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College Basketball Teams to Watch Now

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5 Teams You Need to Start Watching Now!

by Shane M. Dayton

College football is over and done after one of the best (if not, the single greatest) season in college football history.  Now we’re counting down to March Madness, and even though it’s early (conference play is just beginning), that only makes it the perfect time to list five teams worth watching over the 2007-2008 NCAA men’s basketball season.  Some of these teams are huge surprises, some are dominant, some are disappointing—but all these situations bear watching over the season.

NBA and NCAA Championship Odds 

                                                                  

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College Bowl Predictions Part 2

College Bowl Predictions Part 2


Shane M. Dayton

Now we go from the lightweight bowls to the middleweights!  The first round of bowls had some good games, but the second round should be even better, featuring a lot of great teams, including some that haven’t been to the promised land in a long time (welcome back Mississippi State!).  So without further introduction, here’s the second set of bowls (10 in all) which will bring you through New Year’s Eve.

Meineke Car Care Bowl: #25 UConn (+3) vs. Wake Forest (-3). This could be an excellent match up.  UConn’s quarterback, Tyler Lorenzen, has played very well, taking care of the ball and making just enough plays with both his arms and his legs to lead Connecticut to a 9 win season.  The big surprise has been UConn’s defense, which aside from one disastrous game to West Virginia, has been very good this season.  Wake Forest had another solid season, though the defensive losses have shown.  Wake Forest feels right at about a 7-8 win team, but UConn seems a little over rated as a 9 win team.

Match up to watch: QB Riley Skinner vs. UConn’s pass defense
Prediction: Both teams play solid D and Wake Forest puts UConn away in the 4th

Liberty Bowl: Mississippi State (+3) vs. UCF (-3). What most people don’t know is that the nation’s leading rusher is in this game.  RB Kevin Smith of UCF has 2,448 rushing yards and is in striking distance of Barry Sanders’ single season rushing record.  The pass offense can rack up the points, as well, making this a very dangerous team (just ask Texas, who barely escaped the upset bid).  Sylvester Croom should be a lock for SEC coach of the year, and should be seriously considered for NCAA coach of the year.  Mississippi State wasn’t a fluke—they’re a bowl caliber SEC team with a nasty rush defense and strong running game.  These kids believe they can win ugly against anyone.

Match up to watch: RB Kevin Smith vs. Mississippi State’s vaunted rush defense
Prediction: This one is a coin flip either way, but I don’t see an offensive play maker for Mississippi State, so I’m going with UCF

Alamo Bowl: Penn State (-5 ½) vs. Texas A&M (+5 ½). Last year the Big 12 won this match up, this year the opposite is likely to take place.  Penn State had a solid ear, and this game will be JoPa’s 500th game as a coach.  Texas A&M will have Gary Darnell filling in interim until a replacement for Dennis Franchione is found.  A little bit of a mismatch there.  Both teams have athletic quarterbacks who can scramble and make plays, but Penn State has a much better defense, and Linebacker U is going to be the hardest team to run against the Aggies have faced yet.

Match up to watch: Penn State’s running game (RB’s & QB) vs. Texas A&M’s rush D
Prediction: Texas A&M tends to be overrated, and although the Big 12 is a stronger conference than the Big 10, A&M is outmatched here.  Penn State wins.

Independence Bowl: Colorado (+3 ½) vs. Alabama (-3 ½). We could also call this the schizophrenic bowl.  Which Alabama team shows up, the one that stunned Tennessee in a dominant 41-17 win, or the one that lost every game after, including to puny Louisiana-Monroe?  Which Colorado team shows up for this game?  The one that beat Oklahoma and almost upset Kansas, or the one that got blown out by Kansas State and blew a 21-0 lead over Iowa State?  Realistically, this game probably scares a lot of gamblers to death.  Alabama has the SEC qualities of a great offensive line and steady defense, while Colorado has proved stouter than many thought they would be on defense while running a spread offense.

Match up to watch: Colorado’s D-Line vs. Alabama’s D-Line—whichever performs better, their team wins.
Prediction: I’ll take the SEC dregs over the Big 12 dregs, so Alabama wins a close one.

Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force (+4) vs. Cal (-4). First year coach Troy Calhoun has led Air Force to their first bowl game in 5 years, and this team is on fire, with the offense getting noticeably better every single week.  Cal, on the other hand, has plummeted, losing 6 of their last 7 games after being ranked #2 in the country.  Talent wise, there’s no question Cal has more talent, but will there be motivation?  How can Cal play this bad?  Do they have any pride left, or did they pack it in?

Match up to watch: RB Chad Hill vs. Cal’s battered rush D
Prediction: Cal has much more talent, but I smell a “mailed it in” mentality.  I’m taking Air Force to narrowly win in an upset.

Humanitarian Bowl: Fresno State (+4) vs. Georgia Tech (-4). This one could be hard to pick.  Georgia Tech has the players to just line up and run it right down Fresno’s throats, but with Head Coach Chan Gailey out and this team appearing to be falling apart, are they going to be focused to salvage what is still a decent season, or does Fresno State repeat history like in 2002 and beat them once again?  There’s going to be a lot of blitzing on this one—which better work because Fresno hasn’t stopped the run all season.

Match up to watch: Tech RB Tashard Choice vs. Fresno States’ rush D
Prediction: When there’s turmoil, you play conservatively and go back to basics.  In this area, Georgia Tech’s running game should be way too much for Fresno.  Tech wins.

Sun Bowl: #21 South Florida (-6 ½) vs. Oregon (+6 ½). The shame is, if both teams were completely healthy this would be one heck of a match up, but Dennis Dixon is so integral to that team’s offense that when he was injured they haven’t won a game since, even getting shut out.  South Florida lost 3 in a row mid season, but they were against good teams in close games, and USF has rallied back to win three in a row.  They have an exceptional front 7 on defense, and Matt Groethe is an exceptional quarterback who is only going to get better.

Match up to watch: Oregon’s running game vs. USF’s rush D
Prediction: Without Dixon, Oregon won’t be able to keep up with a very talented USF squad that should be competing for a national title in the near future.  USF wins.

Music City Bowl: Florida State (+1) vs. Kentucky (-1). QB Andre Woodson is one of the most talented signal callers in the nation, and that Kentucky offense should be fun to watch.  They are competing against stiff competition in Florida State’s defense, which was exceptional this season, so good that maybe they’re comparable to the Florida State defenses of old…but the offense was so bad they never had a chance to stay in the top 25.  Will FSU’s offense scrap together enough to keep them in it, or will the defense’s efforts be wasted again?

Match up to watch: This is a no-brainer.  QB Andre Woodson vs. FSU’s Defense
Prediction: I almost always take defense over offense, but FSU was so bad that I’m taking the favorite, Kentucky, to pull away and win it.

Insight Bowl: Oklahoma State (-4) vs. Indiana (+4). This bowl is on the NFL network, so 98% of us won’t be watching it, which is a shame because this should be one of the most entertaining games of the entire bowl series.  Both have explosive offenses that average around 30 points again.  Both teams have excellent quarterbacks and questionable defenses.  That makes this a fun game, and it’s good to see Indiana make their first bowl in 14 years, in honor of their deceased head coach Terry Hoeppener, who died from brain cancer right before the season began.

Match up to watch: Spread offense vs. questionable defense (applies to both teams)
Prediction: I can easily see this game going either way, but as a sucker for sports movies I’m giving the emotional edge to Indiana to edge out Oklahoma State.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl: #15 Clemson (-2 ½) vs. #23 Auburn (+2 ½). This should also be one of the best bowl games all season.  Clemson has an explosive offense and has put together and entire solid season, as opposed to a great beginning and a late collapse, as they were known for in recent seasons.  Auburn is a tough team, with a defense that can beat the best of them (just ask Arkansas and Florida).  These teams are rivals, who have played 45 times since 1899.  This is truly a game of offense versus defense.

Match up to watch: RBs James Davis and C.J. Spiller vs. the iron curtain of Auburn’s D
Prediction: Once again,  I can easily see this going either way, but I think Clemson has enough balance to squeak by.  This one may even go to overtime, but Clemson wins and takes coach Tommy Bowden off the hot seat.  Until next season.

These are the bowls that will lead you to the New Year’s Day line ups.  This is a great mix of games that will let you enjoy some of the best players, offenses, and defenses in the country, so kick back and enjoy!

College Bowl Predictions

College Bowl Predictions Part 1

Shane M. Dayton

All right, this is my favorite time of year!  Good games, opponents facing each other from other conferences in a fan pride fest of which conference is best (among the majors, my bet is on SEC as the best and Big 10 as the worst, but we’ll get to that).  There are 32 bowls involving 64 teams this season, and a lot of good match ups, along with some wood shed beatings waiting to happen.  Here’s a preview of the first eleven bowls, taking you all the way through December 28th.

Poinsettia Bowl: Navy (+8 1/2) vs. Utah (-8 1/2). How does a team like Utah get favored by over a TD against a team with the 4th highest scoring offense in the country?  Simple: look at the schedule.  Navy played one of the most pansy schedules in recent memory, had more than one overtime game to pad the stats, and managed to lose to I-AA Delaware after giving up nearly 50 points to the Blue Hens.  Utah is a solid team that has a good, though not great offense, but they do have a very solid defense, and Navy’s defense is atrocious.  By the way, Utah has one of the best pass defenses in the nation, so don’t expect a lot out of the play action from Navy.

Match up to watch: Utah’s rush D vs. Navy’s Triple Option.
Prediction: Utah’s offense is good enough to hang 40 on Navy, and the defense is stout.  Utah wins straight up against a Navy team that won’t be able to catch up.

New Orleans Bowl: Florida Atlantic (-3) vs. Memphis (+3). On paper these teams look like clones.  The Memphis Tigers are 50th in scoring, averaging 29.4 pts a game. The Florida Atlantic Owls are 49th with 30.2 points a game.  On paper the defenses look equally mediocre to one another.  Florida Atlantic gives up 4.8 yards a carry on average, while Memphis gives up 5.2.  Memphis gives up 229 passing yards a game while Florida Atlantic gives up 237.  It’s going to be a shoot out, and don’t be surprised to see around 70 points in this game.  This, however, is deceptive.  Look at the schedules and you’ll see that Florida Atlantic’s 5th toughest opponent (Troy State) may be stronger than anyone Memphis played all year.  And oh yeah, those games against Florida, Kentucky, and South Florida probably didn’t help Atlantic’s stats.

Match up to watch: Both defenses.  Someone has to make a play.
Prediction: Florida Atlantic is better than their numbers, and played tougher opponents.  They will make the most of their opportunity and beat Memphis.

Papajohns.com Bowl: Southern Miss (+11) vs. Cincinnati (-11). This is the 2nd biggest point spread of any bowl, and this game looks all Cincinnati.  Southern Miss forcing out coach Jeff Bower was one of the most bone headed moves in recent memory.  While the turmoil created by the “resignation” of the long time coach swirls around an okay team, Cincinnati had nine victories, and they have one of the best offenses in the country, and one of the best turnover based defenses.  This is a bad mismatch.

Match up to watch: Southern Miss RB Damion Fletcher vs. Cincinnati front 7
Prediction: This is going to be ugly for the Eagles, as Cincinnati wins big

New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico (-3) vs. Nevada (+3). Needless to say, this is the epitome of a home game for a bowl team.  This is also the best shot for an early upset.  Nevada has played much stiffer competition than New Mexico, with 5 of 6 losses to bowl teams.  Nevada can score.  They hung 67 on Boise State.  New Mexico has a solid defense, but not a great offense.  If Nevada can make this a shoot out, the game is theirs.  New Mexico wants turnovers early to keep the home crowd in it.

Match up to watch: Nevada spread offense vs. New Mexico’s pass defense
Prediction: Nevada pulls the upset in a fairly close one, pulling away in the 4th quarter

Las Vegas Bowl: UCLA (+6) vs. BYU (-6). One of the main rules of betting bowls is shy away from teams in a coaching change.  Not only did UCLA fire their coach, but he won’t even coach the bowl game.  UCLA is solid, but not great.  BYU defeated a much more talented Oregon team last year, and have a stud RB to go with their excellent QB.  UCLA’s defense needs to bring its A game, or things will get ugly fast.

Match up to watch: UCLA’s defense vs. BYU spread (run and pass)
Prediction: BYU beats the Pac-10 again

Hawaii Bowl: Boise State (-10 ½) vs. East Carolina (+10 ½). The preview on this game is simple.  Boise State is 5th in the nation in scoring, ECU is bottom ¼ in total defense and gives up over 5 yards a carry.  And Boise State is also 20th in passing now.  That’s why they won 10 games.  That should about cover it.

Match up to watch: Boise State offense vs. any ECU defender who can slow them down
Prediction: Boise State big time.

Motor City Bowl: Purdue (-8 ½) vs. Central Michigan (+8 ½). These two teams played earlier in the season and Purdue won by 20.  Purdue has lost 3 of their last 4 games, while Central Michigan has been on a roll.  That said, Central Michigan had Clemson put up 70 points on them, and aside from a good dual threat quarterback, Purdue has more talent at every position.  This team will be too much for the Chippewas to handle.

Match up to watch: QB Dan LeFevour vs. Purdue’s defense
Prediction: Purdue by as much as the first time

Holiday Bowl: Arizona State (+1 ½) vs. Texas (-1 ½). This should be one of the best bowl games of the year, and it’s going to be a shoot out.  Texas misses Gene Chizik, as they have a lot of talent on defense, but not a great defense, not like normal.  Colt McCoy can move that offense, and he’ll be dueling with the Sun Devils’ Rudy Carpenter.  These are two great offenses with two great quarterbacks and two great head coaches.  This should be a fantastic game to watch.

Match up to watch: QB Colt McCoy vs. QB Rudy Carpenter, best gun slinger wins.
Prediction: This one is a toss up, but I’ll take Arizona State edging out Texas.  I’m afraid of Texas showing up flat, like they did last year.

Champs Sports Bowl: Michigan State (+3 ½) vs. Boston College (-3 ½). This game, more than any other, may measure how good the middle of the Big Ten actually is.  Michigan State is a fantastic running team that has scored over 30 TD on the ground.  They have a fairly solid middle of the road defense.  Boston College has one of the best rush defenses in the country, and future NFL QB Matt Ryan.  Running room is going to be hard to find, but Michigan State MUST run effectively early and keep Ryan off the field to win this game.

Match up to watch: Michigan State rushing offense vs. Boston College rush defense
Prediction: Michigan State might be able to run eventually, but Ryan will put up enough points before the D breaks down to hold off the Spartans.  Boston College wins a good game.

Texas Bowl: Houston (+4) vs. TCU (-4). Since this bowl is in Houston you have to give them home field advantage.  Houston is renowned for its spread offense, which is solid though not spectacular this year.  They score about 10 points a game more than the horned frogs, but they also give up 10 points a game more.  TCU is solid on defense, but not as good as they usually are.  There is no major offensive playmaker to help them out, either.  This is one of the weakest TCU teams in years, but the same can be said of Houston.

Match up to watch: Houston’s defense vs. TCU’s running game
Prediction: TCU wins a close game by overpowering Houston in the 4th.

Emerald Bowl: Oregon State (-4 ½) vs. Maryland (+4 ½). I’m actually really surprised this point spread is as close as it is, which makes me wonder if the bookies know something I don’t.  Maryland snuck into a bowl, beating North Carolina State in the last game of the season.  They are a heavy running team that has power to convert short yardage and at the goal line—but they don’t have a high yards per carry average.  This offense is two grinding running backs with little break away.  Oregon State is one of the top three run defenses in the entire country, and has beaten better teams than Maryland has.  It’s hard to see Oregon State “lighting up” anyone, but I think Maryland would have to fight like crazy to put up 21 pts.

Match up to watch: Maryland’s power running game vs. Oregon State rush defense
Prediction: Oregon State overpowers them and wins fairly easily

These are the first eleven bowl games.  Enjoy the good shows, and the next two articles filled with previews will follow shortly.

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