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
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
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
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
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!