Paul Pierce Picks Bucks To Beat Nuggets in NBA Finals

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce picked the Nuggets and Bucks to meet in the next NBA Finals, with Milwaukee winning it all (photo credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Former NBA star Paul Pierce appeared on PokerGO’s ‘Poker After Dark’ this week for a high-stakes game of cards that featured Phil Hellmuth and a minimum buy-in of $20,000. During the appearance, Pierce joined Poker Central Podcast hosts Remko Rinkema and Brent Hanks for a special interview and Pierce was asked to give a favorite and a sleeper going into the upcoming NBA season.

“All right, listen,” Pierce started. “My favorite, and this is going to shock y’all – I know that the popular pick is going to be the Lakers or the Clippers, but I’m telling you, watch out, I think the Denver Nuggets are going to be in the Finals. I think the Denver Nuggets are going to be in the Finals out of the Western Conference.”

When Pierce made the call of the Denver Nuggets to reach the NBA Finals, the team was +1600 to win the NBA title. That’s the eighth most favorable team. As Pierce pointed out, the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers are the favorites. Both the Clippers and Lakers are around +300 or +400 each, depending on the sportsbook you look at. The Clippers made huge news in the offseason by adding both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Lakers, who already had LeBron James, went out and got Anthony Davis.

To win the Western Conference, the Nuggets are +1000, behind the aforementioned Clippers and Lakers, as well as the Houston Rockets (+500), Golden State Warriors (+800), and Utah Jazz (+800).

Leading the way for the Nuggets are guard Jamal Murray and center Nikola Jokic. Last season, the Nuggets finished second in the Western Conference, behind only the Warriors, and then lost in the second round of the NBA Playoffs to Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.

As for who the Nuggets will meet with in the NBA Finals, Pierce said it would be the Milwaukee Bucks. He also picked the Bucks to win the NBA championship.

“Bucks out of the East, and I think the Bucks will win it this year,” Pierce said. “I think the Bucks are going to win.”

The Bucks are the third favorite to win it all, priced at +600 and behind only the Clippers and Lakers. Milwaukee is the favorite to win the Eastern Conference at +125. The Philadelphia 76ers are the next favorite to win the Eastern Conference at +150. The Bucks reached the Eastern Conference Finals last season, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, but lost out to Leonard, Kyle Lowry, and the Toronto Raptors who went on to win the NBA title.

NFL Preseason Week 3 Betting: Free Picks for Browns at Bucs, Bills at Lions

Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns (photo credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

Week 3 of the NFL preseason is here and it continues with more competitive action on Friday, August 23, 2019. That means we’ve got another day with football betting available on our hands, so let’s take a look at some best bets for the Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions.

Cleveland Browns (-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Over/under: 42.5

Friday, August 23, 2019, 7:30 p.m. ET
Raymond James Stadium
Tampa Bay, FL

Two of the more exciting passing offenses in the league will be going head to head in South Florida on Friday night. There should be a good amount of the young quarterback duel, as Baker Mayfield is set to face off against Jameis Winston for most, if not all, of the first half. However, both will likely be missing some of their big targets, which leads us right into our first point.

When Will Mayfield and OBJ Play Together?

The biggest move of the offseason was the Cleveland Browns making the trade to bring in one of the most dynamic playmakers in the game to join up with their exciting, upstart quarterback. However, while many fans have ooh’d and ahh’d at the impressive plays these two have been making in practice, Odell Beckham Jr. has yet to take the field in a game for the Browns, and with a hip issue still nagging him, it seems unlikely that he will play here.

Sure, it’s likely that Mayfield and Beckham won’t miss a beat come the regular season, but there is no substitute for true game speed when it comes to developing trust and chemistry between QB and wideout. The Browns offense should still move the ball pretty well against this poor secondary, but Browns fans are surely itching to see their new star take the field.

Has the Tampa Secondary Improved?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have struggled to defend the pass the last two seasons. In fact, they have really struggled. Of course, it doesn’t help to play the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons as a quarter of your schedule, but after back-to-back seasons of giving up the most and then the seventh most passing yards in the league, the Buccaneers hope they made significant strides to improve this glaring hole in their defense.

They signed safeties Kentrell Brice and Orion Stewart in free agency, and also bulked up the secondary with their second- and third-round picks, Sean Bunting and Jamel Dean. This game against Cleveland will be the first real test to see how this first-string secondary can hold up against a passing offense that should be up there with the best in the lead, even with OBJ likely not playing.

Best Bet: Over 42.5

This is a big number this week, especially when compared to some lines that are in the mid 30s, but we expect these two teams to go over. These are two pass-first offenses who like to push the tempo, and both coaches will be wanting to recreate regular season level pace for their offenses. Couple that with two secondaries that are young and looking to improve, and we think the over 42.5 is definitely in play here.

Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills (photo credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)

Buffalo Bills (-1) at Detroit Lions

Over/under: 42

Friday, August 23, 2019, 8 p.m. ET
Ford Field
Detroit, MI

The second matchup of Friday night features two teams that have been going in opposite directions so far this preseason. The Buffalo Bills are 2-0 with victories over the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers, while the Detroit Lions lost last week against the Houston Texans after being destroyed 31-3 by the reigning champion New England Patriots in Week 1. New England, of course, hardly played any of its starters. This mini dress rehearsal should give us a good insight as to how these two teams will look this year.

Josh Allen’s Development

Josh Allen showed sparks in his rookie season last year and was one of the quarterbacks from a fantasy football perspective in the second half of the season. However, his biggest leak was his poor accuracy, as he threw a completion percentage of just 52.8% in his 12 games last year.

Last week, Allen went 9-for-11 for 102 yards, a completion percentage of 81.8%. Of course, we can’t put too much stock into a Week 2 preseason game, but if Allen is able to produce similar numbers in what should be a full half of football for him, then Bills fans will be excited to see that their mobile playmaking QB has taken big strides in his accuracy this offseason. While Detroit struggled last year, they were actually the seventh best passing defense according to yards per game, so they could prove a challenge for the young quarterback.

New Pieces for the Lions Offense

The Lions made more significant moves this offseason than anyone else in the NFC North. Most notably, they added veteran slot wideout Danny Amendola and bulked up at the tight end position, signing Jesse James and adding T.J. Hockenson with their top pick in the draft. This seems to indicate a shift in the offensive sets the Lions plan on running, as they will likely will be going with more two-TE setups.

Matt Stafford has always been a player known for this big arm and long passes, and while Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones still pose big threats down the field, the Lions might be trying to shorten the passing game for Stafford. This game will prove to be a tough test for the offensive unit, as the Bills passing defense was by far the best in the league last year. They gave up just 179 yards a game through the air last year, which was a full 16 yards per game less than the second best pass defense, Jacksonville.

Best Bet: Bills (-1)

The Bills have impressed so far this preseason and we expect that trend to continue this week. The Lions first-string offense is likely going to struggle against this vaunted Buffalo defense, and Allen continues to make strides in his development. The Bills also brought in veteran receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley to take young guys like Zay Jones and Robert Foster under their wings. Look for the Bills to jump out to a lead with their first stringers in the first half, and rely on their depth on defense to take them home for the 3-0 preseason start.

NFL Preseason Week 3 Betting: Best Bets for Ravens at Eagles, Packers vs. Raiders

Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens (photo credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

Week 3 of the NFL preseason comes our way this week, giving us plenty more action to be had on the NFL betting front. There are six games on the schedule for Thursday, August 22, 2019, and two of those present a couple of best bets that we’d like to focus on here. The games we’ve identified for Thursday’s NFL preseason best bets are the Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers at Oakland Raiders.

Baltimore Ravens (-5) at Philadelphia Eagles

Over/under: 36

Thursday, August 22, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. ET
Lincoln Financial Field
Philadelphia, PA

The first matchup to talk about is a cross-conference faceoff between two playoff teams last year: the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson continues to impress on the ground with his elusiveness and big play-making ability, but he also continues to show that he is a liability in the passing game. For the Eagles, Clayton Thorson carried a majority of the load at QB last week after Cody Kessler was knocked out following a vicious blindside hit. That gets us into our first point from this matchup.

Will We See Carson Wentz at All?

Conventional wisdom would say no. The Eagles signed Carson Wentz to a four-year extension worth $144 million in the offseason, but there has to be some concern baked in despite the big commitment. Wentz has suffered major injuries in back-to-back seasons: first a torn ACL and then season-ending back surgery last year. It would stand to reason that Wentz would sit this one out, especially since he did get some playing time in a recent scrimmage against these Ravens. Assuming he sits, the recently signed Josh McCown would likely see most of the work in order to acclimate to the offense.

Logjam in the Eagles Backfield

Having too many players at one position isn’t a common complaint in the NFL, but it’s a situation that might actually apply to the Eagles. They signed running back Jordan Howard in the offseason, which can be viewed as a questionable move given they already had the likes of Miles Sanders, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams on the roster.

Early buzz out of camp is that Sanders will be the bell cow running back, but this game against the Ravens will be the biggest test of that theory. For the first half at least, we should get some much needed insight on how the Eagles plan to balance out all the mouths they have to feed in the backfield.

Will Any Ravens Receiver Prove To Be Fantasy Relevant?

Outside of the Eagles’ backfield, there isn’t much to love about the receiving options in Baltimore. At the moment, the top wide receiver on the depth chart is Willie Snead, a player whose best years are certainly behind him. Seth Roberts lines up opposite him and Chris Moore is the only other player on the depth chart who might make some noise it seems.

Given the way Jackson plays the QB position, it wouldn’t be shocking to see tight end Nick Boyle potentially emerge as the go-to guy for Jackson in a passing offense that won’t be scaring anybody downfield.

Best Bet: Ravens (-5)

This pick is based largely on the assumption that this will be the game that Josh McCown learns the ropes of the offense by playing most of the game. The Ravens defense is not the first-string unit the Eagles would want McCown to come in fresh against. On the offensive side of the ball, Jackson will still be looking to prove that he isn’t a one-dimensional player. Expect the Ravens to force some mistakes from McCown, and take the Ravens as road favorites in this preseason spot.

Antonio Brown and Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders
Antonio Brown and Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders (photo credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Green Bay Packers (-3) vs. Oakland Raiders

Over/under: 39.5

Thursday, August 22, 2019, 8 p.m. ET
Investors Group Field
Winnipeg, Canada

The NFL travels north for the next game to cover, as the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders will be facing off in Winnipeg. Aaron Rodgers has yet to take the field this preseason, and there’s really no reason for the Packers to roll him out this week, so we expect the former MVP to continue to rest until Week 1 of the regular season. The Raiders come into the week with some questions of their own, the biggest of which is the status of Antonio Brown.

When Will We See Antonio Brown?

The drama continues between Brown and the Raiders, and it seems less and less likely that Brown will see the field on Thursday. First, it was the frostbitten feet, and now, Brown is still having issues with the league about which helmet he has to use. Normally, a veteran like Brown missing the preseason wouldn’t be a big deal, but in a new offense, and with a quarterback he has yet to play with, Brown needs to see the field to start building chemistry with Derek Carr. Without those in-game reps, the two could start on different pages from the get go.

Which Packers Receiver Will Solidify Their Spot?

Once Rodgers does return to the field, it will be interesting to see who he picks out as his second favorite target. Davante Adams is the clear No. 1, but the departure Randall Cobb opens up about seven new targets a game based on his stats from last year. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is listed as the No. 2 on the depth chart, but Geronimo Allison and Equanimeous St. Brown will also be vying for those vacated targets.

It will be interesting to see which one of these young receivers the Packers elect to use the most in the slot, as that has always been a favorite position for Rodgers to look to.

Best Bet: Raiders (+3)

Even with Brown likely missing this game, the Raiders should get out to a lead in the first half, as it will likely be Carr versus DeShone Kizer in that half. Look for the Raiders to try to establish Josh Jacobs early and often, which should open up things in the passing game for Carr and company. Take the Raiders up north getting three points.

NFL Player Props Strategy Guide

SharpSide NFL Player Props Guide
SharpSide NFL Player Props Guide

Welcome to SharpSide’s NFL Player Props Strategy Guide. In this article, we will break down what an NFL player prop bet is, what kind of NFL player prop bets you can make, and talk about the general strategy of betting NFL player props. We’ll also provide some resources that will help you become successful at NFL prop betting.

NFL player props are a great way to grind out a sports betting profit because they often present less efficient lines than more standard NFL betting lines, so let’s get into it.

What Is An NFL Player Prop Bet?

If you read the SharpSide guide to betting NFL futures and props, then you’ll know that an NFL prop bet is a type of side bet that is placed on something not determined by the final outcome of a game, such as a specific statistic for a given player. Those prop bets that are then tied to players are referred to as NFL player prop bets or NFL player props.

NFL player props do not affect the outcome of the game. They are individual events within the game that you are betting on. It doesn’t matter who wins or who loses the game, it just matters if an individual player goes over or under the proposed betting line for his prop, or if the player completes the prop in the case of yes/no propositions.

As an example, let’s say Aaron Rodgers has a line set on total passing yards in a game and that line is set at 295.5 passing yards. You must decide if Rodgers will get over or under 295.5 passing yards. If you bet the over, you’re betting on Rodgers getting 296 passing yards or more. If you bet the under in this example, you’re rooting for Rodgers to get 295 yards or fewer. If Rodgers gets 296 passing yards or higher, bettors who wagered on the over would win. If his passing yards come in at 295 yards or fewer, the bet would lose.

Oftentimes, you’ll find the odds on NFL player props to be even on both sides. Sticking with the example we just used involving Rodgers, you might be looking at something such as over 295.5 (-110) and under 295.5 (-110). Both sides of the bet have odds of -110 in this case. Rather than adjust the price of the odds, sportsbooks will change the over/under line in a case like this.

Another example of an NFL player prop comes in the form of a yes/no proposition. For example, will Cam Newton score a rushing touchdown in his game this week? Here, it’s a binary outcome. It’s either going to be yes or no and there is not an over/under line to adjust. This is when you will see oddsmakers adjust the price on each side because they can’t move the line. This line might be something like Yes (+220) and No (-300) and then bookmakers can adjust the odds from there.

Types of NFL Player Prop Bets

In most cases, there are several NFL player props bets available for players of all positions. Quarterbacks, being the most important and popular position on the football field, generally have the most props available. Some of the NFL player props for quarterbacks you might find are passing yards, passing touchdowns, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, completions, and interceptions. The most commonly bet props for quarterbacks are passing yards and touchdowns. You will sometimes see options to bet the over/under on interceptions, and some of these QB player props will be displayed as yes/no propositions.

When betting on running backs, you can pick between rushing yards, receiving yards, both rushing and receiving combined, catches, and touchdowns. Some running backs may not have a prop for all these options, though. The most common bet options would be rushing yards and the yes/no to score a touchdown. Sometimes you will see running backs like Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley get action on both rushing and receiving yards combined, because they are featured so much in the offense.

Wide receiver prop best that are commonly available are receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. Receiving yards is the most popular NFL player prop for WRs. Some sportsbooks offer more exotic off-the-board props such as “AJ Green to score a touchdown plus Bengals win.”

You can also find player props in the NFL futures market. An NFL futures bet is a wager on a future NFL event. Most commonly, it is a bet placed on the outcome of an NFL event in the current or upcoming season. An NFL future player prop is a bet placed on the outcome of an NFL player prop in the current or upcoming season. These are just like in-game prop bets, but they cover the course of a season. They have over/under bets on passing yards, touchdowns, rushing yards, receiving yards, and more.

There are many different NFL player prop bets available. As sports betting becomes legal and regulated in more and more places, the offering is only going to grow.

NFL Player Props Betting Strategy

When betting NFL player props, we need to have a strategy, a plan of attack. We can’t just look at the board and say things like, “the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a bad secondary, so let’s take Matthew Stafford’s over on passing yards.” One of the first things we can look at is the Vegas total for the game.

In this example, if the Detroit Lions are underdogs and the game has a 60-point over/under total, we can derive that the game script leans towards the Lions playing from behind. If Detroit is losing, they will throw the ball more and this could lead to a better opportunity at the over on passing yards for Stafford hitting.

It’s also important to track betting lines all throughout the season. If you keep track of Stafford’s prop every single week, once the lines are released, you can determine what lines are inefficient based on the old ones and what’s been more of the norm throughout the season. Sometimes lines will be higher or lower than you expect. As sports bettors, it’s our job to determine if the line is off or not. This is how we find value. Things like weather, coaching changes, and injuries can all be factors on how we should handle a prop from week to week.

Those who have experience with fantasy sports, and especially with daily fantasy sports (DFS), will be able to draw a lot of similarities when it comes to researching, analyzing, and picking NFL player props. Even if you don’t have a ton of experience in those two areas, using the same tools and strategy applied by top fantasy football and DFS minds can help.

Specifically, DFS principles easily translate to NFL player props. In DFS, we are projecting what a player’s outcome will be and that is no different in betting NFL player props. There are many resources out there that offer insight, analysis, and projections and using the best projections is important when trying to determine outcomes.

Resources for NFL Player Props

We would suggest starting with all of the amazing sports betting content offered by RotoGrinders. RotoGrinders is the leader in DFS content and is backed by a great community that can make you a better NFL player props bettor. RotoGrinders offers a lot of free content, but you can also subscribe to RotoGrinders Premium for advanced material.

It’s important to use multiple resources and compare them to see how they matchup against the projected Vegas totals. To check the lines, download the free SharpSide sports betting app, available for both iOS and Android, or you can refer to a site such as If you’re seeing inefficient lines, you can take advantage.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you about all of SharpSide’s NFL player pages. These pages are dedicated to each NFL player and showcase recent history of a player’s prop results. Using this information and historical data can help you determine which trends may or may not be working in your favor.

News is everything in the NFL. If news drops that a player is out, the lines on the games will first be adjusted because that’s where sportsbooks can and will have the most action. Instead of thinking to bet the Atlanta Falcons when Julio Jones is ruled out or unlikely to play, look to bet Mohamed Sanu over props. Since player props can be limited and less action is taken on them, they sometimes don’t adjust those lines as immediately which can provide us with a ton of value and opportunity to take advantage of inefficient lines.

If the most important thing to track is player news, where can you get it? In today’s sports world, social media is a great tool and can be used to stay up to date on player news from around the NFL. Beat writers covering the league and all of the teams provide outstanding insight that can help give us the edge we need. We recommend subscribing to this list of NFL beat writers on Twitter. Another solid list of NFL beat writers comes from Jeff Haseley and can be found here.

You’ll also want to follow the major NFL media personalities like Adam Schefter, Ian Rapoport, Jeff Darlington, Jason La Canfora, Field Yates, and Stephania Bell, to name a few.

Sometimes a coach will talk about making a change to their lineup. A great example of this was DeSean Jackson in 2018. If you followed the quarterback carousel between the Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick in the 2018 season, you would know that Jackson had his best games with Fitzpatrick. Jackson only cleared 100 yards in three games that season, Fitz quarterbacked for him in all those games. One of the games he was benched for Winston but that didn’t stop Fitzpatrick from putting up 68 of his 124 yards to Jackson.

Another good resources is injury reports. If you track injury reports closely, you can get an idea if a player will be in or out, or if he will be limited in any way. That can help you take advantage of inefficient lines.

The NFL is a week-to-week league and so many things can change. Getting all the player information and news is key to profiting in player props. If you want to be profitable in betting player props, you must understand how to take advantage of the inefficient lines based on news week to week.

Remember to check back here for more on how to conquer NFL player props!

College Football Pac-12 Betting Preview: Best Bets and Free Picks for the Worst of the Power Five

Best bets and free picks for college football’s Pac-12 conference (photo credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Last, but not least, in our college football betting preview articles is the Pac-12. There are a couple good teams in this conference, but top to bottom it’s still arguably the worst of the power five conferences. They don’t have a Clemson-level team at the top of the conference like the ACC and the bottom feeders don’t get much worse than Oregon State.

Odds To Win the Pac-12

Utah +200
Washington +275
Oregon +400
USC +1400
Washington State +1400
Stanford +1500
Arizona +1600
Arizona State +2500
California +2500
UCLA +4000
Colorado +10000
Oregon State +25000

*Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Tuesday, August 20, 2019, and subject to change.

The Utah hype train is getting out of control. Yes, they’re a good team, probably the best team in the Pac-12, but at +200 the value has been completely sucked out of this number.

Oregon (+400)

Best Bet: season win total over 9 (+120)

This isn’t the season to back the top dogs in the conference. Utah has become the most overvalued team in the entire country and Washington is a shell of itself to start the year. This brings us to the Oregon Ducks.

Justin Herbert is the best QB in the conference and one of the best in the country. He’ll be working to build his draft stock behind the best offensive line in the conference, and quite possibly the country, and should have a much better group of receivers this year as it will be hard for the group to end up worse than they performed last year. Last season, the Oregon receivers dropped 52 passes in 13 games.

CJ Verdell and Travis Dye return in the backfield, as does the entire offensive line. This offense is going to be improved on last season 34.8 points per game team and will be a national story week after week.

Andy Avalos comes over from Boise State to revamp the defense and will bring an aggressive approach to the defense. They return Troy Dye, who had 115 tackles last season, and most of a very solid secondary. On the defensive line, Oregon brings in a wildly talented freshman defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who should have an immediate impact. It isn’t going to be the level of Utah or Washington’s defense, but it will be better and put the Ducks in a position to win the conference.

The schedule isn’t the best thing in the world, but it could be a lot worse. Oregon does have to play Auburn to open the season, but I believe they’re the better team and will not only cover the +3, but win outright. The remaining non-conference games are Nevada and Montana and the Ducks will be sitting at 3-0. Oregon gets to play at home against Cal, Colorado, Washington State, Arizona, and Oregon State; the Ducks should win all of these games fairly easily. Road games at Stanford, Washington, USC, and Arizona State aren’t the most intimidating, but playing at Stanford and Washington is never easy, and USC will be improved. If the Ducks can split the games against Stanford and Washington and take care of business in the rest of the games they’re favored, they will have no problem winning 10 games and going over their win total and winning the conference.

There’s not enough value in any of these other teams to back with my money, but I wouldn’t try to talk anyone out of backing Arizona at 16-1. Khalil Tate is healthy again and they return 71% of their 2018 production. Kevin Sumlin will have this team in a good position to end the season and if Tate can stay healthy again, he’ll be a name in the mix for the Heisman as he was in 2017 .

Washington (+275)

Best Bet: season win total under 9.5 (-121)

This isn’t to say that I don’t have faith in Chris Petersen, but the Washington Huskies have quite a few issues they’re facing to start the year. First of all, UW returns a mere 34% of its defensive production from last year, which is good for last in the entire FBS. That’s not a good sign for a team trying to win 10 games again. Of course, their recruiting numbers are as good as it gets in the conference, but it’s tough to replace 10 starters regardless of how good the recruiting is.

On the offensive side of the ball, things don’t look much better. The Huskies lose four-year starter Jake Browning, and while he wasn’t the greatest quarterback to ever take the field at Washington, he was good enough to win two conference championships. The QB situation isn’t in a great place, as reports out of camp are that Jacob Eason is struggling to separate himself from the pack and has been less than impressive.

The bright spot for this team is that it returns almost the entire offensive line and should have a healthy Hunter Bryant, who will make an immediate impact and prove himself as the team’s best pass catcher. Salvon Ahmed will have no problem replacing Myles Gaskin and the team should see little to no drop off in the rushing game, assuming the quarterback play is competent enough to keep teams honest, which I’m not sold that it will be.

The schedule is the final piece of the puzzle and it doesn’t work out favorably for Washington. They should start off 3-0 with games against Eastern Washington, Cal, and Hawaii. Cal could be an issue with slowing the game down to a crawl like they did last year, and Hawaii could put up 40 points with the run-and-shoot offense, but can their defense stop anything? No, probably not. UW then has to travel to BYU, which won’t be an easy game. Washington is around a touchdown favorite, but BYU will be ready to play and their physical style of play isn’t easy for anyone. The next three games are against teams that are sort of unknowns at this point. USC will be improved with Graham Harrell’s fingerprints and an improved young core of talent. Stanford loses a lot, but they’re still Stanford and will at least compete for the Pac-12 title. Arizona has a healthy Khalil Tate and a full year of the Kevin Sumlin system. The offense was already toward the top of the conference and the defense will be improved; this won’t be a cakewalk by any means. Their next two games are against Oregon (who I think can go undefeated in conference) and Utah (who the market seems to think will go undefeated in conference) and while they’re currently favored in both of those games, I think they lose at least one, probably both. With losses against Stanford and Oregon, it means UW needs to go unblemished against the rest of the schedule, which I don’t see happening with all of the unknowns.

Washington State (+1400)

Best Bet: season win total under 8 (-104)

This is going to be a very interesting season for the Washington State Cougars. It seems as though Mike Leach wants to go back to the grad transfer well with Gage Gubrud, but he can’t seem to separate himself from Anthony Gordon and Trey Tinsley judging from the reports in camp. I’m sure Leach will figure it out, but it’s not promising.

Wazzou returns the third least amount of production in the conference at 61%, only ahead of Stanford and Washington. The worst part about the lack of returning production is the team’s recruiting numbers. My numbers have them 11th in the conference, barely ahead of Oregon State (WSU grades out at 83.41 and OSU at 83.28). Questions at quarterback, minimal returning production, and the lack of recruiting is only one piece of the puzzle here.

The schedule isn’t great; the Cougars have six road games, and three of them come against ranked teams. They have automatic wins against New Mexico State, Northern Colorado, Oregon State, and probably Colorado. In order for us to lose this bet, WSU would need to win five of the other eight games. They have road games at Utah, Oregon, and Washington; they won’t win any of these. This means they have to be perfect in the following: at Houston, versus UCLA, at Arizona State, at Cal, and versus Stanford. With the way things are looking, 0-5 will happen more often than 5-0. A record of 3-2 is probably the most likely scenario, meaning Wazzou finishes with 7 wins and we have more money in our pockets.

MMA Prop Review: Miocic Takes Heavyweight Title from Cormier, Diaz Wins in Return

Stipe Miocic and Nate Diaz
Stipe Miocic and Nate Diaz
Stipe Miocic (left) and Nate Diaz (right) both earned big triumphs at UFC 241 (photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)

Welcome to SharpSide’s MMA Prop Review! In this edition, we’ll review the MMA betting props that may have cashed at UFC 241 on Saturday, August 17, 2019, for sports bettors around the world. Although there were many obvious outcomes, several wagers caught us by surprise and earned big money.

Stipe Miocic – RND 4 (+1750)

The former heavyweight champion, Stipe Miocic, regained his title on Saturday with a fourth-round knockout over Daniel Cormier, which would have cashed a heavy +1750 prop.

Miocic was arguably down three rounds to zero heading into the fourth, although the majority of the first 15 minutes had been competitive. Both fighters had eaten heavy shots and had started slowing down, but Miocic was able to make adjustments that ultimately led to the finish.

Miocic will have his work cut out for him against the next string of challengers, but he’s likely to see a favorable betting line for the foreseeable future.

Nate Diaz – DEC (+250)

Coming off a three-year layoff, Nate Diaz returned with a statement, dominating former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis for the majority of 15 minutes and cashing a solid +250 prop.

It was a very favorable stylistic matchup for Diaz, who landed 114 significant strikes in three rounds while only absorbing 69 in return. Diaz is likely to gain more respect moving forward on the betting line, but his results will continue to be determined based on the fighting style of his opponent.

Paulo Costa – DEC (+410)

Although he hadn’t faced the best competition, Paulo Costa proved his skillset was legitimate, defeating former title challenger Yoel Romero in an extremely competitive decision.

None of Costa’s previous 12 fights had gone the distance, which is why the line for him to win by decision closed at +410. Costa is without a doubt one of the best fighters in the middleweight division, but his level of competition will only increase and we should expect very competitive betting lines moving forward.

Khama Worthy
Khama Worthy (photo credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Khama Worthy – RND 1 (+2000)

The biggest upset in recent memory, Khama Worthy closed as a +650 underdog against Devonte Smith after taking the fight on less than one-week’s notice. Not only did Worthy win the short-notice fight, he knocked out Smith in Round 1, which would have cashed a whopping +2000 prop.

The result was clearly unexpected. Although we have no choice but be impressed, there’s little reason to believe Worthy is a prospect to monitor, and he’ll likely continue to close as the underdog against reasonable competition.

Casey Kenney – DEC (+235)

Proving himself once again, Casey Kenney defeated Manny Bermudez by decision on Saturday to cash a +235 prop.

Kenney has fought at flyweight and Bermudez is being forced to move up to featherweight, and the size discrepancy was obvious in the cage, which only made the result more impressive. Kenney is a legitimate talent and a well-rounded fighter, and he deserves more respect on the betting line than he’s been given thus far.

Action Report: Sharp Betting Insight for Wednesday’s Baseball Slate

(photo credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)

Welcome to the SharpSide Action Report for Wednesday, August 21, 2019, focused on baseball betting odds from around the MLB.

In this column, we’ll take a look at the day’s betting line movement in hopes of providing valuable insight as to where sharp money is flowing so that sports bettors can be better equipped to make winning sports betting decisions.

The four games we’ve identified for Wednesday are the Washington Nationals at Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers, and Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves.

Washington Nationals at Pittsburgh Pirates

Nationals Pitcher: Patrick Corbin
Pirates Pitcher: Joe Musgrove

Wednesday, August 21, 2019, at 7:05 p.m. ET
PNC Park
Pittsburgh, PA

Sharp bettors split the first two games of this series and look to be taking a stand for the third game in a row as the Pittsburgh Pirates once again host the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night. The Pirates opened this one as +130 underdogs, but the line has dropped to +125 even with over 80% of the moneyline bets (via Sports Insights) being in favor of the Nationals. The total has also dropped from above 9 to below 9, indicating that the main focus of sharp money is against the Nationals offense.

Pirates starter Joe Musgrove had a rough start to the 2019 season, but his velocity has picked up in more recent starts and his overall numbers now finally look relatively solid. He’s probably an average starting pitcher at this point, but the opening betting lines appear to have valued him at something less than that. Additionally, the public still seems to be succumbing to recency bias of the Nationals recent winning ways, and undervaluing the Pirates for these superficial reasons as well.

Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers

Angels Pitcher: Patrick Sandoval
Rangers Pitcher: Mike Minor

Wednesday, August 21, 2019, at 7:05 p.m. ET
Globe Life Park
Arlington, TX

Sharp bettors have aggressively gone back and forth on Mike Minor recently, seemingly flip-flopping between being for him and against him over his past handful of starts. The general trend over the 2019 season, however, has been a negative one, with Minor still dramatically outpacing his true talent with a fluky ERA. Minor’s ERA now sits at 2.94, thanks in large part to his “ability” to get himself out of jams.

For Wednesday’s game, the Texas Rangers opened as -130 favorites, but have fallen to -120 even with bettors mostly on their side. The total has fallen slightly, from under 11 to a flat 10.5, but that comes with bettors actually preferring the under. This all indicates an excessive bias towards Minor, and an insufficient expectation for the Los Angeles Angels offensive potential.

Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves

Nationals Pitcher: Caleb Smith
Braves Pitcher: Julio Teheran

Wednesday, August 21, 2019, at 7:20 p.m. ET
SunTrust Park
Atlanta, GA

Julio Teheran is on the mound again on Wednesday night, which predictably means another strong stance from sharp bettors that contradicts excessive public sentiment in Teheran’s direction. Teheran has a 3.71 ERA in 2019, but it’s backed up by 4.54 FIP and a 5.27 xFIP, both of which indicate that he’s nowhere close to as good of a pitcher as his run prevention statistics might suggest.

The Atlanta Braves opened Wednesday’s game as -195 favorites, but have dropped to -185 even with bettors overwhelmingly giving them their support. The total has also risen from just above 9 up to 9.5, further hinting at these anti-Teheran sentiments from the pros. This game is also scheduled to have hitters’ umpire Mark Wegner behind the plate, which figures to hurt both pitchers, but the clearest undervalued component of the game is still the Miami Marlins offense.

College Football SEC Betting Preview: Best Bets and Free Picks for CFB’s Toughest Conference

SEC Football Helmet
SEC Football Helmet
Regarded as the toughest conference in college football, the SEC delivers some heavy hitters every year and 2019 is no different (photo credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports)

The SEC is regarded as the toughest conference in college football, and that’s where we’re going to focus on for this college football betting preview.

The SEC is going to be an interesting conference this year, as it had nine teams finish with a Pythagorean expected win total over 10 last year. I do have very high expectations of one team in this conference and am very excited to see how they play this year. All odds below are from DraftKings Sportsbook , so let’s dive in.

Odds To Win the SEC

Alabama -167
Georgia +250
Florida +1400
LSU +1400
Auburn +2800
Texas A&M +2800
Kentucky +3300
Mississippi State +3300
Ole Miss +10000
South Carolina +10000
Tennessee +10000
Vanderbilt +15000
Arkansas +25000

*Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Thursday, August 15, 2019, and subject to change.

Alabama (-167)

Season win total: Over 11 (-170)

I’m not going to waste much time here as both of these numbers are stale at this point and we know exactly what Alabama is. The Crimson Tide is absolutely loaded on both sides of the ball. Tua Tagovailoa is a Heisman favorite, the team has the best receiving corps in the country, the best recruiting numbers, and the list goes on.

The only issue Alabama might run into is the lack of depth on the defensive side of the ball. They’ll still be a really good defense, but they may fall out of the “elite” tier and end up with something like the 15th-20th best defense in the country. The slight risk of a shallow defensive depth chart will be mitigated by the best offense in the country and a fairly easy schedule, though.

Alabama won’t be remotely tested until they travel to College Station to take on Texas A&M, where they’ll still be a two-touchdown favorite. Two more easy wins and the schedule finally presents a challenging stretch. Alabama closes out the season versus LSU, at Mississippi State, bye week against Western Carolina, and then the Iron Bowl at Auburn. The only teams that really pose a threat are Texas A&M, LSU, and Auburn, but the Tide will be double-digit favorites in all of these and should take care of business like Nick Saban teams are known to do.

Florida Gators Quarterback Feleipe Franks
Florida Gators QB Feleipe Franks (photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Florida (+1400)

Season win total: Over 9 (+120)

This is my “long shot” pick to win the SEC, as anyone that isn’t Alabama or Georgia is pretty much a long shot.

The Florida Gators are now in year two of Dan Mullen and should improve on what was a great first season. Florida returns 74% of its total production last year, good for third in the conference and 23rd in the FBS. This includes quarterback Feleipe Franks, who threw for 2,457 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 350 yards and 7 more TDs. That’s a pretty good season. Now imagine what Franks can do this year with another offseason under Mullen’s tutelage along with returning all three leading receivers to keep the ever-so-important passing game continuity. Let’s also not forget the spring game in which Franks threw for 327 yards and 4 touchdowns. If this is a sign of things to come, give me all of the Florida futures.

The only issue the offense should face is a revamped offensive line, only returning one starter. The good thing about the offensive line is that Mullen brought his offensive line coach, John Hevesy, with him, and Hevesy is known for getting the most out of his guys.

On the defensive side, things are, once again, looking up for the Gators. CJ Henderson will finally be healthy after dealing with nagging injuries all year, and Marco Wilson, who could have been a big piece in the Gators defense, missed all of last year after getting hurt in the first game of the season. The secondary could be the best in the country and they have the makeup to give the elite WR corp of Alabama fits. The defensive line loses Vosean Joseph and Jachai Polite, but it brings back a plethora of talent and has a ton of depth that defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will get every last ounce of potential out of.

The downside on the defensive side of the ball is that Florida was a very lucky team last year. They had a turnover differential of +12, which was good for first in the SEC and seventh nationally. Five of those turnovers came in the last two games of the season against Florida State and Michigan and both games were blowouts, which is a bit of a good sign in thinking that the Gators would have won those games without such a large turnover margin. This number will regress, but by how much? I have very high hopes for this Florida team and like a few different bets, such as the over on 9 wins at +120, win the SEC at +1400, and win the SEC East at +300.

I don’t hate LSU at +1400, the same odds as Florida, but it would essentially require the Tigers to go 7-1 in the SEC, beat Alabama in the SEC West, and then beat Georgia or Florida in the SEC Championship. I don’t like those odds, especially since LSU’s schedule is already brutal. They play at Texas in the non-conference, then have a stretch of Florida, at Mississippi State, Auburn, and at Alabama. The Tigers then close the year out after a couple easier games against Texas A&M. I’m high on this LSU team on paper, but don’t think they have what it takes to win their SEC division, let alone the conference.

Now, let’s get in to some win totals.

Mississippi State's Joe Moorhead
Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead (photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Mississippi State

Season win total: Under 8 (-118)

While I do think Joe Moorhead is going to do good things in Starkville, I don’t have high hopes for this year. They lose a ton from last year, including quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and a pair of elite talents on the defensive line in Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat. Tommy Stevens comes in and should be the starter and will be a much better fit in the Moorhead offense than Fitzgerald was. The offense will probably end up being a little bit better than last year, but that’s not saying much as they only averaged 28 points per game and fewer than 400 yards.

The defense, however, will not look so inspiring. They have some talent, but they lost arguably more than any other team in the country as the NFL Draft picked this defense apart. Mississippi State will go from probably the best defense in the entire country to what should end up being a pretty average SEC defense. That will be a huge step back.

The schedule isn’t the worst thing for the Bulldogs, but it does present some challenges. They should be 4-0 in non-conference games barring something strange happening, but they still have to go through the SEC schedule which is never fun. They get to avoid Georgia and Florida and get LSU and Alabama at home, but that’s the best thing I can say about it. They open SEC play at home against Kentucky, which will be a great gauge for how their season will look. Kentucky also lost a ton of talent. If they don’t win that game, it’s going to be a very long season in Starkville. After Kentucky, Mississippi St. has a four-game stretch of at Auburn, at Tennessee, home versus LSU, and at Texas A&M. I don’t think they win any of these. The three road games are all in hostile environments and they’ll be underdogs in three of four and should be somewhere around a pick’em at Tennessee.

I have Mississippi State at 4-4 through eight games, which means they have to win out in November just for a push, which won’t happen because this team isn’t beating Alabama. A record of 7-5 is the most likely outcome for this team but it could be as bad as 5-7 with early games against Kansas State and Kentucky and a very inexperienced squad.

Texas A&M

Season win total: Under 7.5 (+110)

Texas A&M is another team that I am fond of, just not this season. I’m a big Jimbo Fisher guy and think he’ll bring this team to a perennial 9- or 10-win team, but this year will be a rough one. The offense will be fine. It was a top-half-of-the-SEC caliber offense last year and should improve. Texas A&M does lose its top pass catcher in tight end Jace Sternberger, but he’s been replaced with a wildly talented freshman Baylor Cupp. The rest of the passing attack returns and four of the offensive linemen are back, along with Kellen Mond. The offense should take a small step forward, but the defense is another story.

The Aggies return 49% of their defensive production from last year and only three starters. The defense will be as green as any in the SEC. They have four sophomores slated to start and not a single senior. This is great for building the future, just not this year. While they do have some highly touted recruits filling in these holes, they’re still young and inexperienced. In order to take a step forward, or even come within one win of last year, the defense is going to need to improve vastly, but I don’t think that will be the case.

The schedule is going to be as big of a challenge as anything the Aggies face this year. The non-conference schedule provides a game at Clemson, so the automatic four wins most SEC teams get doesn’t exist for the Aggies. Texas A&M has what should be automatic wins against Texas State, Lamar, Arkansas, and UTSA. They also have games at Ole Miss and home versus Auburn, Mississippi State, and South Carolina. In order to win eight games and go over the win total, they have to be completely spotless against everyone that isn’t Clemson, Alabama, LSU, and Georgia. While it’s definitely possible, I don’t see an inexperienced team going untouched against the middle tier of the SEC. For that reason, I’m on the under.

Action Report: Big Reverse Line Moves Headline Tuesday’s Baseball Betting

(photo credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports)

Welcome to the SharpSide Action Report for Tuesday, August 20, 2019, focused on baseball betting odds from around the MLB.

In this column, we’ll take a look at the day’s betting line movement in hopes of providing valuable insight as to where sharp money is flowing so that sports bettors can be better equipped to make winning sports betting decisions.

The four games we’ve identified for Tuesday are the Washington Nationals at Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants at Chicago Cubs, and Detroit Tigers at Houston Astros.

Washington Nationals at Pittsburgh Pirates

Nationals Pitcher: Stephen Strasburg
Pirates Pitcher: Chris Archer

Tuesday, August 20, 2019, at 7:05 p.m. ET
PNC Park
Pittsburgh, PA

The Washington Nationals dominated the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night, but sharp bettors are going back to the well on Tuesday, again looking to the Pirates as a contrarian and undervalued underdog. The moneyline opened for this game with the Pirates at +150, but it has dropped to +140 even with the majority of bettors backing the Nationals. The Nationals have been surging lately and the Pirates have not, and it simply looks like bettors are succumbing to a fair amount of recency bias for this game.

Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves

Nationals Pitcher: Elieser Hernandez
Braves Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel

Tuesday, August 20, 2019, at 7:20 p.m. ET
SunTrust Park
Atlanta, GA

Dallas Keuchel had a miserable outing two starts ago against these same Miami Marlins, and sharp bettors look to be making the same play as they did in that one. It’s also the same stance that sharp money has taken all season long, clearly seeing something in Keuchel that isn’t as promising as how most bettors view him.

The Atlanta Braves opened Tuesday’s game as -300 favorites, and the line has moved dramatically, falling all the way to -240. This comes despite nearly 80% of bettors actually being on the Braves side (via Sports Insights) and it represents one of the strongest cases of reverse line movement of the 2019 season. The Braves are still in a very advantageous matchup as -240 favorites, but the opening line seems to have dramatically overvalued them.

San Francisco Giants at Chicago Cubs

Giants Pitcher: Tyler Beede
Cubs Pitcher: Cole Hamels

Tuesday, August 20, 2019, at 8:05 p.m. ET
Wrigley Field
Chicago, IL

The wind at Wrigley Field isn’t extreme, but warm temperatures and a moderate wind are still enough to cause a big change to run scoring potential. The total for Tuesday night’s game opened at just above 9, but it has since climbed to nearly 11 even with bettors roughly split on over and under bets.

Cole Hamels is also coming off of arguably his worst start of the season, but bettors seem to like his side of the game against the lowly San Francisco Giants. The moneyline has moved slightly in the Chicago Cubs direction, but with such a large bias in that direction, there’s still a chance that sharp bettors are actually siding with the Giants. The Giants offensive struggles generally have to do with where they play (Oracle Park is a massive pitcher’s park) and this move to a wind-boosted Wrigley should help them out significantly.

Detroit Tigers at Houston Astros

Tigers Pitcher: Spencer Turnbull
Astros Pitcher: Aaron Sanchez

Tuesday, August 20, 2019, at 8:10 p.m. ET
Minute Maid Park
Houston, TX

The Atlanta Braves game mentioned above is showing one of the biggest reverse line moves of the 2019 season, but it’s actually only the second biggest of the day. The Houston Astros opened Tuesday’s home game against the Detroit Tigers as -340 favorites, but the line has dropped all the way down to -260, even with most bettors (obviously) supporting the vastly superior Astros.

There’s nothing too specific to note about why these biases would exist, other than the easily recognizable, enormous gap between these teams in the standings. The Astros are overwhelmingly likely to win this game, but like the Braves, not nearly as likely to win as they were initially priced for.

College Football Big 10 Betting Preview: Looking for Value Away from Ohio St. and Michigan

Ohio State and Michigan
Ohio State and Michigan
Ohio State and Michigan top the Vegas odds to win the Big 10 (photo credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports)

Welcome to SharpSide’s college football Big 10 betting preview.

The Big 10 is much more intriguing than the ACC in that there is more than one actual good team. Two of the five best teams in the country reside in the Big 10, along with seven other teams that could win 10 games and it wouldn’t surprise me. Below are the current prices to win the conference championship.

Once again, I’ll give my thoughts on a few teams I find interesting, give out some actual futures, and a few over/under win total plays as well.

Odds To Win the Big 10

Michigan +175
Ohio St. +200
Nebraska +800
Michigan St. +1600
Wisconsin +1600
Penn St. +1800
Iowa +2500
Minnesota +2500
Purdue +3000
Northwestern +4000
Indiana +20000
Illinois +50000
Maryland +50000
Rutgers +200000

Let’s start with the best teams, Michigan and Ohio St. I don’t think there’s any betting value on these plays, but we can’t just skip over two of the best teams in the country, so let’s take a look.

Ohio State (+200)

Season win total: Over 10 (+110)

Ohio State is and has been the best team in the conference for a while. I think they’ll be a great team again this year and the schedule sets up in their favor, getting Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Penn State all at home. Ohio State does have to go to Nebraska, but that game is after they play Miami University (Ohio) which will be a sleepwalk win and essentially a practice for the Buckeyes. The only other road test they’ll face is Michigan in the final game of the season, which will decide who goes on to the Big 10 Championship for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

OSU looks to be in a much better place defensively this year than they were last year. They return 85% of the team’s defensive production, including the two leading tacklers. It’s this defensive production that is the best in the conference. They also brought in a new defensive coordinator that they stole from their little brother, Michigan, which is great for OSU no matter how old he is.

On the other side of the ball, it’s finally Ryan Day’s turn to run the show. He’s had his fingerprints on the play-calling, but now he has the reigns and one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country. The Buckeyes do lose a ton of production, but this is a team that reloads constantly. Their two-year recruiting rank is second in the country, just shy of Alabama (.12 difference), per my numbers.

This is going to be one exciting team to watch, but I don’t think they quite have what it takes to get past the next team I’ll talk about.

Michigan (+175)

Season win total: Over 10.5 (+130)

Michigan is my pick to win the Big 10. At +175, it isn’t the greatest price and it doesn’t offer a ton of value, but they’re the best team in the conference from top to bottom, finally.

Michigan loses a bit on defense, but will also return three All-Big 10 selections (second team) and have several guys that were very productive last year who will fill the voids of guys like Rashan Gary and Devin Bush. The Wolverines also bring in an incredibly highly touted safety in Daxton Hill, who should have an immediate impact as a freshman on a talented defense.

On the offensive side of the ball, Josh Gattis brings new life to a team full of weapons. Donovan Peoples-Jones is as electric as they come and Tarik Black is a freak of nature when he’s healthy. Any one of the talented running backs the Wolverines have can step in and be “the guy” behind an offensive line that will compete with Wisconsin for the best in the conference. Finally, the man that will make it all happen, Shea Patterson, is back to playing in a scheme that fits him perfectly. He threw for 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns last year in the Jim Harbaugh system that did everything it could to hinder quarterbacks. I think we finally get a chance to see Patterson throw the ball 30 times a game, which should result in something like 3,700 yards and 32 touchdowns.

I think the best possible preseason bet we can make with Michigan isn’t on the team itself, but on Shea Patterson to win the Heisman at +2000 (20-to-1). If Michigan can finally live up to its own potential, not only will they be in the hunt for the National Championship, but Patterson will hoist the Heisman Trophy at the end of the year.

Scott Frost and Nebraska
Scott Frost and Nebraska (photo credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)

Nebraska (+800), Michigan St. (+1600), Wisconsin (+1600)

Nebraska is the most overhyped team I’ve ever seen. Yes, they’re going to be a good team in year two under Scott Frost and the schedule is very favorable for them avoiding Michigan and Michigan State, then getting Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Iowa at home, but they’re still not quite the best team in their own division, let alone the entire conference. Nebraska might even win nine games, but that would mean that everything went their way.

Michigan State is also going to be good, but being in the same division as Ohio State and Michigan makes things incredibly difficult.

Lastly, Wisconsin is going to be Wisconsin. They’re going to pound the ball with Johnathan Taylor and play good defense. They’ll probably win 8 games and they will be good, but they just don’t have what it takes to win this conference. Side note: give it a year or two (or maybe this year if they struggle) until Graham Mertz takes over at quarterback. This team will be as dangerous as ever with a quality quarterback throwing the ball.

Now, let’s get to the rest of the Big 10 conference and the plays I’ll be on.

Iowa (+2500)

Season win total: Over 7.5 (-130)

I do have some concerns about Iowa, and that’s the lack of returning production in the passing game. Most teams wouldn’t be affected by losing two tight ends, but in this case, the Hawkeyes lost the two best tight ends in the country, along with their slot receiver, Nick Easley. They do bring back Nathan Stanley, who will be looking to impress NFL scouts and drive his stock up this year, and an offensive line with three returning starters and two seniors filling voids of the departed. The Hawkeyes should be able to overcome the lack of continuity in the passing game with an offensive line that could be better than Wisconsin’s.

Iowa does lose a bit on defense, including their four leading tacklers and two most disruptive defensive backs. However, they do bring back one man that opposing teams have to make an entire game plan around, AJ Epenesa. He had 10.5 sacks last year en route to being an all-conference defensive end. The secondary will be anchored by Geno Stone and Michael Ojemudia, who combined for seven interceptions last year.

The schedule is not kind. Iowa’s home games include Miami University (Ohio), Rutgers, Middle Tennessee, Penn State, Purdue, Minnesota, and Illinois. These games are all very winnable at Kinnick Stadium and they could realistically be undefeated at home come Thanksgiving weekend. The rough part is that Iowa has to go on the road to Iowa State, Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. All of these teams are beatable (sans Michigan, I don’t think they’ll lose at home this year) and the way I project it, they only need to win one of these games to get to eight wins, which they should have no problem doing.

Yetur Gross-Matos of Penn-State
Yetur Gross-Matos of Penn-State (photo credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Penn State (+1800)

Season win total: Over 8.5 (+110)

Penn State loses a ton coming into this season and they have to run through the gauntlet that is the Big 10 East. They have a five-game stretch of versus Purdue, at Iowa, versus Michigan, at Michigan State, and at Minnesota. They have to go 3-2 in this stretch to get over their win total of 8.5, unless they can win at Ohio State in late November. They’ll start the season out 4-0 before starting the aforementioned stretch.

The early line versus Purdue is 10.5 and I like the Purdue side, and then it’s a bunch of games where Penn St. is either the underdog or a very slight favorite. Close, competitive Big 10 games don’t usually bode well for teams as inexperienced as Penn State is going to be. Their starting quarterback has thrown a whole seven passes in his career and they only return one wide receiver with any sort of experience. Tight end Pat Freiermuth will be very important to this offense, whether he can improve on a solid freshman season is unknown.

Nittany Lions lose a lot on defense, but they also bring back a good core to build upon in 2019. Defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos not only has an awesome name, but he’s primed for a huge year after a great season last year with 8 sacks and 20 total tackles for a loss and being selected for first team All-Big 10; he could be an All-American candidate this year. They also bring back linebacker Robert Windsor, who recorded 7.5 sacks and should be an All-Big 10 player this year. We know that DC Brent Pry wants to pressure the QB, so these types of guys are necessary, but the lack of experience overall will be an issue.

At the end of the season, I think that Penn State winning seven games is more likely than winning nine as they just have too many things working against them.

Minnesota (+2500)

Season win total: Over 7.5 (-130)

PJ Fleck is an incredible coach and he’s now in his third year in the program which means that this should be a well-oiled Fleck machine. In his third year at Western Michigan, a program that was destitute of talent when he arrived, the Broncos went 8-5. This wasn’t a normal 8-5 though, as two of the losses were to top-five teams in Michigan State and Ohio State. One was the week after Michigan State to a great triple-option team in Georgia Southern, too, and another loss was to a Babers-coached Bowling Green team that was putting up 42 points per game. These sound like excuses, but that was a brutal schedule for a MAC team. Now, the same man has loads of Big 10 caliber talent and returns 78% of the team’s total production from last year, which is most in the conference.

Minnesota will have an actual battle at quarterback between two experienced, talented guys who will push each other all offseason. Whoever it is that wins the job will have a load of talent to work with at the skill positions. All-conference receiver Tyler Johnson returns after setting Minnesota records of 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns on 78 receptions. They also return stud sophomore Rashod Bateman after bursting on the scene as a freshman. Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith both return from injury and Mo Ibrahim is back after playing the filler role to perfection last year. They also have redshirt freshman tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford, who was a standout on the scout team last year and could impact things similar to Rashod Bateman last year.

On the offensive line, Minnesota returns four starters and should be an improved unit. Phil Steele says his projections call for the Gophers to score 34 points per game, which is almost a full touchdown more than last year.

The defense showed some signs of life the last part of the year, allowing only one team to score more than 15 points. They return seven starters on the defensive side, including All-Big 10 defensive end Carter Coughlin and sophomore safety Antoine Winfield, who will be one of the most impactful players on the field if he can stay healthy.

I am ambivalent about the Gophers’ schedule, which is the only issue with this play. They should beat South Dakota State, Fresno State, and Georgia Southern to start the year 3-0. They then have a bye week before traveling to Purdue, which is going to be a very important game for the Gophers as they should be approximately 3-point favorites here. The next four-game stretch is Illinois, Nebraska, at Rutgers, and Maryland. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see Minnesota sitting at 8-0 before getting to the tougher part of their schedule. A 9-3 season for the Gophers is very much within reach and a 25-to-1 ticket on them to win the conference doesn’t seem too crazy.