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Games to Watch - Week 4

Games to Watch - Week 4

Games to Watch - Week 4
By Chris David

Alabama at Arkansas

Nick Saban and Alabama roll into SEC play with a 3-0 record and momentum as well, fresh off a 41-7 victory over Western Kentucky. The win came a week after a lackluster effort at home versus Tulane (20-6). The offense racked up 557 yards behind the arm of John Parker Wilson (215 yards, 2 TDs). The Tide's attack gets all the press in 'Bama, but the defense is arguably the better of the two units. After three games, the defense has allowed 20 points and seven of them came on a kick off return for a touchdown. Arkansas received an extra week to prepare for this battle after having their game against Texas postponed due to Hurricane Ike. Hopefully, the Razorbacks will use it to their advantage after almost losing to Western Illinois (28-24) and Lousiana-Monroe (28-27). To no surprise, head coach Bobby Petrino and the Razorbacks lead the SEC in passing (320 YPG) but are last in rushing (129.5 YPG).    

Gambling Notes
The home team has won four straight in this series, but the visitor has covered the last two meetings. Big revenge spot for Arkansas in this matchup, as Alabama captured a 41-38 victory last year in Tuscaloosa by scoring the winning touchdown with eight ticks on the clock. Alabama is 2-6 SU in its last eight road games, including a 2-2 record last year. The Razorbacks are 0-3 ATS in their last three games as a home underdog. Fans in Arkansas are going to find out how good Petrino really is in the next four weeks. After this battle, the Razorbacks face Texas, Florida and Auburn in consecutive weeks.

Florida at Tennessee

After losing a 27-24 heartbreaker to UCLA in its road opener, Tennessee recovered with a 35-3 last Saturday at home against UAB. The offense exploded for 548 yards, including 266 coming on the ground. The Vols are expected to control the ball against the Gators' explosive attack and are hoping running back Arian Foster (196 yards) can move the sticks. The Tennessee defense is holding opponents to 69 rushing yards per game, but faces its stiffest test on Saturday versus the Gators. Quarterback Tim Tebow (485 total yards, 3 TDs) continues to be the focus of the Florida attack (41 PPG) but his weapons (Percy Harvin, Chris Rainey, Jeffrey Demps) are garnering serious attention too. It's tough to gauge the Gators' defense right now considering they played against raw units (Hawaii, Miami, Fl.). However, it's hard to ignore that they surrendered 13 points in two games and forced six turnovers to boot.    

Gambling Notes
Since head coach Urban Meyer arrived in Gainesville the Gators have won three straight against the Volunteers, including last year's 59-20 blowout victory at home. Tennessee hasn't been able to muster up more than 20 points in each of the previous three encounters. The 'under' has gone 2-1. If Meyer does have a mark against him, it's been his inability to cover as a road favorite, going 2-8 in 10 instances. It's very rare to see Phillip Fulmer and UT listed as an underdog in Knoxville but it's been a good thing for gamblers who have backed the Vols. Tennessee is 4-0 ATS in its last four games as a home 'dog.

Wake Forest at Florida State

The Seminoles enter this game ranked in the Top 25 but some might question that position. FSU opened the year with cupcake victories over Western Carolina (60-0) and Chattanooga (46-7), plus the ACC is definitely a down conference this year. FSU has given the majority of quarterback snaps to Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson this year. The Seminoles lead the nation in total defense but they haven't faced a quarterback like Wake Forest gunslinger Riley Skinner, who has been deadly accurate (74.7%). The offense has looked sharp against quality competition from the Big 12 (Baylor, 41-13) and the SEC (Ole Miss, 30-28). The defense continues to create opportunities, forcing eight turnovers in the first two games.    

Gambling Notes
Last week, S. Florida was laying points to a higher ranked team and wound up winning (not covering) against Kansas. This week, a similar spot fits as No. 24 FSU is listed as a four-point favorite against No. 18 Wake Forest. Bobby Bowden and FSU are looking at a double-revenge situation against Wake. The Seminoles fell 24-21 last year in Winston Salem and were embarrassed in 2006 at home by the Demon Deacons, 30-0. Jim Grobe has done a tremendous job at WF but it should be noted that he's just 2-5 in ACC openers. The Deacons have a week of rest. FSU still has six players suspended from last year's academic scandal but will have the duties of WR Preston Parker back in the starting lineup.

Saturday - LSU at Auburn

The battle for the SEC West is on the line Saturday Night when Tigers collide with Tigers from Jordan-Hare Stadium. Both schools enter the game undefeated but neither has impressed so far, especially Auburn. Tommy Tuberville's team is coming off a dismal 3-2 victory at Mississippi State last Saturday, proving that the offense still lacks any chemistry. On a positive note, the defense has only surrendered 15 points in three games. LSU's attack has posted back-to-back 41-point efforts but quarterback Andrew Hatch (413 total yards, 2 TDs) is still considered raw. Head coach Les Miles' defense has been stellar as usual yet it's still tough to gauge in victories over Appalachian State and North Texas. The clock might not stop in this matchup, with both schools looking to run the rock all day long. The winner of this game has determined the SEC West winner six of the past eight seasons and that could very well be the case here too.    

Gambling Notes
The home team has won eight straight in the head-to-head series but that streak was almost snapped last year. LSU recorded a 30-24 victory against Auburn as the Tigers scored on a 22-yard touchdown catch with one second remaining. The 54 combined points scores was more than last two games combined. Prior to this shootout, the 'under' has cashed in seven straight games between the two schools. Auburn has only been a home underdog once in the last five years, stopping Florida 27-17 in 2006 as a two-point puppy.

Georgia at Arizona State

Head coach Mark Richt and the third-ranked Bulldogs head to the West Coast this weekend for a battle against Arizona State. The Sun Devils were caught looking last Saturday in a 23-20 overtime loss to UNLV, which dropped ASU out of the latest AP Top 25 poll. The school is still considered dangerous with QB Rudy Carpenter (975 yards, 6 TDs) but the running game (3.7 YPC) hasn't been established at this point of the season. After putting up 101 points in its first two games, UGA was stifled in its 14-7 road win over South Carolina last year. The Sun Devils will have to decide whether they want to shut down the Bulldogs passing game (Matthew Stafford - 634 yards) or the running game (Knowshon Moreno - 306 yards, 7 TDs).

Gambling Notes
This will be the fourth straight home game for ASU, which has watched the team go 1-1 ATS. As home underdogs, the Sun Devils are 6-3-1 in the last 10 spots. Georgia stands at 1-1 ATS this year and could be in a look-ahead spot for next week, with a home battle against Alabama looming. Since Richt took over Georgia, the school owns an eye opening 33-3 SU and 16-14 ATS ledger against non-conference opponents. On the road, Richt and company have gone 27-6 SU and 20-13 ATS. The Bulldogs own an 8-4-1 all-time record versus the Pac 10.

Other Games to Watch

Notre Dame at Michigan State
Notre Dame opened the season 2-0 but that could all come to end in a trip to East Lansing. Michigan State's defense is one of the best in the Big 10 and running back Javon Ringer is the real deal.

Boise State at Oregon
Oregon lost another quarterback this past week but the system continues to rack up serious yards and points on anybody. Boise State has a solid defense and ground game led by running back Ian Johnson.

Utah at Air Force
The Mountain West made some noise last week with a 7-1 record against non-conference foes. This Saturday, two of the better teams in the conference battle it out. Nine of the last 10 between Air Force and Utah have been decided by single digits.

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