Welcome to ABR’s Pigskins and Ponies column, where winners play!
Horse racing is my means to an end, and I love the sport like no other, but I admit it, like most of you on a Sunday afternoon in the fall, it’s hard to pull me away from my couch ... and NFL RedZone.
I have a wanted sign in Vegas and am feared by fantasy football mavens nationwide, but when it comes to the college game, I choose to punt.
That’s where Bob Nastanovich comes in. He craves action and loves a good underdog as well as a cheap claiming horse with a big heart.
Let’s kick off the football, spring the horses from the gate and pad our bankrolls!
**Wednesday night lines from scoresandodds.com**
College Pigskins - by Bob Nastanovich
The oddsmakers of Las Vegas were on the money last Friday as their lines for a trio of competitive games were remarkably accurate. The selections Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech won their games but narrowly missed covering the spread. Troy, my final pick, salvaged the day by beating a gritty Ohio squad by five. The Trojans were favored by four. Phew!
Bob Last Week: 1-2 (.333)
Results to Date: 23-26 (.469)
College Football – Bowl Season
Thursday, Dec. 29
Virginia Tech -7 vs Arkansas (5:30 p.m., Charlotte, N.C., ESPN)
Virginia Tech finished stronger than Arkansas. Arkansas may have been worn down by the brutal nature of SEC football and the pre-bowl freshening may help. However, Virginia Tech is an SEC-type powerhouse when on song and tends to rise to the occasion in bowl games, both minor and major ones.
Friday, Dec. 30
Georgia PK TCU (Noon ET, Memphis, Tenn., ESPN)
I thought Georgia would have a more productive season but their early loss to North Carolina and some gut-wrenching defeats prevented a higher-profile opportunity. However, the Bulldogs can use this test as a building block for better days ahead. TCU is no pushover but Georgia, if focused, has more talent.
Tennessee -6 1/2 vs Nebraska (4:30 p.m. ET, Nashville, ESPN)
When last seen, Tennessee suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Vanderbilt, a rival its faithful can’t stand losing to. Therefore, this underachieving squad has its backs to the wall. Fortunately for the Vols, Nebraska faded as their schedule stiffened late in the season. With plenty of job security on the line, Tennessee will rise to the occasion in Nashville.
Michigan -6 1/2 vs Florida State (8 p.m. ET, Miami, Fla., ESPN)
Without a doubt, Florida State finished better than they started and Dalvin Cook, their star RB, is a sure-fire NFL star. But, Michigan is the fifth best team in the land, if not better, and the Wolverines should win by more than a TD. Expect Michigan to show up and play with a chip on its shoulder.
Monday, Jan. 2
Iowa vs Florida under 40 1/2 points (1 p.m. ET, Tampa, Fla., ABC)
This should be a real grind. Both teams emphasize ball control and play good defense. Iowa improved throughout the course of the season and should win. But, this will be close and the first team to score two touchdowns wins. Despite ideal weather, points will be hard to come by.
Western Michigan +8 vs Wisconsin (1 p.m. ET, Arlington, Texas, ESPN)
Western Michigan, undefeated and the year’s most intriguing upstart, get its crack at the big stage against Wisconsin, a proven yardstick of quality for many moons. The Broncos are tough and have a dynamic offense with plenty of weapons. Giving them more than a TD against the spread is an insult. Wisconsin will have to bring its A game to spoil a dream season.
Pro Pigskins – by Joe Kristufek
During what has been a frustrating NFL season, I truly believe our opinions have been better than the results.
Last week got off to a promising start when the Chicago Bears/Washington Redskins game went over the total, but heartbreak would later ensue when the Los Angeles Rams gave up their lead to the San Francisco 49ers in the waning moments, and the Cincinnati Bengals missed a very makeable field goal as time expired in Houston. The Indianapolis Colts did get beat by the Oakland Raiders on the square and the Pittsburgh Steelers comeback win over the Baltimore Ravens wasn’t enough to cover the number.
When playing the races or sports, the worst thing you can do is chase your losses, but since this is for fun and we have some strong opinions, we will hit the gas pedal. It looks like our over/under win total wagers will be profitable and we still have the playoffs to do some damage.
Last Week: 1-4 (.20)
Joe’s Season Total: 24-36-4 (.40)
Pro Pigskins Week 17
Sunday, Jan. 1
I am a big believer in playing the OVER in meaningless games. Players do not want to go into the offseason injured and that mindset often results in an additional score or two during the game. That being said, I do avoid games with playoffs teams resting their starters. Here are matchups where I think the OVER angle can work in our favor.
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets OVER 42 (1 p.m. ET)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts OVER 47.5 (1 p.m. ET)
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings OVER 41 (1 p.m. ET)
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers OVER 46 (1 p.m. ET)
Several playoff teams are playing for seeds/home field advantage, and their motivation will be high, so play ’em.
New England Patriots -10 at Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET) – a win secures #1 seed
Atlanta Falcons -7 vs New Orleans Saints (4:25 p.m. ET) – a win secures #2 seed
Seattle Seahawks -10 at San Francisco 49ers (4:25 p.m. ET) -- #2 seed with win + ATL loss
Oakland Raiders -1 at Denver Broncos (4:25 p.m. ET) -- #2 seed with win
Kansas City Chiefs -5.5 at San Diego Chargers (4:25 p.m. ET) -- #2 seed with win + OAK loss
Arizona Cardinals -6 at Los Angeles Rams and OVER 41 (4:25 p.m. ET)
The Cardinals swing back off an emotional win over the Seahawks while the Rams mercifully head into their finale off an inexcusable loss to the lowly 49ers – their second of the season. There is a lot of veteran pride on the Arizona side and Bruce Arians will have them motivated to end their season on a high note.
Ponies – Races of the Week
On opening day Monday at Santa Anita, Joe’s pick Finley’sluckycharm proved she belonged in Grade 1 company, but after setting the pace in the La Brea Stakes, she was worn down late by Constellation and had to settle for second. Bob’s pick Lightstream would cross the finish line a nonthreatening fifth. Meanwhile in the Malibu Stakes, Joe’s pick Ten Blessings was third best behind the hard-charging Mind Your Biscuits.
Joe Last Week: 2-0-1-1 - $12 wagered; $9.20 returned
Joe’s Season Total: 49-6-12-9 - $294 wagered; $247.80 returned
Bob Last Week: 1-0-0-0 = $6 wagered, $0 returned
Bob’s Season Total: 16-3-2-4 - $94 wagered; $62.70 returned
Saturday, Dec. 31
Aqueduct – Ozone Park, N.Y.
Race 8 – Alex M. Robb Stakes (1 1/16 miles, dirt, 3-year-olds and older)
Bob’s Pick: #6 Empire Dreams
An elite group of New York-breds will gather for this two-turn test on Aqueduct’s inner dirt track. Takes a leap of faith to side with Empire Dreams, the defending victor, but he’ll reward backers handsomely while taking advantage of a contested pace.
Gulfstream Park – Hallandale Beach, Fla.
We’re feasting on turf stakes Saturday at Gulfsteam, and grass wizard Mike Maker could be in line for a huge day ...
Race 7 – Tropical Park Derby (1 1/16 miles, turf, 3-year-olds)
Joe’s Pick: #9 Oscar Nominated
If not for some troubled trips, this guy’s solid sophomore grass campaign may have been borderline spectacular. He keeps getting better, and there’s a chance he could develop into one of the better U.S.-based turf horses in the years to come.
Race 10 – H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (2 miles, turf, 3-year-olds and older)
Joe’s Pick: #3 Taghleeb
Claimed by Mike Maker for $62,500 back in July, this 5-year-old son of Hard Spun has recently held his own in graded stakes company. Marathons are his specialty, and the connections are very confident is his ability to be successful at this two-mile journey.
Race 11 – Tropical Park Oaks (1 1/16 miles, turf, 3-year-old fillies)
Joe’s Pick: #2 Try Your Luck
Claimed by Mike Maker for $75,000, this 3-year-old filly by Lookin At Lucky has won three races since, not to mention a disqualification from a Grade 3 victory. Her most recent win in the Dueling Grounds Oaks at Kentucky Downs in September was the most impressive yet, and she returns off a three-plus month freshening on edge to fire a big shot.