The following excerpts are from the 2019 PLAYBOOK Football Preview Guide magazine.
NCAA'S 2019 TOP ATS TEAMS
BAYLOR We fully expect Baylor to go from the Bad News Bears to the Good News Bears this season. It starts with having QB Charlie Brewer operating at full speed behind an OL that returns five players who have started at least one game on the offensive line. The young but vastly experienced Bears have no back-to-back road games and also bring back 8 of their top 10 tacklers from 2018. And if you don't think Matt Rhule has them playing out of their skin, consider this: nobody in the nation blocked more kicks than Baylor in 2018. Remember, Rhule is 13-4 SU and 16-1 ATS against foes he defeated in a most recent meeting. Color the Bears extremely dangerous.
MEMPHIS Head coach Mike Norvell will be headed to a Power 5 school in the very near future, and if things go according to Hoyle it could be next year. Averaging nearly 9 wins a season under his lead, the Tigers, are loaded with returning experience, despite the loss of RB Darrell Henderson, drafted by the LA Rams. Included is RB Patrick Taylor Jr., arguably the best running back in the FBS. The 6'3" 225 pound freight train has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards behind Henderson the past two seasons. Memphis is 20-4 in its first six games of the season since 2015. A fast start this year and they may not be caught.
MICHIGAN STATE If you think head coach Mark Dantonio was satisfied with last season's 7-win effort, think again. In his 12-year tenure with the Spartans, in seasons after winning 7 or fewer games the previous year, his troops have gone 9-4, 11-2, 13-1 and 10-3. That's average of nearly 11 wins per season. Better yet his teams went 29-5 SU and 21-13 ATS in conference play, including 21-8 ATS when not favored by 14 or more points. Loaded with 17 returning starters and plenty of returning player experience including 37 of 44 players back from last year's two-deep we are on Dantonio like white on rice this season.
OREGON We'll be the first to admit that we're not huge fans of Mario Cristobal (a bit too conservative for our tastes). But it's impossible to not overlook the talent on hand this year. It largely comes, in part, to strong recruiting classes by Cristobal since joining the Ducks as an assistant two years ago. His ace in the hole is QB Justin Herbert who opted to come back for his senior season rather than enter the draft. A sure-fire first rounder, Herbert has averaged over 39 PPG in his career starts with Oregon. FYI: the Ducks are 36-10 SU and 40-5-1 ATS In games as an underdog in which they score 30 or more points. Good luck laying points against this squad.
UCLA has had six consecutive non-winning seasons since 1965. They were 50-22-1 SU the following year, producing a winning record every season UNTIL LAST YEAR. Rest assured, if we're aware of it so is Chip Kelly. Only this year he has a year under his belt and a boatload of returning starters more than any FBS team this season. Coupled with Kelly's mind-blowing 28-1 SU career mark in games against sub .800 college opponents, it all but assures the Bruins will be in serious payback mode this season.
Let's Keep An Eye On:
TENNESSEE The Vols' failure to deliver during its 4-win season in 2017 was like waiting 20 minutes in the rain for a black Toyota Camry at the airport. You hoped it would pull up... but it never did. Now it's time for UT to deliver the goods under second-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt. Showing improvement on both sides of the ball last year in Pruitt's rookie season last year, Rocky Top brings back one of the most experienced teams in the FBS in 2019. With no less than six SEC games on this year's slate ripe with revenge from last season, look for a smoother ride this campaign. ... USC Perhaps no coach is on a hotter seat than Clay Helton. And with it the Trojans are a certified "mission team" in 2019 as well, coming off a rare losing effort last year (only their 4th since 1961). For what it's worth those teams bounced back to go 32-14-1 the following season, landing bowl bids every year. ... VIRGINIA TECH The Hokies came close to cracking our Fab Five with head coach Justin Fuente fueled with incentive to reverse last year's 6-7 effort, Tech's first losing season since 1992. It all starts with the No. 1 ranked defense in returning experience in the land one that was red-faced embarrassed in 2018. No surprise should they show up undefeated at South Bend in November. ... WESTERN MICHIGAN What do you get with a team loaded with 18 starters that ranks in the Top 10 on both sides of the ball in returning experience? A force to be reckoned with, one that is assured to reverse last year's dismal 3-9 ATS mark, for sure. Expect the Broncos to be a force in the wild, wild MAC West. ... WYOMING We love isolating teams that fell short of a winning record, yet won 4 or more of their final six games of the season (momentum closers). We also like backing teams that improved their stats on both sides of the ball, yet slipped both SU and ATS. The Cowboys check both boxes and are well coached. Who could ask for anything more.
NFL'S 2019 TOP ATS TEAMS
INDIANAPOLIS The Colts showed what they are capable of last season when they improved from 4 wins to 11 behind a finally healthy Andrew Luck at quarterback. Following a tentative break-in period the first six games of the campaign, Luck elevated his game back to Hall of Fame status leading Indy to a 10-2 finish and a divisional round loss to Kansas City when his QBR average went from 56.1 over the first six games of the season to 108.3 over the final 10 games. After having struck gold in the draft the past two seasons, and with the entire offensive line back in tact, this year's team has a 'super' glow about it.
JACKSONVILLE The Nick Foles for Blake Bortles exchange was a major move in a Jaguar revival. Behind an offense that had fallen to its 3rd-lowest scoring level in franchise history, Jacksonville finished in the division cellar for only the sixth time in its 24-year existence. They also allowed more points than they scored of the 10th time in the past eleven seasons. Behind a staunch defense, look for the offense to finally blossom this season.
NEW ORLEANS The oversize shoulder pads being worn by the Saints this year are actually chips the size of boulders they will carry on their shoulder this season following perhaps the two most painful playoff losses any team has suffered the past two seasons. If that's not enough to find the Who Dats in all-out mode this season, then winning one for QB Drew Brees surely is. Drawing the AFC South in their non-conference slate couldn't have worked out better either given the Saints' 7-2 SUATS mark in games against that conference since the beat the Colts in Super Bowl XIV.
PHILADELPHIA The Eagles are all-in with QB Carson Wentz who before being injured in 2017 was the leading MVP candidate before he went down and Nick Foles stepped in took them to the promise land. From the 'Betcha Didn't Know' file, Philadelphia has scored more points than its foes 16 of the last 19 seasons. If its 17 of the last 20 by season's end they will be in prime position to make another postseason run.
SAN FRANCISCO Lots going on for the Niners this year with Jimmy Garoppolo finally ready to assume the reins for a full season (knock on wood). That's great news considering his productive, albeit limited, 8-2 record as a starting quarterback in the league. Remember, Frisco was a team riddled with injuries last season that has slayed the draft the past two seasons. If Nick Bosa, the 2nd choice in this year's draft, stays healthy the defense they could double last season's win total.
Let's Keep An Eye On:
BUFFALO Somebody in the AFC East figures to finish behind New England and the Bills look to be that team in 2019. Behind an emerging quarterback and a manageable schedule, look for Sean McDermott's under rated defense to complete the equation ... GREEN BAY Call this a no-brainer. An embarrassed first ballot NFL Hall of Fame quarterback coming off consecutive losing seasons with a new coach that will ride his talents to the max ... LA CHARGERS Like Drew Brees, QB Phillip Rivers is getting long in the tooth but remains on top of his game. A strong draft finds them battling Kansas City for division honors... MINNESOTA Call this more of a vote for Mike Zimmer than Kirk Cousins. It's never hard backing the best pointspread coach in the league coming off a disappointing season... TENNESSEE The pieces are in place for the Titans to move to the next level with QB Marcus Mariota in the final year of his contract and key components in place to help him finally achieve elite status in the loop.
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