Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, September 14

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Scott SpreitzerFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Cal Poly at Colorado StFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Prediction: Cal PolyFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Mustangs are a solid FCS playoff team from last season and will move the ball and score points against the Rams' defense, in my opinion. Poly put 25 points on the board last week against Fresno State, while gaining over 400 yards of offense and never quit playing hard despite falling behind early. The Rams are hurting, allowing 71 points in their first two games against Colorado & Tulsa, coming up short in their game against their in-state rivals and a late game loss last weekend in Tulsa. I expect the Rams to be off kilter emotionally and I expect them to be shocked by the efficiency of the Cal Poly attack. I'm recommending a play on Cal Poly plus the points.

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Alabama vs. Texas A&MFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Alabama -8FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Now first and foremost Bama’s offense is not the same as it was last year, visibly. A&M has an electrifying offense that will definitely score points. This is the ideal example of who outplays who, as straightforward as it sounds. It’s going to be a test for Alabama to do this. Bama looked out of form, in their only game this season, starting slow and mediocre, vs Virginia Tech, which they still won 35-10 and VTECH has a tough defense to boot. And the fact that Alabama is reloading up its offensive line, makes one question if they can handle the D-line from A&M. Of course, Johnny football will be the giant X-factor here but he cant do it all. Texas A&M has a sloppy run defense, which will struggle still with Sophomore, T.J. Yeldon, the 6-2 RB from Alabama, which will be the drudging pound of the Tide, in their “revenge game.” All in all, the word as well is that the Tide, don’t forget that game either, and they play with revenge and will work the Aggies.

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Jimmy Boyd

Maryland -6

The Maryland Terrapins have been undervalued by the oddsmakers in their first two games of the seasons and they are still not getting the respect they deserve coming into this game. The defense has been remarkable holding opponents to ten points per game. Maryland's offense has looked unstoppable averaging 45 points per game.

The Connecticut Huskies embarrassed themselves in their season opener. They were 16.5 point favorites against Towson and ended up losing that game with an 18-33 final score. With just five returning starters on defense, it should be a very long season for the Huskies. UConn was overvalued last week, and Maryland should roll in this game.

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John Martin

Northern Illinois -28.5

Plays on favorites of 21.5 to 31.5 points when playing on two or more week's rest have gone a combined 41-10 ATS over the last 10 seasons for a ridiculous 80.4% winners. Idaho is arguably the worst team in the FBS this season with blowout losses to North Texas (6-40) and Wyoming (10-42) already. Northern Illinois was a BCS Bowl team last year and has a ton of talent back from that squad. The Huskies won at Iowa in their opener to prove that they are the real deal once again. They should have no problem winning this one by 29-plus Saturday.

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Bill Biles

Maryland -6

Maryland is off to a great start 2-0 and will go on the road for the first time. UCONN lost to Towson and they did not look good at all. Maryland has the number 1 offense in the ACC and the number 4 ranked defense. Look for them to win this one easily.

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Rob Vinciletti

Colorado +7½

Colorado fits a solid game 3 system that has cashed 16 of the last 17 times and plays on game 3 non Conference home dogs with revenge that are taking on an opponent that allows 24 or more points and did not lose to the spread by 25 or more in their last game and did not cover in game 1. Colorado has already exceeded last years win total and will look for pay back for last seasons 69-14 loss at Fresno. The Bulldogs have struggled on defense allowing 51 at home to Rutgers and 25 here last week to Cal Poly. This seems like too many points here with a Colorado team that has finally started to improve after years of mediocrity. We will back the Buffaloes. Take Colorado.

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Jack Jones

Iowa -2.5

The Iowa Hawkeyes clearly want revenge from the last two losses to the Cyclones in this instate rivalry over the past two seasons. Both losses have come by a combined six points, so you can bet that Iowa State has their attention. I believe Iowa comes into the 2013 season underrated after a 4-8 campaign last year. This team was much better than its record would indicate as it lost five games by 6 points or less in 2012. Those five losses came by a combined 16 points.

While Iowa lost another close one to Northern Illinois by a final of 27-30 in its 2013 opener, you have to remember that NIU played in a BCS Bowl game last season and is a legit squad. The Hawkeyes bounced back with a 28-14 victory over Missouri State last week, outgaining the Bears by 292 total yards in a game that was a much bigger blowout than the final score would indicate. There’s no question that the offense is much-improved this season, which is a great sign going forward after scoring just 19.3 points per game last year.

Iowa is averaging 473.5 total yards per game while giving up just 317.5 total yards per game in its first two contests. New quarterback Jake Rudock has shown some great signs, completing 61.5 percent of his passes for 449 yards, while also rushing for 53 yards and three scores. Mark Weisman is one of the most underrated backs in the country, rushing for 280 yards and two touchdowns through two games. The speedy Damon Bullock (116 yards) compliments him well.

Iowa State is clearly in rebuilding mode with just nine starters back from last year’s bowl team. That couldn’t have been more evident in a 20-28 home loss to Northern Iowa in Week 1. The Cyclones gave up 457 total yards to the Panthers in a very poor showing. They have just four starters back on defense, and lose arguably the two best linebackers in the history of the program. Both AJ Klein and Jake Knott are now in the NFL after monster careers at Iowa State. These two are simply irreplaceable, and I look for Weisman to have a monster game in their absence.

While the offense for Iowa has been explosive, it's the defense that returns the most talent. Seven starters are back on this side of the ball, including each of the top three tacklers. They are senior linebackers Anthony Hitchens (124 tackles, 5.5 for loss), James Morris (113 tackles, 9 for loss) and Christian Kirksy (95 tackles, 2 INT). I expect Iowa to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball as it has five of seven starters back along the front seven defensively, as well as three starters back along the offensive line. Iowa State loses five of seven starters along the front seven defensively.

Iowa State is 1-5-1 against the spread in its last seven home games. The Cyclones are 1-5 against the number in their last six games overall. Iowa State is 1-5 ATS in its last six games after allowing more than 450 total yards in its previous game. The Cyclones are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games off a bye week. Bet Iowa Saturday.

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Red Dog Sports

Georgia Tech -8

Take Georgia Tech. They should be able to run the ball easily and control the ball. GT QB Vad Lee is from the Durham, NC area. The crowd should not make a difference as most of the students will be sleeping in tents trying to get basketball tickets. Duke was outscored by an average of 24 ppg in their last 5 games in 2012. They lost QB Anthony Boone to an injury and the Blue Devils should struggle to run the ball. I like GT to win by 10 to 14 points.

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Steve Janus

Rice Owls -6

There's a reason this game opened at Rice -2 and has been bet up to close to a touchdown. The Owls are the better team and should win here by double-digits against Kansas. Rice defeated the Jayhawks 25-24 in Lawrence last year. The Owls have 19 returning starters, while Kansas welcomes back just 9 starters from last year.

The Owls lost their only game this season on the road against Texas A&M, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The Owls hung in there and covered the 28-point spread. The key thing from that game is that the Owls put up 28-points and racked up 486 yards of total offense against an SEC defense. Last year they finished with 403 yards against Kansas and the Jayhawks have a mere four starters back on that side of the ball.

Kansas has been one of the worst road teams in the country for quite some time. The Jayhawks are a mere 9-38 away from home over the last 10 years. They are just 15-23 ATS as a road underdog during this stretch and are 0-7 ATS in their last 7 road games following a home game. Rice on the other hand is 14-4 ATS in home games after playing a game where 70 total points were score and 12-3 ATS in home games after gaining 475 or more yards of total offense in their most recent matchup.

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Doug Upstone

Northwestern -30

For Saturday, PLAY ON home favorites of 21.5 to 31 points like Northwestern, an excellent offensive team averaging 6.2 yards per play, against a team with an average defense (4.8 to 5.6 YPP), after gaining 6.75 or more yards a play in two consecutive games. This incredible college football system is 22-3 ATS, 88 percent the last 20 years, with the average margin of victory 34.8 points.

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Chip Chirimbes

Mississippi State +6½

Throw the 'trends' out here. Tigers had won four straight and covered the last three in this series until State's 28-10 win last year. Bulldogs have lost six straight ATS on the road and that will change here.

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Joseph D'Amico

Alabama -8

Saturday, the 2-time Defending National Champion Alabama team is a 7 1/2 pt favorite over Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. Last year, A&M beat the Tide, 29-24 after Alabama has a grueling victory over LSU. 'Bama does not take losing lightly. They had an extra week to prepare as their defense has been salivating for another shot at A&M. The Aggies "D" allowed 509 yards to Rice last week. AJ McCarron and 218 lb. RB, TJ Yeldon will light up the Aggies defense. Johnny Manziel put a bull's-eye on his back in Week1 and Nick Saban and Alabama will make him pay. Take 'Bama here.

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Larry NessFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Maryland AT ConnecticutFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: MarylandFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Maryland Terrapins have opened 2013 with two wins, 43-10 over Florida International and 47-10 over FCS foe Old Dominion. UConn was one of seven FBS programs to bow to an FCS school during the opening weekend of the season (33-18 at home vs Towson) and the Huskies had last weekend off, giving them some time to recuperate from that difficult setback. However, with Maryland in town this weekend (led by former UConn head coach Randy Edsall) plus current No. 11 Michigan coming to Hartford next Saturday, UConn is facing an 0-3 start in 2013 (if it loses here), despite playing all three games at home.
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Paul Pasqualoni was not particularly a popular choice to replace Edsall and back-to-back 5-7 seasons (coming on the heels of UConn qualifying for the Fiesta Bowl in 2010), hasn’t made him any more popular. A year ago the Huskies ranked dead last in the Big East in total offense (318.3 YPG), scoring just 24 TDs (averaged a modest 17.8 PPG). The Huskies managed just 287 yards of total offense in losing to Towson and reports surfaced that Pasqualoni was tempted to leave home in disguise after the Towson humiliation.
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Maryland has opened the 2013 season at 2-0, for the third time in the last four seasons. However, after opening 2-0 last year, the Terps finished 4-8 (unlike in 2010 when they finished 9-4). This marks Edsall’s third season at Maryland and after 2-10 and 4-8 seasons, this year’s 2-0 start had better result in a wining year for the Terps. Maryland went through a number of QBs last year but C.J. Brown has come back from the ACL injury that kept him out last season and has excelled in his first two games. He’s completed 34-of-45 for 556 yards with five TDs and not a single INT. He’s also run for 135 yards and added four rushing TDs.
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It’s early and Maryland hasn’t faced a major opponent yet, but the defense has allowed just 10 points in each contest this season, as well as only 253.0 YPG. UConn, on its way to a 5-7 season in 2012, won 24-21 at College Park last year and you know what they say about “paybacks.” Lay the points with the road favorite.

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Jim FeistFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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UCLA at NebraskaFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: OverFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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UCLA has had 2 weeks to prepare and is on a 10-5 run over the total with a powerhouse offense. A year ago UCLA won 36-30 at home as +4 dog with edge in yards 653-439 over the Huskers! UCLA had 344 yards rushing, Nebraska 260. UCLA beat Nevada (58-20) in the opener with 647 yds (345 rushing) and is loaded on offense behind sophomore QB Brett Hundley. He's a duel threat, something that Nebraska has had trouble with. Nebraska has a ton of offensive talent, too, but was destroyed in its final two 2012 games by Wisconsin (70-31) and Georgia (45-31), as well as a 63-38 loss at Ohio State. And they look shaky again as in a win over Wyoming (37-34) they had 530 yards, but gave up 602 (383 passing). Nebraska needed all 530 of its total yards because Wyoming was able to put up alarming numbers against a defense that had to replace eight defensive starters. "To me, it was a bad dream," Huskers defensive coordinator John Papuchis said. "It was close to being a nightmare." Look for an offensive show.

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Kentucky +13.5FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Love is pouring forth for a veteran Louisville team led by 16 RS including Heisman candidate QB Bridgewater who has averaged 406 PYPG in the Cardinals home field romps against outmanned Ohio and E. Kentucky, 93-14. But the competition stiffens today against SEC Kentucky who after their week 1 embarrassment against W. Kentucky got a feel- good 41-7 bounceback win against outmanned Miami, Oh in which they outgained the Red Hawks 675-122. That included 413 PY by the new Kentucky "Air Raid". Now, first year HC Stoops must translate some of that offensive success in at least staying competitive against what is quickly become the state's best FB program. Look for a huge effort by the avenging home dog who has outgained 373-280 in a 32-14 defeat last season. Cards get the victory but we get the money with this very contrary value laden side.

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Bryan LeonardFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Alabama -8FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Tide has struggled lately defending mobile quarterbacks, so last years result wasn't a fluke. They allowed 23 first downs which was the most permitted in conference action in a decade. Last year was the first for A&M in the SEC so Alabama wasn't used to the Aggies style of play. That contest was also the first game for the Tide after the huge showdown with LSU, the team Alabama had beaten the the prior years national championship. So you can see why this team was susceptible to a less than sharp contest.  Interesting, Alabama has gone undefeated in true road games in 4 of the last 5 years, but has lost at least one home game in 8 of the last 10 seasons.
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In the last two years in home games lined at -10 or less Texas A&M is on a 1-5 straight up run, losing outright to Florida, LSU, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma State with the blowout victory coming against Baylor. The Aggies were favored in 5 of those 6 games.  Kevin Sumlin has really done a fine job in his short time here in College Station but we are not sure it's enough to stay within the number here against a revenging Nick Saban with an extra week to prepare. Rice and Sam Houston State tend to not prepare you for the best team in the nation.

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Brandon ShivelyFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Central Michigan vs. UNLVFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: UNLV -7.5FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Well, the Runnin' Rebels got RUN over last week and let us down big. The Good thing though is they get a Central Michigan team this week that hardly EVER plays out on the West coast, especially at night. C. Mich almost always plays at 11:00 or 2:30, so we give UNLV advantage #1. The last time they traveled out West was in 2009 and they had Leveour as QB and this team is not the same. In fact, their starting QB, Cody Kater is out with a shoulder injury. Now rFR Cooper Rush has been named the starter. This guy was 3rd on the depth chart and is now asked to go on the road and lead his team. The UNLV defense will be much more athletic than New Hampshire was last week. UNLV advantage #2. Now for UNLV advantage #3. C. Mich starting RB, Zurlon Tipton, is out also and he was a 2nd Tm Mac running back LY as he rushed for 1492 yds and 19 TD. UNLV was a HF just once LY but covered easily vs. New Mexico, 35-7. UNLV has 18 returning starters and this team is still 13-4 ATS in all home games under HC Bobby Hauck.

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Freddy WillsFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Stanford vs. ArmyFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Stanford -30FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Stanford will go on the road to play a very early game at West Point. This is an interesting decision for Stanford as they try to extend their brand to the east coast. I think this is a bad decision for Army who is always on the border of going bowling or not and I expect this to be an absolute domination from Stanford. When Stanford Has The Ball: Stanford is known for their size and strength and ability to play smart balanced football and that is exactly what they will do here. Keith Hogan is back at QB and has struggled a bit in the early going so I expect them to get him going on play action and I don't think they'll slow down the offense when this turns into a blow out and it will because.... Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson will have their way running on Army. Both are senior backs running behind an offensive line that averages 305lbs and returns 4 of 5 starters from last year who are all seniors. This is a huge problem for an Army squad because they are always undersized because of the school they go to. To put things in perspective Army returns just two starting offensive linemen and they average 253lbs. Their defensive line averages less than 250lbs and their linebackers average less than 200lbs. That's amazing and this is the worst team you'd want to face with a significant weight disadvantage so I expect Stanford's offense to click well over 40 points in this one as they work out the kinks before PAC 12 action starts. When Army Has The Ball: We know all about Army's triple option attack that the military schools all run because they don't have the size to run a traditional offense. The key is a good defensive front and Stanford has a nasty front 7 again that wins with their physical play. Stanford's defense returns 9 of 11 starters from a year ago and they ranked 9th vs. the run. They also allowed just 27% conversions on third down and 40% TD % in the red zone. Army always has an issue scoring in the red zone and if they score any points they will be field goals in this game. I can't see Army scoring more than 10 points in this game not with the dominance of a Stanford defense and offense that plays physical. Army also has to replace 3 offensive linemen and arguably one of their best QB's in Trent Steelman. This is a rebuilding year for Army while Stanford has mostly a senior laden team. The Pick: Stanford -30 2.2* Free Play - We have seen more and more teams now that are ranked in the top 10 win these type of road games with high spreads. They need to impress the computers and increase their ranking. It all matters and David Shaw will have his team prepared to play the early game as they dominate at West Point.

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Teddy Covers

Kansas vs. Rice
Pick: Rice

Rice won SU in Lawrence last year; outgaining and outplaying the Jayhawks.  With more returning starters than any team in the conference, this year’s team is even better, particularly on offense. 

Senior QB Taylor McHargue, senior RB Charles Ross and junior WR Jordan Taylor are the Owls top skill position talent; all three legit playmakers for an offense that has scored 44, 49, 36, 33, 33 and 31 points in their last six games.  Rice’s offensive line returned their entire two-deep from last year, a loaded unit that can pass protect and run block effectively, even against a Big 12 defense.

While Rice is on the rise this year, Kansas looks like they’re in for another rebuilding year as they continue their transition to the Charlie Weis era.  Weis’ debut last year was a 1-11 SU disaster.  Weis has taken the JUCO route towards improvement; likely to pay dividends at some point this season, but not just yet.

They didn’t even sniff a pointspread cover as four TD favorites against South Dakota last week, with BYU transfer QB Jake Heaps completing only 10 passes for 110 yards.  Heaps transferred from BYU because his consistently poor play cost him the starting job, and nothing that I’ve seen or read has convinced me that Heaps is on the verge of becoming a stud college QB this week.  This line is short!

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MICHIGAN (-37) 51 Akron 10FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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I’ll spend my time on more interesting matchups. My ratings favor Michigan by 37, so the line is fair, and Akron applies to a negative 13-50 ATS situation that is based on their bad defense. That angle is 0-3 ATS for dogs of 35 points or more, so there is no line constraint. I’ll lean with Michigan based on the situation.
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UCLA (+4½) 34 Nebraska 33FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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UCLA racked up 651 yards at 8.2 yards per play in their dominating 58-20 opening day win over Nevada and the Bruins’ defense looks much improved this season based on the 4.1 yppl that they gave up to a pretty decent Nevada attack. Nebraska, on the other hand, has given up an average of 445 yards at 6.5 yppl to Wyoming and Southern Miss. Nebraska was just mediocre defending the run last season (and they could be worse this year) and the pass defense, which was good last year, was exploited for 383 yards at 8.7 yards per pass play by the Wyoming’s Brett Smith in week 1. UCLA should have no trouble moving the ball in this game and the Bruins’ defense, which defends the run well, is well suited to limit Nebraska’s potent attack. My ratings favor UCLA by 3 ½ points in this game, my biggest difference from the line of any game this week, but Nebraska does apply to a 119-42-3 ATS situation. However, UCLA applies to a 44-11-1 ATS game 2 statistical indicator based on their opening game stats and I like the Bruins in an upset (although it really wouldn’t be an upset).
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OKLAHOMA (-24½) 40 Tulsa 12FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The line on this game has rightfully come down from an opening number of 27 points, as my rating favor the Sooners by just 20 ½ points. The problem with Oklahoma has been their normally potent pass attack, which has averaged a pathetic 3.9 yards per pass play in their first two games against UL Monroe and West Virginia, two teams that are not very good at defending the pass. The rushing attack has been great (330 yards per game at 6.4 yards per rushing play) and the Sooners’ defense looks like it could be an elite group again (4.4 yards per play) with former defensive coordinator Mike Stoops in his 2nd year back in Norman. Tulsa is offensively challenged (just 4.7 yppl against Bowling Green and Colorado State) and I don’t expect the Golden Hurricane to have many scoring opportunities. Tulsa does have a better than average defense, which is the troubling part of this play. However, it’s likely that Blake Bell will do a better job throwing the ball than injured starter Trevor Knight did (just 44% completions and 4.3 yards per attempt) and Bell should run the ball just as well. I still think the line is too high but Oklahoma applies to a very strong 122-41-5 ATS situation that is based on their strong defense and I never buck that trend.
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Stanford (-29½) 38 ARMY 14FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Stanford has a dominating defense but the option offense that Army runs is designed to minimize a disadvantage in physical talent, which is why option teams tend to perform relatively better against good defensive teams. The option takes the aggression of a good defense away and Army should be able to run the ball at a decent clip in this game. The problem for the Cadets is their defense, which was the worst in the nation last year. Army’s run defense has actually been pretty solid through two games, allowing just 4.0 yards per rushing play to Morgan State and Ball State, which is about what an average FBS defense would allow to those two teams, but the pass defense remains the worst in all the land, as Army has allowed 8.5 yards per pass play to a pair of teams that would average only 5.0 yppp against an average team. The good news for Army is that Stanford would like to run the ball about 60% of the time and I don’t see the Cardinal throwing more than normal in this game just because they can. This is also going to be a very slow paced game with only about 120 total offensive plays run (140 is average), which will make it tougher for Stanford to increase their margin enough to cover. My ratings would favor Stanford by 28 ½ points if this were a normal paced game but I get 24 ½ points based on the low number of projected plays. I like Army plus the points.
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FLORIDA STATE (-34) 49 Nevada 14FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston received a lot of preseason hype and he surpassed those high expectations with an incredible performance against Pitt to open the season. Winston 25 of 27 for 356 yards with 4 passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. It’s impossible to keep up that pace but a horrible Nevada defense that’s allowed 7.2 yards per play certainly will help. The Seminoles have had an extra week to come down from their opening night high and teams that had a bye after a week 1 win are 122-85-5 ATS in their 2nd game of the season. Most of that profit is against teams that have lost at least 1 game on the season, which is the case here, as teams that had a bye after winning their opener are 70-38-2 ATS in game 2 against teams with a win percentage of less than 1.000 (Northern Illinois over Idaho is the other qualifier this week). That angle is 26-4 ATS for favorites of more than 17 points and 6-2 ATS for favorites of 30 points or more. My ratings favor Florida State by only 32 points but I’ll lean slightly with the Seminoles based on the situation.
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Alabama (-7½) 36 TEXAS A&M 27FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The game of the week is a game that I don’t think is worth betting. My preseason ratings favored Alabama by 7 ½ and I thought the my adjusted ratings would lower that prediction based on the horrible offensive showing by the Tide in their deceiving 35-10 win over Virginia Tech. Bama averaged only 3.3 yards per play against the Hokies and the offensive line allowed 4 sacks and allowed quarterback AJ McCarron to be put under pressure all night. I knew that Alabama’s offensive line couldn’t possibly be as great as last year’s all time great front that featured two 1st Team All-American’s and a 2nd Team All-American that was a 1st round NFL draft pick. However, Alabama has plenty of offensive line talent in the pipeline and I figured they’d still have a very good line like they do every year. That certainly was not the case on opening night but a lot of those errors in blocking are fixable and the coaching staff had an extra week to prepare. Texas A&M’s defense front is also nothing close to how good Virginia Tech’s defense is, as the Hokies should have one of very best defensive units in the nation this season while the Aggies have allowed an average of 450 yards at 6.2 yards per play to Rice and Sam Houston State. That is not a function of A&M playing their backups a lot because the backups actually have slightly better stats than the starting defense does. Texas A&M has allowed 279 rushing yards per game at 6.2 yards per rushing play and Alabama is going to run the ball down their throats in this game, which will help the pass protection if that is still a problem. Texas A&M only had one player last year with 4 sacks or more and 1st team All-American DE Damonte Moore and his 12.5 sacks are now in the NFL. The Aggies leading returner sacker had 1.5 sacks last year and they’ve mustered only 3 sacks total in two games against bad teams. So, if Alabama’s line does have issues in pass protection that they haven’t fixed then it probably won’t hurt them much in this game.
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The battle between Texas A&M’s offense and Alabama’s defense is what people are wanting to see and it should be a great game for that reason. Johnny Manziel has picked up where he left off last season and Alabama’s defense, with 7 returning starters, looks even better than last season’s great unit that had just 5 returning starters. The Crimson Tide yielded just 3.6 yppl to Virginia Tech, which was less than forecasted and their defense is just as good as the Texas A&M offense. Last season A&M managed to averaged 5.6 yppl against Bama’s defense, which was 1.9 yppl more than an average team would gain at home against the Tide. The Aggies were 2.0 yppl better than average offensively last season so they were actually a bit worse against Bama. I think A&M’s offense is a bit better this season and so is Alabama’s defense and I project 5.9 yppl for Texas A&M at home. Alabama’s offensive rating against Virginia Tech was below average but it was just one game and I’m certainly not going to let one game influence my ratings too much. I have adjusted the Bama offense down a bit but I still have that unit running wild in this game and averaging 6.5 yards per play overall.
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Alabama’s special teams were great against Virginia Tech, scoring touchdowns on a punt return and a kickoff return and they also have the edge in this contest. Overall my ratings now favor Alabama by 8½ points even though their offense was downgraded. Like I said that was just one game and the downgrade to A&M’s defense was more because they’ve had two horrible games defensively. The real difference in my ratings favoring Bama by 7½ in the preseason to 8 ½ points now was the bump in special teams rating that Alabama got. The match up of their rushing attack against a bad Texas A&M run defense also boosted the match up rating. As far as the situation goes, I certainly don’t want to buck Nick Saban in a revenge game, as he is 23-8 ATS in his coaching career revenging a game he lost the previous year (7-1 ATS with Alabama), including 21-4 ATS following a win. Texas A&M does apply to a 79-27-2 ATS situation but Alabama applies to a 61-17 ATS game 2 angle that is just as significant. Both teams will be fired up for this game but I don’t see A&M being able to stop Alabama’s rushing attack while the battle between the Alabama defense and the A&M offense is a push.
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OREGON (-27½) 48 Tennessee 19FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Oregon hasn’t misses a beat without Chip Kelly on the sidelines. In fact, this year’s offense may be the best yet. Racking up 66 points on 772 yards at 10.9 yards per play against Nicholls State proves nothing but scoring 59 points on 557 yards at 8.1 yppl against a pretty good Virginia defense is an indication that the Ducks are even more potent this season with quarterback Marcus Mariota in his 2nd season and De’Anthony Thomas now being featured at running back after averaging 7.6 yards per run on 92 carries last season. Tennessee is a bit better than average defensively but Oregon should once again score a ton of points. While the offense gets the headlines, the Ducks’ defense certainly does their share of the work and this year’s stop unit, with 7 returning starters, including all 4 defensive backs, should be even better than last year’s edition that was 0.9 yppl better than average (1.1 yppl better than average when their starters were in the game). The line on this game went from -22 to -27 ½ points and that move was justified. My ratings favor the Ducks by 29 points.
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Washington (-9½) 39 Illinois 25FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Illinois played very well in their 45-17 upset win over Cincinnati (as an 8 point dog), outgaining the Bearcats 522 yards at 6.9 yppl to 456 yard at 6.2 yppl but the final margin was very misleading. Illinois is a much improved team and I had them as a Strong Opinion last week but Washington’s 38-6 domination of Boise State in week 1 was exceptional and the Huskies are projected to average 6.9 yppl in this game against a sub-par Illini defense that’s surrendered an average of 6.2 yppl to Southern Illinois and Cincy. My ratings favor Washington by 14 points and I have situations favoring both sides so I’ll favor the Huskies to cover.
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SOUTH CAROLINA (-13½) 31 Vanderbilt 21SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Vanderbilt outplayed Mississippi from the line of scrimmage in the opener, averaging 6.2 yards per play to 5.9 yppl, but a -2 in turnovers led to a 35-39 loss to a good Rebels team. South Carolina is an even bigger challenge but the Gamecocks could be feeling a bit sorry for themselves after losing to Georgia last week. The Gamecocks’ offense looks like it could be the best in the Steve Spurrier era given the 7.3 yards per play they averaged against two decent defensive teams (North Carolina and Georgia). Vanderbilt has a better than average defense that’s not so good against the run but very good against the pass and the Commodores are good enough offensively thanks to 1st team All-SEC WR Jordan Matthews and new quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, who looks like he may be an upgrade over Jordan Rodgers, who had a very good senior season last year. My ratings favor South Carolina by 13 ½ points, so the line is actually fair, but South Carolina applies to a negative 87-152-2 ATS situation that is based on last week’s loss. I can certainly see a letdown this week after all the buildup for last week’s game against Georgia so I’ll lean with Vandy plus the points.
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LSU (-36½) 46 Kent State 12FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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My ratings favor LSU by 38 points in this game but the Tigers apply to a negative 22-80-2 ATS big favorite letdown situation so I’ll lean with Kent plus the points.
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Ohio State (-15½) 42 CALIFORNIA 24FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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I went to Berkeley and I am a Cal fan and I was disappointed in the selection of Sonny Dykes as the Bears’ new head coach. I knew Dykes would bring an exciting brand of offense to Berkeley, as he did as the head coach of Louisiana Tech, as team that scored 51.5 points per game last season. My Bears are certainly more fun to watch and the offense is going to be great as early as next season when true freshman quarterback Jared Goff has a year of experience in an offense that is already averaging 593 yards and 6.2 yards per play. What I feared with Dykes was his history of not being able to field a competent defense to go along with his good offense. Cal has had a history of good defensive teams and the Bears recruited well on the side of the ball under former coach Jeff Tedford. Even last year’s defense, which gave up at the end of the season, still had a slightly better than average rating after compensating for opposing offenses faced. There is no reason Cal shouldn’t have a at least a mediocre defense yet here we are with a unit that has given up 7.7 yards per play. Giving up 7.3 yppl to Northwestern’s good attack isn’t so shameful but allowing FCS team Portland State to rack up 553 yards at 8.1 yppl in last week’s 37-30 win is pathetic. I know that 4 projected starters were out last week and are likely out this week too, but that’s still no excuse for giving up 8 yard a play to Portland State. Once again Sonny Dykes has surrounded himself with defensive idiots that can’t coach or game plan, which was why I didn’t want Dykes as a head coach at Cal (I wanted San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre, who is in the process of turning Colorado’s fortunes around just as he did at San Jose State).
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Ohio State is the most overrated Top-10 team but my ratings still favor the Buckeyes by 17½ points in this game regardless of which quarterback plays since backup Kenny Guiton has been just as effective as Braxton Miller. Combining the running and passing yards reveals that Miller has averaged 6.9 yards per play while Guiton has averaged 6.7 yppl, but against a better defensive team (San Diego State) than Miller faced in week 1 (Buffalo). Cal has a chance to keep this game competitive because they have a good offense and the talent to be decent defensively if the coaching staff can figure out a game plan that might work for once. Go Bears!
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TEXAS (-3) 36 Mississippi 33FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The line on this game would have been at least 7 points prior to last week’s abysmal defensive showing by Texas. The Longhorns gave up 553 rushing yards and 682 total yards in a 21-40 loss at BYU, which has most people dismissing reports of an improved defense. However, the Texas pass defense has been very good (just 5.0 yards per pass play allowed last week) and 259 of those rushing yards were by a very gifted running quarterback and bad performances against good running quarterbacks don’t necessarily reflect how good a team is at defending a normal rushing attack. Texas gave up a more reasonable 5.4 yards per rushing play and 5.3 yards per play if you take out the running of BYU quarterback Taysom Hill. Texas was 0.4 yards per rushing play worse than average defending the run last year and they’re most likely no worse than that this season despite last week’s results. The Longhorns do have a very good pass defense and their offense is also top notch and could actually be better with backup quarterback Case McCoy under center for the injured David Ash, who is listed as doubtful. McCoy has had better compensated passing numbers than Ash in each of the last two seasons so he’s certainly no worse. I wouldn’t write off Texas as a very good team just yet.
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Ole’ Miss is also a good team, but the Rebels are not as good as Texas offensively and aren’t that much better defensively. Mississippi can stop the run but the Rebels gave up 7.8 yards per pass play to Vanderbilt in week 1 and McCoy can exploit that secondary too. My ratings actually favor Texas by 7 points and I think the line has been over-adjusted for last week’s result. However, Mississippi applies to a 36-4 ATS game 3 situation that I don’t want to buck so I’m going to steer clear of this game.
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Notre Dame (-20½) 35 PURDUE 16FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Notre Dame hasn’t been as good defensively as expected, as allowing 4.8 yards per play to Temple and 6.5 yppl to Michigan are pretty mediocre efforts. Purdue’s offense has been horrible the first two weeks with just 4.3 yppl against Cincy and Indiana State (only 4.4 yppl in that game) but the Boilermakers have a solid defense and my ratings only favor the Irish by just 19 1/2 points (although by 23 ½ points using this year’s games only). Notre Dame does apply to a 37-73-2 ATS game 3 situation and this is a bit of a letdown game after facing Michigan last week.
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NORTHWESTERN (-30) 49 Western Michigan 14PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Northwestern is has averaged 7.3 yards per play in both of their games, at Cal and home against Syracuse, and I can’t imagine Western Michigan slowing the Wildcats down. The Broncos just gave up 449 yard at 7.9 yppl in a home loss to Nicholls State, a team that is about 25 points worse than an average FBS team. Western Michigan did allow only 3.9 yppl to Michigan State but Michigan State gained only 4.3 yppl against South Florida last week and South Florida gave up 6.3 yppl and 53 points to McNeese State the previous week. In other words, the 3.9 yppl that Western Michigan allowed to Michigan State doesn’t really say much given how badly Michigan State moved the ball against a USF team that gave up 53 points to McNeese State. All of this is incorporated into my model and the math favors Northwestern by 31 points based on this year’s games, so the line is justifiable. I like Northwestern here based on a very good 151-66-1 ATS statistical matchup indicator that has done very well even at bigger lines (60-26 ATS when applying to favorites of more than 28 points. I have this game some serious consideration this week but ultimately decided not to make it a Best Bet.
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ARIZONA STATE (-5½) 30 Wisconsin 26SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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I like both of these teams but it’s hard to gauge their early season games because Wisconsin dominated two bad teams (U Mass and Tennessee Tech) while ASU beat up on Sacramento State 55-0 in their only game of the season so far. My preseason ratings favored ASU by 3 points and incorporating the games played so far this season would bump that up to Sun Devils by 3 ½ points. I actually have Arizona State rated as a better team and a spread of 5 ½ points would be justified if not for the matchup. Arizona State’s defense strength is their pass defense that combines a great pass rush with a good secondary. However, Wisconsin has a run-heavy offense that takes away some of the value of ASU’s great pass defense. I project Wisconsin to average 5.5 yards per rushing play and only 5.4 yards per pass play so they have no reason to throw the ball a lot and ASU is relatively better against passing teams because that plays into their defensive strength. A slight lean with Wisconsin plus the points although it’s tough to travel across the country and play a night game in the West.

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