Tag Archives: USC

Beating Vegas: Going Wild in Southern Cal

Arizona +7 at USC

The Arizona Wildcats go into the home of the USC Trojans this weekend and this is a battle between two quarterbacks who have been on a very different road in getting to this point of the season.  The Trojans’ quarterback Sam Darnold was the pre-season Heisman favorite, with a lot of NFL scouts touting him as the best signal caller in the nation, who was supposed to lead the Trojans to the playoff this year.  The Trojans are currently 7-2 with a middle of the pack defense and an offense, that although is putting up  33 points per game – was expected to do even better.  Darnold is having an okay season throwing 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions (second most in the Pac-12).  The real answer to this offense’s success has been running back Ronald Jones who is 112 yards away from a thousand yard rushing season and is averaging 6.7 yards a carry.  Jones is the fifth best -statistical – rusher in the Pac-12 conference – one spot above him though is Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate.   Tate in just six games has accumulated 960 rushing yards and averaging nearly 14 yards a rush.  Coach Rich Rodriguez’ offense doesn’t look to throw the ball much but if they do Tate is netting a completion percentage of 68.7%.  The other ball carriers on this team average at least 5 yards a carry (all four of them).   The Wildcasts defense stepped up when they went against another highly touted Pac-12 quarterback in UCLA’s Josh Rosen and forced the quarterback to toss 3 interceptions.  Arizona is playing very well as a unit as Tate is proving to be right there with Bryce Love as the best players in the Pac-12 conference.  USC is playing with hurt pride and defending their undefeated home record this week.  Arizona’s wins have either come in blowouts or by thin margins while USC has proven to be mostly unreliable so far this year.

The Pick: Arizona +7

Rice +10.5 at UAB

It was only a few years ago that the University of Alabama-Birmingham ended their football program.  They figured it was costing them too much money to be competitive and decided to pull the plug.  2017 became the “the year the Blazers come back.”  Many figured it would remain to be a bottom dweller.  History proved it was never a good program anyway so after being dead for two years, they would definitely be a door-mat to anyone who stepped to them.  Funny how things turn out, huh?  Currently UAB is 5-3 and knocking on the door of becoming “bowl-eligible.”  The Blazers offense is predicated off of the success of their ground game and running back Spencer Brown who is averaging 5.6 yards a carry and has a total of 909 rushing yards so far this season.  Quarterback AJ  Erdely has been efficient as well, throwing nine touchdowns and only 2 interceptions but more impressive than that are his 10 rushing touchdowns this season.  This isn’t a surprising stat when you realize that UAB’s scoring percentage in the red zone is 87%, which ranks them higher than Penn State and Louisville’s red-zone attacks.  This will be key when going against a Rice red-zone defense that is allowing opponents to score 89% of the time. (And just to see the other side of things: UAB’s red zone defense 70% sandwiched between the likes of Ohio State and Alabama while Rice’s red-zone attack scores 71% of the time which knocks down the Owl’s chances of scoring to a 49% in the red-zone.) The Rice Owls have been on the wrong side of lob-sided scores all season and stand at 1-7 so far this year. The offense is ranked 229th in total yards, 251st in passing yards and 116th in rushing yards.

The Pick: UAB -10.5

 

Virginia Tech -2.5 at Miami

Here goes one that the “sharps” are big on.  Getting Va Tech under a field goal, while you can.  There are many reasons why.  First one, as we saw last week, Miami will just let any team hang with them.  Even teams they should blow out by a large amount like UNC or Duke.  Yes, we all saw that ridiculous touchdown that put the Seminoles away, but in truth – Florida State is in a down year, with injuries and inexperience stripping them of reinventing their dominant looking selves.  Miami is a good team.   A marginally good team.  They’ve been “bleh” against the spread and they are usually given too many points because they are such a large “public” favorite.  Virginia Tech has a quarterback in Josh Jackson who goes under the radar and it’s a crime.  Jackson is completing 62% of his passes with 17 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. Behind his is a running back committee of Travon McMillian, DeShawn McClease and even Coleman Fox — they all are racking up over 4.5 yards per rush between them.  Miami is mediocre when it comes to stopping the rush (allowing 4.1 yards a carry) but are stingy when it comes to letting ball carriers get into the end-zone, allowing only 3 rushing touchdowns so far this year.  Miami pass defense has looked great this year, holding opposing quarterbacks to 50% completion percentage but look at the competition and you’ll see why.  The number is perfect where it’s at right now and if it goes up to 3, you shouldn’t hesitate to buy the half a point.  This will be a close one but in the end, Virginia Tech has the better pass defense, the better rush defense and the better quarterback.  Don’t fall for the hype.

The Pick: Virginia Tech -2.5

Four Team Teaser of the Week: Wisconsin -1.5; South Carolina +35.5; Purdue -2 and Baylor +4.5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Trust the Better Quarterback

Kurt Cobain once uttered the lyrics “all apologies.”  And those same words are the ones I repeat to all of our loyal “Beating Vegas” faithful.  Last week’s mishaps will not happen again.  Let’s get it.

USC -3.5 at Washington State

Hmmmm. . . An undefeated, ranked home dog going up against a team that the public loves, that may be a “little” bit over-rated.  Interesting.  The number ten ranked Washington State Cougars are sixth in the nation in passing yards per game, airing it out at 432.5 yards per contest.  They are 4-0 so far this year and have been an offensive juggernaut thanks to their pass attack.  Quarterback Luke Falk is throwing at a 77% completion rate and has 14 touchdown passes to one interception.  All of this sounds great until you see who they have played this year:  Montana State, Oregon State, Nevada and Boise State – who they only beat by 3 points.  They are starting their Pac-12 conference play against a team that the masses either love to hate, or hate to see underachieve: The USC Trojans. The Trojans are ranked sixth nationally and have accumulated a 4-0 record as well but against better competition, and that’s not even up for debate (Western Michigan, Stanford, Cal and Texas).  While the whole world is in love with quarterback Sam Darnold, the two running backs of Southern Cal, Ronald Jones and Stephen Carr are who defenses should be wary of.  Jones is averaging 5.5 yards a carry, with Carr averaging 6.3.  The Cougars run defense has “held” opponents to 3.5 yards a carry – but once again – look at who they’ve played. A “number stat” to pay attention to is this: Washington State is just 1-8 SU and 3-6 ATS in its last nine games as a home underdog (according to OddsShark).   The half point, is something I’d buy an entire point with, but that’s just me.

The Pick: USC -3.5

Northwestern +14.5 at Wisconsin

Wisconsin has made short work of their early season competition as expected, even destroying BYU last week 40-6.  Wisconsin is a team that many expect little to no slip ups during the season, which should get them to the Big 10 Championship game, but now, they start conference play.  The Northwestern Wildcats are 2-1 including a beat-down they received courtesy of Duke, and pulling out 14 points in the fourth to beat the lowly Nevada Wolfpack.  The Wisconsin Badgers have always been able to run the ball, and that doesn’t change this year with running back Jonathan Taylor averaging 8.3 yards a carry, but a steady leadership from quarterback Alex Hornibrook has been an unexpected surprise.  Hornibrook has completed 70% of his passes and is averaging 10 yards a pass.   Northwestern’s defense is already allowing over 400 yards a game and on the ground they are allowing 4.1 yards a carry.  When using the Beating Vegas “Clash Average” – Wisconsin has an advantage at getting 4.85 yards per carry against Northwestern, which should give Hornibrook more than enough to work with. When looking at the numbers Northwestern is a passing attack yielding very few results (102 pass attempts, 5 touchdown passes).  Wisconsin may start out slow, but by the second half the Badgers assert their authority.

The Pick: Wisconsin -14.5

Oklahoma State -9.5 at Texas Tech

This is a rivalry that goes back to 1935, and they have consistently played each other every seasons since 1996.  Who’s been fairing the best you ask?  Well, in their last 8 meetings, the Oklahoma State Cowboys have found themselves getting the better of the Texas Tech Red Raiders by an average score of 49 to 28 (the spread is 9.5 so I’m sure you can guess where I’m leaning. . .).   The over/under for this game is set at 81 total points and the average over the last eight games has been 77.75 points.  This is going to be a long game with a lot of big plays, but it’s all about who will make the defensive stops when needed.  The answer to that question is almost never Texas Tech.  Quarterback Nic Shimonek has filled in well at the quarterback spot for the Red Raiders, but he is still no Pat Mahomes.  The Cowboys on the other hand have Mason Rudolf who is not only trying to get his team into the Big 12 title game, but he is also building himself up quite the draft profile when it’s his time to go pro.  The big difference here lies in the pass defense, where the Cowboys hold  opposing quarterbacks to a completion percentage of 58.5% while the Red Raiders allow a completion percentage of 63.6%.  That may seem like splitting hairs, but that’s the difference of extending a drive, getting the extra yard for a first and keeping your defense rested.  The Cowboys goals of winning the Big 12 and making the college football playoff are still alive and well.  After losing last week to TCU, expect this Cowboys team to cover this spread but keep you on your toes while they achieve that.

The Pick: Oklahoma State -9.5

Four Game Teaser of the Week: NC State PK, Wisconsin -2.5; SMU-5 and Oregon -1.5

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Bowl Season, Part Three

Here it is folks, the last installment of Beating Vegas, until next season.  We had one tremendous year here at Beating Vegas, and we hope you were entertained along the way as you were pocketing money from our College Football locks, week after week.  Here goes the rest of the College Bowl game picks against the spread. . .

Liberty Bowl: TCU vs Georgia

This game is set as a “pick” and for good reason.  Both of these squads show little to no separation in the their points scored to points allowed ratios and both have a tendency to not show up what-so-ever at times.  Both were projected to make strides and both disappointed thoroughly.

The Pick: The Under at 48.5

Sun Bowl: UNC +3 vs Stanford

Stanford’s star running back Christian McCaffrey is sitting this one out to prepare for the upcoming NFL draft, while UNC’s star QB Mitch Trubisky is playing this game to prove he can be a first round talent in the upcoming draft.  And while Trubisky would have to look ridiculously bad to not get drafted at-least in the second round (due to a generally weak QB class. . .) it’s wide-out Ryan Switzer who Stanford should be concerned with.  Switzer has notched over 1,000 receiving yards and is nine catches shy of 100 for the year.  Stanford’s pass defense has looked okay this year, but against the two best passing offenses they faced all year (Washington and Washington State), the Cardinal lost both in blow out fashion.   Stanford’s best weapon is gone, it’s been a season to forget and they are going up against a strong aerial attack in UNC, with players looking to prove they deserve high draft consideration in a few months.   Take the points and the motivation.

The Pick: UNC +3

Arizona Bowl: South Alabama +13 vs Air Force

Air Force is a favorite here at “Beating Vegas.”  Their running game is amazing and that’s all they usually need to keep teams in check or be great as double digit underdogs.  This year they go up against South Alabama, who brings a rush defense that allows 4.9 yards a carry, and a pass defense that allows only 15 completions a game.  Going against an Air Force team that rushes at 5 yards a carry and completes only 5 passes a game, this South Alabama team will be able to sell out and blitz most of the day and keep the wide outs of Air Force in single coverage.  It will be an uneventful game for the most part, but South Alabama will be playing hard and will keep it close.

The Pick: South Alabama +13

Orange Bowl: Florida State +6.5 vs Michigan

In what is usually hostile territory for Florida State, playing in Miami may be a home-field advantage for the Seminoles, who’s fans will certainly find their way within the state to get tickets to the Orange Bowl.  Florida State had a disappointing season and even then, they put up 35 points a game and won 9 games in the competitive ACC.  The Seminoles have won six of their last seven games and were able to put up 45 and 31 points against tough defenses like Boston College and Florida, respectively.  Michigan’s calling card all year has been their defense, which allowed 12.5 points per game and were well above average in rush and pass defenses.  Michigan’s offense has been actually better than advertised, but it could be a product of the defense putting the offense in great position. . . Michigan doesn’t have the fire-power on offense though to get passed the athleticism of the Florida State defense, and Florida State does not have the strength up front to go four quarters against Michigan. . .

The Pick: the Under at 52.5

Citrus Bowl: LSU -3 vs Louisville

This actually might be one of the better bowl match-ups and this one is all about the key word in bowl season: “motivation.”  NGSC’s own Kyle Nash will be in Orlando, Florida on New Year’s Eve covering the event (follow him on twitter @TheSOTG).  It’s there where Mr. Nash, will see first hand, Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson take on an LSU defense that holds opponents to 3.4 yards a carry and less than 55% completion percentage.  Louisville was able to handle Boston College and Wake Forest defenses with no problem, then lost in back to back games against Houston and rival Kentucky.  Pound for pound Bobby Petrino is a better coach than Ed Ogeron, but Petrino is the type that will look passed an opponent and not care much about this bowl game, considering where his team was position earlier this year.  LSU is a handful, and even with running back Leonard Fournette sitting this one out, Derrius Guice has been their guy – rushing for 8 yards a carry, rushing for over 1200 yards and totaling 14 touchdowns.  LSU’s attack is pretty one dimensional, but they come to play every week, where Louisville has proven this season to not – even in games that matter like the one against Houston. . .

The Pick: LSU -3

Taxslayer Bowl: Kentucky +3 vs Georgia Tech

Can’t understand why anyone would be motivated to play in the Taxslayer Bowl, but Kentucky’s win over Louisville to end the season may have them on an incredible high coming into this one.  Georgia Tech runs at 5.5 yards a carry and Kentucky’s defense allows 5.1 – this would tell the story that Georgia Tech should plod along all day against the Wildcats and they should. But the same could be said the other way around as well. . . There is just nothing for Georgia Tech in this game, they’d rather be preparing for next semester’s classes than play in this bowl game.

The Pick: Kentucky +3

Outback Bowl: Iowa +3 vs Florida

The over/under in this game is set at 40.5 which should tell you the kind of chances both of these offenses have at scoring against each other.  Florida has the better athletes and the speed to tear the corners off of Iowa.  All Florida needs is two big plays to win this, and Iowa won’t get any.

The Pick: Florida -3

Cotton Bowl: Western Michigan +7.5 vs Wisconsin

The thing to look for in this game is that if Wisconsin falls behind early, they DO NOT have the offense to keep up with Western Michigan.  Western Michigan went undefeated this year and went completely snubbed by the poll-voters.  Going undefeated and beating a team that many love for their tenacity in Wisconsin will go a long way for this program.  Wisconsin showed against Penn State in the Big 10 championship game how suspect they looked against the deep pass, and Western Michigan has a quarterback in Zach Terrell who is one of the best in the nation (70.8 completion percentage, 32 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and throws for 260 yards a game).

The Pick: Western Michigan +7.5

Rose Bowl: USC -6.5 vs Penn State

Interesting match up here as Penn State stands at #5 in the rankings, literally on the outside, looking in at the College Football Playoff and USC was arguably the second best team in college football once they made a change at the quarterback position.  Last time these two played each other in the Rose Bowl was in 2009 and Penn State lost 38-24.  That score doesn’t even put into perspective how USC really controlled the game from start to finish.  USC is a stout team from front to back, and with quarterback Sam Donald, the expectations for them next season should be the College Football Playoff.  For Penn State, it’s been a fun and inspiring season of a program pulling themselves out of the darkness and back into the college football world as a legit tradition again.  There is something stirring in Penn State’s future, but for now, lets not get ahead of ourselves.

The Pick: USC -6.5

Sugar Bowl: Auburn +3 vs Oklahoma

Nothing says “Sugar Bowl” like an Auburn verse Oklahoma match-up.  No, that is not sarcasm, that is the truth.  Because it is the “Sugar Bowl” the players from these two regions know the history and tradition behind it.  Oklahoma is where most of the money will go and the over/under at 63.5 tells you that Vegas expects this one to be close and high scoring.  This is the type of game to just stay away from at all costs.  Sometimes the smartest play is no play at all and here I’m waving the white flag.

The Pick: stay away

Playoff Semi-Final: Ohio State -3 vs Clemson

Both of these teams have been highly disappointing this season.  Which is weird to say because they are both in the college football playoff.  But for Urban Meyers Buckeyes, they can say all they want about what kind of leader J.T. Barrett is at quarterback, but the truth is, his decision making has been a hindrance at times.  The same can be said for Heisman candidate Deshaun Watson and his Clemson Tigers, who would’ve had a perfect season if not for a one point loss against Pitt. Whoever wins this game is going to get destroyed by Alabama when it’s all said and done so ultimately this game doesn’t matter – but for these two coaches, Urban Meyer of Ohio State and Dabo Sweeney of Clemson – one is looking to add to his already legendary status, while another is trying to get back into a Championship position which he let slip away last year.   This game is a legit flip-of-the-coin and for that reason, go with the Tigers.

The Pick: Clemson +3

Playoff Semi-Final: Alabama -14 vs Washington

Chris Peterson of Washington has been one of the most influential and consistent coaches of the last decade.  For all of those years at Boise State being snubbed by the BCS to get a shot in the Championship Game or by a loss that derailed the Boise State Broncos’ season – he has made it, with the Washington Huskies.  He has made it, that is, with a shot at the title.  Unfortunately for him, he is playing against one of Nick Saban’s best teams in Alabama.   14 points seems like a lot for a Washington team that puts up 44.5 points per game, but this Bama team allows 11 and puts up 40 of their own on average. . . I said for the last month the only team in college football that can go head to head with Alabama is USC, and the Trojans ended up beating Washington 26-13.  The Washington offensive line will be dominated.

The Pick: Alabama -14

Bonus: Alabama at the moment is -350 to win it all, while the field is +250.   You should know where I’m “rolling” with this one. . .

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely — once again thank you for coming to Beating Vegas week after week.  See you guys next season!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Entry Sixteen

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: 50/50 weeks give you the thrill of the “highs and lows” but ultimately do nothing for you, so we’ll get back to being our typical selves at over 50% this week.

The Texas Bowl:

Texas Tech (+7) vs LSU

Leonard+Fournette+Texas+v+LSU+yoxRxzF72MYl

For a decent amount of time during the season, LSU was one of the more intriguing teams in college football.  Most of that was due to their running back Leonard Fournette who thrashed college football for over 1700 rushing yards this season.  Fournette was a Heisman hopeful (and favorite) until he played against formidable defenses that realized they can stack as many defenders in the box to stop the run because the LSU passing attack was pretty much non-existent.   That’s not entirely quarterback Brandon Harris’ fault though – the LSU offense is  built off and dominated by their rushing attack.  Texas Tech has a high octane offense that averages 46.6 points per game (second to only Baylor in the Pac-12) but defensively they give up 42.6 points a game, and let opponents rush for an average of 5.6 yards a carry.  This is “lunch-time” for this LSU rushing attack.  LSU’s defense may have difficulty at first against the passing attack of Texas Tech, but the Red Raiders’ offensive line will have the task and a half of dealing with the LSU pass rush.  Bottom line is, Texas Tech is fun to look at, but their offense has struggled against defenses that have the talent to go against them, like Oklahoma and Baylor.  LSU is playing for a coach they love, who was  given a new life at LSU.  Tech has their hands full.

The Pick: LSU -7

The Holiday Bowl:

Wisconsin (+3) vs USC

Pac+12+Championship+Stanford+v+USC+Rax6aIPTpksl

Looking at the numbers it would appear that Wisconsin’s defense is stellar: They allow a Big 10 best, 3.2 yards a carry and their pass defense has opponents completing less than 50% of their passes with only six touchdowns allowed paired with eleven interceptions.  Those are impressive numbers until they throw The Big Tahiry into the conversation – BUT (Get it?  No?  Let’s move on. . .).  Wisconsin’s defensive stats look good BUT, they didn’t really get tested by any stellar offenses this year.  Nebraska is a team you never know what you get week to week and they put up 21 against them, in what was probably their best offensive threat on the schedule.  USC’s offense is a balanced attack that has averaged 35 points a game this season, paired with a defense which equally as balanced.  USC has been tested on the field and off the field this season and this bowl game means something to them.  Wisconsin probably has the worst starting quarterback in all of the bowl games in Joel Stave and their rushing attack is not what it’s been in the last few years.  Wisconsin’s reputation is the only reason why this spread isn’t higher – USC is trying to re-establish their reputation and they have the talent to do it.

The Pick: USC -3

Cotton Bowl:

Michigan State (+10) vs Alabama

The Alabama Crimson Tide are a well oiled machine.  The architect of this machine is head coach Nick Saban, who like many great architects make sure things look aesthetically fine and are built strong enough to withstand whatever disasters are thrown in it’s way.  Alabama’s offense led by Heisman winner, running back Derrick Henry, plays just as tough as their defense which only allows 14.4 points per game.  Although Henry is their “bell-cow” running back, the offense plays versatile enough to keep any defense they play on their toes.  Michigan State is led by potential first round draft pick, quarterback Connor Cook.  Cook is a confident leader who’s touchdown to interception ratio is an impressive 24/5 but most would say it has been an otherwise disappointing season for Cook, individually.  Cook has yet to have “that moment” where scouts can say “okay he’s the kind of guy to take an NFL franchise to the next level” – if there was any moment, it’s now – against Alabama’s defense.   The truth is, Michigan State wouldn’t even be in this position if not for a freak blocked punt/score at the end of that bizarre Michigan game, and they have been underwhelming all year long.   Another fun fact, Saban hasn’t lost to a coach who once coached under him. . . so, yeah. . . there’s that.  Sorry Mark Dantonio.

The Pick: Alabama -10

Butch+Jones+Tennessee+v+Georgia+Hfi_cyqf4Bzl

If you must: The Outback Bowl features a match up where Tennessee is the 8.5 point favorite over Northwestern.  Some games are hard to explain and this is one of them.  Tennessee was expected to finish in a better spot this year, although the team is improving under coach Butch Jones – the Volunteer faithful are just annoyed with its snail like approach to improving.  Their is so much talent on that Volunteer roster that it makes one wonder why they haven’t made that jump yet.  Northwestern is one of the peskiest teams to play against or figure out and it seems the bigger the opponent is, the harder they play.  Taking Northwestern with the points is an interesting play, especially when getting more than a touchdown.

 

Teaser of the Week: (Four Gamer) Baylor/UNC Over at 57.5; Florida/Michigan Under at 51; Steelers +2 and Buccaneers +22.5

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Entry Eight

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: Amazing times for us all last week.  If it wasn’t for Wisconsin waking up against Rutgers, it would’ve been perfect.  There’s something Patriotic about rooting for Air Force and they came through glowingly in the late game, to help recoup any losses you may have taken.  This is how luck will continue to roll this        week. . .

Arizona (+17) at USC

USC+v+California+pMpHU9cG9acl

The USC Trojans are trending in the right direction after the head coach change and quarterback Cody Kessler has been trying his best to silence his critics.  Kessler is throwing at a 70% completion rate with over 2200 passing yards and 18 touchdowns to his 5 interceptions.  USC passing offense is third in the Pac-12 behind pass happy Washington State and the often inefficient Cal aerial attacks. Arizona on the other hand is all about running the ball, and they lead the Pac-12 conference with 2385 rushing yards coming at 6.1 yards a clip.  In last season’s match up, USC was in control for most of the game and then gave up two late scores in the fourth quarter – coming out of it with a two-point victory.  The Trojans are at home this time around and after seeing what an athletic defense can do to this Arizona offense (only putting up 17 in a loss to Stanford and 3 in a loss to Washington), the Trojans should be able to move the ball with ease against a questionable defense and solidify a 20 point victory when it’s all said and done.

The Pick: USC -17

 

Iowa (-6.5) at Indiana

Matt+VandeBerg+Western+Michigan+v+Iowa+zrvzBqKOiuyl

Vegas is banking on the brainless out there who still think Indiana is “somewhat legit.”  Listen:  when Indiana lit up their first four opponents, the competition was questionable and even then, the only won by double digits once during this win streak.   They were able to put up points in the high twenties, in losses to Michigan State and Ohio State – but let’s be real – the Spartans and Buckeyes have lacked a killer instinct or motivation early in games this season.  Indiana’s defense tells the story of who they truly are.  Remember they had that thrilling one point victory to start the season against Southern Illinois?  And remember Southern Illinois scored 47 points?  Yeah, I didn’t know that was a college either.  Indiana is giving up over 500 yards a game on defense to the tune of 37.3 points per game.  Iowa on the other hand, have flown under the radar in the Big 10.  While Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State get all the attention – it is Iowa who may very well play in the Big 10 Championship game.  Iowa is a physical team that is stronger in the trenches than Indiana is on it’s best day and has a defense that has nabbed 12 interception and holds opponents to 2.8 yards a carry.   No reason why anybody should be thinking Indiana has a chance against legit opponents.

The Pick: Iowa -6.5

Cincinnati (+9) at Houston

Gunner+Kiel+East+Carolina+v+Cincinnati+sN2NNcQg_4Ql

If you ignore the three point win at Louisville early this season, Houston has been pretty much on cruise control for most of the year.  Even then, the term “cruise control” doesn’t quite fit.  It’s more like Jason Voorhies going through drunk teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake with a machete.  They are leaving everyone a mess after they’re done with them.  Houston does it on both sides of the ball.  The offense is averaging 45.9 points per game while the defense is holding opponents to 17 points a game.  They are one of the nations more fundamentally sound teams, who make very little mistakes and force the opposition into situations that leave little to be desired.   The Bearcats of Cincinnati have been a disappointment this season.  Quarterback Gunner Kiel has looked good since his return, but his competition has been the lowly UConn and UCF.   This Bearcat team may get worn down late, or confused early by the Houston defense – either way, Houston will continue to look dominant leading into next week’s conference showdown against Memphis.

The Pick: Houston -9

If You Must:  Temple at -17 over SMU.   This is a weird one and I’m just going with my gut.  After their close loss to Notre Dame on national television last week, a lot of people who weren’t paying attention to Temple before, certainly are now.  That’s the scary part.  There is no doubt that 80-85% of folks will be leaning towards Temple in this one and usually the correct gamble is to go against the trend.  Ugh, but I just can’t – Temple -17.

Tease of the Week: (four-gamer) Patriots -2, Chargers/Bears Over at 37, Minnesota University +35, Duke +20

Good Luck and Wager Wisely

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Entry Six

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:  The Bengals proved they weren’t pretenders making short work of the Bills, while the Clemson Tigers made us sweat it out, covering the spread by the half-point they needed to against the Eagles of Boston College.  Eastern Michigan was destroyed by a Toledo team I may have underestimated – but seriously – Who told Kansas to make it a game against Texas Tech?!

Utah (+3.5) at USC

Cody+Kessler+USC+v+Notre+Dame+h3HUjF3g4oPl

This has “trap game” written all over it for Utah.  Or is that too obvious?  Wasn’t last week’s game against Arizona State supposed to be a trap game as well?  And before that, didn’t they play the Jared Goff, of Cal – who many see to be the best QB in the nation – and didn’t they pick him off FIVE times?   This Utah team is legit.  USC was thought to be “legit” entering this season, but things have spiraled out of control.  The firing of coach Steve Sarkasian, followed by the 10 point loss at Notre Dame – finds the Trojans licking their wounds at home, while a strong Utah Utes team comes to town.  Defensively and Offensively these teams are basically a mirror image of each other (scoring approximately 35 points a game, and holding teams to about 20 points a game).  A key injury here is to Utah’s tight end, Siale Fakailoatonga, who is out for the season.  He is not a receiving threat but was a huge part of the blocking scheme that has helped been the backbone of Utah’s offense.   It will take some getting used to but USC has shown vulnerability against the run this year allowing 167.5 yards a game this year.   Even if USC wins, which is doubtful – this game will be determined by a small margin either way.

The Pick: Utah +3.5

Indiana (+16.5) at Michigan State

Nate+Sudfeld+Ohio+State+v+Indiana+uhCJrPi07lKl

Now that the dust has settled and we have taken in that dramatic Michigan State victory over Michigan, let us all take a step back.  The truth of the matter is that somewhere, on some mountain there are football gods.  On this day, the football gods decided to get at Jim Harbaugh, who may think he’s bigger than the game of football itself.  This is the only realistic reason for Michigan State to have come away with a victory on Saturday. . . but this has been Michigan State all year hasn’t it?  Last year’s Michigan State team was much more dominant, making short work of opponents.  This year, they’ve had single digit victories against the likes of Western Michigan, Purdue and Rutgers. . . eh.  Quarterback Connor Cook is averaging about two touchdown passes a game and hasn’t looked as sharp and poised as he did last year.  Something has to be said though for a team that can consistently come away with the win in close games week to week . . . On the other side of the field, Indiana can score.  That’s about all they can do, but they do it well.  The 6’6″ senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld is leading an Indiana Hosiers offense that is third in the Big 10 averaging 34.1 points per game.   The only problem with the Indiana offense is that they score quickly, leaving their defense gassed at times.   Teams can run and pass against this Indiana defense, but Michigan State has been sleep walking this year and have a tendency to slowly figure out the opposition’s weaknesses.  Michigan State will surely win, but follow the trend. . .

The Pick: Indiana +16.5

Colorado (+2) at Oregon State

For the most part, this game is uninteresting no matter how you look at it.  Colorado is currently on a three game losing streak while Oregon State returns home after losing back to back road games.  Colorado has put together a pretty solid ground game, rushing for over 190 yards a game at 4.1 yards a clip.  One would think a defense that practices against a formidable run attack would do well against the run, but that isn’t the story here.  Colorado ranks dead last in the Pac-12 in rush defense allowing five yards a carry and over 200 rushing yards a game.  For a run-centric offense like Oregon State, that should be music to their ears, but they are so one dimensional and just flat out abysmal with a passing attack that it just “balances out” the one advantage they might have had in this game.  Looking deeper at the numbers, Colorado’s rush defense has been under heavy attack by the offenses of Oregon, Arizona State and Arizona.  After seeing those three offenses, Oregon State will be moving in what will seem like “slow motion” to the Colorado defenders.

The Pick: Colorado +2

Missouri (-3) at Vanderbilt

It was tough picking a fourth game this week, then I stumbled upon this “gem.”  This might be one of the more underwhelming and boring games of the weekend, and that’s perfect when you look at an under/over which stands at 35.  Missouri and Vanderbilt rank at the bottom of the SEC in points per game, but they are both in the top five when in comes to points allowed per game.   Missouri was actually ranked in the national top 25 for the first four weeks of the season, until they lost to Kentucky.  A week before that loss was an unimpressive win over lowly Connecticut 9-6.  Missouri has mustered up only 9 total points in their last two contest, but the defense looked impressive last week against Georgia, holding the Bulldogs to only nine points (although ultimately they lost the game.)  Vanderbilt’s quarterback Johnny McCrary has ten interceptions in the six games he’s started this year and averages a little over six yards a completion.  Those numbers are gross, but it’s really not all his fault, this is just not a talented team on the offensive side of the ball.  Missouri giving three points may be safe, but the under might be even safer with a 17-13 kind of game headed your way.

The Pick: The Under at 35

If you must:  At this point, just assume that if I don’t spend a paragraph writing about Baylor’s match-up, that I’m taking Baylor anyhow, no matter what.  Take Baylor for the first half, take them for the game – whatever.   They average 63 points a game and are looking to stay in the top four all year long – which means they are going to run up the score at times.  This week they are at home, spotting Iowa State 37 points.  Just take it.

Tease of the Week: (three gamer) Jets +19, Cardinals +2.5 and      LSU -7

Good Luck and Wager Wisely,

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Entry Two

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:  The Browns and Florida were the money makers last week.  Eagles hurt a lot of people (especially those who took them in Suicide Pools, yikes).   The Bills almost made a comeback but it was too little too late and Cal got lazy late in the game to let Texas come back.

BYU (+5.5) at Michigan

Michigan has notched two wins under their belt after losing their season opener to Utah 24-17.  The Wolverines are a one dimensional offense, led by the running attack of De’Veon Smith and Ty Issac.  The backs have combined for over 300 rushing yards this season.  The scouting reports have circulated though on quarterback Jake Rudock, who has five interceptions on the year – not a good look for someone being asked to manage the game.  The defense has looked good the last two weeks, but the inept offenses of Oklahoma State and UNLV can make anybody’s defense look above average.  BYU comes into this game with confidence and a lot of luck on their side.  The “luck” comes from win over Nebraska resulting from a “Hail Mary” touchdown pass and beating Boise State by scoring two touchdowns in the final minute.   They loss to number ten ranked UCLA last week by one point.  In that loss they made UCLA freshman-quarterback-phenom, Josh Rosen, look like a freshman, picking him off three times.  Rosen struggled mightily throughout the game, while BYU’s Tanner Mangum helped lead a balanced attack against an impressive UCLA defense.  Michigan is too one dimensional on offense and suspect on defense for BYU not to move the ball on them.

Take BYU +5.5

Tanner+Mangum+BYU+v+UCLA+txO0qtCzzmHl

 

Ohio University (+10.5) at Minnesota

The Ohio Bobcats are 3-0 to start the season and have won by double-digits in each game.  This week the Bobcats travel to Minnesota for their first real test of the season.  The Bobcats have had a surprisingly balanced offensive attack and that’s because of the depth at the skill positions this year.  The offense is averaging 33 points per game and the Minnesota Golden Gophers defense has allowed 17 points per game – nearly half of what the Ohio is used to seeing.  Minnesota struggled against a MAC opponent in Kent State last week, only winning 10-7 and won by three points to Colorado State.  Minnesota came into this season with some high expectations, even after a loss to TCU to open the season.  Many saw the fight in the Gophers to believe that this program is on its way up.  Minnesota’s defensive front will be a problem for Ohio’s offensive line and much like the Bobcats, they have a strong running attack.   The MAC Conference has been a thorn to the side of the Big 10 Conference in recent years and although Minnesota should pull off the victory, there is nothing that proves they will run away with it.  The Bobcats have a lot of size and athleticism, and that will keep them in this game.

Take Ohio +10.5

 

Stanford+v+USC+EpvwGlEQiRXl

 

USC (-5.5) at Arizona State

USC started out the season blowing out easy opponents and as soon as they faced an average Stanford squad – they lost by ten points.  That just isn’t a good look.  Understanding the rivalry and familiarity between USC and Stanford, one might be able to look passed this loss, BUT – in a year that Stanford is definitely on a down-year and USC supposedly climbing back to national prominance – this just isn’t a good look.   USC would be nothing without it’s fair share of drama in a season and coach Steve Sarkasian has definitely supplied that early in the year.  Arizona State may be in the same boat with USC if one looks at their 2-1 record.   They open the season getting handled by Texas A&M and then beat up on two powder-puff squads.  Both teams look questionable on defense but both seem to have offensive fire-power.  The over/under is set at 63, which seems about right, but in a game where points will be scored by both teams, take the home under-dog.  Although both have the same record and play in the same conference, the pressure is always more on USC.

Take Arizona State +5.5

New+York+Jets+v+Green+Bay+Packers+Y_gBZXCN2anl

Philadelphia Eagles (+2.5) at New York Jets

Chip Kelly’s “genius” is being put into question.  After all the crazy off-season moves, Kelly’s Eagles have an 0-2 record and this offense hasn’t hit it’s stride.  The signing of Demarco Murray has brought nothing to this offense, as he has struggled out of the gate (21 carries for 11 yards).  Murray is a north-south runner, but the Eagles insist on running sweeps out of the shotgun with him.  If Kelly is the “genius” we’ve all been led to believe that he is, he starts running Murray up the gut.  Unfortunately for the Eagles, this might not be the week to try that.  The Jets have a strong front seven and like to attack  frequently.  The Jets have big names on their defense and the one who gets overlooked is David Harris.  Harris is a sure-tackler, that cleans up the middle of the field well and can mirror backs with the best of them.  The Jets offense has been more efficient than flashy, but that’s all they’ve needed thus far.  Brandon Marshall is proving that when healthy he is still one of the hardest receivers to cover in the league, and Eagle’s corner back Byron Maxwell will have his hands full.  Maxwell has been picked on a lot in the first two weeks. . . The Jets have (personally) been the team to trust in covering the spread, but keep it in perspective.  If they do beat the Eagles – who have the Jets really played?  A Browns team that stinks, an over-rated Colts team and an over-hyped Eagles squad.  Not saying the Jets aren’t good but they will get hit with reality eventually. . . luckily for them, Chip Kelly and the Eagles do not live in reality.

Take the Jets -2.5

 

If You Must: Seahawks -14.5 – The Chicago Bears are without Jay Cutler and going into Seattle to play an 0-2 Seahawks team.  This is a Seahawks team that has been hearing for two weeks that things are tearing apart at the seams and that their run is over.  There is no better way to get back on track than getting a home win against a team starting Jimmy Clausen at quarterback. . . These are rough times for Bears fans.

College / NFL Football Tease of the Week: four gamer –  Patriots -1.5, Cowboys/Falcons Over 33, BYU +17.5, Wisconsin -12.5

Good Luck and wager wisely.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

 

College Bowl Game Predictions, Pt. 1

New Orleans Bowl – Nevada Wolfpack vs Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns:

This game has obviously everything you want.  Two teams with pretty cool nicknames that will score a lot.  The New Orleans Bowl is usually a game that goes “over” in total points, but this is a home-bowl-game for the Cajuns.  The pick here is the Cajuns -1.

New Mexico Bowl – Utep Miners vs Utah State Aggies:

Utah State is one of those teams that you kind of love them as underdogs but not much as favorites.  This isn’t a sexy game at all, but  a final score of 21-13 favoring the Aggies isn’t too far fetched considered their isn’t much offense to be seen from both sides.  The pick here is Utep +10.5.

Las Vegas Bowl – Utah Utes vs Colorado State Rams

Utah started losing steam late in the year and Colorado State was ‘under the radar’ for most of the season.   Both defenses cause turnovers but Colorado State’s offense is a little more versatile.  Utah might be in ‘let down mode’ for this game.  The pick here is Colorado State +3.5.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – Western Michigan Broncos vs Air Force Falcons:

The Broncos defense is a little more opportunistic than the Falcons’ but the Falcons are pretty careful with the ball and focus on the ground game more than anything else.  The pick here is Western Michigan +1.5.

Camellia Bowl – South Alabama Jaguars vs Bowling Green Falcons

Both teams looked better in the first half of the season than the second half – but it doesn’t matter because it’s brought both teams here to the Camellia Bowl (sponsored by a company called Raycom Media. . .?)  For the Jags it’s their first bowl game ever, and for the Falcons it’s their first since early 2000.  There is something to like about quarterback James Knapke of the Falcons, that his stats don’t show, but he’s been in some battles this year and should come away with one of his better games against the Jaguars defense. The pick here is Bowling Green +3.

James+Knapke+Bowling+Green+v+Northern+Illinois+lW0TN0Tng0Jl

Miami Beach Bowl – BYU Cougars vs Memphis Tigers 

This a game that matches up two teams that love to run the ball.  BYU might be the stronger of the two teams, but Memphis, at least to the naked eye, just seems faster – Memphis has one or two big plays in them that make the difference in this one.  The pick here is Memphis PK.

Boca Raton Bowl – Marshall Herd vs Northern Illinois Huskies

In the BCS way of thinking – Marshall Herd would’ve been a BCS buster type of team until they stumbled against Western Kentucky.   Northern Illinois was the talk of the “BCS buster” town last season and many thought they would fall off but they put together a nice season.  Marshall seemed to be running out of steam late in the year, Northern Illinois has been in this spot and is well coached.  The pick here is Northern Illinois +10.

Rakeem+Cato+CUSA+Championship+Marshall+v+Rice+8qT84Cpy9-Nl

Poinsettia Bowl – Navy Midshipmen vs San Diego State Aztecs

This is one of those games where your heart tells you to go with Navy but this is one of those games where that one dimensional offense loses steam late. This is a home game for the Aztecs and in bowl games, if you have the chance to take a home team, take it.   The pick here is San Diego State +3.

Bahamas Bowl – Central Michigan Chippewas vs Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

The Chips enter the inaugural Bahamas Bowl with the NCAA’s 16th ranked defense going up against Western Kentucky’s quarterback Brandon Doughty who threw for over 4000 yards and 44 touchdowns this season.  The Chips and Hilltoppers both beat the champions of their respective conferences and are both coached up well for big games.  Western Kentucky upsetting Marshall 67-66 leaves a memory in a lot of folks’ minds meaning that’s where most of the money will lean.  The pick here is Central Michigan +4.

Hawaii Bowl – Fresno State Bulldogs vs Rice Owls 

The expectation for Rice was that with a lot of returning starters, they’d have at least an 8 or 9 win season. They ultimately finished with 7 wins  and now get a free trip to Hawaii for it.  Fresno had a disappointing season after losing high profile offensive players to the NFL draft.  Fresno can handle the atmosphere at Hawaii, but these kids from Rice will be more in awe of their surroundings then the actual game.  The pick here is Fresno State +2.5.

Heart of Dallas Bowl – Illinois Fighting Illini vs Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Louisiana Tech put on quite a display against Rice racking up 76 points but followed that up losing by three to the Marshall Herd the following week.  Tech will be missing three defensive starters in this game which will something to watch with this usually good Tech defense.  Illinois may be a “power conference” team, but they’ve limped all season long.  The pick here is Louisiana Tech -6.

Quick Lane Bowl – Rutgers Scarlet Knights  vs North Carolina Tar Heels

In Rutgers’ first season in the Big 10 it was clear they didn’t belong – where they should’ve played is the ACC – so playing against UNC should be more of an even game for Rutgers. Rutgers is a team that all season long, lost to good teams and won against bottom feeders.  UNC is neither bad nor good and are led by the dual threat quarterback Marquise Williams who ran for over 700 yards and threw for over 2800 yards.  With the drama that’s going on with the university, who knows when the next time we’ll see UNC in a bowl game – these players know that as well.  The pick here is UNC -3.

St. Petersburg Bowl – North Carolina State Wolfpack vs Central Florida Knights

For UCF this is a home game and although the trend here has been “take the home bowl team” this one is trickier.  Central Florida was expected to drop off a lot without Blake Bortles under center but they kept themselves relevant all year long.  N.C State is never really relevant as their is nothing that pops off the screen about them.  Central Florida lost to UConn, and I’m basing this prediction off that head scratching moment more than anything.  The pick here is NC State  +2.

Military Bowl – Virginia Tech Hookies vs Cincinnati Bearcats

The player to watch in this game is Gunner Kiel, the quarterback of the Bearcats.  If he plays well in this national stage, he might have “all eyes on him” next season to see if his game can project to the next level.  Virginia Tech has been hanging onto the fact that they beat Ohio State all year long but seriously they are just okay on defense and as usual, struggle to get points on the board.  Cincy does “just enough” in this game.  The pick here is Cincinnati -3.

Sun Bowl – Duke Blue Devils vs Arizona State Sun Devils

Pretty interesting match up of two teams that came in with higher expectations but ultimately find themselves in the Sun Bowl.  Arizona State late in the year had a slight (slight) chance of taking the Pac 12 conference, but ran flat to end the season.  Duke didn’t finish strong either, but this is more of a “let down” for Arizona State who is clearly the better squad.  Duke sees this more as a chance to prove itself as a legit football program against a strong Pac 12 team.  The pick here is Duke +7.5.

Independence Bowl – Miami Hurricanes vs South Carolina Gamecocks

Miami had their chances this year but couldn’t come through in big games.  The four point loss to Florida State resulted in them ending the season with a three game losing streak.  South Carolina showed that they lost a lot to graduation or the NFL draft as their only wins came against bad teams.   People are dumb and will watch reruns of ESPN documentaries about the Hurricane and feel that they’re back.  Vegas has the line right with this one.  The Pick here is South Carolina +4.

Pinstripe Bowl – Penn State Nittany Lions vs Boston College Eagles

The Bronx sets the back drop for the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium and both teams will have their fair share of fan support in New York.   Both teams are “grind it out teams” but Penn State entered this season thinking they’d be more balanced.  Quarterback Christian Hackenberg is supposed to be the kid with a nice future ahead of him, but 15 interceptions and bad decision making has made people think maybe the pressure has gotten to him.  Boston College has had close losses and nice wins against good teams – Penn State’s best try was a triple over-time loss to Ohio State.  The pick here is Boston College -3.

Holiday Bowl – Nebraska Cornhuskers vs USC Trojans

Cody+Kessler+Notre+Dame+v+USC+mZh9m6aDK5wl

It’s hard to compare the two considering the Cornhuskers come from more of a running offensive conference and the Trojans are coming out of a more pass-happy conference.  With that said, the Trojans might be coming back to prominence and expect to compete for the Pac 12 crown next season – they are going to approach this game as an insult and look to embarrass a Nebraska team, who has already shown disappointment in their team by firing their head coach.  The pick here is USC -6.5.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio