To get into the spirit of the season, The Vigorish has decided to give you, our loyal (?) fans, an extra pick this week (and a day early!) to show our gratitude for your continued willingness to read our nonsense.
Special Thanksgiving Pick
Matt: The slate of games on Thanksgiving made it an obvious choice for squeezing another round of prognostication into this column. When you think of football on Thanksgiving, you naturally think of the Lions, the Cowboys, and the NFL’s crass decision to cram a third game into our already stuffed gullets. But insofar as I love pretending to be an iconoclast, I’m not picking any of those games.
Instead, give me action on the Egg Bowl, the annual rivalry game between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Man, I could write 1,500 words about Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach each. Actually, you know what, I am in fact gonna go on a little tangent here and make a bold statement: the SEC West is the hardest division in major sports. You’ve got Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn, Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Miss St—where’s the easy out in that group? Traditionally it’s been Miss St, right? Well, they’ve taken down LSU and Auburn this season, have been flirting with the AP Poll rankings all year, and are currently helmed by legendary offensive innovator Leach.
Ole Miss maybe? I mean, they’re ranked 9th in the country and deserve it. Arkansas? Nationally ranked, beat A&M and LSU, and took Alabama down to the wire. I just listed the three historically weakest teams in that division, and they’d each be good enough to win a number of other conferences around the country. Plus, A&M’s ranked 15th with a top-3 recruiting class coming to town next season, Auburn won this division four years ago and we still remember their last national title, and LSU’s only two years removed from perhaps the greatest season in CFB history. There’s also some team in Tuscaloosa. All that in one single division inside what’s already the nation’s toughest conference. Find me a tougher division in any sport, anywhere.
Oh yeah, back to the Egg Bowl. Long story short, the over/under’s 64, which would be fine on a Saturday, but I’ve yet to see two teams both light up the scoreboard on a Thursday. I’m taking the under, fully understanding that if I blow it, I’ll deserve a great deal of shame for seeing a Leach-Kiffin matchup and thinking the under was a good play.
Matt’s Thursday pick: Under 64, Ole Miss at Mississippi State
Andy: There’s a lot of stuff that isn’t true but football pundits are allowed to claim anyway, and “Detroit always plays tough on Thanksgiving” now narrowly edges out “West coast teams play down during 1 pm games on the East coast” as the leader in the clubhouse.
And yet, here I am picking the Detroit Lions to get their first win of the season and their first Thanksgiving win since 2016. My reasons aren’t great.
The first is, though I think they will win, I’m still going to take the 3 points that comes with them. That was six points just a few hours ago, but it moved on the news that Jared Goff would be starting for the Lions instead of Tim Boyle.
A month and a half ago, Goff and the Lions moved the ball in Chicago more than you’d guess by looking at their 14 total points, all coming in the second half. Goff threw for 299 yards, but the Lions had three long drives to start the game that ended at the Chicago eight (fumble), five (downs) and three (fumble). Another second-half drive ended on downs at the eight. They moved the ball.
The Bears are a worse defense now, with Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack out, and while little else has gone well for Detroit, Deandre Swift has since emerged as a very good running back.
And hey, if nothing else, you can join Bears fans in rooting against Matt Nagy. Should be fun.
Andy’s Thursday pick: LIONS (+3) over Bears
Matt: You, a normal person, are probably looking forward to 10-1 Ohio State taking on 10-1 Michigan in a classic rivalry game with massive College Football Playoff implications. I, on the other hand, am dangerously excited for 1-10 UMass to travel to 1-10 New Mexico State in a not-at-all-a-rivalry game that pits two of college football’s three (I see you, UConn) absolute worst teams. We are not the same.
There are plenty of great matchups this weekend. This Thanksgiving weekend is, like usual, a wonderful weekend to be a college football fan. And there are plenty of lines that interested me and that I would feel good about taking. But goodness gracious I am just so pumped for the opportunity to pick like this one. These two teams are combining to allow 84.6 points a game! And 966.7 yards a game! It’s so good.
NMSU’s lone win came against FCS opponent South Carolina State all the way back in September. UMass, to its credit, earned its win against fellow FBS minnow UConn, but has also managed to lose to two (!) FCS schools, neither of which is anything special even by FCS standards. You might see the 6.5-point spread in favor of NMSU and wonder how on earth either team could be favored by a touchdown against anybody, but NMSU’s at home, has been playing better teams all season than UMass has, and sports a positive turnover ratio, if you can believe it. The NMSU … I wanna say Aggies? are going to end their desultory season on a high note.
Matt’s Saturday pick: NMSU (-6.5) over UMass
Andy: Michigan’s dismantling of a Maryland team that, technically speaking, has a Division I program is not enough to make me forget its still-recent loss to a flawed Michigan State team, or its too-difficult win over Penn State. Ohio State is in another class.
Eight points isn’t enough to scare me off, especially with a blowout as the only thing standing between C.J. Stroud and a Heisman.
The Jim Harbaugh narrative is already mostly written in Michigan, and while they’re a deserving top ten team this year, I’m riding with this being one more big game where his offense can’t keep pace and they’re revealed as a solidly second-tier program.
Andy’s Saturday pick: Ohio State (-8) over MICHIGAN
Matt: It’s been a frustrating season to try to bet on the NFL. The whole “any given Sunday” thing has gone a little too far, alright? Just knock it off already, guys. There is surely a plane of existence where it makes perfect sense that the Browns could win by 25+ one week and then lose by 25+ the very next, followed directly by the Bills doing the exact same thing, but I cannot hope to achieve such a mighty stage of enlightenment. I’m just a simple man who can’t make any damn sense out of what’s been happening.
My simple thoughts this week: the Patriots have won five games in a row with a rookie quarterback. They’re probably due for a stinker. The 8-3 Titans probably succumbed to a trap game in that 9-point home loss to Houston last week. Seven points is a lot of points! I can get Tennessee plus an additional 7 points AND I get to root against New England? Okay, sold.
Matt’s Sunday pick: Titans (+7) over PATRIOTS
Andy: Just a few weeks ago, I picked against the Eagles by reasoning that their newfound success on the ground wouldn’t last simply because the organization wouldn’t be content winning without a passing game.
Maybe that was hasty, or maybe I wasn’t wrong so much as I was early (yea, it’s the same thing). The important thing is, Nick Sirianni has at least for now recognized that this is the way they can win now, and he’s committed to it. The team’s roster strength is on the offensive line in the first place, where Jason Kelce is again playing like the best center in the league, Lane Johnson is a dominant right tackle and Australian rugby star Jordan Mailata is bullying everyone across from him. Jalen Hurts can’t run the Philip Rivers offense he was asked to run to start the year, but there’s plenty he can do, and the Eagles are finally treating that like the gift it is instead of something to be embarrassed about.
Credit to Sirianni for rebuilding the boat as it sailed.
Andy’s Sunday pick: Eagles (-3.5) over GIANTS
What do you think of the picks? Leave a comment.