Call this handicapper a rolling Stone

LAS VEGAS — From a cafe near his home on the rim of Lake Jacksonville in East Texas, expert college football handicapper Paul Stone addressed the realities of the transfer portal.

He views various portal rankings and easily spots those factoring incoming players only.

“When it doesn’t really represent the net effect of the players gained and lost,” Stone said. “Texas A&M is a great example. The Aggies will probably be among everybody’s top five, certainly top 10.

“But I think the players they lost, collectively, are much more talented and impactful than the players they’re bringing in.”

Safety Jacoby Mathews, cornerback Sam McCall and tackle Colton Thompson are some of the elite players who have left College Station.

“So I don’t buy into the narrative that Texas A&M was a winner in the portal,” Stone said. “I chose it to be a loser.”

As a result, Stone found an 8.5-wins total for the Aggies in nearby Louisiana and bet under, at -130 (or risk $130 to win $100). His typical unit is a sportsbook’s maximum, usually $2,000 to $3,000.

Texas A&M was 20-17 over the last three seasons, including 10-14 in the SEC, under Jimbo Fisher. It gave him $75 million to walk away and hired Mike Elko, a one-time Aggies defensive coordinator.

“You have a first-year head coach, a lot of roster turnover and I think they were slight losers in the portal,” Stone said. “I don’t think they’re any better this year.”


College pigskin is Stone’s wheelhouse action. Paul Stone Sports has an exclusive clientele that receives the 62-year-old former sportswriter’s plays. His podcast, featuring his smooth Texas drawl, is a must-listen for aficionados.

Updating his 8-by-12 Big Chief notebooks, two pages per FBS team, in pencil is a year-round affair for Stone, but he and wife Abby often fit in a proper annual holiday.

They explored Portugal last month for eight days, which presented a culinary challenge. Stone laughed. “I don’t eat octopus,” he said. “I ate a lot of sardines.”

As recorded by the independent industry watchdog Sports Monitor of Oklahoma, his sides and totals went 61-54 last season (53%), a whisker above the 52.38% rate required to break even.

“Not my best work,” Stone said. “Still, a winning season.”

It led him to examine nine seasons of selections, to unearth tendencies, ways to improve. He broke everything into point ranges.

Stone found he excelled picking under 40-45 totals, underdogs getting 4 to 9.5 points. Betting over in games with 65 totals or higher produced poor results.

“Whatever we’re talking about, whether relationships or finances or betting on sports, we have to look at ourselves impartially, with a clear head,” he said. “You have to put yourself in the best possible position for success.

“To do that in this craft, you have to play to strengths and avoid weaknesses, a good mantra for life.”


Under also guided Stone in wagering on regular-season win totals for Missouri (9.5, at -150) and Oklahoma (7.5, at -110), at either Caesars Palace or DraftKings, in Shreveport, Louisiana.

The Tigers went 11-2 last season after four consecutive non-winning years.

“A breakthrough for Missouri,” Stone said. “A lot went their way, and I believe this year they go from the hunter, so to speak, to among the hunted. It’s a lot different with that target on your back.”

Stone hasn’t been bullish about third-year Oklahoma coach Brent Venables.

“A great defensive coordinator,” Stone said. “I do question whether or not he’s going to be able to ultimately make the transition from a fiery, screaming-at-the-top-of-his-lungs defensive coordinator to the CEO of a major program.

“Successful DCs or OCs are often promoted, based on success, to be CEO of the overall program, but the two positions are quite different. I’m not a huge fan, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the hire at the time.”

Stone gauges the Big 12 and ACC as wide-open leagues, with value in Oklahoma State (12-to-1 at DraftKings) to win the former, N.C. State (+700) and Virginia Tech (14-1) the latter.

He suggested splitting a single unit for that action. (Odds subject to change.)

He mined more value, as the national playoff expands from four to 12 teams, in Utah. The Utes are 55-1, at DK, to win it all, +340 to conquer the Big 12.

“Take a flyer on them to win the Big 12, and they might get a first-round bye” in the playoff, Stone said. “And if that happens, they’d only have to win one game and you could hedge that ticket.”

When Circa Sports soon unveils its Games of the Year, he’ll fly into Vegas — which he does weekly during the season — to invest in about 20.

He won’t touch Colorado, whose wins DraftKings projects at 5.5. He said the portal-dependent program is in “a free fall.” It won its first three games under controversial rookie boss Deion Sanders last season before finishing 1-8.

However, the Buffs were 7-4-1 against the spread, and Stone profited by backing them as underdogs and fading them as favorites.

“Fast forward a year from today and I’m not sure Sanders will be the head coach at Colorado.” Stone said. “This will go down as a very negative decision for the long-term health of the Colorado football program.”

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