Betting Stuff is a regular sports gambling column here at Saturday Down South with a focus on college football wagering (though don’t be surprised to see some non-college football insights from time to time). Did you know that sports betting is now legal in Tennessee? You can view the best Tennessee sportsbook apps here.

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An autumn tradition like no other

When the calendar turned to 2020, I didn’t even consider the possibility that I could be breaking down a meaningful Arkansas football game and the Masters in the same week. Talk about two longshots hitting at the same time.

But here we are, with golf’s first, turned last, major of the 2020 season, ready to tee off Thursday. College GameDay will be stopping by Saturday, but before Lee Corso dons a Green Jacket or Jim Nantz poses a handful of insipid questions to the champion in the Butler Cabin, let’s dive into the best values to win the 84th edition of the Masters Tournament at Augusta National.

An endangered species: The Masters longshot champion

Before Tiger Woods showed up in 1997 and obliterated the field by 9 shots, the Masters was generally considered a wide-open tournament. In fact, between 1976 and 1998, 15 first-time champions slipped into a green jacket. In recent years, however, longshots have faded down the stretch, clearing the way for pre-tournament favorites. The past 8 Masters champions entered the first tee box as a 50:1 or shorter favorite to win the major.

Bubba Watson 40:1 (2012)
Adam Scott 25:1 (2013)
Bubba Watson 20:1 (2014)
Jordan Speith 9:1 (2015)
Danny Willett 50:1 (2016)
Sergio Garcia 30:1 (2017)
Patrick Reed 50:1 (2018)
Tiger Woods 16:1 (2019)

Interestingly, the 10 golfers with the best odds to win at Augusta this year, as a group, have just a single green jacket to their collective credit. And that victory came 2 years ago when Patrick Reed held off Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth down the stretch. It’s incredibly rare for a top-10 field to have such limited success entering a major, which is why I’m playing more longshots than usual.

Cameron Smith (80:1) finished 5th at the 2018 Masters with a final-round 66. Much like a racehorse that is known as a closer, Smith has a tendency to save his best for Sundays. And according to The Action Network’s Joshua Perry, “(Smith) is coming off a great week at the Zozo where he finished 4th and gained nearly 5 strokes on the field with his ball-striking.” From a “Strokes Gained” putting perspective, Smith is 20th on tour and he’s one of the very best in terms of 3-putt avoidance. I anticipate he’ll be in the top 15 come Sunday, which makes his 80:1 odds very attractive.

How about another 80:1 flyer? In a normal year, without Bryson DeChambeau launching tee shots into the stratosphere, Cameron Champ would be the PGA’s leader in distance off the tee. His driver will put him in a position to compete this weekend, but it was his play at the PGA Championship that really has me bullish on the 25-year-old. He shot a 64 on Friday and a 67 on Saturday at TPC Harding Park, rising to 2nd place and trailing Dustin Johnson by a single stroke. The stage wasn’t too big for Champ and the former Texas A&M Aggie has a knack for eagles (3rd on Tour), which should serve him well on the 2nd, 13th and 15th holes.

If you’re more interested in a favorite, feel free to tail me as I place a bet on Justin Thomas (12:1). One of the leading golf analysts in the country, Jason Sobel, is backing Thomas because the former Alabama Crimson Tide standout has the exact trait that Augusta National rewards: approach shot accuracy. “The ability to continually flight the ball in different directions and with different trajectories, though, is the most important element to a player’s success here. Over the past few years, nobody in golf has perfected this craft better than Thomas, who’s been top-4 in this category in each of the past 3 seasons, including leading it in the season which was just completed a few months ago,” wrote Sobel this week. That’s enough for me to back the 27-year-old.

My record

Last Week: 6-2 (75%, 3.8 Units)
Overall: 38-24-1 (61.3%, +13.35 Units)

My top play for Week 11

Arkansas at Florida-17.5 (62.5)

Arkansas is the only team sitting at 6-0 against the spread this season and it’s not just because of its lowly preseason ranking. The Razorbacks have demonstrated two things in 2020: They can generate turnovers (10th in TO margin) and they don’t beat themselves (9th in penalty yardage). That formula kept them in games against Georgia and Auburn and has led to 3 SEC wins already, U-of-A’s high-water mark since 2016.

Florida has been a juggernaut offensively, but it may be without the most productive tight end the college football world has seen. Kyle Pitts’ availability, on its own, isn’t enough to move this spread significantly, but I originally had this projected as a 14-point spread in favor of the Gators. To catch a Pitts-less UF team at another key number is just too generous to pass up in my opinion.

Florida’s defense, while slighting improving week-over-week, has been a major disappointment through 6 weeks for Todd Grantham. The Gators are surrendering over 400 yards and 29 points per game, and have failed to generate enough negative plays to even out the fact that they’re allowing 2.5 plays of 30+ yards from scrimmage per game.

I foresee ex-Gator Feleipe Franks and his talented receiving corps connecting on a few big pass plays, as they did in the 3rd quarter against Tennessee last week. That should be enough to keep this game in the 10-14 point range. It doesn’t hurt that Florida is coming off an emotional win. The Gators have failed to cover the following week after beating Georgia the past 2 instances, including a 31-10 loss at Arkansas in 2016.

Pick: Arkansas+17.5

Data mining

Last week, one of our top picks was canceled due to the Pac-12’s COVID protocols, so let’s hope that all 3 games get the green light this week. One note before I jump into this simulation. All rosters are updated on a weekly basis to account for injuries, opt-outs, COVID protocols and the like.

This week that meant I needed to speculate as to the status of Wisconsin’s quarterback Graham Mertz. Given the line movement, ticket percentage (75% UW) and handle (95% UW), it’s safe to assume that Mertz is back. Player availability also played a role in the Wake Forest-UNC simulation, which saw the Tar Heels take to the virtual gridiron without their star cornerback Storm Duck.

With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, here are the top 3 plays of Week 11.


Talk about a letdown for Notre Dame. In shades of 1993, Boston College nearly upset the Irish following Notre Dame’s home victory over the No. 1 ranked team in the land. This time, Ian Book orchestrated an 8-play, 72-yard drive that was capped with a 30-yard game-winning field goal from Jonathan Doerer. The Irish survived 27-24 but didn’t come close to covering the 13.5-point spread.

As I mentioned, the UW-Michigan game swung on the availability of Graham Mertz. With the highest-rated quarterback in Wisconsin history under center and superstar junior edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson on the sidelines for Michigan, the Badgers won in a laugher 44-23.

North Carolina isn’t in a position to be laying 2 touchdowns to any ACC opponent not named Syracuse at this point. The Tar Heels are 4-3 ATS this season but have covered by an average margin of just .8 points. Wake Forest, by contrast, is 5-1 ATS and has covered by an average of 10.8 points. In the simulation, Wake Forest actually held a late 4-point lead before Sam Howell took a quarterback draw into the end zone with 2:33 remaining to seal a UNC victory, 31-28.

Heisman futures

The Heisman race is often an elimination game. Players are blocked from true contention by their schedules, their team’s overall performance or a front-runner’s unwillingness to share the spotlight. As of right now, it appears that the Heisman is Justin Fields’ to lose, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few longshots that are attractive.

Kyle Trask is putting together the kind of statistical season that grabs voters’ attention (363 pass ypg, 22:3 TD-INT ratio) and he has a path forward that could include an upset of Alabama in Atlanta and a trip to the College Football Playoff. FanDuel, DraftKings and other major sportsbooks are all offering him at 10:1 or better. He’s playing like a finalist right now, and any presumptive finalist you can find at Trask’s current price or better is worth a flyer.

Ian Book is also worth a look at 100:1. He is now the proud owner of the most significant and dramatic win of the 2020 season and, to state the obvious, he’s the quarterback of Notre Dame. At 50:1 or even 75:1, this would be a pass for me, but 100:1 is enticing with the prospect of any frontrunner potentially missing games due to COVID-19.