss to a non-Clemson opponent. I’m guessing coach Dino Babers had his team pumped for Dabo Swinney’s Tigers and overlooked a competent Maryland team. The Firelion is siding with Syracuse at +28.

(5) Oklahoma at UCLA (OU 2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS & UCLA 0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS)

  • Saturday Night @ 8:00 ET on FOX
  • Line: Oklahoma -24
  • O/U: 73.5

“The Chip Kelly Era of college football is as dead as The Great Greenland Purchase of 2019. You’ve been warned!” – The Firelion, Week 2. See, there’s a prediction that panned out last week! If only that San Diego State upset in LA was on national television, I’d have had room for another win. Here’s our chance!

You thought Knoxville was gloomy? UCLA sent out letters to each of their season ticket holders this week apologizing for last week’s loss and sending four extra tickets to this week’s game at no charge. Think there’s going to be a lot of gold and blue this Saturday night? Or will every Oklahoma transplant in Southern California turn the Rose Bowl crimson and cream? Go ask the Chargers what they think.

UCLA’s been outgained (and outscored) by Cincinnati, where they only racked up 218 yards, and San Diego State, gaining 261 yards. That 479 yards is nearly 1,000 yards less than Oklahoma’s 1,419 yards gained. A 960 yard differential in two games! So why is this line only 24? Chip Kelly hanger-onners, I’m guessing. Well, they’ll be moving on to the Justin Wilcox bandwagon over at Cal after this thumping. I’m on Oklahoma -24.

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