Beating Vegas: Entry Sixteen

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

Judging Last Week: 50/50 weeks give you the thrill of the “highs and lows” but ultimately do nothing for you, so we’ll get back to being our typical selves at over 50% this week.

The Texas Bowl:

Texas Tech (+7) vs LSU

Leonard+Fournette+Texas+v+LSU+yoxRxzF72MYl

For a decent amount of time during the season, LSU was one of the more intriguing teams in college football.  Most of that was due to their running back Leonard Fournette who thrashed college football for over 1700 rushing yards this season.  Fournette was a Heisman hopeful (and favorite) until he played against formidable defenses that realized they can stack as many defenders in the box to stop the run because the LSU passing attack was pretty much non-existent.   That’s not entirely quarterback Brandon Harris’ fault though – the LSU offense is  built off and dominated by their rushing attack.  Texas Tech has a high octane offense that averages 46.6 points per game (second to only Baylor in the Pac-12) but defensively they give up 42.6 points a game, and let opponents rush for an average of 5.6 yards a carry.  This is “lunch-time” for this LSU rushing attack.  LSU’s defense may have difficulty at first against the passing attack of Texas Tech, but the Red Raiders’ offensive line will have the task and a half of dealing with the LSU pass rush.  Bottom line is, Texas Tech is fun to look at, but their offense has struggled against defenses that have the talent to go against them, like Oklahoma and Baylor.  LSU is playing for a coach they love, who was  given a new life at LSU.  Tech has their hands full.

The Pick: LSU -7

The Holiday Bowl:

Wisconsin (+3) vs USC

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Looking at the numbers it would appear that Wisconsin’s defense is stellar: They allow a Big 10 best, 3.2 yards a carry and their pass defense has opponents completing less than 50% of their passes with only six touchdowns allowed paired with eleven interceptions.  Those are impressive numbers until they throw The Big Tahiry into the conversation – BUT (Get it?  No?  Let’s move on. . .).  Wisconsin’s defensive stats look good BUT, they didn’t really get tested by any stellar offenses this year.  Nebraska is a team you never know what you get week to week and they put up 21 against them, in what was probably their best offensive threat on the schedule.  USC’s offense is a balanced attack that has averaged 35 points a game this season, paired with a defense which equally as balanced.  USC has been tested on the field and off the field this season and this bowl game means something to them.  Wisconsin probably has the worst starting quarterback in all of the bowl games in Joel Stave and their rushing attack is not what it’s been in the last few years.  Wisconsin’s reputation is the only reason why this spread isn’t higher – USC is trying to re-establish their reputation and they have the talent to do it.

The Pick: USC -3

Cotton Bowl:

Michigan State (+10) vs Alabama

The Alabama Crimson Tide are a well oiled machine.  The architect of this machine is head coach Nick Saban, who like many great architects make sure things look aesthetically fine and are built strong enough to withstand whatever disasters are thrown in it’s way.  Alabama’s offense led by Heisman winner, running back Derrick Henry, plays just as tough as their defense which only allows 14.4 points per game.  Although Henry is their “bell-cow” running back, the offense plays versatile enough to keep any defense they play on their toes.  Michigan State is led by potential first round draft pick, quarterback Connor Cook.  Cook is a confident leader who’s touchdown to interception ratio is an impressive 24/5 but most would say it has been an otherwise disappointing season for Cook, individually.  Cook has yet to have “that moment” where scouts can say “okay he’s the kind of guy to take an NFL franchise to the next level” – if there was any moment, it’s now – against Alabama’s defense.   The truth is, Michigan State wouldn’t even be in this position if not for a freak blocked punt/score at the end of that bizarre Michigan game, and they have been underwhelming all year long.   Another fun fact, Saban hasn’t lost to a coach who once coached under him. . . so, yeah. . . there’s that.  Sorry Mark Dantonio.

The Pick: Alabama -10

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If you must: The Outback Bowl features a match up where Tennessee is the 8.5 point favorite over Northwestern.  Some games are hard to explain and this is one of them.  Tennessee was expected to finish in a better spot this year, although the team is improving under coach Butch Jones – the Volunteer faithful are just annoyed with its snail like approach to improving.  Their is so much talent on that Volunteer roster that it makes one wonder why they haven’t made that jump yet.  Northwestern is one of the peskiest teams to play against or figure out and it seems the bigger the opponent is, the harder they play.  Taking Northwestern with the points is an interesting play, especially when getting more than a touchdown.

 

Teaser of the Week: (Four Gamer) Baylor/UNC Over at 57.5; Florida/Michigan Under at 51; Steelers +2 and Buccaneers +22.5

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Entry Fifteen

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

Judging Last Week: Pushed on that sloppy and head scratching Jets win against Dallas, lost with Georgia State but covered with Ohio University and the big tease.  NFL is running high on emotion at this point of the year and there is no telling how these bowl games will unfold in college – BUT, we’ve been pretty much taking care of our faithful readers here at NGSCSports.Com, so don’t you worry, we got you!

The Bahamas Bowl (played at Thomas Robinson Stadium):

Middle Tennessee State (+4.5) vs Western Michigan

The line is interesting but the over/under is what you should be looking at.  Vegas has put the points total between the two universities at 63.  It’s a pretty big number but taking the ‘over’ just might be the way to go.  Out of the twelve games Western Michigan has played this year, nine have had a points total of at least 60 points.  Senior quarterback Zach Terrell will get to showcase his talents in this game in front of a national audience who isn’t familiar with him.  Terrell has thrown at a 68% completion rate, and has accumulated over 3200 yards and 27 touchdowns this season.   Middle Tennessee State has been averaging       points per game this season and it’s due to their aerial attack courtesy of sophomore quarterback Brent Stockstill who’s stats mirror Terrell’s except he’s thrown for about 500 more yards.  Middle Tennessee is able to look good against the bad teams, but drew losses to better competition in the Sun Belt Conference (Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech) and had back to back losses against lowly BCS Conference opponents (Vanderbilt and Illinios).   Neither team has a defense that will scare off these high octane offenses but Western Michigan is clearly the more balanced of the two attacks.  Western Michigan is a pretty good bet at -4.5 but that over is too tempting to let go of.

The Pick: The Over at 63

 

The St. Petersburg Bowl (played at Tropicana Field)

Uconn (+4.5) vs Marshall

Nov 8, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; Connecticut Huskies corner back Jamar Summers (21) returns an onside kick against Army at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

UConn is a pretty awful 6-6 team, who somehow beat a ranked Houston team during this season.  The UConn Huskies put up a putrid 17.8 points a game (second to last in the American Conference) BUT – this is a team that DOES have a defense allowing only 19.8 points per game (second in the conference, only to Temple).  UConn’s brand of football is uneventful and hard to look at, but it’s got them to a bowl game (for what it’s worth.)  Marshall’s defense is stout as well.  They were the best defense in Conference USA (18.4 points allowed per game).  Marshall’s opposition threw at a completion percentage under 50% against them, although when they played the aerial attacks of Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky, that number swelled considerably. . .  That won’t be an issue against UConn though, who as a team, struggle to run and struggle to pass.   Ultimately, Marshall will win the turn over battle and force enough three and outs that things will work out for them.

The Pick: Marshall -4.5

 

The Sun Bowl (played at Sun Bow Stadium)

Miami Hurricanes (+3) vs Washington State

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The Washington State Cougars were a nice surprise out of the Pac-12 this year, finishing with an 8-3 record, mostly due to their aerial assault.  Wide receivers Gabe Marks and Dom Williams are both close to accomplishing some impressive highlights to their amazing seasons.  Marks has over 1100 receiving yards but he is one catch shy of 100 receptions, while Williams is three yards away from a 1000 yard season.   These two talented wide outs have been the beneficiaries of their quarterback Luke Falk who has thrown for 37 touchdowns and has completion percentage of 70%.    The Miami Hurricanes defense has 15 interceptions on the year and hold opponents to less than 200 yards through the air.  That is nearly half of what Luke Falk averages per game throwing the ball —  Something has GOT to give.   Miami’s rush defense is terrible but that shouldn’t matter because the Cougars barely run the ball anyhow.  Offensively the Hurricanes live and die by quarterback Bray Kaaya who isn’t a bad quarterback but has very little help around him and at times pushes too much.

The Pick: The Over at 61

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If You Must:   The Pittsburgh Steelers at -10 over their rival the Baltimore Ravens seems like a slam dunk.  The Ravens offense has turned into “throw it to Aiken and let’s see what happens” while their defense has turned into “let’s sleep walk through this season and see what happens.”  The Steelers are coming into the end of the regular season hot and if Big Ben remains healthy there is no reason this team can’t put up five touchdowns a game.  The Ravens haven’t even scored five touchdowns in their last three games. . .

Tease of the Week: (four gamer) Cowboys/Bills Under 55; Chiefs – .5; Marshall +7.5 and Seahawks -1.5

 

Good Luck, Wager Wisely and Happy Holidays!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Beating Vegas: Entry Fourteen

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

Judging Last Week: Blessed you all with the double whammy of Army and the Under last week – and also told you guys there was NO way New England was going to NOT cover against the Texans.  This week starts the college bowl season, which is a tricky time.  Some teams want to show the world how good they are on a bigger stage, while others are disappointed to not be in a “premier” bowl game.  Some teams/coaches are motivated and others aren’t – these games go beyond just the talent on the field.

The Cure Bowl: San Jose State (-3) vs Georgia State

Games like this are the reason people say “there are too many bowl games.”  San Jose State has five wins this year while Georgia State has only one more than the Spartans.  Things looked grim from week one when Georgia State lost to Charlotte University.  Charlotte is a school in it’s first year transitioning to an FBS school. . . ugh.   Regardless of how it started, Georgia State put together a pretty decent offense led by quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who threw for 26 touchdowns and over 4000 yards.  Georgia State makes sure every one on their depth chart gets touches it seems, so there is no way to “isolate” their best weapon.  That isn’t the case for San Jose State’s offense.  They are a one trick pony who keeps the ball in the hands of their running back Tyler Ervin.  Ervin has racked up over 1400 rushing yards and he’s taken it across the end zone 13 times.   Believe it or not though, Ervin has managed that 1400 yard feat over a year of inconsistent run totals.  One week he’ll manage 50 yards, another week 200, then 22 and then 160 – it’s seriously one of the more bizarre outputs you’ll see this season.  Georgia State knows in order to stand a chance in this game they will have to sell out to stop the run.  It’s worth the gamble.  San Jose State has a good secondary, but they will be spread thin throughout this game.

The Pick: Georgia State +3

The Camellia Bowl: Ohio University (+7.5) vs Appalachian State

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It’s always interesting when conferences like the MAC and the Sun Belt square off.  These are the conferences fighting for some respect among the “big boys” and the bowl games are a perfect platform to square off against each other.  For the Sun Belt stands Appalachian State who has a 10-2 record and won six of those match ups by twenty or more points.  Appalachian State finished the season with the Sun Belt’s best defensive unit, letting opponents only average about 18 points a game.  Representing the MAC Conference is the Ohio Bobcats who surprised some folks this year with an upset win at Northern Illinois and nearly stealing a win at (then) ranked Minnesota.   Both teams will be playing this one for some respect and taking home a bowl win of any magnitude would be huge for either school.  Appalachian State has drawn a .500 record against the spread this year and this spread might be too big to cover against a school that can score and get up for any game like the Ohio Bobcats.

The Pick: Ohio +7.5

The N.Y. Jets (-3) at Dallas Cowboys

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Don’t look now, but the New York Jets may actually be the hottest team in the AFC right now.  The most suspect part of Gang Green’s ensemble is their quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and right now he is playing some of the best football of his career.  The wide receiver duo of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are playing as good as any one-two punch in the league.  Decker is 125 receiving yards short of 1000 and Marshall is 13 yards short of 1200.  The Jets have balanced out their attack which has opened up the field more for running back Chris Ivory who is on pace to break the thousand yard mark this week.  The Cowboys are a complete disaster and although that Monday Night Football win against the Redskins keeps them in the running for the NFC East, the truth is, they are horrible.  Or at least Matt Cassel is horrible.  You have to almost feel bad for Cassel.  He didn’t think he was this bad either.   The Cowboys aren’t able to do anything with Dez Bryant, and even when they do get him the ball, he’s at times so frustrated he tries to do too much and ends up yelling incoherently about something. . . The Cowboys’ defense has actually not been given enough credit this year – that unit has played pretty well, but they are usually put in bad situations or are on the field for too long.  Darren McFadden has been a surprising source of offense for the one dimensional Cowboys approach but he’s going up against the best rush defense in the league.  Not only is it the best rush defense in the league, it is also a defense that keeps opponents at an NFL’s best, 56% completion percentage against them.

The Pick: The Jets -3

Pittsburgh+Steelers+v+Cincinnati+Bengals+4keB8tBWLIyl

If You Must:  The Steelers are at home and are a six point favorite against the Denver Broncos.  It looks wrong.  It looks weird.  Looks like Vegas wants everyone to ride with the Broncos getting the points.  Just play against the majority this week and see what it gets you.  There are few offenses that can square up against Denver and this Steelers offense just might stand in that pack of a few.  Denver will rely on Osweiler in this game more than in any previous game so it should be a telling game.  Take the Steelers -6.

Tease of the Week: (four gamer) Falcons/Jaguars Over 37; Jets +9; Patriots -2; Seahawks -2.5

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Entry Thirteen

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

Judging Last Week: If it wasn’t for a nonsensical Hail Mary-like Florida touchdown that did nothing to change the course of the game – the picks would’ve been a respectable 3 out of 5 instead of 2 out of 5.  The games were all close and could’ve went either way, but hopefully you evened yourself up (and kept the faith in me) to lay it all on the Jets on Sunday afternoon.  This week’s Beating Vegas is the unlucky number 13th entry.  And with only one college game to really keep an eye out for, we might be playing against the odds, but let’s take a crack at this week.

Oakland (+7.5) at Denver

Derek+Carr+Kansas+City+Chiefs+v+Oakland+Raiders+zeMkhN9b47ll

The Broncos have ushered in the era of Brock Osweiler and what it’s brought to this offense is a sense of “calm.”  And that’s right where this offense should be right now.  Coach Gary Kubiak is all about time of possession and minimizing turnovers – this goes against everything Peyton Manning was displaying this year as the veteran quarterback’s reaction time could not keep up with his instincts.  Broke knows that he has tools to move the chains and keep his defense rested.  Although he does tend to hold the ball a little too long at times, he is still not turning it over.  On the other side of the ball is the blossoming of a future franchise quarterback in Derek Carr.  The Raiders fan base has been waiting on a franchise QB for a while and Derek Carr seems to be playing the role of one as his 26 touchdown passes paired with a 63% completion percentage show.  Unfortunately for Carr, he is going up against a Denver defense that allows only 195 passing yards a game and has accumulated 41 sacks so far this year (both NFL’s current best).  Carr has fumbled the ball 7 times this year already and he’ll have to be aware of edge rushers all game long.  The Raiders only put up 10 points in their last meeting at that was in the comforts of their own home, this time around, expect more of the same.

The Pick: Denver -7.5

New England (-3.5) at Houston

This one is pretty simple.  It may seem cheesy, or it may seem like a terrible way of reasoning but it’s simple in my mind:  The Patriots will NOT lose three games in a row.  It’s something we just will not see.  They especially wont lose to a team quarterbacked by Brian Hoyer.   Yes, they did just lose to Sam Bradford, but that makes it even more impossible to lose to a quarterback of the same caliber.  Truth is, the game against Philadelphia included a blocked punt for a touchdown, returned a punt for a touchdown and a Tom Brady interception for a touchdown.  Indeed it takes skill to do those things, but for all of them to happen in the same game and against the Patriots – takes a lot of luck as well.  The Patriots biggest issue (besides not having Gronkowski who CBS Sports said was “iffy” against the Texans) was the dropped passes – especially on their final drive.  Amendola, Lafell and the rest of this group need to get it together especially against this formidable Houston Texans pass defense.  New England will go back to utilizing their running backs, like the good ol’ days, and work their way into the heart of this Texans defense that is allowing nearly 4.5 yards a carry.   Bottom line, the Patriots are not losing three in a row and at 3.5 points, that’s almost a “pick ’em” in the era of Tom Brady.

The Pick: New England -3.5

Army (+24) at Navy

Ken+Niumatalolo+Navy+v+Duke+rRPEofrTPzcl

The annual Army/Navy game is one of the best traditions in American sports.  This will be the 116th meeting between the two military academies and Navy leads this series 59-49-7.   Navy has actually won thirteen in a row and looking to continue that streak this weekend.  For some reason as better as Navy has looked in recent years, Army gets up for this game.  In the last four victories Navy took home, they only won by a margin of 7 points or less.   Both academies rely on their running attacks and Navy has been stellar this year on the ground.  Navy ranked in the top tens with yards per carry and finished third in the nation in total rushing yards (ahead of offensive big shots, Baylor and Oregon).  And although Army runs for about 80 yards less than Navy does a game, they are still running for 254 yards a game at 4.9 a clip —  very far from being “shabby.”   Navy is 9-2 and Army is 2-9, Navy has had a tougher schedule and their losses came by the hands of two ranked teams in Notre Dame and Houston.  Their most notable wins came against Memphis and Air Force, of whom statistically has a better rushing attack than Navy and for the most part were shut down.  Army’s wins came against Eastern Michigan and Bucknell, but losses to teams like Wake Forest and Fordham really make you shake your head at the direction this program has taken (quick note, Army had success against Air Force’s rushing attack as well by ultimately lost by 20-3).  There is a lot of respect in this rivalry and the times Navy has blown out Army it’s usually because they can’t help themselves, they’re just that much better.   The over/under is set at 54.5 and the last time these two teams combined to get over that number was back in 2005 when Navy won 42-23.

The Pick:  Army +24 and the Under at 54.5

If You Must:  The Giants versus the Dolphins on Monday Night Football will make it three weeks in a row of teams nobody really cares to watch on prime time.  This games puts to defenses up against each other that can give up thirty a night easily.  Take the over at 46.5 points and root for nothing else but the scoreboard.

Tease of the week: (four gamer) Jets +5,  Patriots +8.5, Army/Navy Under 66 and Steelers/Bengals Over 36.5

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

 

“Top Five Dead Or Alive” Album Review

Jadakiss has been calling himself “top five dead or alive” for some time now.  The funny thing about it is, nobody in hip hop has challenged him.  Nobody even questions it.  Fans and peers alike are all aware of the talent possessed by the Yonkers, New York representative.  He has mastered the “slick talk” as a rapper and his punchlines are among some of the most quotable in hip hop history.  Still. . . there has always been a question with Jada: “Why isn’t he bigger than he is?”  It’s a valid question and it’s usually answered with a shake of the head accompanied by a response like “He’s too hood.”  It might be a cop out answer, but there is some truth to it.  There is not a rapper from the old school or new school, who would (or should) test Jada on the mic.  This is why he has anointed himself as “Top Five D.O.A.”

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Jadakiss’ theme is simple: He’s better than you and he challenges your street cred to match his.  On “First 48” he sets the tone for what’s to come over a soulful sample laid out by Ty Fiffe: “Yea they love to hear the don speak/That’s because my dialog ain’t in arms reach/Nah, I ain’t with the coward ‘ish/First the skinny jeans, now they wearin’ blouses/ Don’t ever confuse wireless for powerless.”

Swizz Beatz reunites with his Ruff Ryders brethern on “You Don’t Eat” and “Jason.”  Both tracks give Jada’s raspy tone a nice back drop as Swizz has never lost touch with his street-production.  “You Don’t Eat” shows Jadakiss in his usual defiant nature, telling people how he is a legend in the game, and has been looked over for unknown reasons.   Jada has a way of sounding aggressive on tracks without having to get rowdy and still be able to throw in a slick bar here and there “I put an end to you I save all the small talk for the interludes.”  It’s  true mark of an O.G. – of the rap game and the street.   “Jason” has some layers and depth to it although the intro verse by Swizz is a bit out of place. . . Jadakiss touches on the violence in communities today, especially from police towards minorities (Kiss cleverly utters “I can’t breathe” over the hook of the song in ode to Eric Garner.)   The song isn’t a shot towards the police, it’s more a message to the listener as in – you have to protect yourself and better your pride because nothing is promised and there are people who are plotting on your demise.  Even if the path chosen is one that is frowned upon.

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On “Y.O.” you can picture Jadakiss on a corner talking to the younger cats on his block, schooling them on the harsh realities of what a life on the streets can lead to: “learned how to clap before he knew how to stack/ now he doing thirty something years in the max. . . Drop on the jux you can give him a quick call/But kicking it with him is like talking to a brick wall/Comes from a good fam so his books stay right/He only 23 he got a chance to see daylight.

Jada flexes hard on “You Can See” which features Future on the hook: “Top 5 DOA, niggas know he don’t play/I can sell a ki a day, guess it’s in my DNA/Comfortable with being at the top, that’s where he gon’ stay. .. I’m the general of the block, I’m a lead the way/Either way, call me Paul – as long as Peter pay.”  Jadakiss has an undeniable truth to his diction and one can easily tell by how easily the street metaphors and lingo flow out of him, that he’s a man who lives by what he says.

The album takes a few steps back with the boring “Man in the Mirror” and the disappointing appearances by LOX member Styles P on “Rain” and “Synergy.”  It might not even be the fault of Styles, the beat on “Rain” is nothing more than a loop with some nonsensical noise in the hook while the beat to “Synergy” is actually over powering.  It’s tough to make out what either rapper is saying as the highs in the beat are almost screeching, never making it an easy listen.  Lil Wayne appears on “Kill” but the song would’ve been better off as just a Jadakiss solo because the apparent decline of Weezy is evident. . .

Jadakiss+Jadakiss+at+His+Hotel+Hc_0oH4UfXGl

There are other collaborations on the album that actually don’t fall flat.  “So High” is Jada’s “weed song” on this album and who else to feature on that topic than Wiz Khalifa who fits on the track perfectly and actually balances out the song well with Jadakiss.   “Realest in the Game” features Sheek Louch and Young Buck and the only issue with the song is trying to figure out which of them bodied the track best.

Kiss has been pretty consistent in dropping albums, but he ends this one the best with “One More Mile to Go.”  Here Jada is telling listeners to simply never give up and fight off feelings of self-doubt.    He spits bars that anyone can relate to : “Ain’t scared to die, but you thinking ’bout a coffin/And quitting ain’t an option but you think about it often/Saying to yourself, how this ain’t fair/You got the strength but the energy, just ain’t there.” 

It’s fitting that Jadakiss ends this album talking about perseverance because that’s been a key component in his life and career.  Top five dead or alive is a high claim but one that hasn’t been argued – at least not to his face and Jadakiss gives people a lot of reasons to not argue it. . . or get in his face.

Rating 7.5

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

Beating Vegas: Entry Twelve

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

Judging Last Week: Consider yourself lucky to  have an even split in rivalry week, this week it doesn’t get much easier.   During championship week, the games are played at “neutral” destinations, and some teams are playing for their playoff lives.

North Carolina (+4) vs Clemson (game to be played at Bank of America Stadium)

To get into the College Football Playoff, North Carolina would need a win against #1 ranked Clemson, and a ton of teams in front of them to completely fall apart.  First things first though for the Tar Heels, and that’s a chance to knock off the best team in the country, Clemson.  There are two things that separate the two teams, and only two things: 1. Clemson is undefeated while UNC has one loss to South Carolina; and 2. UNC’s one real weakness comes with their run defense.  The Tar Heels give up 208 yards a game on the ground to the opposition but at least have a pass defense that is formidable and they will have to be at their best against quarterback Deshaun Watson.  Watson throws at a 70% completion percentage and has thrown for 27 touchdowns on the year.  He is not in a class all by himself though.  UNC’s Marquise Williams throws at a 65% completion rate and is just as much a dual threat as Watson.  Week to week, Clemson looks like a team that plays down to the level of their competition and the next week they seem like they’re playing on a whole other level.  This week, they are playing against a tough and aggressive Tar Heels squad that knows even a bowl game after beating Clemson, won’t be as exciting as actually beating Clemson.

The Pick: North Carolina +4

 

Michigan State (-3) vs  Iowa (game to be played at Lucas Oil Stadium)

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The knocks against Iowa all year is that they haven’t “played anybody good” and the knock against Michigan State is that they haven’t played “up to their expectations.”  For whatever faults these teams possess, they did enough to find themselves in the Big 10 Championship Game.  It’s simple enough, whoever wins becomes Big 10 Champ and earns a birth in the college football playoff.  Michigan State has had a problem “putting teams away” and it’s quite baffling.  The only assumption one can make is that they take their opponents lightly and basically sleep walk during games.  There is NFL talent throughout the roster, most notably at quarterback with Connor Cook.   Cook is expected to be a first round pick in the upcoming draft and games like these is when he’ll need to shine the most.   He has 24 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions but his 57.6 completion percentage shows, he tends to be inconsistent at times.   Iowa’s defense has been good this year, but once again – considering the level of competition, it’s to be taken with a grain of salt.  They won by single digit margins against the two better offenses they faced in Indiana and Nebraska.  This Michigan State team knows that the talent in the Big 10 is on the rise, and with things not looking to get any easier with rivals Michigan and Ohio State in the near future, their time is now.

 

The Pick: Michigan State -3

 

Florida (+17) vs Alabama (game to be played in the Georgia Dome)

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The Florida Gator defense has been the talk of the town.  They allow only  15.5 points per game and have speed in their secondary that goes almost unmatched.  The Gator offense has been more reliant on their defense then themselves as they muster 25 points a game, but haven’t gone over the 30 point mark since that early win in October against Ole Miss.  Quarterback Will Grier’s suspension has really put his team in a bad position on the offensive side of things, as Treon Harris has minimalized the chance for the Gators to display a balanced offense.  Harris’ 53% completion percentage forces the Gators to stick to the ground.  Harris’ athleticism is over-rated as well, because as the team’s second leading rusher the QB is averaging less than three yards a carry. . . Honestly, as good as the Gators are on defense, the Crimson Tide are just better. They allow one fewer point than Florida does on defense and  running against ‘Bama has been nearly impossible as teams average 2.5 yards a carry and less than 80 yards a game against them.  This is the team that held LSU’s Leornard Fournette to  31 yards and less than 2 yards a carry in their 30-16 victory over the Tigers.  And unlike Florida, ‘Bama has a very balanced offense that gets it done through the air and also by ways of the ground with their running back, Heisman hopeful, Derrick Henry.   Most will see the big number and go with the team getting the points, but in truth, Alabama is primed for a big win going into the College Football playoff.  Florida will struggle getting first downs, let alone touchdowns, while Alabama will find a way.

The Pick: Alabama -17

 

If you must: When looking at the Baylor vs Texas line, the +21 going to the Longhorns is too juicy to pass up.  The Baylor Bears are going into this game with their third string quarterback and that’s the least of their woes.  This is a team that was destroying everything in it’s path and looking forward to a Championship run – that is all gone.  For the Longhorns though, this is their championship game.  They may not win, but they’ll put up a tough fight to not be blown out.

BONUS pick:  This one is just too easy to lay off of.  Take the Jets at -2 against their hometown rival New York Giants.  The Jets are a team that are becoming scarier and scarier as the playoffs approach.  At full health this is one of the tougher teams on both sides of the ball, and they seem to be rolling right now.  Fitzpatrick is the only wildcard here, but he has weapons around him – too many for the Giants to handle.  Eli will be under pressure the entire game and this is a secondary that is loving the opportunity to play against Odell Beckum Jr.  This one could get ugly and could be the easiest win of the week.

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Teaser of the Week: (Four Gamer) Bowling Green +1, Jets +10, Patriots +2.5, Michigan State +9

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio