Friday, September 29, 2023

Why Louisville is in trouble vs. UCF, plus NFL overs to take this weekend

It’s the newsletter you’ve been waiting all day to see pop up in your inbox. It’s a Football Friday in the HQ PM newsletter, which means I’ve got more picks than you know what to do with. I’ve got a college football play for tonight, as well as two more for the weekend. I’ve got two NFL picks for you too, and then there are the soccer picks. We finish it all off with an insane six-leg Football Variety Hour Parlay to sweat throughout it all.

It’s awesome.

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Before we get to the picks and today’s stories, though, I want to send a quick shout-out to The Weather. Apparently, it heard my calls for fall in Thursday’s newsletter because when I walked the dog this morning, it was 68 degrees. Sure, it’s 80 as I write this, but looking at the upcoming forecast, it seems that fall might finally arrive soon. Or Big Weather is messing with my head and hacking into all my weather apps to lull me into a false sense of security before slapping me over the head with another week of highs in the 80s. You can never be sure when it comes to Big Weather.

Now let’s get this weekend started.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

🏈 UCF at Louisville, 7:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN

The Pick: UCF -7 (-110)
: This strikes me as an awful matchup for Louisville. While I didn’t see the Cardinals play Eastern Kentucky last week, I saw all of their loss to Ole Miss. What stood out to me was how slow and predictable they were on offense. This team lost both Javian Hawkins and Tutu Atwell to the NFL after last season, and those two were the big plays in Louisville’s offense the last few years. I don’t see any replacements yet.

Instead, Malik Cunningham has been forced to carry the load on his own, and while he’s a good player, he’s not good enough to succeed alone. Tonight he’ll be going against a UCF defense that gets little to no respect nationally but is legitimately good. They fly to the ball, they tackle, and if there’s a weakness, it’s in the secondary. But that’s a weakness Louisville can’t exploit.

Meanwhile, there’s nothing Louisville’s defense has shown me to convince me it’s going to stop the Knights when they have the ball. Louisville coach Scott Satterfield is already in hot water with Louisville fans, and after tonight, the water could start to boil.

Key Trend: Louisville is only 8-20-1 ATS in its last 29 games as an underdog.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: SportsLine expert Zack Cimini has gone 7-1 in his last eight Louisville picks. Check out how he thinks tonight will pan out.

💰 The Picks



Raiders at Steelers, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: CBS

Latest Odds: Over 47

Powered by Caesars Sportsbook

The Pick: Over 47 (-110) — I’ve heard a lot of concern about the Steelers offense even after it went on the road and beat Buffalo last week, and I get it. It was bad last year, and while Big Ben is noticeably slimmer, the zip on the ball that was once there doesn’t appear to have returned. Still, I think the Buffalo defense is very good and deserves a lot of credit. I don’t have the same level of faith in this Las Vegas defense, even if the Raiders did show a semblance of a pass rush on Monday night against Baltimore.

I do like the Raiders offense, however, and I think this could turn out to be a fun game to watch on Sunday. The Steelers offense should show us a bit more at home in a friendly environment, and I think the Raiders can keep pace. So I’ll be rooting for points.

Key Trend: The over is 13-3-1 in Las Vegas’ last 17 games.

Titans at Seahawks, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. | TV: CBS

The Pick: Seahawks Over 30.5 (+100) — 
Fading the Titans defense might become a regular play in this spot throughout the season. I mean, how could it not be under consideration? The Titans gave up 38 points to the Cardinals at home last week after allowing 27.4 points per game last season. This has been a lousy defense for a while, with little to no pass rush.

That’s why Kyler Murray was able to dance around the pocket doing whatever he wanted, and Seattle just so happens to have a QB capable of doing a lot of the same things. Oh, and that QB also happens to be in an offense that finally looks like it wants to play to his strengths. I think Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense will have a big day, as will just about every offense that faces the Titans this season.

Key Trend: The Titans have allowed at least 31 points in three of their last four games.

🏈 College Football


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No. 1 Alabama at No. 11 Florida, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS

The Pick: Alabama -14.5 (-110) — 
Yeah, you’re not going to catch me giving you any reason to fade Alabama in this matchup. In theory, Florida is the type of team that can put a bigger scare into Alabama than most other SEC teams. To beat Alabama these days, you have to be capable of scoring at least 40 points, and a Dan Mullen team can do that. Well, last year’s team could’ve, anyway. I’m not sold that the 2021 version of the Gators can.

Fans are clamoring for quarterback Anthony Richardson to see more snaps than he’s been getting, but Richardson has torn apart two bad teams in limited time. He’s gotten away with a lot of stuff he wouldn’t be able to against Alabama, even if he does offer big-play potential. And, at the end of the day, whether it’s Richardson or Emory Jones, this Florida offense isn’t capable of keeping up. My only concern here is that Bryce Young struggles in what will be the most difficult environment he’s played in so far. Of course, he could get off to a slow start, and I can still see the Tide covering this number with ease.

Key Trend: Alabama is 7-1 ATS in its last eight against the SEC.

No. 22 Auburn at No. 10 Penn State, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC

The Pick: Penn State -5 (-110) — 
Auburn has looked awesome in the first two weeks, hasn’t it? We’re talking about an offense averaging 61 points per game while Bo Nix completes 74% of his passes for 9.8 yards per attempt with five touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s awesome. The problem is, two games against Akron and Alabama State aren’t going to convince me this is a new Nix.

No, the Nix I know has always been much better at home than on the road. Nix has completed 63% of his passes at home and averaged 7.7 yards per attempt with 15 touchdowns and one interception. On the road, his completion rate drops to 54.5%, his YPA plummets to 5.7 and he’s thrown more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (nine). Now Nix and Auburn are on the road against a Penn State team that has picked up two more impressive wins than the Tigers have, and the Nittany Lions will win out in this big cat battle at home Saturday night.

Key Trend: Auburn is 2-7 ATS in its last nine as a road underdog.

If you’re looking for more college football picks for the weekend, find them in my weekly column, The Six Pack.

⚽ Soccer


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Brighton vs. Leicester City, Sunday, 9 a.m. | TV: Peacock

The Pick: Brighton (+165) — 
It’s no secret Leicester faded down the stretch last season. It lost three of its final four matches to fall out of the Champions League spots and won only five of its final 13. The biggest reason for this was a defense that allowed an average of 1.47 xG per match in its final seven. It’s a trend that has continued to start the new season, as Leicester has an xG allowed of 8.1 through four matches. The only teams doing worse are Arsenal, Norwich, Leeds and Newcastle. Leicester has been even worse on the road, allowing 4.1 xG in two matches against Norwich and West Ham.

Leicester comes into this weekend’s match against a solid Brighton squad having played on Thursday in a Europa League match that. Leicester blew a 2-0 lead and allowed an xG of 2.3 to Napoli. This is a team in bad shape at the moment, and I’m looking to take advantage of a market that hasn’t quite caught on yet.

Key Trend: Leicester has won only seven of its last 19 Premier League matches.

Juventus vs. AC Milan, Sunday, 2:45 p.m. | TV: Paramount+

The Pick: Juventus (+113) — 
Honestly, we might not find better value on Juventus for the rest of the season. The Old Lady has managed only a point in its first three league matches and sits just above the relegation zone in Serie A. Meanwhile, Milan is tied for first with Roma and Napoli and has been magnificent to start the season. It’s scored seven goals and allowed only one, and the team’s expected goal differential per match of 1.71 is the best in the league.

But the Juventus we’ll see this weekend should be the closest to full strength that we’ve seen so far — there are a lot of tired players in the squad thanks to Italy’s Euros run — and the more it plays, the more it adapts to life without Ronaldo. I won’t be shocked at all if Milan wins this match — it is legitimately good — but Milan also had a tough match against Liverpool during the week, while Juve was able to coast to a 3-0 win over Malmo. Juve should win this match often enough to justify the price we’re buying it at.

Key Trend: Juventus has won 18 of its last 24 home matches.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The simulation model has a fairly strong lean on the over/under for Maryland vs. Illinois

🏈⚽ Football Variety Hour Parlay

Three different kinds of football, two legs of each, one six-leg parlay paying +165. 

  • Pitt (-700)
  • Ole Miss (-650)
  • Browns (-700)
  • Buccaneers (-800)
  • Manchester City (-675)
  • Borussia Dortmund (-275)

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