No. 23 Fresno State and Boise State, again the best of the Mountain West Conference, are headed for another showdown after meeting in the conference championship game last season. Fresno State is a perfect 5-0 in conference play and sits at 8-1 overall after winning their last 7 games. The Broncos sit one game behind the Bulldogs and are at 7-2 overall but have struggled to cover the number with a fairly pedestrian 4-5 record ATS compared to Fresno's 8-1. The Bulldogs' success the last 2 seasons has largely been due to graduate transfer QB Marcus McMaryion who compiled 2,726 passing yards with 14 touchdowns to 5 interceptions a season ago and has taken a step forward in 2018, completing over 70% of his passes and an even more impressive 20/3 TD/INT ratio with 3 games remaining. The Bulldogs also bring one of the top defensive units to this game, allowing opponents' success rate of just 32.8%, 7th best mark in the nation. Senior QB for the Broncos, Brett Rypien has put up impressive numbers but this is likely the best defense Rypien will face all season and he has struggled against the likes of Oklahoma St, San Diego St and BYU, all teams with stout defensive lines. The Bulldogs haven't compiled the sack numbers but still generate ample pressure and are ranked 9th against the pass by efficiency metrics and also hold opposing quarterbacks to a completion rate of just 49.0%, 4th best mark in the country. It's not too often we see the Broncos as underdogs on the blue turf but we believe their secondary is suspect, especially with regard to explosive plays and McMaryion should be able to pick them apart once the offense gets settled in. Visitors to make it three in a row after winning both meetings last season!
These two girls have never met on the tennis court, so no direct comparison. Nevertheless, we believe Veronica Cepede Royg will follow up yesterdays impressive win over Beatriz Haddad Maia. With regards to yesterdays match, we suggested VCR would benefit from Haddad Maia winning last weeks tournament. However, to be fair, the Paraguayan was fully in the zone, and she was made to fight for the victory. Serving well and taking her chance with break points was the difference. When Allie Kiick is on she can be very good, but to be blunt the American is very ‘’hit and miss’’. An example of such is losing yesterdays second set to Deborah Chiesa 0-6! VCR looking good!
This is a bet we sent out last night - NEW QUAY is 10 pounds well-in on official figures, and he’s clearly open to improvement. Bridget Andrews gets to take a further 3 pounds off, so he’s clearly the one to beat. Despite all those positives we want to take him on with CAPITAINE. The main reason for taking Paul Nicholls six year old is he’s 15 pounds lower over hurdles and best of all he comes from a stable in cracking form. Byrony Frost is a solid booking, and these odds are very nice.
These two play very unorthodox tennis, and without going into a deep explanation. Let’s just say Niculescu will be happy to charge the net and use her great footwork and volleying. Gasparyan on the other hand will want to take everything on her backhand, so expect plenty of contrast! Margarita Gasparyan never reached the heights expected of her, albeit injuries could be partly blamed for slowing down the 24 year olds career. The Russian has done the sensible thing by mainly dropping back to ITF level, and that’s helped her to a season 30/13! Niculescu knows more about injuries than most players, but she appears fit at the moment . In her last tournament she easily beat Zvonareva, Garcia-Perez and Parmentier, and in the first round here she easily got the better of Viktoriya Tomova. We believe the Romanian will get the win here!
After two tough losses to Clemson and Syracuse eliminated conference title hopes, the Wolfpack got back on the right track with a 47-28 win over Florida St last week and enter this matchup still ranked in the top 15. On the other side, Wake Forest has fallen on hard times as they've lost 3 of their last 4 games and it was revealed after Saturday's loss to Syracuse that freshman quarterback Sam Hartman will miss the remained of the regular season with a leg injury. Redshirt sophomore Jamie Newman is in line for his first career start and his limited experience coupled with the short week presents a difficult challenge on NC State's senior night. The Deacons are still playing for bowl eligibility but Hartman was their 12th scholarship player lost for the season and their lack of depth is simply too much to overcome for 4 quarters, especially late in the season. Wolfpack DL Shug Frazier and Eurndraus Bryant sat out last week with undisclosed injuries but both are expected back tonight. While they've already clinched bowl eligibility, we believe a New Year's Six Bowl is still within reach for the Wolfpack and motivation shouldn't be lacking as they look to climb the rankings with an easy schedule remaining. We see no reason the hosts don't dominate from start to finish!
After a slow start to the season, the Steelers have won 4 in a row and 5 of their last 6 to take the lead in the AFC North by a half game over the Bengals. The Panthers amidst injuries to key players have also managed to win 5 of their last 6 and are just 1 game behind the Saints in the NFC South. Despite both of their starting tackles Daryl Williams and Matt Kalil remaining out, the Panthers' OL has performed adequately and a burgeoning group of receivers has the Panthers the 5th rated offense in the league. WR Torrey Smith is out with a knee injury but TE Greg Olsen is expected to play and safety Eric Reid is questionable. For the hosts, T Marcus Gibert and NT Daniel McCullers will both be sidelined but QB Ben Roethlisberger practiced in full and will start after suffering a scare against the Ravens last week. The Steelers' defense has improved in recent weeks but they are still poor against the pass ranking in the bottom third of the league and are especially vulnerable against opposing tight ends which doesn't bode well against a Panthers team with one of the top pass catching TEs in the league in Greg Olsen. The Steelers also just played a tough physical game against their division rival Ravens and on a short week, we expect them to drop their level of play more than the Panthers who had a relatively easy time in their division match against a soft Buccaneers defense. Visitors have enough weapons to keep this within a field goal in our opinion!
Lyon are no world beaters, but the dynamics have changed for this reverse match with Hoffenheim. When the two teams met in Germany the score ended 3-3, and to be fair their could have been many more goals. From the balance of play that night, it would be easy to suggest Julian Nagelsmann could have been to more disappointed of the two managers. However, their wasn’t massive domination, and a draw was probably fair. The thing is that since then Lyon have had players returning, and for this game all of Fekir, Cornet and Rafael are available. Add to that the change of venue, and doubts about the two times Hoffenheim scorer Kramaric. Anyway, you can see were we are going with this, home win!
We are struggling to understand why Beatriz Haddad Maia hasn’t been more successful this year, because the 22 year old is a real talent. Unlike most South Americans BHM is actually better on hard courts, and she comes into this on the back of making a final in Tyler. that tournament was clearly the Brazilians best effort for a while, albeit she should have been more competitive in the final. The danger for BHM appears to be playing this tournament just a few days later, because she’s known to need time between matches. Veronica Cepede Royg leads head to heads 3-1, and she recently made the final of Macon. Going out in the first round of Tyler was to be expected, because it followed tough week. However, she should be fully ready for this! Take VCR in the outright!
One of the bets we advised today! ————Richard Johnson is by far the best national hunt jockey riding in the UK, and we always take a second look at his rides. In this race the champion is on the favourite WHIN PARK, and he should go well. However, strictly on the book he’s got a bit to find, and while that’s not impossible 5/2 is short. For us, trying to read runners from Ewan Williams stable is impossible, thus we will pass on his MORIANOUR. OUR REWARD is 9 pounds lower over fences, but he’s not the safest of jumpers. Go with lowly weighted CLONDAW RIGGER. Katy Price’s runner is a strong stayer and he ran well on his recent return.
Pauline Parmentier needs to be recognised for her work ethic, albeit being ranked 54 is fair reward. The 32 year old will certainly be giving this tournament a real try, and she leads her fellow countrywoman Fiona Ferro 3-0 on head to heads. And, since all three of those matches took place on French soil, she also ticks that box! However, two of those matches took place in 2013 and 2014, meaning Ferro was just 16/17 at the time. And, to be analytical, the 21 year old has only began to climb the ranks this year. Ferro is a cool 42/21 on the YTD, and she recently peaked at number 102 in the world. It’s worth mentioning that the younger girl won four tournaments in 2018, and she also made the final of another two. Wins against Duque-Marino, Minella, Dulgheru and Dolehide were decent enough, but they have been surpassed with recent victories over Kozlova, Saisai Zheng, Golubic and Niculescu. At these odds we see big value in the younger girl!
The Nuggets have gotten off to a blazing start in 2018 as they own the 2nd best record in the West at 9-1 and are coming off a 115-107 win over the Celtics on Monday. The Grizzlies outlook is certainly brighter than last year but they are coming off back to back losses to the Suns and Warriors and sit at 5-4 on the year. Chandler Parsons and JaMychal Green remain out for the hosts and Shelvin Mack and Dillon Brooks are both probable. For the visitors, Will Barton rmeains out with a groin injury while Paul Millsap is probable. The Achilles' Heel of the Grizzlies this season has been rebounding as their reb% of 46.8% is 28th out of 30 teams and this doesn't bode well against the Nuggets who lead the league in that regard at 54.5%. The Grizzlies duo of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley bring a strong defensive presence that can't be overlooked but there is very little talent behind them and we just can't see enough offensive firepower to keep up with a deep Nuggets team. Visitors to win in comfortable fashion!
The Ohio Bobcats host the Miami (OH) RedHawks in a key MAC East battle. Ohio enters this matchup at 6-3 overall and 4-1 in conference play, trailing MAC East leader Buffalo who's a perfect 6-0 against MAC opponents. Miami (OH) is a game behind Ohio at 3-2 in conference play but their overall record of 3-6 puts them just one loss away from bowl elimination. As is always the case in the "Battle of the Bricks", tensions will be high between bitter in-state rivals with what's at stake. RedHawks 5th year coach Chuck Martin has still yet to defeat either Cincinnati or Ohio during his tenure and his comments along with some of his players would indicate that this game is of utmost importance for many reasons. Unfortunately, the RedHawks are trending in the wrong direction following consecutive road losses to Army and Buffalo though there were some positives in each matchup as they lost by just 1 point against Army and put up 42 points against Buffalo. The RedHawks also still have a stout defense that's in the top third of the country against the run by efficiency metrics and top 30 in limiting explosive run plays. This should be key against a Bobcats offense led by Nathan Rourke, a true dual threat QB, but one that relies primarily on running the ball. Rourke is one of the highest rated quarterbacks in the MAC but this is largely due to his low interception rate and Rourke averages under 200 yards per game through the air. In fact, we have much more faith in RedHawks' QB Gus Ragland who's tossed for over 300 yards in consecutive games on the road and he faces a Bobcats defense that can't pressure the QB and ranks in the bottom 30 in the country in passing defensive efficiency. This is essentially the hosts' Super Bowl and we see some slippage in the Bobcats' play with Buffalo looming for them next week.