Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 1:30 PM EST. Odds subject to change.
Minnesota -7 -105 over Nebraska
Huntington Bank Stadium – Minneapolis, MN
8:00 PM EST. There is so much meat on the bone to chew here so let’s dig right into it. Though we haven’t seen them on the national stage in decades, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are nonetheless a “blue blood” in the college football realms; very simply they are a team with a pedigree and though the ‘Huskers have not been a stable program in recent memory, they are an outfit whose ambitions mirror any elite program presently.
With such a storied history and legacy, we can infer some things here: 1) a team like the ‘Huskers taking back a converted TD against a team like Minnesota, in most scenarios, will generally get a lot of market attention, especially in a prime time game. Two: There will be all sorts of narratives that the market will buy into in an attempt to justify backing the Huskers. Three: One may very well pay a premium to back a team like the Huskers, even if it appears otherwise. All three are in play in this scenario and ultimately make Nebraska a good team to fade.
Though the ‘Huskers have been a carousel of coaches that failed to live up to lofty expectations over the past few years, the same fanfare and rah-rah has swept through Lincoln with the hiring of Matt Rhule just like it did with any of his predecessors. Will Rhule bring the Cornhuskers back to prominence like when he fostered Baylor to win the Big 12 in 2019? Will Nebraska beat their old nemesis Colorado this year? The same old questions but a different regime; the same old circus but different clowns. Chances are we’ve heard it in some way, shape, or form whether it was Bill Callahan, Bo Pelini, Mike Riley, Scott Frost, or now Rhule, irrespective of whether it's year one, two, or three in their respective tenure.
With the addition of dual-threat quarterback Jeff Sims, who came to Nebraska by way of transfer portal from Georgia Tech, the buzz and hype would lead one to believe that this could turn into a recapitulation of Tom Osborne and Tommy Frazier, all over again, and the betting market has bought into the excitement. Moreover, the “experts” will tell you that this is the right time to buy the Huskers because Matt Rhule is back. It’s good fodder but it means jack other than the market giving too much credit to Rhule and the underdog here.
Incidentally, on January 7, 2020, Rhule signed a seven-year, $62-million contract to become the fifth head coach of the Carolina Panthers, replacing longtime coach Ron Rivera. Panthers owner David Tepper, overseeing his first head coaching hire, referred to Rhule as a "program builder" who "can build an organization for the next thirty or forty years. After the 2020 NFL preseason was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Carolina lost Rhule's NFL head coaching debut to Las Vegas 34–30. He earned his first win against the Chargers in Week 3. A five-game midseason losing streak knocked the Panthers out of playoff contention, and they finished 5–11.
Prior to his second season in Carolina, Rhule, who had the final say over the Panthers' roster decisions, traded incumbent starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and acquired Sam Darnold, the third overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. Despite a 3–0 start to the season, Darnold ultimately failed to improve on his underwhelming tenure with the Jets. Carolina finished 29th in the league in points scored and lost their final seven games to finish 5–12, missing the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year. Midway through the 2022 season, Tepper fired Rhule after a blowout loss to San Francisco dropped Carolina to 1–4. Rhule, who was in the third year of a seven-year contract, received forty million dollars as part of his buyout. On November 26, 2022, Rhule signed an eight-year, $74-million contract to become the 31st head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. That 30 to 40 year plan failed but yeah, let’s drool over Matt Rhule.
What also resonates with us is that despite all the hype and the meaningless trends, the bookmakers hung a “favorite number” when this line opened. You see, the Gophers opened as a 7½-point choice and the market bit the carrot that was dangling. Very simply, the figure posted creates a guise that should Nebraska keep this close, one will cash a ticket even if Big Red loses by a converted touchdown. Anecdotally, favorites priced in this range, more often than not win by much larger margins. The ‘Huskers look like a deal when in fact they are nothing more than fool’s gold. We can appreciate how desperate ‘Husker nation is for a winner. Rhule is the program’s fourth head coach in the last 10 years, which does not suggest that stability or consistency have been traits seen in Lincoln in a long, long time. Nebraska was just 4-8 last season, and with the new coach comes an influx of new players; 63 new faces to be exact will be wearing the legendary Scarlet and Cream the ‘Huskers are synonymous with.
Whether one loves or hates Mr. Row The Boat, (we can’t stand the sight of that freak), P.J. Fleck would trade his mother for a cigar to get a win on opening night in prime time and we promise you the Gophers will be ready. The Gophers beat up on weak competition (they have won 9 games in each of the last two seasons and the line strongly suggests that this will be another day at the office for Minnesota. We’ll play it accordingly.
Minnesota -7 -105 (Risking 2.10 units - To Win: 2.00)