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Las Vegas Expert Picks: NCAAF Bowl Games, NFL Week 17

Las Vegas Expert Picks: NCAAF Bowl Games, NFL Week 17

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 - BOWLING shoes still on, and boy, do we have action. Kick it off this evening with the Holiday Bowl. Iowa, at 9-3, had another superb season while USC, at 8-4, came on strong after a couple of early stumbles. Clay Helton, head man in Los Angeles, was given a vote of confidence, and will be back next season. Maybe because he found a QB, freshman Kedon Slovis, that blew the doors off the Pac 12. After a rocky start, Slovis wound up with 3,242 passing yards, 28 TDs and 9 INTs. Oh yea, he was also named Pac 12 Freshman of the Year.

Will he have a tough time against the Hawkeye defense that was 10th in the country against the pass? We looked into that ranking, and 
it doesn't scare me. And it will not scare the Trojans. Iowa built that ranking in the Big 10 against teams that were NOT pass-happy. The Big 10 had only one QB in the Top 25, while the Pac 12 had four. Easy to build glossy stats against teams that don't pass much. Give Southern Cal the home state edge with the game in San Diego, and put me down for a BEST BET on USC BAABBEEE!!! FIGHT ON!!!

Tomorrow, we start the day in Atlanta and will roll with Oklahoma +14 points over LSU. First lemme say that I was crying along with Joe Burrow when he won the Heisman Trophy and talked about his home in Ohio. Here's a taste. “Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very impoverished area. There are so many people that don’t have a lot,” Burrow said. “And I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. And you guys can be up here, too.” Since that speech, they raised almost $500,000 for a number of charities, and I'll be rooting like hell for Joe to win, just NOT cover.

At PLUS 14, Oklahoma looks very tasty. Why? Since Lincoln Riley took over in 2017, the Sooners have lost only five games. By a GRAND total of 34 points. My calculator tells me that's an average of 6.8 points per game. Both teams a relentless on offense, with LSU sitting at #3 and OU sitting at #5. Yes, the Tigers have played the tougher schedule, but they will give up points. 'Bama torched the D for 41 points, Texas posted 38 and even Mississippi put up 37. By the way, you can look for me in the Sooner Schooner. I'll be driving, and we will NOT tip over!!! 

In the Fiesta Bowl, gonna buy Ohio State +2 points over Clemson. Lemme tell you about the revenge factor. The Tigers fed the Buckeyes an EMBARRASSING 31-0 bagel back in 2016, in the, yes, Fiesta Bowl. Urban Meyer ate that bagel, while Ryan Day was working in San Francisco with the 49ers. But you KNOW they AIN'T gonna forget. Day took over as interim in 2018, won all three games, and has been perfect this season, bringing his record to a SPECTACULAR 16-0! Naturally, Dabo lives in the spectacular category as well with a 28-0 record the last two years.

My only issue with Clemson is the WEAK schedule in the ACC. Actually, the ACC Coastal, Clemson's home, ranked #10 (71.65) in the Sagarin Conference Ratings, while the Big Ten East, the Buckeyes home, ranked #3 (79.61). Just to tie a ribbon around this line of thought, the Bucks played the fifth-toughest strength of schedule in college football, while Clemson played, are you sitting, the 77th-toughest strength of schedule. Totally respect what Dabo has done, and think that his QB, Trevor Lawrence, will be playing on Sunday, but this O-State QB, Justin Fields, is special as well. REALLY SPECIAL! He threw for 2,953 yards, but the RIDONKULOUS number, and again, are you sitting, is, 40 TDs against only one teeny tiny interception. C'mon and DOT THE i with me BAABBEEE!!!    

On the NFL board Sunday, got the Bengals +3 points over the Browns. Heard that Cleveland is gonna fly directly to Palm Springs after the game, and the golf clubs are in the locker. Actually, some of the Brownies might just leave at halftime to beat the non-exsistant Cincinnati traffic. All you have to know about Cincy is, they are still fighting like crazy and Andy Dalton is playing for a few MILLION dollars and his next contract.

It ain't gonna be in Cincinnati because the Bengals have the #1 pick and WILL bring home Ohio native son, Joe Burrow. Just look at last week against Miami when Cincy was down 28-12, then ripped off 23 points to force OT. Yea, they still lost, but the Red Rifle was exceptional, hitting 33 of 56 for 396 yards and 4 TDs. Since we had a pretty profitable season with a 12-4 best bet record, don't wanna get greedy, so, gonna wager only 1/8 of my normal bundle. And there's only one thing left to say. This IS NOT my best bet baby. Actually, don't have a best bet. Don't be upset. It's called money management, and we WILL be back with some gorgeous BBs once the playoffs start.

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 winners, and detested by others, when he picks the occasional loser. If you wanna piece of Eck, hit his email...ben@americasline.com.