Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, January 1

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, January 1

Jeff Benton

Your New Year's Day freebie is for the points to add up when Nebraska and Georgia do battle in a bowl game for the second year in a row.

Last season these schools met in the Capital One Citrus Bowl they combined for a rather large 76 points as the Over 62 points was easily shattered.

Deja Vu anyone?

Have to play the Over again today, as Georgia both scored and gave up more than their fair share of points. The Bulldogs played their last 3 games of the year, and 9 of their 12 overall Over the total.

Nebraska meanwhile was able to play Overs in 2 of their final 3 games on the campaign, going Over the total against two of the conferences better defensive teams in Iowa and Michigan State.

Hutson Mason takes over the reins at quarterback for Mark Richt's team, and while he is no Aaron Murray, Mason looked very efficient in UGa's comeback win against Georgia Tech.

Expect the points to add up between these teams for the second year in a row.

4♦ NEBRASKA-GEORGIA OVER

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, January 1

Craig Davis

Free play of the day on the Los Angeles Clippers over the Charlotte Bobcats in NBA action Wednesday night.

Don't normally like laying this many points in a professional basketball game, but this is more of a statement game for the Clips than anything else... a statement that they're pissed about getting steamrolled at home the other day by the Phoenix Suns... and I mean steamrolled.

They never led in the game and actually trailed at one point by 32 points. The no-name Suns made Los Angeles look like the no-name Clippers. And again, that's the main reason I like them in this spot tonight.

The Clips are clearly better than the Bobcats from top top bottom, but many will shy away from Los Angeles because of their recent struggles (dropping 3 of their last 4) and the fact Charlotte hasn't lost a game by double digits since a 99-74 home loss to Indiana back on November 27.

Too many things don't add up here, which gives me all the more reason to believe I'm onto something. Take the Clippers to beat Charlotte by at last 15 as your free play of the day.

4♦ L.A. CLIPPERS

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, January 1

Scott Delaney

My free play for New Year's Day is on the Over in the Rose Bowl, as I think Michigan State and Stanford will find their way over the posted 42 points in Pasadena, California.

Yes, I'm well aware that Michigan State boasts the top-ranked defense in college football and allows a mere 80.8 yards rushing a game, and I now Stanford's defense has intercepted 12 passes and is the de facto home team by playing in its home state. But I also realize that each time is not going to try to out-stop one another, they're both going to try to be the offensive breakthrough in this game.

Stanford's offense, albeit built for power, has all the components to be a speedy  unit that can open things up behind the trifecta of quarterback Kevin Hogan, wide receiver Ty Montgomery and running back Tyler Gaffney. Once the Cardinal finds its groove, there really is no stopping its momentum.

As for the Spartans, their offensive prowess centers around tailback Jeremy Langford. As he goes, so goes Michigan State, but that's not to take anything away from Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, who has a knack for finding the passing lanes and directing traffic north and south when the tempo is right.

I know both come into the Granddaddy of them all on a bevy of 'under' runs, but this is the lowest total Stanford has seen, and Michigan State is going to pressed into a high-scoring game. Play this one high.

5♦ Michigan State/Stanford Over

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, January 1

Brad Wilton

While you must respect teams out of the SEC, my feeling is LSU is laying a few points too many with starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger watching this one from the sidelines. Mettenberger went down in the season finale against Arkansas, and even though freshman Anthony Jennings has had a month to prepare, facing live action just isn't the same as practice.

Iowa closed the year with 3 straight wins, and they did cover 2 of 3 this season when listed as the underdog. Coach Kirk Ferentz is also on a 6-1 spread run the last 7 times he has taken Iowa to a bowl game.

The same cannot be said for Les Miles' squad, as the Bayou Bengals have lost both straight up and against the spread in their last pair of bowl games, and 3 of their last 4 overall.

Just cannot lay this amount of points with a freshman QB making his first start.

Take Iowa plus the points.

2♦ IOWA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, January 1

Sean Michaels

I have no problem laying the big number with Baylor (-17) in the Fiesta Bowl tonight against Central Florida, a team that hasn't taken on anyone this season that has the offensive explosiveness and sheer athleticism that the Bears will bring to the field in Glendale, Arizona.

What is really scary about this Baylor team that's averaging 53.3 points a game is that the Bears are the healthiest they've been since October. Running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin were really banged up but with a month to recover since beating Texas in late November, they're primed to go. And one of quarterback Bryce Petty's favorite targets, speedster Tevin Reese, is also returning from a dislocated wrist.

Here's the bottom line: If Central Florida couldn't stop Temple and Louisville from scoring on their defense at will, how are they going to stop the Bears? And it's not like the Knights played great ball down the stretch as they struggled to beat SMU, South Florida, Houston and Temple in the season's final month.

2♦ BAYLOR

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, January 1

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UNLV +6½ over North TexasFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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This will be like a home game for the Mean Green because the Cotton Bowl is about 50 miles away from their campus so the crowd will be in their favor but that does not deter us in the least. North Texas finished the season with an 8-4 record but its best win came against Rice. The Mean Green defeated a lot of middle of the pack C-USA foes bit for some reason they are being billed as the superior team here. The Mean Green’s toughest opponent this season was Georgia, a game they lost 45-21. North Texas also lost to Tulane, Ohio and UTSA (University of Texas, San Antonio).
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The Rebels got off to an awful 0-2 start, losing to both Minnesota and Arizona by a combined 109-36. However, they had a ton of turnovers in those games and they loss to Minnesota was especially deceiving, as they moved the ball at will, out-gained the Gophers by a wide margin and also held a significant edge in time of possession. Bobby Hauck's fourth edition is the best UNLV squad since John Robinson's 2000 team and they’ve been getting progressively better each month. The Rebels season changed when they switched QB’s and it was a move that immediate dividends. Coming in for Nick Sherry, Caleb Herring completed 64.3 percent of his pass attempts for 210 yards per game and 22 touchdowns. More importantly, Herring is smart and rarely turns it over. The Rebels defeated San Diego State (a Bowl winner this year) in their last game of the season by a score of 45-19. They have not appeared in a Bowl game since 1994, which means they will be highly motivated. The Rebels played a tougher schedule than the Mean Green and they’re also the better squad receiving points. UNLV will present a much stiffer challenge in both trenches and is capable of running downhill on North Texas. UNLV absolutely has the personnel and the mental toughness to win outright or make a game of it against a middling C-USA squad. Upset possibility.
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Iowa +8½ over LSUFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Sportsinteraction has the Tigers spotting 8½ points while most everyone else has them +7½. Obviously we’ll take the +8½ but if your shop offers +7½, Iowa still comes recommended. Indeed the Tigers had some nice wins this season and playing in the SEC has proven to have these Bowl participants well-prepped but there are a lot of concerns surrounding them. First, LSU will be without their outstanding leader and QB, Zach Mettenberger, who was lost for the season earlier this month with a torn ACL. That leaves freshman, Anthony Jennings calling the shots, a QB that has thrown 10 passes this season. LSU Coach, Les Miles said, "We are very disappointed". One has to question the motivation or excitement level of the Tigers here. Furthermore, LSU has dropped three of their last four Bowl games under Les Miles and when coaches keep losing these games, a negative trend develops that suggest they are not good at preparation after a month layoff. The Tigers with Mettenberger went just 5-3 over their last eight games with losses to Alabama, Ole Miss and Georgia. LSU’s best win came against either Texas A&M or Auburn and most of their other wins (Furman, Kent State, UAB, TCU, Arkansas) were against easy targets. The Tigers are not only overvalued, they could be in trouble here.
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Iowa won’t dazzle or wow anyone but what they will do is impose its will and grind it out until they wear down the opposition. The Hawkeyes are rarely out of any game they play in. They went an impressive 8-4 this season after most experts picked them to win five of six games providing everything went perfect. After losing its opener to Northern Illinois, Iowa’s only other three losses came against Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. This is a Hawkeyes team that plays a tremendous brand of defense. They ranked 10th in the country in both points allowed and yards allowed per game. The Hawkeyes run-first offense has been improving with each game and they figure to have some success against an LSU defense that really hasn’t impressed this year. The Hawkeyes are a well-coached, well-prepared team that has improved dramatically since the opener. They not only have a great chance to stay well within this margin but they could win this one outright if they can get a couple of early stops and put some doubt and frustration in the minds of the Tigers.
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Baylor -17 over Central FloridaFOR  FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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We usually don’t get involved in these big spread games but the oddsmakers have made the Knights a little too enticing here and that always prompts us to take a closer look. First off, the Baylor Bears deserve to be in this BCS Bowl. They went 12-1 in the tough Big-12 and walloped many teams in the process including Oklahoma (41-12), Iowa State (71-7) and Texas Tech (63-34). The Bears are a scoring machine unlike anything that the Knights have ever seen. QB Bryce Petty is as good as they come and he joins several other award winning offensive players on this Bears squad. Motivation will be a non-factor because this is Baylor’s first ever BCS Bowl appearance.
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Meanwhile, UCF played in the weak AAC. The Knights ran the table in that conference and posted an identical 11-1 record. However, no other 2013 team flirted with disaster as often as UCF did. The Knights won seven games by a final scoring margin of a touchdown or less and they trailed in the second half in four of those victories. Against Houston, the Knights got the benefit of some of the most ridiculous referee calls this season in 19-14 victory in a game they had no right to win. South Florida and Temple also put big scares into this program, both losing by three points. The Knights #15 ranking is unwarranted, as there are at least 40 teams that are superior. UCF played a bunch of mediocre clubs and probably should have lost half of them. The Knights defense, while being advertised as very good is anything but. Everything about the Knights is all smoke and mirrors. The offense is average, the defense is well below average and the both the offensive and defensive lines are average as well. This is indeed a mismatch of giant proportions and one in which the BCS committee will be asking themselves, “What were we thinking?” Baylor can name the score in this one and in the process will expose these imposters in a big way.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, January 1

Doug Upstone

Wisconsin vs. South Carolina
Play: Under 51

On New Year's, Play UNDER on teams like Wisconsin when the total is between 49.5 and 56, having won three out of their last four games against a hot team (South Carolina), after having won eight or more out of their last 10 games. This college football free pick is 27-5, the last 21 years.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, January 1

Rickie Robbins

UNLV +210

The UNLV Rebels clash with the North Texas Mean Green in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

UNLV ended several years of struggles with victories in the final two games of the year to assure themselves of a postseason berth. The Rebels were more of an offense first team as the D did just enough at times with 436 yards and over 31 points allowed with opponents averaging over 210 rushing yards. The offense produced 423 yards and 31 points as well and were able to do a little bit of everything. Caleb Herring enjoyed a strong season in the air with 2,522 yards with 22 TD's against just four picks with Devante Davis hauling in 1,194 yards on 77 receptions and 14 scores. When the Rebels wanted to run they turned to work horse Tim Cornett who rambled for 1,251 yards on 252 touches.

Not to long ago North Texas and winning football were not mentioned in the same sentence. That has changed and the Mean Green were better then many anticipated with a second place finish in the CUSA West in their first year in the conference. UNT was a very solid defensive squad that gave up 355 yards and 18 points while sporting the nation's #19 run D that allowed 125 yards. The offense produced 411 yards and 31 points behind a top 50 rushing attack. Derek Thompson completed 64% of his throws for 2,640 yards but did make mistakes with 14 scores and 13 picks. This was a two receiver attack with Brelan Chancellor and Darnell Smith combining for over 700 each in receptions. Brandin Byrd was the focus of the running game with 1,023 yards on 182carries for eleven touchdowns.

I think this one comes down to whether UNLV can move the ball on North Texas who should have the home crowd on their side. My feeling is this is low scoring where the points are valuable so I'm leaning to the points and under and will firm up on game day.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, January 1

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Toronto +115 over DETROITFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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OT included. There is no question whatsoever that the Detroit Red Wings are the better team when you remove the goaltenders. You can’t be truly successful – as in, Stanley Cup winning successful – without elite talent, and the Detroit Red Wings have it in spades. Pavel Datsyuk is pretty universally revered around the NHL for a reason. He scores some of the slickest goals while winning defensive player of the year awards while winning gentlemanly player awards. Combining those things is almost unheard of in hockey. He gets to line up with point-per-game skillmonster Henrik Zetterberg too, which kinda makes them a lot to handle. However, after those two and with key secondary scoring sidelined (Daniel Alfredsson, Stephen Weiss and Johan “The Mule” Franzen are all out)) the Red Wings scoring drops off significantly. That’s not the problem. The problem is a defense that is prone to making mistakes and a goaltender in Jimmy Howard that has not been able to bail them out. Howard has been dreadful the entire season and in his first game back against Nashville on Monday after a 20-day absence he allowed five goals on 28 shots (.821 save percentage). In at least three of those goals Howard had a clear view of the puck but was too slow to stop it. Weak goaltending is the #1 reason why good teams usually lose games and many of Detroit’s losses this year can be attributed to that.
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By contrast, Jonathan Bernier is this year’s MVP. Without him the Maple Leafs would have less wins than Buffalo or Calgary. Bernier keeps stealing games that the Leafs have been badly outplayed in and there is no reason to believe anything will be different in this game. If the Leafs even come close to the Red Wings in shots on net or time spent in the opposition’s end, Bernier will take care of the rest. Throw in a tag on the Maple Leafs and they are worthy of a bet because of the aforementioned superior goaltending that is very likely going to be the difference in this year’s Classic.
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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, January 1

Jeff Scott Sports

3 UNIT PLAY

Michigan State/ Stanford Under 42.5: If there was any game that was expected to be a low scoring dog fight, it would be this one. I know the Spartans are missing their best player on defense, but this is still a complete defense that is ranked 1st in total defense, 4th vs the pass, 1st vs the run and 4th in points allowed (12.7 ppg). This is one tough bunch on defense, while the offenses of the Spartans is a very conservative run based offense, that will look to burn clock and keep the Stanford offense on the sidelines. This conservative offense will face a very tough Stanford defense that comes in ranked 15th overall, 3rd vs the run and 9th in points allowed (18.6 ppg). They are 89th vs the pass but Michigan State is not a good passing team. on offense the Cardinal are also very conservative and run based, ranking 92nd in passing and 22nd in rushing. These are to very god defense that will stop these very conservative offenses an that should keep the scoring in the 30's.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, January 1

NellyFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Pacers / Raptors UnderFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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In terms of defensive efficiency, no other team in the NBA is even in the same building as the Pacers so far this season. With a 25-5 record Indiana has allowed just 89 points per game this season while incredibly holding foes to just 41 percent shooting. The numbers do deteriorate a bit on the road but Indiana has also been less productive on offense away from home. The 'under' is 18-12 on the season for the Pacers and while more of that 'under' success has come at home this should be a focused team after losing two of the last three road contests. Toronto opens the new calendar year at home but they are coming off a big win last night in Chicago in a very low scoring game. Six of the last eight games have been road games for the Raptors so this could be a team facing some fatigue. Toronto is allowing just 98 points per game as this has been a solid defensive team and at 14-15 with wins in five of the last six games Toronto is looking like a viable playoff team in the Eastern Conference led by improvement on defense. These teams played in November in Indianapolis with just 175 points scored despite a much lower total than today's game will feature. If the recent defensive numbers hold up for both teams this should be another low scoring game. Over the last five games Toronto has allowed just 94 points per game while Indiana has held its last five opponents to a scoring average below 83 points per game.

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