Joe Gavazzi

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In analyzing the data in the chart above, it is meaningful to note that these 13 teams had a record of 379-143 SU (73%) entering 2016.  The numbers for 2016 were quite dichotomous.  The combined records of the teams dipped to 55-103 SU and 46-99 ATS for the completed 2016 season.  It is yet another reason to look for the “bounce back”.  Using the chart and the paragraphs above as a guide, let’s now examine each individual team in a thumb nail sketch that may offer a Pointspread Prognosis of their 2017 fortunes.


You don’t have to look much further than the offensive decline of the Wildcats who dropped from 37/495 in 2015 to 25/413 in 2016.  Along with the fact that the defense was a sieve for consecutive seasons, the value of Wildcat pelts has been severely depleted in the high desert of Arizona.  6th year HC Rich Rod took his share of the blame by admitting to mistakes in recruiting. Coach Rod is now 22-38 ATS in Tucson leaving the natives, and alumni.  More than a bit restless.  16 returning starters are a reason why it will be put up or shut up time for Rodriquez and the Wildcats.


Of the reasons given above for a team’s fall from grace, none of them included the back lash of a sexual scandal in the ranks of the football team that pervaded the entire administration, coaching ranks, and campus life.  In the last year, Baylor has been washed clean of all offending parties including HC Briles who left with a 50-15 SU mark in his L5 years at the helm.  Though the Bears may be a bit shy on the experience front due to the housecleaning, they will surely prosper from the new coaching hire.  Matt Rhule, the former head man at Temple, will bring an entirely new structure to the new Football structure to the Waco campus.  Few could argue with his success, and hard-nosed style, witness his last two years at Temple where the Owls went 20-8 SU, 20-7 ATS.  

Bowling Green

A 3-0 SU finish, albeit Akron, Kent and Buffalo, gives hope to the Falcons in the 2nd year of the HC Mike Jinks regime.  The high-flying Falcons averaged 42/547 on offense in the final year under Dino Babers.  When he left for the  money at Syracuse, Jinks took over.  The transition was anything but smooth with the offense declining 17 points and 140 yards.  A measure of the Bowling Green success in recent seasons may have been attributed to the bounce of the ball.  In the previous 3 seasons, BG was +10 or more in net turnovers each year.  A drop to -16 net TO’s last season begs for a turnaround.  Along with the strong finish in 2016 and plenty of value, look for the Falcons to soar again in the ATS column this season.


Highly respected 10th year HC Cuttcliffe had lifted the Blue Devils to 4 consecutive Bowl Bids entering the 2016 season.  Key to their success was an offense that averaged over 30 PPG the previous 3 years as well as overland dominance of their opponents in the 2015 season (198/4.8 to 154/3.6).  But it all went pear shaped for the Blue Devils last season when the offense dropped 8 PPG to 23 PPG and the team was outrushed 175/4.5 to 153/3.9.  It was a steep learning curve for Frosh QB Jones who, now with a year in the Cuttcliffe offensive system, will lead a bounce back season for Duke.  Though ATS success figures to be imminent, a rigorous schedule makes another Bowl Season tenuous.  


Under now 8th year HC Holliday, the Herd was thundering as they entered the 2016 season.  A run of 33-8 SU brought back visions of the time the Herd was dominating the MAC.  There were, however, declines on both sides of the ball which were most precipitous on a stop unit whose 4 returning starters went from allowing 18/359 to 35/459 and was a dubious member of the “200 Club” (allowed 200+ yards both running and passing) on defense.  One certainly can’t blame turnovers as Marshall was the only one of our “Lucky 13” to have a positive TO margin in their losing campaign.  Let’s look for a vastly improved defense as well as the leadership of now Junior QB Litton to lead the resurgent Herd.

Michigan State

What a run by the Spartans under now 11th year HC Dantonio.  Playing in the rugged Big 10 Conference, Sparty carved out a 3 season run of 36-5 SU.  Many believed it was great coaching and fundamentals that led to the surge.  A closer look inside the numbers shows that Michigan State was an unconscious +46 net turnovers in those years, a major reason why the football always seemed to bounce their way.  Last year, with just 9 starters returning, the numbers declined steeply on both sides of the ball.  It was the 4th straight year of defensive decline in both points and yards.  And with only 4 returning starters and 1 lineman returning on each side of the ball, we will have to count on plenty of value from the linemaker if this team is to have a “bounce back” season.  


All bets may be off on the Mississippi “bounce back” considering the events of this summer.  Scandal rocked the Oxford campus resulting in the quick resignation of 6th year HC Freeze.  His replacement, former assistant Matt Luke, is entrusted with picking up the pieces after the Rebels spiraled downward from 10-3 SU to 5-7 SU in 2016.  Frieze was one of our favorite pointspread coaches with a record of 45-25 ATS.  Should the linemaker over react to the departure of Freeze and the losing record of last season, there could be plenty of value in the Rebels to “bounce back” in 2017.  At least this season, the program will benefit from the outstanding recruiting of Freeze who was instrumental in making the Rebels relevant in recent years.  

Northern Illinois

Not what the Huskie faithful have come to expect. This is a team who had won 6 consecutive MAC WEST titles and always seemed to find a way to win critical games.  Last year’s issues revolved in part around QB injuries as it has been a game of musical chairs at that position for NIU in the last two seasons.  Give credit to 5th year HC Carey who managed to keep the ship afloat after the Huskies opened 1-6 SU in 2016.  A 4-1 SU, ATS finish gives definite hope to a 2017 “bounce back” campaign.  9 returners on the defensive side of the ball are a good place to start, as is the tradition on which this team has to draw.

Notre Dame

Again the Irish will face one of the toughest schedules in the country as they look to maintain their National image which took a major hit last season with a 4-8 SU, ATS mark.  One of the reasons promulgated for a team’s downturn is numerous close losses.  The Fighting Irish were an epitome of that with their first 7 losses of the year all by 8 or fewer points.  It is never easy to find value when wagering on Notre Dame.  But if there is a time to look for an inspired Irish team to “bounce back” from last year’s debacle, this would certainly be it.  With a highly touted new signal caller and 15 returning starters including 4 on the offensive line, this could be a rare year to seek value in the ATS fortunes of The Fighting Irish.  


The defensive decline was precipitous for the Ducks during the 4 year tenure of former HC Mark Helfrich.  With offense his key focus, the stop unit of the Ducks nose-dived from 20/370 to 41/519 between the years of 2013 and 2016.  When the ink dried on last season’s log, it showed 4-8 SU, 2-8 ATS.  Enter new HC Willie Taggart who has been upwardly mobile in his coaching career including his recent stop at USF where he led the Bulls to an 11-2 SU mark last season with an offense averaging 44/511.  Talk about a perfect fit for an Oregon program whose mantra has been to score quickly and often.  The Ducks had built a 12 year winning tradition before last year’s decline making the “bounce back” virtually imminent.  Combined with the fact that Oregon “went young” last season, yet still feature 16 returning starters, means good things to come under proven winner, Taggart. 


Remember the last time the Horned ones hit a pot hole under 17th year HC Patterson.  It was 2013, the 2nd year of their move to the Big 12.  All they did the following year was go 12-1 SU, 11-2 ATS making a mockery of the betting line.  Last year with just 12 returning starters and one of the least experienced teams in the country, the Frogs offense dropped 11 PPG and 100 YPG.  This year with 17 starters returning including virtually the entire offense, it would be foolish to bet against the Frogs knowing the history of Patterson in “bounce back” situations.  


A dip to 4-8 SU, ATS by the Bruins last year saw many blame the loss of QB Rosen to injury in mid-season as the reason for the decline.  For those of us who believe that dominance at the line of scrimmage is also a major factor in SU and ATS success, consider that the Bruins were outrushed 172/4.1 to 84/2.9 last year.  Losing seasons do not sit well with respected 6th year HC Mora.  With a defense that showed improvement last season and an offense returning both QB Rosen and 4/5 OL starters, it is a good bet that the Bruins return to the winning side of the ledger this season in both the SU and ATS column.  

Utah State

A personal visit this summer to the campus of Utah State and Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium, gave little clue about the excitement the Aggies hope to generate in their “bounce back” season of 2016.  Overlooking the town of Logan, the campus, which is 30,000 strong, will look to fill the stadium with at least 20,000 football-crazed fans once action begins this fall.  After 5 consecutive Bowl Seasons, 4 of which were under the leadership of now 5th year HC Wells, the Aggies need a meaningful bounce in their fortunes to maintain the excitement at this western outpost.  Far more was expected of a veteran Aggie offense last season who was laden with seniors yet averaged just 24 PPG in the permissive MWC.  But with offensive triplets, QB Meyers, RB Lindsey and WR Tarver, the stage is set for an offensive resurgence. Look for the Aggies to wipe the slate clean from their 1-8 SU, ATS finish and provide plenty of value to their ATS backers in 2017.

The 2017 CFB Lucky 13 to Bounce Back Big
By Joe Gavazzi

Monday, August 07, 2017

Each day of his sporting life, the handicapper is faced with a conundrum.  This is the part of situational handicapping where he must decide if a team is going to continue their positive or negative momentum, or whether they are due for a letdown or a bounce back.  The scope of this article focuses on the latter.  Specifically, which CFB teams are going to “Bounce Back Big” from their disappointing seasons in 2016.

To determine which teams may qualify for our list, I look for teams who have been proven winners in the past but fell victim to multiple injuries in the previous year, a year in which they had a number of close losses or perhaps a year that was characterized by a high negative turnover margin.  In the chart below, you will note that 12/13 teams had a negative net turnover margin for the year.  Regardless of the reasons involved, based on past experience, it has been historically proven that these teams will “bounce back big” the following year.

In this article, I will examine 13 teams (10% of the 130 online teams) who, based on their records in the previous 3 seasons to 2016 along with their strong tradition, make ideal “bounce back” candidates to a losing season in 2016.  

I will present a chart which outlines results along with their returning starters on offense and defense for 2017 which may indicate their ability to “bounce back”.  This will be followed by a thumb nail sketch of each team.

Call it anything you want…a hoagie, a sub or a hero sandwich.  Nothing is better than a sandwich packed full with your favorite deli meats and cheeses.  You know how much you enjoy wolfing one down while watching a football game where you have invested some of your hard-earned money.  

This article, dealing with Week #1 of College Football games, can give you 10 times the pleasure of one of your favorite sandwiches.  It presents, IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER OF THE TEAM WHO IS SANDWICHED, 10 great “Play Against” situations with teams who are sandwiched between the exhilaration of their finish from last season and a look-ahead to their next game.  No doubt these teams will be overpriced and ill-fated in their quest to cover that big number.  A brief analysis is presented of each game along with the current early season line.  In the write-ups below, Your “PLAY ON” team is underlined.

Georgia Southern at Auburn (-35)

With 16 RS and a Top 10 experienced team, Auburn will be in the thick of the SEC West race.  They were clearly battle-hardened to end last season facing Alabama in the Iron Bowl and Oklahoma in their Bowl game.  Dead ahead on the schedule is a meeting with Defending Champion, Clemson.  It is a revenge meeting for a 19-13 loss last season to the Tigers on opening day.  More was expected from GA Southern in the 1st year under HC Summers.  He went away from the highly successful running game that had seen the Eagles lead the Nation in that category for 3 consecutive seasons under the guidance of former HC Fritz.  Summers, a non-option coach, saw his team struggle badly down the stretch finishing 2-7 SU.  The hiring of new OC Cook (a Paul Johnson disciple) means a return to those option game principles that serve to shorten the game and help them come in under the number against a Tiger team who is definitely in look-ahead mode.

Boston College (-2 ½) at Northern Illinois

The Eagles put a capper on a winning season for 5th year HC Addazio last year with a 36-30 Bowl victory against Maryland.  It was good for a 7-6 SU season.  But there will be little focus on this opponent as next week they are slated to host Wake Forrest, whom they beat 17-14 last November 26th, in the Conference opener.  With 16 RS, this could be the best Eagle team ever under Addazio.  Unfortunately for BC, they are facing one of our bounce back teams in Northern Illinois.  Under 5th year HC Carey, the Huskies have gone from 2 to 3 to 6 to 7 losses AND NO BOWL BID LAST YEAR.  This, from a team who had 6 consecutive MAC West titles.  To the credit of Carey and the Huskies, they bounced back from a 1-6 SU start for the season to win and cover 4 of their last 5 games.  It was a year when they were plagued with QB injuries.  This year, with a veteran defense, it looks like a big bounce back season. What better place to start than against an ACC foe who is looking dead ahead to their Conference opener next week.

Kent State at Clemson (-38-)

Some may believe that the defending National Champs, these Clemson Tigers, are due for a downer.  But with a perennial outstanding defense and first class offensive line returning, it’s just a matter of time before a signal caller emerges to take the place of departed QB Watson.  Though they have scheduled an easy opener in this Kent State team, do not expect a blowout to take place.  Dead ahead for these Tigers in the next two weeks are games against Auburn and Louisville which will clearly have major implications on the National landscape.  Kent has been a major disappointment under 5th year HC Haynes going just 12-35 SU and 16-27 ATS.  Major issues have been on the offensive side of the ball where they have averaged just 18 PPG in the Haynes era.  The underrated aspect of this Kent team, however, is a defense that allowed less than 30 PPG in each of Haynes 5 previous seasons.  But you will most likely be the Lone Ranger in this one once the public scans the Flashes log from last season and note they lost to Alabama 48-0.  Only for the brave!

Appalachian State at Georgia (-14)

Ending the season with a 31-23 Bowl victory vs. TCU and scheduled to play at Notre Dame next Saturday, leaves these Georgia Bulldogs ripe for the plucking against one of the more underrated teams on the CFB landscape.  Not that I am expecting any less than a superior season from a team with Top 20 experience and 18 returning starters under 2nd year HC Kirby Smart.  But today they line up against the App State Mountaineers.  This is the team who took Tennessee to the limit on opening week last season with the Vols barely surviving 20-13.  Much could be the case on opening day of 2017 as 5th year HC Saterfield has his team primed for the Sun Belt Conference Championship.  Watch QB Lamm and RB Moore behind a veteran line as the Mountaineers give the Bulldogs all they can handle on opening week with Georgia far more interested in their date at South Bend next week.

Wyoming at Iowa (-13)

For starters, 19th year Iowa HC Ferentz has never been known as a pointspread dominator in the role of home chalk.  In fact, in the previous 4 seasons, his Hawkeyes are just 7-13 ATS in that role.  Again this year, Iowa will be competitive in the Big 10 with a veteran experienced defense and a powerful OL returning 4 starters.  It is clearly not a good situation either for them considering that an SEC team Florida was their opponent in a 30-3 Bowl loss and that in-state rival Iowa State is on the docket for next weekend.  But they will be ill-advised to sleep on this Cowboy team for 4th year HC Bohl has a major NFL prospect in QB Allen, as well as the return of 8 starters to the defensive front.  Considering that the Cowboys went from 19 to 36 points last year, it will be no surprise to this bureau if Wyoming steps up much as they did in a 30-28 upset of Boise (as +14) and a 34-33 upset of San Diego State (as +8) last year.  

Nevada at Northwestern (-24)

This is a veteran Northwestern team who, with 17 returning starters, is a team with Top 20 experience.  This opener, however, finds them caught in an ACC sandwich, coming off a 31-24 win over Pitt in their Bowl game and a date next week at Duke whom they defeated 24-13.  True enough, Northwestern was 3-1 ATS as home chalk last season.  That, however, was an anomaly considering they were 2-8 ATS as home chalk the previous 3 seasons.  New Nevada HC Norvell is an offensive guru who has experience in big time football as OC at Nebraska, Oklahoma and UCLA as well as an assistant role at high-scoring Arizona State last season.  Don’t be surprised if flying footballs find Nevada more than capable of doing no worse than coming through the back door in this matchup against a Big 10 host in an ACC sandwich.  

UTEP at Oklahoma (-44)

Even with 1st year HC Lincoln Riley as one of the youngest mentors on the CFB landscape, do not expect a letdown from a Sooners team who was a perennial National Title contender in the 18 years under former HC Stoops.  The Sooners offense will not miss a beat behind QB Mayfield and his entire starting line returning.  But the defense remains a bit suspect considering the 29/432 they allowed last season.  Last season, saw the Sooners finish with 10 consecutive victories after their 1-2 SU, 0-3 ATS start.  One of those losses came to Ohio State on this very field.  That just happens to be next week’s opponent in one of the biggest early season revenge games of the year.  With the Sooners finishing 2016 with high-profile victories against rival Ok State, and against Auburn in their Bowl game, will it be any wonder if a letdown is inevitable against the lowly regarded UTEP team to open the season. Big Dog bettors beware as under 5th year UTEP HC Kugler, the Miners are just 13-23 ATS as underdog.  But with the Sooners looking dead ahead to their revenge game vs. Ohio State, having a less than superior defense, is it any wonder the back door could swing wide open for the cover this afternoon in Norman.  

Akron at Penn State (-33)

This is a Penn State team that is among the Top10 most experienced in the country including 16 returning starters.  Leading the way is QB McSorley and RB Barkley, a potent offensive tandem that averaged 38 PPG LY.  Today, however, it will be doubtful if we see the best of the Nittany Lions.  Penn State closed last year with a Big 10 Title by beating Wisconsin, 38-31, followed by one of the most exciting Bowl games of last year, a 52-49 loss to USC.  Considering that an early season revenger against in-state rival Pitt for a 42-39 loss last year is on the horizon, it is doubtful that they are primed for this Akron squad.  Under 6th year HC Bowden, the Zips had a bit of a downer last year going 5-7 SU.  But they return Top 30 experience including 15 RS as well as a terrific trio of offensive triplets in QB Woodson, WR Chapman, and RB Ball.  The Zips were 6-2 ATS L2Y as road dog and have the ability to come in under this number against a Penn State team who is looking ahead to next week’s revenge game.  

Rice vs. Stanford (-31) (August 26th at Sydney, Australia)

Sandwiched between a 25-23 victory vs. North Carolina in last year’s Bowl game and a meeting with USC in their next game which will point out early season PAC 12 superiority, is there any wonder that Stanford might be a bit flat for this contest against lower echelon Rice, whom they beat 41-17 last November 26th.  The Owls are looking to bounce back from a pair of dismal seasons in which they were a combined 8-16 SU allowing 37 PPG.  The 3-9 SU 2016 season was a major disappointment considering they had 16 RS. Though many skill position players need to be replaced, it is meaningful to note that the entire OL returns.  That is a huge advantage in early season action.  Let’s see if they can parlay it into a cover against a Stanford team who will be far more interested in the sites of Sydney than a Rice team they recently beat, and their matchup vs. USC with whom they will wish to share little of their playbook.  


Western Michigan at USC (-27)

Maybe the biggest sandwich of opening week is that faced by these USC Trojans.  After a 1-3 SU, ATS start to the season, the Trojans finished the year with 9 consecutive victories when this year’s returning QB Sam Darnold was inserted in the lineup.  The dessert came with consecutive season-ending victories against Oregon, Washington, UCLA, Notre Dame, and a final comeback 52-49 win vs. Penn State in their Bowl game.  With 27-10 revenge against Stanford next week, it is doubtful USC comes with full focus (or a full game plan) against a Western Michigan team whom they know has lost their high-profile coach.  Gone from the Broncos is high-profile HC Fleck whose “row the boat” mantra lead the Broncos to a 13-1 SU season and 8 point loss to Wisconsin in their Bowl game.  Now, Fleck has matriculated to Minnesota and the team will be led by former WMU QB Lester who looks to keep the boat going.  With QB Flacco, the brother of Joe of NFL fame, one thing we know is that the Broncos will never stop rowing the boat making them definitely live at this inflated price.  

Opening week is an exciting time for CFB fans, underdogs are often the rule of the day.  The above 10 games give you ample opportunity to fill your pockets with green while you stuff your stomach with your favorite hoagie and end the day looking like a hero.

The Top 10 Meal Tickets for Opening Week of 2017 CFB
by Joe Gavazzi