Tag Archives: UCF

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: 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: North Kakalaka and . . .

Eastern Carolina +35 at UCF

Man, oh man.  This game pits the best of the American Athletic Conference against it’s absolute worst.  Funny thing is, Eastern Carolina isn’t a terrible football school.  This is just a really, really, really bad time for them.  How bad?  Like the worst defense in college football-bad. The Pirates are giving up 47.8 points a game and allowing 600 yards a contest.  The defense is very generous though, they’ll let opposing offenses run or pass against them at will.  Very nice of them.  It doesn’t get easier for Eastern Carolina as right now, one of the hotter teams in the nation UCF are waiting to pounce on them. UCF is number one in scoring offense this year at 47.5 points per game.  The Knights are completing 70% of their passes and are averaging 5.8 yards a carry (which is ironically what Eastern Carolina allows per carry).  UCF is also looking to show off new “space themed jerseys” to honor NASA that look amazing that night.  With a lot of big programs already at one-loss, and this UCF team looking like one of it’s best ever so far.  The Knights will be looking to run up the score when they can because every little bit will count when Bowl Season comes along.

The Pick: UCF -35

N.C. State -12 at Pittsburgh

Pitt is just having a run of bad luck.  And now, after losing to Syracuse last week, you can just tell this is a team that’s gotten in it’s own head. When you’re only wins come against Youngstown State and Rice people start to look at you differently.  Then when you barely look competitive against good teams, those same people know exactly what you are.  And this season, it’s just “not that good.”  The former USC Trojan Max Browne is somehow making a 70% completion percentage on the season look less than spectacular and with no real playmakers on this offense its no wonder why they are number 169 when ranked among college offensive yards for the year.  While Pitt is having a season to forget, N.C. State is having one to remember.  The Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley has 10 touchdowns with zero interceptions so far this year and has a junior running back in Nyheim Hines who is averaging 5.3 yards a carry.   N.C. State is a very good road team and in their last 6 road games they have gone 5-1 against the spread and there is no reason to believe that that trend will come to an end.

The Pick: N.C. State -12

Colorado -11 at Oregon State

It’s been a tough go for the Oregon State Beavers this season.  Now that head coach Gary Anderson has parted ways with the university, this bad situation has gotten even worse.  Anderson ripped the university and even admitted in text messages that were leaked that he hired the wrong people, when it came to his staff. Yikes. The Beavers are 1-5,  pretty much losing in blow out fashion, and their only win is a sad 3 point victory against the doormat we call Portland State.  They are ranked 183rd in passing yards and 184th in rushing yards and defensively they are dead last in the Pac-12.  Colorado comes into this game on a three game losing streak, one of those losses comes at a blowout to Washington.  Their last two losses have been by 4 points and 3 points (to UCLA and Arizona respectively).  Colorado running back Philip Lindsay’s stat line for this season is impressive: 810 rushing yards, 5.4 yards a carry and 8 rushing touchdowns. Considering that the Beavers already allow 4.8 yards a carry and have allowed 16 rushing touchdowns already this should be, literally a walk in the park for Lindsay.  Colorado quarterback Steven Montez has lost some confidence after throwing 3 picks to Washington’s tough defense in the Buffaloe’s blow out loss.  He’s been slowly picking up the pieces and hopefully last week’s 3 touchdown performance will turn things around.  Colorado has three targets in Shay Fields, Devin Ross and and Bryce Bobo who are all threats in the passing game and looked at often.  All three wideouts have over 20 receptions and 300 yards so far this year.  Oregon State is giving up nearly 70% completion percentage to opposing QB’s and if Montez’ focus is in the right place – it should be a breeze throwing another 3 touchdowns. Colorado is a team playing to get to that 6-win mark.  It’s been a disappointing season for them and playing against a bad team who’s coach just quit on them might be the right kind of recipe for Colorado to get back on track.

The Pick: Colorado -6

Four Game Teaser of the Week: Michigan / Indiana Under 59.5; Colorado State -12.5; Ohio State -12.5 and Georgia -18

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Beating Vegas: And Now It Really Begins

Utah State +27.5 at Wisconsin

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

The Pick: Wisconsin -27.5

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

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

The Pick: N.C. State -4.5

Texas A&M +4.5 at UCLA

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

The Pick: UCLA -4.5

“Bonus Coverage*”

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

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

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

*These are NOT LOCKS – just assumptions : )

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

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio