LAS VEGAS — I’m proud to be joining the VSiN team and ready to post my college and pro football plays here on the website and starting next week in Point Spread Weekly.
For those who know me, I’ve been champing at the bit to return to the role of public handicapper. I really wish I had been published the last few weeks as I’ve started 10-5 (66.7%) in the Westgate SuperContest, tied for 111th place out of the record 2,748 contestants, and 15-6 (71.4%) with my ViewFromVegas entry in the William Hill College Pick’Em, tied for fourth place out of 231 contestants.
Now, I’m not one of those guys who say “Look at my great record” and “Follow me to riches.” In fact, if these were someone else’s public records, I’d say it’s probably better to fade them moving forward as they’re bound to regress back 50%. No one wins all the time and I’ve always said not to follow anyone blindly (including yours truly, Dave Tuley). I’ve had several years picking better than 60% in college and pro football (and NCAA basketball and NBA) since moving to Las Vegas in 1998, but I’ve also had seasons at or below .500. As Jimmy Vaccaro says, “This is a tough racket.”
What I love about my new association with VSiN is that its primary goal is one that I’ve always strived to achieve, informing readers/listeners about sports betting to make them more informed and more successful at this activity that we all enjoy so much. Yes, we all end up making picks and try to lead our followers back to the windows to cash, but the main goal is to give us all a fighting chance against the sports books (at least that’s how I see it, despite VSiN’s studio location within the South Point).
For those who don’t know me, I have a well-earned reputation as a “dog-or-pass” player. Past editors have been known to send police to my home office for wellness checks on the rare occasions I’ve picked a favorite.
I don’t have a strong opinion on any of the NCAA home underdogs on Friday night, so let’s start with Saturday’s card. As of this writing on Thursday, I haven’t decided what seven plays I’m going to use on my College Pick’Em entry, but I know barring anything unforeseen that I’m going to use these three games.
145 Iowa (plus-3.5) at Michigan State
: I don’t keep college football power ratings. But if I did, I know I would have Iowa, which covered but should have beaten Penn State last week as 12.5-point home underdogs, rated higher than Michigan State, which has just two victories over MAC schools before getting blown out by a middle-of-the-road Notre Dame team. With the Spartans at home, I’m not going to say the wrong team is favored, but – wait a second – yes, I am. Even with Saquon Barkley on the Penn State side, I’ll still take Iowa’s offense with QB Nathan Stanley leading a balanced attack and I also prefer the Iowa defense. There are some 3s out there, so make sure to get the hook for added insurance. I haven’t personally bet this game yet, and with my 3.5 locked in as a contest play, my actual cash wager will likely be on the Hawkeyes at 150 on the money line. The play
: Iowa plus-3.5 or the money line.
148 Wake Forest (plus-7.5) vs. Florida State
: Speaking of mis-priced games (which I actually rarely do as I respect oddsmakers and the market), this line appears inflated based on the longtime reputations of these two schools. I guess it’s hard for anyone to imagine Florida State laying less than a touchdown to Wake Forest. Note: the Seminoles have been between 19- and 37-point favorites over the Demon Deacons over the past five years, according to VSiN’s “Point Spread Weekly." (I don’t have to do additional research to know that’s not just a recent trend.) However, Florida State is the team that enters this game at 0-2 SU & ATS. After losing its opener to No. 1 Alabama (which also included losing starting QB Deondre Francois), they had an unscheduled hiatus due to hurricane season, and then lost again last Saturday to North Carolina State (I had NC State last week as I felt Florida State was reeling, and that’s also why I’m comfortable fading the Seminoles again). This isn’t your father’s Wake Forest team as it’s 4-0 with three blowouts of lesser competition and a non-covering win over Appalachian State last week. Facing Florida State is another step up in class, but this isn’t your dad’s FSU team either and the Seminoles shouldn’t be laying more than a touchdown on the road. I think it should be closer to pick’em and be a one-score game either way, though I’m not as thrilled with a play on the money line here. The play
: Wake Forest plus-7.5.
159 Colorado (plus-7.5) at UCLA
: I lost with both teams last week – Colorado against Washington and UCLA against Stanford – so I feel I can objectively compare their relative strengths and weaknesses. I thought UCLA (which would be 1-3 SU & ATS if not for its unlikely comeback against Texas A&M) was better than it had shown in that game and in its previous loss to Memphis, but the Bruins are worse, especially on the defensive side of the ball (125th in yards allowed). Why are they favored by more than a touchdown (and the line has gone to 8 at several books as of Thursday afternoon) over a decent team like Colorado? Sure, the Buffaloes lost 37-10 to Washington, but a blocked punt and a succession of interceptions and other mistakes led to a snowball effect and the rout. I don’t see UCLA’s defense causing or capitalizing on any Colorado mistakes, so the Buffs are live road underdogs. The play
: Colorado plus-7.5.
And now onto the NFL (where’s Brent Musburger when you need him for an intro?):
Tennessee Titans (o/u 44) at Houston Texans (plus-1.5)
: A lot of people were predicting a changing of the guard in the AFC South this year, and here the Titans are at 2-1 and tied for first place with the Jaguars. However, I wouldn’t count the Texans out yet and, in fact, I still have them as the better overall team with Deshaun Watson taking over as expected (and I’m not just saying that as I got him cheap in my auction fantasy league). Watson nearly pulled off the upset in New England last Sunday and that should set him up nicely in his first home start. And even though the Texans allowed 33 points to the Patriots, I’ll still take their defense to contain Marcus Mariota & Co. and pull the (very) mild upset. The play
: Texans plus-1.5 or higher.
Pittsburgh Steelers (o/u 42) at Baltimore Ravens (plus-3)
: Remember when this series had just about every game decided by a field goal? (As recently as 2015, the Ravens won both games by exactly 3 points). The home team in this rivalry was almost always favored by 3, but here we have a flip with Pittsburgh as a 3-point fave on the road. I refuse to believe there’s that much difference between these two teams. They’re both coming off shocking losses, Baltimore by 44-7 to Jacksonville in London and the Pittsburgh by 23-17 at Chicago. Before last week, the Ravens’ defense was playing at a high level while the Steelers’ vaunted offense hasn’t gotten rolling yet. I have more confidence in the Ravens’ D returning with an inspired effort here at home against their most-hated rivals. If this comes down a field goal, I’m glad to have Baltimore’s Justin Tucker on my side, and if the Ravens lose by 3, at least we settle for the push. The play
: Ravens plus-3.
New York Giants (plus-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (o/u 44.5)
: Yes, I know the Giants are 0-3 and their only cover was last week’s 27-24 loss at Philadelphia as 5.5-point underdogs ( 6 in the SuperContest). However, I still have them as a better overall team (yes, I know the offensive line is a sieve and the defense has underperformed) than the Buccaneers, who just got whipped as badly by the Vikings as they did to the Bears the week before. The question becomes: which teams show up this week? I’ll put my faith in the Giants to step up with a better defensive effort and Odell Beckham Jr. taking over more if he has to. Besides, Eli Manning usually performs better on the road (again, see last week’s cover at Philly) and I still don’t believe Jameis Winston is consistent enough to trust to cover. The play
: Giants plus-3.
Sunday night: Indianapolis Colts (plus-13) at Seattle Seahawks (o/u 41.5)
: I traditionally don’t like fading the Seahawks at home with their “12th man,” but this team isn’t as good as Seattle teams of recent vintage. Look back just two weeks when they failed to cover as 13.5-point favorites in a 12-9 victory over the 49ers. Normally, the question would be if the Colts are at least as good as the 49ers, but I submit that the answer is unequivocally “yes.” Granted, they were rolled 46-9 by the Rams in the season opener and everyone was calling them the worst team in the league, but they should have beaten the Cardinals in Week 2 (but still covered as 7-point home underdogs in a 16-13 loss in overtime) and then beat the Browns 31-28 in Week 3 as 1-point home dogs. The Seahawks’ offense did break out for 27 points last week at Tennessee in their 33-27 loss, but after failing to score 13 points in either of their first two games, I’ll be willing to fade them laying two touchdowns. The play
: Colts plus-13.
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