It has been a whirlwind of a Thursday afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I foolishly thought I'd be able to slide easily into a holiday weekend, but then the world of sports smacked us all in the face twice.

First, there was the blockbuster news out of college football. Reports surfaced Thursday and were confirmed by's Matt Norlander that USC and UCLA plan to join the Big Ten in time for the 2024 season. Nothing has been finalized, but now that the news is out, it's hard to imagine that it will not happen.

As if that wasn't enough, earlier this week, Kyrie Irving announced he was opting into the final year of his deal and that he planned on staying in Brooklyn. Well, that's cool and all, but Kevin Durant has different ideas. Durant has asked to be traded, with Miami and Phoenix reportedly on his wish list.

So the Big Ten is in California, and Kevin Durant could be on the move again. If those stories aren't enough, there's more.

OK, let's get to tonight's picks before Notre Dame joins the NFC East.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

The Hot Ticket

Yankees at Astros, 6:10 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV

Latest Odds: Under 7.5
  • Key Trend: The under is 41-19-3 in Houston's last 63 games.
  • The Pick: Under 7.5 (-115)

This has become one of my favorite rivalries in baseball, not only because of the animosity built between these franchises but the profitability of betting the games. While both offenses receive plenty of attention, the primary reason they both win so many games is because of their pitching.

Did you know that the Yankees have the lowest ERA in baseball at 2.93? They also have the second-highest strikeout rate and the lowest rate of hard contact allowed in the league. Do you know which team has the second-lowest ERA in baseball? It's the Astros! While they don't have the same strikeout rates, Houston also has an excellent defense. Both these teams are as good at preventing runs as they are at scoring them.

Tonight strikes me as a game in which you'll only need a few runs. Luis Severino has been outstanding for the Yankees, with a strikeout rate of 29.7% and a walk rate of only 7.2%. He's prone to the homer, but they're primarily solo shots since hitters rarely reach base. Houston's Luis Garcia has an above strikeout rate of his own (25.2%) but walks fewer hitters (6.3%) and induces groundball after groundball.

Furthermore, Houston could be without one of its biggest bats this evening. Yordan Alvarez was carted off the field Wednesday after colliding with Jeremy Pena going after a fly ball in left field. If he's missing from the middle of the Houston order, the Astros lineup becomes much easier to manage.

Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model isn't betting the total in this game, but it does have a B-graded play on one side of the money line.

The Picks



Brewers at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV

Latest Odds: Milwaukee Brewers -135

The Pick: Brewers (-130) -- Unless you watch the Pirates routinely, you'll be surprised to learn that Pittsburgh has been one of the most productive offenses in baseball the last two weeks. The Pirates' run rate of 12.86% ranks 8th in the league in that span, and their home run rate of 4.98% ranks fourth. However, as a team, they're hitting only .217, and their strikeout rate of 26.3% is the worst in the league.

Essentially, every ball they've made contact on has flown out of the park, and when you live by the dinger, you're going to die by it too. Tonight, they will die. The Brewers pitching staff has the third-highest strikeout rate in baseball, so it's not a strong matchup for a Pirates team that swings and misses a lot. Furthermore, Milwaukee's offense ranks ahead of the Pirates in run rate (13.13%) and HR rate (5.05%) in the same period. And the Brewers are doing that while striking out only 23.8% of the time and routinely putting the ball in play! They're the more trustworthy of the two teams tonight.

Key Trend: The Brewers have won five straight in Pittsburgh.

Reds at Cubs, 8:05 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV

Latest Odds: Over 10.5

The Pick: Over 10 (-110) -- Yesterday I told you to take the under in this game because weather conditions were strongly in our favor, but the Cubs nearly reached the over on their own, beating the Reds 8-3. Tonight I'm telling you to take the over because the weather conditions are strongly in our favor, and that's reflected in the total being as high as it is.

Do not fear it. In fact, if you want to find an alternate line with a total as high as 11 or 12, feel free. While it would be ideal if the game were played in the afternoon, it'll be hot at Wrigley tonight, with temperatures in the upper-80s and winds blowing out to left-center at an average of 14 mph. Essentially, any ball put into the air tonight will carry a lot further than it should. That's not good news for Kyle Hendricks and Graham Ashcroft. Both pitchers sport strikeout rates well below the average for an MLB starter, and the last thing any pitcher in this game wants to see tonight is balls being put in play.

Key Trend: The over is 6-2 in Cincinnati's last eight games.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The Projection Model doesn't have one, but two A-graded plays for tonight's game between the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves.

Dinger Party

Let's lean into the weather at Wrigley Field tonight even more with these home run props.