Beating Vegas: And Now It Really Begins

Utah State +27.5 at Wisconsin

Get used to Wisconsin being a fixture in this year’s Beating Vegas columns.  Wisconsin’s talent and schedule all point to a dominant season which should have them in the Big 10 Championship game and hopefully, for them, a playoff birth.    This is the kind of game that Wisconsin needed to jump start their season as Utah State has a pretty bleek-to-mediocre outlook for this season. Utah State’s offense will be uptempo but with a weak offensive line and a quarterback that only had 10 touchdown passes last season – this team is nothing more than “lunch” to the Wisconsin defense.  Utah’s secondary isn’t bad, but lets be honest – Wisconsin loves to pound the ball and throw the ball over the middle for modest gains.  This one should be over at halftime – which means, look at the first half spread of this game and go nuts with that too.

The Pick: Wisconsin -27.5

South Carolina +4.5  vs N.C. State (at Bank of America Stadium in North Carolina)

I remember, not too long ago, when the South Carolina Gamecocks were one of the more exciting teams to watch.  They still (in my opinion) have the coolest jerseys in college football (sorry Oregon) and have a loyal fan base, but these here, are the dog days for the Gamecocks.  N.C. State on the other hand has been “decent” and with a ton of upside.  N.C. State had the most heartbreaking loss of the season when they missed a field goal that would’ve beaten eventual National Champion Clemson and on top of that had a four point loss to Florida State and a three-point loss to Eastern Carolina.  With a bunch of starters returning this year, N.C. State should know how to put away teams for good this season – and South Carolina is a team that is usually looking to go to bed early.  N.C. State’s seasoned defensive front will dominate the South Carolina offensive line and control this game for the most part.

The Pick: N.C. State -4.5

Texas A&M +4.5 at UCLA

Head coaches Jim Mora of UCLA and Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M are starting out the season on the “hot seat.”   They are both talented coaches who won’t stay unemployed for long but they are both at jobs they’d hate to lose.  They are both pretty good recruiters and pretty good offensive minds – but their teams are inconsistent.  Texas A&M was moving up charts last season until they hit a road block called the Crimson Tide which effectively turned out to be the beginning of a 2-5 run at the end of the season.  UCLA was mediocre to start last season but after quarterback Josh Rosen went down they became flat out bad and seemingly uninspired. This year Rosen is looking for NFL scouts to be looking for him and he has all the natural ability to make that leap.  This one will be a shoot-out and you’ve got to ride with the better quarterback in this one.  Bruins lost this game last year in overtime against the Aggies, in Texas but this year have the pleasure of being the home favorites. UCLA’s running game should be able to hit the outside of the Aggies’ front line which should be all the balance Rosen needs to pull this one out.  UCLA by a touchdown – late.

The Pick: UCLA -4.5

“Bonus Coverage*”

With NGSC’s very own Kyle Nash earning himself credentials with UCF and Josh Zimmer covering the University of Minnesota – it’s only right to shed light on these two games real quick.

Minnesota’s defense will dominate Buffalo this week and although twenty-four and half points seems to be a lot at first glance – this may be the only time they’ll be able to clearly overpower an opponent this year.  Oregon State and Purdue may seem like easy wins too in the future, but those will be played away from Minneapolis. . .

UCF has to fight off the stench coming all the way from the NFL, considering one of their most prized possessions, Blake Bortles is a lower case “t” away from spelling out the word “bust.”  They get to fight off that stench against the Golden Panthers of Florida International that have starters returning on offense that should put up a fight against UCF.  UCF’s head coach Scott Frost might be one to look out for AFTER this season, which means expect him to have another good season and eventually leave for a better job.  The over in this game is what I’m eyeing at 56.5.

*These are NOT LOCKS – just assumptions : )

Four Game Teaser of the Week: Texas -6.5; UNC Pk, Washington -15.5 and Wyoming +24.


Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio


Beating Vegas: Getting Bullish Early

It’s the start of the college season. Kind of-sort of.  Do people even call this “week one of college football?”

There are five games slated for Saturday.  Think of it as an appetizer to next week’s barrage of games that awaits.  Let’s not get crazy though.  We’ve waited a long time and these games aren’t the most “watch-able.” So let’s be smart and wager wisely.


South Florida -20.5 at San Jose State

Don’t let that stint at Texas fool you.  Charlie Strong is a very good college football coach.  Texas was almost a “set-up” job from the start.  It’s always nonsense when a coach is given a bad squad and never really given an opportunity to turn the program around.  That’s in the past now though and Charlie Strong finds himself in a great situation with South Florida. He has a true dual-threat QB in Quinton Flowers.  Much of the defense is returning and although it wasn’t a “shut down” defense (lowest point total allowed was 20 points to Syracuse) one would expect improvement especially with Charlie Strong at the helm.  San Jose State on the other hand lost in a bunch of shoot-outs against teams with equally horrible defenses.  Towards the end of the year they showed some fight against Boise State and Air Force but ultimately came up empty.  Last season San Jose couldn’t do much to stop the oppositions run attack and did very little to stop the oppositions pass rush (gave up 50 sacks).   With uncertainty at the quarterback position after Spring, this is a squad that is really ripe for the picking.  Charlie Strong will look to make an example out of someone early.  South Florida will be heavily favored in their first three games of the season and for good reason.  This is a double digit win team come year’s end.

The Pick: South Florida -20.5



Rice +30 versus Stanford (game being played in Sydney, Australia)

Stanford enters this season asking themselves: “who will fill the void left by running back Christian McCaffrey?”  The answer is found in the speedy Bryce Love.  Love is no slouch, as he averaged 7 yards a carry last season including three 100 yard rushing games (most notably the 115 yards he put up against UNC in the Sun Bowl).

Rice’s offensive line is weak – to put it lightly and going up against a tradition front-force like Stanford will be the beginning and end of this game.  Rice’s offensive line will be pushed around and their secondary is one of the worse in college football.  Good news is that Stanford isn’t looking to do much more than run due to the fact they have no real studs in their wide out group and nobody is really sold on Keller Chryst as anything more than “a guy who plays quarterback for Stanford.”

Stanford went 10-3 last year and never won by a margin of 30 points. Subtract their best players from both sides of the ball (Christian McCaffrey and Soloman Thomas) and it’s hard to see them coming out week one and looking to blow the barn doors off of anyone.  Head coach David Shaw isn’t one to run up the score either.  He’d rather kill the clock when up.

The Pick: Rice +30

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Pessimism in Jacksonville

Let’s look at back at the 2014 Draft Profile of Blake Bortles written by Nolan Nawrocki “Possesses ideal size, athletic ability, intangibles and enough arm strength to develop into an upper-echelon quarterback. . .his arrow is very clearly ascending.”  Fast forward to today and Blake Bortles looks like he may lose his starting job to 32 year old veteran Chad Henne.


Many of us were on the “Blake Bortles Train,” and how could we not be?  He  looked like what you would want at quarterback.  In year two of Bortles’ young career he put up promising numbers for a team that went 5-11. He threw for 4428 passing yards and 35 touchdown passes – sure he had eighteen interceptions, but that’s because the team is so bad right?  Eh, last season proved that although the team is far from where people thought they’d be at right now – Bortles has shown zero improvement.  He makes bad decisions and more times than not just looks overwhelmed.  The Jags front office has done an “okay” job helping out Bortles – and for all things considered, in the short time they have had Bortles, they’ve done more than the Chargers have done for Philip Rivers’ whole career – but ANYHOW –

The Jags drafted two starting offensive linemen in Brandon Linder and AJ Cann and right off the bat in 2014 they drafted two wideouts Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson to grown with Bortles.  Robinson has emerged as the clear number one, but his frustrations with Bortles are becoming evident as his numbers declined from 2015 to 2016 as well. This season they’ve added two guys who many think can play in this league for a long, long time : Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson and LSU running back Leonard Fourtnette.  This is supposed to be Bortles’ year to “put up or shut up” but the Jags are considering to shut him down completely in favor of veteran Chad Henne.

This move would destroy the Jags season and the hope of all Jags fans right at the start of week one.

With no disrespect to Chad Henne, this move means the Jags are no where near having their franchise quarterback and this season will be another four or five win (at best) campaign for Jacksonville.  The AFC South is a win-able division by most standards.  Houston is the “best” team in the division but nobody in their right mind would think they’d win 10 games or have a deep playoff run; the Titans are on the “come-up” but so were the Jags a year ago; and the Colts are Andrew Luck, surrounded by a squad of “guys who would get cut else-where.”

On paper Bortles should not lose the starting job to Henne.  To be honest, Henne’s only job in Jacksonville was to serve as a veteran quarterback to help mentor Bortles.  He’s supposed to be someone who solidifies the fact that Bortles is the number one guy in Jacksonville.  Instead, Bortles is looking over his shoulder and right at Henne.

Bortles has failed to impress so far this pre-season, and as ESPN pointed out “The Jaguars punted on all 4 drives with Blake Bortles at QB tonight, and have 3 points in 6 series with him on the field this preseason.”

Bortles has pre-season match-ups against the Panthers and the Falcons.  The Panthers game is the most important of the two because it’s usually the third preseason game of the season where coaches let their starters play a full half.  If that’s the case, that’s a pretty aggressive defense for Bortles to play for his life against.

And they say the pre-season is meaningless.

Well, it is pretty meaningless, but when you’re a perennial bottom feeder like the Jaguars – it’s a different story.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: NCAA Team Win Totals

It’s almost that time of year.

Okay let’s be honest, as soon as Vegas puts out their over/under for team win totals, you know that the time has come for football season.  Here are some teams that Beating Vegas just can’t avoid putting something on before the seasons kicks off.  We did extremely well last year so be smart and follow along.

Alabama Crimson Tide : 11 Wins

When factoring the total over/unders for a team you first look at the “easy” wins.  For as great as Bama is, and I’m truly not taking anything away from them, they do schedule some cupcakes.  Considering the SEC isn’t what it once was, that is disappointing.  Wins against Colorado State, Mercer and Fresno State should be an absolute “no contest.”  Vanderbilt (who we’ll get to later) will be a doormat in the SEC, Ole Miss is falling apart and Tennessee – well they are what they are: A team that just isn’t good enough to beat Bama.  The rest of the schedule is intriguing. Remember what I said about cupcakes?  Forget about that already – the Crimson Tide open the season in outer conference play against Florida State.  This is a monster game in week one because both of these teams are considered playoff-worthy and this game could determine their fates early.  Bama opens up as a 7 point favorite but they lost a lot of talent on that defense. Not saying they won’t be good, but not as dominant as last year.  Arkansas gets to play Bama after the Tide have games against Ole Miss and at Texas A&M and this offensive line might be able to push back on Bama more than they’re used to.  The games against LSU and Auburn are too close to call and this year it might be just too much for Bama to go nearly perfect. 11 is just a hard number. . . even for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide this year.

The Pick: Under

Auburn Tigers: 8.5 Wins

Last year this Auburn team went 8-5, including a season opener where they lost to eventual National Champs Clemson, and losses to Alabama and Oklahoma to finish off the season (teams that finished #2 and #5 respectively).  The Auburn Tigers are expected to go with Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham at QB, and if there is anything to say about Baylor QB’s it’s that they are usually athletic and are use to throwing the ball a lot. In Auburn’s system though, he’ll be asked to make reads that aren’t foreign to him and have a two-headed monster at running back this year with Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson.  Losing only three games with a squad that has eight returning starters on both side of the ball seems too easy.  They WILL go on the road and beat Clemson this year and after that the only two games that should pose a threat to them is their road game against LSU, and the season ending Iron Bowl, which they host this year against the Crimson Tide.

The Pick: Over

Boston College Eagles: 4 Wins

Boston College is a team I usually look at a lot during the season. Not because the team is exciting or moves me emotionally but because they are typically coached well defensively and are boring on offense.  So games tend to go under.  Last year though, this defense saw the emergence of the ACC as possibly being the best conference in college football (we can argue which is the best at a later time, folks) they got lit up Louisville, Florida State and Virginia Tech.  Give the Eagles credit though – they schedule themselves against all division one schools, no cup cakes, so to speak – with that being said no game is easy when you’re below average.  They can beat UConn (which is on a neutral site) and Central Michigan – maybe.

The Pick: Under

Wisconsin Badgers: 10.5 Wins

I was just speaking highly of how the ACC might be the best conference in college football, but the Big 10 may have something to say about that.  While the rest of the world shakes in their boots over an Urban Meyer coached Ohio State team, marvels at the insanity of Jim Harbaugh at Michigan or how the masses seemingly fell in love with Penn State again because of James Franklin’s renaissance in Happy Valley – Wisconsin goes under the radar.  But, why?  Wisconsin lost three games last year – all by 7 to the three teams mentioned. This year their schedule is a joke by all standards. Before playing Michigan at home November 18th, their toughest challenges are road games against BYU and Nebraska.  The only game they might lose is Michigan or if they’re caught sleep-walking, their end of the year road trip to Minnesota.  Either way, they’ll keep it interesting until the season wraps up.

The Pick: Over

Vanderbilt Commodores: 6 Wins

Vegas has Vandy at 6 wins.  Honestly, I just can’t see it.  Some folks saw the improvement the offense made late last season as something that will continue into this season, but I don’t.  The offensive line is probably the worse in the SEC and they have a middle of the defense that will force their safety Ryan White to leave his average-at-best corner backs in one on one coverage.  In a game of spades, Vanderbilt is the annoying partner that says “Four and two possibles,” — count those possibles as losses.

The Pick: Under

Oregon Ducks: 8 Wins

Oregon ranked 117th in total defense last year and are now in the midst of going back to a 3-4 scheme (gathered that info from Lindy’s Sports).  Eight is a very tall number for a team that finished with four wins last year.  Vegas is betting on the public that is still in love with the gimmick offense that gets dressed in new garb every week.  Tough conference roads games against Stanford, UCLA and Washington will make it tough for them and home games against Nebraska, Washington State and California won’t be much welcomed at all.  Much like Vandy, I see the Ducks sliding right underneath their magic number, but it doesn’t matter if they miss 8 wins by 1 or 6 games, as long as it stays under (which it will) that’s all that matters.

The Pick: Under

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio


Chicago Bears 2017 Outlook

It’s that time of year for Bears fans.  You know, the premature-Doomsday talk for the Bears’ up-coming season.  The annual and agonizing punchlines about the Bears weak front office, past draft mishaps and the whole “Jay Cutler” era.  And in 2017, lets not fail to mention the touch of awful comedy bestowed upon the Bears: how a team who won three games last year ended up with one of the toughest schedules (on paper) this year.   It’s business as usual for Chicago as it appears they will once again be expected to be bringing-up-the-rear of the NFC North.

Vegas is giving Chicago a chance to be better than last year, which isn’t saying much after a 3-13 season.  The over/under for total wins is set at 5.5, which seems just about right considering this team’s secondary and wide out group.  Something that the Bears do have in their favor this season is that they are only traveling an estimated 8300 miles this season, which is the fifth lowest in the NFL this year (in some kind of Chicago Bears luck, they play all four teams who travel less than they do this year).  With a young team, this should work out in their favor more than not.

But aside from ridiculous positives this writer is trying to find, let’s look at this offense.   The Bears did some pretty confusing things in the off-season but when you sit back and think about it, they did it right. . . at least you’d hope.  They signed free agent QB Mike Glennon to a three year $45 million dollar contract, consequently outbidding nobody for his services and then months later they moved up in the draft to take QB Mitch Trubisky out of UNC.  A one year starter who the Bears say won’t see the time of day this season.  And let’s not forget they went and signed everyone’s favorite klutz, Mark Sanchez.  Aye.  Best case scenario is that Glennon puts up decent enough numbers and doesn’t get hurt all year.  The Bears signed Sanchez for two reasons: to not have Glennon worry about his starting job and to help mentor (yes mentor, look at how good he was as a cheerleader for Dak Prescott in Dallas last year) the young Trubiksy.

The issue here is, if Glennon struggles – and there’s a good chance he might – the Bears fans will be screaming for Trubisky or head coach John Fox’s head.  Fox is saying Trubisky will remain number three on the depth chart but Fox is also coaching for his job this time around so if Glennon struggles, he’ll likely put his future in the hands of Trubisky rather than Sanchez.

The Bears offensive line, if healthy, can prove to be one of the better surprises of the 2017 season.   As of right now Cody Whitehair remains at center for the Bears, but Hroniss Grasu is healthy now and he was slated to be the starter in 2016 before he got hurt.  Whitehair is versatile enough to move around the line and the Bears have shown that they will put Kyle Long, and his intensity, pretty much anywhere along that O-Line.  Anything can happen here, and the depth is the most legit that it’s been in a long time.

Jordan Howard enters his sophomore season behind this offensive line and he is looking to prove that his rookie season of over 1300 rushing yards at 5.2 yards a clip, was no fluke.  The depth at running back is interesting – Jeremy Langford who not too long ago was thought to be their guy moving forward took a step back last season.  Kadeem Carey who writer Kevin Fishbain  of the Athletic pointed out “has never rushed for 160 yards in a season” may struggle to be anything more than a special teams coverage guy, and rookie Tarik Cohen, all five foot, six inches of him – is a fan and camp favorite.

The wide outs on the Bears are a collection of under achievers looking for one more shot.  Kevin White, Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright all had promising careers at one point but either due to injury or just “not being as good as advertised” – things haven’t worked out their way.  Folks love Cameron Meredith, but I’d be careful to fall in love with an undrafted rookie out of Illinois State who probably wouldn’t get a chance to play wide receiver on just about any other roster than this one in the NFL.  The Bears know their wide outs are more boom than bust which is why they signed free agent tight end Dion Sims who. . . oh yeah that’s right, he’s a bust too.  Zach Miller has been okay at the tight end spot, but everyone expects the Bears to showcase rookie Adam Shaheen early and often.

Defensively, it’s all about what this front seven can do.  General manager Ryan Pace didn’t think too hard in the first round of last years draft and went with the obvious choice in Leonard Floyd who should – excuse me – will be a defensive star for years to come in this league. Veteran Willie Young has kept himself in Floyd’s ear, pushing him all through camp, apparently.  Young is a versatile defensive OLB who should probably get a lot more credit than he gets. Defensive end Akiem Hicks is primed to have a big season this year, which should do wonders for the likes of Jonathan Bullard who needs to come on strong early this year.  Jerrell Freeman is in his second year in this defense and will find his footing in it as well.  Injuries to Pernell McPhee and Danny Trevathan bring Bears fans close to tears because if those guys were added onto this front seven, it becomes one of the most formidable in the league.

The secondary though. . .

Can we just stop waiting on Kyle Fuller?  The corner back had two good games in his rookie year and people treat him as if he’s the next Charles Tillman. Enough. The Bears signed veteran safety Quintin Demps to a three year $13 million dollar contract, with five million guaranteed.  It took Demps 8 years to have his best season and he did it with a great defense last year (Texans) – he doesn’t create for himself but is opportunistic.  Rookie safety Eddie Jackson from Alabama could be a legit steal in the draft if he can stay healthy.  He has all the tools to be a starter in the NFL but injuries in college made his draft stock plummet.  There is really nothing to get excited about at the moment with this Bears secondary.  There is a lot of youth fighting to get on this squad.  Hopefully, at least one of these kids can be like catching lightning in a bottle.  The front seven can help make this secondary look a lot better than they actually are.

At the end of it all, Bears fans have got to stay focused on what’s really important here.  Developing the youth, and looking toward the future.  This season is tough, Minnesota’s a good team and Green Bay is Green Bay. . . The Bears have to focus on the win-able games and build from there.  Six wins – maybe even seven are not out of the realm of possibility for this team. Expect a stronger second half of the season from this team and a positive look into 2018.


G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio