Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 9:30 AM EST.
8:00 PM EST. Laying road chalk can be a dicey proposition and is something we usually avoid but we must go after the true value and the Commodores are being sold very short here. Each of the last two years, when Middle Tennessee had better teams and Vandy wasn't as good, the Commodores won and covered as a 2½-point underdog and 3½-point favorite, respectively. When comparing the 2015 Vanderbilt victory to their 2016 shellacking of the Blue Raiders in Music City, it is evident that Vanderbilt is making noticeable strides under Derek Mason. In 2016, the Commodores thrashed the Blue Raiders by a score of 47-24, closing at an identical price to the one we see offered here. Now in 2017, the Vanderbilt team taking the field could be Vandy’s most promising unit it has fielded since former coach James Franklin left for Penn State. The ‘Dores feature a stable of talented running backs, led by perhaps one of the best rushers in America, Ralph Webb. Complemented by a stout and solid defense, the Commodores are a team that can flirt with the 10-win mark if a few things go their way this year. Vandy’s reputation as a perennial middling ball team works to our advantage here big time.
The Blue Raiders come with a lot of promise in their own right, as they return a dynamic offense and a prolific passer in senior quarterback Brent Stockstill to lead the charge. Furthermore, the Blue Raiders have the benefit of playing this one at home where they are typically tough to beat. However, some of Middle Tennessee State’s exploits in 2016 argue otherwise. Middle Tennessee State’s defense was among the worst in the country. MTSU’s abysmal defeat in the Hawaii Bowl captures this in vivid color. The Blue Raiders would jump out to a 14-point lead against the Rainbow Warriors only to surrender it down the backstretch and be pummeled by a final score of 52-35. This is a team that also had its doors blown off as a 19-point favorite against Texas-San Antonio when the Blue Raiders would fall 45-25 at home in Murfreesboro. In the aforementioned outing, MTSU gave up a generous 271 yards on the ground. The Blue Raiders surrendered an average of 449 yards per game and this year’s edition is not expected to be an improved one.
Endorsements of Mid-Tennessee State will be few and far between in this space and in Week 1 we seek to attack weak defenses in difficult situations. Communication issues, substitution gaffes and other unforced errors of game management can be worth significant points to the favorite. Derek Mason has shown the ability to coach Vanderbilt to easy victories over Mid-Tennessee and make the Blue Raiders high-octane offense look uncomfortable for 60 minutes. This year Vandy is so much better while State is worse and the outcome will very likely be the same, that being a Vandy win and cover.
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#203 Vanderbilt -3 -107 (Risking 2.14 units - To Win: 2.00)