Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, January 1

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Aaron's Analysis

Stanford -6

The #5 Stanford Cardinal (11-2) take on the #4 Michigan State Spartans (12-1) in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day in Pasadena. The Cardinal are making their fourth straight BCS bowl appearance. They are coming off of a dominating 38-14 victory over conference powerhouse Arizona State in the Pac 12 Championship Game, outgaining them in the process 517-311. As for the Spartans, they've won nine straight games, capped off by a 34-24 upset victory over Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship Game. Both of these teams are similar, as both rely upon a solid ground game and dominating defense. Michigan State is ranked #4 in the nation in points allowed per game (12.7), while Stanford ranks #10 (18.6). The Cardinal have been running the ball well all season, ranking #23 in the nation with an average of 210.9 yards per game. Over the last five games, however, they've been doing even better, as that average jumps to 234.2. Over the last seven games, Cardinal back Tyler Gaffney has rushed for an average of 149.7 yards per game. On the season, Gaffney has compiled 1,618 rushing yards and an amazing 20 TDs to go along with another 88 yards and 1 TD receiving. He should be able to find success even versus the likes of the Michigan State rush defense. Despite allowing just 80.8 yards per game on the ground (#1), the Spartan rush defense has shown vulnerability in recent weeks. Over their last four games, they've given up an average of 164.8 yards per game, most recently allowing the Ohio State Buckeyes to rush for 273 yards. In addition to Gaffney, Anthony Wilkerson is also a competent back, as he has added 391 yards from scrimmage and 2 TDs this season. The Spartan defense will have to do without senior linebacker Max Bullough in this one due to suspension, which is a major loss. As for the Cardinal passing game, there is no better game manager out there than QB Keith Hogan. With that being said, it's worth mentioning that Hogan has only had to put up the ball in the air an average of 22.5 times per game. Over the past three games, Hogan has led the Cardinal to a decent 284 passing yards per game. On the season Hogan has compiled 2,487 yards passing with an accurate 61.4% completions, to go along with a TD to INT ratio of 20 to 9 and a quarterback rating of 154.1. His mobility poses a threat to defenses, as he has rushed for 314 yards and 2 TDs. Although the Spartans have a decent pass defense, Hogan should be able to put forth a solid effort here. It can be interpreted that the Spartan pass defense appears solid statistically because Big 10 teams are known to be rush first, pass second teams. Prior to playing teams rather inept at passing at the end of season such as Ohio State and Minnesota, the Spartans allowed an average of 221.7 yards passing in a three game cluster to the likes of Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern. Although Hogan may not throw the ball as much as other Pac 12 quarterbacks, he is able to successfully sneak in a pass or two here and there. When he does, his favorite target is receiver Ty Montgomery. Montgomery has caught 58 passes for 937 yards and 10 TDs, to go along with another 159 yards and 2 TDs rushing. In addition, Devon Cajuste (27 catches for 591 yards and 5 TDs) and Michael Rector (12 catches for 387 yards and 3 TDs) are also highly capable. The Spartan offense is rather inept, ranking #9 in the Big 10 with an average of 384.6 total yards per game. With QB Connor Cook, the Spartans rank just #89 in the nation passing the ball with an average of 202.5 yards per game. Although it's fair to say that number closely resembles the 202.2 for Stanford, the Cardinal have nearly a thirty yard edge over the Spartans when it comes to rushing yards per game, at 210.9-182.2. The Cardinal defense has been very stingy versus the rush lately, allowing an average of just 64.4 yards per game over their last seven contests, while allowing a solid 91.2 for the season. Spartan 1,000 yard rusher Jeremy Langford should struggle versus the dominating defense of the Cardinal. An intangible to note is the apparent disparity between the Pac 12 and Big 10 conferences, as since 2001 the Pac 12 has a 10-1 record over the Big 10 in the Rose Bowl. Gaffney should be able to run the ball effectively here, and combined with the passing efforts of Hogan and Montgomery the Cardinal should be able to come away with a nice victory in this one.

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River City Sharps

Michigan St +7

Michigan State comes off their Big 10 Championship to visit Stanford in the 100th Rose Bowl, which is the first trip there for the Spartans in 26 years. This is going to be a unique matchup as Stanford will try and mix it up offensively against one of the very best defensive units in the country. The Spartans will be without senior LB Max Bullough, who was suspended Wednesday for violating team rules. Bullough was third-team All-America and first-team All-Big Ten. Their defense is ranked number one in the nation at 248.2 yards allowed per game, including an FBS-low 80.8 on the ground. Stanford won their first Rose Bowl in 40 years when they beat Wisconsin 20-14 last year and now they are back for a repeat performance. Michigan State is 7-0 ATS in road games when playing against a team with a winning record over the last 2 seasons. We think this will be a very tight affair come late in the fourth quarter and we like the Spartans catching the points.

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Jimmy Boyd

Utah State -9

Air Force is a bad team, and I just don’t see them getting a lot of benefit from home court advantage in this matchup with the 10-2 Utah State Aggies. The Aggies have been sound across the board, averaging 76.3 points per game, while the defense is allowing a mere 64.5 points per game. The Aggies have played well on the road this season, posting a 2-1 record straight up and against the spread. The only road loss of the season for Utah State came against a very talented BYU team.

Air Force has been soft both on offense and defense this season. Their 73.6 points per game would not be that bad if the defense was playing better. The Falcons have given up an average of 70.3 points per game this season. Air Force is at a severe disadvantage on the boards in this game. Utah State is +12 in rebounding margin this season, while the Falcons come into this game at +1 against a much softer strength of schedule. The Falcons have also had turnover problems at times. Utah State on the other hand has averaged just 12 turnovers per game on the year.

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Kyle Hunter

Central Florida vs. Baylor    
Play: Over 70

The UCF Knights and Baylor Bears will do battle in the Fiesta Bowl on Wednesday night. UCF put up 38 points against a very good Louisville defense in their signature win of the year. Blake Bortles and the UCF offense should get a lot done in this one as well. Baylor's offense is a well-oiled machine. There will be plenty of snaps in this one, and it won't surprise me a bit if this one sails well past the posted total here. Take the over.

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Art Aronson

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Vancouver Canucks    
Play: Vancouver Canucks -152

A late West-Coast game on New Years day obviously favors the home side as far as scheduling, and especially against an Eastern Conference club. Tampa Bay has sputtered, losing two straight. While it's won three straight on the road, remember, that was following a dismal 0-5-2 stretch away from friendly confines (note that the Lightning are just 7-10/-2 units this year vs. teams with winning records). The Canucks will be in a foul mood tonight after their six-game home win streak was snapped in Monday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Flyers. Good news for Canucks fans tonight sees the return of rookie goaltender Eddie Lack, who fills in again for an injured Roberto Luongo; Lack is 4-0-1 with a minuscule 1.36 GAA over his last five starts (note that Vancouver is already 6-3/+3.1 units this year after allowing 4 goals or more in its previous contest, and 12-7/+2.1 units in all non-conference games). I this the home side is worth the price of admission in this particular match-up; consider laying the price.

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Steve Janus

Iowa +7½

With LSU missing their leader and arguably their best player in senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger, I'm taking the Hawkeyes and the 7.5 points in the Outback Bowl on Wednesday. The Tigers backup quarterback is freshman Anthony Jennings, who is primarily a run-first quarterback. He ran 26 times in his lone start against Arkansas, while throwing it just 7 times. Iowa's defense is backed by three stud linebackers and ranked 16th in the country in run defense at 120.8 ypg. The Hawkeyes have thrived against running quarterbacks in the past and having extra time to prepare for Jennings will only make it that much easier. Iowa is 35-15 ATS in their last 50 games vs teams who average 200 or more rushing yards/game and 14-3 ATS in their last 17 games vs teams who average 37 or more points/game.

Offensively the Hawkeyes are a bit challenged, but they do have a very strong offensive line and number of capable running backs who can move the chains. I look for sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock to make enough big plays in the passing game to allow Iowa to put points on the board. I definitely like Iowa to keep it within a touchdown and I wouldn't be surprised at all if they won this game outright. Something to keep in mind is that LSU's defense allowed 32.4 points on an average of 424 yards of total offense on the road this season, including 4.9 yards per rush attempt.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is one of the best in the business at taking advantage of the extra time off and getting his team prepared for bowl games. The Hawkeyes are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 January bowl games. LSU on the other hand has lost three of their last four bowl games outright, including a 24-24 loss to Clemson last year as a 6-point favorite.

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Nick Parsons

Charlotte Bobcats vs. Los Angeles Clippers    
Play: Los Angeles Clippers -11

Charlotte is just 14-18 overall this year. However, it's a truly lopsided 11-1-2 ATS on the road this season. LA is just 8-8 ATS at home.

After their lacklustre 107-88 setback vs. Phoenix on Monday, I expect the Clippers to come out with energy tonight and to put an end to the Bobcats unreal ATS road run.

The Bobcats do not come into this game with a lot of momentum, losers of three straight, most recently an 83-80 setback at Utah. Charlotte also contends with the fact that it has to hit the road again with a game tomorrow night in Portland.

With a day off tomorrow before a tough two-game road set in Dallas and San Antonio, the Clippers can focus on the task at hand and take care of business on their own floor.

Note that Charlotte is just 2-3 ATS this year after allowing 85 points or less and only 4-5 ATS in all non-conference games.

And note that LA is a perfect 6-0 ATS this year off an upset loss as a favorite, and a near perfect 5-1 ATS following a divisional contest.

The situation, the numbers and the trends all point to LA as the sharp wager in this one.

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Bruce Marshall

Philadelphia 76ers at Denver Nuggets
Pick: Denver Nuggets

Denver is struggling a bit lately (no covers last four). Since ranking sixth in the NBA scoring with 104.0 points per game on Dec. 7, the Nuggets have been one of the league's lowest-scoring teams with a 90.6-point average. Their 40.4 FG % and 26.9% 3-point shooting were the NBA's worst marks over that span, and Denver has only reached 100 points twice in its last 10 games. But it's going to take a lot of adjustments on the Nuggets by the oddsmakers to get us interested in the skidding Sixers, who despite a win vs. the fading Lakers in their last outing have covered just 3 of their last 15 and had won SU just 4 of their last 21.

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Jim Feist

Michigan State vs Stanford
Pick: Stanford

Your free pick for Wednesday, January 1st, 2014, comes in college football Michigan State and Stanford meet in the Rose Bowl. A long road trip for a Michigan State team with a sophomore QB who didn't even begin the year as the starter. The Spartans are 0-4 ATS in their last four against the Pac-12 and 5-11-1 ATS in their last 17 games on grass. They face a powerhouse Stanford team that is one of the best teams in the country. If you want to hang with this talented Michigan State defense you have to play the physical game in the trenches and Stanford has the power and muscle up front to do that. Stanford is on a sizzling 35-16-1 ATS run, plus the Cardinal are 34-16-1 ATS in their last 51 games on grass. Stanford also has a talented, balanced offense that is 22nd in the country and rushing yards while outscoring opponents by a 33-18.6 average. The Cardinal is 11-4 ATS in their last 15 non-conference games. Stanford is 4-0 ATS in their last four bowl games shutting down a great Wisconsin offense one team ago in the Rose Bowl, a 20-14 victory. They held the Badgers to 301 total yards and won the turnover battle 1-0, jumping out to a 14-0 lead and cruising. Wisconsin managed only four first downs in a scoreless second half. Stanford averaged 8.2 yards per play on first down in its Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. Ini a sense it was more of a home game for Stanford, as the Rose Bowl was filled with fans wearing the schools' near-identical cardinal-and-white gear. Stanford coach David Shaw is terrific at preparing teams and making halftime adjustments. The Cardinal is 4-0 ATS in their last four neutral site games, plus 26-9-1 ATS in their last 36 games following a win of more than 20 points, so grab the West Coast team.

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Charlie Scott

Wisconsin vs. South Carolina
Play: South Carolina +2
   
I've played against Wisconsin as a Favorite a lot this Season and Lost. I feel that SC is the better Team, with the Better defense and SEC tough. In the past in Football & Basketball whenever Big 10 Teams play good athletic Teams with speed, the speed wins out. South Carolina !


Michigan State vs. Stanford    
Play: Over 42.5

Being a contrarian and this being the lowest posted total in all the Bowl games this Season, I'll take the OVER. With time to rest and prepare these 2 well Coached Teams will show some offense and trick Plays. PLAY OVER !


Central Florida vs. Baylor    
Play: Central Florida +17

UCF is an underrated, well Coached Team with NFL Talent and a quality QB. Baylors Coach has had his name pop up for a lot of new Coaching vacancy's, and I don't think the Baylor kids will be focused enough to cover this big spread.

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Will Rogers

Toronto vs. Detroit
Pick: Detroit

The Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs will attempt to break the world record for attendance at a hockey game when they meet in the annual Winter Classic at the Big House on New Years Day. Both teams are currently tied with 45 points, but Detroit has lost eight of it's last 11 overall.

Here are my keys to the game:

1: Home Cookin' - It will be a home crowd for the Wings, with the venue of Michigan Stadium. The home team is 7-2 in the last nine games of this series, and while this will be the Leafs first outdoor game, the Wings have the experience of playing at Wrigley field in 2009 (They won 6-4).

2: Injuries - During their recent losing streak, the Wings were without Henrik Zetterberg and starting goaltender Jimmy Howard. Both players have returned to action, and will be available for this game. Zetterberg has a goal and two assists in two games since returning to action.

3: X-Factor - Toronto has allowed 32 power-play goals against this season (27th in the NHL). The Wings boast the league's 8th best penalty killing unit, with an 85% kill rate.

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Andrew Lange

Bradley at Northern Iowa
Play: Northern Iowa -12

I don't like laying double-digits in a conference game any more than the next bettor but until Bradley can turn things around, the fade train rolls on. The Braves went 0-for-December both straight up and against the spread. And the competition was comprised of nothing but fellow mid-majors. Offensively, the Braves struggle to score (0.96 ppp), can't shoot from the outside (28.1% 3-pt.), and are turnover prone (20.2%). Last season, Bradley won one conference road game against bottom feeder Southern Illinois. Their losses were by margins of 15, 31 (Northern Iowa), 10, 34, 17, 20, 11, 8, and 13 (Northern Iowa). Northern Iowa has played a very tough schedule against the likes of Maryland, Iowa State, VCU, and Virginia. The Panthers took their lumps but it was great prep for Missouri Valley play. Of late, we've seen NIU score wins-by-margin at home against VCU and Iona. I'm not going to overthink this one: Bradley has been outmanned and outplayed for much of the season and this is one of their toughest opponents/venues. Chalk time.

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SPORTS WAGERS

Chelsea -½ +109 over SOUTHAMPTON

Chelsea is coming off the back of a very impressive Christmas period, with victories against Liverpool and Swansea and a draw at league leaders Arsenal. They sit third in the table at the halfway point and second in the form table so getting an away victory at such a price is quite remarkable. What is perhaps most convincing isn’t Chelsea’s success over the Christmas period, but Southampton’s poor form guide.

The Saints have managed just one win in their last six games, that being against equally disappointing Cardiff City – who themselves are in a free fall down the Premier League table. This has seen Southampton drop down to ninth position after being as high as fourth just a few weeks back. Southampton’s impressive start was assisted by an incredibly kind opening to the season, combined with the third best injury record of the season (according to injuryleague.com). However, as their fixtures have toughened, the Saints have looked weaker and weaker. An interesting stat to point out is that whilst Southampton has looked impressive against sides below them in the table, out of the teams that are currently above them in the table, they have only taken 6 points from a possible 24. Recently we have seen top sides like Everton, Chelsea and Tottenham carve open Southampton so they seemed to be have been rather figured out as the season has gone on.

Chelsea’s strikers have poor conversion rates compared to the strikers at their rival teams (at Manchester City and Liverpool in particular). However, they have still managed to score around two goals a game despite an often defensive philosophy, with many goals coming from the midfield. It is also important to remember that the Christmas Calendar in England sees teams playing almost twice as regularly as usual in the Premier League. This means it will be Southampton’s fourth game in 10 days. Whilst Chelsea will have played a similar amount, its squad is much deeper and allows for much more player rotation than Southampton’s. Also, Chelsea has midweek game experience by competing in the Champions League, suggesting they will be more ready to adapt to this tight fixture schedule.

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Jeff Scott Sports

3 UNIT PLAY

Georgia/ Nebraska Over 59.5:  Last year 76 points were scored between this teams and I can see at least 70 in this one as well. All year the Bulldogs have been all about offense, while playing little defense and their games went on to average 67.6 ppg for the year. Georgia will be without Murray, but Hutson Mason played well in his lone start this year, completing 61.1% of his passes for 299 yards with 2 TDs and he will have had a month of practice to get ready for this one. The Huskers offense has been sporadic at time, but they can easily score points on a below average defense and the Dawgs certainly have that. I would not at all be surprised to see this one played in the 70s again. 

2 UNIT PLAY

North Texas -6.5 over UNLV: The Rebels had a fine year, but I feel it will end on a sour note. The Rebels have snapped their long road losing streak this year, but their 3 road wins were vs teams with a combined 7-29 record on the year, while their two road losses this year were to bowl teams Minnesota and Fresno State. Neither of those games were close either. This is not a home game for North Texas, but it is played in the state of Texas and that gives the Mean Green a big edge. The Mean Green also have a huge edge on the defensive side of the ball, where they rank 26th in total defense and 19th vs the run, while allowing just 18.1 ppg, which is 8th in the nation. That compares to UNLV ranking 100th overall, 112th vs the run and 93rd in points allowed, giving up 31.5 ppg. The run defenses are key here, cause both teams run more than throw it and if UNLV is stopped in early down that will force 3rd and longs and they are 65th in the nation in converting 3rd downs. North Texas, on the other hand is 23rd, but they should have shorter distances to go on 3rd downs due to the porous run defense of the Rebels. UNLV had a nice year and made it to a bowl, but McCarney has the the experience over Hauck in the bowls, the Mean Green have big special teams and defenses edges, plus they get this game a mere 40 minutes or so from their campus. Too much for UNLV to overcome this year. North Texas by 10+ here.

1 UNIT PLAY

LSU/ Iowa Over 48.5: LSU has opened up this offense and it has led to 37 ppg. They have scored on some very tough SEC defenses and should be able to put up points on this tough Iowa defense. The Iowa offense is not that explosive, but LSU did allow 26 points or more in all 5 of their games away from home this year. This has the feel of a 31-24 type game.

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Larry Ness
INSTEAD OF LEACHING OFF OTHERS WORK GO GET IT YOURSELF VIKESFAG
Nevada at San Jose State
Prediction: Nevada
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San Jose St is 4-0 SU at home to open the current basketball season but can be had here by the Wolf Pack. Nevada is far from perfect (surely has its shortcomings) but the machups are pretty good. Guard Burton (22.5-3.8-3.8) is finding UTEP tarnsfer Pezez (12.4-4.3-2.9) a much better backcourt partner than the departed Malik Story (16.7). Then there is 6-8 swingman Evans (15.3-6.2), who has doubled his point-production from LY (7.5) and the 6-8 Huff (10.2-5.1).
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The Spartans have a 'keeper' in 6-6 freshman guard Muhammad (17.3), teamed in the backcourt with Wilson (10.1-4.3). SJSU's best two inside players are the 6-7 Williams (11.8-6.6) and the 6-9 Cunningham (8.1-7.1). However, Muhammad's shot-selection leaves a lot to be desired and Nevada's Evans is an athletic 'stopper' on defense.
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Nevada has already won at Cal Poly 60-58 as a 4 1/2-point dog, at San Francisco 92-90 as a 6 1.2-point dog and at UC-Davis 87-81 in OT as a 2 1/2-point road favorite plus covered as a 14-point dog at Cal, losing 92-84. This is a road game the Wolf Pack can win and that's EXACTLY what I expect them to do.

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Harry BondiFOR  FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Michigan St / Stanford Under 42.5FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Two of best defenses in the country square off today in the Rose Bowl where points will be hard to come by. Michigan State leads the nation in total defense and rushing defense. The Stanford defense ranks 14th in total yards per game and is third in the nation against the run and on offense the Cardinal loves to pound the ground with running back Tyler Gaffney. Head Coach David Shaw's conservative style has also helped Stanford go under in seven straight games against teams with a winning record and overall the Cardinal has gone under in seven of its last nine bowl games. Today will be no different. Go under.

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Bob BalfeFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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North Texas -6.5FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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UNLV has a good running back and quarterback, but other than that this is not a good football team. North Texas is playing in a virtual home game today and I believe their defense is just going to be too much for this Rebels team. I am not a big fan of the Mountain West Conference and furthermore UNLV was not even that impressive in it this year. As long as the Mean Green are not too comfortable from being around local friends and family all week I think they should run away with this one. Take North Texas

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Carlos SalazarFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Central Florida vs BaylorFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Baylor -16.5FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
I PITY YOUR SAD FUCKING LIFE VIKESFAG THE C&P QUEEN OF THE INTERNET
Speed Wins Bowl Games and Baylor has speed to spare. Central Florida has been a good team this season but they can't matchup with a healthy Baylor team. Look for Baylor to get out to an early lead in this one and win by at least 30 points.


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DAVE COKINFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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UNLV VS NORTH TEXASFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
PLAY: UNLV +6.5FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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It’s the first day of a brand new year, and I’m already about to see something that I never thought I would see. Specifically, that is UNLV playing football in a January 1st bowl game. The fact it’s not one of the majors doesn’t matter. It’s New Year’s Day and UNLV is playing football. That’s amazing.
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The same thing is probably being said by fans of North Texas, the opponent for the Rebels in today’s Heart of Dallas Bowl. The Mean Green have a clear site advantage with the game being played in what amounts to their backyard. That’s not the only edge owned by North Texas in this game.
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If I’m going on overall season numbers, I’m probably siding with the favorite here. Therefore, I’m certainly not going to be shocked if North Texas ends up winning this football game. But there are some indicators that point to UNLV, and the Rebels are also getting enough points to at least give them a decent shot at covering the spread.
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Even though there’s lots of time between the end of the regular season and a January 1 bowl, late momentum often carries forward to the bowls. There’s no arguing that UNLV was playing its best football late. The convincing win in adverse conditions at Air Force was impressive and the Rebels were even better in demolishing San Diego State in their finale.
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The Rebels were also playing well prior to the 2-0 conclusion to the regular season. Fact is, they were 7-3 after opening 0-2. The last two losses could have been wins. They probably should have beaten Utah State and I’ll excuse the loss to San Jose in what was a big time dead spot.
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As for North Texas, Dan McCarney has done an outstanding job with this team. They roll into this bowl on a 6-1 roll and I’m just dismissing the one loss to UTSA as one of those games. Running the football on this team has been very tough and the Mean Green cranked out some big offensive games down the stretch as well.
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There is one pretty good bowl angle in play here. Teams that go into their bowl having scored 40+ points in each of the final two regular season games are a little better than 60% ATS, and that goes back more than two decades. UNLV fits that angle, and I do feel they have the potential to put up some pretty good offensive stats today.
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This is not a game I can say I feel super confident about, as I’ve been shaky in this year’s bowls and I’m pretty sure we’ll see a good effort out of North Texas here. But there’s some room for error with the points in play and the prep reports for the Rebels have been positive. I think there’s enough to go ahead and side with UNLV plus the points today.

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Chris Jordan

As much as it pains me to say it, my complimentary winner in the Heart of Dallas Bowl is going to be the North Texas Mean Green against the UNLV Rebels, in one of the first two kickoffs for New Year's Day.

We have two teams who have enjoyed resurrection in this one, as North Texas has been rebuilt into an 8-4 team and will now play in its sixth bowl game ever, and first since 2004, while UNLV (7-5) will be playing in its fourth bowl game in school history, returning to the postseason after three straight 2-win seasons. I watched the Rebels do their thing all season, attending every home game, and seeing every road game either on TV or via webcast. And as competitive as this team is, it doesn't seem to get it done against the better compeitition.

UNLV won the games it was supposed to and showed up in the season finale against San Diego State, which simply laid an egg in Las Vegas. North Texas, meanwhile, played an unusually tough schedule this season and responded well in facing six bowl teams and beating three of them. I particularly have been impressed with running Back Brandin Byrd, who rumbled for 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns during the regular season, and I personally think will have a huge day against UNLV’s 110th ranked run defense that looked horrendous against the same Ka'Deem Carey you were all impressed by yesterday.

The Rebels gave up 221.8 rushing yards per game, and Byrd finished the season by rushing for more than 200 yards in two of his last three games. When North Texas turns to its rushing attack, you're going to see a ball-controlled offense and time management work in its favor. The Mean Green also boasts a stout defense that finished 9th in the nation in allowing a mere 18.1 points per game.

I admit that on paper, my Rebels are evenly matched with North Texas. But on the field my biggest fear for Rebels coach Bobby Hauck is his troops will be overwhelmed by a physically superior squad. Lay the points in this one, as the Rebels fall by nine or 10.

2♦ NORTH TEXAS

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