Vegas veteran Benjamin Eckstein, author of America’s Line, brings three decades of experience to make weekly picks in his “Ecks & Bacon” column.
LAS VEGAS — Most of you know about a “Bad Moon Rising” from the great band Creedence Clearwater Revival. Most of you probably don’t know about Utah QB Cameron Rising. Cam ain’t in the Heisman Trophy chatter, but he is putting up some sweet numbers for the Utes. He has hit on 172 of 274 passes (62.8%) for 2,109 yards with 17 TDs and only three INTs.
Most of you have heard of Thurman Thomas, but how many of you know Tavion Thomas? Double T has been a monster for Utah this season, and his numbers keep getting stronger. Tavion started the season with 107 yards against Weber State, got nicked, and didn’t see any serious action until the USC game on October 9. From that point, Thomas has gobbled up 844 yards in seven games for an average of 120.5 yards per game. In the BLOWOUT against Oregon back on November 20, he rumbled for 94 yards, but the team ripped open holes for 208 total yards.
The fact is, the Ducks CANNOT stop the run. They were RUN OVER by Oregon State last week on the ground, giving up 269 yards to the Beavers. What about the revenge angle, Eck? Yeah, totally get that Utah SMOTHERED Oregon a few weeks ago, breezing to a 38-7 win, but I don’t think the Ducks have enough quack to reverse the result.
The final score might be a little tighter, but the Utes are gonna cash my ticket on the neutral Allegiant Stadium field here in Vegas.
College Football Picks
Without a doubt, the most important game tomorrow is the SEC title tilt in Atlanta. It will determine who plays in the College Football Playoff and how the top four teams are seeded. Georgia wins and it’s the No. 1 seed, NO questions asked. But what happens to Alabama? Will a two-loss ’Bama team get squeezed out by either Notre Dame or Oklahoma State? Those questions will be answered on Sunday, but the only answer you want right now is the Sportsbook of this epic matchup.
The Bulldogs defense is, as everyone knows, THE BEST in the land, and should be able to control a Crimson Tide offense that looked absolutely PEDESTRIAN against Auburn last week. The Tide have had problems protecting QB Bryce Young all season, and he was sacked SEVEN times last week. When was the last time that Alabama did not score until the fourth quarter? Maybe NOT in my lifetime.
So, now you look at the spread, Georgia -6.5, and you know that Alabama has not been an underdog in the last NINETY-TWO GAMES! That looks tasty. And so does Heisman Trophy front-runner Young.
However, there’s a QB on the other side, Stetson Fleming Bennett IV, who can play a little. His numbers are not as gaudy as Bryce’s, but Stetson ain’t just a hat. He has hit on 119 of 183 passes (65%) for 1,985 yards with 21 TDs and just five INTs. If Tide RB Brian Robinson is not ready to go, the Dawgs get even tastier. Just not ready to load up on this game, but expect Georgia to get to the promised land and squeeze out a cover.
Now for some evening delight, and we’re on Michigan -11 points over Iowa. Sure, laying double digits in the Big Ten championship looks a little scary, but these Wolverines are SCARY. They broke down and then smothered a VERY good Ohio State team last week, and should be able to do the same to the Hawkeyes. The Wolves have turned into an offensive JUGGERNAUT, scoring 101 points the last two games. QB Cade McNamara is efficient (64.4% completion rate) and mostly mistake-free (14 TDs, 3 INTs).
Then there’s the ground game. Ground & Pound, baby! Hassan Haskins has rumbled for 1,232 yards and 18 TDs, while Blake Corum has gobbled up 865 yards with 10 TDs. If you’re worried about a Michigan letdown after beating the Buckeyes, DON’T! The Wolverines know that they’re IN with a win, and OUT with a loss. Gimme the Wolverines for the money!
For your Sunday viewing pleasure, we’re gonna go fishing and take the Dolphins over the Giants. We liked Miami at -3 a TON, but still like the Fish at -6, maybe half a ton. The 3-point line move is due to New York QB Daniel Jones, who is out. The NYG will use backup Mike Glennon. If you’re not familiar with the career backup guy, Glennon was OH & FIVE last year with the Jaguars, and has a GORGEOUS overall record of 6-21 in stops at Tampa, Chicago, Arizona, Oakland and Jax.
On the other side of the ball, someone, probably head coach Brian Flores, turned the switch at the start of November, and Miami is on a sweet four-game roll straight up and against the spread. Tua has been fantastic, but it’s the Flores defense that has really turned the season around. The Fish have allowed only 46 total points in the last four, an average of 11.5 per game, and I would be surprised if the Giants even broke into double digits on the scoreboard. Teach a man to fish, you know the saying, and the Dolphins cover this number with ease!
And if you want more picks this weekend on the college and NFL board, PLZ hit me on Instagram. I will be doing quick 15-second picks at www.instagram.com/vegasvigoris
Benjamin Eckstein is a nationally syndicated sportswriter/oddsmaker. His column, America's Line, with the Ecks & Bacon appetizer, has run in the New York Daily News and over 100 other papers since 1988. You can follow him online at www.americasline.com. He is beloved by most, when he picks Sportsbooks, and detested by others, when he picks the occasional loser. If you wanna piece of Eck, hit his [email protected].