Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
CKO CONFIDENTIAL KICK-OFF
11* MINNESOTA over Florida Atlantic
Late Score Forecast:
*MINNESOTA 38 - Florida Atlantic 19
In last week’s pointspread push against Michigan State, the Owls got a huge break with the weather. Anearlyconstant rain put a blanket on the Spartan passing game and kept the MSU offense from scoring a lot more. FAUwill have no such ally this week against rejuvenated, offensively-potent, revenge-minded Minnesota, whichplays indoors at the Metrodome. The Owls allowed Spartan RB Ringer to ramble for 282 yards, and the FAUdefense ranks 105th in the country. Minnesota has shown dramatic improvement on defense this season undernew d.c. Ted Roof, and there really was never any question about the offense with dual-threat QB Adam Weber,star WR Eric Decker, and a vet OL springing a variety of solid RBs. The injury to TB Duane Bennett (4.1 ypc LY)isn’t a crushing blow to Gophers, as California true frosh DeLeon Eskridge (turned down Nebraska andWashington) ran for 114 yards & 3 scores last week vs. Montana St. and fellow frosh Shady Salamon (5 ypc) are ready to roll.
10 RUTGERS at *Navy
Late Score Forecast:
RUTGERS 35 - *Navy 20
Few teams (other than Notre Dame) have succeeded vs. Navy’s option offense as well as Rutgers under GregSchiano, who is 5-1 SU and vs. the spread vs. the Midshipmen, with all wins by six points or more. And Navyhas struggled more than expected to far this season following the departure of HC Paul Johnson to Georgia Tech, as the Middie backfield has been plagued by key injuries (now FB Eric Kettani has a strained hamstring; check status) and the veteran secondary has failed to solidify vs. the pass. All of that is good news for Rutgers, which is 0-2 after losses to ascending Fresno and North Carolina. With Ray Rice gone to the NFL, the Scarlet Knights are counting more on their deep and speedy cast of WRs TY. And Schiano still has enough veteran talent on defense to disrupt the Navy option.
10 VANDERBILT over *Ole Miss
Late Score Forecast:
VANDERBILT 27 - *Ole Miss 22
Granted, Ole Miss appears an improved side under new HC Houston Nutt. But SEC sources also alerting us to pay attention to developments at Vandy, where HC Bobby Johnson’s consistent recruiting efforts have closed the “talent gap” that long hindered Dores vs. conference opposition, helping the Nashville bunch to its first 3-0 start since 1984. Vandy now owns the sort of SEC-caliber playmakers it has long lacked, and Johnson has spiced up attack accordingly by featuring electric DBs D.J. Moore & Jamie Graham on offensive end (both effective on Wake Forest-like “orbit sweeps”). Dores (least-penalized team in SEC; QB Nickson no picks in first 3 games) not beating themselves these days, either. Trust series and team trends (Vandy 6-1 vs. line last 7 meetings; Dores 12-4 as road dog since ‘05) to continue.
10 MIAMI-OHIO over *Cincinnati
Late Score Forecast:
MIAMI-OHIO 20 - *Cincinnati 19
Long-time Midwest scouts rather surprised Cincy is still a double-digit favorite in 134th meeting for the Victory Bell, considering journeyman jr. QB Pike (3 ints. in only 31 career attempts) and/or soph D. Jones (Notre Dame transfer) are piloting the no-huddle attack for injured starter Grutza, who was in a groove until suffering broken ankle vs. Oklahoma. We doubt either QB ready to pick up the slack vs. a fired-up Miami-Ohio defense aching to atone for its embarrassingly-poor effort in 47-10 blowout vs. Bearcats year ago. Miami’s terrific trio of LBs (all 3 are Butkus Award candidates!) well-equipped to contain Cincy’s ground attack, as well as effectively blitz stationary 6-6 Pike, who’ll show hesitation in pocket sans established rapport with his WRs. On other side, RedHawks battle-tested jr. QB Raudabaugh (793 YP) now able to work play-action with vet WRs, thanks to productive soph RB Merriweather (210 YR so far; he missed ‘07 game with injury) commanding attention from Bearcat defense that’s “not playing physical enough,” according to disgruntled HC Kelly. Miami solid 6-1 last 7 as a road dog.
10 *ATLANTA over Kansas City
Late Score Forecast:
*ATLANTA 28 - Kansas City 13
(Sunday, September 21)
Atlanta has turned the page and appears set to make some real progress this season, and one key test will come in this game against the Chiefs. The Falcon running game is much more lively with free agent RB Michael Turner and third year pro Jerious Norwood combining for 373 YR and 6.6 ypc in the first two games. Although Atlanta rookie QB Matt Ryan made some mistakes last week under the pressure of the Buc defense (4 sacks, threw 2 ints. at Tampa), returning home against a team that ranked 28th against the run last season and yielded 300 YR last week against the Raiders, he figures to play more like he did in home-opening win against Detroit. Injury to K.C. QBs Croyle and Huard might leave them with No. 3 Thigpen, and Chiefs 0-9 SU last 9 visiting non-AFC West foes.
TOTALS: UNDER (42) in the Cincy-N.Y. Giants game—Bengals (8.5 ppg) can’t get offense going; G-Men (9-3 “under” last 12 at home) prefer to smother opponents with defense...OVER (44½) in the Detroit-San Francisco game—Lions’ defense resembling a sieve; Detroit has gone “over” 14 of last 18 away!
HONORABLE MENTION (Nine-Rated Games): CENTRAL FLORIDA (+11) at Boston College—UCF has covered 5 of last 6 as dog and owns stalwart defense to contain BC offense trying to adjust to life without Matt Ryan...IOWA (+1) at Pittsburgh—Pitt’s LeSean McCoy isn’t sneaking up on teams this season (3.8 ypc TY after 4.8 as a true frosh). Hawkeye “D” ranks 1st in scoring and allows just 3 ypc...AIR FORCE (+7½) vs. Utah—A trip to Colorado Springs not easy to prepare for, and sr. QB Shea Smith executing much like Shaun Carney did the last 4 years...TENNESSEE (+7½) vs. Florida—Certainly respect Florida QB Tebow, but revenge-minded Vols aren’t anybody’s patsy at jam-packed Neyland Stadium...DENVER (-5½) vs. New Orleans—Uplifting win against Chargers and emergence of WR Eddie Royal to complement Brandon Marshall make Broncos worth a look facing Saint team still dealing with defensive problems.
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
*ATLANTA over KANSAS CITY by 6
Shaun Alexander carried the load for five years before the touches caught up to him – what exactly is the Chiefs’ Larry Johnson’s excuse? After carrying the ball 752 times between 2005 and 2006, Johnson has not been the same running back. Is it the toll of so many carries,or the loss in talent on the Kansas City offensive line? It’s a question that needs to be answered and a problem that needs to be solved before the Chiefs can find offensive relevance again. Matt Ryan predictably struggled on the road against a Monte Kiffin-coached defense, but a return to the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome should help this young,but talented offense get back on track. Kansas City was pummeled last week by the strong and powerful Darren McFadden – they should be similarly affected by the Falcons power running game. Atlanta will go out of their way to protect Ryan, especially after he was noticeably exposed by the Bucs, starting the game 1-for-11 with two interceptions. RBs Turner and Jerious Norwood lead the way. ATLANTA 19-13.
*BUFFALO over OAKLAND by 12
The Bills are in a unique situation. They do not play an AFC opponent until Week 8. They can prepare to topple the non-division opponents like dominoes – especially the loose cannons traveling 3,000 miles West to East into Buffalo as this one is doing -- and make those future “important” and “draining” division games a lot less important and draining. The Bills have shown plenty of ability to maximize the talent on the roster in all three phases of the game.At 11-6-1 ATS since the beginning of last year (vs. Oakland’s 7-11 ATS), the Bills have also been undervalued while carrying out their plans. The Raiders have achieved next to no progress with whatever it is you would call their collection of turnover- and penalty-prone players. RB Fargas is hurting, so rookie McFadden might come in and fumble for him. Hey,the Raiders just beat the Chiefs, who have lost 11 in a row! The Bills are 2-0 SU and ATS against 10- and 11-win teams from last season. They do a lot of little things right. The Raiders do a lot of little things wrong, and are sandwiched between more “familiar, important and draining” AFC West rivals Kansas City and San Diego. BUFFALO, 28-16.
*TENNESSEE over HOUSTON by 3
How Houston handles the disruption of the game that was canceled last weekend due to Hurricane Ike remains to be seen. It created an early bye, for a team that probably wanted to get right back out there after losing by 21 points in Week 1. But we thought they’d lose their next game, anyway. If they have any brains, they will put the bum’s rush on Tennessee QB Kerry Collins and knock him out the game early. They drafted pass-rusher extraordinaire Mario Williams #1 three seasons ago, so he might as well start earning his money by making the ultimate negative-yardage play and forcing Tennessee to go to Plan C at the quarterback position. The Titans’ ability to compete strongly and win despite so-so receivers, and an over-the-hill back-up QB and the Vince Young distraction is testament to the coaching skills of Jeff Fisher and staff, and the importance of having quality players and good depth on the offensive and defensive lines. It’s not like Houston hasn’t been manhandled in the trenches before. TENNESSEE, 20-17.
*NY GIANTS over CINCINNATI by 22
The 0-2 SU and ATS Bengals have looked awful and now they face the 2-0 SU and ATS Super Bowl champions, who have acquitted themselves well through the first two weeks of the season. Is there any way the Bengals can compete in the Meadowlands after not showing much signs of life so far? While Cincinnati is probably not as bad as they’ve looked, especially on offense, this is a team that we pegged in the preseason as being overrated and destined for mediocrity – at best. They missed the spread by 18 points last week against a distracted opponent they beat 35-6 last year. Even with their running game showing semblance of life, the passing game was once again unable to get off the ground. Is it too early to question Carson Palmer and his wide receivers? The story is quite the opposite in New York, as Eli Manning has carried over his confidence from last season’s post-season run and Plaxico Burress has emerged as one of the elite receivers in football. Look for the good times to continue for the men in blue against a franchise in disarray. The Giants’ offense, defense and special teams are like Great White sharks, constantly moving forward, impervious to the harm they cause. The Bengals are swimming with the sharks and have to hope the Giants are fat and happy. NY GIANTS, 35-13.
ARIZONA over *WASHINGTON by 9
The Redskins’ offense, perhaps fired up by the inflammatory comments of star running back Clinton Portis, came out and defeated the New Orleans Saints in a showdown of two high flying offenses. Who knew that Jim Zorn’s team had this in them? (Well, the Week 1 forecast told you so even though it might not show immediately, and the Redskins, -1 was last Sunday’s 5-Star winner for the Premier Phone callers.) Being abused by the national media for looking weak against the Super Bowl champions – go figure -- was a nice value-driver. Is Jason Campbell is finally taking that elusive step forward in his development as an NFL quarterback? Well, if we have learned anything from watching this franchise over the years, it is to never take the most recent development too seriously. New Orleans has a famously porous defense and was playing without their top playmaker, Marques Colston. The Cardinals feature some highly skilled offensive players of their own and a defense that is markedly better than the Saints. Arizona came into this stadium last season and allowed only 160 yards to what is essentially the same offensive group, which still has a ways to go. ARIZONA 26-17.
*NEW ENGLAND over MIAMI by 14
Who needs Tom Brady when the defense is this good? Against Gang Green, Matt Cassel took what the defense gave him, not forcing the issue despite protection issues from the offensive line, and the Patriots defense harassed Bret Favre all day and prevented the Jets from establishing any consistency on offense. Facing a Dolphins team sporting the weakest offense of any AFC East team, the Patriots should stick to their conservative gameplan, relying on the existing talent of their team to carry them and utilizing the quarterback position as a means to an end, instead of relying on the quarterback to be the focal point of the offense. Chad Pennington’s familiarity with the Patriots defense is also the Pats’ familiarity with his raggedy arm. Bill Belichick will employ the usual assortment of defensive shifts,zone blitzes and eight men in the box to attack the weaknesses of Chad and the Miami running game that has yet to get untracked. NEW ENGLAND 23-9.
*CHICAGO over TAMPA BAY by 3
Two of the NFL’s most respected defenses face off in Soldier Field as Monte Kiffin’s Tampa-2 unit visits disciple Lovie Smith in his incarnation as coach of the Chicago Bears. The Bucs are dealing with injuries to Jeff Garcia and a feud between Garcia and head coach Jon Gruden that has led to Brian Griese being inserted at quarterback – the same Griese that was deemed not quite good enough to start for the Bears, who have decided to go with Kyle Orton under center, possibly the only quarterback in football worse than either JaMarcus Russell and Tarvaris Jackson, two young QBs who at least have the excuse of inexperience.Normally, neither the Bears nor Bucs can score much on offense, and heavily rely on defense and special teams. Yet they are averaging better than 20 points per game apiece after their opening pair. Chicago may be entering this game with a hobbled Devin Hester, who is pretty much their most dangerous weapon. Both defensive lines will take a beating between the tackles and wear down in the fourth quarter. CHICAGO 19-16.
*MINNESOTA over CAROLINA by 3
High expectations are almost never met when the team facing such expectations sports as much inexperience at quarterback as Minnesota. Despite featuring one of the best running backs in the sport, the Vikings have been hamstrung by the performance of Tarvaris Jackson.Many other pieces are in place, but the Minnesota faithful is booing Jackson after all blunders,minor or major. This is the type of situation that begets doom for a young quarterback and Jackson is undoubtedly already hearing Gus Frerotte’s footsteps in his dreams. It’s too bad for Vikings fans that it is Frerotte, and not a real NFL quarterback. Steve Smith’s return should open up the passing game for the Panthers, but Carolina will be hamstrung by their inability to run against the stout defensive front seven of Minnesota, which will have the domino effect of affecting their passing offense. Look for the Vikings to finally get on the board behind the excellent running of Adrian Peterson. MINNESOTA 20-17.
*SEATTLE over ST. LOUIS by 3
The Rams stole big-legged place-kicker Josh Brown from the Seahawks and are pointing him at his old team, on his familiar field-goal stomping grounds. But you have to be able to stay close on the scoreboard to employ your kicker. Luckily for them, most recent games in this NFC West season series have been close, with an aberrational, injury-laden blowout engineered by Seattle last season the exception to the rule. The Rams are still healthy, compared to where they were at this point a year ago. Coming off the Eagles and Giants might place St. Louis in the position of having had the two toughest preps in the NFL going into the initial division game. This really is the Rams’ first big game in more than a year. They were already toast in Week 3 of ’07. The chance to be 1-0 in the division is a huge thing for them.For Seattle, it has to be tough to win a game when Julius Jones is the best offensive weapon.St. Louis’ weak secondary catches a break due to the Seahawks’ well-documented injuries at wide receiver, and new-and-confused o-line and running back situation. SEATTLE, 23-20.
*SAN FRANCISCO over DETROIT by 4
The 0-2 SU and ATS Bizarro Lions must exist to help hapless people feel better about themselves.The 49ers might not win any more games than the past few seasons, but at least this season may prove to be entertaining with Mike Martz running the offense. Turnovers and sacks galore, downfield passes by the bushel and no discipline. At least it beats watching the defense for 40 minutes a game. Luckily for San Francisco, the pathetic Lions visit town, and Martz at least knows the personnel that awaits the 49er faithful this week. Look for Martz to contribute his knowledge to a gameplan that surprisingly inhibits the Detroit passing attack from being fully untracked as All-Pro Nate Clements does a good job of controlling Calvin Johnson, a.k.a. Megatron. But who really wants to lay points with the 49ers coming off a hard-fought win vs. division foe Seattle? SAN FRANCISCO 25-21.
NEW ORLEANS over *DENVER by 8
Hard-fought win vs. division rival San Diego, which followed Monday Night win vs. division rival Oakland? Looking ahead to division rival Kansas City? The spot in the schedule makes this a date with regression for the Shanahans, whose defense hasn’t made a big stop vs. a competent opposing offense since Moby Dick was a minnow. The Saints got 24 points on the road against a salty Washington defense last week, and are in a good spot for 30-plus here as long as Drew Brees gets enough air in his lungs at this high altitude and avoids pointing the gun at his own team. After the futile chasing of San Diego’s Darren Sproles on this field last week, the prospect of containing Reggie Bush on this field can’t be too exciting for the Broncos’ defense, which must also deal with a steady pounding from the Saints’ tight ends and the possibility of RB Deuce McAllister on the up-curve. Denver’s week could be spent studying in vain for this invasion by a strange offensive system that the coaching staff hasn’t seen since Sean Payton and crew signed their contracts with Saints owner Tom Benson. New Orleans’ defense won’t win any awards, but like Woody Allen said, merely showing up can be 90% of success. If the defense allows 10% less than the offense scores, New Orleans backers will have more than their necessary cushion. NEW ORLEANS, 31-23.
*PHILADELPHIA over PITTSBURGH by 7
The Eagles work this off a short week, coming off hated division rival Dallas on Monday Night. But Pittsburgh is sandwiched between division games vs. Cleveland and Baltimore.Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin took his foot off the gas pedal in situations like this during his rookie season as head coach, 0-3 ATS in pre-December games when either looking ahead to, or coming off, AFC North rivals. The world is still driving under the influence of AFC superiority vs. the NFC, as evidenced by last season’s Super Bowl result, three Week 1 wins and covers by NFC teams on the road vs. the AFC, and world’s worst favorite Arizona covering –7 in Week 2 vs. Miami. Sober up, America. The AFC isn't playing the NFC. The Steelers are playing the Eagles, and the Eagles are as good or better. PHILADELPHIA, 27-20.
*INDIANAPOLIS over JACKSONVILLE by 7
Offensive line issues have hampered the Colts running game so far and Peyton Manning has not quite looked like himself, although the second half of the Minnesota game was certainly promising (and profitable by a hair!), as was the emerging performance of second-year pro Anthony Gonzalez. Jacksonville has been similarly troubled by injuries to their offensive line,which showed against Buffalo as David Garrard was often running out of a quickly collapsing pocket, but the Jaguars are also suffering from key injuries to their defensive line that has hurt their ability to stop the opposing running game. After a desultory performance against the Vikings, Joseph Addai should be looking to make a statement this week. Even in the best of times, the Jags struggle against the Colts, the class of the AFC South and a thorn in Jacksonville’s side. In these troubled times for the Jags, there’s a very good chance that the Colts ride an upswing to bop their divisional foes once again. INDIANAPOLIS 24-17.
*BALTIMORE over CLEVELAND by 14
Who was it that said, “Give me some time, give me some men, and we’ll fix this thing?” Nobody said that? Then let’s be the first. The Ravens are a double-avenging home team with some new blood that hasn’t been properly accounted for, and value aplenty as long as they don’t put the ball on the ground or give it to the other team. Getting their scheduled trip to Houston canceled last week allowed them all to stay in Baltimore while the Browns – living in a house of cards that you can almost sense they know is going to fall -- were preparing to host the hated Steelers for some nationally televised Sunday night exposure. Nobody got hurt for the Ravens last week, and the coaches were able to pass around the Tostitos and Red Bull while watching the already injury-laden Browns play an “A” game on the big screen. Some key, first-time members of that video party included Jerry Rosburg, for six seasons the special teams coach of the Browns, plus Rosburg’s two-season assistant at Cleveland; offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who faced the Browns while calling the offensive plays for the Dolphins last season, and for San Diego the season before that; and assistant head coach Vic Fangio, who twice prepared Houston’s defensive game plans against the Browns. You want no part of the Ravens when the other team has a good defense. Cleveland doesn’t have a good defense. 40 mph wind gusts in Pittsburgh might make it seem like they do. BALTIMORE, 27-13.
DALLAS over *GREEN BAY by 2
Everyone and their brother – and sister – will point to Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers having moved the Packers’ offense well and “looking good” in mid-game relief of Brett Favre during last season’s loss to the Cowboys in Dallas. That was then, this is now, and Dallas’ maturing 3-4 defense might do a better job against the run, and a better job in coverage with Pacman Jones back there. Or, maybe not. What has Rogers done so far in Green Bay’s 2-0 SU and ATS start? He hasn’t screwed it up, which is more than half the battle for an NFLquarterback. Jon Kitna put 30% of Green Bay’s points on the board last Sunday, and he was playing for the other team. Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo has the tools and support to be more efficient. With Dallas sandwiched off a short week between Philly on Monday Night and Washington upcoming, both home, it’s a tricky spot for them but they won’t take the Packers lightly. DALLAS, 23-21.
MONDAY NIGHT, SEPTEMBER 22
*SAN DIEGO over NY JETS by 4
The Chargers are sandwiched between division rivals Denver and Oakland, and the Jets’ offensive coordinator, Son of Schottenheimer, is bearing down on his former employer, the team that cut pop Marty loose in favor of Norv Turner. But the Chargers are also a desperate and still talented 0-2 SU home team. The Jets have the tools to be in this all the way, with a 3-4 defense to string out and contain LaDainian Tomlinson, an underrated defensive secondary to confound Philip Rivers, and Favre’s arm to drill it to receivers before the Chargers’ pick-happy secondary can get their hands on the piggie. But to win and/or cover, the Jets will more than likely have to overcome some administrative love coming San Diego’s way.Don’t be shocked if there are a few key make-up calls from last week’s striped incompetence which keyed (along with a Merriman-less defense) the loss to Denver. But covering a touchdown without Merriman will be tough. SAN DIEGO, 24-20.
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17
KANSAS STATE over *LOUISVILLE by 1
The Petrino-to-Kragthorpe contrast at Louisville has been stark. If the Cards don’t pick it up soon, the spoiled, angry, entitled Papa Johners might send the East Carolina security crew after their head coach. Lots of offense from the 2007 versions of these teams landed in the NFL this year. Unfortunately for Louisville’s defense, K-State’s yardage-making QB Freeman remains while Hunter Cant-“Do It”-Well hasn’t been much more than a name with a number for Louisville. KANSAS STATE, 23-22.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
*COLORADO over WEST VIRGINIA by 2
Our Zone Blitz rated West Virginia’s 2008 investment prospects as “Poor”, so don’t be looking for one of those boring, generic forecasts that says something like, “West Virginia should be just fine post-Rodriguez.” It just doesn’t have to be that way. Colorado to visitor: ‘We’ve got rushing speed to match your rushing speed, we’ve got defensive contain speed for the edges you love to exploit, and our quarterback was raised to throw the ball first.’ For Cody Hawkins, throwing it into the visitor’s 3-3-5 defense is a bit of a sticky wicket, for he is sometimes a little too fearless for his own good. But West Virginia is off turf, on grass, at altitude, in trouble. COLORADO, 29-27.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19
*CONNECTICUT over BAYLOR by 17
“That quarterback makes everybody look slow," said Washington State’s head coach about Baylor freshman Griffin, who has helped generate 51- and 45-point home outings for the Briles bunch. But UConn has the first defense that will offer resistance against him – quick, can’t be bullied by Baylor’s personnel, hurries and sacks quarterbacks and produces more than its share of picks. With ball-controlling RB Andre Brown being launched into a Baylor defense looking for steals it won’t get, UConn’s non-scoring drives should pin Baylor far enough back and onto long fields in their first road game, where all the fun could begin if your ticket is stamped “UConn.” CONNECTICUT, 34-17.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 20
*PENN STATE over TEMPLE by 24 ‘Owl see ya’ soon.’ Five members of the Temple coaching staff return home to Happy Valley, where they played under JoePa. It is not likely that the patriarch will want to embarrass his protégés, but Temple will have trouble containing a potent Lion offense so the potential for a blowout exists. Buffalo put up 444 total yards on Al Golden’s squad and PSU won’t do any less than that. The backups might get a good number of at-bats given the fact that Illinois is in the on-deck circle. PENN STATE, 38-14.
CENTRAL FLORIDA over *BOSTON COLLEGE by 1
Boston College’s offensive strength is its receivers, not a fantastic thing when the new starting quarterback has yet to prove he can get them the ball in the right spots, or avoid throwing it to the other team. Chris Crane’s Yards Per Attempt after two games is only 4.7. Ugh. He isn’t a threat to run around and make plays with his legs. Central Florida’s defensive strength is its secondary, so this match-up within the match-up could be an advantage waiting to play out in UCF’s favor. Central Florida backers might have to live with scrappy lefty Greco at quarterback, and know that he won’t be stretching this defense any with his arm. But O’Leary is very good at tailoring his offense to the available personnel, and with two weeks to get ready, perhaps he inserts the bigger-armed mystery man Joe Weatherford to mess ‘em up? CENTRAL FLORIDA, 17-16.
*NORTHWESTERN over OHIO by 7
Frankie Solich’s first-ever game as head coach of Ohio resulted in his new bunch o’ boys being drubbed 38-14 by Northwestern on this field in 2005, when his staff was putting relative strangers on the field against opponents the staff didn’t know. Ohio didn’t score an offensive touchdown until four minutes remained. But the Bobcats have a more coherent group at this juncture, the assistants now into a fourth year on the mission. The opportunity for a win Big Ten country is still an opportunity for a win in Big Ten country, which Ohio accomplished at Illinois the very next season and almost accomplished at Ohio State earlier this month. Your Northwestern will play down to the perceived level of the opponent if you let them. NORTHWESTERN, 30-23.
SUPER BEST BET
MIAMI-OH over *CINCINNATI by 9
Ben Mauk, former Cincinnati quarterback, was denied his sixth season by the NCAA.Current Cincinnati quarterback Dustin Grutza, the living, breathing reason they were pushing hard for Mauk’s sixth season, was injured in the team’s most recent game at Oklahoma, and out. Suddenly, a Cincinnati team whose defense took advantage of every new-QB weakness during a 5-0 SU and ATS non-conference season a year ago assumes ownership of issues similar to what their vanquished foes in the rear-view were dealing with. What goes around comes around, eh? You can only hope that the Bearcats insert big-headed Notre Dame deserter Demetrius Jackson, whose “knowledge base” of the offense leaves a lot to be desired, according to coach Kelly. “Strong-armed” junior Tony Pike is more than likely to be taking the majority of the snaps, but 6’6”, 210 “strongarmed” quarterbacks making their first start are not candidates to be threading needles on the run, sidestepping blitzes, or executing a full playbook of confounding offensive maneuvers. The visiting Redhawks’ offense has looked like Deadhawks against Vanderbilt and Michigan, a pair of very salty defensive units. Cincinnati’s defense is kind of fake. Is this finally the game where verbally abused QB Daniel Raudabaugh has matured, meets an opponent in trouble, and turns some tables for Miami-OH? His own team’s defense is very underrated and they all have “47-10” written on the wall from the regional rivalry home loss a year ago. Besides a fumble, three interceptions and a blocked punt, Miami-OH allowed five sacks in that embarrassment. But they have a fine chance to minimize the bonehead and negative-yardage plays this time around, with their offensive backfield situation seriously stabilized compared to where it was a year ago. MIAMI-OH, 26-17.
*MISSISSIPPI over VANDERBILT by 14
The ‘Dores rely heavily on front man Chris Nickson for offense. Judging by his 71-yard passing effort against defensive lightweight Rice, Ole Miss will make the Vandy QB chuck it to win it. Rebel general Houston Nutt saw this offense two years ago when he was at Arkansas. His defense effectively had an extra week to prep after hosting Samford last week. As for his offense, Nutt’s massive offensive line will be the first to challenge Vanderbilt’s front seven – the weakness of the unit. Whether running standard sets or the “Wild Rebel” formation, the home team has too much quickness, speed, and bulk on offense meaning that Nickson will be directing a comeback – not his cup of tea. OLE MISS, 27-13.
*GEORGIA TECH over MISSISSIPPI STATE by 6
With this game providing the meat to an Auburn-LSU scheduling sandwich, how much prep work can you really expect Croom & Co. to do on Gtech’s option game? Jacket QB Nesbitt is now battle tested after putting up nice numbers at Virginia Tech last week meaning that the offense should continue to improve. They won’t put up 30+ on a good SEC defense, but they won’t have to. MSU’s plotting offense thrives against a weak front 7. Yellow Jackets aren’t Auburn, but they’re defensive front can sting and Croom’s Bulldogs are allergic to the end zone. GEORGIA TECH, 20-14.
*BYU over WYOMING by 25
This rivalry is not Auburn-Alabama within college football circles, but these two teams (especially Wyoming) take it seriously. BYU’s demolition of UCLA last week will drive an inflated number here (6 scoring drives started in Bruin territory), but the Cowboy offense does not give much hope for risk-happy backers just hoping the road dog can hang around. They had 216 total yards against Air Force and 78 yards in the first half against North Dakota State.Not good enough against an offensive-machine – even if your respectable defense is up for the challenge. BYU, 37-12.
LSU over *AUBURN by 5
Auburn’s new offensive system has yet to take, for lack of playmakers. They’ve relied on the defense and will likely need to again this Saturday. LSU has yet to play anybody, so it is best to take their success with a grain of salt. QB’s Hatch and Lee can hand off well, but will have to throw the ball downfield to keep a sinister Tiger defense at bay. That isn’t their strength. Both clubs know the importance of this game – the winner here has won the SEC West six of the last eight years. LSU’s depth and speed at RB will be the difference in a defensive showdown. LSU, 21-16.
ALABAMA over *ARKANSAS by 12
If Alabama’s offensive line comes to play, Arkansas won’t have a shot at an upset. Andre Smith headlines a bruising group that will open holes for the tailbacks for four quarters. The Tide is not a big-play offense – their scoring drives vs. Western Kentucky averaged 8 plays – so the Hogs may be able to hang around for a half. Petrino’s bunch has been at their best using big plays in the running game to open up the passing lanes, but it will likely be a “chuck and duck” approach after they fall behind. Tough to gauge where Arkansas is prep-wise after having their game with Texas mercifully called off mid-week last week. ALABAMA, 26-14. *SOUTHERN MISS over MARSHALL by 6
The Blundering Herd was –4 in TO Ratio in last season’s 33-24 defeat vs. ex-coach Bower’s Southern Miss team. Maybe they clean up after themselves this time? For the new Southern Miss team, non-conference scrimmages are over. Now, first-season head coach Larry Fedora and crew must do their new spread offense against opponents who know their personnel and are coached by coaches they don’t know. Mark Snyder’s Marshall plan for 2008 includes new offensive and defensive coordinators. Too bad the personnel still isn’t much, but Snyder has promised tangible improvement by the defense, which manifested itself in a 17-16 score in the C-USA opener against what were normally more productive Memphis kids. SOUTHERN MISS, 23-17
HOUSTON over *COLORADO STATE by 11
If the Cougars want to throw it all over the field for 500 yards – which they do – can Colorado State’s defense stop them? The onus here is all on the relatively simple Colorado State offense. This unit must use its straight-ahead push vs. a suspect defensive group, to stay on the field to reduce the high risks its defense takes just by lining up on every play. Eventually, however, Houston’s defense will adjust to what the Rams are doing on offense, and Colorado State will run out of bullets while its defense continues to get ripped. HOUSTON, 38-27.
RUTGERS over *NAVY by 3
The early anti-Rutgers suggestion in the Zone Blitz is now 2-0 for our Premier Players callers via game-day releases on Fresno State and North Carolina, who beat Rutgers by 17 and 32 points on the expensive home field where you can fry eggs on the expectation-addled heads of deluded New Jerseyans. Our entire community knows we have no interest in Rutgers until Big East season starts, at the earliest. Our entire community might even know that if Navy’s special teams had shown up last season, the loss at Rutgers would have been a lot closer than 41-24. Two extra days to prepare gives Rutgers’ small and depth-shy defensive front – “surprisingly” overpowered to some by Fresno and North Carolina – a chance to bone up on the option and save some face vs. the little guys. RUTGERS, 28-25.
*NORTH CAROLINA over VIRGINIA TECH by 1
Lost in the shuffle of UNC’s pounding of Rutgers was the fact that the Scarlet Knights actually ran the ball well. You can bet that Beamer and his staff will go to school on that because that is all they can do. QB Tyrod Taylor was 9-for-14 for 48 yards against Georgia Tech last week and that tells you all you need to know. UNC is tough to tackle due to their offensive versatility. They outgained V-Tech in Blacksburg last year and will likely do so again this year.As long as QB Yates doesn’t force throws and gets the ball to guys like Brendan Tate and GregJones, Butch Davis’ group will pull a Ted Nugent and take a “Stranglehold” on the ACCCoastal division. NORTH CAROLINA, 24-23.
*PITTSBURGH over IOWA by 2
Dopey Dave and the Wannstedts have opened 0-2 ATS but they might be riding an up-curvein the offense as relatively inexperienced starting QB Stull feels his way around the field.Pitt’s two weeks to get ready for this can’t hurt, because the Hawkeyes’ offense – whichstarted a new QB in its rivalry revenge grind vs. Iowa State last week – is flatter than a bottleof seltzer left uncapped for two years. Iowa is sandwiched between a rivalry revenge winand Big Ten opener, but their defense is good, and Wannstedt and his Pitt-boy Cavanaughusually find ways to keep the underdog in the game. PITTSBURGH, 16-14.
*FLORIDA STATE over WAKE FOREST by 5
30-0 was the final tally the last time Wake played in Tallahassee – the defining moment inthe fall of the FSU program. But a new skyline is starting to take shape. QB Christian Ponderdoesn’t fit the mold of his predecessors Rix and Weatherford. This kid actually thinks beforethrowing, a novel concept for a quarterback. He also puts more pressure on the defense withhis feet, which is important given the youth on the o-line.Wake is as clinical as they come –armed with vets across the board. They won’t beat themselves and have had a bye week totune up. With six defensive starters still on suspension, the Deacons will look to control thefootball with misdirection runs and precision short-range passing. The FSU coaches are wellversed in what Wake wants to do – question is – can they stop it? FLORIDA STATE, 28-23.
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
NOTRE DAME over *MICHIGAN STATE by 5
As long as the offense remains determined to avoid being poster boys for the Negative Yardage Play Club like last year, improved defense will help elevate Notre Dame’s value in ’08. Sparty’s offense has owned the Irish defense for two years in a row, but their Ringer of a running back will find faster Irish players surrounding him, and this now-overrated Michigan State offense – held back to 17 points by rain last Saturday – is far from entitled to get more than that here if the weather is good. You might want to take note that the Michigan State defense – serious sackmeisters in ’07 – sacked Cal’s quarterback only once in the opener but Maryland’s defense sacked Cal’s quarterback five times last Saturday. If the sack-it-to-‘em dynamic has disappeared for State, then they are just another common team. NOTRE DAME, 24-19.
*OREGON over BOISE STATE by 17
The smurf turf kids struggle when stepping up a class playing BCS conference foes on the road. They fell to Washington last year and the Ducks – well – they’re a completely different animal. Bronco coach Peterson brings a freshman QB into a raucous Autzen Stadium so expect the kid to hand off on first, second, and third downs. Oregon could be a bit leg weary from the 4 hour, double OT battle in 90+ degree heat last week against Purdue, where they had to extend themselves just to get back into that game. Over the course of 60 minutes Oregon has too much depth and too many athletes to drop one at home to a physically inferior opponent. OREGON, 34-17.
UTAH over *AIR FORCE by 3 Let’s try to avoid the usual mistaken perception that since Utah is, on balance, much bigger and decidedly faster than Air Force, that they should steamroll the Falcons off the field. Utah’s defense has consistently displayed an inability to get off the field against this kind of offense – see non-cover in bowl win vs. Navy, outright loss to Air Force last year, 3-point win and non-cover vs. Air Force the year before that, three-point win and non-cover vs. Air Force the year before that. Utah’s QB Brian Johnson can’t really be trusted vertically beyond 12 yards, and if you can’t deep-6 the Air Force secondary, you are almost forced to be in a ballgame on their terms. UTAH, 26-23.
*TULSA over NEW MEXICO by 9
Tulsa is about as defensive as Switzerland and must keep New Mexico from ball-hogging with their running game. Lobo coach Rocky Long wants to grind this one from the opening kick, keeping the ball out of the eye of the Golden Hurricane’s lethal offense. His defensive will have only a few days to prepare for an offense that plugged in a new QB without losing much. Home team is 2-0 on the road this year and finally gets a home game off of bye week.Despite the step-up in weight class, Tulsa has too much offense for the offensively-challenged road dog to overcome. TULSA, 30-21.
*INDIANA over BALL STATE by 7
Brady Hoke’s zippy Ball boys – our Premier Players’ 4-Star game-day winner last Saturday in their MAC opener at the sluggish Akronisms – would like to become conference champs this season. Indiana is not in their conference. Ball’s revenge and social-climbing angles are tempered by being in a MAC sandwich with Kent State on deck, home. Also, the home Hoosiers were off last week, haven’t left their Bloomington base since summer workouts started, saw the in-state visitor last year, and therefore have some preparation edges to go along with offensive and defensive quickness that usually work well for them when matched against speed-finesse opponents like this one. INDIANA, 34-27.
*PURDUE over CENTRAL MICHIGAN by 8
How many Purdue players signed up to play Central Michigan three times within a year? Can’t imagine too much giddy-up goin’ on in West Lafayette this week. Does CMU head coach Jones revert from previously established tank-jobber form on the power-conference road, and go for “third time’s the charm” following 45-22 (regular) and 51-48 (bowl) losses last year? Both normally productive hurry-up offenses have seen the swiss cheese on the other side of the line more than enough times to be dreaming about big yardage and big points coming up. Some dreams come true. PURDUE, 42-34.
AKRON over *ARMY by 8
Normally, this is a situation where we can’t help but think, “All Army,” with a big, fat circle around it. They are 0-2 SU, playing at home and coming off a bye, with revenge. Akron is out on the non-conference road – at an Independent, no less -- sandwiched between the MAC and home opener vs. Ball State, and an intra-state rivalry crack on their home field vs. Cincinnati of the Big East. But when the opponent scores first, or first and second, Army has that mistake-prone, Wizard of Oz offense with QB Carson Williams: “I can’t come back, I don’t know how it works!” If you don’t believe us, then listen to Army’s head coach: “This is a process. There's no magic words. There's no magic wand that's waved over everything.” See? AKRON, 24-16.
*MARYLAND over EASTERN MICHIGAN by 18
If the EMUs use 6’1”, 226 senior RB Terrence Blevins as their main weapon between the tackles, launching him at that undersized Maryland defensive front, they could stay on the field and be pesky. Few brave point-spread warriors will be interested in the visitors after they allowed 580 and 480 yards the last two games. But with Maryland’s win against Cal taking some heat off his seat, coach Ralphie Boy might be doing too much quarterback juggling and allow Mr. Handoff, Josh Portis, to test his arm in a real game for the first time in four years at the expense of favorite players. MARYLAND, 34-16.
MIAMI-FL over *TEXAS A&M by 3
Both squads come in fresh off of a bye week. A win here would certainly help. The Canes will run a low-risk offense with young QBs on the road, asking their defense to keep them in it.That strategy should work against an A&M team that is feeling its way through year one of the Sherman era. Their new, pro-style offense has looked amateur to date and should not pose much of a threat against a stout Miami defense. Risky proposition backing either side, but this is Randy Shannon’s second year at the wheel and he’s had a chance to navigate the choppy waters of year one. MIAMI-FL, 13-10.
EAST CAROLINA over *NC STATE by 6
Jeopardy answer: 13. Jeopardy question: What is, ‘How many quarters has it been since NC State scored a TD against a BCS conference opponent?’ Last we checked, East Carolina would not fall into that category but does it really matter? Message is that the Wolfpack offense stinks. Now that’s unfortunate because this game has upset potential written all over it. Over-valued road favorite coming off of a tough road win. Unfortunately, it is hard to back a squad that can’t score. Against Clemson last week, NC State had seven drives of 6+ plays – but only three points from the offense. Sorry Tom O’Brien, your fellas are showing signs of improvement, but we just can’t go there. EAST CAROLINA, 23-17.
*MISSOURI over BUFFALO by 34
Missouri might be favored over the Buffalo Bills given the way their offense is performing.Chase Daniel will have no problem picking apart a porous defense in order to get his Heisman stats. Buffalo boss Turner Gill has Big 12 ties from his days at Nebraska, but he’ll be spending time prepping for conference foe Central Michigan next week. No look ahead for the Tigers, as they have a game with Bye State next week. MISSOURI, 43-9.
FRESNO STATE over *TOLEDO by 6
Toledo is still a work in progress – going from a run-based team last year to what was supposed to be a passing team this year. They were only 8-for-18 throwing it last week, but that was in a light monsoon. Fresno held their own against the Wisconsin power rushing attack last week, so Toledo must go to the air to compete. Opportunities should exist, as they have three WRs who go 6’4+ facing corners that are sub-6 feet. After an emotionally draining loss at home, it will be tough for Fresno to leave the California sun for the overcast skies of Toledo,OH. Luckily for Pat Hill, he has better players who should be able to win on the road with talent alone. FRESNO STATE, 27-21.
*TEXAS over RICE by 30
Big recruiting opportunity for Rice when facing the state bully. For that reason alone, they will leave it all on the field, but it is their third straight roadie and there is a very winnable game with North Texas next week. The Owls’ offensive strength is their passing attack, which plays to Texas’ weakness. The Longhorns man a young secondary that will be chasing a good bit on Saturday. That said, if Rice scored on every possession, Texas still might win. Their hulking o-line faces a small defensive front that has three guys under 250 pounds. Longhorns threw for over 300 yards and hit for 5.7 ypc against Rice last year. TEXAS, 51-21.
*UTAH STATE over IDAHO by 2 When conference doormats collide, does it make a sound? Idaho outgained Utah State by 150 yards last year but walked away with a 24-19 loss. Their offense is better this year, but they’re not playing in the comfy confines of their dome. Utah State has the defensive edge and the home field advantage, so we’ll lean toward the Aggies. UTAH STATE, 23-21.
TCU over *SMU by 25
An SMU offense in the early stages of winging it all over the field is in position to be out-positioned by a pick-happy TCU defense. Warning to all SMU backers – your quarterback might have the gun pointed at his own team, and your defense cannot afford to be placed in vulnerable spots against an offense that can plow through ‘em and pass over ‘em. TCU, 42-17.
FLORIDA over *TENNESSEE by 4
The team with more rush yards in this rivalry has won 16 of the last 18. UT has averaged 13 yards on the ground against Florida in the last two years. You can guess the outcomes. The Vols’ coaches know this and will look to pound the football into the heart of the Gators’ weakness – the defensive front. They are talented, but relatively inexperienced, especially in a hostile environment. 7+ play drives must be the name of this game because their offense cannot keep up with Florida’s. Tebow’s offense has yet to fire on all cylinders, but they were off last week and will be ready to do damage. FLORIDA, 28-24.
*ARIZONA STATE over GEORGIA by 6
The Charlie Daniels Band has to re-title their hit song, ‘cause the devil isn’t going down to Georgia this week – it’s the other way around. ASU’s bout of narcolepsy against UNLV last Saturday is a wake up call for Sun Devil backers. ASU has a seasoned QB and four talented wide receivers that will give UGA trouble all night. The Dawgs’ scoring defense has been solid, but both Central Michigan and South Carolina were able to find holes in the secondary and move the ball through the air between the 20s. Both of those teams lacked the athletes in the backfield to punch the ball in the end zone, but the home dog doesn’t have that problem. Georgia’s pass rush has been very average, and will get to Carpenter some – but the kid is used to playing through the pressure. Look for the Devils to use the passing game to run the Bulldogs’ linebackers, corners, and safeties ragged in the 95 degree desert heat. On offense, Mark Richt’s team is extremely effective when RB Moreno gets going – opening up the play-action for QB Stafford. ASU’s run defense is solid and won’t let the Heisman candidate run free. ASU, 30-24.
*UNLV over IOWA STATE by 1
Iowa State has lost 12 straight on the road and after UNLV’s upset win over ASU, #13 is all but etched in stone, right?. Maybe wet cement, but not stone. Last week’s 17-5 loss at Iowa looks bad on the surface, but it was 3-3 after three quarters and the Cyclones were inside the 5 twice and came up with nothing. The Rebels have momentum, but ISU coach Chizik is a defensive guru who will make life difficult for Mike Sanford’s offense. UNLV 17-16.
*STANFORD over SAN JOSE STATE by 7
Neither team will be outmatched athletically – which is a week-to-week rarity. SJSU coach Tomey wants to control clock with the running game as he has been able to do against Nebraska and SDSU. The Cardinal run defense is improving and should be able to contain SJSU’s skill players better than they did against Oregon State and TCU. Stanford has Pac-10 athletes, San Jose has a few Pac-10 transfers. STANFORD, 27-20.
*UTEP over NEW MEXICO STATE by 10
NMSU looked bad on both sides of the ball at Nebraska – but we’ll give them the first game reprieve. UTEP will be off of a bye week and has had time to game plan for the Aggie passing attack. The Miners have moved towards a 3-3-5 defense to plug the holes in their pass defense. Two things potential UTEP backers should keep in mind – (i) they put a lot of energy into the Texas game in week two; and (ii) these schools are only 44 miles apart, so the visitors will be travelling light. UTEP, 37-27.
ARIZONA over *UCLA by 14
Arizona expected to be 3-0 rolling into L.A., but a loss to New Mexico de-railed that train.Coach Mike Stoops’ head is on the block this year and he needs a statement game this week. He faces a UCLA team that is only in game #3 of the Neuheisel/Chow era. Word on the street is that the ’Zona coaching staff sees Chow as more of a bum than a guru.Either way, the transition pain was felt in full last week and now they limp home from Salt Lake City licking their wounds – or gashes – from a 59-0 beating at the hands of BYU. The Wildcats have a veteran offense that should have no problem picking apart a youthful secondary. QB Tuitama is in his second year of the Sonny Dykes Texas Tech-style offense and he has several athletic targets to choose from. Throw in some timely run plays and you get a recipe for offensive success. Bruins’ QB Craft starts just his third game behind an inexperienced offensive line that does more thinking than reacting. The perception of these two teams is that both are mid-tier Pac-10 squads. The reality is that UCLA isn’t there yet, and the gap will show on the scoreboard. ARIZONA, 34-20.
*OHIO STATE over TROY by 16
Last week, humiliation at USC. Next week, the Big Ten opener vs. Minnesota. Ohio State probably doesn’t know enough about Troy to avoid a stale-meat scare in this particular sandwich.It doesn’t help OSU that focus for Troy – a program that has a giant-killing mentality vs. the meek, mail-in money-scrimmage mindset -- shifted to Ohio State on September 3,the minute their September 6 game at LSU was canceled. OHIO STATE, 32-16.
*ARKANSAS STATE over MIDDLE TENNESSEE by 11
One should not be fooled by Middle Tennessee’s win against Maryland (we weren’t: Premier Players got Maryland, +14 vs. Cal!), or their follow-up close game at Kentucky. It’s a return to blah status for the Blue Raiders as they visit a familiar Sun Belt rival. Maryland didn’t apply the defensive pressure at MTS they applied vs. Cal, and admitted they were fooled by MTS’ hurry-up-and-wait offensive tactics at the line of scrimmage. Kentucky didn’t know them from a hole in the wall, either. ASU knows them as the opponent who returned a first-playof- the-game fumble back for a TD against them to set the tone of last year’s 24-7 loss, when ASU’s best running back Arnold was less than 100% healthy. ARKANSAS STATE, 28-17.
LOUISIANA-MONROE over *TULANE by 5
Monrovian systems that have produced 19-7 ATS last two-plus seasons are interesting.Senior QB Kinsmon Lancaster has yet to throw an interception this year and comes with a 4.8 yards per carry value tag attached. Tulane drops in class from Alabama and East Carolina, but Alabama was off a specially targeted Clemson win, and ECU was off their targeted, back-to-back wins against V-Tech and West Virginia. ‘Ya think either ‘Bama or the Pirates were properly focused for Tulane, whose players are now accepting congratulations for two losses? By contrast, the intra-state Sun Belt visitor catches the Green Wave in a tricky spot, between conference home games against ECU and SMU, with the SMU game coming up off a short week, televised nationally on CSN. The Monrovians have a bye week on deck. Therefore, the Flying Weatherbees will be the first 2008 opponent directing their A-game at Tulane. LOUISIANA-MONROE, 27-22.
*MINNESOTA over FLORIDA ATLANTIC by 12
How does money-bags $chnellenberger make two consecutive pick-up runs coming from the Sunshine State into Big Ten territory, again on artificial turf, over which his grassy defense usually Matadors, and come away looking good on the scoreboard in the second outing when he has the Sun Belt opener on deck and this opponent has revenge? If he does, we will be very disappointed. In the dome, he has no chance for that faker defense to be protected by rain and wind like it was during the 17-0 game at Michigan State last Saturday. But at least they’ll score more. MINNESOTA, 42-30.
SOUTH FLORIDA over *FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL by 24
USF head coach Jim Leavitt must protect that Florida recruiting base from being sweettalked by former Miami-FL manipulator and now FIU head coach Cristobal, who loves to blitz on every down. But South Florida can do that too, with better players against a popgun offense, and USF QB Matt Grothe can tuck it in and run for 120 yards once the hair-on-fire FIU energy is dissipated early. SOUTH FLORIDA, 34-10.
*LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE over KENT STATE by 3
Both starting quarterbacks – visiting Edelman and home Desormeaux -- are team-killing bad passers. Desormeaux took his game to a new low last Saturday when he kept it, ran into an Illinois defender at the line of scrimmage, then had the ball grabbed away from him and run back for a defensive TD against ULL. How to deflate your teammates’ energy and hopes.LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE, 23-20.
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
COLLEGE KEY RELEASES
MICHIGAN STATE over Notre Dame RATING: 1
MISSOURI over Buffalo RATING: 1
EAST CAROLINA over No Caro St RATING: 2
TENNESSEE over Florida RATING: 3
TCU over Smu RATING: 4
SO MISSISSIPPI over Marshall RATING: 4
FRESNO STATE over Toledo RATING: 5
BYU over Wyoming RATING: 5
NFL KEY RELEASES
SEATTLE over St Louis RATING: 2
SAN DIEGO over New York Jets RATING: 3
BUFFALO over Oakland RATING: 4
NEW YORK GIANTS over Cincinnati RATING: 5
DENVER over New Orleans RATING: 5
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
THE GOLD SHEET
HOUSTON by 7 over Tennessee
CAROLINA by 9 over Minnesota
OVER THE TOTAL in the N.Y. Jets-San Diego game
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 21
ATLANTA 23 - Kansas City 16—A smashmouth fest could be in the offing,with Larry Johnson of the Chiefs opposing Michael Turner (220 YR in opener) of the Falcons. However, K.C.’s rebuilding OL could not spring Johnson (12 for 22 rushing) last week nor could its defense stop the Raiders (300 YR!) Chiefs no pushover on the road, covering 7 of last 9 excursions. But is Matt Ryan the best QB in the game, even as a rookie?
(04-KANSAS CITY -3' 56-10...SR: Kansas City 5-1)
BUFFALO 24 - Oakland 10—With reports circulating that he might soon be fired, Lane Kiffin’s Raiders generated 300 YR in their win last week in K.C., and then he denied accusations of dissension on the team. Meanwhile, outspoken former Oakland DT Warren Sapp, never one to sugar-coat criticism, isn’t too high on Oakland’s chances TY, telling watchers of HBO’s Inside the NFL that the Raiders have “unrealistic ideas about what their people can do.” That comment speaks for itelf. So does the Bills’ 11-3 pointspread record their last 14 at home. Buffalo QB Trent Edwards making few mistakes.
(05-OAKLAND -3 38-17...SR: Oakland 19-17)
Houston 20 - TENNESSEE 13—Even without the unexpected “bye” week and distractions caused by Hurricane Ike, Houston figured to have its hands full with the rock’em, sock’em Tennessee defense that was respectfully referred to as some “animals” by Jag QB David Garrard. But Titans still seeking to develop consistency under new o.c. Heimerdinger’s play-calling, and Kerry Collins is hampered by Tennessee’s WR limitations. Scouts still believe rookie RB Steve Slaton could be a rainmaker for Texans. And, now, well-rested, wellcoached Houston eager to avoid 0-2 start and stay close in AFC South race.
(07-Tenn. 38-HOU. 36...T.23-18 T.39/155 H.12/39 H.27/44/3/294 T.25/42/0/267 T.2 H.3)
(07-TENN. 28-Hou. 20...T.23-17 T.29/153 H.25/119 T.21/31/1/229 H.20/35/1/196 T.0 H.1)
(07-Tennessee -1 38-36, TENNESSEE -3' 28-20...SR: Tennessee 10-2)
NY GIANTS 30 - Cincinnati 10—The situation has become even more distracting than the controversies at the MSNBC political anchor desk for downtrodden Cincy, which has already let a rookie QB (Ravens’ Joe Flacco) and a journeyman (Titans’ Kerry Collins) beat it TY. Now, Bengals faced with supremely-confident Super Bowl-winning QB Eli Manning, off near-flawless effort (260 YP & 3 TDP) vs. another troubled foe, St. Louis. Not to mention highly-athletic Giant stop unit that is affording d.c. Spagnuolo all sorts of flexibility in blitz and coverage packages, hardly what the anemic Cincy “O” (8.5ppg) needs right now. G-Men on 8-0 spread run dating to late LY!
(04-CINCY -6 23-22...SR: Cincinnati 5-2)
Arizona 23 - WASHINGTON 21—Ready to grab the points with Arizona,which appears steady on offense with Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin & Larry Fitzgerald & Co. and possesses a little more bite on defense in 2008 with the return of DE Bertrand Berry, OLB Chike Okeafor, and S Adrian Wilson after injuries LY, plus free-agent DE Travis LaBoy joining the proceedings. Cards have given up only 23 points TY.
(07-WASH. 21-Ariz. 19...A.19-10 A.30/84 W.28/73 A.28/42/2/280 W.12/18/1/87 W.0 A.1)
(07-WASHINGTON -8 21-19...SR: Washington 72-44-2)
NEW ENGLAND 22 - Miami 13—Tom Brady and Randy Moss were way too much for the downtrodden Dolphins LY. Miami is still down in the dumps, but not as deep in the muck as LY. And, of course, Pats adjusting to life without their MVP QB. Thus, will give the Dolphins one more shot, despite last week’s early defensive collapse in Arizona, until we find New England’s new, true balancing point with Matt Cassel (16 of 23, 0 TDs, 0 ints. in first start) at QB.
(07-N. Eng. 49-MIAMI 28...M.25-23 M.30/179 N.22/84 N.22/28/1/359 M.24/37/1/203 N.0 M.1)
(07-N. ENG. 28-Miami 7...N.19-15 N.25/196 M.22/108 N.18/33/2/204 M.18/41/0/133 N.2 M.0)
(07-New England -16 49-28, NEW ENGLAND -22 28-7...SR: Miami 48-37)
CHICAGO 27 - Tampa Bay 20—Will T.B. return to Jeff Garcia (who denies his ankle was so sore as to keep him sidelined last week), or stick with Brian Griese,who was 3-3 as a starter for the Bears in 2007 before a shoulder injury and is now 1-0 TY with the Bucs? Since Chicago QB Orton avoiding TOs (none so far) and T.B. 3-6 SU last 1+ seasons on the road, will side with improved Bears (check status of Devin Hester’s rib injury). Chicago has had a knack of going “over” at home lately (15-4 of last 19).
(06-CHICAGO -13' 34-31 (OT)...SR: Chicago 35-17)
Carolina 22 - MINNESOTA 13—All of the pieces seem to be in place for Minnesota…except at QB (no wonder owner Zygi Wilf risked tampering charges with his interest in Brett Favre during the summer!). But as long as it’s Tarvaris Jackson, have little interest supporting Vikes vs. quality foes, of which rebounding Carolina (2-0 for first time since ’03 Super Bowl year) certainly qualifies. Tough-minded Panthers and physical Oregon rookie RB J. Stewart (77 YR & 2 TDs vs. rugged Bears) not likely to abandon infantry assault as do most Minnesota foes. Jake Delhomme smiling from Charlotte to Greensboro this week with return of home run WR Steve Smith from suspension, especially vs. Minny secondary.
(06-MINNESOTA P 16-13 (OT)...SR: Minnesota 4-3)
SEATTLE 27 - St. Louis 20—St. Louis happy to be facing a fellow troubled team after being clobbered at Philly and by Super Bowl champion Giants the first two weeks. Rams sporting a 5-13 spread mark last 18 games. But at least their top (RB Steven Jackson) & top WR (Torry Holt) are healthy, something injury-plagued Seahawks can’t say. Matt Hasselbeck (2 damaging ints. last week vs. S.F.) misses his favorite targets.
(07-SEA. 33-St. Lou. 6...Se.19-15 Se.32/100 St.17/53 Se.18/35/1/189 St.21/40/3/168 Se.0 St.2)
(07-Sea. 24-ST. LOU. 19...Se.18-17 St.31/104 Se.19/87 Se.21/38/1/215 St.23/37/2/161 Se.1 St.0)
(07-SEATTLE -8 33-6, Seattle -3 24-19...SR: EVEN 10-10)
SAN FRANCISCO 30 - Detroit 23—S.F. offensive coordinator Mike Martz against the team that fired him after LY, with Jim Colletto hired to develop a more worthy ground game so the Lions can better exploit the talents of WRs Roy Williams & Calvin Johnson. Also, new 49er starting QB J.T. O’Sullivan rode the pine in Detroit LY. So, will this be a game of egos? S.F. prefers to make it more one of defense after the Lions have been ripped for 921 yards & 82 points in the first two games.
(06-San Francisco +6 19-13...SR: San Francisco 33-27-1)
DENVER 31 - New Orleans 24—Bronco offense being sparked by its WRs,with super-quick rookie WR Eddie Royal (14 recs) seemingly the perfect complement to the 6-4, 230 Brandon Marshall, who had 18 catches vs. S.D.And, while 2008 N.O. defense might be improved, it has some holes after three starters missed action in last week’s 29-24 loss at Washington. Deuce McAllister (only 2 carries TY) not 100%. No surprise if this one goes “over,” as Denver “over” 18 of its last 23, while Saints “over” 15 of 21!
(04-Denver -5 34-13...SR: Denver 6-2)
Pittsburgh 20 - PHILADELPHIA 17—With Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder having passed the test last week at Cleveland, Steelers have a lot going for them early in the season. A healthy RB Willie Parker, two outstanding WRs in Hines Ward & deep threat Santonio Holmes, a fierce and mobile set of LBs (again), and Troy Polamalu’s presence in the secondary. Eagles have not been a dominating home favorite, and they are 11-6-1 “under” last 18 at home.
(2008 Preseason: Pittsburgh -1 beat Philadelphia 16-10 in Pittsburgh)
(04-PITTSBURGH +1 27-3...SR: Philadelphia 46-27-3)
INDIANAPOLIS 23 - Jacksonville 13—After doses of Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson the past two weeks, Indy might finally catch a break against bangedup,makeshift Jacksonville OL that has neither been able to open many holes for Fred Taylor & Maurice Jones-Drew nor provide much protection for the harried David Garrard, who’s already thrown as many picks (3) as he did all of ’07. Indy ground forces have gone nowhere yet, but at least Colts have Peyton Manning and a bounce in their step again after dramatic late rally at Minnesota. Jags (only 13 ppg) hard-pressed to outscore competent oppositon until further notice.
(07-Indy 29-JACK. 7...I.24-18 I.33/141 J.27/117 I.23/37/1/243 J.17/36/2/109 I.0 J.1)
(07-INDY 28-Jack. 25...J.27-19 J.31/168 I.25/63 I.20/29/1/279 J.24/29/1/243 I.0 J.1)
(07-Indianapolis -3 29-7, INDIANAPOLIS -6' 28-25...SR: Indianapolis 11-3)
Cleveland 20 - BALTIMORE 16—Cleveland QB Derek Anderson was 2-0 in 2007 vs. the Baltimore team that probably should never have let him go. Now,Anderson owns a significant experience edge over rookie Joe Flacco, who’s making just his second start after facing a Cincy team of few strengths in his first-ever game before being “hurricaned out” at Houston. Cleveland owns the superior receivers, and Browns pleased to be taking on someone their own size after dealing with Cowboys and Steelers first two weeks.
(07-CLE. 27-Balt. 13...B.16-12 B.20/111 C.30/99 B.34/53/1/307 C.10/18/1/204 C.0 B.1)(07-Cle. 33-BALT. 30 (OT)...B.23-22 B.25/128 C.34/117 C.24/38/1/263 B.22/41/2/240 C.1 B.2)(07-CLEVELAND +4 27-13, Cleveland -2' 33-30 (OT)...SR: Baltimore 11-7)it in the irregular meetings of these two, with the host going 14-2 SU the last 27 years. Brett Favre was injured after throwing 2 ints. in LY’s meeting, with Aaron Rodgers (18 of 26, 1 TD) enjoying the best and most extensive performance of his career until taking over this season. Tony Romo had 4 TDP in the game,which the Cowboys led 27-10 midway in the third Q. But that was in Dallas. Have to be impressed with the way Rodgers is already “looking off” DBs and hitting alternate targets. Note: Packers “over” 16 of last 20. TV—NBC
(07-DALLAS 37-G. Bay 27...D.23-20 G.19/124 D.28/105 D.19/30/1/309 G.23/40/2/233 D.0 G.0)
(07-DALLAS -7 37-27...SR: Dallas 15-12)
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 22
OVER THE TOTAL *SAN DIEGO 28 - NY Jets 26—Chargers upset about getting the worst of the officiating last week in Denver, and they also greatly miss the intimidating presence of OLB Shawne Merriman, as the remaining S.D. pass rushers were able to apply little pressure last week in Denver, with Jay Cutler sacked only once while passing for 350 yards and 4 TDs, plus the game-winning two-pointer. That gave the Bolts two straight lastsecond losses. With L.T. limping, maybe they don’t pull away from Favre, who can trade throws with Philip Rivers and help put this one “over.”
(05-San Diego -6 31-26...SR: San Diego 18-12-1)
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
THE GOLD SHEET
COLORADO by 7 over West Virginia (Thursday, September 18)
OHIO Plus over Northwestern
SOUTHERN MISS by 21 over Marshall
MINNESOTA by 19 over Florida Atlantic
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
COLORADO 24 - West Virginia 17—Both teams off last week. Key question is whether WV can get its offense going after 5 Patrick White TDP in opener vs. Villanova, but then only 3 points & 251 yards at East Carolina?Colorado sees plenty of spread offenses in the Big XII, allowing 23 ppg LY vs.Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas and Texas Tech, but 55 to Mizzou. Buffs need some ball control from frosh RB Darrell Scott to help scrappy QB Hawkins.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19
*CONNECTICUT 33 - Baylor 13—Sure, moribund Baylor program getting jolt of excitement from electric new QB Robert Griffin (school-record 217 YR on just 11 carries last week). But this is the precocious true frosh’s first road start.UConn’s veteran defense hasn’t allowed a meaningful TD in first 3 games, jr.RB Donald Brown has 566 YR (2nd in nation) & 8 TDs, and Huskies 15-4 vs.spread last 19 at Hartford. (FIRST MEETING)
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 20
PENN STATE 42 - Temple 10—Al Golden has Temple off to a 3-0 spread start, and Owls have better athletes than in past. That being said, Penn State has a deep and explosive offense capable of covering big numbers, and Joe Paterno has a history of laying the wood to outmanned foes (12-3 last 15 laying double digits). Possible lookahead to Illinois and Nittany Lion defensive attrition only potential Penn State stumbling blocks.
(07-Penn St. 31-TEMPLE 0...P.25-16 P.41/202 T.23/4 P.22/33/1/260 T.26/43/0/238 P.1 T.1)
(07-Penn State -25' 31-0 06-PENN STATE -36' 47-0...SR: Penn State 33-3-1)
BOSTON COLLEGE 17 - Ucf 13—Retooling UCF attack doesn’t appear capable of generating much against BC’s rock-ribbed front 7. Still, it’s clear that new Eagle QB Crane (only 248 YP in first 2 games) is no Matt Ryan. Knights have very experienced defense, and “technicals” (UCF 5-1 last 6 as dog; BC just 4-9 previous 13 as chalk) say take points. (FIRST MEETING)
Ohio 30 - NORTHWESTERN 31—Ohio U. got a major bounce-back performance from QB Boo Jackson (365 YP, 3 TDs, 0 ints.) subbing for the injured Theo Scott last week, and hungry 0-3 Bobcats capable of putting up a fight. Undefeated Northwestern has faced a much less-demanding schedule than Ohio, and the two teams have given up basically the same amount of yards. NU 3-10 last 13 as a home favorite; Bobcats 7-3 last 10 as a road dog.
(05-NORTHWESTERN -14' 38-14...SR: Northwestern 2-1)
*CINCINNATI 23 - Miami-Ohio 21—Cincy has seized upper hand lately in rivalry that dates to 19th century. Sr. QB Grutza’s broken leg at Oklahoma leaves Bearcats with little experience under center. However, superior athleticism on defense might still allow Cincy to make it 3 straight over Miami.But no surprise if battle-tested jr. QB Raudabaugh & trio of top-notch LBs help revenge-minded RedHawks (7-1 last 8 as road dog) take this one to wire.
(07-Cincy 47-MIAMI 10...C.24-21 C.42/141 M.24/56 C.26/37/0/297 M.27/54/3/267 C.0 M.1)
(07-Cincy -7 47-10 06-CINCY -11' 24-10 05-MIAMI -10 44-16...SR: Miami-Ohio 59-46-7)
*MISSISSIPPI 28 - Vanderbilt 27—In battle between two vastly-improved squads, prefer to “take” with 3-0 Vandy, now 9-3 last 12 as an SEC dog, including minor upset in Oxford in ‘06. Ole Miss’ strong-armed QB Sneed will be seriously tested by veteran, ball-hawking Vandy 2ndary that impressively skunked prolific Rice aerial assault in 2nd H of 38-21 Nashville victory week ago.‘Dores dual-threat QB Nickson (268 YR, 5.5 ypc, 5 TDs, no ints. TY) & 5-10 jr.RB Hawkins (242 YR, 4.8 ypc) will gash a still-developing Rebel defense that’s allowed points in 7 of 8 Qs vs. FBS squads.
(07-VANDY 31-Miss. 17...V.25-13 V.49/183 M.32/54 M.11/22/1/208 V.18/26/0/200 V.1 M.0)
(07-VANDY -6 31-17 06-MISS. +1' 17-10 05-VANDY -2' 31-23...SR: Miss. 46-34-2)
GEORGIA TECH 23 - Mississippi State 16—Despite facing rock-ribbed defensive squads of Boston College & Virginia Tech, GT’s mobile & surprisingly strong-armed soph QB Nesbitt (261 YR, 4.8 ypc; 43-yd TD pass vs. Virginia Tech) has run Paul Johnson’s well-designed attack with precision and fluidity.Nesbitt & RBs Dwyer & Cox find room vs. over-aggressive Bulldog stop unit defense that must play “assignment” defense vs. a clever option attack it so rarely faces. Meanwhile, still offensively -punchless MSU attack hard-pressed to establish its bread and butter run attack vs. Engineers seasoned & stout DL.
(DNP...SR: Georgia Tech 2-0)
BYU 45 - Wyoming 7—Sure, must pay higher price following BYU’s 59-0 blasting vs. UCLA. But that won’t dissuade us from bucking still-wallowing Wyo, a ghastly 2-15-1 vs. spread last 18 on board. Cougs sizzling QB Hall (78%,1,095 YP) will continue to put up eye-popping numbers vs. a Cowboy 2ndary that allowed Ohio to throw for 248. BCS-bowl seeking Cougs easily cover their 5th straight in series vs. Wyo squad still lacking any substantial QB production (meager 90 YP vs North Dakota St.!)
07-Byu 35-WYO. 10...B.27-19 B.36/135 W.24/9 B.28/40/0/362 W.24/40/1/268 B.0 W.0)
(07-Byu -10' 35-10 06-BYU -18' 55-7 05-Byu -4 35-21...SR: BYU 41-30-3)
*AUBURN 16 - Lsu 13—In clash between two similar SEC West contenders, give slight edge to Auburn squad buoyed by vociferous fan support in Jordan-Hare Stadium, where host is 30-7 SU since 2003. LSU’s potent stable of RBs will have rough time vs. fierce AU front 7 (2 ypc), putting undue pressure on inexperienced QBs Hatch and/or J. Lee, who’ve had it easy thus far. While Auburn’s new spread attack is a work in progress (315 yds., but only a FG vs. Miss. St.), believe capable QB Todd able to effectively work some playaction passes vs. untested LSU 2ndary breaking in new CBs in their 1st game away from Baton Rouge. AU hasn’t lost two straight in series since ‘95-‘96. TV-ESPN
(07-LSU 30-Auburn 24...L.23-16 L.33/169 A.35/97 L.22/35/1/319 A.18/28/0/199 L.1 A.0)
(07-LSU -10 30-24 06-AUBURN -3' 7-3 05-LSU -6 20-17 (OT)...SR: LSU 22-19-1)
Alabama 23 - ARKANSAS 19—Though youthful Arkansas has eked out victories vs. Western Illinois & UL Monroe (remember, Warhawks upset Bama LY), still inclined to take a more generous number vs. Bama squad with just one SEC road win by more a TD since ‘05. Hogs battle-tested, 6-2 sr. QB Casey Dick has quickly developed rapport with soph TE D. J. Williams & prized frosh WR J. Adams (combined 20 catches), while versatile 5-7 RB M. Smith (157 YR & 4 catches in ‘08 debut vs. ULM) keeps Tide LBs at bay.
(07-ALA. 41-Ark. 38...Al.24-22 Ar.53/301 Al.34/123 Al.24/45/2/327 Ar.12/25/1/149 Al.1 Ar.2)
(07-ALA. -3 41-38 06-ARK. -2' 24-23 (OT) 05-ALA. -15' 24-13...SR: Alabama 22-15)
SOUTHERN MISS 37 - Marshall 16—Former Oklahoma State o.c.Larry Fedora’s attack still a work in progress at Southern Miss, although maturing RS frosh QB Austin Davis has developed nice rapport with all-conf. sr.TE Shawn Nelson (19 catches for 228 yards in last 2 games). Much rather lay points than take them with Marshall, which is money-burning 4-19 vs. spread its last 23 on road!
(07-S. Miss 33-MAR. 24...S.21-20 S.41/160 M.31/99 S.23/30/0/310 M.20/38/3/309 S.0 M.1)
(07-Usm -3' 33-24 06-USM -7 42-7 05-Usm -7 27-24 (OT)...SR: Southern Miss 3-0)
Houston 35 - COLORADO STATE 23 Houston “D” has been put in positions as awkward as Sarah Palin during her interview with Charlie Gibson last week.But pedestrian CSU attack not likely to cause the sort of problems that highpowered Ok. State and precision-based Air Force presented in last two games.With Rams still unable to establish credible infantry diversion, trust prolific Coug QB Keenum (13 TDP already!) to fire more scoring shots than CSU counterpart Farris.
(07-HOU. 38-Colo. St. 27...H.22-13 H.44/153 C.38/126 H.22/31/1/247 C.16/26/1/227 H.1 C.1)
(07-HOUSTON -6' 38-27...SR: Houston 2-0)
Rutgers 30 - NAVY 24—Which is fixable of what obviously ails these two? Measured vote for Rutgers’ psyche, admittedly on shaky side after sloppy home defeats vs. Fresno and UNC. But Navy apparently missing Paul Johnson’s shrewd game management more than anticipated, and undersized Mid “D” helpless vs. competent opposition. Maybe Scarlet Knights don’t qualify as such in current state, but remember Navy option is no secret to Rutgers “D” that has kept it check in recent meetings.
(07-RUTGERS 41-Navy 24...R.24-20 N.54/254 R.43/210 R.14/19/1/266 N.5/12/3/35 R.0 N.0)
(07-RUTGERS -16 41-24 06-Rutgers +2' 34-0 05-RUTGERS -6' 31-21...SR: EVEN 11-11-1)
NORTH CAROLINA 24 - Virginia Tech 19—Key early clash in ACC’s wideopen Coastal Division. Is up-and-coming Carolina ready to knock off old-guard Va. Tech? Wouldn’t sell Hokies short, as wily old HC Beamer still has enough defense & special teams to prevail in close games. Current reality, however,finds Tar Heels with HUGE edge in terms of overall offensive firepower. UNC sr.WR/return man Tate has 616 all-purpose yards in just 2 games, inhaling 356 of those on just 13 touches from scrimmage!.
(07-VA. TECH 17-N. Car. 10...N.18-13 V.36/165 N.45/124 N.16/25/1/182 V.11/20/1/76 V.0 N.1)
(07-TECH -19 17-10 06-Tech -13 35-10 05-TECH -23' 30-3...SR: Virginia Tech 16-9-6)
Iowa 21 - PITTSBURGH 16—Iowa defense, led by emerging soph DE Clayborn (leads team with 21 tackles) and sr. DTs King & Kroul, has been a dominant unit thus far, allowing just 2 FGs in three games. Hawkeyes took a safety with 28 secs. left to give away the cover against Iowa St. last week, but Pitt won’t be so lucky. Panther RB LeSean McCoy will find the Iowa front 7 a bit tougher than Bowling Green or Buffalo. (DNP...SR: Pitt 2-1)
*Wake Forest 23 - FLORIDA STATE 20—Although several TGS scouts insist slumbering giant is waking in Tallahassee, not ready to buck well-coached Wake based solely on revenge-minded Seminoles’ easy wins over lightweights W. Carolina & Chattanooga. Acknowledge that FSU offense looks much sharper with resourceful soph Ponder at trigger. But suspension-strapped Seminoles (see Special Ticker) still not at full strength, so prefer to side with crafty QB Skinner (72% last 1+ seasons) & Deacons’ play-making defense. TV-ESPN2
(07-W. FOR. 24-Fla. St. 21...W.18-14 W.48/180 F.24/47 F.24/48/2/283 W.19/27/2/215 W.1 F.2)
(07-WFU +5' 24-21 06-Wfu +8' 30-0 05-FSU -21 41-24...SR: Florida State 21-4-1)
MICHIGAN STATE 28 - Notre Dame 16—Not sure ND can maintain emotional edge that fueled 21-0 start at home against Michigan last week. Irish defense yielded 131 YR to Wolverine RB McGuffie & 6.6 ypc to SDS RB Sullivan, so Spartans’ Javon Ringer (166 ypg rushing; 9 TDs) figures to give rebuilt ND DL major problems. Ranking 96th in total offense an indication the Irish attack has improved only incrementally over last season (last in the nation in ‘07). HC Charlie Weis traveling/coaching with busted knee ligaments. TV—ABC
(07-Mich. St. 31-N. DAME 14...M.19-9 M.49/219 N.35/117 M.11/24/1/135 N.11/20/0/86 M.1 N.1)
(07-Msu -10' 31-14 06-Und -3 40-37 05-Msu +5' 44-41 (OT)...SR: Notre Dame 44-26-1)
OREGON 31 - Boise State 26—There’s more evidence than against O.J. Simpson in his latest trial that there’s really nothing to fear in Pac-10 (outside of USC) this season. And even though Oregon displaying Crater Lake-like depth at skill positions (capable juco Masoli & true frosh Harper likely to handle QB duties after starter Roper injured knee late at Purdue), WAC sources say Boise HC Petersen very satisfied with steady progress of new RS frosh QB Moore, who’s hit 72% of his passes in early going, with plethora of established complementary weapons at his disposal. (FIRST MEETING)
Utah 27 - AIR FORCE 26—Plenty of early positives both ways. But if there’s a foe that might be able to exploit Utah’s troubling cluster of DL injuries (as limited Utah State could not last week), it’s Air Force, especially with Falc option game hardly missing a beat with new QB Shea Smith, and even more dangerous when bread-and-butter dive plays gaining consistent chunks of yardage (as they did in AFA’s 334 YR in last year’s upset win at Salt Lake City). Falcs 11-3 vs.line for HC Calhoun!
(07-A. Force 20-UTAH 12...A.20-15 A.63/334 U.33/73 U.20/39/2/240 A.8/14/0/56 A.1 U.0)
(07-Air Force +7' 20-12 06-Utah -1 17-14 05-UTAH -7 38-35...SR: Air Force 14-10)
*TULSA 41 - New Mexico 27—That was a Mariano Rivera-like “save” for New Mexico and HC Rocky Long last week vs. Arizona, as natives had become restless in Albuquerque after 0-2 start. But things won’t get any easier for Lobos vs. potent (52 ppg!) and rested Tulsa bunch that has been so excellent on attack end that HC Graham hasn’t been able get juco QB Bower promised snaps because of new starter David Johnson’s flawless execution (NCAA-best 241
passer rating!). (DNP...SR: EVEN 2-2)
*INDIANA 31 - Ball State 30—Vet Ball State attack led by efficient QB Nate Davis (39 TD passes, just 9 ints. last 16 games) capable of trading scores all the way against Indiana. Hoosier QB Lewis has looked sharp in leading Indiana to a pair of victories against W. Ky. and Murray St., but Indiana facing a tougher foe in Brady Hoke’s explosive Falcons.
(07-IND. 38-Ball St. 20...B.22-19 I.31/108 B.32/67 I.22/35/1/354 B.27/49/2/345 I.2 B.0)
(07-INDIANA -6' 38-20 06-Indiana -3' 24-23...SR: Indiana 4-0)
PURDUE 40 - Central Michigan 24—Purdue players seemed upbeat in postgame interviews after leading 20-3 against Oregon last week, only to lose in OT. Certainly, Boiler QB Curtis Painter can’t wait to face the CMU defense, after he threw for 906 yds. & 6 TDs in a pair of victories over the Chippewas last season. MAC MVP QB Dan LeFevour will move the ball, but the CMU pass defense ranks 108th.
(07-PURDUE 45-C. Mich. 22...P.30-23 P.37/223 C.33/101 C.35/56/1/364 P.29/40/1/360 P.4 C.2)
(07-Purdue 51-C. MICH. 48...P.28-22 C.44/143 P.27/41 P.35/54/2/546 C.17/35/0/292 P.1 C.0)
(07-PURDUE -21' 45-22, Purdue -8 51-48 (Motor City Bowl)...SR: EVEN 2-2)
Akron 30 - ARMY 16—Although Akron is just 3-7 last 10 as a favorite, and Army is coming off a bye week after losing to New Hampshire, favor Zips against undermanned host. Stan Brock’s Cadets have again been plagued by turnovers (minus-32 margin in last 24 games on the line). After facing Wisconsin and Ball State attacks, Army’s pedestrian offense could seem like a scrimmage vs. the “twos” for Zip defense.
(07-AKRON 22-Army 14...Ak.18-17 Ak.35/133 Ar.29/58 Ar.23/44/2/184 Ak.17/29/0/154 Ak.0 Ar.0)
(07-AKRON -5' 22-14 at Browns Stadium 05-Army +8' 20-0...SR: Army 3-1)
MARYLAND 30 - Eastern Michigan 13—Last week’s wire-to-wire home victory over Cal a soothing salve for Maryland’s wounded psyche following mortifying loss at Sun Belt rep Middle Tennessee. Terps (just 1-8 last 9 laying points!) do tend to play down to level of competition, however.
(DNP...SR: Maryland 3-0)
*TEXAS A&M 23 - Miami-Florida 21—Miami’s defensive speed should allow Hurricanes to keep things tight in battle of two teams adjusting to new offensive schemes—A&M to Mike Sherman’s version of the West Coast, and Miami incorporating spread-option plays for mobile RS frosh QB Robert Marve.Will it be sr. Stephen McGee (mild shoulder separation at New Mexico) or promising 6-5 soph Jerrod Johnson (3 TDP vs. Lobos) at QB for Aggies? TV-ABC
(07-MIAMI 34-Tex. A&M 17...M.18-12 M.40/127 T.33/98 M.21/26/0/275 T.12/22/1/142 M.3 T.2)
(07-MIAMI-FLORIDA -2' 34-17...SR: EVEN 1-1)
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
East Carolina 24 - NORTH CAROLINA STATE 10—No surprise that ECU was a little flat at Tulane last week after earning Top-20 ranking with wins over Va. Tech & West Virginia. Pirates will have no problem getting fired up for this in-state trip to Raleigh, however. Speedy Wolfpack stop unit capable of holding up its end, but punchless State offense has produced just 3 points in last 13 Qs vs. TGS-rated foes. TV-ESPN
(07-N. Car. St. 34-E. CAR. 20...21-21 E.34/72 N.28/49 N.29/44/1/335 E.28/53/1/254 N.1 E.1)
(07-Ncs +5' 34-20 06-Ecu +3 21-16...SR: North Carolina State 15-10)
MISSOURI 54 - Buffalo 13—It’s hard to pick against sizzling Mizzou, which scored on its first 10 possessions last week against Nevada and has scored in 64 of 68 Qs over the last two seasons! Chase Daniel (72% with 10 TDs and only 1 int.) has been nearly perfect, and Jeremy Maclin (3 TDC in first 33 mins. vs.Nevada last week) back at full speed after early-season injury. Improving Bulls 7-4 last 11 as a DD road dog, but Tigers on 14-3 spread roll. (FIRST MEETING)
*Fresno State 30 - TOLEDO 27—We doubt that pugnacious Pat Hill will allow his Fresno troops to wallow in “what ifs” after longshot BCS dreams were likely scuttled by Wisconsin last week. Hey, there’s a lot of football left to be played…it’s only mid-September, for gosh sakes! But also not sure we’re interested in laying a heavy price at Glass Bowl vs. offensively-competent Toledo bunch that can balance things nicely for efficient QB Opelt with blasts from RB Collins (7.7 ypc).
(05-FRESNO STATE -12' 44-14...SR: Fresno State 1-0)
*TEXAS 48 - Rice 13—Texas enjoyed unanticipated bye week, with Hurricane Ike causing a postponement of its game vs. Arkansas. That extra healing and prep time might turn out to be bad news for Rice, which has been hammered to the tune of 161-31 the last three years by the bigger Longhorns (led 41-7 LY at the H). UT doesn’t run as well TY, but savvy QB Colt McCoy showing great rapport with sr. WRs Quan Crosby & Jordan Shipley. Owls hurting at LB.
(07-TEXAS 58-Rice 14...T.25-17 T.40/227 R.30/M11 T.20/31/0/333 R.23/38/2/279 T.1 R.0)
(07-TEXAS -38' 58-14 06-Texas -32 52-7 05-TEXAS -40' 51-10...SR: Texas 68-21-1)
UTAH STATE 31 - Idaho 23—It’s difficult to make a case for either of these WAC stragglers, but we’ll try. USU stepping w-a-a-a-y-y-y down in class after Oregon & Utah, and regional scouts reported signs of life with option elements of Aggie “O” before it was stonewalled by Utes. Meanwhile, nothing positive to report at Idaho, allowing 61 ppg vs. TGS-rated foes and now 1-10 vs. line last 11 on board. Vandals plumbing slightly greater depths of ineptitude these days.
(07-Utah St. 24-IDAHO 19...I.24-15 I.52/237 U.44/154 I.14/27/3/191 U.11/15/0/118 U.1 I.1)
(07-Usu +2' 24-19 06-Idaho -2' 41-21 05-IDAHO +2 27-13...SR: EVEN 16-16-2)
*Tcu 38 - SMU 13—Taking points has been profitable in this Dallas-area rivalry lately, with SMU covering 4 of last 5 against Fort Worth neighbor TCU.Horned Frogs’ IMMENSE defensive edge might hold sway this time around,however, as true frosh Mustang QB Bo Levi Mitchell (8 ints. in decisive losses to Rice & Texas Tech) so far shooting himself in foot with June Jones’ “Red Gun.”
(07-TCU 21-Smu 7...S.23-13 S.47/149 T.34/142 S.19/34/1/203 T.11/26/0/108 T.2 S.1)
(07-TCU -23 21-7 05-SMU +14' 21-10...SR: TCU 41-38-7)
Florida 24 - TENNESSEE 23—Of course, UF has decided edge at QB with Mr. Tebow, but recommend “taking” with fired-up UT squad still fuming from 59-20 pasting in The Swamp LY (see Looking for an Angle). Vols effectively moved the pocket for QB Crompton in 35-3 romp vs. UAB. And his deep stable of RBs & WRs capable of piercing maturing but unfinished Florida defense in 1st road test of year. Gator ground game still lacks much pop (only 89 YR vs. Miami-Florida), and not so sure Tebow puts up Heisman numbers vs. cohesive, tight-covering Vol 2ndary (self-named “Goon Squad”), featuring omnipresent,super-soph SS Berry. UT is 4-0 as a home dog since ‘06, while Meyer’s troops just 2-9 as visiting chalk since ‘05. TV—CBS
(07-FLA. 59-Tenn. 20...F.23-14 F.46/255 T.21/37 F.14/19/1/299 T.28/46/2/261 F.0 T.1)
(07-FLA. -7 59-20 06-Fla. -3' 21-20 05-FLA. -6' 16-7...SR: Tennessee 19-18)
*Georgia 31 - ARIZONA STATE 20—Even if shocking loss vs. UNLV results in a slight pointspread benefit for ASU, not interested in taking bait with Dennis Erickson’s troops, who were manhandled by Georgia-like athletes from Southern Cal & Texas a year ago. Dawgs have plenty of similar quicks on “D” to pressure Sun Devil QB Carpenter and to stick with group of ASU wideouts not to be mistaken for Usain Bolt. And after facing a heavy dose of super-quick SEC defenses the past year, Knowshon Moreno and friends likely not troubled by Sun Devil defenders who couldn’t stop the likes of UNLV’s Omar Clayton (who?) in crunch time last week. REGIONAL TV—ABC (FIRST MEETING)
*UNLV 27 - Iowa State 20—UNLV skill players showing encouraging development under HC Sanford, with long-armed 6-3 true frosh WR Phillip Payne joining RB Frank “The Tank” Summers (103 YR at Arizona State) and veteran wideouts Ryan Wolfe & Casey Flair as support for improving soph QB Omar Clayton. ISU was helped by 4 fumble recoveries in scoring 48 points vs.Kent State, but was held without a TD last week at Iowa.
(06-IOWA STATE -14 16-10...SR: Iowa State 4-0)
*STANFORD 26 - San Jose State 24—Jim Harbaugh might not overlook nearby San Jose (which was injury-ravaged when pounded 37-0 by Cardinal in ’07) as have some past Stanford mentors. But Bay Area scouts taking note of undervalued Spartan bunch that’s gained some traction in recent weeks with emergence of Cal transfer QB Kyle Reed and availability of mini-RB Yonus Davis (143 YR in SDSU romp). Stanford QB Pritchard (just 1 TDP) still blowing hot-and-cold.
(07-STAN. 37-San Jose St. 0...St.26-10 St.48/276 Sj.25/32 St.19/30/1/230 Sj.13/28/1/131 St.0 Sj.0)
(07-STANFORD -7 37-0 06-SAN JOSE ST. +10 35-34...SR: Stanford 47-14-1)
*UTEP 26 - New Mexico State 24—In “Battle of I-10” rivalry, would lean to NMS team that owns the firepower to trade all the way with UTEP squad just 1-8 as chalk since ‘06. Aggies prolific QB Holbrook (434 YP vs. Miners in ‘07) and speedy WR C. Williams (9 catches for 221 yds. 2 TDs) licking their chops after playing pitch and catch in 29-24 Albuquerque win LY. UTEP’s switch to 3-3-5 defense not paying dividends so far. Miner losing streak now at eight.
(07-N. MEX. ST. 29-Utep 24...N.25-13 N.32/113 U.29/79 N.36/48/1/434 U.16/28/1/266 N.1 U.1)
(07-NMS -5 29-24 06-UTEP -16' 44-38 05-Utep -9' 34-17...SR: UTEP 49-34-2)
Arizona 24 - UCLA 16—Which of these two is better equipped to get off the deck? A measured vote for Arizona, thanks to sr. QB Tuitama and moreestablished offensive weaponry that burned a better DeWayne Walker UCLA “D” last November. Meanwhile, Rick Neuheisel might have to consult with Dr. Phil to soothe battered Bruin psyche after BYU fiasco. Or perhaps find Alan Alda and the rest of the old cast from M*A*S*H after mounting injuries continue to deplete OL and skill positions.
(07-ARIZ. 34-Ucla 27...A.21-14 U.41/145 A.34/128 A.21/36/0/341 U.10/28/0/143 A.0 U.0)
(07-ARIZONA +1 34-27 06-UCLA -12 27-7 05-ARIZONA +9 52-14...SR: UCLA 19-11-2)
OHIO STATE 35 - Troy 10—Not more Trojans! Buckeyes saw enough of the USC kind in their 35-3 embarrassment in L.A. Now, the question is whether OSU mopes about that loss or bounces back with a vengeance vs. athletic, welltraveled Troy, which played at Arkansas, Florida & Georgia LY! Trojans got “hang in theres” vs. Hogs & Bulldogs, but lost 59-31 in the Swamp. Trojans younger in backfield in 2008, but soph QB Jamie Hampton & 5-8 soph RB DuJuan Harris helped Troy to 736 yards of offense in last week’s 65-0 rout of
Alcorn State. (FIRST MEETING)
*Middle Tennessee St. 24 - ARKANSAS STATE 22— Hard to explain MTSU’s curious recent series domination (Blue Raiders have won and covered last 5, all by DD margins!). But will stick with trend as long as hot MTSU QB Craddock (355 YP at Kentucky) keeps firing away…and as long as Rick Stockstill gets Blue Raiders’ chins back up after last-second Hail Mary nearly resulted in miracle win at Lexington.
(07-MTS 24-Ark. St. 7...M.22-8 M.49/205 A.33/22 M.11/24/1/179 A.9/19/3/116 M.0 A.1)
(07-MTS -2' 24-7 06-Mts -4 38-10 05-MTS -5 45-7...SR: Middle Tennessee State 8-1)
La.- Monroe 28 - TULANE 26—Trip to mostly-empty Superdome hardly intimidating for road-tested ULM, which has traveled to several of college football’s most daunting venues over last few seasons. Although C-USA scouts raving about Tulane’s stout rush ‘D’ (only 155 yards in first 2 games), cagey sr.QB Lancaster capable of leading Warhawks to mild upset.
(DNP...SR: Tulane 1-0)
MINNESOTA 38 - Florida Atlantic 19—Minnesota found a replacement for injured RB Bennett last week, as frosh Eskridge rambled 114 yards and 3 TDs against Montana State. FAU was beaten worse than 17-0 score last week, as Javon Ringer ran for 282 yards. Gopher QB Weber is 2nd in the Big Ten in total offense, and WR Eric Decker leads that league in receiving. HC Brewster gets revenge for last year while Gophers surge to 4-0 heading into Big Ten play.
(07-FAU 42-Minn. 39...M.29-24 M.28/135 F.41/117 F.27/44/0/463 M.31/47/4/335 F.0 M.3)
(07-FLORIDA ATLANTIC +7 42-39 05-MINNESOTA -32 46-7...SR: EVEN 1-1)
*South Florida 47 - FLORIDA INTL. 10—In its last 9 games vs. non-Sun Belt foes, FIU’s offense has mustered only 3 TDs.
(06-S. FLA. -20 21-20...SR: S. Fla. 1-0)
*LA.-LAFAYETTE 31 - Kent State 24—With plucky ULL gaining confidence
following surprisingly competitive 20-17 loss at Illinois, expect well-coached Ragin’ Cajuns (under savvy 7th-year HC Bustle) to prevail vs. mistake-prone Kent State (10 TOs so far) on extended 0-9 spread run. ULL’s multi-tasking, option-running QB Desormeaux (188 YR, 6.3 ypc; 200 YP vs. Illini) & recordbreaking RB Fenroy (just became school’s all-time leading rusher) will flummox a Flash defense with a mere 17 takeaways in last 16 games.
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
Phil Steele's 4* Power Plays
Penn State over Temple 39-8
BYU over Wyoming 42-6
Auburn (+) over LSU
Alabama over Arkansas 34-20
Houston over Colorado State 35-28
North Carolina over Virginia Tech 25-19
Utah over Air Force 34-20
Purdue over Central Michigan 41-27
Maryland over Eastern Michigan 35-10
Florida over Tennessee 35-23
Ohio State over Troy 36-11
San Francisco over Detroit 35-24
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
4H Utah over AIR FORCE - AF is on a 9-0 ATS run! Utah has won 4 of the L/5 over AF but was upset LY 20-12 after being stopped twice on the 1 yd line in the final 1:25 (UT inj riddled in that gm). Last time here Utah got a FG on the last play to win 17-14 (-1). The Utes are in a legitimate lone home loss revenge situation. LW they laid the hammer to Utah St, 58-10 in a dominating road win. Utah outgained USU 445-116 & held them under 100 ttl yds until the L/3:00 of the gm. QB Johnson is avg 231 ypg (66%) with a 5-3 ratio. RB Asiata has been seen taking snaps behind center & leads with 167 yds rush (4.8) but LY’s star, Mack, has 160 (4.6). AF had to fight off a late rally (up 31-7 mid-3Q) in a 31-28 win over an emotionally drained Houston team and in a gm that was moved up to avoid the threat of Ike. AF was outgained 534-380 and held to 0 yds passing further depleting QB Smith’s passing stats (30 ypg, 48%, 1-1 ratio) but he is the #2 rusher with 227 (4.5). Halderman is #1 with 238 rush yds (11.9) and Lumpkin has added 222 (4.0). AF & Utah have comb to avg 61 ppg S/’83 (22 gms). AF went 4-2 LY as a dog (24-18 L/10 as a dog) but is just 2-5 as a HD. Utah is just 4-8 as an AF (7-12 as MWC AF). This is the Utes 3rd road game in 4 wks while AF has a bye on deck. Although AF has opened the ssn strong and is on the ATS run, the last time Utah had a team this good (‘04) they won their 3 MWC road games by 20 ppg. FORECAST: Utah 34 AIR FORCE 17
3H PURDUE over Central Michigan - This is their 3rd meeting in a year. LY we won with a 4H Key Selection on these pages on Purdue (-21’) at home and they covered 45-22 after jumping out to a 38-0 lead. They then met in the Motor City Bowl and Purdue led 34-13 at the half but only prevailed 51-48. CM has 16 ret starters to just 12 for PU but both offenses are stronger so this should be a shootout. CM is on their 3rd straight road gm, in a MAC sandwich and has not put a lot into IA non-conf gms as they were outscored 234-104 LY and lost to Georgia 56-17 (+24’). CM trailed Ohio 14-10 and had to come from behind for a 31-28 win despite being outgained 513-431 as Ohio fmbl’d the possible gm winning TD into the EZ. Purdue is off a frustrating loss as they led 20-3 in the 2Q but all’d Oregon to tie it, and missed a gm winning FG at the end of regulation, losing 32-26 in 2OT’s. They were outgained 503-408 by the #16 Ducks. Purdue has the def edge (#75-115) but CM has the off edge (#27-50) and has played the tougher schedule (#45-93). Based from their experience LY, Purdue won’t lay off the pedal. FORECAST: PURDUE 41 Central Michigan 24
3H PENN ST over Temple - Five members of the TU’s staff, including HC Golden played under Paterno. PSU won LY’s game in Philly 31-0 in front of 85% Lions fans with a 462-242 yd edge (Temple 4 yds rush) as Penn St transfer QB DiMichele DNP. The Lions have their B10 opener on deck and did not cover vs Buff LY in the same spot. Temple has 22 ret starters but is in a MAC sandwich. Penn St is 11-5-1 as a HF. We won with PSU as a 4H on these pages LW vs Syracuse as the Lions dominated with 26-8 FD & 560-159 yd edges. QB Clark has mastered the Spread HD offense avg 175 ypg (60%) with a 5-0 ratio. Royster has 306 yds (8.1). Temple has lost 2 heartbreakers in a row with an OT loss to Conn and on a Hail Mary TD pass to Buffalo last week. QB DiMichele avg 205 ypg (60%) with a 5-3 ratio. TU’s allowing 201 rush ypg (4.2) which spells trouble as the Lions haven’t let up on the gas yet. FORECAST: PENN ST 44 Temple 13
2H Florida over TENNESSEE - Florida manhandled Tenn LY for Fulmer’s worst ever loss and UT’s worst loss in 37 meetings vs UF. We won a rare 4H Totals Play on the OVER in the 59-20 final. UT has avg just 13 ypg rush the L/ 2 meetings. LY UF had a young D with only 2 starters returning and faced UT behind veteran QB Ainge but only all’d 298 yds & 14 FD’s. TY UF’s #3 D (#4 pass D) has only all’d 6.5 ppg & 191 ypg and now faces UT QB Crompton who is only making his 4th career start. UF has now won 3 straight (2-1 ATS) and is 11-3-1 ATS in conf openers (Tenn 6 str times). They are, however, 2-7 ATS (but won the L2) as an SEC AF and have gone 0-3 ATS in their road opener under Meyer. Vol QB Crompton (PS#3) was shaky on the road in the opener, but led UT to a comfortable win over UAB LW and is avg 214 ypg (53%) with a 2-3 ratio. RB Foster has 196 (7.8) and the tm is avg 222 (5.9) rush ypg. UT’s #21 D all’d mobile UAB QB Webb 78 rush (5.6) but he only threw for 162 yds with 3 int. Tebow has been reined in a bit TY and is avg 197 ypg (61%) with a 3-0 ratio and 92 rush (4.2). The Vols have the SEC’s longest home win streak (9) and are 13-2 SU & 4-0 ATS as a HD. While UF is off a bye, UT had a bye 2 weeks ago. The Gators’ now veteran D is faster than UT’s offense and that will be the difference in this one.FORECAST: Florida 34 TENNESSEE 20
2H Marshall (+) over SOUTHERN MISS - Last year Marshall was done in by 4 TO’s as they fell behind 20-0 in Huntington and are now 0-3 SU all-time losing by an avg of 34-18. Marshall comes in off a conf home win vs Memphis, despite being outgained 462-403 by the Tigers. Marshall held Memphis, who came in avg 30 ppg and 170 ypg on the ground, to 16 pts and 94 yds rushing. SMiss RB Fletcher has topped 150+ yards rushing in both of his games vs the Herd but they do have a new offense and he was held to 87 yds (3.8) LW vs Ark St. SMiss was outgained 447-348, but capitalized on the Red Wolves’ 2 TO’s and a ST miscue. SMiss is 29-12 SU and 24-17 at home vs CUSA but that was all under coach Bower while Marshall is 5-11 ATS vs their own division. SM has just 10 ret sts (Marshall 17). SM has a bye on deck and is just 3-8 ATS before a bye. Marshall travels to WVU next week, but don’t look for the Herd to be thinking ahead. Previously MU got pounded on the ground vs SMiss but those days should be over as the Herd are well equipped to stop the Eagles new offense. FORECAST: Marshall 24 (+) SOUTHERN MISS 27
2H Notre Dame (+) over MICHIGAN ST - The visitor has won 7 in a row SU in the series (6-0-1 ATS) with MSU the 1st ever opp to win 6 straight in South Bend. Last time here began the downfall of ex-coach Smith as MSU blew a 31-14 3Q lead and lost. LY the Spartans won by 17 on the road with a 354-203 yd edge. MSU is just 5-9 as a HF and the Irish are 6-2 as an AD. This is ND’s road opener and they are off a 35-17 win over rival Mich as we had a 2H on the Irish on these pages. The Irish jumped out to a 21-0 lead thanks in part to 6 Michigan TO’s on a wet field as the Wolves outgained the Irish 388-260 and outFD’d them 21-14. QB Clausen avg 192 ypg (56%) with a 5-4 ratio. MSU went to the ground in the rain as RB Ringer (498, 4.8) had 282 yds as the Spartans shutout FAU. In that game the Owls had a 1Q 74 yd TD run called back and botched a FG on a bad snap. MSU has all of the edges (#36-45 off, #32-53 D & #87-112 ST’s) but this is the odd series where the home field is a disadvantage. FORECAST: Notre Dame 23 (+) MICHIGAN ST 26
Wednesday, September 17th - Kansas St at LOUISVILLE - KSU held the nation’s top scoring off (#8 UL) to less than half its avg & fewest pts in nearly a yr in their last & only meeting in ‘06 (Prince’s 1st yr as HC). We did win a 3H LPS as the Cards (-14) won on the road 24-6 & it was QB Cantwell’s 1st road start and he hit 18-26 for 173 with UL having a 401-247 yd edge. UL has just 9 starters back and while KSt has just 12 they also have a large JUCO infusion like the days of old. The Cards were 16-2 ATS at home prior to Kragthorpe but just 1-5 under him. KSt, however, has gone 1-6 ATS vs non-conf BCS tms away from Manhattan.
Thursday, September 18th - West Virginia at COLORADO - 1st meeting. Colorado does have a large altitude edge as they have been in it for TWO months while WV just came in this week. WV is off a bye (like CU) and is 14-3 SU on the road (11-5-1 ATS). Colorado did upset #3 Oklahoma at home LY, has 14 returning starters and is in year 3 under Hawkins (traditionally the year a new HC does best). LY they only lost to Kansas (finished 12-1, #7) by 5 but are just 3-7 as a HD and WV is 9-4-1 as an AF. Two out of WV’s L/3 SU road losses came in a night game.
Friday September 19th - Baylor at CONNECTICUT - 1st meeting. BU is 0-6 SU & 2-4 ATS on the road vs BCS non-conf and just 1-6 SU & 2-5 ATS in road openers (avg loss by 28 ppg). BU is 11-2 SU & 9-2 ATS prior to a bye. Conn is 14-7-1 as a HF, riding a 9 gm home win streak, but does have a huge Big East gm on deck vs UL. Both of these teams won 4H LPS for us LW. BU seems to have bought into Brile’s schemes and are led by QB Griffin (school record 217 rush yds LW, 683 yds in 2 starts TY) while Conn RB Brown has topped 200+ the L2W (566 yds, 7.2).
BOSTON COLLEGE 23 Ucf 6 - BC should be focused here as UCF is the defending CUSA Champ, while BC is off a bye and only has a IAA foe on deck. BC is 14-0 SU vs non-conf opp’s. Coach Jag is 3-4 as a HF and 1-1 off a bye. BC does have just 10 returning starters and lost the top QB in the draft. His replacement Chris Crane has hit 30-53 (57%) for 248 yds with a 1-2 ratio. UCF is also off a bye and 2-5 ATS on the road vs BCS conf tms, although they did upset NCSt in ‘07. The Knights are 11-20 off a SU loss. They also lost their key player on offense in RB Kevin Smith and their top RB is Ronnie Weaver, who has rushed for just 112 yds (2.8!) in the first 2 games. While BC has been tough against the run traditionally, they are all’g 144 ypg (3.8) TY. BC has a slight off edge (#84-104) and the def edge (#16-38). UCF’s road troubles against BCS tms should continue.
NORTHWESTERN 28 Ohio 20 - Last met in ‘05 with NW winning 38-14 (-14’) which was a RARE cover as a HF as they are 3-14 in that role! The Cats have their Big Ten opener on deck and Ohio is on their 3rd road game in 4 weeks. NW is 4-3 as a DD fav incl a 30-10 win (-11’) over Syracuse TY. Ohio is 2-0 ATS as a DD dog TY and led Ohio St into the 4Q two weeks ago. NW won 33-7 over FCS S Ill LW but only had 20-17 FD & 333-262 yd edges. NW QB CJ Bacher is avg 208 ypg (61%) with a 3-1 ratio and RB Tyrell Sutton has 311 yds (5.8). Ohio lost starting QB Theo Scott vs OSU (broken collarbone) and in his 1st start QB Boo Jackson (PS#63JC) became the 1st Bobcat in over 2 years to top 300 yds as he threw for 365 (55%) with a 3-0 ratio and rushed for 48 yds (5.3) vs CM. The Bobcats had a 513-431 yd edge but lost 31-28 as they fumbled away a game winning TD into the CM EZ late 4Q after having a 1st and goal at the CM 8. While the D’s are close (NW #60-63) NW has the off edge (#62-97) but Ohio has played the tougher schedule (#25-95).
CINCINNATI 27 Miami, Oh 17 - MU & UC are colliding for the 113th time in the Battle for the Victory Bell (oldest non-conf rivalry). The RedHawks have lost 3 of 4 by 23 ppg & the visitor is just 1-4 in this rivalry (40 miles apart). LY backup QB Grutza hit 25-35 for 290 in the Bearcats 47-10 road win. In that game Miami lost a ? fmbl on the first play & then lost their top RB’s to inj & it was all downhill. UC will be without Grutza who broke his leg in a 52-26 loss to OK. Jr QB Tony Pike will make his 1st career start. Miami does have 17 starters back (Cincy just 12) but Cincy is off a bye with only Akron on deck. LW Miami scored the final 21 pts (3:45 3Q) for the 38-27 win over IAA Charleston So. Cincy has the off (#57-107) & def (#65-90) edges and take into account that the Cats faced OK. Cincy is 6-3 as a HF and Miami 7-1 as an AD. The favorite has covered the L/3 and they’ve gone OVER 5 out of the L/6.
MISSISSIPPI 31 Vanderbilt 17- Ole Miss underachieved and struggled to learn how to win going 1-6-2 ATS as a fav under Orgeron. Vandy meanwhile has benefitted from tms looking past them and has gone 14-4 ATS as an AD. Ole Miss will not look past this surprising 3-0 Vandy squad and the Rebels’ 2-1 start with a 1 pt loss to WF (possible ACC Champ) has also been better than most expected. Vandy is off a win over Rice which was missing 2 of their starting LB’s (#2 & #3 tklrs in ‘07). VU QB Nickson has avg just 84 ypg (53%) with a 2-0 ratio but leads the tm in rushing (268, 5.5). RB Hawkins has 242 (4.8). PS#4 QB Snead has grasped UM’s offense (#46) avg 220 ypg (56%) with a 6-3 ratio and true Bolden (161, 6.7) and Eason (118, 118, 3.8) have shared the RB’s carries. UM’s #46 D which ret their 13 top tacklers from LY has all’d only 333 ypg. Vandy’s off (#85) was anemic on the road LY avg’g 254 ypg and while they had 360 yds in the opener at Miami (OH) their OL has 5 new starters and will struggle vs SEC competition. They were outgained 325-225 by SC despite pulling out the win and they have been outgained on the yr by an avg of 357-310 ypg. UM started the year with a depleted DL but DT Jerry and NT Laurent are now back with only DE Hardy still out. The HT is 6-1 SU (4-3 ATS). Though Ole Miss is 0-10 in their SEC openers, the Rebels are 5-2 ATS in their SEC home opener (won L/3 covering by 14 ppg). UM is 6-3 SU in the series but just 1-7-1 ATS. As early as it is in the season, this game may determine which of these teams will make a bowl TY.
GEORGIA TECH 13 Mississippi St 9 - Last met in 1929. GT is 4-11 at home vs BCS non-conf. Both teams were in bowls LY but Miss St won theirs and has 14 starters ret while GT lost theirs and now has 9 ret sts and is the youngest squad in the ACC with w/75 Fr & So, a new HC and new offensive and defensive schemes. Miss St is 8-3-1 ATS on the road (7-2-1 AD) but lost outright at LA Tech (-8). The dog is 12-2-1 in GT gms. HC Johnson is 3-8 ATS as a HF. LW GT had 387 total yds with 278 coming on the ground in the triple option. On the season QB Nesbitt has 261 rush yds (4.8) and RB Dwyer has 248 (6.4). Tech has the offensive edge (#56-115) but Miss St has the defensive edge (#18-40). LW Miss St was held to just 116 ttl yds and 2 pts. QB Carroll has passed for 408 yds (51%) with a 3-4 ratio. Another ACC vs SEC matchup and in those the SEC is 3-1 SU but 0-4 ATS TY.
BYU 45 Wyoming 10 - While Glenn is 0-5 SU in road openers WY has covered its L/3, all at tough venues (the Swamp, Boise’s blue turf and cross country at UVA). They are 2-9 as an AD. LY we used BYU -10 as a 4H LPS and they dominated on the road 35-10. WY is just 4-16 SU and 5-15 ATS on the MWC road. They are traveling to face the #14 ranked Cougs which mauled UCLA LW, 59-0. BYU outgained UCLA 521-239 (incl a 184-9 rush edge) as QB Hall tied a BYU rec’d w/7 TD passes (Jim McMahon & Marc Wilson), with 6 coming in the 1H. He is avg 365 ypg (78%) with a 12-2 ratio. His top target, Pitta, is #2 in the nation in rec ypgwith 26 rec (15.7) and 3 TD. Two wks ago, after WY was upended by AF, QB Crum & OC Cole sat down together and decided to simplify the playbook. LW they were lucky to escape with a 16-13 win over IAA N Dakota St. WY nailed a 29 yd FG (set up by an int) with :04 left to come away with the home win, even though they were outgained 313-266. Crum continues to struggle avg 91 ypg (55%) with a 2-3 ratio. RB Moore leads with 297 rush yds (4.9). BYU is 11-5 ATS prior to a bye and under Mendenhall their avg cover is 18.3 ppg vs Wyoming, incl WY’s last trip here which was a 55-7 winner on Thurs night. The Cougs are on a roll and will name the score here.
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
AUBURN 17 Lsu 13 - This is the battle for supremacy in the SEC West as the winner of this game has won the div 6 of L/8Y. The L/4 gms in this series have been decided by 3 ppg with each tm having the exact same point total 58-58! Auburn has covered 3 straight and the L/2 games in Auburn have TOTALED 29 pts. The HT has won 8 straight going 5-2-1 ATS. While Aub is 11-4 ATS at home vs the SEC they are just 4-4 the L/2Y. LY Aub had a young OL with 3 frosh starters facing a veteran LSU DL and LSU got a 22 yard TD pass with :01 left to pull out a 30-24 win (see PH). LSU did have a 498-296 yd edge at home LY, but that was with a veteran QB. This is the first road game for LSU’s young QB’s Hatch (101 ypg, 55%, 1-1 ratio) and Lee (100 ypg, 57%, 2-1 ratio) and they face by far the toughest D they have seen this year (#7) as Aub held MSU to 116 total yds LW in their 3-2 win. Aub’s new spread off has sputtered and QB Todd has only avg 157 ypg (59%) with a 1-1 ratio. RB Lester (148, 4.2) suffered a neck inj LW (check status), and Tate has 278 (5.8). Aub let us down LW with turnovers (2 fmbls in L/5:00 of gm), penalties and missed FG’s costing us a win for our Sept 5H, but Aub has the big home edge and the schedule edge, having faced more difficult opps.
Alabama 30 ARKANSAS 13 - The HT has won 4 in a row SU in this series but is 5-9 ATS. JPW has had good success vs the Hogs playing well in his first ever road start in ‘06 and LY had his 1st career 300 yard effort as Bama led big but let up and needed a comeback to win (see PH). The Hogs are 0-3 ATS as a HD, but Saban is 1-4 as a conf fav. Ark is off an unscheduled bye after LW’s gm at Texas was postponed and they get 3 experienced LB’s back from inj & susp to fill in the depleted unit that used 3 frosh starters in the 1st 2 gms. This is the first true test of Ark’s new off and Bama’s #12 D (Ark #84) should contain Ark QB Dick who has avg 321 ypg (63%) with a 4-1 ratio vs much weaker competition. Bama QB Wilson has avg 156 ypg (63%) with a 4-1 ratio and set UA’s career record for total off LW. RB’s Coffee (242, 6.5) and true Ingram (210, 5.7) lead the tm. The Tide has a huge edge on ST’s (#13 vs #117). Though Bama is just 3-15 as a DD favorite (could apply though covered vs WK LW -28’), Ark realistically could be 0-3 coming into this gm instead of 2-0 and that gives Bama line value.
Houston 40 COLORADO ST 23 - LY Houston overcame a 17-3 HT deficit outscoring CSU 35-10 in the 2H. Both teams have just 12 starters back and new HC’s but UH was an 8-4 team that went to a bowl and CSU was 3-9. LW UH was trying to play thru very unusual circumstances and some obvious distractions. They were down 31-7 mid-3Q vs AF and rallied late but fell 3 pts short. UH had 534-380 & 29-20 FD edges but couldn’t recover the onside K & AF hung on. UH QB Keenum has thrown for 350+ yds in every gm TY (4 consec 300 yd pass gms, 1st here S/’92) His streak of 219 consec passes w/o an int was snapped when CB Wright stepped in front of one at the AF3 (UH down 31-21) late 4Q. Overall, Keenum is #2 in the NCAA avg 380 ypg (63%) with a stellar 13-1 ratio. He has 4 rec’s with DD catches and also leads the team with 148 rush yds (6.7). CSU comes in off a bye. While not ideal, new HC Fairchild said taking a week off this early was fine “because we get better every time we practice.” Two wks ago, CSU was actually trailing IAA Sac St with 10:00 left in the gm (20-17) but drove 61/16pl for a 36 FG and then tacked on a 20 FG as time expired for Fairchild’s first win as a coll HC. QB Farris is avg 254 ypg (69%) with a 2-3 ratio. His top rec, Greer, has 17 rec (13.1) & RB Johnson has 168 yds (5.3). CSU is just 1-3 as a HD over 7 yrs and their #105 pass eff D (all’g 210 ypg, 64%) will be vulnerable vs Keenum & Co.
Rutgers 34 NAVY 24 - The Knights are 6-1 SU (avg win 16 ppg) vs Navy & in ‘06 limited the #1 rushing attack of Navy to 113 yds (2.3) in a 34-0 shutout win here. RU is 12-4-1 ATS vs non-conf on the road. LY RU won 41-24 (-16’) with Navy QB Kaheaku-Enhada throwing 3 int including 2 in the EZ (Navy 289 total yds, 155 below avg). Rutgers is off their worst loss at home since ‘02’s 40-0 loss to WV. Despite outgaining NC 383-378, RU could not overcome 3 int by QB Teel (4 overall in NC terr) in the 44-12 loss. They now face a team that has allowed 324 pass ypg. LW QB Kaheaku-Enhada made his 1st start TY (inj’d1st 2), but left (heat exhaust) in 1H of their 41-31 loss to Duke. This is RU’s road opener and they are 2-5 as an AF (5 yr). Navy is 3-7 SU and ATS vs current BE teams and on a 2-7 ATS run at home. The Knights have a huge def edge (#59-111) and HC Schiano knows how to prepare for the Navy option (191 rush ypg L/3). For the Knights this a must win game before entering their conf schedule.
NORTH CAROLINA 24 Virginia Tech 17 - VT has won all 4 meetings in ACC play by an avg of 27-12 but that does not tell the story. The last two years NC has had a combined 34-20 FD edge. LY they went into Blacksburg and only lost 17-10 (+19’). VT is 11-3 as an AF vs FBS opp but NC is 10-4 as a HD. LW the Tar Heels won for the 1st time outside NC S/’02 in their 44-12 rout vs Rutgers which gives them their best start S/’00. WR Brandon Tate leads the NCAA in all-purp yds avg 308 ypg. QB Yates has passed for 442 yds (60%) with a 5-1 ratio. NC has the off edge (#43-86) but VT has a slight def edge (#45-56). After their loss in Wk 1, VT pulled the RS off QB Taylor. He started LW and only threw for 48 yds & ran for 74, and we expect Beamer to go back to the dual QB system. NC is our #2 Most Improved Team which has a legitimate shot at winning the Coastal Div.
PITTSBURGH 20 Iowa 16 - This is Iowa’s road opener and they are 1-3 SU on the road vs non-conf with their avg loss by 27-8. Pitt is 5-1 ATS vs the B10 S/’97 but did lose at home to Mich St 38-22 (-3) in ‘06. Pitt is off a bye while Iowa defeated rival ISU despite being outFD’d 18-11 and outgained 325-244 as Brodell’s 4Q 81 yd PR TD put the game away. The Hawks are just 4-11 ATS on the road and have their B10 opener on deck. Hawks’ QB Christensen came off the bench in the 2H vs the Cyclones to lead them to the win and may start here over Stanzi. At 235 lbs Iowa’s ‘Greene’ Monster outweighed the average Cyclone defender by 5 lbs per man and he has 359 yds (6.5) and TW he’s matched against a Panthers D which allows 95 rush ypg (3.2). The Hawks D hasn’t allowed a TD TY and just 89 rush ypg (3.0). Pitt has been forced to go to the air with opp’s D’s keying on McCoy (164, 3.8). QB Stull avg 253 ypg (61%) with a 4-2 ratio and OC Cavanaugh says JC Cross may see time as a change of pace QB.
FLORIDA ST 23 Wake Forest 20 - WF has beaten Fla St in B2B years for the 1st time in school history. In WF’s last visit here (‘06), they shutout FSU which was the 1st time at home in Bowden’s 32 yrs as FSU’s HC. This is the 3rd and final game for FSU’s suspensions and this is the first IA foe their short handed squad faces. WF comes in fully loaded off a bye and is fresh and ready and also tested vs a pair on BCS non-conf foes (2-0 SU). Grobe is 17-9-1 as an AD. QB Skinner (ACC Off POW 2X TY) has passed for 487 (75%) with a solid 5-0 ratio. WR Boldin has 18 rec (8.7). The Noles have the edge on both sides of the ball (off #20-54 & def #14-24) even with the sked difference. QB Ponder (PS#22), who beat out Weatherford and Richardson for the starting job in week 1, has 376 pass yds (62%) with a solid 6-0 ratio. Ponder spreads the ball around as Reed has 7 rec (18.4), Carr 6 (19.0) and Surrency 5 (20.2).
OREGON 34 Boise St 13 - 1st meeting. Boise, who is 2-11 SU vs the P10 with both wins coming at home vs Oregon St, put together a strong defensive showing LW vs BG holding the Falcons scoreless for the 1st 3Q’s in their 20-7 win. They now enter Eugene against a Duck team off their inspiring comeback 2OT win vs Purdue. The Ducks did, however, lose QB Roper (4-0 as a starter) for up to a month with a knee injury and will now turn to the combo of JC trans Masoli & true frosh Harper to take control of our #9 off. UO has gone 14-3 ATS as a HF and 13-5 ATS against non-conf opponents all’g just 274 ypg at home. LY we used a 4H LPS on Wash (+3) over Boise and they dominated 24-10 ending the Broncos 14 game win streak. This is Boise’s road opener (lost SIX straight ATS!) and while they have gone 3-0-1 ATS as a DD dog S/’00, they are just 7-13-1 ATS off the blue turf and now have a VHT rFr QB making his 1st career road start which may not bode well in noisy Autzen Stadium.
TULSA 35 New Mexico 28 - Last met in ‘97. NMex is 3-1 ATS in the series. NM is 4-13 SU in road openers but did upset Missouri in 2005 as a DD dog. NM is 14-7 as an AD and is coming off a Big Dog POW outright upset win over Arizona, holding the Wildcats’ spread off to 388 yds and forcing 5 TO’s. The Lobos travel to in-state rival NMSt next and are 6-2-1 in the 1st of B2B AG’s. This is Tulsa’ s home opener and they are off a bye with only a IAA foe on deck, but Graham is just 1-3 as HF. NM has a large defensive edge (#41-107) and a huge sched edge (2 BCS opp), but Tulsa has a huge edge on offense (#7-99) and a large ST edge (#50-97). NM’s D all’d just 20 ppg on the road and has the adv of having faced a pair of pass happy attacks in TCU and Arizona. The Lobos will come to play even with “The Battle of I-25” on deck.
INDIANA 35 Ball St 27 - Both schools have been moving up and each made a bowl in ‘07. Indy has won 4 in a row SU in the series incl the L2Y. LY Indy led 24-10 at half with a 267-185 yd edge and won 38-20 so ignore the fact that they were outFD’d 22-19. LY Indy QB Lewis threw for a career high 354 yds. Indy has just 13 ret sts and Ball St has 18. Indy is off a bye and has their conf opener on deck and Ball is in a MAC sandwich but the Cardinals are 10-3 as an AD. While Indiana has the D edge (#58-86), Ball St has the off edge (#30-69) and a big ST’s edge (#9-63). Indiana QB Kellen Lewis is avg 157 ypg (67%) with a 2-1 ratio and is the Hoosier’s top rusher with 183 (18.3). Ball St QB Nate Davis is avg 305 ypg (75%) with a 9-3 ratio. RB MiQuale Lewis has continued where he left off LY before being lost for the year in gm 4 rushing for 363 (6.1) TY. Ball St is off a 41-24 (-7) win over Akron but only outgained the Zips 491-418 as they benefitted from being +3 TO including a 33 yd fumble ret for a TD.
Akron 24 ARMY 17 - Akron is playing their 3rd road gm in 4 wks and is off a conf game while Army is fresh off a bye. Army is just 13-25-1 ATS at home and does have just 8 ret starters. LY they met in the inaugural Patriot Bowl in Cleveland Browns Stadium and Akron won 22-14 (-6). While the D’s are almost identical (#108-109), the Zips have big off (#74-120) and ST’s edges (#49-113) despite playing a tougher schedule (#34-103). Army switched to an option offense which HC Brock said they will live and die with it and Akr is all’g 271.0 ypg rushing (5.4). Army has only been outgained by 8 ypg but they have been outscored by 23 ppg as they have scored just 17 pts in 2 gms incl 10 vs IAA New Hamp. The Knight ST’s are giving up a horrendous 20 ypr on punts and 53.2 ypr on KR as they have given up 2 KR TD on just 4 KO’s. That is good news for Akron KR Bryan Williams who led the MAC LY in KR avg (#2 NCAA) and is avg 32.6 ypr TY. The Zips are off a 41-24 loss to Ball St but were only outgained 491-418 but were -3 TO.
MARYLAND 38 E Michigan 10 - The Terps are just 2-11 as a HF and in a huge sandwich after playing Cal with their ACC opener vs Clemson on deck. They last met in ‘03 with MD winning 37-13 (-34). EM is in a MAC sandwich and Genyk is 13-11 as an AD. The Terps have a history of starting off slowly under the Fridge, and after two poor games to start the year they upset #23 Cal 35-27 as a 14 pt HD. The Terps were outgained 461-297 but led 28-6 after 3Q and much of Cal’s off came in the 4Q as they scored 3 TD’s in 7:00. EM after playing well early vs Mich St the prior week, was a 2’ pt HF vs Toledo. In a steady downpour they trailed just 14-7 at the half but all’d 27 unanswered 3Q points and were outgained 347-263. MD has the off (#63-111) and the def edge (#51-95) despite playing a much tougher schedule (#44-112). In his 2nd start MD QB Chris Turner had 156 yds (78.9%) with a 2-0 ratio against Cal. The Terps RB Da’Rel Scott has 407 yds (7.3) which is bad news for an EM D that is all’g 4.6 ypc. EM QB Kyle McMahon relieved starting QB Andy Schmitt, and threw for 128 (61%) with an 0-1 ratio but added 59 yds (4.2) rushing. The Eagles top RB Terrence Blevins has 251 yds (5.6) but will be facing a MD D all’g 2.8 ypc who held Cal’s RB Jahvid Best (who was avg 156 ypg) to just 25 yds (2.5).
Miami, Fl 20 TEXAS A&M 13 - Last year UM defeated A&M holding them to 38 total yds with a 24-0 halftime lead delivering us a Thurs Nt ESPN Winner. Miami is 5-0 SU and ATS vs the Big 12. A&M does have just 10 ret starters and a new HC while Miami has 11 returning and are in the 2nd year under Shannon. Both teams are off a bye and UM’s young QB’s Marve & Harris (combined 28-48, 269 yds & have yet to toss an int) have a game at the “Swamp” under their belts. A&M is 23-11 SU at home, but was upset by Ark St 3 wks ago while Miami is just 2-9 SU on the road. Miami was very impressive vs Fla 2W ago as they held the Gators to 9 pts & 230 yds the 1st 3Q and on the ssn are all’g just 236 ypg. A&M has played very poor LY in its 1st 2 gms and the players are struggling with Sherman’s schemes as the Aggies have been outgained by 123 ypg. UM RB Jarvis was inj’d vs Fla & won’t play, but the duo of Cooper/Thomas (110 yds, 3.2) are capable bkups while the status of A&M’s QB McGee (95 ypg, 69%, 0-2) & RB Goodson (133 yds, 4.4) for this gm is in question. It could be a long year in College Station as the A&M faithful have seen this story before and now run into a Hurricane tm that played a Fla tm a lot closer than the final score (Tebow held to just 61 yds in 1H).
East Carolina 27 NC STATE 13 - ECar always gets up for its ACC in-state rivals and these two are only 93 miles apart. EC is 3-3 SU and 8-5 ATS vs NCSt and won their last trip here in ‘06 21-16 as a 3 pt dog. LY NCSt pulled the road upset 34-20 jumping out to a 21-0 lead in a game closer than the final (see PH). NCSt has just 10 returning starters from a 5-7 squad while EC has 16 ret starters from a bowl winner. QB Pinkey has thrown for 707 yds (76%) with a 4-1 ratio. EC has the edge on both sides of the ball (off #65-93 & def #33-73). NCSt hasn’t scored a TD on offense vs a BCS team in 13 straight quarters. Despite throwing for 246 yds vs W&M, QB Beck was replaced by Wilson (concussion 1st gm) and Wilson only had 92 yds vs Clemson LW. EC is in a CUSA sandwich and playing their 3rd game away from home in 4 weeks but are 3-0 for the first time S/‘99 including wins over ACC’s VT and BE’s WVirg and have moved into the Top 25 and the national spotlight.
MISSOURI 59 Buffalo 17 - 1st meeting. Pinkel is a MAC grad, got his coaching start in Toledo and lost a pair of games to MAC tms in his first 2Y. Since then he is 4-0 ATS vs the MAC with an avg win by 41-9 and 8-3-1 as a 20+ fav. LW MO scored 69 pts (tied a tm record set in 1969 and put up 651 yds scoring on 1st 10 possessions). Mizzou has scored 30+ (50+ all 3 gms TY) in 18 of 19 gms. QB Daniel is avg 324 ypg (72%) with a 10-1 ratio. Buff is 3-2 ATS vs ranked foes (avg loss by 32 ppg). Buff HC Gill was a QB and asst cch for Nebraska and Buff is 8-4 as a 20+ dog. LW Buff beat Temple on a final play Hail Mary and for the ssn are outgaining foes by 91 ypg led by QB Willy who is avg 264 ypg (65%) with an 8-2 ratio. Buffalo has played well this ssn but is in a MAC sandwich and may use this as a mail in game. Mizzou will be by far the best team Buff will face TY. The Tigers have a bye on deck, are outgaining foes by 188 ypg (avg 597 ypg) and will roll once again to start 4-0 for the 3rd straight year.
TEXAS 52 Rice 17 - LY then-#7 Texas outgained Rice 560-268 in a 58-14 win as they led 41-0 in the 2Q. Rice is 7-15 ATS vs BCS schools and 0-9 SU and 3-6 ATS vs Texas with their avg loss by 30 ppg. Rice dropped its first gm of the season last week, but did outgain Vandy 407-344 & was tied 21-21 at HT. QB Clement is avg 356 ypg. The HT (schools 160 miles apart) is 9-3 ATS and Rice is on their 3rd straight road game while Texas (due to Hurricane Ike) hasn’t played in 14 days. Texas is 18-9 as a 20+ fav (2-0 TY). Horns QB McCoy is avg 252 ypg (76%) with a 7-1 ratio (#1 rusher with 111 yds, 6.5). Texas has been very impressive this season (2-0 SU & ATS) winning by 36 ppg, outgaining foes by 102 ypg and should continue its dominance over a Rice tm that hasn’t beaten them in Austin since 1965.
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
UNDERDOG PLAY OF THE WEEK
In their only prior gm (‘05), Toledo had 20-13 FD & 304-248 yd edges but lost by 30 (44-14, +14) due to TO’s & poor ST play. UT is coming off B2B losing seasons for the first time since ‘77-’78. The Rockets are 5-8 ATS but are 4-0 SU (3-1 ATS) in their L/4 HG’s. UT is 7-1 SU & ATS in its first lined HG. This is UT’s home opener & the Rockets are 41-6 SU in the Glass Bowl this decade incl 6-1 as a HD with wins over Iowa St, Kan & a talented #9-ranked Pitt team in the L/5 yrs. FSU has the edge on off (#41-68), def (#36-85) & ST ‘s (#20-100). The big question here is, how will the Bulldogs respond after losing the biggest game in school history? In a somewhat similar situation back in ’05 when FSU lost to #1 USC (50-42), Fresno suffered a major hangover going on to lose 10 of their next 11 gms (1-10 SU & ATS). FSU is on a 7-4 ATS run but is only 1-5 ATS as an AF with 3 outright upsets. This could be a sticky situation for the Bulldogs as this contest lands smack in the middle of a pair of BCS gms (Wisky LW, at UCLA on deck) and it could be difficult for FSU to rise up again & bring its “A” game. FORECAST: TOLEDO 27 Fresno St 23
OTHER COLLEGE GAMES
UTAH ST 27 Idaho 24 - The series is deadlocked at 16-16-2. Idaho is 3-7 SU since ‘59 in Logan but won its last trip here 41-21 (-3). LY the Vandals outgained the Aggies 428-272 but were -4 in TO’s which cost them the win. UI is 10-17-1 as an AD & USU could find itself in somewhat uncharted waters as a HF where it’s just 1-1 in the L/3 yrs. UI snapped an 11 gm losing streak two wks ago & the victory marked just the 2nd win for the Vandals since mid-‘06 but both wins were vs IAA tms. Since UI’s last win over an FBS tm (LT in ‘06), the Vandals are just 2-18 SU & 4-14 ATS. The tms are pretty even on off (UI #114-118) & def (USU #110-119) but the Aggies have the edge on ST (#77-103). USU is 3-5 SU in the L/8 vs UI but is 14-7 SU over the L/21 meetings. USU is on an 8-6 ATS stretch but the Aggies are 1-13 SU & 4-10 ATS in HG’s. USU is being outgained by 258-75 ypg on the ground TY. USU QB Setzer has gotten the start in the first 3 gms TY but it’s been Borel who has been more effective with both his arm & legs as Borel’s numbers (100 ypg, 3-1 ratio, 41 ypg rush) are superior to Setzer’s (70 ypg, 1-1 ratio, -4 ypg rush).
Tcu 41 SMU 17 - TCU has outscored SMU 233-64 (avg 29-8) since 1999. SMU’s only win in that span was in the Frogs last visit to Dallas in ‘05 when they won (+14’) the “Iron Skillet” after a 6 yr drought. That turned out to be TCU’s only loss of the yr and was also a Big Dog POW. The HT is 7-4 ATS and SMU has covered the L/2. LY in Ft Worth, SMU had a 23-13 FD edge but TCU used a blk’d punt and IR for TD’s and won 21-7 (-23’). Patterson’s def (he was DC) held Jones’ offense to 14 pts in ‘99 and 21 in ‘00 but UH did avg “just” 28.5 and 24.5 those 2 years. Jones said his offense would hit its stride in week 4, but seemed to take a step back LW as the Mustangs threw 5 int in a 43-7 loss at TT. TCU was a 4H LPS winner (-14) over Stanford and brings in our #23 pass def, but the Horned Frogs are just 7-13-2 as an AF and 13-19-1 as a DD fav under Patterson. TCU has Oklahoma on deck and must avoid looking ahead to their showdown with the Sooners.
Georgia 24 ARIZONA ST 21 - Tough spot here for the Bulldogs. UGA is off a narrow SEC road win and now makes their longest reg ssn road trip S/’65 with Bama on deck seeking revenge for an OT loss LY. ASU, meanwhile, dropped a shocker LW in Tempe to UNLV in OT as they were likely looking ahead to this matchup. While the gm has lost some of the luster, ASU is playing their 4th consec HG to start ‘08, has a bye on deck, and has an experienced QB in Carpenter who has had a solid Sept hitting 71% of his passes with 325 ypg and a 6-2 ratio. RB Herring has battled inj this ssn and remains a ? as of this writing (check status). ASU was behind in 6 gms LY but will need to jump on UGA early because if they fall behind, the Bulldog defense will keep them down (289 yds allowed at SC LW). Georgia’s Richt knows how to win on the road where he is 16-3 SU away and is also 6-2-1 ATS vs non-conf giving the Bulldogs a good chance to steal one away this week in the desert.
UNLV 27 Iowa St 20 - “I really don’t believe we lost,” said UNLV HC Sanford after what was ruled a inc pass on the final play in their last meeting in ‘06. The Cyclones are 1-4 SU after playing rival Iowa incl two losses to non-BCS schools. UNLV is off one of the biggest wins in school history, upsetting #15 Ariz St in OT. True frosh Payne had a one-handed TD catch with :18 left to force OT. After hitting a 20 yd FG, UNLV took a page from BYU’s book, and Taumua broke thru the line to blk a 35 yd FG and seal the 16-13 win. RB Summers had his best gm TY (103 yds) and now leads with 277 rush yds (4.7). QB Clayton is only avg 181 ypg (61%) but has an outstanding 6-0 ratio. Wolfe is the #1 rec with 24 (10.1). Iowa St is 6-24-1 ATS on art turf and this is their first time on it TY. They are off a 17-5 loss to in-state rival Iowa. ISU had 325-244 yd & 18-11 FD edges but could not overcome scoring only 3 pts in their 6 trips inside the Iowa 30. QB Arnaud had his best showing of the year (224 yds) but only avg 163 ypg (63%) with a 2-2 ratio. Bates leads with 140 rush yds (7.0) and Sumrall has 11 rec (16.8). Iowa St is 8-1 ATS vs non-BCS tms. This is only the 2nd BCS school (besides Wisky) to visit UNLV in the L/6Y and LY UNLV outplayed #5 Wisky here. Both tms are improved over ‘07 and the Rebels are 9-4 as a HD but 2-12 as a HF. Sanford will use LW’s upset as a springboard for the rest of the season and the ISU run D (4.6 ypc) is facing Frank “The Tank” Summers.
STANFORD 20 San Jose St 17 - After a competitive road loss the week prior to Neb, the Spartans won at home for the 14th time in 16 gms as QB Reed (Cal transfer) continued his hot start with his new team rushing for 3 TD’s in their 25 pt win vs SDSt. SJSt bills this as class warfare and are usually up for their more high rent district rival but surprisingly have dropped 5 out of the L/6 ATS by a 44-10 avg margin (all as big dogs) including LY’s 37-0 blanking (1st Stanford shutout S/’96) in which the Cardinal finished with a 506-163 yd edge. After a solid performance vs OSU in their home opener, Stanford has been put down the L/2W including LW’s loss at TCU (3H LPS winner!!) as they were held to just 193 ttl yds. RB Gerhart has rushed for 259 yds (5.2) so far TY and in LY’s game (his only gm played all ssn), Gerhart took off against the Spartans rushing for 140 yds on just 12 carries (11.7). SJSt did pull out 3 straight upsets (15’, 19, 17’ dogs) from ‘98-’00 and could surprise the Cardinal some here making this closer than Stanford fans would like.
UTEP 37 New Mexico St 33 - The “Battle of I-10.” NMSt trails the series 34-49-2 but snapped a 3 gm losing streak LY winning 29-25 (-5’) with a 557-345 yd edge. The HT in this series is 8-1 SU & 5-4 ATS but is 3-1 SU & only 1-3 ATS in L/4 gms. These two have avg a comb 63 ppg in the L/8. The Aggies are 3-7 SU in this series S/’96 but are 10-6 ATS S/’90. NMSt is 0-17 SU & 4-13 as an AD. The Aggies’ last SU win as an AD was on Nov. 13, 2004 vs FAU (35-7, +7). NMSt is playing its 2nd straight AG. UTEP has a slight edge on off (#76-81) & def (#104-112) and has a large edge on ST’s (#45-116). UTEP is 1-7 ATS as a HF and the Miners are in the midst of an 8 gm losing streak (2nd longest in NCAA) going 2-6 ATS during the slump. UTEP switched to a 3-3-5 blitzing D but has been “blitzed” by its first two opp being outscored 84-30 (42-15 avg). The Miners are 25-25 SU & 23-24 ATS under HC Price but after B2B 8-4 finishes capped by bowl appearances in ‘04 & ‘05, UTEP is 9-17 SU (12-13 ATS) since. UTEP is off a bye with its CUSA opener vs UCF on deck while NMSt hosts rival New Mexico next week.
UCLA 30 Arizona 27 - Home teams have dominated this series of late winning the L/5 ATS by a 15.4 ppg avg cover. The Wildcats make their 2nd consec road trip after dropping a heartbreaker to NM for the 2nd yr in a row as they were SOD on their final drive vs the Lobos. LY UCLA started their 3rd string QB (outgained 344-104 at the half) and was forced to go with former WR Rashaan at QB in the 2H (see PH). The Bruins were destroyed at the hands of BYU LW in Provo as they were dealt their worst loss S/’29, 1st shutout loss S/’01 (USC) and their 2nd thrashing in 2 yrs in trips to Utah as the Utes destroyed them 44-6 LY. The young Bruin secondary was torched for 7 TD passes against the Cougs which may not bode well against a pass-happy AZ offense led by QB Tuitama who is avg 264 ypg (66%) with a 8-2 ratio. Arizona however is just 1-6 SU in the Rose Bowl and lost their only two recent trips by a 32-12 avg (‘04 & ‘06) while the Bruins have gone 8-3 ATS as a conf HF and 15-3 ATS off a loss. The Bruins continue their Jekyll and Hyde play.
OHIO ST 34 Troy 13 - Huge sandwich game for OSU who is off their beatdown to USC and has their B10 opener on deck. The Bucks are 26-15 ATS as a HF. Troy is 5-2 ATS vs ranked teams and only lost to Georgia by 10 LY. The Trojans D induced OSU’s offense into a 2H coma as they had just 25 total yds. QB Boeckman was sk’d 5 times and threw a costly pick six that effectively ended the game late 1H so the fans may be chanting for Pryor. RB Beanie Wells may not return until the B10 schedule. Troy is off a 65-0 whipping of Alcorn St in which they set a school record for offense while outgaining the Braves 736-120. QB Hampton avg 230 ypg (66%) with a 5-3 ratio. OSU has all of the edges but motivation might be a factor although Tressel is 9-4 ATS off a SU loss.
ARKANSAS ST 27 Middle Tennessee 20 - The Blue Raiders are 8-1 vs ASU outscoring them 176-55 in the L/5 wins. LY MT recorded a school record 9 sks, forced 4 TO’s & held ASU to ssn low 138 yds. Ark St has won 9 of their L/11 HC gms SU and is off a 27-24 loss to S Miss but looked impressive their first 2 gms as the outplayed Texas A&M and routed their IAA opponent. ASU QB Leonard is avg 215 ypg (60%) with a 7-1 ratio and RB Arnold has 352 yds (8.0). WR McLennan has 8 rec (19.4). MT almost upset their 2nd BCS tm in as many weeks but fell 1 yd short on a Hail Mary pass on the last play of gm to lose 20-14 to Kentucky which did give us a 3H Winner on the Under. MT QB Craddock is avg 269 ypg (63%) with a 5-2 ratio and WR Beyah has 11 rec (23.2). While MT has played the tougher schedule (#36-115) ASU has the clear offensive edge (#52-101).
TULANE 23 ULM 20 - ULM was drilled 52-9 in their last & only game vs Tulane in ‘02. ULM is 13-6 as an AD but this is their 3rd road game in 4 weeks (first non-SEC road gm).Tulane is 21-4 SU vs current SBC schools and 16-5 SU at home vs non-conf. They are in a CUSA sandwich while ULM is off a 37-15 win over a IAA foe with a bye on deck. Even though this is their 3rd road gm, they are 7-1 ATS off a SU win and 4-0 ATS as an AF. ULM QB Lancaster is avg 201 ypg (56%) with a 5-0 ratio. We won our Underdog POW with ULM vs Arkansas and in that one ULM was up 24-6 in the 4Q. ULM is off a 37-15 win over IAA Alabama A&M holding them to 71 yds in 2H with QB Lancaster accounting for 279 of their 455 yds. Tulane has been impressive for a 0-2 team as they outgained Alabama 318-172 and then fell short to #14 E Carolina 28-24. QB Moore is avg 231 ypg (57%) with a 1-2 ratio.
MINNESOTA 42 Florida Atlantic 38 - LY we thought that FAU (5-7 in ‘06) was a bowl-caliber team and that Minny was in a rebuilding year. We were very pleased to get the Owls +7 at home in the Florida heat and used them as a 5H. It was a great game as the “underdog” Owls led 42-24 mid 4Q before allowing a couple of garbage TD’s late. QB Rusty Smith threw for a school record 463 yards. Minny is one of our Most Improved Teams with 15 starters back and is at home in the dome and off a 35-23 win over IAA Montana St LW. They lost TB Bennett for the year (ACL) and started 3 frosh and 2 soph’s on the OL. HC Brewster is 0-4 as a fav and LY came in off two OT gms. FAU is on their 3rd road game in 4 wks and played two very physical tms in Texas and Mich St. QB Smith is off one of his worst performances as he went 8-34 for 143 yds and struggled in the heavy rain. He is avg 240 ypg (44%) with a 4-1 ratio and WR Gent has 11 rec (18.6).
Usf 34 FLORIDA INT’L 10 - This is the 2nd meeting (273 miles apart), their 1st was in ‘06, a USF 21-20 (-20’) win. That may have them put a little more prep into this than you would think as they are off their big game victory vs #13 Kansas and have a road trip to the ACC on deck. The Bulls dodged a bullet on the leg of a 1st time frosh kicker Bonani on the last play for a 37-34 win over KU. FIU returns to its new on-campus stadium after playing HG’s at the Orange Bowl LY and they have 18 starters back in Cristobal’s 2nd season. TY FIU has been dominated by Kan 40-10 & Iowa 42-0. USF did only beat FAU by 12 in ‘07 on the road (-17’). The Bulls have huge edges on offense (#13-119) and D (#31-103). FIU has only been a dog of 20+ at home once and covered vs Maryland LY 10-26 (+24). USF has a tendency to play up/down to the level of competition and may be looking ahead to NCSt the same team they lost to in their 1st bowl in ‘05.
Kent St 30 LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 23 - ULL is 0-5 SU in home openers vs FBS opp but this is their first game on their new art turf after 37 yrs on grass. KS HC Martin is 8-10 as an AD and they do have their MAC opener on deck while this is ULL’s best shot at a win this month. Martin called their loss to Iowa St “frustrating” after they had dominated them. KS QB Edelman is avg 136 ypg (54%) with a 3-4 ratio. RB Jarvis has 207 yds (5.2) and WR has Bayes 9 rec (17.1). ULL is off a 20-17 loss to Illinois (2 scores set up by turnovers in 1H) with Fenroy gaining 20 to make him the school’s career rushing leader. QB Desormeaux is avg 149 ypg (62%) with a 1-2 ratio and is also the leading rusher with 188 yds (6.3). ULL has the offensive edge but Kent has the edges on D and ST’s. ULL has played the tougher schedule, has the home edge and the humidity of the south but Jarvis will feast against a DL all’g 311 ypg rushing (5.9 ypc).
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
Power Sweep NFL
4H SAN FRANCISCO over Detroit - Mike Martz takes on the team that fired him after 2 seasons as OC. DET is 4-13 ATS on the road but SF is 3-7-1 ATS at home. Despite the Lions trying to become a run oriented defensive team they have been lit up in the 1H of both games being outscored 42-17 and outrushed 212 (7.6)-54 (3.2). LW they rallied from a 24-3 deficit to take a 1 pt lead halfway thru the 4Q but the defense allowed 10 pts by GB & Kitna was int’d twice in the final 5:17. SF played a good game vs SEA LW & beat them in OT 33-30 as a 6.5 AD despite being sacked 8 times O’Sullivan tallied 321 yds (63%) with a 1-0 ratio & 10.0 ypa. Bruce expands the field & knows the Martz system inside & out (4 rec 38.3 LW) so look for Gore to improve on his running numbers of 61 yds (3.2) from LW. On paper SF’s defense faces a challenge with DET’s WR tandem but the DET coaching staff refuses to play to its strengths. SF has the better overall offense & an under the radar defense headed up by LB Willis & gets their 2nd win here. FORECAST: SAN FRANCISCO 31 Detroit 20
3H ATLANTA over Kansas City - This game features 2 teams projected to have a top 5 DC in 2009. This could be the only time ATL is a favorite in 2008 & they are 1-4 ATS a HF. KC is 3-10-1 ATS as single digit AD. Even though the Chiefs are playing for 2009 HC Edwards made a very questionable decision LW pulling QB Huard despite only being down 6-0. He inserted 2007 7th RD DC Tyler Thigpen from Coastal Carolina who OC Gailey feels is a better fit athletically for the offense. Thigpen passed for 151 yds (42%) with a 1-1 ratio but KC was shutout for the 1st 56 min of the game. KC was outgained 355-190 & allowed 300 yds rushing (6.4). RB Johnson only had 22 yds rushing (1.8) vs an OAK team that was shredded for 142 yds (4.8) by DEN. KC only had 2 drives cross into OAK territory during the entire game with one 80 yd drive. ATL played TB straight up in the 1st 3Q (190-149 yd edge) but settled for 3 FG’s on 3 drives inside the TB 14. Ryan did look awful going 3 for 18 with 36 yds & 2 ints for the 1st 37:30 of the game but that was on the road vs LY’s #2 defense & now he takes on LY’s #13 defense in a rebuilding mode. Look for ATL to reemphasize the ground game & for Ryan to be more comfortable here & ATL gets an impressive win. FORECAST: ATLANTA 30 Kansas City 10
2H Miami (+) over NEW ENGLAND - The ripple effect of the Farve trade continues as NE takes on a MIA team with Pennington instead of an inexperienced QB. NE is 2-5 ATS hosting a Div foe but MIA is 4-13-1 ATS away in Div play. While both teams have a bye on deck MIA is on the road for the 2nd straight week & the inexperience of the OL & the WR’s was on display LW. ARZ jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the 1Q which forced MIA to abandon the run game that HC Sparano wants to lean on. Pennington only had 45 yds (50%) at the half with 5.6 ypa & was under constant pressure. MIA has only rushed for 121 total yds (3.0) in the 1st 2 wks as they haven’t been able to play with a lead. MIA’s WR’s only have 16 rec’s (11.5) in the 1st 2 games. NE is off a close game vs NYJ in which Cassel had to just manage the game & not make any mistakes. He finished with 165 yds (70%) with a 0-0 ratio & the play calling was fairly balanced (33 run 23 pass). RB Maroney injured his shoulder LW & his status is unknown. We leaned with NE LW as players tend to rally after a key injury but then the team relaxes after a win. We’ll side with a more desperate MIA team getting generous points & not overreact to LW’s win over the Jets & the Dolphins are the Ugly Dog Play (17-9 65%). FORECAST: Miami 13 (+) NEW ENGLAND 20
2H Cleveland over BALTIMORE - CLE is off LW’s SNF game & are 5-1 ATS after facing PIT. BAL is off an unexpected bye week & is 7-3 ATS if they won before it. The extra rest could be just what the team needs for TE Heap & RB McGahee who were ? vs HOU. CLE is a very beat up team & could be without WR Stallworth, OLB Wimbley & both starting Safeties here. BAL’s biggest claim to fame so far is their 17-10 win vs a CIN team that is very soft. Flacco needs the gametime experience & the interruption in their schedule breaks up the momentum BAL had after Wk 1. He only passed for 129 yds (52%) with a 4.4 ypa & his 37 yd TD was when CIN defenders clearly quit on the play. Anderson has faced 2 quality defenses to start they year & now gets a step down in class. This will be an ugly game to watch but we side with the road team here. FORECAST: Cleveland 14 BALTIMORE 10
BUFFALO 23 Oakland 13 - The Bills are 12-5 ATS at home under HC Jauron & in their 9 wins they have avg’d a 26-14 score. BUF is in another solid situation as they catch OAK on its 2nd straight road game after B2B division games with a QB in his 4th career start. Also compounding things for OAK is the public dispute between Lane Kiffin & Al Davis & the team could very well have a new HC here despite shutting out KC for the first 56:00 of the game. OAK took the game out of QB Russell’s hands LW (55 yds 35%) & into RB McFadden’s who rushed for 164 yds (7.8). BUF comes in with 2 quality wins vs 2007 playoff teams beating SEA in all 3 phases in Wk 1 & standing up to JAX on the road in 95˚+ heat. QB Edwards had a great day passing for 239 yds (80%) with a 1-0 ratio but the most impressive stat is his 9.6 ypa. BUF held QB Garrard who passed for 209 ypg (64%) with a 18-3 ratio LY to just 165 yds (61%) with an 0-1 ratio. OAK isn’t as good as it showed LW vs the youngest team in the NFL in KC & BUF is the play after beating 2 quality foes to start the season.
TENNESSEE 23 Houston 13 - The Texans are off an unscheduled bye & it’s unknown where they will practice this week after Hurricane Ike. HOU is 1-5 ATS as a division AD. TEN is 4-0 SU, ATS & O/U vs HOU. QB Collins started the 1st meeting LY which was a 38-36 win as a AE & TEN had a 32-7 lead entering the 4Q with a 20-5 FD & 311-96 yd edges. QB Schaub was KO’d of the game & Rosenfels led HOU with 309 yds & 29 pts in the 4Q as TEN won with its 8th FG. DT Haynesworth returned from a 3 game absence for the 2nd game & TEN KO’d Schaub again. HOU muffed a punt & TEN took over at HOU 29 for the game clinching TD & held off a Rosenfels rally with 2:09 left. TEN rallied around QB Collins & while he only passed for 128 yds (67%) with a 1-0 ratio the game was played in tough weather conditions (25+ mph gusts). TEN outrushed CIN 177 (4.3) to 88 (3.1) & the defense was brutal with lots of pressure & held Palmer to 134 yds (59%) & 2 ints. TEN is a veteran team that knows how to win & Collins experience is a boost to the passing game. HOU will have a lot of off field distractions here & look for TEN to be the much more focused & get the win in a lower scoring game.
NY GIANTS 30 Cincinnati 13 - For the 3rd week in a row the Bengals will play a power oriented physical defense & have an added challenge of facing a balanced offense. CIN is 2-7 SU & 3-6 ATS on the road & in those 7 SU losses they have been outrushed 159 (4.5) to 75 (3.4) losing by an avg score of 28-20. The poor play of the OL is neutralizing one of the best QB’s in the NFL with Palmer as they simply can’t hold up at the POA. LW in weather conditions that should have shown off the OL’s run blocking abilities they were held to 88 yds (3.1) rushing. The Giants take on a bad OL for the 3rd week in a row & in the 1st 2 games they have allowed 76 yds rushing (3.8), six FD’s on 26 3rd Dns (23%) with 7 sacks earned. Non-conf HT’s before a bye & off a 17 pt SU win are 12-5 ATS vs a foe off a SU loss. Manning looked comfortable vs a bad defense in STL LW & inc playoffs he is avg 226 ypg (62%) with an 13-3 ratio (7-0 SU & ATS). The Giants are just 4-9 ATS as a fav of 7.5 or more & only beat 1 team at home LY by over 13 pts but CIN has been gutless so far & the Giants enter their bye 3-0 SU & ATS.
WASHINGTON 24 Arizona 23 - ARZ beat WAS 21-19 but failed to cover as 8 pt AF’s. QB Warner was playing with a huge brace on his left elbow & ARZ found itself down 14-0 due to 2 int’s. ARZ controlled the game statistically with a 19-10 FD & 364-160 yd edge. They had a chance to win late after recovering
an onside kick but missed a 55 yd FG with :07 left. Unlike the other NFC West teams ARZ travels fairly well & are 8-4 ATS on the road. The Redskins were in a good situation LW with extra rest vs a dome team playing in a heat index of 98˚+. WAS finished with a 25-16 FD & 455-250 yd edge & took of NO’s lack of balance by outrushing them 149 (4.8) to 55 (2.9) with a +8:28 TOP. After a tough WK 1, Campbell passed for 321 yds (67%) with a 1-0 ratio but it was vs a defense without 3 starters. DE Taylor reinjured his knee LW & his status is unknown. ARZ dominated a young MIA team in a long road trip LW in the 1H with a 284-92 yd edge as Warner passed for 247 yds (85%) with a 2-0 ratio. ARZ is a heavy blitz, scheme oriented defense with a QB that fits the system throwing to WR’s that can make big plays at any point in a higher scoring game.
CHICAGO 23 Tampa Bay 13 - The Bears are the only team to open the season with 2 road games & get a TB team that is 3-12 ATS away vs a non-div foe. After stumbling thru 2007 with injuries & bad QB play the Bears have returned to what they do best with a stout defense, power rushing game & QB play that minimizes mistakes. In the 1st 2 games of the season CHI notched a 351-180 yd edge in the 1H behind a resurgent defense. They limited Manning & Delhomme to 143 yds (48%) with an 0-0 ratio combined in the 1H. CHI’s offense couldn’t close out the game LW vs a good CAR team & gained just 39 yds in the 2H. Despite leading the team to the NFC South title, TB started shopping Garcia around & went with Griese vs ATL. Griese wasn’t very impressive with just 160 yds (58%) with a 1-0 ratio & his 5.2 ypa is something to watch. The defense took advantage of a rookie QB making his 1st NFL road start but was outgained 190-149 after 3Q. While Griese will be helped out by facing his former team here the CHI defense is faster & more aggressive & more reminiscent of the SB defense.
MINNESOTA 21 Carolina 20 - CAR comes in with lots of confidence after 2 late 4Q wins vs a pair of quality foes. MIN was expected to come out & make a strong run for the NFC North title but finds itself 0-2 after blowing a 15-0 lead late in the 3Q with a 263-91 yd edge. From there IND outgained MIN 220-41 & scored 18 unanswered points. No one doubts MIN’s strength vs the run (25 yds 1.3 allowed LW) but they let Manning pass for 311 yds (62%) with a 1-2 ratio. Delhomme is the unquestioned leader of the Panthers & the team rallied around him after the late hit on his slide as they outgained CHI 79-39, forced a trio of 3 & outs with a fumble as the offense scored 14 unanswered points. CAR’s power rushing duo of Stewart & Williams combined for 108 yds rushing (4.3) vs a tough CHI team & WR Muhammad has faced MIN’s DB’s the L3Y. CAR is 19-9-2 ATS as an AD, gets WR Smith back from suspension & we’ll side with the Panthers getting points.
SEATTLE 27 St Louis 23 - SEA swept STL LY including a 33-6 win as an 8.5 pt HF. SEA opened the 2H with a 91 yd KR for a TD & the defense forced 2 TO’s which SEA turned into 10 pts. SEA sacked Bulger 7 times & held STL to 53 yds rushing (3.1). SEA is 7-2 ATS as a div HF. STL is 3-6 ATS on the road. STL’s offense struggled in the 1H once again LW & was lucky to only be down 13-6 at the half. In the 1H of the 1st 2 games STL has been outFD 25-11 & outgained 526-145. Bulger as been limited to 335 yds (59%) with an 1-1 ratio with a poor 5.8 ypa. The defense will be without its best pass rusher in DE Little & it has given up 337 ypg (68%) with a 6-0 ratio (129.2 QBR) with a 9.9 ypa!!! SEA was without its #1 RB, RT, RG & top 3 WR’s LW & found itself in a shootout with SF LW. They lost 2 more WR’s LW (Wallace & Mankins) & its not known if they will return here. Hasselbeck had a tough game (42.5 QBR) due to no healthy WR’s, but the key here is the best def in the division which had 8 sacks vs an avg SF O-line and now take on an STL O-line that is one of the worst in the league and RB Jackson is another week away from being in football shape.
DENVER 37 New Orleans 30 - This is a bit of a flat spot for DEN who is off 2 big division games & have a road game vs KC on deck. DEN is 3-10 ATS as a HF. NO took on WAS without 4 starters (1 off 3 def) & the dome team struggled with a heat index of 100˚. Brees had a rough day passing for 216 yds (67%) with a 1-2 ratio with a 6.5 ypa & he wasn’t helped by a run game that was unable to bring balance (55 yds 2.9). The defense allowed 321 yds passing (67%) with a 1-0 ratio to a QB who only had 133 yds in Wk 1. DEN is off a shootout vs SD after blowing a 31-17 & converting a 2 pt conversion at the end to win. DEN had a 34-19 FD edge & Cutler was impressive with 350 yds (72%) with a 4-1 ratio. The defense/spec teams allowed a 103 yd KR, 48 & 66 yd TD passes but held Tomlinson to 26 yds (2.6) before he left with his injury. DEN needed some breaks to win LW but they catch a depleted NO defense in B2B road games & by going for 2 at the end Shanahan showed how much faith he has in his team which goes a long ways here.
Pittsburgh at PHILADELPHIA - Both teams are off primetime division games & this is the 1st time in 4 years the in-state rivals have faced each other. Each team dominated in week #1 scoring 38 points with PHI outgaining STL by 356 yds & PIT outgaing SEA by 71 yds. There are 3 great matchups in this game. The PHI DL vs the PIT OL, the PIT WR’s vs the PHI secondary & Westbrook vs the PIT LB’s. The advantage goes to all 3 on the offensive side. Another reason to wait and see on this game is that PIT is 7-1 ATS off a SU div loss while PHI is 7-0 off a SU div loss. Without seeing these two playoff caliber teams against a worthy adversary we’ll wait until we get a number & look for a higher scoring game. Our 3H OU’s are a perfect 6-0 100% this year & this game makes that list.
INDIANAPOLIS 20 Jacksonville 13 - It’s a bit surprising to see JAX 0-2 after being expected to mount a serious run at IND for the AFC South title. The Colts narrowly avoided an 0-2 start as Manning rallied
the team to 18 pts & a 220-41 yd edge. Manning is operating behind an OL with 3 new starters & LT Ugoh left LW’s game with an injury. IND is 2-6-1 ATS as a div HF & JAX is 9-3-1 ATS as a div AD. JAX is 8-3-1 ATS in the series. LY at home IND went up 14-0 after officials overturned 2 plays which went against them. JAX cut the lead to 3 late in the 4Q but IND ran out the final 2:47 of the clock. The Jaguars had 27-19 FD & 411-342 yd edges. JAX is off a tough loss to BUF & RB Jones-Drew was KO’d with an ankle injury. JAX has only converted 7 of 25 3rd Dns (28%) in its 1st 2 games & has rushed for 131 yds (3.0) as a team so far. Due to the injury Manning has basically used the 1st 6Q of 2008 as his preseason & DL of the Colts gets a boost with the fast track at Lucas Oil Field. Look for the superiority of IND’s WR’s to be key here & the Colts make up for losing the home opener.
Dallas at GREEN BAY - The Cowboys are off LW’s MNF game vs PHI while GB overcame blowing a 24-3 lead vs DET LW with 2 int returns for TD’s late. DAL got a good look at Rodgers LY when he came in after Favre’s injury & he passed for 201 yds (69%) with a 1-0 ratio. DAL won 37-27 as 7 pt HF’s with a 414-357 yd edge. DAL noted after the game that they hadn’t studied anything at all on Rodgers prior. Both teams are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball & this game could go a long way in the standings later. The situation does favor GB with DAL off a MNF game vs PHI & WAS on deck.
NY Jets at SAN DIEGO - This is the farthest West the Jets have gone in reg season since facing SD in Wk 2 of 2004. Favre faced SD LY & passed for 369 yds (62%) with a 3-0 ratio but needed a 4Q comeback for a 31-24 win as 6 pt HD. Both teams are off losses to division foes with SD having lost on the foes final play for the 2nd straight week. A hungry SD team now faces a Jets squad with Favre becoming more comfortable each week.
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
MICHIGAN STATE* over NOTRE DAME by 27
If there is ever a silver lining to losing a play, it is getting the chance to come right back with the same concept at even better value the following week. That is the case here after our Michigan call near the top of these pages last week died amidst a series of Wolverine turnovers, and not necessarily through anything special that Notre Dame did. Best example? There were three Michigan fumbles that turned directly into Fighting Irish touchdowns, and on none of those plays were the Wolverine players touched by a defender before he lost the ball. It was literally the “Luck O’ the Irish” that afternoon, yet that is not what the perceptions of the public will be, as it never takes much for this particular program to become popular again. So now a team that managed only 14 first downs and 260 yards in that win, getting only 3.3 per rush and completing less than 50 percent of their passes, is put into a short price range against a far superior opponent, and one that has been laying in wait off of a pair of easy home wins (110 runs vs. only 31 passes as Mark Dantonio kept things close to the vest). The Spartans dominated the Irish exactly as the scoreboard showed in a 31-10 rout in South bend last year, leading 354-203 in total offense, and now they bring Javon Ringer and that power ground game against a defense that has not faced those tactics yet. And until we see any indication that the Irish can run the ball, Jimmy Clausen is a sitting duck on the road vs. this class of pass rush. MICHIGAN STATE 37-10.
RUTGERS over NAVY* by 21
With three straight wins and covers in this series, Greg Schiano and his coaching staff have shown that they have a solid knowledge of how to defend the Navy option schemes. Yet those games did not carry nearly the meaning of this one, with the Scarlet Knights having to deal with the embarrassment of being blown out twice on national television on their own field already, and as a consequence having their backs firmly up against the wall of the 2008 season. But while the public may lose favor with them because of those highly-visible failures, there are plenty of targets ahead for Schiano, particularly with conference play yet to begin. So with extra time to tactically prepare, and with a home game vs. Morgan State next week providing no look-ahead at all, this is an ideal situation for the Scarlet Knights to start all over again. The defensive tactics should once again be sound, and note that in each of the last two meetings they held the Midshipmen to their season lows of rushing yardage and total offense. But that is only the beginning of the Navy problems this time. Now a slow secondary that has already allowed 973 passing yards has to take on that explosive tandem of Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood. Those two caught nine passes for 203 yards vs. this defense last year, when Mike Teel averaged 14 yards per pass attempt, and they bring the talent and the savvy to run free throughout in this one. And with Navy also lacking a pass rush to get to Teel, there is ample time for those deep routes to develop. RUTGERS 41-20.
Boston College* over Central Florida by 21
With a young corps of skill people, and a not very talented one at that, we could call this the Blanche DuBois season for George O’Leary, who needs to “depend on the kindness of strangers”. But he is not going to get any of that here. With two weeks to steam off of their sloppy loss to Georgia Tech we can expect the Eagles to bring a special fire to this one, and there is absolutely no letting up either, with only a home game vs. Rhode Island on deck. So what does that leave the Knights with? A tough road matchup vs. a physical defense that will control the line of scrimmage, and force their skill people to make plays. That is their worst nightmare. Although they did get to overtime vs. South Florida, the offense could not score a touchdown for the first 57 minutes of play, and even with the O.T. period they netted just 12 first downs and 226 yards. And that was at home. Now over-matched QB Michael Grecco is going to have to play from behind in a hostile environment, and it will get ugly. BOSTON COLLEGE 28-7.
North Carolina* over Virginia Tech by 12
That dominating win at Rutgers with the pressure of the national cameras will have done wonders for the North Carolina confidence, and that is going to make a big difference when it comes to “closing the deal” this season. For what may have been lost in their 4-8 of 2007 was just how many strikes they made in the first campaign under Butch Davis. Playing better football is one thing, but actually learning to win is another, and a program that had not had a winning season since 2001 found itself with a roster filled with players that lacked confidence. They went 1-4 in outcomes decided by four points or less, and in many of those games they were actually the better team. Now it is a different season, and good talent and coaching can now equate good results. Getting revenge for that 17-10 loss at Blacksburg is the next step and note that the Carolina talent was already better that day, leading 18-11 in first downs and by 65 yards of total offense. Now they are the ones creating matchup problems. NORTH CAROLINA 25-13.
Utah over Air Force* by 14
By opening 3-0, including covers in both games that were on the board, it is easy for Air Force to continue to earn respect in the Troy Calhoun era. But this line tells us that the cart is ahead of the horse in terms of the 2008 realities. Without Shaun Carney and Chad Hall they have some big shoes to fill, and each of those last two wins may not mean as much as they will get credit for. They were only tied 3-3 in the third quarter at Wyoming, before a +4 advantage in turnovers helped to finally break that one open, and the wind and the rain gave their ground game major advantages against Houston’s passing attack on Saturday. But now they are going up against an opponent that is primed for revenge after LY’s 20-12 home loss, and one that is rock-solid up front against the run. It means that the Falcons are going to have to be successful passing to survive this week, and in getting those last two wins they were an awful 3-11 through the air, for just 15 yards. That is not going to cut it this week. UTAH 27-13.
Georgia over Arizona State* by 17
Getting behind the S.E.C. in major inter-conference showdowns has been a money-maker, and we believe that there is another prime opportunity this week. Even with last Saturday’s loss (we had U.N.L.V. near the top of this page, but never expected the outright win), Arizona State brings enough public sex appeal to keep this line short, but the bottom line is that they are a few years away from being in this class. They werewhipped at the line of scrimmage when Southern Cal came to town last year, managing only 16 rushing yards in a 20-point blowout, and in the 18-point bowl loss to Texas they could only garner 22 overland. Now they once again have to face the kind of physical defensive front they do not see often in Pac 10 play, and we expect to see the Bulldog defense dominating the flow. Meanwhile Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and some talented receivers are accustomed to stepping up against bigger challenges, and will enjoy the breathing room here after being shackled by a tough South Carolina defense. GEORGIA 33-16.
Kansas State over Louisville* by 1 (Wednesday)
We are not enamored with the polish of the Wildcats, particularly away from Manhattan. But until we see some kind of positive results from the Big East, all shadings must be against that grouping in competitive non-conference affairs. KANSAS STATE 28-27.
West Virginia over Colorado* by 9 (Thursday)
Bill Stewart is making major statements about going back to more basic zone option plays, and that is bad news for a Colorado defense that sees little of those tactics in the Big 12, and will have a difficult time adjusting to the speed of Pat White. WEST VIRGINIA 31-22.
Connecticut* over Baylor by 15 (Friday)
Huskies have been pointspread demons of late in Hartford (9-2 ATS in their L11), and as much as we like youn Bear QB Robert Griffin, the savvy to take on this class of defense on the road is still a season away. CONNECTICUT 31-16.
Penn State* over Temple by 24
Al Golden’s rebuilding project is making tremendous strides in Philly, but off of back-to-back gut wrenching defeats a young squad can be fragile, especially when having to play from behind against this kind of opponent. We call it a “snap factor”. PENN STATE 37-13.
Northwestern* over Ohio by 12
All Boo Jackson did as a replacement for Theo Scott as Ohio QB was throw for 365 yards in that loss to Central Michigan, including TD passes of 77, 45 and 43 yards. That could mean a backdoor cover against a Wildcat defense that opens Big 10 play at Iowa next week. NORTHWESTERN 34-22.
Cincinnati* over Miami O. by 9
That 47-10 crunching in Oxford last year was Miami’s worst loss in the “Victory Bell” series since 1940. But with Cincinnati having two weeks to prepare off of that drubbing at Oklahoma, it not only means a comparable focus, but also ample time for Tony Pike to break in to his role as starting QB. CINCINNATI 28-19.
Mississippi* over Vanderbilt by 6
The first home SEC game for Houston Nutt means a lot, but while we like the direction that the Rebels are showing, there is still a question of having the kind of depth to cover as chalk in conference play. Commodore secondary gives up few big plays, which will keep them in the hunt in hostile environs. MISSISSIPPI 27-21.
Georgia Tech* over Mississippi State by 6
In many ways this can be a carbon copy of the Bulldog loss to Auburn last week. There is enough defense to compete against anyone, but getting any offensive support at all is another matter entirely. GEORGIA TECH 19-13.
L.S.U. over Auburn* by 3
Through three games those new Auburn offensive designs do not give any indication that they are ready for this class of challenge yet. But that defense is another matter, and keeps them in this one to the final drive. L.S.U. 16-13.
Brigham Young* over Wyoming by 27
Wyoming scored three points in the first half vs. Air Force two weeks ago, and then got shutout in the first 30 minutes by North Dakota State last week. And those games were at home. B.Y.U. 37-10.
Alabama over Arkansas* by 8
A case can be made that the Razorbacks got a big break with their trip to Texas being cancelled; not only does it prevent a loss that could shatter their confidence, but it allows a couple of practice week’s to acclimate more to their new playbooks. But nowhere near being ready for this challenge yet. ALABAMA 27-19.
Southern Miss* over Marshall by 9
The Thundering Herd are just 3-11 ATS as road underdogs under Mark Snyder so far. We don’t see this talent gap being as wide as the line projects, but until they show some toughness when traveling they remain off of our board. SOUTHERN MISS 30-21.
Colorado State* over Houston by 1
The team that has the ball last may win this one. The host Rams can pound away against a rush defense that might be the worst in Division I right now, but their own weaknesses at QB become a huge headache for the tactics and the speed of the Cougar offense. COLORADO STATE 36-35.
Iowa over Pittsburgh* by 2
Although the Panthers have two weeks to prepare, and the Hawkeyes are off of that emotional revenge affair vs. Iowa State (including the late safety that ruined our investment on these pages), the bottom line is that if Dave Wannstedt’s team could not rush for only 230 yards vs. those M.A.C. defensive fronts, can they move this calss off of the line of scrimmage? IOWA 19-17.
Wake Forest over Florida State* by 1
Demon Deacons have won and covered the last two in this series, rolling the pointspread by 30 points in the process. That tells us much about the current coaching levels of the programs, and we are not sure that beating up on a pair of patsies has the Seminoles prepared for the polished opponent they are up against here. WAKE FOREST 24-23.
Oregon* over Boise State by 12
Broncos were able to get a little tactical help here buy facing the spread schemes of Bowling Green last week, but now their X’s have to chase much faster O’s, and away from that blue field. OREGON 35-23.
Tulsa* over New Mexico by 10
Lobos have faced a much more difficult schedule do far, but the complex schemes of the Golden Hurricanes are going to be a handful to defend on this field, especially with the offense showing a nice precision with David Johnson a the helm (no turnovers in 133 snaps so far). TULSA 34-24.
Indiana* over Ball State by 6
These two combined for 699 passing yards in a 38-20 Hoosier win on this field last year, when an interception return for a TD helped to build a bigger margin on the scoreboard than the physical play on the field called for. But after coasting twice the host has had two weeks to prepare, which does help the defensive playbook. INDIANA 30-24.
Purdue* over Central Michigan by 13
Chippewas have allowed 54.8 points per game in going 0-5 against teams from BCS conferences the last two seasons, including 45 points and 583 yards in what was a misleading loss to these Boilermakers last year – they coasted home 45-22 after leading 31-0 at halftime and seemingly getting bored. PURDUE 40-27.
Akron over Army* by 3
We will be watching closely to see how the Black Knights respond here after some most critical comments about their heart and desire from Stan Brock leading into their bye week. It could mean a special effort here, but alas it will take more than effort because the talent is so minimal. AKRON 23-20.
Maryland* over Eastern Michigan by 16
An absolutely classic flat spot for the Terrapins here, off of that explosive win over California, and with the conference opener at Clemson on deck. But the oddsmakers will have to be extremely generous before we dare trust the punchless Eagles. MARYLAND 33-17.
Miami F. over Texas A&M* by 1
Two weeks should be enough for Aggie QB Stephen McGee’s shoulder to heal, but the big weakness Mike Sherman sees right now is team speed, and that was a big factor at Miami LY, when the Hurricanes rolled to a 24-0 halftime lead in an eventual 34-17 win. MIAMI F. 20-19.
East Carolina over N. C. State* by 10
A significant regional revenge motive for the Pirates, who were upended 34-20 on their own field last year despite a +58 in total offense, makes this more than just another non-conference affair. And the Wolfpack offense has not scored a touchdown in its last 13 quarters vs. lined opponents. Should be plenty of seats in Raleigh available for Pirate fans. EAST CAROLINA 26-16.
Missouri* over Buffalo by 31
With a bye week on deck, and with Chase Daniel a very serious Heisman candidate, the Tigers are allowed to attack much longer than the Bulls can cope with. And with a big M.A.C. showdown at Central Michigan next, they might even be inclined to back off themselves and save some energy. MISSOURI 52-21.
Fresno State over Toledo* by 4
From everything that we read leading up to last week’s game vs. Wisconsin, the Bulldogs were almost making that one too important in the grand scheme. And when a team loses a home game that they were aiming for with both barrels, it can often mean a tough time finding energy on the road. FRESNO STATE 28-24.
Texas* over Rice by 32
Rice did not get any favors from Hurricane Ike, which postponed the Texas/Arkansas game early enough in the week for the Longhorns to already begin prepping for this one. It was 58-14 last year, when they lacked any special focus. TEXAS 52-20.
Utah State* over Idaho by 3
Somebody has to win, don’t they? Actually in this kind of matchup, we usually find it being more lost by mistakes than won by someone taking charge. Which is why we are rarely involved. UTAH STATE 24-21.
T.C.U. over S.M.U.* by 24
Gary Patterson will surely want to show June Jones who is boss of the Metro area. But with a bigger challenge at Oklahoma coming up, once he has enough margin for ego purposes, the game grinds to a halt. T.C.U. 38-14.
Florida over Tennessee* by 7
Rarely has a Phil Fulmer team ever been as out-classed as his Vols were in that 59-20 blowout in The Swamp last year, when Florida commanded a 2-1 edge in total offense. The blaring of Rocky Top changes some of that, but has the talent gap simply grown that wide? FLORIDA 27-20.
U.N.L.V.* over Iowa State by 2
Road trips to Utah and Arizona State may have saddled the Rebels with a couple of defeats, but it also means that they are stepping way down in class here, and the door is open for a badly needed win against an unimposing Cyclone defensive front (which was statistically aided by the wind and rain last week). U.N.L.V. 24-22.
Stanford* over San Jose State by 6
The talent gap between these programs is nowhere near what the scoreboard (37-0) and the box score (506-163 in total offense) showed for the Cardinal last year. And the kind of confidence the Spartans picked up in that rout of San Diego State makes a big difference in terms of believing that they can get this done. STANFORD 27-21.
U.T.E.P.* over New Mexico State by 6
Aggies showed the rust at Nebraska that could be expected in their first outing of the season. Now the Miners have two weeks to prepare in this revenge affair, studying films of how they allowed 434 passing yards in last year’s 29-24 loss. But the X’s are so limited than even the extra prep time can’t help much. U.T.E.P. 41-35.
Arizona over U.C.L.A.* by 1
It is serious gut-check time already for the Bruins. It is one thing to struggle on offense with all of those injuries in the skill positions, but how do we adjust for the lack of heart that a usually solid defense showed once things got out of hand in Provo? ARIZONA 24-23.
Ohio State* over Troy by 18
Buckeyes bring the natural focus of spitting out the trouncing that they took on the west coast, which served our BEST BET purposes well. But when we look back at what Troy did at Middle Tennessee, and then view subsequent performances by the Blue Raiders, could this underdog be better than what the oddsmakers are calling for? OHIO STATE 34-16.
Arkansas State* over Middle Tennessee by 10
We can not see anything in these rosters or coaching staff’s that tell us that the 24-7 home win by Middle Tennessee last yea is the true level of these programs. So does that leave a pendulum that is ready to swing the other way in a correction mode? ARKANSAS STATE 31-21.
Tulane* over UL-Monroe by 6
Kudos to the Green Wave for overcoming all of the distractions to play a pair of solid games against bowl-bound teams. So now time to actually break through and win one outright as they step down in class. TULANE 27-21.
Minnesota* over Florida Atlantic by 7
We are never supposed to be in a hurry to look to a team like these Gophers when in a chalk role, but note that it took every bit of a +7 turnover advantage for the Owls to escape with that 42-39 home win last year. When that kind of advantage can only lead to that small of a home margin, there is something that we can work with. MINNESOTA 34-27.
South Florida over Florida Internatio
al* by 28
A chance for Jim Leavitt to showcase his program in what is to be a prime recruiting area if he is going to take the Bulls to the next level. SO. FLORIDA 35-7.
Louisiana* over Kent by 3
The Cajuns showed some missing toughness in battling back against Illinois, instead of the usual early submission on the road. That could carry a little momentum into their first home game. LOUISIANA 27-24.
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
New Orleans over *Denver by 14
An exciting, if not lucky, home victory this past week against San Diego puts undefeated Denver in the limelight. It also makes the Broncos overrated and inflated from a pointspread perspective. Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall are becoming major forces. But New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees already is a force with more weapons at his disposal despite the loss of star wideout Marques Colston. Yes, Cutler can attack a vulnerable Saints secondary. Cutler, though, still is learning. He’s prone to mistakes. His spectacular play so far has hidden a number of Denver deficiencies, including a weak run defense, a secondary that isn’t as good as perceived and a mediocre ground attack that lacks a true featured back. The Saints go three deep at running back with Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and Deuce McAllister. Their offensive line protects Brees as well as any quarterback in the league. New Orleans has that balanced offense. Denver does not, relying too much on Cutler. This isn’t going to be overlooked by the Saints’ sharp boss, Sean Payton. The Broncos haven’t been good when cast in the favorite’s role, going 6-15 (28 percent) ATS in their last 21. Denver is off two AFC West matchups and is at another division foe, Kansas City, next week. This is a letdown spot for Denver off its dramatic 39-38 win versus the Chargers when Cutler threw a late touchdown pass followed by a surprising game-winning two-point conversion. That was a draining game, both physically and mentally. The Saints are a much improved club that right now is under the radar screen, especially following last week’s road loss against a rested Redskins squad. Cutler is going to have to carry the Broncos. Weather shouldn’t hinder the warm-weather Saints being so early in the fall. The Saints are the better team and they’re getting points. That says it all. NEW ORLEANS 34-20.
*Washington over Arizona by 18
The Cardinals are 2-0 for the first time in 17 years. This is a team that has had the grand total of one winning season during the past 23 years. Anyone firmly sold on them? Some improvement does appear to be there. They’ve won the time of possession battle in both of their games by a combined margin of nearly 18 minutes. Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are putting up huge receiving numbers with ancient Kurt Warner slinging to them. But let’s not swallow the Kool-Aid just yet. Keep in mind the teams Arizona has played – San Francisco and Miami. This is clearly a step up for the Cardinals. The Redskins play in the NFC’s toughest division. They are well-coached on defense. Their offense showed signs of picking up new coach Jim Zorn’s intricate West Coast style. Jason Campbell finally had a solid performance. Clinton Portis remains an upper level running back. Wide receiver Santana Moss is back being a game-breaker. The Cardinals are not a good tackling team and they lack Washington’s balance on offense. Edgerrin James is on the downside of his distinguished career being pushed by rookie Tim Hightower. Tight end Leonard Pope still hasn’t become an integral part of Arizona’s passing attack. The Cardinals are really just about Fitzgerald and Boldin. Warner still has a strong arm to get them the ball. However, he’s a statue in the pocket. Pressure Warner and the Cardinals are in trouble, especially when playing on the road with excessive crowd noise. This could be where defensive end Jason Taylor factors in. It’s a tough situational spot for the Cardinals, too. They are traveling across three time zones. Making it worse for them is this is an early start time. It’s the first time this season the Cardinals have to leave the West Coast. The Cardinals haven’t traveled well lately, failing to cover in four of their last six road contests. WASHINGTON 31-13.
*Buffalo over Oakland by 18
We had Buffalo as preferred winner last week when the Bills were underdogs to Jacksonville. We’re coming back on Buffalo this week as a favorite. Normally we’d prefer the Bills in their accustomed ‘dog role. But this is a horrendous spot for Oakland and the Bills are playing well. Buffalo is off to its best start in five years, having posted victories against playoff teams Seattle and Jacksonville. The Bills’ offense is coming together. The return of star offensive left tackle Jason Peters is a big key. So is the growing confidence of second-year quarterback Trent Edwards. The Bills are once again outstanding on special teams. Their defense is healthy and more physical that last year. The Raiders have yet to establish any threat of a passing game with JaMarcus Russell under center. There are real character concerns in Oakland. Lane Kiffin is in a race with St. Louis’ Scott Linehan to see who is the first head coach fired. The Raiders are on an off-surface here, being a grass team. They may not have running back Justin Fargas (check status) and are off back-to-back division games. It’s also a very difficult travel spot for the Raiders, going from the West Coast to the East Coast while drawing an unfavorable early start time. BUFFALO 28-10.
Carolina over *Minnesota by 6
These are two tough physical, grind-it-out clubs. Both are strong defensively and on special teams. The Vikings are home on carpet and already in must-win mode. Yet our strong preference is Carolina. The Panthers hold key edges at quarterback, coaching and at the flanks with star wide receiver Steve Smith now back after serving a two-game suspension. Minnesota is a disappointed club having lost opening week to Green Bay and then blowing a 15-0 lead at home last Sunday to Indianapolis. Tarvaris Jackson has yet to show he has the passing skills to be a successful NFL starting quarterback. The Vikings are Adrian Peterson and that’s it. The Panthers defense is rejuvenated. They’ll key on Peterson. No coach is better at covering the spread as an underdog than the Panthers’ John Fox at 31-15-1 (67 percent). Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme has proven his right elbow is back to where it was pre-reconstructive surgery. He was able to engineer enough points to beat two good defenses, San Diego and Chicago, despite not having Smith. Now he finally has him. The Panthers are 23-5-1 (82 percent) ATS when getting points with Delhomme taking snaps. Carolina went 3-0 SU and ATS playing in domes last year. CAROLINA 16-10.
*Atlanta over Kansas City by 1
Getting out of Kansas City could be the best thing for the Chiefs. Herm Edwards is one step ahead of the posse. The Chiefs have lost 11 games in a row. Already they have tried three quarterbacks. Their offense is slow and can’t make plays. Michael Turner could have a big game running against Kansas City. Turner better come up big, because the Falcons are a one-dimensional running team with rookie Matt Ryan at quarterback. The Chiefs are terrible, but they often catch inflated points on the road. That’s a factor why they have covered seven of their past nine away contests. ATLANTA 17-16.
*Tennessee over Houston by 2
Believing the Texans were markedly improved, we made the Texans one of our four best bets during opening week against Pittsburgh. Wrong. Houston may indeed be improved, but until it proves it can perform well on the road and effectively run the ball, the Texans won’t have our endorsement. The Texans come into this matchup rested, though, having not played last week because of hurricane-related damage to their stadium. Kerry Collins gives the Titans more of a downfield threat than injured Vince Young, but we’re hesitant to lay too many points with such a historically turnover-prone quarterback. TENNESSEE 26-24.
*New York Giants over Cincinnati by 9
Maybe the Giants are this good. But are the Bengals really this bad, scoring one touchdown in two games. Carson Palmer has thrown 52 times and has 233 yards to show for it with no touchdowns and three interceptions. Cincinnati is five-for-26 on third-down conversions. The Bengals weren’t sharp in preseason. It’s carried into the season. The Giants have a bye next week, while the Bengals host division foe Cleveland. However, the Bengals have to be focused looking at 0-3 with a defeat. Their defense isn’t as bad as some may think. Palmer and his starting wide receivers are too good to stay in this slump. NY GIANTS 26-17.
*New England over Miami by 9
The record-setting scoring Patriots of 2007 are dead. It is slugfest time now for New England minus Tom Brady. Bill Belichick is 6-13 SU when Brady hasn’t started for him. If the Dolphins can finally get their ground game untracked they could keep it close with heady Chad Pennington at quarterback compared to Matt Cassel, making his second start since high school. The Patriots have won 21 straight regular-season games. Miami, by contrast, has lost 20 of its past 21 games. The Dolphins have failed to cover in 16 of their last 19 division contests. But no longer can the Patriots get away with taking any opponent lightly. NEW ENGLAND 23-14.
*Chicago over Tampa Bay by 7
Matt Forte just could be the real deal. No, he’s not a franchise back. But he’s solid and that’s all the Bears need playing at home for the first time with their defense back in tip top shape. Chicago quietly has covered its past five games. The Bears welcome an old friend back, Brian Griese. Apparently Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden prefers Griese instead of gutsy but over-the-hill Jeff Garcia. Griese still is rounding into shape from last year’s knee injury and getting in sync with his receivers. The Bears may be without kick return star Devin Hester (ribs), while the Buccaneers may be missing their best wideout, Joey Galloway (check status). CHICAGO 16-9.
*Seattle over St. Louis by 7
Scott Linehan is dead man walking. His Rams have surrendered 963 yards and 79 points in two games, while managing just one touchdown despite having Steven Jackson and Torry Holt. St. Louis hasn’t won at Qwest Field since 2004. Seattle is in need of a win, too, having been drilled at Buffalo and upset at home by San Francisco. But as bad as St. Louis is, the Seahawks are just too banged-up on offense for a ringing recommendation. Seattle is down its three best wideouts, forced to start street free agents, Logan Payne and Courtney Taylor, versus San Francisco. There are running back and offensive line injuries, also. Seattle is 0-7 ATS in its past seven at Qwest. SEATTLE 24-17.
*San Francisco over Detroit by 1
Detroit’s fragile chemistry could boil over having lost its first two games, while surrendering 82 points and 921 yards in losses to Atlanta and Green Bay at home. The Lions have lost 49 of their last 57 road matchups. Mike Martz’s 49ers’ offense started to come around last week in an upset overtime victory against Seattle. The Lions have no lost love for their former offensive coordinator. The 49ers may be drained following their big win versus the Seahawks. Their best defensive player, middle linebacker Patrick Willis, suffered a leg injury. His status needs to be monitored. SAN FRANCISCO 24-23.
*Philadelphia over Pittsburgh by 1
This isn’t the great spot for either club. This is Philadelphia’s only non-conference game during the first 10 weeks. The Eagles also are off a Monday night game versus division rival Dallas. Donovan McNabb masks the Eagles’ mediocre group of wide receivers. Pittsburgh is in a division sandwich situation. The Steelers are off a game at Cleveland, the team many expected to win the AFC North before the season, and host division foe Baltimore the following week. The Steelers remain tough to run on. The Eagles, though, are strictly a pass-first club. PHILADELPHIA 21-20.
*Indianapolis over Jacksonville by 2
After throwing only three interceptions last season, Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard already has been picked off that many times this season. The Jaguars can’t get their ground game going because both of their starting guards have been lost for the season and center Brad Meester isn’t expected to return until at least Game 4 because of a biceps injury. The Colts are 19-3 under Tony Dungy during September. Yet Indy can’t be backed with confidence either because of their offensive line injury list, which includes center Jeff Saturday and left tackle Tony Ugoh. The Colts also may be without star safety Bob Sanders (ankle). INDIANAPOLIS 21-19.
*Baltimore over Cleveland by 4
The Browns go on the road for the first time facing a Ravens squad they have lost four of the past five times to in Baltimore. The Ravens could get back their top run-stuffer tackle Kelly Gregg (check status). The Ravens are trying to get by on a fierce defense and good special teams with rookie quarterback Joe Flacco just trying to stay out of trouble. He succeeded opening week against the Bengals throwing no interceptions and not getting sacked. The Ravens may open their offense up more knowing the Browns are slow on defense and thin in the secondary with safety Sean Jones out with a knee injury. CLEVELAND 24-20.
*Green Bay over Dallas by 3
The Packers draw the Cowboys at an opportune time. Dallas is traveling on a short week following its Monday night matchup versus the Eagles and will be on grass, an off-surface for the Cowboys. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers played well against the Cowboys last year when he was called on to replace Brett Favre. He has looked sharp through two games this season going 42-for-60 for 506 yards, while accounting for five touchdowns with no interceptions. The last time the Cowboys visited Lambeau Field, back in 2004 under Bill Parcells, the Packers buried them, 41-20. GREEN BAY 27-24.
*San Diego over New York Jets by 6 (Monday)
This should be a good barometer just how much the Jets have improved with their new free agents and Brett Favre. New York’s run defense looks much improved so far. The Chargers are sure to be in a bad mood after losing a controversial game last week to the Broncos. San Diego has won and covered seven of its last eight home games. The Chargers probably aren’t going to reach the 42 sacks they got last year with star pass rusher Shawne Merriman out. Obviously a lot depends on the physical condition of LaDainian Tomlinson, who has yet to dominate like he has in the past. SAN DIEGO 26-20.
** OVER: Houston at Tennessee – Tennessee rookie running back Chris Johnson is looking good and the Titans can attack Houston’s weak secondary better with Kerry Collins.
UNDER: Tampa Bay at Chicago – Game-managers instead of downfield passers at quarterback and two stingy defenses spell under.
UNDER: Carolina at Minnesota – Two conservative offenses going against tough defenses.
Kansas City at Atlanta – The Chiefs smashed the Falcons, 56-10, at home in 2006.
Oakland at Buffalo – The Raiders defeated the Bills, 38-17, at home in ‘05.
Houston at Tennessee – Tennessee swept Houston last season, winning 38-36 on the road and 28-20 at home.
Cincinnati at New York Giants – The Bengals nipped the Giants, 23-22, at home in 2004.
Arizona at Washington – The Redskins edged the Cardinals, 21-19, at home last year.
Miami at New England – New England swept Miami last year, winning 49-28 on the road and 28-7 at home.
Tampa Bay at Chicago – Chicago beat Tampa Bay, 34-31, at home in 2006.
Carolina at Minnesota – The Vikings trimmed the Panthers, 16-13, at home in 2006.
St. Louis at Seattle – Seattle beat St. Louis 33-6 at home and 24-19 on the road last season. The Seahawks are 6-0 SU, 4-2 ATS versus the Rams.
Detroit at San Francisco – The 49ers defeated the Lions, 19-13, on the road in 2006.
New Orleans at Denver – Denver defeated New Orleans, 34-13, on the road in 2004.
Pittsburgh at Philadelphia – The Steelers buried the Eagles, 27-3, at home in 2004.
Jacksonville at Indianapolis – The Colts knocked off the Jaguars 29-7 on the road and 28-25 at home last season.
Cleveland at Baltimore – The Browns swept the Ravens last season, winning 27-13 at home and 33-30 at Baltimore. The Ravens are 4-1 SU, 3-2 ATS hosting Cleveland.
Dallas at Green Bay – The Cowboys shaded the Packers, 37-27, at home last season.
New York Jets at San Diego – The Chargers defeated the Jets, 31-26, on the road in 2005.
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
PLAYBOOK CFB 2-MINUTE HANDICAP - WEEK 4
(All results are preseason ATS, and most recent, unless noted otherwise - * check earlier this season for similar result. Content contained in this report remains exclusive private property of PLAYBOOK™ and the PLAYBOOK™ Database and may not be re-used or disseminated in any form without express written consent of the publisher.)
Thursday, Sept 18th
W Virginia 3-0 Game Three… 7-1 in 2nd of BB RG… 7-3 weekday RG… 1-4 off SU loss as favs 7 > pts… 2-5 aft E Carolina
COLORADO 5-0 in 2nd of BB HG… 5-1 vs opp off SU fav loss… 3-1 off unlined SU win… 0-3 Game Three… 3-8 home vs non conf opp
Saturday, Sept 20th
Temple 5-2 away off conf RG… 0-4 L4 vs Big 10 opp… 2-8 vs non conf off conf RG… *2-8 off 3+ ATS wins… 3-7 Game Four
PENN ST SERIES: 5-1 L6 / 6-17 L7 H… 4-1 in 1st of BB HG… 7-3 as non conf favs 27 > pts… 0-8 Game Four… 1-4 aft Syracuse… 1-3 bef Illinois
Wyoming 4-1 as dogs 15 > pts… 0-6-1 w/ conf rev… 1-5 away off BB HG
BYU SERIES: 4-0 L4… 6-2 as HF’s 15 > pts… 12-4 vs conf opp w/ rev… 3-1 Game Four… 3-13 in 2nd of BB HG… 1-4 aft UCLA
Lsu 11-2 off 3 straight HG… 5-1 Game Four… 4-1 bef Miss St… 4-1 in 1st RG… 2-9 vs conf opp w./rev
AUBURN SERIES: 3-0 L3… 3-0 aft Miss St… 5-1 as conf fav/dog 3 < pts… 4-2 w/ conf rev… 0-4 bef Tennessee… 2-6 Game Four
Alabama 11-0 in 1st of BB RG… 3-0 in 1st RG… 4-1 away vs conf opp w/ rev… 1-6 bef Georgia… 1-4 Game Four
ARKANSAS SERIES: 4-1 L5… 5-1 Game Four… 7-3 before week of rest… 0-5 home w/ conf rev… 2-5 bef Florida
Wake Forest SERIES: 4-0 L4 / 4-1 L5 A… 4-0 off SU W but ATS… 6-1 as conf dogs 7 < Pts… 6-2 vs conf opp w/ rev… 1-6 w/ rest… 1-6 Game Three
FLORIDA ST 7-1 home vs rested opp… 11-2 in 3rd straight HG… 3-1 Game Three… 2-8 as favs 7 < pts… 2-6 favs w/ conf rev
Boise St 4-1 L5 vs Pac 10 opp… 4-1 as dogs 8 > pts… 0-7 in 1st RG… 0-2 Game Three… 1-4 off BB HG
OREGON 4-0 L4 vs WAC opp… 7-1 Game Four… 5-1 as non conf HF’s… 7-2 H bef conf RG… *1-3 off SU win vs Big 10 opp
Utah SERIES: 3-1 L4 A… 17-2 aft Utah St… 1-4 in 2nd of BB RG… 7-3 w/ conf rev… 13 Game Four… 2-5 as conf RF’s < 9 pts
AIR FORCE SERIES: 3-1 L4… 8-1 bef HG vs Navy… 5-1 in 1st lined HG… 8-2 as conf HD’s 8 < pts… 7-2 vs conf opp w/ rev… 3-7 Game Four
E Carolina 7-1 in 2nd of BB RG… 6-1 w/ non conf rev… 6-2 vs ACC opp… 1-7 vs non conf in between conf gms… 1-3 aft Tulane… 1-3 Game Four
NC STATE 6-1-1 in 1st of 3 straight HG… 5-2 as non conf HD’s… 8-3 dogs in Game Four… 0-6 aft Clemson… 1-4 vs CUSA opp
Buffalo 7-3 as dogs off conf HG… 1-3 Game Four… 3-7 as non conf dogs > 21 pts
MISSOURI 6-0 as non conf favs 17 > pts… 6-2 Game Four… 0-4 bef Nebraska… 1-4 in 3rd straight HG
Fresno St 5-1 in 1st of BB RG… 6-2 Game Three… 0-8-1 off SU home loss… 0-4 as non conf RF’s… 0-4 bef UCLA…
TOLEDO 7-1 in 1st lined HG… 8-2 in 1st of BB HG
Rice 0-4 Game Four… 0-4 L4 vs Big 12 opp… 1-5 as dogs 24 > pts… 3-7 in 3rd straight RG
TEXAS SERIES: 3-1-1 L5… 12-2 as non conf favs… 6-2 Game Four… 6-2 vs non conf pp w/ rev… 2-5 in 2nd of BB HG
Florida SERIES: 3-1 L4 / 3-1 L4 A… 6-1 vs conf opp w/ rev… 4-1 aft Miami Fla… 7-3 w/ rest off HG… 0-3 away off non conf SU W 21 > pts… 3-9 as conf RF’s 4 > pts
TENNESSEE 5-1 in 2nd of BB HG… 4-1 Game Three… 4-1 off SU non conf W 15 > pts… 7-2-1 w/ conf rev… 2-6-1 in 1st conf gm… 2-5 bef Auburn
Georgia 5-0 as non conf fav/dog 4 < pts… 7-3 in 2nd of BB RG… 5-2 away Game Four… *2-6 away off SUATS con road fav win… 2-5 bef Alabama
ARIZONA ST 3-0 in 4th straight HG… 7-2 Game Four
Arizona 3-0 in 2nd of BB RG… 2-6 bef Washington… 4-10 Game Four
UCLA SERIES: 3-1 L4 H… 5-0 in 1st of 3 straight HG… 3-0 vs conf in between non con gms… 9-3 w/ conf rev
Troy 6-1 in 1st of BB RG… 1-4 dogs 6 > pts vs opp off SU road L… 1-3 dogs in Game Four
OHIO ST 4-0 bef Minnesota.. 3-0 Game Four… 8-2 in 1st of BB HG… 4-10 off non conf SU L
S Florida 4-0 vs winless opp after Game Two… 5-2 Game Four… 0-3 as non conf DD RF’s… 1-3 off SUATS home W
FLORIDA INTL 0-3 off SU L vs non conf opp… 2-7 aft score 7 < pts… 2-6 off BB RG
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
PLAYBOOK NFL 2-MINUTE HANDICAP - WEEK 3
(All results are preseason ATS, and most recent, unless noted otherwise - * check earlier this season for similar result. Content contained in this report remains exclusive private property of PLAYBOOK™ and the PLAYBOOK™ Database and may not be re-used or disseminated in any form without express written consent of the publisher.)
Sunday, Sept 20th
Kansas City SEPT: 6-0 A off SU loss vs opp off SU loss…13-2 Game Three…SEPT: 8-2 dogs vs opp off SU loss
ATLANTA SERIES: 1-4 L5H…1-4 Game Three
Oakland SERIES: 6-2 L8 / 4-1 L5 A… 4-16 A vs opp w/rev …9-2 O/U Game Three
BUFFALO 5-0 vs AFC opp off SU dog win…*SEPT: 9-1 w/rev vs < .500 opp… 1-8 .500 > vs non div opp… 0-5 Game Three
Houston SERIES: 0-4 L4… SEPT: 7-0 over vs opp off A… 7-1 w/rev vs .500 > opp off DD ATS win… KUBIAK: 0-7 A w/rev
TENNESSEE 4-1 Game Three…SEPT: 0-6 H vs div off non div game… 0-4 HF’s off BB SUATS wins vs div opp… SEPT: 1-6 favs vs div opp w/rev…2-10 favs off SU non div win vs opp off SU loss
Cincinnati 0-6 dogs 4 > pts bef Browns…2-18 A vs .700 > opp…2-17 < .500 RD’s aft scoring < 20 pts vs opp w/rev…SEPT: 1-7 dogs vs opp w/rev…2-8 O/U Game Three
NY GIANTS 10-0 H off DD ATS win & scored 35 > pts LG… SEPT: 7-1 H w/rev vs non div opp…6-3 Game Three… 0-11 H off SU A win vs opp off SUATS loss… 0-8 HF’s off non div vs < .400 opp…0-7 HF’s w/rev vs non div opp off fav role… 0-7 H vs opp off DD SU loss… 2-14 .500 > home vs non div opp off SUATS loss… 2-11 H off SU win vs < .500 opp off SUATS loss
Arizona 0-5 off BB SUATS wins… 2-11 O/U Game Three
WASHINGTON 0-5 fav 3 > 2nd home game of season… 2-6 Game Three
Miami 6-0 DD RD’s… SEPT: 5-1 vs div opp off SU win… 8-2 div dogs 1st 3 games of season…10-5 Game Three… 0-8 vs div opp off dog role
NEW ENGLAND SERIES: 6-2 L8 H… 10-0 off SUATS win & BB UNDERS vs div opp… 6-0 DD favs off SUATS win vs opp off BB SU losses… 9-1 DD HF’s vs opp off BB SU losses… 15-2 off SU win vs div opp off BB SU losses… 4-1 Game Three… SEPT: 4-1 DD favs… 0-9 vs opp off non div game
Tampa Bay SERIES: 3-1 L4… SEPT: 6-0 .500 > A vs .500 > opp… 9-2 Game Three… 0-14 A off SU win vs non div opp
CHICAGO SEPT: 1-8 vs opp off SU win w/rev…1-5 Game Three… SMITH: 7-0 off SU non div loss vs opp off SU win
Carolina 21-1 RD’s vs .550 < non div opp… SEPT: 7-1 RD’s vs non div opp… SEPT: 6-1 dogs off SU win… FOX: 11-2 dog w /rev
MINNESOTA SERIES: 1-3 L4… 8-1 off BB SU losses vs .500 > opp
St. Louis SEPT: 6-1 < .500 dogs w/rev… 1-10 < .500 vs div opp off SU fav loss… 1-8 < .500 vs div opp… 1-3 Game Three
SEATTLE SEPT: 11-0 vs opp off BB SU losses… 1-11 favs < 10 pts off DD ATS loss…6-1 O/U Game Three
Detroit 15-2 dogs 3 > pts off BB SU losses of 8 > pts… 1-12 < .500 A off Packers vs non div opp…1-11 w/rev off Packers vs non div opp… SEPT: 1-5 < .500 A…2-8 Game Three… MARINELLI: 1-9 vs opp off div game
SAN FRANCISCO 6-0 off SU dog win vs opp off DD SU loss w/rev… SEPT: 7-1 H off div game vs opp w/rev… 1-7 H vs < .500 opp off BB SU losses w/rev… 2-9 H off BB SU losses vs opp w/rev… 1-4 Game Three
New Orleans 7-0 RD’s > 3 pts off SU loss vs opp off SUATS win… PAYTON: 6-1 dog vs .500 > opp… 3-7 O/U Game Three
DENVER 0-8 off div vs non div and div game next…2-9 H off BB SUATS wins…1-4 O/U Game Three
Pittsburgh SEPT: 0-7 dogs off SU win vs .500 > opp… TOMLIN: 0-6 A off SU win
PHILADELPHIA 7-1 Game Three…*SEPT: 10-2 off SUATS loss vs opp off SU win…*0-10 favs off BB SU wins vs AFC opp… 0-5 .500 > favs w/rev vs non div opp…*2-18 as pick or favs off BB SU wins vs AFC opp…2-10 H vs AFC opp
Jacksonville SERIES: 5-2 L7 / 3-1 L4 A… 6-0 dogs vs opp off SU fav loss…5-0 off BB AFC games w/rev
INDIANAPOLIS 10-0 off SU NFC win vs opp off SU loss w/rev… 7-0 favs < 7 pts off SU win vs opp off UNDER… 7-0 HF’s off SUATS win vs opp off SUATS loss… 9-1 off SU win vs opp off SU fav loss… 6-3 Game Three
Cleveland 4-0 Game Three… SEPT: 6-1 off SU div loss…1-6 A off SU loss & BB HG’s
BALTIMORE SERIES: 0-5 L5… SEPT: 1-5 div favs…2-8 O/U Game Three
Dallas SERIES: 7-2 L9 / 1-3 L4 A…*7-0 favs off SU loss & allowed 28 > pts LG…*16-3 .500 > off SU Eagles win vs NFC opp… 4-1 Game Three…*1-13 W/L % 1.000 off BB SU wins vs opp w/rev…*SEPT: 2-10 favs vs .500 > opp
GREEN BAY *9-0 off DD SU div win vs opp off SU win 7 < pts… 7-0 .500 > off SU win w/rev vs non div opp…3-0 Game Three…*10-1 H w/rev vs .600 > non div opp off SUATS win… *SEPT: 1-7 .500 > off ATS loss vs non div opp
Monday, Sept 21st
NY Jets SERIES: 4-0 L4 / 5-1 L6 A…4-0 Game Three…6-1 A Monday… SEPT: 1-7 vs opp off SU fav loss
SAN DIEGO SEPT: 1-10 H off SUATS loss… TURNER: 0-8 off BB SUATS losses vs .500 > opp…1-6 O/U Monday
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
MINNESOTA 31 - Florida Atlantic 14 - (12 Noon EDT) -- Line opened at Minnesota minus 7, & is now minus 6½. No questioning the fact that the Gophers "stunk out the joint" year ago, in Brewster's first year, as Minny's normally overpowering running game wound up just 48th in the nation, en route to an unimaginable 1-11 campaign, coming directly on the heels of 5 consecutive bowl years. And one of those 11 setbacks came in a trip to Ft Lauderdale, to take on the Owls. Gophers entered off a pair of OT games, with BigTen play (Purdue) the following week. The result, a 42-39 loss, featuring 7 TOS, with FA QB Smith burning them for 463 yds. Minny (3-0) has improved on all phases, so we color this one payback. RATING: MINNESOTA 89
CINCINNATI 24 - Miami-Ohio 23 - (7:30) -- Line opened at Cincinnati minus 13, & is now minus 11½. Much like the above selection, the Redhawks of Miami have a score to settle, after being blasted 47-10 by the Bearcats a year ago. In '07, Cincy was the master of the takeaway, & didn't disappoint in their demolition of Miami, a the 'Hawks turned it over 4 times, & had a punt blocked to boot. But things have changed dramatically since that encounter, as Miami returns 17 starters from last year's team which eventually made it to the MAC title game. The 'Cats are knee deep in QB trouble, as they are without LY's standout Mauk, with his replacement Grutza, is out (ankle). Line is more than juicy for this circled contest.RATING: MIAMI-OHIO 89
MICHIGAN STATE 34 - Notre Dame 10 - (3:30) -- Line opened at MichiganSt minus 7, & is now minus 8½. Well, the Irish came through for us as a 3* Phone Play, in their 35-17 win over Michigan a week ago (19½ pt cover), but a closer look shows that they did it mainly by the big play, as no less than 6 Michigan TOs paved the way. Just 14 Irish FDs, along with 388-260 yd deficit. NotreDame is averaging only 3.2 ypr in the early going, including a 3.1 ypr effort the previous wk, vs a SnDiegoSt team which was mauled for 293 RYs the following week. The Spartans completely dominated the Irish a year ago, holding ND to just 9 FDs. Not only that but MSt is smoking behind Ringer (282 RYs LW), & QB Hoyer. Totally focused.
RATING: MICHIGAN STATE 88
SO MISSISSIPPI 47 - Marshall 17 - (3:30) -- Line opened at SoMiss minus 10, & is now minus 9½. The line movement on this one is puzzling, as the Eagles of SoMiss have opened impressively, standing at 3-0 ATS, behind the throwing of RS frosh Davis, & the running of the steady Fletcher, who is accustomed to burning the Herd (151 & 152 yds the past 2 yrs). So take note of the Eagles winning their last series hoster by a 42-7 count (28-pt cover). This is SoMiss' 2nd home game of the season, so check piling up 30 FDs, 427 RYs, & 633 Total Yards in their first hoster, a 20-pt cover. Marshall is improved, but was mauled by 37 in its only road game to date, & has allowed at least 35 pts in 4 of its last 6 lined tilts. RATING: SO MISSISSIPPI 88
Rutgers 45 - NAVY 31 - (3:30) -- Line opened at Rutgers minus 4, & is now minus 4½. This contest is a classic "must-win" setup for the Knights, who've been a genuine embarrassment in the early going. They lost only 7 starters from LY's bowl squad, with high hopes from the faithful. But things have been a genuine nightmare so far, with a combined 68-19 scoring deficit in their 0-2 start (minus 68 pts ATS). Are an amazing 122 pts behind the pts in 9 of their last 10 regular season games. The Middies never have trouble moving it, but haveallowed 44 ppg in 12 of their last 13 games. It's now-or-never for the Knights. Now! RATING: RUTGERS 88
NEW YORK GIANTS 31 - Cincinnati 10 - (1:00) -- Line opened at NYGiants minus 13½, & is now minus 13. That's right, we've gone against the defending champions in both of their games so far, figuring the losses of Strahan & Umenyiora on that defensive line would be a bit too much to overcome, in trying to match LY's splendid defense, which simply ruled the post season. But the 'Skins were completely stymied in their opener, with Manning & Co exploding in game 2. Sure, the Rams post the worst "D" in the NFL, but this Bengal squad is knee deep in problems, with team unity nowhere to be found. Palmer has led an "O" which has managed just 17 pts & 19 FDs in its 2 outings to date, & won't dent NY "D". RATING: NEW YORK GIANTS 88
NEAR CHOICES (Rated 87): Connecticut, Missouri, PennSt, Oregon -- NFL: Seattle, Carolina, SanDiego
LINE MOVES (from largest to smallest moves): Missouri (-31 to -33½); Mississippi (-4½ to -6½); Tulane (-4½ to -6); Miami-Ohio (+13 to +11½); LSU (-1½ to -3); Alabama (-8 to -9½); MichiganSt (-7 to -8½); BoiseSt (+13½ to +12); Miami-Fla (-2½ to -4); SoFlorida (-26½ to -28) - NFL: Miami (+13½ to +12½). -- TIMECHANGES: Mississippi/Vanderbilt: now 7:00; GaTech/Mississippi: now 1:00; WakeForest/FloridaSt: now 7:00; Miami-Fla/TexasA&M: now 3:30; EastCaro/NCSt: now Noon -- KEY INJURIES: AirForce FB Newell (ankle) probable; Akron RB Allen (hip) questionable; Cincinnati QB Grutza (ankle) out; Eastern Michigan QB Schmitt questionable; GaTech RB Dwyer (back) probable; Maryland RB Scott (shoulder) questionable; Nevada RB Lippincott (ACL) out; OhioSt RB Wells (foot) questionable; Oregon QB Roper (knee) out; TexasA&M RB G d (k ) T A&M QB M G ( h ld ) i b
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
Marc Lawrence Playbook Best Bets
3*s: C. Michigan, NO Saints, Titans over
4*s: Georgia, Hou Texans, SF 49ers over
5*s: BC, Car Panthers, Redskins over
Disappointing start for both programs with BC dropping its ACC opener to Georgia Tech while UCF fell in overtime to bitter intrastate rival SouthFlorida. We’re not at all enamored with OT losers (see last week’s I’M A LOSER article for more on this)… especially when the defeated squad was outgained by a 504-226 margin! Since each team has had an extra week to prepare, they’ll probably spend most of the time trying to revive a pair of moribund offenses. A quick check of the ATS archives tells us the Eagles are the more likely choice to succeed. Boston College stands 16-6 with rest when taking on .500 > non-conference foes and Jeff Jagodzinski’s bunch has covered 15 of 19 opportunities when winning SU as chalk versus .500 > opponents. Central Florida’s George O’Leary does not fare well when taking to the highway off a loss, compiling a weak 6-16 ATS record (0-4 playing out of conference). THIS JUST IN:Game Three Bowlers off a SU favorite loss (like BC) are an outstanding 16-3-1 ATS versus a foe that was a dog of more than 8 points in its last game. With UCF leaving Orlando for the fi rst time this season and Boston College facing lowly Rhode Island the following week, we’ll look to fly like an eagle with the more-focused Beantown Boys.BOSTON COLLEGE over C Florida by 21
We’ll learn a lot about Joe Tiller and his Purdue team here. After ripping through Oregon for 300 fi rst quarter yards and a 20-3 lead, the Boilermaker offense inexplicably fi red blanks the rest of the way against the Ducks – and before you could say ‘Donald’, Oregon had caught up and forced overtime, eventually winning 32-26. That devastating loss puts the Boilers smack in the middle of our classic ‘Home Favorite Letdown Off An Overtime Loss’ scenario (see last week’s I’M A LOSER article). Central Michigan may not get much attention but the Chippewas have averaged 9 wins per season over the last two campaigns and went bowling both years. They also owe Purdue for a pair of SU defeats in 2007, a 23-point embarrassment on this fi eld in Game Three and a narrow 3-point loss in the Motor City Bowl. In a battle of top-notch quarterbacks, we expect CMU’s Dan LeFevour to outduel the Boilers’ Curtis Painter and walk way with a statement-making win.Central Michigan over PURDUE by 1
You’ve got to hand it to Mark Richt. Last week’s SEC opener against South Carolina looked like an after-hours parking lot brawl outside a redneck bar but somehow the Georgia coach guided his Dawgs to a crucial 14-7 win over the Gamecocks. Now comes the part of the schedule where Richt shines: he’s 32-2 SU versus non-conference foes – 27-0 during the regular season – plus he’s 26-4 SU and 19-11 ATS away from Athens. It doesn’t also doesn’t hurt that Preseason No. 1 teams are 26-2 SU and 18-9 ATS in Game Fours. Since Arizona State’s jackrabbit 8-0 SU start last year, the Sun Devils have cooled considerably, going just 4-4 SU and 1-6 ATS (shocked last week in OT by UNLV, 23-20, as 25-point favorites). We can sweeten the deal by telling you home teams off an overtime loss were just 24-41-3 ATS entering this season when taking on a foe off a SU win.The best of this week’s SMART BOX confi rms our choice – Dawgs rule in the desert tonight.Georgia over ARIZONA ST by 17
Thanks to Ike the Texans will tackle the Titans with the benefi t of an extra wink of rest. And if you are winless in the NFL, that’s a nice handicapping combination. That’s confi rmed by the fact that teams in this league that have yet to win a game are 32-19-1 ATS when taking points with the benefi t of an extra week to prepare. More important, Houston needs this game like blood given Tennessee’s 2-0 start to the season. Jeff Fisher wears a label as a good dog. When laying points against winless teams he is just 2-6 ATS in his NFL career, including 1-6 as a single-digit favorite.Titans drop to 1-7 ATS as September chalk against avenging division foes here today. Texans get back in the mix of things today.Houston over TENNESSEE by 7
Intent on making more than a point, the man on a mission stamped himself with a stirring two-point conversion to steal last week’s game away from San Diego. Mike Shanahan’s job this week will be to keep his team at the same level they were during the Charger game. That may be a problem considering the Broncos are in the middle of a season opening division sandwich. To that extent they are 0-8 ATS in this role (division games before and after with a non-division game in the middle). They are also just 2-9 ATS at home off back-to-back SU and ATS wins. The Saints will gladly comply, sporting a 7-0 ATS mark as road dogs of more than 3 points off a loss when taking on an opponent off a SU and ATS victory. With New Orleans boss Sean Payton 6-1 ATS in his NFL career as a dog against .500 or better opposition, look for venue to turn into Mile Sigh today.New Orleans over DENVER by 7
The Vikings were many a ‘Wise Guys’ choice to win the NFC North Division while making their way to the playoffs. A strengthened defense with a powerful running game made for solid reasoning. Missing from the equation, though, is a quarterback. When they go down this week it’s safe to say Tarvaris Jackson will be carrying a clipboard sooner than later. The Jackson experiment aside, the Panthers have capitalized on the return of QB Jake Delhomme, vaulting to a 2-0 start sans the services of his best WR Steven Smith. Like the Terminator, Smith’s back this week and these Cats are lovin’ it. The most mind-boggling stat of all is at work here as Carolina is 20-1 ATS as a non-division road dog against .550 or less opposition in their franchise history, including 20 wins in a row! With Game Three winless favorites of less than 5 points just 3-19-2 ATS since 1990, you’d be wise to join the guys who realize Carolina is a live Road Cat!
Carolina over MINNESOTA by 10
Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 18 - 22
THE SPORTS MEMO
CAROLINA AT MINNESOTA -3
With home games at such a premium in the NFL, expect the Vikings to place extreme emphasis on this one. The Vikes are in the second of back-to-back home games after allowing Indianapolis to steal one on this field last week. Minnesota is also in early desperation mode after a 0-2 start while 2-0 Carolina is on a cloud nine high after pulling off their second consecutive come-from-behind fourth quarter victory. With a pair of solid situationals pointing toward the host, expect the fundamentals to work for them as well. Carolina is predicated on running the football and Minnesota boasts one of the toughest run defenses in the league. Quarterback pressure has also been a forte of the Vikings the first couple of weeks and I believe they’ll overwhelm the good but not great Panthers front. Even with the return of WR Steve Smith, this does not appear to be a good fit for the Carolina passing game, which likely needs a week to get in a rhythm. This raucous venue isn’t the place for that to happen. Situational and fundamental indicators are all strongly in the Vikings favor here and this price provides great value
ST. LOUIS +10 AT SEATTLE
There is no way to sugarcoat it, the St. Louis Rams have been terrible through the first two games of the season. They’ve given up 966 yards of total offense and have been outscored 79-16. Now while all that looks terrible on paper, it must be noted that they played two very good teams in Philadelphia and the New York Giants. This week it gets easier for the Rams as they open divisional play against the extremely banged up Seattle Seahawks. I can honestly say that I don’t know who Matt Hasselbeck will be throwing to this weekend. Seattle lost both wide receivers, Logan Payne and Seneca Wallace, to injuries against the 49ers. The Seahawks are already without pass catchers Bobby Engram,Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and Ben Obomanu. This week they are left with unproven Courtney Taylor, Billy McMullen (signed earlier this week) and Michael Bumpus, who was signed off the practice squad last Saturday. The Rams certainly aren’t going to be in the playoff hunt let alone vying for a .500 record but not only is Seattle banged up, they are an aging team and one that is nowhere near as good as this line would indicate. Take the Rams
DETROIT AT SAN FRANCISCO -4
The Lions take a trip to the West Coast as they challenge the 49ers Sunday afternoon. This is a tale of two teams going in different directions. The Lions are brutal from the front office to the field, and I don’t say this lightly as they might not win one game this season. The Lions were embarrassed in week one by an equally dreadful Atlanta team, while self-destructing once again last week against Green Bay. Last week’s loss had to hurt team morale further after battling back. Keep in mind this team was fighting among themselves on the sidelines against Atlanta. Meanwhile, the 49ers played much better than their opening week loss to Arizona would indicate (five turnovers). Last week, the ball didn’t bounce their way early as they were down 14-0 against Seattle early on but rebounded with a huge overtime win. Keep in mind, the 49ers’ new offensive coordinator Mike Martz knows the Detroit personnel and is smarter than anyone on the Detroit sideline. Finally, the caliber of these two in terms of defense and pure tackling ability is wide, and it strongly favors San Francisco. Looking to take advantage of a reasonable line here with the home favorite.
OAKLAND AT BUFFALO O/U 37
A year ago the Bills started 0-2 and suffered numerous injuries. Buffalo returns
home this week 2-0 following an impressive 20-16 road win at Jacksonville - an outright underdog winner for us. The Bills’ defense has held each of their opening two opponents to just 3.8 and 4.3 yards-per-play while allowing only 10 and 16 points, respectively. Buffalo will face a stronger running attack this week, and the Raiders are a one-dimensional offense that piled up 300 yards rushing last week in their win at Kansas City. While that was a dominating display, it must be noted that QB JaMarcus Russell was just 6-of-17 for 55 yards passing. He’s been shaky in the early going, and traveling to Buffalo is one of the toughest places to play as a visiting quarterback, especially one that has never made the trip and lacks experience. The Bills’ defense can load the box to slow what the Raiders do best, and while Buffalo’s running game has averaged just 3.3 ypr in two games, they’ll rely on Marshawn Lynch and a short passing game facing the Raiders’ solid secondary. Few big plays in this contest as defense, running games and the clock will be on display.
MARSHALL AT SOUTHERN MISS -9.5
Recommendation: Southern Miss
You’re not going to find a less hyped 3-0 ATS team than Southern Miss, way off the radar screen for most of the betting marketplace. Most preseason guides predicted a down season for the Golden Eagles. They haven’t been on TV, and they were beat up pretty good in their lone test against a BCS powerhouse, although they came back late to cover at Auburn. Make no mistake about it, however - this team is exceeding expectations and should be able to do so again here. In their lone home game, Southern Miss hung 51 points and 633 yards of offense on Louisiana-Lafayette. Redshirt frosh QB Austin Davis has been remarkably impressive in his first season as the starter. Junior running back Damion Fletcher will be playing on Sundays in a year or two. Frosh wide receiver DeAndre Brown will be the best playmaker on the field here. Marshall lost by nine at home to Southern Miss last year. The Thundering Herd lost 42-7 on their last trip to Hattiesburg. In four seasons under Mark Snyder, Marshall is a truly woeful 2-17 SU on the road, losing 14 of those games by double-digit margins,with a 4-13 ATS mark as a road underdog . That’s a trend worth betting!
EAST CAROLINA -7.5 AT NC STATE
Recommendation: East Carolina
After winning with East Carolina in its first two games, I passed last week as they nipped Tulane, 28-24. That was an obvious letdown spot for them and I didn’t expect them to play their best. This week they should have plenty of motivation for their in-state rivals from Raleigh. The Pirates have long hated NC State, and this is yet another chance to knock off a BCS school. Adding to the motivation for the Pirates is a 34-20 home loss to the Wolfpack last year. There is no doubt that East Carolina has the better team this year, and its defense should shut down a woeful NC State offense that has scored just three points in two games against I-A competition. State scored a touchdown on an interception return last week on the first play of the game, yet still lost to Clemson 27-9 and was shut out in their opener by South Carolina, 34-0. The East Carolina defense has allowed just 275 yards per game in their three wins over Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Tulane. The offense, led by Patrick Pinkney, has yet to really explode, but they have been solid and will face a young NC State defense that has allowed 4.75 ypc thus far. Pirates win this one easily.
NAVY AT RUTGERS O/U 58
Rutgers’ quarterback Mike Teel has looked terrible through two games but there isn’t much doubt that he’ll have a huge day here against Navy. The Midshipmen allowed opponents to connect at a 70% clip in the pass game last year and have already been torched twice this season by Ball State and Duke for over 640 yards and seven TDs through the air. Teel has lost his composure against two up and coming defenses but he still moved the ball. The difference this week is that they will finally turn the yardage into points. Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood will have a field day against this secondary. But Navy will have its fare share of success offensively as well. We have seen the Rutgers defense give up 160 yards and three scores to Ryan Matthews in week one and UNC had no trouble ripping off 4.1 yards per carry as a team. This is a tough system to prepare for and stop and I have no faith in the Scarlet Knights to keep Shun White, Kaipo, or Jarrod Bryant in check. After all, Navy has scored at least 23 points in 18 straight games. Over is the play this week.
VIRGINIA TECH AT NORTH CAROLINA -1.5
Recommendation: North Carolina
We picked North Carolina to win the ACC Championship and part of the reasoning behind that selection was the fact that within their division, the powerhouse teams Virginia Tech and Miami-Florida, were down significantly. Head coach Butch Davis has a young but talented group of players. With 18 returning starters, the benefit of playing so many true freshmen and sophomores last year, would be realized this season. Brandon Tate is as a dynamic talent as we have seen all year long. Not only is he a solid receiver but he is the best return men in college football. Hakeem Nicks is somewhat overshadowed by Tate, but he makes for an explosive tandem. Quarterback TJ Yates is quite efficient and has a knack for making big plays. Their hard hitting defense is quick to the ball and has created turnovers regularly. Simply put this is a solid team. Virginia Tech perhaps telegraphed their intention on the season when Frank Beamer originally had decided to red-shirt quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Perhaps not convinced that the season would be a huge success,Beamer originally felt better served in playing for the future. As evidenced this is not a great Hokies team. They are skittish on offense and will not have any athletic edge on special teams. We clearly see that the better team is UNC and will lay the short price.
GEORGIA -6.5 AT ARIZONA STATE
Georgia got a very stiff test last week in Columbia, South Carolina, surviving with a 14-7 win over the Gamecocks. This week they travel across the country to face an Arizona State team that lost at home to UNLV last week as a 24-point favorite. I am sure that the Sun Devils were probably thinking about Georgia last week, but I am not sure that is going to help them this week. The Bulldogs should be too tough and fast for the Sun Devils of the PAC-10, which went 0-4 against the Mountain West last week. Georgia faced a very physical South Carolina defense last week, but that won’t be the case in the desert. Look for Knowshon Moreno and the Georgia running game to have a big day, which will set up the passing game as well. Arizona State seems to still be a notch below the top level of college football teams as evidenced by their last three games as an underdog. They lost to Texas in last year’s Holiday Bowl, 52-34, and were beaten in the regular season by USC, 44-24 and Oregon, 35-23 and were outgained by an average of 461-358 in the three losses. Expect more of the same this week.
LSU AT AUBURN +3
The Auburn offense in its win over Mississippi State looked about as poor as an SEC offensive unit has looked all year. Perhaps the only exception was Mississippi State as they could manage no offense scoring in the 3-2 (yes that’s right) defeat. Against MSU the Auburn offense struggled as it lost three more fumbles and committed 12 penalties for 94 yards. On the season they have committed eight turnovers, six of which are fumbles from skill position players. Yet while Auburn has struggled offensively, its defense has been positively dominant. This past weekend, the Bulldogs were held to 116 yards while going 0-for-14 on third-down conversions and 0-for-3 on fourth downs. They were forced to punt 10 times. On the season, Auburn has held the opposition to just 641 total yards of offense in three games. Auburn ranks third nationally in scoring defense (5.0), ninth in rushing defense (53.0) and 10th in total defense (213.7). They don’t miss tackles and they don’t allow extra yardage after contact. The opposition has been held to an incredible 3-of-46 on third down conversions. We expect improved play out of the offense as they eliminate the turnovers and we’ll call for the home team to win the ninth consecutive game in the series. Play the home underdog Tigers.