Tag Archives: Football

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

 

Beating Vegas: Championship Weekend

The numbers have been checked for this year and Beating Vegas has a sixty-percent winning percentage for the college football regular season.  Those are pretty impressive numbers considering this is a free service for those who visit the NGSCSports.Com website. . .  Much like rivalry week (where we went 2-1), the weekend of conference championships can be tricky as well.  This week we gathered up the information to give you an edge in the conference championship games.  Oh, what is that Big 12, you still don’t have a conference championship game?  Yeah, we know. . . losers.

Florida +24 vs Alabama (at the Georgia Dome)

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You gotta know where I’m going here, right?  Although we are all sure that if Bama somehow lost to the Gators in the SEC Championship game they’d still be in the College Football Playoff – we know this is a rivalry and Saban wants to enforce his will.  Statistically, one could make the argument that Florida’s defense is better than Alabama’s – but look at Florida’s losses this year:  Florida State and Arkansas forced some serious rush attacks against Florida who lost those games 31-13 and 31-10 respectively; and their loss against Tennessee saw them give up 35 points in the second half.  .  .Sure they won a 16-10 thriller against LSU, but the difference between LSU and those other teams is that there is absolutely zero threat of a pass play coming out of that offensive system. . . Auburn was able to cover the spread last week against Bama because they have the one thing Bama struggles to have an answer for : a mobile quarterback – that won’t be an issue this week.  In the SEC, Florida’s offense is fourth from last; they struggle to pass and although some think they run the ball exceptionally well, they are pretty much just “good” at it.  There is no need to get into specifics with Bama’s stats because they execute everything on both sides of the ball above average.   Bama is 8-3 against the spread this year and didn’t cover the number last week against Auburn when the line moved up to 20.5 so expect a cover here as the Crimson Tide continue their dominant 2016.

The Pick: Alabama -24

San Diego State -6  at Wyoming

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Nobody is more surprised than Wyoming that they are in the WAC championship game, but the truth is their offense has been a force to be reckoned with all season long.  Their running back Brian Hill has totaled 1674 yards this season at a clip of 5.5 yards a carry.  Wyoming’s quarterback Josh Allen has found a favorite target in senior wide-out Tanner Gentry who has 11 touchdowns this year coupled with 1132 receiving yards.  With an offense that puts up 38 points a game, wins should be coming easy, but that’s not the case when your defense gives up 35.5 points per contest. . . San Diego State’s strength on offense is their rushing attack that racks up 6.1 yards a carry; it also happens to be their strength on defense which only allows 3.3 yards a carry.  Wyoming held another good rushing team, UNLV in check earlier this season.  Last time these two teams played, San Diego State gave up two 30 yard touchdown plays against Wyoming – this isn’t something that happens to a defense which usually only yields 200 passing yards against them a game.  Expect San Diego State to control this game at the line of scrimmage (especially after calculating what we, at Beating Vegas call the “clash average” which was overwhelming pointing the favor of the Aztecs at 7 yards per carry- Wyoming is just happy to be here.

The Pick: San Diego State -6

 

Penn State +3 vs Wisconsin (at Lucas Oil Field in Indiana)

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There is an old rule that most intelligent gamblers go by: never bet on or against your favorite team.  I’ll be transparent here and let you all know : I am a Penn State fan and have been, for the better part of 20 years now, and as a fan – it’s great to see where this program is at (and heading) after the disgrace that became this university. . . With that being said, this year’s Big Ten title game is a “classic” black and blue styled game.  Both teams are playing this game for the sake of Big 10 champion and not much else afterwards as it seems the college playoff committee has decided that Ohio State is in the playoff regardless, and these two are on the outside looking in.  Both teams run the ball well, both teams stop the run well – but for Wisconsin who allow an amazing 3.3 yards a rush – they are going up against the Big 10 Conference offensive player of the year in Penn State’s running back Saquon Barkley.  Barkley has run for over 1200 yards and has come up with 17 total touchdowns on the season.  Barkley struggled early in the season against two good rushing defenses though in Minnesota  and Michigan (averaging 3.2 and 3.9 yards in those games, respectively).   Wisconsin has the edge on defense, but when your offense can only muster about 13 points a game anyway, the wins come ugly.  NOT saying Wisconsin will win this contest – but what Beating Vegas is telling you is to watch this be a low scoring affair.

The Pick: The Under at 47

Four Game Teaser of the Week:  Clemson -1;  Redskins +14.5;  Alabama -12;  San Diego State/Wyoming over at 51

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Outsmart the Wise

Last week, the hot-shots at Vegas had some tricky lines but over here at Beating Vegas, we netted another winning week.  The NFL has left many scratching their heads as last year’s powerhouses like the Cardinals and the Panthers are struggling left and right, while teams like the Rams and the Vikings are proving to be the cream of the crop.  The hard-work will be accomplished here as we continue to give you winners against the spread though so keep checking for this column weekly and visit mybookie.ag so you can beat the NCAA and NFL odds. . .

Washington Redskins +3.5 at Baltimore Ravens

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The Baltimore Ravens finally played an above average team and lost their first game this season and the Washington Redskins became a .500 team with a “little” help from the referees.  In the NFL it doesn’t matter how you get your wins, but for our purposes, how you win is just as/and sometimes more important than the actual win. The Ravens have been fluttering around the league looking a notch below mediocre and coming out with victories.  Credit that to coach Harbaugh (no, the other Harbaugh. . .the one who’s actually won something in his career. . .) but as stated last week, the Ravens best weapon on offense is their kicker Justin Tucker.  Sure they should something last week with running back Terrence West, but that was more of a fault to the Raiders who couldn’t stop anything that was attacking the left side of their defense.  Joe Flacco has been inconsistent this season and the Ravens best option at wideout is the seventy-five year old veteran Steve Smith, who this week will be matched up against the Redskins’ Josh Norman (popcorn, anyone?).  The Redskins go as far as Kirk Cousins’ own mediocrity will take them.  Offensively they seemed to put it together last week – albeit it was against the Browns, but this might be the kind of game that gets Cousins back on track.  The Redskins have speed and talent at the skill positions and should easily spread the Ravens thin.  The Ravens win or lose games by single digits and the Skins always have the “talent” on both sides of the ball – it’s their execution that comes into question.  Take the talent.

The Pick: Redskins +3.5

Chicago Bears +5 at Indianapolis Colts

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This is quite possibly the most disgusting game of the week. . . eh, maybe even the year.  The Bears have been showing no signs of turning fortunes around this season and getting their first win against a Detroit team that’s been a perennial loser for two decades is nothing to celebrate.  The Colts just lost to a Jaguars team that is one of the hardest to figure out – and it seems now that Andrew Luck’s frustrations are coming to a boil.  The Colts have the worst roster in the NFL today but Andrew Luck and Frank Gore are doing all they can to keep it together – by themselves.  The Bears are so bad as a franchise they’re actually considering leaving Brian Hoyer in at quarterback even if Jay Cutler is cleared to play.  I guess the Bears haven’t seen the story of Brian Hoyer being a starting quarterback in the NFL yet. . . most of us have seen it twice, two thumbs – wayyyy down.  So why would we bother watching this trash on a Sunday?  Easy.  Gore can run through the Bears front line and Luck can air it out against one of the most trash-bag secondaries in the league.  The Colts will struggle against Bears rookie running back Jordan Howard, and the Chuck Pagano coached defense of the Colts stinks.

The Pick: The Over 47.5

Syracuse +3 at Wake Forest

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Each of these teams will struggle trying to get to six wins this season and that’s mostly because there is a gauntlet of talented teams in the ACC.  Unfortunately for Wake Forest and Syracuse they are not included in that gauntlet.  Defensively Wake Forest crushes Syracuse – if you look at the numbers, that is.  Wake allows 20 ppg compared to Syracuse’s 37 – but Syracuse has played the likes of Louisville, South Florida and Notre Dame; Wake has played Delaware, Tulane and Indiana. . . Wake’s rush defense is impressive only allowing 3.3 yards a run.  That’s nice and all, and would mean something – but Syracuse doesn’t run the ball.  Syracuse has a spread offense that averages 370 passing yards a game and completes 31 passes a game – this is tops in the ACC, a conference that has Clemson, Louisville and UNC.  This is bad news for Wake Forest who’s pass defense has allowed the fourth most passing yards in the conference and allows opponents to complete passes at about a 57% rate.  One of college football’s best kept secrets is quarterback Eric Dungey of Syracuse – he’ll have his way against Wake.

The Pick: Syracuse +3

Michigan -27.5 at Rutgers

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Michigan has hit the “finally” mark this season.  Last week they “finally” played a worthy opponent and this week they “finally” play an away game.  Lucky for Michigan their first away game is against one of the worst teams in division one football, the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers.  Rutgers ranks 268th in passing offense and 225th in total yards per game. Defensively they are dead last in the Big Ten Conference allowing 32 points a game.  Pretty impressive to be dead last in that category considering it means you have to play worse defense than Illinois, Purdue and Penn State.  Michigan has already won by more than 30 points on three separate occasions this season against teams that are bottom feeders like Rutgers.  Add to the fact that Michigan’s rival Ohio State just lit up Rutgers 58-0 last week – coach Jim Harbaugh and his boys will look to outdo their rivals by giving Rutgers a beat down for the ages.

The Pick: Michigan -27.5

Washington -8.5 at Oregon

The fact that Oregon is apparently going to sport some cool “Webbed Feet” jerseys this week, should be enough to make anyone watch this game.  From a football stand-point though, Washington, after stomping out Stanford last week, is looking to put a stranglehold on the Pac-12.  Washington hasn’t beating Oregon in over a decade and the cards should line up for them this year.  They have the number one offense (45 PPG) and defense (12 PPG) in the Pac-12 but let us look at this in depth. . . three of the offenses they’ve played were Idaho, Rutgers and Portland State – not exactly the kind of heavyweights selection committees faun over. . . Last week’s huge win over Stamford had the Cardinal missing three offensive linemen, and two starters in their secondary – add to the fact that the Stanford Cardinal have no real answer at quarterback – safe to say it was a good time to catch them.  The only time Washington faced a real offense was against Arizona, where they came away with the win, 35-28.  . . College football pundits have been talking about the decline of Oregon, but one thing you cannot deny is that they can still score points (40ppg) and rack up over 500 yards a game.  Oregon lost last week to a Washington State team that will give anyone fits, and before that lost by three points in back to back weeks to Nebraska and Colorado.  Not saying Washington will lose this match up, but Oregon is going to come out with something to prove in what could be a “let-down” type of game for Washington.

The Pick: Oregon +8.5

Four Game Teaser of the Week: Colorado/USC Over 48.5; Michigan -15.5; Notre Dame +13 and Toledo -5.

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Vegas Is Getting Smarter

Beating Vegas has been ON FIRE with it’s college football picks!  So far this year we are 11 for 13 so let’s see if we can keep that luck going.  Safe to say everyone took a hit with the NFL last week as two big time favorites this year in Pittsburgh and Arizona looked flat out awful.  New week, new story – so keep checking for this column weekly and visit mybookie.ag so you can beat the NCAA and NFL odds. . .

Tennessee Titans +6.5 at Houston Texans

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At this point, some teams and players start shaping up into what they will be for the rest of the year.  For the Titans, this looks like a squad that is confused on the field and has a quarterback who is suffering from the sophomore jinx.  Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota appears to be thinking too much.  Usually thinking is a good thing, but he hasn’t been “reacting” to situations quick enough in the pocket – he’s somewhere between ‘trying to make the big play’ and ‘trying not to turn over the ball’ – and failing at both.  The Texans were just shut out on National television by a third string, rookie quarterback and are now playing in the comfort of their own home against a division rival they know well.  The Texans have beaten the Titans in eight of their last ten meetings, and they’ve done so by nearly twenty points per win.   This Titans team is far from making the jump to being competitive and they’ve got a quarterback who seems to be trying to drive this offense  from the back seat.  Take the better coach and better depth (even without J.J. Watt).

The Pick: Texans -6.5

Seattle Seahawks +2.5 at New York Jets

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The big story here is that Russell Wilson suffered a sprain ACL in his left knee last week against the San Francisco 49ers.  The Seahawks are expecting Wilson to play, even if not at 100% which will work right into the Jets’ hands.  Wilson hasn’t been “killing it” this year anyhow.  In three games he has two touchdown passes, an interception and a lost fumble.  The Seahawks offense doesn’t know what it wants to be: “Smash-mouth”
, Aerial – or balanced.  Regardless of what they think they are – they’ve looked really sloppy so far this year.  Speaking of “sloppy” . . . The New York Jets were downright pitiful last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, losing 24-3.  Well at least their offense looked pitiful. . .Eh, Ryan Fitzpatrick looked pitiful.  Fitzy threw six interceptions and appeared to be confused with which jersey color he should’ve been throwing to the whole game.  The Jets will keep this game simple against a Seahawks defense that will feast on those floater passes Fitzy likes to throw.  This game will be ugly, but it will be in New York, meaning Seattle has to make that coast to coast travel that all teams dread.  The Jets will be looking to rebound against a wounded Russell Wilson.  The public will be riding the Seahawks on pure reputation against the Jets – the public is usually wrong.

The Pick: The Jets +2.5

Illinois +21 at Nebraska

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Talk about two universities going in completely different directions. . . yikes.  Illinois is the bad side of the coin as it looks like head coach Lovie Smith may have taken on more than he can handle with this roster and it’s lack of talent.  On the heavier side of the coin is Nebraska, who is so far, undefeated and both sides of the ball seem to be in sync with each other.  Illinois has gotten shelved by UNC and Western Michigan and although quarterback Wes Lunt isn’t a bad player, it’s the lack of talent around him.  The offensive line isn’t impressive and outside of wide receiver Marcus Turner, they lack little to know play making ability.  Nebraska is led by quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. who has been a duel-threat nightmare for defenses so far this year averaging over 300 yards and three touchdowns a game.  The offense has two capable running backs and Nebraska is a team that can go four wide at the wide receiver position and depend on all of them.  The trend in Vegas is that Nebraska is 4-1 ATS in it’s last five games, while Illinois is 1-5 ATS in it’s last six games.  Expect that trend to continue, even with this big number – Illinois just can’t match up with Nebraska on the field.

The Pick: Nebraska -21

Western Michigan -3.5 at Central Michigan

You got to love the Mac Conference.  We won with Western Michigan earlier this year in an easy cover against Illinois (yes, the team that we’re going against this week as well) and this week they’re going against Central Michigan.  Both squads average about 41 points a game between them and defensively they allow on average about 23 points a game between them.  Last year the winner of this game was Western Michigan 41-39.  The over/under for this game is set at 55 and this is the kind of game where these two will be lighting each other up until late in the fourth quarter.

The Pick: The Over 55

If You Must: Take Wisconsin +10.5 against Michigan.  Don’t like riding a team two weeks in a row, but they were the underdogs last week and flat out won, this week, Wisconsin is the first true test for Michigan who has been playing cup cakes so far this season.  Michigan is playing a team now that will “punch back” and they haven’t faced that at all this year.  Michigan will most likely still come away with a win, but Wisconsin will hang around.  This might be a preview of the Big Ten Title game and both teams know it.

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4 Game Tease of the Week: Dolphins +19, Browns +19.5, Raiders +15.5 and Stanford/Washington Under 57

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Let’s Not Over-React

About Last Week:  Oh Seattle. . . Russell Wilson seemed out of sorts last week and that Cincinnati / Purdue game made us sweat it out, but we got that “under.”  When it came to Louisville clearing sixteen at Syracuse – it really doesn’t get much easier than that. . . Seriously, keep checking this column and mybookie.ag every week so you can beat the NCAA and NFL Lines. . .

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Tennessee Titans +6.5 at Detroit Lions

After being up 21-3 and  then having to edge out a win 39-35 against the Colts, the Lions should be counting their blessings.  The Colts don’t have much depth, neither do the Lions, so on paper it should have been a close game anyway.  Vegas has the Lions as a one touchdown favorite against a team that should be making strides this season.  Minnesota’s offense didn’t do much against Tennessee’s defense (the Titans even held the unstoppable Adrian Peterson to an abysmal 1.9 yards a carry) as the offense had to settle for four Blair Walsh field goals.  Marcus Mariota’s costly two interceptions turned into defensive touchdowns which made the difference in the game.  This time around, Mariota plays against an easier defensive opponent and a team, in the Lions who never knows how to put anybody away.  Expect the Titans to mix in Derrick Henry a little more with Demarco Murray early to see if they can have the same amount of success that Frank Gore had last week (4.2 yards a carry) against Detroit.  They may want to ease Mariota into the game and keep an overly anxious Matt Stafford on the sidelines.

The Pick: Tennessee Titans +6.5

 

Atlanta Falcons +4.5 at Oakland Raiders

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The Oakland Raiders gave us a gutsy and exciting game last week against the New Orleans Saints, but all was not to be celebrated.  The Raiders came into this season ranting and raving about a defense that was ready to take on the world, but Drew Brees and the Saints threw the ball all over the field on them, leaving it up to Derek Carr and the Raiders offense to carry the load.  The good news is, Carr looks totally in-sync with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree – the chemistry from last year, just seems to have gotten better.  The Falcons have a top flight wide-out in Julio Jones there is no doubting that, and they even have two talented backs in Coleman and Freeman – but that offensive line is still an issue.  Matt Ryan has slid down to  be the fourth best quarterback in the NFC South (remember class there are only four teams in the division).   If the Oakland Raiders are truly back in the picture as a team that matters, beating an average at best team at home by a touchdown should be a requirement on their resume.

The Pick: The Raiders -4.5

 

Houston Cougars -9 at Cincinnati Bearcats

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To be honest, there was some wavering on this one.  And the golden rule should be – if you’re not sure, stay away – but it’s a Thursday night game and we all can’t avoid a little college football action in the middle of the week. . .  The Bearcats have found a better look in their offense with Hayden Moore at quarterback but the competition has been way below average.  The Ohio-Valley Conference was represented by Tenn-Martin and the Bearcats struggled for a half and couldn’t stop the run.  Then they beat the worst team in the Big 10 by 18 points. . .  Meanwhile, Houston has showed off a tough defense in both of their wins, one of those wins was the season opener in which they were in control against Baker Mayfield and that Oklahoma Sooner offense.  In just two games, the Bearcats have three 100 yard rushers (and one 80 yard rusher) and will be able to eat the Bearcats offensive line all day.  History shows that in the last three years the winner of this game has been decided by 7 points or less, but this is a huge year for Houston and they are looking to make examples out of teams that are clearly not in their league.  This game has a lot of the Louisville / Syracuse feeling from last week and we saw what the better team did in that one. . .

The Pick: Houston -9

Western Mich  -3.5 at Illinois

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Year in and year out, Western Michigan has an impressive and very un-noticed team.  Welcome to the glory of the MAC Conference.  Western Michigan comes complete in their passing attack and their ground game. Senior wide receiver Corey Davis is having a nice start to the season snatching seven catches a game and already racking up 220 yards in his two games.  This will prove to be a problem on the Illinois defense as Lovie Smith still hasn’t learned that the Cover-2 base defense just isn’t a good idea anymore.  Watching Illinois, they leave the middle of the field open all day long – this is what helped get Lovie fired as head coach of the Chicago Bears.  The Illini are giving up 440 passing yards a game and expect that trend to continue.

The Pick: Western Michigan -3.5

South Florida Bulls -14.5 at Syracuse Orange

Syracuse was just embarrassed on national television last week (as was predicted here on Beating Vegas) and now they are a double digit home dog.  The Regular-Joes will ride the favorite in this game because of what they saw.  But it’s all about what they don’t see.  South Florida was able to open the season to beat up on Towson and Northern Illinois, while Syracuse had one cup cake opponent and then a monster in Louisville.   Syracuse’s problem isn’t moving the ball, it’s finishing drives and they are going up against a defense that hasn’t been tested yet.  Syracuse has a fast paced offense led by quarterback Erik Dungey, who is flying under the radar now, but is one of the more exciting quarterbacks to watch play.  Syracuse may not win this game, but they definitely won’t get blown out either.  The Bulls may get winded early and have to muscle a win out of this one.

The Pick: Syracuse +14.5

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If You Must: Take Memphis at home -20 against the visiting Kansas Jayhawks.  If this was basketball, Kansas would be  a road favorite by at least 7 or 8, but in the world of football, Kansas has won six road games since 2011 and haven’t really been trending upwards in the last two years.

Four Game Teaser: Saints/Giants Over 40.5;  Cardinals +5.5; Panthers -1.5 and Ohio State +10

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

The Hollywood Rams

Reality television is usually seen for actors and/or musicians who have seemingly “lost their way” and are vying for a moment in the spotlight.  These are the folks that see this route as a last ditch-effort in re-acquiring the fame that has escaped them.

So why does the NFL need reality television?  It’s already the most dominant sport in America.  The sports-hubs of the nation revolve their workdays around it – even in the off-season.   The NFL does it because until we all collectively say out loud “enough is enough” – the league will continue to pursue ways to keep itself in the public’s eye all year long.

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Since 2001, the NFL has stayed true to putting a team’s pre-season on display on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”  All in all, the show has proven to be a success.  It helps put a face to the names of players and puts the fans “in” the locker room.  This year the newly-moved Los Angeles Rams are the team that will be nationally viewed on Hard Knocks.  Oh, and the Rams will also be on the E! Network series “Hollywood & Football.”  Because two reality shows about the same team is exactly what football fans want to see.

“Hollywood & Football” focuses on some of the Rams players and their wives.  Kenny Britt and his wife Sabrina are one of the six couples that will be followed around.  One has to wonder if during a heated argument Sabrina spits fire at Kenny like “How does it feel to always fall short of your potential!?”  Riveting, must-see T.V. . .

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To be fair though, this move makes perfect sense for the Rams.  This is a team that has been mostly forgotten since the days of Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk.  They play in a division which has the league’s current “it” team in the Seattle Seahawks; a team that might be the best in the NFC and might have the league’s best head coach in the Cardinals and a team, that although they are serious flaming bags of trash – the 49ers are still the 49ers and their name carries more weight than most in the league.  The Rams, are looking for a new identity.  This is why they’ve moved back to Los Angeles and are now trying to take up the spotlight any way they can.

The Rams drafted Jared Goff with the number one pick of the draft this year – a product of California University with a Hollywood smile.  This was not just a move for a team looking for a new quarterback, but a team looking for a new beginning.  This is exactly why people move.  To start over.  Do things differently.  Right now the Rams are tired of being “under-the-radar.”  They want to be noticed.  With a rookie quarterback and a second year back that the league fell in love with last season in Todd Gurley, the Rams think they are putting the right pieces together.

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So maybe the NFL is not the forgotten celebrity trying to re-brand itself in our world.  It’s just the Rams trying to re-brand itself in the world of football.  Just like Bret Michaels and Flavor Flav, the Rams are just looking for love. . .exposure and prove to the world that they still exist.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

3 College Football “Sleepers”

It’s easy to pick the big-boys out of the bunch: Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Clemson – blah, blah, blah.    The sport of college football needs those consistent power houses.  Although, they maintain a level for which others should strive to attain – the intrigue of a season is mostly determined by  teams we never saw coming.

The term “sleeper” is tough to define.  It could be a traditionally weaker school out of a big conference, or a non-BCS conference team that threatens to move up the National Top 25.  Here are three teams that people should expect some noise from in the upcoming season.

Boston College. . . Last Season 3-9 record (0-8 in ACC)

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Last season, the lack of an offense really derailed the Eagles.  B.C. lost five games by three or less points.  One of those losses was to a lowly Wake Forest team in a hard-to-watch 0-3 loss.  Anything resembling an offense could have (may have) changed the fortunes of this team but they had a pitiful pass attack which led defenses to stack the line against them routinely.  Boston College hopes things will be different with Kentucky graduate-transfer Patrick Towles at the quarterback position.  Patrick Towles is in no way the re-birth of Matt Ryan under center for the Eagles, but he is a quarterback who played in the SEC and has seen some of the faster defenses in recent history.  Aside from tough defensive assignments like Florida State, Clemson and Louisville – the schedule isn’t too harsh.  Even then, they lost to Florida State 14-0 and Louisville 17-14  last season so it wouldn’t be far fetched to say they can overcome those obstacles this year.  Running back John Hillman will be at full strength this season and he showed a lot of potential in 2014 running for over 800 yards and 13 touchdowns.  The defense has 8 returning starters which is good news for head coach Steve Addazio who needs a huge turn-around to keep his job this year.  It wouldn’t be shocking to see this team make some noise and come away with a big upset or two during the year.

Bowling Green. . . Last Season 10-4 record (7-1 in the MAC)

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How is a 10 win team considered a “sleeper” team?  Easy: they lost their stud quarterback Matt Johnson to the NFL.  With him, Johnson  takes his forty-six touchdown passes and sixty-seven percent completion percentage.  Also, Bowling Green comes out of the MAC conference, and let’s be honest, the only time folks look out for MAC conference is when they are the only thing to watch on Thursday nights and you’re trying to win some easy money against your bookie.  The MAC has a few high powered offenses (because very few of these teams play defense) and folks are counting Bowling Green out because of the absence of Matt Johnson – pump your breaks on that.  New head coach Mike Jinks comes out of the high-octane Texas Tech Red Raiders offense.  Under Jinks the team had their first 1,000 yard rusher since 1998 (jeez fellas. . .) and he has an experienced quarterback at his disposal in Jame Knapke.  Knapke got significant playing time in 2014 and filled in admirably.  At times he’s a bit of a hot head and gets ahead of himself, but now more mature and in an offense that’s all his own, all is not lost.  Also in front of Knapke  are  four returning offensive linemen in front of him so the protection should not be a problem. They have an opening game at Ohio State where they will lose by eighty-five points, but after that it’s all fair game in the MAC for Bowling Green and James Knapke.

Air Force Falcons. . . Last Season 8-6 (6-2 record in Mountain West)

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Last season Air Force had a one dimensional offense but nobody could really stop it, so they kept on doing what they do best: run the ball.  The Falcons’ ground game rushed for 4187 yards at a 5.5 yard clip.  They ran the ball 764 times – which was by far the most in the nation and this year they return with a two back set that is set to wreck havoc.  Timothy McVey (yes, that name makes me uncomfortable too) and Jacobi Owens will be a handful for the defenses on their schedule.  Oh, and their schedule – should pretty much be a breeze.   Navy isn’t as strong as last year, Boise isn’t what they used to be and they don’t play San Diego State (the team that beat them by three points in the Mountain West Championship game last year).  The Air Force defense has nine returning starters and they pretty much set up a different blitz package every time they lined up last season.  Now with a little more experience and bad competition this defense is set to have a huge impact.  Air Force is a team that could very well find themselves in the Top 25 when it’s all said and done – that is, if folks look passed their weak schedule. . .

If it wasn’t for their schedule Syracuse would’ve been a fourth team to keep an eye out for.   Quarterback Eric Dungey is an exciting player to watch and as stated in Lindy’s Sports “The hurry up spread is coming to Syracuse” which would fit Dungey’s skill set perfectly.  The only issue is, Notre Dame, Clemson, Boston College, Florida State, Louisville – you get the picture. . .

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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

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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

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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

 

Chip Kelly Gambles On Himself

Chip Kelly exudes confidence.  Or is it arrogance he exudes?  Guess everyone will find out a lot sooner than later.  Besides being head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Chip Kelly also oversees the player personnel department.   The Eagles have shown their faith in what Chip Kelly can do, and now he’s shaping up the roster anyway he seems fit.

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When the news broke of the Eagles trading running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso it shocked mostly everybody.  Mainly because McCoy is one of the few all purpose and three-down backs in the league, who was without a doubt the biggest weapon in Chip Kelly’s offense.   This wasn’t a bad trade per-say for either side involved: The Eagles got a young stud linebacker on a rookie contract and also relieved a lot of cap room while the Bills, now coached by Rex Ryan, found an upgrade from CJ Spiller in what will be a run dominated offense.  The Bills defense did just fine without Alonso last season and with Rex Ryan there, they’ll be just fine in that department.

What the move says though is that Chip Kelly has more belief in what his offense can do, than the players that are in it.  This should come to no surprise to those who have followed Kelly though. Remember last year, he departed with Desean Jackson as if he was a passing bug.

Acquiring Kiko Alonso might be just the beginning of Kelly’s plan.  Alonso is a former Oregon Duck, who understands the physical demands of which a normal Chip Kelly practice feels like.  Kelly does things differently – where others break down a free agent or rookie prospects squat numbers and broad jumps – Kelly wants to know a players sleeping and eating habits.  He has to know that the player he puts into his system is not only smart enough to understand it, but is in the right physical state to play in it.

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Remember when you were in school and the teacher brought out WIlliam Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar?”  A word that was thrown around during that lesson that you’ll never forget was “hubris” – meaning excessive pride.  This is what led to Caesar’s downfall.  He was so self righteous it made everyone around him sick – and they assassinated him.  Nobody is saying Chip Kelly is going to get stabbed 23 times to his death (“Et tu, Kelce?”) but what his ego might do is lead to his downfall and maybe exile himself from the league.  Extreme?  Not really.  If a head coach is going to take a gamble on himself to this extent, he had better be right.

In terms of this trade, it was smart.  McCoy is entering his seventh season and last year was paid over $7.5 million.  Nobody is arguing whether he deserves the money or not – but the bottom line is, no matter how great one thinks McCoy is – they didn’t make the playoffs. At the end of the day, he wasn’t that big of a difference maker to Kelly, who still has Darren Sproles  and (ah hem) former Oregon Duck Kenjon Barner in his backfield.

If current rumors are true, Chip Kelly has another big deal to broker.  If Chip Kelly wants to get his hands on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, he’ll have to trade up of the draft and most likely give up a considerable ransom for that pick which could be anywhere in the top 6 or 7.  Mariota himself is a gamble in the NFL, but there is no better place for him to be situated than with Chip Kelly if that was to come true.  The timing, language and chemistry would be true from the start.

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If anything, the seemingly brazen arrogance of Chip Kelly is somewhat inspiring.  If you have that much belief in yourself and your abilities there should be no second guessing in the actions you take.  The city of Philadelphia are putting blind faith into Chip Kelly who seems more like a mad scientist than a football coach.  Or better yet, a super villain who has Metropolis nervous with his every move.   For Chip Kelly’s sake, he’d better be right because we are talking about Philadelphia here. . . a scene similar to that of Julius Caesar may not be too far off if Kelly sinks this team into the abyss because of his own selfish pride. 

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

The “Other” Quarterbacks in the Draft

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota have gotten most of the attention going into this years draft and for good reason.   Winston displays everything on the field that you want from the quarterback position, while Mariota’s Heisman year was complete with eye popping video-game like statistics.   Believe it or not though, there are other quarterbacks in this year’s draft.   This isn’t the “sexiest” quarterback class to come out though and teams that are in need of that position, may want to tread lightly.

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Brett Hundley (UCLA) – Hundley entered last season with expectations to rival the hype around Winston and Mariota.  Although his season wasn’t awful, it also didn’t make many take notice.  In his three years at UCLA there is really no sign of growth statistically.  At 6’3″ and 225 pounds, he has ideal size and even brings a strong arm to the table, but his inability to read defenses consistently and relying on his athletic ability too much throw signs of caution.   Surprised that UCLA head coach Jim Mora didn’t shy away from running an offense that is predominately run from the shotgun to help Hundley’s transition to a pro style . . . Hundley is an intriguing prospect.

Best Fit: If the Arizona Cardinals get a shot at him in the second round, it would benefit Hundley greatly to learn behind a veteran like Palmer while being coached up by possibly the best coach in the league in Bruce Arians.

Bryce Petty (Baylor) – Much like Mariota in Oregon, Petty has a system at Baylor that is very quarterback friendly.  Unlike Mariota though – Petty was also blessed with having arguably the best wide receiver depth in college.  Baylor has become a place where top wide receiver recruits flock to because of it’s aerial assault.  Petty is a big, strong and confident player but his tendencies to stare down a single target and check down as soon as the primary receiver is covered are things seen week to week in Baylor games.

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Best Fit: If the Philadelphia Eagles resist the (rumored) temptation to trade up for Marcus Mariota in the first round.  They may just be patient and wait to see if Petty, who relies on a similar system will fall to them.

Garrett Grayson (Colorado State) : It seems like every year there’s some quarterback that was on nobody’s radar during the season and all of a sudden becomes a “sleeper” when it’s draft time.   This year that player is Garrett Grayson.   He brings what the previous two lack, and that’s that he played in a pro style system which gets the NFL scouts all giddy with excitement.  He is accurate but nothing special when it comes to arm strength or athletic ability.  The tape on Grayson is pretty clear though.  Coming out of the Mountain West conference, Grayson played well against the level of competition that was presented to him, and yes, that is a big deal.  Sure Grayson looked good against the likes of Wyoming, Hawaii and New Mexico, but once Grayson played against good defensive teams like Boston College, Boise State, Utah and Utah State, the struggle was evidently real. . .

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Best Fit:  Alex Smith is in no danger of losing his job but injuries are a part of the league.  The Kansas City Chiefs have Andy Reid as their head coach who once upon a time made Kevin Kolb and Koy Detmer look serviceable, so this would be Grayson’s best spot to land at.

Bo Wallace (Ole Miss):  Wallace is a great athlete with a pretty strong arm but he’s inconsistent all across the board.  He is a fiery competitor and will impress some NFL types with his athleticism and demeanor but sometimes that demeanor of his turns into cockiness which results all too often in him making bad decisions.   He likes to talk trash and sometimes lets opponents get in his head as well.   Bo is a gamble if there ever is one in the draft, especially at the quarterback position.  When his number one receiver Laquon Treadwell went down for the season, Bo Wallace was exposed even further as he totaled 6 interceptions and zero touchdowns in his last 3 games of the season.  It also doesn’t help that two of those games were losses to Arkansas and TCU in the Rebels offense was held to 3 and 0 points respectively.

Best Fit: Any desperate team that is primarily a run-based offense.  Buffalo Bills, maybe? . . .

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G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio