New Jersey (Because New York legislators couldn’t keep pace with Delaware and Rhode Island and Mississippi, and prevent millions of dollars from crossing the Hudson River this year) — No hurdle is high enough to prevent you from enjoying your favorite vice. We smoke and drink long before it is legal. We shrug our shoulders at the consequences of what may never be legal.
But there is still something refreshing about now only having to travel through a tunnel, or over a bridge, to suddenly comply with the law. Despite the countless bets I’ve made in my life, there always has been a fun jolt when I’ve walked into a Las Vegas sportsbook. There always has been a thrill to the convenience of popping into a corner betting shop in London, seeing how easily it could exist.
I prepared for the same feeling when I walked into the sportsbook on a weeknight at the Meadowlands for the first time.
I lost it when I was confronted with two massive lines stretching into the hall, moving as quickly as construction on the neighboring American Dream mall.
I was short on time. Fortunately, New Jersey now offers online and mobile sports betting. This is how I envisioned placing most of my action anyway.
So, I stepped outside, downloaded an app, and created an account. After several minutes, I learned many credit cards and banks still have restrictions in place on transferring funds for gaming.
So, I stepped back inside. The first upset of the season was in the books. Sportsbook (+13½) over Mobile.
Central Florida (-23¹/₂) over CONNECTICUT: Scott Frost left Central Florida, but Heisman contender McKenzie Milton and more than enough of last year’s undefeated power remain.
Northwestern (+1½) over PURDUE: Both teams are on the rise — Purdue is coming off its first winning season since 2011, and Northwestern ended on an eight-game winning streak — but the Wildcats boast more experience and more than half the starters from a top-10 defense.
Utah State (+23) over MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans are a legitimate playoff threat — and the best value to win the Big Ten (+1200) — but early-season blowouts aren’t really Mark Dantonio’s bag. In the past three years, Michigan State has beaten non-Power Five teams by an average of 17 points.
Army (+13½) over DUKE: Army is coming off a 10-win season, won last year’s matchup and routinely provides problems with its option attack. Expect Mike Krzyzewski’s least favorite matchup to be decided by a touchdown or less for the third straight year.
WISCONSIN (-36½) over Western Kentucky: Bank on star running back Jonathan Taylor putting up at least half the points himself.
STANFORD (-14¹/₂) over San Diego State: Stanford hasn’t forgotten last year’s upset, and leaving the field as Aztecs fans rushed it. While San Diego State lost the leading rusher in the nation, Rashaad Penny, the Cardinal brought back Heisman runner-up Bryce Love and four all-conference offensive linemen.
Oregon State (+38¹/₂) over OHIO STATE: Urban Meyer’s absence won’t matter much. The Beavers finished 1-11 last season. But the young Buckeyes will only be worse than their predecessors at laying such a large number. Over their past eight home games, Ohio State is 2-6 against the spread.
Texas State (+16¹/₂) over RUTGERS: Paul Blake is pushing 60, but the Armadillos’ quarterback still has a great arm. Just don’t throw it Stonehands!
Texas Tech (-2) over Mississippi (at Houston): And the over (67), please. A postseason ban gives the Rebels little to play for this season. Their inexperienced defense will show they have little to play with.
Florida Atlantic (+21) over OKLAHOMA: Let’s see Kyler Murray play one full game before declaring him a two-sport “star.” Without Baker Mayfield, the Sooners are still the favorites in the Big 12 and boast one of the best offenses in the nation. The defense, however, should still be a disaster and will be exposed by Lane Kiffin’s explosive Owls, who return 15 starters from a team that won its final 10 games and ranked seventh in the nation in scoring (40.2 points).
Maryland (+13½) over Texas (at Landover, Md.): The most disgusting program off the field looks better on it than last year’s 4-8 record suggests. Before enduring another season of endless quarterback injuries, the Terrapins beat Texas on the road, 51-41, and averaged more than 8 yards per play. A talented backfield returns with its five starting offensive linemen.
Washington (+1½) over Auburn (at Atlanta): With a win in the season’s biggest opportunity, the Huskies will be on the fast track to a second playoff spot in three years. With a star senior quarterback (Jake Browning) and running back (Myles Gaskin), and the nation’s best secondary, Washington will fare just fine in a de facto road game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Auburn, which went undefeated at Jordan-Hare Stadium last season, lost its two games in Atlanta.
West Virginia (-10) over Tennessee (at Charlotte, N.C.): New Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt needs to recruit Nick Saban-like players before his mentor’s schemes will work, especially against Heisman contender Will Grier.
Appalachian State (+23½) over PENN STATE: It’ll take time to adjust to life without Saquon Barkley and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, plus the loss of eight defensive starters. There were better ways to ease into the season than facing one of the nation’s best Group of 5 teams, famous for a season-opening upset against the Big Ten.
Unlv (+26¹/₂) over USC: The Pac-12 champs won’t be the same without Sam Darnold. Let’s watch true freshman quarterback JT Daniels play one snap before figuring out how far they fall.
NOTRE DAME (Pick) over Michigan: Home field is a big factor. The Fighting Irish lost one game in South Bend, by one point to the near-national champion (Georgia) last season. The Wolverines’ recent loss of top receiver Tariq Black from an already questionable attack could be the final nail, facing a stacked front-seven that will force new Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson to the air.
Louisville (+25) over Alabama (at Orlando, Fla.): Yes, Lamar Jackson is gone, but Nick Saban has to replace eight defensive starters. Clearly, Alabama will win, and probably score at will, but the Crimson Tide are due for some regression, having gone 10-1 against the spread in season openers under Saban.
ARIZONA (-12) over Byu: Stay awake for Khalil Tate. He’s worth it.
Miami (-3½) over Lsu (at Arlington, Texas): The turnover chain shall make an early return. After all these years, the Tigers can land talent at every position but the most important one.
Virginia Tech (+7) over FLORIDA STATE: Running back Cam Akers will bring Florida State back, but one of the nation’s best defenses will delay the return.
Regular-season wins: Clemson (over 11), Arizona (over 7½), Ohio State (under 10½), Texas A&M (under 7)
National champion: Clemson (4/1), Washington (15/1)
Heisman Trophy: Justin Herbert (22/1), Trace McSorley (18/1)
Best bets: Florida Atlantic, Maryland, West Virginia
2014-17 record: 518-471-10
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