More NFL preseason games means more unders, plus all the college football picks you need for this weekend

What a Friday we’ve got going for ourselves. First of all, there is massive news in the world of soccer. Remember this morning when Shanna told you Cristiano Ronaldo — one of the biggest superstars in the world in any sport — wanted to leave Juventus and that Manchester City was preparing an offer? Well, in the world of high-profile soccer transfers, things change quickly, and that’s precisely what happened.

Earlier today, news broke that Manchester City was no longer interested in adding Ronaldo, but that didn’t change the ultimate outcome. Ronaldo has left Juventus, and he’s heading to Manchester, but he’ll be playing for Manchester United — the same club he was playing for when he went from a young, promising prospect to the verge of global superstardom.

United is sending roughly $30 million to Juventus on top of what it will have to pay Ronaldo. It’s a great deal for United, as it gives them yet another tremendous weapon to compete in both the Premier League this season and Champions League. It’s also a good deal for Juventus. Ronaldo is still a fantastic player, but Juventus doesn’t have the money that Manchester United has. Getting Ronaldo off the payroll will allow the club a lot more flexibility moving forward.

Of course, Ronaldo being Ronaldo, there is a part of me that can’t help but believe one of the driving factors in his decision to leave Juventus was seeing all the attention Messi got this summer when he left Barcelona. Ronaldo’s ego is, shall we say, healthy?

Anyway, that’s the biggest news of the day, but the other reason this is an exciting day for the newsletter is that COLLEGE FOOTBALL STARTS TOMORROW AND I’VE GOT COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS FOR YOU. I also have an NFL pick, and some baseball picks for you tonight. There’s so much to get to, but first, let’s catch up on the other news of the day.

Now let’s set you up for the entire weekend.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

🏈 Vikings at Chiefs, 8 p.m. | TV: NFL Network
The Pick: Under 38.5 (-110)
: We’ve been betting unders in preseason games the last couple of weeks, and we’re back on the grind tonight. There are four NFL games tonight, but this is the only one we’re betting. You see, while unders are 22-9-1 overall in the preseason this year, there’s another trend inside that trend that’s difficult to ignore.

The under is only 12-6-1 in games with totals of 36.5 or lower — and that’s still great! — but it’s 10-3 in the 13 games that have had a total of 37 points or higher. Tonight’s game between the Vikings and Chiefs is the only one of the four with a total above 37. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that neither team is likely to play its starters for long, if at all. With it being the final preseason game, this will be more about players at the edge of the roster earning or losing jobs tonight.

We just have to hope they don’t lose jobs by allowing a bunch of touchdowns.

Key Trend: The under is 22-9-1 this preseason.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: If you’re more interested in the spread, Larry Hartstein is 16-4 with his last 20 ATS picks involving the Chiefs, and he has a pick available for tonight.

💰 The Picks


Cubs at White Sox, 8:10 p.m. | TV: MLB Network
The Pick: Over 9 (-120) — 
The White Sox starting rotation has been one of the best in baseball this season, but there is a weak link in the chain, and it’s starting tonight. Dallas Keuchel has an ERA of 4.71. Keuchel has always been a pitch-to-contact type who gets ground balls and relies on the defense behind him. That’s still the case this season, as Keuchel has a strikeout rate of 14.1%, which is well below league average.

His groundball rate, however, is 32% above league average. The problem is, he doesn’t have a great infield defense behind him, and even if he’s keeping the ball on the ground, he gets hit hard. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the harder a ball is hit, the less likely it is to be an out.

On the other side, Keegan Thompson has an ERA of 2.42 in his first 44.2 innings for the Cubs, but it’s misleading. He has an average strikeout rate of 22.8% and a terrible walk rate of 12.4%. He also gives up a good number of fly balls and hard contact. That’s not the best combination against this White Sox lineup that will be as close to full strength as it’s been at any other time this season. I’m expecting the ball to fly on the south side of Chicago tonight.

Key Trend: The over is 5-1 in the last six meetings.

Royals at Mariners, 10:10 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
The Pick: Mariners -1.5 (+110) — 
The Mariners have turned it on a bit as of late, and they’re sneaking their way into wild-card contention. They’re now only a game behind Oakland for second place in the AL West and 3.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox for the final wild card spot. If they want to keep their hopes alive, they need to beat up on bad teams like the Royals squad they’re facing tonight.

Logan Gilbert starts for Seattle tonight, and he has an ERA of 5.16 in 82 innings this season. It’s an unlucky 5.16, though, as his xFIP is a much stronger 3.94. This is partially due to excellent control (5.5% walk rate) that helps offset a strikeout rate (26.6%) that’s fine but not outstanding. Also, while he gives up a lot of fly balls, he limits hard contact, which plays well in Seattle. Tonight he’s going against Kansas City’s Kris Bubic, who combines a lack of swing-and-miss stuff with a lousy walk rate of 11.4% and a propensity for allowing dingers.

Key Trend: 12 of Seattle’s last 15 wins have come by at least two runs.

🏈 College Football


UConn at Fresno State, Saturday, 2 p.m. | TV: CBS Sports Network
The Pick: UConn +27.5 (-110) — 
You’re darn right I’m taking a four-touchdown underdog to start the college football season! You might argue that UConn didn’t even play last season, but that just means the Huskies have fresh legs. Plus, you know, these are the defending national champions, according to The New York Times. Treat them with a little more respect.

Seriously, though, this spread seems a little too large in my estimation. It’s not like I expect the Huskies to be very good this season, but I’m not ready to trust Fresno State as this large a favorite, either. The Bulldogs were only 3-3 last season, and the wins came against three teams that combined to go 2-14.

Key Trend: Fresno State is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games as a favorite.

Hawaii at UCLA, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Hawaii +17.5 (-110) — 
First of all, Hawaii playing while the sun is still out on the mainland just feels wrong. This game should not be starting before 10 p.m. ET. It’s an injustice against college football fans everywhere, but there’s not a whole lot we can do about it, so let’s just grit our teeth and bet.

I’m high on UCLA entering the season, and I think it will win this game comfortably, but it’s hard for me to ignore Chip Kelly’s history in nonconference games. In short, he doesn’t seem to care much about them. In two seasons at UCLA, the Bruins have gone 1-5 ATS in nonconference games under Kelly, with the lone cover coming as a 31-point underdog to Oklahoma in 2018. The Bruins have only been favored in two of the games, and they lost both (Cincinnati in 2018 and San Diego State in 2019). Again, I think the Bruins get the win, but I’m not going to rely on them covering while doing so.

By the way, while these are my two favorite college football picks, I do have two other picks I like available in my weekly picks column.

Key Trend: UCLA is 1-5 ATS in nonconference games under Chip Kelly.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The Advanced Computer Model sees a lot of value on one side of the money line in tonight’s game between the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees.

 ⚽ Weekend Soccer Parlay

A three-leg parlay over Saturday and Sunday. It pays +144.

  • Juventus (-380)
  • Tottenham (-240)
  • Barcelona (-275)

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