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Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 28

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Jeff Scott SportsFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Louisville -4 over Miami: Yes this is in Miami's home state, but I still feel the Cardinals are the better team. About halfway through the season the Canes had what looked like a solid pass defense, but they were exposed by North Carolina and have been getting exposed ever since. Overall the Canes have the 80th ranked defense, while they are 73rd vs the pass, giving up 233.8 ypg, but in their last 7 games of the year they allowed 299 ypg through the air. Miami has played 6 bowl teams his year and they have allowed 36 ppg and 502 ypg in those games. This is not a good defense and now they will face Teddy Bridgewater and the high scoring Cardinals offense. Ok while it may seem like Teddy has had a quiet year, he has still thrown for 3523 yards with 28 TDs and just 4 INTs in leading the 18th ranked passing offense in the nation.  The Cards have also thrown for 305 ypg and put up 32 ppg in their 5 games vs bowl teams this year. I know that Miami has a strong offense and they did score 31 ppg vs bowl teams this year, But really they have faced just 2 good defenses all year (Florida and Florida State) and were held to a combined 35 points in those 2 games. Now they take on a Louisville defense that Comes in 2nd overall, 8th vs the pass, 2nd vs the run and 3rd in  points allowed at 12.4 ppg. Also the Cardinals have allowed just 18 ppg and 316 ypg in their 5 games vs bowl teams. Louisville has been the more consistent team this year, on both sides of the ball and even though they fell short of a BCS Bowl they would like to send off Teddy Bridgewater on a winning note. The porous Miami pass defense will be key here as Louisville wins by 10. 
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Notre Dame/ Rutgers Under 53.5: The Rutgers offense comes in struggling mightily, having scored just 19.1 ppg in their last 7 games and the only times they put up more than 17 points in that stretch was vs lowly Temple and South Florida. Rutgers did put up 51 points on Fresno State in their opener, but in their last 4 games vs bowl teams they were able to muster just 14.5 ppg. The Irish defense was not as good as last year, but still respectable, allowing just 23 ppg. They did give up 26 ppg vs bowl teams, but this Rutgers just doesn't have type of offensive punch to put up anywhere near that. On defense Rutgers has struggled big time, especially vs bowl teams, allowing 44 ppg, but still they are taking on a conservative Irish offense that loves to play ball control and work on the clock. The Irish will use that game plan on offense, while their defense gives up no more than 17 here. I see this as a 31-17 type game. 
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North Carolina -2.5 over Cincinnati: Cincinnati has a very nice record, but who have they really faced. Their opponents have a .394 win pct and they have faced 3 bowl teams all year. They are 2-1 in those games, but still the two wins were vs Houston and Rutgers. Not powerhouses by any means. The Heels had a mediocre year, going 6-6 overall, but they did finish with a 5-1 mark in their last 6 games and for the year they played a much tougher schedule as their opponents had a .600 win pct on the year. Carolina gets this one in their home state and that will help them take this one by at least a TD.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 28

DAVE COKINFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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BELMONT AT INDIANA STATEFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
PLAY: INDIANA STATE -6FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Lots of college basketball bettors love to fire on revenge games. So do I, but I’ve got parameters that need to be met before I’ll generally get involved. There’s a game on today’s board that fits two of my preferred situations.
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Indiana State will be trying to even the score for a loss at Belmont very early this season. The Sycamores won’t have any trouble remembering that game. They were up by 16 at the half. But following the break the Sycamores might have started coasting with that huge lead, and in the blink of an eye they’d coughed it up. That’s one type of avenger I like, a team that just flat out blew it the the first time around.
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I also like return match home favorites who lost by one possession in that first rendezvous. Belmont ended up winning the initial hookup by one point, and Indy State had the last shot for the win, but were unable to beat the horn with that attempt.
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There’s a little downside here, as there is in almost any game. Belmont is finally healthy and now that all the key components are back on the floor, they’re a dangerous basketball team. But that’s offset some by looking at the Indiana State schedule. The Sycamores have played only three home games in going 8-3, and I’m thinking they might be a tad underrated right now. It’s also worth noting that Indiana State has a ridiculous success rate on threes when they’re at home, and I’m sure hoping that’s the case again today.
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I don’t see this being lopsided as the teams are very evenly matched. But the number is also not prohibitive by any means, and under these circumstances I’m willing to take my chances with Indiana State minus the points.

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Villanova (+) over SyracuseFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Cats are (slightly) higher ranked in my Power Ratings and have played the tougher foes so far. Nova also better free throw shooting team&better rebounding team. Only concern is if Cuse can completely control pace, but still like the points; A take!

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Bob BalfeFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Notre Dame -14FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Notre Dame is better in every area on the football field today. I am not a fan of the American Athletic Conference this year and this Rutgers Defense can’t stop anybody. Notre Dame has had an up and down season and to any other team I would say they would find a way to keep the team hanging around. Rutgers is just not a good football team. Look for Notre Dame to put it all together today and beat this team by 20 plus points. Take the Irish.

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Akron vs. South CarolinaFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: AkronFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Keith Dambrot has led the Zips to EIGHT consecutive 20-win seasons (an average of 23.9 wins per season), including three NCAA appearances, but will have his work cut out getting the Zips back to the "Big Dance" this year (although Akron could possibly win 20-plus games again). Gone from LY's 26-win team are the 7-0 Marshall (13.0-7.0-3.7 BPG) and PG Abreu (10.3-6.0 APG).
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The Zips have a very solid (and deep frontcourt) but the team's backcourt play is VERY suspect. The 6-7 Treadwell (14.8-8.5) is the team's best player and starts along with the 6-7 McAdams (6.7) and the 6-11 Forsythe (5.0-3.7). Coming off the bench are two valuable contributors, the 6-6 Diggs (12.1-4.3-3.2) and the 6-8 Harney (8.4-3.8). The problem is, the guards don't score much. Evans (7.7) starts regularly, joined sometimes by Ibitayo (4.5) with little depth in the backcourt.
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Frank Martin brought his "intense style" to Columbia last season but the Gamecocks finished 14-18, going 4-14 in the SEC. South Carolina traveled to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu and opened with a shocking 78-71 win over previously unbeaten St Mary's (note: the Gaels would lose all THREE games in the tourney)
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The Gamecocks' three-guard lineup of Thornwell (12.1), Williams (8.4) and freshman Notice (5.8) is joined by the 6-9 Henry (6.2-4.8) and the 6-7 Kacinas (6.0-6.0). Guard Johnson (11.5-3.9 APG) and 6-5 small forward Carrera (6.2-4.8) contribute off the bench.
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These teams met Christmas Day in Hawaii, a contest in which neither team shot well, although Akron shot worse (37.9%, including 5 of 19 on threes), falling 69-59. My bet is that turnaround is fair play and expect the Zips to get some "instant revenge!"

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Aaron's Analysis

Notre Dame -14

The #25 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-4) take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-6) on Saturday in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York City. The Fighting Irish are coming off of a 27-20 loss at #5 Stanford to end the season. The Scarlet Knights back into this one losers of five of their last seven. They only became bowl eligible following a 31-6 victory over South Florida in their final game. The Irish, on the other hand, were winners of five of their last seven. Other than losing to the Cardinal, their only other loss during that span was a 28-21 loss at Pittsburgh, a game in which they outgained the Panthers 456-355, but three turnovers proved costly. Between these two teams the Irish by far had a tougher schedule, as they took on nine bowl teams, five of which are currently ranked. Their record over those nine games was a modest 5-4. Rutgers, in comparison, only took on five bowl teams, two ranked. They were winless in those five games. Looking more closely at their final seven games, the Scarlet Knights were only victorious over Temple and South Florida, two teams capping off the season with 2-10 records. Even 3-9 Connecticut was too much for them, as they fell to the Huskies 28-17. In those five defeats in the latter half of the season, the Scarlet Knights didn’t just lose, they were blown out by the average score of 39-15. Matching up the offenses and defenses in this one, what appears to be a mismatch is the Notre Dame passing game versus the Rutgers secondary. The Scarlet Knights allowed an abysmal 311.4 yards per game versus the pass, and an even more horrid 323.3 yards per game in their final four. Notre Dame ranks a respectable #47 in the nation passing, averaging 249.5 yards per game. Over their last five, that average escalates to 265. Irish QB Tommy Rees has been superb, passing for 2,938 yards, 53.7% completions, 27 TDs versus 13 INTs and a 138.1 passer rating. His #1 target is receiver T.J. Jones, who caught 65 passes for 1,042 yards and 9 TDs to go along with 51 yards and 1 TD rushing. DaVaris Daniels gives defenses another receiver to worry about, as he has added 46 catches for 720 yards and 7 TDs. Rounding out the top targets is tight end Troy Niklas, as he has caught 28 passes for 422 yards and 5 TDs. Although the Scarlet Knights have a rather tough rush defense, allowing an average of 94.6 yards per game, they showed vulnerability versus Louisville and Houston, two other bowl opponents, as those two were able to put up a combined 362 yards on the ground. Notre Dame counters with a solid ground game, averaging 149 yards per game, 166.3 over their last eight. They should be able to put up a decent effort here, with the likes of backs Cam McDaniel (625 yards rushing and 3 TDs), George Atkinson III (555 yards rushing and 3 TDs, 51 receiving), and Tarean Folston (397 yards rushing and 2 TDs). Rutgers is ranked just #98 in the nation rushing the ball, sporting an average of 133.7 yards per game and just 98 over their last five, led by back Paul James. Starting at quarterback for the third straight game for the Scarlet Knights is Chas Dodd, recently taking over duties for Gary Nova. Over the final two games Dodd was 35 for 59 for 465 yards and 2 TDs to go along with 2 INTs. He should run into some problems passing the ball versus an Irish defense allowing a solid 201.7 yards per game. Rees, Jones and Daniels should be able to put up big numbers in the passing game versus a terrible Rutgers secondary. The Scarlet Knights more than struggled against some soft opposition in the second half of the season, while the Irish more than held their own versus one of the nation’s toughest schedules. For the Irish going up against the Scarlet Knights is actually quite a big drop off from teams like Stanford, Michigan State, Oklahoma, USC and Arizona State. Although an 8-4 record does not exactly size up to a BCS Championship Game appearance as they were able to achieve last year, the Irish should be able to come away with a dominating bowl victory in this one.

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Doug UpstoneFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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George Washington vs. HofstraFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: George Washington -9½FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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On Saturday, Play On teams as a road favorite or pick like George Washington playing with five or six days rest, with a win percentage of 80 percent or higher, against mediocre team with a 20% to 40% win percentage. The thinking here with this free pick is the rested squad can extend its superior skill and will be focused after such a break. Our choice is 43-17 ATS the past 16 years, including a 10-2 recent run.

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Matt FargoFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Boston College vs. VCUFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: Boston CollegeFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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This is the third game of a tripleheader coming from the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival. Virginia Commonwealth is coming off an absolute shellacking of Virginia Tech as it defeated the Hokies by 30 points in a game that was never close. The Rams had an unfathomable 22 steals which created a total of 70 shot attempts for them compared top just 48 for Virginia Tech. An effort like that will line the public up behind them and that is the case here and because of it, we are catching a solid line. Some of the Rams best games this season have been followed up by mediocre ones and a mediocre one here could cause a path for a possible upset. Boston College is off to a very disappointing start as it is 4-8 and expectations were high after a great ending to last season. The Eagles are coming off a loss at Auburn and the time off could not have come at a better time. The schedule has played a big role for sure as according to ESPN's Daily RPI, Boston College currently has the 16th toughest schedule in the nation. The Eagles will have to take care of the ball and not fall victim to the Rams pressure and I think they will be fine as they are averaging only 11.5 turnovers per game and have a solid 1.13 assist/turnover ratio. They fall into a great situation where we play on underdogs of 10 or more points that are coming off an upset loss as a favorite, in December games. This situation is 218-134 ATS (61.9 percent) since 1997.

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Dave EsslerFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Long Beach +4FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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This one is based on strength of schedule. LBSU has played one of the toughest in the nation, as usual. This line is based on what Nevada WAS with Malik Story and what they WERE a couple of years ago inside two years ago with Hunt and Ozyz, and perhaps in part because they're in Nevada and people might mistake them for the Runnin' Rebels. They're anything BUT a fast paced team, and even against a marginal schedule they've got one of the worst defenses in the nation. They CAN score (hence if there is a total I like the over) but Long Beach has Missouri next week (LBSU is not good enough to consider that a look-ahead) and pretty much knows they need this one. They took Washington to double overtime on the road, came East and played NC State fairly tough, and beat SoCal at home, so it seems like the schedule is starting to pay dividends. I'll take the points, since Nevada starts conference play Wednesday at San Jose State, so perhaps this game simply means much more to LBSU. Aside from a couple of games against non-division 1 schools, this is the WORST team LBSU will have faced.

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Rutgers +14½ over Notre DameFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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It was not supposed to end this way for the Irish. There was plenty of hype surrounding Notre Dame to begin the year after many prognosticators had them penciled to appear in a BCS Bowl game again. Four months later and the Fighting Irish are playing in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers. One really has to wonder just how unmotivated the Fighting Irish will be and that’s always a factor in these Bowl games. The Fighting Irish will also be minus two coaches, as offensive coordinator Chuck Martin and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco left to become the head coaches at Miami (Ohio) and Connecticut, respectively. Irish QB Tommy Rees threw for over 300 yards just one time in the Irish’s last nine games. On an extremely cold New York afternoon with a lack of motivation, no coordinators directing them, a disappointing season and an appearance in a minor Bowl game, the Fighting Irish have every intangible working against them.
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Rutgers finished just 6-6 and they are obviously not in the same class as the Irish. However, unlike Notre Dame, Rutgers is thrilled to be here and they’ll have the backing of a partisan crowd. We could go into all the stats and schedule differences between the two teams but it’s not relevant here because this wager is based solely on the motivation levels of these two combatants. The Scarlet Knights will come in focused, jacked up and very motivated while the opposite applies to the Irish. After playing in the BCS title game last year, Notre Dame and its horrible history in Bowl games (the Irish have lost 11 of their past 13 Bowl games straight up), is far too risky spotting these significant points in this early start on a cold, cold day.
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NORTH CAROLINA -3 over CincinnatiSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The first thing to note here is that this is like a home game for the Tar Heels because the game is being played in-state. The second thing to note here is that the Bearcats are a 9-win team receiving points against a six–win team and therefore the points may seem enticing. Don’t bite. Cincinnati’s schedule was brutally awful. The Bearcats played cream puff after cream puff and only defeated one team this season with a winning record. These teams that have played poor competition throughout the year are not faring well after a month off against better competition in these Bowl games. Cincinnati put up a lot of crooked offensive stats this season and much of it is a direct result of playing weak defensive teams that could not stop the marching band.
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Meanwhile, the Tar Heels started the season 1-5 but went on to win five of their last six games to qualify for this game. North Carolina’s only loss down the stretch occurred against #24 Duke. In fact, all six of the Tar Heels losses were to teams that qualified for bowl games and all six of those schools averaged nine wins. For the Bearcats, this is a championship-stakes game in a very tough road environment. Cincinnati won't enjoy many of the advantages that have fueled its gaudy record and they need more than the three points being offered to get our endorsement.

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LOUISVILLE (-4.5) over Miami-FloridaSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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In a game between two overrated teams, we'll side with Louisville, which has the better QB and the much better defense. Yes, Louisville played an easy slate of games, but other than a 3-point loss to a very good Central Florida team, the Cardinals took care of business and come into this game with a 11-1 record this year and a 29-9 straight-up record the last three seasons, including last year's impressive upset bowl win over Florida. While QB Teddy Bridgewater gets all of the hype, it's the Louisville defense that has been the key to the team's success, allowing just 12 points and 258 total yards per game, second-best in the nation. Miami was exposed in all of its games against quality competition, losing to Florida State, Virginia Tech and Duke by an average of 21 points per game and we see a similar result here today. Bridgewater boosts his NFL draft stock in his college swan song as the Cardinals rout the Canes.

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Steve Rosen

Chicago Blackhawks vs. St Louis Blues
Play: St Louis Blues-130

The St. Louis Blues are trying to keep pace with the front-running Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division and have a chance to close the gap when they host the reigning Stanley Cup champions on Saturday. St. Louis has won both meetings with the Blackhawks this season - both by 3-2 scores and once in a shootout. Chicago has had its problems against its rivals in the Central, posting a 9-6-1 record, while St. Louis has been nearly perfect with a 10-0-1 mark. Last night Chicago gave a beating to the Avs. They have a ton of confidence going into this one. But sometimes having too much confidence is bad, especially when your next opponent is the Blues. Blues have been crushing this series and are well rested and Chicago will fall very early and throughout the game!

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Dave Price

Detroit Pistons +2.5

Detroit has won seven in a row versus Washington by an average of 10.1 points. Motivated by last night's disappointing performance in Orlando, the Pistons will continue their dominance over the Wizards. Washington went down at Minnesota last night, and that defeat puts it in a bad situation. You want to fade all teams when the line is +3 to -3 that are out for revenge for a loss to an opponent and off a road loss. Doing so has produced a 213-130 (62.1%) ATS mark the last 5 seasons. This system is a perfect 3-0 ATS this season. You also want to fade home teams in the second game of a back-to-back when they are looking for revenge for a loss to an opponent where they gave up 110 points or more. Doing so has produced a 93-46 (66.9%) ATS mark the last 5 seasons. In addition, the Wizards are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games following a loss of more than 10 points, and the Pistons are 4-0-1 ATS in their last 5 road games versus a team with a winning home record. Take Detroit.

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Kevin Thomas

Rutgers vs. Notre Dame    
Play: Notre Dame -14

Notre Dame had high expectations coming into this year. Close loses to some really talented teams. The starting Seniors are up for this horrible Bowl which equals disaster for Rutgers who barely made it into this Bowl. Check out Kevin's packages and records

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Jack Jones

Louisville -4½

The Louisville Cardinals were a blown 28-7 lead against Central Florida away from possible playing in the BCS National Championship Game. They won their other 11 games and would have been the only other undefeated team aside from Florida State. There’s no question that this is one of the best teams in the country off a season in which they made the Sugar Bowl and beat Florida. They returned almost everyone from that squad, and now quarterback Teddy Bridgewater wants one more big game before he heads for the NFL.

Louisville did not pack it in after losing to UCF, going on to win its final five games, including an impressive 31-24 overtime victory at Cincinnati in the regular season finale. Head coach Charlie Strong is one of the best in the business, and he gets his players to fight for him. Miami did appear to pack it in late in the season as it went just 1-6 against the spread in its final seven games overall. That includes blowout losses to Florida State (14-41), Virginia Tech (24-42) and Duke (30-48), as well as an unimpressive home win over Wake Forest (24-21) as a 26-point favorite.

The numbers certainly support my theory that Louisville is one of the best teams in the land. It ranks 35th in the country in total offense at 453.1 yards per game, and 2nd in total defense at 258.2 yards per game. As you can see, it is outgaining opponents by 194.9 yards per game, which is one of the best marks in college football. Teddy Bridgewater is completing 70.2 percent of his passes for 3,523 yards with 28 touchdowns against four interceptions, and he lives for big games like this one. He’ll be up against a Miami defense that ranks 75th at 415.7 yards per game allowed.

Louisville is a perfect 6-0 against the spread in road games when playing against a top-level team with a winning percentage of 75% or greater over the past three seasons. The Cardinals are 14-3 against the number against ACC opponents since 1992. They are winning 27.7 to 18.4 in this spot, or by an average of 9.3 points per game. Plays against any team (MIAMI) – an excellent offensive team (>=34 PPG) against an excellent defensive team (<=16 PPG), in a non-conference game between two teams from major division 1-A conferences are 32-12 (72.7%) ATS over the last five seasons. Bet Louisville Saturday.

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Andrew LangeFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Cal State Fullerton at UNLVFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: UNLV -13FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The schedule has been favorable but I've really been impressed with UNLV's play of late. Defensively, the Rebels are extremely talented with the ability to apply pressure and contest shots from all over the court. Their style essentially limits the opposition to one means of scoring and that's the two-point shot as UNLV defends the three extremely well (25.3%) and doesn't foul (15% of opp. points from FTs). Against lower-tier competition, the Rebels have posted wins of 19, 22, 19, 32, 21, and 16. And tonight's opponent Cal State Fullerton isn't far removed from that group of foes. The Titans don't have much of a resume with losses to Seattle (twice), San Jose State (by 22), and College of Charleston (by 13). When asked to step up in class, CSF was handled by USC (76-62) and Marquette (86-66). Fullerton did fall to Miami by two at home but the Hurricanes are a shell of their former selves. On the court, CSF is going to have a difficult time with UNLV's front court as the Titans don't have much of any size. Defensively, the Rebels have a massive edge and if they can continue to knock down outside shots (18-of-40 3-pts. last two games) they'll continue to overwhelm mediocre opponents.

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New Jersey +109 over N.Y. ISLANDERSSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
INSTEAD OF LEACHING OFF OTHERS WORK GO GET IT YOURSELF VIKESFAG
OT included. The Devils played an OT game against the Blue Jackets last night while the Islanders have been off since the 23rd and these extended layoffs are not beneficial at all. The Islanders had a couple of nice wins in two of their past three games before the break against the Red Wings and Rangers but pretty they were not. In fact, the Islanders managed a measly 19 and 20 shots on net against Detroit and New York respectively and only won because Detroit could not score and because Henrik Lundqvist could not stop a puck. The Islanders have mustered 24 shots on net or fewer in five of their past six games and will now play a Devils team that averages the least amount of shots on net per game in the entire league. It goes even deeper than that though. Remarkably, the Islanders are winless this year in games in which they’ve scored two goals or less. In other words, when the Islanders don’t score at least three times, they have a 0% winning percentage and they don’t figure to score that many against this extremely stingy defense with John Tavaras out and the superior Cory Schneider in goal.
INSTEAD OF LEACHING OFF OTHERS WORK GO GET IT YOURSELF VIKESFAG
The Devils have picked up points in five of their last six games with only loss over that span occurring against the Blackhawks. Over that span, New Jersey defeated Tampa Bay 3-0, Ottawa, 5-2 and Washington 5-4. Throw in two OT losses to Anaheim and Columbus. Prior to that run, the Devils lost back-to-back games against Pittsburgh (3-2) and Columbus (5-4) but outshot that pair 39-23 and 34-23 respectively. In retrospect, the Devils could easily have eight wins in their past nine games and if they used Schneider more often, they would likely have 10 more wins this season. In a good spot with so many things working in their favor, the better team by a wide margin is taking back a tag. That’s true value.
INSTEAD OF LEACHING OFF OTHERS WORK GO GET IT YOURSELF VIKESFAG
EDMONTON +116 over PhiladelphiaFOR SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
INSTEAD OF LEACHING OFF OTHERS WORK GO GET IT YOURSELF VIKESFAG
Philadelphia is scoring goals at a good pace right now but that does not change the fact that its defensemen are too slow and have trouble keeping up with the pace of the game. The Flyers goaltending is also shaky. Being off since the 23rd of December and with just six regulation road wins in 19 games, we’re not sure the Flyers deserve this billing on the road.
INSTEAD OF LEACHING OFF OTHERS WORK GO GET IT YOURSELF VIKESFAG
The Oilers played last night in Calgary and defeated the Flames, 2-0. Prior to the break, Edmonton defeated Winnipeg 6-2, which snapped a six-game losing streak. However, when we look at the skid we see that four of those six games were on the road against Vancouver, Anaheim, Los Angeles and Colorado and other two games at home were against the Blues and Bruins. One could argue that those six losses occurred against six of the best teams in the NHL so it should come as no surprise that the Oilers have won two straight while outscoring the opposition 8-2. Having played last night and figuring to be sharp again, the Oilers are a very live pooch at home. One last note to this game is that the Oilers are starting Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes to face the team that wrote him off for dead. Overlay.
INSTEAD OF LEACHING OFF OTHERS WORK GO GET IT YOURSELF VIKESFAG
Los Angeles -½ +107 over NASHVILLESERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
INSTEAD OF LEACHING OFF OTHERS WORK GO GET IT YOURSELF VIKESFAG
Regulation only. Martin Jones versus Carl Hutton or Marek Mazanec. Need we say more? If betting lines in hockey used goaltender matchups like it does for pitching matchups in baseball, the Kings would be -220 here because this is equivalent to Clayton Kershaw versus Elvis Presley.  Since the injury to Pekka Rinne, Hutton has gone 6-6-2 with a 3.35 GAA in 17 games. He's been pulled from two of his last three starts, recording a 6.01 GAA. Marek Mazanec hasn't been much better with an 0-5-1 record and 3.70 GAA in eight games - six starts. These are two of the worst goaltenders in the game facing one of the best teams in the game. After losing 4-1 to the Stars in Dallas last night, Nashville has now scored nine times in their past five games while losing them all. The Kings need no introductions but we’ll end this by revealing that Jones has a 1.31 GAA and a .953 save percentage in nine starts. This one is a no-brainer.
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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 28

Chris Jordan

My free play for Saturday is on the Arizona State Sun Devils, laying the chalk against Cal Irvine, as I see this being at least a 15-point mismatch, and an easy cover for the home team on a Saturday night.

It's been an impressive run in non-conference play for the Sun Devils, who have averaged 79.8 points in its 10-2 start to the campaign. Today is the conclusion of the non-conference portion of the team's slate, and after seeing how this team was able to manhandle DePaul in a response to a loss to Miami and a solid 14-point winner over Texas Tech the last time out, I think Cal Irvine is in big trouble.

Arizona State comes in plenty rested, as it's been off since last Saturday. This will make the team's third game in three Saturdays, a nice cooling off after playing its first nine games in 24 days and completing a 10-game/29-day stretch to begin the season. And make note, the Sun Devils are on a 21-10 (.677) run the past seven years when Herb Sendek's staff has had at least five full days in between games - including both times this year.

Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall form a deadly combo for the Sun Devils, and there isn't one person on Cal Irvine's roster who will be able to contain either one. The Devils won't play again until opening conference play on Jan. 2, when they will host Washington. Three days later they'll host Washington State.

This is a great opportunity for ASU, during a long homestand, while building momentum for what the Devils are hoping will be a huge Pac 12 season.

2♦ ARIZONA STATE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 28

Jeff Benton

Your Saturday freebie comes in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, as I back the Michigan Wolverines in the underdog role against the Kansas State Wildcats.

Both teams finished the season at 7-5 and are pretty much mirror-images of one another. With that being the case, my recommendation is to take the points, as this Kansas State team has a bowl track record that ain't too pretty, as the Wildcats have failed to cover in each of their last 7 bowl games!

Michigan did close the season with losses in 4 of their last 5 straight up, but they did easily cover against then undefeated Ohio State to end the regular season, finishing 3-1 against the spread in the dog role. Their lone loss by more than 4 points came against the Big Ten champ Michigan State, so you can certainly build a pretty solid case for this game coming right down to the wire.

Can't trust a team that is 0-7 against the spread the last 7 times they have played in a bowl game, especially when that team is listed as the favorite.

Go with the Wolverines here.

1♦ MICHIGAN

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 28

Craig Davis

Free play of the day on the Washington Wizards over the Detroit Pistons in Saturday NBA action.

Having watched the Pistons the last few nights... they just look tired. I'm not sure if that's exactly what's ailing them, but they clearly don't look like themselves.

Seriously, does this team look like the team that beat Indiana at Indiana and Boston at Boston on back-to-back nights?

They've dropped six of their last 10 games and have been all over the map in doing so. They'll win by double digits, then lose by one, then win by three, then lose by 18. Consistency is one of the first things I look at when handicapping, and the Pistons definitely don't have it.

As for Washington, I can't really say they're a consistent basketball team either... unless you count multiple winning and losing streaks. As strange as it seems, the Wizards get really hot and seem to be able to beat any team in the NBA. Then they get cold and could probably lose to Utah five times in a row.

Until last night, the Wizards were in the midst of a three-game road winning streak, until they went to Minnesota. Let's just say Washington doesn't want to go back to Minnesota anytime soon.

I love backing teams on a long road trip after they come off their first loss. After beating Boston, New York and Brooklyn, they got wasted by Minnesota and now it's time to back the Washington Wizards in a good spot.

2♦ WASHINGTON

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