No Line Needed: Five Blind College Football Bets for 2015

I normally don’t make a habit of mimicking anything that ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd does. A few years back, though, he started doing an annual bit in which he would pick sides on a few college football games in the offseason well in advance of the release of point spreads. I thought it was a cool idea, so I took it for my own.

Without further adieu, here are five bets I’m willing to make blindly in 2015.

Clemson at Louisville (Sept. 17)

The Tigers travel to the House that John Schnatter Built for a Thursday night tilt. (This will be a theme here.)

Clemson is generating a lot of conflicting opinions this year. Put me down in the “sell” camp. Although Deshaun Watson is a legitimate star at QB (when healthy), the Tigers’ substantial defensive losses should have their fans feeling more uncomfortable than Dabo Swinney at a Pet Shop Boys show.

Louisville almost played Clemson to a draw a year ago in Death Valley. This year, we’ll see the Cardinals follow through on their home turf.

The pick: Louisville outright.

Texas at Notre Dame (Sept. 5)

Mack Brown lost his grip on Texas football thanks to an overwhelmingly talented roster that was undercoached far too often. The coaching part seems better now, but Charlie Strong’s roster purge – combined with two substandard recruiting classes – has removed plenty of that talent. At the very least, the team’s depth has thinned out significantly, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

I suspect the Longhorns will be hovering around the bowl cut line later this season. A long year in Austin will start in South Bend, where Brian Kelly has, in my view, a legit playoff contender.

The pick: Notre Dame by 14-plus.

Baylor at Kansas State (Nov. 5)

Situationally, this couldn’t set up worse for Baylor. It’s a Thursday night game in Manhattan. Bill Snyder will have an off date to prepare. That November chill will be kicking in.

The Wildcats could put a crimp in Baylor’s playoff hopes.

The pick: Take the points on K-State.

Florida at Kentucky (Sept. 19)

Under Mark Stoops, Kentucky has entered a college football no man’s land. The talent on hand means the program is no longer a joke. On the other hand, the uphill climb in the SEC makes it hard to feel as though the team has much forward momentum.

Making it to a bowl would be a nice boost for the Wildcats, and that would entail squeaking out a win or two against teams like Missouri and Florida this year.

UK has lost 28 straight to the Gators, including last year’s controversial triple-overtime game. Might as well get Florida now in new coach Jim McElwain’s first year on the job.

The pick: Wildcats by a lot.

East Carolina at Navy (Sept. 19)

Navy’s funky offensive scheme put the Midshipmen on this list pretty often.

The Pirates’ trip to Annapolis comes between a road game at Florida and a visit from Virginia Tech. Those are not ideal conditions to prep for the triple option.

Meanwhile, Navy has a bye week to get ready for its first American Athletic Conference game. That’s trouble for Ruffin McNeill’s crew, who will also be working with a new offensive coordinator.

The pick: Navy rolls.