Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, December 27

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NellyFOR REE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Detroit Pistons - over Orlando MagicFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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At 14-16 the Detroit Pistons do not have an impressive record though they sit in playoff position in the Eastern Conference. This is a team that should move up in the standings as the season goes on and should emerge as a team that the top seeds would rather avoid in the playoffs. After a 6-10 start to the season the Pistons are 8-6 in the last 14 games with six S/U road wins and there are some impressive wins, including beating both Miami and Indiana on the road, something no other team has done. The Pistons have scored in the triple-digits in seven of the last eight games and while they are just 4-4 in that stretch, two losses did come in overtime against quality teams. After a somewhat encouraging start to the season Orlando is struggling with losses in 11 of the last 13 games. The Magic have played losing teams in each of the last four home games only to lose all four contests. Orlando has not played since Monday but neither has Detroit so the road set-up should not be overly challenging for the Pistons. Detroit has a size and rebounding edge that the Magic will struggle to compete with and the offensive efficiency advantage for the Pistons is dramatic with the defensive numbers being similar. Detroit has some notable big wins but they are 9-4 ATS against losing teams this season and 8-5-1 ATS on the road this season. Orlando is just 4-10 ATS at home and by season's end the Pistons should emerge as the dramatically superior team when comparing these squads with the price still kept in check right now given the marginal overall record.

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OC DooleyFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Marshall / Maryland Over 63.5FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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You will see at the bottom of this analysis a near 80-PERCENT System which makes this a very high percentage wager.  The key to this pick has to do with the fact that Maryland lead quarterback C.J. Brown is healthy enough to start this game.  With Brown recovered from a host of injuries his Terrapins averaged more than 30 points per pop in the most recent three outings and the last time Maryland actually participated in the Military Bowl turned into a wild 51-20 shootout.  It was just one year ago when Maryland struggled through a difficult campaign in part due to INJURIES that brought down FOUR different quarterback options.  For the Terps to be successful in today’s game they will have to light up the scoreboard in order to keep up with Marshall who statistically is ranked near the top of most national offensive categories.  The Thundering Herd are averaging 43 points and more than 500 yards per contest this campaign so this game will not be boring.  This is the second straight season where there will not be an armed-forces team involved in the Military Bowl which means NO triple-option attack.  Here is a whopping 79-PERCENT SYSTEM (26-7 past five years with a total between 56’ and 63 points) plays teams like Marshall off an upset loss versus a conference opponent as a favorite OVER the total, in a battle between a pair of squads with “winning” records.

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Oilers / Flames Over 5.5FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Tonight the Flames welcome a foe they are quite familiar with, the Edmonton Oilers. This rivalry always has some spark to it, and even though both teams are having down years, I expect a fairly watchable contest. The Oilers' 12-24-3 record is a direct reflection of how porous their defense is. If they had some resemblance of a defense they would probably be in the .500 range. Edmonton is allowing a lackluster 3.44 goals per game, which ranks all the way near the bottom of the league. They were able to end a six-game skid against the Jets before the break, a stretch that included 24 goals against. They did come back strong and defeat the Jets, 6-2, in that one. After getting stymied by tough goaltending during that losing stretch, I think the Oiler offense will be able to get back on track after putting 6 up against Winnipeg. They could find some room to score against a Flames team that is allowing over 3 goals a game themselves, 3.14. Both teams are young with some offensive minded heads on the team. Defense will desperately need to be looked at in the offseason for the Oilers and Flames, but until then, I like their troubles to continue defensively for the remainder of the season, and tonight.

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Northern Kentucky at North CarolinaFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: North Carolina -27FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Northern Kentucky is 0-3 on the road and lost by 30 points to Kentucky already this season, way back in early November. The difference here is that was a Kentucky team built with talented freshmen, playing in early November, before they had a chance to get their feet wet, and used to each other. That team has since grown. The Norse shot just 32% in that game, and were destroyed off the glass by a 50-21 margin. Now they must face a similar team in North Carolina that has played a difficult early schedule, and will welcome the opportunity to have some fun with an easy one. The Tar Heels own a 16-5 ATS record at home vs. a losing team in their last 21, could have this one covered by halftime. Play on North Carolina.

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BYU vs. WashingtonFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: BYU +3.5FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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These teams are very similar in offense and defensive numbers, they are both 8-4 straight up and 5-6 ATS for the season. Washington's head coach split for USC, they did hire Boise St's coach but he will be in the press box today. BYU is 4-0 ATS and straight up in their last four bowl games! while the Huskie's had a habit of beating up on the weaker teams and struggling with good teams.

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Sports Insights

Fight Hunger Bowl: Washington/BYU Over 59.5 –Washington coach is leaving. Offensive guy took over. Feels like a loose game here and one with lots of tempo. Made it 66 with best totals model.

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Jeff AlexanderFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Louisiana-Monroe +25FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Playing against favorites of 10 or more points has resulted in a 77-41 ATS record since 1997 provided that have won at least 9 in a row and are playing on 5 or 6 days' rest. Additionally, playing against favorites or 10 or more points that are off a win of 6 points or less and are up against an opponent off a loss of 15 points or more has resulted in a 152-95 ATS record the last 5 seasons. ULM is 10-2 ATS in road non-conference games over the last 3 seasons. Ohio State is 3-12 ATS as a home favorite of 24.5 to 30 points since 1997. Bet the Warhawks.

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Minnesota Timberwolves -6FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Both of these teams have been struggling at the defensive end, but the numbers are in Minnesota's favor this evening. You want to fade underdogs of 3.5 to 9.5 points that give up 99.0 points per game or more when they're matched up against an opponent that has allowed 100 points or more in four consecutive games. Doing so has produced a 61-33 ATS mark the last five seasons. Teams fitting this situation have been underdogs of 6.1 points on average but have lost by an average of 9.0 points. The Timberwolves are 21-7 ATS in their last 28 after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game. Also, the home team is 7-1 ATS in the last 8 meetings. Lay the points.

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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Brooklyn NetsSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Brooklyn Nets -5FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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On Friday, Play On teams like Brooklyn off an upset loss by 15 points or more as a favorite, against opponent (Milwaukee) off a road cover where the team lost straight up as an underdog. The thinking here is a club like the Nets will have motivation to bounce back off a terrible performance and this is backed up with a 51-19 ATS record the last 17 years for this free NBA pick.

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Jack Jones
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Syracuse/Minnesota Under 48
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I believe the books have set the bar too high today in this Texas Bowl showdown between Syracuse and Minnesota. I look for a low-scoring, defensive battle similar to the one that these teams played in last season.
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Syracuse had a much better offense last year, but barely managed to score in double-digits in a 10-17 loss at Minnesota on September 22. The Orange gained just 350 total yards in the loss, while the Gophers managed just 337 yards.
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The biggest reason I like this UNDER is that both teams rely on running the football to move the ball offensively. Minnesota runs it a whopping 46 times for an average of 201 yards per game, while throwing its just 20 times for 142 yards per game. Syracuse averages 42 rushing attempts and 194 yards per game, compared to just 31 passing attempts and 181 yards per contest.
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Both teams have been pretty stout against the run as well. The Orange rank 25th in the country against the run, allowing 138.3 yards per game and 3.9 per carry. The Golden Gophers are 51st at 154.0 yards per game and 4.5 per carry despite playing in the run-heavy Big Ten.
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Both teams are much better on defense than they are on offense. Minnesota ranks 107th in the country in total offense, but a solid 42nd in total defense. Syracuse ranks just 88th in total offense, but an impressive 39th in total defense.
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Plays on the UNDER on any team against the total (SYRACUSE) - in a game involving two good rushing teams (4.3 to 4.8 YPR), in a non-conference game between two teams from major division 1-A conferences are 36-12 (75%) over the last 10 seasons.
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Syracuse is 14-3 to the UNDER in its last 17 road games vs. teams who average 32 or more possession minutes per game. Minnesota is 7-0 to the UNDER in its last seven games after scoring and allowing less than 17 points in its previous game.

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Bruce MarshallFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Predators at StarsFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: OverFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Preds are shipping goals at an alarming rate, a delayed reaction to the injury that has kept top GK Pekka Rinne out since November. Nashville enters this matchup having been outscored 17-8 during an 0-3-1 skid and was routed 6-2 by Boston on Monday. Meanwhile, Dallas hit the Christmas break on an uptick with a 3-0-1 record in its last four games including a shock 5-2 win on Monday at red-hot Los Angeles. Tyler Seguin continued his red-hot play by scoring one of two goals in the first 6:10 and assisting on Valeri Nichushkin's tiebreaking score in the second period. Look for this one to go “over” in Big D.

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Columbus +120 over NEW JERSEYFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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OT included. Cory Schneider played in the Devils last game before the break and was a 5-2 loser in Chicago. New Jersey was outshot in that game 37-12. Prior to that Martin Brodeur defeated the Capitals 5-4 with Washington scoring four goals on 18 shots on net (818 save %). In four successive games in December against Carolina, Montreal, New York Rangers and Columbus, Brodeur posted save percentages of .818, .824, .875 and .783. Against Anaheim on November 20, Brodeur posted another lousy save % of .880. These aren’t isolated incidents. That is who Brodeur is now. He’s the worst goaltender in the NHL and it’s not close. When he wins it’s because the Devils hold the opposition to a very low shot total or he gets very lucky with a couple of positional stops. The truth is, the game is too fast for Brodeur and he’s too slow. His massive ego gets in the way of him retiring when he should have hung up his pads two years ago.
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The Jackets have won two in a row and scored 10 times in those two games. That was after they blew a three-goal, third period lead against Philadelphia, which was the first time that they lost a game under Todd Richards when leading after two periods. The Jackets were 36-0 previously when leading after two. They scored four times against Philly and could easily be riding a three-game win streak with 14 goals over that span. Columbus is scoring at a pace like we’ve never seen from them. They’ve scored four goals or more in six of their past nine games and should have little difficulty in scoring more against the NHL’s worst goaltender. Value, value, value!     
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CAROLINA +115 over PittsburghFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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OT included. We love the fact that Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller is sticking with Justin Peters in net over the much higher paid Cam Ward. Peters has been outstanding while Ward has been dreadful. The ‘Canes remain high on our radar as one of the most undervalued teams in the NHL as we head into the second half. Carolina has dropped three in a row and six of their past seven but a turnaround is forthcoming because this team is too good to keep losing at this pace. The Hurricanes boast one of the best top six forward groups in the NHL. Since the return of both Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner in the lineup at the same time, the ‘Canes have outshot five of their six opponents and that includes a 41-29 advantage over Washington in a game they lost 4-2 with Ward in net. The ‘Canes have a recent 5-3 win over the Sharks and they followed that game up with a 2-0 loss in Vancouver but outshot and out-chanced the Canucks as well. There is plenty of profit opportunities upcoming with this team, especially as a pooch at home.
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Pittsburgh is still a banged up team that is likely going to be without Evgeni Malkin here. The Penguins have somehow managed to keep their heads way above water but regression is sure to occur with so many key bodies out of the line-up. Additionally, the Penguins did not travel yesterday and that puts them completely out of routine, as they always travel the day before a game when they do not play. The Pens are coming off a 5-0 loss in Ottawa that snapped a remarkable six-game winning streak and what very often happens after an overachieving team snaps a winning streak is consecutive or a string of losses. Don’t be fooled by the ‘Canes record. Again, this team is rock solid and we expect them to make a big move in the second half.
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N.Y. Rangers +110 over WASHINGTONSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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OT included. The Washington Capitals are one of the worst teams in the NHL. Much like the Maple Leafs, whose true colors eventually got exposed after a hot start, the Capitals are very much in the same boat. Washington’s defense is a complete mess. They rarely get out of their own end cleanly or efficiently. We’ve covered the strong correlation between winning games and shot differential in the past and that once again comes into play regarding the Caps. Washington gets badly outshot almost every night. They rank third last in the NHL in shot differential per game and their situation is getting worse every week. The Caps have been scoring a lot of goals and once that normalizes, and it will, this team is going to lose far more games than they win.
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Henrik Lundqvist was in a serious slump in which he could not stop a beach ball. As a result, Alain Vigneault switched to Cam Talbot and that kid has been nothing short of brilliant. The Rangers could not win a game with Lundqvist in net but with Talbot in net they have won two in a row while outscoring the opposition 6-2. Against the Maple Leafs, New York dominated play the last 40 minutes and deserved to win 6-0, not 2-1. The Rangers have outshot their past two opponents (Toronto and Minnesota) 80-51 with a relentless forecheck and constant pressure. If the Rangers come close to duplicating any one of those last two efforts they will dominate the Capitals too and very likely put them away.   
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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, December 27

Craig Davis
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Tonight's free play is on the Minnesota Golden Gophers over Syracuse in college football action.
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The only publicity Minnesota received this year was when HC Jerry Kill suffered seizures during a few of the Gophers' games this season. Aside from that, did anyone even notice how well the Gophers played?
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Granted, the Big 10 hasn't been getting as much pub lately because the conference is seemingly "down" over where it's been in the past. Still, despite a tough 20-7 loss to Wisconsin and a 14-3 loss to Michigan State, the Gophers pretty much dominated the rest of their competition this year and this is their reward... the Texas Bowl!!
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Despite the lack of publicity, Minnesota just went out and did their job every week and finished with the country's 27th best defense... not bad for a team that has a bunch of "no names". Seriously, can you name one player on the Minnesota roster? If you can, you either live in Minneapolis, cover the Big 10 for a living, or you're a diehard Gophers fan.
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Outside of that, there aren't a lot of people jumping over others to bet this game... but I think there's some value. Let's remember, the Orange needed a last minute miracle TD to beat Boston College... and that win made them bowl-eligible.
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Sorry, but Boston College's defense simply isn't in the same class with Minnesota, and while there might not be a lot of points scored, the Gophers won't need many to cover this game.
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Take Minny as your free play of the day.
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2♦ MINNESOTA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, December 27

Charlie Scott

Washington vs. BYU
Play: BYU +4

I believe if Your going to play Tonight the Mormons + points is the way to go. Washington lost their Coach to rival USC and No matter what the Coach Speak is, Players and Asst Coaches are more concerned about where they will be working next Season than winning Tonight's game. On the other side of the ball BYU players are older and more mature, while Coach Bronco Mendenhall is a current day defensive genius and has had time to prepare. Washington players have probably used the Christmas break partying and chasing girls, while BYU Players have been drinking hot chocolate and going to Church.

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Milwaukee vs BrooklynFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: Bucks +5FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Milwaukee Bucks have the worst record in the NBA at 6-22, but that is really not much worse than the 9-19 Brooklyn Nets and at least the Bucks are showing some positive signs and are getting healthy. Milwaukee has lost three games in overtime over its last four games with the other game being a 10-point win, and the Bucks welcome back center Larry Sanders tonight after he missed the last two months with a broken thumb. That comes on the heels of O.J. Mayo returning a few games ago, and also Brendon Knight and Khris Middleton have both reached double-digits in six straight games. The Nets meanwhile recently lost their All-Star and leading scorer Brook Lopez for the season and they come off of a season-low point total in a 95-78 loss to the Bulls. The Nets are 3-9 ATS in their last 12 home games.
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BYU vs WashingtonFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: BYU +4FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Washington Huskies finished eighth in the country in total offense this year with 514.3 yards per game, but they are between coaches with their architect Steve Sarkisian leaving to take the coaching job at USC. A greater concern for the Huskies here could be their 60th ranked rushing defense. That is because BYU seems equipped defensively to slow Washington down, ranking 22nd in scoring defense at 21.3 points per game, but the Cougars are more balanced ranking 14th in total offense and 10th in rushing offense thanks to their dual threat quarterback Taysom Hill. And BYU accomplished all that vs. a difficult schedule ranked 37th in SOS. Furthermore the Cougars got better as the season went on as Hill’s passing numbers improved dramatically after completing 40 percent of his passes the first three games. Washington is 1-4 ATS in its last five games vs. teams with winning records.

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NHL Predictions

Rangers / Capitals Under 5.5

We will see a good rivalry game tonight in the first night back of NHL action with the Rangers and Caps squaring off for the third time this year. The first two games have been split with the road team winning each game and total goals of 5 and 2. These two teams went 7 games in a series last postseason with the Rangers winning it in 7. Only 2 of the 7 games in that series had more than 5 total goals scored. Tonight we will see both team's back ups in net, but they've been two of the better non-starters this year. Cam Talbot is 8-2 for the Rangers with a 1.60 GAA and .938 SV%. Capitals Philipp Grubauer is getting another start as he is 4-1-1 with a 2.20 GAA and .934 SV%. The UNDER is 29-12-17 in the Rangers last 58 road games and 15-7-10 in their last 32 road games vs a team with a winning home record. The UNDER is 4-0 in the Caps last 4 home games vs a team with a winning road record. The UNDER is 15-4-9 in these two teams last 28 meetings, as we often see totals of 5 set when these two teams squaree off. The UNDER is 22-6-3 in their last 31 meetings in Washington. I'll take the UNDER 5.5 tonight.

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Hollywood Sports

Miami at Sacramento
Prediction: Over

Miami (22-6) has won six games in a row after their 101-95 win in Los Angeles against the Lakers and they have played 4 of their last 5 games Over the Total following a win. Additionally, the Heat have played 5 straight games Over the Total against teams with a losing record. Sacramento (8-16) returns home after a five-game road stand that ended with a 113-100 loss in New Orleans and they have then played 6 of their last 7 games Over the Total after allowing at least 100 points in their last game. Furthermore, the Kings have played 5 straight games Over the Total against teams with a winning record. Take the Over in this one.

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