The zany, yet thrilling NFL regular season has finally come to a close and all of our questions have been answered. Well…at least as far as the playoff picture is concerned. With the wildcard round coming up this week, we’ll have plenty more questions day by day as the postseason inches closer, but for now let’s take a look back at this weekend, how we got to where we are, and what we can expect from next week’s games at first glance.
Vikings, Bears and Giants All Win, Vikes Clinch Wild Card
Each of the three teams left in the NFC wild card race took care of business on their own ends, but with the tiebreaker in their back pocket, the Vikings were the only team that controlled their own destiny.
The Bears held on against the Lions 26-24 and the Giants destroyed the Eagles 42-7, but the Vikings pulled off an impressive 37-34 win over the Green Bay Packers to clinch the sixth seed in the NFC and secure a rematch with the Pack for next week; this time at Lambeau Field.
The Vikings have proven they can win all season long, even with a one dimensional offense, but any visitor is at a huge disadvantage when they travel to Lambeau to face Green Bay, especially in the playoffs when its freezing cold. It’s not that I don’t doubt the Vikings, it’s that the Packers are too consistent to slip up in a big game like this. Expect Green Bay to bounce back and advance past Minnesota next week.
Redskins Clinch East with Win Over Cowboys
The NFC East and the conference’s fourth seed came down to one game between Dallas and Washington. After winning at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, the Redskins were the favorite and they didn’t disappoint, coming up in the clutch and winning over the Boys again 28-18.
Robert Griffin III and the powerful, balanced offensive attack of Washington should pose a big challenge to the Seattle Seahawks, which will have to travel out to D.C. as the fifth seed in the NFC. Both teams will be red-hot coming into the game. Washington is riding a seven-game win streak, while Seattle has won its last five. Both teams play a similar game, but Seattle is not quite the same team away from home, so I like Washington in what should be a close and very entertaining first round game.
Texans Fall Out of First Round Bye with Loss to Colts
We all knew that the Patriots and Broncos would likely take care of things on their ends, putting pressure on the Texans to win in order to clinch a first round bye in the AFC. Houston had a tough opponent to deal with in Indianapolis and it couldn’t come through on the road, losing to the Colts 28-16. The loss dropped the Texans to the three seed, forcing them to play an extra game to get to the Super Bowl. After losing three out of their last four, the Texans suddenly do not look as strong as they once did and with a date with the Bengals, which are playing well, this week, nothing is for sure. I think Houston will win this one, since it is at home, but unless it figures things out on offense, expect a second round defeat on the Texans’ horizon.
After a break to make way for yesterday’s NFL action, bowl action gets underway again today. Four games are on the slate, including the much-anticipated Chick-fil-A Bowl between #8 LSU and #14 Clemson. Here’s Casino Review’s picks for the day.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Vanderbilt vs. North Carolina State
LP Field, Nashville, TN
12:00 PM ET
Vanderbilt (8-4, 5-3 SEC) will meet North Carolina State (7-5, 4-4 ACC) for only the second time in history, and the first time since 1946, at noon to contest the Music City Bowl.
The Commodores struggled early this season, posting a 1-3 record to start the year. Seven wins from the remaining eight games has the side rolling into Nashville and confident of knocking off the Wolfpack. For the first time in history the school has booked trips to back-to-back bowl games.
North Carolina State on the other hand closed out the season 2-3, and momentum will be at a premium as it takes the field. A Week 6 win over Florida State – then ranked #3 – will give the side confidence however, as will recent bowl history.
The Wolfpack defeated Louisville in last year’s Belk Bowl, a second straight bowl win, and a fifth win in six bowl games. Vanderbilt lost to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl last year, and has lost two of the last three. However, the Commodores did win the 2008 Music City Bowl in their only appearance in the game. North Carolina State makes its bow in the game today.
Odds: Vanderbilt opened as 5½-point favorites, a number that has since increased to 7½. The over/under is 52.
Take: Vanderbilt – The Commodores have a slight advantage on defense, which should prove the difference in this one. A top ten passing defense should have enough to halt the Wolfpack’s 20th ranked passing game, leaving North Carolina State to run the football, something they’ve not managed all season. This will be a close one though. Take Vanderbilt (8-4-0 ATS) to cover the spread though. Take the total to go under.
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Georgia Tech vs. USC
Sun Bowl Stadium, University of Texas-El Paso, El Paso, TX
2:00 PM ET
#1 in the preseason polls with a Heisman trophy favorite, Southern California (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) had a season forget and you can’t help but wonder if Matt Barkley may be second-guessing his decision not to jump to the NFL last season. Barkley will be out in this one, a fact that has had oddsmakers hot under the collar all week.
The Trojans’ disappointing season will be somewhat upgraded with a win in the Sun Bowl, and most expect exactly that against Georgia Tech (6-7, 5-3 ACC).
The Yellow Jackets made it to the ACC Championship Game, but the default trip only came as a result of North Carolina being ineligible, and Miami (FL) making itself ineligible towards the end of the season. In reality, the school did not have a marquee victory on their schedule this season.
The two sides have met three times before, with USC owning a 2-1 advantage. The Trojans have won the past two meetings, including games in 1969 and 1973. However, USC is 0-2 in the Sun Bow, losing in 1990 and 1998, while Georgia Tech has gone 1-1 in Sun Bowl games.
The Yellow Jackets will look to control the game on the ground. The side was fourth in the country at running the football (312.5 YPG). The Trojans preferred to put the ball in the air, averaging 296.9 yards per game (26th). USC has the defensive advantage.
Odds: USC opened as favorites (-9½) but news of Barkley’s absence has seen the spread lower to 7 ½. The over/under has dropped from 66 to 62½.
Take: USC – After the season they’ve had, in many ways you might expect the Trojans to slip up in this game. However, even a depleted and erratic USC side has enough to beat a Georgia Tech side that failed to beat any side that was ranked at any point during the season. Take USC (3-9-0 ATS) to cover the spread, a rarity this season. Take the total to go under.
Autozone Liberty Bowl
Iowa State vs. Tulsa
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, TN
3:30 PM ET
Iowa State (6-6, 3-6 Big 12) defeated Tulsa (10-3, 7-1 CUSA) on the opening weekend of the season. The Golden Hurricane responded by winning 10 of its 12 remaining games, including the Conference USA championship. The Cyclones meanwhile produced a somewhat ordinary season, although wins over Baylor and TCU deserved merit.
The two sides meet again to close out the season at today’s Liberty Bowl.
Iowa State owns a 2-0 advantage over the Golden Hurricane all-time, including this season’s38-23 victory, but has had less success in bowl games. A 3-8 all-time bowl record includes last year’s Pinstripe Bowl loss to Rutgers and four losses in the last six games.
Tulsa meanwhile has had slightly more postseason success. The school is 8-10 all-time in bowl games. A 24-21 loss to BYU in last year’s Armed Forces Bowl snapped a three-game winning streak, a streak that also included four wins from five.
With 240.2 yards per game, Tulsa ranked just outside the top ten in rushing (11th), and with Iowa State ranked 70th against the run, that marks an advantage for the Golden Hurricane. In fact, the school outranks Iowa State in most categories, although importantly, the Cyclones have conceded fewer points.
Odds: With its superior Big 12 pedigree, Iowa State is favorites, but only just. The Cyclones opened as two-point favorites, a number that has fallen to 1½. The over/under is 51.
Take: Tulsa – The Golden Hurricane looked solid in (the inferior) Conference USA this season, and has a genuine chance of upsetting Iowa State, particularly with the Cyclones’ recent bowl history. Take the total to go over.
Clemson vs. LSU
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
7:30 PM ET
One of the real gems of this bowl season, the Chick-fil-A Bowl will see the high-powered offense of #14 Clemson (10-2, 7-1 ACC) take on the robust defense of #8 LSU (10-2, 6-2 SEC).
Clemson ranked sixth in the country in points scored (42.3 PPG) utilizing an explosive passing game – which averaged 319.9 yards per game (13th) – and a solid running game (198.8 YPG).
LSU may have spluttered on offense but with a defense that ranked in the top 20 in passing yards, rushing yards, and points allowed, the side managed to file a decent season. It may not have been the season most expected, but there’s little arguing this was one of the best defenses on show this year.
The biggest knock against Clemson was its soft schedule. The Tigers did not have a marquee win on the season, losing its biggest games to Florida and South Carolina. LSU meanwhile may have lost to Alabama (just) and Florida, but the side handled South Carolina, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State.
The two schools have met just twice before. LSU scored victories in both the 1996 Peach Bowl and the 1959 Sugar Bowl. The Fighting Tigers will be looking to avenge last year’s 21-0 defeat to Alabama in the National Championship Game. Clemson will be looking to wash away any remnants of last year’s 70-33 drubbing in the Orange Bowl at the hands of West Virginia. That might not be so easy for a side that has dropped five of its last six bowl games.
Odds: LSU opened as three-point favorites, but the spread has subsequently risen to six. The over/under has increased from 57 to 59.
Take: LSU – Defense outlasts offense is this intriguing matchup, as the Fighting Tigers of LSU derail Tajh Boyd and the high-octane Clemson offense. Take LSU to cover the spread too. Take the total to go under.
The Association boasts a small, but action-packed four game slate today that features some big hardwood battles, including one between the Jazz and the Clippers that may see Los Angeles extend its incredible win streak to 17 games. The struggling Mavs will also take on the Spurs and more. Check out the breakdown for each game below as well as the point spread picks.
Milwaukee Bucks at 16-12 at Detroit Pistons 10-22
Interestingly, both teams in this match-up are coming off wins against the defending champion Miami Heat, but the Bucks have been more consistent overall lately, winning seven of their last 10, compared to the Pistons, which have won just three of their last 10.
Surprisingly, the Pistons are getting the 2.5 edge on the spread today due to home court advantage, but I have to like the Bucks in this one; a team that scores more and allows fewer points per game than Detroit. Milwaukee has a winning record on the road this season, so there’s no reason the Bucks can’t get the job done. Take the Bucks to cover +2.5 and win outright.
San Antonio Spurs 23-8 at Dallas Mavericks 12-18
This match-up features two squads headed in opposite directions as the Spurs are currently riding a four-game winning streak, while the Mavericks are on a five-game skid.
Dirk Nowitski’s return to the Dallas starting five has certainly inspired some hope for a turnaround, but that has not been the case so far as the team has failed to win a game with their star, who is still playing limited minutes as he eases back into the swing of things.
The Spurs, which are the best shooting team in the West, should have no problem against a defense that is allowing nearly 103 points per game. Take San Antonio to easily cover -6 points in the victory.
Boston Celtics 14-15 at Sacramento Kings 10-19
Both of these teams are struggling coming into this game, with each squad under .500 in their last 10 contests. The Celtics have been particularly poor on the road, going 5-10, while the Kings have been a completely different team at home with a 9-7 record as opposed to on the road where they are 1-12.
Rajon Rondo, who sat out Saturday’s game against Golden State, will be a game time decision today and if he doesn’t suit up, expect Boston’s struggles to continue. The Celtics are shooting just 36% without Rondo in the lineup, as they fail to find good looks.
Look for the Kings to pull out a close one today and if Rondo doesn’t play, it could be even worse for the embattled Celtics. Take Sacramento to cover +1.5 and win outright.
Utah Jazz 15-16 at Los Angeles Clippers 24-6
The Jazz almost ended LA’s league-best winning streak at 15 on Friday, but a 19-point comeback by the Clippers extended it to 16. Now the teams will face off in a rematch, as the Clippers look to make it 17 in a row.
The Jazz certainly gave the Clippers a tough time in the near upset earlier this week, but with LA at home and still playing top notch, it would be hard to bet against them. However, we know that Utah matches up well against the Clippers, so it does make logically sense that they would cover +9.5 points, even in a loss. Take LA to win again, but look for the Jazz to keep things close again and cover the spread.
The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins clash on Sunday night in a winner takes all game that will decide the NFC East champion.
The two sides meet at FedExField in Landover, Md., on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET) in a game that has serious playoff implications. If Washington wins, Dallas will be eliminated from postseason contention. If Dallas wins, Washington will need (a lot of) help from elsewhere.
Were the Redskins to lose, Mike Shanahan’s side would need Minnesota, Chicago, and the New York Giants to lose also, allowing the team to secure the final Wild Card berth. With Green Bay, Detroit, and Philadelphia respectively on the schedule for those sides, Washington would do best to win this one outright.
Win, lose, or draw, Washington (9-6, 4-3 home) has had its best season since 2007, a year in which the side went 9-7 and the last time a postseason trip was made. A win on Sunday would give the Redskins 10 wins for the first time since 2005 and only the third time in 21 years.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III has led the side by example, often playing beyond his years. He is the current favorite (10/11) to be handed the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, ahead of Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck (6/5) and Seattle’s Russell Wilson (13/4), both of whom have led their respective teams to the postseason. Griffin III will be hoping for a similar result this weekend.
The Redskins arrive in Week 17 with a six-game winning streak, the franchise’s longest such streak since a seven-game jaunt in 1997.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys (8-7, 4-3 away) arrive in Maryland on the back of last weekend’s nail-biting 34-31 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints. As they seem to have done for much of the season, the Cowboys mounted a comeback late. This time however, the Saints squeaked a victory in the extra frame.
Prior to that loss, Jason Garrett’s side had won five of six, transforming from 3-5 underachievers to 8-6 playoff contenders. A win this weekend will cap that turnaround, and have the Cowboys hosting Seattle in next week’s Wild Card round.
With Minnesota, Chicago, and the Giants all taking to the field earlier in the day, Washington will enter the game knowing exactly what is needed. It’ll also arrive at kickoff confident of a win, thanks in part to a 38-31 win over the Cowboys in Texas on Thanksgiving.
That game saw the Redskins take a 28-3 lead into halftime, only for the Cowboys to claw back into the game. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw a staggering 62 pass attempts in that game while his counterpart, Griffin, tallied 304 yards passing with four touchdowns and one interception. In a rare instance this season, the rookie was limited to just 29 yards on the ground.
The Cowboys will need to limit Griffin again this week as well as running back Alfred Morris. The two have combined to give Washington the best running game in football, averaging 162.3 yards per game. Morris ranks fourth in the NFL with 1,413 yards on the season.
If Dallas needs to worry about Washington’s running game, then the Redskins need to worry about Dallas’s passing game. The Cowboys are third in the league in passing this year, averaging 302.2 yards per game. Only Detroit and New Orleans have dialed-up more yards through the air.
Tony Romo is a big part of that number. The nine-year veteran is third in the league – behind Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford – having tallied 4,685 passing yards on 611 attempts, with a 66.3 completion percentage (6th), and 26 touchdowns (6th).
Romo’s biggest problem came early in the season when he was prone to giving up the football. His 16 interceptions are tied for fifth most on the season, but things are vastly improved at this point in the season. Having thrown 13 picks in the first seven games, including four in one game against the Giants on Oct. 28, he has thrown just three since, and only one over the past four weeks. Romo threw two interceptions against the Redskins on Thanksgiving.
Washington’s defense – which allows 287.7 passing yards per game – could well struggle against this new, focused Dallas aerial attack. But then again, this is a Dallas side that went into New York on the final day of the season last year needing to win, but failing to get the job done.
Washington opened as 3½-point favorites, a spread that hasn’t changed with most online bookmakers. The Redskins have been terrific against the spread this season, compiling a 10-5-0 ATS record. Dallas meanwhile has struggled in covering, tallying a 6-9-0 ATS record. The Cowboys will need to upset the Redskins and the spread this week if they’re to make it to the postseason.
The over/under opened at 50, and has fallen to 49½ with most bookmakers. The total has gone over eight time for the Cowboys this year and nine times for the Redskins. The Thanksgiving game between these sides saw a 46-point total eclipsed by a 69-point game. The over certainly looks the smarter choice this weekend.
With the NBA regular season in full swing, the action continues to heat up and this weekend bettors will have plenty to feast on other than the bowl games. The Association’s got a tasty, healthy and satisfying menu of 15 games, including 11 today. Since most bettors probably won’t be able to sink their teeth into all of them, here is a sample of the best point spread picks from Saturday to keep bettors hungry and happy.
Toronto Raptors +4 at Orlando Magic -4
This may not be the most exciting game of the day to sit down and watch, but it should be very profitable as the Magic are getting four points on the Raptors at home today. Not only is Toronto playing much better lately than it was at the beginning of the season, winning six of its last 10 games, but the Raptors have had a distinct advantage on the Magic so far this season. Toronto won each of the previous two match-ups between the teams this season, with the most recent coming last week in Toronto. Take the Raptors to cover +4 and win outright in this one.
Cleveland Cavaliers +8 at Brooklyn Nets -8
After making a recent coaching change, the Nets are a team in transition and there’s a reason for the change of course; the Nets are not playing well. So, it’s time to take advantage and take the Cavs to cover +8 here. Since the Cavs are missing their big man, Anderson Varejao for this game, I wouldn’t be too comfortable in taking them to win outright, especially on the road, but considering the Nets are 4-6 in their last 10 and are searching for some leadership, I think it’s a good time to jump on the Cavs wagon today.
Oklahoma City Thunder -4.5 at Houston Rockets +4.5
This game should be the most entertaining of the day as the two highest scoring NBA teams do battle in Houston. It also involves the new rivalry between James Harden and his former team, a rivalry that the Thunder took the upper hand in during the teams’ first meeting a month ago when they won 120-98. Although the Rockets are playing better at the moment and are at home, I expect more of the same from the Thunder against this squad. Look for OKC to win this shootout and cover -4.5 on the road.
Boston Celtics +3.5 at Golden State Warriors -3.5
The Celtics have yet to find their mojo, especially on the road where they are just 5-9 this season, while the Warriors have continued to be one of the league’s big surprises, jumping out of the gates to a 20-10 start with a 9-4 record at home. Although Boston has dominated the series with Golden State lately, this Warriors team looks to be a different animal. Take the hot Warriors to cover -3.5 at home and earn the sweet victory, sending the Celtics below .500 for the first time in seven weeks.
Bowl action comes thick and fast between now and the Discover BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7. Without further ado, here’s Casino Review’s overview of the latest games on the slate.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Rice vs. Army
Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
11:45 AM ET
Rice (6-6, 4-4 CUSA) turned a 2-6 start into a trip to the Armed Forces Bowl with a four game winning streak to close out the season. It will be the first time since the 2008 Texas Bowl that the Owls have played in the postseason.
Air Force (6-6, 5-3 MWC) meanwhile closed out the season with three losses from the final four games, and will be looking to improve on last year’s 42-41 loss to Toledo in the Military Bowl. The Falcons are 2-4 over their last six bowl games.
Air Force will look to utilize a running game that averaged 328.8 yards per game, second only to Army. Rice ranked 94th against the run this season, and could be in for a long afternoon. That being said, the Owls averaged close to 200 rushing yards per game this season. With neither side particularly competent against the run, expect this one to be a rugged, not-very-pretty affair.
Odds: Air Force opened as 1½-point favorites, a number that has risen to three. The over/under is 61.
Take: Air Force – The Falcons will pound the football on the ground, whilst snubbing out any kind of aerial assault by the Owls. This one won’t be pretty but take Air Force to cover the spread, something that is out of character this season. Take the total to go under.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Syracuse vs. West Virginia
Yankee Stadium, The Bronx, NY
3:15 PM ET
Syracuse (7-5, 5-2 Big East) returns to Yankee Stadium for a second Pinstripe Bowl in three years. The Orange defeated Kansas State in the 2010 edition of this game, giving the school three wins from the last four bowl games, and a 13-9-1 all-time record.
West Virginia (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) was responsible for a 70-33 drubbing of Clemson in last year’s Orange Bowl and will be looking to cap a first season in the Big 12 with a sixth bowl win in eight tries.
The two sides renew a Big East rivalry that dates back to 1945. Syracuse holds a 32-27 all-time advantage over the Mountaineers. The Orange was victorious in the last two meetings between the sides, a streak that snapped WVU’s eight-game winning streak.
The Mountaineers averaged 41.6 points per game this season, good enough for seventh in the country. Behind the arm of Geno Smith, WVU amassed 340.9 passing yards per game (6th) and will be a huge threat to a Syracuse defense that struggled against the pass (64th). West Virginia will shrug-off defensive responsibilities in a bid to score more than the opposition.
Odds: West Virginia opened as 3½-point favorites, a number that has risen to four. The over/under has gone from 67 to 73½.
Take: West Virginia – Syracuse is every bit capable of pulling an upset off in this one, but it’s hard to imagine the Orange managing to match points with the Mountaineers. After all, Syracuse averaged less than 30 per game. Take West Virginia to win straight up and against the spread. Take the total to go under though; but only just.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Arizona State vs. Navy
AT&T Park, San Francisco, CA
4:00 PM ET
Navy (8-4) scored a 34-19 victory over New Mexico State in the 2004 version of this bowl (then known as the Emerald Bowl) and will look to chalk up another win this year, closing out a season that saw the side run defenses ragged. Winners of seven of the last eight, the Midshipmen may be able to achieve exactly that.
Arizona State (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) began the season 5-1 and looking like a dangerous side, but four straight losses saw the Sun Devils finish third in the Pac-12’s South Division. The team will be looking for its first bowl win since 2005’s Insight Bowl, having lost three straight bowl games.
Navy ranked sixth in the country at running the football, averaging 275.6 yards per game on the ground, compensating for a passing offense that averaged a meager 110.4 yards per game. Only Air Force, New Mexico and Army were less efficient through the air.
Arizona State built its game on offense, averaging 36.4 points per game (21st). Scoring on Navy will be a tough task though, particularly as the Midshipmen like to control the pace.
Odds: Arizona State opened as 14-point favorites, a number that has increased to 14½. The over/under is 56.
Take: Arizona State – A tougher conference schedule will have the Sun Devils ready for Navy, and a more potent offense should trump a solid defense in this one. However, take Navy to cover the spread. Take the total to go under as the Midshipmen slow things down.
Valero Alamo Bowl
Texas vs. Oregon State
Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
6:45 PM ET
In one of the more intriguing matchups you’ll see this Bowl Season, #23 Texas (8-4, 5-4 Big 12) takes on #13 Oregon State (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) in the Alamo Bowl. Texas won the 2006 edition of this bowl and will look to do likewise on Saturday.
Oregon State opened the season with a six-game win streak, only to fall off the pace with a 3-3 finish. The Beavers will hope to finish off the season in style, with a first bowl trip since 2009. Oregon State lost to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl that season, breaking a streak of six bowl wins from seven.
Texas has somewhat of a down season relatively speaking, but a win on Saturday would mark a ninth bowl win in 11 games. The Longhorns have defeated the Beavers in both previous meetings (1980, 1987), and will look for an upset victory in San Antonio.
Odds: Oregon State is a narrow favorite, with the spread sneaking upwards from one at opening to 3½. The over/under has gone the other way, falling from 60 to 57½.
Take: Texas – There’s no denying that Oregon State will hold its own against the Longhorns, and on paper at least, are the better side, but with 50 bowl games of experience, including 26 wins, Texas as a school knows how to win this type of game. The side will be hungry for a decent finish to the year too. Take the total to go over in a high-scoring affair.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Michigan State vs. TCU
Sun Devil Stadium, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
10:15 PM ET
Closing out Saturday’s Bowl slate will be Michigan State (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) and TCU (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) contesting the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Both sides will be making their debut in the game formerly known as the Copper/Insight Bowl.
Michigan State’s season was unquestionably disappointing, with the Spartans barely making it to College Bowl Season. A win over Texas Christian would at least go some way to making up for a rough year.
TCU began the season strong, going 5-1 before slipping off the pace to close the season with four losses from six. The Horned Frogs however have won six of the last seven bowl games, including a 31-24 victory over Louisiana Tech in last year’s Poinsettia Bowl.
Michigan State may have had a poor season, but its defense was something to write home about. The Spartans ranked in the top 10 in passing yards allowed (9th), rushing yards allowed (8th), and points allowed (10th). The team’s struggles came offensively, with the side ranking 109th in points scored (20.3 per game). In order to defeat TCU, that offense will need to supply something.
Odds: This one opened even but TCU has crept to a three-point advantage on the spread. The over/under is 40½, down from 42½ at opening.
Take: Michigan State – Whilst bettors back TCU, the Spartans have a good chance of an upset win, built around its dominant defense. Take the total to go over, just, as both offenses managing to put a respectable amount of points on the board.
Bettors may be chomping at the bit with the big bowl games right around the corner, but there are still plenty of great games to wager on in the meantime as bowl season soldiers on. Friday boasts another three-game slate, which features the Russell Athletic Bowl, the Independence Bowl and the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Here’s the lowdown on each bowl and some point spread picks. Don’t miss out on the action!
Independence Bowl-Ohio Bobcats 8-4 vs. LA-Monroe Warhawks 8-4
The first bowl of the day features two teams that impressed this season, the Ohio Bobcats and the LA-Monroe Warhawks. Although the Bobcats finished the season with three consecutive losses, they started the season with a bang by upsetting Penn State and then rattled off seven straight wins. Likewise, the Warhawks started the season with a big win over then eighth ranked Arkansas and nearly knocked off Baylor and Auburn, proving they can hang with big conference foes.
The difference between the teams is that Ohio struggled a bit in its conference, going 4-4, whereas ULM did not, going 6-2. The Warhawks took care of teams with comparable talent and should do the same to the Bobcats today. The Warhawks outscored the Bobcats on the season and rank better in every offensive category, giving them the significant edge. Take ULM to cover -7 points today in the win.
Russell Athletic Bowl-Rutgers Scarlet Knights 9-3 vs. Virginia Tech Hokies 6-6
Although Virginia Tech experienced a down year in 2012, it ended the season with two wins while the Knights ended the season with two losses, including a very disappointing finish in the Big East finale against Louisville. The Knights have had plenty of success in bowl games in recent years, winning six straight since 2005, but this year’s formidable foe in V Tech will likely present them with a stiffer challenge. Virginia Tech has its own winning history in bowl games and with they way they are playing at the moment, I would be surprised if they couldn’t keep it up against the Knights. Take the Hokies to cover -1 in this one and win it outright.
Meineke Car Care Bowl-Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders 7-5
This will likely be the premier match-up of the day as two BCS conference teams with very different styles do battle. Minnesota had a rough go in the Big Ten (2-6), but has managed to scrape together a .500 season with a stout defense that allowed fewer than 24 points per game. However, most of the offenses the Gophers faced this year didn’t boast the kind of air raid attack that T Tech brings to the table. Texas Tech ended the season with the nation’s 12th ranked offense, which averages more than 500 total yards and nearly 40 points per game.
Unfortunately, Minnesota doesn’t have enough offensive moxie to contend with such a team, as it failed to produce 200 yards per game rushing or passing this season. If the Gophers were stronger in one aspect or the other, they may be able to hold the ball and keep it away from Seth Dodge and the 2nd ranked pass offense in the country, but that will likely not be the case today. Look for the Raiders to cover -13 points today and get the win.
Playoff berths will be at stake this weekend as the NFL enters its final week of the season, but a number of the league’s finest players will also be looking to make an impact in the history books.
This past week, Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson secured a slot in the record books. The six-year veteran caught 11 balls for 225 yards, giving him 1,892 receiving yards on the season. That figure eclipses the single-season mark for most receiving yards (1,848 yards), set by Jerry Rice of the San Francisco 49ers in 1995. Johnson has one more game to pad those numbers some more.
This weekend, Johnson may well be joined on the list of record breakers. Casino Review takes a look at some of the record breaking questions on tap ahead of Week 17.
Will Adrian Peterson break the single-season rushing record?
Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson has had an outstanding season. Recovering from ACL and MCL surgery, Peterson has ran for 1,898 yards, leading the Vikings to an unlikely 9-6 record and the verge of the playoffs. Peterson is second favorite to Peyton Manning in the MVP stakes.
This weekend, Peterson – taken in the same draft as Johnson – will look to break the single-season record for rushing yards.
Heading into play on Sunday, Peterson is 207 yards behind the record (2,105 yards) set by Los Angeles Rams running back Eric Dickerson in 1984. Securing 208 yards or more will be a tough task, but Peterson has already run for 210 yards against the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota’s opponents this weekend. Still, oddsmakers don’t like Peterson’s chances.
Bovada Odds: Yes +300, No -500
Will J.J. Watt break the single-season record for sacks?
On the defensive side of the football, Houston defensive end J.J. Watt is within touching distance of an 11-year-old record.
With 20.5 sacks this season, Watt needs two sacks against the Indianapolis Colts this weekend to tie or 2.5 sacks to surpass New York Giants legend Michael Strahan for the most sacks recorded in a single season. Strahan set the record in 2001.
Watt has had an outstanding season, and is considered by some as the MVP of the Houston Texans. That’s saying something on a team that has seen Matt Schaub and Arian Foster both excel this season.
Like Peterson, oddsmakers don’t like Watts’ chances, but there is one thing well worth considering. Two weeks ago, Watt registered three sacks against the Colts, the team he faces this week.
Bovada Odds: Yes +200, No -300
Will Russell Wilson break the record for touchdown passes by a rookie?
Finally, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson will look to ensure that his name is set firmly alongside the likes of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III in Rookie of the Year conversations by doing something neither of his counterparts as.
With 25 passing touchdowns this season, Wilson sits just one behind Peyton Manning for most touchdowns thrown by a rookie. Manning threw 26 touchdowns in his debut season in 1998. Wilson needs two on Sunday against St. Louis to surpass that record.
Against the Rams in Week 4, Wilson threw no touchdowns and three picks. The Seahawks that take to the field on Sunday is very different to that side, with Wilson having thrown 17 touchdowns over the last eight games, including four last weekend against the 49ers.
Oddsmakers like Wilson’s chances against a St. Louis side that has been less than impressive this year.
Success for Wilson would have the rookie standing firmly alongside Andrew Luck, who passed Cam Newton’s record – set last year – for most yards by a rookie in a single-season last weekend.
It’s been a thrilling bowl season so far, but things are just about to really heat up with three more big games kicking off today. Here’s a brief look at each one and as always, the winning point spread picks.
#24 San Jose State Spartans vs. Bowling Green Falcons
The Spartans have made an incredible turnaround in the last couple of years, going from 1-11 in 2010 to 10-2 this season. They’ve built a very efficient and effective passing game that ranks 11th in the nation and contributes to an offense that scores more than 35 points per game. Now they look to finish the season with 11 wins, which would be the first time SJSU has achieved that feat since 1939.
The Falcons have also seen a vast improvement with their program in recent years, finishing second in the MAC conference this season following some tough losing years. The Falcons don’t have the kind of offensive firepower that SJSU is bringing to the table, but they do have one of the nation’s better defenses, as they allowed just 15.8 points per game this season.
Although the WAC is not much stronger, if at all, than the MAC, the fact is Bowling Green hasn’t faced many potent offenses like the one the Spartans feature, so it’s going to be difficult to hold such a big-play team in check for an entire 60 minutes. Also, I don’t think Bowling Green will be able to do enough on offense to keep pace with all the Spartans’ scoring. Take SJSU to cover -7.5 in the win here.
Cincinnati Bearcats 9-3 vs. Duke Blue Devils 6-6
Although Duke finished the season with four straight loses, its program enjoyed the most successful campaign its had since 1994 as the team avoided a losing season for the first time in 17 years. That stretch of time included four winless seasons and a winning percentage below 20, so to even be in the Belk Bowl this year is already a win for the Blue Devils.
However, the fact that they will likely be happy just to be bowling may be troublesome in terms of them earning a win against an experienced bowl opponent like Cincinnati, which had another successful season, going 9-3, 5-2 in the now defunct Big East Conference. The Bearcats should prosper against a defense that allows 35 points per game on average, while taking advantage of a group that hasn’t played on many big stages.
Duke has been a great story this year and it’s nice to see them in a bowl game finally, but the Devils just don’t match-up well here. Expect the Cats to blow the doors off this one and easily cover -9 points in the win.
Baylor Bears 7-5 at #17 UCLA Bruins 9-4
Even after losing RGIII this offseason, the Baylor Bears still managed to finish the season ranked atop the country in total yards per game. Their offense, which scores 44 points per game, carried them much of the season and helped them slay some highly ranked opponents including Kansas State.
The Bruins were a huge surprise this season, as they knocked off USC and won the South division of the Pac-12 with a balanced offensive attack, ranking in the top 30 in both passing and rushing yards. The Bruins should find plenty of room to roam against the Baylor defense, which allowed more than 38 points per contest season, something that got them in trouble, even in games they scored a lot of points in.
This should end up being a fairly high scoring game, but I like UCLA in this one with the multitude of weapons it has on offense against the rather poor defensive unit of Baylor. The Bruins should be able to contain the Bears’ attack enough with its pass rush to get the job done here and cover the -3 point spread today.
Upsets were the theme of this week’s early bowl games, with SMU defeating Fresno State on Christmas Eve – a game that caught Casino Review by surprise – and Central Michigan usurping Western Kentucky – a result Casino Review had from the off – on Boxing Day. Now it’s time for College Bowl Season to really kick into gear, starting with a three-game slate today in which three more dogs will be looking to surprise the opposition.
Military Bowl presented by Northrup Grumman
San Jose State vs. Bowling Green
RFK Stadium, Washington, DC
3:00 PM ET
D.C. will be the site of this weekend’s massive game between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys but before that, the Military Bowl comes to the old home of the ‘Skins, RFK Stadium.
Winners of 10 of the last 11, San Jose State (10-2, 5-1 WAC) will look to overcome the defensive juggernaut that is Bowling Green (8-4, 6-2 MAC).
The Spartans were no strangers to putting points on the board this season, averaging 35.3 points per game (26th), utilizing one of the most potent passing games in the country (327.5 yards per game, 11th in the nation).
Bowling Green was all about defense though. The Falcons gave up just 15.8 points per game this season, ranking 15th against the run (116.7 YPG) and seventh against the pass (173.0 YPG).
Whilst this could look like a classic offense vs. defense matchup, the Spartans will be quick to point out that their defense was efficient also, ranking in the nation’s top 25 in points allowed (21.4 PPG) and rushing yards (123.7 YPG). The Military Bowl looks certain to be a defensive struggle.
Odds: San Jose State is favorite (-7½), with the over/under at 45, down from 49½ at opening.
Take: San Jose State – Whilst defense may win some championships, Bowling Green’s defensive numbers may be a little overstated by some dubious opposition. San Jose State however has been consistently solid, including a near win over Stanford in the opening game of the season. With a 10-2-0 ATS record, take the Spartans to cover the spread on the way to winning a fourth bowl game in five. Take the total to go under.
Duke vs. Cincinnati
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
6:30 PM ET
Were this college hoop, Duke (6-6, 3-5 ACC) meeting Cincinnati (9-3, 5-2 Big East) would be a marquee matchup. As it stands as a bowl game, this one is pretty forgettable.
Duke will be making its first bowl appearance since 1995’s Outback Bowl. The Blue Devils have lost two straight bowl games and three of the last four. The side has also lost four straight games this season and five of the last six.
Cincinnati meanwhile has won four of the last five games, and finished 5-2 in the Big East alongside Louisville, Rutgers, and Syracuse. The Bearcats defeated Vanderbilt in last year’s Liberty Bowl, snapping a two-game bowl losing streak.
Odds: Cincinnati opened as 10-point favorites, but that figures has fallen as low as seven. Today it sits at nine. The over/under is 61, up from 56½ at opening.
Take: Cincinnati – Duke barely limped into postseason play and will be coming up against a Cincinnati side that at times has looked more than impressive. With a 7-4-1 ATS record, take the Bearcats to cover the spread also. Cincinnati is strong defensively, but its offense will likely see the total go over thanks to a poor Duke defense.
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl
Baylor vs. UCLA
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
9:45 PM ET
Remember the Alamo Bowl? Last year, Baylor ran out 67-56 winners over Washington in the Alamo Bowl, a surreal scoreline that was indicative of the Bears’ offensive-minded attack. The Bears have adopted that same philosophy this season.
Only Marshall and Texas Tech threw for more yards than Baylor (353.3 YPG) this year. The Bears also had a top 20 running attack (225.5 YPG) on their way to 44.1 points per game, good enough for fifth in the nation. This is not a team built for defense.
UCLA made a second straight appearance in the Pac-12 championship game, ultimately losing out to Stanford. The Bruins weren’t shy offensively either, ranking in the top 30 in points scored and running yards, and 36th in passing year. Defensively, the side was more effective than the Bears, but again, this is not a team built for defense.
UCLA will be looking for a rare bowl win, having lost nine of the last 13. The Bears meanwhile will be hoping to win a second straight, having lost three in a row prior to that bombardment.
Odds: This game opened even. Subsequently, UCLA has become three-point favorites, with the over/under at a goliath 82.
Take: UCLA – This is perhaps the toughest game to pick on the bowl schedule simply because of the potential numbers that could be put up here. The Bruins have sneaked ahead of the Bears, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Baylor pick up an ‘upset’ win. However, Baylor has struggled against some of the better teams in the country, a category you could put UCLA into this year. That being said, the Bears did beat Kansas State. Still, take the Bruins to win outright and to cover the spread. Take the total to go under, just. Yes, these teams will put points on the board, but 82 will be tricky.