Dave’s Free Play, Friday 10/9/15

I was going to write a little baseball for today’s commentary. But I decided to watch most of the Thursday night football game between Washington and USC. I subsequently changed my mind on the topic.

Anyone who says it’s the players who decide the games rather than the coaches would be well advised to watch a replay of this game, as that old axiom is clearly not always correct. There’s no question in my mind that while Stave Sarkisian might not have lost the game, the USC head coach sure did his best to prevent his Trojans from winning it.

Tre Madden, Ronald Jones II and Justin Davis combined to carry the football 32 times in this game and the USC trio turned those attempts into 212 rushing yards. That’s 6.6 yards per carry. Washington could not contain the Trojans running backs.

But apparently Sarkisian and his assistants don’t have access to in-game stats, or they just chose to ignore them while also turning a blind eye to what was taking place on the field. In spite of the fact that USC was shredding the Huskies defensive front virtually every time they ran the football, the Trojans just couldn’t resist trying to air it out. I understand Cody Kessler is a very talented QB. But he was not having a good night throwing the ball, and even when he did find the intended target, the guys who were supposed to catch the football just weren’t able to do so.

The nadir of the evening for USC was its final drive. Sure enough, they’re rumbling down the field on the ground. And just like that, Kessler throws a long ball that falls harmlessly to the ground and USC finds itself in long yardage. Then, with only one time out remaining and down five, Sarkisian inexplicably decides to try a 45-yard field goal that ends up short.

Bad play calling, failure to capitalize on what’s working, horrible late game strategy in terms of risk vs. reward as far as clock management is concerned…. strike one, strike two and strike three. This was a really bad job by Sarkisian, and as a result the Trojans are now dead as far as having any shot to get the playoffs goes.

One other noteworthy mention here. Lest you think I’m picking on Sarkisian for one off night, consider this. The Trojans have been double digit favorites six times against power-five conference opponents since Sarkisian arrived (thanks to @McMurphyESPN for this tidbit). USC is 2-4 straight up in those games. That’s not good. Neither is Sark, I’m afraid.


A small profit here on Thursday as the Jets were NHL winners while I coughed back a half unit on the 76ers in an NBAx game. Philly rallied at the finish line to win by one, but the number had gone to -1.5 by the time most of my subscribers received it and it’s therefore a loss on the grading sheet. Nevertheless, another plus night and now the big weekend gets underway. I’ll be all over the college board, I’ve also got at least one MLB play on Friday and I’m excited about trying to maintain a nice little positive flow.

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Winnipeg fell behind early at Boston, but the Jets eventually gained control and ended up skating pasty the Bruins in comfortable fashion as the Thursday free play. Let’s head to the MLB playoffs for the Friday comp.

CUBS (Lester)  @  CARDINALS (Lackey)

Take: UNDER 6.5 -115

In case you haven’t noticed, runs have not been easy to come by thus far in the baseball post-season, and home field has been a big disadvantage out of the gate. Not only have all four visitors been winners, none of the home teams have even enjoyed a brief lead. I imagine some of that will change today, but my focus as the Cubs and Cardinals get started is on the Total.

This is a matchup of two veteran pitchers who have each tasted a good deal of success in October. Former Boston teammates Jon Lester and John Lackey will now be adversaries, and I look at this game as one where scoring has a great chance to again be at a premium.

The big stage will not be an issue for either guy. Both Lester and Lackey have experience this atmosphere many times and each has managed to flourish more often than not. I make both pitchers favorites to do so again today.

There’s no way I can document this, but there’s no question in my mind based on all these years of viewing that veteran pitchers, especially high level ones, usually get a great strike zone in the playoffs. If that’s the case here as I suspect it should be, that’s bad news for the batters and great news for Lester and Lackey, who are each quite adept at avoiding the center of the strike zone.

The two starters are in solid form heading in, with Lester enjoying a stellar September and aside from a shaky tuneup start to close the regular season, that’s a ditto for Lackey. The Cardinals are not exactly robust against good southpaws and Lackey doesn’t figure to be a treat for the Cubs.

There’s even some small sample history here, for what that’s worth. The Under is 3-1-1 when Lackey starts vs. St. Louis and it’s 4-0 when Lackey faces the Cubs. Of course, for every positive trend one can usually balance the sheet with a negative one. In this case the Over has been a big winner recently when the Cubs play the Cardinals at St. Louis.

My main take here is that I trust the old pros to come up big like they usually do come playoff time. I’ll look for Lester and Lackey to put up their share of zeroes while avoiding the crooked numbers and I’ll take the Cubs and Cardinals to keep this one Under the number.


Dave’s Free Play, Thursday 10/8/15

The Cubs are movin’ on! Could this be the year the 107-year drought ends for the formerly lovable losers from Chicago? I won’t go over the top with unbridled optimism for this team just yet. No doubt about it, the win last night was tremendous. But that’s only one victory, and the Cubbies still need to capture 11 more until they finally can finally exorcise all the demons and curses from the calamitous misses over all these years.

From a fan’s standpoint, I’d like to see the Cubs win it all, simply because I know exactly what their base has gone through. I’m a Red Sox fan so I have some real perspective here. The outpouring of emotion throughout New England as well as everywhere else where people like myself have migrated was enormous. There’s no question it will be just as incredible if and or when the Cubs finally break through.

As for last night’s 4-0 Cubs win, Jake Arrieta was immense yet again in twirling his complete game masterpiece. Arrieta was also the focal point of an incident that caused both benches to empty, and I’ll focus on that for a moment.

About the only thing Arrieta did wrong all night was plunk a couple of Pirates with pitches a bit off the mark. Neither was intentional, but the Pirates decided to retaliate and Bucs lefty Tony Watson caught Arrieta on the backside with a pitch, which the soon to be NL Cy Young winner took exception to.

I guess it was a bit of a cheap shot by Watson and the Pirates, but it also wasn’t any form of headhunting and I also get the Pirates frustration. I think this goes back to the hard slide by Chris Coghlan that damaged the knee off Jung-ho Kang and put the Bucs star rookie on the shelf till next spring. Add in the knowledge that the wild card game was pretty much gone with the four-run deficit against a pitcher who is unbeatable right now, the two hit batters from earlier in the game… yeah, I get it. It was still a bit bush league if you ask me, and to be honest, I thought Arrieta should have just moved on to first base without saying anything. But it was desperation time for the Pirates, they knew the score and maybe they were hoping they could rattle Arrieta or perhaps even get him tossed from the game.

Obviously, whatever the reasoning for the Watson pitch, it didn’t work. Arrieta even managed to rub some salt in the wound by stealing second base before going back on the mound and finishing off his latest Picasso.

So the Cubs are now heading to St. Louis and here comes another clash that could have some fireworks as those two teams are not the best of friends. I think it’s must-see TV and can’t wait for the fun to begin.


2-0 on Wednesday with the Under in the baseball game and a nice underdog winner on the ice with the Rangers. My current college card for the weekend won’t get started till Friday, but I’m at nine games right now and there’s a very good chance two more will be added between now and Saturday.

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The Wednesday free play was on a Saturday college contest, so no result there yet. I’ll take a chance with a hockey game for tonight’s comp.



The Jets-Bruins matchup features what might be best described as two escalators heading in opposite directions. Winnipeg is off its best season in ages, and the Jets have a great chance to rise a little more in the overall standings this season. The Bruins are looking as though they’re heading into a rebuilding phase and the general consensus is that Boston will be absent from the playoffs once again next spring.

The Bruins had some significant chemistry issues last season and they have cut ties with a number of veteran players. The core of this team is still on the old side, and while there might be some solid young talent on the way, I think it’s fair to assess that cohesiveness could be a big problem early in the season and perhaps beyond that.

The Jets, on the other hand, are an arrow up franchise. I don’t see any discernible weaknesses here. The defense was excellent last season, the offense appears improved and the suspect goaltending, which had been an ongoing problem, is not really a worry at this point. There is some concern that like many teams who spring forward one year, there could be some regression the next. But I really feel as though the Jets now have their deepest and most talented roster in years. I expect this team to knock on the door of the NHL’s overall top ten this season.

The Bruins have one of the league’s better goalies in Tuukka Rask. He figures to see lots of vulcanized rubber this year. It looks to me like the Boston blue line corps could be a major liability. The two best guys are long in the tooth, and the rest of the group is average. This was a weakness last season and I don’t see improvement on the way. Up front, the Bruins have more hope with some emerging talent arriving and they’re bigger than they’ve been. But overall, this just isn’t a particularly good roster and the opinion in many circles is that the the best thing the Bruins can do is focus on the future while tolerating the present.

I suspect there could be some early season value to be had fading the Bruins. Tonight looks like a possible example as Winnipeg sure looks like the better hockey team, but they’re the dogs tonight at Boston. I’ll opt to grab any available plus money with the Jets to win this game.



Dave’s Free Play, Wednesday 10/7/15

There’s a full blown scandal taking place in the world of daily fantasy sports. The main topic of conversation regarding this booming industry has been whether it’s gambling or a game of skill. The answer to that question is both. There’s unquestionably luck involved on a day to day basis. Long term, the better players will win and the the lesser qualified participants won’t. So while it’s clearly gambling, there’s also a clear edge for sharper investors.

But now there’s a major problem unfolding and this is not a good thing for the daily fantasy sports industry. Based on what we know to this point, an employee of one of the two big outfits won a ton of money playing at the other site. This is really bad. While there’s no guarantee this actually happened and there’s also no guarantee it would result in a big win on any one day, there’s the distinct possibility of a huge advantage for the people involved.

It’s as simple as this. If I’m working at DFS site #1 and I have access to knowing what the biggest consistent winners are using to construct their lineups, I’m going to have a very nice edge taking my chances at site #2. If I’ve got a confederate at site #2 and vice versa, the edge increases even more. There’s just no way that this can be allowed.

This is to me, eerily similar to the whole proxy controversy we have with the big money contests here in Las Vegas. It’s my position that proxies should not be allowed to participate in the contests, as they have information simply not available to other participants. If I’m a proxy and I know what some of the leaders are playing, I can use that information for my own benefit. That is patently unfair, and anyone who can’t see that is wearing blinders.

Ditto for the DFS scandal. I’m obviously a very strong proponent of legalized gambling. But it needs to be completely above board and alleged incidents such as this have to be verboten and dealt with very seriously.


I plunked down a half unit of action on the Yankees on Tuesday night and got Keucheled. So much for that. I’m in action with one baseball play on Wednesday as well an NHL opening night wager. Note I’ll be playing only what I consider to be prime spots in hockey, so there is  no package for my NHL plays. They will simply be included as an add-on at no charge for all subscribers. I’m up to nine college plays for the upcoming weekend, and I like the looks of this card as the drive for a third straight strong football week gets underway.

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The free play on the Yankees didn’t work out, snapping a nice little win streak on the comps. I’m looking ahead to a Saturday college game for today’s selection.



Of all the games on this Saturday’s big slate of college action, here’s one that not a whole lotta folks will give a hoot about. But I think there are some decent reasons to get involved here and I’ve already made my wager on the underdog.

Texas State has a pretty nice scheduling edge coming into this game. The Bobcats had last week off, and they also have next week off. So focus for this game should not be a problem.

Quite a bit has transpired since Texas State last played. Their defensive coordinator resigned and Head Coach Dennis Franchione’s son Brad is now running the stop unit. Reports are that the players have bought in to a few subtle scheme changes taking place and that the practices have been really good. That’s encouraging, as the Texas State defense to date this season has been abysmal, to put it mildly. This is a team with designs on getting to a bowl this year. To accomplish that feat, a game like this one is enormous for the Bobcats and I’m excited about their apparent approach to Saturday’s clash.

UL Lafayette is down substantially from last year and they’re off two bad games. The Cajuns were destroyed two weeks ago at home by Akron, and they were on the receiving end of another lopsided loss last week at Louisiana Tech. Let’s just say there’s little on the ULL ledger of late to inspire a great deal of confidence.

I have Texas State as the slightly better team on paper. Of course, this isn’t getting played on paper and the Bobcats have to show some better defense than we’ve seen from them to date. But I do expect a bit of a spike with the coordinator change and if that results in a few more stops, then Texas State will have an excellent chance to win this game. There’s every reason to believe Texas State will be the fresher team and I don’t mind at all the fact they’re out to avenge a blowout loss at home to these Cajuns last season.

Whenever dealing with a pair of teams outside the Top 100 on the ratings, anything can happen as that’s just the way it is with well below average teams. But the sharp side here appears to be Texas State and I’m grabbing the available points with the Bobcats in this game.

Dave’s Free Play, Tuesday 10/6/15

BatGate! The extremely controversial no-call blown call at the end of the Lions-Seahawks game is sure to be the water cooler convo of the day. Here’s my two cents. I don’t like obscure rules deciding the outcome of any game. Make no mistake, this is a pretty obscure rule. Most fans had no idea the rule existed. Ditto for the players, and I’m really not too sure about the officials themselves.

My take is that Calvin Johnson did a poor job protecting the football, Kam Chancellor made a great play jarring the ball loose and KJ Wright could have easily caught the ball in the end zone. Instead, he batted it out of the end zone and technically, it should have been Lions football. That’s the way it is according the letter of the NFL law. I don’t agree with the rule, but that’s not really the debate here. Wright escaped wearing some huge goat horns thanks to the unwillingness of the back judge to throw the flag.

What would really be nice is if the NFL rules committee got together and fixed some of their silly rules. The tuck rule (finally done away with a couple years ago), the process rule on catches, maybe this rule, a handful of others….come on, NFL. Your rule book is more confusing than the tax code. Introduce a little logic and maybe the stripes won’t have such an impossible job.

As for the game itself, the better team won. That Seattle defense is absurdly good. The offense might not be, though, and after getting phenomenally lucky with his fumbles all of last season, the worm started turning for QB Russell Wilson last night. The Lions are now the lone remaining winless team in the league and while understanding the angst of their fans over the ending, Detroit also did little to indicate they’re anywhere near a return trip to the playoffs.


I lost with the Seahawks, so the football week ended up a still solid 10-6. That’s two strong weeks back to back and the coming week’s slate looks very promising,

The only way to get ALL my plays is directly through me. I’ll generally post roughly half the plays, maybe a little more, at the various sites that sell my selections individually. To find out how my October guaranteed special works, shoot me an email at cokin@cox.net and I’ll be happy to provide all the pertinent info.


The Monday free play was on one of the upcoming MLB playoff series, so that won’t be chalked up as a win or loss for some time. Here’s a look at tonight’s AL Wild Card duel.

ASTROS (Keuchel)  @  YANKEES (Tanaka)

Take: YANKEES -105

I’ll preface this by stating that as of now, I’m not yet involved in this game. I definitely want to see the Yankees lineup before proceeding and I’m also anxious to see where the line goes. I’ve got a lean to be sure, but whether or not the value pushes this to a full play remains to be seen. But here’s my analysis as to how I think things might go.

I’m not particularly worried about Dallas Keuchel starting for the first time on just three days rest. He’s a sinkerball pitcher and he’s not a max effort guy. Keuchel has also pretty much owned the Yankees, so he should take the mound with a great deal of confidence.

Masahiro Tanaka is more of an unknown quantity to me. Tanaka did not look good in his last regular season start against the Red Sox. The fastball wasn’t working especially well and his splitter did not have the proper depth. If that version of Tanaka shows up tonight, he’ll still get his K’s against the swing and miss Astros. But his mistakes might also get hit a long way and that Yankee Stadium short porch in right field could definitely come into play.

Nevertheless, it won’t surprise me if good Tanaka shows up here. This guy is an ace, and he’s managed to piece together a pretty good season is spite of the balky elbow that has clearly been at least an occasional hindrance.

I want to see the Yankees lineup. I’m assuming manager Joe Girardi will start Chris Young and I’m hoping he has him leading off. Young has enjoyed some success against Keuchel and he’s simply a better option here than Brett Gardner. How Girard configures his lineup is vital from my vantage point.

I see the big edge for the Yankees in the latter portion of the game. The Betances/Miller combo is dynamic and with each guy fully capable of multiple innings, one might argue that Tanaka needs to only throw five, or six at the most, innings. If the Yanks are ahead or tied, they’re in great shape and even down one run, they’d still have an excellent chance to catch up. I do not trust the Astros bullpen and I don’t think there’s any question that they need Keuchel to go very deep in this game.

I also won’t discount the veteran presence that abounds on the Yankees. The Astros are the party crashers who’ve arrived well ahead of the projections, but they can’t match up with the Yankees in the experience department. In a one and done setting, that could be a critical component.

This isn’t a strong opinion. Keuchel is absolutely not an easy guy to try and beat, and I’m sure not overly confident about Tanaka. But I have more check marks on the home team’s side here, so I’m siding with the Yankees for the free play on this game. Please check out my Twitter timeline (@davecokin) during the day for an update as to whether this play ends up on my card tonight.


Dave’s Free Play, Monday 10/5/15

Another Sunday, and another bad game for Colin Kaepernick. The steady decline for the 49ers starting quarterback has been in place for some time now, and while he’s not the only thing wrong with the team, he’s clearly the most visible problem.

I’ve been wondering aloud for the past two weeks as to why Kaepernick is still under center for San Francisco. He’s just getting worse and I can’t believe anyone on this team has any real confidence in him at this point. The running skills are still fine. But Kaepernick can no longer make relatively simple passes. Plus, the view from here is that he’s not seeing the field and processing his information properly. In other words, he really shouldn’t be on the field.

Armed with the knowledge of how Kaepernick’s contract is set up, I’m actually even more astonished he’s playing. Kaepernick is due $16.7 million next year and $19.3 in 2017. But that’s only if he’s still with the team. If the 49ers cut ties with him after this season, they would only owe him the balance of his signing bonus, and they would also save a bundle on the salary cap.

There’s one caveat, however. If Kaepernick were to get seriously injured, the 49ers would have to guarantee his salary for next season. So this begs the question…why in the world are they still playing him?

The only answer I can come up with is that the team’s management believes he can get it back together and become the Colin Kaepernick who looked like a budding superstar. I’d have to make that eventuality a huge underdog at this juncture.

If it’s not that, then I’m completely lost as to this stubbornness. The smart move is to simply go to Blaine Gabbert, hope for the best for the rest of the current season, and part ways with Kaepernick right after the campaign ends.

Based on the contract provisions, playing Kaepernick and risking injury is a very poor ploy. That’s strictly from a business standpoint. Mix in the team’s present situation, and the conclusion is obvious. Make the move to Gabbert and start thinking about the future.


My Sunday played out at 2-1 with winners on the Jaguars and Bengals and a loss with the Cardinals. A very nice weekend overall with the strong Saturday in college. Looking ahead to this next week of action, I’m not seeing the quantity I’ve had the past few weeks, but I definitely like the quality.

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The Bengals completed a nice weekend sweep on the free football plays. Today, I’ll take a look ahead at an event that’s not lined yet, but one where I’ve made up my mind already.


Take: DODGERS (Series)

The 2015 Mets are a terrific story. This was a team that most felt might be ready to make a run at getting to .500. But the playoffs? That was a pipe dream for 2015, as the consensus was there wasn’t enough offense, and the staff was too inexperienced to contend this soon.

That was obviously not the case as the Mets are NL East division champs and it’s all gravy at this point. I don’t think there’s even the slightest amount of real pressure here. The Mets are perceived as overachievers and I actually think that’s part of the reason they’ve done this well. Low expectations often yield surprising results and if the Mets lose to the high expectation Dodgers, there shouldn’t be many complaints.

As for the Dodgers, they have the weight of being a season-long favorite that has to make a serious post-season run or the season will be regarded as a total failure. Whether or not they get as far as they’re built to remains to be seen. But I like LA to advance here.

The primary reasons for my confidence are the awesome 1-2 punch at the top of the Dodgers rotation. Clayton Kershaw has been utterly dominant and Zack Greinke is not far behind, and that’s if he’s trailing Kershaw at all. Kershaw in particular is as go with as it gets right now. Yes, there’s the memory of the 2014 playoffs, which ended up being a bit of a nightmare. But I can’t see that being a roadblock to backing Kershaw here, and in fact I expect it to be a motivator for the amazing southpaw.

The Dodgers are rightfully going to be priced as substantial chalk in this series. That might scare some off, but not me. As exciting as things are for the Mets with their brilliant arsenal of young arms and an improved offense since the arrival of Yoenis Cespedes, this is a still a team with one major flaw. The Mets have been absolutely horrendous against good teams this season. I don’t mean not so good, I mean staggeringly awful. That’s a huge key to me. The Mets did a great job of taking care of business against teams at their own level or below. When facing off against winning teams, they lost continuously.

No question, I’m going to need that there are no slip-ups in the games Kershaw and Greinke start as the rest of the LA rotation is very ordinary. But I’ll take my chances with that top two and in tandem with the inability of the Mets to beat the better teams, I’ll be laying the price with the Dodgers to win this series.

Dave’s Free Play, Sunday 10/4/15

A productive Saturday in the colleges. Here’s a rundown of the games I was on with a few observations.

Appalachian State was the first bet I made this week, but despite getting a decent number, the Mountaineers burned the bread. The big chalk looked great early but give credit to a bad Wyoming team for playing hard throughout. Spread determiner was a garbage time TD by the Cowboys as they scored with just a few ticks left. Key play was a long bomb that worked when my side’s DB fell down.

Florida International was a wrong side from start to finish at UMass. I actually nearly stole this getting +3.5 when FIU got within three in the fourth quarter. But this was not a game I was supposed to win as the Minutemen thoroughly dominated for virtually the entire game and really should have won going away.

Iowa got the outright win at Wisconsin in a game that figured to be close and ended up being exactly that. The Badgers stubbed their toes on several occasions, but that is becoming a rule rather than the exception at this point. Sharp money showed up on the Hawkeyes and while the outright result was in question late, the spread result pretty much wasn’t.

Nice win for Pittsburgh against a Virginia Tech program that is in decline. Gotta wonder how much longer Frank Beamer stays on the sidelines. The Hokies are pretty ordinary at this point. The Panthers are gaining confidence under new coach Narduzzi and could be a pesky dog in conference play.

Tulane was much the best as they throttled Central Florida. The Panthers really need to get QB Holman back from his broken finger as their offense is pretty awful right now. Big win for the Green Wave and the final score was not indicative of how lopsided this game was. Tulane ended up as a 1.5x play for me so I was very happy with this result.

Kansas State lost the game but managed to stay within the number at Stillwater. The Wildcats had a terrific first half but they were completely outplayed throughout the second half. Thankfully, they hit a big play following a bad defensive holding penalty by Oklahoma State, and that was on a third down deep in their own territory. That set up K-State for a needed TD, which was huge from a spread standpoint. I’m not sure how many games it was, but this loss ended a very long Bill Snyder streak of winning when ahead at halftime.

Air Force got stopped on a fourth and goal fairly early against Navy, and that pretty much set the tone for the day as the Falcons were concerned. I had a feeling I was in trouble when this line went down as far as it did. I don’t like being on steam chaser sides and this game was one of those. Navy was the better team and earned the win and cover.

Alabama was a snap decision for me. Nick Saban plus points against Mark Richt? Sign me up. Grayson Lambert is still the same QB he was at Virginia. Not the worst guy on the planet, but he just doesn’t seem to see the field well. As for Richt, this didn’t help his rep for coming up short in the biggest games.

Boston College has a tremendous defense. That’s keeping them in games as the offense is not good at all. Neither is the kicking game. BC had a great shot to get the outright upset, but the kicker was well wide left and that was that. If you watched the game, you saw a very relieved David Cutcliffe on the Duke sideline at the very end. This game was an obvious Under that I passed on, but the Eagles plus the points worked out well enough.

Vanderbilt was my payback for the Appalachian State fade. The punchless Commodores rallied from ten back in the fourth quarter and that’s not something they’re particularly well equipped to do. Second straight very tough loss for Middle Tennessee, and this was a game they really wanted against their big brothers from just down the street.

Arkansas tried to give away the game to Tennessee, but the Volunteers were having none of that. I think the heat is really on Butch Jones at this point. Tennessee was sharp early and led 14-0, but the Hogs hung tough and eventually took the game over. Bret Bielema passed on a short FG in the fourth quarter and went for a fake that failed. I thought that was a very shaky decision at the time but it didn’t end up mattering and I ended up not needing the points. But that line was too high in any event.

Colorado State looked pretty good early with a 10-3 lead at Utah State. But the Aggies, who’ve struggled so far this season, got it going nicely in the second quarter and stayed sharp despite a weather delay at halftime. Wrong side with the Rams in this one.

Result for the day was 8-4 on full game plays, 0-1-1 on a pair of small 2H middle shots. +3.85 altogether and it’s on to Sunday in the NFL.


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My Sunday ticket will feature three NFL sides and I’ve also already played the Monday night game. I haven’t done any baseball work yet for the final day of the regular season, but the likelihood is I’ll just wait for the playoff action to begin.


Iowa and Pittsburgh both worked out nicely as the free plays. Let’s see about getting another plus result with this week’s NFL comp.

265 CHIEFS  @  266 BENGALS

Take: BENGALS -3.5

The season is only three weeks old, so it’s risky to formulate unshakable opinions, unless you’re talking about the Patriots, the Packers, and at the other end of the spectrum, the Bears. But maybe after four years of getting to the playoffs and then going home fairly rapidly, just maybe this Bengals team might have a shot to do a little more.

Cincinnati has certainly been impressive thus far. Andy Dalton might never be a superstar and he can still make the occasional horrid mistake. But he’s a QB with a wealth of weapons and I have to say I really liked how he responded to some major fourth quarter adversity last week. The Dalton we’re used to seeing would likely not have rallied after blowing the lead at Baltimore. But this time Dalton came up big, with a huge assist from the amazing AJ Green.

That was a great win for the Bengals. They have a dangerous look ahead with the Seahawks coming to town next week. But this is a 3-0 Cincy entry that is playing at a very high level and on paper, they’ve got a great chance to keep the run going here as the Chiefs come calling.

Kansas City has been decidedly ordinary so far. They managed to beat the Texans on the road to get the season started. But they were deadly brilliant in that game and I don’t think they’ve looked good in losses to the Broncos and Packers. The final score in the Green Bay game was phony as that game was a blowout. Sure, it was Aaron Rodgers orchestrating the annihilation of the KC secondary and Andy Dalton is not Aaron Rodgers. But the Chiefs have holes on that stop unit and this Cincinnati team has the arsenal to exploit those vulnerabilities.

I like the notion of coming back with a team I just won with. It’s more a comfort zone feeling than anything else, but after winning with the Bengals last week, it’s fairly easy for me to fire right back on them in a spot where they look to me to be the superior squad. If Cincinnati plays the way they have through the first three weeks, they’re going to win this game and I’m willing to lay the points with the Bengals here.

Dave’s Free Play, Saturday 10/3/15

No commentary this evening, as Friday turned out to be a night off for me. My only baseball play got rained out and I didn’t get involved with any of the three college football games.

My October guaranteed special is in effect, and if you’d like details on how that works, just shoot an email my way at cokin@cox.net. Meanwhile, here’s the second of this week’s college football comps.




I’m expecting a tight battle Pittsburgh hits the ACC road to challenge Virginia Tech. I don’t see a great deal of separation between these two squads and there are some variables I like on the Panthers side.

First off, there’s the scheduling. The extra week of prep time for Pat Narduzzi and the Panthers could be a nice plus. Pitt was off a tough loss at the final gun on a very long Iowa field goal, and rather than having to roll right back with another tough road game, they enjoyed an extra week to recover and get ready for this battle.

Pittsburgh was on my most improved list heading into the season, and while the opening week escape against Youngstown State wasn’t impressive, I like what they’ve done in the two most recent games. I also very much like the fact that Pitt appears to have a staunch rush defense. One of the first things I look for when considering  road underdog is that team’s ability to stop the run. It’s a key that has worked very well for me for that amounts to forever. While the philosophy utilized in college football has changed over the years, tough run defenses still work and I think that could be the key factor in deciding this game.

Virginia Tech is coming back home after losing off a second straight year to East Carolina. That was a non-league loss and it’s not what I’d call a disastrous defeat. But it also wasn’t good and now the Hokies have lost another of their key components. Kendall Fuller, one of the best cornerbacks in college football, is now gone for the season with a knee injury and he will be very tough to replace.

The Hokies have gotten some good work from backup QB Brenden Motley, who took over the reigns when Michael Brewer went down with an injury. He’s got some ability to run the football and isn’t the worst passer on the planet. But I’m not sure Motley is a QB who can win games just yet and he could have some problems with a Pitt defense that has a chance to be pretty good.

One alarming thing about the V-Tech loss at ECU was that they were up 14-0 before getting outscored 35-14. The Hokies managed to finally get to the end zone in the fourth quarter to make things interesting. But getting run over as they did by a somewhat ordinary Pirates squad wasn’t impressive.

As far as my numbers go, I made Virginia Tech -3.5, so it’s not really a strong take on the power ratings. But the other variables that carry weight for me are definitely pointing to Pitt. The Panthers fit a good situational angle, and as I already mentioned, they’ve got the good rushing defense and what I would consider a nice scheduling advantage.

I’ll also mention the weather, as it looks like Hurricane Joaquin could be an uninvited guest here. It’s tough to gauge whether that favors or hurts either team physically. But with fans perhaps staying away in droves because of the conditions, it makes some sense to conclude that the normal home field advantage the Hokies might expect to enjoy is a bit diminished.

Call this one an outright tossup, but with Pittsburgh still grabbing more than a field goal, I think a case can be constructed that the Panthers plus the points are worth a play today.

Dave’s Free Play, Friday 10/2/15

At the finish of his Real Time show on HBO, Bill Maher closes with a segment that he introduces by saying “it’s time for new rules.” Here’s one that won’t make the show, but I like it anyway.

If you can’t do simple math, you don’t get to be a college football head coach.

In case you missed it, Cincinnati defeated Miami 34-23 last night. The Bearcats were the better team and deserved to win. But Miami head coach Al Golden made that task easier because he apparently doesn’t know how to add to 11.

With roughly five minutes remaining in the game, Miami’s drive stalled at the Cincinnati 6-yard line. Fourth and goal, and a really easy decision for Golden. Kick a chip shot field goal, cut the deficit to eight points and hope the defense can get a stop so the offense will have time remaining for one late drive to try and force overtime.

Nothing could be simpler in terms of strategy. If the Hurricanes had been facing a fourth down from perhaps one or two yards out, perhaps there’s a debate. But with a much longer conversion necessary, that basically should have eliminated any discussion as to what the right move had to be.

Yet somehow, Golden saw fit to pass on the field goal and tried for the TD. That move didn’t work and when it failed, the game was over, plain and simple.

I’m all for aggressive coaching. I generally have little issue with coaches who gamble under the right conditions. But if a coach can’t gauge even the most rudimentary principles of risk vs. reward, there’s a big problem.

Golden came into this season on the coaching hot seat. While losing a non-league game to Cincinnati isn’t the end of the world, it’s still a bad loss for the Hurricanes and a worse one for Golden. There’s clearly no guarantee Miami was going to be able and get the football back with enough time remaining to drive the field and force OT. But when the coach makes a decision that effectively puts his team in the worst position to win, maybe it’s time to start the search for someone new.


The weekend football card is now at nine games, with eight on the college side and another in the NFL. I’ll be passing the three Friday night games barring any pertinent late info that creates an edge. There are still a couple of Saturday games I’m looking at, but have not arrived at a decision on those just yet.

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Thursday’s free play was on a Saturday college game. Tonight I’ll jump back on the diamond with a home favorite that appears to me to be the right side.

NATIONALS (Gonzalez)  @ METS (Syndergaard)

Take: METS -130

The sad saga of the 2015 Washington Nationals is about to reach its conclusion. There’s little need to dwell any more on the failures of this favorite, as that has all been covered. But there’s at least one more chance to bet against this turmoil laden franchise, and I would think tonight qualifies on that count.

Gio Gonzalez is capable of being very good at times for the Nats. Perhaps he’ll have one of those games tonight. But even if that’s the case, there’s no guarantee it will be enough to catapult Washington to a win over the Mets.

The Nationals are not hitting a lick and it seems pretty clear they just want this whole thing to end. The Nats haven’t been any good on the road all season and their away issues continued in a series loss to the lowly Braves over the last few nights.  Washington  did manage to salvage the set’s finale last night as red hot Stephen Strasburg threw another gem.

Gonzalez will likely have be just as dominant tonight for the Nats to have a decent chance at winning. With the offense already in hibernation for the winter, Noah Syndergaard appears to have an excellent chance to rack up another stellar showing at home. Also, the Mets have a good chance to nail down home field advantage for the upcoming playoff series against the Dodgers. Should the two teams finish with identical records following Game #162, the Mets own the tie-breaker.

Incentive is with the Mets, the starting pitcher advantage is with the Mets and even if the Mets are mildly cruising till the actual playoffs start they’re still owners of a commanding mental edge over the screwed up Nationals. I’ve got no problem spotting the price tonight with the Mets.

Dave’s Free Play, Thursday 10/1/15

Here’s the Wise Guy Report on this week’s college games. Sources include books in Nevada, as well as offshore houses plus stateside underground shops. Any observations included are courtesy of my contacts. Note, as always, these are not necessarily sides I’m playing, it’s just info to use as you wish.

106 South Florida has been drawing steady sharp action as home dogs in one of the Friday night hookups.

120 Appalachian State is now laying considerably more than at the opener, and it was definitely pro dough. Note this is not a marquee tilt, so those early wagers moved the line up in a hurry.

131 Minnesota is drawing some wise guy cash as a road dog at Northwestern.

150 Tulsa has proven somewhat attractive to the pros in what figures to be a shootout against Houston.

155 Texas has been taking sharp money from the outset and the public appears to be liking the Longhorns a bit as well.

157 Air Force is a sharp dog to this point as they prepare to take on Navy in a big rivalry game.

172 Baylor is getting a heavy dose of play from the pros. One of my sources said he’s overloaded with Bears bucks and he’s hoping there’s some buy back but isn’t really optimistic about that happening.

176 Colorado is a sharp choice, and this is one where the square money is on the road favorite Oregon. Battleground game looming here.

178 California was hit hard early by the pros although the consensus is that this line has topped out already.

185 Vanderbilt has gotten some play from both the pros and the joes.

207 Colorado State was a hit with the sharps right from the outset and Rams money is still showing up despite the line drop.

209 UTSA got tagged early although that game would appear to have topped out and could actually go back down a shade.

215 UNLV was played early and often and the Rebels continue to get the lion’s share of the sharp action for their rivalry game at Reno.

217 Fresno State got played by the pros with the return of their starting QB the likely catalyst.

That’s a wrap on the current activity. Be advised that the pros don’t always win, and my take remains that if you like a side, don’t be overly influenced if others don’t.


Nice result on Wednesday to end the month as the Orioles (Game Two) and the Giants were both good. I’m currently on a pair of Thursday baseball games as well as six Saturday colleges, with a few more contenders still in the mix to make the card. I’ll be on the sidelines for the two Thursday night gridiron games.

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The Giants got a big effort from Mike Leake and went wire to wire as the free play winner on Wednesday night. Today’s comp is on a Saturday college clash in the Big 10.

137 IOWA  @  138 WISCONSIN

Take: 137 IOWA +7

It’s mostly about the matchup for me as Iowa visits Wisconsin on Saturday. The Hawkeyes are proving to be proficient at shutting down opposing running games and if they can turn that trick at Madison, Iowa should have a good chance at registering a mild upset against the Badgers.

I’ve always been a defensive dog guy in college football. Give me a team that can stop the run on a regular basis and add some points to the mix, and I’ll often be interested. That’s the case here, and if the Hawkeyes can contain the Wisconsin ground game, Badgers QB Joel Stave becomes a candidate to turn it over once or twice.

The interesting aspect here is that Wisconsin also figures to limit Iowa on the ground. But the Hawkeyes have a QB that’s playing very well in CJ Beathard. He’s not a superstar signal caller, but Beathard is not making mistakes and he’s flourishing throwing most high percentage passes.

Iowa also has some incentive to avenge a narrow home loss to Wisconsin from 2014 and while current form is not always an accurate barometer, Iowa simply seems to be playing better football than the Badgers at this point.

As for my numbers on this game, I’ve got two sets of ratings that show Iowa winning outright and the others have Wisconsin coming out on top, albeit by a slim margin. My expectation is that this will be a tightly contested affair. If that is indeed the way it plays out, grabbing a full TD with the visitors should work nicely. Mark me down for a play on Iowa plus the points.


Dave’s Free Play, Wednesday 9/30/15

A word about the college football polls. There are a multitude of these rankings, with the Associated Press version having been around the longest. It’s probably still the one that carries the most “weight”, in terms of reference and discussion.

One of the big controversies in any of these polls is when Team A owns a win over Team B, the teams have the same record, and yet Team B is ranked ahead of Team A. The simplistic conclusion is that the voters got it wrong. That’s not necessarily the case.

As an example, in the current AP poll, USC checks in at #17, one spot ahead of Stanford. This despite the fact that Stanford impressively defeated the Trojans a couple weeks ago and did so on the road to boot.

I guess I can accept the logical argument that the Cardinal should therefore be at least one peg ahead of USC. But it’s not that simple. From my vantage point, one game will not have that great of an impact on an overall power rating. And my perspective remains the same, which is that the overall power rating trumps a one-game result.

The perfect illustration for me would be last year’s Florida State entry. The Seminoles put together a perfect season and that was how they got into the inaugural college football playoff. But I’d made the case virtually the entire season that FSU was not one of the four strongest teams in college football. Personally, I had them sitting in the #8 spot when the regular season curtain closed. That was where they landed as far as my numbers were concerned, and that’s what I go by.

I’ll add that I strongly believe that’s how the ratings should be done. I understand the pure reliance on the various team records when putting together ratings. But to me, it’s somewhat akin to a pitcher’s W/L record. Those are often misleading and are not a true reflection of performance, and the same can be said for college football records as well.

By the way, I’m now a part of the panel at Dave Bartoo’s College Football Matrix (cfbmatrix.com). And I might as well come clean. My power ratings have USC still ahead of Stanford and I voted that way.

Argue as you might against that reasoning, but consider this. If USC and Stanford were to meet tomorrow on a neutral field, USC is the favorite. That doesn’t mean the Trojans would win, because the favorite obviously doesn’t always come out on top. But in terms of the actual ratings, that’s just the way it is.


The Cubs ended up as my only play on Tuesday as I backed off my idea of fading the Nationals in every game the rest of the way. My rationale on the Nats is that they had a toxic situation thanks to the Harper/Papelbon incident. But with Papelbon now suspended of the rest of the season and out of the mix, my thought is that the Nats might well be relaxed and could play a little better. Naturally, they went and lost to the Braves last night.

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Dan Haren did a solid job on the mound and the Cubs made a 4-0 first inning lead stand up en route to being the free play winner. Several of the Wednesday games are unlined as of now, but here’s one I figure to be on unless the price is completely out of whack.

DODGERS (Bolsinger)  @  GIANTS (Leake)

Take: GIANTS -128

The Giants won’t be successfully defending their title as last night’s result means the Dodgers are the NL West kings. The Giants are toast as far as the wild cards are concerned, so we won’t be seeing a rerun of Madison Bumgarner’s 2014 post-season heroics.

I’m sure Mike Leake has to be disappointed. Leake was moved from Cincinnati to San Francisco at the trade deadline and the Giants were hoping he’d fill a pitching void well enough to help the team get to October.

That move didn’t pay off for Leake or the Giants. He had injury issues upon his arrival on the west coast, and the fact is Leake hasn’t pitched especially well for his new team. But I like his chances of at least closing out his campaign on a high note with a win tonight.

This is a hangover special for the Dodgers. They finally snapped their losing streak on Tuesday evening and then popped the champagne corks in a boisterous celebration after the division clinching win.

I’ll be surprised to see many of the regulars in the lineup for LA tonight. It’s customary for the shock troops to get the bulk of the action the day after a clinching clubhouse party. With at least a few of the Dodgers battling injury issues, I would be stunned if several don’t get a night off here.

Mike Bolsinger gets the start for the visitors. While he certainly qualifies as a pleasant surprise this season for the Dodgers, Bolsinger has not been sharp lately and I would have to list him the in the go against column right now.

From the Giants perspective, there’s nothing much at stake here. But this remains a rivalry for San Francisco and you can be sure they didn’t enjoy the specter of the hated Dodgers celebrating on their turf last night. I think that’s incentive enough to lean the Giants way tonight.

Note that there is no betting line on this game as I’m writing this. Follow me on Twitter (@davecokin) as I’ll update at some point as to whether this play makes my personal ticket tonight. But assuming the price is not unreasonable, I’ll be playing the Giants.

UPDATE: Giants at -128 is acceptable, and that’s on my ticket tonight.