Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, August 30

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, August 30

Gabriel Dupont

I will play Eastern Michigan tonight against Morgan State, laying the big number in what should be a 30-point blowout.

The SMART INTANGIBLE with Eastern Michigan - The Eagles return 17 starters from a 2013 squad that went 2-10. The record isn't impressive, but I always lend credence to a team that has a lot of returners back from a struggling season, because they want to avenge their previous campaign.

The SMART INTANGIBLE working against Morgan State - Lee Hull takes over the Bears, and while I know  the former Maryland wide receivers coach is passionate and is fully capable of turning this program around, I don't think Morgan State will be able to hang with EMU as the game moves forward.

In conclusion, why EASTERN MICHIGAN is my SMART PLAY in this game - For the record, I know EMU also has a rookie head coach, as  Chris Creighton, who guided Drake to a share of Pioneer Football League championships in 2011 and 2012, is now in charge. But his resume is a bit more impressive. It's not that big of a jump, either, and he should be able to start the season off successfully for his Eagles.

A strange intangible, but one that can make a difference in the attitude of the players in their own stadium, Rynearson Stadium has switched to gray FieldTurf, adding to Creighton’s efforts to change the culture in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

4♦ EASTERN MICHIGAN

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, August 30

Chris Jordan

My free play for tonight is on the Iowa State Cyclones, over North Dakota State, as this line is far too cheap. I know, I know, I know... North Dakota State has won three straight Division I-A championships and knocked off Kansas last season.

But coach Craig Bohl's 11-year reign up there is over. He is now at Wyoming, and North Dakota State has to start over. I don't think North Dakota State will be ready to compete with Iowa State, under new guidance.

That's not to say North Dakota State isn't capable of another winning run this season, and won't challenge for another Division I-A championship. I just think Bohl was the right guy to lead this team, and regrouping under a new regime will take some time to get use to, especially when you're opening up against a Big 12 foe.

I'll lay the cheap number with Iowa State here.

3♦ IOWA STATE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, August 30

Brad Wilton

Willing to take the generous points with the Middies as they play host - at nearby Baltimore's M&T Stadium - to an Ohio State team that now has a bunch of question marks with quarterback Braxton Miller and top defensive player Spence suspended for the first two games.

Yes, the Buckeyes will have enough to avoid the outright upset, but even a healthy OSU team is just 3-5 as an away favorite the past 2 seasons.

Navy has made their backers plenty of money in the dog role with 5 covers in 6 tries last season, and they do sport a 6-3 spread mark their last 9 when getting double-digits.

No week one upset, but Navy does keep it close enough to get the cover.

3♦ NAVY

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, August 30

David Banks

Florida State vs. Oklahoma State
Play: Florida State -18

The defending champion Florida State Seminoles, who will go down as the last BCS Champions ever with the introduction of the College Football Playoff this year, open up defense of their title vs. the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Arlington, TX Saturday at 8:00 ET on ABC. The Seminoles are once again ranked number one to begin this season, and why not with a bevy of talent returning including reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who became the second freshman in as many years to win the award after Johnny Manziel became the first frosh ever to do so two years ago. Oklahoma State is a contender for the Big 12 title this year after finishing 10-2 during the regular season last year before losing 41-31 to Missouri out of the SEC in the Cotton Bowl.
   
Florida State was never challenged last season until needing to rally from a 21-10 deficit to beat Auburn 34-31, making the final BCS Championship Game ever a memorable one. The Seminoles won every game by a minimum of 14 points while going 12-0 during the regular season, simultaneously ranking second in the country in scoring offense with 51.6 points per game and leading the nation in scoring defense allowing just 12.1 points per contest! They then dismantled Duke 45-7 in the ACC Championship Game before finally needing to show some resiliency in the national championship. The most notable loss on offense for the Noles was running back Devonta Freeman, but they have another probable future stud waiting in the wings in Karlos Williams, who rushed for 730 yards and 11 touchdown on a part-time basis in 2013, and they return NFL-caliber talent in wide receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O'Leary, as well as four starters on a dominant offensive line. The biggest key to this game though is the Florida State defense, as that unit has much more speed as a collective unit than what the Cowboys are accustomed to seeing in the Big 12. Just about the only notable losses on the FSU defense were linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith, but what the replacements Ukeme Eligwe and Reggie Northrup lack in experience, they make up for with immense talent.

Oklahoma State averaged 39.1 points last season and returns quarterback J.W. Walsh, two of his favorite targets in wide receivers Jhajuan Seales and junior Brandon Sheperd, and leading rusher Desmond Roland. Keep in mind though that Roland led the club with a rather modest 881 rushing yards, so this remains a pass-first offense just like most offenses in the Big 12. The problem with that here though is that Florida State just may have the best secondary in the country, so the Cowboys may be hard-pressed to put up their normal scoring total. And when Oklahoma State does not score, it is in big trouble as only four starters return from an entire defense that had trouble defending the pass last year ranking 79th in the land in passing defense. That does not figure to improve, at least at the outset of this year, with so many new faces all over the defense, so the Heisman winner Winston should be able to pick up where he left off last year and carve up the Cowboys' defense at will.

Florida State is 5-1 ATS in its last six non-conference games and 12-3-1 ATS in its last 16 neutral site games. Oklahoma State is 5-8 ATS in its last 13 games as an underdog overall and 1-5-1 ATS the last seven time it was an underdog in this 17-19 point range.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, August 30

OC Dooley

UMass +17

The bottom line is that both sides are breaking in “new look” offensive attacks so I will gladly “take” the generous points even though Massachusetts is coming off consecutive 1-11 disasters.  Mark Whipple is the “new” head coach of UMass after spending most of the past decade as an NFL assistant.  But the big news is that Whipple once actually was the head coach of a SUCCESSFUL Minutemen program from 1998-through-2003 which included a Division I-AA National Championship trophy.  I am aware that Boston College made a dramatic turnaround a year ago finishing above the .500 mark thus reversing a 2-10 campaign the season prior. But the Boston College defense last year had an extremely low national ranking (#113) versus the pass.  On offense the Golden Eagles must replace the now departed Andre Williams who a year ago was the nation’s NUMBER ONE ranked rusher.  Today’s game will be played on the home turf of the NFL New England Patriots and marks the first time these pair of geographic rivals have met since way back in 2011 which brings extra “energy” to a Massachusetts program in desperate need of a positive

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, August 30

Teddy Covers

Washington -17

This game is an absolute mismatch, particularly in the trenches.   Hawaii is 4-20 SU in the first two years of the Norm Chow era.  Their athletic department faces a multi-million dollar budget deficit, a deficit so problematic that Athletic Director Ben Jay speaking to the Board of Regents last week: “There's a very real possibility of football going away” because of those budget shortfalls.  That’s no way to start a season for a losing team that’s about to get physically mauled!

Hawaii faced Chris Peterson’s Boise squad on this field two years ago and lost by five touchdowns  The Warriors lost their season opener against PAC-12 opposition in each of the last two years, by a combined margin of79-23, non-competitive in defeat.  The Warriors defensive line is seriously undersized.  Their offensive line will be starting a pair of freshmen.  QB Ikaika Woolsey only earned the job last week; a guy with 11 career completions (and a 0-3 TD-INT ratio) under his belt.  And the Warriors pipeline of ultra-fast but undersized WR’s from the West Coast has closed in recent years; a team who’s recruiting talent base has declined precipitously.   Defensively, this squad allowed six yards per SNAP last year and they don’t look a whole lot better in 2014.

Peterson’s Boise teams consistently dominated their openers; a head coach with a proven track record of having his teams prepared from Day 1; including impressive wins over the likes of Oregon, Virginia Tech and Georgia.  The Huskies are simply massive on their offensive and defensive lines.  They’ve got five fifth year seniors in their two –deep on what could be the PAC-12’s best OL and all four starters back on their defensive line.  QB Jeff Lindquist will get his first career start in an ideal setting – against a smaller, slower defense

The 240 pound QB has been getting rave reviews in camp.  Offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said that his understanding of the new offensive scheme “has been pretty impressive. He’s really worked hard at it, diving into the playbook. I think his demeanor and his approach on the field is really good. He’s positive — a positive outlook every time he walks out there. Great energy at practice, and over time you come to appreciate that.”  I’m expecting his starting debut to result in an easy victory for the road favorite on Saturday Night.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, August 30

John Ryan

LSU at Wisconsin
Prediction: LSU

The simulator shows a high probability that LSU will win this game by 7 or more points. LSU returns only five starters on offense, but will have one of the best offensive lines in the nation. This will allow the new starters to ease into games and not be forced to be immediate play makers. On defense LSU will also be among the best, despite being a bit young. Tigers return Jermauria Rasco (4 sacks, 56 tackles last season) and Danielle Hunter (3 sacks, 57 tackles), who will combine in being a dominant pass-rush tandem. Also, CBs Tre'Davious White (55 tackles) and Rashard Robinson (3 PD) both are shutdown type defenders in the secondary. Wisconsin has a great OL in their own right and this game will be a fierce battle in the trenches. Yet, I see the defensive front of the Tigers holding up extremely well and being able to contain a very good running QB in Melvin Gordon. LSU has great athletes on defense, but contrary to years past, this unit will maintain gap disciplines and not get caught out of position where a QB like Gorgon can exploit for big plays. Take the Tigers.


John Ryan's Featured Package

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, August 30

Doug Upstone

Washington vs. Hawaii    
Play: Washington -17½

Play On road favorites of 10.5 to 21 points like Washington, coming off a very good season, out-gaining their opponents by 75 or more yards a game. While teams like the Huskies did have player losses, the oddsmakers still see more than enough in this team to be such a favorite on the road and or weakness in there opponent. Since it is a combination of those factors, no matter what, teams like Washington are 31-7 ATS, 81.6% since 2005.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, August 30

RJ Robbins

Ohio vs. Kent
Play: Kent -1.5

Kent has won the last two in this series by 31 & 22 points. Ohio is returning only 4 offensive starters and will have its hands full with the lost of QB Tettleton. Kent has won 4 of the last 5 in this series.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, August 30

SPORTS WAGERS

Milwaukee -104 over SAN FRANCISCO

Jake Peavy is reunited with Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who was his manager in San Diego for the first five seasons of Peavy’s career (2002-2006). He’s obviously not the same pitcher this time around. Only 12 active hurlers have logged more innings than his 2,108 and in the past three years he’s missed over 100 games with injuries. Peavy, who won his first game with Boston on April 25 has just three wins on the season. During one stretch this year he lost nine straight decisions with a 5.34 ERA in 15 starts. Peavy is walking more batters than ever, he has an inspiring 1.37 WHIP and his groundball/fly-ball rate of 38%/41% is another sign of a pitcher that is barely average. Over his last two starts, Peavy has induced just 11 groundouts to 31 fly-outs and since coming over to the NL, his oppBA is .272. There is no question he’s the second best starting pitcher in this matchup.

Mike Fiers has made a storybook return to the big leagues, posting some of the best numbers in baseball in the month of August: Four consecutive wins, 33 K in 28 IP with only 10 hits and 4 ER allowed. Fiers actually pitched well in 2012, but lost his rotation spot and was sent down to Triple-A in early June of 2013. He credits his success to a new-found confidence and aggressiveness on the mound. Fiers has a nice match up against the Giants in pitcher friendly AT&T Park and is our top value play of the day.


Texas +130 over HOUSTON

The Rangers are suddenly playing a whole lot better and could offer some tremendous value in the final month of the season. Remember, this team was one of the favorites to contend in the AL West but a horrible start combined with numerous injuries had them out of it by May. The Rangers are playing with house money now with absolutely nothing to lose and they’re playing well. Texas has won four of its past six. They just took two of three from the then red-hot Mariners and they defeated the Astros last night 13-6. Texas also hung a 12 on Seattle two games ago. Now these suddenly hot bats will face Scott Feldman. Pitching for the Astros, Feldman should not be in this price range against anyone. Feldman’s walk and strikeout rates are both going in the wrong direction. His swing and miss rate is below league average at 7%. He has middling numbers in both departments with a BB/K split of 43/83 in 143 frames. He does keep the ball on ground... except when it flies out of the park. With a .283 oppBA, a 4.34 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP, Feldman’s little margin for error is getting thinner. He could use a home that suppresses HR’s but Minute Maid is not that place.

Miles Mikolas is just 25 years-old and was called up prematurely because the Rangers didn’t have a lot of options. However, we like what we’re seeing in this kid. Prior to this year, Mikolas was in the San Diego organization. He started the season on the DL, still recovering from April 2013 surgeries for a herniated disk in his lower back. The 6'5", 200 lb. Mikolas was a two-pitch reliever, with a fastball that can reach 94 mph and a curve ball that sits in the mid-70s mph. However, he has added a couple more pitchers that are beginning to serve him well. Mikolas’s swinging strike rate has risen to 10% over his last five starts. Over that span he was whiffed 22 batters in 31 innings. In fact, all of his skills are trending the right way, as his groundball rate, WHIP and strikeout rate have shown significant improvement since the beginning of July. Mikolas not only had to learn under difficult circumstances but he’s had to do it with a team in last place while pitching half his games at that bandbox in Arlington. The hardships he has had to endure are beginning to pay off and as a pooch against Houston and Scott Feldman, Mikolas and the Rangers are very worthy of a wager here.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, August 30

Jeff Scott Sports

3 UNIT PLAY

LSU/ Wisconsin Under 49: (Added) This is my kind of game as it shapes up as a real defensive battle. The Badgers do have some solid returning starters on offense, but still this is a power running team and that type of team will take time off the clock. Their top RB returns from last year, but they also lost a 1400 yard back and their top 4 WR's from last year. The Badgers have also switched QB's, going with Tanner McEvoy, who was a DB last year for the team, over Joel Stave. The weakness for the Badgers will be on their defense, but still they have recruited well on this side of the ball and will be taking on an LSU squad that is missing a whopping 82% of their yardage from last year. This looks to be an LSU offense that will struggle in the early going. Well then it is a good thing that this team has one of the best defenses in the nation to carry them through, at least until this offense catches up. Hug game for both teams and getting two rather conservative coaches helps as well. I look for this one to be played at around 40 points at best.   

BEST OF THE REST

Washington -17.5 over HAWAII: (Added) The Huskies are a very good team this year and really have a shot at a nice easy win to open their season. In this game they get to flex their muscles vs a Hawaii team that will struggle big time this year. Hawaii went just 1-11 last year and look like it will be another long one for them. They just aren't able to recruit solid players right now and along with poor expected play on the field they have been dealing with some off the field issues that includes talk of the football program folding. Washington went a solid 9-4 last year and have 14 starters back, plus new coach Chris Petersen steps in and he knows how to blow out much the weaker teams that he faces. Hawaii is just 5-11 ATS in their last 16 home games and I feel that trend will continue here as the Huskies win by at least 21.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, August 30

Nelly

Southern Miss + over Mississippi State

Mississippi State closed the season with a 44-7 bowl win over Rice and while the Bulldogs have not had a winning SEC season under Dan Mullen, they have been to four straight bowl games. A light non-conference schedule should put MSU in the postseason again but this appears to be a team that could do a bit more, featuring one of the more experienced teams in the division and a relatively favorable schedule. Duel-threat QB Dak Prescott will be a difficult matchup for the Southern Miss defense and this is a Golden Eagles team that has one win the past two seasons, though it was the last game that they played. This appears to be a daunting mismatch even with Southern Miss returning a lot of experience but Mississippi State will be about as heavy of a favorite as the team has ever been against a FBS foe. Mississippi State has had close calls against Troy, South Alabama, and Bowling Green in the past two seasons as the Bulldogs have not been a reliable favorite. In a second season Todd Monken should have a much better chance to get his team on the same page for a chance to improve after this program had three head coaches in three seasons. Monken previously coached under Mike Gundy whose Oklahoma State team shut down Mississippi State last season and he should get a good scouting report on what the Bulldog will try to do. Getting a chance to face one of the bigger state schools should provide a spark for the undervalued ugly underdog.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, August 30

Cajun Sports

Fresno State +20.5 

The Fresno State Bulldogs travel to LA for a clash against the Southern Cal Trojans on Saturday night. Fresno State struggled to end the regular season last year dashing the hopes of their backers who dreamed of them as a BCS buster but it was not to be. They did make it to a bowl in fact they faced this Trojans team who drilled them 45 to 20. USC begins the season with a new head coach in former USC assistant Steve Sarkisian. This game sets up well for the Bulldogs as the Trojans have a huge conference game on deck against the hated Stanford Cardinal. With the Trojans installed as almost a three touchdown favorite against the Bulldogs they could very easily get caught looking ahead here to the matchup against the Tree. We know double-digit home favorites in game one of the season facing non-conference opponents playing with revenge and a conference tilt on deck have struggled failing to cover at nearly a ninety percent ats clip. The wooden horses are just 2-6 against the number their last eight contests prior to facing the Tree. So let's take the points here as the Bulldogs keep it close

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, August 30

BONES BEST BETS

INDIANS ML + INDIANS/ROYALS UNDER 7.5 +365

Big 6-1 last night for these Indians who have won five of their last six games behind a string pitching staff who has allowed 3 or less runs in 12 of 17 games. The Royals have cooled off a little and have split their last 10 games and have allowed 4 or more runs in 9 of 14. The Indians are 5-1 in Bauers last 6 starts as an underdog and 4-1 in Bauers last 5 starts overall. The Royals are 2-5 in Shields’ last 7 home starts. Shields is nice but Bauer has been money as an underdog and with these odds let’s play the Indians.

BREWERS ML + BREWERS/GIANTS – UNDER 7.5 +215

The Brewers have been a better road team than home team this year. They are 7 games above .500 on the road. The Giants are only 3 games above .500 at home. The Brewers have won Fiers last 4 starts and he has a remarkable 0.66 WHIP and 1.54 ERA this year. The Giants have only won 2 of Peavy’s 6 starts since the trade. Fiers is a must bet until he loses.

YANKEES ML + YANKEES/JAYS – OVER 8.5 +245

Drew Hutchison has not had success at the Rogers Centre this season nor has he had success in day games. He is 3-5 at home with a 5.88 ERA and is 2-6 during the day with a 6.33 ERA. The Jays have been a train wreck since the All Star game and we do not like their chances with Drew Hutch on the mound this aft.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, August 30

Vegas Butcher

Houston Astros -124

Fading an inconsistent Rangers team after a win is never a bad idea, but today we also have some strong factors on our side. Rob Ross was called up to start today’s game after a late scratch to Mikolas, who I dealing with a shoulder fatigue. Ross is a lefty and Astros rank 3rd offensively against left-handers. To make matters even more favorable for Houston, Ross is a type of a pitcher that doesn’t have an effective off-speed pitch. In his MLB career, he’s thrown his fastball almost 80% of the time (79% to be exact). If you are a stud pitcher with a deadly ‘fastball’, you can get away with it. But Ross is not it. His fastball averages 90.4 MPH this year, a drop of over 2 MPH since last season. It was an effective pitch last year but with the drop in velocity, it’s been way below average this year. Astros rank 8th overall against the pitch this year to make matters worse for him. Oh, and it gets even better for this matchup. Ross wasn’t expected to be called up, so he pitched 2.1 innings (42 pitches) of relief in a minor-league game on Thursday, or 2 days ago. Hard to expect him to be very sharp tonight. As for Feldman, he’s made 6 quality-starts out of his last 7 appearances, while pitching against tough opponents TOR, OAK (twice), and NYY who are hitting the ball much better lately. He’ll get to face a Rangers lineup tonight that can’t hit right-handed pitching at all. Texas is 18-34 (-13.9 U) after a win and 34-57 (-23.8) against right-handed pitching. Last night they blew up for 13 runs on 16 hits, but that was against a lefty in Oberholtzer. Tonight is Houston’s turn to score some runs off a lefty.


Milwaukee Brewers -107

I guess I’ll stay on the “gravy train” which is Fiers right now. I’ve talked about him in detail when I backed him in his last start, and he didn’t disappoint, holding a tough PIT lineup to 2 hits in 7 innings with a 7K to 1 BB. Now he’s making his first career appearance against the Giants and I expect similar results. Fiers’ strongest pitch this season has been his ‘cutter’, which has been absolutely devastating to hitters and makes his fastball look faster than it really is. Well, the worst offensive lineup against the ‘cutter’ in the league are the Giants, and it’s not even close. Guess who the best offensive lineup against the ‘cutter’ is? Yup, the Brewers. And of course Peavy’s best pitches this year have been his ‘cutter’ and his ‘curveball’, which the Brewers rank 2nd against actually. Milwaukee has seen Peavy twice this year and in 11.2 innings against them they’ve had 15 hits, 1 HR, and 5 BB’s (with only 7 K). I know Peavy has pitched better lately, but look who he’s faced: CHW (#18 against the cutter), CHC (#13), and COL (#11, though that’s a season long ranking as the Rockies have been bad offensively in the 2nd half). His combined ERA was 1.7 in these 3 starts. Prior to that he faced LAD (15th against the cutter but one of the best hitting teams against the curveball, Peavy’s 2nd best pitch this year), NYM (5th against the cutter), and MIL (#1). His ERA against those 3 teams was 4.8. Milwaukee got spanked yesterday but they should have a great shot at winning today’s contest. Brewers are 37-30 (+11.9U) on the road and 6-1 (5.3U) after allowing 10+ runs in a prior game. This is a good road-team and tends to bounce back after thrashings this season. Giants are only 36-33 (-5.9U) at home and have been winning most of their games recently against below average teams. Against teams with a winning-record they’re 6-17 (26%) in the last 23 games. Hopefully it’s 6-18 after tonight.

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