Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread. The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.
Judging Last Week: Consider yourself lucky to have an even split in rivalry week, this week it doesn’t get much easier. During championship week, the games are played at “neutral” destinations, and some teams are playing for their playoff lives.
North Carolina (+4) vs Clemson (game to be played at Bank of America Stadium)
To get into the College Football Playoff, North Carolina would need a win against #1 ranked Clemson, and a ton of teams in front of them to completely fall apart. First things first though for the Tar Heels, and that’s a chance to knock off the best team in the country, Clemson. There are two things that separate the two teams, and only two things: 1. Clemson is undefeated while UNC has one loss to South Carolina; and 2. UNC’s one real weakness comes with their run defense. The Tar Heels give up 208 yards a game on the ground to the opposition but at least have a pass defense that is formidable and they will have to be at their best against quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson throws at a 70% completion percentage and has thrown for 27 touchdowns on the year. He is not in a class all by himself though. UNC’s Marquise Williams throws at a 65% completion rate and is just as much a dual threat as Watson. Week to week, Clemson looks like a team that plays down to the level of their competition and the next week they seem like they’re playing on a whole other level. This week, they are playing against a tough and aggressive Tar Heels squad that knows even a bowl game after beating Clemson, won’t be as exciting as actually beating Clemson.
The Pick: North Carolina +4
Michigan State (-3) vs Iowa (game to be played at Lucas Oil Stadium)
The knocks against Iowa all year is that they haven’t “played anybody good” and the knock against Michigan State is that they haven’t played “up to their expectations.” For whatever faults these teams possess, they did enough to find themselves in the Big 10 Championship Game. It’s simple enough, whoever wins becomes Big 10 Champ and earns a birth in the college football playoff. Michigan State has had a problem “putting teams away” and it’s quite baffling. The only assumption one can make is that they take their opponents lightly and basically sleep walk during games. There is NFL talent throughout the roster, most notably at quarterback with Connor Cook. Cook is expected to be a first round pick in the upcoming draft and games like these is when he’ll need to shine the most. He has 24 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions but his 57.6 completion percentage shows, he tends to be inconsistent at times. Iowa’s defense has been good this year, but once again – considering the level of competition, it’s to be taken with a grain of salt. They won by single digit margins against the two better offenses they faced in Indiana and Nebraska. This Michigan State team knows that the talent in the Big 10 is on the rise, and with things not looking to get any easier with rivals Michigan and Ohio State in the near future, their time is now.
The Pick: Michigan State -3
Florida (+17) vs Alabama (game to be played in the Georgia Dome)
The Florida Gator defense has been the talk of the town. They allow only 15.5 points per game and have speed in their secondary that goes almost unmatched. The Gator offense has been more reliant on their defense then themselves as they muster 25 points a game, but haven’t gone over the 30 point mark since that early win in October against Ole Miss. Quarterback Will Grier’s suspension has really put his team in a bad position on the offensive side of things, as Treon Harris has minimalized the chance for the Gators to display a balanced offense. Harris’ 53% completion percentage forces the Gators to stick to the ground. Harris’ athleticism is over-rated as well, because as the team’s second leading rusher the QB is averaging less than three yards a carry. . . Honestly, as good as the Gators are on defense, the Crimson Tide are just better. They allow one fewer point than Florida does on defense and running against ‘Bama has been nearly impossible as teams average 2.5 yards a carry and less than 80 yards a game against them. This is the team that held LSU’s Leornard Fournette to 31 yards and less than 2 yards a carry in their 30-16 victory over the Tigers. And unlike Florida, ‘Bama has a very balanced offense that gets it done through the air and also by ways of the ground with their running back, Heisman hopeful, Derrick Henry. Most will see the big number and go with the team getting the points, but in truth, Alabama is primed for a big win going into the College Football playoff. Florida will struggle getting first downs, let alone touchdowns, while Alabama will find a way.
The Pick: Alabama -17
If you must: When looking at the Baylor vs Texas line, the +21 going to the Longhorns is too juicy to pass up. The Baylor Bears are going into this game with their third string quarterback and that’s the least of their woes. This is a team that was destroying everything in it’s path and looking forward to a Championship run – that is all gone. For the Longhorns though, this is their championship game. They may not win, but they’ll put up a tough fight to not be blown out.
BONUS pick: This one is just too easy to lay off of. Take the Jets at -2 against their hometown rival New York Giants. The Jets are a team that are becoming scarier and scarier as the playoffs approach. At full health this is one of the tougher teams on both sides of the ball, and they seem to be rolling right now. Fitzpatrick is the only wildcard here, but he has weapons around him – too many for the Giants to handle. Eli will be under pressure the entire game and this is a secondary that is loving the opportunity to play against Odell Beckum Jr. This one could get ugly and could be the easiest win of the week.
Teaser of the Week: (Four Gamer) Bowling Green +1, Jets +10, Patriots +2.5, Michigan State +9
Good Luck and Wager Wisely!