Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday September, 29

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday September, 29

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ARIZONA -1½ +101 over Chicago
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The Cubs are in “playing out the string mode” with six losses in a row. Five of those were by two or more runs, including last night’s 8-3 loss in the opener of this set. Nothing suggests this one will be any closer.
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Journeyman Justin Germano has made 11 starts this season and is 2-9 with a 5.65 ERA and a 6.47 ERA over his last five starts. That’s rather uninspiring, as are his 2007 numbers (his only previous season with 20+ starts) when he posted an xERA of 5.97. His chances of success at this extreme hitter’s park are not good.
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Meanwhile, Trevor Cahill was one of three MLB starters who posted a 60%+ groundball rate in August. His groundball rate on the year is an elite 62% in 191 frames, not a small sample size. A 34% hit rate, 64% strand rate and 14% hr/fb have combined to erode his surface stats. Cahill has posted a 3.07 xERA since the all-star break. He was dealing with some control issues in the first half but he’s really improved upon that. When he’s throwing strikes and inducing grounders, he’s as good as any pitcher in the game. His unheralded stats reveal just how much upside he really has. Anything but an easy D-Back win here would be a surprise.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday September, 29

Chuck O'Brien

Let's take a look at my free winner, as I'm playing the Minnesota Golden Gophers plus way too many points against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Sorry, but I know a little something about this rivalry, and can tell you that it gets heated when both teams are formidable and challenging. And that's exactly what Minnesota is this year.

Last week the Golden Gophers caught +3 points from the Syracuse Orange in Minneapolis. And even though Max Shortell took over for MarQueis Gray under center, the Gophers showed why they could very well be bowl-bound.

A win today, and those barely receiving votes for this program could change into a national ranking.

Need I remind everyone the much-worse 2011 Gophers beat the Hawkeyes last year? Fast forward to this season, and we have an undefeated Minnesota team that has to be inspired as the Big Ten season opens. And now it's time to show its conference brethren exactly how good this season is for the U.

How big is this game, and how serious are the Gophers taking it? A TV screen near the entrance to their locker room this week reportedly revealed an image of the Floyd of Rosedale trophy these two play for each season along with both teams' records, that being Minnesota 4-0 and Iowa 2-2.

Then there was the caption:

"Minnesota: 7-point underdog."

Talk about motivation, these Gophers are all about keeping the bronze trophy in the shape of a pig which is awarded to the winner of the game. And while 4-0 is special, the Gophers know it means nothing until you start winning Big Ten games.

What makes this team so special?

They're ranked 11th nationally in pass-efficiency defense, ninth in interceptions and, probably would rank among the country's top 20 in fewest points allowed, if not for a three-overtime shootout in Vegas in the season-opener against UNLV.

Telling you, the Gophers are for real. And so is that bronze pig.

I'm taking the points, which I see is now down to +6-1/2, from +7.

5♦ MINNESOTA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday September, 29

Matt Rivers

I'm on a 25-13 comp play run following Friday's winner on the A's-Mariners Over.

In football today I'm backing Northern Illinois (-10) at home in revenge against Central Michigan in the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams.

The Huskies lost 48-41 as a nine-point road chalk in last year's meeting and that was the Chippewas only cover of the entire season.

Ironically, CMU is coming off a victory against those same Iowa Hawkeyes NIU lost to as the Chips beat them 32-31 in the final second of last week's game as a 14 1/2 point dog.

Central Michigan's only other game against a top-tier program resulted in a 41-7 loss to Michigan State.

Just think this is a perfect spot to go against the Chippewas. They're coming of a huge, huge upset and now traveling to take on a team that seeks big-time revenge. Plus Northern Illinois has won 17 in a row at home and the home team has covered five of the last six meetings.


3♦ NORTHERN ILLINOIS

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday September, 29

Scott Delaney

On to my Complimentary Play, and keep in mind I'm on a 14-5 run with my freebies. Today I'm laying the points with Michigan State (-2') at home against Ohio State in the Big Ten openers for both teams.

Sparty coach Mark DiAntonio once again has built a solid squad, and now they have a second stern test awaiting them. Two weeks ago they failed in their first, a 20-3 home loss to Notre Dame. Nevertheless, they still have the sixth-best defense in the land and I believe this the game they've been gearing up for.

No team has scored more than 20 points on the Spartans so far this season, and I don't think Ohio State's 52nd-ranked offense - an offense mustered just 29 points last week at home against UAB - is going to be able to move the ball effectively.

This week the Buckeyes take on a defense that boasts disruptive William Gholston and Johnny Adams, both likely first-round NFL draft picks. And by wreaking havoc and creating mistakes, you're finally going to see Ohio State's 96th-ranked passing offense struggle against the stiffest defense its faced.

The Buckeyes opened the season with a cupcake schedule as the Urban Meyer era in Columbus began with a blowout of Miami of Ohio, 56-10, followed by lackluster efforts against Central Florida (31-16), California (35-28) and UAB (29-15).

MSU comes in on ATS runs of 4-0 in Big 10 play, 5-1 against winning teams and 5-2 after an ATS setback. On the flipside, the Buckeyes have failed to cover in their last three games - and they were all played at the Horseshoe.

Statement game for the Spartans, as they roll to a huge win over Ohio State.

5♦ MICHIGAN STATE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday September, 29

Craig Davis

78-65 long term comp play run, including the Yankees on the Run Line last night.

Today's free play is on New Mexico, AT HOME no less, to cover the huge number vs. Boise State.

Vegas still thinks Bob Davie is in the booth and not coaching these New Mexico boys up. They also think Kellen Moore and Doug Martin and Titus Young are all still playing for Boise State... because this line is ridiculous for a team that barely averages over 20 points per game.

Granted, Boise has played a tough schedule to date, but they normally score points no matter who they are facing... just ask Georgia or West Virginia.

This year's version is a bit different. They are struggling offensively, but defensively they are flying all over the place... a role reversal from year's past under Chris Peterson.

Gone are the days of naming their score offensively. This is clearly a rebuilding year in Boise, Idaho, but they are still playing well enough defensively to keep them in most games. They played both BYU and Michigan State close, but not because they matched them point for point, but more because the defense kept them in the game.

And let's not write New Mexico off as some slouch.

Sure, they were awful last year and the past several years, but this is a new team with a new attitude. Oh sure, they have a lot of the same players, but new HC Bob Davie has them at least believing in themselves and playing MUCH better than I can remember in a long time.

They won't throw the ball with much success until they get a new QB, but they can definitely run it... and their special teams and defense are getting better.

Will they win this game SU? No, probably not. But there is no way Boise should be favored by this many points. Shoot, I'll be surprised if they score 24 points, let alone cover the number.

New Mexico is your free play of the day.

2♦ NEW MEXICO

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday September, 29

Jeff Benton

6-1 free play run the past 7 days.

Saturday's freebie is the Northwestern Wildcats at home minus the points as they take on Indiana.

Indiana may be 3-1 against the spread the last four series meetings, but Northwestern took it to the Hoosiers 58-39 in Bloomington last season and the 'Cats do come in with a perfect 4-0 mark to the season both straight up and against the spread.

The Hoosiers are a money-burning 3-6 against the spread when installed as the road underdog their last nine in that situation. Even more concerning is the fact Indiana is coming off a bitter 41-39 home loss to the Ball State Cardinals.

I know Northwestern is just 6-12 as home favorite since Pat Fitzgerald's arrival, bit with back-to-back conference road games on deck, I will take my chances and take that 4-0 SU and ATS season mark out for one more spin before jumping ship.

Northwestern by 17-points.

2♦ NORTHWESTERN

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday September, 29

Chris Jordan

My free MLB winner for Saturday is North of the border once again, where I find the American League East-leading Bronx Bombers taking on the Toronto Blue Jays inside the Rogers Centre.

We're on the run line, so we're going to end up with starting pitchers Andy Pettitte and Ricky Romero - an absolute mismatch.

Forget about aging, after missing more than two months due to a broken left fibula, Pettitte is 2-0 with 11 scoreless innings over two starts. And more importantly, he is 4-0 with a 2.87 ERA in five starts against the Blue Jays since losing to them July 6, 2009.

And on the heels of last night's 11-4 win, New York's magic number to reach the playoffs is now at two. The Yankees could clinch at least an American League Wild Card berth today with a victory over Toronto and a win by the Rangers over the Angels.

I know the Blue Jays hold a 4-3 edge against the Yankees at Rogers Centre this year, having outscored New York, 38-35. But the Yankees are going to terrorize Romero, who was 0-13 with a 7.42 ERA in his previous 15 starts before earning a win his last time he out. And he still needed run support, as he allowed four runs, four walks and eight hits in five innings at Baltimore last Monday.

I told you it didn't matter about the Yankees losing the first game of the series with Toronto, 6-0, and sure enough they responded with last night's win at Rogers Centre, where the Blue Jays are trying to play spoilerl, but don't have the firepower to pull that off against the Bombers' lineup right now.

The Yankees have won 12 of their last 16, while the Jays have lost 13 of 18.

2♦ N.Y. YANKEES -1.5


Alright, so let's take a look at my free college football winner for Saturday, cause I think this is an awful lot of points for Utah State to lay to UNLV.

What scares me about USU is:

Like Air Force (UNLV's opponent last week), it relies on the rushing game. The Aggies aren't a threat with the big play, more so the ground game. Rebels got a taste of that last week and might be tuned up.

Also, turnover margin. USU ranks 93rd in the nation. Aggies can't afford to give Rebels the same opportunities that have kept them in ball games.

Punting game is weak, averaging just 35.9 yards per punt. If they get buried deep in own territory, Rebs could be in good field position.

What scares me about UNLV is:

This is its first road game after opening the 2012 campaign with four straight at home in Sam Boyd Stadium.

Air Force exposed some weaknesses and how to attack with a decent rushing game; Rebs now rank 89th in the nation in stopping the run.

It's scoring defense is for crap, and constantly puts itself in position to playing keep-up. Not sure if it is complacent in doing so.

The Rebels are mired in a 3-14 ATS skid against teams with a winning record; not sure just yet how different this year's version is.

That all being said, I'm inclined to take the points simply because 'who in the hell is Utah State to lay this many points to anybody,' right?

I also wasn't that keen on it being a premium play and it's simply one of my two free plays today (the other is an MLB winner), because despite this being Utah State, there has to be a reason the oddsmakers have made this line this big.

Let's take a shot with the underdog Rebels and see what they've learned over the first four weeks.

2♦ UNLV

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday September, 29

Stan LisowskiFOR THE LARGEST SELECTION OF FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Marshall vs Purdue
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Boilermakers come into this matchup rested and off of a big win 2 weeks ago where they put up 54 points. Marshall is off of a rare road win, in overtime no less, for their first victory ever in the state of Texas. Thundering Herd have lost outright 11 of their last 15 away from Huntington. Longer term, they are only a 35% spread proposition their past 70 games on the road. Purdue has clobbered 2 opponents so far at home, winning by an average score of 51-11.

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NellyFOR THE LARGEST SELECTION OF FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Illinois over Penn StateFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Nittany Lions have revitalized their season with back-to-back wins but the competition takes a big jump entering Big Ten play this week. Illinois was blown out at home last week but Louisiana Tech must be respected as a very powerful offensive team. Illinois held the Bulldogs well below its season average in yardage but six Illini turnovers were impossible to overcome. Reilly O'Toole has looked like the more effective QB for Illinois and Illinois has been the superior defensive team through four weeks by a wide margin through very similar schedules even with the lopsided loss last week. Last season Illinois lost 7-10 at Penn State in game that featured great defense on both sides as Illinois allowed only 209 yards and value is with the home team coming off an ugly loss. Penn State has been a popular sharp play the last two weeks but Navy and Temple are both way down this season from recent years. Penn State played a very sloppy game in its only road game so far this season in the loss at Virginia and the Lions have failed to cover in five of the last six meetings in this series.

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James PatrickFOR THE LARGEST SELECTION OF FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Boise State vs. New Mexico
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The Boise State Broncos lost their share of assistant coaches after last season and the offense is surely showing the effects. The Lobos are now under HC Bob Davies guidance and he is defensive minded. Boise State won last week despite scoring just seven points and the New Mexico Lobos fall into a strong (37-19-1) system and they get the call.

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Harry BondiFOR THE LARGEST SELECTION OF FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Duke -2.5FOR THE LARGEST SELECTION OF FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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We had Duke (-21) over Memphis last week in a 38-14 rout and one of the main reasons is the play of QB Sean Renfree, who became the fastest player in school history to reach 7,000 passing yards earlier this season and has this Blue Devil offense clicking on all cylinders. Duke should have plenty of scoring opportunities today against a Wake Forest defense that is so bad it allowed Army to put up 37 points last week and has allowed 88 points in its last two games. Duke is simply the better all-around team right now and we'll gladly take the points against the Demon Deacons, who have been horrific as a favorite under Head Coach Jim Grobe (19-31 ATS, 37%).

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Kansas City at ClevelandFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: Kansas City +110FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Much like last year, the Cleveland Indians came flying out of the gate, and at the quarter-pole they looked like a viable contender with a record of 26-18. It has been a steep drop off, as the Indians have been a painful 40-73 since. Jeanmar Gomez has not been the answer, as he has been shuttled from the pen to the rotation, and neither has worked out. He enters here at 5-8 with an ERA of 5.54. His last five starts are the reason why he has been in and out of the rotation, as he has allowed 21 runs in 22.2 innings for an ERA of 8.34. The Tribe is just 7-23 in their last 30 vs. a losing team and the Royals have been a big part of that as they have taken seven of the last nine meetings vs. Cleveland. I like the live dog in this one, so play on Kansas City.

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3GWinsFOR THE LARGEST SELECTION OF FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Texas at Oklahoma State
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Oklahoma State can without difficulty put up 30. The Cowboys offense has been brilliant, especially with RB Joseph Randle and his 6.7/YPC. OSU is finding ways to score the ball, all the time, but could struggle to run the ball against Alex Okafor and Jordan Hicks leading the defense for Texas. Trouble is Oklahoma State’s D-line isn't all that great or especially physical. Texas will give them more than enough to handle from their O-line which will give Ash time to work. Texas has been relentless, with QB David Ash (7 TD/0 INT), and they have a mad running attack as well, and certainly looking forward to getting their 3 upcoming home games vs top tier opponents. Tense game, if Texas can get pressure on OSU it could spell problems, if not, OSU could be okay. In the end I go with Texas with a big win as they are looking like the Horns of several years ago.

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