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Showtime is nearly here for NFL, boxing and college football

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

Countdown to SHOWTIME…dress rehearsals in the NFL, the McGregor/Mayweather spectacle, plus the start of college football. All on the marquee today in VSiN City!

NFLX: Cutler, Wentz, (and Bortles??!) ready for the spotlight after dress rehearsal performances
Two entertaining Thursday night games kicked off dress rehearsal weekend in the 2017 NFL preseason. All four participating teams saw their starting quarterbacks lead long TD drives. Complicating matter for the Jacksonville Jaguars…their “new” backup played better than their “new” starter!

Let’s take the recaps in Nevada Rotation order…

Philadelphia (-3.5) 38, Miami 31 

  • Total Yards: Miami 302, Philadelphia 426
  • Yards-per-Play: Miami 5.8, Philadelphia 5.5
  • Rushing Yards: Miami 87, Philadelphia 152
  • Passing Stats: Miami 13-29-3-215, Philadelphia 28-36-2-274

Slightly misleading final score. In terms of the full game, Philadelphia was the more impressive side. The offense was in regular season mode (which you’ll see in a moment with McGloin’s passing stats). Both teams had very short drives off field position (a 2-yd TD for Miami, a 5-yd TD for Philly). The Eagles also added an interception return TD. So, this was more like a 24-21 kind of game with bonus cheap points.

QB Passing Lines
Miami: Cutler 5-8-0-105, Moore 5-11-2-43, Doughty 2-7-1-74, Fales 1-3-0-6
Philadelphia: Wentz 6-10-1-129, McGloin 22-26-1-155

Jay Cutler engineered a 93-yard scoring drive…and looked very much like a veteran who doesn’t need much prep time to run this particular offense. Yes, he’s still Jay Cutler. But maybe he won’t be a “rusty” Jay Cutler, or a “slow to adjust to his surroundings” Jay Cutler when the season begins in two weeks. Really ugly stuff behind him for the Dolphins. Those are awful stats for a dress rehearsal, as Moore/Doughty/Fales combine for 8-21-3-123…with 69 of the passing yards coming on a play that busted loose for a TD. 

Wentz had one interception on a deflection, but got a lot of volume when he did complete his passes. He seemed ready to go. Philadelphia looked like a team that was tired of spending the offseason hearing about the Cowboys and Giants. Eagles are all-in on McGloin as a backup. He’ll have played about three games worth of August football when the month is over. Just dinks and dunks here. 

Carolina (-1.5) 24, Jacksonville 23

  • Total Yards: Carolina 304, Jacksonville 338
  • Yards-per-Play: Carolina 4.9, Jacksonville 5.3
  • Rushing Yards: Carolina 120, Jacksonville 136
  • Passing Stats: Carolina 20-33-1-184, Jacksonville 21-35-1-202

Jacksonville missed a two-point conversion that could have won the game in the fourth quarter. Neither team wanted overtime. Both coaches were happy with what they saw, though the Jags coaching staff has a complication to deal with.

QB Passing Lines
Carolina: Newton 2-2-0-21, D. Anderson 10-19-1-66, Gilbert 8-12-0-97
Jacksonville: Henne 8-14-0-73, Bortles 12-16-1-125, Allen 1-5-0-22

Cam Newton led a 75-yard TD drive before calling it a quick night. Panthers aren’t taking any chances with him. Chad Henne led an 80-yard TD drive with acceptable, but not electric numbers. Blake Bortles was more accurate and more explosive while leading TD drives of 65 and 60 yards. But he did throw another pick. To get a sense of a regular season game, let’s double those passing lines. Would you prefer 16-28-0-146 from Henne? Or, 24-32-2-250 from Bortles? Not enough yards from Henne. Too many picks from the pick machine. (A question fitting our “Showtime” theme today…was Bortles “auditioning” for a spot with another team?)

We’ll run the key stats and passing lines for all the remaining dress rehearsals for you Monday. 

Boxing: Mayweather money still moving the market
There’s a very good chance that the complex bookmaking strategies being employed by the braintrusts at the South Point and all other Las Vegas sports betting establishments for Saturday night’s Mayweather/McGregor battle will be much more interesting than the actual fight!

After getting flooded with public money on Colin McGregor for weeks, sports books are now seeing sharps come in hard on Mayweather. If you were watching (or listening to) “My Guys in the Desert” this afternoon, you heard about a pair of 200K bets on the favorite at the South Point. ESPN and the Las Vegas Review Journal also reported on a pair of million-dollar bets city-wide (one at William Hill, the other at the Bellagio (part of MGM resorts). 

Sportsbooks are comfortable with a position on Mayweather. In fact, South Point Sports Book Director Chris Andrews told VSiN City Thursday night “We’re at -600/plus 500. We’re in good shape but we want to go in needing Mayweather. I want more McGregor money now.” 

The three-dimensional chess got more complicated when it became clear that expected McGregor money from overseas may not be “flying in” this weekend. Ticket sales have been less brisk than expected on the secondary market. In fact, there are reports that some tickets are going for below face value. Gill Alexander on “A Numbers Game” has relayed info about available seats on flights over from Ireland. Will the betting line continue to go UP as Vegas books try to lock in an solidify positions against McGregor? 

Only VSiN can bring you the latest word from INSIDE a Las Vegas sports book. We EXIST for events like this. Let’s see how wild it gets Friday and Saturday.  

College Football: Regular season arrives Saturday…let’s crunch some numbers!
Several teams get a head start on the 2017 college football season this Saturday. We certainly plan on providing stat previews for all marquee matchups throughout the season. Let’s set the table with a quick look at the four games on the Las Vegas board.

Games are presented in Nevada Rotation order. Records and rankings are from last season. Schedule strength is from Jeff Sagarin’s publicly posted numbers for USA Today. Returning starters data is from the Athlon summer publication.

Oregon State (4-8) at Colorado State (7-6) 

  • Against the Spread: Oregon State 9-3, Colorado State 10-3
  • Offensive Ranking: Oregon State #105, Colorado State #30
  • Defensive Ranking: Oregon State #79, Colorado State #69
  • Sagarin Schedule Strength: Oregon State #41, Colorado State #77
  • Athlon Returning Starters: Oregon State 6 off/5 def, Colorado State 5 off/8 def
  • Saturday’s Las Vegas Line: Colorado State by 4, total of 58.5

Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. ET on the CBS Sports Network (the cable channel, not national on CBS). Colorado State caught fire down the stretch in 2016, covering its last seven regular season games by 13, 23.5, 20.5, 20, 4, 12.5, and 43.5 points. Again, that’s COVERING market expectations by a mile time and again. The regular season finale was a 63-31 win at eventual Mountain West champion San Diego State at plus 11.5. Some of you may have watched SDSU win the Las Vegas Bowl in person over Houston. The Rams did no-show their bowl though, losing as a big favorite to Idaho in Boise. 

CSU is christening a brand new on-campus stadium with this matchup. So, about as good a scenario as you can have for a home favorite. Returning experience at the skill positions (though the offensive line is inexperienced), and a fired-up home crowd ready to party. 

Oregon State was also a good money team last season. The Beavers were capable of hanging tough on a weekly basis, but couldn’t get many wins. An 8-2 ATS record as an underdog suggests they won’t go down without a fight in Fort Collins.

Handicapping Key: Oregon State will be starting 6’7” transfer quarterback Jake Luton. If he struggles with pressure at this site, the game could get away from the OSU fairly quickly. If not, this will be the most entertaining game of the weekend in terms of competitiveness and quality.  

Hawaii (7-7) at UMASS (2-10)

  • Against the Spread: Hawaii 6-7, UMASS 7-5
  • Offensive Ranking: Hawaii #79, UMASS #109
  • Defensive Ranking: Hawaii #112, UMASS #99
  • Sagarin Schedule Strength: Hawaii #94, UMASS #70
  • Athlon Returning Starters: Hawaii 8 off/7 def, UMASS 7 off/7 def
  • Saturday’s Las Vegas Line: Massachusetts by 2, total of 62

Kickoff is at 6 p.m. ET, with no national telecast. The won-lost records overstate the difference between these two teams. UMASS played the tougher schedule in 2016. When they met on the islands, Hawaii was -9…which would equate to -5 or -6 on a neutral field. The market knows Hawaii failed to cover its last five regular season games last year. Distressing for the Mountain West that the team Athlon picked to finish second in the West Division behind SDSU is a dog to a team like UMASS!

Handicapping Key: Determining how much to penalize Hawaii for jet lag on this huge road trip. They’re still the better team (or they’d be getting more than a field goal). They have the better quarterback in Dru Brown. And, you can’t trust UMASS to “know how to win” if it’s a late nailbiter. Will Hawaii be there at the end?

#19 South Florida (11-2) at San Jose State (4-8)

  • Against the Spread: South Florida 8-5, SJ State 5-6
  • Offensive Ranking: South Florida #11, SJ State #94
  • Defensive Ranking: South Florida #120, SJ State #88
  • Sagarin Schedule Strength: South Florida #84, SJ State #79
  • Athlon Returning Starters: South Florida 7 off/9 def, SJ State 6 off/8 def
  • Saturday’s Las Vegas Line: South Florida by 22, total of 69

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. ET on the CBS Sports Network. Charlie Strong gets an early debut at USF. Why is the spread so high? What doesn’t show up in those numbers is that USF quarterback Quinton Flowers is a very dynamic run threat, while San Jose State ranked #122 at stopping the run last season. So, it’s a mismatch at the point of attack. The market greatly respects teams who have such an edge in this sport. 

Handicapping Key: Figuring out what San Jose State is going to score. We KNOW that South Florida is likely to light up the scoreboard with so little interference from San Jose’s soft rush defense. San Jose gets to face a poor USF defense, which creates back door opportunities in garbage time at the very least. If none of the Spartans QB options are any good for new head coach Brent Brennan, then we’re looking at a 49-10 kind of game. If somebody can move the ball, the spread gets interesting. 

Rice (3-9) vs. #14 Stanford (10-3) in Sydney, Australia

  • Against the Spread: Rice 6-5-1, Stanford 7-6
  • Offensive Ranking: Rice #86, Stanford #103
  • Defensive Ranking: Rice #123, Stanford #38
  • Sagarin Schedule Strength: Rice #96, Stanford #23
  • Athlon Returning Starters: Rice 5 off/7 def, Stanford 8 off/8 def
  • Saturday’s Las Vegas Line: Stanford by 30.5, total of 51

Kickoff is at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN. Stanford won with defense last year. They’re not going to be a national threat unless they can kick that offensive ranking up about 50 spots. Rice’s very soft defense gives the Cardinal a chance to work out the kinks in advance of the USC, SDSU, UCLA gauntlet coming up soon. 

Handicapping Key: How much does Stanford want to win by? Head Coach David Shaw isn’t necessarily one to go for the jugular against outmanned opponents. Stanford coasted past Rice in Palo Alto last season 41-17 as 34-point favorites. An easy straight up win with a 534-291 yardage edge (8.8 to 3.3 in yards-per-play), but a double-digit market-miss nonetheless.  

Note that BYU hosts Portland State in an “extra game” that will likely be lined at low limits in advance of a 3 p.m. ET kickoff on ESPN. Portland State isn’t on the regular board in Vegas because they’re an FCS program in the Big Sky conference. 

MLB: Dodgers and Brewers closing in on “Regular Season Win” totals…IN AUGUST!
The Milwaukee Brewers visit the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend in the only National League matchup pairing playoff contenders. What’s notable about that series in Las Vegas terms is that those are the two MLB teams closest to matching their preseason “Regular Season Win” Over/Under propositions. 

  • LAD already has 90 wins, against a preseason Vegas total of 94
  • Milwaukee has 66 wins, against a preseason Vegas total of 70.5

Either one could get there before September even arrives on the calendar. Though, neither one is a sure thing. The Dodgers close out the month visiting Arizona for a three-game series after this weekend. Milwaukee hosts St. Louis for two games, then starts a new series on August 31 against NL East leading Washington. 

We’ve written up a zillion series previews in recent days. Let’s set up the weekend this time by looking at how all 30 teams are positioned against those preseason win totals. Most have about 35 games remaining, give or take. 

Victories Needed to Reach “Regular Season Win” Total
LA Dodgers 4
Milwaukee 4.5
Arizona 7.5
San Diego 9 
Minnesota 10.5 
Colorado 11

Let’s stop right there for a moment. The top six have some clearance from other pleasant surprises. Note how well represented the NL West is. That’s the Dodgers, D-backs, Padres, and Rockies all in fantastic shape. Four of the top six! (Note that the American League is only 139-131 in Interleague play right now because the NL West is 51-38 vs. the AL.)

Houston 13 
Miami 13
Kansas City 13
LA Angels 14 (pending late Thursday result vs. Texas)
NY Yankees 15
Washington 15 
Tampa Bay 15.5
Cincinnati 16

Amazing that Houston could have been so dominant for so long, but still have that much work to do. Miami’s become a very nice story of late…one that stayed off our radar because they weren’t quite a Wildcard contender.

Boston 18.5 
Baltimore 18.5
Atlanta 19
Oakland 19.5
St. Louis 20 
Chicago White Sox 20
Seattle 21
Texas 21.5 (pending late Thursday result at LAA)
Pittsburgh 21.5

Most of that group will have to close strong to get there. Certainly, Boston has a chance to play better than .500 ball down the stretch. St. Louis has reason to, but might not be able to pull it off. Seattle and Texas both have a chance to earn a Wildcard despite NOT playing to market expectations if they thread the needle just right. 

Cleveland 22.5
Toronto 25.5
Philadelphia 27
Chicago Cubs 27.5
Detroit 27.5
NY Mets 34 (36 games left, must go 34-2 to push)
San Francisco 36.5 (only 33 games left, no chance)

These are the big money burners of the season. The Cubs have been red hot since the All-Star Break, but would have to play over their heads to make a run at 95.5 wins. San Francisco just became the first team officially eliminated this week. The Mets will be next. 

We’ll be back with you Monday in VSiN City to review what’s shaping up as a very memorable sports weekend. 

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