The position of resident degenerate gambler here has been a varied one. Solon, the original mad monk of Mad Wagerin', is now literally becoming a monk of sorts, which left the position open to our feeble, hastily written efforts, and then the witty, beautifully crafted wagering columns of Dollar Bill Doug last season. Unfortunately for Doug, his beautiful writing and sparkling wit suffered one of the worst runs ever, and would have made you a very literate, funny, charming, and hopelessly broke wagerer.
Answering the call this year: Peter Pattakos from Cleveland Frowns, a degenerate gambler hired both for his persistent and impressive need to wager on anything at anytime, and because of SBNation's new affirmative action policies on hiring at least one Midwesterner to write something here. He talked us into doubling our money on a Wannstache bet last fall, so he has real and formidable powers. Enjoy.
Dollar Bill Doug's having gone corporate is probably the first best sign we've seen that Obama's really turning this thing around, but if we're going to clean this mess all the way up, we have to get more serious about trickle-down-economics. And by that, I mean getting the economy going via the magic of intelligent, well-informed sports gambling.
My experience in the field is what qualifies me to take Doug's place as EDSBS Resident Mad Wagerer, and pretty much speaks for itself. A summary of my approach to better living through sports wagering is available here, and also contains a summary of relevant accomplishments. Not listed there is the time I convinced Orson (perhaps somewhat unsuccessfully) to quintuple what became a winning wager on Pitt when we were in Vegas at the same time last fall on the theory of "Wannstache Friday!". So you're in good hands.
Also, I'm a native of Akron/Cleveland, Ohio (for a lot of people who, like, had dads, they really are the same place) who went to NYU and Northwestern for school, which means I'm free from meaningful college football bias. (OH, HEY, BARSTOOLIO, REMEMBER WHEN WE WERE IN VEGAS AND I WAS TRYING TO TELL ORSON TO PUT MORE MONEY ON WANNSTACHE FRIDAY, AND YOU WERE LIKE, "WOW, YOU'RE LIKE THE OPPOSITE OF A SELF-HELP GROUP"? WELL WHO TURNED OUT TO REALLY BE THE OPPOSITE OF A SELF-HELP GROUP THAT DAY? BETTER DIE OF 1,000 BURNING STDS BEFORE THE BUCKEYES GO SEVENTH FLOOR ON THE CANES 45-3 NEXT WEEK. WAIT, NO, AFTER. DIE IN PAIN, OVERSUNNED RAPIST JUGGALO CAR-THIEF.)
Anyway, enough about me. The basic idea here is to play the market for narratives about the games; identifying the undervalued and overvalued storylines and playing from there. The focus is primarily on the bigger games, because those are most likely to be the stories that last through the postseason. It gets easier to do as the season goes on and the stories unfold, so the beginning is about a more circumspect approach, wading in slowly, especially careful not to get too wrapped up in any one pick. (Note: A unit is 1 percent of your bankroll for the season.)
Pittsburgh +3 over Utah (2 units) (Thursday, 8:30 ET, VERSUS): Which is just as well here, because there's winning, and there's winning the right way. We might be forced to make some tough choices later, but there's no way we're going to start this thing off by coming in and disrespecting The 'Stache. No way, even though Utah has won their last 17 at home, and all of the last 13 games for which they've had more than one week to prepare. No way, even though Pitt will start a new quarterback, redshirt sophomore Tino Sunseri, behind a center and two guards with a combined one start between them, across from the strength of Utah's defense in tackles Sealver Siliga and Dave Kruger (the 6-5, 290-lb brother of former Ute now Raven, Paul).
Pitt's All-America candidates Dion Lewis and Jonathan Baldwin aren't undervalued, but the supposedly strong-armed Sunseri's ability to get Baldwin the ball against an inexperienced secondary might be (a stronger arm than last year's first-year Pitt starter, Bill Stull, everyone seems to agree). Utah's starting quarterback Jordan Wynn is only a sophomore himself, who looked OK in six starts as a freshman, but mostly against San Diego State, New Mexico, and listless Cal in the Pointsettia Bowl. Thursday, his new left tackle John Cullen will have to contend with "one of the nation's top defensive end tandems," All-America candidate Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard, who will throw you through a plate glass door.
One of these men will throw you through a plate glass door. Pick one! Choose carefully!
Defensive ends who break windows probably aren't undervalued either, but coaches who gather information to make themselves comfortable with not suspending those defensive ends might well be. Sixteen years of Dave Wannstedt as a head coach in the NFL and NCAA with only one division/conference title to his name is mainstream reason for caution coming into a road game with such implications ("Hit[ting] the conference schedule with two losses and guarantee[ing] that the Big East will bog down whatever BCS bowl they land in" sounds exactly right.). But maybe, as the most magnificent Twitter background you've ever seen strongly suggests, Pitt's recent turnaround shows that the man is finally settling in just where he's supposed to be. Maybe, finally, probably The Year of the 'Stache.
Ohio State -28.5 over Marshall (1 unit) (Thursday, 7:30 ET, Big Ten Network): Most seasons, going into a game like this with an opponent like Miami up the following week I'd be hearing Tressel like, "One eight-minute drive each period. Nothing fancy, here." I'd be glad to take Marshall and the points. But most years the Buckeyes just aren't this good. Pryor's third season as a starter is one thing, but what's flying under the radar for now is that Cameron Heyward is the best defensive lineman the Buckeyes have had since Will Smith; Devier Posey, the best receiver since David Boston/Terry Glenn. Fair enough that preseason rankings are meaningless, which might be why, with the potential exception of next week, this will be the best price we get on these guys all season. I'd take it all the way up to 35. (Note: I was 8-1 ATS picking Ohio State games last season.)
Notre Dame -11 over Purdue (1 unit) (Saturday, 3:30 ET, NBC): It's good if you can get an early handle on Notre Dame one way or another both because they're on TV every week and because they play such a diverse schedule. Here it looks too easy to take 11 with a trendy sleeper like Purdue that beat Ohio State last season with just about the same team, but a quarterback less talented than Miami transfer Robert Marve who's now taken over for the Boilermakers to much acclaim. A lot gets back to that Ohio State game for me, the only decent win Purdue really had, but sort of one the Buckeyes would have lost no matter who they played -- the rock bottom that Pryor had to hit. I know the Brian Kelly hype might seem like too much, but coaches with a resume like his really so rarely come along. Notre Dame finally got one. He's already bossing NBC. I dunno. Respect.
UNLV +20.5 over Wisconsin (1 unit) (Saturday, 11:05 ET, NO TV): NEVER FORGET. (Wait if you can here for Bad Action Bros to drive the line up, as they're sure to with this last game of opening Saturday.)
Boise St. -2.5 over Virginia Tech (1 unit) (Monday, 8:00 ET, ESPN): Kind of like with the 'Stache, Week 1 is no time to go Beamer Ball over bright-blue-and-orange happy action funtime. Anyway, Kellen Moore memorized college playbooks when he was in high school. He's Baby Peyton Hawking, and football is for thinkers.
That's all for this week. Sorry no SEC, but the UNC mess made it impossible. UConn/Michigan is the one I wish I could have figured something out for. Please don't hesitate to send angles on next week's slate to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope everyone enjoys.