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College football bowl games: Go all in on moneyline underdogs

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College football bowl games: Go all in on moneyline underdogs

One of the fundamental beliefs many successful bowl game handicappers share is that in many games, one team shows up and the other team doesn’t. In these contests, the point spread is generally rendered meaningless, as the game is sometimes so decisive that the favorite bettor never has to worry or the underdog bettor is left wishing he would have chanced it on the moneyline instead.

In bowl games, outright winners are far more successful on point spreads than they are in the regular season. For instance, outright winners covered the spread in 22 of 26 games last bowl season. Six winners were underdogs. The previous season, the winners’ ATS record was 34-6-1. Of those 34 ATS victors, 12 were underdogs.

What I’m hinting at is that moneyline underdogs are typically strong wagers at bowl time. The unfamiliarity of opponents combined with the varying excitement and motivational levels for the teams involved sometimes means these lines are just flat misses. Be sure to take advantage of that aspect in the next few weeks.

Let’s look at some of the more definitive trends of outright winners affecting this bowl season. The first group deals with previous bowl performances and the next details unusual angles in specific bowl series.

Outright winner team trends

Outright winners are …

18-1 ATS in Louisville’s last 19 bowl games.

Louisville wide receiver Jordan Watkins
AP

Five of Louisville’s past seven bowl games have been decided by double-digit margins. The Cardinals lost one as 7-point favorites, and they pulled an upset in another as 14-point ’dogs. Results can be that drastic in bowl games when one team doesn’t come to play. The Cardinals will face Marshall in the New Orleans Bowl.

9-0 ATS in Maryland’s last nine bowl contests.

Maryland is currently a pick ’em with Virginia Tech in the Pinstripe Bowl, so either team would necessarily cover with a win.

On a seven-game ATS winning streak in Missouri bowl games.

The Armed Forces Bowl is intriguing, as the line is 3.5 points in favor of Army. In six of the past seven Missouri bowl games, the winner beat the point spread by at least 13 points, not even close to what the oddsmakers thought.

 On a streak of 13 straight ATS wins in Ohio State bowl games.

Do you think Utah has a shot at beating Ohio State in the Rose Bowl? The Buckeyes’ recent bowl history suggests they won’t win if it’s close. It’s either OSU decisively or Utah in an upset.

 13-0-1 ATS in Mississippi’s past 14 bowl games.

Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral yells following a game against Mississippi State, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Starkville, Miss.
Mississippi quarterback Matt Corra
AP

The Baylor-Ole Miss Sugar Bowl line doesn’t leave much wiggle room in the point spread, sitting at -1.5 points for the Bears. This trend figures to see another notch added to the win column. If you like QB Matt Corral and the Rebels, don’t waste your time with a point-spread wager — go all in.

Outright winner bowl trends

Outright winners are …

On a 22-2 ATS surge in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl series.

Usually played in inclement weather, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho, is a series in which it has been pretty obvious that one team wants to be there more than the other. In most cases it’s the Mountain West team, which is used to playing in that area. With only one of the last nine games being decided by fewer than nine points, it’s a good bet that Wyoming or Kent State will win handily.

19-2-1 ATS in the previous 22 Music City Bowls.

Purdue's Branson Deen (58), Jaylan Alexander and Mahamane Moussa (64) carry the Old Oaken Bucket after Purdue defeated Indiana 44-7 in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in West Lafayette, Ind.
Purdue’s Branson Deen (58), Jaylan Alexander and Mahamane Moussa (64) carry the Old Oaken Bucket.
AP

Louisville’s 38-28 upset of Mississippi State as a 5-point ’dog in the 2019 contest continued a trend of point-spread dominance by the winners. Purdue is the ’dog this year. Can the Boilermakers pull the upset, or is favored Tennessee a lock to cover as well as win?

On a 13-0 ATS run in Cheez-It Bowls.

Last year’s 37-34 win by Oklahoma State over Miami snapped a stretch of lopsided games in this series, as the average margin of victory in the previous seven games was 19.4 ppg.

On an 18-0-1 ATS run in the last 19 Cotton Bowls.

This trend will truly be put to the test in 2021, as Alabama is nearly a two-touchdown favorite in the first of the two College Football Playoff semifinals. The average margin of victory in the past six Cotton Bowl games has been 23.2 ppg. Can Cincinnati stay close? If so, give the Bearcats a shot at an upset.

On a 20-0 ATS roll in Citrus Bowl games.

Since 2002, one of the teams has failed to answer the alarm, typically on New Year’s morning. This year’s game pits Kentucky and Iowa. Which will come to play?

27-2 ATS in the past 29 Fiesta Bowl games.

This is the longest-running trend of the bowl series outright angles, as it dates all the way to 1993. There have been 12 outright upsets in that span. You can pretty much count on Notre Dame or Oklahoma State getting the win/cover combo.

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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