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Wagstaff’s Picks: Inaugural College Football Edition, Weekend of September 2, 2017 August 31, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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college-football-bettingIt’s time for everyone to leave their safe space and confront the intersectionality of irresponsibly sourced animal product, the capitalist exploitation of undergraduate hopefuls, and the disempowering patriarchal sexism of the male gaze on the sidelines.

College football is back! And just in time, too… it seems like everything else we read about colleges these days makes them sound more like insane asylums combined with summer theater camp. I’m sure the morons in sports broadcasting will try their damndest to drag all of the repulsive college campus zeitgeist into what ought to be an escape from the news during their commentary, but another advantage of watching games on the big ol’ screen is that you can do so with the sound off.

In any case, as much as I normally like to wait a few weeks into the season before prognosticating on the outcomes of games, I decided to plunge right in this year. Last year I finished with an overall 59% winning percentage in both college & NFL picks. A little research told me that’s actually good.

I know, really??

But evidently, that’s how well the SUPERGENIUS game pickers all over sports radio basically do at their BEST. Most of ’em have losing records or barely even out, meaning a coin flip would be a better method than listening to people who EARN THEIR GOD DAMN LIVING analyzing sports.

I guess it’s just like any other field, that is – a crammed space of highly credentialed yet underqualified people. WELCOME TO MY WORLD.

Okay, enough bitching, and not enough bragging about my winning percentage. Let’s start with some simple picks, based mostly on how I think the bookmakers have misread some things.

In the BIG MATCH-UP MARQUIS GAME for Week 1, we have #1 Alabama by 7 over #3 Florida State. I think both of these teams will probably make the playoff at the end of the season, but in this opener, I think ‘bama will win by 10 or more, so I’ll take Alabama to cover.

I also like NC State to cover 5 over South Carolina. They were underrated last year, with most of their losses being under 1 score.

For underdogs, I mostly like Texas A&M plus 3 against UCLA since UCLA does even worse against the spread than A&M, especially early in seasons. I REALLY like Troy plus 11 against a fading Boise State outfit.

The enigma game I’d love to pick but really can’t is Michigan/Florida. I’ll watch it, it’ll be a good one, but even though I lean towards Florida as a 5.5 point underdog, I think Michigan will be trying to prove themselves all year long since winning the Big 10 playoff game is basically a trip to the championship playoff game, and they’ve got both Ohio State and Wisconsin in their path. I’d only bet this game if I were really, really bored in a Vegas sports book with an extra $5 burning a hole in my pocket. Other than that, it’s just one to watch.

It’ll be a good weekend to stay indoors, too, at least where I am and it’s 110+ every day outside. Ugh. Autumn can’t come soon enough, and not just for October baseball.



Wagstaff’s Picks: Weekend of December 2,2016 December 2, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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0085A special Friday edition, since I want to pick a Friday night game.

And that game is the PAC12 championship between Colorado & Washington, where the stakes for Washington are very high indeed – win, and they are most certainly in to the 4 team playoff. Lose, and they are sent on the one-way road to Palookabowl, whichever lesser bowl it turns out to be.

A great matchup, and certainly tops on my Friday night TV schedule while I make my szechuan chicken. It’s also a big spread – Washington is favored by 9, and as much as I think they’ll win, Colorado is a really good team with a lot of experienced players, and I think they’ll keep it close. So, I’ll go with Colorado plus 9 against Washington.

In a few of tomorrow’s big match-ups, I have mixed feelings, but here’s a shot:

In the big SEC championship game between Alabama and Florida, I fully expect Alabama to win, since they’re probably the best college team out there. Florida’s offense leaves a lot to be desired – does that justify a 21 point spread in favor of ‘Bama? Well, I think it does.  Not only because Alabama COULD score that much more than them, but I think that, even in a conference championship game, that assistant Lane Kiffin will want to run up the score to demonstrate his offensive props while he’s out interviewing for head coaching jobs next year, most notably at Houston. So, my “Lane Kiffin’s audition” factor outweighs other stuff, and I’ll take Alabama to cover 21 over Florida.

In the Big 10 championship, it’s an interesting set-up, where we have a red-hot Wisconsin team playing an equally hot Penn State team, even if fellow conference members Ohio State & Michigan are the ones either in or flirting with making the playoff. But, if Washington does lose, there’s a good chance that the winner of this game gets in there, especially if Clemson loses to Virginia Tech (which they won’t).  The spread is Wisconsin by 2. I think it’ll be close, and I think Wisconsin is the better team. I’d take Wisconsin to cover 2 over Penn State.

As mentioned above, I like Clemson by 11 in the ACC championship over Virginia Tech. VT has been weaker against the spread than Clemson, though not by much…. but Clemson has been playing better lately, and can taste the playoff. I think they can win by 2 touchdowns.

In another great matchup, Oklahoma is favored by 11 over Oklahoma State. I think these teams are far more evenly matched than that, and despite Oklahoma looking like a better team, I think this will be closer. So, I’ll go with Oklahoma State plus the 11 points.

In the pros, I like the Chiefs plus 5 1/2 against the Falcons, the Eagles plus 1 1/2 against the Bengals, the Raiders by 3 over the Bills, and the Redskins plus 1 1/2 against the Cardinals.

I went 4-3 last week overall, bringing the college totals to 25-16-1 & the pros to 17-12, for a grand total of 42-28-1. That winning percentage needs to go up, pronto!

And Gronk is out for the season. There is no joy in Patriotland for your humble prognosticator.


Wagstaff’s Picks: Weekend of November 26, 2016 November 25, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Football, Horse Racing.
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mattel-footballboxIs anyone making money following my advice?  You could be, I guess.  Especially last week, where I was a mere half point away from running the table and going 8-0.  Perfection eluded me, but I improved my totals: 22-15-1 in college, 16-10 in the pros, for a grand total of 38-25-1.

I’m taking a bigger chance this week, picking favorites to cover only. I’d like to think the push for better bowl bids will drive a lot of the college picks, but who the hell knows? I’m going with teams I think will want to score big in the college games, and teams I think will simply win outright in the pros. It’s not an exact science.

The idea of “exact science” in sports handicapping always fascinates me, however. It’s what attracts me to the horse races as well. And in a BIG THRIFT STORE SCORE this week, it turned out that some fellow degenerate gambler donated a stock of horse handicapping books to Goodwill, just waiting for me to find them.

Well, three out of the four, anyway. I already had a copy of Ainslie’s Complete Guide to Thoroughbred Racing

But I did not have On Track/Off Track by James Quinn, a collection of short pieces on various aspects of horse betting that, perfect for me, focuses mostly on Santa Anita racetrack. I also picked up a copy of Steven Davidowitz’ Betting Thoroughbreds, and a copy of Thoroughbred Handicapping, State of the Art by William Quirin.

Well, state of the art for the mid 1990s, when all these books were published, which makes them a little out of date in terms of what sorts of information is readily available nowadays as opposed to calculating stuff on your own (like pace figures and such), but the general advice & strategies are still sound.

Each book was only two bucks!

I love poring through outdated sports betting books from the days of scratch sheets and people programming their Bowmar calculators to figure point spreads. There’s something about digging through all the outdated technical and computer instructions to get at the fundamental algorithms in making the picks, and then applying them to the current technologies and data available.  This is what I did when reading the long out of print Sports Betting by Jim Jasper. You have to wade through all sorts of instructions about what numbers to punch into the pocket calculator to figure baseball and football odds, but once translated into modern available data, a lot of Jasper’s overriding ideas are good ones.

Whatever. It provided me some nice reading material during my week off.

Oh yeah, my picks….

In the college games, I’ll stick with Temple to cover 21 over East Carolina, Penn State by 11 over Michigan State, Colorado by 9 over Utah, and USC to cover 17 1/2 over Notre Dame.

In the NFL, I like the Chargers coming off a bye by 1 over the Texans, the surging Dolphins by 7 1/2 over the Forty Niners, and the strengthening Seahawks by 6 over the Buccaneers.

And now, back to goofing off….



Wagstaff’s Picks: Weekend of November 12,2016 November 11, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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f411fd693d84ae6cb3bec2db3f772c6eI’ve been so desperate to avoid politics on TV this week that I wound up watching ALL of the Cleveland Browns game last night.


The Browns may be a fascinating study in repeated failure, considering how many years they’ve sucked, how many draft picks they’ve had & blown, how many quarterbacks they’ve gone through, etc etc. But they are not a fun team to watch.

Switching gears to a totally different sport for a moment – to avoid watching election returns the other night, I watched my first regular season Lakers game in a number of years… and now, without Kobe sucking up all the oxygen, those hungry young guys ARE a fun team to watch.

By the way, my choice to avoid watching those election return has NOTHING to do with my political leanings (I hate everyone). It has to do with my total disdain for political “journalists” and “pundits,” who blather and bloviate endlessly, and are ALWAYS WRONG AND STUPID. And if this election didn’t prove just how stupid and wrong they can be, I don’t know what would.

Speaking of wrong and stupid, I’ve made my football picks for the weekend. Last week I was even, bringing my totals to 17-13-1 for college and 11-8 in the pros for a total of 28-21-1 overall.

And in the Breeder’s Cup, I only got the Turf Sprint & The Classic. Sorry about that. I wound up down $25. I hope you did better.

Also speaking of wrong and stupid, I view most sports radio prognosticators with nearly the same respect I view political pundits.  I’m usually only interested in when I wind up agreeing with any of ’em (and this includes horse pickers) because I wonder if we use the same methods.

Anyway, this week in the college games, I like UCF by 11 1/2 over Cincy, Oregon plus 3 against Stanford, and Washington to cover 7 1/2 over USC.

In the NFL, I’ll go with the Texans plus 1 1/2 against the Jaguars, the Falcons to cover 1 1/2 over the Eagles, and in the second best matchup of the week, the Cowboys plus 2 1/2 against the Steelers.

The best matchup? Well, duh! The Patriots against the Seahawks, Sunday night. I never pick a Pats game since it’s bad luck, but I WILL predict that Carrie Underwood’s new Sunday Night Football theme song will continue to SUCK.

Preparing the last bits for a draft of the new Wagstaff novel to go to the proofreaders. Stay tuned for more news on that front!


Wagstaff’s Picks: Weekend of November 5 November 3, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football, Horse Racing.
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07-07-20_mr_creosoteThe gut continues to be more successful than the deep analysis. I went 5-2 last week, bringing the college pick totals to 16-11-1 and the NFL to 9-7, for an overall total of 25-18-1.

Not too bad, not too great. I’d like to get a winning percentage above 67% by season’s end, although keeping it over 50% is always the basic goal.

The Breeder’s Cup races are at Santa Anita November 4 & 5, a bunch of high stakes races with the best horses in the world. The weather ought to be perfect, and I haven’t looked at ANY of those races and past performances yet, but if I put together some picks over the next day or so, I’ll post ’em here, since I may as well make this a one-stop shopping central for all things sports gambling.

Although my stats tell me that not too many people care about these picks. Well, YOUR LOSS if I keep my average up. Watch the Dow Jones tank, suckers… I’M giving you free ways to make money here, regardless of the election results next week.

AND the gut will get its due this weekend – I’m planning on cooking myself some nice dinners.

This week in the college games, I like Kentucky plus 2 1/2 against Georgia (sorry David), Washington to cover 17 over California, and Baylor by 7 1/2 over TCU.

In the NFL, I’ll go with the Eagles plus 2 1/2 against the Giants, the Cowboys to cover 7 1/2 over the Browns, and the Saints to cover 4 1/2 over the Forty Niners.

My Patriots have a bye week, so it will be a relatively unemotional weekend…. until I pet my cat and swoon.

Or if I manage to hit a pick 4 betting the Breeder’s Cup. But we’ll see about that after I handicap the lot of ’em.

Wagstaff’s Picks – Weekend of October 29, 2016 October 27, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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ronjeremyGo with the gut! Adopting that particular bit of strategery ran the table last week, with a 6-0 record.

So I’ll try to keep the mojo goin’ this week. Now that I’ve finished watching this Thursday’s edition of NFL trainwreck & am going through the DVR’s assortment of TV episode crap to catch up on, I’ll multitask enough to go over this week’s matchups and try my best.

Why must the Thursday night NFL uniforms look like old Dr. Denton footie pajamas? Who came up with that neon bright idea?

Anyway, in the college games, let’s go with Arizona State plus 7 1/2 against Oregon, Auburn by 4 over Ole Miss, Stanford by 5 1/2 over Arizona, and Temple by 7 over Cincy.

In the NFL, I like the Broncos by 4 1/2 over the Chargers, the Raiders over the Bucs in a straight-up pick, and the Vikings to cover 5 over the Bears.

I also hope I handicapped the right amount of candy to buy for giving out on Halloween. Otherwise the Wagstaff diet will be tested severely, although if my gut truly is making better picks, it might be good to grow it.



Wagstaff’s Picks – Weekend of October 22, 2016 October 21, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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18767Here’s a secret: pick the OPPOSITE of what I pick, and you’ll make TONS of money.

Not just with football, either. Ask me about stocks & mutual funds sometime. You won’t go wrong.

Trying something a little new this week. I’m subordinating number crunching to looking more at trends and gut feelings. And considering the dinner I just had, the gut is on the upswing.

In the college games, I’ll go with West Virginia to cover 6 over TCU, Wisconsin to cover 4 1/2 over Iowa, and Utah plus 7 against UCLA.

I think West VA is looking very good, Wisconsin will not lose 3 in a row, and Utah/UCLA will be a close one.

In the pros, how about the Eagles plus 3 against the Vikings, the Raiders plus 1 against the Jaguars, and the Chargers plus 6 against the Falcons.

I think the Eagles won’t lose 3 in a row either, the Raiders are looking good, and the Chargers have kept things close even when they’ve lost games or badly blown them.

So there.

Now call that bookie & bet your life savings. You’re welcome.

Wagstaff’s Picks – Weekend of October 15, 2016 October 14, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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gambling_cat-jpgoriginalOkay, okay, my picks last week SUCKED. Got killed on some spreads, picked losing teams in others.

So therefore, I’M DUE!

No, really, that’s how it works.

Right now, I’m in sports overload –  both pro and college football are in full swing, baseball is in post-season, the NHL just started back up, and Santa Anita is in its fall meet.

AND I’m halfway through the edit/revision of the new Wagstaff novel draft before it goes off to the proofreaders/test audience.

AND my ten year old desktop died, and since replacing the logic board was ridiculously expensive unless I did it myself (which is just, well, NEVER happening), I opened it up and mined it for parts instead.

AND I just fixed one of my toilets. (I need more than one. It’s complicated.)

Anyway, in the college games, I like Nebraska to cover 3 over Indiana, Texas Tech plus 1 1/2 against West Virginia, a we-need-to-recover-from-last-week’s-upset Houston by 21 over Tulsa, and in another “iffy” pick, Washington State to cover 7 1/2 over UCLA.

In the pros, just a pair: the Steelers by 7 1/2 over the Dolphins, and the Falcons plus 6 against the Seahawks. The Eagles by 3 over the Redskins was tempting, but both of those teams strike me as running hot/cold at odd times.

AND now it’s time to make dinner. Red clam sauce pasta, ooooh yeah….

Wagstaff’s Picks – Weekend of October 8, 2016 October 6, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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cap4905le-pngoriginalI was no better than a coin flip last week, I’m sorry to say. I’m picking winning teams, mostly, but the point spreads are messing up my batting average. October-November is the time of year when the best information is available for picking football spreads, so hopefully my results will improve over these next few weeks.

In other news, I figured out a swell re-write for a stumbling block in editing the new Wagstaff mystery novel. It’s best to let a comic set-piece sit for a while – when I went back to it and didn’t find it as funny the second time around, I knew it needed replacing. Maybe after publishing, I’ll write a blog entry about what I changed, since I essentially swapped one true anecdote for another.

After poring over this weekend’s matchups, here’s what I’ve come up with:

In the college games, I like Minnesota plus 1 1/2 against Iowa in a game I think they can win outright. I also think Ohio State can cover 29 over Indiana, North Carolina State can cover 2 over a shaky looking Notre Dame, and in the “iffy” category, I’d take Houston to cover 17 over Navy, although I’d rather give Navy less points.

In the NFL, I like the Vikings by 7 over the Texans, the Eagles by 3 over the Lions, and the Raiders by 3 1/2 over the Chargers.

Oh, and I think the Patriots will have a different quarterback this week from what we’ve seen so far this season. That should be interesting.

Wagstaff’s Picks, Weekend of October 1,2016 September 29, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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college-football-bettingMy blog stats tell me very few people are interested in these football picks, but I’m going to keep making them anyway. I went 5-3 last week, missing both NFL picks but going 4-1 in college.

I could be making people money if they paid attention. I have a better batting average than the prognosticators in my local paper as well as what I’ve seen on ESPN & the networks, and unlike THOSE LOSERS, I’M working with point spreads!


So bear that in mind when I say that I don’t have a whole lot of big-bet confidence in nearly all of this week’s picks. Well, maybe a couple of ’em….

In the college games, I’ll go with my favorite spread-winner Ball State to cover 4 over Northern Illinois, LA Monroe plus 32 1/2 against Auburn, Arizona plus 13 1/2 against UCLA, and Ohio State to cover 38 over Rutgers.

In the Pros, I like the Falcons plus 3 1/2 against the Panthers at home, the Lions to cover 3 over the Bears, and the Vikings to cover 5 1/2 over the Giants on Monday night.

I also like that Santa Anita starts its fall meet this weekend. I’ll probably just paper-handicap it & see how the track plays this weekend and bet the next few. And no, I don’t think I’ll be posting horse picks here. I have a feeling that’d draw even fewer hits than the football.

I also like this new usb-powered external fan stand I got for my laptop since now I can actually put it on my lap without feeling like my thighs are getting sunburned.

Now editing the new Wagstaff novel will literally be cool….