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Thread: A Sneak Peek At CFB 2018 News/Views/Highlights !

  1. #46
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    2018 GOY - Best Bets
    July 11, 2018


    Odds per Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook

    Week 2

    South Carolina +14.5 vs. Georgia


    I’ve already explained how bullish I am on South Carolina this season. I made this number UGA -4.5, but fully expected it to come out around seven. When South Point opened it at -11 back in June, I was salivating. Turns out, the book moved it to UGA -14 quickly, and now The Westgate SuperBook has opened the Bulldogs at -14.5. Will Muschamp’s team has a great chance to win this game outright. Catching more than two touchdowns at home with a veteran QB, two of the nation’s top wide receivers and Muschamp’s defensive game plan? This is a Week 2 gift! Remember, USC easily cashed tickets in Athens last year as a 24-point road underdog in a 24-10 loss. Let’s also note how Deebo Samuel didn’t play in that game, either. This is a heavy play for me. I’d suggest at least five units and when the money-line return becomes available, at least one unit on that as well.

    Week 3

    Syracuse +9.5 vs. Florida State


    Let’s start by stressing how Syracuse’s 4-8 record last season was such a poor indicator of what sort of team this was. Dino Babers’s second squad was off to a 4-3 start with a win over Clemson, a team that finished 12-2 with its only other loss coming to Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinals. At that point, the Orange’s only defeats were in a trio of close games. They lost 30-23 at home to Middle Tennessee when the two Blue Raiders’ stars, QB Brent Stockstill and WR Richie James, were healthy. The other two L’s were easy spread covers as double-digit underdogs at LSU (35-26) and at N.C. State (33-25). The Tigers and Wolfpack combined to outgain the ‘Cuse by merely 48 yards of total offense. Syracuse took its 4-3 record down to Miami and committed four first-half turnovers. Nevertheless, the Orange rallied in the second half and they were driving deep in UM territory late in the fourth quarter while trailing 27-19, only to come up short. Then in Tallahassee the next week, star QB Eric Dungey injured his foot early in the first quarter and missed a good chunk of the first half. He would return in the second quarter and lead the Orange to 463 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, FSU could muster just 343 yards of total offense. However, Syracuse kicker Cole Murphy, who would earn third-team All-ACC honors and came into the FSU game with 16-of-18 field-goal accuracy, would go 1-of-3 including a 43-yard miss on the game’s final play that would’ve forced overtime. In addition, Babers opted to pass on a short field goal deep in the red zone on a fourth-and-three play with less than a minute remaining in the first half. The 'Cuse failed on the fourth-down attempt. Furthermore, FSU was inexplicably not called for a clear neutral-zone violation on a fourth-and-one stop in the final stanza that proved to be crucial. ‘Cuse fans were also irate about two holding calls that weren’t flagged on a 54-yard TD run from FSU RB Cam Akers. Dungey wouldn’t play in the last three games, all losses, including a home setback to Wake Forest when the Orange allowed a double-digit halftime lead to get away. Before those final three outings sans Dungey, Syracuse was +817 vs. its first nine foes in total yardage. The Orange was minus seven in turnover ratio in those final three games. They bring back eight starters on offense, six on defense and lost just 18 lettermen. I like the home underdogs here for two units in Week 3 and don't be surprised if the Orange wins outright.

    Week 7

    South Carolina +2.5 vs. Texas A&M


    USC is 53-16 in its home games at Williams-Brice Stadium since 2008. The Aggies will be playing their third game outside of College Station in a four-week span, while the Gamecocks will be playing their fifth home game in seven weeks. Since 2009, South Carolina owns a 9-3 spread record in 12 games as a home underdog. Meanwhile, Texas A&M is 6-9 against the spread in its past 15 games as a road ‘chalk’ since 2011. I’d make Muschamp’s bunch a 3.5 or four-point favorite on a neutral field. Let’s go with 2.5 units on USC here for this Oct. 13 encounter.

    Week 8

    Mississippi State +3 at LSU


    Mississippi State has two weeks to prepare for this trip to Baton Rouge on Oct. 20. On the flip side, LSU will be playing its eighth game in eight weeks. The Tigers are at Florida and then host Georgia before facing the set of Bulldogs from Starkville. That’s a brutal three-week span and let’s remember that Ed Orgeron’s bunch must take on Miami at Jerry World and travel to Auburn in September. Before MSU blasted LSU by a 37-7 count last season, the three previous encounters had been decided by 10 combined points. The Bulldogs won 34-29 at Tiger Stadium in 2014 and lost a 23-20 decision in ’16. This is only a one-unit wager for me simply because I’m a tad hesitant with MSU until I see that star QB Nick Fitzgerald is healthy after that gruesome injury at the Egg Bowl. Both schools finished 9-4 last year, but MSU brings back nine starters on offense and eight on defense. LSU return just 10 total starters, five apiece on each side of the ball.

    Week 8

    Utah +4 vs. Southern California


    Three of the past four games in this rivalry have been decided by eight combined points. Since 2012, Utah is 6-3 ATS in nine games as a home underdog. As for USC, it has limped to a 15-24 spread record as a road favorite dating back to 2008. This will be the fourth road assignment for the Trojans in seven weeks. Utah hosts Arizona on a Friday night the previous week, giving it an extra day of preparation. The Utes will be in revenge mode after allowing a 21-7 intermission lead to get away at The Coliseum last year. They missed a two-point conversion with 42 ticks left in a 28-27 loss. Utah went just 7-6 straight up last season, but it finished 10-3 ATS with four defeats coming in one-possessions games. Three of those L’s were by seven combined points. Kyle Whittingham’s punter and place-kicker are back and they were both All-Americans last season. Let’s go with 1.5 units on the Utes in this Oct. 20 Pac-12 showdown.

    Week 8

    Arizona pick ‘em at UCLA


    UCLA lost its head coach, a QB who was the 10th overall pick in the first round of the NFL Draft, its two best wide receivers and its best player on defense. We have a huge edge at the QB position with Arizona’s Khalil Tate, who rushed for 230 yards and two TDs in a 47-30 win over the Bruins last year. I think UA is a Pac-12 South contender, while I have UCLA pegged for the basement of this division. We also have an extra day of preparation with the Wildcats playing at Utah the Friday before. This is another 1.5-unit wager on Oct. 20.

    Week 10

    Stanford +9.5 at Washington


    I’m bullish on both teams this year. Washington is playing its 10th game in 10 weeks in this spot. Stanford has beaten the Huskies in four of the past five season and 10 of the last 13. The Cardinal has lost by double digits only seven times during David Shaw’s seven years at the helm that covers 95 games. They’re 13-4-1 in 18 games as underdogs on Shaw’s watch, winning outright in all three contests in which they were ‘dogs of 9.5 points or more. Stanford has the nation’s best RB (Bryce Love), perhaps the country’s best TE (Kaden Smith), a solid QB (K.J. Costello), two outstanding WRs (J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Trenton Irwin) and the fourth-best offensive line (per Phil Steele’s national unit rankings). Other than at Alabama, I’d probably take the Cardinal +9.5 against any team at any venue. Two units here on Stanford in this Nov. 12 scrap that’ll likely decide the winner of the Pac-12 North.

    Week 13

    South Carolina +23 at Clemson


    Clemson has outscored South Carolina by a combined score of 90-17 in the past two meetings. However, this is Muschamp’s best team and I’d take the Gamecocks +23 against any opponent at any venue this season. Clemson wins by 10-17 points. Just a small one-unit play here.

    Several other leans not mentioned include Stanford pick ‘em at Oregon (9/22), Wisconsin -16.5 vs. Nebraska (10/6) and West Virginia +9.5 at Texas (11/3).
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    CFB notebook: Florida to induct Tebow into Ring of Honor
    July 11, 2018


    Former quarterback Tim Tebow will be inducted into Florida's Ring of Honor, the school announced on Wednesday.

    The two-time national champion and 2007 Heisman Trophy winner will be recognized during the Gators' game against LSU on Oct. 6. Tebow's name will be unveiled and displayed in the north end zone of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

    "I am so humbled and thankful to be able to receive this blessing, being inducted into the Ring of Honor," the 30-year-old Tebow said in a statement. "I know in my heart that I truly couldn't have done it without amazing coaches and teammates who loved and sacrificed for each other so that we could accomplish our goals.

    "Loving Florida wasn't just something I did for four years, but it has been a lifelong passion. I want to thank the University of Florida and all the fans for making Gator Nation so special. I was born a Gator, I played as a Gator, and I'll always be a Gator!"

    Tebow is the sixth player to receive the honor. He will join linebacker Wilber Marshall, running back Emmitt Smith, 1966 Heisman winner and coach Steve Spurrier, 1996 Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel and defensive end Jack Youngblood.

    A three-time Heisman Trophy finalist, Tebow posted a 35-6 mark during his four seasons (2006-09) at Florida.

    --Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun told reporters that he is under no obligation to name the team's defensive coordinator.

    The team hasn't named a replacement for Steve Russ, who became the Carolina Panthers' linebackers coach in January. Russ had spent the previous four seasons as Air Force's defensive coordinator and defensive backfield coach.

    Calhoun told ESPN.com on Tuesday that the experience of the defensive staff and its ability to collaborate on play calls and scheme creates little urgency for a designated coordinator.

    Potential in-house candidates for the position are Tim Cross (assistant head coach, defensive line coach), Ron Vanderlinden (inside linebackers), Brian Knorr (edge defenders), John Rudzinski or Chip Vaughn (secondary) and Matt Weikert (outside linebackers).

    --Rutgers defensive back K.J. Gray and linebacker Brendan DeVera have been dismissed from the program for violating team rules, multiple media outlets reported.

    Gray, a junior, and DeVera, a sophomore, were expected to play key roles on defense and special teams this season.

    The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Gray recorded a secondary-best 58 tackles last season to go along with two interceptions.

    DeVera, who is listed at 6-1 and 242 pounds, notched two tackles while playing in 11 games as a true freshman last fall.

    --Defensive end Mark Brown has left San Diego State and transferred to Texas Tech, the Red Raiders confirmed after several weeks of rumors that he would make the move.

    Brown, who played at Arlington Heights High in Fort Worth, Texas, was a three-star recruit for the Aztecs in 2017 and took a redshirt year as a freshman last season.

    Although he did not play in a game, Brown made an impression at San Diego State, being named as the program's Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year.

    Brown will sit out this season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules and have three years of eligibility remaining.

    --Georgia wide receiver Michael Chigbu, who during the spring indicated he might give up football because of injuries, is not listed in the Bulldogs' 2018 media guide.

    The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Chigbu, once a highly rated prospect who would be a senior this season, has battled shoulder and knee injuries the last two years.

    Head coach Kirby Smart acknowledged in April that Chigbu "may be thinking about hanging it up."

    As a sophomore at Georgia, Chigbu enjoyed his best season by starting seven of the nine games in which he played and making nine receptions for 88 yards. Chigbu did not catch a pass last season and has 13 receptions and 116 receiving yards for his career.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Handicapping Northwestern (7.5)
    July 12, 2018


    The Northwestern Wildcats are coming off a 10-win season, but they have to replace their all-time leading rusher and they have to hope that quarterback Clayton Thorson is healthy. Winning 10 games again in 2018 will not be easy, but most of the tough games for Northwestern in 2018 are at home and they don’t have to play Ohio State or Penn State.

    Let’s look at the Wildcats schedule to see if they will go over of under their win total of 7.5.

    2018 Northwestern Wildcats Regular Season Win Total
    Over 7.5 (-115)
    Under 7.5 (-115)


    2018 Northwestern Wildcats Schedule Analysis

    Aug. 30 at Purdue
    The Wildcats don’t have a non-conference opponent to fatten up on to start the season, as they have to get right into Big Ten play against Purdue. The Wildcats should win this game, but only if Thorson is completely healthy and ready to go.

    Sept. 8 Duke
    This is a tricky home opener for Northwestern, as Duke is capable of springing the upset. The good news for Northwestern is that they have won the last two games in this series.

    Sept. 15 Akron
    This should be a breather for the Wildcats before they have to run the gauntlet. The Zips have not won a game against a Big Ten team this decade and they shouldn’t win this one.

    Sept. 29 Michigan
    The first huge game of the season comes in late September, as the Wildcats host Michigan. The Wolverines are expected to be improved, so this is a huge litmus test for Northwestern and a likely home loss.

    Oct. 6 at Michigan State
    The Wildcats have actually won the last two games in this series, so Michigan State will not be overlooking Northwestern. This looks like a road defeat for the Wildcats.

    Oct. 13 Nebraska

    The Cornhuskers have a new head coach in Scott Frost and a new outlook. This could be a tough home contest for the Wildcats.

    Oct. 20 at Rutgers
    The Scarlet Knights have been an easy win for most Big Ten teams, as Rutgers is just 5-22 in the Big Ten since 2015. This should be a road win for Northwestern.

    Oct. 27 Wisconsin
    The Wildcats have the home field edge in this contest, but Wisconsin is considered one of the top teams in the Big Ten, so this looks like a home loss.

    Nov. 3 Notre Dame
    The Wildcats get to play at home again, but they will be home underdogs to a Notre Dame team that could be a national title contender.

    Nov. 10 at Iowa
    The Wildcats have won the last two in this series, but this game is on the road and Iowa is normally very good at home.

    Nov. 17 at Minnesota

    The Gophers will want revenge for last season when they were shutout by Northwestern. This will not be an easy game for the Wildcats, but one they need to win if they are to finish with a winning record.

    Nov. 24 Illinois
    This is a rivalry game and it should go the way of the Wildcats, as they are at home and they have taken four of the last five in the series.

    2018 Northwestern Wildcats Regular Season Win Total Prediction


    The Wildcats don’t have to play Ohio State or Penn State, but their schedule is still difficult. The only real advantage they have is getting to play some of their tough games at home. That may not be enough of an edge, as Northwestern is not known as a team that has a big home field advantage.

    The win total for the Wildcats is set at 7.5 games. That number seems too high, considering the team will have to win eight games to go over that number. Breaking down the schedule we find five games that Northwestern should win (Purdue, Duke, Akron, Rutgers, Illinois), four games they are likely to lose (Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin) and three toss-up games (Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota). The Wildcats would need to win all three of their toss-up games to get to eight wins and go over their win total of 7.5.

    That seems unlikely, so we’ll go under the win total of 7.5 for the 2018 Northwestern Wildcats.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    2018 MAC Preview
    July 15, 2018

    2018 MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE PREVIEW


    FU Northwestern

    A promising high school career for Damair Roberson, a dynamic 6-foot-2, 195-pound receiver/linebacker/return man and a three-star prospect, is over abruptly. He will miss his entire senior high school season this fall after re-injuring the same knee mid-season last year.

    The betrayal that Roberson felt after learning the scholarship offer from Northwestern University was no longer valid really hurt. Even after the second injury, Western Michigan University honored its commitment to Roberson and kept its offer on the table. In turn, Roberson rewarded that loyalty with a commitment to the Broncos. Remember his name down the road.

    Rivalries Abound

    The MAC has its fair share of intense rivalries, including the Battle of the Bricks (Ohio vs. Miami), the Michigan MAC Trophy (Central, Eastern and Western Michigan), the Battle of I-75 (Toledo vs. Bowling Green) and the Wagon Wheel (Akron vs. Kent State). Rest assured, despite being Group of Fivers, these rivalries remain intense.

    Bowl Busts

    The MAC has disappointed in bowl games, especially the past 10 seasons as they are just 15-41 SU and 18-36-2 ATS overall.

    Worse, in bowl games against foes coming off a loss the MAC has gone 3-21 SU and 4-19-1 ATS since 2008, including 0-6 SUATS as either a pick or a favorite. Yikes.

    Note: The numbers following each team name represents the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback.

    AKRON (Offense – *6/3, Defense – 9/3, 58 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    AS GOOD FORTUNE WOULD HAVE IT

    The saying “you’re better off being lucky than good” applied in spades to the Zips last season when Terry Bowden’s troops went bowling despite surrendering 126 YPG more than they gained. However, thanks to a +10 net turnover ratio, and winning three games by a total of 5 points, Akron somehow won the MAC East title in 2017. They were ultimately obliterated by Toledo and Florida Atlantic in the MAC title and Boca Raton Bowl games, respectively, when they surrendered 95 points and 1,153 yards. To top it off, longtime DC Chuck Amato has retired. Fortunately, the Zips bring back an experienced crew of underclassmen. Soph QB Kato Nelson holds promise, but they’ll likely need Lady Luck to come calling again.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Zips head coach Bowden is 3-18 SU and 4-16-1 ATS as a home dog against .400 or greater opponents.

    PLAY AGAINST: at Kent State (10/20)

    BALL STATE (Offense – *9/4, Defense – 7/0, 51 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME: A NEU APPROACH

    After a 2-1 start last season under new coach Mike Neu, it appeared that Ball State was about to shake a 4-year losing skid. And then faster than you can say there goes Riley (QB Neal, 68% completions in his first three games, then done with an injury), the season went to hell in a hand bag thanks to a cruiseship of injuries as the Cardinals were forced to close out with a group of replacemant “neubies”. By season’s end, they were down to a 4th string freshman signal caller. Their starting WRs played a combined 5 games and only half of the starters on defense made it through unscathed. Neal’s 5,000 career passing yards are back along with a skill corps loaded with experience, led by RB James Gilbert. Take two.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Ball State freshmen started 32.2% of all games last season – the 2nd most in the nation.

    PLAY ON: vs. Eastern Michigan (10/20)

    BOWLING GREEN (Offense – *6/3, Defense – 8/2, 38 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    LO JINKS ERA OFF TO ROUGH START

    When new coaches inherit 10-win programs, there is almost always no place to go but downhill. In Mike Jinks’ case, the Falcons have been on a slippery slalom run with just 4-and-2 win seasons in his tenure with Bowling Green. The good news is that after inking strong recruiting classes the last two years (26 three-star recruits), the course finally appears manageable. Sophomores (from Jinks’ first class) logged plenty of playing time last season, led by QB Jarret Doege (64% completions with 12 TDs and 3 INTs) and RB’s Andrew Clair and Matt Domer (819 combined rush yards on 6.5 YPR). FYI: Doege is the younger brother of former Texas Tech QB Seth Doege. With new DC Carl Pelini in tow, look for the ascent to begin.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Falcons have gone 37-5 SU in games in which they won the stats, and 5-30 SU in games in which they lost the stats over the last six years.

    PLAY ON: vs. Akron (11/17)

    BUFFALO (Offense – *8/3, Defense – 6/2, 51 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    BREAK ON THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE

    Call the 2017 season a steppingstone for the Bulls. A 6-6 record saw all six losses coming by a combined 29 points. Despite being forced to start three different quarterbacks due to injuries, they rolled up a school-record 5,183 yards of total offense while leading the MAC in passing yardage. It’s not often a team features a QB (Drew Anderson) that threw for a conference-record 597 yards and seven TDs in one game that may not be its starter. He’ll be in a heated battle with talented incumbent starter Tyree Jackson. On defense, the firepower comes from SR MLB Khalil Hodge who ranked second in the nation in tackles in 2017, and owns 277 total the last two seasons. No bull. This team looks primed for a breakthrough season.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Since joining the MAC in 1999, Buffalo is 9-59 SU versus winning opponents.

    PLAY ON: vs. Akron (10/13)

    CENTRAL MICHIGAN (Offense – 4/2, Defense – 6/2, 40 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME: GIMME FIVE

    After winning 7, 6, 7, 7 and 6 games each of the previous five seasons, the Chippewas broke rank last year to go 8-5, thanks largely to a 4-0 record in one-possession games, and a five-game season-ending win skein. Michigan transfer QB Shane Morris produced an eyebrow-raising 164.1 passer rating during his final five starts for the Chips last season, but he and four of his top five targets are gone. In addition, RB Jonathan Ward also stepped up down the stretch, rushing for 625 yards (7.1 YPR) over the same span late in the season. If 6’7” sophomore QB Tony Poljan can fill Morris’ shoes, CMU should reach its 5th straight bowl game in 2018. Stay tuned. STAT YOU WILL LIKE: CMU is 18-7 SU and 19-6 ATS away from Game Six out the last six years.

    PASS

    EASTERN MICHIGAN (Offense – 6/5, Defense – 7/2, 46 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: TURN UP THE GREEN

    Head coach Chris Creighton has put his stamp on the EMU program. One of 14 active FBS coaches to record more than 150 wins, the 49-year-old Creighton guided the school to its first win in 126 seasons over a Big Ten or Power Five team last season. The Eagles’ 12 wins over the last two seasons is Eastern Michigan’s best two-year stretch since 1988-89. More important, nine of those 12 wins have been by a TD of less, meaning they’ve learned how to win close-call games. It’s no coincidence that Creighton’s teams at Drake sport the highest win percentage in school history (21-2 in home games). It’s now time he takes this program to the next level. Don’t bet against him.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Eastern Michigan allowed the fewest points (280) in school history last season.

    PLAY ON: at Western Michigan (10/6)

    KENT STATE (Offense – 7/3, Defense – 6/2, 49 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    FLASH: EVERYTHING NEW IS OLD AGAIN

    The Paul Haynes experiment lasted five years before the Flashes finally pulled the plug, as a 14-41 record was all the proof they needed. What more could you expect from a team that finished dead last in Red Zone Defense last season, and a program that’s won more than six games in a season just once in the last 30 years. Enter new boss Sean Lewis, a former Dino Babers assistant at Syracuse. And with Lewis comes a major shift in offensive identity. But for a team that does not have the proper personnel on the roster to effectuate the planned attack – and one that might not find itself favored in any game this season – expecting immediate improvement is certainly a stretch for KSU.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Flashes were 4-40 SU and 9-34 ATS in games in which they scored less than 24 points under Paul Haynes.

    PLAY ON: at Buffalo (11/6)

    MIAMI-OHIO (Offense – *8/5, Defense – 8/3, 47 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    MY FAVORITE MARTIN

    Despite a seventh consecutive losing season, the RedHawks are actually 11-8 in their last nineteen games overall – with five of the losses coming in one-possession games. Read: Miami is making strides under Chuck Martin who, unfortunately, will likely have to win this year if he wishes to return next season. The good news is Miami welcomes back 18 seniors, including one at nearly every position. A settled offensive line (an unstable one last year that started eight different linemen) operates in front of QB Gus Ragland (10-6 as a starter and an all MAC nominee). Coupled with a defense loaded with upperclassmen that finds seven of the top eight linemen, four of the top five linebackers and five of the top seven defensive back all returning, this team looks ready to turn the page.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Miami is 5-17 in one-possession games under Chuck Martin.

    PLAY ON: vs. Marshall (9/1) - *KEY

    NORTHERN ILLINOIS (Offense – *8/5, Defense – 6/2, 54 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    BEWARE OF THE DOGS

    Talk about a statistical anomaly: despite improving from 5 wins to 8 last season, the Huskies’ offense evaporated 85 YPG, whereas the defense finished No. 26 overall in the land, improving 113 YPG. The bad news this season is NIU’s first three non-conference games are against Power 5 bowlers, including visits to Florida State and Iowa. The good news is most of the starters from the stop-unit are back, including DL Sutton Smith who led the nation in Tackles For a Loss last season. Should they finally find continuity behind center (forced to use 8 different quarterbacks over the past 31 games) to go with the best Group of 5-defense while facing a daunting non-conference slate, NIU becomes the team to beat in the MAC this season.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Huskies are 30-10 SU and 27-12-1 ATS in their last forty road games.

    PASS

    OHIO (Offense – *8/4, Defense – 5/2, 50 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    FRANKLY SPEAKING

    As we alluded to last year on this page, in Frank Solich’s 73 years on this earth, including 13 with the Bobcats, they’ve managed to win four MAC division titles while also going bowling 9 of the last ten years. It would have been five had they not folded during the final two games of last season. Safe to say, Solich is certainly battle tested. The former head coach and running back at Nebraska has raised OU from the depths of despair to a highly competitive program, one that seems to play an abundance of close games (21 decided by a TD or less the last four seasons). Star QB Nathan Rourke and RB A.J. Ouellette each return along with a boatload of other starters from an offense that improved 13 PPG last season. Mixed in with the Bobcats taking on 3rd easiest schedule of all Group of 5 schools in 2018 with foes going 59-88 (.401) last season, we frankly expect more from OU in 2018.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: For the second season in a row, the Bobcats will face only two teams this year that owned a winning record last season.

    PLAY ON: vs. Buffalo (11/14)

    TOLEDO (Offense – 6/2, Defense – 6/1, 53 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    CANDLE IN THE WIND

    For the first time in 13 years, the Rockets return as MAC champions. This year, though, they must replace 2017 MAC Player of the Year quarterback Logan Woodside, who set just about every Toledo passing record in the books. That being said, they will not be lacking at wide receiver as UT is the first team in NCAA history to return three players – Cody Thompson, Diontae Johnson and Jon’Vea Johnson – who have earned all-league honors and caught at least 10 TD passes in a season. In addition, the offensive line returns five players with starting experience. Like his predecessor Matt Campbell with 20 wins under his belt in his first two seasons at Toledo, Candle could move up to a Power 5 school sooner than later.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The straight-up winner In The Stats in Toledo’s games last season won every game on the scoreboard.

    PLAY ON: as a dog vs. Miami Florida (9/15)

    WESTERN MICHIGAN (Offense – *8/4, Defense – 5/3, 29 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    LES IS MORE

    The warning signs were in place for first year head coach Tim Lester last season. Inheriting the winningest program in WMU history, he was left to ‘row the boat’ sans a stud QB and his three top WRs, including Corey Davis (a first-round pick in the NFL Draft). In addition, Lester lost his best offensive lineman, his top pass rusher and his top safety in the second game to season-ending knee injuries. The poor guy never stood a chance. To his credit, though, Lester reeled in the second-best class in the MAC with 19 three-star recruits. Add to that 74 career starts back on the OL to protect QB Jon Wassink, who shined over the second half of the season. Suddenly, the oars are back in the water.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Broncos were No. 2 in the nation in fumbles recovered last season.

    PLAY ON: vs. Northern Illinois (11/20)
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Miss State Breakdown
    July 16, 2018


    Expectations are understandably high for Joe Moorhead’s first season as the head coach at Mississippi State. The former Penn State offensive coordinator under James Franklin went 38-13 as HC at FCS Fordham from 2012-15. Moorhead takes over for Dan Mullen, who left Starkville to take the Florida gig after guiding the Bulldogs to eight consecutive bowl games during his nine-year tenure.

    Moorhead walks into an outstanding situation. MSU returns nine starters on offense and eight on defense from a team that finished last year 9-4 straight up and 8-5 against the spread.

    There are questions, though. The defense will have its fifth different coordinator in the past five years. Todd Grantham’s hire as DC before the 2017 campaign was a stroke of genius by Mullen. His 3-4 scheme turned around a stop unit in ’16 that allowed 31.8 points per game. On Grantham’s watch, the MSU defense gave up merely 20.9 PPG last season.

    But this unit is going back to a 4-3 under veteran DC Bob Shoop, who was at Tennessee the last two years after running PSU’s defense in 2014 and ’15. Former South Alabama head coach was hired to coach special teams, while Moorhead’s first OC is Luke Getsy, who had been on the Green Bay Packers’ staff for the past four seasons, coaching WRs the last two years.

    Another concern is the health of star quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who sustained a dislocated ankle in the Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss in late November. If he’s healthy, Fitzgerald is one of the SEC’s premier signal callers.

    His strength is his ability to make big plays with his legs. Fitzgerald garnered third-team All-SEC honors in ’16 when he finished second in the SEC in rushing yards (1,375) and tops in rushing touchdowns (16). He also threw for 2,423 yards with a 21/10 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

    Fitzgerald, who averaged 7.1 yards per carry in ’16, ran for 984 yards and 14 TDs last season while averaging 6.1 YPC. He completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 1,782 yards with a 15/11 TD-INT ratio.

    With Fitzgerald going down in the first half vs. Ole Miss, it gave back-up QB Keytaon Thompson a chance to gain valuable experience as a true freshman. He ran for 121 yards and one TD on 26 carries against the Rebels. Then in a 31-27 win over Lamar Jackson and Louisville at the Taxslayer Bowl, Thompson rushed 27 times for 147 yards and three TDs.

    His throwing is still a work in progress. Thompson completed just 11-of-20 passes for 127 yards with one interception vs. U of L. For the season, he connected on 48.5 percent of his throws for 388 yards with a 2/2 TD-INT ratio. Thompson ran for 446 yards and six TDs with a 5.9 YPC average.

    The Bulldogs bring back their top six rushers, including junior running back Aeris Williams, who ran for 1,108 yards and six TDs with a 4.7 YPC average. They also return their top two WRs in Jesse Jackson and Keith Mixon.

    The entire defensive line returns, including a pair of first-team All-SEC selections in senior DE Montez Sweat and junior DT Jeffery Simmons. Sweat recorded 48 tackles, 10.5 sacks (tied for tops in the SEC), five tackles for loss and four QB hurries, while Simmons produced 60 tackles, five sacks, seven TFL’s, five QB hurries and one PBU.

    Phil Steele’s preseason magazine ranks MSU’s defensive line as the nation’s third-best in his national unit rankings. Steele has Sweat ranked as the country’s sixth-best DE in terms of projection to next year’s NFL Draft, while Simmons is slotted fourth among DTs who will be draft-eligible in the spring of 2019.

    Another defensive standout is senior safety Mark McLaurin, who led MSU in tackles (79) and was tied for the SEC lead in interceptions (six). He also had six PBU, two TFL’s and 1.5 sacks.

    The non-conference schedule has three home games (vs. SF Austin, vs. Louisiana and La. Tech) and a Week 2 road assignment at Kansas State. Steele ranks MSU’s schedule as the fifth-toughest in the SEC and No. 32 nationally.

    The foes from the SEC East are Kentucky and Florida. The Bulldogs travel to Lexington to face UK on Sept. 22 and then they host UF and their former coach on Sept. 29 at Scott Field.

    Two teams get an extra week of preparation for MSU. The Ragin’ Cajuns have an open date before coming to Starkville, as does Texas A&M for an Oct. 27 date. The Bulldogs are in a situational advantage at LSU on Oct. 20 since their open date comes the prior weekend. They get the Aggies at home one week after going to Baton Rouge.

    MSU has 12/1 odds to win the SEC at Sportsbook.ag. The offshore website has the Bulldogs listed as three-point favorites at KSU in its Games of the Year. They’re three-point home ‘chalk’ vs. the Gators, seven-point home underdogs vs. Auburn (with a -120 price), three-point underdogs at LSU, four-point home favorites (with a -120 price) vs. A&M, 19.5-point road ‘dogs at Alabama and 10.5-point road ‘chalk’ at Ole Miss.

    Moorhead’s squad has a win total of eight (-120 ‘under’, -110 ‘over’). MSU’s odds to make the College Football Playoff are 15/1 and it has 70/1 odds to win the CFP. The Bulldogs’ opener vs. SF Austin is not lined for now, but gamblers will probably get a spread for that game about 24 hours before kickoff.

    Steele’s power rankings have MSU at No. 16 and his projection is for the Bulldogs to finish the season at No. 21 come January. I have the Bulldogs at No. 13 in my preseason power rankings.

    When I first broke down MSU’s schedule, I marked it 6-1 with five swing games. Those five include at KSU, vs. UF, vs. Auburn, at LSU and at Ole Miss. As I explained last week, I’m on Mississippi State +3 at LSU. I lean to the Bulldogs +7 vs. AU, but that game falls one week after hosting the Gators. With all the emotion that’ll go into that UF game going against Mullen, I simply worry that a major letdown scenario could be in play if MSU beats UF.

    I’m going to call for MSU to win at LSU and avenge last year’s Egg Bowl defeat. We saw Auburn get extremely fortunate to escape Kansas State with a win in 2014. With some uncertainty about how healthy Fitzgerald will be in September, I’ll say that MSU gets clipped by the Wildcats on the road in Week 2.

    As for the back-to-back home games vs. AU and UF, I’ll call for a split. I have no idea what sort of QB play the Gators are going to get but if it’s decent, UF’s got a good shot in Starkville because MSU might be a little too amped for that game. If the Bulldogs can get past the Gators, that’s a tough spot vs. the Tigers, who host a pair of weak teams in Arkansas and Southern Miss in the two contests beforehand.

    I loved Moorhead’s offense at PSU, but it’s a ‘wait-and-see deal’ with him as a head coach. I’ll call for a 9-3 campaign, but I’m not recommending a play on ‘over’ eight for the win total. That’s because I like to have a 1.5-game cushion to make a play on a win total. In other words, MSU’ tally would have to be 7.5 for me to push an ‘over’ wager or 10.5 to tout an ‘under’ bet.

    **B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

    -- Here’s how Steele had MSU in his national unit rankings: No. 14 at QB, No. 19 at RB, No. 43 at WR, No. 20 on the offensive line, No. 3 on DL, No. 29 at LB, No. 18 at DB and No. 51 on special teams.

    -- My rankings of MSU’s best players:
    1-Simmons
    2-Sweat
    3-Fitzgerald
    4-Williams
    5-McLaurin

    -- MSU has high hopes for DB Brian Cole, who redshirted last year after transferring from Michigan. Another transfer who adds depth to the defensive line is Chauncey Rivers, who started his career at Georgia before going the juco route.

    -- The top two recruits in Moorhead’s first class are WRs. Stephen Guidry is expected to step into the starting lineup right away after the juco transfer chose MSU and participate in spring practice. The other is Devonta Jason, a four-star signee who left high school early to be in Starkville for spring practice.

    -- Moorhead’s first recruiting haul was ranked 25th nationally by Rivals.com. There were 23 players signed, including seven four-star players and 14 three-stars.

    -- MSU’s 2019 class is currently ranked 19th nationally at Rivals.com. There are 17 players verbally committed, including a quartet of four-star players and 11 three-stars. However, this class is ranked higher at 247Sports (12th as of 7/16/18).

    -- 247Sports also has MSU assistant Mark Hudspeth ranked second nationally in its 2019 Recruiter Rankings. Hudspeth just completed a seven-year tenure as the HC at Louisiana before getting fired after a 5-7 campaign. He led the Ragin’ Cajuns to four straight 9-4 seasons to start his run with the school, including four straight wins at the New Orleans Bowl (three in which they were underdogs).
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Tuesday’s 6-pack

    — Best part of the All-Star Game will be seeing Nick Markakis getting introduced; 2,171 hits, 1,020 runs scored, but his very first All-Star Game.
    — Phillies lead the NL East, despite being 7-11 against Marlins/Mets.
    — They drew 38,071 fans in Washington Sunday for the Futures game.
    — Each NFL team cashed in $255M in revenue sharing LY, up 4.9% from 2016.
    — Suns’ Dragan Bender played 110:00 in summer league, took no foul shots. Not good.
    — Umpire Ben May has worked 12 games behind plate this year; road team won all 12.

    Quote of the Day
    “Young guys…….YOU HAVE TO PLAY BASKETBALL IN THE SUMMERTIME TO BE GOOD AT PLAYING BASKETBALL……. ”
    Damien Wilkins, who played 10 years in the NBA

    Tuesday’s quiz

    In the movie Rounders, what actor plays Russian gangster Teddy KGB?

    Monday’s quiz
    2003 was the last time two brothers played in the same All-Star Game, when Bret and Aaron Boone both made the All-Star team.

    Sunday’s quiz
    Texas Rangers were the Washington Senators before moving to the Lone Star State.


    Tuesday’s List of 13: Some of my favorite (non-sports) movies:

    1) Rounders— Movie about a law student/poker player; this movie is credited with helping the poker boom in the late 90’s.

    2) Dave— Kevin Kline is hired to “stand-in” for the President because he looks just like him, but then the President has a stroke, and Kline has a new job.

    3) The Bodyguard— Kevin Costner is a former Secret Service agent hired to protect a famous singer, who has a contract out on her.

    4) Last Vegas— Four senior citizens who are lifelong friends head to Las Vegas for a bachelor party; their 70-year old friend is marrying a 30-year old. Morgan Freeman wins $87K playing blackjack, because, doesn’t everyone win in Vegas?

    5) Begin Again— Down and out music producer discovers a talented young singer; together they produce an album, using New York City as the background.

    6) Good Will Hunting— Robin Williams is a counselor who tries to help a young delinquent (who is also a Math genius) find his way.

    7) The Verdict— Paul Newman is a down-on-his-luck lawyer who has a chance to win a big case and rehabilitate his career.

    There is a scene in this movie that would never fly today; Newman’s character has a girlfriend in the movie- turns out she is a double-agent, working for the opposing lawyer to gain intel on the big case.

    When Newman finds out, he meets the girlfriend in the lounge of a bar and decks her with one punch. Ouch.

    8) Leap of Faith— Steve Martin runs amok as a traveling preacher; Debra Winger is his partner, Liam Neeson is the local sheriff trying to shut his act down. Meat Loaf is part of the music group that travels with the preacher.

    9) Let It Ride— Richard Dreyfuss is a degenerate gambler who has one big day at the racetrack.

    10) This Is Where I Leave You— After their father dies, four grown siblings return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week.

    11) Lincoln Lawyer— Matthew McConaughey plays a lawyer whose office is the back seat of his Lincoln Continental.

    12) Prince of Tides— Nick Nolte is a high school football coach from South Carolina who travels to New York and falls for his sister’s therapist (Barbra Streisand).

    13) One More Time— Christopher Walken is a past-his-prime lounge singer trying for one last comeback.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Handicapping Iowa (7.5)
    July 17, 2018


    The Iowa Hawkeyes are coming off a very inconsistent season, as they had huge highs, like a win over Ohio State, but bad lows, including a loss to Purdue. Head coach Kirk Ferentz must find a way to replace a number of key players, but Iowa does return quarterback Nate Stanley.

    The Hawkeyes have a favorable schedule in 2018 that has them playing almost all of their tough opponents at Kinnick Stadium, and Iowa also avoids Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State.

    Let’s look at the Hawkeyes schedule to see if they will go over or under their win total of 7.5.

    Iowa Hawkeyes 2018 Regular Season Win Total
    Over 7.5 (-115)
    Under 7.5 (-115)


    Iowa Hawkeyes 2018 Schedule Analysis

    Sept. 1 vs. Northern Illinois
    The Hawkeyes don’t get a cupcake in the opener, but the Hawkeyes have not lost a home opener since 2013. The opponent just happened to be Northern Illinois, but the Huskies are not as good now as they were five years ago.

    Sept. 8 vs. Iowa State
    The Hawkeyes have won the last three in this rivalry matchup, including 44-41 last season. The Cyclones have won two of the last three at Iowa, but the Hawkeyes have more talent than Iowa State and should get this win.

    Sept. 15 vs. Northern Iowa
    This is another instate game, although not really a rivalry game. The Hawkeyes won’t be overlooking Northern Iowa, as they only won by eight points in this matchup four years ago.

    Sept. 22 vs. Wisconsin
    The first big game of the season for Iowa is at home, as they host the Badgers. This should be a defensive war and the winner will take the early lead in the division.

    Oct. 6 at Minnesota
    The first road game of the season for the Hawkeyes doesn’t come until October. They get a bye to prepare and Iowa has won the last three and five of the last six in the series.

    Oct. 13 at Indiana
    These teams have not played since 2015, but Iowa has dominated the series of late, winning six of the last seven. This should be a road win for the Hawkeyes.

    Oct. 20 vs. Maryland
    The Hawkeyes return home for what should be an easy matchup against the Terps. The Terps have won just one road game against a Big Ten West team since they joined the conference.

    Oct. 27 at Penn State
    The toughest road game of the season for Iowa is at Penn State in late October. The Hawkeyes nearly beat Penn State last season but the Nittany Lions got a last second game winning TD pass. The Hawkeyes have lost their last two at Penn State and neither game was close.

    Nov. 3 at Purdue
    This could be a dangerous game for Iowa, as it is the fourth road game in five weeks. Iowa will be playing with revenge though, as they were upset at home last year by the Boilermakers.

    Nov. 10 vs. Northwestern
    This is not an automatic home win for Iowa, as the Wildcats have won the last two meetings in this series. This could be the second-toughest home game of the season for the Hawkeyes.

    Nov. 17 at Illinois
    The Hawkeyes have dominated this series of late, winning four straight and eight of the last nine. This should be a good road win for the Hawkeyes.

    Nov. 23 vs. Nebraska
    The regular season finale is on a Friday and it could be a huge game for both teams in the division. The Cornhuskers will have a new head coach this season in Scott Frost and he will have his system fully in place by the time this game rolls around.

    2018 Iowa Hawkeyes Win Total Prediction

    The Hawkeyes have a very favorable schedule, as they really only have two games in which they should be listed as underdogs, and one of those games is at home. If the Hawkeyes win their other 10 games they would go 10-2 and easily go over their win total of 7.5. Even if they drop a couple of those games they would still go 8-4 and go over their win total for the 2018 regular season.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    The Latest: Coach says WVU QB Grier ready for Heisman grind
    July 17, 2018

    FRISCO, Texas (AP) The Latest on Big 12 football media days (all times local):


    4 p.m.

    Oklahoma State Mike Gundy has plenty of questions at quarterback and receiver. He doesn't have one at running back.

    Justice Hill will chase his third 1,000-yard season in three years with the Cowboys. His 1,467 yards rushing last season were the most at Oklahoma State since Kendall Hunter had 1,548 in 2010.

    Gundy says Hill's ''leg strength, his power, his experience playing in games, his understanding of our offense, his pass protection, all of that got considerably better,'' as a sophomore. The coach says the third year is ''really a year if you're as talented as he is and you can relax and play.''

    The Cowboys are trying to replace Mason Rudolph, who threw for a school-record 4,904 yards before getting drafted in the third round by Pittsburgh. Both 1,000-yard receivers from last year, James Washington and Marcell Ateman, also are gone.

    Gundy says ''the interesting part of that question is how well our quarterbacks can play early in the year, compared to the immaturity we have at the wide receiver spot.''

    ---

    2:45 p.m.

    Kansas State coach Bill Snyder brought his top two quarterbacks to Big 12 media days while several of his fellow coaches, notably Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley and Tom Herman of Texas, decided against it.

    Alex Delton and Skylar Thompson were two of the five quarterbacks to make the trip to the Dallas area for the annual preseason meeting with reporters.

    Snyder said he saw it as ''a great opportunity to imply some preseason pressure so you've got to practice the things you're going to experience so there is a little bit of pressure in them being here.''

    Delton and Thompson are battling for the starting job for the Wildcats and could share time.

    Riley didn't bring Kyler Murray, who was picked ninth overall by Oakland in the June baseball draft and reached a deal with the A's that lets him play a year of football. Riley says Murray hasn't won the job. Herman left behind Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele after they split time at the position for the Longhorns last season.

    Snyder says he understands ''as everybody in here does that that quarterback is under a little more scrutiny than most positions.''

    ---

    1:30 p.m.

    Texas coach Tom Herman isn't ready to say how many championship-caliber players he has on the roster going into his second season.

    The 43-year-old Herman was a bit thrown by the question of how many potential All-Americans he thought he had as the Longhorns try to close the gap on rival and three-time defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma. The Sooners have made the four-team playoff two of the past three years.

    Herman said on the second day of Big 12 media days Tuesday that ''if I'm being honest'' Texas has more impact players on defense. The Longhorns ended a three-year streak of losing seasons in Herman's debut, and the defense often carried a sluggish offense.

    Herman adds that ''every coach that sits up here will tell you not enough, even the ones that are playing for and winning national championships.''

    The former Houston coach said ''it's been a fantastic year since the last time we were here,'' but acknowledged that 7-6 is not a good enough record for a title-chasing program.

    ---

    11 a.m.

    West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen didn't hesitate giving his blessing to a Heisman Trophy campaign for quarterback Will Grier.

    The Florida transfer is the Big 12 preseason offensive player of the year, and the Mountaineers hope will become the conference's second straight Heisman-winning quarterback following Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield.

    Holgorsen said on the final day of Big 12 media days Tuesday that he ''would never approve a campaign unless I felt like a player can handle it.''

    Grier is the only returning QB among the top six passers in the Big 12 last season. He threw for 3,490 yards with 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his first season for West Virginia after sitting out a year.

    Grier's season ended in the first quarter of the 11th game against Texas because of a hand injury.

    Holgorsen says spring football showed the game slowing down for Grier and that he ''knows that he's got a lot of good players around him and that he doesn't have to go out there and be Superman.''

    ---

    9 a.m.

    Tom Herman returns to Big 12 football media days as a winner with Texas.

    Herman and the Longhorns are among the five teams that will take part Tuesday to wrap up Big 12 media days.

    When Herman was on the podium in Frisco for the first time last summer, the Longhorns were coming off three consecutive losing seasons and he hadn't yet coached a game for them.

    Texas lost the first and last games of its regular season, but finished 7-6 after a 33-16 win over Missouri in the Texas Bowl.

    West Virginia, with preseason Big 12 offensive player of the year quarterback Will Grier, will also be featured Tuesday, along with Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Handicapping Minnesota (6)
    July 18, 2018


    The first season for P.J. Fleck at Minnesota didn’t go as planned, as the Golden Gophers went 5-7 overall and just 2-7 in the Big Ten. The Gophers badly need a quarterback if they are to take a step forward.

    The battle for the starting job this season looks to be between redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan and true freshman Zack Annexstad. Oddsmakers believe the Gophers will be improved this season, as they set the win total for Minnesota at six.

    Let’s look at the schedule for Minnesota to see if they will go over or under that number.

    2018 Minnesota Golden Gophers Regular Season Win Total
    Over 6 (-110)
    Under 6 (-120)


    2018 Minnesota Golden Gophers Schedule Analysis

    Aug. 30 vs New Mexico State


    The Gophers begin the season on Thursday night in what is simply a must-win game. The Aggies went 7-6 last season and won their first bowl game in 57 years. These teams have split their two previous meetings.

    Sept. 8 vs. Fresno State

    This is no sure win for the Gophers even though it is at home. The Gophers and Bulldogs have never met, but Minnesota has played 15 games against teams from the Mountain West and they are 12-3.

    Sept. 15 vs. Miami (OH)

    The Gophers get a third straight home game and it should be a win against the RedHawks. Miami went just 5-7 last season and the Gophers are 3-0 all-time against Miami.

    Sept. 22 at Maryland

    The Big Ten opener for Minnesota is on the road against the Terrapins. The Terps are not a good team but neither is Minnesota and this game is on the road. The road team has won this meeting the last two years.

    Oct. 6 vs. Iowa

    The Gophers get an extra week to get ready for this game. This is a Homecoming game for Minnesota and they are 59-37-3 all-time in Homecoming games. Minnesota leads the all-time series against Iowa 62-47-2.

    Oct. 13 at Ohio State

    The Gophers have no chance to win this one. Minnesota is 7-44 all-time against the Buckeyes. The only question is how bad it gets for the Gophers.

    Oct. 20 at Nebraska

    The Gophers won last season 54-21, but Nebraska has a new head coach in Scott Frost and they should be vastly improved. The Gophers lead the all-time series with the Huskers 32-24-2.

    Oct. 26 vs. Indiana

    This will be a Friday night game for the Gophers and one that they need to win if they are to have any chance to become bowl eligible. Minnesota is 38-26-3 all-time against the Hoosiers.

    Nov. 3 at Illinois

    The Gophers are 38-29-3 all-time against Illinois and they have won the last three meetings. If the Gophers are going to get to six wins this is another must-win.

    Nov. 10 vs. Purdue

    The Gophers lead the all-time series 37-33-3 and they have won four of the last five meetings.

    Nov. 17 vs. Northwestern

    The final home game of the regular season is not an easy one for the Gophers, as they face a Northwestern team that went 10-3 last year. Minnesota is 53-35-5 all-time against the Wildcats and they have won the last two home meetings.

    Nov. 24 at Wisconsin

    The Gophers have no real chance to win this game, as they have not won at Wisconsin since 1994. The Badgers are considered national title contenders and they are not going to lose at home to the Gophers.

    2018 Minnesota Golden Gophers Regular Season Win Total Prediction

    The schedule for Minnesota is reasonable, but the problem is that the Gophers simply are not that good. The only sure win on the schedule is the game against Miami. The Gophers will probably beat New Mexico State and Indiana, but that only gets them to three wins. For the Gophers to get to six wins they would have to win games against Fresno State, Maryland and Illinois. They would then need to win another game to get to seven wins and go over their win total. The more likely scenario is that the Gophers go 4-8 or 5-7 and go under their win total in 2018.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    The Latest: Swofford says ACC in 'best shape ever'
    July 18, 2018


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Latest on ACC Media Days (all times local):

    11 a.m.

    Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford says he's excited about the future of his conference, saying at the opening of the ACC Media Days that ''we are in the best shape we have ever been as a conference with football and basketball.''

    He also said the ACC's proposed early signing period change ''has been a positive addition to the recruiting calendar. The early signing period was initiated by the ACC, as was the new redshirt rule.''

    ---

    1:50 a.m.

    The Atlantic Coast Conference opens its preseason media days Wednesday with a focus on the Coastal Division.

    The division hasn't had a repeat champion since 2011. This time, Miami is trying to hang onto that top spot after Mark Richt's Hurricanes had their first 10-win season since 2003.

    The Coastal also features two of the longest-tenured coaches in the league, with Duke's David Cutcliffe and Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson entering their 11th seasons.

    Four of the seven division teams - Miami, Virginia Tech, Duke and Virginia - played in bowl games last year. North Carolina finished last in an injury-riddled three win season, which came just two seasons after the Tar Heels won 11 games and claimed the Coastal crown.

    The two-day session concludes Thursday with the Atlantic Division teams.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Big 10 Season Outlook
    July 18, 2018


    Last week I began my preseason college football look with a breakdown of the ACC Conference and what to expect from those programs in 2018. Clemson is clearly going to be the class of that conference, but they will have a challenger or two in what is overall a conference that lacks depth.

    That can't really be said about this week's conference I'm taking a look at as the Big 10 is always among the better conferences in college football and should have a handful of teams competing for a CFB Playoff spot.

    So where is my money going here?

    Big 10 Outlook


    2017 was the first time since the CFB Playoff format was introduced that a Big 10 program did not find it's way into one of those four coveted spots as there was too much beating up on one another in the end. Three Big 10 schools finished the year ranked in the Top 10 (Ohio State #5, Wisconsin #7, Penn State #8) but a bad loss by eventual conference champion Ohio State (55-24 @ Iowa as -21 favorites) was too much to overcome and get into the playoff picture.

    I'm not sure if it will be Ohio State in 2018, but I do expect one Big 10 team to find its way back into the Top 4 come Bowl selection time and be involved in the playoffs once again. It will likely be one of the usual suspects (Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State) as a bunch of them are among the favorites to win it all. Ohio State is third in the country in terms of odds (+800) to lift the National Championship trophy, while Michigan (+1400), Penn State (+2000), Wisconsin (+2500) and Michigan State (+3300) are not far behind at 5th, 6th, 11th and 14th respectively. All in all, it's going to be another highly competitive campaign in the Big 10 and hopefully for the conference's sake, we don't see another perfect storm of Team A losing to Team B but beating Team C to keep everyone out of the playoff picture again.

    Most Intriguing Big 10 Future Bet

    Michigan to win the Big 10 (+600)


    Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh was brought back to his alma mater at the start of the 2015 season to help bring this program back to prominence and for the most part he's done that. He had a pair of 10-win campaigns in his first two years before taking a step back with a 8-5 SU season a year ago, and hopes to get back to competing for a conference crown again this year. He brought in Ole Miss transfer QB Shea Patterson who can hopefully spark this Wolverines passing attack that has been their Achilles Heel during the Harbaugh era (Patterson passed for more yards then the entire Michigan offense last year and he played in just seven games at Ole Miss), as the defense should be it's consistent dominant self.

    But for Michigan to go all the way and win this conference at +600, it's more about their schedule then anything else. They start the year with a tough test @ Notre Dame (Michigan is currently a -2.5 road favorite) and a win there could be exactly what this program needs to kick start a great season. They get to host Wisconsin and Penn State this year, visit their rivals Michigan State, and end the regular season with a trip to the horseshoe against Ohio State.

    It's that regular season finale against Ohio State that could end up being for all the marbles and that's what intrigues me most about this Michigan future wager. Harbaugh was brought in to build this Wolverines program back up, but so far he's 0-3 SU against Ohio State in a rivalry game you've got to win a few times as Michigan head coach if you want to stay employed. Going winless against the Buckeyes with an entire class (Michigan's senior class which were Harbaugh's first recruits here) would likely have Harbaugh getting canned and while the pressure there is enormous (especially if a berth in the Big 10 Title game is on the line), it's those big moments that Harbaugh has lived for throughout his coaching career. Obviously a lot of things can happen between now and then for both schools, but if Michigan wins that game and heads to the Big 10 championship, they'd be favored over whomever comes out of the West and then you've got a +600 ticket in your pocket with a favorite. Intriguing to say the least.

    Best Future / Best Season Win Total Under Bet

    Penn State Under 9.5 Wins (-130)


    Similar to Michigan taking a step back in 2017 after they lost a bunch of their best players to the NFL, 2018 looks like Penn State will fit that description to a tee. Gone are All-World RB Saquon Barkley and dynamic TE Mike Gesicki, who was often QB Trace McSorley's go-to guy in crunch time or when the Nittany Lions needed a play. McSorley is still there and should still grow as a great pocket passer, but without a known commodity in the backfield with him that opponents have to key on, he's going to be put on his ass a hell of a lot more this year and that's not ideal. So with defenses keying on McSorley now (either through the air or with his legs), moving the ball is going to be much tougher for Penn State this year and they are already up against some very good defenses in the conference.

    Schedule-wise, things could actually be alot worse for Penn State, as they host Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin, with a trip to Ann Arbor to face Michigan their only tough true road game in conference play. However, even with a bye week in-between their home games against Ohio State and Michigan State, I would expect a split (at best there), a loss in Michigan, and at least one more loss in conference play. They probably top out at 9 wins this year which is just good enough for this bet to cash, although a 7 or 8 win season is just as likely as well.

    Best Season Win Total Over Bet

    Iowa Over 7.5 Wins (+130)


    The fact that this wager is +130 clinched it for me to put it in this spot as I did consider Michigan for this position (Over 8.5 at -200) as well. But Iowa has always been a model of consistency for the most part under Kirk Ferentz, and the veteran coach actually has a very good team this year that should threaten Wisconsin's standing atop the West Division.

    That level of consistency should transfer over to QB Nate Stanley this year who was amazing in their blowout win over Ohio State a year ago (as well as a few other games) but also put up some clunkers as well. As long as Stanley stays healthy for the entire slate, this team should make plenty of noise in the West division simply because their schedule is actually quite soft.

    Iowa gets to completely avoid Ohio State AND Michigan this year from the cross-division games, gets a home game at the end of September against Wisconsin, and their toughest road game is probably going to be their trip to Penn State and you already know my thoughts on the Nittany Lions this year. That's about as good as a Big 10 schedule can look this year and although Iowa may not have the talent that other teams in this conference do, threatening to reach a double-digit win campaign should be a reality for this program in 2018.

    Who Plays in the Big 10 Championship Game?

    Michigan vs Wisconsin

    Answering that question was always going to be the toughest part of this piece as it could be any one of four teams (Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State) coming out of the East to face what will likely be Wisconsin – who is still going to be the class of the West – but with Penn State likely entering a down year and Michigan State tough to trust, it really comes back to that final regular season game between Ohio State and Michigan for me.

    If everything goes according to plan for both programs and they meet that final week with a division title and Big 10 Title game berth on the line, you know Ohio State will be laying significant points – sportsbooks in Vegas who release “Games of the Year” lines have that spread as Ohio State -9 there. It's probably not the smartest decision now to go against a number like that outright, but Harbaugh's winless streak vs Ohio State will be a huge topic of conversation that week, and it's hard to think he could possibly move on from the Michigan gig without a victory over the hated Buckeyes.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

  12. #57
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    Vanderbilt Breakdown
    July 18, 2018


    For the first time since he arrived at Vanderbilt in 2014, Derek Mason can claim his roster is filled “with all of my guys.” When James Franklin bolted Music City to take the head-coaching job at Penn State, Mason scored the Vandy gig after a nice run as defensive coordinator at Stanford.

    He faced a daunting task following Franklin’s run of three straight trips to bowl games and a pair of 9-4 campaigns. Remember, other than a trip to the postseason under Bobby Johnson in 2008, the Commodores hadn’t been bowling since 1982 until Franklin was hired. In fact, Vandy’s bowl appearances in program history were limited to four prior to Franklin’s three-year tenure.

    Mason is 18-31 overall and 6-26 in SEC play. After 3-9 and 4-8 seasons in 2014 and ’15, Vandy won four of its last six games to finish 6-6 and garner an invite to the Independence Bowl in ’16. The Commodores lost four one-possession games, but they trounced Ole Miss (38-17 as 9.5-point home underdogs) and Tennessee (45-34 as 7.5-point home ‘dogs) to finish the regular season with authority.

    Although Vandy dropped a 41-17 decision to N.C. State in Shreveport, it seemed to carry over its late-season momentum into September of last season. The Commodores jumped out to a 3-0 start with their defense giving up merely 13 combined points and 595 yards. They beat 18th-ranked Kansas State by a 14-7 count to begin a four-game stretch versus ranked opponents.

    The optimism of the 3-0 start was smashed when top-ranked Alabama came to Nashville and destroyed Vandy, 59-0. The blowout loss started a five-game losing streak, including four losses by 14 points or more. I don’t know that saying the season was salvaged by the regular-season finale would be accurate, but it’s always a big deal when Vanderbilt beats Tennessee.

    When it does so in Knoxville by a 42-24 score with a 529-238 advantage in total offense, it certainly puts a smile on the faces of alums. Mason has thumped the Volunteers in back-to-back seasons, so it’s probably a stretch to imply he’s on a boiling hot seat going into 2018. Nevertheless, with Gus Malzahn signing a lucrative extension to stay at Auburn rather than bolt to Arkansas, there are only three SEC coaches who can’t feel great about their job security: Mason, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops and LSU’s Ed Orgeron.

    Vandy finished last year 5-7 straight up and 4-8 against the spread. It was Mason’s first losing season for our purposes (ATS-wise). The Commodores return seven starters on offense and five on defense. They lost the school’s all-time leading rusher in Ralph Webb, who had 4,178 career yards on the ground.

    With the exception of two games last year, senior QB Kyle Shurmur was outstanding. In fact, he had an incredible 20/3 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his team’s first nine games. However, he was intercepted seven times in home defeats vs. Kentucky and Missouri. Shurmur recovered to complete 20-of-31 passes for 283 yards and four TDs without an interception in the win over UT.

    Shurmur, who has 30 career starts to his credit, was second in the SEC in TD passes (26), third in passing yards (2,823), fourth in completions (220) and sixth in QB Rating (137.62). He was intercepted only 10 times.

    Shurmur loses his two favorite targets in Trent Sherfield and C.J. Duncan, but he does have his big-play man back in Kalija Lipscomb. The junior wideout was tied for fifth in the SEC in TD catches with eight. Lipscomb had 37 receptions for 610 yards, averaging 16.5 yards per catch.

    Vandy also adds WR Alex Stump, a transfer from Ohio State who didn’t play last season and is expected to start. The Commodores also scored a recruiting coup with the signing of Cam Johnson, a local 4-star product out of storied Brentwood Academy who led the high school to three consecutive state titles. Finally, starting TE Jared Pinkney returns after making 22 catches for 279 yards and three TDs as a sophomore in ’17.

    Mason is hoping RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, a transfer from Illinois who sat out last year, will emerge as an adequate replacement for the four-year starter out of Gainesville, FL. (Webb). Vaughn ran for 1,024 yards in two years with the Illini and will have two years of eligibility remaining. There’s also senior Khari Blasingame, who rushed for 449 yards and 10 TDs while averaging 4.6 yards per carry as a sophomore in 2016. However, he failed to find paydirt last year and was limited to 147 rushing yards and a meager 3.3 YPC average.

    Phil Steele’s preseason magazine ranks Vandy’s offensive line 11th in the SEC, but it’s a veteran group that returns all five starters. It will be imperative for this unit to keep Shurmur healthy.

    Senior LB Charles Wright garnered second-team All-SEC honors last season by recording 43 tackles, nine sacks, eight QB hurries and 1.5 tackles for loss. Senior DE Dare Odeyingbo produced 36 tackles, 6.5 TFL’s, 4.5 sacks, four QB hurries and a pair of passes broken up.

    Mason is hoping a pair of true freshmen can contribute immediately at the LB position. He inked a pair of 4-star players in Alston Orji and Salua Masina. Senior safety LaDarius Wiley, who had a team-best 88 tackles last year, is back to anchor the secondary.

    After his defense struggled his first season by giving up 33.3 points per game, Mason took over the DC duties with big-time success in ’15 and ’16. The ’15 stop unit held foes to 21.0 PPG, while the ’16 group held foes to 24.0 PPG. However, the defense fell apart after the loss to Alabama last year and ended up surrendering 31.3 PPG.

    Therefore, Mason has brought in a new DC in Jason Tarver, who has spent the past 16 years as an NFL assistant, including a stint as the Oakland Raiders’ DC from ’12-14. Andy Ludwig remains the OC and the new special-teams coach is Shawn Mennenga, who was a special-teams assistant for the Cleveland Browns the past seven years.

    Vandy’s season win total is 4.5 (‘over’ -120, ‘under’ -110) at Sportsbook.ag. The offshore website has the odds for the Commodores to win the SEC at 500/1. They are one-point home underdogs in their regular-season finale against the Vols in the Westgate’s Games of the Year.

    The non-conference slate includes three home games vs. Middle Tennessee, Nevada and Tennessee State, in addition to a road assignment at Notre Dame. The games versus the SEC West are at home vs. Ole Miss and at Arkansas, which is an excellent draw. Mason’s team has an extra week to prepare for a Nov. 10 home game vs. Missouri, while Kentucky gets two weeks to prep for the ‘Dores in Lexington on Oct. 20.

    I’m confident in four wins for Vandy. Those games are at home vs. Middle Tennessee, Nevada, Tennesee State and Tennessee. I see six losses, but the only definitive ones are at Notre Dame, at Georgia and at Missouri. I have Mason’s squad falling at home to South Carolina and Florida and at Kentucky, but it probably won’t be a double-digit underdog in any of those spots.

    That leaves two swing games that’ll dictate a postseason invite and/or Mason’s future in NashVegas. Those consist of an Oct. 27 trip to Fayetteville to face Arkansas and a home date vs. Ole Miss on Nov. 17.

    **B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

    -- I think Mason needs to win six games to retain his job. A 5-7 might be acceptable if it includes embarrassing UT for a third straight year and there are some gut-wrenching losses in the equation. In other words, he can’t get beat in blowout fashion four weeks in a row like he did last season.

    -- Vandy finished last year minus five in the turnover department. If the ‘Dores can get to plus five this year, they’ll win at least six games.

    -- Mason owns a 9-6 spread record in 15 games as a home underdog.

    -- Mason is 4-8 ATS as a home favorite. The Commodores are likely to be home ‘chalk’ in at least three games and possibly four (UT being the fourth).

    -- I’m going to call for a 5-7 campaign for Vandy. I do think it’ll be a competitive 5-7, however, and I’m not necessarily calling for a change of the head coach. Also, as this space has repeatedly noted for well over a decade when it comes to season win totals, I don’t make a play unless I have a 1.5-game cushion in terms of confidence. In other words, I would only bet Vandy ‘over’ 4.5 wins if I had it pegged for at least six regular-season wins. Likewise, I wouldn’t take ‘under’ 4.5 unless I was convinced it would be a 3-win season or worse.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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