I am not a conspiracy nut. While they seem like all the rage at the moment, they’ve existed forever — in fact, here’s an enlightening book for anybody interested in learning more about the history of conspiracy theories in the United States — and I’ve always found myself laughing at most of them.
But now I think I’m becoming one when it comes to the College Football Playoff.
The latest set of rankings were released Tuesday night, and they looked like everyone expected they would for the most part. Georgia, Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State made up the top four. Still, the ranking that caught the most attention was No. 6 Michigan being a spot ahead of No. 7 Michigan State even though Michigan State just beat Michigan two weeks ago.
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People wondered why Michigan State’s head-to-head win over Michigan no longer mattered to the committee while Oregon’s head-to-head win was keeping it ahead of Ohio State, and I figured out why. It’s simple. Michigan is ranked ahead of Michigan State because if it weren’t, we wouldn’t have had anything to talk about. Remember, these rankings are meaningless. They are a television show aired on Tuesday night that then allows media outlets — this one included! — to fill precious air and page time discussing them.
That’s it. That’s the only reason Michigan was ranked ahead of Michigan State this week. We all need to accept the fact that the College Football Playoff committee has known who its four teams will be since the season began, and this is all just a way to keep us distracted from The Truth. Open your eyes, sheeple!
Now let’s take off our tinfoil hats and make some picks.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
The Pick: Under 215.5 (-110): Dearest reader, I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but the Chicago Bulls are good. It brings me joy to be able to not only share this news with you but for it to be accurate as well. After overhauling their entire roster over the summer, the Bulls are off to a 7-3 start and rank fourth in the NBA in defensive rating. DeMar DeRozan looks like the player he was in Toronto. Lonzo Ball has been a terrific metronome for the offense and Zach LaVine continues his ascension to Legitimate NBA All-Star Player. After so many years of watching a Bulls team full of players with potential, I cannot accurately express how refreshing it is to see an NBA team filled with NBA players doing NBA things on a nightly basis again.
Anyway, while I could write another 2,500 words on this team alone, for our purposes, one of the keys to this Bulls team has been its defense. Not only are the Bulls fourth in net rating, but they are fourth in defensive rating as well. In short, they’ve been a real pain-in-the-butt for opponents to score against. That will be the case again tonight for a Mavericks team that hasn’t found itself offensively yet. Like the Bulls, the Mavs are 7-3 on the season, but they rank 23rd in the league in offensive rating and 25th in true shooting percentage.
And if being inefficient isn’t enough, the Mavs also move slowly, ranking 24th in pace. While the Bulls are far more efficient offensively, they don’t move much quicker than Dallas, ranking 17th. All of which leads me to believe the total for tonight’s affair is set a bit too high.
Key Trend: The under is 9-3 in Chicago’s last 12 games as a home favorite.
Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: Check out what the SportsLine Projection Model has to say about tonight’s game.
💰 The Picks
Blazers at Suns, 9 p.m. | TV: NBA League Pass
The Pick: Trail Blazers +5 (-110) — This is one of those times when you can’t look at the teams’ record to judge their performance. Phoenix reached the NBA Finals last season and is 6-3 to start the season, but ranks 16th in the NBA with a net rating of 0.1. The Blazers are 5-6, but their net rating of 1.9 ranks 11th in the league. In other words, Phoenix has played worse than its record suggests, while the Blazers have played better than theirs.
The biggest problem for Portland is that Damian Lillard has not played like Damian Lillard. He’s averaging 19.3 points per game, well below his career average, and is shooting only 25.5% from three. That’s not going to last! Unless Dame is openly tanking his performance to try to get out of Portland — and he doesn’t strike me as the type who would do that — it’s just a bad stretch, and one we have a decade’s worth of evidence to suggest should end shortly. There’s a good chance we see things start to turn around tonight against a Phoenix defense that’s been average and will be without Deandre Ayton.
Key Trend: The Blazers have failed to cover in their last seven road games, and oddly enough, that only makes me more confident.
🏈 College Football
Ball State at Northern Illinois, 7 p.m. | TV: ESPN2
The Pick: Under 60.5 (-110) — It is going to be a cool and breezy night in lovely DeKalb, Ill. That certainly plays a part in my decision to take the under here tonight, but it’s more the icing on the cake than the impetus. Northern Illinois is a team built on running the ball. The Huskies run the ball on 63.1% of their offensive snaps, which is the seventh-highest rate in the country. Tonight they face a Ball State defense that ranks 82nd nationally in defensive rush EPA and 63rd in success rate against the run.
This tells me that while the Huskies won’t run all over the Cardinals, they’ll have enough success to sustain drives and keep the clock ticking. Finally, both of these teams have been awful in the red zone. The Huskies rank 73rd nationally in red-zone touchdown rate, while Ball State is 82nd. Settling for field goals is how unders are made, and these two have to do it a lot.
Key Trend: The under is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The SportsLine Projection Model’s favorite play of the night is on the spread between the Memphis Grizzlies and Charlotte Hornets.
🏀 College Basketball Parlay
It’s still too early in the season for me to feel comfortable betting individual games, but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to take a shot on a parlay. This one pays +173.
- Michigan (-900)
- Wake Forest (-1100)
- UNLV (-550)
- DePaul -24 (-110)