By Marc Lawrence for PLAYBOOKSPORTS.com —
BOWL Games — Thurs Dec 30 —
MICHIGAN STATE over Pitt by 8 — Hi! Captain Obvious here. I’ve taken time from my travel commercials to point out, well… the Obvious. Pitt won’t have award winning quarterback Kenny Pickett in Atlanta and Michigan State won’t have the great Kenneth Walker III toting the rock. As football fans, it sucks. So how do we take all these chicken droppings and make chicken salad out of it? Pat Narduzzi is a former Broyles Award Winning MSU assistant, who has done great things at Pitt, thanks in part to a patient athletic director who didn’t go on a fi ring spree when the Twitterverse started screaming. Pitt is 1-4 ATS in its last five bowls, 0-4 ATS as bowl favorites and 0-4 ATS as favorites versus the Big Ten. Meanwhile, the East Lansing Knothole Gang is a crackling 7-1 ATS in its last eight bowls, 3-0 ATS versus the ACC in the last three, and the B1G Boys have been bullies against the ACC in bowl season, going 7-1 ATS in the last eight. Big-moneyed Head Coach Mel Tucker engineered the biggest one-season turnaround in the long history of Spartans’ football and despite all the attention Walker III earned, don’t sleep on talented QB Payton Thorne, especially if receiver Jalen Nailor is able to bounce back from injury and join fellow wideout Jayden Reed. We used the good ink, so you know something special is here for THE CLINCHER: .700 or greater College Bowl ‘Mission Teams’ – teams who missed a bowl game last season after having been a bowler each of the previous three seasons – are 16-3-1 ATS versus foes coming off a loss.
Sat Jan 1
OKLAHOMA STATE over ND 7
And so, a new era begins for Fighting Irish football with the departure of Bryan Kelly for the Bayou, and Marcus Freeman taking over as the 30th head coach in Notre Dame history. Freeman served just one season under Kelly as his defensive coordinator, but don’t underestimate the motivational effect he is having on this team. He’ll lead the Irish into Glendale without his best player, DB Kyle Hamilton (declared for the NFL draft), but retains his offensive sidekick Tommy Rees as OC. Unfortunately, Rees will need to retool the ND attack without star RB Kyren Williams, also an early departure to prepare for the NFL. Still, there is plenty of talent here, and a few good numbers to boot: Fiesta Bowl favorites are 5-1 ATS in their last six, and Bowl teams off at least 3 consecutive SU wins of more than 3 TDs are 7-1 ATS (Irish won all 4 November games in blowout fashion). On the down side, the Golden Domers are 2-4 SU and 1-5 ATS versus .846-or-greater Big 12 opponents, plus 7-13 SU and 6-14 ATS versus bowl opponents that allow fewer than 18.5 PPG. And that is key here as the Cowboys have one of the stingiest defensive units in the nation (ranked 3rd in the country), and allowed just 16.8 points per game this season, which was 7th in scoring defense. DC Jim Knowles is another major coach who has fl own the coop before a bowl game, heading for the same position at Ohio State, but the defensive game plan is etched in stone in Stillwater. Also, remember, the Cowboys were ONE INCH away from a possible appearance in this season College Football Playoff after going 5-0 SUATS away from home this season. As you would expect, we turn to the well-oiled machine for THE CLINCHER: College Bowl favorites entering 3-0 SUATS in their last three games, the last an ATS win of 6-plus points, are 4-29 ATS against a foe who scored 21 or fewer points in its final game of the season.
Miami over TENNESSEE by 10
1985. It was the last time Miami enjoyed a 7-game winning streak. Last week the Dolphins became the first team in NFL history to have a seven-game losing streak and a seven-game winning streak in the same season. And should they earn a playoff berth the Fish are on the edge of history, as no team has ever made it to the postseason after starting 1-7. Miami’s 21-3 win over New Orleans Monday Night was more lopsided than the final score indicated, as the Dolphins outgained the Saints, 259-164, and averaged 1.2 more yards per play. With it, they currently hold down the seventh seed in the AFC playoff picture after Monday night’s win, with two more games left to prove they’re deserving of a postseason berth. With last week’s home underdog win over San Francisco, Tennessee enters today’s fray as the No. 2 overall seed in the AFC playoff picture. After tossing for only 40 yards in the first half against San Francisco last week, Titans’ QB Ryan Tannehill came alive after the break finishing up 22-of-29 for 209 yards and a touchdown. Still, they are just 1-6 ATS as non-division home chalk of 5 or fewer points, while Miami is 17-4 ATS as non-division road dogs of 5 or fewer points. We seal the deal with THE CLINCHER: The mean machine notes that NFL dogs riding a 7-game-exact win streak are 13-3 ATS since 2002, including 12-1 ATS when coming off a non-division victory.
Arizona over DALLAS by 6
Cardinals enter on a 3-game SUATS losing skein, all as favorites and all three losses in which they actually won the stats in each contest. If you think that makes them a rare bird, then you’re right, as the well-oiled machine notes that winning teams riding a three game-exact SUATS losing streak – all as a favorites – are 9-3 SUATS from Game Nine out since 1980, including 5-0 SUATS the last fi ve games. Throughout it all, Arizona keeps shooting itself in the foot, as they committed 11 penalties for 85 yards in last week’s loss to the Colts. Kicker Matt Prater missed two fi eld goals and an extra point. The defense surrendered five plays of 20 yards or longer. So, while there were many instances in which the Cardinals were ‘nearly there’, they ended up failing again. The Cowboys became the 17th different NFC East division champion in the past 17 seasons when they clinched the crown in last week’s 56-14 whipping of Washington. With it, QB Dak Prescott finally broke out of his slump, albeit against a poor pass defense missing lots of personnel. Prescott was nearly perfect in this game going 28-of-39 for 330 yards and four touchdowns. He’ll need a repeat performance today, though, especially with ‘Zona 6-1 SUATS away this season. With it, we hand it off to THE CLINCHER: Dallas is 5-12 SU and 2-15 ATS at home the last 11 years without rest versus .666 or greater conference opponents, including 0-12 ATS in games with an Over/Under total of fewer than 51 points.
BALTIMORE over LA rams by 7
Strange, but true. Baltimore has lost four consecutive games, but still holds down the current final AFC wild-card playoff spot because of its 34-6 head-to-head win against the Chargers. That figures to bring them into this contest with unbridled confidence. And if that doesn’t do it, word out of Crab Town is QBs, Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley, are expected back for today’s fray. The Ravens are 5-2 SUATS home this season,13-2 SU last 15 games versus NFC foes, including 5-0 ATS as a dog of 3 or fewer points (check line). Enter the Rams, 0-4 SU and 0-3-1 ATS last four games in this series. The MIDWEEK ALERT reports the Rams are just 2-4 ITS (In The Stats) in their last four overall games, meaning they are not hitting on all cylinders. Making matters worse, QB Matthew Stafford had a horrible game in last week’s 30-23 victory at Minnesota, going 21-of-37 for 197 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Figure the Black Birds to be in a ‘fowl’ mood after marching down the fi eld on their opening drive to take a 7-3 lead at Cincinnati last week, only to find themselves trailing 31-7 at the half. With the loss they fell to the No. 10 spot in the AFC playoff picture. With their backs to the postseason wall, it’s put up or shut up time for the Ravens. So says THE CLINCHER: Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh is 15-8-1 ATS as a dog from Game Fifteen out, including 5-0 ATS when coming off a division contest.