Missouri-Wake Forest prediction for Gasparilla Bowl: Best bets for Dec. 23

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Phoenix Suns' Mikel Bridges signals three after making a 3-pointer against the Washington Wizards during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Phoenix, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

Each day, one of our experts will offer up a best bet (or two or three) that mobile sportsbooks are offering. It might be a traditional spread bet, a player prop or one of the various odds boosts that books offer.

Here are our best bets for Friday, Dec. 23:

TOP PLAY

The play: College football Gasparilla Bowl: Missouri +2½ over Wake Forest

The odds/bet: -110 ($33 to win $30)

The book: Caesars Sportsbook

Time/TV: 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Our take: On paper, this game ought to be close and entertaining, Wake’s tremendous offense against a stout Missouri defense that locked down South Carolina and came the closest of anyone to beating Georgia. Both sides have some key opt-outs.

But in modern college football, bowl games are so often about the motivation factor. Here, we have Wake Forest, which started the year in the top 25, rose briefly into the top 10 — and then plummeted, losing four of its last five games with a leaky defense that allowed an average of 36.6 points during that stretch. Oh, and Demon Deacons star quarterback Sam Hartman has been on the fence about opting out (it does look like he’ll play.)

On the other side, you have Missouri, which won four of its last six to get into a bowl game and staged a big on-field celebration after beating Arkansas on Black Friday to do it. The Tigers weren’t expected to do much this year (preseason win total: 5) and haven’t won a bowl game since 2014.

Now tell me, which of these two sides would seem to be more motivated here? It’s always a bit precarious betting on the mindset of 20-year-olds, of course, but given that this is a close matchup on paper anyway, and the motivation signs seem to point towards Mizzou, we’re taking the points and running with them.

NBA FRIDAY NIGHT

The play: NBA, Phoenix Suns +3 over Memphis Grizzlies

The odds/bet: -110 ($11 to win $10)

The book: FanDuel

Time/TV: 10 p.m. (ESPN)

Our take: The Memphis Grizzlies very well might be the class of the Western Conference — star guard Ja Morant certainly seems to think so — and the Suns will be without their star, Devin Booker, in this one because of a groin injury.

So why the short line, and why the Suns pick? For one, Memphis just isn’t playing very well, having dropped games to Oklahoma City and Denver on this road trip already. For another, the trends all seem to point toward Phoenix here: The Suns are 6-0 at Footprint Center following a home loss. The Grizzlies have lost three of their last four games as road favorites and are just 2-6 in their past eight away from home overall.

The Suns are a deep team and can compete without Booker. You could sprinkle the money line here, but play it safe and take the three points.

HOW WE’VE FARED

Thursday’s best bets

College football: Baylor-Air Force UNDER 43.5 (LOST $33)

NFL: Trevor Lawrence OVER 0.5 interceptions (LOST $12.80)

Thursday’s profit/loss: -$45.80 (0-2)

Total for the week: +$64.20 (5-2)

Total for December: +$27.40 (19-21)

Total for 2022: +$234.30 (331-352)

NOTE: If a line or odds are minus, it considers the juice one must lay to place the bet. Ex: Team A is -160 on the money line, one would have to bet $160 to win $100 (or $16 to win $10). OR Team B is a 5-point favorite at -110, one would have to bet $110 to win $100 (or $11 to win $10.)

Conversely, on positive lines, if Team C is +140 on the money line, $100 would bring in $140 (or $10 to win $14).

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