Dave’s Free Play, Saturday 8/30/14

Quick takes from Friday’s college results:

BYU had to make the lengthy trip to the Northeast and did so minus a handful of suspended starters. No problem, as they took advantage of early UConn errors, built a big lead and coasted to the win. Strong showing by Cougs QB Taysom Hill. We’ll find out more about this BYU team next week when they visit Texas. The Huskies will improve as the season progresses under new coach Bob Diaco, and I like the fight this team showed despite being outmanned in this opener.

If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it. But it appears that’s what new Bowling Green coach Dino Babers is going to insist on doing at Bowling Green. Maybe the Falcons will adapt to the new system, but they sure weren’t good in this opener. Brandon Doughty had a career night for Western Kentucky as the Hilltoppers racked up an amazing 702 yards of offense. Great start for Jeff Brohm as their head coach as well as OC Tyson Helton. I’m eager to see what Western Kentucky does at Illinois next week.

Colorado came out hot against rival Colorado State and had a chance to build a big lead. But the Buffs got only three points out of two good scoring chances and only led by three at halftime. CU caught a big break on a Colorado State turnover early in the third quarter and cashed in to go up 17-7. But from that point on they were manhandled by the Rams. I was really impressed by the young CSU offensive line as they flat out overwhelmed the Buffs at the point of attack after halftime. The only downer is that they dominated to the point there might not be much value next week as the Rams travel to Boise.

UT-San Antonio played a spectacular defensive game against Houston. My sense early was that the Roadrunners might eventually wilt if they could not produce any offense. Instead they got stronger as the game progressed. The UTSA defensive line annihilated Houston’s OL the entire game, and the Cougars folded like an accordion under the pressure. One of the problems with playing that warp speed offense the Cougars utilize is there’s no fall back when it doesn’t go well. UTSA will need to get past the celebration quickly with a very athletic Arizona due up next.

Arizona went bananas against UNLV, shattering some school records en route to a 58-13 win. ‘Zona had too much team speed for the Rebels and I’m not reading much into the final score. UNLV won’t see another team this athletic the rest of the season. As for the Wildcats, I’m saying it’s too early to call them a juggernaut. Let’s see what happens when they run into equally gifted squads, which they will see plenty of in the PAC-12. But make no mistake, Anu Solomon can play some QB and this Arizona entry should be Rich Rodriguez’s best since his move to the desert.

Syracuse needed a touchdown on a fake FG in OT and then had to turn away a deuce for the win by Villanova to avoid getting upset as double digit chalk. Had the Wildcats gotten the stunner, there’s not much doubt who would’ve been the goat. That would be ‘Cuse QB Terrel Hunt, who got thrown out late in the first half for throwing a punch. ‘Nova missed a 25 yard field goal at the end of regulation, so this goes into the books as a really lucky win by the Orange. They’d better get sharper in a hurry or it’s going to be tough ACC sledding for this Syracuse squad.

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My Friday was perfect with two college winners and a couple more on the diamond. I’m now at my high water mark for 2014 overall, and the last three months have made for a very healthy summer. Just two days left to grab the six-week special, so if you’re interested, take advantage right away. Easiest way to get rolling is to click on the “buy now” tab, or you can also email me for more info at cokin@cox.net.

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Colorado State got there as a free play, and I’ve already got another college game as a comp for today. I’ve got my dance card filled as far as the football is concerned (barring any late info, of course) and the baseball card looks scant right now. But there’s another NFL Week One game that I’m finding appealing, so let’s use that as today’s free play.

09/07 10:00 AM   NFL   (465) MINNESOTA VIKINGS  at  (466) ST. LOUIS RAMS

Take: (466) ST. LOUIS RAMS -4

Quarterback A has a career record of 18-30-1 and a career QBR of 79.3. Quarterback B has a career record of 13-13 and a career QB rating of 85.9.

You’ve probably already figured out which QB’s I’m referring to and where I’m going with this. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that Sam Bradford has a higher ceiling than Shaun Hill. But in terms of actual on the field accomplishments in the NFL, Bradford never did much, and in fact, Hill has assembled a better record as a starter and with a higher QB rating to boot.

Yet the injury to the very unlucky Bradford has made for what I absolutely consider to be a major line adjustment and a knee jerk reaction from early NFL bettors. The Rams were -6.5 favorites as they prepped to host the Vikings in Week One before Bradford went down. Now the number is all the way down to -4 and a whopping percentage of the tickets written thus far have been on the Vikings.

Sorry, I’m not buying this line move at all. I think it’s a massive overreaction and there’s no way I believe Bradford is worth 2.5 points more than Hill. It’s not as though Hill is a raw rookie being forced into action who figures to be overwhelmed by the scenario. Fact is, while Bradford was showing improvement and might have been ready to take a step forward, it’s Hill who owns the better resume on what’s actually taken place.

So my take is that the Rams aren’t measurably worse with Hill under center, and that means we now have a line that I think is out of whack. This St. Louis team looks pretty solid for the most part. They’re going to rely on what already figured to be a workmanlike, run first offense and a defense that has a chance to be one of the better units in the NFL this season.

As for the Vikings, I don’t think they’re any good. I’ve got them as my 26th rated team coming into the new season. The Rams were much higher than that prior to the Bradford injury and I only knocked one point off my offensive power rating when he got hurt.

I originally made the Rams -6.5 for this game, so I definitely now see value with the line having dropped and if it continues to do so, that’s fine with me. I also fully expect a very motivated showing here, as the Rams will be determined to prove to themselves and everyone else they’re still going to be a force too be reckoned with this season. I look at this as an opportunity to fade the public money while also getting what amounts to a bargain at the price. I’m taking the Rams minus the points in this season opener.

Dave’s Free Play, Friday 8/29/14

Quick hits from Thursday’s college slate:

Johnny Football? How ’bout Kenny Football? An incredible coming out party for Kenny Hill (44/60, 511, 3/0) as Texas A&M manhandled South Carolina. Texas A&M immediately becomes a playoff contender as they’re pretty much a cinch to start at least 5-0.  This was even more lopsided than the 52-28 score indicates. It’s early, but it sure looks like the Aggies will miss Johnny Manziel far less than South Carolina will miss Connor Shaw.

UL-Monroe dominated Wake Forest far more than the 17-10 score. 21-5 FD’s, 352-94 total yards. The Warhawks didn’t rattle in spite of getting blanked in the first half and giving up a TD on a blocked punt. Dave Clawson is a fine coach, but he’ll be challenged to avoid the ACC  Atlantic cellar in what looms as a rebuilding year for Wake Forest.

Tulsa rallied to topple Tulane in 2OT in a wild game that featured some huge plays by both teams. Curtis Johnson did a terrific coaching job at Tulane last season, so I’ll just call this a bad night for him. But if stays with the running game, I don’t see any way Tulsa comes back to win this. Redshirt freshman Sherman Badie was amazing for the Green Wave. Tulsa gets the win, but if they can’t firm up the rush defense, they’re not getting many more victories.

Ole Miss put Boise State away late, but this was a 7-6 game going into the fourth quarter. Bo Wallace was his typical erratic self, and the Rebels running game was virtually non-existent. Grant Hedrick was not good at all for Boise State, and the Broncos inability to score a TD on a first and goal at the one in the second quarter was pretty bad. I wasn’t impressed by either team. Also…how ’bout let’s dump these neutral field openers that don’t draw flies? Terrible crowd at the Georgia Dome for this event.

PJ Walker was under the radar impressive last season after taking over the QB gig at Temple. He won’t be sneaking up on anyone after a solid opener as the Owls routed Vanderbilt. This was a 14-7 game when the Commodores gave up a long TD off a fumble, and they then proceeded to fall apart. Vandy scored zero offensive points, tried three QB’s, had no running game, and coughed up the football seven times. Not exactly a sterling debut for Derek Mason as the new head coach.

Rutgers and Washington State lived up to billing as there were over 1000 yards of offense. Props to the Scarlet Knights for their resiliency, as it really looked like they might wilt down the stretch. Washington State basically blew this with early mistakes. Rutgers will be vulnerable to good passing attacks, but the Scarlet Knights are again going to be tough to run on. The flip side is that unless Mike Leach makes some attempt to bring some balance to the offense (which he won’t because he’s Mike Leach) the Cougars are in for a very long season in the talented PAC-12.

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3-1-2 for me on Thursday, and while I’ll call one of the pushes a bit unlucky, winning with Tulsa was literally one of the most fortunate winners I’ve ever had. A substantial number of things had to fall exactly right for the Golden Hurricane to cover the number, and they all did exactly that. The ultimate take the money and run outcome.

Three more days to join me with my six-week special offer that works out to $100 per week. That offer ends on August 31, so don’t procrastinate if you’re interested. For complete details, send an email directly to me at cokin@cox.net (all correspondence is strictly confidential, no names are sold or traded) or simply utilize the “buy now” feature on this page to get subscribed.

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I’ve already got a college game in action tonight as a daily free play. That being the case, I’m going to look at a Week One NFL clash that I would have to guess offers its best value now.

09/07  10:00 AM   NFL   (475) BUFFALO BILLS  at  (476) CHICAGO BEARS

Take: (476) CHICAGO BEARS -6.5

I generally put very little stock into pre-season results. As a rule, I mostly dismiss them almost entirely. But there is the rare exception to that rule, and I’m afraid I’m going to have to put the Buffalo Bills into that category.

It’s not just that the Bills were horrible offensively throughout the exhibition schedule. Sometimes teams just play the four, and in Buffalo’s case, five pre-season games as evaluation scrimmages where there’s little in the way of game planning. But that really wasn’t the case for the Bills, and the loss last night to Detroit was beyond ugly.

The Bills were off a very poor showing at home last week against Tampa Bay where the locals booed them off the field on more than a couple of occasions. Head Coach Doug Marrone left no doubt he was displeased. He clearly stated he was looking for improvement this week, and announced he would be getting his ones on the field for a decent amount of snaps. That being the case, the utter ineptitude the Bills displayed for basically the entire 60 minutes against the Lions is downright alarming.

Take your pick as to just how many things went wrong in this mismatch. EJ Manuel appears to have regressed from his rookie season. Top draft pick Sammy Watkins probably should have been held out considering he was already banged up. He played, got hurt again, and his status for the season opener is now unknown. The special teams were horrible. About the only thing Buffalo did reasonably well was defend the run, and even that’s a bit tainted as the Lions ran a very vanilla offense throughout.

I’m not quite as high on the Bears as many observers. I definitely like the offense, but have some real misgivings about the defense. But from what Buffalo has shown in the pre-season, whatever liabilities Chicago has on that side of the football aren’t likely to be exposed in this season opener.

I’m not pinning all of this on Marrone, but let’s face facts, he wasn’t exactly the hottest commodity on the market when the Bills tabbed him as their head coach. The early grade from last season might be an incomplete, but I’m more pessimistic about him based on what I just saw. It seems clear that the Bills didn’t respond at all to the challenge Marrone basically issued heading into this game. If the team can’t respond against a bunch of Detroit backups, I don’t see how much can be expected of them against what will be a fired up Bears entry next Sunday.

The number on this game is currently less than one TD. I have to think this number is heading up. No doubt about it, the favorite will be a very square side next Sunday. But I just can’t get past what I’ve seen from the Bills, especially in these last two pre-season skirmishes, and my sense is to get the hosts now while the gettin’ is good. I’ll lay it with the Bears.

 

Dave’s Free Play, Thursday 8/28/14

College football is underway, and the NFL exhibition season concludes tonight. Thankfully, on both counts. I think this is going to be a tremendous season in college football, as we finally move into the playoff era. For now, it’s just a Final Four, but that’s certainly an improvement over what we have had to endure previously. I don’t think it will remain a four-team playoff for long, not more than 3-4 years. The powers that be in the college game are going to learn very quickly that they can make way more money with an 8-team playoff. But even with only four qualifiers this season, we’re almost certain to have a spectacular stretch drive in the regular season and what should be a sensational January.

Sensational, on the other hand, is not a word that will be used to describe anything about the NFL pre-season. Not that we should ever count on much in the way of excitement in games that don’t count, but this has been the ugliest exhibition campaign I’ve ever witnessed. The one silver lining is that the NFL rules makers got a really good look at how their new edicts are playing out, and the fervent hope is that the league will listen to its fans and ease off on the mandate that the officials basically call almost everything illegal.

There’s just not much of an argument that the increased number of flags is further bogging the game down. The league loves the idea of offense dominating, and I’ll go along with them knowing more about their business than I do. But games that used to last roughly three hours are now heading toward 3:30, and if all these penalties are going to keep getting called, you can add another handful of minutes to that total time. That wouldn’t be a problem if the extra time was resulting in more plays, but much of the excess is now being spent on replay reviews and officials huddles. I don’t know anyone who wants to see that.

So here’s hoping that the league sees fit to at least dial back the ticky-tack calls and keep the game moving. It’s one thing to hear complaints about the product being almost unwatchable in the pre-season. That’s really not a big deal. But if those beefs start coming in when the games count, it’s a problem that’s going to need to be addressed.

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The Rangers paid off at a nice price yesterday, but a tough luck loss with the Twins and a wrong side with the Marlins created a small loss for the day. I’ll have a buffet style card tonight, with at least one MLB play, another in college and two NFL sides as well. One of those will be the forthcoming daily free play.

Just four more days to take advantage of the six-week special that can be purchased via the “buy now” tab on this page. Note this includes all my games, which brings into play my late releases that really can’t be posted at any websites due to the time frame. There are never any requests for more money to get supposedly stronger plays, and I avoid hype like it’s the plague. My clientele is almost solely what I would call serious players who don’t want any of the nonsense, just the plays and some analysis. If you’re desiring more detailed onto on how this works, just shoot an email my way at cokin@cox.net.

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The Twins looked like a winner for seven frames thanks to some great work by Phil Hughes, but the B8 was brutal. Bloop, stolen base, infield hit and the handwriting was on the wall. But it’s also important to note that Liam Hendriks pitched a whale of a game for the Royals, so it’s not like this was a runaway winner that suddenly fell apart. I’m grabbing an NFL side for tonight’s comp.

08/28  04:30 PM   NFL   (113) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS  at  (114) NEW YORK GIANTS

Take: (114) NEW YORK GIANTS -3 (-120)

This is all about gathering information and playing an advantage, so there’s very little analysis involved here. The Patriots will treat this game as nothing more than a warmup for the regular season. Bill Belichick got a really crisp effort from his regulars last week and this will simply be an evaluation exercise to determine perhaps one starting offensive line spot and the final cuts.

It’s a little different story for the Giants. Their new offense still needs reps, and it appears as though the ones are going to play somewhere between 15-18 snaps. That’s 2-3 series where the Giants will have starters on the field, while the Patriots will be countering with backups.

There’s really nothing more that I need beyond that information. In a game that doesn’t count in the standings, if I can get that many snaps with regulars vs. reserves, I’m going to be taking the team playing the first unit guys. In this case, that’s the Giants, so I’m laying the points tonight.

Dave’s Free Play, Wednesday 8/27/14

Welcome to the first installment of “Wise Guy Wednesday”, a new feature that should prove interesting to follow throughout the coming football season. Each Wednesday, I’ll be running through the college and NFL schedule with a rundown of games that are drawing pro action, thus the “wise guy” title.

A few important notes before glancing at this week’s slate. First off, these are not necessarily plays I’m on myself. I really don’t care what anyone else is playing, be they a pro or a Joe. But like many bettors, I at least like to know where the supposed sharper dollars are going. This can be of substantial value in determining when to play. I might be strictly playing just my own opinions, but the idea is to try and get the optimum number, and being able to garner a good idea of where the betting line on a game is likely to go will undoubtedly pay dividends over the course of a full season.

As to how this information is obtained, I can tell you it’s not based on bet percentages that can be found at various websites. Not that there’s anything wrong with that info, but there are times when it can be misleading even though it’s factual. I prefer to rely on what I’ll simply call excellent sources on both sides of the window here in Las Vegas, from faraway places, and from contacts at key locations back east.

Enough with the preliminaries. Let’s get to the games. I’ll be including the scheduling rotation numbers with these games so they’ll be easy to locate.

#136 UL Monroe drew some sharp early play, but now it’s a major case of follow the leader. One of my contacts said that “everyone and their uncle” is playing the Warhawks at this point, and this is the biggest mover of the week. I would expect some Wake Forest buy back at some point as those who scored UL-Monroe at the early price will be unable to resist a huge middling opportunity.

#141 Temple is a sharp side. The Owls were hit hard by pros a couple days ago, and the sheep are now firing away as well, driving the spread through a key number in the process. My info is that this line will continue to drop.

#151 UTSA is sharp vs. square with the pros grabbing the points. As this will be a later start on Friday, public dollars could push the line back up a bit when it gets close to post time.

#153 UNLV is getting a little support from the pros, while favored Arizona is preferred by the other side, although it’s not overwhelming either way.

#164 UAB took some serious action on Tuesday. I’ll be candid, I’m pretty good at knowing where lines will go before they actually do so, but this one caught me by surprise.

$169 Florida Atlantic is a clear pro/Joe battleground, with, according to two of my contacts, “all” of the sharper bucks on the underdog.

#187 Western Michigan is getting some sharp play, but not as much as the line drop might indicate. Apparently, it’s more a case of scant action, but what exists is more on the dog.

#205 Utah State is drawing some good play, prompting a “$%^&* Tennessee” response from one of my contacts. Bookies have very good memories, and fading the Vols was good for the bettors and bad for the accountants last season, especially down the stretch. So I wasn’t surprised to hear a bit of profanity when assessing the action on this game.

#210 Louisville is getting the sharper early dollars and note that this line has gone through a key number. The opinions offered seemed to indicate it’s more likely to continue ascending as we get closer to post time.

That’s it for the first edition of “Wise Guy Wednesday.” Back with more next week.

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1-2 for me on Tuesday. The White Sox extra inning loser was the swing game. Robin Ventura is an absolutely horrible strategist. I’m not going to say anything else about this game, because if I get started, I’ll have a hard time stopping.

Just a few days left to take advantage of the six week special. That offer ends on Sunday, the 31st. Use the “buy now” feature to get subscribed, or email me at cokin@cox.net for additional information.

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Back to baseball for the Wednesday free play, with a game that is unlined as I’m writing this due to a pitching change.

08/27 05:10 PM   MLB   (975) MINNESOTA TWINS  at   (976) KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Take: (975) MINNESOTA TWINS

The Royals can’t do much wrong these days. They’re playing inspired ball, and finding ways to win even when they look dead in the water, as was the case on Tuesday evening. But no one wins ‘em all, and I think we’ve got a great shot to knock off the sizzling Royals tonight.

Phil Hughes is having a superb season for Minnesota. I figured Hughes to do somewhat better getting out of the Bronx. He was a terrible fit for Yankee Stadium, and let’s face it, the Big Apple is an absolute pressure cooker that can absolutely get the best of some players regardless of their chosen sport. But I can’t say I expected anything resembling what we’ve seen from Hughes this season. He’s a legit Top 25 pitcher right now. There’s not a thing phony about his numbers, and he’s pitching at an ace level. There’s no way I saw that coming, and I doubt there’s many who did.

Hughes rates a commanding advantage tonight as he squares off with Liam Hendriks. Hendriks is subbing for Yordano Ventura, who got scratched with a back flareup. Even a broken clock is right twice each day, so anything is possible. But Hendriks has never shown that he can get big league hitters out on a regular basis. The interesting thing with Hendriks is that he appears to have good enough stuff to be a serviceable big league commodity, either at the back end of a rotation or more likely out of the pen. But just as I believe that Hughes was mentally fried pitching in New York, it could be that it’s what’s between the ears that has stymied Hendriks.

I’m sure Hendricks would love to knock off the Twins. That’s the team that drafted him and basically just gave up on him, so there’s major motivation here. But Hughes is on a monster roll right now and the Twins appear to play with more focus when their ace is on the mound.

Whether or not this makes my personal card today is yet to be decided, as I’ll have to make an assessment once the number settles in. But Hughes has gotten me paid a few times this season, and he’s definitely in go with mode presently. If I don’t get priced out, the Twins will be on my ticket as I’m more than willing to keep firing on Hughes.

 

Dave’s Free Play, Tuesday 8/26/14

The 2014 college football season has yet to kick off, but it’s official. We have our first “herded sheep” play of the new campaign. I use that term on games when it’s readily apparent, at least to me, that the number on a game got started in one direction because someone took the lead. From that point on, however, it’s a case of follow the leader mentality taking place, with bettors almost mindlessly flocking to the same side.

Note that I don’t mean to dismiss the chances of these team’s chances of winning and covering. In many cases, they will indeed be the right side and will get their backers paid. Needless to say, the opposite will take place often enough as well. And there will be the always amusing instances when the game will land flat in the middle, with the early bettors getting the cash and the followers getting burned.

The game in question this week is the Thursday night duel between Wake Forest and UL Monroe. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some excellent reasoning by those on the home dog side in this battle, and they might very well be heading straight to the winner’s circle with their analysis. But what I’m seeing now is lots of support for UL Monroe by bettors who probably cannot name one single starter on that team. That’s where the “herded sheep” term comes into play. They’re on the Warhawks primarily because the line is going in their direction, so someone must know something.

Personally, I won’t be bothering with this game. I don’t have much interest in backing the Demon Deacons, and there’s no chance I’m taking Monroe at +1 or pk when I could have taken +4. Taking that much the worst of it is terrible strategy that will prove extremely costly over the long haul. Fact is, the smart move now for those who got a good price with UL Monroe is to shoot for a middle in what has a good chance to be a close game.

The gist of this dialogue should be apparent. If you’re doing your own analysis, trust your own work and don’t be influenced by what others might be playing. If you’re playing someone else’s opinions, make sure you’re getting fresh information, not something that was simply “borrowed”, if you get my drift. Don’t be a sheep.

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Way on the wrong side with the Padres on Monday night. Not much more to say about that play, as the Friars screwed up nice chances in the first two innings and then proceeded to get crushed. That was my only play, so I’ll have to accept the 0-1. I like my chances of getting that one back and then some tonight.

My college football sheet for this week now features six games, and I’m thrilled about substantially beating the market on four of these games, while getting what appears to at least be the right price with the other two. Obviously, getting value is just part of the quest, as the games still have to win, but the better the number, the better the chances.

Subscribe via my six-week special offer, available via the “buy now” tab on this page, and get everything I’ve got for the next six weeks. That includes all MLB, NFL and college plays plus anything else, such as the CFL. If I’m on it, you get it and the plays are sent out as soon as the decisions are made. More details available via email at cokin@cox.net.

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Here’s one more college football free play for the coming weekend, this time on one of the Friday evening games.

08/29  06:00 PM   (149) COLORADO STATE  vs.   (150) COLORADO

Take: (149) COLORADO STATE +3

Right at the outset, I’ll say that I mostly agree with the general consensus on the state of these rivals. Colorado State is likely down some from last season, Colorado appears to be improved. But I also believe the the team supposedly going down is superior to the one that might be going up.

Colorado State has some obvious holes to fill. Most of what turned out to be a studly offensive line has moved on, and so has the amazing Kapri Bibbs, who was one remarkable college running back last season. It’s tough to envision the Rams being anything close to as prolific on offense as they were toward the end of last season. But I don’t see this team simply falling apart at the seams.

Colorado is much more experienced this season, and the Buffs are almost sure to be more competitive this time around. Mike MacIntyre did a great job taking San Jose State from a total stiff to a decent level, and I like his chances of accomplishing the same thing here. However, this is still very much a work in progress entity, and I don’t see Colorado sniffing .500 or a bowl for at least another year.

I don’t want to turn this piece into “War and Peace” so I’ll condense this to the numbers. Colorado defeated Colorado State handily to start the 2013 campaign. But by the end of the season, I had CSU double digits better than CU on my power rankings. I’ve definitely adjusted the 2014 Rams down from where they were at the conclusion of the ’13 season, while I’ve moved the Buffaloes up a couple of ticks. But I believe this line reflects too much of an adjustment. My ratings for the new season still have Colorado State between 3-4 points better than their rivals.

My pre-season rankings are going to change as actual data is compiled. So it’s conceivable that one month from now, Colorado could be the higher power ranked entry. But I’ve done well enough with opening week plays over the years to have confidence in what I’ve put together and in this case, I’ve got an opportunity to grab a FG with a team I have as a slight favorite. That makes for a playable scenario, and I’m therefore going ahead and taking the available points with Colorado State.

 

Dave’s Free Play, Monday 8/25/14

College football gets rolling this week, so I’ll briefly outline the game plan for this blog as it pertains to that sport. Nothing is chiseled in granite as far as this goes, but the intent is for the Sunday blog to highlight some takes from the previous day’s card. I usually like to zero in on games that featured misleading final scores, as there’s often some value to be garnered from those games moving forward.

Monday blogs will frequently feature more of the same type of commentary. I probably won’t be writing much on the NFL as that info is everywhere and there are loads of sites that will have much more in depth material than I can provide here. For me, the main intent is to particularly get into some of the lesser college games in terms of marquee appeal. It’s not that I don’t have interest in the bigger conferences and schools, but again, that info is all over the web, whereas it’s sometimes a little tougher to get anything meaningful on the non-headline leagues and teams.

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I’m now set on five college sides for the upcoming weekend, and they’ve all been sent out already to my subscribers with analysis. That’s one of the keys to what makes my service hopefully worthwhile. Everyone gets the games as soon as the decision to play has been made, and unless my schedule is on tilt, there’s ample analysis to explain why I’m making a play.

3-0 Sunday, with two winners on the diamond and yet another CFL winner as well. Good rebound off the frustrating Saturday. It’s been a very healthy summer and now would seem to be a great time to jump in with my six-week special. Use the “buy now” feature on this page to get rolling, or fire an email off to me personally at cokin@cox.net for more detailed info.

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The Padres came through nicely as the Sunday free play. Today’s comp is on a Saturday college football game and this play is already on my personal card as well.

08/30 09:00 AM  (187) WESTERN MICHIGAN  at  (188) PURDUE

Take: (187) WESTERN MICHIGAN +11 (note +12 or +12.5 available in LV on this game as of now)

It really doesn’t get much uglier than this. Western Michigan and Purdue would each probably like to regard 2013 as if it never happened. The Broncos and Boilermakers combined for a grotesque 2-22 record. Purdue never beat a single FBS opponent, and the only WMU victory was by one point against hapless UMass.

I wouldn’t look for a huge step forward by either squad this season, although I do think there’s a bit more reason for optimism at Western Michigan. They appear to have had what, by MAC standards, is a fine recruiting class and several of their true freshmen will be seeing action right from the outset. Head coach PJ Fleck got a pass from me for the most part as far as last season goes. The cupboard Fleck inherited from Bill Cubit might not have been totally bare, but it also sure wasn’t stocked with goodies.

I’m not going to be as liberal with my grade for Darrell Hazell. Purdue was not supposed to be a winning team, so this isn’t about them just going 1-11. It was more the way they went about accumulating that sorry record. The Boilermakers were only able to win against Indiana State, and they actually lost the stats to even that FCS opponent. Worse is that this team didn’t appear to have a clue as to what they were doing in most of the games I saw. Losing games is one thing. Getting completely dominated virtually every week is something else, and aside from a respectable loss to powerful Michigan State, there was almost nothing positive at all for this entry in 2013.

I’m already on record as predicting that Hazell might well be done in West Lafayette after just two seasons. Purdue figures to be a dog in all their league games, and to make matters worse, the only games in which they figure to at least compete are each on the conference road. I’m not ruling out improvement, as there’s now plenty of experience on this team, and that’s usually a plus. But the Boilermakers were consistently out game planned last season, and if that happens again this season, the results are going to be very similar to what we saw in 2013.

This was a game I had circled as a potential opening week play coming out of spring ball, as the reports I got on Western Michigan were positive and upbeat. There was one major concern, which was courtesy of Coach Fleck. He indicated at the start of camp that as many as 14 true freshmen might be starting come September. Had that ended up being the case, there’s no chance I’d be taking them here. But as it turns out, while several newcomers are going to see action right away, only two raw recruits are starting, and one of those is the long snapper.

Western Michigan is still likely to be pretty lousy this season. I’ve got them finishing fifth in the MAC West. But if the impressive freshman class comes along quickly, they could spring an upset or two and approach .500. As for Purdue, I would expect a bit of improvement but not enough to avoid finishing at the bottom of the B10 West.  Maybe they can avoid another train wreck but there’s just no way I can see this team winning more than four games, and that’s the glass half full outlook.

I have Purdue winning this game, but can’t buy the number being as high as it is. I see them being extremely vulnerable to the run again, and that’s good news for a Broncos squad that probably wants to grind things out and hope to stay close enough to have a chance at the upset late. What I sure don’t see here is the blowout Purdue win. If that’s the case, double with Western Michigan should be more than enough to make getting at least the cover a good possibility.

Dave’s Free Play, Sunday 8/24/14

Quick takes from Saturday’s NFL pre-season games:

The Falcons look like a team with a pretty solid first unit, but once again the backups were really bad. I think this becomes a factor as the season progresses assuming the normal NFL attrition rates apply. Jake Locker played well for the Titans, and give rookie Zach Mettenberger a gold star for his late game poise.

I’m not putting the Bucs in the Super Bowl, but this is clearly a better football team with Lovie Smith at the helm than they were under his predecessor. Tampa Bay was very impressive in the first half against the Bills, and the final score of this game was misleading.

Dallas is struggling. The defense finally showed something positive against the Dolphins, but the offense was very sloppy. I’m not sure what to make of Tony Romo off the back injury. My sense is that his mobility is not there right now, but it’s too early to pass real judgment on that.

I think there’s going to be a QB controversy in Washington. RGIII really appears to have regressed from his rookie season. I don’t know if it’s injury related, or if he simply has been figured out by opposing defenses. But the Redskins could very well simply be a better football team with Kirk Cousins on the field. Not that he’s as talented, but right now Cousins is a better game manager than Griffin.

I get the Browns going with Brian Hoyer as the starting QB to open the season. It’s really the smarter option for a team that doesn’t figure to contend this season anyway. But Manziel, while a long way from being a legitimate NFL QB, is the better player already. I’m figuring him to be starting by the end of September.

Drew Brees is ready for the regular season. He got his warmup in against the Colts and looked very solid. The Colts were surprisingly inefficient on offense, blowing two first and goal opportunities, but there’s little cause for alarm.

Alex Smith is generally pretty good and sometimes better than that, but he had a really bad game against the Vikings. As for Minnesota, Matt Cassel will be the starter for a little while, but Teddy Bridgewater is making some nice strides after a rough debut. By the way, the Vikings have some real weapons on this offense. If they can figure out how to make enough stops, Minnesota could be a surprise entry this season.

It really looks as though Bill O’Brien has committed to running a very low risk offense and hoping the defense is good enough to keep the Texans in games. That’s probably a really sound strategy considering the QB situation. The only real notable thing in this game on the Broncos side was Peyton Manning drawing a flag for taunting.

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Tough day for me on Saturday, with a 1-2 result in baseball. Easy win on the Pirates and on the wrong side of two nail biters with the Phillies and Astros. That’s baseball. I thought the Phillies really blew a great chance to win this game in the eighth inning by giving away an out when they had the Redbirds reeling. There it is again, the sac bunt rally killer. As for Houston, they were lucky to be tied in the first place, as one of their runs scored only because the Indians pitcher fell asleep and didn’t back up home plate on a base hit, resulting in a free score for the Astros.

My monthly and weekly packages are always available, although buying the monthly is probably not a real good idea. That’s because the six-week special is $150 less than the monthly, so the decision there is pretty obvious. In any event, you can subscribe right away using the “buy now” feature or shoot an email my way at cokin@cox.net. A reminder that all correspondence is confidential, and your name and any other info will not be shared with anyone else.

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Kind of a tough loss on the Saturday free play with the Astros, although as noted previously, they were sort of fortunate to even be tied in this one. I’m going the small chalk route with Sunday’s comp.

08/24 01:10 PM  MLB   (913) SAN DIEGO PADRES  at   (914) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Take: (913) SAN DIEGO PADRES -118

Ian Kennedy vs. Chase Anderson as the Padres and Diamondbacks wrap up their weekend set at the Chase. One of my late season theories comes into play here, and we’ll see how it works out this time around.

That thought process applies to Anderson, who has been one of the few good stories in an otherwise brutal campaign for the Diamondbacks. He has surpassed expectations by a very wide margin. Anderson has never been regarded as anything close to an elite prospect. He was a ninth round draft pick who signed for a high five figures after pitching in relief at Oklahoma, and the profile on him was as a guy who might fit as a middle reliever. Scrap that, as Anderson has done a terrific job on a staff that has struggled and he’ll be heading to 2015 camp with a rotation spot virtually locked up.

But…Anderson is now breaking new ground in terms of innings pitched. He will establish a new career high with today’s start, and one of my preferred angles late in the season is to monitor and often play against young pitchers where fatigue could absolutely come into play. This is not a hard and fast rule, it’s just one key variable to monitor. As it applies to Anderson, there is at least some evidence that he could be wearing down. His last two starts have not been good, and his most recent outing was really ugly, especially from a command standpoint. Based on that, I would say that Anderson is at least a candidate to see a reduction in effectiveness at this point. I would also suggest that if the trend continues, the Diamondbacks should strongly consider shutting him down or at least strictly limiting him the rest of the way. It’s not like they’re contending, so why gamble on a fatigue-related injury?

As for Kennedy, he’s just hoping his Padres teammates do a little better job of having his back than they did on Tuesday at Chavez Ravine. The Friars made some horrific plays and decisions in that game, and what was a nice early lead for the Padres ended up with them being on the wrong side of a 8-6 decision. Kennedy will be returning to his former home digs here, and he has generally pitched very well at Chase.

I don’t see a whole lot as far as the team data is concerned that can get me off the Padres here. They’ve gone back into a bit of an offensive funk the last couple of games, but it’s not like the Snakes are crushing the baseball. So I’m going to bank on Anderson being more vulnerable than he has at previous points this season, and I’ll go ahead and spot the reasonable price with the Padres.

Dave’s Free Play, Saturday 8/23/14

I’m in the midst of the continued breakdown of the opening week college football games (have played four already, and more likely to come), so I’m skipping the usual commentary tonight. And by the way, that six-week special offer is still available. Take advantage and score all my plays across the board for the next six weeks. Use the “buy now” tab to subscribe and get started right away, or shoot an email my way at cokin@cox.net for more detailed information.

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Mike Minor delivered a brilliant performance for the Braves on Friday night. He got little help from his teammates and ended saddled with a no-decision, but Atlanta eventually broke through in extras and put the Friday free play into the win column. A good sized dog on tap for the Saturday comp.

08/23 04:05 PM   MLB   (975) HOUSTON ASTROS  at   (976) CLEVELAND INDIANS

Take: (975) HOUSTON ASTROS +145

You can mark me down as being bullish on Danny Salazar. The Cleveland righty has great stuff, and if he can stay healthy, there’s a real expectation here that he’s going to break out at some point. But Salazar remains a model of inconsistency at the present time. The problem seems to be an inability to maintain his command on a regular basis. Salazar has done better in this regard lately. But he’s still prone to high pitch counts and once he hits the wall, that’s pretty much curtains for Salazar. So despite his top of the rotation potential, Salazar remains very much a work in progress.

Collin McHugh, on the other hand, seems to have arrived. Throw out the subpar W/L record. McHugh has been much better than that, and as I said last Sunday when I backed McHugh against the Red Sox, I really feel as though he’s now the ace on this Houston staff. The key for McHugh has been his mastering the changeup. He’s getting a huge differential between his fastball and the change and a load of swings and misses in the process.

From a team perspective, the Indians are clearly the better entry and they can be rude to righties when playing at home. As for the Astros, they’re still a lousy team and picking the right spots to give them a roll is a challenge. But the good news on that front is that Houston is on one of its good rolls right now. They’re on a modest 5-2 run, and it’s worth noting that the Astros have been hitting very well for some time now. So the ‘Stros are not in pushover mode presently, and that means it’s not a bad time to give them a longer look than usual.

The Indians are still hanging in as far as the playoff chase goes. They’re a manageable five games out of the second wild card, which means that one hot streak could get them right into the mix. But that’s also the problem, as this team just hasn’t been good enough to put any distance between themselves and the .500 plateau.

The Tribe rates the favorite’s role this evening. They play well at home and they have the ability to do a number on right handers. But I also see them being overpriced given McHugh’s stellar form, which has actually been amazing all season on the road. This looks like solid value with the game being priced this high, and I’m going to align myself within the Astros this time.

Dave’s Free Play, Friday 8/21/14

Dear National Football League,

There’s an old expression that goes something along the lines of, if it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it. You might want to heed these words as far as this insistence on adding offense to the game is concerned.

I’m not going to beef about the safety measures that have been added, and are therefore resulting in more penalties. The data pertaining to concussions and what might be resulting down the road from these brain injuries is compelling. Nobody should be arguing against measures protecting the players from long term damage that can ruin their quality of life.

But it seems as though you’re trying to eliminate defense from the game with the extreme changes that are now making it virtually impossible to defend anyone who happens to go out for a pass. This is a very bad idea, based on the early returns.

I like offense as much as anyone, and I don’t want defenders being allowed to mug receivers in an attempt to deny them the football. But you can’t make almost everything illegal, and based on the insane number of penalty flags, that appears to be the intent right now.

I lost count of the penalties whistled in last night’s game between the Steelers and Eagles. I’m guessing that if declined flags are included, the final tally was right around 30. That is patently absurd. It’s also incredibly boring. The most visible individual on the field at Philadelphia last night was Ed Hochuli. He’s somewhat entertaining as far as officials go, but I can guarantee you that I have no interest in watching “The Ed Hochuli Show” for three plus hours.

I’m not sure there’s any entertainment vehicle that has done a better job of connecting with the public than you have, NFL. But no one wins ‘em all, and this latest idea, while perhaps well intentioned, is a disaster in this observer’s eyes. I’m not expecting scintillating action on pre-season games. But I’m also not into getting bored beyond belief with flag after flag, followed by officials huddle after huddle, and what amounts to a touch football game in between the penalty calls.

Do what it takes to legislate truly unnecessary roughness and more dangerous than they need to be collisions out of the game. But don’t kill the entertainment value in the process. Let the stars of the show be the players and let the audience enjoy the excitement.

It wasn’t broken to begin with, so stop trying to fix it.

P.S.     NOW!

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Split on Friday with a win on the diamond and a loss on the football total. Also, note the preceding was in no way, shape or form sour grapes. I won a game earlier this week and came away with the same impression. Absolutely awful stuff with the refs dominating every aspect of the event.

My third college play of the new season has now been sent out, and I’m pretty enthused about the offerings on the first week’s slate of games. Sign up for my current six-week special and receive all my plays across the board, sent out as I play them myself. It’s been a productive summer and I’ve got a good track record of getting out of the college gate quickly, so there’s really no better time to subscribe than right now. Use the “buy now” feature on this page or email me at cokin@cox.net.

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Tough beat on the football total as the Thursday free play. Back on the diamond for the Friday comp.

08/22 04:10 PM  MLB   (905) ATLANTA BRAVES  at   (906) CINCINNATI REDS

Take: (905) ATLANTA BRAVES +105

It’s a virtual inevitability that every season around this time, at least one or two teams will simply enter into what amounts to white flag mode. It looks like we have our first full fledged towel tosser in action now. From all appearances, the Cincinnati Reds are now pretty much mailing it in on a nightly basis.

This isn’t to say the Reds won’t win some games between now and the end of September. But it sure looks like they’re going to be losing several more than they win at this point. One can get a good feel for a team by watching them regularly and when I view the Reds, I’m seeing a team that just isn’t there mentally. I won’t swear to it, but chances are I’ve made my last play on the Reds for this season. But I don’t think I’ll be having a problem trying to beat them, particularly if the price isn’t an obstacle.

Tonight, the beleaguered Reds host the Braves. Just looking at the numbers, the price is just about where it ought to be on this game. Mike Minor has done a little better lately for Atlanta, but he’s still having trouble commanding his change and he’s not shedding that nasty HR vulnerability. Minor is not what I would call a go with hurler right now, in spite of some encouraging signs of late.

As for Mat Latos, his velocity is slowly starting to creep back toward its former level. Latos is a quality starter and good righties can absolutely shut down the grip it and rip it Braves.

The Reds are capable of hammering lefties with their lineup, and under normal conditions, I’d probably avoid this altogether. But the Reds are as dead as it gets right now, and last night’s destruction at the hands of the visiting Braves was humiliating.

I haven’t been impressed with rookie manager Bryan Price at almost any point this season. His “strategy” has been iffy at best. Now you can also add in the apparent fact that he’s not putting a team that’s remotely energized on the field. Some of that is on the players to be sure, but just because a team is losing games doesn’t mean they should be pretty much going through the motions. The Cubs are going to lose more than they win and were out of playoff contention before the season started. But watch a Cubs game and you’ll be impressed with the spirit and enthusiasm that’s there almost every day. I’m not seeing that at all right now from this Reds entry.

I’m always aware of the data, but there are rare times where I just choose to ignore it, and this is one of those games. I just can’t see Atlanta getting plus money from Cincy at this point, so tonight’s free play is on the Braves.

 

 

Dave’s Free Play, Thursday 8/21/14

It’s not a miracle, but it’s pretty close. For the first time in 28 years, Major League Baseball has upheld a protest, and as a result, the Giants and Cubs will be completing the Tarpgate fiasco that occurred at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think there was any chance this would happen. The fact that MLB decided to do what really is the right thing in this instance is a huge positive as far as this observer is concerned. The rain was not what caused the ridiculous delay at Wrigley. It was a direct result of what amounts to negligence on the part of the grounds crew. In a situation such as this, penalizing one team while rewarding another was patently unfair. I’m thrilled that the powers that be decided to recognize this and order a resumption of the game.

Maybe this is just the first in a series of steps that brings baseball’s mindset all the way into the 21st century. I like the tradition that’s part of the game as much as anyone, but not when it gets in the way of progressive thinking. I don’t believe there’s much question that has been a problem for MLB. Perhaps this is just an isolated incident that means nothing as far as the big picture goes. But I’ll play the optimist for once, and will hope this is just the beginning of a new approach.

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2-0 Wednesday here with the Giants and Rockies delivering wins. Following two strong months, I got off to a rough start this month. But that ship has been righted and I’m now in the black for August as well.

Lots of action now with both football and baseball available, so it’s a great time to join me for my ongoing special offer. Six weeks for $600, and that’s all inclusive. Subscribe today using the “buy now” feature or send an email to me directly at cokin@cox.net for more info.

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No sweat with the Giants as the Wednesday free play, as they blew up Edwin Jackson immediately and led wire to wire. I’ll take a look at tonight’s NFLx game for the Thursday comp.

08/21 04:30 PM   NFL   (251) PITTSBURGH STEELERS  at   (252) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Take: UNDER 50

Two games, 139 total points. Yes, when staring at those numbers, even considering an Under play in a game involving the Philadelphia Eagles seems daring, if not a little crazy. But I’m pretty big on making my pre-season plays off what I can garner as far as information is concerned, and that’s the key to this opinion.

One thing we’ve learned quickly enough about Chip Kelly is that he doesn’t have a problem letting the media know what his intentions are as far as these exhibition games are concerned. So Kelly’s admission that he’s going to keep things pretty vanilla tonight tells me he won’t be digging into the playbook to any extent and apparently just wants to get through the game with no problems that will carry over to the games that count. Fact is, baed on what I saw last week in the game against the Patriots, I think Kelly has shown about as much of the playbook as he cares to, and I would be surprised if he doesn’t dial it back a bit tonight.

On the flip side, the Steelers are going to have their entire first unit defense on the field together for the first time this pre-season. What that should mean is that, after facing units that didn’t do much game planning, if any, for the warp speed Eagles offense, Pittsburgh will be providing some looks the Eagles haven’t seen so far this summer.

Offensively, the Steelers are going to be shorthanded in the backfield by at least one RB and probably two following the Bell/Blount traffic issue yesterday. Mike Tomlin isn’t about to alter his personality and throw the football 40 times, so I have to believe the personnel issue in play tonight can’t be a good thing for the Steelers offense.

As for the number on this game, to the surprise of nobody, the bets have poured in on the Over and price has gone up. Given the pace of play we’re now familiar with as far as the Eagles go, I can’t say I’ll be shocked if this turns into another fireworks show with points galore. But after digesting the available information, I now believe there’s value to be had with the Under, and that’s the way I’ll play this game tonight.