Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

Scott Gramling


Pittsburgh vs. Notre Dame
Play: Notre Dame -3

Only once in the past eight meetings between these schools has the home team come away with an ATS victory. Notre Dame is 3-1 both SU and ATS at Pittsburgh during that span, and the Panthers come into this game with just one SU win and one ATS win since the end of September. The Irish, meanwhile, enter this game having scored 37 or more points in three of their past four games. Pittsburgh is 1-10 ATS when allowing 28 or more points over the past three seasons, and there’s little reason to believe that Notre Dame won’t surpass that plateau with relative ease. This has all the makings of a double-digit win for the Irish.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

Chase Diamond

Wake Forest vs. Florida State
Play: Wake Forest +35

This game features the 8-0 FSU at the 4-5 Wake Forest. Wake has really played up to it's opponents this season. And as all of my clients know we have backed FSU a lot this season but today early we will be riding on the other side. Wake has a tough Defense that's ranked 20th in the nation overall and check this out FSU is just 4-13 ATS in it's last 17 road games coming off three straight conference rival wins. Wake is 10-4 ATS following a loss and with the public is heavy on FSU I love our gift of 35 points here.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

DAVE COKIN

PENN STATE VS MINNESOTA
PLAY: MINNESOTA -2.5

Prior to start of the season, the LVH conducted a seminar that tied in with their NFL contest. I was part of the college panel and one of the questions we were asked was to provide one team that would not live up to billing and might be a good squad to look to fade. My option was Penn State, and as of right now that looks it might have been a good choice.

This was a team that thrived in 2012 with an us against the world mentality. They didn’t just play with a chip on their collective shoulders, that was a boulder. But the thought was that the emotional edge would ebb this season, and that reality would begin to set in. I think that’s precisely what has happened, and the result is that Penn State is really not a particularly good football team.

The wins for the Nittany Lions have come against Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Michigan and Illinois. The Wolverines are the only above average entry in that group, and they’re not exactly looking like world beaters themselves. The losses have been on the ugly side. They scored late to make it close against UCF, got demolished at Indiana and the loss at Ohio State was humbling.

I found the Penn State win against Illinois last week totally unimpressive. That’s a bad opponent, and yet after getting up 14-0 they needed a last minute field goal just to force overtime. Coming out of the humiliation at Columbus, this was a spot where Penn State needed to show something. Instead they were unfocused, taking a load of dumb penalties all day long and barely escaped what would have been a really horrible loss.

Minnesota is heading in the other direction. The Gophers have won three straight and what’s most impressive has been their mental toughness. This is a team that still has plenty of flaws but quitting is absolutely not one of them. They really seem like a team that’s committed to getting it done for their sidelined coach, with Jerry Kill now relegated to observing the games rather than coaching them as he deals with his illness. The Gophers have a refuse to lose mindset these days, and I’d rather not get in the way of a team in that state.

From a statistical standpoint, this isn’t bad. Minnesota wants to run the football, and the Nittany Lions are surrendering 199 yards per game in conference play. Penn State’s rushing stats on the road are awful, with the current ratio an ugly 82/210. Pair that with Minnesota’s 218/149 at home and there would seem to be a clear cut edge for the Gophers. This game power rates roughly even. Two of my three key sets favor Minnesota, one favors Penn State.

My main focus here is more on the current form than anything else. There’s no close call on that count as even off a win, Penn State is reeling, while the Gophers continue to surge. Momentum can be very fickle as just one crazy play can turn the ride in an instant. But I’m seeing substantial reasons to fade the guest and back the host, so I’m laying the small number with Minnesota today.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

Larry Ness

UCLA at Arizona Wildcats
Play: Arizona Wildcats

Arizona and UCLA (along with USC) are all 3-2 in the Pac 12 South, trailing 4-1 ASU. The Bruins visit Tucson on Saturday night to take on the Wildcats and the loser is all but out of the race for a spot in the Pac 12 championship game. UCLA held Ka’Deem Carey to a season-low 54 rushing yards in last season’s 66-10 victory, lifting the Bruins into the top-25 with four regular-season contests remaining. That also marked the last time Carey has been held to double digits in rushing, as he’s topped 100 yards in each of his last 11 games (he sat out Arizona’s first game TY, serving a suspension).

UCLA is hoping to get a repeat performance from QB Brett Hundley, who bounced back from two sub-par road games against No. 6 Stanford and No. 2 Oregon to throw for 273 yards and two TDs in last week’s 45-23 victory against visiting Colorado. Hundley should be confident against the Arizona defense, as last year he completed 23 of 28 passes for 288 yards with three TDs and no INTs vs the Wildcats. The Bruins’ return to prominence under Jim Mora Jr has been impressive but while road losses at Stanford and Oregon were expected, the fact that UCLA was outgained by a combined 425 total yards, is troubling.

Note that even in UCLA’s 22-point win over Colorado (a non-cover), the Bruins only outgained the Buffaloes by 31 yards. Now they hit the road again against a team out for some serious revenge, after losing by 56 points in the Rose Bowl last season. This marks Arizona’s first of THREE straight home games, before ending the season with a trip to Tempe, to take on the Sun Devils. The home team is on an outstanding 9-1 ATS run in this series and I WON’T buck that trend!

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

SPORTS WAGERS

TENNESSEE +7½ over Auburn

What we have here is another ranked opponent on the road spotting more than a converted TD in a difficult spot. The Tigers come into this week ranked #9 in the country and anytime you have a top-10 team playing a .500 team like Tennessee, you will pay a premium to wager on them. That’s something we rarely recommend. Since losing to LSU by 14 points in Week 4, Auburn hasn’t lost since to run its record to 9-1. Throw in a pair of wins against Ole Miss and Texas A&M and it’s easy to see the appeal in them against a .500 Tennessee squad. However, the Tigers will play its third road game in four weeks, with the other two (A&M and Arkansas) being emotionally draining. Furthermore, the Tigers close out the season with games against Georgia and Alabama, making this a true trap game. 

The Vols are just 4-4 but they have without question played the toughest schedule in the country. Tennessee has already played then #2 Oregon, then #19 Florida, then #6 Georgia, #12 South Carolina and #9 Missouri. The Vols have played just three unranked opponents this season and defeated them all by 45, 32 and 7 points respectively. As a result of that tough schedule, Tennessee’s stats are skewed the wrong way and that has created some nice value on this host for the remainder of the schedule. The Vols are moving in the right direction. They are a tough out in good situations at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee is a physical outfit that will not back down against anyone. The Vols already have a notable win over South Carolina and they figure to be able to move the ball on the ground against a rather soft Auburn defense. When we play a dog of less than 13 points in college football, we usually give them a big chance to win outright. That applies here too. Take the points but don’t be afraid to play a little on the Vols straight up either. They can win this one.


WYOMING +9 over Fresno State

One of our favorite angles down the stretch is to play an unranked home team against a ranked visitor that has a bunch of skewed numbers on its side. Fresno State is ranked 16th in the nation with an 8-0 record and every week it seems like they are putting up ridiculous offensive numbers. However, when we look at the Bulldogs opponents we see a straight line of marshmallow after marshmallow. Against the best of the bad, FSU defeated Boise State by 1, Rutgers by 1 in OT and San Diego State by 7, also in OT. The Bulldogs narrowly escaped a trip to Hawaii also. In reality, this falsely ranked guest (no way are they a top 25 outfit) could just as easily be 4-4 instead of 8-0. The Bulldogs have played just three road games this season. They destroyed the 1-8 Idaho Vandals (everyone destroys Idaho) and in their other two road games they narrowly got by Hawaii and San Diego State. The Bulldogs failed to win by this margin in those latter two road games and chances are they won’t win by double digits here either.   

Wyoming’s schedule isn’t going to give them more credibility than the Bulldogs but the Cowboys have put up almost identical offensive numbers as their ranked opponent today. The difference is that Wyoming is 4-4 and has not had every bounce go its way like FSU has. Certainly the Cowboys could have defeated both Nebraska and San Diego State and have a record of 6-2 instead of 4-4. With some better defense, the Cowboys could give a lot of teams fits and they addressed that during their bye week. Wyoming changed defensive coordinators and it also hired former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young as a consultant. The coaching change and open date will change things up for the Cowboys, giving Fresno some new looks that haven't appeared on film. Upset possibility.


Vanderbilt +10½ over FLORIDA

The Gators continue to regress with an offense that can’t keep their defense off the field. Florida rarely breaks the 21-point plateau and when you’re laying 10½ points with a team that can’t score 20, the risk is too great. The thinking here for many is that the Commodores will have trouble scoring but that may not be the case. Indeed, Florida’s defense is capable of holding Vandy to a low total but after nine weeks, Florida’s defense has been wearing down due to all the time they’ve spent on the field. Over the past two games, Florida’s defense has allowed 59 points and over 900 yards of total offense.

The Commodores have dealt with a lot of turmoil this season and it has caused many distractions but they’ve played some tough teams, they defeated Georgia two weeks ago and they lost by just 10 points to South Carolina earlier in the year. It’s worth noting that although they allowed 35 points to the Gamecocks, they were able to score 25 of their own. The Commodores lowest point total this season is 24 points and we’re not asking them to duplicate that here. To cover this ridiculous number, Vandy needs to score between 13 and 20 points. Should they play true to form and score at least 3 TD’s, it’s an easy cover. It’s rarely a good idea to spot double digits in-conference with a team whose arrow is pointing in the wrong direction. The Gators humdrum offense doesn’t make it any more appealing either.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

Chris Jordan

My free winner for Saturday happens to be in the same game as my fifth-straight winning total, as I like Tulane plus the points at UT San Antonio.

This is a big game for both teams, especially UT San Antonio, which is only 4-5 on the year, but is 3-2 in conference play and is looking to make a run into the postseason if it can win two more games. Obviously the oddsmakers think the Roadrunners can win this one, as they've made UTSA a near double-digit favorite.

Problem is, I don't know how this line can be justified when you have a Tulane team that is already bowl eligible with a 6-3 mark, is 4-1 in conference play and has a well-balanced team that can execute on both sides of the ball.

The Green Wave utilize two quarterbacks, both of whom I expect to play well and exploit a Roadrunners pass defense that ranks 10th in the league and 91st in the nation. UT San Antonio's defense is 75th overall, so Tulane shouldn't have trouble matching with with the Roadrunners, and can keep this game close.

Look for Nick Montana and Devin Powell to set the pace with passing touchdowns early on, giving the Green Wave the upper hand on the scoreboard and at the window.

Tulane checks in on ATS win streaks of 4-1 in conference play, 6-2 after a straight-up loss and 4-0 after an ATS setback. Grab the points here, and play the road pup. Then, go get my total in this game to complete your side-and-total combo all in one!

4♦ TULANE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

Jeff Benton

Your Saturday freebie comes at College Station where I fully expect the big number to be run up by Johnny Football and his Aggies of Texas A&M.

Since their upset loss at home to Auburn, A&M has been out for blood, scoring 113 points in their last pair of wins, while allowing just 31 points to be scored against them. Both of those games (Vandy and UTEP) have produced wins and covers, and I see nothing different happening today when Miss State comes calling.

Mississippi State and the road has not been a real winning mix, as Dan Mullen's squad is on a 1-6 spread slide their last 7 as the road underdog, most recently losing touch in Columbia last week 34-16 as the +11 point dog at South Carolina.
The Bulldogs defense is likely to get undressed by Johnny Manziel, as they rank last in the conference in sacks with just 10 on the year, and we all know what Manziel can do when you give him time to throw the pigskin.

Last season Texas A&M walloped Miss State, 38-13 at Davis Wade Stadium as the road favorite, today the win is likely to be a little more lopsided.

Aggies drill the Dogs.

4♦ TEXAS A&M

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

Craig Davis

Today's free play is on Marshall minus the big number against UAB in Conference USA.

These two teams meet today in similar circumstances to that of last year's season... with Marshall trying to become Bowl Eligible while UAB knew they weren't going anywhere.

While things haven't changed in that regard, Marshall hopes the outcome is different this year now that they get the Blazers at home.

UAB jumped out to a 24-point shocking lead and held on for a 38-31 upset win. This year, at home, I just don't see that happening. In fact, I think the Herd will feed off last year's upset loss and give one of their best efforts of the season.

Last year UAB physically beat up Marshall for four quarters to hold on for the win. This year they simply don't have the horses to pound it down your throats.

That's why they've become pass-happy this year and have struggled to win games because of it. Marshall is trying to convince everyone they are preparing for the Blazers as if they're going to run the football like they did last year.

They won't.

Like I said, they don't have the players to be able to do that and will be forced to the air quickly... which is exactly what Marshall wants.

Take the Thundering Herd as your free play of the day.

3♦ MARSHALL

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

Scott Delaney

My freebie for Saturday is off the late college football card, as I delve into the Pac 12 showdown between UCLA and Arizona, and invest in the home team, as I think the Wildcats are going to score the upset win. Now, it's not considered an upset at the books, but in the rankings, since the Bruins are in the Top 25 and Arizona is not, this would be considered an upset.

That twisted logic right there is reason enough to believe this is the right side, as the unranked Wildcats are laying a single point to UCLA, so you have to ask yourself if the Bruins are in the poll, why is Arizona ranked?

Maybe because this high-octane offense is supposed to win.

This is a bit of a revenge game for the Wildcats, and their highly prolific running back Ka’Deem Carey, who was to a season-low 54 rushing yards in last season’s 66-10 loss at UCLA. That marked the last time Carey was held to double digits in rushing.

Carey, who is averaging 26.9 carries a game, needs 76 rushing yards to move past Ontiwaun Carter (3,501) for second on the school’s all-time list. He ranks ninth overall in the nation, with 1,072 yards this season. But, he leads all FBS players in rushing with 153.1 yards per game.

Also contributing lately has been quarterback B.J. Denker. Though he is the second-lowest rated quarterback in the Pac-12, he has thrown seven touchdown passes versus just one interception in the last four games.

The Wildcats have now won three straight since losing back-to-back games at Washington and at Southern Cal. Arizona is 3-0 at home this year, and tonight is Homecoming, so the motivation and momentum is going to favor the 'Cats.

All the betting numbers favor the 'Cats, who have covered five of the last six meetings overall and five straight in Tucson. The favorite is on a 6-0 ATS run in this series, while the home team has covered eight of the last 10 meetings.

Lay the single point with Arizona.

1♦ ARIZONA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

Brad Wilton

Do you think Bret Bielema wishes he stayed in Madison instead of coming on board in Fayetteville?

For your free play this Saturday, have to lay the wood with the Rebels of Ole Miss as it sure looks like the Arkansas Razorbacks have packed it in for the year.

The Hogs are in the midst of their longest losing streak since 1990, as they hit Oxford with 6 straight losses, and own a money-burning 2-7 spread record for the season.

Ole Miss has won and covered their last pair of games, and a win here would make them bowl eligible for the second time in as many years for coach Hugh Freeze.

The Rebels have reeled off 3 straight covers, and did defeat the Razorbacks in last year's meeting 30-27 as the +5 1/2 point underdog to make it covers in the last pair of meetings and 3 of the last 4 overall in the series.

The Razorbacks are dead last in the SEC in passing offense, so no shock they have absorbed 5 straight double-digit losses. Care to make that 6 straight double-digit losses?

Hotty Toddy all day long at The Grove. Ole Miss to roll large.

5♦ OLE MISS

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

Brett Atkins

After last night's push on the San Diego Toreros in college hoops, I'm taking you back on to the college gridiron, where I have a total for free, in addition to my big 50 Dime College Total available. And coincidentally, this freebie also is out of the Mountain West Conference, as I like the Under in the Fresno State/Wyoming contest taking place in Laramie.

There is only one way to beat Fresno State, and that is to slow the Bulldogs down and take them out of their comfort zone offensively. Now I'm not suggesting you take the underdog in this game, after all, I don't know if the Cowboys have the horses - no pun intended there - to stay within double digits of the Bulldogs.

But I do think they can be physical enough to slow the pace, control the clock when they have the ball and take advantage of the high altitude that would affect a fast-paced team like Fresno State.

The oddsmakers haven't been able to get a line right with this team the past three weeks, setting the bar too high, as Fresno has stayed under in three straight games now. Meanwhile, the Cowboys might be 4-1 over in their last five games, but they're also 3-1 under at home this season.

I know both team possess an explosive offense, but again, Wyoming doesn't want to get into a shootout tonight, that's what Fresno thrives on. The Cowboys want to slow the tempo and control the pace while draining the clock. I'll play this one low, as the total is a tad bit high at nearly 80 points.

4♦ Fresno State/Wyoming Under

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

Joe Gavazzi

LSU +12

I give you another strong play with this matchup free in tonight's action! In the marquee matchup last week, double digit favorite Florida State, pulled away in the 2nd half for what appeared to be an easy cover. Such will not be the case in tonight's primetime matchup. After 6 weeks of statistical dominance, No. 1 Alabama now qualifies as both a member of the 200 Club and Defensive Dandy. That 6-0 SU, 4-2 ATS run in which the Tide has allowed 26 total points, has come against Colorado St., Ole Miss, GA St., Kentucky, Arkansas, and Tennessee. None of those teams has the offense comparable to that of LSU. For that opponent on the Alabama schedule, we must go to game 2, a 49-42 Alabama escape, when Johnny Football lit them up in consecutive seasons. LSU QB Mettenberger does not have the same mobility as Manziel, but he is every bit as accurate, the quality that makes Manziel such a dual threat. What LSU does have is two of the best WRs in the country in Beckham and Landry to give the Crimson Tide secondary (now playing without Sunseri) total fits. The point is, we don't' really know if this is an Alabama defense that is as good as the last two National championship editions. But, we sure will find out tonight. Series history certainly points to the LSU side. Saban is only 4-3 SU vs. Miles, while LSU is 5-1-2 ATS in this series at this site. With a pair of losses of 3 points each at GA and Ole Miss, the Tigers have removed themselves from National Championship contention. It means, they play this one fast and loose and in the role of spoiler that HC Miles must relish. This impost way too much in this fierce SEC-West rivalry. LSU the percentage side.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

River City Sharps

North Texas -25

We have been on North Texas this year and for good reason, they are 7-2 ATS on the year. North Texas had some extra prep time as they played last Thursday and head into a bye week. This week they host UTEP, who, on the other hand, is 1-7 ATS. They are reeling having lost their last 6 in a row and are winless in conference. This is also their 3rd away game in a row. No surprise, they are ranked 88thin offense and 120th in defense in the FBS. North Texas on the other hand is decent on offense ranked 53rd in pts for and have the 20thdefense. The other big thing to note is N.Texas is +9 in turnovers and UTEP is -3. We look for the balanced N Texas offense to control the game on the ground as UTEP gives up an avg of 6.2 ypc. and their defense to handle a UTEP offense only scoring 25 ppg., and most of that was against much inferior opponents than N. Texas. Against 2 decent teams, Texas A&M and Rice, they have scored 7 points. This is a road weary team in the midst of a losing streak coming into a team that is playing with great confidence on a 4 game winning streak.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

Jeff Scott Sports

5 UNIT PLAY

Missouri -13.5 over KENTUCKY: The Missouri Tigers got back on track last week with a sound beating of Tennessee and now they get to face the worst team in the SEC, plus have a bye on deck, so no look ahead here. The Tigers still have a ton to play for despite their lone loss to the Gamecocks as they are looking for a date in the SEC title game to most likely face the Tide. The Missouri Tigers may get James Franklin back for this one, but even if they don't they are still in good hands with Maty Mauck running the show. The Tigers may not need Maty to do much as their 16th ranked rush offense will take on the 97 rush defense of the Cats. The Cats are weak on offense as they put up just 24 ppg, while the Tigers have averaged 500 ypg and 40.6 ppg. Kentucky will not be able to keep up with them on either side of the ball here as the Tigers win by 21+.

3 UNIT PLAYS

Texas -6 over WEST VIRGINIA: The longhorns are starting to play the kind of ball that we thought they would at the beginning of the year. The Longhorns come in having won 5 games in a row and have been very good on both sides of the ball during that stretch as they have scored 30+ points in each game and have allowed just 18.2 ppg over that stretch. During the 5 games they beat TCU by 23, Oklahoma by 16 and Kansas State by 10 and vs those three teams this year the Mountaineers have been outscored by 29 combined points in the three games. The West Virginia offense has been pretty weak this year, putting up just 23.7 ppg, while their defense has been pretty bad, especially of late as they have allowed 43 ppg in their last 4 games. Texas clearly has edges on both sides of the ball and they have the momentum as well. I look for them to go to 6-0 in the big 12 with a 2 TD win here.

UCF/ Houston Under 64: This is huge game for both teams and that should lead to tightness and nerves and neither team looking to make a big mistake. Yes the Houston offense is very, very good, but this will also be the best defense they have faced this year so far. The UCF defense is a top 20 unit, while at home they have allowed just 324 ypg and 17.3 ppg on the year. Houston hasn't played bad defense this year, and they have been very good on the road, where they have allowed just 20.3 ppg. Houston has allowed 23 or less in 3 of their last 4 games and they have allowed more than 28 points just once all year. I do look for both teams to play this one a bit more conservative than they would normally and with both teams playing very good defense this year that should all add up to a game in the low 50s or even in the 40s.

2 UNIT PLAYS

Tulane +9 over UTSA: First off I can't ignore the System listed above that pertains to this play. Now let's look at the teams. Tulane has a 6-3 SU mark on the year and 3 of their wins have come as dogs of 7 or more. On the other side we have a UTSA team that is 4-5 on the year with their 4 wins coming vs teams with a combined 7-25 mark. UTSA has a slime edge on offense as they average 1.1 ppg more than Tulane, but the Green Wave get the defensive edge as they have allowed 5.9 ppg less than the Roadrunners have. I do not see where UTSA should be favorites of this much here, so I look for this game to be decided by under 6 points. 

Kansas State +2.5 over TEXAS TECH: Texas tech has been showing some chinks in their armor of late. This is not a very good team, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Kansas State is starting to play well and I feel that will continue with a solid win today. 

1 UNIT PLAY

Iowa/ Purdue Under 45: Purdue hasn't scored a point in 2 games and have scored just 7 points in their last 3 games. This is a pathetic offense that just won put up much vs a tough Iowa defense. Iowa does not score a ton and should they get up big you can bet they will take it easy the rest of the way. I look for this game in the 30's.

SYSTEM OF THE WEEK (3-3)

In Games 2-10, play AGAINST a favorite of less than 28 points/pick ‘em with less than 10 days rest off a conference road SU win as an underdog of more than 4 points and before 7+ days rest. Teams In this spot are 2-25-1 ATS Since 1997. Play On Tulane +9 over UTSA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

Nelly

Duke -10 over NC State

Most expected a fall back season for Duke after last year's breakthrough bowl campaign but the Blue Devils are bowl eligible already this season. This is the first time in a while Duke actually could make a case of being the best team in North Carolina, though this will be the first of three upcoming in-state meetings. NC State had its chances last week in a home loss to North Carolina, a fourth straight defeat after a 3-1 start for the team. NC State has scored less than 15 points per game on the losing streak and Duke has had two weeks to prepare for this game, the first meeting since 2009 between the nearby schools. While Duke is seen as a pass-first team the Blue Devils have rushed more effectively than NC State this season and the defense has been opportunistic. Duke has scored 37 points per game at home this season and that will be tough to keep up with for NC State offense struggling with shaky quarterback play and a limited running game with neither team featuring great defense the more efficient Duke offense should be able to pull away. NC State is just 2-10-1 ATS the last 13 road games and Duke is 11-4 ATS the last 15 home games.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

River City Sharps

FGCU at Nebraska
Play: Nebraska

The Sharps expect Nebraska to be much improved in the Big 10 and they open up their new arena tonight against NCAA-darlings FGCU. The Eagles look different than last year's squad, although they do return Thompson and Fieler. FGCU won't spoil the ribbon cutting in Lincoln tonight.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

OC Dooley

Maryland -5

Maryland is coming off a much needed bye-week as the team collectively has recovered from a myriad of injuries.  Quarterback C. J. Brown has had to exit every conference game played so far due to injury but is ready to go this afternoon.  Other starters RETURNING for the Terrapins including running back Brandon Ross (shoulder), tight end David Stinebaugh (knee), safety Anthony Nixon (toe) and linebacker L.A. Goree (back).  Speaking of linebackers Maryland’s Marcus Whitfield (7’ sacks) is tied for third place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.  One can argue that visiting Syracuse is in a emotional “letdown” position on the heels of last week’s 13-0 shutout performance which just happened to be their only “home” game in a current five-game span where the schedule has turned difficult.  Not only was Syracuse finally inside the friendly Carrierdome last Saturday, the school also honored former star quarterback Donovan McNabb in a halftime ceremony.  Turning to the database here is a whopping “22-4” SYSTEM (85% the past twenty years with a line between 3’ and 10 points) which actually plays AGAINST road underdogs like Syracuse off a home win versus a conference rival, against an opponent shaking off consecutive “double digit” conference losses.  That system favors Maryland late this afternoon

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

SPORTS WAGERS

Toronto +210 over BOSTON

Regualtion only. OT and shootouts are supposed to be a 50/50 proposition but for some unexplained reason, we keep losing them and will therefore stick to regulation bets only. The hockey gods are shining brightly on the Toronto Maple Leafs these days, as this team continues to win while getting outplayed. Chalk it up to outstanding goaltending and timely goals, which can carry a team for a long stretch. There will be some great opportunities to fade the Maple Leafs later on but as a 2-1 pooch against a Bruins team that is not in the best of form, Toronto offers up all the value in this one. Off a 6-day layoff and a sluggish start to last night’s game, the Maple Leafs found a way to win and they figure to be much sharper tonight. David Clarkson in the line-up gives the Maple Leafs another scoring threat and we also like the look of young Morgan Rielly on defense.

The Bruins have just two wins over their last six games. One of those occurred against the Panthers with Scott Clemmenson in net. We’ve suggested before that the Bruins may be experiencing some burnout after a grueling season a year ago that took them to the Stanley Cup Finals and a Cup win in 2010. And who can ever forget last year’s miracle win over these Maple Leafs in Round 1? Think about the key roles played by Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton, Rich Peverly, Jaromir Jagr and Andrew Ference. You can’t take a team that failed to win the Cup, remove five important Jenga blocks and expect the tower to stay standing by replacing one key guy and adding an aging Jarome Iginla. The Bruins still have too much talent to be bad but they are not as good as last year and in no way deserve this billing over an improved team that should have knocked them out in the first round last April.


Tampa Bay +125 over DETROIT

Regulation only. The Red Wings have been about as unpredictable as any team in the league. They have defeated some top teams when least expected and have lost by some crooked scores too, like recent 6-1 and 5-2 setbacks against Ottawa and Phoenix respectively. The Red Wings are just 9-8 on the year and have great appeal as a dog but they have also proven that they can’t be trusted as the chalk with a defense that routinely gives up far too many scoring chances.

The time has come to take this Lightning team very serious. Tampa made perhaps the most important acquisition over the last calendar year when they picked up Ben Bishop from Ottawa. Bishop has been a game changer and he gives the Bolts a chance to win every game. This is home to last year’s Art Ross winner (his second title) in Martin St. Louis, and the man doesn’t age. This is home to the NHL’s undisputed best goal scorer in Steven Stamkos. Ryan Malone is a 20-goal scoring power forward who’s healthy again, new addition and ex-Red Wing Valtteri Filppula had 66 points in his last full season and Teddy Purcell is probably the most underrated offensive player in the NHL. In the past three seasons (one shortened), he’s racked up 152 points. The points is, this team has the horses on offense. Their D-corps is stacked – Victor Hedman is a stud, Matt Carle is too and guys like Salo and Brewer aren’t exactly duds. The Bolts have won three in a row and six of seven. They have two victories over the Blackhawks and they defeated the Blues last Saturday 4-2. They have all the pieces, they just keep winning and as a dog, they are most certainly worthy of a play here. 


ST. LOUIS -½ +134 over Pittsburgh

Regulation only. The Penguins had won four in a row before losing to the Rangers (5-1) on Tuesday. We noted in that game that the Penguins had played the NHL’s easiest schedule to date and that their weak defense was on the verge of getting exposed. That came to fruition on Tuesday and there is more of that to come. The Penguins have one line that is producing. Evgeni Malkin hasn’t scored in nine games although he has six assists over that span. Marc Andre Fleury allowed five goals on 25 shots against the Rangers and is a guy you don’t want to trust after a bad game. He’s a fragile goaltender that could lose it at any time.

How tough is the West? Well, the Blue Notes have lost two games this season in regulation and they’re in seventh place. In the East, the Blue Notes’ 22 points would have them tied for first. Furthermore, St. Louis has played the least amount of games in the NHL with just 14. When energized and focused, the Blues are as tough as any team in the NHL to play against with a stingy defense and a group of relentless forwards that never stop skating. The Blues have nothing but tons of fuel in the tank and on a Saturday night in St. Louis and playing to a packed house against the most beatable Pittsburgh team in years, we’ll gladly lay the half puck and take back 34 cents.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

Dr Bob

Florida State (-34½) 42 WAKE FOREST 7

This game depends on how long Florida State keeps their starters in. My math model takes garbage time into account with big favorites and the math favors Florida State by 35 points after accounting for Wake Forest being without wide receiver Michael Campanaro, who has the biggest percentage of targets of any player in the nation. Campanaro has 67 receptions on 102 passes thrown to him and no other receiver on the team has been thrown to more than 27 times. Good luck Wake Forest.

TEXAS TECH (-2 ½ 33 Kansas State 32

Texas Tech may be ranked but Kansas State is the better team. The Wildcats are 0.7 yards per play better than average offensively, averaging 6.4 yppl against teams that would combine to allow 5.7 yppl to an average team and they have a defense that's 0.6 yppl better than average (5.2 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.8 yppl). Texas Tech is a bit better offensively now that Davis Webb has taken over at quarterback, as they rate at 1.0 yppl better than average with Webb under center. However, the Red Raiders' defense isn't quite as good, rating at 0.4 yppl better than average (5.1 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.5 yppl). The overall rating from the line of scrimmage does favor Texas Tech a bit but Kansas State is a few points better in special teams and my math only favors Texas Tech by 1 point at home.

OVER (55) - Auburn (-7½) 33 TENNESSEE 30

I don't look at how teams are rated in the polls but I noticed that Auburn was ranked #7, which was surprising to me. Auburn is a good team but I have the Tigers ranked 21st in my ratings and they appear to be a bit overrated now after being underrated at the beginning of the season. Perhaps the line is a bit higher than it should be because Tennessee's starting quarterback Justin Worley is out, but freshman Joshua Dobbs did a good job last week in his first start, completing 26 of 42 passes for 5.1 yards per pass play against a good Tigers' pass defense that would allow just 5.0 yppp at home to an average quarterback. That's the same level as Worley was playing at and Tennessee's offense rates at 0.2 yards per play better than average overall while Auburn's defense is also 0.2 yppl better than average. The Vols should be able to move the ball at a decent rate in this game and my math model favors Auburn by just 6 points. Auburn also applies to a negative 35-102-3 ATS road favorite letdown situation and Tennessee has been tough to beat at home. The Vols' only home loss was in overtime to Georgia and they beat South Carolina 23-21 in their most recent home game. Tennessee looks like a solid play here.

The over also looks interesting, Auburn's 22.3 points per game allowed is misleading given that the Tigers have allowed 427 yards per game, which is 26 more yards than the national average yet they are allowed 5.6 points less than average. I don't think Auburn will be as good in the points allowed category going forward as they've been so far this season and that should lead to a higher scoring game than expected. My math model projects 907 combined yards in this game, which is more than 100 yards over the national average. Thus, the total points scored in this game should be over the national average of 55.8 total points yet the total is just 55 points. I'll consider the Over (55) a Strong Opinion at 56 points or less.

Missouri (-13½) 36 KENTUCKY 22

Missouri quarterback James Franklin is ready to return to the field after sitting out 3 weeks with a separated shoulder. Maty Mauk has done a good job in his place and I suspect both quarterbacks will play in this game. Kentucky is not as bad as the public thinks they are but the Wildcats aren't as good offensively with Jalen Whitlow at quarterback. My math model favors Missouri by 14 1/2 points.

WISCONSIN (-8) 35 Byu 22

BYU is a very good team, as the Cougars play outstanding defense (4.9 yards per play allowed to teams that would average 5.8 yppl against an average team) and have a better than average offense (5.9 yppl against teams that would allow 5.5 yppl to an average team). Wisconsin, however, is better on both sides of the ball. The Badgers have allowed just 4.7 yppl on defense (to teams that would average 5.9 yppl) and their offense has been 1.6 yppl better than average so far this season, averaging 7.3 yppl against FBS teams that would combine to allow 5.7 yppl to an average team. The Badgers outplayed both Arizona State and Ohio State from the line of scrimmage and they should do the same in this game.

The key for BYU will be how well their stout run defense (4.2 yards per rushing play allowed to teams that would average 5.3 yprp) holds up against Wisconsin's incredible rushing attack that has averaged 7.0 yprp this season (against FBS teams that would allow 4.9 yprp). The Badgers have been slowed by the two elite run defenses that they've faced, as Ohio State and Iowa held Wisky to 5.0 yprp. BYU's run defense isn't quite as good as the Buckeyes or Hawkeyes and my math model projects 5.9 yprp for the Badgers in this game (although it would be 5.4 yprp if they run at the same level as they ran against the two other really good run defenses). My math model really likes Wisconsin in this game and gives the Badgers a 55.2% chance of covering at -8 points based solely on the math. My only issue is that BYU is 12-0 ATS in their last 12 games as an underdog. I do have a 96-37-2 ATS situation favoring Wisconsin that balances that out but I've decided to pass on this one. But, Wisconsin was very close to being a Strong Opinion.

TEXAS A&M (-19) 44 Mississippi State 27

There is no denying the greatness of Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M offense, which has averaged 49 points per game and rates at 2.3 yards per play better than average when Manziel is in the game. However, the Aggies have a bad defense that's allowed 6.1 yppl this season to teams that would combine to average only 5.6 yppl against an average team. Miss State is 0.5 yppl better than average offensively and should top their 25 points average (Texas A&M allows 29 points per game). The Bulldogs are only 0.4 yppl better than average defensively so A&M should get their usual 40-plus points. However, the Aggies' defense makes them a bad bet as a big favorite against a capable offense and my math model gives Miss State a 55.3% chance of covering based solely on the math. Unfortunately, Texas A&M applies to a very good 161-67-2 ATS home momentum situation that lowers the percentage of the Bulldogs covering. That angle is tough to go against but my math model plays have performed better than the situational plays over the years so I'll lean with Mississippi State.

OKLAHOMA STATE (-30½) 40 Kansas 10

My math model gives Kansas a 55.4% chance of covering as a huge underdog but Oklahoma State applies to a 107-41-3 ATS big home favorite situation and a 159-72-1 ATS statistical match up indicator. I'll pass.

Arizona State (-7) 35 UTAH 27

Utah beat Stanford on this field and nearly beat Oregon State (lost by 3) and UCLA, who they had a chance to tie in the final minute despite 6 interceptions thrown by quarterback Travis Wilson. Wilson has played horribly the last two games and has been replaced by Adam Schulz, who also struggled against Arizona and USC. Utah should be able to move the ball at a decent rate if the Utes play up to their season level on offense but Arizona State has an elite offense that has averaged 47 points per game on 522 yards at 6.5 yards per play (against teams that would allow 5.2 yppl to an average team) and Utah's defense has the same rating as the average stop units that the Sun Devils have faced this season. My math model favors ASU by 8 1/2 points and I'm not eager to buck the Sun Devils, who have won their last 3 games by 29 points or more.

MIAMI FLORIDA (-6½) 24 Virginia Tech 20

This game will probably come down to which quarterback throws the most interceptions, as both Logan Thomas (12 interceptions) and Stephen Morris (10 interceptions) are both turnover prone. Miami won last year's meeting but Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer is 41-21-2 ATS in revenge games, including 35-13-2 ATS against .500 or better teams (13-1 ATS after a loss). My math model favors Miami by only 5 1/2 points and Miami might still be reeling from their disappointing loss to Florida State that knocked them out of the national championship picture.

OVER (63) – CENTRAL FLORIDA (-11½) 42 Houston 31

I don’t have any interest in the side in this game, as my math model favors UCF by 11 ½ points and I have angles favoring both sides. However, the Over looks like a good play since neither defense is equipped to defend the opposing quarterback. Houston has averaged 466 yards at 6.5 yards per play in 7 games against FBS opponents that would combine to allow 5.6 yppl to an average team. The Cougars have averaged 41 points per game in 6 games since freshman John O’Korn took over at quarterback in week 4 and they’ve done that against a pretty solid schedule of opposing defenses that would combine to allow just 26.9 points per game and 5.5 yppl to an average attack, which is less than the 27.9 points and 5.7 yppl national averages. Central Florida’s defense is only allowed 19.3 points per game and 5.5 yppl but the Black Knights have faced a weaker than average schedule of opposing offenses that would average only 23.5 points and 5.2 yppl against an average defensive team. UCF has only faced 3 average or better offensive teams (Penn State, South Carolina, and Louisville) and they allowed an average of 31.3 points in those games. Those 3 teams collectively are not as good offensively as Houston’s offense. UCF’s defense actually is a bit worse than the average of the defenses that Houston is scoring 41 points per game against with O’Korn as the starter. UCF does tend to slow down the pace but the fact that they’ve allowed 31.3 points to the 3 average or better offenses that they’ve faced, which Houston’s offense is better than, should result is a prediction of at least 31 points for Houston in this game.

UCF’s offense is led by the underrated Blake Bortles, who averages 8.8 yards per pass play despite facing defenses that would allow just 6.0 yppp to an average quarterback. Houston is 0.8 yppp worse than average defensively, allowing 6.2 yppp against quarterbacks that would average just 5.4 yppp against an average defense. Houston does have a good run defense that rates at 0.7 yards per rushing play better than average but overall the Cougars are 0.1 yards per play worse than average defensively and the 23.7 points per game that they’re allowing is not all that impressive since their opponents would combine to average just 23.8 points against an average team. Central Florida’s offense has averaged 37.0 points per game against a schedule of teams that collectively are 0.5 yppl and 2 points per game better than Houston’s defense. That should mean at least 37 points for UCF in this game and my math model projects 42 points for the Golden Knights in this game since they’re projected to run considerably more offensive plays than normal facing an up tempo Houston team.

Overall my math model predicts 73 ½ total points based on the projected statistics and a look at the compensated scoring confirms that the total is too low. Houston’s games against FBS teams have averaged a total of 61.8 total points while their opponents combine to average 51.9 total points, so Houston is +9.9 in compensated total points. UCF’s games have averaged 56.3 total points against a schedule that combines to average just 50.8 total points, so the Knights are +5.5 in compensated total points. To get a projected total based on compensated points we simply add the two compensated ratings to the national average of 55.8 total points and that gives us 71.2 total points based on compensated scoring. I can understand the 63 point total, which appears to be based on Houston games scoring 6.0 more than the national average of 55.8 and UCF games scoring 0.5 points more than average (which would equate to 62.3 points if you add those numbers to the national average). However, each team has faced a schedule of low scoring teams, which apparently hasn’t been taken into account. I don’t use compensated scoring models to predict totals in general because scoring can be variable while totals based on yardage stats are less subject to variance, but I do run the compensated scoring to confirm what my math model comes up with and in this case the total is too low regardless of how I look at it.

Houston has gone over in 3 straight games and UCF has gone over in their last two games so it appears as if the line makers don’t have these teams figured out as far as total scoring goes. I’ll consider the OVER (63) a Strong Opinion at 65 points or less.

Notre Dame (-4) 27 PITTSBURGH 26

Pitt lost to a couple of option teams that last two weeks and it was their inconsistent offense that was the problem, as their defense did a pretty good job against Navy (24 points) and Georgia Tech (21 points). Pitt's offense has better than average season numbers (5.7 yppl against teams that would allow 5.5 yppl to an average team) but the Panthers averaged 9.0 yppl in weeks 3 and 4 against New Mexico and Duke and have averaged less than 4 yppl in 3 of their last 4 games against FBS teams (and struggled a bit against Old Dominion too). My math model adjusts for outliers and favors Notre Dame by 4 1/2 points. However, the Irish apply to a negative 83-151-9 ATS road favorite letdown situation so I'll lean with Pitt.

ALABAMA (-12½) 35 Lsu 21

This game will come down to whether Alabama's young defense is really as good as they've been the last 6 weeks or was teh 628 yards and 42 points that they gave up to Texas A&M in week 3 an indication that the Crimson Tide defense can only dominate mediocre offensive teams, which is all they've faced this season aside from Johnny Manziel and company. LSU's offense ranks 5th in my compensated yards per play ratings, right behind Texas A&M, so we're going to find out tonight just how much the Alabama defense has improved - or, if they still can't stop an elite attack.

My math model projects a very healthy 6.5 yards per play for the Tigers in this game but Alabama's offense is #6 in my ratings right behind LSU and that unit has been even better since opening the season with a horrible games against Virginia Tech (3.3 yppl). LSU's defense is good but nothing special this year, as the Tigers have allowed 5.4 yppl to teams that would combine to average 5.9 yppl against an average defensive team. My model projects 6.9 yppl for the Tide attack and for Bama to run 9 more offensive plays that LSU is expected to run. In addition to a total yards edge of 89 yards the Crimson Tide also have a 1.5 points edge in projected turnovers and a very significant advantage in special teams, which should help with field position. Add it all up and I have Alabama by 13 1/2 points mathematically. Bama also applies to a 110-46-2 ATS angle while LSU applies to a 36-12-1 ATS situation that isn't as significant. I'll lean slightly with Alabama but there is a chance that their defense will be exposed again by an elite offense.

Fresno State (-9) 46 WYOMING 34

Fresno State is not really that good, rating at 0.3 yards per play better than average on offense and 0.2 yppl worse than average on defense, but the Bulldogs run 10 plays per game more than their opponents and they're good enough to beat Wyoming by double-digits. Wyoming is a good, but inconsistent offensive team that is also 0.3 yppl better than average (6.7 yppl against teams that would allow 6.4 yppl to an average team) but the Cowboys are 0.8 yppl worse than average defensively and have horrible special teams. My math model gives Fresno a 53.7% chance of covering and I have situations favoring both sides.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, November 9

NHL Predictions

Phoenix Coyotes -140

The Capitals are 9-7 on the year, but just 3-4 on the road. Phoenix has surprised a lot of people with a great 11-4-2 start, including going 7-0-1 at home. While Washington is hot entering tonight's game winning 4 straight, their wins came against Philadelphia, Florida, Islanders and Minnesota when they were outplayed. Tonight will be their toughest test in a while. The Coyotes are off a 5-2 road loss in Anaheim, but had won 5 straight games before that and against some good teams (Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles). Note that dating back to last season the Caps are just 3-7 in their last 10 road games, 2-6 in their last 8 vs a team with a winning record, and 0-4 in their last 4 road games vs a team with a winning % greater than .600. The Coyotes are 6-0 in their last 6 home games, 5-2 in their last 7 vs a team with a winning record, and 4-1 in their last 5 vs Eastern Conference teams. I'll take this Coyotes team that hasn't lost in regulation at home this year on two days rest here vs the Caps.

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