The Thursday Night Football preview is back, but with a bonus. With so many games going on, we will add some action to the card- in addition to the Thursday night football contest. Really, we have to make up for the poor performance we had last Tuesday. So we got a Thursday NFL preview, two bowl game previews, and a couple college basketball games to wrap up the slate before Christmas.
No need to waste time, here's our preview - with all the point spreads provided by our partners at DraftKings Sportsbook - which has an incredible offer for first-time users right now.
Thursday Night Football: Tennessee at San Francisco
Spread: San Francisco (-3)
There has been a pattern of uncertainty with Covid-19 outbreaks occurring throughout the world of sports. It’s been a long week of football. After back-to-back nights of Tuesday night football, the NFL season is finally onto week 16. Tennessee is coming off a 19-13 loss against Pittsburgh. While San Francisco throttled Atlanta 31-13. Tennessee is likely getting AJ Brown back in the lineup, marking the first time since Week 9 that Julio Jones and Brown will be in the lineup together. Tennessee was able to compete with Pittsburgh despite losing the turnover margin by four. Having their star receiver will be vital since the offense has been struggling over the past few weeks.
On the other side, Tennessee defense has been stout against the run (second overall in the NFL) but they are still vulnerable in the passing game. Tennessee's safeties have been decent against tight ends this year, but George Kittle is simply a different animal. I think Kittle prop of over 73.5 receiving yards is a smash spot, and Kittle has surpassed that total by 20 yards in his past three games. San Francisco offense is extremely balanced right now ranking 4th in passing and rushing DVOA. Deebo Samuel has been a menace, and they are going to cause problems to the Tennessee defense.
Offensively for Tennessee, they get AJ Brown back, but they will play without their two starting tackles. This is horrible news when you have to line up against Nick Bosa and the rest of the San Francisco pass rush. San Francisco ranks 2nd in DVOA against the run which will stall Tennessee’s ability to get ahead of the chains and slow down their play action game. The defense is vulnerable to getting beat through the air (21st DVOA). But is Ryan Tannehill able to make plays while under pressure all game? I don’t think so. San Francisco is the better team and I’m betting them on getting the road win here.
The pick: (San Francisco -3) AND George Kittle over 73.5 receiving yards
Frisco Football Classic: Miami Ohio vs North Texas
Spread: Miami Ohio -1
So funny story, while putting these picks together last night I was messing with some bets I might put in. I did this while simultaneously eating dinner which was a mistake, and a loose finger accidentally made me submit a max bet on North Texas on the ML. Which was great, and the line has moved since then.
So, I feel like this Christmas fate is getting me to bet on North Texas.
Fate aside, North Texas is in a good spot here. They are virtually playing at home and are coming into this game on a five-game winning streak. In that stretch the Mean Green defense is holding goes to just 305.5 yards and 15.3 points per game. North Texas has a top 15 offensive line in both adjusted sack rate and power success rate.
They should be able to hold off a vicious Red Hawk pass rush that leads the MAC in pressure rate. But their damage should come on the ground. The Mean Green are averaging over 200 rushing yards per game and we just saw Miami of Ohio give up 300 yards on the ground in their last contest. The Redhawks have been dominated by top rushing offenses all year and this isn’t any different. Give me North Texas in this one.
The pick: North Texas ML
Gasparilla Bowl: UCF vs Florida
Spread: Florida (-6.5)
The main factor in handicapping bowl games is analyzing motivation. I feel like this is pretty obvious. Florida just fired their coach and most of the players playing in this game are thinking about the combine or where they are going to party on New Year’s Eve. For UCF this is their chance to prove they are the best football program in the State of Florida.
Really, who has won the most recent “National Championship” - that’s UCF.
All of UCF’s key players are playing this game, and Gus Malzahn knows how important this will be on the recruiting trail. Florida will be missing potential top 20 pick Zachary Carter and leading tackler Mohamoud Diabate. In an interesting twist, Emory Jones will be starting at quarterback while simultaneously in the transfer portal.
UCF's defense has been one of the most improved units in college football. Over its final six victories this season, the Knights never allowed more than 17 points in any game. While UCF’s offense isn’t as potent, all they need to do is take care of the ball in this one.
Expect a low scoring game and I don’t think we need the points. UCF makes a statement and wins this outright.
The pick: UCF +6.5
Hawaii Airlines Classic: Liberty vs Stanford
Spread: Stanford (-2)
We are done with football so now onto college hoops. I think Liberty is a live dog in this one. Do you really think Stanford wants to prepare to play Ritchie McKay’s pack line defense right after taking finals and two days before Christmas? I’m not sure they will be motivated, while this is a great opportunity for Liberty to beat a power conference team.
The packline defense will force Stanford to play on the perimeter, something they aren’t very great at. The Cardinal are connecting from three at just a 32.6 percent clip, (204th best in the country.) and rank 292nd in turnover percentage, also not great going against the Pack Line defense.
On offense Darius McGhee powers the Flames offense averaging 19.8 points per game. They can shoot the lights out when they are hot, ranking 73rd in three-point percentage. The spread seems low at first sight, but Liberty is a damn good basketball team. Love them in this spot.
The pick: Liberty +2
Fresno State at Weber State
Spread: Weber State -2
Dee Events Center will be the place to be the night before Christmas Eve. We have a matchup between two of the top mid-major teams on the Western side of the country.
The Bulldogs have surpassed my expectations so far going 9-3 on the season, and all three losses have come against top 120 teams in Ken Pom. Weber State is also 9-3 with all loses coming against potential tournament contenders (Washington State, Utah State, and BYU).
In terms of the big-picture, Arizona transfer Jemari Baker is likely not going to make the trip for the Bulldogs. He didn’t travel with the team to Salt Lake City in their matchup against Utah. Weber State will need to find an answer for Fresno State center Orlando Robinson who is averaging 18.6 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game. Robinson’s matchup with Weber State 6-foot-11 center Alex Tew will be fun to watch.
On defense Weber State is one of the best teams of avoiding fouls allowing the fifth least free throw attempts in the country. The Wildcats offense is fun to watch and they have multiple guys who can fill the cup. Weber State has four starters averaging double digits and they are led by Marquette transfer Koby McEwen. I’ll trust Weber State’s scoring depth and home court advantage to take over in this one. Weber State dropped it’s last two big non-conference home court opportunities, but I don't’t think they let this one slip away. Take the Wildcats here.
The pick: Weber State ML -126
Follow Austin on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive
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