11/14/2013 2:46PM

'Squid' gets perfect storm to win William Hill's NCAA contest


LAS VEGAS – Caesar Espinosa is a mild-mannered 43-year-old marketing executive for a real estate title company here in town, but every Friday he dons his alter ego of SammyTSquid.

Under that alias, Espinosa gives out football picks on the MMAjunkie.com radio show/podcast that is taped at noon Eastern at the Mandalay Bay race and sports book.

“I give out five plays a week,” Espinosa said. “I mostly give out college picks and throw some NFL in there because that’s what most people follow and like to bet, but if I had my way, I’d just stick with the colleges because the NFL is so hard to beat.”

Well, I’m guessing he won’t get any complaints if he gets his way by using the leverage of his newest title: William Hill College Pick’em champion.

The College Pick’em is the biggest public handicapping contest that doesn’t involve the NFL, and it’s the first season-long prize ($10,000 for first place) to be awarded as it just concluded last Saturday after 10 weeks. There is a $100 entry fee, and contestants make seven selections against the spread each week.

Espinosa went 50-20 ATS (71.4 percent), an average of 5-2 each week. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he had one 4-3 week, one 6-1 week, and eight 5-2 weeks.

“I’m proudest of the fact I didn’t have a losing week for 10 straight weeks as I know how hard that is,” he said. “It’s just been my year.”

But his victory wasn’t without its tense moments.

He led by just one game going into the final day. He had Mississippi, North Carolina, Syracuse, and Arizona State during the day games and split those, going 2-2. Starting with the 4 p.m. Pacific games, he had Texas –6.5 vs. West Virginia; Alabama –12.5 vs. LSU; and Fresno State –9.5 vs. Wyoming.

“Texas was losing most of the game, Bama was tied just 12-12, and while those games were coming down to the wire, Fresno State fell behind 7-0,” Espinosa said. “I was staring at a possible 2-5 there, which would have been a disaster.”

The College Pick’em has weekly prizes, with $5,000 split by those that go 7-0, which Espinosa didn’t do. He did win $66 for his one 6-1 week, but since the season-long only pays the top five, there was a possibility that a 2-5 record could have dropped him out of the money.

“I was at dinner with my wife at the burger place at the M Resort and following the games,” he said. “I wasn’t in a good mood to say the least, but it turned around.”

Alabama and Fresno State both ended up winning in routs, but Texas was the game that ended up being the lucky rally that he needed to clinch the title.

“I had to get the perfect storm,” Espinosa said. “I had to have Texas tie it and go to overtime. Then they needed to get the ball first – because if they’re on defense first and stop West Virginia and score a TD they wouldn’t kick the extra point – and score the TD and extra point and then have the defense hold.

And that’s what happened. Tied 40-40 heading to overtime, Texas scored first to go up 47-40 and then stopped the Mountaineers for the win and the cover of the 6.5-point spread for Espinosa.

He didn’t know until Tuesday that his nearest competitor also went 5-2 to keep from catching him and giving him the one-game win and the $10,000.

Espinosa now goes back to his double life here in Vegas, where he has lived for 10 years. He said he moved to Houston for two years but came back about five years ago and has been moonlighting on the MMAjunkie show ever since. He said he has known the host, George Garcia, since they were childhood friends in Orange County, Calif.

As for the name SammyTSquid? Well, Espinosa says it’s a nickname from his younger days and that’s its best to keep it a mystery.

Back to the betting board

Last week, I won with my NCAA pick on Houston +10.5 to get back to .500. I split in the NFL with a win on the Raiders +7 vs. the Giants but losing on the Chargers +7 vs. the Broncos. This week, I’ll go with one NCAA and one NFL play.

Houston +16 vs. Louisville

The Cougars came through for me last week against Central Florida, the only team to beat Louisville this year, so I’ll stick with them to do the same this Saturday as they’re getting even more points against the Cardinals, who have played down to their competition at times this year.

PLAY: Houston for 1 unit.

Packers +5.5 vs. Giants

This line has been coming down after being as high as 6.5, and I think the money is on the right side as I’m fading the Giants for the second straight week. Yes, they’ve won three straight, but if the Raiders can cover against them with Terrelle Pryor at less than 100 percent, I think the Packers (a better overall team, even with Scott Tolzien being thrust into the starting QB role) can do the same.

PLAY: Packers for 1 unit.

NCAA record: 5-5 for net loss of 0.5 units (based on risking 1.1 to win 1). NFL record: 7-11 for a net loss of 5.1 units.