2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic betting primer

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On Saturday, Nov. 2, the $6 million, Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic will conclude the 36th annual World Championships at Santa Anita Park by bringing together the best dirt route racehorses in North America to face off in a 1 ¼-mile test of class and endurance.

The Classic is usually very important in determining Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year, champion older dirt male, and, on occasion, champion 3-year-old male, and it has been won through the decades by superstars of the sport such as AlyshebaSunday SilenceA.P. IndyCigarTiznowGhostzapperCurlinZenyattaAmerican Pharoah, and Gun Runner.

This year’s probable contenders are evenly matched, with no clear standout among them, and that should make for a very competitive race and a potentially lucrative one for horseplayers. The Classic has a scheduled 8:44 p.m. ET post time and will be televised nationally on NBC.


1. Math Wizard (30-1)

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.

Owners: John Fanelli, Collarmele Vitelli Stables, Bassett Stables, Ioannis Zoumas, Wynwood Thoroughbreds, and Saffie Joseph Jr.

Career record: 13 starts – 3 wins – 2 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $860,623

Earnings per start: $66,202

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 113

Pedigree: Algorithms – Minister’s Baby, by Deputy Minister

Color: Chestnut

Age: 3

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Perhaps the best backstory among Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders belongs to this late-blooming colt, who gave his connections an emotional day in the spotlight last month when he won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at odds of 31.10-1. Trainer Saffie Joseph claimed Math Wizard back in January for co-owner John Fanelli, and since then he’s steadily progressed, finishing second and third in Grade 3 stakes over the summer and then responding to some time off after one subpar effort to end Mr. Money’s four-race win streak and also defeat Preakness Stakes winner War of Will and highly regarded Improbable in the Pennsylvania Derby. Consistency is a question for this son of Algorithms, and he’ll be facing the toughest field of his career in Saturday’s Classic, but at his best he’s capable of hanging with the leaders in his 3-year-old division, having already beaten the horses named above and also losing by a half-length to Owendale in the Ohio Derby. He’s an outsider as a win candidate but worthy of consideration in exacta and trifecta tickets at what should be hefty odds, and a series of swift workouts at Gulfstream Park since the Pennsylvania Derby signal that he could be getting better at just the right time. This will be the first Breeders’ Cup appearance for Math Wizard’s ownership group, for Joseph, and for jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.


2. Seeking the Soul (20-1)

Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Owner: Charles Fipke

Career record: 29 starts – 7 wins – 6 seconds – 7 thirds

Career earnings: $3,354,153

Earnings per start: $115,660

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 122

Pedigree: Perfect Soul – Seeking the Title, by Seeking the Gold

Color: Bay

Age: 6

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: The leading money-earner in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic field could also carry the longest odds once the gates open Saturday evening. Since shipping west mid-summer after an impressive win in the Stephen Foster Stakes at his home track of Churchill Downs, Seeking the Soul has been decisively defeated twice, finishing seventh by 18 ½ lengths in the TVG Pacific Classic and then fourth by 8 ½ lengths in the Awesome Again Stakes. Trainer Dallas Stewart said that Seeking the Soul suffered from the “thumps” (an electrolyte imbalance) on Pacific Classic day, excusing his performance, and in terms of Equibase Speed Figures he did rebound in the Awesome Again, posting a 113 number. His two timed workouts at Santa Anita since the Awesome Again have been solid as well, but this hard-knocking veteran still has much to prove in Saturday’s $6 million Classic. If Seeking the Soul can summon his Stephen Foster form – or more generally, his overall form at Churchill Downs where he’s run the best races of his career by far – he’s capable of passing some tired horses in the stretch and nabbing a minor placing. But anything more than that would be a surprise on Saturday. Owner Charles Fipke has won two Breeders’ Cup races overall but will be making his classic debut this year. Dallas Stewart, who has won the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff twice, finished sixth in the 2002 Classic with Dollar Bill. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. won the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita aboard Fort Larned.


3. Owendale (15-1)

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owner: Rupp Racing

Career record: 12 starts – 5 wins – 1 second – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $958,725

Earnings per start: $79,894

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 114

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Aspen Light, by Bernardini

Color: Bay

Age: 3

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After an under-the-radar start to his career where he won two of his first six starts, Owendale has emerged as one of the best racehorses in the 3-year-old division with three wins in Grade 3 stakes and two solid efforts in Grade 1s over the spring and summer. The jury’s still out, however, as to whether he’s good enough to win a top-flight Grade 1 stakes, especially against older horses, and that should make him a good value play on Saturday. His half-length win three starts back over Math Wizard in the Ohio Derby was subsequently flattered when that colt posted an upset win in the Pennsylvania Derby, and his following fifth-place run in the Runhappy Travers Stakes behind Code of Honor was decent – although it must be noted that he tired late in that race, his only start at 1 ¼ miles. He rebounded to win the 1 1/8-mile Oklahoma Derby by 1 ¾ lengths on Sept. 29, and has impressed trainer Brad Cox and his owners enough since then to warrant a start in the Classic. This son of Into Mischief will need a solid pace to close into, which may not materialize in this year’s Classic, but is a consistent type and will be giving it his all in the stretch. Regular rider Florent Geroux is sidelined due to injury, so Hall of Famer Javier Castellano picks up the mount. Castellano won the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic on Ghostzapper and has finished second once and third three times. Brad Cox and Rupp Racing will be making their first Classic appearance.


4. War of Will (20-1)

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: Gary Barber

Career record: 13 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $1,615,569

Earnings per start: $124,275

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 111

Pedigree: War Front – Visions of Clarity, by Sadler’s Wells

Color: Bay

Age: 3

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: War of Will provided one of the highlights of this year’s racing with a redemptive score in the Preakness Stakes back in May, proving that he was of classic caliber indeed after his run in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve was disrupted by disqualified first-place finisher Maximum Security. But since then, the talented colt has underachieved, finishing ninth in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, fifth in the Jim Dandy Stakes, and most recently third in the Pennsylvania Derby. He did show improvement the Pennsylvania Derby, boosting his Equibase Speed Figure to a career-high 111 and gamely battling through the stretch before settling for third behind deep-closing Math Wizard and Mr. Money. The major concern for War of Will regarding Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic is distance: even considering Maximum Security’s infraction in the Kentucky Derby, War of Will noticeably tired in the Churchill Downs stretch, and he was absolutely no threat at all in the 1 ½-mile Belmont and faded in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy as well. Naysayers will argue that he got a perfect rail trip in the Preakness Stakes and took advantage of it to spurt clear of the field in midstretch, which is true. Look for regular rider Tyler Gaffalione to attempt a similar journey in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, settling just behind the early leaders and keeping his mount out of as much trouble as possible through the backstretch and far turn. If War of Will can move forward off of his improved Pennsylvania Derby showing, he can have a say in the Breeders’ Cup Classic outcome on Saturday, but he’ll have to show a heretofore unrevealed level of stamina to reach the winner’s circle. Gaffalione finished 11th last year in his Breeders’ Cup Classic debut. Mark Casse will be making his second Breeders’ Cup Classic appearance as well after finishing eighth in 2012. Gary Barber has been represented by several Breeders’ Cup runners in years past, either alone or in partnership, but never before in the Classic.


5. Yoshida (8-1)

Jockey: Mike Smith

Trainer: Bill Mott

Owners: China Horse Club International, WinStar Farm, and Head of Plains Partners

Career record: 17 starts – 5 wins – 4 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $2,445,770

Earnings per start: $143,869

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 116

Pedigree: Heart’s Cry – Hilda’s Passion, by Canadian Frontier

Color: Bay

Age: 5

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This versatile racehorse has not shied away from competing in some of the most lucrative and prestigious events in the sport over the past year, despite going winless through his past six starts. After excelling on turf early in his career, Yoshida turned heads with a dominant win in his dirt debut last August, taking the Woodward Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets by two lengths. He subsequently finished a decent fourth, beaten by 1 ¾ lengths, in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Classic but then failed to threaten in his next three starts, finishing sixth each time (the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational back on grass, the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline, and the Stephen Foster Stakes). In his two most recent starts during the losing streak, Yoshida showed signs of rounding back into his Woodward ’18 form, closing to get second behind McKinzie in the Whitney Stakes in early August at Saratoga, and then rallying again to nab third in this year’s Woodward. This Japanese-bred horse is a one-dimensional closer who is dependent on both solid early fractions and a track that favors his running style. He may not get either of those on Saturday, but is worth a look based on his August Saratoga efforts and also his new jockey. Mike Smith picks up the mount on Yoshida in the Classic after Joel Rosario was named to replace Smith aboard McKinzie, and it will be interesting to see whether Smith tries to get Yoshida involved earlier than usual in what appears to be a pace-deficient race. “Big Money” Mike Smith is the all-time leader in Breeders’ Cup wins with 26, and he’s won the Classic four times (Skip Away in 1997, Zenyatta in 2009, Drosselmeyer in 2011, and Arrogate in 2016). He’s also finished second three times. Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who also conditions Elate, has sent 15 horses to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, winning with the “incomparable” Cigar in 1995 and with WinStar Farm-owned Drosselmeyer in 2011; he’s also finished third three times.


6. Elate (6-1)

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: Bill Mott

Owners: Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider

Career record: 18 starts – 7 wins – 7 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $2,328,775

Earnings per start: $129,376

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 119

Pedigree: Medaglia d’Oro – Cheery, by Distorted Humor

Color: Dark bay or brown

Age: 5

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This multiple Grade 1-winning mare adds intrigue to the Breeders’ Cup Classic as the third-highest earner in the prospective field and one who possesses a flawless résumé at a mile and a quarter, winning the past two editions of the Delaware Handicap at that distance and the 2017 Alabama Stakes as well. She is the picture of consistency, having only finished out of the top three twice in 18 starts (one of those coming early in her career when she was pulled up). Elate missed the Breeders’ Cup last year after checking in fourth in the 2017 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff as the 2-1 favorite, but will skip the Distaff this year and face males for the first time in Saturday’s Classic. Of concern is the fact that she enters the Classic off of two consecutive losses at less than even-money odds: second by a nose to Midnight Bisou in the Aug. 24 Personal Ensign Stakes Presented by Lia Infiniti; and second by a half-length to Blue Prize in the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes. Elate usually makes one sweeping run for the lead coming out of the far turn and, if it’s timed right, she has plenty of stamina to fuel her stretch drive. If it’s not, and she has to re-engage opponents and find another gear after making her initial move, she is vulnerable. Still, this classy racemare has a solid chance to hit the board in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and could make history as the second female to win the race after the legendary Zenyatta (2009) if everything falls into place. Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider campaigned the horse that foiled Zenyatta’s repeat bid in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, when their charge Blame held on to win thrillingly by a head in 2010. Jose Ortiz has ridden in the prior two Breeders’ Cup Classics, finishing fourth both times, most recently last year aboard Yoshida. Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who also conditions Yoshida, has sent 15 horses to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, winning with the “incomparable” Cigar in 1995 and with Drosselmeyer in 2011; he’s also finished third three times.


7. Higher Power (6-1)

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Trainer: John Sadler

Owner: Hronis Racing

Career record: 14 starts – 5 wins – 1 second – 5 thirds

Career earnings: $836,648

Earnings per start: $59,761

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 115

Pedigree: Medaglia d’Oro – Alternate, by Seattle Slew

Color: Bay

Age: 4

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This colt could be overlooked somewhat by bettors in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic as the jury’s still out as to whether his breakthrough performance in the TVG Pacific Classic was a fluke. In that race back on Aug. 17 at Del Mar, Higher Power made a bold move for the lead heading into the far turn and shot away from the field when straightened out for the stretch drive, winning by an impressive 5 ¼ lengths under Flavien Prat. He was then sent off as the second betting choice behind McKinzie in the Awesome Again Stakes on Sept. 28 at Santa Anita, but never really threatened after a poor start and finished third by 7 ½ lengths to Mongolian Groom. Prior to the Pacific Classic, he’d found some success competing primarily in allowance races in the Midwest circuit for a different trainer and then also for John Sadler after being transferred to California. But the Pacific Classic was truly an “out of left field” performance, and Higher Power will need to summon that Del Mar form again – or surpass it, truthfully – to have any shot at winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic. If the colt breaks well, Prat should have Higher Power in a good position just off of the early lead through Santa Anita’s backstretch, setting him up to make a bid for the lead once again as the field moves through the far turn. John Sadler and Hronis Racing campaigned last year’s dominant Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate. This will be Prat’s second Classic appearance after finishing sixth aboard Effinex in 2016.


8. McKinzie (3-1)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owners: Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman

Career record: 13 starts – 7 wins – 5 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $2,298,560

Earnings per start: $176,812

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 123

Pedigree: Street Sense – Runway Model, by Petionville

Color: Bay

Age: 4

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Which McKinzie will show up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic? The colt who unleashed two of the most visually impressive performances of the year in the Alysheba Stakes Presented by Sentient Jet (a 4 ¾-length runaway) and the Whitney Stakes (a 1 ¾-length score under a hand ride)? Or the one that has finished second three times in 2019 as the odds-on favorite? McKinzie earned a career-best 123 Equibase Speed Figure in his most recent start, the Sept. 28 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita, but still checked in 2 ¼ lengths behind upset victor Mongolian Groom. He contested last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs and did not fire in that race, fading to 12th of 14 as the second betting choice behind winner Accelerate. So, despite being arguably the most accomplished horse in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (fans of Elate have an argument), inconsistency is a big issue with McKinzie. Distance is another concern, as he’s 0-for-2 at a mile and a quarter, including his 2018 Classic no-show and a runner-up effort to Gift Box last April in the Santa Anita Handicap Presented by San Miguel Indian Bingo and Casino, where he led in the stretch but was outfinished. This colt is too talented to leave off of vertical tickets when making Classic wagers but shapes up as an underlay as a 3-1 win candidate on the morning line. Joel Rosario replaces Mike Smith on McKinzie, and it will be interesting to see how aggressive he is out of the gate in a race where the early lead could be up for grabs. Owners Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman have sent three horses to the Breeders’ Cup Classic; in addition to McKinzie last year, they have finished fourth twice. Pegram’s Captain Steve ran third in the 2000 Classic. Hall of Famer Bob Baffert counts three Classic winners among his 15 total in the World Championships: Bayern in 2014; American Pharoah in 2015; and Arrogate in 2016. He’s also finished second three times and third twice. Rosario scored his first Breeders’ Cup Classic win last year aboard Accelerate.


9. Mongolian Groom (12-1)

Jockey: Abel Cedillo

Trainer: Enebish Ganbat

Owner: Mongolian Stable

Career record: 16 starts – 3 wins – 2 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $579,141

Earnings per start: $36,196

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 126

Pedigree: Hightail – Bourbonesque, by Dynaformer

Color: Dark bay or brown

Age: 4

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This hard-trying gelding departed from his usual stalking style to set the pace in the Awesome Again Stakes on Sept. 28, and was rewarded with a 2 ¼-length win over heavily favored McKinzie. He earned an automatic, fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic with that victory, but Mongolian Groom was not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup as a foal, and his owners were faced with a decision about whether to pay the $200,000 late nominating fee in order to be admitted to the race. That they did so is a sign of confidence, indicating that they believe Mongolian Groom has a decent chance of at least finishing fourth and earning approximately $300,000. Abel Cedillo, enjoying a breakthrough meet at Santa Anita where he (as of Oct. 24) leads the jockey standings in both wins and earnings, has paired well with Mongolian Groom, finishing second to Catalina Cruiser in the San Diego Handicap and then third in the TVG Pacific Classic prior to their victory in the Awesome Again. Look for Cedillo to be aggressive once again with the gelding in a Breeders’ Cup Classic that lacks a pure pacesetter. If Mongolian Groom can extend his effort from the 1 1/8-mile Awesome Again another eighth of a mile on Saturday, an upset win is not out of the question. Cedillo will be making his debut in the World Championships. Trainer Enebish Ganbat and owner Mongolian Stable memorably won the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint with Mongolian Groom. Both will have a horse in the Classic for the first time this year.


10. Vino Rosso (4-1)

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owners: Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable

Career record: 14 starts – 5 wins – 1 second – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $1,503,125

Earnings per start: $107,366

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 114

Pedigree: Curlin – Mythical Bride, by Street Cry

Color: Chestnut

Age: 4

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Based on his 2019 campaign, Vino Rosso stands out as a leading win candidate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He has rewarded his connections’ decision to keep him in training by making major advances during his 4-year-old season to become one of the top dirt distance runners in North America, winning two of five starts so far this year and finishing first in the historic Jockey Club Gold Cup in his most recent start, only to be disqualified for bumping Code of Honor in the stretch. As a 3-year-old, Vino Rosso was a one-dimensional closer with a decent, but not electrifying, turn of foot, but this year trainer Todd Pletcher has changed his running style to move him up in the field and get him involved in races earlier. This has ignited a competitive drive in Vino Rosso and has also revealed that he has enough stamina (as a very well-bred son of 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Curlin) to draw on if a prolonged stretch duel materializes. He’s crossed the finish line first both times going a mile and a quarter this year, in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and also in his hard-fought win over Gift Box back in the May 27 Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Irad Ortiz Jr. keeps the mount on Vino Rosso after riding him in the Jockey Club Gold Cup for the first time when prior regular jockey John Velazquez chose to pair with Code of Honor. Ortiz moved Vino Rosso to the lead early in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and set a contested pace, and he very well may attempt a similar trip in Saturday’s Classic. Ortiz finished second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic aboard Gunnevera. Todd Pletcher has yet to win the Classic with 13 prior starters; he finished second with Flower Alley in 2005 and third with Keen Ice in 2016. Co-owner Mike Repole has had two prior Classic runners, and Vino Rosso will be the first Classic starter for Vincent Viola’s St. Elias Stable.


11. Code of Honor (4-1)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Shug McGaughey

Owner: Will Farish

Career record: 9 starts – 5 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $2,298,320

Earnings per start: $255,369

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 112

Pedigree: Noble Mission – Reunited, by Dixie Union

Color: Chestnut

Age: 3

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Code of Honor is already in the running for the 2019 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male based on his overall body of work and especially his recent races. A win or runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic could seal the deal. He’s been highly regarded ever since breaking his maiden in his very first start in August 2018 at Saratoga, and other than a fourth-place finish in his sophomore debut last winter at Gulfstream Park, he’s never run a poor race. Code of Honor already has shown he can handle the 1 ¼-mile distance of the Breeders’ Cup Classic with a commanding win in the Runhappy Travers Stakes over fellow 3-year-olds back in August and then a game effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 28, where he was elevated to first over Vino Rosso after finishing second by a nose and being bumped in deep stretch. He has a good stalking/closing running style for the Classic, but it must be noted that this year’s edition does not project to have an especially fast pace, with few front-running types entered. Nevertheless, he is in great form with some upside left to reach, races for elite connections, and retains regular rider John Velazquez for the Classic (Velazquez rode Vino Rosso in all of his races before the Jockey Club Gold Cup). Velazquez has ridden 18 horses in the Classic without a victory; he’s finished second three times (Roses in May, 2004; Flower Alley, 2005; Henrythenavigator, 2008). Will Farish of Lane’s End co-owned 1992 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner A.P. Indy, who would become a legendary sire at the Central Kentucky farm in the years following. Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey has finished second twice in the Classic from eight starters, both in memorable races. Seeking the Gold lost to Alysheba in 1988, and Easy Goer finished second to Sunday Silence to conclude their storied rivalry in 1989.

Watch NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2019 Breeders’ Cup starting with Future Stars Friday on Nov. 1 from 4-8 p.m. ET (NBCSN) and continuing with Championship Saturday on Nov. 2 from 3:30-9 p.m. ET (NBCSN until 8, NBC from 8-9). 

Running up the points with Rockets, and the college football bets you need to make in Week 12

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Are you ready for some more MAC-tion? Because there are two more games on the schedule Wednesday night. We break down the best bets for these games and take a look at the weekend ahead in college football – from sides and totals to props and everything in between.

ROOM TO ROAM

The Toledo Rockets might be only slight favorites for Wednesday night’s MAC tilt with visiting Northern Illinois, but they have a significant advantage in at least one area – and it could turn this one into a bit of a laugher. The Rockets come into the game with the nation’s No. 12 rushing offense, averaging nearly 251 yards per game on the ground – and they’ve been especially dominant over their previous two games, racking up a combined 664 rushing yards in narrow victories over Eastern Michigan and Kent State. The Huskies, meanwhile, are coming off getting routed 48-10 to Central Michigan in which the Chippewas posted 327 rushing yards.

An edge like this makes Toledo a terrific option in a variety of different bet scenarios; we recommend buying a few points in their favor and taking an alternate line of -6.5.

MIAMI (OH) FOR 3

The Miami (OH) Redhawks should have little trouble filling the board Wednesday night as they host a Bowling Green defense that ranks among the worst in the nation in points allowed. But while the Falcons have surrendered a mind-boggling 33.8 points per game so far this season, the Redhawks might not necessarily be headed for a parade to the end zone. Miami (Ohio) has one of the worst touchdown-to-field-goal ratios in the country coming into Week 12, having scored 22 TDs compared with 16 FGs – six of those coming over the course of their current three-game winning streak.

Miami (Ohio) is a big-time favorite here, and is a good bet to open the scoring given BGSU’s 2.5 first-half-points-per-game average on the road this season. We like the Redhawks FG to kick off the point parade.

GILBERT  GETTING BACK

Kansas State’s premier rushing threat might be back on the field this weekend. Wildcats senior James Gilbert practiced on Tuesday and is trending in the right direction as he recovers from an undisclosed ailment that kept him out of last week’s 27-24 loss to the Texas Longhorns. It was originally thought that Gilbert would be in the lineup vs. Texas, but he was a late exclusion – and Kansas State struggled in his absence, finishing with a paltry 51 rushing yards on 26 attempts. Gilbert ranks ninth in the Big 12 Conference in rushing yards (558) while adding five touchdowns on the ground.

Gilbert’s return would invigorate a Kansas State rush attack that has a favorable matchup against a West Virginia defense allowing 173 rushing yards per game. We recommend the hosts ATS if Gilbert is deemed fit to return.

WAKING NIGHTMARE

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons have seen their season take a terrible turn with word that standout wide receiver Sage Surratt will miss the remainder of 2019 with an undisclosed injury. Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson confirmed Tuesday that Surratt, who wasn’t featured on the team’s depth chart ahead of its Week 12 encounter with Clemson, would be out for the rest of the season – though he wouldn’t specify what was wrong with the star wideout. Surratt finishes the year with 1,001 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 66 receptions as the premier target for quarterback Jamie Newman.

The absence of Surratt should give bettors even less of a reason to bank on Wake Forest, which has seen the line shift as far as four points in Clemson’s favor. Look for the Tigers to keep the undermanned Deacons below their team total.

Too late to start fading the Fins, and the NFL bets you need to make in Week 11

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This may require a double-take, but listen up. The Miami Dolphins have been the best bet in the NFL since the start of October. Yes, those Miami Dolphins. We break down the odds and let you know what bets we like in Week 11 of the NFL as we dive into sides, totals, props and more. 

STAYING HOT IN Q1

The hottest team in the league right now is Lamar Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens. After knocking off the Patriots in Week 9, they turned their crosshairs on the winless Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10. The Ravens ran just 48 offensive plays but managed to put up 49 points. Lost in the 49-13 win was the fact that Baltimore moved to 8-1 against the first-quarter spread after winning the first 15 minutes 14-0.

This week, Baltimore is a 4-point home favorite versus a Houston team that is coming off their bye. If you don’t trust a team coming off a blowout win versus the worst team in the league and/or covering their last three games, take a look at the 1Q Ravens -0.5 (-105) as an alternative.

Baltimore is second in the league in first quarter points per game at 9.5 and third in the league in points against in the first quarter at 3.67 while the Texans are 0-3-1 on the road this year in the first quarter. Take the Ravens 1Q -0.5.

FEAST AWAITS EVANS

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face a very motivated New Orleans Saints team Sunday, but NOLA will be without their top cornerback in Marcus Lattimore. The third-year CB is week-to-week with a hamstring injury meaning Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will face sub-par corners in P.J. Williams and Eli Apple.

As Brad Evans pointed out on twitter, this is especially great news for Mike Evans who has struggled over his career versus Lattimore. Evans put up a donut early this year in Week 5 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and averaged 9.5 targets for three catches and 34 yards in two games in 2017 (last year Lattimore struggled following up his 2017 DROY but has been much better this year).

Even with Jameis Winston getting sacked nearly four times a game, Evans is averaging 139 yards a game over his last four contests. Jump on Evans’ receiving yard total on any number below 85 and check in on his reception total, hitting the Over on any number below 7.

LOADING SCREEN

No team in the league relies on the screen game more than the Minnesota Vikings. Per ESPN, Minnesota is averaging 9.8 yards per screen attempt which is 3.5 yards more per attempt than the No.10 team.

The beneficiary of this is running back Dalvin Cook who gashed the Cowboys in primetime every time he got the ball with blockers ahead of him. Over the last three games, Cook has amassed 193 yards receiving and will face a Denver Broncos’ defense that is giving up 8.6 yards per pass to RBs since Week 8.

Grab the Over on Cook’s receiving yards on any total less than 40 yards.

LOADING SCREEN PT. 2

If you’re tailing the Cook receiving yards play and want some action on the other side of the ball, maybe look to fade the Broncos’ backfield in receiving yards. Denver is the worst team at generating yards on the screen game (3.7 yards per attempt) and neither Phillip Lindsay nor Royce Freeman has topped 17 yards receiving in the last two weeks. In the only game Brandon Allen has started at quarterback, Lindsay wasn’t targeted at all and Freeman saw one target which he lost a yard on.

Feel confident in taking Lindsay’s Under receiving yards on anything greater than 19 and Freeman’s Under on any number greater than 25.

AIN’T FADING THE FINS NOW

The best team ATS over the last five weeks has been the Miami Dolphins. The former 0-7 team has rattled off five-straight wins ATS and face a Buffalo Bills team that has zero offensive identity of late and trailed the Dolphins by five points heading into the fourth quarter just four weeks ago.

We are a little bearish on Miami hitting a sixth-straight win ATS but have no problem fading Josh Allen’s Bills who are putting up just 288 yards of total offense over the last three weeks, good for sixth-worst. Their once stellar defense now sits 12th in Wtd DVOA — 9th against the pass and 27th against the run.

The Bills needed 22 4th-quarter points in their last meeting to cover their team total and we don’t see Brian Daboll’s offense clearing 23.5 points since they are 2-5 O/U that total in their last seven.

Get on the Bills’ team total Under 23.5 now, as it may drop under this key number later in the week.