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College football Week 8 opening odds: Early bettors peek at Penn State in clash with Michigan

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College football rolls into Week 8, and in a change of pace, the biggest game is in the Big 10, rather than the Southeastern Conference. Covers checks in on that matchup and three others, with insights from Matt Chaprales, head of content for PointsBet USA.

No. 16 Michigan Wolverines at No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions (-7.5)

Penn State is undefeated and very much in early College Football Playoff discussion heading into this prime-time game in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions (6-0 SU, 4-2 ATS) engaged in a defensive slog at Iowa in Week 7, coming away with a 17-12 victory as 3.5-point favorites.

Michigan cannot take another loss and reasonably expect to stay in the College Football Playoff conversation, thanks to its Week 4 blowout setback at No. 6 Wisconsin. In Week 7, the Wolverines (5-1 SU, 2-4 ATS) blew almost all of a 28-0 lead at Illinois, with the score 28-25 early in the fourth quarter. Jim Harbaugh’s squad ultimately won 42-25, but fell short as 24.5-point faves.

“Early action has laid the 7.5 with Penn State, meaning the first move looks like it would be to 8,” Chaprales said. “Either way, with two high-profile teams battling under the lights, we’re anticipating good two-way action on this game.”

No. 12 Oregon Ducks at No. 23 Washington Huskies (+2.5)

At midseason, Oregon is the Pac-12’s best hope for a CFP bid, making this contest extremely important. The Ducks (5-1 SU, 3-3 ATS) bounced back from a season-opening neutral-site loss to Auburn by winning five in a row. In Week 7, Oregon hammered Colorado 45-3 laying 23.5 points at home.

Washington fully expected to be a CFP contender this year, but two outright losses as double-digit chalk – home against California and at Stanford – shattered those expectations. The Huskies (5-2 SU and ATS) followed the Stanford setback by ripping Arizona 51-27 laying 6 points on the road in Week 7.

“Oregon enters with the superior body of work, while Washington has already stumbled a few times in conference play, losing twice as big favorites,” Chaprales said. “Given that, we opened the Ducks as short road favorites and wouldn’t be surprised if this number moves further in their direction.”

That’s exactly what happened by Monday afternoon, with the line ticking up to Oregon -3.

No. 9 Florida Gators at South Carolina Gamecocks (Off)

Florida acquitted itself well in a very difficult two-seek stretch of SEC play, but couldn’t muster two victories. Following a Week 6 home win over Auburn, the Gators (6-1 SU, 4-3 ATS) went to Louisiana State as 14.5-point pups and were in it almost the entire way before bowing out 42-28.

South Carolina wouldn’t normally be worth a mention in this space, except that it’s coming off a monster upset and is 4-1 ATS in its last five games. The Gamecocks (3-3 SU, 4-2 ATS) were 20.5-point road ‘dogs against unbeaten Georgia, but came away with a 20-17 double-overtime victory.

Gamecocks QB Ryan Hilinski left in the third quarter of the big win, due to a knee sprain. It appears he will play this week, but it’s not yet certain.

“This game is currently off the board, pending the status of Hilinski,” Chaprales said. “Assuming he’s a go, it will be interesting to see how the public reacts to this team, on the heels of one of the biggest upsets in recent memory.”

If Hilinski indeed is cleared to play, Chaprales expects to open Florida around -6.

No. 18 Baylor Bears at Oklahoma State Cowboys (-3.5)

No. 5 Oklahoma is rightly all the rage in the Big 12, but flying under the radar is an unbeaten Baylor team. The Bears (6-0 SU, 3-3 ATS) barely kept their perfect record intact in Week 7, edging Texas Tech 33-30 in double overtime giving 10.5 points at home.

Oklahoma State, coming off a bye week, certainly knows a little bit about Texas Tech, as well. The Cowboys (4-2 SU, 5-1 ATS) went to Lubbock as 9-point Week 6 favorites and exited with a 45-39 outright loss.

“This game opened Oklahoma State -3.5 and ticked down to 3 on the strength of some early Baylor interest,” Chaprales said. “The Bears have impressed in a weak Big 12 so far, but the market remains a bit skeptical about their 6-0 start, evidenced by them catching points against a team that’s dropped two of its past three.”

Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.

College basketball odds, picks and predictions: Bet on big first half from Oregon

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Baylor aims to stay at the top of the NCAA men’s basketball rankings as they take on a reeling West Virginia squad on Saturday, while Oregon looks to crush visiting Utah on Sunday night. We break down the college basketball odds for those games and much more as we bring you the best betting notes, picks and predictions across the NCAA this weekend.   

WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS AT BAYLOR BEARS

Things don’t get any easier for No. 14 West Virginia as they come off back-to-back losses. The Mountaineers fell to Oklahoma on the road last Saturday before losing at home to Kansas on Wednesday. They scored an average of just 54 points per game in those two contests and now take on No. 1 Baylor who has held foes to 58.3 ppg on 38.4 percent shooting this season.

Generally the best way to attack the 1-1-3 zone defense that Baylor employs is to attack with a pair of guards that can dribble and drive, as well as knock down the occasional jumper. Unfortunately for WVU, while they have strong players down low, they lack scoring punch in their backcourt. Look for the Bears to hold the Mountaineers Under their team total. 

PURDUE BOILERMAKERS AT OHIO STATE BUCKEYES

Anyone who has been following the Big Ten this season knows that most schools are killing at home and just getting shredded on the road. Purdue and Ohio State represent this trend probably better than anyone, especially during the first half of games.

The Buckeyes have an average first-half scoring margin of plus-12.2 ppg at home (fifth-best in the country) but that drops to minus-1.8 on the road. The Boilermakers have an average first-half margin of plus-11.7 ppg at home and that falls to minus-1.7 on the road.

With Purdue putting up just 27.6 first half ppg on the road, and Ohio State holding opponents to 25 first half ppg in Columbus, take Ohio State on the 1H spread.

GONZAGA BULLDOGS AT PEPPERDINE WAVES

The Zags have the No. 2 team in the country but they might not have the best betting value when they face Pepperdine on the road on Saturday night. Gonzaga is coming off a 30-point rout of Saint Mary’s but prior to that game they failed to cover in three straight contests.

Pepperdine is 25th in the country in scoring with 77.2 ppg and is 7-3 SU over their last 10 contests. They also played well against Gonzaga in the last meeting between the two squads, falling by a score of 75-70 on the road on January 4. A matter of fact, the Waves are 3-1 ATS in the last four games of the head-to-head with the Zags.

With Gonzaga usually a massive favorite, laying at least 10 points in 13 of their last 14 contests (and laying at least 20 points in seven of those), the underdog Waves have value on the spread.   

UTAH UTES AT OREGON DUCKS

Utah is 0-6 SU and 1-5 ATS on the road in Pac-12 play, losing by scoring margins of 39, 19, 19, 16, 14 and 4 points. A common theme for Utah in those losses has been ice-cold shooting, far too many turnovers and a tendency to fall behind early. In three of those games, including Thursday night against Oregon State, the Utes were down at least 16 points by halftime.

On Sunday the Utes wrap up their Oregon road trip as they face the No. 17 Ducks. The Ducks are tied for first place in the Pac-12 after a come from behind win against Colorado on Thursday.

Led by guards Payton Pritchard (19.3 points and 6 assists per game) and Chris Duarte (14 ppg), the Ducks rank 19th in the country in offensive efficiency. And Pritchard and Duarte are especially effective at home where they shoot a combined 49 percent from the floor and 41 percent from deep. Bet on Oregon to cover the first half spread.  

MID-MAJOR TO WATCH: BRIGHAM YOUNG COUGARS (19-7, 17-9 ATS, 15-11 O/U)

BYU received 43 votes in the latest AP Top 25 Poll and is currently riding a five-game winning streak. Over their last 17 games the Cougars have gone 14-3 SU and 13-4 ATS. BYU has the best group of outside shooters in the country, connecting on 10.9 made 3-point shots per game while shooting 42.5 percent from deep.

On Saturday, BYU heads to the Jenny Craig Pavillion (seriously that’s what it’s called) to take on the San Diego Toreros. The Toreros are at the bottom of the West Coast Conference standings and shoot just 41.2 percent from the floor. That’s right: San Diego shoots worse from the field than BYU does from beyond the arc.

NATIONAL TITLE ODDS

Dayton has been flying up the NCAA futures odds board and is currently listed as high as +1,600 at some books. The Flyers are fifth in the country in scoring (81.6 ppg) and first in shooting percentage (52.3), and haven’t lost a game since December. While detractors might point at the lack of stiff competition in the Atlantic 10 Conference, it’s worth noting that the Flyers only two losses this season occured in overtime and one of them was against No. 3 Kansas.

On Saturday, Dayton is on the road against the Massachusetts Minutemen. The Minutemen allow 72.9 ppg on 46.5 percent shooting (328th in the country) and lost by 28 points to Dayton on January 11.

BETTING TRENDS

• The Toledo Rockets are just 1-10 ATS at home this season. On Friday they host the Buffalo Bulls who are 4-0 SU and ATS in the last four games in the head-to-head. The Rockets look like a good fade as 2.5-point favorites.  

• Over the last ten days SEC conference games have gone 13-4 O/U. If you’re looking for a solid Over bet in SEC play this weekend, the matchup between Mississippi State and Arkansas looks good. Arkansas has cashed the Over in eight straight games while Miss State is 7-1 O/U in its previous eight contests.

• The top ATS team in the country are the North Florida Osprey who are 19-6 ATS, including 7-1 ATS over their last eight games. On Saturday, the Osprey host the North Alabama Lions. North Florida is 4-0 ATS in four games against North Alabama dating back to last season.

2020 NBA All-Star Skills Challenge odds to win and betting picks: Don’t fade the big men

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The NBA skills challenge might not be the flashiest event at the All-Star Game, but it has proved to be very profitable for bettors who like to wager on underdogs. We take a look at the odds to win the NBA skills challenge for this year’s field and break down our betting picks for the 2020 event.  

WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR THE TACO BELL SKILLS CHALLENGE?

The skills challenge features eight NBA players going through an obstacle course which tests their dribbling skills, passing ability, agility and shooting.

Two players face off next to each other on identical courses on the court. For the first leg, they run down the court while dribbling between five obstacles, before throwing a pass through a target. Then they turn around and dribble back the full length of the court for a lay up. Then they head back up the court before hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key. The first player to sink his shot from beyond the arc wins.

It’s a single elimination format with three rounds and the brackets won’t be chosen until Saturday.

ODDS TO WIN NBA SKILLS CHALLENGE

PLAYER TEAM ODDS
Spencer Dinwiddie Brooklyn Nets +350
Khris Middleton Milwaukee Bucks +410
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Oklahoma City Thunder +460
Jayson Tatum Boston Celtics +550
Pascal Siakam Toronto Raptors +550
Domantis Sabonis Indiana Pacers +850
Patrick Beverley Los Angeles Clippers +900
Bam Adebayo Miami Heat +1,200

NBA SKILLS CHALLENGE BETTING PREDICTION

This year’s event features three former winners: Patrick Beverley (2015), Spencer Dinwiddie (2018) and Jayson Tatum (2019). While Dinwiddie has the best odds to win at +350, if recent history is any indication this is one contest where underdogs have a good chance of coming out on top.

Since the event started including big men in 2016, two players have won with the worst odds (Dinwiddie and Karl-Anthony Towns) while another took home the title with the second-worst odds (Kristaps Porzingis in 2016). Last year, Tatum won with the fifth-best odds at +600.

That said, we’re not taking the player with the worst odds this year. Adebayo is having a terrific season but he’s only connected on one 3-point shot all year (on 11 attempts), so the final step in this event could prove to be a challenge.

We like the +550 payout for Tatum to repeat, but our money is on the player tied with Tatum in the odds department: Raptors forward Pascal Siakam. Siakam is quicker and has better handles than many give him credit for, and he’s really improved his shot from beyond the arc this season (connecting on more than two 3-point shots per game at a clip of 36 percent).

Siakam also seems to play at his best when the pressure is on, so expect him to thrive under the spotlight in Chicago this weekend. We’re betting on the Raptors’ big man.