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The Triple Option: College football Conference Championship Week picks extravaganza

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It happens every year. It seems like just yesterday when we prepped for our first tailgate of the season. We couldn’t wait for the fight songs, the roar of the raucous student sections and those heated rivalry games. Then you blink, and it’s all over.

Yup, the college football season comes and goes before you know it, as incredibly, Conference Championship Week is already here. That also means another season of The Triple Option comes to a close. First, I’d like to say thank you guys for all the support/clicks/reads/follows this season. Second, I wish we could have done a little better in Year 3. It was a roller coaster ride of a season with the picks and in the end, we finished 22-21-3. A winning record but we expect better.

Luckily, we have one more chance to end the season with a bang, with our Conference Championship betting extravaganza! Where we will break down and pick each and every one of this weekend’s 10 title games. So, let’s not waste anymore time and dive right in.

PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP

UTAH UTES VS OREGON DUCKS (+6.5, 46)

Game to be played at Levi Stadium, Santa Clara, California

This is an interesting number. Before Oregon lost to Arizona State two weeks ago, this line would have likely been close to a Pick’em. And what has changed since then? Besides the loss, not much. And now the Utes are 6.5-point faves.

But maybe deservedly so. The Utes are motivated to win their first Pac-12 title after coming up short last season, and with an impressive win, they’ll have a strong case to be the fourth team in the College Football Playoff.

There is also expected to be some bad weather for this matchup. Specifically, rain and some strong winds. And that plays right into Utah’s physical style. The big question for the Ducks defense is whether they will be able to stop Zach Moss. The senior back has been outstanding this year and has the ability to control this game.

Oregon also has a capable run game and Justin Herbert needs a good performance to make the NFL scouts forget about his last few games. They’ll also be motivated to return to the Rose Bowl.

The weather, strong defenses and Herbert keeps this game close.

Pick: Oregon +6.5

SUN BELT CHAMPIONSHIP

LOUISIANA RAGIN’ CAJUNS AT APPALACHIAN STATE MOUNTAINEERS (-6.5, 56)

App State has been the class of the Sun Belt for the better part of the last five seasons and will be looking for their fourth consecutive conference title when they take on Louisiana, but the Ragin’ Cajun will have revenge on their minds.

The Mountaineers have won all seven meetings with Louisiana since joining the Sun Belt back in 2014, including a 30-19 victory in last year’s championship game and a 17-7 result back in Week 7.

This is a strength vs. strength matchup from top to bottom. These are the top two scoring offenses and defenses in the Sun Belt. And both offenses are focused on running the football, which means this game is set up to another close one.

In that Week 7 matchup, the Ragin’ Cajuns were covering the game until the final 1:55 of the game. In a game we predict to be close and feature a lot of running, we’re siding with the dog.

Pick: Louisiana +6.5

MAC CHAMPIONSHIP

MIAMI (OH) REDHAWKS VS CENTRAL MICHIGAN CHIPPEWAS (-6.5, 54.5)

Game to be played at Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan

Are you ready for some MAC-tion?! Well we’re not sure if we are, as this matchup is likely more one-sided than the spread lets on.

The Chippewas were the best bet in college football this season, going 10-2 ATS on their way to an 8-4 record and a MAC West division title. You could say this is a classic offense vs. defense showdown, expect that Central Michigan has the better defense too.

CMU ranked third in the conference in total offense and second in total defense, while Miami ranks third in total defense, but next to last in total offense. The RedHawks also score over eight fewer points per game than the Chippewas.

RedHawks quarterback Brett Gabbert (yes, it’s Blaine’s little brother) is also questionable for this game. Which doesn’t bode well since Gabbert is their bets option under center, but he’s be very underwhelming this season, with a 54 percent completion rate while throwing for 1,967 yards, 10 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.

The RedHawks will be hard pressed to keep up with the balanced Chippewas attack that is led by quarterback Quinten Dormady and running back Jonathan Ward. Lay the points.

Pick: Central Michigan -6.5

BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP

BAYLOR BEARS VS OKLAHOMA SOONERS (-9, 64)

Game to be played at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Admittedly, last week I faded the Sooners against rival Oklahoma State, for the simple fact that they haven’t really looked right since their upset loss at the hands of Kansas State a few weeks ago. In that four-game stretch the Sooners were an average of 17-pt faves and won those games by 4, 3, 1 points and of course, lost by a touchdown.

One of those games was against Baylor, in which they trailed 28-3 at one point in the first half. But then the Sooners seemed to figure something out in the second half, on their way to them storming back for a 34-31 victory. And that was getting back to running the football and controlling the clock.

The Sooners have rushed the ball 160 times at a clip of 5.5 yards per carry over the last three games, and while the Bears defense looks good on paper, they have struggled against the run down the stretch. Baylor has allowed at least 161 yards rushing in each of its last four games.

Additionally, something that can’t be overlooked is the improved Sooners defense. A year after looking like one of the worst in the country, they led the Big 12 in total defense. And to be frank Charlie Brewer and the Bears offense has been just too inconsistent this season.

The Sooners will also have Ceedee Lamb in this contest after missing the last game against Baylor and if they can get out to an early lead, this one could get sideways. Lay the points.

Pick: Oklahoma -9

C-USA CHAMPIONSHIP

UAB BLAZERS AT FLORIDA ATLANTIC OWLS (-7.5, 49.5)

The Lane Train is back in the C-USA championship game! And if Lane Kiffin wants his second conference title in three years, they’ll have to go through the defending champion Blazers.

On paper, UAB has a very good defense, but a deeper look shows the Blazers have had one of the softest schedules in the country. The combined record of the FBS teams UAB has beaten that aren’t Louisiana Tech is 15-69. (Louisiana Tech lost two C-USA games this year and both were when its starting quarterback was suspended).

Meanwhile, the Owls are balanced on offense and have an underrated defense that ranks 24th in Football Outsiders Defensive FEI ratings. The Lane Train should roll here.

Pick: Florida Atlantic -7.5

AAC CHAMPIONSHIP

CINCINATTI BEARCATS AT MEMPHIS TIGERS (-9.5, 57.5)

The AAC title game gives us the rare situation of two football teams playing each other in consecutive weeks, after the Tigers topped the Bearcats 34-24 just seven days ago, but failed to cover the 13.5-points.

Despite not getting the cover, Memphis passed the eye test when it comes to who looked like the better team in this matchup and there’s no reason to think it won’t happen again. Behind Kenneth Gainwell, the Tigers were able to rumble for 199 yards on 38 carries against a stout Bearcats defense.

But the key to this game will be on the defensive line. Last week, it was the Tigers not the Bearcats who were able to get more consistent pressure on the quarterback. Memphis got to Ben Bryant for five sacks and forced two interceptions, while Brady White was only sacked once.

Obviously, it’s hard to beat a team twice in one season, and the number here is a cheeky 9.5, but I think the Tigers get the job done.

Pick: Memphis -9.5

MOUNTAIN WEST CHAMPIONSHIP

HAWAII RAINBOW WARRIORS AT BOISE STATE BRONCOS (-13.5, 64.5)

The Broncos go for their second Mountain West title in the last three seasons as they host the surprising Rainbow Warriors looking for their first MWC title at Albertson Stadium this Saturday.

Boise State still aspires for a New Year’s Six Bowl game, currently ranked as the No. 2 Group of 5 team behind only Memphis. So, the Broncos, need a convincing win to order to sway the committee in their favor. And luckily for them, they beat down the Rainbow Warriors 59-37 as 12.5-point favorites back in Week 7.

Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald does what he always does and threw for a ton of years, but the Broncos allowed him to complete just 56 percent of his passes.

For Boise State, Jaylon Henderson will make his third straight start after amassing 732 yards and eight touchdowns over the last three games. Henderson can also lean on freshman running back George Holani was has rushed for 912 yards at a clip of 5.5 yards per carry.

The Hawaii offense is good enough to keep up with Boise State for a while, but the Broncos are really motivated in this one. They want to avenge last year’s loss in the Mountain West title game, claim another New Year’s Six bowl, are on their home field and the weather could be a factor as well. Boise State pulls away late.

Pick: Boise State -13.5

 SEC CHAMPIONSHIP

GEORGIA BULLDOGS VS LSU TIGERS (-7.5, 55.5)

Game to be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

In what is the game of the weekend the plan for Georgia is pretty simple. Win and you’re in. The only problem is the Bulldogs have to defeat the team that has the shoe in Heisman Trophy winner and arguably the most sparkling resume in the country. And that is Joe Burrow and LSU.

Things are a little simpler for the Tigers. Barring some shocking 40-point blowout, LSU is going to be in the College Football Playoff.

This game is interesting on a lot of levels. The Georgia defense is the best LSU has faced all season, but will that be enough to slow down Burrow and Co.? Burrow leads a Tigers offense that ranks second in total yards and points per game, while throwing an insane 44 touchdowns to just six picks while completing nearly 80 percent of his passes. While Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been an outstanding compliment in the run game.

It is a pick your poison scenario for the Bulldogs, but they are good enough to make life tough on the Tigers. The key will be whether they are able to get pressure on Burrow without committing too many players to the blitz. They also need to limit LSU’s explosive plays, which is something they’ve excelled at thus far.

On offense, it’s all about D’Andre Swift and the run game. Swift is nursing a shoulder injury, but you can expect him to suit up here and attempt to keep the ball out of Burrow’s hands behind that awesome offensive line.

Jake Fromm also needs to step up here. He’s a better quarterback than he’s showed this season and if he can make some plays this one could come down to the wire. Georgia also has the edge in experience, playing in the SEC title game for the third straight season. And getting 7.5? It’s too tempting to pass up.

Pick: Georgia +7.5

ACC CHAMPIONSHIP

VIRGINIA CAVALIERS VS CLEMSON TIGERS (-28.5, 57.5)

Dabo can talk all he wants. The criticism around Clemson’s resume is valid. Quick example: The Tigers are 28.5-point faves in the ACC title game! Heck, the AAC might have provided more of a challenge for Clemson this year. But I digress.

That said, Clemson is probably the most talent team in the country from top to bottom and Trevor Lawrence is on fire, throwing 17 touchdowns to no interceptions while completing 77 percent of his passes over the last five games. But does that mean anything? That’s how soft the schedule has been.

Virginia will pose one of the stiffest tests Clemson will face all year, but while the Cavs’ defense has good numbers on paper, they are suspectable to the big play. Obviously, something Clemson excels at.

On offense it’s all about Bryce Perkins for Virginia. He is accurate and super athletic, but so is the Clemson defense. But that’s the problem. He’s all alone. It will be interesting to see if the Cavaliers can sustain drives. If they can, staying within the number is doable, considering how massive it is.

Plus, Clemson could let off the gas in the second half as they lookahead to the CFP. Or they could win by 35. But whatever, were taking the points.

Pick: Virginia +28.5

BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP

OHIO STATE BUCKEYES VS WISCONSIN BADGERS (+15.5, 56.5)

Game to played at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana

This is an interesting number. If you like Wisconsin, it’s easy to talk yourself into the Badgers. They’ll use Jonathan Taylor to milk the clock, the revenge factor, Justin Fields reportedly will be playing in a knee brace and Ohio State probably doesn’t even need to win this game to get in the CFP.

But! There is no way I can look at this matchup and make a reasonable case to back the Badgers.

What Wisconsin does really well is be physical on both offense and defense. The problem is, Ohio State is bigger, strong and faster in all those areas Wisconsin excels at.

While Taylor has some amazing numbers, the Buckeyes continue to be his Achilles heel. He has just 93 yards in two games against Ohio State and was held to just 2.6 yards per carry in the previous meeting. Additionally, Fields had his worst throwing game of the season in that game and Ohio State still won 38-7.

The Buckeyes are just more talented in every facet of the game and their speed and strength will show on the indoor surface of Lucas Oil Stadium. We expect big games out of J.K. Dobbins and Chase Young as the Buckeyes cruise to another Big Ten title.

Pick: Ohio State -15.5

Unbeaten Aztecs to start hot, and the NCAA basketball best bets you need to make this weekend

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The San Diego State Aztecs will look to keep their perfect season going on Sunday, while Texas Tech and Kentucky tangle in a matchup between two Top-20 teams on Saturday night. Rohit Ponnaiya digs into the college basketball odds and brings you his favorite bets and predictions for the weekend.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

The game of the night Friday will take place in the Big East as Marquette tangles with Butler. After falling 76-61 to Villanova on Tuesday (which made us a bit of money), Butler has now lost three straight games after beginning the season with a 15-1 record. In Butler’s last three games they’ve allowed 112.3 points per 100 possessions and a large reason for that is that they’ve been sending opposing teams to the line. Over that three game span they’ve given foes an average of 26.7 free throw attempts per game.

That’s bad news against a Marquette squad that has scored at least 82 points in each of it’s last three games and is led by the leading scorer in the country in Markus Howard. Howard has averaged 35 points per game over his last five contests and has averaged 12.5 FTA over his last two. As a team the Golden Eagles know how to get to the line, attempting 23.6 free throws per game, 18th highest in the country. We like the Over 64.5 on Marquette’s team total. 

EVERYTHING IS BIGGER IN TEXAS

Two Top-20 teams face off in the Lone Star State on Saturday as the Kentucky Wildcats travel to Lubbock to face Texas Tech at 6:00 p.m ET. This matchup should get plenty of action with the Red Raiders coming off a Final Four finish while Kentucky is…well Kentucky.

Texas Tech is coming off a road loss against TCU but is 9-1 at home. Chris Beard’s Red Raiders are known for their defensive intensity and this year’s squad ranks 7th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency according to the KenPom rating system. That said, Kentucky ranks 42nd in defensive efficiency and 32nd in offensive efficiency (while Texas Tech ranks 97th on offense).

Kentucky has three guards (Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley and Tyrese Maxey) that love to apply pressure on opposing ball-handlers while also being able to create their own shot. With Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery, Calipari’s squad has a (pardon the pun) big edge in size and rebounding ability. And unlike past editions of the Wildcats, this team has plenty of veteran experience so don’t expect them to be rattled playing in hostile territory.

We’re expecting Texas Tech to have the chalk and backing UK as the likely underdog, but if public action makes the Wildcats the faves the value will be on the Red Raiders.

HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN DEVILS

It’s the battle of Arizona on Saturday night as the Arizona State Sun Devils host the Arizona Wildcats. These teams met up on January 4, with the Wildcats routing ASU by a score of 75-47. But don’t expect to see a repeat of that score with the Sun Devils now enjoying home-court advantage.

The Wildcats led by guard Nico Mannion and big man Zeke Nnaji are 13-5 but they have been very beatable when playing outside of Tucson. They’re 9-2 ATS at home but just 1-6 ATS on the road and at neutral sites. They have an average scoring margin of plus-26.6 ppg at home but that falls to minus-1 ppg away from home.

The Sun Devils also play way better in front of their home crowd, outscoring opponents by a margin of plus-15.7 ppg in Tempe, compared to minus-7.2 ppg when they have to travel. Take the home side to cover as underdogs.

THE LAST OF THE UNBEATENS

The last unbeaten team in the country are the No. 4 San Diego Aztecs who head to Vegas to take on the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels on Sunday. The Aztecs have an aggressive defense and have been holding opponents to just 56.7 ppg on 36.7 percent shooting. But SDSU has been effective on the offensive end of the floor as well, ranking 14th in the country in offensive efficiency.

UNLV has been solid, winning seven of the their last nine games and going 6-3 ATS, but they might be out of their depth here. Their two losses during that span were by 14 points against Nevada and seven points against Boise State. The Aztecs beat Nevada by 13 points and clobbered BSU by 18 after leading by 23 points at halftime.

UNLV has been sloppy with the ball turning the ball over 14.6 times per game, second-worst among all Mountain West teams. SDSU has just 11.1 turnovers per game on offense while their pesky defense forces 15.2 TO per game. The full game spread might be a bit too rich for our blood but with the Aztecs fifth in the nation with an average first-half scoring margin of plus-9.2 ppg, look for them to cover the 1H spread. 

MID-MAJOR TO WATCH: DAYTON (17-2 SU, 11-8 ATS, 13-6 O/U)

Dayton is flying up the rankings currently sitting at No. 7. Their 17-2 record is even more impressive when you consider that both defeats were in overtime to quality opponents, falling 90-84 to Kansas and 78-76 to Colorado.

Led by forward Obi Toppin (19.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 62.3 percent shooting) the Flyers are first in the country in field goal percentage at 52.5 percent and rank third in scoring with 83 ppg. On Saturday they take on the Richmond Spiders who can also fill up the basket converting at a clip of 47.5 percent from the field, including a sizzling 57.6 percent from the floor over their last three games. The Over is worth looking at.

NATIONAL TITLE ODDS

Gonzaga isn’t a program to sleep on anymore, currently sitting at No. 1 in the polls and with the best odds to win the National Championship at +1000. The Zags have the top rated offense in the nation, putting up 88.8 ppg on 50.6 percent shooting and those numbers jump up to 93.5 ppg and 52.5 percent at home.

On Saturday, Gonzaga hosts Pacific and will probably be favored by more than 20 points. Gonzaga is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings at home between the two teams dating back to 2016, and the average score of those games was 80-52 in favor of Gonzaga.

If you want to look at a team that’s tumbled down the odds board look no further than the Memphis Tigers who came into the season at +1300 after a terrific recruiting class. After top freshman James Wiseman was suspended and then chose to leave the school, Memphis has looked ugly, coming off a 80-40 smackdown at the hands of Tulsa on Wednesday night. The Tigers currently sit at +6000 odds and even that might be generous. Memphis will try to get back on track on Saturday as they host SMU.

BETTING TRENDS

• By holding Memphis to just 40 points, Tulsa managed to cash the Under for the sixth game in a row. The Golden Hurricanes are 15-4 to the Under and will take on UConn on Sunday. Thanks to a defense that ranks inside the Top-50 teams in the country in opponent FG percentage and an offense that ranks outside the Top-250 in FG percentage, the Huskies have also been a great Under bet, going below the total in 12 of their last 16 contests.

• Virginia has been awful on offense, terrific on defense and plays at the slowest pace in Div 1. But oddsmakers might set the total for their Sunday matchup on the road against Wake Forest a tad too low. The Demon Deacons have gone 8-0-1 to the Over in their last nine games and are 7-1 O/U at home this season.

• Austin Peay is 7-0 ATS in their last seven games overall and is a perfect 6-0 ATS at home this season. On Saturday, the Governors will host the Belmont Bruins in a Ohio Valley Conference matchup. The Bruins are coming off a 10-point loss on the road against Murray State and have failed to cover in their last two away contests.

NHL Midseason betting review: Stanley Cup futures odds and best bets

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With the NHL heading into the All-Star break we take a look the updated futures odds to win the Stanley Cup as well as the best and worst teams to wager on in terms of Moneyline, Puckline and Over/Under bets.

Despite Washington leading the way for the Presidents’ Trophy this season, Tampa Bay still has the best odds to win the Stanley Cup. The Lightning are followed by the Boston Bruins and the defending Stanley Cup champions the St. Louis Blues.

On the other hand, the Toronto Maple Leafs have fallen outside the Top-5 and now sit at +2000, while the San Jose Sharks have plummeted from a Stanley Cup contender to a +8000 long shot.

Here are every teams’ odds to win the Stanley Cup, courtesy of the Superbook at Westgate:

Teams Odds to win Stanley Cup (as of Jan 23)
Tampa Bay Lightning +600
Boston Bruins +800
St. Louis Blues +800
Washington Capitals +1,000
Colorado Avalanche +1,000
Vegas Golden Knights +1,000
Pittsburgh Penguins +1,200
Dallas Stars +1,200
Arizona Coyotes +1,600
Florida Panthers +2,000
Toronto Maple Leafs +2,000
Vancouver Canucks +2,000
Edmonton Oilers +2,500
Calgary Flames +2,500
New York Islanders +4,000
Carolina Hurricanes +4,000
Nashville Predators +4,000
Columbus Blue Jackets +4,000
Philadelphia Flyers +5,000
Winnpeg Jets +5,000
Minnesota Wild +6,000
San Jose Sharks +8,000
Montreal Canadiens +10,000
New York Rangers +10,000
Buffalo Sabres +10,000
Chicago Blackhawks +10,000
Los Angelas Kings +50,000
Anahiem Ducks +100,000
Ottawa Senators +200,000
New Jersey Devils +200,000
Detroit Red Wings +1,000,000

The Capitals don’t just have the best record in the league, they’ve also been the best Over bet as well as the top team to back on the moneyline returning a profit of +9.35 units for bettors this season.

Thanks to rookie goalie Elvis Merzlikins and a group of forwards that can’t find the back of the net, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been the NHL’s best Under bet. The top team to back on the puckline as a favorite has been the surprising Vancouver Canucks who lead the Pacific Division.

While the Golden Knights were sweating sportsbooks when they made their Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Finals two years ago, oddsmakers have made some of that money back this season as the Knights have been the second-worst money team in the league. The Knights are still way ahead of Detroit who has cost bettors dearly with a loss of almost 20 units.

BEST OVER BETS

Teams Over/Under
Washington Capitals 31-18
Florida Panthers 30-17
Nashville Predators 28-17
Toronto Maple Leafs 28-18
Tampa Bay Lightning 27-20

BEST UNDER BETS

Teams Over/Under
Colombus Blue Jackets 18-32
Dallas Stars 16-29
Carolina Hurricanes 21-29
San Jose Sharks 21-28
Calgary Flames 20-27

BEST MONEY BETS

Teams Total Money Won (based on 100$ bets)
Washington Capitals $935
New York Islanders $700
Colombus Blue Jackets $605
Pittsburgh Penguins $596
New York Rangers $567

WORST MONEY BETS

Teams Total Money Won (based on 100$ bets)
Detroit Red Wings $-1992
Las Vegas Golden Knights $-1010
Los Angelas Kings $-916
San Jose Sharks $-895
Toronto Maple Leafs $-829

BEST PUCKLINE TEAMS AT -1.5 

Teams Total Money Won as Puckline Favorite (PL record as favorite)
Vancouver Canucks $840 (11-12)
Colorado Avalanche $771 (14-14)
Chicago Blackhawks $480 (7-8)
Florida Panthers $410 (13-17)
New York Rangers $375 (5-5)