Beating Vegas: Bowl Locks, Pt. 2

Potato Bowl (played in Boise, Idaho) on Dec. 22nd

CMU vs. Wyoming (even), total 46.5

Draft “experts” have Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen in the top three of quarterback prospects that are entering this year’s NFL draft.  Draft-guru, Mel Kiper Jr. has Allen as the number one quarterback. . . it’s just amazing that a guy who’s numbers this year are as follows: 1658 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.  Excuse me as I pick my jaw up from the floor. . . Playing out of the Mountain West Conference, he knew that his marquee games would come against teams from Power 5 Conferences. . .he was embarrassed by both Oregon and Iowa.   Allen suffered an injury in Wyoming’s win over Air Force on November 11th, but is going to play in the Potato Bowl.  Allen will be going up against a Central Michigan pass defense that is one of the best in all of college football.  This defensive unit holds the opposition to a completion percentage of 54.6% and is second, nationally, in the  interceptions category  with 19 (tied with Akron and Iowa).  Another impressive stat by this secondary is that they’ve only given up 13 touchdowns through the air this year.   Take a guess at which team these stats kind-of run neck-in-neck with. . . ?  Yup, Wyoming.  Wyoming has allowed only 10 touchdowns through the air, nabbed 16 interceptions and have held the passing yards against them to a total under 2000 yards this season.  The under in this game seems to be the play, and for the win, the Central Michigan Chippewas just have better players and really no pressure in this game.

The Pick: CMU and the Under

Armed Forces Bowl (played in Fort Worth, Texas) on Dec. 23rd

Army +6 vs. San Diego State, total 46

If you like watching teams that run the ball then this is the game for you.  Just good ol’ smash mouth football.  San Diego State attempts about twenty passes a game while Army attempts five. . . 5.  Yes, five.   Good thing Army runs the ball.  They freakin’ better. . . Army leads the nation with 4270 rushing yards, at a 6.1 yard clip.  Army’s offense is a marvel of college football tradition, as they run the triple-option-flexbone attack.  This is usually a problem for opposing defenses because they don’t see this very often, but San Diego State sees this formation when they go against their conference rival Air Force.  Adding into the mix are the formidable rushing attacks of UNLV, New Mexico and Colorado State – the San Diego Aztecs see their fair share of rushing attacks. San Diego State fares well against all of them.  They are seventh in the nation in fewest rushing yards allowed and their run defense allows only 3.5 yards a rush – just like Penn State and Georgia.   San Diego State’s rushing attack is led by the phenomenal Rashaad Penny.  Penny received AP All American College Football 1st Team Honors this week and still feels he needs to prove something to the world.  A large portion of fans think Penny was snubbed in the Heisman race, and that he was overshadowed by the likes of Penn State’s Saquan Barkley and Stamford’s Bryce Love.  Penny isn’t “on the fence” about playing in this bowl game and actually feels he needs to show the world one last time just how dominant of a runner he is.  He’ll be going up against an Army defense that allows five yards a rush (after calculating Penny’s 7.4 yards a carry, Penny has a smash-average-advantage of 6.2 yards per carry).  Army has had a nice season, but this one gets ugly with the Aztecs literally running away with this one.

The Pick: San Diego State -6

Dollar General Bowl (played in Mobile, Alabama) on Dec. 23rd

Appalachian State +7 vs. Toledo, Total 61.5

Appalachian State is a confusing squad.  They have an 8-4 record, co-champions of the Sun Belt conference and have an offense that scores 33 points per game.  Yet, they somehow manage to lose against teams like Louisiana-Monroe and UMass. . . This is football in the Sun Belt conference, I guess. . . Regardless of that, App State has put together an impressive season once again.  Senor quarterback Taylor Lamb has put up some impressive stats this year and is hoping to impress scouts one last time in this Dollar General Bowl.  Lamb has 27 touchdown passes and only 6 interceptions this year and in his entire four years as starting quarterback has stood at a 61% completion percentage.  The offensive line (three of gained made All-Sun-Belt-First-Team honors in front of Lamb has done a great job for him and his stable of running backs – most notably Jalen Moore who is 88 yards away from a 1000 yard season.  Those are the kind of things that don’t bode well for a below average Toledo rush defense that allows 4.7 yards a carry.  Toledo is giving up 25 points a game this year,  and although they are holding opposing quarterbacks to a completion percentage of 52.7% but they’ve had a tendency to give up the big plays. . . Toledo’s offense is a powerhouse though.  Quarterback Logan Woodside has thrown for over 3700 yards with 28 touchdown passes and his targets Dionte and Jon’Vea Johnson are a sweet receiving duo.   Appalachian State’s tough defense will definitely be pushed to their limits in this one.  App State is going to take their time on drives while Toledo might find themselves getting frustrated against this Mountaineer defense. . . Should be a good game, but look at this one as a chess match.

The Pick: The Under at 61.5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio


Beating Vegas: Bowl Locks, Part 1

The College Bowl Season is an exciting finale to the year for college football enthusiast.  Lets keep that part in mind: “for the enthusiast.”  Motivation becomes a factor for some teams that fell short of the playoff or had higher expectations at the start of the year.  Some teams take their opponents to lightly while other programs look at the bowl game as an opportunity to make a name for themselves.  The tricky part about Bowl Season is to not go and place a bet on every line.  You still need to be picky about how you side with – and throughout this bowl season, Beating Vegas will continue to provide you insight on how to get the edge.

(These are locks from games played between Dec. 16th to the 20th)

Camellia Bowl (played in Montgomery, Alabama) on December 16th

Arkansas State (-3.5) vs. Middle Tennessee, total 57

Arkansas State was mentioned in an early Beating Vegas article this season and it was mostly due to expectations set for quarterback Justice Hansen.  The senior took a big step forward in his final season completing 63.7% of his passes and throwing for 3600 yards and 34 touchdowns.  Hansen is a quarterback that has learned how to go through his progressions and it shows as he has three wide outs with over 600 yards receiving; and all through the depth chart you can see receptions by just about everyone.   The Arkansas State Red Wolves don’t run the ball much but when they do, it’s a modest 4.1 yards a carry.  That doesn’t bode well for Middle Tennessee State who actually stop the run decently but have struggled against the pass all year.  The Blue Raiders secondary has only put together four interceptions on the season.  The line is pretty dangerous but expect it to climb to about 5 by kickoff.  Middle Tennessee will be a better team than Arkansas State next season, but for all that matters, Arkansas State wins this by double digits.

The Pick: Arkansas State -3.5

Boca Raton Bowl (played in Boca Raton, Florida) on Dec. 19th

Akron +17 vs Florida Atlantic, total 61.5

This is a true-home-game for the Florida Atlantic Owls, but that is not the only reason they are a huge favorite in this game.  The Owls are riding a nine game winning streak and they’ve done it by riding the shoulders of running back Devin Singletary, who is a top five back in the nation, but you’ve never heard of him.  Singletary has run for 29 touchdowns and 1859 yards this season and he must be thinking “lunch-time” when he sees an Akron defense that is allowing five yards a carry.  Singletary and the Owls have a “smash average advantage” five and half yards a rush.  Akron is just a “nice story” this year.  They fought hard and got some close victories but were pretty much handled by better competition.  Florida Atlantic and head coach Lane Kiffin will be looking to bring a huge victory to the home crowd and breeze through this Akron team by maybe four touchdowns.

The Pick: Florida Atlantic -17

Las Vegas Bowl (played in. . .come on man) On Dec. 16th

Oregon -5 vs Boise State, total 63

Oregon lost coach Willie Taggart to Florida State (I still don’t get why Jimbo Fisher left the Florida State job for Texas A&M, but that’s neither here nor there at the moment) which leaves Mario Cristobal in as head coach.  Cristobal will have no issue on the sidelines, because he was the offensive coordinator under Taggart.  The players wanted Cristobal so there should be no feelings of abandonment by the team.  Cristobal’s one run as a head coach was at Florida International where he posted a 8-14 record in his final 22 games (Wikipedia).  He hasn’t been a head-coach since 2012 and now he has to be mindful of a bunch of young men who may be in Las Vegas for the first time in their lives.  The biggest question mark for Oregon comes in the form of running back Royce Freeman.  Freeman is their stud-senior back who has racked up over 1400 yards on the ground at a clip of 6 yards a carry.  Freeman practiced this week, but there is already talk of him maybe sitting out to prepare for the NFL draft.  Knowing that this is even a thought might have Freeman not trying to over-extend himself in this game. . . Starting quarterback Justin Herbert is back under center and although the pundits will say it’s a “different offense under Herbert” – they aren’t lying – but at the same time aren’t telling the whole story:  Freeman is the main cog to this offense.  Boise State on the other hand has their key players ready to roll and no coaching change on their sidelines.  Boise has a tough run defense, and in the Western Atlantic Conference, that says a lot. Boise State is holding the opposition to 3.5 yards a rush and holding offenses under a 60% completion percentage.  The Boise staff and players won’t be overcome by the Las Vegas mystique because they come here just about every other season to play UNLV.   Expect Oregon to jump out in front early, but Boise makes things happen in the second half.

The Pick: Boise State +5

I’ll see you guys next week with more LOCKS for this Bowl Season!

Good Luck and Wager Wisely

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: So What If I’m Petty?

New York Jets +15.5 at New Orleans Saints

Yes, you read it right the Saints are a fifteen point favorite in a professional football game.  This is not a college spread, this is an actual professional match up.  It won’t look like one though, as the Jets are now forced to go with back up quarterback Bryce Petty, in place of the injured Josh McCown.  McCown was having a career year and was the main reason this Jets team has been able to compete week to week when many doubted they could.  What the Jets lose with McCown goes beyond the stat-line though.  He was building a rapport with the wide receiver talent around him (even making Robbie Anderson emerge as a true number one), made up for a lack of a running attack and was the calm, confident leader this team needed.  Bryce Petty’s short career numbers are: three touchdowns, seven interceptions and a completion percentage of 54%.  The Saints pass defense is mediocre, allowing 60% completion percentage but can get to the quarterback (34 sacks) and against this offensive line, they’ll be bringing the heat.  The last time we saw the Saints, they lost in embarrassing fashion to the Falcons on National Television, now they get a mentally defeated Jets team without their leader and on their home turf.  Considering the Jets defense put absolutely zero pressure on the frantic and easily frazzled Trevor Siemian last week, I’m sure the veteran Drew Brees will be someone’s MVP in fantasy football this weekend.

The Pick: Saints -15.5

Tennessee Titans +2 at San Francisco 49ers

With all things considered, and when all the numbers and analytics are figured out – Marcus Mariota is the 34th best road-quarterback in the NFL.  Remember, there are only 32 teams so that means – well you get it. . . Mariota has 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions on the year and although this team is 8-5, word on the street is – they play like they’re 5-8.  This is a team that is in La-La-Land because they are three games over .500 and just don’t want to rock the boat.  Their only source of offense that teams should concern themselves with is running back Derrick Henry who is averaging five yards a carry and has really emerged as the go to guy in the backfield with Demarco Murray. The San Francisco 49ers rush defense is hard to figure out because they’ve allowed over 1500 rushing yards but they have an impressive 3.9 rush on average by the opposition.  Offensively, this offense have been pretty adequate all season long.  They are on a two game winning streak since putting in Jimmy Garoppolo at starting quarterback.  In his two games he’s posted a completion percentage of 67% and is grasping the offense more and more with each snap.  Garoppolo racked up wins against the Bears and the Texans, but the road gets tougher at home this week against the Titans, followed by the Jags and the Rams.  The 49ers fan base and organization as a whole have something to root for in a losing season as they all see the future in Garoppolo.

The Pick: San Fran -2

San Diego Chargers -1 at Kansas City Chiefs

Do people realize that the San Diego Chargers are on a four game winning streak?  Have people realized that if not for some bad kicking in their first two weeks, this is a team that could easily be 9-4 instead of 7-6 ?  The Chargers are right now looking to take control of their destiny as the final three games of their season are against a Kansas City Chiefs team that seems to have lost their identity, a  below average Jets team and a Raiders team that is just lost.   Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is well on his way to a 1000 yard season, and back up running back Austin Ekeler has been adding in a punch late this season with 5.5 yards a carry.  This backfield has helped give balance to this offense which is lead by quarterback Philip Rivers and his 3600 yards passing.  The last time these two teams played the Chiefs won 24-10, but this is back in week three when the Chiefs looked like the best team in the AFC, Alex Smith looked like the MVP and Kareem Hunt looked like the Rookie of the Year.  Times have changed and since they started out 5-0, they have limped since October 15th with two wins and six losses. The Chiefs control their destiny as well in this division, but you have to ride the hot hand in this situation.  Chargers are hitting their stride and the Chiefs are grasping at straws.

The Pick: Chargers -1

Good Luck and Wager Wisely

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Follow the Road

Minnesota Vikings -2.5 at Carolina Panthers

The Vikings are still top five in the NFL when it comes to total offense and total defense.  Quarterback Case Keenum has seen his popularity go from “he should be benched when Teddy Bridgewater is healthy” to “MVP candidate.”  Although the last claim may be a reach, the first one is definitely just words put together to make an incoherent sentence at this point.  Keenum is completing passes at a rate of 67.5% – his 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions show a competency at the quarterback position but doesn’t tell the whole story about just how affected he’s been under center.  The running backs Murray and McKinnon aren’t making defensive linemen lose sleep but they do help to maintain a balance to this offense which has helped the likes of Adam Thielen who has over 1000 receiving yards this season.  The Vikings defense is one of two who have not let opponents gain 1000 yards on the ground against them yet this season.  The Carolina Panthers though, are fifth in the NFL with 1533 yards aren’t going shy away from their offensive philosophy though. Although running back Jonathan Stewart leads the Panthers with 531 rushing yards, it’s quarterback Cam Newton’s 515 yards at a clip of 5.8 yards a carry that is the real threat in the backfield.  Cam Newton lost his favorite target, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo via trade, but it seems that move has pushed the talents of Devin Funchess foward, which is what the Panthers franchise has been waiting for. The Vikings though are second in the NFL in touchdowns allowed by receivers with 12 and although this Vikings team hasn’t faced a quarterback like Cam Newton -who brings the package of “unpredictability” to the table – in the last three weeks they took care of Jared Goff and Matt Ryan pretty easily.

The Pick: Vikings -2.5

New Orleans Saints -1.5 at Atlanta Falcons

Keeping it in the NFC South, this Thursday night is a good one between the Falcons and the Saints.  The Falcons are 7-5 and in the next four weeks they must play the Saints, the Bucs, the Saints again and then the Panthers.  Getting back into the playoff picture won’t be an easy task for the reigning NFC Champs.  Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian seemed to finally have things on a roll for a few weeks but then hit a roadblock against Minnesota last week.  This week they play against a Saints defense that isn’t as good as the Vikings, but is miles ahead of what they were last year.  The Saints are holding quarterbacks to a completion percentage of 61% which isn’t too bad,  but Atlanta has been humming away at a 66% completion rate and have finally found ways to get the ball to stud wide out Julio Jones.  The story in this game will be about one thing:  which running back duo will outperform the other.  it is the Saints’ rookie Alvin Kamara (over 600 rushing yards and over 600 receiving yards)  and Mark Ingram (over 900 rushing yards) versus the Falcons’ Devonta Freeman 589 rushing yards and Tevin Coleman with 561 rushing yards.  Now, by just looking at the numbers you can tell which tandem has caused more panic to defenses throughout the league but the Saints rush defense is allowing five yards a carry while the Falcons are allowing 4.4 yards a carry.  Watch the line on this game as it gets closer to game time, if the Falcons are getting three points before kickoff, take Matty Ice and the boys, but until then. . .

The Pick: Saints -1.5

Seattle Seahawks +2.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars

Both of these teams have very one dimensional offenses;  the Jaguars try do do any and everything in their power so that quarterback Blake Bortles won’t have to throw the ball, while the Seahawks offense is – Russell Wilson.  That’s not being cute either.  They struggle to run, have no real threat in the receiving game (calm down Doug Baldwin groupies. . .) and it seems that the majority of their big plays are never scripted – they are just Wilson creating while on the run.  The Jaguars will just run the ball, and run the ball and run the ball. . . rookie running back Leonard Fournette has carried the ball more than 200 times and is averaging 4 yards a carry.  This is a testament to his ability and the offensive line because defenses are stacking the box against Bortles every single week.  Last week the stout offensive attack of the Eagles was able to take advantage of the banged up Seahawks secondary but could not get anything done on the ground.  That doesn’t bode well for the Jaguars.  The Jaguars defensively though, are one of the best units in the league and that is much due to pass defense that is as stingy as they come.  Nobody will get much done in this game.  Expect a score of 20-13.

The Pick: Under 40

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Sorry Chief

Kansas City Chiefs  +3.5 at New York Jets

The Kansas City Chiefs have lost four of their last six games and are currently in the midst of  a three-game losing streak.  This is the same Kansas City Chiefs team that started out the season 5-0 and had people thinking that Alex Smith was a legit contender for the MVP award this season. . . yeah, things have changed -drastically for the Chiefs.   This is an offense that is sputtering – not being able to hit the 20-point-mark in their last four games, and it’s not all on Alex Smith.  Running back Kareem Hunt started out the season looking like he would run away with rookie of the year honors, but in his last six games he has averaged just 3.15 yards a carry and has not topped the 100-yard-rushing mark in a game.  The pass defense, on paper, looks good only letting opponents complete – an NFL best – 55% of their passes – but they’ve been able to bolster that number going against offenses like the Giants, the Bills and the Broncos as of late. . . This week’s opponent, the New York Jets – have exceeded very, very, very low season expectations and the veteran quarterback Josh McCown is leading quite an impressive aerial attack.  Yes, the Jets are 4-7 but McCown is completing 67% of his passes and he has formed a great chemistry with the speedy wide-receiver Robby Anderson, who has scored a touchdown in each of his last five games. Wide-out Jermaine Kearse is on pace to having the best season of his career and is neck and neck with Anderson in receptions.  At this point the Jets just seem like the team that is playing harder and the Chiefs have lost their identity.  Add to the fact that this is the Chiefs second cross country visit to New York in the last three weeks and there are now rumors of Andy Reid having Alex Smith on a short leash, this points all the way to the Jets.  Watch the line even out by kickoff.

The Pick: Jets +3.5

Cleveland Browns +13.5 at San Diego Chargers

Cleveland has been broken down here at Beating Vegas, countless times already this season. . . good run defense / worst offense in the league. That pretty much sums them up. Fans are calling for another new regime, another quarterback to be taken in the first round and they are getting ready for another season to come to a merciful end. Deshone Kizer’s five touchdowns coupled with fourteen interceptions would get him benched in any other town – he has been benched actually – but he always comes back, because – why not? Running back Duke Johnson, was basically the only bright spot of this offense, but it seems Corey Coleman is almost back to his old self after returning to the field two weeks ago.  What people will be looking forward to seeing though is the return of troubled wide-out Josh Gordon.  The last time Gordon played meaningful football was in 2014.  . .  with no disrespect to Deshaun Watson – the Browns are playing a quarterback this week who is the consummate professional at his position – Philip Rivers.   Rivers has the Chargers actually thinking about the AFC West division and a playoff birth (yes, they are 5-6 and that pretty much puts them right in the mix) and with the supporting cast he has at his disposal, this could be one of the more damaging dissections of this Browns secondary that we’ve seen all year.  The Browns are allowing opponents to complete passes at a rate of 67% and as a defense are allowing quarterbacks to generate a 103 rating against them.  Regardless of who’s out there running routes for Cleveland, they still have the worse quarterback in the league under center, and he’ll be under pressure from two of the best pass rushers in the business in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

The Pick: Chargers -13.5

Pittsburgh Steelers -5 at Cincinnati Bengals

In the last ten meetings of this AFC North rivalry, the Cincinnati Bengals have only come away with two victories.  The Steelers pretty much own the Bengals and that’s not ground-breaking news to anyone even half-way-familiar with the Bengals.  The Bengals are pretty much one of the more underwhelming franchises of all time.  Even if they make the playoffs, you know they’re getting the boot in the first round. . . but.  . . there is something about a home underdog on Monday Night Football.   No, I’m not one of those superstitious-line-watchers who believe it’s a “lock” to take the home under dog on Monday Night Football, but this time around, it’s something to consider.  The Pittsburgh Steelers are probably the “phoniest” 9-2 team you’ll ever see.  They play down to the level of their competition as if it’s their job.  This is proven by their three-point victories over the Aaron Rodger-less Packers, the Cleveland Browns (look above to see how awful they are) and the Colts.  Let us not forget that this Steelers team actually LOST to the lowly Chicago Bears as well.  This game will be determined by how early and hard the Bengals hit the Steelers.  Five points is a lot, and it seems like a line that is put there because of the “public” – more than football reasons.

The Pick: Bengals +5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Conference Championships

American Athletic Conference Championship

(at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando Florida)

Memphis +7 vs Central Florida

Both of these teams had completely different weeks prior to the American Athletic Conference Championship game.  The Memphis Tigers were on the winning side of a 70-13 blowout against the lowly Pirates of Eastern Carolina, while the UCF Knights had to sweat out a 49-42 shootout win over the Bulls of South Florida.   Statistically the Knights look pretty good against the pass (opposing completion percentage of 53% and 17 interceptions) but against a quarterback like South Florida’s Quintin Flowers, they gave up 503 yards through the air and four touchdown passes (the dynamic Flowers also ran for 100 yards and rushed for a touchdown).  Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson may not be the dual threat that Flowers is (very few  in college football are) but his season resume includes 3500 passing yards, a 62% completion percentage and 32 passing touchdowns. The one loss, blemish or glitch on this years schedule for Riley and the Tigers was their 40-13 loss at the  hands of UCF.  In that game Riley threw three interceptions.  On paper it looks like it’s all Riley’s fault, but the UCF defense just schemed perfectly against the Tigers and the Memphis wide-outs struggled to get separation.  Expect Memphis to not let this game get out of control early like they did in the first meeting – expect the Tigers to balance the offense more and rely on running back Darrell Henderson, who  is averaging 9 yards a carry this season and although he was held to less than 50 yards last time he played the Knights, one would have to consider how the running game had to be abandoned in their last meeting.   This game has the same feel as the SMU game where UCF squeaked out a 24-17 victory.  The public money will be heavy on a UCF team with Scott Frost trying to lead a team to an undefeated season. Some books have the early line at 7.5 already.  Expect this line to keep swinging in the favor of UCF, wait it out and take Memphis with the points (wouldn’t hurt to by a half either. . .).

The Pick: Memphis +7


ACC Conference Championship

(at Bank Of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina)

Miami +8.5 vs Clemson

Okay, here’s the skinny on Miami: If you take away their blow-out win against Notre Dame, their schedule shows a bunch of close wins against average to below average teams in the ACC.   Look at Clemson’s schedule and you see a loss to a Syracuse team that caught them off-guard and then a bunch of double digit victories (the only teams they beat by a single digit was against a good N.C. State team (7) and a very good Auburn team (8)).  I put that out there because looking at the numbers, one would say ‘the stats have this as a dead even match-up’ but there is a reason why Vegas has Clemson as almost a 10 point favorite.  Truth is, in that game against Pitt, the real Mark Richt showed up on the sidelines for Miami.  He got nervous when things weren’t going well and benched his quarterback Malik Rosier – the guy who got them where they were. Chris Hummer of 247Sports said it best: “Rosier wasn’t playing well up that point. Far from it, completing 12-of-30 passes for just 129 yards. But to insert a player who’d thrown five passes all season into a critical junction of a 17-7 game is baffling. No matter how poorly Rosier was playing, you have to ride with the guy who’s led the Hurricanes through countless rocky stretches this season. In fact, Rosier’s navigated Miami through six one-possession fourth quarter games this year.” This is “Not-So-Big-Game-Richt” folks – we’ve seen this before. For all the hype Miami’s “turnover chain” gets, the Clemson Tigers – statistically have a better defense.  Better coach.  And still, the better players.  The line is 8.5 for the Joe Schmoes who will take “the U”  in hopes of bringing back those glory days.  Not gonna happen.  Clemson wins – and by double digits.

The Pick: Clemson -8.5

MAC Conference Championship

(at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan)

Akron +21 vs Toledo

The MAC Conference is one of the favorites of the sports-gambler.  Why?  Because late in the season this is the conference that tries to give games everyday in the week.  Here we have a seven-win Akron team going up against a Toledo team that is 10-2.  Toledo’s two losses came in blowout fashion 52-30 at Miami and 38-10 at Ohio.   This is one of the more balanced and efficient offenses in college football. . . in conferences that are not part of the “Big 5.”  Logan Woodside is finishing up his senior year with some attention grabbing numbers: 65% completion percentage, 24 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and averaging 10 yards per pass. As if those numbers weren’t enough – Woodside is helped out by a ground attack averaging 5.2 yards a carry.  This doesn’t bode well for an Akron rush defense that allows 4.9 yards a carry – giving Toledo a smash-average-advantage of 5.05 – virtually meaning this run attack will not be bothered one bit. Akron leads the MAC conference in the interceptions category with seventeen, but that could be due to teams taking there chances against a defense that lets opponents complete 61% of their passes.  Toledo’s defense is pretty average – and average in the MAC conference is usually good enough to secure some W’s.  The one real weakness for Toledo is their rush defense, but there isn’t much to worry about considering Akron averages 3.3 yards a carry – worse in the MAC.

The Pick: Toledo -21

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Give Thanks, Make Money

Houston Texans +7 at Baltimore Ravens

We’re going to kick off this week’s NFL edition of Beating Vegas by telling you to ignore the the line of seven points and take a look at the points total number which is 38.  Nobody would blame you for not wanting to view this Monday Night Football match-up.  The Houston Texans without DeShawn Watson at quarterback are pretty unwatchable and the Ravens have the leagues second worse offense in the NFL.  The Ravens deserve some kind of award for having Joe Flacco under center for the last three years and acting as if he is something special.  Flacco is one of the most underwhelming quarterbacks in the NFL and it’s been that way for a while. . . Running back Alex Collins has been a welcomed surprise, averaging five yards a rush and being the teams one true source of consistency on offense. Collins will have a tough challenge going up against a Texans defense that holds runners to an average of 3.7 yards a rush.  Last week this defense held the Cardinals’ Adrian Peterson to 26 yards on fourteen carries. . . This Baltimore team though is hard to gauge; this defense has “pitched” three shut outs but also lost 44-17 to the Jags, 26-9 to the Steelers and actually figured out a way to lose to the Chicago Bears 27-24.  Baltimore will most likely win this game because they will be at home and the Texans are still putting Tom Savage out there to play quarterback. . . who is probably one of the three starting quarterbacks worse than Joe Flacco.

The Pick: The Under at 38

Minnesota Vikings -3 at Detroit Lions

Thanksgiving Day always gives us the Lions and the Cowboys.  The world always understands the Cowboys – but why – oh why, the Lions?  Why won’t the football gods let us enjoy our festive day filled with family and food by viewing a team that the world can at least pretend to care about?  The Lions are currently riding a three-game win streak and are at least beating the teams they are supposed to be beat during this streak.  The Lions do one thing, but at least they do it pretty well – pass the ball.  The receiving core (which was mentioned on Beating Vegas last week) is a dangerous one, that averages 12 yards a catch.  But being a one dimensional team against a defense like the Vikings is a recipe for disaster.  The Vikings are currently in the top five for total offense and total defense, but it’s their defense that has become their calling card.  Last week the Vikings defense put the clamps on the leagues number one offense, the L.A. Rams.  As much as people want to push quarterback Case Keenum out for Teddy Bridgewater; the Vikings can’t and more importantly – they shouldn’t.  Keenum has jelled well with his wide-outs Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs and is doing with a completion percentage of 65% and averaging over 240 passing yards a game.   Last time these two teams played, the Lions won 14-7 in a boring game in which it was evident, both teams were working out the “kinks.”  Minnesota by 10 is more than realistic.

The Pick: Vikings -3

Denver Broncos +5 at Oakland Raiders

The Raiders enter this week with a new defensive coordinator, John Pagano and the Broncos enter this week with a new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Obviously, this is proof that both organizations are disappointed with themselves, and they should be.  Last week we were all over the Patriots destroying the Raiders (your welcome) but this week they go up against an offense that is putrid.  The Raiders pass defense might get a break after getting scorched by Tom Brady last week, because Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler’s 53% completion percentage isn’t enough to scare even a pee-wee-football team’s secondary. (*DISCLAIMER: It was announced after this article was posted that the Broncos have benched Osweiler in favor of Paxton Lynch to start the game at quarterback.  This doesn’t change the line for me at all. . .)  For as much as we are told that this Broncos defense is one of the best in the NFL, they are on a six-game losing streak and in this mess, the secondary has been toyed with  – and because of the inefficiency of this offense – the defense is on the field a lot.  The Raiders were just embarrassed on national television and are looking to gain some kind of redemption.  This is a good week for a  defensive coordinator to start his new job, because it should be easy to prep against this Broncos offensive attack.

The Pick: Raiders -5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras


Beating Vegas: Ironclad Locks

Alabama -4.5 at Auburn

This scene is all-too-familiar.  It was just a couple of weeks ago that Auburn was a slight home underdog to the number one team in the nation, Georgia and came up not only covering, but winning. . . and winning BIG.  Once again the table is set up in a very similar fashion.  These two teams have offenses and defenses that are in the SEC’s top three and this will be the eighty-first meeting between these two teams, in a rivalry known as the “Iron Bowl.”  Whoever wins this game will get to play Georgia for the SEC title, which in turn helps to solidify a spot in the College Football Playoff.     Even looking at it by position: Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver – they are pretty much even throughout.  Auburn has a history of being the home dog that ruins things for Alabama.  This year, there is added incentive as they not only can play the role of “spoiler” but also help themselves in getting closer to the title of “Champion.”

The Pick: Auburn +4.5

Florida Atlantic -21 at NC Charlotte

Well, well, well. . . we finally get to talk about a game that includes the name: Lane Kiffin.  Kiffin took the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic, in hopes to jump-start his career as the head guy.  Kiffin and the Owls had a rough go of things starting out the season 1-3 but now the Owls are winners of seven straight games and this is much do to them becoming the tenth-best rushing attack in college football.  Running back, Devin Singletary (possibly the best running back you never hear spoken of) has racked up 24 touchdowns, averages 6.6 yards a carry and is looking to add to his 1524 rushing yards.  Considering how the Charlotte 49ers are allowing nearly 200 yards a game on the ground at a 4.5 yard clip – it’s lunchtime for Singletary and this Owl offensive line.   Last week against this defense Southern Miss running back Ito Smith racked up 3 touchdowns and 153 yards.  Charlotte can run the ball pretty well, but have red-zone issues like very few do in college football.  Speaking of the red-zone, Kiffin’s Owls have a 95% success rate of scoring when they get in the twenty yard line while the 49ers ALLOW opponents to score 92.11% of the time.  Something else that may interest those looking to wager on the side of Florida Atlantic: Lane Kiffin isn’t shy when it comes to pouring it on, embarrassing opponents and proving a point.  You want that kind of coach when covering a three-touchdown-defecit.

The Pick: Florida Atlantic -21

Texas Tech +8.5 at Texas

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury is the cool-kid-in-school.  Even at a school where he is nearly twenty years older than most of the students – Kingsbury is still the king of cool.  Unfortunately for him, his good looks and charisma may be cooling off with the Texas Tech faithful.  The Red Raiders are currently 5-6  with all of their wins coming against below-average competition (sorry, Houston but it’s been a down-year for you guys and you know it).   When your defense allows a 65% completion percentage and 4.3 yards a carry, that just means the offense needs to carry all the weight.  For all that matters, the offense does try and it shows – the Red Raiders have the the 8th most passing yards in college football, along with fifth highest pass completion percentage at 68.9%.  Those numbers will be put to the test by a Texas Longhorns defense holding opponents to a 59% completion percentage and 3 yards per rush attempt.   Texas has shown improvement from the previous two seasons and have competed in games that last year would’ve been completely lob-sided.   Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger will get the start for the Longhorns and although he isn’t the most polished passer, he is a dual threat QB who should give the Red Raiders defense fits.  Texas Tech will struggle to get their offense off the ground in this one.  And for four quarters of football, this defense will get worn down and give up the big plays to the Longhorns.

The Pick: Texas -8.5


Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio


Beating Vegas: Patriots;Whenever, Wherever

New England Patriots -6.5 versus Oakland Raiders

(game to be played at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico)

After the Patriots manhandled the Broncos on Sunday Night Football, they decided to stay in Denver before flying back home.  Why?  Because coach Bill Belichick decided to keep his team practicing in a high-altitude-enviornment like the one they’ll see at Mexico City.  Smart play by “the Hood,” but that’s no surprise.   Remember when the Patriots started the season 2-2 and people said that this defense was probably the worst in the NFL?   That was cute.  Since then, New England has won five straight with their opponents highest point total being 17.  Meanwhile, the L.A. Raiders were supposed to be a top contender in the AFC and they have fallen miserably short.  The Raiders are currently 4-5 and a loss this Sunday can pretty much wrap this season up.  The Marshawn Lynch experiment is turning out to be a bust, Derek Carr is looking like a shell of himself from last season (13 TD’s, 7 INT’s); and the leading receiver on a squad that has Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper is tight-end Jared Cook.  The Oakland pass defense is gives up the highest completion percentage to it’s opponents (71%), has recorded no interceptions on the season and is tied with the Giants in sacks (13) which puts them dead last in that category as well.   Gross.  Did you even notice how we didn’t mention Tom Brady once in this article?  Yeah.  Tom Brady.

The Pick: New England -6.5


Detroit Lions -3 at Chicago Bears

It’s time for the hopeful and misguided Chicago Bears fan to realize the truth about their team.  They are below average. As a Bears fan myself, I knew this before the pre-season, but many others let their minds wander to a false state of grandeur.  Now, the Bears are looking to play out the season, but whether or not they do it respectfully is what really matters.  With head coach John Fox just waiting for this season to end so he can move on with his life in retirement, the Chicago Bears have a defense that is pretty-decent -but also a lot of smoke and mirrors.  The Bears pass defense is ranked in the top ten when it comes to passing yards allowed, but they are letting opponents complete 65.5% of their passes and at seven yards a clip. The Bears’ rush defense is better-than-average allowing 3.9 yards a rush but this should all work out in favor of the Detroit Lions, who can’t run the ball, so they abandon it early – and usually end up airing it out most of the game.  Detroit’s receivers are averaging 11.9 yards a catch.  At the end of the season, Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford may be responsible for having two 1000 yard receivers in Marvin Jones and Golden Tate.   Detroit’s in the top 10 in rush defenses which will give Bears running back Jordan Howard some fits, as he is the only source of offensive power on this roster.  The Bears tendency on defense of either missing tackles or letting opponents break out of tackles will be something to watch out for with the speedy players like Golladay, Tate and Abdullah for the Lions.

The Pick: Detroit -3

Jacksonville Jaguars -7.5 at Cleveland Browns

This is a big number for the Jaguars to cover.  It doesn’t matter who they’re playing.  Eh, they’re playing the Browns. . . The Jaguars are toting around the number one pass defense in the NFL  which is mostly due to cornerbacks AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey.  Offensively, they try to manage the game around their quarterback rather than let their quarterback manage the game.  Blake Bortles is on thin-ice to be the starting quarterback in Jacksonville next year – but that’s next year.  This season, Bortles is the man under center, but it’s more about the guys in the backfield.  Rookie running back Leonard Fournette  has been as good as advertised (albeit he did get benched one week for violating team rules) but the Jaguars must be feeling cautious of not over-using him, as head coach Doug Marrone has hinted at spreading the ball among all three backs including Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon.    As a team the Jaguars are averaging 4.8 yards a rush and because it is what they want to do, the Browns actually pose a threat to their success on the ground.  The Browns have consistently been in the top five of the NFL when it comes to rush defense, allowing only 3.1 yards a rush.  The Browns are getting back wide receiver Corey Coleman this week, which will be good to see considering Duke Johnson, the number two running back on the depth chart, is the team’s leading receiver.  At the end of the day, who cares?  DeShone Kizer is still there throwing to the wide-outs with his 4 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

The Pick: Jacksonville -7.5

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: A Penny For Your Thoughts

Nevada +15 at San Diego State

If there’s one thing San Diego State has proved it’s that they’ll beat up on the bad teams.  If you’re a little above average though,  they can’t figure you out. The Aztecs are playing at home after coming off of two huge roads wins and a bye week.  It’s no secret how the Aztecs play their brand of football: Hand the ball off to Rashaad Penny and don’t get in his way.  Penny is the second leading rusher in all of college football with 1602 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.   He’ll be looking to inflate his seven-yards a carry number as he goes against a Nevada Wolfpack that’s allowing 4.5 yards a carry.  That would give Penny a smash-average-advantage of 5.75 a carry, which is a ridiculous number.   The Aztecs’ pass attack is more about keeping the opposing defenses honest and managing the game, but it may have more opportunities against this Nevada pass defense which is one of the absolute worse in football (giving up a completion percentage of 68.1% and 279 passing yards a game).  The times that Nevada has put up points or a fight is against bad defenses, this won’t be one of those times as they face the Aztecs this weekend.

The Pick: San Diego State -15


UCF -14 at Temple

The University of Central Florida is the number one offense in college football, averaging 48.6 points per game.  They are currently 9-0 but are feeling a bit of “conference bias” when they look at their current ranking in the college football playoff picture.   UCF is getting little to no love with a ranking of 18 and the chances of them making the actual playoff are slim to none – even if they go undefeated.  This positions UCF to only get themselves into a major bowl game and maybe square up against a highly thought of SEC, BIG 10 or Pac12 opponent. . . This week, the Knights don’t do too much to help out their cause as they travel to Temple to take on the Owls.  The Owls are generally considered to be a pretty decent team that is not part of the power-five conferences but this is a down year for them and now at 5-5 they are struggling to find themselves bowl-eligible with only two games remaining on their schedule.  Quarterback Frank Nutile has been the reason behind this mid-to-late season run given to the Temple Owls though.  Looking at the numbers though, he’s had success against Army, Navy and Cincinnati  – all three teams which let up at least a 60% completion percentage to their opposition.  UCF is only allowing a 54% completion percentage and has 12 interceptions on the season so far. Add to the fact that Temple’s 3.5 yards a rush puts them in the bottom quarter of the entire NCAA – you have a one-dimensional offense playing a power house team in the Knights.  Fourteen points is way too modest here.

The Pick: UCF -14



Iowa State -9.5 at Baylor

This line is giving Baylor way too much credit for playing at home. . .Listen, I used to be a Baylor against the line guy.  Every week.  Especially for first half action.  But since the unceremonious departure of coach Art Briles, this program has been on a downward spiral.  No longer are they a top ten offense in the nation fighting for the big 12 crown. . . now they are 1-9 with their only win coming against Kansas. . .the only team worse than Baylor in the Big 12 conference.  This week, they play host to an Iowa State team that is the biggest roller coaster ride in college football this year.  This is a team that has split wins against the best teams in the conference and the games have all been decided by single digits. Iowa State’s defense is good – according to Big 12 standards – but that’s mostly due to a rush defense holding opponents to 3.7 yards a carry.  Baylor’s 25.7 points per game are decent, but considering they don’t pass the ball well or run the ball well, it’s mostly due to playing in the Big 12 that that number is what it is.   In the Big 12, literally anything can happen on the scoreboard, but Baylor is more inept to consistently score points against a team that at least tries to play defense – so ride with the Cyclones as the traveling favorite.

The Pick: Iowa State -9.5

Four Game Teaser of the Week: Indiana +1; Air Force +29.5; San Diego State -3; Ball State +32.5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio


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