Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, January 3

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Memphis Grizzlies at Denver NuggetsFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The 14-17 Nuggets have lost EIGHT in a row heading into Friday night's game with the Grizzlies, a rematch of a 122-99 Memphis home win last Saturday. Memphis is also 14-17, having won FOUR of its last six games, including a surprising 99-91 win last night in Phoenix over the Suns.
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The Grizzlies are without Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph has scored at least 20 points FIVE times in his six contests and last night (20 & 15) recorded his fifth double-double in that span. In last Saturday's game against Denver, Randolph scored a team-best 20 points and was one of six players in double figures as the Grizzlies outscored the Nuggets 54-30 in the paint. Four of those players, came from Memphis' bench, which had a season-high 62 points.
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The Grizzlies look to grab another win against a team that's on the verge of its longest skid in 11 seasons. The Nuggets haven't dropped nine straight since a 14-game losing streak Feb 6-Mar 5, 2003. Denver is also trying to avoid its first six-game skid at home since a string of seven consecutive defeats during that same season, and it will have less depth for that attempt. The Nuggets suspended Miller on Thursday for "conduct detrimental to the team."
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The PG was held out of a game while healthy for the first time in his career in a 114-102 loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday, and there are reports he has vocally expressed his displeasure with coach Brian Shaw about his lack of playing time. The 15-year veteran was averaging career lows of 19.0 minutes, 5.9 points and 3.3 assists. "It just came to a boiling point. We made a decision and we're moving forward," coach Brian Shaw said.
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It's hard to believe that just last season, Denver set a franchise record by going 38-3 SU at home. The good news is, the Nuggets catch the Grizzlies in a back-to-back game situation plus should feel good about the fact that they have won 30 of the last 34 meetings here in Denver against the Grizzlies. If not here, when for the Nuggets? Take Denver.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, January 3

Jeff Alexander

George Washington -8½

GW saw its 6-game win streak come to an end with a 72-55 loss at K-State, but it should waste no time getting back in the win column. Favorites that return all five starters and are off a road loss where they were held to less than 60 points are 82-41 ATS the last 5 seasons. Teams fitting this scenario have won by an average of 10.1 points. Georgia won last season's meeting by 11 points so GW will have added motivation to avenge that defeat. The Colonials are 6-0 ATS in January home games under coach Lonergan, winning them by an average of 13.0 points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, January 3

Jack Jones
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Denver Nuggets -3½
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The Denver Nuggets are showing some of their best value of the season tonight as only a 3.5-point home favorite over the Memphis Grizzlies. I'll take advantage and back them in what I believe is going to be a blowout in their favor by game's end.
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The reason Denver is undervalued right now is because it has lost eight straight games while going 1-7 ATS in the process. That includes a 99-120 loss at Memphis on December 28. So, you can bet that the Nuggets won't be lacking motivation tonight as they try to end this skid and get payback.
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Memphis will be playing the second of a back-to-back off a big win at Phoenix last night. Meanwhile, Denver comes in on one day of rest and will have the edge in that department because of it.
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The home team has won four straight and 10 of the last 12 meetings in this series. In fact, Denver is 29-3 in 32 home meetings with Memphis dating back to 1996. That's history that I certainly want to side with tonight given the situation. Bet the Nuggets Friday.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, January 3

Dave Price

New Orleans Pelicans -3

New Orleans enters this contest with losses in two of its last three games as its defense has let it down. However, the Pelicans are a perfect 8-0 ATS this season after allowing 100 points or more in three straight games, winning by an average of 11.8 points in this situation. The Pelicans are also 27-8-1 ATS in their last 36 games following a loss of more than 10 points, 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games versus a team with a losing record and 4-0 ATS in their last 4 versus the Eastern Conference. The Celtics are struggling, going 1-5 SU and 0-5-1 ATS in the last six, and they are up against a more talented team tonight. The Pelicans are 3-0 SU and ATS in their last 3 against Boston. Lay the points.

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Oklahoma State -1½ over MissouriFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Tigers were a game away from playing for a national championship and choked big time in a blowout loss to Auburn. One game does not define a team and it’s hard to ignore the pedigree of playing in the SEC that Missouri brings to this game but that loss sticks out when you consider that more than half of Auburn's SEC wins were Houdini acts. Much like Alabama, Missouri’s out-of-conference schedule was awful and its best wins came against Georgia and Texas A&M.
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Both of these teams can score but one should not ignore that the Cowboys defense allowed just 20 points a game, which ranked 20th in the country, while playing some of the most potent offenses in the offensive oriented Big-12. OSU held Baylor to 17 points, Mississippi State to three points, Kansas to six points, Texas to 13 points, TCU to 10 points and the list goes on. Oklahoma State's new look offense (more rushing than passing) is less a case of premeditated philosophical overhaul and more an example of quality offensive coaches playing to the strengths of their personnel. The Cowboys can beat you in so many different ways. We love the direction of Mike Gundy's program and we like the Cowboys to put an exclamation mark on their terrific season against a Tigers team that is good but that is also more beatable than the Cowboys.
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Clemson +136 over Ohio StateFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Buckeyes came into the year with high expectations but came up just short in the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State in a 34-24 loss. The offense set a school record in averaging 46 points per game, while quarterback Braxton Miller, despite missing a couple of games, had a solid 22-5 TD-to-INT ratio while topping 1,000 rushing yards for the second consecutive year. That’s nice, it really is but when you schedule games against cream puffs you eventually pay the price and that’s precisely what happened to the Buckeyes. OSU did have some nice wins against Wisconsin, Iowa and Northwestern but still allowed 24 points or more against all of those clubs. As a 17-point dog, the Wolverines racked up 41 points on the Buckeyes and the following week, the Spartans pedestrian offense racked up 34 points. So, the Buckeyes ended the year 12-1 but impressive is was not and one could even make an argument for OSU being on the right side of fortunate. Ohio State's field-position management success was a major factor in keeping it in the BCS championship hunt throughout the season. Against Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Michigan, the Buckeyes' field-position value generated was greater than their margin of victory in those games. In other words, if the teams had faced off with equal starting field position, the Buckeyes would be only 9-4 and not headed to a BCS bowl game. A team that dominates field position consistently is not necessarily lucky but one that needs that field-position edge to win games against a relatively light schedule can be considered fortunate.
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Meanwhile, the Tigers lost to Florida State and South Carolina, arguably two of the top 5 teams in the country with Florida State ranked #1. Those two games were Clemson’s biggest games of the year but they were simply the second best team both times and even outclassed. They’re not outclassed here. In fact, the oddsmakers had so much respect for the Tigers that they were just a 2½-point dog at South Carolina and a 5-point dog against FSU. Clemson’s QB, Tajh Boyd owns nearly every single Clemson passing record while their special teams boast one of the most accurate kickers in college football the last two years in Chandler Catanzaro. Urban Meyer has a great Bowl record and the Buckeyes are among the most popular teams in the country but we're not buying that they're as elite as advertised. It's hard to envision anything other than a competitive game in which both teams put up some yardage and points. The Tigers are every bit as good as the Buckeyes and certainly have a chance to win it outright. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen but we’re all about value and in that regard Clemson is the prudent play.

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Chicago -½ +108 over NEW JERSEYFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Regulation only. It may sound like a broken record already but at some point the Devils are going to pay a price for using Martin Brodeur as their #1 goaltender instead of the superior Cory Schneider. New Jersey’s defense has been so good that it has masked Brodeur’s shortcomings but an elite team like the Blackhawks, coming off a loss to the Islanders, is precisely the type of team that will expose him. The Devils have allowed the least amount of shots on net per game and that is the only reason why Brodeur is winning games. However, these Blackhawks are a top outfit in creating chances and burying them and that spells trouble for the Devils netminder.
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Chicago has lost back-t0-back games just twice this year. More recently, after a loss to Toronto, the Blackhawks bounced back with a 3-1 win over the Kings the very next night. After a 3-2 OT loss against Vancouver just before the break, Chicago rebounded with a 5-2 win over these same Devils. The Blackhawks hate to lose and they especially hate losing to vastly inferior teams. In the second game of back-to-backs this season, Chicago has not lost in regulation and overall they are 9-1 in those situations. Once again, the fade is on against Brodeur because we’re sticking to our guns in suggesting he’s the slowest goaltender in the NHL.
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Tampa Bay -½ +130 over CALGARYFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Regulation only. The Lightning continue to be undervalued because they play in a small market with a small following but this team just refuses to lose. The Lightning’s 12 losses match Boston and Pittsburgh for the fewest losses in the East and they’ve done it with numerous injuries to key personnel. Steven Stamkos is still out but the Bolts have most of their other key players back in the lineup. Tampa just went into Vancouver and defeated the Canucks on Wednesday. The Bolts have won six of their past eight games and have allowed two goals or less in all of six wins. Ben Bishop is among the best goaltenders in the game and that figures to bode extremely well here against the offensively challenged Flames. We’d normally be concerned of a letdown after a big win but these Bolts have proven that they come to play every night.
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Calgary has dropped seven of eight and they have scored one lousy goal over its past three games. Two of those losses occurred against Philadelphia and Edmonton, two of the worst defenses in the NHL, yet Calgary managed one goal in six periods against that pair. They now have the unenviable task of playing a shut-down defense and shut-down goaltender when they are pressing big time to score. Calgary, which will not make the playoffs for a fifth straight season, must use the period leading to the trade deadline to determine which assets to hang on to and must maximize its return on those assets deemed expendable. The players are playing in an unstable environment and the effects of the unknown are on full display right now.
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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, January 3

Dr. Bob

Ohio State (-2½) 41 Clemson 34

I liked Ohio State in this game enough to make them a Best Bet but a suspension to defensive linemen Noah Spence, coupled with the star cornerback Bradley Roby being downgraded to doubtful with a knee injury suffered in the Big 10 Championship game is enough to make me back off a bit. Even with those injuries my math model still leans with Ohio State and the Buckeyes apply to 43-8-2 ATS bowl situation that is based on their upset loss to Michigan State.

Ohio State’s defense was 0.7 yards per play better than average during the regular season, as their 1st unit allowed just 5.1 yppl to teams that would combine to average 5.8 yppl to an average team but not having top CB Roby and top pass rusher Spence obviously hurts that unit. Roby was #3 on team in tackles, which is very good for a cornerback, while leading the Buckeyes with 16 passes defended while Spence had 8 sacks and 6.5 other tackles for loss. Over the years I’ve studied the affect of defensive injuries on defensive performance and using the combined statistics of those two key defenders would result in a predicted increase of 0.32 yards per play (0.18 yards per rushing play and 0.45 yards per pass play). That difference adds up to 3.4 points, which is a pretty significant number for two defensive players. Ohio State has played one full game (week 1 against Buffalo) and parts of two other games without Roby (against Iowa and Michigan State) and the pass defense was still 0.3 yards per pass play better than average on 73 pass plays without Roby (6.1 yppp against quarterbacks that would combine to average 6.4 yppp against an average defense). Now, without Spence rushing the passer the pass defense should be a bit worse than that and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd can certainly take advantage. Boyd averaged 8.1 yards per pass play in 10 games against FBS foes that would combine to allow 5.8 yppp to an average quarterback and I project Boyd at 8.3 yppp in this game. Clemson’s run defense is mediocre (4.9 yards per rushing play against teams that would allow 4.9 yprp to an average team) and Ohio State’s run defense is still 0.6 yprp better than average even after adjusting for the injuries, so the Tigers are expected to average just 4.5 yprp in this game. Overall I have Clemson racking up 530 yards at 6.6 yppl in this game while controlling the ball for 13 more plays than the Buckeyes are likely to run.

Ohio State’s offense ranked 4th in my ratings this season behind only Florida State, Baylor, and Oregon, averaging 43.8 points on 514 yards at 7.4 yppl against teams that would allow 5.5 yppl to an average team. That attack was very good early in the season but it got even better at the start of Big 10 play when star RB Carlos Hyde was able to play after serving a 3 game suspension and quarterback Braxton Miller returned from an injury that kept him out nearly 3 full games. From week 5 on with both Hyde and Miller the Buckeyes attack averaged 43.6 points on 515 yards at 7.6 yppl against teams that would allow 5.4 yppl to an average team. Hyde ran for 1408 yards at 7.7 yards per run despite missing 3 games while Miller ran for 1121 yards at 8.2 yards per rushing play while averaging 7.2 yards per pass play (against teams that would allow 6.1 yppp to an average QB). Clemson’s defense is pretty good at 0.7 yppl better than average but they gave up 51 points on 565 yards at 7.9 yppl to Florida State and 35 points on 551 yards at 8.0 yppl to Georgia, whoare the only two elite offensive teams that the Tigers faced this season. Ohio State, meanwhile, scored 40 points or more against every team expect the 3 best defensive teams that they faced (Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan State) and averaging 30 points against those 3 strong defenses is still very good given that those 3 teams would combine to allow just 16.7 points to an average offensive team. Clemson’s defense isn’t good enough to slow down the Buckeyes and my math model projects 504 yards at 7.3 yppl for Ohio State in this game.

Clemson is projected to gain more yards in this game but Ohio State’s 7.3 yppl to 6.6 yppl advantage is actually more significant than the total yards edge in favor of the Tigers and the Buckeyes have a 3.2 points advantage in special teams and a slight edge in projected turnovers. Overall the math favors Ohio State by 4 points with a total of 74.8 points even with the 3.4 points applied for Ohio State’s defensive attrition. That’s not much line value but Ohio State does apply to a 43-8-2 ATS bowl bounce-back situation. I still like Ohio State to cover even with their defense at less than full strength, but not enough to recommend them as a Best Bet anymore. I think the better play is on the over, as I project 75 points based on projected stats and 76 points based on a compensated and adjusted points model. I’ll lean with Ohio State and I’ll consider the Over a Strong Opinion at 71 points or less and a lean at higher than 71 points.

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Everyone was wondering what happened to the Golden State team that looked so impressive in the playoffs a year ago. They are getting their answer right now, as the Warriors are on a seven-game winning streak and are look really good. Atlanta is one of three teams in the East that has a winning record at 18-14. Curry and Lee have provided an inside-out combination that has been lethal, as Curry scored 36 while dishing out 12 assists, while Lee poured in 32 and grabbed 14 boards against the Heat. Golden State has won the last three in this series, including a 115-93 win in Atlanta last season. Golden State is now 14-6-1 ATS in their last 21 on the road vs. a team with a winning home record, and the Hawks stand at just 3-14-1 ATS in their last 18 on two days of rest. Play on Golden State.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, January 3

Dr. Bob College Football

Oklahoma State (-2½) 33 Missouri 29

Both of these teams lost their final game and were denied a conference championship but Missouri may be a bit more disappointed since a win over Auburn in the SEC Championship game likely would have put the Tigers in the national championship game while Oklahoma State simply would have been in a different major bowl game. Regardless of motivation my math model pegs Oklahoma State as the better team. Missouri has a bit of an edge offensively but Oklahoma State’s defense is clearly better than the Tigers’ stop unit and that could be the difference in what should be a competitive game.

The Cowboys are a good offensive team, averaging 38 points on 448 yards at 6.1 yards per play in 11 games against FBS teams that would combine to allow 5.4 yppl to an average team. That attack improved a bit midseason when Desmond Roland (4.7 ypr) took over for Jeremy Smith (3.8 ypr) as the featured running back in week 9 and Clint Chelf became the full time quarterback in place of J.W. Walsh. The compensated passing numbers of Chelf (7.2 yards per pass play against teams that would allow 5.8 yppp) and Walsh are about the same but Chelf proved to be a better runner (368 yards at 7.8 yards per running play) and the offense rates at 0.8 yppl better than average currently. That unit has an advantage over a good but not great Missouri defense that has yielded 5.4 yppl this season to teams that would combine to average 5.9 yppl against an average team. My math model projects 445 yards at 5.9 yppl for the Cowboys in this game.

Missouri’s offense was 1.2 yppl better than average this season (6.8 yppl against teams that would allow 5.6 yppl to an average team) and the Tigers are actually a bit worse with quarterback James Franklin back. Franklin missed some games in the middle of the season and backup Maty Mauk, while not nearly as accurate a passer, made more big plays and averaged more yards per pass play against tougher competition than Franklin. Franklin still posted good numbers, averaging 7.2 yards per pass play against teams that would allow 6.5 yppp to an average quarterback, and Missouri’s attack is still 1.1 yppl better than average with Franklin at the controls (just 0.1 yppl worse than their season average). Oklahoma State’s defense was very good this season, allowing just 4.9 yppl to FBS teams that would combine to average 6.0 yppl against an average defensive team, so the Cowboys’ defense is just as good as Missouri’s offense and the math projects 423 yard at 5.5 yppl for the Tigers in this game.

Overall the math model favors Oklahoma State by 3 points with a total of 62.6 points and the adjusted points model favors the Cowboys by 3 ½ points with a total of 60.9 points. A negative 12-38-1 ATS bowl situation applies to Missouri, so I’ll lean with Oklahoma State at -2 ½ or less and I have no opinion on the total.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, January 3

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The Raptors have been a catalyst for my personal service plays that are currently on a sweet 16-5 76% ATS run.  They’ve covered 8 of their last 10 games and there’s absolutely nothing fluky about it.  Straight-up the Raptors own an identical record including wins over the Mavericks, Thunder and Pacers.  Of course, their recent run correlates with the trade of the vastly overrated Rudy Gay.  Gay played his last game with Toronto on December 6th against the Phoenix Suns.  Since the blockbuster trade the Raptors have won 9 of 12, including six on the road.  This team is showing ER staples to pointspread success in the NBA with toughness, defense and chemistry, as the marketplace is slow to adjust as they overachieve to their talent. Meanwhile, the Wizards have yet to find the spark that was vital in their winning ways in mid-season last year.  Remember, after being hampered by injuries last season, the Wizards went on an incredible pointspread tear when finally healthy.  Starting on December 28th last season the Wizards covered 14 of 16 games; ironically that run vividly reminds me of the current Raptors play.  The Raptors match-up well in this contest as point guard Kyle Lowry and his bulldog ways figure to at least slow down Wizards point guard John Wall.  In addition, DeMar Derozan and Terrance Ross are defending the wing at a high level, which will take away clean looks for the Wizards at the three-point line.  The Raptors find themselves in their preferred role tonight on the road as an underdog, and we’ll take the points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, January 3

River City Sharps

Clemson +3

Clemson and Ohio State look to light up the scoreboard Friday night when they meet in the Orange Bowl. Clemson boasts one of the nation's top offenses, led by senior QB Tajh Boyd. The Tigers averaged 45.1 points and 534.6 yards in their wins, and are led by Boyd and WR Sammy Watkins. Boyd passed for 3,473 yards and 29 TD's, and he scored another nine TDs on the ground. Ohio State also boasts an explosive offense, led by Braxton Miller at QB. The problem for Ohio State could be defensively. The Buckeyes allowed their final four opponents to complete 63.7 percent of its passes for an average of 340.8 yards and 11 total TDs. Adding to that problem is that OSU will be without sophomore DE Noah Spence, who has been suspended for three games for violating a Big 10 rule. This game basically comes down to which defense plays better and we think that recent history indicates that the dog is the way to play this game. Clemson's defense, especially against the pass, has been pretty good this season, and we think they have a much better chance of stopping the Buckeye attack than the other way around. Make sure you get them at a FG or better, but the Sharps like the Tigers here tonight.

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Joe Gavazzi

Houston Rockets -11.5

The Knicks pulled a shocking upset at San Antonio last night. But that just lifts the New Yorkers record to 10-21 ATS. They will still be without World Peace and Felton as they look to pull consecutive upsets. But it is highly doubtful for a team that is 3-7 ATS as road dog. The Rockets look for a turnaround as well following their 110-106 loss at -10 on this floor Tuesday night to Sacramento. Well rested Houston has been resilient at 8-4 ATS following a defeat. In addition, the straight up winner of all Houston games has gone 30-3 ATS including 15-2 ATS on this court. We will take our chances in extending our record backing the home-standing Rockets for the Friday night turnaround.

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John Wilson

Clemson vs. Ohio St
Play: Over 70½

Ohio State just took their first loss in two years. That's twice as hard to take as the first loss of the season. 24-0 and then, bam! 24-1. It's a new reality for them, and it destroyed everything they were working toward. Even though they're in a BCS bowl, it's hard to imagine the motivation is there, and even Urban Meyer has said it's been tough getting over the loss to Michigan State.

I don't think they'll be over it early in 2014, either. In a close game, emotion is a big factor, and can easily switch a game the other way. Clemson bounced back before and they'll do it again. Ohio State is more than good enough to win this game, but they might not have the will.

Prediction: Clemson 42, Ohio State 35


Oklahoma St vs. Missouri    
Play: Missouri +2½

I went in thinking that Oklahoma State had defeated more good teams than Missouri, whose win slate looked kind of blank. But reviewing the schedules they beat the same amount of winning teams, and Missouri beat two top 25 BCS teams (#22 Georgia and #21 Texas A&M) while Oklahoma State beat just one (#6 Baylor). But boy, that Baylor win was something. However, so was Oklahoma State's loss to West Virginia; that's much worse than a double overtime loss to South Carolina.

And then we get to the last games for both teams, games that were just about equally bad. A 9-point loss at home to Oklahoma, or a 17-point loss to Auburn on a neutral field? Hard to say. Missouri probably looked worse as their defense was shredded uncharacteristically, and that weakness raises a question as to whether it will be vulnerable to the Cowboys. But the 'Pokes are more of a passing team, and Missouri is vulnerable there, except they shut down Johnny Manziel? It's hard to figure out the Mizzou defense, except that in terms of scoring defense it was great until the Auburn game.

Looking at the game ratings, Missouri's Auburn loss was one point better than Oklahoma State's loss to the Sooners. We haven't picked many (any?) games right on the line, nor do we have any overtime games so far! So it's time: Missouri by a TD.

Prediction: Missouri 42, Oklahoma St 35

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Oklahoma State vs MissouriFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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This could be a bowl game decided by which team is less disappointed by being here, as the Oklahoma State Cowboys blew their chance to clinch the Big 12 title and go to a BCS bowl by getting upset at home by Oklahoma in their season finale, while the Missouri Tigers lost to Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. However, the opportunity to knock off an SEC team should be enough motivation for the Cowboys, and the fact that the team that beat them, Oklahoma, shocked the annual SEC kingpins from Alabama last night should be a positive sign. Oklahoma State was well balanced this season, with the offense averaging 440.9 yards on 268.5 passing yards and 172.4 rushing yards, and the defense allowing 378.5 yards per game. Missouri on the other hand can have an Alabama-like letdown. Oklahoma State is 12-2 ATS in its last 14 games following an ATS loss.
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These are not your father’s Denver Nuggets, or not even your Nuggets from last season that led the NBA in scoring in their final season under Coach George Karl. The current contingent has lost eight straight games while failing to reach 100 points in the first seven losses, and it has cracked the century mark just three times the last 14 games topping out at only 103 points. On the flip side, the Denver defense is eighth in the NBA in field goal percentage allowed under new coach Brian Shaw. Speaking of defense, the Memphis Grizzlies are starting to resemble the team that allowed the fewest points in the NBA last season, allowing 94.3 points per game on 43.7 percent shooting the last six games to move up to sixth in that category this year. The ‘under’ is 16-5 in the Nuggets’ last 21 games overall.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, January 3

Chris Jordan
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My free play for tonight is the last game being played in any sport, as it's Midnight on the East coast, 9 p.m. on the West coast and 7 p.m. on the court they'll be playing. Honolulu is the site, but I'm taking Hawai'i's guest, Nebraska-Omaha.
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The Mavericks arrive on the island having have won seven of their last eight games, with the only loss being in Minnesota, against a very talented Golden Gophers team. UNO, which is playing its final non-conference game before opening Summit League play - has impressed me with its non-league schedule to start the season.
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The Mavericks opened the season with a win over Northern Illinois, then played competitively in losses to Iowa, UNLV and Drake. Last month, as part of that 7-1 run, it beat an always scrappy UNR team.
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Nebraska-Omaha can push the tempo, and will likely do just that, forcing Hawaii to keep up with the Mavericks' well-oiled scoring machine. CJ Carter leads UNO in scoring with 15.1 points per game whiile John Karhoff averages 13.6 points per game, and comes into this one after dumping a career-high 28 all over Central Arkansas last Saturday.
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I know the Warriors are tough at home, and this is always a rough road trip for any opponent. But the Mavericks have been hot this season and have the wherewithal to come away with a win. As big as this number is, though, I just need them to keep it close and stay well inside this rather big spread.
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5♦ NEBRASKA-OMAHA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, January 3

Jeff Benton
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Friday freebie is the Boston Celtics as the home dog against the New Orleans Pelicans.
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Boston has dropped 5 of their last 6 games straight up, but I do like that slide to be halted tonight when the visiting Pelicans come calling.
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I don't trust the Pelicans on the road, especially not as a road favorite.
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New Orleans is just 5-11 straight up away from the Big Easy, and they are just 1-4 against the spread when installed as the road favorite for the season.
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Boston is at least 8-9 straight up at home, and they are 7-9-1 against the spread at home for the season.
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Let's grab the points and look for the C's to grab the outright win against a Pelicans team that has not proved they can win on the road, much less cover on the road as the favorite.
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2♦ BOSTON

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, January 3

Craig Davis

Today’s free play of the day is on the LA Clippers over the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas. You know I must really like this game if I’m going against the Mavs as home dogs… but that’s what I’m feeling tonight.

Could Dallas win this game? Absolutely they could… they clearly have the talent to do it and they are playing at home… but there’s something about this matchup that just scares the crap out of me.

Dallas’s biggest weakness is in the paint… where they host guys like Samuel Dalembert, and undersized DeJuan Blair, and sometimes Dirk Nowitzki. Sorry, but you’re not going to intimidate anyone with that group, so I hope you can see where I’m going with this.

3♦ L.A. CLIPPERS

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, January 3

Scott Delaney
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Looking to make it four straight complimentary winners, and 12 of 15, I like the Over in tonight's Cotton Bowl between Oklahoma State and Missouri.
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The Cowboys are going to treat this one like a home game, and will force Missouri into an uptempo contest, which I don't see the Tigers backing down from. After all, SEC teams have won nine of the last 10 Cotton Bowls against the Big 12, and ironically, the lone Big 12 winner during that span was Missouri in 2008.
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I honestly think we're about to see the best game of the postseason, even better than Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, in their win over Duke. The have enough experience with 28 seniors who have experienced three straight bowl wins, to handle Missouri's defensive front.
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The Cowboys averaged 440 yards per game and are a very strong component inside the red zone, with 53 scores in 60 trips inside the opponent's 20 - including 46 touchdowns. They'll match wits with Missouri's high-octane offense, which tallied 493 yards per game thanks to a wide-receiving trifecta that ranges in height from 6-foot-4 to 6-6.
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Remember, this is an old-school Big 12 rivalry, before Missouri bolted for the SEC. I'm counting on a little familiarity here, and even think pride could step up and play a role between these two.
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The Cowboys have gone over in six of their last eight non-conference games, and they'll be the ones setting the tone. Play this one high, as the total soars.
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1♦ Oklahoma State/Missouri Over

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, January 3

Brad Wilton
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NBA total release for Friday is Over in Golden State-Atlanta.
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The Warriors and the Hawks have already landed Over the total in their first meeting in mid-December in Oakland, and with the Over standing at 9-4 the last 13 times these teams have played at the Philips Arena, I will not go against those trends in tonight's showdown.
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Golden State is riding a 7 game winning streak that has seen Overs in 3 of their last 5 wins, while Atlanta can counter with a 6-0 Over mark their last 6 games following a straight up win - the Hawks off a win at Boston.
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The Over has also cashed in 5 straight at "The Hi-Light Factory" - aka Philips Arena, so expect the offense to be humming tonight when the Warriors and Hawks conclude their season series for the year.
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Golden State-Atlanta Over the total.
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4♦ GOLDEN STATE-ATLANTA OVER

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, January 3

Harry Bondi

UTAH +3.5 over LA Lakers

Two teams headed in opposite directions right now as the turmoil surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers have helped them lose six straight games and seem disinterested while Utah has won seven of its last 12 including a win over LA on December 27th. The Lakers are in disarray as players are wondering whether Pau Gasol is going to be traded. Injuries have also depleted a very thin Lakers team. Utah has won and covered 5 of the last 6 meetings with LA and make it 6 out of 7 tonight!

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