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Free NCAA Basketball Pick – Thursday, Feb. 11

Iowa +3.5 over Indiana 8:00 PM CT

Tonight’s game at Assembly Hall will surely feature a lively crowd for a game that for the moment might appear to be critical in determining this season’s Big Ten champion with Indiana 9-2 in league play behind Iowa at 10-1. While Indiana is talented enough to win the Big Ten and to hold serve at home tonight there are some glaring holes in the case for the Hoosiers to be considered one of the top teams in the conference. Indiana’s game tonight will be the first against any of the best four teams in the conference as the 9-2 starts has featured no games vs. Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, or Purdue. The final seven games of the season will feature five games vs. those teams and it will be far less of a surprise if the 9-2 league mark settles at around 11-7 compared with the Hoosiers hoisting a conference championship banner. Iowa meanwhile has defeated Michigan State and Purdue twice each. Iowa’s only loss in conference play came in a tight game at Maryland as the team has seven wins away from home on the season and has nine of 10 Big Ten wins coming by double-digits as this has been a truly dominant team despite limited national recognition. Indiana has dropped two of the last four games and the Hoosiers have built their statistical resume with three wins vs. the two winless Big Ten teams. Indiana hasn’t lost at home this season but the most impressive win in Bloomington came by one-point over Wisconsin before the Badgers hit their current stride. While this is a huge game for Indiana the current underdog price on the Hawkeyes is very appealing consider the great disparity in quality in the similar conference records.

Nelly’s won our 2* Top Play last night with Tulsa +9 winning outright at SMU. Our college run is now at 33-9 since mid-January while riding an 11-1 hot streak the past seven days. Don’t miss on our next big play!

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick – Wednesday, Feb. 10

#530 Houston -2 over Memphis 6:00 PM CT

Memphis enters this game coming off a huge home win over Cincinnati, snapping a slide that featured losses in four of the previous five games. Memphis has lost four of its five road games this season with only a win at Central Florida this season and on both sides of the ball the Tigers look like a rather mediocre team in the AAC despite being one of the higher profile programs in the conference. This Tigers team has really struggled on the offensive end with some of the conference’s worst shooting numbers, a challenge with the Tigers playing at a very fast tempo and relying on a great volume of shots. Houston went 10-2 through a soft non-conference schedule and the Cougars appeared to be exposed losing four straight AAC games in January. The team has rallied however to win three of the last four with strong home wins over Tulsa and SMU before falling in a quick turnaround rematch at Tulsa on Sunday. This is the only meeting this season between these teams and there is a huge clash in the pace of play and the strengths of these squads. Houston has been one of the best offensive teams in the conference but the defense has been suspect at times albeit having already played seven games vs. the top five teams in the conference for perhaps the toughest path so far in AAC play. Even so the defensive numbers are pretty similar for these teams while Houston holds massive edges on the offensive end. Houston has lost twice at home this season but they also have home wins over LSU, Tulsa, and SMU, as the ceiling is high for a very effective shooting team that forces opponents into long tiring possessions. Three overtime wins boost the record for Houston but also proves an experienced team with a knack for closing out close games which this contest figures to be with the near-even spread. Robert Gray has missed the last two games and is a question mark but Houston won at home vs. SMU without him and depth is a strong point for the Cougars.

Nelly’s is 36-11 the last four weeks in basketball, riding a 28-8 run and a 9-1 run in our last 10 picks since Thursday. We have a TOP PLAY lined up for Wednesday’s schedule, don’t miss out on another big winner on the hardwood.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick – Monday, Feb. 8

#526 Duke -3.5 over Louisville

After it was announced that Louisville would self-impose a postseason ban this season the players responded with a strong performance on Saturday routing Boston College at home by 32. Boston College is the clear bottom team in the ACC and after three consecutive home games the Cardinals now go on the road for a difficult road test at Duke. After losing four of five in a tough January stretch Duke has won the last two games with solid wins over Georgia Tech and NC State. Grayson Allen is starting to re-emerge as one of the top scorers in the nation and the Blue Devils won convincingly at Louisville last season in the only meeting. The Cardinals have nothing but challenging games remaining on the resume and this is team with only one high end win on the season, last Monday’s win over North Carolina. So far the ACC schedule has been pretty light for the Cardinals at 8-2, with only one win vs. a top seven team in the conference so far. Louisville also failed to pick up a top 100 win in the non-conference schedule as well. Duke has lost twice at home this season but by a combined total of just six points and the Blue Devils remain one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Duke isn’t prone to turnovers and the Blue Devils have huge shooting edges in this matchup which should help the team to deliver another key win in the ACC picture, catching a light price at home for the defending national champions with a squad that still has elite talent.

Nelly’s delivered with the Broncos in the Super Bowl on Sunday, we also turned in our fourth straight winning week in basketball, riding an epic 35-10 run the last 26 days, now 27-7 the last three weeks and 8-0 since Thursday. Don’t miss a Monday night selection in college basketball to keep the hot streak going.

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Free Super Bowl Prop Plays – Sunday, Feb. 7

Total Passing Yards – Peyton Manning (DEN): OVER 235 (-125)

In seven of his first nine starts of the season Peyton Manning threw for 256 yards or more. He didn’t hit that mark with lower passing performances in the two playoff wins but in both of those games the Broncos had the early lead. The game with Pittsburgh proved to be a defense and field goal game and Denver never trailed against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Carolina ranked 16th in the NFL in passing yards per game allowed and three of the last four quarterbacks to face the Panthers threw for over 300 yards. Expect Carolina to want Manning to throw the ball as they likely won’t apply the same aggressive pressure they did against Carson Palmer as they will be more fearful of the Denver running game and will dare Manning and his high interception rate to try for big plays against a very opportunistic defense. As the underdog if the Broncos fall behind they may also be forced to throw more than they would ideally like to and Manning’s numbers could climb.

Total Pass Attempts – Cam Newton (CAR): OVER 28.5 (-125)

Cam Newton had 30 or more pass attempts in 10 of 16 games in the regular season. Newton had just 50 attempts in his two playoff games combined but in both of those games his team built a huge early lead and the Panthers were able take a more conservative approach. Denver allowed the fewest rushing yards per game and rushing yards per attempt in the NFL this season as Carolina will need to plan on making plays in the air. The Broncos were also #1 in the NFL in fewest yards per pass attempt this season as it will likely take more plays and more pass attempts to move the ball against the Broncos than the Panthers are used to. Carolina’s great numbers on 3rd downs this season could also allow the Panthers a few more plays than most teams are able to run against Denver and Newton’s passing numbers should climb if this game remains close which most Denver games have this season.

Total Receiving Yards – Demaryius Thomas (DEN): UNDER 67.5 (-105)

In seven of his last nine games Demaryius Thomas has been held to 61 or fewer receiving yards. Some of those games were with Brock Osweiler at quarterback but on the season Thomas only had four 100 yard receiving games. In two playoff games with Manning back under center Thomas had just six catches for a combined total of 52 yards. Thomas will draw a lot of attention from the Carolina defense and with his decline in production and targets late in the season Thomas proved to be a worse receiver. Thomas has just 43 catches against 89 targets over his last nine games with several notable drops and the three-time pro bowler isn’t the same receiver in this offense as he was in his big seasons of years past. Expect cornerback Josh Norman to frequently be paired with Thomas and opposing quarterbacks had the lowest rating in the NFL against Norman compared with all NFL corners.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick – Saturday, Feb. 6

#609 Western Kentucky +2.5 over UTEP 4:00 PM CT

Western Kentucky is just 12-11 on the season and only twice this season have the Hilltoppers put together consecutive wins. There are some solid wins on the resume, beating Stony Brook, Central Michigan, Indiana State, and Conference USA leader UAB. At 4-6 in league play this is a big stretch of games and after passing a road test in San Antonio Thursday this is an important second straight road test. Like Western Kentucky, UTEP is in a season of decline after these teams were among the better teams in the conference last season. On Thursday the Miners held on for an exhausting 112-108 win over Marshall, a win that snapped a three-game slide and gave UTEP is fourth conference win. The other three league wins came against the bottom of the conference and the Miners produced nothing substance in non-conference action, actually losing five games including three home games vs. teams outside the top 100. UTEP has defensive edges in this matchup but Western Kentucky has been the clearly superior offensive squad. Western Kentucky won the only meeting in overtime last season and this looks like a game destined to again go down to the wire with the Hilltoppers more trustworthy to hit big shots down the stretch.

Nelly’s won last night in the NBA in both our rated pick and our free pick. Our rated phone service picks are now on a 31-10 run including a 23-7 run in our last 30 picks over the past 19 days for huge returns. Check out Saturday’s Guaranteed 2/3 offer for $25. We have won this offer six straight times, incredibly going 3-0 five times with a 17-1 run combined in the 2/3 offers.

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Super Bowl 50 Side Decision

Super Bowl 50 is approaching and as usual it is a tough call. Here is a case for both sides in the big game as both teams have a lot of excellent indicators to work with heading into the big game. Hear the arguments and make your decision on the winning side play.

Super Bowl 50 Carolina Arguments:

Carolina is 17-1, scoring over 32 points per game while scoring at least 27 points in eight of the last nine contests. The Panthers dominated two playoff wins over excellent statistical teams in Seattle and Arizona. Denver has only scored 22 points per game this season with the Broncos taking four losses in the regular season before surviving two very close calls in the playoffs. At no point this season did Denver even reach Carolina’s scoring average, as the high mark for the Broncos was 31 points in Week 2 at Kansas City, a game in which Denver benefitted from five turnovers.

With the one-loss record and the remarkable scoring margin this is a Panthers team that enters the conversation of being one of the greatest teams of all time should they complete the campaign with a Super Bowl victory. Some of the other teams on that list including the ’85 Bears, the ’89 49ers, the ’94 49ers, ’08 Patriots, and the ’96 Packers were all double-digit favorites in the Super Bowl while the Panthers should kick off as a favorite of less than a touchdown for a relative bargain to back a team that many consider in that company.

Denver unquestionably has an excellent defense but Carolina isn’t getting a lot of respect for allowing just one point more per game on average this season, counting the two playoff games. Carolina surrendered 19.3 points per game while Denver has allowed 18.3 points per game. Counting the playoffs, the Panthers defense also faced six games against teams that finished in the top five of the NFL in yards per play offense. Denver only faced one game against a top seven team in that measure this season, playing Pittsburgh twice although the second time they faced the Steelers it was a banged-up group without key players.

Carolina had a remarkable turnover margin this season which certainly boosted the scoring numbers as the offensive production was far from league-best for the Panthers. One can argue that Carolina so often had huge leads in games that they were able to conservatively run its offense to close out games and the potential of the team is far greater than the numbers suggest. What the Panthers did against elite defenses facing Seattle and Arizona tells a truer picture of what Carolina is capable of offensively. While Carolina benefitted from four defensive touchdowns in the regular season, Denver actually had five defensive touchdowns as the Broncos actually may have caught more big breaks to inflate the numbers.

Super Bowl 50 Denver Arguments:

The Broncos have been the best team in the NFL at stopping the run, allowing just 81.4 rushing yards per game and just 3.3 yards per attempt, both league-leading marks. That was despite facing six games vs. teams that finished in the top 10 in the league in rushing yards per attempt, with Carolina sitting as the 11th ranked team in that measure. The Panthers were one of the least productive passing teams in the NFL, gaining less than 226 yards per game in the air and Denver’s plan will be to force Cam Newton to make plays in the air rather than finding success in the running game.

Newton is as physically imposing as any quarterback to ever play the game but keep in mind the historically great performance that Denver’s defense had against Tom Brady in the AFC Championship, probably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. The Broncos hit Brady 23 times, 11 more times than he had ever been hit in any of his previous 224 career games. Brady was sacked four times and threw two interceptions looking very little like the Hall of Fame caliber player that he generally has looked like in his career. That was Tom Brady, a player with more playoff experience than any other quarterback behind Bill Belichick who certainly makes a strong case as the NFL’s greatest coach of all time.

Newton as well as head Coach Ron Rivera will obviously be in their first Super Bowl and it will be just the sixth career playoff game for the quarterback. All of those games have been decided by seven or more points as Newton has really never had to make big plays in key moments in a playoff game. He had the opportunity to do so to put away the divisional game against Seattle but was unable to, instead relying on the defense to close out the game. In five playoff games Newton has thrown six interceptions and for all the fears teams have of Newton rushing against them he has ran 49 times for 176 yards in five playoff games for less than 3.6 yards per carry. Denver just held a great Patriots offense to going 2 of 15 on 3rd down plays in the AFC Championship as well as the Panthers might not be able to produce the same successful results in those key plays as they have done much of the season.

15 of 18 Denver opponents were held to 24 or fewer points this season and in 10 games counting the preseason at Levi’s Stadium this season no team scored more than 24 points on the soft turf in this still new venue. Carolina outscored foes by 16 points per game at home in the regular season but out-paced opposition by just half that number on the road while also just playing one game on the west coast, the miracle comeback win at Seattle in October. Another factor that should fuel Denver is that many of the players have been on this stage before and many have bitter memories of the Super Bowl two years ago with a golden opportunity to avenge that result this week.

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Super Bowl 50 Total Decision

Super Bowl 50 is approaching and as usual it is a tough call. Here is a case for both totals in the big game as both the ‘over’ and the ‘under’ have a compelling case. Hear the arguments and make your decision on the winning total for Sunday’s big game.

Super Bowl 50 ‘UNDER’ Argument

Last season’s Super Bowl featuring the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots slipped just ‘over’ the total with 52 points scored on a total that closed at 47, falling from earlier numbers closer to 48.5. As we all recall it looked like even more points would be scored as an interception near the end zone effectively ended the game.

In Seattle’s Super Bowl win the previous season, 16 points came outside of offensive scoring plays but last season all the scoring came on offense and while there were three turnovers in the game, every scoring drive travelled at least 50 yards. Super Bowl XLIX had a scoreless first quarter but things escalated in the second quarter with two touchdowns on each side including three of those touchdowns coming in the final three minutes of the half.

While the past three Super Bowls have played ‘over’ the ‘under’ has still hit in six of the last 11 Super Bowls and the totals on the big game are often considered slightly inflated due to the popularity of the game and the common propensity to favor scoring. With that said 10 of the last 11 Super Bowls have closed with a total above 45, with only Green Bay’s win over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV featuring a lower closing total than the current common price on this year’s big game.

The venue seems to favor the ‘under’ as Levi’s Stadium, hosting its first Super Bowl, saw the ‘under’ hit in nine of ten games this season if you count the preseason. San Francisco’s team certainly played a role in that with a limited offense but none of the games in Santa Clara featured more than 45 points this season. The conditions of the field were also often criticized with complaints of soft spots and there is likely some basis for expecting lower scoring in games played in the 49ers home venue.

When looking at the defensive scoring the case for the ‘under’ has validity as Denver has held 15 of 18 opponents to 24 or fewer points this season and Carolina has held 14 of 18 foes to 24 or fewer points. The two playoff games for the Panthers both soared well ‘over’ but Carolina allowed a total of 7 points to Seattle and Arizona combined in two postseason first halves with most of the points allowed by the Panthers coming after a big lead was in hand.

Given Carolina’s league-best 39 turnovers created (plus 9 more in the postseason) the expectation will be a careful calculated offensive approach from the Broncos. While Denver’s defense led the league in fewest rush yards per carry allowed, Carolina was not far behind and it seems reasonable to expect both teams to have trouble breaking big gains on the ground. Carolina’s yardage numbers on defense were not overwhelming this season but they also faced five regular season games vs. teams that finished in the league’s top five in yards per play on offense.

Both sides also have dangerous play-making secondary players and avoiding turnovers will be the top priority, especially in Denver’s case given how poorly the Super Bowl started two years ago and seeing how well Carolina has started in two playoff games. Denver and Carolina were the top two defenses in the league this season in fewest yards per pass attempt allowed as big plays were very tough to come by against these teams.

The ‘under’ went 11/6/1 in Denver games this season and it seems likely that the Broncos will aim to be conservative while sustaining long clock-burning drives as they have in both playoff wins. Denver leaned on its defense to continue to get stops on big plays vs. New England and the Broncos know they can’t take great risks with Peyton Manning’s limitations and turnover issues this season. Winning a shootout with Carolina seems like a tall order as Denver will likely aim to keep this game with as few possessions as possible and lower scoring potential. While Manning is an all-time great and Cam Newton may win the MVP this season this Super Bowl is featuring two quarterbacks that completed fewer than 60 percent of their passes this season as a defense-oriented game should not be a surprise.

 

Super Bowl 50 ‘OVER’ Argument:

Some may be viewing this year’s Super Bowl as an offense vs. defense matchup given Denver’s great defense and the high scoring of the Panthers. Carolina led the league in scoring this season and the Panthers were also a productive offensive team posting almost 367 yards per game. Denver gained over 355 yards per game as well as the Broncos were capable of moving the ball this season despite not always delivering great scoring numbers. While the Broncos passed for a total of just 360 yards in the two playoff wins combined, in the regular season the Broncos threw for over 248 yards per game despite balancing two quarterbacks, 24 more yards than Carolina’s offense totaled per game on average.

Denver and Carolina both had successful running games and the balance presented by both offenses should be a challenge for both defenses. Carolina faced potent offensive teams in the two playoff wins but they were also both teams that were pass-reliant late in the season and allowed the Panthers to bring serious pressure. The Broncos also faced a one-dimensional New England offense in the AFC Championship while also facing a Steelers team that was beat up without its top running back or wide receiver and with Ben Roethlisberger not playing at 100 percent.

With a total of 45 the recent scoring numbers for the Panthers make the case for the ‘over’ an easy one. Carolina’s NFC South schedule can be fairly criticized but facing elite defenses in the playoffs the Panthers put up 80 points in two games and had they not built up huge first half leads they likely could have scored even more. In eight of the last nine games Carolina has scored 31 or more points by themselves and only once since Week 3 did the Panthers fail to score at least 27 points.

Denver’s defense deserves great credit for getting big stops and holding the Steelers and Patriots to a combined total of just 34 points in two playoff wins but both quarterbacks threw for over 300 yards against Denver’s defense despite its great reputation.  The great regular season numbers for the Denver defense also featured no games vs. any of the league’s top seven yards per play offensive teams. Carolina did face a few top offensive teams this season but they also had regular season games vs. four of the six worst yards per play offenses in the league as the case can be made that the numbers on defense are a bit better than they should be on both sides.

The ‘over’ went 12/5/1 in Carolina games this season and after taking heat for nearly blowing a big lead vs. Seattle in the divisional round an aggressive approach was displayed by ‘Riverboat’ Ron Rivera in the NFC Championship. The team seems to feed off that approach and if the Panthers have their way it will likely wind up as another higher scoring game with the defense daring Manning to beat them through the air.

Carolina has also shown the ability to score quickly with defensive and special team plays as well as quick strikes on offense. While Denver got big stops in key plays last week, Cam Newton’s size makes the Panthers devastatingly effective in 3rd down and red zone situations as the Panthers rarely settle for field goals. Denver actually scored six defensive touchdowns in the regular season as well as the likelihood of a defensive score or a big shift in field position due to a turnover is great. With a total of only 45 which is relatively low for this season in the NFL, one defensive score would greatly shift the trajectory of the scoring pace.

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Free NBA Pick – Friday, Feb. 5

 

 

Los Angeles Clippers -4.5 over Orlando Magic 6:05 PM CT

The Clippers were stunned at home on Wednesday as the Timberwolves went into the Staples Center and scored 32 4th quarter points to steal a rare win. The Wolves have been on a run of mostly competitive games despite the disappointing record and against the Clippers Minnesota had one of its best shooting games of the season hitting over 50 percent from the floor. The Wolves also had the edge on the boards while it was a disappointing night for most of the starting five for the Clippers. After a slow start to the season Los Angeles is up to 32-17 while holding the fourth best record in the Western Conference. Los Angeles hasn’t been the great home team they were last season but the Clippers have produced a 15-9 S/U mark on the road. Los Angeles has also excelled in the small favorite role going 11-6 ATS this season as a favorite of fewer than six points. The Magic displayed some promise early this season but the team is currently on a 2-14 run as a team that was once in playoff position continues to slide. The Magic have dropped five of the last six home games and the solid season numbers continue to head in the wrong direction. The Clippers are 10-6 S/U off a loss this season and over the last five games the Clippers have allowed nearly 18 fewer points per game than the Magic as there is a huge contrast in the recent defensive form of these squads. The Magic gave the Clippers a tough game in Los Angeles in a two-point loss in December but Chris Paul didn’t play in that game and expect this to be a big game for Paul after getting hit with a technical foul late in the loss to Minnesota that proved to be a critical play. 12 of the last 14 losses for the Magic have come by four or more points and coming off big games with the Spurs and a close call with the Thunder it will be tough for Orlando to be up for another prominent game. Despite the distractions this season the Clippers are still rounding into a serious Western Conference contender, winning 16 of the last 20 games and last losing consecutive games before Christmas.

Nelly’s turned in a 3-0 night in basketball last night with NBA & college winners – our Free Pick with Oregon State also held on for a narrow upset! We are 30-10 for a 75% run in our last 40 picks over the past 23 days with our basketball service. Don’t miss a guaranteed NBA pick tonight as we gear up for a big college basketball day on Saturday, having gone 3-0 each of the last two Saturdays! We also have our Super Bowl selection coming this afternoon plus a handful of prop plays to build on a 5-1 run this season and a 17-4 run the last three seasons in the NFL playoff picks!

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Free College Basketball Pick Thursday, Feb. 4

#778 Oregon State +2.5 over Utah 10:00 PM CT

Oregon State lost by six in a tight defensive battle in Salt Lake City and this revenge spot should be a big game for the Beavers at home. Utah hasn’t lost since that game with now five consecutive wins but they have not faced the top teams in the conference in that run. Oregon State has wins over some of the best teams in the conference at home with wins over Oregon, California, and USC as Corvallis is proving to be a difficult place to play. Utah has climbed to 17-5 but this year’s team doesn’t look near the same level as last season’s Sweet 16 squad and big early season wins over San Diego State, BYU, and Duke no longer look as impressive.

Nelly’s is riding a 27-10 run in basketball picks including a 24-8 college run. Join us for a guaranteed 2/3 offer for Thursday night basketball – $25 pay after you win!

 

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Friday New Year’s Day Bowls – Rose & Sugar Bowls

12/29/2015

While two of the biggest traditional bowls are not involved in the college football playoff matchups this season both the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl have great matchups to fill out the last two slots on the New Year’s Day Bowl schedule with prominent major conference teams facing off. Here is a look at the teams and matchups to close out New Year’s Day.

Rose Bowl

Match-up: Iowa Hawkeyes at Stanford Cardinal

Venue: Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California

Time/TV: Friday, January 1, 2016

Line: Stanford -6, Over/Under 53½

Last Meeting: First Meeting

Going to the Rose Bowl shouldn’t ever get old but this is the third trip to Pasadena on New Year’s Day in the past four years for Stanford. Stanford won vs. Wisconsin New Year’s Day in 2013 but lost vs. Michigan State New Year’s Day 2014 vs. Michigan State in two tight games. This will be the first ever meeting between Iowa and Stanford on the football field and for Iowa the first Rose Bowl trip in 25 years.

The Big Ten already spoiled Stanford’s season in a way as the Cardinal lost on the opening Saturday of the season at Northwestern, falling 16-6 as a 10-point road favorite to start the season. Stanford wound up 11-2 on the season with a Pac-12 championship but had they not lost that opening game they likely would have ended up in the college football playoff with Stanford finishing #6 in the final rankings, just behind Iowa at #5.

Stanford has a very strong collection of wins this season having defeated Notre Dame, UCLA, Washington, Washington State, California, and USC twice but the Cardinal also slipped late in the season hosting Oregon 38-36. The wins over Washington State and Notre Dame came by the slimmest of margins while being soundly out-gained however as the Cardinal resume ultimately didn’t stack up quite as well by season’s end with teams like USC and UCLA fading late in the year.

Since the low output performance against Northwestern Stanford has scored at least 30 points in every game as a program more associated with defensive excellence in recent seasons was far better on offense this season. This will be the final game of a checkered but successful career for quarterback Kevin Hogan who had his best statistical season but also had some uneven performances. Leading the way for Stanford this season was sophomore all purpose producer Christian McCaffrey who wound up in New York as a Heisman finalist after combining for nearly 2,400 rushing and receiving yards.

Stanford finished the season ranked 50th nationally in total defense however with the team allowing the most yards and points per game of the five years under David Shaw. Eight of the team’s last 11 foes scored at least 22 points, a figure that would have been enough to win four of the last five Rose Bowls. Iowa averaged over 32 points per game this season while allowing just over 18 points per game with a 12-0 start only spoiled in the final seconds of the Big Ten championship game. Iowa ranked 20th in the nation in total defense with excellent numbers against the run, allowing just 3.6 yards per rush, a full yard superior to Stanford’s run defense.

Iowa faced a schedule that deserves some scrutiny with a narrow three-point home win over Pittsburgh being the only win of substance in non-conference play as the team narrowly escaped an upset vs. rival Iowa State in September as well. Big Ten play started with one of the biggest games in the Big Ten West with the Hawkeyes winning at Wisconsin 10-6. Iowa was out-gained by 99 yards in that game and was handed four turnovers. Iowa did crush Northwestern but they had close calls vs. several average teams in conference play to finish undefeated, winning one-score games with Indiana, Minnesota, and Nebraska while frequently failing to impress in the box score. Michigan State had a big yardage edge in the Big Ten championship but it was Iowa that committed the turnovers and key mistakes that the veteran squad rarely had in the regular season.

Despite the game being in Stanford’s home state Iowa figures to have a huge edge in crowd support. One can surmise that Iowa was left ahead of Ohio State in the final college football playoff rankings with the enthusiasm for the traveling fan base being a big factor even though it is not easy to make a case for the Hawkeyes being ahead of the Buckeyes on the final ballot and certainly Ohio State would have been a healthy favorite had the teams faced off.

Stanford should be motivated to prove what many believe, that they were the best team left out of the playoff bracket and the early bowl returns for the Pac-12 have given credence to what many believe, that the league was the deepest in the country despite no team able to fulfill a very difficult task of going 10-0 in league games to remain a viable national playoff candidate in the current format.

The spread briefly opened at Stanford -7 before slipping to -6½ and eventually -6. The total has steadily climbed upward from an opening number of 49½. Under David Shaw Stanford is 53-14 S/U and 42-25 ATS for an impressive five-year run. The Cardinal is 2-2 S/U and 2-1-1 ATS in bowl games with three of those four games being major bowl games. Stanford is just 12-13 ATS under Shaw as a single-digit favorite however as most of the impressive spread track record has come as either an underdog or a heavy favorite.
Despite being a surprise national contender and a team that was doubted all season Iowa was only 7-5-1 ATS on the year and with the soft schedule they were only dogged twice with this Rose Bowl line set to be the biggest underdog spread for the Hawkeyes all season. Iowa covered in all five road games this season and under Kirk Ferentz, who is now one of the longest tenured head coaches in college football, they are 126-86-1 S/U with a 112-91-6 ATS record. That record includes a 48-33-4 ATS record as an underdog with Iowa 6-6 S/U and 8-4 ATS in bowl games under Ferentz, playing as an underdog in all but one of those bowl games.

 

Sugar Bowl

Match-up: Mississippi Rebels vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Venue: Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana

Time/TV: Friday, January 1, 2016, 8:30 PM ET

Line: Mississippi -7½ Over/Under 68½

Last Meeting: 2010 Cotton Bowl, Mississippi (-3½) 21, Oklahoma State 7

This will actually be the third recent bowl meeting between these teams with Cotton Bowl wins for Mississippi after the 2003 and 2009 seasons. Mike Gundy was coaching Oklahoma State for the most recent meeting and it was a rare bowl loss for the Cowboys who have won four of the last five bowl games under Gundy who is 6-3 S/U and 5-4 ATS in bowl games.

With a win in this bowl game Ole Miss can improve in record in a fourth straight season under Hugh Freeze who took over a 2-10 squad to go 7-6 in 2012, 8-5 in 2013, and 9-4 in 2014. Last season’s team also could have hit the 10-win mark but the Rebels were destroyed in the Peach Bowl with a 42-3 result vs. TCU. Going 9-3 through a difficult SEC West schedule is commendable but for the second straight season Ole Miss climbed to #3 in the polls with a big win over Alabama only to falter against lesser competition later in the season.

The Rebels took losses to Florida, Memphis, and Arkansas and while the late season loss at home vs. the Razorbacks was an overtime affair that featured one of the more incredible plays of the season with a 4th-and-25 lateral play converted for Arkansas, the losses to Florida and Memphis came by double-digits. This was an inconsistent team and the overall numbers are a bit inflated due to opening the season with 76-3 and 73-21 victories.

The marquee win over Alabama featured five turnovers for the Tide as Ole Miss held off a furious comeback attempt in a 43-37 win. The acclaimed defense filled with top end talent also allowed over 400 yards in each of the final four games of the season. NFL prospect Robert Nkemdiche has already been suspended for this game and depth on the defensive line could be an issue for the team going up against a fast-paced Cowboys attack.

On offense junior quarterback Chad Kelly will come close to 4,000 passing yards for the season but he had four games with multiple interceptions this season and he is a risk to take sacks trying to extend plays. Highly regarded wide receiver Laquon Treadwell had 76 receptions for nearly 1,100 yards but only once did he had multiple touchdowns and the committee approach in the backfield led to some inconsistent performances as Jaylen Walton led the team in rushing but with just 690 yards and only one 100 yard game.

After a 10-0 start Oklahoma State wound up losing the final two games of the season but it is the fourth time in six seasons the program has reached a double-digit win count. The Cowboys have had late season slips before as a 10-0 squad in position to be in the BCS title game lost at Iowa State in the 2011 season as a nearly four-touchdown favorite and the 2013 team was 10-1 before losing the finale with Oklahoma.

A schedule that put TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma all visiting Stillwater had many pegging the Cowboys as a national sleeper this season but in the first half of the season it didn’t look like a team capable of that kind of run.  Oklahoma State struggled to slip by Central Michigan in the opening week and was very fortunate in a 3-0 Big XII start with narrow wins over Texas, Kansas State, and West Virginia. At 7-0 the Cowboys looked in trouble falling way behind at Texas Tech but the team rallied to win and then with the help of turnovers upended undefeated TCU the next week.

Oklahoma State couldn’t keep up with Baylor allowing 700 yards to lose by 10 even with Baylor down to a back-up quarterback and in the Bedlam finale with the Sooners the Cowboys played most of the game without their own quarterback as Mason Rudolph was battling an ankle injury and only played sparingly before being ruled out. Rudolph sparked the late season rally last season as Oklahoma State upset Oklahoma to become bowl eligible and then won in bowl action vs. Washington. The sophomore had a strong statistical season though he did have eight interceptions in nine Big XII games. The Cowboys are an up-tempo offense that spreads the ball around as no receiver had more than 53 catches and the running game was often sparked by their other quarterback, senior J.W. Walsh who routinely took snaps for a change of pace.

The pace of play wore on the Oklahoma State defense which allowed 430 yards per game on 5.5 yards per play with the biggest difference compared with Ole Miss being much less success against the run and far more yards per completions allowed but the Big XII schedule compared with the SEC schedule plays a role in those figures.

Under Mike Gundy Oklahoma State is 93-46 with a 73-59-3 ATS record but the team owns a track record as being a bit of a frontrunner, piling on points in lopsided wins but not winning in the biggest games. Oklahoma State is just 20-28 ATS as an underdog under Gundy but 23-11-1 ATS as a double-digit home favorite. Oklahoma State did win the Fiesta Bowl in an overtime thriller vs. Stanford after the 2011 season but they came up short vs. the SEC in the Cotton Bowl two years ago losing to SEC East champion Missouri. In the last six games the team has played as an underdog Oklahoma State has four outright wins going back to last season as the recent success as an underdog has been there.

While there have been some late season distractions for Ole Miss this will be the first Sugar Bowl appearance since 1969. The team has played in the Cotton Bowl in a few recent seasons and last season’s Peach Bowl appearance was technically a major bowl game but there is some enthusiasm to be in this game with the program having several historic Sugar Bowl wins in its history and a reasonable five-hour drive south for fans to make the trip. Under Freeze Mississippi is 33-18 S/U and ATS and after the embarrassing bowl showing last year a better performance should be expected. The spread on this game appears to be hitting -7½ at some outlets after mostly sitting at -7 since being released at -6½. The total has climbed from 66 to 68½ before holding at 68.