Listen, it's Friday, and I've got over 2,000 words of picks coming at you, including a college basketball game that's being played on a freaking aircraft carrier. What more do you need to know about today's newsletter than that?
Nothing. What you do need to know, however, is the information in the following stories. So read them, acquire knowledge, and then use that knowledge to lead a happy, fulfilling life funded by all the money you'll win with the picks in this letter.
Now strap in. We've got picks to make.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
- Key Trend: The over has never hit on the USS Abraham Lincoln.
- The Pick: Under 142.5 (-110)
I don't like betting college basketball this early in the season because I don't know who the teams are yet. Thankfully, there is a part of early season college basketball that's proven fruitful: neutral site unders.
It's a simple: teams playing in unfamiliar surroundings sometimes need time to adjust to them, and they miss even more shots than they usually would. This leads to value on the unders. This game takes it all to an entirely new level. They're playing this game on an aircraft carrier. Seriously, the game will be played in San Diego on the USS Abraham Lincoln. What better way to celebrate Veterans Day?
And if you think players sometimes have trouble adjusting to sightlines when shooting inside new gyms or NFL stadiums, how do you think they'll do when Maverick and Rooster are landing F-35 Lightnings behind them? OK, so they probably won't be landing jets on the ship during the game, but I know if I were playing on an aircraft carrier, I wouldn't go full speed for fear of falling off the side. Seriously, these are two solid defensive teams playing in a strange environment. Don't be surprised if it looks ugly.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model and I disagree about the total, but while it's totally wrong there (numbers can't account for aircraft carriers), it has a very strong lean on the spread as well.
💰 The Picks
🏈 College Football
The Pick: TCU +7.5 (-110) -- From a power rating standpoint, I understand why Texas is a significant favorite here. My power ratings agree that the Longhorns are the stronger team -- notice I didn't use the term "better" -- and when you toss in the homefield advantage, it tilts things further in their favor. However, while power ratings are great for determining what teams are good at and how that impacts their likely performance moving forward, they can't always account for where a team is.
Texas has shown time and time again that when the going gets rough, it doesn't know how to handle it. It nearly beat Alabama but couldn't hold on. It nearly beat Oklahoma State but couldn't hold on. Last week, it nearly blew another lead against Kansas State. Meanwhile, TCU has been tested repeatedly and passed every time. Its defense doesn't allow it to pull away from opponents and at some point, it will cost the Horned Frogs. I don't think that point is this week. If it is, and Texas does hand the Frogs their first loss, I don't think it'll be by more than a touchdown. Take the points.
No. 9 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: Under 65 (-110) -- Last week, Alabama faced an LSU team whose biggest defensive weakness was stopping the run. Alabama threw the ball a billion times like it has all season long, and it led to uneven results. I suspect that looking across the field at Lane Kiffin will remind Nick Saban of all the times he chewed Kiffin out for his play-calling, and he'll be inspired to instruct Bill O'Brien to put a greater emphasis on the run this week.
He'll remind O'Brien that the Tide ran the ball a season-high 50 times last season against Ole Miss and won the game by 21 points with four rushing touchdowns. He might also mention that throwing the ball a lot hasn't worked in Alabama's favor often on the road this season, so maybe running the ball more often would benefit everyone. And if he does, it will likely work because Ole Miss' defense was torn apart on the ground all October. Add in that Ole Miss likes to run the ball a lot itself, and this total seems a little too high.
The Pick: Oregon -13 (-110) -- There is no conference race I find more exciting down the stretch than the Pac-12's. I believe Oregon, USC and UCLA are three teams with a realistic shot of not only winning the conference but reaching the College Football Playoff. I do not believe Washington is capable of winning the league.
The Huskies got off to a 4-0 start, but those early wins over Michigan State and Stanford have lost some of that early-season luster. After losing to UCLA, the Huskies lost to Arizona State, and since then it's been close calls against Arizona, Cal and Oregon State. The record is solid, but when you dig deeper, things are shaky.
Oregon has its own flaws. Defensively, the Ducks leave plenty to be desired, particularly in the secondary. That's not great news against Washington's pass-happy attack, but the Huskies defense is also awful. And as strange as it seems, I trust Bo Nix more than Michael Penix. The Indiana transfer is having a terrific season, but in Washington's two most demanding games (vs. UCLA and Oregon State), he's thrown five touchdowns and three interceptions. The fact that 60% of his interceptions have come in his two most difficult games raises an eyebrow
Lions at Bears, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: Fox
The Pick: Lions +2.5 (+100) -- Let me start by saying that I am over the moon about Justin Fields and the fact that the Chicago Bears might finally have their franchise QB. They've never had one in my lifetime, and the ways Fields has taken off over the last month has been incredible. All that said, I'm not taking the Bears as a favorite, even with Justin Fields being the greatest QB ever to play the sport of football.
Two weeks ago, the Bears traded their best pass-rusher in Robert Quinn. Last week, they traded the heart of their defense and leading tackler Roquan Smith. In the last two games, Bears opponents have had 19 possessions and scored touchdowns on 10 of them. The one time the Bears' defense did stop a team that entered its territory was last week, and the Dolphins missed the field goal, or else it would've been points scored on 11 of 19 possessions. There is simply no way a responsible human being can trust a team playing this poorly on defense as a favorite. Not even against the Detroit Lions.
Saints at Steelers, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: Fox
The Pick: Steelers +1.5 (-110) -- I'm not betting on the 3-6 New Orleans Saints as a road favorite. Honestly, I don't know that I need to give much more of an explanation than that. A team that only wins 33% of its games and is 1-2 on the road, with the only win being a one-point win over Atlanta in Week 1, is favored on the road against another NFL team. Sure, that NFL team is the Steelers, and the Steelers are only 2-4, but they've only played three home games.
One of those home games was a win over Tampa Bay. Also, the Steelers are getting T.J. Watt back from injury this weekend, and historically, Pittsburgh has been a much better team with Watt on the field than off it. His presence is sure to come in handy against a New Orleans team that's done a good job protecting its QB this season but is dealing with a lot of banged-up players on its offensive line at the moment.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Leeds United, Saturday, 10 a.m. | TV: Peacock
The Pick: Tottenham (-155) -- "Will he ever stop betting Tottenham?" Probably one day, but not this one. Spurs didn't pull through for us last week against Liverpool, but we remain undeterred! Particularly in this matchup against Leeds, a team I cannot stand. Of course the lone Premier League team managed by an American is the least enjoyable one to watch. It's a team whose style of play is best described using a word we cannot publish but rhymes with "withousery." Seriously, Leeds runs around with its hair on fire for 90 minutes, diving at your ankles and calls it a style of play.
Anyway, it'll be Spurs' ankles they're diving at this weekend, but while it's been effective against some teams this year, I don't think it'll be effective enough in this matchup. Spurs will be happy to let Leeds charge at them and pass the ball into all the open space they'll leave behind. Leeds has won two of its last three matches (including a win over Liverpool) but has allowed an average of 1.67 expected goals (xG) in those matches. You can't keep winning when you play like that, no matter how many ankles you try to break.
Atalanta vs. Inter Milan, Sunday, 6:30 a.m. | TV: CBS Sports Network
The Pick: Over 2.5 (-145) -- Atalanta got off to an excellent start to the Serie A season, spending a lot of time in the top two and top four, but it has lost three of four matches and fallen to sixth in the league with Roma breathing down its neck. So what happened? Well, early in the season, Atalanta was one of the best defensive teams in the league. Over its first eight matches, it allowed only three goals on an xG of 7.5, and the chickens have come home to roost. Over the last six matches, Atalanta has allowed nine goals on an xG of 5.9. Unfortunately for Atalanta, what I've seen with my eyes tells me that it's not just regression but simply allowing better chances and not having superhuman goalkeeping.
I don't see the problem subsiding on Sunday against Inter. Inter lost to Juventus 2-0 last week but outplayed Juve for the most part, and Juve's Wojciech Szczesny made some terrific saves. Inter has finished with at least 2 xG in six of its last nine matches, and only Bayern Munich held it below 1.0 in any match. I would take Inter to win, but their defense has been somewhat shaky lately, so the over seems like the smarter play here.
Juventus vs. Lazio, Sunday, 2:45 p.m. | TV: Paramount+
The Pick: Under 2.5 (-130) -- So I guess the emergency at Juventus is over? Juve has been knocked out of the Champions League, which is never good, but it's been running roughshod through Serie A. After beating Verona 1-0 earlier this week, Juve has won five straight Serie A matches, outscoring opponents 9-0. Granted, outside the 2-0 win over Inter last week, it hasn't been against the cream of the crop in the league, but Juventus is now up to fourth place in the table after sitting outside the European spots not long ago. Now they get a Lazio team that finds itself in second place and is on a hot streak of its own.
There was a strange 3-1 loss to Salernitana two weeks ago, but that's Lazio's only league loss in its last nine matches. It's also the only match in which Lazio has allowed a goal. Both of these teams come into the weekend playing wonderful defensively, and I don't imagine this will be a high-scoring affair.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine's expert NFL handicapper Larry Hartstein has shared all his favorite NFL plays for this weekend here.