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Brian Edwards Nuggets

--Georgia senior DT Jeff Owens injured his knee in the season-opening win over Ga. Southern. Owens will be out a long time, possibly the rest of the season. That’s a big loss for Mark Richt and Co.

--I might fade Syracuse every single game until it takes my money.

--Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson and Michael Vick are the fastest football players I’ve ever seen. I might be adding Florida’s Jeff Demps to that trio here soon. If you missed his TD run in UF’s 56-10 win over Hawaii, I can tell you that it was absolutely jaw-dropping.

--If I’m a Clemson fan (I’m not!), I’m embarrassed by my team’s pathetic performance in Saturday’s 34-10 loss to Alabama. Nick Saban’s team dealt out a “good ol’ backyard Mississippi beatdown.” Saban gave Bowden a coaching clinic in the process. As I’ve been saying all summer, I think John Parker Wilson is going to enjoy an outstanding senior season. Saturday was a good start.

--Clemson fans are soft – and lame! Very lame.

--I want to thank Lisa Caldwell for the sweet seat she hooked me up with for free to watch the Crimson Tide deal out that pimpslap at the Georgia Dome. And believe me, that was a good old-fashioned open-handed pimpslap from the get-go.

--Don’t be surprised if this week’s LSU-Troy game gets cancelled.

--When discussing Louisville during the off-season, I think I said a few different times that the Cardinals wouldn't have much falloff at the QB position even though Brian Brohm was gone. Um, I think I want to take that one back. Hunter Cantwell looked horrible against Kentucky. Horrible!

--Biggest Winners in Week 1
1-East Carolina
2-Louisiana Tech

--Biggest Losers in Week 1
3-Mississippi St.

--Coaches on the Hot Seat
1-Greg Williams (Syracuse)
2-Steve Kragthorpe (Louisville)
3-Dave Wannstedt (Pittsburgh)
4-Kirk Ferentz (Iowa)
5-Tommy Bowden (Clemson)

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Games to Watch - Week 2
By Chris David

Saturday - Central Michigan at Georgia (Gameplan, 3:30 p.m.)

Georgia coasted in its Week 1 opener against Georgia Southern 45-21 by opening up a 38-0 lead midway through the third quarter. The top-ranked team in the country is expected to win again this week, but at least the defense should face a stiffer test against a MAC juggernaut. Central Michigan and quarterback Dan LeFevour bring an offense to Athens that can light up the scoreboard. The Chippewas only put 31 points in its opener behind the mobile signal caller. Unfortunately, CMU's defense should have its hands full against Georgia QB Matthew Stafford (275 yards, 2 TDS) and RB Knowshon Moreno (3 TDs).    

Gambling Notes
This game is a big look-ahead spot for Georgia, with back-to-back road games on tap against South Carolina (9/13) and Arizona State (9/20). The Bulldogs were 2-0 SU and 1-1 ATS last year as double-digit favorites. This matchup resembles two recent meetings in Athens when high-powered attacks, Boise State (2005, 48-13) and Oklahoma State (35-14), were both humbled by UGA. Central Michigan is 0-6 all-time versus SEC schools. The Chips gave up 47.5 PPG in its non-conference battles last year.

Saturday - Mississippi at Wake Forest (ESPN2, 3:30 p.m.)

It's fair to say that Wake Forest is the best team in the ACC, especially after watching Clemson and V-Tech tank in their openers. Head coach Jim Grobe and company can earn a little more respect this week in an intriguing battle against Ole Miss. Riley Skinner connected on 75 percent of his passes for 220 yards and 3 TDs in a 41-10 road romp against Baylor last week. More importantly, Wake's defense forced five turnovers and held the Bears to 250 total yards. That effort will need to be duplicated against a Houston Nutt-led offense that posted 438 yards in a 41-24 win against Memphis in Week 1. The Rebels' Dexter McCluster posted 125 total yards and a score in the triumph and is being used in a Darren McFadden role under Nutt.    

Gambling Notes
Wake Forest has been a solid play as an underdog in Winstom-Salem but not too good as a home favorite (5-15 ATS) under Grobe. Last year, Wake was 4-1 both SU and ATS in non-conference action. Trends on Ole Miss should be taken lightly with Nutt calling the shots, but it's hard to ignore a group that has gone 2-9 SU and 4-9 ATS in its last 13 road games. The two schools met in 2006, with the Demon Deacons taking a 27-3 victory in Oxford.

Saturday - Oregon State at Penn State (ABC, 3:30 p.m.)

Oregon State got caught looking ahead last week and wound up dropping its opener to Stanford, 36-28. The Beavers' offense had three costly turnovers, gave away 10 points to the Cardinals and the defense gave up a whopping 210 yards on the ground. Head coach Mike Riley and the Beavers need to get better quickly, especially against a Penn State squad fresh off a 66-10 win over Coastal Carolina its home opener. QB Daryll Clark (11-of-14, 146 yards) looked sharp in his first start, helping the team rip off 594 total yards. PSU's defense was vulnerable to CC's aerial attack (198 yards) early, which is something to look for in Week 2. Oregon State QB Lyle Moevao passed for 404 yards against Stanford and he's got big weapons on the outside, in particular WR Sammie Stroughter (12 catches, 157 yards, 2 TDs).    

Gambling Notes
OSU hasn't fared well in non-conference road openers, going 0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS in their last five. The Beavers were beaten by an average of 19.6 PPG during this recent skid. Penn State has gone 19-2 SU and 12-7 ATS in the last three seasons from Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions were 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS in non-conference battles last year, winning all four by double digits.

Saturday - West Virginia at East Carolina (ESPN, 4:30 p.m.)

Can East Carolina pull off another upset? The Pirates surprised No. 17 Virginia Tech 27-22 last Saturday, stealing the victory with a blocked punt touchdown late in the fourth quarter. QB Patrick Pinkney passed for 211 yards and a score. ECU's defense held V-Tech to 243 yards and forced two key interceptions in their own territory. Skip Holtz better hope his "D" steps up this week, when they face a West Virginia offense that boasts the most versatile quarterback, Pat White, in college football. Last week, White accounted for 271 total yards and five touchdowns as the Mountaineers dominated Villanova, 48-21. WVU's defense lost seven starters and it showed against the 'Cats, giving up 399 total yards.    

Gambling Notes
West Virginia has won seven straight against ECU and is 17-2 all-time in the head-to-head series. Last year the Mountaineers smoked the Pirates 48-7 as 24-point home favorites, racking up 599 yards, including 397 on the ground. WVU is 9-3 ATS in its last 12 games as a road favorite. East Carolina is 2-5 SU and 4-3 ATS as a home underdog over the previous three seasons. The last three battles between the two schools have gone 'under' the total. Gamblers expecting another shocker can back the Pirates at money-line odds close to 3/1 (Bet $100 to $300).

Saturday - Miami, Fl. at Florida (ABC, 8:00 p.m.)

An intrastate rivalry is renewed this weekend, when the Hurricanes invade Gainesville to battle the Gators. Miami dominated in its opener against Charleston Southern (52-7) but matching talent against Florida will be a much different story. The team speed of the Gators was evident in their 56-10 victory over Hawaii in Week 1. The defense forced 6 turnovers in the victory, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns. Plus they received a 74-yard punt return touchdown by Brandon James. QB Tim Tebow only passed for 137 yards but his committee of running backs racked up 200-plus rushing yards. The 'Canes defense only surrendered 127 yards in their opener, 49 coming on the ground.    

Gambling Notes
The Gators haven't beaten the Hurricanes since 1985 but have only faced them six times in the last 23 years, with the most recent losses coming in the 2001 Sugar Bowl (37-20) and 2004 Peach Bowl (27-10). Florida was 4-0 last year at versus non-conference foes, winning by an average of 36.5 PPG. Miami and head coach Randy Shannon started on the same note last year, winning its opener before getting blasted by Oklahoma (51-13) in a non-conference road game the very next week. The 'Canes are 2-8 SU and 3-7 ATS in their last 10 trips away from home

Other Games to Watch
Cincinnati at Oklahoma

Cincinnati opened up some eyes last year with head coach Brian Kelly's "Cat Attack" offense. Unfortunately for the Bearcats, they face an Oklahoma offense that just dropped 50 points in a half last week. The scoreboard operator should be working all day in this battle.

Georgia Tech at Boston College

Paul Johnson and the new-look Yellow Jackets take their ground and pound attack to Chestnut Hill for a conference opener against Boston College. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles and the rest of the ACC defend Johnson's option game.

Texas Tech at Nevada

The Red Raiders and Wolf Pack each put up 49 points in their openers last weekend and both schools combined for 1,268 yards. Nevada likes to run the football first, while T-Tech airs it out. First team to score 50 could be the winner in this matchup.

Stanford at Arizona

Stanford opened up some eyes last week with a win over Oregon State. Now Jim Harbaugh's team heads to the desert for a battle against Arizona State, who beat them 41-3 last year and is more talented than the Beavers. Also, this is a late-night chaser game!

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Auburn's offense sustains injuries
September 1, 2008

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Auburn's offensive tally through one game: three injured receivers, one hurt quarterback and quite a few bruised egos.

Promising freshman receiver Philip Pierre-Louis tore a knee ligament returning the opening kickoff of the 10th-ranked Tigers' 34-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe and is lost for the season, coach Tommy Tuberville said Sunday.

Quarterback Kodi Burns is expected to miss Monday's practice after a large gash was opened on his shin by a facemask in the third quarter, but will play Saturday against Southern Mississippi. Tuberville said Burns had no swelling on the leg at all Sunday.

Starting receiver James Swinton hyperextended his knee on the next play and didn't return but shouldn't miss a game. Montez Billings (hamstring) missed the opener and is questionable again, Tuberville said.

Despite an ineffective passing game, Tuberville said the Tigers will stick with rotating Burns and Chris Todd at quarterback at least for one more game before the Southeastern Conference season starts.

The Tigers got 321 yards rushing but most of their 85 yards through the air came in the fourth quarter in the debut of Tony Franklin's spread offense. Only three of their 19 first downs came through the air.

Burns, Todd and the remaining receivers struggled. Tuberville said the quarterbacks never found their rhythm and the receivers need to improve on running their routes.

``I looked up and we've got 28 yards passing in the first three quarters, as much as we've worked on the passing game,'' Tuberville said. ``That obviously wasn't what we were looking for. It will definitely get better. When you've got a good running game, it gives you a good start.''

Franklin said Pierre-Louis had made the most plays of all the receivers during fall camp and Swinton had been the most consistent.

Franklin said both quarterbacks would play against Southern Miss, but wouldn't necessarily alternate every series again. Burns passed for just 15 yards while running for 69; Todd threw for 70 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

``The quarterbacks were both just blah,'' Franklin said. ``They were average. I did a poor job of coaching them and it showed.

``Probably the biggest thing was that neither one of them ever got into a rhythm and that's my fault, the way I rotated them. We're going to play them both again, but I'll probably have a different way of rotating them. If one guy goes good, then he may stay in forever.''

Franklin said he felt both quarterbacks were nervous thinking that one mistake could end their night. This platoon situation is as new to him as it is to the players.

``I've never done this before,'' he said. ``I've always said you're stupid if you do it. It's funny how the world works. Be careful what you say, because one day it'll come back to you.''

Franklin said a number of downfield routes were called but either the receivers didn't get open or the quarterback didn't pull the trigger.

``I don't think either one of them felt that trust factor, and probably because of (the fear that), 'If I make the bad throw or the bad decision, it might be my last one,''' he said. ``I've got to get that out of their heads.''

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Maclin has sprain, could play Saturday
September 1, 2008

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -Missouri All-American Jeremy Maclin could play this weekend despite being carted off the field during Saturday's win over Illinois with a sprained left ankle.

An MRI exam revealed a slight injury to the tendon in the ankle, school spokesman Chad Moller said Monday. Maclin is probable for Saturday's game against Southeast Missouri State.

Maclin, a sophomore who had a 99-yard kickoff return and 234 yards in all-purpose yards for the No. 6 Tigers, is expected to try to practice on Tuesday.

Maclin was injured away from the play early in the fourth quarter, pulling up after taking a few steps on a pass pattern. He covered his face with a towel while being carted off the field from the Missouri sideline, but returned a few minutes later with crutches and his foot wrapped in ice.

Maclin missed the 2006 season with a knee injury.

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Gators expect 3 starters back for Miami
September 1, 2008

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -No. 5 Florida expects to have receiver Percy Harvin, linebacker Brandon Spikes and guard Jim Tartt back for next Saturday's game against rival Miami.
All three starters sat out Saturday against Hawaii, a 56-10 victory that gave the Gators a 19th consecutive season-opening win.

Harvin, who had a combined 1,622 yards rushing and receiving last season and scored 10 touchdowns, is still recovering from heel surgery in April. He practiced sparingly last week and hasn't been able to go full speed since early August.

Coach Urban Meyer said Sunday that the speedy junior probably will play against the Hurricanes. Meyer said the same about Spikes, the team's defensive leader who injured his right foot last week and was wearing a walking boot Saturday.

Meyer called Tartt questionable for the game, but added, ``I think he'll play.''

Tartt, who started 26 games the last two years, was limited in preseason camp because of a nagging shoulder injury. He had two operations on the shoulder and has struggled to get back to 100 percent.

Linebacker Ryan Stamper, who started in place of Spikes in the opener, broke his thumb early in the game but continued to play. He had surgery Sunday to insert two pins into the joint.

Stamper will have to wear a cast for four weeks, Meyer said, but should be able to play through the injury.

``It's a functional cast from what I've been told,'' Meyer said. ``Our medical staff was great enough to come in on a Sunday and get it done, so his probability of playing has increased for Saturday.''

Tight end Aaron Hernandez, who is being counted on to replace injured starter Cornelius Ingram, also is expected to return next week after what appeared to be a one-game suspension. Hernandez was suited up for the opener, but never left the sideline.

``I never announce anything (regarding suspensions),'' Meyer said. ``If he's ready to play, he'll play.''

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SCarolina picks Smelley QB starter vs. Vanderbilt

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -Chris Smelley will start at quarterback for South Carolina against Vanderbilt on Thursday night.

Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said he made the decision after starter Tommy Beecher couldn't practice Monday because he couldn't lift his non-throwing shoulder. He said Smelley probably deserves to start even if Beecher was not injured.

Beecher threw four interceptions in his first career start last week against North Carolina State. The junior came out before the fourth quarter because he was hurt.

Smelley then completed all five of his passes and led the Gamecocks on three scoring drives. Stephen Garcia will probably be Smelley's backup unless Beecher's shoulder improves.

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News and Notes - Week 1
Northcoast Sports 

Buffalo had a 484-266 yd edge vs UTEP but a couple of big plays fielded their blowout. On 3rd & gl from the 15 they got a TD pass and late 1Q they added a 68 yd TD pass. With the game tied 14-14 Buffalo went for it on 4th & 1 at the UTEP 37 and converted. On the next play with just :23 left in the half they got a 34 yd TD. It was 28-17 when UTEP was int’d in the EZ from the 11 at the start of the 4Q and Buffalo would add 80 & 55 yd TD drives in the final 10:00...

Only 30,000 were on hand for Art Briles’ debut at Baylor and he became the 6th of the last 7 BU coaches to lose in his debut. Wake Forest recorded their biggest opening day win since 1958 rolling to a 41-13 victory with a 376-250 yard edge. QB Riley Skinner hit 27 of 36 for 220 yards. Baylor did debut true frosh QB Robert Griffin who hit 11 of 19 for 125 and improved as the game went on...

Steve Spurrier got his 16th straight opening win and it was in dominating fashion with a 369-138 yd edge vs NCSt. NCSt has been shutout in 2 straight games (37-0 loss to Maryland LY) for the first time since 1956. Backup QB Chris Smelley led S Carolina to 3 TD’s on 3 drives and may have taken over the starting job...DJ Moore had an impressive first game for Vanderbilt including the longest PR in school history (91 yards). Oddly it did not result in a TD as he was tackled at the 1. The FD’s were actually even at 17 and Vandy only had a 360-340 yard edge with the key being QB Chris Nickson’s 166 yards rushing (91 pass)...

Former Navy HC Coach Paul Johnson never had the type of offensive weapons that he has at Georgia Tech in QB Josh Nesbitt and FB Jonathan Dwyer. Tech rolled up 349 yards rushing vs Jacksonville St and JSt Coach Jack Crow predicted that opponents would have a lot of trouble defending their offense this year...

Miami, Fl drew 48,119 to the first home game in Dolphins Stadium. They dominated with a 416-146 yard edge...

Temple had 5 TD’s vs Army but one was a FR for a TD, another an 8 yd drive after a fumbled punt, and yet another was a 98 yd KR. TU had only 2 sustained scoring drives but still dominated the game. The misleading part was the stats which showed Army with a 284-259 yd edge even though Temple was in control throughout and Army only got the yardage edge on their final drive gaining 40 yards in the last 1:40...

In a rematch of the previous year’s defending champs of the FCS and FBS - it was all LSU. The Tigers led 31-0 at the half with a 323-113 yd edge. With :17 left in the half a 4th & 2, 29 yd TD run by Scott put them at the margin and backup QB Jerrett Lee led LSU to 3 of their TD drives and will contend for the job as starting Andrew Hatch hit just 7 of 14 for 77 yards...

Joe Paterno tied Bobby Bowden on the list of Most Career Wins as Penn St obliterated Coastal Carolina. PSU scored on 10 of their 11 drives in the game in the 66-10 win...

We rate E Carolina as having the #34D and they controlled the game vs VT with a 19-12 FD edge and a 369-243 yd edge delivering another Big Dog Outright Upset Winner as well as LPS Winner for us. They even survived a FR for a TD and a blk’d xp which was ret’d for 2 (3 pt swing). EC won on a 27 yd blk’d punt ret’d for a TD with 1:52 left. EC became the first team in the 13 year history of CUSA football to ever win B2B games over nationally ranked teams. Skip Holtz has victories over 5 different ACC schools in the last 4 years...

Syracuse made a game of it vs Northwestern and after recovering a fumble at the start of the 3Q, got a TD and led 10-9. NW went go 76/13pl, got an IR TD and took their final 2 drives 80/11pl and 64/7pl, one for a TD and they ended the game at the Syracuse 20 with a 484-225 yd edge...

Georgia led Ga Southern 38-0 with 6:08 left in the 3Q but GSU rallied for 3 TD’s including a 4th & 9, 34 yd TD pass with 1:45 left...

At the half Villanova had a 207-193 yd edge over W Virginia but trailed 24-7. For the game ‘Nova had 28-21 FD and 399-354 yd edges. QB Pat White had a previous career high of 2 TD passes but threw for 5 in WV’s modified offense...

Oklahoma St/Washington St - Paul Wulff became the first coach to lose his debut game at Washington St since Jackie Sherrill in 1976...

Navy RB White set a school record with 348 yards rushing and Navy’s 558 yds rushing vs Towson was the 3rd most in school history. Navy only had a 291-252 yd edge at the half and led 24-13 but blew it open in the 2H and finished with a 602-360 yd edge...

As we expected, using USC as our Top Weekly Late Phone Play, the Trojans dominated Virginia. Pete Carroll usually opens up with a big road win including 2006 when they beat eventual SEC West Champ Arkansas 50-14. The Trojans drove for TD’s on their first 3 poss vs Virginia, let up in the 2Q but then dominated again in the 2H and finished with a 558-187 yd edge in their 52-7 romp...

S Utah came in on an 18 game losing streak so an Air Force rout was not a shock. Our power plays projected a final of 43-9 and it was 41-7...

UAB actually led Tulsa 22-21 at the half. The momentum of the game changed for good with UAB trailing 35-22 but driving, as they fumbled at the end of a13 yd run at the Tulsa 16 with 11:31 left and Tulsa drove 84/6pl for a TD. After another fumble TU added a 41 yd FG for a seemingly comfortable 23 point win...

Kansas set a school record with a crowd of 52,112 even though it was just Florida Int’l as their opponent. KU led 40-10 after 3Q’s and FIU was SOD at the KU 9 and int’d in the EZ from the 14. Mark Mangino had a great record vs the spread LY vs non-conf foes and they went 79/14pl. They had a 1st & gl at the 6 and ran the ball to the 1 yd line on the final play of the game trying to score...

Michigan scored 3 TD’s vs Utah and each was set up by a blk’d P or a turnover on drives of 26, 31 and 33 yards. Utah settled for short FG’s 3 times in the 1H and despite a 313-102 yd edge, only led 22-10. A blocked punt and a fumble set up Michigan’s 2 scores mid-4Q which got them back in the game but they missed the 2 pt conversion and did not threaten after that...

QB Kellen Moore became the first frosh to start a season opener at Boise St and hit 14 of 19 for 274 yards guiding a 49-7 rout...

Brandon Tate of N Carolina had 397 all-purp yards with 106 yards rushing, 93 rec and the rest on returns including an 82 yard TD. They were the 2nd most in ACC history. NC struggled and gained most of their 384 yards in the game’s final 20:00 as they trailed 20-14 late 3Q. NC’s momentum was taken away as they jumped out to a 14-0 lead but the game was suspended due to lightning with 12:02 left in the 1H and delayed for 48:00...

Louisiana Tech had a crowd of just 25,224 but watching it, it was an enthusiastic crowd that belied those numbers. They helped spur Tech on to a 22-14 win over an SEC team (Miss St) that was in a bowl last year...

We projected Cal transfer Kyle Reed to be the starting QB at San Jose St and all throughout August it appeared he was in a battle just for the 2nd string job and may have even slid to 3rd on the depth chart. SJSt was on the verge of losing to UC Davis trailing 10-0 when Reed came off the bench. He led the team to 2 TD’s including a 17 yd TD pass with :08 left and SJSt escaped with a 13-10 win. Reed hit 14 of 18 for 132...

Arkansas trailed W Illinois 24-14 in the 4Q and faced a 4th & 10 at the W Illinois 33. Instead of a 50 yd FG attempt, they opted to go for it and their prayers were answered with a FD pass. Had that pass fallen incomplete, Arkansas would have lost, but as it was, they rallied for a win including a TD with 1:49 left as Casey Dick hit 25 of 41 for 319 yards. It was another huge Big Dog POW Win as Arkansas St knocked off Texas A&M. The double digit dog dominated the game with a 255-133 rushing edge and 415-303 yard edge...

Ole Miss delivered a Northcoast Sportsline Comp College POW with a dominating 41-24 win over Memphis. Memphis got 2 of their 3 TD’s in the 4Q when they trailed 34-10. Nutt used the Wildcat package but instead of McFadden it was Dexter McCluster who rushed for 64 yards on 6 carries and mobile QB Jevan Snead even hauled in a 37 yard pass as Nutt unleashed a wide playbook vs the overmatched Tigers...

Bo Pelini’s coaching debut got off to a great start as Nebraska jumped out to a 34-10 lead vs W Michigan storming out to a 17-0 lead while scoring on their first 3 poss...

Nevada had a 629-230 yard edge vs Grambling.

RECORD BREAKERS - Josh Freeman is just a junior but has already moved to #2 on Kansas St’s all-time career passing list as he passed by Chad May and Carl Strong hitting 18 of 24 for 232 yards vs N Texas. KSU scored on 6 of their first 7 poss en route to a 42-0 lead and coasted...

At the half S Dakota St had a 10-9 FD edge vs Iowa St and trailed only 156-130 in total yards but ISt had 5 int which they returned for a school record 202 yards and led 20-0 at the half. It was 44-9 when SDSt’s RB fumbled and their WR Harris picked it up and raced 76 yards for a TD with 6:07 left...

Utah’s Kyle Whittingham improved his record to 5-3 vs BCS opponents...

Houston put up the most points in team history for a new HC. In 1955 Bill Meek had 54 in a win over Montana and new HC Kevin Sumlin led the team to a 55-3 win with Case Keenum hitting 33 of 43 for 392 yards as they plastered Southern 55-3...

USF set a school record with 28 points in the 1Q vs UT Martin and coasted to a 56-7 win with a 520-97 yd edge...Arizona had its highest scoring game since 1921 with a 70-0 win over Idaho. Willie Tuitama had 3 TD’s to top the school record for career TD passes set by Tom Tunnicliffe (1980-’83). UA had 359 yards in the 1H in a game played in steady rain.

QUESTIONABLE COACHING TACTICS - Coaches always tell their players not to fire up their opponent but Howard Schnellenberger, who, at 74 years old, should know better than rile to up Texas by saying they were not tough and that Florida Atlantic could beat them. UT came out fired up. The game was actually closer than the 28-10 halftime mark as UT only had a 264-239 yd edge and FAU got to the UT 16 and 8 yd lines in the 1Q but turned it over each time. Perhaps angered by the comments, UT did not let up in the 2H. FAU pulled QB Rusty Smith who had 226 yards passing in the 1H with 5:00 left 3Q to keep him healthy for more winnable games.

DEJA’VU ALL OVER AGAIN - Last year in the Cal-Oregon game, Oregon’s WR reached the ball out to the EZ for the apparent tying TD but it was fumbled out of the EZ for a TB. In a similar situation in another Pac-10 game this year, Oregon St trailing by 8, drove for the possible tying TD but as Darrell Catchings reached the ball towards the goal line, it was knocked away for a TB and Stanford pulled the upset. OSU had a commanding 490-301 yd edge and a 29-18 FD edge. Sammie Stroughter, who is back after missing almost all of LY, had 12 catches for 157 yards while SU’s RB Toby Gerhart lived up to his VHT billing rushing for 147 yards on 19 carries.

HEISMAN HOPEFULS - We project Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell to lead the NCAA in passing by over 1,000 yards this year and he got off to a great start throwing for 536 yards vs E Washington. Surprisingly Tech only led 35-24 after 3Q’s and the Red Raiders set a record for number of penalties in a game (18) with the previous high being 17...

Chase Daniel hit 26 of 45 for 323 yards and added 46 yards rushing as Missouri put up 52 points vs a ranked foe. Missouri led 45-20 and 52-35 with Illinois getting a 4th & 5 TD pass on the last play of the game.

MISLEADING FINALS, FRONTDOOR AND BACKDOOR COVERS - Wisconsin dominated Akron more than the final score as they scored on their first 3 1H poss. Their final 2 ended on a fumble into the EZ for a TB from the 5 and with a 1st & goal at the 6 they were int’d and ret’d 62 yds with just :22 left in the half to set up an Akron 25 yd FG and despite a 297-139 yd edge, they only led 17-10 at the half. UW scored TD’s on their first 3 poss of the 2H and appeared to have the game locked up spread-wise leading 38-10 when they got a FD at their own 42 with 2:50 left. Unfortunately they fumbled on the next play and Akron went 42/6pl getting a backdoor cover TD with :38 left on an 11 yard pass...

UNLV led Utah St 27-10 but the Aggies got a TD with 2:16 left to slide in the backdoor (+12’) 27-17.

MAC ALMOST HAS A HUGE DAY - The MAC did record some big wins like Bowling Green over Pitt and Buffalo blasting UTEP but also had 2 near misses. Ohio played a great game vs Wyoming even battling the large altitude advantage the Cowboys had but WY got the game winning 23 yd TD pass with 7:28 left. Ohio was int’d at the WY 9 with 4:17 left then passed up a 62 yard FG after a false start and had a Hail Mary pass knocked down at the end to come up 1 point short...

Last year Minnesota hosted two MAC teams, both went to OT winning one and lost the other. This year N Illinois led 27-24 and UM got a 1 yd TD run with :22 left to pull out a 4 point win. NI did get to the UM 30 but ran out of time as two Hail Mary passes by QB Harnish were knocked down.

LIGHTNING STRIKES - Oklahoma rolled to a 50-0 lead before a thunderstorm caused a lightning delay which extended halftime by an hour and 12 minutes. OU’s starters came back on the field in the 2H but produced just two FD’s in the first 3 drives and the sluggish Sooners had just 7 points in the 2H...

We project JM as the winner of the FCS this year and Duke whipped them 31-7 in a great debut for new coach David Cutcliffe. The game was delayed an hour and 27 minutes due to lightning strikes.

COACHES ON THE HOTSEAT - Pitt did have a 27-15 FD edge and 493-254 yd edge but 4 TO’s did them in. It was surprising to us that Pitt was even ranked by the AP in preseason and Coach Wannstedt is now firmly on the hotseat...

Not many mentioned Tommy Bowden in their Coaches on the Hotseat lists at the start of the year but he should rise to #1. Clemson has the talent to be favored in all 12 games this year but as usual, when expected to win, they lose. It was an ugly loss at that as Bama dominated the line of scrimmage with 25-11 FD and 239-0 rush edges. CU’s outstanding tandem of CJ Spiller and James Davis disappear in way too many games like this (8 carries, 20 yds). Now with everyone shoveling dirt on Bowden’s grave, he’ll probably turn around and win the ACC.

INJURIES AND SUSPENSIONS OF NOTE - Hofstra’s starting QB Bryan Savage missed Conn with an injured back. UC had 474-219 yd and 27-13 FD edges but did have a pair of drives kept alive by penalties on punts. It was a sloppy game with 8 turnovers (5 by UC) but the Huskies prevailed 35-3...

Indiana St was without starting QB Charles Dowdell (623 yards, 42%, 4-10 ratio, 363 rush) in their opener vs E Michigan. Calvin Schmidtke and Matt Seliger combined for 7 of 22 passes for 49 yards and EM had a dominating 637-132 yd and 30-7 FD edges. Terrence Blevins rushed for a career high 176 yards for the Eagles in the dominant 52-0 win...

The key injury of the weekend was RB Beanie Wells who was among the favorites for the Heisman Trophy as he went down in the 3Q to an injury for Ohio St. Wells had 111 yards rushing on just 13 carries in the 1H. OSU dominated Youngstown St as you would expect as they scored on all six 1H poss and not only had a 273-27 yd edge at the half, but the only FD allowed in the 1H was via penalty...

New Mexico has not scored a TD in their last 3 openers and lost starting QB Porterie in the 2Q with an injury and he did not return...

Kodi Burns was the starter for Auburn in their game vs ULM and hit just 4 of 9 for 15 yards and left in the 3Q with a cut on his leg and did not return. ULM tried to avoid the shutout but missed a FG with :50 left. ULM was without starting WR’s McNeal (susp) and Sapp (acad) and had just 220 total yards...

Oregon delivered a 3H LPS winner for us in a dominating 44-14 win over Washington but did lose their QB. Keep in mind, Nate Costa won the QB job in Aug and was lost for the season in the final week. Justin Roper, who started the bowl game, performed as we expected but went out in the 3Q with an injury after hitting 7 of 11 for 114 yards. JUCO transfer Masoli finished the game hitting 9 of 17 for 126 yards and 2 TD's.

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Week 1 Rewind
By Brian Edwards

The best game of Week 1 was the last one played. On Monday night, UCLA started the Rick Neuheisel Era in style, capturing a 27-24 win over Tennessee in an overtime thriller. The Bruins cashed tickets as seven-point underdogs, hooking up money-line backers with a plus 250 return (risk $100 to win $250).

UCLA’s juco-transfer QB Kevin Craft, who was thrust into the starting role after injuries to both Ben Olson and Patrick Cowan, shook off four first-half interceptions to perform masterfully at crunch time. Craft completed 18-of-25 passes for 189 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions in the second half.

With the Bruins trailing 21-17 with less than two minutes left, Craft drove his team down the field and connected with Ryan Moya for a three-yard TD pass with 27 seconds left.

However, Tennessee didn’t fold. UT junior QB Jonathan Crompton quickly guided the Vols into field-goal range. As time expired, Daniel Lincoln buried a 47-yarder to send the game to an extra session.

After UCLA’s Kai Forbath made a 42-yard field goal, Lincoln was wide right on a 30-yard attempt, giving the Bruins the victory in Neuheisel’s return to his alma mater.

Also on Monday, Fresno State flexed its muscle at Rutgers. Pat Hill’s program added to its road conquests against BCS schools with a 24-7 triumph as a 3 ½-point underdog. The Bulldogs cashed money-line tickets in the plus 145 range.

With Fresno’s win, my dubbing of the Bulldogs as 13th in my pre-season rankings appears justified. Now they get an open date before playing host to Wisconsin on Sept. 13. If FSU can beat the Badgers, they’ll be in a decent position to become the WAC’s sleeper candidate for a BCS berth like Boise St. in 2006 and Hawaii in 2007. (Road games at UCLA and Boise St. loom later, however.)

At the VI Seminar, I said Fresno was my top-rated non-BCS team and added that East Carolina was my second-rated non-BCS squad. The Pirates were also victorious in Week 1, beating Va. Tech by a 27-22 count as nine-point underdogs. ECU cashed money-line tickets that were slightly richer than plus 300 at most books.

Skip Holtz’s team now gets to host West Virginia this weekend. As of Tuesday morning, most spots had the Mountaineers marked as nine-point ‘chalk.’

Since 2003, USC has been notorious for coming to the East coast and dealing out pimpslaps. The Trojans gave out a bagel to Auburn on the Plains in 2003. They hung a 50-spot at Arkansas two seasons ago. In 2008, Pete Carroll’s team went into Charlottesville and spanked Virginia 52-7.

Mark Sanchez was brilliant as USC easily took the cash as a 19-point road favorite. The Trojans have an open date before hosting Ohio St. in Week 3.

Speaking of the Buckeyes, they won a 43-0 decision over Youngstown St. in a non-lined affair. The win was bittersweet, however, as Beanie Wells left the game with a foot/ankle injury. It is unclear when Wells will return, but he did not practice on Monday.

The fact that Alabama beat Clemson at the Georgia Dome wasn’t a big surprise. But the manner in which the Crimson Tide dealt out a 34-10 shellacking was a major shocker. Once again, the Tigers came up lame in a big game.

Even though Juice Williams threw for 451 yards and five TDs, Missouri beat Illinois 52-42 in St. Louis. Chase Daniel threw for 323 yards and three TDs, while Jeremy Maclin had 209 all-purpose yards. Maclin suffered a sprained ankle, but he might be able to play this week.

Utah stated its case as one of the premier non-BCS teams, ruining Rich Rodriguez’s debut at the Big House. The Utes collected a 25-23 victory as three-point underdogs.

Appalachian State couldn’t pull another shocker in Week 1 like it did at Michigan last season. The Mountaineers fell behind 31-0 at intermission and failed to give LSU a run for its money, losing 41-13 in Baton Rouge.

Florida didn’t have Cornelius Ingram, Percy Harvin or Brandon Spikes, all three of whom were tabbed as pre-season All-Americans. Nevertheless, the Gators dealt out woodshed treatment in a 56-10 home win over Hawaii as 35-point favorites.

Bowling Green pulled one of the week’s biggest upsets, knocking off Pittsburgh 27-17 as a 14-point underdog. Like Clemson, the Panthers failed to live up to their pre-season billing.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--As we gander ahead to Week 2, there aren’t too many eye-opening matchups. Here’s the best of the bunch:
1-West Virginia at East Carolina
2-Miami at Florida
3-Ole Miss at Wake Forest
4-Cincinnati at Oklahoma
(tie)5-Georgia Tech at Boston College
(tie)5-South Carolina at Vanderbilt

--You think the Gators want to beat up on Miami this weekend? They haven’t tasted victory against the Hurricanes since 1985.

--With Tommy Beecher unable to practice on Monday, gamblers should expect Chris Smelley to get the starting nod Thursday at Vandy.

--I’m still kicking myself for not pulling the trigger on a money-line play backing Utah. Ditto for a wager on Oklahoma State laying seven at Washington St. The Cowboys gave out a 39-13 clubbing in Seattle. I did go 6-1 in Week 1, though, so I’ll be ok. My lone loss? I loaded an ‘over’ play for Hawaii-Florida at 70 early in the week. The total actually closed at 64 and the final count was 66, so my pick-pack purchasers went undefeated. Here’s this week’s pick pack with (many) more selections to follow.

--Stats aside, I liked what I saw from LSU quarterback Andrew Hatch against App. St. The Tigers might be a lot better in 2008 than most of us have anticipated since the dismissal of Ryan Perrilloux. One thing is for certain: They have a nasty defense.

--Mississippi St. senior LB Jamar Chaney is out for the season after suffering a broken leg in Saturday's 22-14 loss at La. Tech. Chaney led the Bulldogs in tackles in 2007 and was a second-team All-SEC selection. That's a big blow to Sylvester Croom's team. Kudos to VI's James Manos, who called La. Tech's upset on last week's edition of the Power Hours.

--Alabama All-American OT Andre Smith is "questionable" for Saturday's home game against Tulane. Smith sprained his right knee against Clemson.

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College Challenge -- Week 2
By Judd Hall 

The season is now in full gear and another slate of games this Saturday for us to look over. Let’s find some winners.

Syracuse (-4½) versus Akron

This pick might get me put in the loony bin, but let’s go through this logically.

Syracuse needs to pick up the pace on its ground game...they averaged just two yards per run last season. The Orange definitely didn’t pick up the pace last Saturday as we saw against Northwestern, gaining just 122 yards rushing.

Luckily for the Orange, Akron couldn’t stop an old lady driving a rascal last week versus Wisconsin. I’ll grant you that the Badgers’ running backs are much better than the ‘Cuse. Yet, I’m thinking they should get close to the 404 yards Wisky picked up.

It also doesn’t hurt that Syracuse is 14-5 against teams from the MAC, excluding Temple. Meanwhile, the Zips are just 6-12 SU and 7-11 ATS in the second game of a back-to-back road trip.

Final Score: Syracuse 24, Akron 10

Air Force (+3½) at Wyoming

Air Force looked good in its opener against Southern Utah, winning 41-7. And just like usual, the Falcons won it with a solid ground game. Solid is putting it mildly when you amass 433 total yards rushing…even if it’s against the soft Thunderbirds.

That won’t be a big deal when they take to the road to play with the Cowboys. Wyoming needed a fourth quarter touchdown drive to hold off a down Bobcat squad, 21-20. So let’s not get ahead of ourselves with them giving up just 39 rushing yards to Ohio.

Last year, the Falcons gained 256 yards on the ground. And they should have no issues doing more of the same in this matchup. The fact that Air Force is an underdog is a gift to bettors.

Final Score: Air Force 27, Wyoming 13

Buffalo (+13½) at Pittsburgh

Don’t worry Panther fans, they aren’t going to lose this weekend. They (or should I say Dave Wannstedt) will get the fear of God put into them by how close this game will be. Pittsburgh coughed up the ball four times, leading to a pair of touchdowns that sent the Falcons to a 27-17 victory.

Normally you would laugh off Buffalo, but that won’t happen in this scenario. The Bulls dismantled UTEP last Saturday with scoring drives that averaged no more than seven plays.

Can Turner Gill’s club come through with an upset here? It’s very possible. Yet I’m more on the side that Wannstedt will have his team ready for the challenge. Look for a close game.

Final Score: Pittsburgh 28, Buffalo 24

Northwestern (-6½) at Duke

The Wildcats were fairly balanced when it came to the offensive attack they used against Syracuse (269 yards passing, 215 yards running). And they were able to hold the Orange to converting just three third downs in 14 opportunities.

Now look at the Blue Devils who took James Madison to task, 31-7. They looked good on offense with 364 total yards, while moving the chains 24 times. Truly impressive for David Cutcliffe, considering this team went 1-11 last year.

While the Dukies looks to be on the right track, it’s hard to argue with Northwestern going 4-0 SU and ATS into Durham the last four visits.

Final Score: Northwestern 30, Duke 14

Nevada (+10½) versus Texas Tech

I’m going to chalk last week’s game for the Red Raiders up to rust. How else can they let a team like Eastern Washington stay around? Take a look at Graham Harrell proof…he threw for 536 yards, but had just two touchdowns and an interception.

Texas Tech will get to take on group in the Wolf Pack that returns eight starters on offense. And they put them to good use, rushing for 426 yards and throwing for another 203 with Colin Kaepernick.

I see this matchup being very close thanks to Texas Tech’s inability to stop the passing game. As good as the pistol offense is, it can’t quite match up with what Mike Leach has in his arsenal.

Final Score: Texas Tech 38, Nevada 31

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Funaki named Hawaii's starting QB
September 3, 2008

HONOLULU (AP) -Inoke Funaki hasn't started a football game in nearly seven years. But after having doors literally slammed in his face and spending two years on the bench, patience is something the Hawaii quarterback has aplenty.

Listed No. 3 on the depth chart to open the season for the third straight year, Funaki has been chosen as Hawaii's starter against Weber State on Saturday night.

``I've been in the system a couple years now. There's still a lot of things I need to get good at but overall, I have a pretty good idea of what goes on,'' Funaki said Tuesday.

It will be Funaki's first start since 2001, when he led Kahuku High School to its second straight state title. Raised in the quiet coastal North Shore community of Laie, he will become the first homegrown product to assume the high-profile job since Timmy Chang.

``It's nice to be here at home and play for a lot of people I know and play for family and represent a state that raised me,'' he said. ``It's exciting.''

Funaki earned the nod after a strong performance last weekend at Florida. He entered in the fourth quarter with Hawaii down 56-0 and directed the Warriors to their only two scoring drives on the game. He was 8-of-11 for 110 yards and threw Hawaii's lone touchdown, a scrambling 13-yard strike to Greg Salas.

``Inoke Funaki came in and played his heart out,'' Warriors coach Greg McMackin said.

Quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich added, ``He wasn't perfect, but he was inspiring. I think that's something you can't put a price on.''

Funaki isn't the typical rookie. For one, he's a 25 year-old junior. After leading Kahuku to two state titles, he served on a Mormon church mission to the Dominican Republic for two years before joining the Warriors.

``I would just go out and teach the Gospel,'' Funaki said. ``I would go around, meet people, knock on doors and get doors slammed in my face. People would tell me, 'Get out of here.'

``You just learn to let it go and not hold any grudges,'' he said. ``Patience.''

When he returned to the islands, Funaki redshirted for a season before spending two years behind Colt Brennan and Tyler Graunke. Last year, he made five appearances and completed 10-of-15 passes for 136 yards and three TDs.

Funaki, however, never complained about lack of playing time.

``When I told him he wasn't the guy, he didn't cry, he didn't whine, he just tried to make the other guys better and when he got his opportunity he made the most of it,'' McMackin said. ``And that's why he's going to get his shot.''

Junior college transfers Greg Alexander and Brent Rausch are taller with strong arms. But Funaki has shown he has experience, poise and the respect of his teammates.

``He's a leader,'' running back Leon Wright-Jackson said. ``He's not really a vocal guy, but you saw him at The Swamp. When he got in, he's just a phenomenal player. He's an athlete. I'm sure he's going to get it done this weekend.''

As shown in the loss to Florida, Funaki is a threat when he's on the run. His scrambling ability can create plays and keep defenses off balance.

``He's instinctual. That's the best athletes you can find,'' Rolovich said. ``He brings another dimension to our game.''

Funaki is considered a ``gamer,'' who steps up his game when the bright lights are on. Funaki said it could be the game-time adrenaline or the ``sense of urgency'' he feels.

``Sometimes in practice, because we have the orange jerseys and the coaches say, 'Don't touch us,' you don't feel that urgency,'' he said. ``When you're in the game, you know that if you don't get the ball off, someone's going to whack you.''

Rolovich, who broke 19 school passing records in 2001, said he sees a lot in Funaki that could help the Warriors, who are stinging from last week's blowout to the Gators.

``His greatest asset is not his athleticism. It's not his knowledge of the system. It's Inoke Funaki as a person,'' Rolovich said. ``That's the most important thing for this team right now.''

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Tyrod Taylor to return for V-Tech
September 2, 2008

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) -Virginia Tech will return to the two-quarterback system it used last season with Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon sharing the duties, coach Frank Beamer said Tuesday.

The announcement came a week after Beamer had said that Glennon would be the starter while Taylor redshirted, and a few days after the then-No. 17 Hokies lost their season opener to East Carolina, 27-22. Virginia Tech was not ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 poll this week.

Taylor is more mobile than Glennon, a drop-back passer, and Beamer said his inexperienced team needs help with its running game.

``Putting another guy in the game that can help you run the football is in our best interests,'' he said. ``I don't think with young receivers you want to rely on throwing the football 40 times a game.''

The inexperienced defense is not as good as it has been in the past, Beamer said, and while the offensive line is better than it was a year ago, ``we still have trouble holding up at times.''

Beamer would not say which quarterback will start Saturday at home against Football Championship Subdivision Furman, nor would he give any details about how they will be used.

Glennon and Taylor were not available for interviews, and other players said they had not heard of the change before Tuesday's announcement.

Offensive tackle Ed Wang said he was surprised, but he also was surprised when Glennon was named the starter because the team had practiced with two quarterbacks.

``Those guys feed off each other,'' said tailback Kenny Lewis Jr. ``They play to their peak performance when both of them are in there.''

Beamer stressed that the decision was not a reflection on Glennon's performance against the Pirates, when the fifth-year senior completed 14 of 23 passes for 139 yards and was intercepted twice.

``I'm very hopeful Sean will have an NFL career,'' Beamer said. ``That tells you what we think about him and his talents.''

Beamer said Glennon was disappointed, but the news may have had a familiar ring. Glennon also lost the starting job last year, but it came after two games instead of one.

He was replaced by Taylor after a slow start and a 48-7 loss at LSU, but reclaimed the job after he stepped up and played well when Taylor was injured midway through the season. Glennon was named MVP in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, where he was 18-of-27 for 174 yards with three TD passes against Boston College.

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Tuberville: Todd will start at QB
September 2, 2008

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -Chris Todd will start at quarterback for No. 9 Auburn on Saturday against Southern Mississippi

Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville said Tuesday that he had planned to start Todd even before Kodi Burns was injured in the opener.

Burns, who started Auburn's 34-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe, was cut on his left leg in the third quarter. He practiced Tuesday on a limited basis and Tuberville said Burns wouldn't play unless he's fully recovered.

Tuberville also said receiver James Swinton won't play unless he can return to practice by Wednesday from a hamstring injury. Running back and returner Tristan Davis is expected to play after missing the opener with an ankle injury.

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ATS Report: Opening Weekend NCAA

The opening weekend of college football showed some dramatic disparities from conference to conference, giving us a real idea of the under and over valued conferences for the upcoming campaign. This strategy has worked well during bowl season, when it’s crucial to identify under and over valued conferences in the early bowls, giving us a big edge for the later bowl games.
Let’s start with the successful ATS conferences. I threw out all conference games for the purposes of this report, concentrating exclusively on the non-conference matchups:

The SEC did great. Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Auburn and Kentucky all won and covered. Tennessee and Mississippi State both lost outright as favorites. As a conference, the SEC went 7-2 ATS on the opening weekend.

The PAC-10 also enjoyed a banner weekend. UCLA, USC, Cal and Arizona took care of business, while only Washington State came up short. The PAC-10 went 4-1 ATS on the opening weekend.

The Big 12 cashed tickets for their backers. Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Texas, Kansas State and Colorado were ATS winners, while Texas A+M, Baylor and Kansas failed to cash. The Big 12 went 6-3 ATS on the opening weekend.

The MAC was the fourth conference worth betting on. Temple, Buffalo, Ohio U, Akron, Northern Illinois and Bowling Green cashed tickets for their supporters. Miami-Ohio, Kent and Western Michigan all came up short. The MAC, like the Big 12, went 6-3 ATS on the opening weekend.

Coming into the season, the SEC, Big 12 and PAC-10 were widely regarded as the three best conferences in the country, in that order. And handicappers, as a group, were very high on the MAC this year, with the cyclical nature of this conference indicating that this would be an ‘up’ year for this particular ‘mid-major’ conference. All four conferences paid out like a broken slot machine this past weekend, combining to go 23-9 ATS.

Of course, there is another side to this story. The Big 10, ACC and Big East were all expected to be down a notch or two this year, the weaker half of the major conferences. The Week 1 results certainly showed that the preseason assessments were right on the money.

It was a disastrous weekend for the Big East. Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Louisville all lost SU and ATS; with three of those four losses coming as favorites. No Big East team covered a spread this past weekend, 0-4 as a conference.

The Big 10 wasn’t much better. Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan State all went down to ATS defeat, while only Northwestern managed to cover a spread (and that deserves an asterisk, against the worst major conference team in the country, Syracuse). I’m not counting the Western Kentucky-Indiana game for this report, the only ‘middle’ on sides for the weekend, as Western covered the opening number (+21) but did not cover the closing number (+17) in their 18 point loss to the Hoosiers. As a whole, the Big 10 went 1-5 ATS.

The ACC suffered a number of high profile defeats. Virginia Tech went down, as did Virginia, Clemson and NC State, all in rather ugly fashion. Only BC and Wake Forest managed to cash tickets for the ACC, leaving the conference with a 2-4 mark.

And let’s not forget the Sun Belt when we’re talking about weaker conferences. The Sun Belt has been the ultimate bottom feeder conference since it’s creation a decade ago, and the opening week’s results showed that the gap between the Sun Belt and the better conferences has not been eradicated in the slightest. Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette, Florida Atlantic and North Texas all got crushed SU and ATS this past weekend. Florida International only lost by 30 and 36’ point underdogs, while Arkansas State won outright at Texas A+M. I’m grading the Sun Belt with a 2-4 mark for the opening weekend.

The four bet against conferences listed above went a combined 5-17 ATS.

Conference USA went 2-2. The Mountain West went 1-3. The WAC went 3-2. And the only independent to play a lined game was Army, who lost badly to Temple. I don’t think we’ve seen enough out of any of these conferences to draw significant judgments just yet.

It’s worth noting that of the 41 games played this past weekend, 32 were decided by double digit margins. Only nine games were decided by less than ten points. That probably explains much of the success by the favorites on the opening weekend of college football – chalk cashed at a 60% clip, 24-16 against the number.

There weren’t many fourth quarter comebacks on the opening weekend. Wyoming rallied from six points down to beat Ohio U by one. Minnesota blew a double digit lead, but managed to score the winning touchdown with less than 30 seconds to go against Northern Illinois. East Carolina rallied from two scores down in the fourth quarter to beat Virginia Tech. That’s it for successful fourth quarter comebacks! Oregon State, Michigan State, Tennessee and Texas A+M all came up short in their fourth quarter comeback attempts.

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LSU-Troy game postponed until November
September 3, 2008

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -LSU has postponed its football game against Troy after Hurricane Gustav rolled through Louisiana this week.

A person with direct knowledge of athletic scheduling at LSU told The Associated Press the Tigers' game versus the Trojans will be played Nov. 15. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team had not been formally notified yet.

LSU has scheduled a press conference for 3 p.m. EDT.

LSU's football team met at the Tigers' on-campus training center Tuesday afternoon, then went ahead with practice.

Gustav caused some damage at Tiger Stadium, including broken glass and torn awnings over club seats. Debris littered the stands and playing field.

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Steffy out; Turner to start at QB for Maryland
September 3, 2008

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -Maryland quarterback Jordan Steffy has ligament damage in his right thumb, an injury that will sideline him for at least three weeks and return Chris Turner to the starting role.

Steffy hurt his thumb Saturday in the Terrapins' 14-7 win over Delaware. He won the starting job over the summer, but now must watch from the sideline while Turner runs the offense with help from backup Josh Portis.

A year ago, a concussion in the fifth game of the season knocked Steffy from the starting spot. He was replaced by Turner, who guided the Terrapins into the Emerald Bowl.

Steffy will need surgery on his thumb, coach Ralph Freidgen said, but the fifth-year senior has decided against the procedure in hopes of returning this season.

Turner will start Saturday against Middle Tennessee State. As he did against Delaware, Portis will play on selected series.

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West Virginia at East Carolina
By Judd Hall

Could the Pirates make it two straight upsets?

That is the question on the minds of fans and the gambling public alike. By the looks of where the money is going, there is a line definitely drawn in the stand on this game in Greenville, North Carolina.

West Virginia was installed as the favorite from the onset, starting as a 10 ½-point road “chalk” at Las Vegas Sports Consultants. That line has now shrunk to eight in favor of the Mountaineers. The total has stayed in the 50 to 51 ½ range amongst sportsbooks offshore and in Vegas.

Given that information, you can easily guess that the Mountaineers are getting the public’s blessing as far as the spread goes… shows 77 percent of the ATS money is going towards the blue and old gold. Meanwhile, East Carolina is the favorite amongst bettors for the outright upset as 84 percent of the cash is going its way for a return of plus 270 (risk $100 to win $270).

It’s hard to argue with that kind of value on the Pirates when you think they can pull off another upset in the BCS apple cart. What you can debate is how well will ECU be able to stifle the Mountaineers’ offensive attack.

East Carolina had no problems in snuffing out the Hokies’ Sean Glennon, allowing the hurler to connect on 14 of 23 passes for 139 with a pair of interceptions. The Pirates even beat Virginia Tech by its own game last week with a blocked punt for a touchdown in the waning minutes of regulation.

Patrick Pinkney was practically automatic under center for ECU by completing 19 of 23 passes for 211 yards and a score. He was also evading the pressure by rushing 11 times for another 24 yards with a touchdown.

The Pirates’ defense held their own against Virginia Tech as well, allowing just five of 12 third downs to be converted all game long. And letting the Hokies move the chains 12 times total. That’s what happens when you have nine disciplined starters return on defense.

As disciplined as ECU is on defense, they are going to have a problem when taking on the West Virginia and its powerful offense.

Patrick White was on his game against Villanova last Saturday as evidenced by connecting on 25 of 33 passes for 208 yards and five touchdowns. The Mountaineers’ ground weapon, Noel Divine, added 47 yards on nine carries.

West Virginia’s defense did nothing to impress anyone last week against the Wildcats. After all, they allowed 399 yards and saw ‘Nova pick up 28 first downs (WVU got a fresh set of downs just 21 times).

The biggest matchup in this contest is whether or not the Pirates are able to stifle White and the speed his squad possesses.

Sure, West Virginia has Devine to go along with wideouts Jock Sanders and Alric Arnett. Yet the Mountaineers’ offense goes nowhere without White taking the snaps. Look no further than WVU’s defeat at home to Pittsburgh last winter (five of 10 passing for 50 yards with a dislocated thumb) for proof of his importance to this program.

Expect East Carolina to try and bring a constant pass rush in this contest, while keeping the secondary in zone coverage. What this will do is force White to hold onto the ball as much as possible to either run on his own or complete short passes. This gameplan sounds good on paper, but you have to remember that the ‘Neers return all five starters on the offensive line. That means White should have plenty of time to find an open receiver.

History for the Pirates isn’t exactly a gimme to win on their home turf in openers as dictated by posting a 10-7 SU record. However, the home team has been able to cover the line at a nice clip, going 6-2 ATS in the past eight contests. The ‘under’ has hit in the last three meetings as well.

ESPN will be broadcasting this tilt at 4:30 pm EDT.

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By Gary Olshan

Navy at BALL STATE (Friday)...Navy gung ho for rematch following bitter 34-31 OT loss in Annapolis LY. Middies, who rolled up 521 YR, missed 32-yd. FG on last play in regulation, then fumbled in OT. Ball State kicked game-winning 24-yd. FG in extra possession.

Stanford at ARIZONA STATE...After covering 7 of previous 8 in series, Stanford has been smashed in last two vs. ASU, losing by combined 79-6 margin. Sun Devils have been good bully in Tempe, going 16-6 as DD home chalk since ‘98 (9-1 L3Ys!).

UL Monroe at ARKANSAS...UL Monroe is 12-6-1 as a road dog since ‘05, and Warhawks have covered 5 of past 8 vs. SEC. Arkansas has major lookahead vs. Texas next week.

Northwestern at DUKE...NW in nasty mood following 20-14 home loss vs. Duke LY, snapping Blue Devils 21-game losing streak, and eventually costing 6-6 Wildcats a bowl bid. NW outgained Duke 506-309, but bogged down in red zone, exemplified by QB Bacher’s incomplete pass on 4th-and-goal from Blue Devil 7-yd. line in final minute. New HC Cutcliffe taking over downtrodden Duke, which is 3-14 vs. spread last 17.

Kent State at IOWA STATE...Kent State QB Edelman excited for back-to-back trips to Jack Trice Stadium after completing 17 of 28 for 161 yds. & adding 75 YR in 23-14 upset in LY’s lidlifter. Edelman was only 100% healthy for the one game vs. ISU in all of ‘07, as he was hampered by torn PCL vs. Kentucky in 2nd week, and then had season end due to fractured arm in 8th week. Cyclones are 0-4 as favorite last 2Ys.

Troy at LSU...Undaunted Troy no pushover in “play for pay” games, as Trojans are 8-4 as a DD dog vs. ACC, Big XII & SEC squads since ‘04, including 3-1 mark LY (2-1 vs. SEC). LSU just 50% as DD chalk in Tiger Stadium last decade, including 24-20 win vs. Troy back in ‘04.

Unlv at UTAH...Utah on vendetta following 27-0 setback in Las Vegas LY (1st shutout since ‘93!), snapping Utes 11-game series win streak. Utah was apparently still on cloud nine following astounding 44-7 upset vs. UCLA in Salt Lake City week before. Utes are 6-1 as DD home chalk since ‘06, while UNLV 3-9 as DD road dog since ‘05.

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By Bruce Marshall

Alabama...Look out, the Tide might be back! Saturday’s dominating performance against Clemson at the Georgia Dome might have been the most impressive team effort of the weekend. Nick Saban’s defense deserves special kudos for completely dominating the Tiger offensive front, stuffing the Clemson ground game and pressuring Tiger QB Cullen Harper all night. Remember, the Tide’s six losses were all by 7 points or fewer last season, and a star-studded freshman class looks as if it is ready to make an impact right away. Suddenly, Bama rates a serious challenger to LSU and Auburn in the SEC if that loaded league needs another heavyweight team to emerge.

Arizona...Hmmm. It was only Idaho, but 70-0 is 70-0, and despite the fact the Vandals were hopelessly outclassed, it’s interesting to note that Arizona went for the jugular when it had the chance in its opener. Which could be significant handicapping news for the Wildcats, who historically have had their problems laying points (especially big points) while proving pesky as an underdog, the classic “playing to the level of the oppostion” example. But with HC Mike Stoops definitely on the hot seat in Tucson, perhaps this UA edition is going to take no prisoners when the opportunities arise, which could happen again Saturday night when defense-shy MAC rep Toledo (which allowed a hefty 39 ppg in ‘07) pays a visit. There apparently is enough offense at Stoops’ disposal to run up scores, especially if soph RB Nic Grigsby provides the sort of explosive dimension he displayed against Idaho when erupting for 169 the first half, in the rain to boot. And in his second year piloting the Texas Tech-like spread imported from Lubbock by o.c. Sonny Dykes, QB Willie Tuitama is poised to post some big numbers of his own this season. Watch these guys.

California...It is not lost on most Pac-10 observers how the Bears have proven such a poor pointspread proposition in recent years. But the emergence of RS soph QB Kevin Riley, the hero of last New Year’s Eve’s exciting Armed Forces Bowl win over Air Force, could be changing that equation in Berkeley. With, first, Joe Ayoob in 2005, and then Nate Longshore for most of the last two seasons, HC Jeff Tedford has not had the sort of QB production he had earlier in his career, both at Cal (with Aaron Rodgers and Kyle Boller) and previous stops as an offensive assistant at Oregon and Fresno State, where he tutored several future pros (such as Joey Harrington and Trent Dilfer). With a real QB once more, the Bears might be able to growl, and the pop exhibited by coast-to-coast RBs Jahvid “The Jet” Best (right) and Shane “Ben” Vereen in the opener against Michigan State (when both went over 100 YR) suggests the good times might be ready to roll again in Berkeley.

Ole Miss...Several SEC scouts suspected the Rebels could be a vastly-improved tea this season, simply because of the coaching upgrade from the dismissed Ed Orgeron to Houston Nutt, who despite being unwelcome any longer at Arkansas remains a respected presence on the sidelines. Orgeron didn’t leave a completely bare cupboard, however, and with Texas transfer QB Jevan Snead hopefully providing an ugprade at that important position, hopes were high for Nutt’s debut in Oxford even before the Rebs easily disposed of recently-pesky regional rival Memphis in the opener. Nutt also unveiled his new “Wild Rebel” formation vs. the Tigers, a shotgun look similar to the one he used with success at Arkansas when featuring RB Darren McFadden getting direct snaps. Of the 10 snaps out of “Wild Rebel” vs. Memphis, Ole Miss gained wa whopping 148 yards, most of those by slippery Dexter McClusker, who gained 125 total yards and got Ole Miss rolling with a 32-yard TD run out of the formation to stake the Rebs to a 14-7 lead they never relinquished.

Oregon...So, how many QBs does HC Mike Bellotti have at his disposal, anyway? The various stories and blogs that routinely overplay injury situations were lamenting Bellotti’s plight when likely starting QB Nate Costa was lost for the season with a knee injury prior to the opener vs. Washington. No worry for Bellotti, however, as returnee Justin Roper, one of the heroes of December’s Sun Bowl romp past South Florida, was still around to take snaps, but when Roper went down with a concussion in the second quarter, Bellotti merely turned to juco Jeremiah Masoli and true frosh Chris Harper, as the Ducks pulled away in the second half for a 44-10 rout over northwest rival Washington, marking the fifth straight win by the Ducks over the Huskies by at least a 20-point margin (and don’t think that doesn’t hurt the prideful Husky backers in Seattle). And with an aggressive, veteran defense, perhaps Oregon will emerge as USC’s most significant challenger in the Pac-10 this season.

Vanderbilt...Sometimes, the whole ”returning starters” argument is much ado about nothing. Many teams replace departed starters with players who have seen a fair share of playing time, and the transition to the new group of starters is often not nearly as dramatic as some believe. Vandy proved a good example in its dominating 34-13 opening win last Thursday at Miami-Ohio, its “new” front 7 stuffing the RedHawks and applying constant heat to QB Daniel Raudabaugh, while a rebuilt offensive line opened plenty of holes (to the tune of 269 YR) against what was supposed to be one of the MAC’s best defensive units. Along the way, sr. QB Chris Nickson, hampered by injury last season, sparked the attack and treated the Commodore backers who saw flashes of his potential in 2006 when running for a career best 169 YR and displaying heretofore absent poise in the pocket. And HC Bobby Johnson made good on his promise to make more use of versatile CB D.J. Moore on the offensive end, with the RedHawks forced to pay attention whenever he entered the game. Moore, the “Deion Sanders of Vanderbilt” if not the entire SEC, further confirmed his status as a top playmaker with a 91-yard punt return to set up the Dores’ second TD in the first quarter. That return was the second longest in team history. Although the Commodores will be facing tougher tests vs. SEC entries in the weeks and months ahead, Vandy doesn’t look like it will be any pushover this fall.

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Miami at Florida
By Brian Edwards

Normally I write an objective preview, weighing the pros and cons of betting one way or the other. Not this time, not this game.

This preview is all about informing gamblers that the Gators are going to deliver woodshed treatment at The Swamp on Saturday night. It says here that you can count on it.

Yes, the number is huge. Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Florida (1-0 straight up, 1-0 against the spread) as an 18 ½-point favorite with a total of 50. Since then, heavy public action on UF has sent the number north of 21.

As of Friday morning, most books had the Gators in the 22-23 range. Miami (1-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) is such a huge underdog that there’s no money-line price to be found.

Just how long has it been since the Hurricanes have been such heavy underdogs? They were 22-point ‘dogs at Florida St. in 1997. There was a good reason for it, too, as the Seminoles issued cream-cheese treatment, spanking UM by a 47-0 count.

Since 1980, the ‘Canes have been underdogs of 20 points or more just twice. The other time was also in Tallahassee in 1995 when the ‘Noles won (and covered) 41-17 as 20-point ‘chalk.’

Florida hasn’t tasted victory against Miami since 1985 when Kerwin Bell led the Gators to a 35-23 triumph at the Orange Bowl. That statement is a tad misleading since the bitter rivals have only met six times in the last 23 years, but the point is still valid – UF fans aren’t just starving for a win over Miami; they are salivating at the prospects of an absolute shellacking.

UM beat UF in ’86 and ’87, but then the rivalry went doormat for more than a decade. Starting at the 2001 Sugar Bowl, these adversaries have met four times and on each occasion, the ‘Canes have dealt the Gators a painful defeat.

It started in New Orleans on Bourbon Street – literally. A few days before the Sugar Bowl, the teams brawled in the French Quarter and Florida All-American defensive end Alex Brown came away with a black eye.

Steve Spurrier’s team took a 20-17 lead against Miami midway through the third quarter on a long touchdown run by Earnest Graham. However, the ‘Canes would score 20 unanswered points and win 37-20.

Two seasons later in the second game of Ron Zook’s tenure, Miami held a 27-16 advantage late in the third quarter. UF appeared poised to make it a one-possession game when it drove into the red zone and had a first-and-goal opportunity. But two plays later, Rex Grossman threw a pick-six and the game was over for all intents and purposes.

When the horn sounded, Miami had a 41-16 victory. Therefore, the Gators lost by 25 points in Zook’s second home game. During Spurrier’s 12-year tenure, UF lost five home games by a combined 25 points.

The following season, Florida went to the Orange Bowl as a 14-point underdog, but it took a commanding 33-10 lead in the third quarter. It wasn’t to be, though.

Former Gator Brock Berlin, who transferred to UM when he couldn’t beat out Grossman, guided the ‘Canes to an improbable comeback. When Miami completed its rally for a 38-33 victory, Berlin mocked the UF faithful with a sarcastic Gator chop.

Next, the teams were matched up at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta to conclude the 2004 campaign. Zook had been fired and then hired by Illinois. Urban Meyer was in place to supplant Zook, but he was getting Utah ready to play Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl.

With Charlie Strong as the interim coach, the Gators got drilled 27-10 in a lackluster effort.

And that brings us to 2008. FSU and Miami, perennial top 10 teams during the ‘80s, ‘90s and the earlier part of this decade, are uncharacteristically down. Meanwhile, the Gators are in top form, considered a serious candidate to win their second national title in three years.

Miami is coming off its worst season in 30 years, limping to a 5-7 record in Randy Shannon’s first season at the helm. The Gators are clearly the best program in the Sunshine State, yet they haven’t had the chance to prove that to Miami on the field.

They get that chance Saturday night, and let’s not underestimate the “night” factor. The Swamp is electric under the lights and the ‘Canes will be greeted by a raucous crowd.

Florida opened the season by trashing Hawaii 56-10 as a 35-point favorite last Saturday. The Gators were held scoreless in both the first and fourth quarters, but they dented the scoreboard for nine touchdowns in the second and third.

Even with pre-season All-Americans Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes out of the lineup, the Warriors were no match for UF. The Gators displayed a pair of new weapons in redshirt freshman RB Chris Rainey and true freshman RB Jeff Demps.

Both players possess one main ingredient – speed. Rainey had six carries for 58 yards, including a 33-yard TD run. Demps had just two carries but went for 76 yards, including an electrifying 62-yard TD scamper. Brandon James was also in the mix, scoring on a one-yard plunge and a 74-yard punt return.

Miami beat up on Charleston Southern 52-7 in its non-lined opener last Thursday. Graig Cooper had a 14-yard TD run and also scored on a 66-yard punt return. True freshman QB Jacory Harris ran for a score and threw for another. Javarris James led UM in rushing with 73 yards on just 12 totes.

Harris got the starting nod last week, but Shannon is expected to go with redshirt freshman Robert Marve as his starter this week. Marve served a one-game suspension against Charleston So.

As for the Gators, they are expected to have both Spikes and Harvin back in the mix.

ABC will provide television coverage at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--I like the Gators here because I feel they’re that much better than Miami. The revenge thing certainly helps as well, and this spot also fits another of my favorite handicapping strategies – fading a freshman QB making his first career start on the road. In this scenario, we not only have that, but we have Marve taking his first collegiate snap of any sort at The Swamp in front of a frenzied crowd.

--According to VI’s Marc Lawrence, Urban Meyer’s teams (at UF, Utah and Bowling Green) are 18-0 SU and 14-1 ATS at home against non-conference foes.

--When favored by 20 points or more during Meyer’s tenure, the Gators are 6-5 ATS.

--West Virginia is 15-5-1 ATS in its last 21 games as a road favorite.

--Rice owns a 14-5 spread record in its last 19 games as an underdog. The Owls, who have one of the best QB-WR tandems in the country in Chase Clement and Jarett Dillard, are plus three at Memphis.

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What bettors need to know: Miami vs. Florida

Miami Hurricanes at Florida Gators (-22½, 51)

A Rivalry Renewed

After facing off every year except one between 1938 and 1987, these programs have met only four times since, twice in bowl games. Miami won the last meeting in the 2004 Peach Bowl and has won the last six in a row dating back to 1985.

The teams are not scheduled to play again until 2013.

Sporadic or not, this is an intense rivalry due to the fact that so many of the players competed with and against one another in high school.

“I guarantee you there are phone calls going back and forth between Miami players and Florida players because they know each other. That’s the rivalry,” said Miami coach Randy Shannon.

Tune-ups Last Week

Both teams worked out the kinks last week against inferior competition.

Florida sputtered a bit early on offense before rolling to a 56-10 win over a rebuilding Hawaii team. RB/KR Brandon Jones had 121 all-purpose yards including his third career punt return for a touchdown.

Miami took out Charleston Southern 52-7.

Miami Youth Movement

After falling off the last few years (12-13 SU in ‘06-‘07), Miami appears to be retooling with a new crop of frontline recruits.

At the skill positions, key new underclassmen such as RBs Graig Cooper and Derron Thomas as well as WRs Laron Byrd, Theoron Collier and Leonard Hankerson have contributed a new element of explosiveness and depth.

Defensively, the ‘Canes look to be much improved, including a LB corps that appears much quicker than recent editions.

Florida Stacked

While Miami should be one of the more improved teams of 2008, Florida is firmly entrenched as one of the elite programs in the country.

The Gators are stocked with talent across the board and they possess the experienced leadership and big game seasoning that the Canes lack.

As if QB Tim Tebow doesn’t present enough problems for the Miami D, the Gators will also welcome back Percy Harvin, a fixture on most preseason All-American squads. With Harvin a threat to score every time he touches the ball, it will be impossible for the Canes to sell out and stack the box against Tebow.

Baptism by Fire for Miami Frosh QB

Miami redshirt Freshman Robert Marve won the starting job in camp but was suspended for the first game. He’ll be seeing his first action as a college QB on Saturday.

While Marve is a blue chip talent (Florida Mr. Football in 2006) and has impressed coaches and teammates with his poise and maturity, he’ll be taking the field for the first time in the most hostile of environments against one of the top teams in the nation.

Expect Miami to come out with a conservative approach, emphasizing the ground game and not asking Marve to do too much in order to limit rookie mistakes.

And don’t look for a more experienced alternative on the Miami bench- Marve’s backup is true Freshman Jacory Harris.

The Swamp

While the Gators have not been unbeatable in the Urban Meyer era, they are very close to it on their home field.

Meyer has compiled a 19-1 SU record at The Swamp with the only loss coming to Auburn last season. Even so, the Gators finished up 5-1 against the spread at home in 2007.

This is a daunting challenge for a young Miami team that is 3-7 ATS in their last 10 on the road.

"I know how good Miami's been over the years and how dominant they were,'' said Florida defensive lineman Duke Lemmens. "They have a long winning streak in the series, but we're hoping to change that and we're hoping to show them a little something about The Swamp.''

Line Movement

The line opened at 20.5 and has climbed in recent days to its current mark of 22.5.

After opening at 52.5, the total was immediately bet down to 51.5, subsequently went as low as 50.5, and now has settled at 51.

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