Football Newsletters Week 2

Football Newsletters Week 2

THE SPORTS MEMO

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** BEST BETS:


ED CASH

MIAMI (OH) +14.5 AT MICHIGAN

Recommendation: Miami

I went against the Wolverines last week with Utah +3.5 and have to take the points again this week with the Miami RedHawks. Michigan lost to Utah by a 25-23 score, but they were lucky to be that close. After getting destroyed in the first half by the Utah offense, Michigan turned it up a notch on defense in the second half and forced some turnovers to get back into the game. The bottom line, however, was that their offense was terrible with both young quarterbacks in the game. Michigan was only able to run for 43 yards on 22 carries in the game while throwing for 160. They will likely win this game because of their defense, but Miami-Ohio should never be out of it. Miami dropped their opener at home to Vanderbilt, 34-13, but they were far from being dominated on the line of scrimmage. Turnovers and poor special teams play killed them against the Commodores, something that should be addressed this week in practice. Michigan’s offense should improve a little bit this week, but not enough to pass up taking two touchdowns with Miami-Ohio. Another outright Michigan loss would not surprise me.


FAIRWAY JAY

EAST CAROLINA +9 AT WEST VIRGINIA

Recommendation: East Carolina

I was impressed with East Carolina as they opened the season with a hard-fought and deserved victory over No. 17 Virginia Tech on a neutral field. Now returning home, the Pirates are primed to pull off another upset. Senior quarterback Patrick Pinkney was 19-for-23 for 211 yards last week, and should have success against the Mountaineers average secondary. Meanwhile, West Virginia is an overrated team that beat an inferior Villanova team 48-21 last week in one of the opening week’s misleading final scores. The strength of the West Virginia defense that was so instrumental to their success a year ago is no longer in place. The Mountaineers defensive front lost two outstanding linemen from a season ago and a weak Villanova offense outgained the West Virginia power spread option that featured more passing by QB Pat White. Villanova piled up 400 total yards, 28 first downs and ran 87 offensive plays. Some critical mistakes in the red zone proved costly, and East Carolina’s strength along the defensive line and stronger secondary combined with a balanced offensive attack will make for a real tug-o-war. West Virginia’s BCS title hopes could end early, as this ‘Dog looks ready to bite hard again.


TIM TRUSHEL

EAST CAROLINA +9 AT WEST VIRGINIA

Recommendation: East Carolina

Even off a great upset against Virginia Tech, there is some resistance in the betting marketplace with East Carolina this week. When the summer previews came out in the middle of the summer I knew for certain that East Carolina would be in position to win one if not both of its opening two games. This is a very good team and a program on the rise. Skip Holtz has done a tremendous job and has exceeded expectations at every stop. Here in building this program he has gotten so much more than has been projected. Over the past four seasons, the Pirates are an incredible 27-11 against the spread. The key to their success this week and in moving forward this season will be improved play on the defensive side of the ball. Last season this unit was torched for 30 points per game and got progressively worse as they played out the season. With nine starters back, Holtz and his coaches repeatedly told boosters, alumni and the media that this year would be different. Last week in holding the Hokies to just 237 yards, their statements showed early promise. This week, they will be even further tested as they face an opponent that in last season’s matchup gained nearly 400 yards rushing and 200 more through the air. That embarrassment will further serve to motivate.


DONNIE BLACK

NORTHWESTERN AT DUKE +6

Recommendation: Duke

The wrong team is favored here. Duke enters 2008 as a different team with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm centered around its new coach David Cutcliffe. Extremely successful
as a coordinator at Tennessee and head coach at Mississippi, Cutcliffe has raised expectations. The culture and acceptance of losing is no longer tolerated. Last week as they beat James Madison 31-7, Duke sent a signal to those that were paying attention that this would be a different year. Normally a win over a Division I-AA team might not be worthy of note, but James Madison returned 16 starters to a team that lost 28-27 to Appalachian State in the playoffs. Ranked in the Top 5 in all polls, the win is more impressive than most people realize. They held James Madison to 239 yards and did not allow a third down conversion. With 10 starters back on the defensive side this is likely a sign of some good things to come even as the Blue Devils step up in class. Northwestern is projected
as a lower echelon Big Ten team. With seven consecutive seasons with between three and sevens wins, they are as mediocre as they come. Talent, athleticism and speed should all be in favor of Duke and with home field advantage, we see no reason why this Duke team can’t beat Northwestern for a second straight season as an underdog


JARED KLEIN

MINNESOTA +4.5 AT BOWLING GREEN

Recommendation: Minnesota

Minnesota got the job done SU last weekend against Northern Illinois, 31-27. This weekend we’re not asking the Gophers to win by any margin but to just keep the game close, something I believe they’ll do. The offense looked very solid against Northern Illinois behind sophomore QB Adam Weber. Weber completed 64 percent of his passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns. What was even more impressive was that he threw no interceptions and wasn’t forced to serve as the team’s leading
rusher as RB Duane Bennett ran the ball 18 times for 92 yards and two touchdowns.I was also impressed with the Gophers’ defense as the game progressed. Minnesota held Northern Illinois to just 72 yards on the ground for an average of just 2.3 ypc despite starting five new players on defense. I expect this team to continue to grow and get better throughout the season. It’s no secret why Bowling Green was able to knock off Pittsburgh despite posting only 254 yards of total offense. The Falcons capitalized on a whopping three fumbles and one interception in their 10-point victory. Minnesota was very careful with the ball against NIU and I anticipate another solid effort from this young team. Take the plus points this weekend


BRENT CROW

SOUTHERN MISS AT AUBURN -18

Recommendation: Auburn

Both teams opened the season with easy wins over the directional Louisiana schools last week. Auburn defeated UL-Monroe, 34-0 and Southern Miss crushed Louisiana-Lafayette, 51-21. It seems as if the early bettors were not very impressed with Auburn’s win, however, as the Tigers quickly dropped from -20 to -17. I disagree with the early move though, and think the Auburn defense will be much tougher than what the Golden Eagles faced last week when they piled up 435 yards rushing. The Tigers’ defense held UL-Monroe to 220 total yards in the shutout and will face a very young Southern Miss offense. The Eagles were facing one of the worst defenses in the nation last week and were able to manhandle the Cajuns at the line of scrimmage. That will not be the case this week on the road at Auburn, and they will be forced to throw the ball. That should play into the Tigers’ hands and lead to a few turnovers. Auburn’s offense didn’t do much last week through the air and the coaches and fans were not pleased. I think that ensures that they will be focused on improving this week and will result in a solid performance

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THE SPORTS MEMO

** NFL BEST BETS

ERIN RYNNING

SEATTLE AT BUFFALO PK

Recommendation: Bills

The NFL season kicks off in Buffalo with an early wake-up call for the Seahawks.The Bills certainly fit the label of an up and coming team in the ranks of the NFL after fighting their way to a 7-9 record in 2007. There were a couple games that slipped away from the Bills, including one-point heartbreaking losses to Dallas and Denver. Finally, it looks as if this young team is making strides with experience and their defense is primed to take a big step forward. In the offseason, the Bills added Marcus Stroud to man the middle of what has been a porous run defense, while adding Kawika Mitchell at linebacker. In addition, last year’s first round rookie Paul Posluszny is healthy after missing the bulk of last season. With the defense upgraded, the offense looking to make strides in the red zone and arguably the best special teams in the NFL, the Bills are live when we ask them to win on their home turf. Meanwhile, Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who rarely played in the preseason, will lead a banged up offense to start the season. Look for the Bills to turn the tables and nail a victory in their home opener.


ROB VENO

HOUSTON AT PITTSBURGH -6.5

Recommendation: Over

There figures to be an overwhelming amount of firepower on the field in this one as each side has explosiveness that the defenses will have trouble stopping.Houston’s woes on pass defense create a solid advantage for the Steelers,who can exploit them with emerging deep threat Santonio Holmes and their strong group of receivers. The Texans will attempt to apply pressure with their defensive front led by sack artist DE Mario Williams but Pittsburgh has more than enough capability on the ground and in the quick passing game to keep them honest. For Houston, QB Matt Schaub’s accuracy should allow him to carve up a questionable Steelers secondary. The Texans’ receiving corps, with home run hitting WR Andre Johnson and sure handed complement Kevin Walter, are dangerous threats as is TE Owen Daniels. Look for the ball to be moved through the air consistently all game long as neither side has the pass rush or secondary to prevent it. The Steelers seem to always open it up more offensively at home and expect Ben Roethlisberger to post solid numbers.
The Scoreboard changes rapidly in this one which is likely to total 50+.


MARTY OTTO

SEATTLE AT BUFFALO PK

Recommendation: Bills

The Seahawks are a team heading in the opposite direction of Buffalo with aging veterans and a lame duck head coach. Fundamentally, I have a ton of question marks for Seattle and at the forefront of those questions is the receiving corps. DJ Hackett was dealt in the offseason leaving Deion Branch (injured), Bobby Engram (injured) and Ben Obamanu (IR) as its main targets. Only Nate Burleson is healthy enough to make an impact and I’m not willing to bet on Burleson showing up in the clutch at all. The offensive line was no good last year and neither was the ground game and both areas leave me with more questions than answers even with the addition of TJ Duckett, Julius Jones and Justin Forsett. Buffalo’s defense looks much improved with the additions of Marcus Stroud and Kawika Mitchell to help the front seven lock down the run and the Bills’ secondary, with so many high level draft picks and talent to burn, is finally healthy. Trent Edwards can manage a game, Marshawn Lynch can chew away the clock and Lee Evans can still be a gamebreaker. Throw in the best all around special teams in the NFL and Buffalo is the clear choice at home.


TEDDY COVERS

DETROIT -3 AT ATLANTA

Recommendation: Lions

Detroit is 8-48 SU on the road over the last seven seasons, including a 0-3 mark as road chalk. The Lions certainly aren’t a team that most bettors are interested in putting their money on as a road favorite in Week 1, giving us the value we need to pull the trigger here. This is a confident team once again, following their 4-0 preseason. Remember, the Lions started out the 2007 campaign with a 6-2 mark (including road wins at Oakland and Chicago) before their season collapsed. Both their offensive line and their defense have been upgraded, and with Mike Martz out of the picture, look for talented receivers Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams to flourish. Detroit has come out of the gate strong in each of Rod Marinelli’s previous two opening games. They’ll be facing a rebuilt Falconssquad coming off a truly dismal 4-12 season, breaking in a new coach, new systems on both sides of the football, and a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut. The Falcons are on a 4-16 ATS run as home underdogs dating back to the Jim Mora Jr. era. Don’t expect that trend to end here – these are two teams headed in opposite directions, making this price rather cheap.

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Pointwise for week of Sept. 4-8

College selections

1--KANSAS over Louisiana Tech 52-10
1--ALABAMA over Tulane 48-3
2--Northwestern over DUKE 33-10
2--WAKE FOREST over Ole Miss 34-17
3--OKLAHOMA STATE over Houston 44-20
4--GEORGIA over Central Michigan 56-19
5--ARIZONA over Toledo 48-10
5--TEMPLE (+) over UConn 24-22

NFL Selections
3--PHILADELPHIA over St. Louis 27-16
4--ny jets over MIAMI 27-16
4--INDIANAPOLIS over Chicago 27-13
5--ATLANTA (+) over Detroit 27-26
5--Houston (+) over PITTSBURGH 26-24

Last week Pointwise was 1-1 on their "1" (top) rated plays, 3-5 on all rated plays

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Power Sweep

4* Florida 44-13
3*East Carolina +
3* LSU 41-10
2* Temple + 21-20
2*Oregon 45-3
2* Pittsburg 30-13

Underdog ULM +14 21-17

4* Carolina + 20-21
3* Jax Under
2* Houston + 24-26
2* NYG 27-13

3* Jax Under 37
3* Cowboya Under 49
3* Bengals Under 39
2* Carolina Over 41
2* Texans Over 44

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The Gold Sheet

Key Releases

Pro's

Buffalo by 10 over Seattle
Tampa Bay by 7 over New Orleans
Under the Total in the Detroit-Atlanta game

College

Northwestern by 16 over Duke
Florida by 31 over Miami-Florida
Air Force by 7 over Wyoming
Mississippi by 3 over Wake Forest

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PLAYBOOK CFB 2-MINUTE HANDICAP - WEEK 2
Marc Lawrence

E Michigan 3-0 bef Toledo… 1-6 Game Two… 3-10 as non conf DD dogs… 2-6 vs Big 10


MICHIGAN ST 7-1-1 off non conf RG… 1-5 Game Two… 1-5 in 1st of BB HG…. 3-8 as favs > 17 pts…


Georgia Tech 4-0 in 1st RG … 4-0-1 w/ conf rev… 8-2 dogs off SU unlined win… 8-2 dogs in 1st of BB RG


BOSTON COLL SERIES: 4-1 L5… 5-0 Game Two… 4-0 in 1st line HG… 6-2 in 1st of BB HG… 1-5 favs vs conf opp w/ rev


W Virginia 6-1-1 Game Two… 8-2 non conf RF’s > 3 pts… 7-3 vs CUSA opp… 1-4 in 1st of BB RG


E CAROLNA SERIES: 3-1-1 L5 H… 5-1 as HD’s 4 > pts… 3-1 in 1st HG… 0-6 aft Va Tech… 1-7 bef Tulane…


S Mississippi SERIES 4-0 L4 / 4-0 L4 A… 4-1 away off SUATS non conf win vs non conf opp… 8-3 in 1st of BB RG… 1-6 vs SEC opp


AUBURN 9-3 as DD favs in Game Two… 1-5 as non conf HF’s… 1-5 off DD non conf SU win… 1-4 in 2nd of BB HG


Utah St 5-1-1 Game Two… *1-4 as dogs 27 > pts… 1-3 bef Utah… 3-7 in 2nd of BB RG


OREGON 6-0 H aft Washington… 5-1 as favs 17 > pts… 4-1 in 2nd of BB HG… 1-7 favs in Game Two


Cincinnati 6-1 as non conf dogs > 14 pts… 4-1 Game Two… 2-6 bef HG vs Mia Oh… *3-7 as dogs off DD SU unlined win


OKLAHOMA 5-0 as non conf favs 14 > pts… 4-1 in 2nd of BB HG… 6-2 as DD favs in Game Two… 1-3 as favs vs Big East


Ohio U 3-0 Game Two… 3-1 bef C Michigan… 2-9 in 2nd of BB RG… 2-7 as DD non conf RD’s


OHIO ST 0-4 vs opp playing 2nd of BB RG… *0-3 as favs 20 > pts bef RG vs PAC 10 opp… 1-4 Game Two… 2-5 as favs 21 > vs MAC opp


Marshall 3-0-1 Game Two… 0-5 A vs non conf opp… *2-7 as DD RD’s… 2-6 in 1st RG


WISCONSIN 5-1 as favs 8 > pts in 2nd of BB HG… 0-2 vs CUSA opp… 1-3 Game Two


Miami Fla SERIES: 5-1 L6 / 4-1 L5 A… 5-1 as non conf dogs 4 > pts… 4-1 as dogs in 1st of BB RG… 0-4 in 1st RG


FLORIDA 8-0-1 in 2nd off BB HG… 5-0 Game Two… 4-0 bef Tennessee… 8-2 as favs vs ACC opp… *2-5 as non conf favs 13 < pts


Texas Tech 5-1 bef SMU… 8-3 as non conf favs 6 > pts… 1-10 in 1st RG… 1-5 A vs WAC opp


NEVADA 13-1 in 2nd of BB HG… 5-1 Game Two… 5-1 L6 vs non conf opp… 5-2 as HD’s 3 > pts


C Michigan 7-0 Game Two… 3-0 bef Ohio U… 2-10 as non conf dogs 24 < pts… 3-7 as dogs in 1st of BB RG


GEORGIA 1-7 as non conf HF’s 8 > pts… 1-4 Game Two… 1-4 bef RG vs S Carolina… 1-4 favs 3 > pts in 2nd of BB HG


Oregon St 3-0 in 2nd of BB RG… 0-5 Game Two… 1-4 as non conf dogs > 8 pts… 1-4 aft Stanford


PENN ST 5-1 as non conf HF’s 7 > pts… 4-1 bef RG vs Syracuse… 3-1 vs PAC 10 opp… 1-4 Game Two


Byu 5-1 away bef BB HG… 7-3 Game Two… 1-3 in 1st RG… 2-5 away vs non conf opp


WASHINGTON 4-1 in 1st of BB HG… 1-4 aft Oregon… 1-4 Game Two… 1-3 vs Mt West opp… 3-7 H vs non conf opp


Buffalo 3-0 off weekday gm… 1-7 L8 vs Big East opp… 1-5 in 2nd of BB non conf gms


PITTSBURGH 5-1 in 2nd of BB HG… 5-2 H vs MAC opp… 4-1 bef Big 10 opp


Mississippi 7-3 as DD non conf RD’s 7 < pts… 1-9 Game Two… 1-8 aft Memphis… 1-6 in 1st RG


WAKE FOREST 4-1 bef Florida St… 5-2 off weekday gm… 1-4 L5 H vs SEC opp… 1-3 Game Two


S Florida SERIES: 3-0 L3… 4-0 vs non conf opp w/ rev… 3-0 in 1st RG… 5-2 as non conf RF’s


C FLORIDA 1-5 Game Two… 1-5 H w/ non conf rev… 2-6 in 2nd of BB HG… 2-6 as non conf dogs 10 < pts


La Tech 0-5 A in between HG… 0-4 L4 vs Big 12 opp… 3-13 as dogs 21 > pts… 3-7 Game Two


KANSAS 6-1 as favs 17 > pts… 4-1 L5 vs WAC opp… 8-2 in 2nd of BB HG… 1-4 as favs > 3 pts in Game Two


Stanford SERIES: 7-3 L10… 5-1 Game Two… 5-2 as conf RD’s 14 > pts… 1-5 aft Oreg St


ARIZONA ST 11-1 as conf HF’s > 12 pts… 8-1 off unlined DD SU win… 4-1 vs opp off weekday gm… 4-1 as DD favs vs opp w/ rev


Texas 9-2 bef Arkansas… 4-1 vs CUSA opp… 2-9 as non conf RF’s < 30 pts… 3-7 off non conf DD SU home win


TEXAS EL PASO 6-1 L7 as HD’s… 5-1 dogs in Game Two… 1-6 in 1st of BB HG… 2-6 L8 vs Big 12 opp


*ADDED GAMES

Troy 4-0 off conf RG… 7-2 L9 vs SEC opp… 3-7 as dogs 18 > pts


LSU 13-2 Game two… 6-1 L7 vs Sunbelt opp… 7-3 in 2nd of 3 straight HG… *7-3 as favs 20 > pts

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Power Plays

4* Selections

4* Duke
4* Bowling Green
4* Auburn
4* Alabama
4* Oregon
4* Oklahoma
4* Florida
4* Texas Tech
4* Penn State
4* Oklahoma State
4* Maryland
4* LSU

NFL:
4* Giants / Redskins OVER
4* New England
4* Arizona / San Francisco OVER

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Winning Points NCAAF

****BEST BET
PENN STATE* over OREGON STATE by 35
No team in the nation has traveled worse in non-conference games the past three seasons that the Oregon State Beavers. Three years ago it was a 63-27 loss at Louisville as +13.5. Two years ago it was 42-14 at Boise State as +7.5. Then last year it was 34-3 at Cincinnati as -3.5. When you lose to the pointspread by an average of 26 points per game in a particular setting it is extremely meaningful, and we add an additional meaning this time around – those were all better Beaver squads than what Mike Riley is fielding right now. A program that has relied on a lead RB to stabilize the offense, and a staunch defensive front, has neither right now, which was fully evident when they were out-rushed 210-86 at Stanford last week. Want to find the last time that Stanford out-rushed a Pac 10 opponent by more than 100 yards? Give yourself plenty of time for the search. But that is what happens when you lose Yvenson Bernard on offense, and have to replace the entire
front seven on the other side of the ball, and the growing pains will show throughout here against an explosive Penn State offense that can exploit those weaknesses. And do not be fooled by the 404 yards that Lyle Moevao threw for in last week’s loss, since he put the ball in the air 54 times vs. a defense that lacked a pass rush. Now it is a much tougher matchup vs. the Nitanny Lion defensive speed, and a team that is accustomed to being blown out in these settings is as vulnerable as ever, with the awkward travel from Corvallis to State College also taking a toll.
PENN STATE 45-10.

***BEST BET
MARYLAND over MIDDLE TENNESSEE* by 30
When a team loses badly at home in a game that they were pointing for in a major way, a statement has been made. And when that same team had a +2 turnover advantage, and still lost to the spread by more than a full TD in that same game, an additional statement has been made. Add the statements up and we have the following – Middle Tennessee is a struggling program right now. After seeing a disappointing 2007 season end with an ugly 45-7 drubbing at Troy, Rick Stockstill and his Blue Raiders spent a great deal of the off-season trying to put the pieces together for a season-opening rematch against the Trojans, falling by 14 despite that turnover advantage, and getting beaten by a 4.7 to 3.4 count in yards per play. Now having failed in a game in which they were aiming perhaps too much for, we get them at the ideal team to be exploited here. And for our purposes we get outstanding
value as well, with Maryland playing to a stodgy 14-7 on the scoreboard
vs. Delaware that will not impress anyone. But that is a solid Delaware program that played for the national championship at their level LY, and the Terrapins did a lot of things right that did not make the scoreboard, particularly the 197 rushing yards from Da’Rel Scott, who can be a break-out player this season. Combine him with WR’s Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Ralph Friedgan has some legitimate playmakers. But three missed field goals kept some of that production off of the board last week, and that means a cheap price to lay with the far better team here.
MARYLAND 40-10

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
**PREFERRED
Boston College* over Georgia Tech by 17
We believe that Paul Johnson is a good fit at Georgia Tech, and in time look forward
to being able to cash a lot of tickets with him. But as is so often the case,
major system changes lead a program to take a step backwards before they can fully
grasp the playbooks. The Yellow Jackets move prove to be a classic example, and
making matters tougher is being in the wrong place at the wrong time in this
matchup. Tech was able to bully Jacksonville State at the line of scrimmage last
week, creating the illusion that 349 rushing yards were a sign that the option attack
is on track. But it was a vanilla game plan that relied on running through a smaller
opponent, and we did not see much from the option schemes at all. Now they
go up against one of the toughest defensive fronts in the country, which takes away
the base plays and forces Josh Nesbitt to make plays in his first road start. That can
lead to game-turning mistakes, and there is also an inability to throw from behind,
which is where they will be in the second half. BOSTON COLLEGE 30-13.

Wyoming* over Air Force by 13
Troy Calhoun seemingly did a brilliant job at Air Force LY, breathing some life
back into a program that had grown stale under Fisher DeBerry. But while we like
much of what we saw, Calhoun was also in the right place at the right time, with
veterans like Shaun Carney and Chad Hall that he could build around. Now
instead of building off of that 9-4 campaign it is like starting all over again, and as
vulnerable as most such teams can be in their first road game, this is a particularly
difficult challenge. The Cowboys have been waiting a long time to erase the bitter
memory of last year’s 20-12 loss in Colorado Springs, when they had commanding
edges in first downs and total offense but were done in by a -4 turnover differential,
including an 85-yard fumble return for a TD when they were leading and
driving to break the game open in the fourth quarter. That staunch defensive front
just shut down the Ohio ground game completely, and can control this one in the
first road start for Falcon QB Seth Smith. WYOMING 27-14.

Houston over Oklahoma State* by 1
While the public tends to fawn over teams that show well early in inter-sectional
matchups, what we see in Seattle on Saturday was more Washington State being
bad than these Cowboys being anything special. That opens the door for a game
that is much closer in talent than will be projected to be cashed at a high spread,
with the underdog alive to win the whole shooting match. While admittedly some
talented skill players were lost, as well as coach Art Briles, the Cougars have QB
Case Keenum (threw for 393 yards and five TD’s to get warmed up on Saturday)
and a veteran OL, which allows for an easy transition. And the new coaches bring
a special focus here – head man Kevin Sumlin was the co-offensive coordinator at
Oklahoma, and will know the Cowboys well, while defensive coordinator John
Skladeny spent 10 years at Iowa State, before last season’s short stint at UCF. They
bring a solid working knowledge of a non-conference opponent, and also an added
spark to set a tone in their new surroundings. HOUSTON 31-30.

Temple* over Connecticut by 3
Al Golden’s Owls are now 5-3 in their last right games, with that confidence-boosting
win at Army the ideal way to start the campaign. One of the signs that a program
is growing is when a team has a genuine revenge affair and takes care of business,
and after handling the Black Knights the way they did that focus comes into
play again here, after a bitter 22-17 road loss to the Huskies last year when an
apparent TD pass in the final minute was ruled out of bounds, and was a close
enough call that replay could not over-turn it. From the comments since that loss
they have not forgotten, and what we remember is that an underdog stood toe-totoe
on the road, winning the rushing battle by 33 yards and 1.6 per attempt. That
shows the physical capacity to compete in addition to the mental part of the Owl
game improving, and the Huskies do not show us the playmakers in the skill positions
to get anything easily on the road, and also have a bitter revenge game themselves
on deck vs. Virginia (fell by a point to the Cav’s last year). TEMPLE 23-20.

South Carolina over Vanderbilt* by 8 (Thursday)
A major revenger here for the Old Ball Coach after being embarrassed 17-6 at
home vs. the Commodores last year, and Spurrier’s defense can do their share
against that young Vandy OL. But laying points with the Gamecock offense on the
road is out of the question at this juncture. SOUTH CAROLINA 24-16.

Ball State* over Navy by 3 (Friday)
The Cardinal passing game is too much for a slow Navy secondary, and the State
defense can not handle the Midshipmen option attack. That combination led to a
34-31 thriller for Ball State at Annapolis last year, when both sides easily topped
500 yards here, and this is more of the same, though the Navy QB situation does
bear watching. BALL STATE 34-31.

Michigan State* over Eastern Michigan by 22
Have to wonder the toll that a bitter late night loss at Cal (with a little better execution
it was the Spartans game to win) can take in the transition to this one.
MICHIGAN STATE 35-13.

Syracuse* over Akron by 7
The last thing that an under-sized Akron defensive front needed to open the season
was being bullied in the trenches they way they were at Wisconsin (404 rushing
yards on 63 attempts). Carry-over fatigue opens the door to give Greg
Robinson a chance for a home win that he needs desperately. SYRACUSE 26-19.

Michigan* over Miami O. by 9
If they over-price the stodgy Wolverine offense based on any bounce-back notions
from the Utah loss this one moves up our list later in the week – if not for Ute miscues
and penalties, last week’s scoreboard could have been much different.
MICHIGAN 23-14.

Northwestern over Duke* by 11
Do the Northwestern’s of the world ever bring the kind of fire needed to consider
“revenge” as a legitimate motive? It can be when you beat Duke by 10 first downs
and 197 yards, yet lose on your own scoreboard. That stat box shows where the talent
gap is, perhaps the focus takes care of the rest. NORTHWESTERN 30-19.

CLOSE CALLS

West Virginia over East Carolina* by 10
Films of Pat White throwing five touchdown passes were the early message that Bill
Stewart sent to all future opponents. As solid as the Pirate defense looked last week,
they allowed 48 points and 599 yards in Morgantown last year, and that was without
the new passing wrinkles. WEST VIRGINIA 31-21.

Bowling Green* over Minnesota by 8
The Falcons won in the Metrodome last year despite an 0-3 turnover differential,
which we consider to be of extreme significance, and they showed plenty of moxie
in the second half at Pittsburgh last week. BOWLING GREEN 34-26.

Auburn* over Southern Miss by 17
This is the last tune-up for the Tigers before a difficult stretch of five SEC games
in as many weeks, and based on the stodgy offensive showing vs. UL-Monroe, they
badly need some work in those new spread designs. It means no looking ahead, but
it also means that they are not ready. AUBURN 30-13.

Alabama* over Tulane by 24
Although the Crimson Tide dominated the line of scrimmage for us in that BEST
BET rout of Clemson, still not sure how much explosiveness there is on offense, or
how much Nick Saban will want to show here, ALABAMA 34-10

Nebraska* over San Jose State by 19
Bo Pelini was able to deliver a feel-good win in front of the home folks last week,
and is now offered the opportunity to duplicate that effort. While the defense may
have only made baby steps last week, the Spartans muddled QB picture gives that
unit a chance to grow in confidence. NEBRASKA 38-19.

Oregon* over Utah State by 24
If Mike Bellotti needs to break in yet another QB, this time Jeremiah Massoli, he
at least gets the ideal opponent. OREGON 37-13.

Oklahoma* over Cincinnati by 14
A lack of market respect in recent years has led to a 26-8-1 ATS run by the
Bearcats, one of the most successful for that length of time that we have ever charted.
And it could be more of the same here, in a game that they do not match up
nearly as badly in as the marketplace will project. OKLAHOMA 30-16.

Ohio State* over Ohio by 24
Vanilla has been Jim Tressel’s favorite flavor in this type of setting since he first
came to Columbus, and with concerns about Beanie Wells and that huge showdown
at Southern Cal on deck, it will be an even more bland scoop in this week’s
cone. OHIO STATE 31-7.

Wisconsin* over Marshall by 24
New Marshall defensive coordinator Rick Minter certainly understands the kind of
smashmouth tactics his players have to defend this week. But are there enough
bodies to keep from eventually wilting? WISCONSIN 38-14.

Florida* over Miami F. by 19
The Gators are likely to be without Percy Harvey again (note how much they even
missed him vs. Hawaii, with special teams and the defense scoring three of the
touchdowns), which matters vs. this class of defense, but we do not believe the
Hurricanes have the kind of maturity at QB to stay competitive in The Swamp for
long. FLORIDA 31-12.

Texas Tech over Nevada* by 8
The Wolfpack have plenty of depth at QB, and a solid veteran cast in the OL to
unleash the attack. But with a new defensive coordinator and a lot of new faces in
the huddle on that side of the ball, do they have the speed or tactics to make many
stops? Any? TEXAS TECH 38-30.

Georgia* over Central Michigan by 18
The Chippewas did not step up well on the road last year, getting crushed 52-7 at
Kansas, 70-14 at Clemson and even 45-22 at Purdue. But the Bulldogs have an
alarming number of injuries already, and with an SEC showdown at South
Carolina next week Mark Richt will not be of a mind to exert any more effort here
than is necessary. GEORGIA 34-16.

Brigham Young over Washington* by 8
The second-half fade at Oregon vs. an inexperienced QB was not a good sign for
Ty Willingham this early in the season, and his defense could be shredded by a
Cougar attack that is much more comfortable in their new designs than last year.
But Jake Locker is athletic enough to make a few plays vs. a rebuilt B.Y.U. defense,
which keeps it interesting for a while. B.Y.U. 34-26.

Notre Dame* over San Diego State by 14
A lot of early pressure in Charlie Weis to make something positive happen, and for
one of the rare times in his tenure at South Bend he has the coaching advantage
over Chuck Long, who appears to be over-matched. NOTRE DAME 31-17.

Texas A&M over New Mexico* by 4
Yes, the Aggies can blame giving away that lead vs. Arkansas State to four secondhalf
turnovers. But to get out-rushed by over 100 yards at home vs. a Sun Belt
opponent? Status of Donovan Porterie for New Mexico makes this cloudy for now.
TEXAS A&M 23-19.

Pittsburgh* over Buffalo by 15
Dave Wannstedt is facing more pressure than perhaps any other 0-1 coach in the
nation, but if you do not take care of the football when playing with a big lead at
home vs. the likes of Bowling Green, the assumption of bouncing back with precision
may be dubious. PITTSBYURGH 31-16.

Iowa State* over Kent State by 11
Gene Chizik’s first game as Iowa State head man was a 23-14 loss to these Golden
Flashes last year in front of the folks at Ames. Memories like that linger, and that
creates more passion than usual for a non-conference affair. IOWA STATE 30-19.

Wake Forest* over Mississippi by 3
It did not take Jevon Snead long to establish himself as “the man” on campus in
Oxford, and the Rebels have some legitimate weapons around him. If the DL
injuries would not an issue this would be closer to the top of the page, with an SEC
dog vs. the ACC hard to pass up. WAKE FOREST 27-24.

California over Washington State* by 13
Ordinarily the first home game for a new coach brings a lot of optimism, but signs
of anything tangible to build on were hard to come by in the dismal Cougar showing
vs. Oklahoma State. Not a strength to be found on either side of the ball right
now. CALIFORNIA 30-17.

Western Michigan* over Northern Illinois by 3
Huskies may be among the most improved teams in the nation this season, which
means a lot of revenge opportunities in conference play. But the Broncos are also
better than they showed at Nebraska, which limits some of the value this week.
WESTERN MICHIGAN 27-24.

South Florida over Central Florida* by 11
George O’Leary’s bunch is laying claim to a major revenge motive from that
hideous 64-12 burial that they suffered vs. the Bulls last year, but with so many
new faces in the skill positions that aggressive defensive front is capable of the same
kind of beat-down. SOUTH FLORIDA 27-16.

Kansas* over Louisiana Tech by 21
Jayhawks are not going to show the same urgency in this spread range that they did
in last year’s ATS role, but at least they get genuinely forewarned for this opponent,
after Tech stood toe-to-toe with physical Mississippi State. KANSAS 37-16.

Memphis* over Rice by 6
These two combined for 73 reports and 999 yards when neither defense could stop
the other in a 3-point Memphis road win last year. In truth, the matchups have not
changed, and the advantage of the venue is minimal. MEMPHIS 37-31.

Utah* over U.N.L.V. by 22
Instead of being in a letdown mode that win in Ann Arbor might actually create a
spark behind the Utes for their home and conference opener, especially with the
absurdity of having lost 27-0 to the Rebels on the road last year, when Brian
Johnson was nowhere near full health. UTAH 34-12.

Arizona* over Toledo by 15
Unlike most other teams the Rockets did not get to play a tune-up last week, and
that may show against an opponent that brings a sense of urgency (if Mike Stoops
does not go bowling this year he will be someone’s defensive coordinator next
autumn). ARIZONA 34-19.

Arizona State* over Stanford by 13
Stanford could not match the State speed in a 45-3 debacle last year, when the Sun
Devils scored on an interception return, a 72-yard run and a 62-yard pass. And
while the Cardinal is improved, speed is still an issue. ARIZONA STATE 34-21.

Texas over U.T.E.P.* by 19
Mike Price has been making a big deal about getting the rare chance to host “The
University of Texas at Austin”. His quote. Probably not a savvy one, to motivate a
Longhorn team that could have otherwise been flat. TEXAS 38-19.

Iowa* over Florida International by 28
As always, we must respect a coach that is under some pressure to when win he has
the chance to deliver a knockout blow. Kirk Ferentz wears the gloves to throw that
punch here. IOWA 41-13.

Arkansas* over UL-Monroe by 16
In theory, what we wrote about Kirk Ferentz in the previous game could apply to
Bobby Petrino here, except that when you are trailing Estern Illinois 24-14 in front
of your own fans in the fourth quarter, you may not have full control of the proceedings
right now. ARKANSAS 33-17.

Tulsa over North Texas* by 18
David Johnson’s transition to running the Tulsa offense was a smooth one last
week, and he might be facing an even weaker defense here. Nice way to break in.
TULSA 42-24.

L.S.U.* over Troy by 21
Can not be sure if the Tiger preparation for this game will be interrupted by
Gustav, but that would be the only distraction, with only North Texas on deck.
L.S.U. 34-13.

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Winning Points NFL

****BEST BET
Houston over *Pittsburgh by 7
Don’t look at Houston anymore as some struggling expansion team. Gary
Kubiak has the Texans headed in the right direction. Anything short of a
winning record is a disappointment for the Texans now. Houston is a highly-
improved squad that needs to prove it can win on the road. This is a
matchup the Texans are really targeting. Oddsmakers haven’t caught up to
just how improved the Texans are yet.The oddsmaker is giving Pittsburgh
a lot of respect because the Steelers still have a mystique, especially when
playing at home. But the Steelers aren’t close to being an elite team anymore.
All of this makes the Texans a great value play.Texans QB Matt Schaub
was sharp during preseason. He has a deep wide receiving group featuring
Andre Johnson, one of the five best wideouts in the league. Johnson is
healthy after missing seven games with a knee injury last season. The
Texans went 6-3 in the games Johnson played in last season. Johnson is a
huge difference-maker, but doesn’t get a lot of media attention because the
Texans rarely are in the national spotlight.The Texans brought in offensive
line guru Alex Gibbs so expect an improved running attack. Rookie Steve
Slaton could be special. Houston’s players are more comfortable with
Kubiak’s system now, this being their third year in it. Mario Williams gives
the Texans a dangerous pass rusher.Kubiak has upgraded his secondary.The
Steelers are going through a transition phase with a revamped offensive
line. Losing Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca really hurts, both from a talent and
leadership standpoint. This showed during preseason when the Steelers
had trouble putting up touchdowns.Williams can make life miserable for
Ben Roethlisberger, who isn’t very mobile. HOUSTON 24-17.

***BEST BET
Carolina over *San Diego by 4
It wouldn’t surprise if the Chargers maki it to the Super Bowl.Yet as good
as the Chargers are they could be vulnerable in this matchup, caught taking
Carolina too lightly at home. There’s a cluster injury problem for San
Diego at linebacker, with inside linebacker Stephen Cooper suspended and
star pass-rusher and top defensive player Shawne Merriman hobbling from
a serious knee injury.The injury bug extends to the other side of the ball,
too, with center Nick Hardwick probably out with a foot injury and star
tight end Antonio Gates still bothered by last season’s lingering toe injury.
Gates isn’t nearly the feared deep threat when he’s not up to full speed.
Carolina won’t have its best wide receiver. Steve Smith is suspended. But
the Panthers are a smash-mouth team first under John Fox, the best underdog
coach in the NFL.The Panthers have covered 66 percent of the time
when taking points under Fox. Carolina has two good running backs,
DeAngelo Williams and rookie Jonathan Stewart, plus Jake Delhomme is
back under center after missing most of last season due to an elbow injury.
The Panthers are a much better team when Delhomme is taking snaps. He
had thrown eight touchdown passes with only one interception last year
before suffering his season-ending injury during Week 3. Carolina is 22-5
ATS as an underdog when Delhomme is its quarterback. Pro Bowl defensive
end Julius Peppers had an off-year in 2007. He’s in a contract year and
had a huge preseason.Peppers could be a real thorn in the side of Chargers
QB Philip Rivers, who had off-season knee surgery.The combination of Fox
in an underdog role, Delhomme and Peppers looking like the Peppers of
pre-2007 makes Carolina a real live ‘dog. CAROLINA 23-19.

**PREFERRED
*CLOSE CALLS
*New England over Kansas City by 4
Early in the season, the Patriots are going to have widely inflated lines such
as this.Truth be told, New England isn’t strong enough right now to cover
such a huge number.The Patriots looked terrible during preseason. Sure it
was preseason, who cares? But Tom Brady still may not be 100 percent.He
could be a little gimpy and rusty. Kansas City’s fiery defensive coordinator,
Gunther Cunningham, will have his defense fired-up. New England’s secondary
is mediocre and its linebackers old in the tooth.We’re not fans of
Brodie Croyle or Herm Edwards. In this matchup, though, Edwards’ conservative
ways should come in handy for the Chiefs.They’re going to run Larry
Johnson a lot, eating up clock.That’s a key when taking this many points.
The Chiefs’ offensive line surprisingly looked solid during preseason.
Johnson, healthy from a foot injury,was running well looking like his 2005
and 2006 form when he rushed for a combined 3,539 yards during those
two seasons. Dwayne Bowe and Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez are
reliable targets for Croyle.The Patriots no longer have a shutdown cornerback
with Asante Samuel gone. The Patriots’ next two games are against
division opponents.They may not be taking his matchup as serious as they
need to. NEW ENGLAND 24-20.

*Philadelphia over St. Louis by 16
No NFC team can match the Eagles’ quarterback-tailback firepower of
Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook. It’s too much of a powerful combination
for a leaky Rams defense that surrendered the second-most points
in franchise history last year.The Eagles are primed to make a run at an NFC
title with an upgraded pass rush, strong secondary and improved special
teams.The Rams were hit hard last year by injuries to their offensive line
finishing with 18 different combinations.The Rams are banged-up again in
the trenches.Their first-string offense struggled during preseason. QB Marc
Bulger still looked skittish after a career-low 70.3 passer rating last year
when he was under constant pressure. Star running back Steven Jackson is
rusty after a lengthy holdout.The Rams don’t have the great receiving corps
anymore either.Torry Holt is another year older and dealing with a chronic
knee problem. He’ll likely be matched up against shutdown cornerback
Asante Samuel.The Eagles have plenty of motivation after a disappointing
8-8 2007 season.The only two times the Eagles missed on the playoffs during
the Andy Reid era they went 12-6 and 11-7 the following seasons. Look
for the Eagles to bounce back strong again this year. PHILADELPHIA 30-14.

*New York Giants over Washington by 7 (Thursday)
The Giants may be in for a Super Bowl hangover after a banquet-filled offseason
and contract squabbles. But they still should handle Washington at
Giants Stadium, where they have beaten and covered against the Redskins
three of the past four years outscoring them, 85-39. Redskins first-year
coach Jim Zorn, like former Redskins novice coach Steve Spurrier, is going
to find out the hard way that preseason is much different than regular season.
Redskins QB Jason Campbell is learning a new offense.The Giants have
the pass rushers to hinder that development. NY GIANTS 23-16.

Cincinnati over *Baltimore by 3
The Bengals defeated the Ravens, 27-20, at home in their opener last year.
That turned out to be the Bengals’ season highlight. Baltimore, though,
totally imploded winning just five games on the season, while going 3-13
ATS.The Bengals at least have a potentially explosive offense spearheaded
by elite quarterback Carson Palmer.The Ravens have no passing threat and
their offensive is a jumbled mess. In addition, the Ravens may be without
star safety Ed Reed (shoulder) and starting tailback Willis McGahee (knee).
Under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals have learned to beat Baltimore winning
six of the past seven. CINCINNATI 20-17.

New York Jets over *Miami by 1
Who could have imagined a starting quarterback matchup of Brett Favre
versus Chad Pennington. The Dolphins are going with a power-running
attack. The Jets have shored up their run defense bringing in nose tackle
Kris ******* to anchor their 3-4. It’s not going to be a quick turnaround for
the Dolphins.They’ve lost 18 of their last 19 games and are 3-15 ATS in their
previous 18 division games.The Jets are 9-1 ATS in their last 10 meetings at
Miami, including 7-3 SU.New York can’t afford to slip because its next two
games are against New England and San Diego. NY JETS 17-16.

Jacksonville over *Tennessee by 3
There’s not going to be anything fancy in this matchup of two power
ground-oriented clubs.The Titans gashed the Jaguars for 458 yards rushing
in two games last season.The Jaguars figure to load up their defensive line,
daring erratic Vince Young to beat them through the air.The Titans have a
lot of confidence in their offensive line, but their passing game leaves much
to be desired. Rookie running back Chris Johnson has game-breaking
potential for Tennessee.A slight nod, though, to the Jaguars.They have the
better quarterback and a strong defense. Jacksonville has covered in eight
of their past nine season-openers. JACKSONVILLE 20-17.

NFL (CONTINUED)
Detroit over *Atlanta by 3
The Lions have won just eight of their last 56 road contests. However, the
rebuilding Falcons under first-year coach Mike Smith could be the worst
team in the NFC with inexperience at quarterback, a revised offensive line
and a defense that ranked fourth-from-the-bottom last year in total yards.
Unlike last season, the Lions plan on running the ball a lot with the switch
of offensive coordinators from pass-crazy Mike Martz to conservative Jim
Colletto. The Lions are sure to poke and probe Atlanta’s 26th-rated run
defense. Detroit has covered in its last five opening games.DETROIT 16-13.

Seattle over *Buffalo by 1
This isn’t going to be easy for Seattle traveling three time zones with an
early start time. Buffalo is 16-8 ATS in its last 24 games. But how much faith
do you really have in the Bills? Trent Edwards has yet to prove anything and
the Bills’ offensive line has been plagued by injuries and a holdout by left
tackle Jason Peters. The Seahawks are without their most reliable wide
receiver, Bobby Engram, and could be missing their most talented wideout,
Deion Branch. However, the Seahawks’ have a top-notch defense that held
foes to 18.2 points, sixth-lowest last season. SEATTLE 17-16.

*New Orleans over Tampa Bay by 6
Joey Galloway has been a monster vs. the Saints, scoring 10 TDs versus
them in seven games, including catching 11 passes for 291 yards and two
touchdowns last season.The Saints’ secondary looks vulnerable again this
season, but their pass rush and linebacking should be improved. The
Buccaneers have a banged up offensive line and their best running back,
Cadillac Williams, is out for at least the first six games.Tampa Bay has lost
in 13 of its past 17 away contests. Drew Brees is primed for a big year for
the Saints with the addition of tight end Jeremy Shockey and expected
improvement of wideout Robert Meachem. NEW ORLEANS 26-20.

Dallas over *Cleveland by 2
The Browns should be pumped hosting Dallas for the first time in
Cleveland since 1991. Cleveland, though, is 1-8 in season-openers. The
Cowboys probably have too many weapons for the Browns to contain. It
remains to be seen, if perhaps the Cowboys should have done more homework
during training camp instead of mugging for the cameras in the HBO
series “Hard Knocks.”Adam Jones is a talent. It’s wrong to call him a shutdown
corner, though. He’s going through an adjustment period. Braylon
Edwards could take advantage unless the Cowboys find the pass rush they
lacked during preseason. DALLAS 32-30.

Arizona over *San Francisco by 1
The Cardinals return all of their offensive starters, and they’ve won and
covered in four of their past five visits to San Francisco.However, it’s tough
to lay points on the road with Arizona.The Cardinals have dropped seven
of their past nine road games. They had a quarterback controversy
between Kurt Warner and Matt Leinart and morale problems with an
unhappy Anquan Boldin. San Francisco had Arizona’s number last year, beating
the Cardinals twice. The 49ers are in an offensive transition, learning
Mike Martz’s complicated passing style.ARIZONA 21-20.

*Indianapolis over Chicago by 11
Assuming Peyton Manning is fully recovered, the Colts should be able to
celebrate their new stadium in style. The Bears are breaking in new skill
position starters and their banged-up offensive line also is in a state of transition.
Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Tommie Harris give the Bears a
strong defensive presence, but the Colts simply have too many weapons
even with center Jeff Saturday out and Manning rusty. Chicago’s defense
isn’t strong enough anymore to carry such a weak offense. Indianapolis has
covered in 10 of its past 14 home contests. INDIANAPOLIS 20-9.

Minnesota over *Green Bay by 1 (Monday)
There’s a ton of pressure on Aaron Rodgers performing at home on the
national stage against the league’s top run-defense. Can he deliver if the
Packers don’t produce a decent ground attack? Star Vikings defensive end
Jared Allen may have something to say about that.The Vikings consider the
Packers their chief rival.They’ve covered in seven of their last eight visits
to Green Bay. The Packers are thin at defensive tackle and must contend
with NFC rushing-leading Adrian Peterson. It probably comes down to
which quarterback, Rodgers or Tarvaris Jackson, makes the least mistakes.
MINNESOTA 20-19.

Denver over *Oakland by 4 (Monday)
Mike Shanahan likes to believe he’s fortified his defensive line.We’ll find
out early if that’s the case, because the Raiders are going to throw a heavy
dose of running backs Justin Fargas and rookie Darren McFadden at
Denver.The Broncos have knocked off the Raiders in eight of the last 10
meetings. The Raiders are just 8-22 ATS at home, a wretched 2-15 ATS in
their last 17 home AFC West contests. So much for any Oakland “Black
Hole” home intimidation.The Broncos, though, have been terrible favorites
covering just 25% during the past 20 times they’ve laid points. Jay Cutler is
without his top receiver, suspended Brandon Marshall. DENVER 21-17.
OVER/UNDER

** UNDER: Detroit at Atlanta – The Lions are switching to a
power ground attack, while the Falcons lack a strong passing attack to light
up the scoreboard.

OVER: Dallas at Cleveland – The Browns have an aerial attack that can
hurt Dallas’ vulnerable secondary, but lack the defense to contain Tony
Romo,Terrell Owens and Marion Barber.

UNDER: Chicago at Indianapolis – The Bears’ reshuffled offensive
line isn’t ready for the Colts’ pass rush pressure, while Peyton Manning may
be rusty and center Jeff Saturday is out.

HISTORICAL TRENDS
Washington at New York Giants – The Giants are 3-1 SU and ATS the past
four times at home against Washington.The Giants and Redskins split last
season, with the Giants winning 24-17 on the road and losing 22-10 at
home.

Cincinnati at Baltimore – The Ravens are 8-3 SU and ATS at home versus
the Bengals. Cincinnati swept Baltimore last year, winning 27-20 at home
and 21-17 on the road.

New York Jets at Miami – The Jets are 7-3 SU, 9-1 ATS in their last 10 at
Miami.The Jets beat the Dolphins 31-28 at home and 40-13 on the road last
year.

Kansas City at New England – The Chiefs defeated the Patriots, 26-16, at
home when they last met in 2005.

Houston at Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh beat Houston, 27-7, at Houston when
the teams last played in 2005.

Jacksonville at Tennessee – The teams split last season.Tennessee won
13-10 on the road and lost 28-13 at home.

Detroit at Atlanta – The Lions knocked off the Falcons, 30-14, at home
when they last played in 2006.

Seattle at Buffalo – Buffalo downed Seattle, 38-9, at Seattle when they last
met in 2004.

Tampa Bay at New Orleans – The Buccaneers swept the Saints last season,
winning 31-14 at home and 27-23 at New Orleans.

St. Louis at Philadelphia – The Eagles nipped the Rams, 17-16, on the
road when they last met in 2005.

Dallas at Cleveland –The Cowboys beat the Browns,19-12,at home when
they last faced one another in 2004.

Carolina at San Diego – The Chargers defeated the Panthers, 17-6, at
Carolina in their previous meeting in 2004.

Arizona at San Francisco – The Cardinals are 4-1 SU and ATS in their last
five games at San Francisco.The 49ers swept the Cardinals last season, winning 20-17 at home and 37-31 on the road.The ‘over’ is 7-2 during the past nine games in the series.

Chicago at Indianapolis – The Colts beat the Bears, 29-17, in the Super
Bowl two years ago when they last met.

Minnesota at Green Bay – The Vikings are 7-1 ATS in their last eight at
Lambeau Field.The Packers beat the Vikings 23-16 on the road and 34-0 at
home last season.

Denver at Oakland – The Broncos are 8-2 SU versus the Raiders in their
past 10 meetings.The teams split last year. Denver won 23-20 in overtime
at home, while the Raiders won 34-20 in Oakland.

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Red Sheet

KANSAS 52 - Louisiana Tech 14 - Line opened at Kansas minus 21½, & is now minus 20½.

The line in this one has dropped about a TD, from what it would have been before last week's action, & it is simply non realistic. Sure, the Bulldogs pulled the upset of MissSt, much to our dismay, but remember that they trailed 14-3 at one point, before the turnover turned it all around, including a fumbled punt at the 10, followed by a penalty, when theywere apparently stopped. A year ago, we rode the Jayhawks, with their weekly rompers very rewarding. They opened in rather lackadaisical fashion in opening day rout, not allowing an "O" TD. But full attention here, following Tech's success, with plenty to spare.

RATING: KANSAS 90


PENN STATE 38 - Oregon State 10 - Line opened at PennSt minus 13, & is now minus 16½.

No, a 3½ pt line movement in the wrong direction is hardly cause for celebration, but this one just sets up too nicely for the Lions. They've been one of the steadiest of home plays, completely dominating all but OhioSt in that role a year ago, & they return 9 starters from LY's 10th-ranked defense, including 7th vs the run. Now couple that with the Beavers managing only 86 RYs (3.1 ypr) in their opening week loss to a Stanford team which ranked 99th on defense in '07. OregonSt has dropped some bombs lately, in travelling to nonconference venues, & steady home play of the Lions (34-16 ATS) extends that trend.

RATING: PENN STATE 89


Northwestern 33 - DUKE 13 - Line opened at Northwestern minus 6, & is now minus 6½.

Going with the revenge motive is sometimes a knee-jerk reaction to a particular contest, with it far from automatic success, but in his case it just cannot be ignored. A year go, the Imps snapped a 22-game losing string, by upsetting the Wildcats, as 16-pt dogs. And yes, it was done with smoke & mirrors, as the 'Cats enjoyed edges of 25-15 in FDs, & 536-309 in yards. N'Western's opening win over Syracuse was a case of simply wearing down an opponent, with a rejuvenated RB Sutton (144 RYs), & QB Bacher (3 TDs) the catalysts. The 'Cats won their last 2 trips to Durham by 28-10 & 44-7 scores (21 & 19½ pt covers).

RATING: NORTHWESTERN 89


South Florida 40 - CENTRAL FLORIDA 17 - Line opened at SouthFlorida minus 13½, & is now minus 14.

It is normally wise to stay away from bucking a team which has had a game circled for a year, but this just may be the case. In '07, the Knights of CentralFla were simply destroyed by the firepower & overwhelming defense of the Bulls, in a 64-12 wipeout, with an amazing yardage deficit of 543-145. That's nearly 400 yds, folks. And it wasn't a down year for the Knights, who posted a 10-win season. But the Bulls have risen to the 17th spot in the nation, with a renewed sense of dedication. More's the pity.

RATING: SOUTH FLORIDA 88


Maryland 33 - MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE 10 - Line opened at Maryland minus 14, & is now minus 13½.

We originally figured a much closer game, but respected sources have the Terps as a rather comfortable winner here. Sure, Maryland has California dead ahead, & was hardly impressive in its narrow opening week escape vs Delaware, save for Scott's 197 RYs in his first career start (7.6 ypr). QB Steffy tossed a couple of INTs, which resulted in his being benched, but look for vast improvement vs the Raiders, who came up short in their hugely important rematch vs Troy last week. Can't bypass juicy spread.

RATING: MARYLAND 88


BUFFALO 23 - Seattle 17 - Line opened at pick-em, & is now Buffalo minus 1.

Obviously, if this one is decided by the QB position, it would be a no-brainer with the Seahawks in a walk, as Hasselbeck has the edge over Edwards (altho neither is in the best of health). But the Bills are a comer, & have the dominating back in Lynch, who ran for 1,115 yds & 7 TDs in his rookie season, & the Bills have added LB Mitchell & DT Stroud to a defense which held 4 of its final 5 foes to 17 pts or less. At home, the Bills failed only twice ATS last year. Those teams? Try the Super Bowl Patriots & Giants. Host in Seattle contests is golden.

RATING: BUFFALO BILLS 88

NEAR CHOICES (Rated 87): Alabama, Navy, ArizSt, Tulsa - NFL: Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Houston

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Re: Football Newsletters Week 2

Pointwise

College selections

1--KANSAS over Louisiana Tech 52-10
1--ALABAMA over Tulane 48-3
2--Northwestern over DUKE 33-10
2--WAKE FOREST over Ole Miss 34-17
3--OKLAHOMA STATE over Houston 44-20
4--GEORGIA over Central Michigan 56-19
5--ARIZONA over Toledo 48-10
5--TEMPLE (+) over UConn 24-22

NFL Selections
3--PHILADELPHIA over St. Louis 27-16
4--ny jets over MIAMI 27-16
4--INDIANAPOLIS over Chicago 27-13
5--ATLANTA (+) over Detroit 27-26
5--Houston (+) over PITTSBURGH 26-24

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*NOTRE DAME over SAN DIEGO STATE by 17
The most striking feature of Aztec civilization was human sacrifice, a primitive tradition nevertheless carried on by the San Diego State football program via scheduling too hard, then losing bodies and battles early and often. But as Year Three of Chuck Long’s regime hits, they are almost as healthy, and almost as mysterious, as they can be. New faces have been
groomed to be there for a while, and the old ones weren’t much. One of the old ones who was a little something, QB Kevin O’Connell, was dissed by Long when the coach stated that current starter Ryan Lindley stays in the pocket and looks for the third check-down, unlike his fearful predecessor. After working the kinks out vs. triple-option terrors Cal Poly last Saturday, the Aztecs also own a game-under-the-belt edge against the Irish, whose “highly
ranked recruits” have all the pressure coming out of the gate. NOTRE DAME, 31-14.

*NEW MEXICO over TEXAS A&M by 1
More teams will lose 26-3 to TCU this season, so New Mexico shouldn’t be too dissed for that. After all, it’s almost as exactly as we expected it to be, was it not (27-7 Best Bet call)? A&M’s new coaching staff – not one we’d have assembled but we’re not Mike Sherman -- couldn’t prepare ‘em well enough for a home opener vs. Arkansas State of the Sun Belt, so seven days and a trip to Albuquerque to face another stranger is not enough time. Sherman to staff: ‘What’s a 3-3-5 defense?’ Staff to Sherman: ‘What’? During the off-season, A&M’s Year One head coach said of Dennis Franchione’s last team: “I think we played down to the level of the opponent last year.” Strange, considering the Aggies played the nation’s #1-ranked schedule on the strength scale. If the coach has no idea about what he speaks, you probably don’t want to be on him. NEW MEXICO, 17-16.

RECOMMENDED
*PITTSBURGH over BUFFALO by 21
UB’s pair of 100-yard rushers from last week’s blowout win – Starks and Thermilus – will find the going much tougher against the front seven that defensive-minded Dave Wannstedt has crafted. If Pitt allows as many as 100 rushing yards in this game, Wannstedt’s mustache will curl up and shed, and he will order the entire defense run extra laps – if he still has a job. Pitt’s defense, which allowed only 15 first downs last Saturday to a good offensive opponent -- will jam the middle, seal the edges, put UB QB Drew Willy in tougher situations than he’d prefer to have, maybe snap his interceptionless
streak (currently 251 straight attempts), and prevent first downs. Can’t say any of that about UB’s, defense. The 14-0 lead that Pitt blew last week is not something that Buffalo can come back from. Following last week’s result, the entire Pitt program is on notice. Muscles will be flexed. PITTSBURGH, 27-6.

RECOMMENDED
*OKLAHOMA STATE over HOUSTON by 25
First-year Cougar chief Sumlin was the co-offensive coordinator for Oklahoma the last two years, so neither coaching staff will be surprised by much. Edge rolls towards the fourth-year coach with more talent playing at home. Gundy’s Cowboys have lost only to ranked teams at home in the last two years. Last we checked, Houston wasn’t sniffing the top 25. Okie St.’s offense sputtered at times on the road last week with their no-huddle spread, but got things rolling in the fourth quarter. Gundy took over play-calling duties this season so some hiccups were to be expected out of the chute. Houston switched to a 4-3 this season and will struggle with the new system against a talented and veteran offensive line that is used to paving the way for big-time yards, especially at home.
OKLAHOMA STATE, 49-24.

*IOWA STATE over KENT STATE by 3
QB Austen Arnaud basically needed only to turn around and execute the handoff in his ISU debut, after South Dakota State’s aborted drives (six of them five plays or fewer). Put him on a longer field, with less time to work with following more effective drives and a score or two by the Kents, and home favorite players might not like what they see. IOWA STATE, 19-16.

*WAKE FOREST over MISSISSIPPI by 7
Wake’s average margin of victory in 2007 was 6 points, so last week’s 28-point Best Bet thrashing of Baylor ain’t the norm. Ole Miss will push back a bit more, but will find the goings tough against a quirky offense manned by an ultra-efficient QB. First-year Rebel coach Houston Nutt doesn’t know what sort of road personality his team might have, making preparation a bit more difficult. Deacon QB Skinner will make fewer mistakes than Rebel QB
Snead, and that’ll be the difference. WAKE FOREST, 24-17.

CALIFORNIA over *WASHINGTON STATE by 15
Washington State’s spread offense was a disaster against a very average Okie State defense. Their reward – a date with Cal’s much better D. The Cougars will be a double-digit home dog this time and will have trouble keeping it around the number if their defense isn’t up for the challenge. They hung in there for three quarters last week, but it gets tough to stay motivated when your offense is stuck in cement. CAL, 34-19.

BEST BET
*WESTERN MICHIGAN over NORTHERN ILLINOIS by 20
The Westerns have dominated Time of Possession but managed only consecutive narrow wins vs. NIU the last two seasons. This time around, perhaps they’ll continue to dominate the clock while also putting a scoreboard gap between themselves and the visitor. To help them create it, they are employing a 24-season mole from NIU, Mike Sabock. As the Huskies’ former recruiting coordinator for the last 12 seasons during the since-exiled
Novak regime, he knows where all the holes exist in a defense that allowed 434 yards per game last season, and 425 yards to Minnesota last Saturday. NIU’s offense went nowhere on the ground in the Metrodome. Although they transition back into the MAC, they are actually facing a better pass defense in this match-up and probably a better defense overall. Western has pocketed $800,000 from the trip to Nebraska, where they stiffed us. They owe us, and they are dropping in class. WESTERN MICHIGAN, 41-21.

SOUTH FLORIDA over *CENTRAL FLORIDA by 12
Since declaring war on his Sunshine State neighbor to the southwest for the purpose of starting a rivalry – to which USF responded with a yawn and some under-the-thumb beat-backs– UCF head coach George O’Leary is 0-3 SU and ATS, resembling the sliced-up Monty Python warrior in the beginning of the Holy Grail movie. They invite USF back for more. But does UCF know what it’s about on offense yet, when they can’t give the ball to Kevin (I’m on the Detroit Lions now) Smith on every other play? If they have to start throwing it around, USF’s pass rush is something to fear. But when USF isn’t getting turnovers, their offense still needs to prove a few things. What we’re rooting for here is a game that plays right to the number, so as not to create any tip-offs about either overrated side. SOUTH FLORIDA, 24-12.

BEST BET
CONNECTICUT over *TEMPLE by 21
UConn head coach Randy Edsall was furious following last Thursday’s opening 35-3 win vs. Hofstra, which is exactly the mindset you want from your road-favorite head coach going against a relatively phony upstart home dog. From Edsall’s point of view, the Huskies have a lot of messes to clean up from that game, especially on offense. But they have a veteran crew and are very eligible to take a step forward. The UConn defense allowed only a field goal after being bait-and-switched by the Long Island boys, who used a quarterback that Connecticut didn’t prepare for. Which is basically how Army’s offense goes into its games, so you give Temple zero bonus points for what might have appeared to be an impressive, 35-7 win against the hapless Cadets last Friday night, where they generated only 265 offensive yards. As suggested here in the projection, several Temple scores were the result of gifts presented to them by Army. Last season’s ultra-sweaty, 22-17 home win vs. Temple in Week 3, which was pre-Pitt, is all the more reason for the Big East boys to take this trip seriously. CONNECTICUT, 31-10.

BEST BET
*KANSAS over LOUISIANA TECH by 35
The Bulldogs’ outright win when getting 7.5 at home against Mississippi State sets them up nicely for a painful fall. La. Tech coach Dooley knows the SEC and why not – his dad is a Georgia legend that played his ball at Auburn. The Big 12 – not so much knowledge there. As noted in last week’s Recommended winner, Sylvester Croom’s offense stalled, turned it over, and was about as dynamic as a career librarian. Kansas is more the 3 am underground nightclub type and will create matchup problems for a less athletic Bulldog defense. QB Reesing was ultra-efficient against FIU and that trend will continue as he
manages drives, protects the ball, and makes plays this week. Should the Jayhawk offense fail to fly at times – no sweat – La Tech QB (Georgia Tech transfer) Taylor Bennett was 15-of-40 last week and historically struggles against speed due to his heavy feet and weak arm. Lawrence, Kansas was rocking last week as the fan base reacts to last year’s 12-1 mark. That was for FIU, arguably the worst team in D1-A – or whatever they call it these days. The visitors are in for a rude awakening. KANSAS, 42-7.

RICE over *MEMPHIS by 2
On C-USA battlegrounds, Rice’s offense tends to leave its mark, as long as QB Chase Clement is the guy pulling the trigger. Memphis has weaponry, a potentially more devastating array than Rice’s, but they haven’t figured out how to maximize it consistently and the defense is on a par with Rice’s matadors, who tend to get flattened by the kind of decent rushing attacks that Memphis doesn’t have. As pointed out in last week’s SMU-Rice projection, which then materialized before the nation’s eyes on ESPN, Rice’s defense has an uncanny knack for coming up with the big pick against inexperienced, or experienced-idiot opposing quarterbacks. Memphis has both – newbie Arkelon Hall, and holdover Hudgens. RICE, 38-36.

*UTAH over UNLV by 24
The Rebels will have to improve on last week’s 353-yard performance against Utah State if covering is in the cards. Despite a win in the Big House, the Utes averaged a paltry 0.8 yards per carry and had 15 penalties. Match that in week two and the media Cinderella could become an evil step sister overnight. That said, Utah has too many athletes and too much experience to drop the ball at home. Did you know that after losing 27-0 loss to UNLV last season during their injury-recovery period, Utah allowed just 7, 14, 3, 0 10 and 17 points to Mountain West opponents the rest of the way? UTAH, 34-10.

*ARIZONA over TOLEDO by 20
‘Zona went anti-passing spread offense by rushing 49 times to 31 passes en route to 70 points last Saturday night. Playing Idaho allows you to do that. Toledo packs more athletes in their travel bag and they have eight in the secondary with starting experience to combat what the Cats really want to do. Problem for the Rockets – other than having an apparent gambling problem within the sports programs -- is that their pass rush couldn’t bust a grape last year (9 sacks) and won’t do much against an offensive front that is better than most they will see in the MAC. Points, yards, athletes – that’ll be the general theme of the post-game summary. ARIZONA, 41-21.

*ARIZONA STATE over STANFORD by 16
Lost in the Cardinal’s upset win against Oregon State. was their lack of secondary speed. Beaver wideouts regularly burned the high-IQ safeties using nothing more than superior athleticism. The Devils will provide similar matchup problems in the passing game. Unfortunately for Harbaugh, mounting a comeback will be difficult with a lackluster aerial attack that went sub-100 yards in game one. Look for the visitors to hang through the half on determination alone. It won’t be enough. ARIZONA ST. 33-17.

BEST BET
TEXAS over *UTEP by 12
[UTEP, plus the points.] There will be no knee-jerking based on Texas’ rout of FAU, and UTEP’s being routed by Buffalo. Different week, different teams, and UTEP's new 3-3-5 defense was the wrong defense to go into Buffalo with, given UB’s ability to run, run, run against wispy defenders like UTEP’s. All is far from perfect in the UTEPian society, as three INTs, a dropped punt snap, and two 100-yard rushers for Buffalo attest. But Mike Price was worried that his Miners would be looking ahead to this rare opportunity to host a ranked, intra-state power on ESPN2.Was he was worried because he was one of those looking ahead, and didn’t bother preparing them for the ho-hum trip to Buffalo? Against Texas, Florida Atlantic converted four of its first five third downs to start the game, with big pass plays of 22, 15, 33 and 62 yards on each conversion. After FAU scored 10 firsthalf points, new Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp made some adjustments and the Owls were shut out in the second half, but they had given Texas some full-game
ammo when their coach suggested the Longhorns were soft. “We brought it to 'em, showed 'em we were tough and can play a full 60 minutes," said one Texas RB. But is Texas prepared to do that for a second straight game when they are looking ahead to hosting Arkansas in Austin? UTEP will not stop playing in this one. TEXAS, 42-30.

*IOWA over FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL by 27
FIU’s fledgling football program is not to be trusted on the power conference road. They gained 2.5 yards per play at Kansas last Saturday. Iowa’s defense is better, but Kirk Ferentz will juggle quarterbacks Christiansen and Stanzi. Christiansen is pouting about it. Coach Cristobal to IU’s AD: ‘Please send that sizable check to: FIU, 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL…IOWA, 30-3.

*ARKANSAS over LOUISIANA-MONROE by 14
Sure, the Hogs were two minutes away from becoming pulled pork at the hands of Western Illinois. For those expecting the same or worse, check out the following: (1) starting tailback Michael Smith was served with a pre-game suspension, meaning that a true freshman was to carry the running load; and (2) Western Illinois started six of eleven possessions in Arkansas territory – that’s ridiculous and won’t be repeated. Petrino’s team won’t be worldbeaters, but ULM beaters. they have the better talent and the home field. ARKANSAS, 28-14.

TULSA over *NORTH TEXAS by 19
Miraculously, UNT’s Giovanni Vizza did not throw an interception at Kansas State. He evened things out by averaging only 3.4 yards per attempt. A hurry-up offense that gets only 56 plays cannot be trusted when Tulsa’s offense is shooting for 90. "Tulsa is one of those teams you just really have to be prepared for," UAB safety Will Dunbar said. "If you're not in the right spot, you're going to get burned.” North Texas’ defense hasn’t been in the right spot for two years. TULSA, 48-29.

*FLORIDA ATLANTIC over UAB by 11
FAU starting QB Rusty (Big Play) Smith did not get sacked in 31 pass attempts at Texas, and managed to throw for 8.2 Yards Per Attempt. But don’t underestimate UAB’s overall team speed and the cumulative effect that chasing QB Joe Webb around might have on the FAU defense. FLORIDA ATLANTIC, 34-23.

MARYLAND over *MIDDLE TENNESSEE by 11
Holding Delaware’s offense to just seven’ points was pretty good for the Maryland defense… or was it, considering that the Blue Hens were playing their first game since 2005 without Joe Flacco as the QB? Maryland’s QBs Steffy and Portis are not to be trusted as they are juggled around by Ralphie Boy as a team from the maligned ACC journeys into a strange land (and what appears to be a bad team, but Troy knew where most of the holes were). MARYLAND, 24-13.

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Re: Football Newsletters Week 2

Sports Reporter

Vol. 34, No. 2 WEEK ENDING WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2008

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 4

*NY GIANTS over WASHINGTON by 6
The Zorn-for-Gibbs move means a more efficient offense for the Redskins, even if they haven’t shown it yet. Nor would anyone be surprised to see Redskins’ veteran Todd Collins come off the bench at some point of this game, to give the Washington offense a lift if Jason Campbell still can’t spark a unit filled with decent offensive talent. But that would mean that
Washington is trailing, and attempting a comeback against an opponent that has a well-balanced offense with an ability to control the clock and make coming from behind harder than it normally would be. The Giants’ defense got 58 sacks when it had Omenyiora and Strahan at the ends last year. Neither is there now, but defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuola is liable to blitz from anywhere, the Giants secondary is pretty good in coverage, and
Washington’s best wide receivers won’t be out-jumping anybody. Redskins have a nice defense, too, but Jason Taylor’s absence offsets the Giants’ DE woes. The Giants sobered up from a Super Bowl hangover when they watched tape of their mistake-filled, weather-blown Week 15 home loss to Washington last season. NY GIANTS, 27-21.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 7

*BALTIMORE over CINCINNATI by 4
The world is hating Baltimore, 3-13 ATS last season, new head coach, and with a troubling quarterback situation. Kyle Boller, the veteran projected starter, has a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. The two back-ups are rookie Joe Flacco, and Troy Smith, both accidents waiting to happen. But Boller has not been ruled out of this game, yet. If they were on
the road against a good defense, then you’d want no part of the Ravens. But they are home against a bad defense, and former Bengals’ wide receivers coach Hue Jackson is on their side now, helping to neutralize Cincinnati’s only strength, while Baltimore’s very competent defense maintained coaching continuity (DC Ryan) despite the head coaching change. Last season’s 0-2 SU and ATS vs. the Bengals was accomplished with 6 turnovers made each
time by the Ravens’ offense, many of them directly attributable to the mercifully retired Steve McNair. Clean up the mess and get by. But only with Boller. BALTIMORE, 23-19.

NEW YORK JETS over *MIAMI by 3
Last year, these division rivals were among the sorriest teams in the NFL, serving as the whipping boys of the AFC. The extensive humiliation must have spurred both teams into drastic action, as the Jets splurged tens of millions of dollars on free agents – not to mention a certain quarterback who wears number 4 – while the Dolphins hired Bill Parcells to become team president, who then commenced to purge the team of the past regime’s players and remake the franchise in his image – starting with the new head coach, Tony Sparano, former offensive line coach for the Dallas Cowboys. The Dolphins won’t be so soft anymore, but it’s not going to be an easy rebuild when you’re playing with the scraps from a 1-15 squad. The Jets have more immediate expectations, especially with the addition of Bret
Favre, but is Eric Mangini up to the job? The utter collapse of last season begs the question of whether last year, or the year before, was the fluke. Their release of Chad Pennington served to immediately upgrade the state of the Miami offense and could provide the Dolphins with an edge going into what should be an introductory game for Gang Green’s newly formulated
group of mercenaries. NEW YORK JETS 21-18.

*NEW ENGLAND over KANSAS CITY by 17
Opponents will be better prepared to handle the explosive Patriots offense this year, on the heels of record-breaking seasons by Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker. The adjustments could be seen even in the second half of last season as their string of blowouts were replaced by New England consistently failing to cover the spread. However, even with a widely
applauded draft class and a dedicated youth movement, Kansas City looks lost in this match-up. Can Brodie Croyle move the offense without turning it over? Does Larry Johnson have mileage left in those legs, or is this a case similar to Shaun Alexander’s? Herm Edwards can sure inspire his players, but can he game-plan against the likes of Bill Belichick? The Chiefs will grind the ball and try to limit New England’s time of possession. The real question is whether the Patriots passing game opens the year sharply and short circuits Edwards’ strategy. NEW ENGLAND 27-10.

RECOMMENDED
HOUSTON over *PITTSBURGH by 3
Without inferior showings across the board against their AFC South rivals, the Houston Texans could have been a playoff level team. Achieving an 8-8 record, despite their poor divisional play and overreliance on Sage Rosenfels, shows just how far the Texans have come under Gary Kubiak. Houston is clearly a team on the rise and only injuries will slow their ascent. Meanwhile, the Steelers are a team that has yet to prove themselves to be as good as they can be with Mike Tomlin as head coach instead of Bill Cowher. After a
dominating start to the season, the Steelers petered out as the schedule progressed and made very little changes in the off-season to make you think that they can gear up for another extended playoff push. Their o-line might be a little down, while Houston’s d-line might be on the rise. Expect the unexpected, as the Texans take advantage of balmy weather in Pittsburgh to exact an upset. HOUSTON 20-17.

BEST BET
*TENNESSEE over JACKSONVILLE by 9
The Titans embarrassed the Jaguars last season, running all over their defensive line for over 300 yards and ultimately motivating the Jacksonville defense to get their act together. Despite an incredibly successful regular season and a better than usual showing in the playoffs, the Jaguars made wholesale changes to their defensive line, including the drafting of Derrick Harvey in the first round and finally signing him to a slot-level contract
a few days ago. With Fred Taylor getting arrested for disorderly conduct a few nights ago (just what you want from a “veteran leader,” right?) and the Jaguars seemingly sharing in the over-inflated sense of self that many elite level teams succumb to, there’s good reason to think that Jeff Fisher and his conservative, but successful, ground-based attack will once again stymie an overconfident Jaguars squad who must adapt to a new defensive coordinator. That didn’t work out too well for, say, the NY Giants against a
mobile QB and a strong offensive line when the Giants faced a division rival in last year’s opener, did it? Jags might be behind a similar 8-ball. TENNESSEE 29-20.

DETROIT over *ATLANTA by 7
The Lions got a lot of mistakes out of the way when Mike Martz was the offensive coordinator, developing a passing game that was non-existent under the prior Mariucci regime, where a small-play team would try to sneak its way past people with chicken-QB Joey Harrington. Jon Kitna has some guts – not a lot of talent, of course. But with mentors like Mike Holmgren,
Bob Bratkowski and Mike Martz during his 12 NFL seasons, experience counts for something, even with Kitna. It has been announced that rookie Matt Ryan from Boston College will be the Atlanta starter.With experienced NFL veterans at quarterback, the Falcons opened ’06 and ’07 with 2-5 and 1-6 records. The Lions’ defense got the ball to pop out of the other team’s hands 40 times last season, not counting interceptions. For all the jokes that have
been sent Detroit’s way, they have actually been groomed to be something since Rod Marinelli took over in ‘06. Atlanta has only been jerked around since then, with three different coaching regimes and a mass exodus of veterans. DETROIT, 20-13.

SUPER BEST BET
*BUFFALO over SEATTLE by 21
Obomanu is out of the race!…to be the Seahawks’ go-to receiver in this game. The inexperienced guy was the #1 candidate among a young group of Seattle wideouts being called upon to pick up the slack in the absence of injured veterans Bobby Engram and Deion Branch. We’ve always insisted that wide receivers are the easiest to lose, plug in, and move forward with. However, considering the transition occurring on Seattle’s offensive
line, at running back and at tight end, Engram stood as one of the ‘’sure things’’ for a revamped unit. Where does this leave the Seattle offense other than up the Erie Canal without a paddle, in a game they can afford to lose as long as they get ’er done vs. NFC West rivals coming up in Weeks 2 and 3? Matt Hasselbeck played in only one pre-season game at quarterback, wasn’t practicing with his usual receivers, won’t be playing with ‘em, either. To add to the degree of difficulty, the opposing Bills are in the third season of a gradual transition to a Cover-2 defense, which has a history of stopping West
Coast offenses like Seattle’s. Defensive linemen provide all the pressure, reducing the need for blitzes. When the front four play its gaps correctly, they clog up running lanes and force the running backs to run outside (not where Julius Jones excels), where the corners, linebackers, and safeties all help. If Seattle’s defense was ever meant to bail them out here, the one-game suspensions to starting defensive back Rocky Bernard and
nickel back Jordan Babineaux just made that task harder as the Marshawn Lynch-powered running game triggers an upsiding Bills’ offense. BUFFALO, 30-9.

*NEW ORLEANS over TAMPA BAY by 6
The Saints fell far short of expectations last year as the defense failed to reach even the most modest of goals while the offense sputtered because of an inconsistent running attack and poor depth at wide receiver. Even though Drew Brees put together a good season, it wasn’t enough to keep the Saints in the race. Tampa Bay was recovering from a poor 2006 showing to solidify their offense under the guidance of Jeff Garcia while displaying enough defensive acumen to win the NFC South and advance to the playoffs. What a difference one offseason can make! New Orleans spent the spring and summer revamping their defense, emphasizing their defensive line in hopes making their secondary more effective. On offense, they traded for disgruntled New York tight end Jeremy Shockey, giving Brees a steady pair
of hands to throw to between the hashmarks. In contrast, Tampa Bay didn’t do much to change the personnel from last year’s squad – other than a brief flirtation with Bret Favre that may have only served to damage clubhouse chemistry. Look for these teams to go in opposite directions this season, starting now. NEW ORLEANS 26-20.

*PHILADELPHIA over ST. LOUIS by 10
Debuting on the road against the Philadelphia defense -- which might bend, rarely breaks, always blitzes from anywhere and added speed and interception ability when they acquired Asante Samuel -- is probably not the place for a much healthier St. Louis 2008 offense to begin re-discovering the magic. The elusive RB Brian Westbrook is a good weapon to have against the Rams’ aggressive defensive front. Screen to Westbrook, 15 yards, first
down…Meanwhile, if some of Philly’s new wideouts and returners get their share of touches, the Eagles might look more like the Rams than the Rams do. PHILADELPHIA, 27-17.

BEST BET
DALLAS over *CLEVELAND by 17
Why did Wade Phillips hire Cleveland’s three-season defensive coordinator Todd Grantham away from the Browns prior to this season? Could it be that he knows that the NFC East games have a good chance to be 3-3, and that he is attempting to secure an edge in the four non-conference games against the AFC North? Hey, after Arizona’s new coaching staff came over from Pittsburgh last year, the Cardinals – the Cardinals, mind you – eventually went 4-0 ATS vs. AFC North opponents. So, there you have a little unseen potential for Dallas, on top of all the offensive firepower that everybody knows about. Grantham oversaw a 3-4 defense in Cleveland, the same style that the Cowboys have been attempting to become better at playing since Phillips arrived. He knows where the many holes are in Cleveland’s front – new DT Shaun Rogers notwithstanding – and Dallas’ big offensive line is good at creating holes on its own to begin with. Adam Jones
in Dallas’ secondary, and on punt returns, has the potential to create instant momentum swings for the Cowboys. If they didn’t already know who Derek Anderson was after the nice things Cleveland’s offense did last season, then the Cowboys know it now with Grantham there to help attack the immobile young dude while Romo is dancing around and keeping the Browns off balance. The Browns were 7-1 SU on this field, 12-3-1 ATS overall last year. Big whoopity whoop. It’s not last year. DALLAS, 27-10.

*SAN DIEGO over CAROLINA by 10
LaDanian Tomlinson was rested during the preseason. Antonio Gates is complaining of nagging injuries. Shawne Merriman is playing on a knee that may give at any second… and the Chargers have the NFL’s best depth to account for all of that. The Panthers are a team that knows this is the season to show what they can do – with several years of underwhelming
performance following their Super Bowl appearance, John Fox and his staff can feel the pressure building – and so can their core group of players. Look for the Panthers to come out running, with two good young running backs in their stable, and for the return of Muhsin Muhammed to restore balance to the passing game, but maybe not until Steve Smith returns from a three-game suspension. For this, Jake Delhomme is playing against his first serious defense since he was injured very early last year, with the Chargers being the reigning leading interceptors in the land. They are not about the Jake some WD-40 to help remove the rust. SAN DIEGO, 24-14.

ARIZONA over SAN FRANCISCO by 6
It’s make or break time for the 49ers as Mike Nolan enters what is sure to be his final season in San Francisco – unless the 49ers unexpectedly make the playoffs or sniff around a .500 record. Regardless of whatever unachievable goals have been set in the Bay Area, the Nolan era is one that both fans and players are tired of – earmarks of a management team that is sure to underachive, as opposed to a more fortunate result. In contrast, the Cardinals are building from the ground up, an unsurprising strategy considering the management team they hired, and are a mere few steps away from dethroning the Seahawks as the team to beat in the ineffectual NFC West. Kurt Warner’s ascent to starting quarterback has to have won the goodwill of the locker room, who may or may not believe in Matt Leinart’s potential, but certainly have the eyesight to believe in Kurt Warner’s Super Bowl ring and MVP trophy. ARIZONA 27-21.

*INDIANAPOLIS over CHICAGO by 14
“Oh, Peyton Manning missed the entire pre-season for the Colts, so the Bears plus all these points are a lock!” Yeah, right. Mr. Manning has been practicing for many moons against the kind of defense that Chicago likes to play, which Lovie Smith was groomed in by Colts’ head coach Tony Dungy, and Monte Kiffin in Tampa Bay. At this point, Manning could probably rise
from REM sleep and drill it into the seam of a zone for 17 yards, and he has learned to become patient and to take what the defense gives him, too. Anybody else think that Indy didn’t even play its best game on wet grass in the Super Bowl win against the Bears two seasons ago? Hard to envision Kyle Orton getting anything substantial accomplished for the often comical Chicago offense. INDIANAPOLIS, 30-16.

MONDAY NIGHT, SEPTEMBER 8
MINNESOTA over *GREEN BAY by 3
"We feel very confident that we can throw the ball to win against anybody," Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy said back in April. “But we need to improve inside in the run game." Well, the next team that improves inside in the run game against the Minnesota Vikings will be the first to do so in about three years. Flip side is that with Tarvaris Jackson as their QB, there is no way that Minnesota can say that they can throw the ball to win against anybody. It’s not like Jackson has incredible receivers who can separate from the sticky man coverage the Packers love to use. But the Vikings have a terrific offensive line, and one of the most dangerous running backs in the NFL. This is a high-profile, intense, intra-division opener and perhaps the ultimate edge is that Green Bay is the only NFC North team not playing a Cover- 2 defense. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t played against one, or been practicing against one. When the Vikings do their normally good job against the run, Rodgers will be passing into something difficult, where the desired four-man rush (for extra pass coverage without blitzing) got significantly stronger when the Vikings acquired NFL sack leader Jared Allen from the Chiefs. MINNESOTA, 23-20.

RECOMMENDED TOTAL
UNDER 41.5
DENVER at OAKLAND
We all know Mike Shanahan has long held an axe to grind against Al Davis’ skull for past transgressions, but does his team have the personnel to fulfill his blood grudge against the silver and black? Oakland experienced yet another offseason full of turmoil, but unquestionably upgraded their team. Coach Lane Kiffin finds himself with nothing to lose, knowing that if he is fired he will collect the full balance remaining on his contract – giving him the rare freedom to do as he pleases without fear of reprisal. That might mean the traditionally high-flying Raiders run the ball more than most teams in the NFL, featuring great depth at running back, including top draft pick Darren McFadden – this year’s version of Adrian Peterson. Denver is hoping to unveil a high-flying aerial attack to complement shaky depth at running back, but will be held back in the first game due to Brandon Marshall’s suspension and an improved Raiders’ secondary. Will any of Denver’s slow-footed back-up receivers be able to find room to manuever against Nnamdi Asomugha and DeAngelo Hall? Look for a game decided on the ground and by the respective defenses. DENVER, 16-13.

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GOLD SHEET - KEY RELEASES

Pro

Buffalo by 10 over Seattle
Tampa Bay by 7 over New Orleans
Under the Total in the Detroit-Atlanta game

College

Northwestern by 16 over Duke
Florida by 31 over Miami-Florida
Air Force by 7 over Wyoming
Mississippi by 3 over Wake Forest

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MARC LAWRENCE  Playbook

3 Star
Miami-Ohio
Bengals
Steelers over

4 Star
Auburn
Browns
Eagles under

5 Star
Penn State
Titans
49ers under


3*  BEST BET
Though Michigan fans may disagree, the Wolverines? 25-23 loss to Utah in UM coach Rich Rodriguez? debut was not the surprise many have made it out to be: the veteran Utes simply owned better, more experienced players. And that?s the problem once again here today.The RedHawks, the preseason pick to win the MAC East division behind 17 returning starters this season, fell unceremoniously in a puzzling 21-point home loss to Vanderbilt, a game which was near-even in the stats.They are 5-1 ATS on the road in games off an upset loss as a favorite.More importantly, 17 returning starter dogs in Game Two off a SU and ATS loss are a rock-solid 25-9 ATS. Coupled with information shared in Marc?s SHAKEDOWN STREET article on page 2, we can only envision more trouble on the horizon for the Dazed-and-Blue as they continue to try and adapt to Rich Rod?s new schemes. It should be noted that when Rodriguez took over the West Virginia job in 2001 he inherited a bowl team that proceeded to fi nish 3-8 in his fi rst year at the helm. No surprise to see UM tumble to 2-10 ATS in the ?Big House? against non-conference foes.


4* BEST BET
Auburn lived up to early expectations with a dominating 34-0 win over La-Monroe to open the ?08 season but the Tigers face a much tougher foe here. Southern Miss kicked off the Larry Fedora era by crushing the Sun Belt?s other Louisiana rep from Lafayette, 51-21, and cruise into this meeting on a 4-0 ATS series run against Aubbie. That?s where the good news ends and the bad starts, however, for the Golden Eagles. That?s because Smissy is just 1-6 ATS in its last seven showdowns against teams from the SEC. Adding to their misery is the best from this week?s SMART BOX (see page 3). Toss in the fact the Eagles are a miserable 3-18 ATS in games they lose SU as a dog when playing off a double-digit win and you can see where we?re going here. With Aubbie?s offense growing more accustomed to Tony Franklin?s new spread attack, look for the eye of the Tiger to take dead aim on the Eagles and improve to 10-3 ATS as double-digit favorites in Game Two of the season here today.


5* BEST BET - PENN ST
Troublesome debut for the Beavers last week in a 36-28 loss to underdog Stanford. A rush defense that was rock-solid last year couldn?t slow down a stiff breeze versus the Cardinal and OSU QB Moevao ? despite a 34-of- 54 for 404 yards and 3 TDs performance ? was done in by turnovers. The only team from a BCS conference to open the season with consecutive road games, Oregon State must travel cross-country and hitch it up to take on Joe Pa?s Nittany Lions, a 2-TD favorite after swamping Coastal Carolina 66-10. The Beavs are 1-5 SU in their last six trips to the Eastern Time Zone (the win was against a Temple team that proceeded to lose 50 of its next 57 games). The last two visits resulted in 34-2 and 63- 27 losses to Cincinnati and Louisville, respectively. Now dead even with Bobby Bowden in career victories, Paterno has gone 7-4 SU and ATS in his last 11 PAC 10 clashes ? plus his Lions own a sturdy 5-1 ATS mark as non-conference HFs of 7 or more points. The Beavers? pointspread dam looks leaky, at best: Game Two road dogs off a SU road favorite loss in Game One are a wallet-emptying 0-8 SU and 2-6 ATS. With Oregon State already 0-5 ATS in its last 5 Game Two situations, it looks like fl attailed rodent could be on the menu today in Happy Valley.


UPSET GAME OF THE WEEK UPSET

Oops? not long after FAU coach Schnellenberger suggested that Texas ?wasn?t that physical a football team,? the Owls had to eat a major portion of crow following their 52-10 destruction at Austin last week. Now they?re faced with having to regroup against a team of Blazers that returns 17 starters in head coach Neil Callaway?s 2nd season. Out database chips in with this dandy: 17 Returning Starters dogs in Game Two, playing off a SU and ATS loss, are 25-9 ATS. Toss in Howie Longname?s 6-15 ATS mark as home in games off a double-digit defeat and FAT?s (Florida Atlantic) dismal 1-6 ATS log as home chalk and we suddenly smell an upset in the making. Don?t forget, the Owls defense slipped 82 YPG in an 8-win bowl season last year. Like Texas, these Blazers may not be all that physical but they fi t just right.


NFL

3* BEST BET
We?ve got the Bengals tabbed as a ?play on? squad in 2008 and for all the right reasons. For openers this is the same team that was picked to win the AFC Central division a year ago. While they underachieved (surprise!), the fact is they were the only team in the NFL to improve BOTH their offensive and defensive yardage stats yet decline both SU and ATS last season. Teams fi tting this mold have always proved to be an improved commodity the following year. With Marvin Lewis sitting squarely on the proverbial hot seat, look for a more focused effort from the Striped Cats this season. New Ravens head coach John Harbaugh can?t be sleeping well with his offensive line in disarray and the defense getting long in the tooth these days. All that being said, look for GameOne NFL dogs (or picks) that lost their fi nal pre-season game by a single point to drop to 1-14 SU and 2-13 ATS here today when Cincy improvesits mark to 7-1 ATS in this series.Cincinnati over BALTIMORE by 10


4* BEST BET
Highly touted Brownies crumbled this preseason when they failed to win a single game. As a result the luster has diminished as the oddsmaker has installed them as a home dog in their lidlifter. According to our database that?s a mistake. It seems teams that were winless in practice games are 11-5 ATS as dogs of more than 3 points in season openers, including 8-0 since 1999. Furthermore, teams in Game One of the NFL season that managed to win 13 or more game the previous season are just 12-25 ATS if they open on the non-division road, including 5-13 SU and ATS when tackling a 10-win opponent. Pro Bowl QB Derek Anderson has been cleared to play for Cleveland. Pro Bowl targets Braylon Edwards (WR) and Kellen Winslow (TE) are a happy, healthy tandem and Browns? boss Romeo Crennel is rock-solid in non-division battles (19-10-1, including 5-1-1 in fi rst four games of the season).The Browns? 22-1 ATS mark in games in which they score 24 or more points ties nicely into the fact that Wade Phillips? teams have allowed an average of 25 ppg in their last 13 road contests. With that, look for Dallas to drop to 12-23 ATS in their last 25 tries as road chalk today in this Dawg Pound dandy.CLEVELAND over Dallas by 10


5* BEST BET
First things, fi rst. We admit we?re fond of NFL home dogs that were in the playoffs the previous season. They play with passion and a purpose.This particular one happens to be one of three underdogs on today?s card (Tampa Bay and Washington the others) that actually improved their stats on both sides of the ball last season. On the other side of the coin, the Jaguars went from 8 wins in 2006 to 12 wins last season despite a defense that declined 36 ypg. We don?t like those numbers.We also don?t like the fact the favorite is just 2-7 ATS in this series. We do like Vince Young?s glittering 18-12 SU and ATS mark in his NFL career starts, including 10-2 ATS in division duke-outs. The combination of both head coaches? pointspread personalities (Jack Del Rio 5-9 as a division favorite, including 0-4 when favored less than 4 points, and Jeff Fisher 38-19 (35-22 SU) as a dog of less than 5 points) cements it.Titans jolt Jags.

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Power Sweep

4* Florida 44-13
3*East Carolina +
3* LSU 41-10
2* Temple + 21-20
2*Oregon 45-3
2* Pittsburg 30-13

Underdog ULM +14 21-17

4* Carolina + 20-21
3* Jax Under
2* Houston + 24-26
2* NYG 27-13

3* Jax Under 37
3* Cowboya Under 49
3* Bengals Under 39
2* Carolina Over 41
2* Texans Over 44


Power Sweep College Key Selections

4* FLORIDA over Miami, Fl - These two were fierce rivals in the 80?s and have met 4 times this decade including 2 bowls with Miami winning all 4! UM rFr QB Marve was susp LW and makes his debut here. The line play will be the key as UM replaces 3 OL starters while UF replaces their top sack man. The Hurricanes rush attack slowed to a crawl gaining just 1.6 ypc the L/3 games of LY while Florida?s rush D all?d just 2.3 ypc on the ssn at home. Miami has never been a DD dog in this rivalry. Keep in mind LY Miami was a DD dog 3 times and was 1-2 ATS with the lone win by a half point and a loss to Oklahoma 51-13. Their young QB will make his first road start in the Swamp. Florida is coming off a 56-10 rout vs Hawaii AND has a bye on deck! The Gators also whipped Fla
St (-14) in their season finale LY 45-12. While Florida has the obvious offensive edge (#1-85), the defensive edge is slightly closer (#5-22). The Gators have a better off, better def, 4 times revenge and state pride. FORECAST: FLORIDA 44 Miami, Fl 13

3* EAST CAROLINA (+) over West Virginia - WV has won 7 in a row SU in the series outgaining EC by 194 ypg. Until LY it appeared Holtz had devised the perfect plan to stop the spread as they were the only team to hold WV under 200 yards rush in both ?05 and ?06 covering by 11 ppg. WV shredded them for 599 yards in a 48-7 win in ?07. Holtz is 10-4 ATS vs non-conf and 17-5 ATS as a dog! LW QB Pat White threw (no really) for a career high 5 TD?s in WV?s new look offense which features a more balanced attack. Despite being outgained 399-354 & allowing IAA Villanova to control the TOP(37:22), the Mountaineers prevailed 48-21. We won a 3H LPS on EC as they stunned #17 VT in Beamer-like fashion blocking a punt with 1:52 left for a 27-22 outright upset. WV once again has the off (#16-47) and ST?s (#40-94) edges while EC has the D edge (#34-56). Holtz has been an excellent underdog coach but now has his team expecting to beat BCS caliber foes. FORECAST: EAST CAROLINA 31 (+) West Virginia 34

3* LSU over Troy - Troy is off B2B 8-win seasons and HC Blakeney keeps them playing hard as they are 5-2 ATS vs BCS teams. What is even more impressive is that they avg?d 400 ypg in 3 SEC road games LY. They now are led by QB Hampton who got his 2nd career start in LW?s decisive SBC win over MT. Troy RB Harris had 148 rush (7.Cool, but LB?s Woods and Lee posted 25 tkl, 2.5 sk, 5.5 tfl to steal the show. LSU QB Hatch made his 1st career start LW (7-14 for 77 yds, 1 TD) but split time with Jarrett Lee (6-10 for 116 with 2-1 ratio) in the IA vs IAA championship battle. RB Scott got the start (160, 10.0). LSU has another week to work on their offense with NT on deck and expect
the defense to step up as they gave up 187 yds passing (42%) to App St LW. Troy is 1-8 vs the SEC only losing by an avg of 12 pgg. LSU on the other hand is 31-0 SU vs SBC teams with avg win of 46-3. In their only other meeting LSU was -24 in 2004 and barely won 24-20. Troy has a different QB,different OC and will have disparate SEC results compared to LY. FORECAST: LSU 41 Troy 10 NOTE: THIS GAME HAS BEEN POSTPONED UNTIL NOV. 15

OTHER SELECTIONS
2* TEMPLE (+) over Connecticut-Temple beat Connecticut LY getting a TD pass with :40 left but they were robbed by the officials and then the replay crew (see PH). Conn has now won 11 in a row SU vs the MAC (7-4 ATS). Temple is just 7-25 SU at home but always puts a little more into this game (4-0 ATS vs Conn) as they were kicked out of the Big East and basically replaced by Conn. UC only had a IAA foe (beat Hofstra 35-3) LW, who was without their starting QB. The Huskies have 17 starters back from their 9-4 bowl squad. Temple has all 22 starters back with just 3 lettermen lost but does have their MAC opener on deck. Golden is 6-2 as a HD while UC has been an AF just 9 times in 7 years but is 7-2 ATS in that role. The Owls are off a 35-7 win over Army, in the Knights 1st game with their new option offense, but were still outgained by Army 284-250 as the Owls scored on a FR and a 98 yd KR. Expect marked improvement from the 22 Owl returning starters from Wk 1 to Wk 2.
FORECAST: TEMPLE 21 (+) Connecticut 20

2*OREGON over Utah St - First meeting S/?01 as the Ducks are 3-0 SU (1-0 ATS) all-time vs the Aggies with a 39-12 margin of victory. The Aggies dropped their 2nd straight ssn opener at the hands of UNLV but are 6-2 ATS as an AD and 2-1 ATS vs BCS teams the L3Y but have won just 6 of 36 gms vs the Pac-10. The Ducks delivered a 3H LPS Winner LW despite losing starting QB Roper (late 2Q) with a mild concussion. UO is 13-3 ATS as a HF and beat WAC member Fresno by 31 LY (-16?). Under Bellotti, the Ducks are 27-1 SU at home vs non-conf foes but surprisingly haven?t been a 20+ fav in 4 years. With Oregon coming off a P10 game, a trip to the Big Ten, matchup vs ranked Boise and the rest of the P10 sked, this is the game they put the least emphasis on this year. FORECAST: OREGON 45 Utah St 3

2* PITTSBURGH over Buffalo - 1st meeting. Buffalo is 3-13 ATS vs current BE teams & 1-10 in their L/11 road openers. Pitt is now 25-3 vs the MAC. Pitt was handed their worst upset home loss since 2001 to USF. They squandered a 14-0 lead losing 27-17 to BG, despite a 393-254 yd edge. Buffalo had a huge win over UTEP 42-17. QB Willy threw for a IA school record 4 TD?s. For a team that allowed 406 ypg & 28 ppg in ?07, they held UTEP to 266 yds. Pitt plays their 2nd straight MAC team at home with a bye on deck while Buffalo has their MAC opener on deck. Pitt has the edge on offense (#45-52) and defense (#18-58). Pitt OC Cavanaugh told the Panther fans that they would be surprised with the new offense and the pressure is on after LW?s loss. BG stacked 8 in the box and Stull refused to stretch the field. Wannstedt will fix that TW.
FORECAST: PITTSBURGH 30 Buffalo 13

UNDERDOG PLAY OF THE WEEK
Over the past 25 years this play has been a reader favorite hitting 177-123. Over the last 8 years the Underdog Play of the Week has recorded 27 OUTRIGHT UPSET WINNERS to the incredible record! Here is this week's Underdog Play of the Week: UL-Monroe (+14 1/2) over Arkansas Arkansas? new offense struggled vs IAA W Ill only winning 28-24 but QB Dick did pass for 318 yds (just the 10th Razorback to throw for 300+ yds). They were without RB Smith who was serving a one-gm suspension. They now host an upper echelon SBC team that, of course, knocked off Bama LY but struggled vs Auburn in their opener (lost 34-0 and were without starting WR?s McNeal and Sapp). The young Ark LB?s corp will find this Lancaster-led (136 yds LW vs Aub) offense a formidable early season test. LY the Hogs hosted 3 SBC teams (Troy, FlU & NT a combined 11-25) and while they did win all 3 they allowed 329 ypg. ULM meanwhile traveled to 3 BCS teams (Clem, A&M, Bama) and avg?d 350 ypg. These tms last met in ?05 and UA is 7-0 SU but 3-4 ATS in the series. The Razorbacks have just 11 returning starters and are learning new schemes with Texas on deck while ULM has 15 starters back with Alabama A&M up next. FORECAST: ARKANSAS 21 Ulm 17


Power Sweep NFL Key Selections

4* Carolina (+) over SAN DIEGO - SD comes into the season as the runaway favorite for the AFC West while CAR, behind a healthy Delhomme, is expected to mount a serious challenge in the NFC South. SD is 6-0 ATS as a HF of 7+ while CAR is 18-9-2 ATS as an AD. CAR susp Steve Smith the 1st 2 games & the WR is struggling w/injs. CAR is returning to a power rushing attack & upgraded the OL with a new face at each spot. They showed just how serious they are in the preseason as CAR posted 107 rush att?s (4.Cool in the first 3 preseason games. LY before his elbow injury Delhomme avg?d 308 ypg (64%) with an 8-1 ratio & CAR scored 27, 21 & 27 pts. From 2004-2006 SD was in the top 3 for rush def & allowed just 16 100 yd games but LY teams spread the defense out & SD allowed 7 100+ yd games. SD allowed 102 yds rushing on STL 1st 16 rush att?s & looked sloppy vs SEA with 162 yds (5.1). SD is also dealing w/injs as C Hardwick (knee) is out & LT McNeil (stinger) didn?t practice at all in preseason. Rivers is just 7 months removed from having his ACL replaced & TE Gates is only at 85%. While Tomlinson will get his yards here, CAR has shifted its defensive strength to the back 7 &
look for Peppers to announce his return here.
FORECAST: Carolina 20 (+) SAN DIEGO 21

3* Jaguars/Titans: UNDER - The Titans upset the Jags 13-10 as a 7 pt AD by playing the Jags? type of smashmouth football (282-75 rush edge) in the 2007 season opener. In the 2nd meeting JAX beat TEN 28-13 as a 4.5 pt AD in their 3rd straight road game & were without Garrard for the 3rd straight game. TEN turned the ball over 3 times & were SOD twice deep in JAX territory. TEN has some major questions concerning their passing game as their WR?s couldn?t gain separation in the preseason in
returning OC Heimerdinger?s offense. QB Young only tallied 150 yds (50%) with an 0-1 ratio vs an ATL team whose secondary looks to be worse than LY?s #23 ranking. JAX also has issues with its WR unit as big FA signing Jerry Porter has missed virtually all of TC with a torn hamstring, slot WR Northcutt (44 rec 13.7 LY) is the #1 WR & the #2 option is either troubled Matt Jones (24 rec 13.2 LY) or Reggie Williams (38 rec 16.6 LY) who has missed most of TC with a right knee inj. Both teams rely on powerful ground oriented offenses & with neither team having a dropoff in their defenses (JAX #12 TEN #5 LY) this should be a physical, hard fought lower scoring game. TEN is a strong HD (7-1 ATS) with a solid crowd & the Under is the play.
FORECAST: Jaguars/Titans: UNDER THE TOTAL

OTHER SELECTIONS
2* Houston (+) over PITTSBURGH - While this is the 1st meeting since PIT beat HOU 27-7 as a 4.5 pt AF in 2005 the Steelers have faced a similar type of offense the L2Y vs DEN. PIT is, however, 0-2 SU & ATS vs a Kubiak-oriented offense. PIT is 8-4 ATS as a non-div HF while HOU is 3-6 ATS as an AD. HOU matches up well with their talented 4-3 DL in its 2nd season together featuring DE Mario Williams (14 sacks LY) vs an OL that allowed Roethlisberger to get sacked 47 times LY. While PIT had the #3 pass def LY HOU only had Schaub & WR Johnson together for 4 full games (3-1 SU & ATS w/24-15 avg score). In those, Schaub passed for 250 ypg (66.4%) with a 7-3 ratio & Johnson had 23 rec (18.2). PIT has a big edge with their #3 run game from LY reinforced by Mendenhall vs a HOU team that still lacks a solid feature back to balance out the offense. Look for this to be a higher scoring affair as both teams are pass oriented with quality receiving targets. We are aware that HOU had 6 road losses by a 16 ppg margin LY but that was without their QB/WR tandem, lack of depth at RB & a beaten up secondary. HOU is our 1st NFL ?Ugly Dog? Play for 2008 which is currently at 17-8 (68%). FORECAST: Houston 24 (+) PITTSBURGH 26

2* NY GIANTS over Washington - Thursday - Jim Zorn makes his rookie HC debut for WAS in a tough situation as the defending SB Champs open the season on primetime (6-0-1 ATS in that role). The Giants are 5-2 ATS as a division HF. The Giants begin the 2008 season minus 5 starters from LY?s #8 defense & 22 of LY?s 53 sacks with Umenyiora (knee) & Strahan (retired) gone. The offense however, returns 10 starters with Shockey having been traded to NO. WAS QB Campbell is in his 3rd offensive system in 4 years & hasn?t looked comfortable in the new West Coast offense which demands accuracy. Minus the IND game he has just 141 yds (52.9%) with an 0-1 ratio & a horrid
4.2 ypa in preseason. WAS may not have DE Taylor (leg) available & SS Landry was held out due to injury. Zorn also noted that his 2 rookie WR?s were out of shape & he doesn?t expect them to make an impact early in the season. He also admitted he wasn?t used to the play/clock management after Pre-3. Coughlin made it point to instill a sense of intensity in preseason to focus on 2008 & look for them to earn a comfortable win here. FORECAST: NY GIANTS 27 Washington 13

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The Sports Reporter

NFL

SUPER BEST BET *BUFFALO over SEATTLE by 21
Obomanu is out of the race!?to be the Seahawks? go-to receiver in this game. The inexperienced guy was the #1 candidate among a young group of Seattle wideouts being called upon to pick up the slack in the absence of injured veterans Bobby Engram and Deion Branch. We?ve always insisted that wide receivers are the easiest to lose, plug in, and move forward with. However, considering the transition occurring on Seattle?s offensive line, at running back and at tight end, Engram stood as one of the ??sure things?? for a revamped unit. Where does this leave the Seattle offense other than up the Erie Canal without a paddle, in a game they can afford to lose as long as they get ?er done vs. NFC West rivals coming up in Weeks 2 and 3? Matt Hasselbeck played in only one pre-season game at quarterback, wasn?t practicing with his usual receivers, won?t be playing with ?em, either. To add to the degree of difficulty, the opposing Bills are in the third season of a gradual transition to a Cover-2 defense, which has a history of stopping West Coast offenses like Seattle?s. Defensive linemen provide all the pressure, reducing the need for blitzes. When the front four play its gaps correctly, they clog up running lanes and force the running backs to run outside (not where Julius Jones excels), where the corners, linebackers, and safeties all help. If Seattle?s defense was ever meant to bail them out here, the one-game suspensions to starting defensive back Rocky Bernard and nickel back Jordan Babineaux just made that task harder as the Marshawn Lynch-powered running game triggers an upsiding Bills? offense. BUFFALO, 30-9.


BEST BET *TENNESSEE over JACKSONVILLE by 9
The Titans embarrassed the Jaguars last season, running all over their defensive line for over 300 yards and ultimately motivating the Jacksonville defense to get their act together. Despite an incredibly successful regular season and a better than usual showing in the playoffs, the Jaguars made wholesale changes to their defensive line, including the drafting of Derrick Harvey in the first round and finally signing him to a slot-level contract a few days ago. With Fred Taylor getting arrested for disorderly conduct a few nights ago (just what you want from a ?veteran leader,? right?) and the Jaguars seemingly sharing in the over-inflated sense of self that many elite level teams succumb to, there?s good reason to think that Jeff Fisher and his conservative, but successful, ground-based attack will once again stymie an overconfident Jaguars squad who must adapt to a new defensive coordinator. That didn?t work out too well for, say, the NY Giants against a mobile QB and a strong offensive line when the Giants faced a division rival in last year?s opener, did it? Jags might be behind a similar 8-ball. TENNESSEE 29-20.

BEST BET DALLAS over *CLEVELAND by 17
Why did Wade Phillips hire Cleveland?s three-season defensive coordinator Todd Grantham away from the Browns prior to this season? Could it be that he knows that the NFC East games have a good chance to be 3-3, and that he is attempting to secure an edge in the four non-conference games against the AFC North? Hey, after Arizona?s new coaching staff came over from Pittsburgh last year, the Cardinals ? the Cardinals, mind you ? eventually went 4-0 ATS vs. AFC North opponents. So, there you have a little unseen potential for Dallas, on top of all the offensive firepower that everybody knows about. Grantham oversaw a 3-4 defense in Cleveland, the same style that the Cowboys have been attempting to become better at playing since Phillips arrived. He knows where the many holes are in Cleveland?s front ? new DT Shaun Rogers notwithstanding ? and Dallas? big offensive line is good at creating holes on its own to begin with. Adam Jones in Dallas? secondary, and on punt returns, has the potential to create instant momentum swings for the Cowboys. If they didn?t already know who Derek Anderson was after the nice things Cleveland?s offense did last season, then the Cowboys know it now with Grantham there to help attack the immobile young dude while Romo is dancing around and keeping the Browns off balance. The Browns were 7-1 SU on this field, 12-3-1 ATS overall last year. Big whoopity whoop. It?s not last year. DALLAS, 27-10.


RECOMMENDED HOUSTON over *PITTSBURGH by 3
Without inferior showings across the board against their AFC South rivals, the Houston Texans could have been a playoff level team. Achieving an 8-8 record, despite their poor divisional play and overreliance on Sage Rosenfels, shows just how far the Texans have come under Gary Kubiak. Houston is clearly a team on the rise and only injuries will slow their ascent. Meanwhile, the Steelers are a team that has yet to prove themselves to be as good as they can be with Mike Tomlin as head coach instead of Bill Cowher. After a dominating start to the season, the Steelers petered out as the schedule progressed and made very little changes in the off-season to make you think that they can gear up for another extended playoff push. Their o-line might be a little down, while Houston?s d-line might be on the rise. Expect the unexpected, as the Texans take advantage of balmy weather in Pittsburgh to exact an upset. HOUSTON 20-17.


RECOMMENDED TOTAL UNDER 41.5DENVER at OAKLAND
We all know Mike Shanahan has long held an axe to grind against Al Davis? skull for past transgressions, but does his team have the personnel to fulfill his blood grudge against the silver and black? Oakland experienced yet another offseason full of turmoil, but unquestionably upgraded their team. Coach Lane Kiffin finds himself with nothing to lose, knowing that if he is fired he will collect the full balance remaining on his contract ? giving him the rare freedom to do as he pleases without fear of reprisal. That might mean the traditionally high-flying Raiders run the ball more than most teams in the NFL, featuring great depth at running back, including top draft pick Darren McFadden ? this year?s version of Adrian Peterson. Denver is hoping to unveil a high-flying aerial attack to complement shaky depth at running back, but will be held back in the first game due to Brandon Marshall?s suspension and an improved Raiders? secondary. Will any of Denver?s slow-footed back-up receivers be able to find room to manuever against Nnamdi Asomugha and DeAngelo Hall? Look for a game decided on the ground and by the respective defenses. DENVER, 16-13


THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 4

*NY GIANTS over WASHINGTON by 6
The Zorn-for-Gibbs move means a more efficient offense for the Redskins, even if they haven?t shown it yet. Nor would anyone be surprised to see Redskins? veteran Todd Collins come off the bench at some point of this game, to give the Washington offense a lift if Jason Campbell still can?t spark a unit filled with decent offensive talent. But that would mean that Washington is trailing, and attempting a comeback against an opponent that has a well-balanced offense with an ability to control the clock and make coming from behind harder than it normally would be. The Giants? defense got 58 sacks when it had Omenyiora and Strahan at the ends last year. Neither is there now, but defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuola is liable to blitz from anywhere, the Giants secondary is pretty good in coverage, and Washington?s best wide receivers won?t be out-jumping anybody. Redskins have a nice defense, too, but Jason Taylor?s absence offsets the Giants? DE woes. The Giants sobered up from a Super Bowl hangover when they watched tape of their mistake-filled, weather-blown Week 15 home loss to Washington last season. NY GIANTS, 27-21.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 7

*BALTIMORE over CINCINNATI by 4
The world is hating Baltimore, 3-13 ATS last season, new head coach, and with a troubling quarterback situation. Kyle Boller, the veteran projected starter, has a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. The two back-ups are rookie Joe Flacco, and Troy Smith, both accidents waiting to happen. But Boller has not been ruled out of this game, yet. If they were on the road against a good defense, then you?d want no part of the Ravens. But they are home against a bad defense, and former Bengals? wide receivers coach Hue Jackson is on their side now, helping to neutralize Cincinnati?s only strength, while Baltimore?s very competent defense maintained coaching continuity (DC Ryan) despite the head coaching change. Last season?s 0-2 SU and ATS vs. the Bengals was accomplished with 6 turnovers made each time by the Ravens? offense, many of them directly attributable to the mercifully retired Steve McNair. Clean up the mess and get by. But only with Boller. BALTIMORE, 23-19.

NEW YORK JETS over *MIAMI by 3
Last year, these division rivals were among the sorriest teams in the NFL, serving as the whipping boys of the AFC. The extensive humiliation must have spurred both teams into drastic action, as the Jets splurged tens of millions of dollars on free agents ? not to mention a certain quarterback who wears number 4 ? while the Dolphins hired Bill Parcells to become team president, who then commenced to purge the team of the past regime?s players and remake the franchise in his image ? starting with the new head coach, Tony Sparano, former offensive line coach for the Dallas Cowboys. The Dolphins won?t be so soft anymore, but it?s not going to be an easy rebuild when you?re playing with the scraps from a 1-15 squad. The Jets have more immediate expectations, especially with the addition of Bret Favre, but is Eric Mangini up to the job? The utter collapse of last season begs the question of whether last year, or the year before, was the fluke. Their release of Chad Pennington served to immediately upgrade the state of the Miami offense and could provide the Dolphins with an edge going into what should be an introductory game for Gang Green?s newly formulated
group of mercenaries. NEW YORK JETS 21-18.

*NEW ENGLAND over KANSAS CITY by 17
Opponents will be better prepared to handle the explosive Patriots offense this year, on the heels of record-breaking seasons by Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker. The adjustments could be seen even in the second half of last season as their string of blowouts were replaced by New England consistently failing to cover the spread. However, even with a widely applauded draft class and a dedicated youth movement, Kansas City looks lost in this match-up. Can Brodie Croyle move the offense without turning it over? Does Larry Johnson have mileage left in those legs, or is this a case similar to Shaun Alexander?s? Herm Edwards can sure inspire his players, but can he game-plan against the likes of Bill Belichick? The Chiefs will grind the ball and try to limit New England?s time of possession. The real question is whether the Patriots passing game opens the year sharply and short circuits Edwards? strategy. NEW ENGLAND 27-10.


DETROIT over *ATLANTA by 7
The Lions got a lot of mistakes out of the way when Mike Martz was the offensive coordinator, developing a passing game that was non-existent under the prior Mariucci regime, where a small-play team would try to sneak its way past people with chicken-QB Joey Harrington. Jon Kitna has some guts ? not a lot of talent, of course. But with mentors like Mike Holmgren,Bob Bratkowski and Mike Martz during his 12 NFL seasons, experience counts for something, even with Kitna. It has been announced that rookie Matt Ryan from Boston College will be the Atlanta starter.With experienced NFL veterans at quarterback, the Falcons opened ?06 and ?07 with 2-5 and 1-6 records. The Lions? defense got the ball to pop out of the other team?s hands 40 times last season, not counting interceptions. For all the jokes that have been sent Detroit?s way, they have actually been groomed to be something since Rod Marinelli took over in ?06. Atlanta has only been jerked around since then, with three different coaching regimes and a mass exodus of veterans. DETROIT, 20-13.


*NEW ORLEANS over TAMPA BAY by 6
The Saints fell far short of expectations last year as the defense failed to reach even the most modest of goals while the offense sputtered because of an inconsistent running attack and poor depth at wide receiver. Even though Drew Brees put together a good season, it wasn?t enough to keep the Saints in the race. Tampa Bay was recovering from a poor 2006 showing to solidify their offense under the guidance of Jeff Garcia while displaying enough defensive acumen to win the NFC South and advance to the playoffs. What a difference one offseason can make! New Orleans spent the spring and summer revamping their defense, emphasizing their defensive line in hopes making their secondary more effective. On offense, they traded for disgruntled New York tight end Jeremy Shockey, giving Brees a steady pair of hands to throw to between the hashmarks. In contrast, Tampa Bay didn?t do much to change the personnel from last year?s squad ? other than a brief flirtation with Bret Favre that may have only served to damage clubhouse chemistry. Look for these teams to go in opposite directions this season, starting now. NEW ORLEANS 26-20.

*PHILADELPHIA over ST. LOUIS by 10
Debuting on the road against the Philadelphia defense -- which might bend, rarely breaks, always blitzes from anywhere and added speed and interception ability when they acquired Asante Samuel -- is probably not the place for a much healthier St. Louis 2008 offense to begin re-discovering the magic. The elusive RB Brian Westbrook is a good weapon to have against the Rams? aggressive defensive front. Screen to Westbrook, 15 yards, firstdown?Meanwhile, if some of Philly?s new wideouts and returners get their share of touches, the Eagles might look more like the Rams than the Rams do. PHILADELPHIA, 27-17.


*SAN DIEGO over CAROLINA by 10
LaDanian Tomlinson was rested during the preseason. Antonio Gates is complaining of nagging injuries. Shawne Merriman is playing on a knee that may give at any second? and the Chargers have the NFL?s best depth to account for all of that. The Panthers are a team that knows this is the season to show what they can do ? with several years of underwhelming
performance following their Super Bowl appearance, John Fox and his staff can feel the pressure building ? and so can their core group of players. Look for the Panthers to come out running, with two good young running backs in their stable, and for the return of Muhsin Muhammed to restore balance to the passing game, but maybe not until Steve Smith returns from a three-game suspension. For this, Jake Delhomme is playing against his first serious defense since he was injured very early last year, with the Chargers being the reigning leading interceptors in the land. They are not about the Jake some WD-40 to help remove the rust. SAN DIEGO, 24-14.

ARIZONA over SAN FRANCISCO by 6
It?s make or break time for the 49ers as Mike Nolan enters what is sure to be his final season in San Francisco ? unless the 49ers unexpectedly make the playoffs or sniff around a .500 record. Regardless of whatever unachievable goals have been set in the Bay Area, the Nolan era is one that both fans and players are tired of ? earmarks of a management team that is sure to underachive, as opposed to a more fortunate result. In contrast, the Cardinals are building from the ground up, an unsurprising strategy considering the management team they hired, and are a mere few steps away from dethroning the Seahawks as the team to beat in the ineffectual NFC West. Kurt Warner?s ascent to starting quarterback has to have won the goodwill of the locker room, who may or may not believe in Matt Leinart?s potential, but certainly have the eyesight to believe in Kurt Warner?s Super Bowl ring and MVP trophy. ARIZONA 27-21.

*INDIANAPOLIS over CHICAGO by 14
?Oh, Peyton Manning missed the entire pre-season for the Colts, so the Bears plus all these points are a lock!? Yeah, right. Mr. Manning has been practicing for many moons against the kind of defense that Chicago likes to play, which Lovie Smith was groomed in by Colts? head coach Tony Dungy, and Monte Kiffin in Tampa Bay. At this point, Manning could probably rise
from REM sleep and drill it into the seam of a zone for 17 yards, and he has learned to become patient and to take what the defense gives him, too. Anybody else think that Indy didn?t even play its best game on wet grass in the Super Bowl win against the Bears two seasons ago? Hard to envision Kyle Orton getting anything substantial accomplished for the often comical Chicago offense. INDIANAPOLIS, 30-16.

MONDAY NIGHT, SEPTEMBER 8
MINNESOTA over *GREEN BAY by 3
"We feel very confident that we can throw the ball to win against anybody," Packers? head coach Mike McCarthy said back in April. ?But we need to improve inside in the run game." Well, the next team that improves inside in the run game against the Minnesota Vikings will be the first to do so in about three years. Flip side is that with Tarvaris Jackson as their QB, there is no way that Minnesota can say that they can throw the ball to win against anybody. It?s not like Jackson has incredible receivers who can separate from the sticky man coverage the Packers love to use. But the Vikings have a terrific offensive line, and one of the most dangerous running backs in the NFL. This is a high-profile, intense, intra-division opener and perhaps the ultimate edge is that Green Bay is the only NFC North team not playing a Cover- 2 defense. Aaron Rodgers hasn?t played against one, or been practicing against one. When the Vikings do their normally good job against the run, Rodgers will be passing into something difficult, where the desired four-man rush (for extra pass coverage without blitzing) got significantly stronger when the Vikings acquired NFL sack leader Jared Allen from the Chiefs. MINNESOTA, 23-20.

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BEST BET

*FLORIDA over MIAMI-FL by 9[Miami-FL, plus the points.]
A possible Hurricane named Hanna could wreak havoc with this game, but let?s proceed as if it will be prepped for and played without interruption. Florida may have scored 56 on a transitional Hawaii club, but the total was courtesy of 3 defensive/special teams TD?s and 3 more scores of 33, 48, and 62 yards. They?ll have to work much harder against an ultra-athletic intra-state opponent trying to re-build their reputation. What better way than to battle the poster child for Sunshine State football in their own house? The ?Canes? staff has had months to prepare given last week?s softball of a game against Charleston Southern. How do they hit the 94 mile-per-hour slider that is the Gators? Look for Shannon and crew to run the ball right at the Florida defensive front, an area manned by unproven youngsters. Before they fell behind, Hawaii had some success doing just that with their backs and UGA gashed a better Gator defensive front in 2007. Success here will keep the ball out of Tebow?s hands ? a key to hanging with Meyer?s bunch. Miami was blasted 51-13 at Oklahoma in week two last year and will not oblige the Swamp faithful with an encore. FLORDIA, 27-18.


BEST BET

*WESTERN MICHIGAN over NORTHERN ILLINOIS by 20
The Westerns have dominated Time of Possession but managed only consecutive narrow wins vs. NIU the last two seasons. This time around, perhaps they?ll continue to dominate the clock while also putting a scoreboard gap between themselves and the visitor. To help them create it, they are employing a 24-season mole from NIU, Mike Sabock. As the Huskies? former recruiting coordinator for the last 12 seasons during the since-exiled Novak regime, he knows where all the holes exist in a defense that allowed 434 yards per game last season, and 425 yards to Minnesota last Saturday. NIU?s offense went nowhere on the ground in the Metrodome. Although they transition back into the MAC, they are actually facing a better pass defense in this match-up and probably a better defense overall. Western has pocketed $800,000 from the trip to Nebraska, where they stiffed us. They owe us, and they are dropping in class. WESTERN MICHIGAN, 41-21.


BEST BET

CONNECTICUT over *TEMPLE by 21
UConn head coach Randy Edsall was furious following last Thursday?s opening 35-3 win vs. Hofstra, which is exactly the mindset you want from your road-favorite head coach going against a relatively phony upstart home dog. From Edsall?s point of view, the Huskies have a lot of messes to clean up from that game, especially on offense. But they have a veteran crew and are very eligible to take a step forward. The UConn defense allowed only a field goal after being bait-and-switched by the Long Island boys, who used a quarterback that Connecticut didn?t prepare for. Which is basically how Army?s offense goes into its games, so you give Temple zero bonus points for what might have appeared to be an impressive, 35-7 win against the hapless Cadets last Friday night, where they generated only 265 offensive yards. As suggested here in the projection, several Temple scores were the result of gifts presented to them by Army. Last season?s ultra-sweaty, 22-17 home win vs. Temple in Week 3, which was pre-Pitt, is all the more reason for the Big East boys to take this trip seriously. CONNECTICUT, 31-10.


BEST BET

*KANSAS over LOUISIANA TECH by 35
The Bulldogs? outright win when getting 7.5 at home against Mississippi State sets them up nicely for a painful fall. La. Tech coach Dooley knows the SEC and why not ? his dad is a Georgia legend that played his ball at Auburn. The Big 12 ? not so much knowledge there. As noted in last week?s Recommended winner, Sylvester Croom?s offense stalled, turned it over, and was about as dynamic as a career librarian. Kansas is more the 3 am underground nightclub type and will create matchup problems for a less athletic Bulldog defense. QB Reesing was ultra-efficient against FIU and that trend will continue as he manages drives, protects the ball, and makes plays this week. Should the Jayhawk offense fail to fly at times ? no sweat ? La Tech QB (Georgia Tech transfer) Taylor Bennett was 15-of-40 last week and historically struggles against speed due to his heavy feet and weak arm. Lawrence, Kansas was rocking last week as the fan base reacts to last year?s 12-1 mark. That was for FIU, arguably the worst team in D1-A ? or whatever they call it these days. The visitors are in for a rude awakening. KANSAS, 42-7.


BEST BET

TEXAS over *UTEP by 12[UTEP, plus the points.]
There will be no knee-jerking based on Texas? rout of FAU, and UTEP?s being routed by Buffalo. Different week, different teams, and UTEP's new 3-3-5 defense was the wrong defense to go into Buffalo with, given UB?s ability to run, run, run against wispy defenders like UTEP?s. All is far from perfect in the UTEPian society, as three INTs, a dropped punt snap, and two 100-yard rushers for Buffalo attest. But Mike Price was worried that his Miners would be looking ahead to this rare opportunity to host a ranked, intra-state power on ESPN2.Was he was worried because he was one of those looking ahead, and didn?t bother preparing them for the ho-hum trip to Buffalo? Against Texas, Florida Atlantic converted four of its first five third downs to start the game, with big pass plays of 22, 15, 33 and 62 yards on each conversion. After FAU scored 10 firsthalf points, new Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp made some adjustments and the Owls were shut out in the second half, but they had given Texas some full-game ammo when their coach suggested the Longhorns were soft. ?We brought it to 'em, showed 'em we were tough and can play a full 60 minutes," said one Texas RB. But is Texas prepared to do that for a second straight game when they are looking ahead to hosting Arkansas in Austin? UTEP will not stop playing in this one. TEXAS, 42-30.


RECOMMENDED

*OKLAHOMA over CINCINNATI by 30
Sooner coach Bob Stoops is on a mission to avenge last year?s Fiesta Bowl loss to West Virginia. He couldn?t prove anything against Chattanooga last week, so the Bearcats will serve as the sacrifice to the football gods. Stoops put his starters back in last week when leading 50-2 in the second half because as he stated, they ?still needed to be sharp next week?. Cinci is a good squad, but they rely heavily on their athleticism and ability to create turnovers to win ballgames. Easier to take advantage of average Big East teams than against a national power. QB Bradford will have plenty of time to find his targets, especially given the fact that the Bearcats are replacing their starting defensive ends from last year ? one who chalked up 13 sacks. After losing to Boise State two years ago, the Sooners put up no fewer than 51 points in the four games that followed. They may not hit the half century mark this go-round, but the same statement will be made. OKLAHOMA,
44-14.


RECOMMENDED

*OKLAHOMA STATE over HOUSTON by 25
First-year Cougar chief Sumlin was the co-offensive coordinator for Oklahoma the last two years, so neither coaching staff will be surprised by much. Edge rolls towards the fourth-year coach with more talent playing at home. Gundy?s Cowboys have lost only to ranked teams at home in the last two years. Last we checked, Houston wasn?t sniffing the top 25. Okie St.?s offense sputtered at times on the road last week with their no-huddle spread, but got things rolling in the fourth quarter. Gundy took over play-calling duties this season so some hiccups were to be expected out of the chute. Houston switched to a 4-3 this season and will struggle with the new system against a talented and veteran offensive line that is used to paving the way for big-time yards, especially at home.
OKLAHOMA STATE, 49-24.


RECOMMENDED

*WASHINGTON over BYU by 3
An ?also ran?  in their own class, the Huskies should fare better by dropping down and facing one of the non-BCS conference?s best. It worked for Willingham?s club last year when they took out Boise State in Seattle, 24-10. Washington QB Locker will be much better against this young defense that returns only three from last year, than he was against Oregon?s excellent defensive unit (12/28 for 103 yards). His giant o-line will also appreciate the change in scenery as they use their bulk to control the offensive front, giving the dynamic signal caller the opportunity to run or throw. BYU chucked it all around the field in Week 1, but will face an experienced secondary that will keep the ball in front. This week in the national media? Willingham will by synonymous with pink slips, BYU with BCS buster.We kinda like Washington, plus points, and cash.WASHINGTON, 30-27.


RECOMMENDED
*PITTSBURGH over BUFFALO by 21

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Re: Football Newsletters Week 2

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 6
*MICHIGAN STATE over EASTERN MICHIGAN by 18
The starters who helped power Eastern Michigan?s 52-0 home win vs. Indiana State last week were matched against an opponent that was playing its first game under a new head coach, and using a second-string QB in place of a suspended starter. Ya? think that of the two teams here, Michigan State might have had the better opening tester out on the Pac 10 road at Cal? But one warning about laying points with the Big Ten home favorite: EMU?s little-play offense, which had a longer week of prep time after playing home Thursday (vs. Sparty?s Saturday late-night West Coast commitment which rendered Sunday near-useless for them), can be a very pesky big underdog due to one of its few strengths ? ball security. MICHIGAN STATE, 34-16.

*SYRACUSE over AKRON by 3
The Orange offense is still crawling, with just a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for new offensive coordinator Mitch Browning. Besides pounding it with the tailbacks (there is only one ball), and all the short passing stuff, there isn?t much else there. Akron?s defense won?t mind this too much. Put Syracuse?s offense on a long field, and more than half the battle is won. SYRACUSE, 16-13.

*MICHIGAN over MIAMI OH by 9
At least the Miami-OH defense won?t have to deal with a QB like Chris Nickson of Vanderbilt, who ran around and through them last Thursday night. Michigan?s defense will continue to play ultra-inspired ball to help protect that currently very lousy transitioning offense. Redhawks coach Montgomery to Rich Rodriguez: ?We?ve seen your offense when we played Cincinnati in ?06 and Central Michigan in ?07 and frankly, they do it better than you do right now.? It?s hard to ??Under??-stand how the Wolverines didn?t lose by much more than 2 points to Utah. MICHIGAN, 19-10.

NORTHWESTERN over *DUKE by 8
David Cutcliffe will ask his Dukies for more than they gave for anyone else in the last decade. But that isn?t Tennessee?s oversized linemen and chiseled running backs out there providing stability for him. The visitors got caught with their pants down vs. Duke last season, out-gaining them by 200 yards and still losing while racking up 13 penalties. Northwestern will show up better prepared, and, unlike last year?s outing when he was injured and out, with all important Tyrell Sutton in the backfield. NORTHWESTERN, 28-20.

*BOSTON COLLEGE over GEORGIA TECH by 2
?There?s just too many issues with this offense for people to deal with,? said losing head coach Crowe of Jacksonville State last week, regarding Paul Johnson?s new, option-based attack at Georgia Tech. ?We had two and a half weeks to deal with it. The rest of these folks will get two days. Good luck, ACC.? Hmmm, will Johnson have immediate success with something different in a stale league, like Joe Tiller did at Purdue? Even if the BC?s decent defense stings the Jackets? offense, don?t expect a comfortable victory with a BC offense that managed just 21 points against a MAC foe. BOSTON COLLEGE, 22-20.

WEST VIRGINIA over *EAST CAROLINA by 4
If you can?t beat ?em, join ?em? Well, not quite. ECU seemed to take its win against Virginia Tech in stride, so there doesn?t figure to be the emotional letdown that many handicappers fantisize about, but often does not materialize after a big upset win like the Pirates pulled vs. Virginia Tech. But the offense that they beat is pretty bland, and West Virginia?s is very varied and will be doing some different things for the first time, unlike Virginia Tech, which was doing the same old things for the zillionth time. Against very good Va. Tech defensive personnel, ECU?s offense gained 369 yards, 100 more than we expected. This is a much bigger game for ECU than it is for West Virginia, because the Pirates are eyeing the BCS bowl bid and West Virginia can win the Big East to get theirs. You might want to dare West Virginia to throw it for 245 yards again, as they did vs. Villanova. That could be a fake stat, and ECU is a proven turnover-getter. WEST VIRGINIA, 31-27.


*BOWLING GREEN over MINNESOTA by 5 The BeeGees led last season?s opener in the Metrodome 21-0 at halftime in the trying-times debut of a new Golden Gophers coaching regime, when the UM defense had few real players and BG?s offense had it way too easy. But Minnesota came all the way back and took a short lead before blowing it and losing in overtime. Still, that was Tyler Sheehan?s first career start under center for Bowling Green. He hasn?t done much to be negative about against bad opposing defenses. So, until Minnesota proves it has a pass defense, we?ll avoid needing them. BOWLING GREEN, 35-30.

*AUBURN over SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI by 17
427 rushing yards will make Southern Miss backers forget they have a first-year coach who installed a new offensive system. RB Fletcher put it simply, ?The holes were there, all I had to do was run through them?. Auburn?s defense won?t be quite as forgiving as Louisiana- Lafayette?s. It better not be because the Tiger offense is a work in progress. Through three quarters against Louisiana-Monroe, Tony Franklin?s offense had no play longer than seven yards and they converted just 5-of-15 third downs for the game. AUBURN, 30-13.

*ALABAMA over TULANE by 27
Mr. Saban and crew had 7 months to prepare for last week?s Georgia Dome battle and it showed. His offense controlled the ball for an insane 41 minutes, had no turnovers, and converted 11-of-17 on third down. At Tulane, Bob Toledo?s offense requires an intimate knowledge of the system ? something that just was not possible last year in year one. The skill players and o-line are now vets of the system and despite losing their RB horse, will fare okay vs. their own class. But the hurricane thing threatened to ruin their prep week for this, and Alabama already owned a game under the belt edge. On defense, the visitors are likely to play more zone defense after struggling at times with man. Tide QB JP Wilson has struggled in his career when forced to make multiple reads against zone defense. ALABAMA, 37-10.

*NEBRASKA over SAN JOSE STATE by 25
If Nebraska?s offense can run all over the inferior foes like this one, scoring and eating clock, then there isn?t enough time for that opponent to get ?er done. The onus is upon Yonus [Davis], San Jose?s sixth-year senior running back, to help keep the ball away from Nebraska. But reports say that two offensive line starters, Leatiota and Castillo, almost certainly won't play until the third game. Hey, they can?t fool us, this is only the second game! Still, no pointspread lead is safe with Nebraska?s defense. NEBRASKA, 48-23.

*OREGON over UTAH STATE by 38
Utah State will collect their game check along with some serious bruises after matching up with a much more athletic Duck team in Autzen Stadium. Aggie fans should consider it a wiif they score double digits and/or if they score some free Nike gear. It is likely that the Belotti will be playing his two freshmen QB?s ? so be patient if siding with team glow-in-the-dark.
OREGON, 45-7.n


*OHIO STATE over OHIO by 35
Visiting Ohio coach Solich and his popgun offense had 1.8 rushing yards per attempt in last week?s close game at Wyoming, and look ahead to the home and MAC opener vs. Central Michigan. They won?t get much on the ground here, either. When they try to pass after not being able to run, they will suffer a pick-pick here and a pick-pick there. Does Solich sacrifice his starters for four quarters in what appears to be a non-winnable game before it starts? The Buckeyes? back-ups could start for Ohio, so they?ll always be in a 1s vs. 2s situation despite an absence from #1 RB Beanie Wells with USC on deck. OHIO STATE, 45-10.

*WISCONSIN over MARSHALL by 24
The Marshall defensive front should improve upon their 4.8 yard per carry mark from a year ago, but this week won?t help the average. Wisky?s o-line averages 316 pounds and has 100+ starts under their elastic waistlines. Throw in the fact that the visitors just made the switch to a 3-4 defense in the spring and you get a recipe for a Madison-style stampede.
WISCONSIN, 35-11.


TEXAS TECH over *NEVADA by 11
Red Raider QB Harrell will seek to play keep away from a Nevada offense that can easily rack up 200+ yards rushing and passing. Unfortunately for the home dog, the secondary lacks experience and will be chasing Tech WRs all over the field ? after they catch the ball. TEXAS TECH, 42-31.

*GEORGIA over CENTRAL MICHIGAN by 24
The Dawgs may let the Chips hang around for a quarter or two, but based on the rate that BCS schools scored on Central last year ? Kansas (52), Purdue (45), Clemson (70) ? UGA will pull away to win by 6-8 lengths. Central Mich head coach Butch Jones let the young, backup matadors attempt to take care of business vs. opponents like this last season, while the guaranteed money in the bank was gaining interest for the university. A first half play with the Vegas dog may not be a bad play, as the land?s #1 could be looking ahead to next week?s clash with South Carolina. GEORGIA, 48-24.

*PENN STATE over OREGON STATE by 19
The Happy Valley faithful will leave ecstatic after PSU controls the line of scrimmage on both sides and uses their 2005?esque dynamic offense to put up points early and often. The Beavers have some athletes on offense, who basically provided all of the offense against Stanford. JoePa has athletes to match on defense and will force OSU to sustain drives. The visitors have turned in some of the most ill-prepped, mistake-prone road performances under this particular head coach, and opened the season with one of those against a highstandard admission Pac 10 foe, no less. Oregon State players make too many bad decisions to be able to provide much of a consistent challenge. PENN STATE, 36-17.


*WYOMING over AIR FORCE by 6
The Falcons played their game in week one ? (1) 76 runs/12 passes and (2) short 3rd down tries leading to 11-of-19 on third down conversions. Life won?t be quite as easy this week for a young offense and first year QB who?s replacing a 4-year starter. The Cowboys play tough defense at home and will play ball control with a big/experienced o-line. Home team is battle tested after a one-point win vs. Ohio and will use that experience to go 2-0.
WYOMING, 27-21.


*NOTRE DAME over SAN DIEGO STATE by 17
The most striking feature of Aztec civilization was human sacrifice, a primitive tradition nevertheless carried on by the San Diego State football program via scheduling too hard, then losing bodies and battles early and often. But as Year Three of Chuck Long?s regime hits, they are almost as healthy, and almost as mysterious, as they can be. New faces have been groomed to be there for a while, and the old ones weren?t much. One of the old ones who was a little something, QB Kevin O?Connell, was dissed by Long when the coach stated that current starter Ryan Lindley stays in the pocket and looks for the third check-down, unlike his fearful predecessor. After working the kinks out vs. triple-option terrors Cal Poly last Saturday, the Aztecs also own a game-under-the-belt edge against the Irish, whose ?highly ranked recruits? have all the pressure coming out of the gate. NOTRE DAME, 31-14.

*NEW MEXICO over TEXAS A&M by 1
More teams will lose 26-3 to TCU this season, so New Mexico shouldn?t be too dissed for that. After all, it?s almost as exactly as we expected it to be, was it not (27-7 Best Bet call)? A&M?s new coaching staff ? not one we?d have assembled but we?re not Mike Sherman -- couldn?t prepare ?em well enough for a home opener vs. Arkansas State of the Sun Belt, so seven days and a trip to Albuquerque to face another stranger is not enough time. Sherman to staff: ?What?s a 3-3-5 defense?? Staff to Sherman: ?What?? During the off-season, A&M?s Year One head coach said of Dennis Franchione?s last team: ?I think we played down to the level of the opponent last year.? Strange, considering the Aggies played the nation?s #1-ranked schedule on the strength scale. If the coach has no idea about what he speaks, you probably don?t want to be on him. NEW MEXICO, 17-16.


*IOWA STATE over KENT STATE by 3
QB Austen Arnaud basically needed only to turn around and execute the handoff in his ISU debut, after South Dakota State?s aborted drives (six of them five plays or fewer). Put him on a longer field, with less time to work with following more effective drives and a score or two by the Kents, and home favorite players might not like what they see. IOWA STATE, 19-16.


*WAKE FOREST over MISSISSIPPI by 7
Wake?s average margin of victory in 2007 was 6 points, so last week?s 28-point Best Bet thrashing of Baylor ain?t the norm. Ole Miss will push back a bit more, but will find the goings tough against a quirky offense manned by an ultra-efficient QB. First-year Rebel coach Houston Nutt doesn?t know what sort of road personality his team might have, making preparation a bit more difficult. Deacon QB Skinner will make fewer mistakes than Rebel QB Snead, and that?ll be the difference. WAKE FOREST, 24-17.

CALIFORNIA over *WASHINGTON STATE by 15
Washington State?s spread offense was a disaster against a very average Okie State defense. Their reward ? a date with Cal?s much better D. The Cougars will be a double-digit home dog this time and will have trouble keeping it around the number if their defense isn?t up for the challenge. They hung in there for three quarters last week, but it gets tough to stay motivated when your offense is stuck in cement. CAL, 34-19.


SOUTH FLORIDA over *CENTRAL FLORIDA by 12
Since declaring war on his Sunshine State neighbor to the southwest for the purpose of starting a rivalry ? to which USF responded with a yawn and some under-the-thumb beat-backs? UCF head coach George O?Leary is 0-3 SU and ATS, resembling the sliced-up Monty Python warrior in the beginning of the Holy Grail movie. They invite USF back for more. But does UCF know what it?s about on offense yet, when they can?t give the ball to Kevin (I?m on the Detroit Lions now) Smith on every other play? If they have to start throwing it around, USF?s pass rush is something to fear. But when USF isn?t getting turnovers, their offense still needs to prove a few things. What we?re rooting for here is a game that plays right to the number, so as not to create any tip-offs about either overrated side. SOUTH FLORIDA, 24-12.


RICE over *MEMPHIS by 2
On C-USA battlegrounds, Rice?s offense tends to leave its mark, as long as QB Chase Clement is the guy pulling the trigger. Memphis has weaponry, a potentially more devastating array than Rice?s, but they haven?t figured out how to maximize it consistently and the defense is on a par with Rice?s matadors, who tend to get flattened by the kind of decent rushing attacks that Memphis doesn?t have. As pointed out in last week?s SMU-Rice projection, which then materialized before the nation?s eyes on ESPN, Rice?s defense has an uncanny knack for coming up with the big pick against inexperienced, or experienced-idiot opposing quarterbacks. Memphis has both ? newbie Arkelon Hall, and holdover Hudgens. RICE, 38-36.

*UTAH over UNLV by 24
The Rebels will have to improve on last week?s 353-yard performance against Utah State if covering is in the cards. Despite a win in the Big House, the Utes averaged a paltry 0.8 yards per carry and had 15 penalties. Match that in week two and the media Cinderella could become an evil step sister overnight. That said, Utah has too many athletes and too much experience to drop the ball at home. Did you know that after losing 27-0 loss to UNLV last season during their injury-recovery period, Utah allowed just 7, 14, 3, 0 10 and 17 points to Mountain West opponents the rest of the way? UTAH, 34-10.


*ARIZONA over TOLEDO by 20
?Zona went anti-passing spread offense by rushing 49 times to 31 passes en route to 70 points last Saturday night. Playing Idaho allows you to do that. Toledo packs more athletes in their travel bag and they have eight in the secondary with starting experience to combat what the Cats really want to do. Problem for the Rockets ? other than having an apparent gambling problem within the sports programs -- is that their pass rush couldn?t bust a grape last year (9 sacks) and won?t do much against an offensive front that is better than most they will see in the MAC. Points, yards, athletes ? that?ll be the general theme of the post-game summary. ARIZONA, 41-21.


*ARIZONA STATE over STANFORD by 16
Lost in the Cardinal?s upset win against Oregon State. was their lack of secondary speed. Beaver wideouts regularly burned the high-IQ safeties using nothing more than superior athleticism. The Devils will provide similar matchup problems in the passing game. Unfortunately for Harbaugh, mounting a comeback will be difficult with a lackluster aerial attack that went sub-100 yards in game one. Look for the visitors to hang through the half on determination alone. It won?t be enough. ARIZONA ST. 33-17.


*IOWA over FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL by 27
FIU?s fledgling football program is not to be trusted on the power conference road. They gained 2.5 yards per play at Kansas last Saturday. Iowa?s defense is better, but Kirk Ferentz will juggle quarterbacks Christiansen and Stanzi. Christiansen is pouting about it. Coach Cristobal to IU?s AD: ?Please send that sizable check to: FIU, 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL?IOWA, 30-3.


*ARKANSAS over LOUISIANA-MONROE by 14
Sure, the Hogs were two minutes away from becoming pulled pork at the hands of Western Illinois. For those expecting the same or worse, check out the following: (1) starting tailback Michael Smith was served with a pre-game suspension, meaning that a true freshman was to carry the running load; and (2) Western Illinois started six of eleven possessions in Arkansas territory ? that?s ridiculous and won?t be repeated. Petrino?s team won?t be worldbeaters, but ULM beaters. they have the better talent and the home field. ARKANSAS, 28-14.


TULSA over *NORTH TEXAS by 19
Miraculously, UNT?s Giovanni Vizza did not throw an interception at Kansas State. He evened things out by averaging only 3.4 yards per attempt. A hurry-up offense that gets only 56 plays cannot be trusted when Tulsa?s offense is shooting for 90. "Tulsa is one of those teams you just really have to be prepared for," UAB safety Will Dunbar said. "If you're not in the right spot, you're going to get burned.? North Texas? defense hasn?t been in the right spot for two years. TULSA, 48-29.


*FLORIDA ATLANTIC over UAB by 11
FAU starting QB Rusty (Big Play) Smith did not get sacked in 31 pass attempts at Texas, and managed to throw for 8.2 Yards Per Attempt. But don?t underestimate UAB?s overall team speed and the cumulative effect that chasing QB Joe Webb around might have on the FAU defense. FLORIDA ATLANTIC, 34-23.


MARYLAND over *MIDDLE TENNESSEE by 11
Holding Delaware?s offense to just seven? points was pretty good for the Maryland defense? or was it, considering that the Blue Hens were playing their first game since 2005 without Joe Flacco as the QB? Maryland?s QBs Steffy and Portis are not to be trusted as they are juggled around by Ralphie Boy as a team from the maligned ACC journeys into a strange land (and what appears to be a bad team, but Troy knew where most of the holes were). MARYLAND, 24-13.

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Re: Football Newsletters Week 2

Red Sheet

KANSAS 52 - Louisiana Tech 14 - (7:00 EDT) -- Line opened at Kansas minus 21?, & is now minus 20?.The line in this one has dropped about a TD, from what it would have been before last week's action, & it is simply non realistic. Sure, the Bulldogs pulled the upset of MissSt, much to our dismay, but remember that they trailed 14-3 at one point, before the turnover turned it all around, including a fumbled punt at the 10, followed by a penalty, when theywere apparently stopped. A year ago, we rode the Jayhawks, with their weekly rompers very rewarding. They opened in rather lackadaisical fashion in opening day rout, not allowing an "O" TD. But full attention here, following Tech's success, with plenty to spare.
RATING: KANSAS 90

PENN STATE 38 - Oregon State 10 - (3:30) -- Line opened at PennSt minus 13, & is now minus 16?. No, a 3? pt line movement in the wrong direction is hardly cause for celebration, but this one just sets up too nicely for the Lions. They've been one of the steadiest of home plays, completely dominating all but OhioSt in that role a year ago, & they return 9 starters from LY's 10th-ranked defense, including 7th vs the run. Now couple that with the Beavers managing only 86 RYs (3.1 ypr) in their opening week loss to a Stanford team which ranked 99th on defense in '07. OregonSt has dropped some bombs lately, in travelling to nonconference venues, & steady home play of the Lions (34-16 ATS) extends that trend.
RATING: PENN STATE 89

Northwestern 33 - DUKE 13 - (7:00) -- Line opened at Northwestern minus 6, & is now minus 6?. Going with the revenge motive is sometimes a knee-jerk reaction to a particular contest, with it far from automatic success, but in his case it just cannot be ignored. A year go, the Imps snapped a 22-game losing string, by upsetting the Wildcats, as 16-pt dogs. And yes, it was
done with smoke & mirrors, as the 'Cats enjoyed edges of 25-15 in FDs, & 536-309 in yards. N'Western's opening win over Syracuse was a case of simply wearing down an opponent, with a rejuvenated RB Sutton (144 RYs), & QB Bacher (3 TDs) the catalysts. The 'Cats won their last 2 trips to Durham by 28-10 & 44-7 scores (21 & 19? pt covers).
RATING: NORTHWESTERN 89

South Florida 40 - CENTRAL FLORIDA 17 - (7:00 - ESPN2) -- Line opened at SouthFlorida minus 13?, & is now minus 14. It is normally wise to stay away from bucking a team which has had a game circled for a year, but this just may be the case. In '07, the Knights of CentralFla were simply destroyed by the firepower & overwhelming defense of the Bulls, in a 64-12 wipeout, with an amazing yardage deficit of 543-145. That's nearly 400 yds, folks. And it wasn't a down year for the Knights, who posted a 10-win season. But the Bulls have risen to the 17th spot in the nation, with a renewed sense of dedication. More's the pity.
RATING: SOUTH FLORIDA 88

Maryland 33 - MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE 10 - (7:00) -- Line opened at Maryland minus 14, & is now minus 13?. We originally figured a much closer game, but respected sources have the Terps as a rather comfortable winner here. Sure, Maryland has California dead ahead, & was hardly impressive in its narrow opening week escape vs Delaware, save for Scott's 197 RYs in his first career start (7.6 ypr). QB Steffy tossed a couple of INTs, which resulted in his being benched, but look for vast improvement vs the Raiders, who came up short in their hugely important rematch vs Troy last week. Can't bypass juicy spread.
RATING: MARYLAND 88

BUFFALO 23 - Seattle 17 - (1:00) -- Line opened at pick-em, & is now Buffalo minus 1. Obviously, if this one is decided by the QB position, it would be a no-brainer with the Seahawks in a walk, as Hasselbeck has the edge over Edwards (altho neither is in the best of health). But the Bills are a comer, & have the dominating back in Lynch, who ran for 1,115 yds & 7 TDs in his rookie season, & the Bills have added LB Mitchell & DT Stroud to a defense which held 4 of its final 5 foes to 17 pts or less. At home, the Bills failed only twice ATS last year. Those teams? Try the Super Bowl Patriots & Giants. Host in Seattle contests is golden.
RATING: BUFFALO BILLS 88

NEAR CHOICES (Rated 87): Alabama, Navy, ArizSt, Tulsa - NFL: Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Houston

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