Saturday Service Plays
Saturday Service Plays
Illinois Fighting Illini at Penn State Nittany Lions -14
Last week the Fighting Illini had the week off to prepare for this big game, while the Nittany Lions crushed Temple 45-3. The key to this game will be on defense, as both teams have good offenses. The Nittany Lions have the advantage, as they have the country's 7th ranked D. The Nittany Lions are led by QB Daryll Clark (715 yds 7 TD 1 INT) and his main targets are WR's Jordan Norwood (18 rec 318 yds 4 TD) and Deon Butler (14 rec 229 yds 2 TD). The Penn State rushing attack is led by the duo of RB's Evan Royster (379 yds 7 TD) and Stephfon Green (292 yds 4 TD). The Fighting Illini are led by QB Juice Williams (722 yds 7 TD 5 INT 219 yds 2 TD rushing) and his main targets are Will Judson (7 rec 186 yds 2 TD) and Arrelious Benn (15 rec 150 yds). The Illini rushing attack is led by the duo of Williams at QB and RB Daniel Dufrene (300 yds).
Staff Pick: The Nittany Lions have a good D and have only given up an average of 10 points per game, while the Illini have given up an average of 30 points per game. However, the Nittany Lions have played an easy schedule with wins over Coastal Carolina, Oregon State, Syracuse, and Temple. This will be their first big test of the season. They have to contain Williams, who can hurt teams with his arms and his legs. For the Illini to be successful Williams has to be more consistent, as he has made some bad decisions that has led to 5 INT's. The Penn State D already has 7 INT's this year. The Illini will have their hands full on D, as the NIttany Lions offense rank 6th in total yards, 8th in rushing yards, and 1st in points scored. The Nittany Lions RB's have to hold onto the ball, as even though they crushed Temple last week they fumbled the ball 5 times. Penn State DL Maurice Evans was back at practice this week after missing a couple of games because of off the field issues, but head coach Joe Paterno has not said if he will play. They really could use his defensive pressure, as he registered 12.5 sacks last year. This is the Big 10 opener for both teams. Look for a high scoring game and for the Nittany Lions to win, but Williams will have a big game and the Illini will cover the spread.
Nittany Lions 31 Fighting Illini 27
Alabama Crimson Tide at #3 Georgia Bulldogs
Coming into this HUGE SEC match up the Crimson Tide crushed Arkansas in their last game 49-7, while the Bulldogs beat a tough Arizona State team 27-10. First place in the SEC is at stake in this game. The Bulldogs are led by QB Matthew Stafford (919 yds 5 TD) and his main targets are WR's Mohamed Massaquoi (14 rec 195 yds 2 TD) and freshman phenom AJ Green (16 rec 300 yds 2 TD). The Bulldogs rushing attack is led by Heisman candidate RB Knowshon Moreno (455 yds 9 TD). The Crimson Tide are led by QB John Parker Wilson (542 yds 5 TD 1 INT) and his main targets are WR Julio Jones (11 rec 132 yds 3 TD) and TE Nick Walker (12 rec 102 yds 2 TD). The Tide's rushing attack is led by the RB duo of Glen Coffee (404 yds 2 TD) and Mark Ingram (263 yds 4 TD).
Staff Pick: This game features two tough hard nosed teams that look to battle for first place in the SEC. The key to this game may be the offensive line of the Bulldogs. They are young and banged up and they have to step up and protect QB Stafford and open up holes for Moreno. If the O line of Georgia does not play well the Tide's defense can wreak havoc in the backfield and they may upset the Bulldogs. The Tide have to set the tempo with their rushing game, which is ranked 14th in the nation. That will not be easy to do, as the Bulldogs have, perhaps, the best D in the nation. Alabama RB Coffee is averaging 8.6 yards per carry, which is the 6th best in the nation. If the Bulldogs D can contain the RB's of the Tide they will have a huge advantage. The Bulldogs have the better passing offense, ranked 29th in the nation, and freshman A.J. Green is averaging 18.8 yards per catch. Even though the Tide only rank 106th in the nation in passing yards they have one of the best young WR's in the country in Julio Jones, who is averaging 12 yards per catch. Interesting fact in that in all 5 match ups between these two schools when both were ranked, Georgia has won all 5. This game should be a hard fought battle in the trenches and should be a low scoring defensive affair. Add to the fact that there is a chance of rain at Sanford Stadium. Look for this to be a close and low scoring game and for the Bulldogs to come out on top, as they have the better defense.
Bulldogs 17 Crimson Tide 13
Re: Saturday Service Plays
South Florida vs. NC State
Play: South Florida - 8½
South Florida was in a tough spot last week, and the fact that they laid an egg is not all that surprising. Two weeks back, the Bulls hosted Kansas in a Friday night spotlight game. They were down by 10 points at the half, but scored 17 points in the 3rd quarter, and then struck quickly in the 4th to take a 14 point lead. But then the Bulls needed to dig down again after Kansas tied the score at 34 with just over five minutes to play. South Florida eventually pulled out a 37-34 on a last play field goal, but the game left them drained. And they suffered a huge hangover last week at Florida International and the unimpressive 17-9 win definitely raised a few eyebrows.
But South Florida has some excuses. First, and most relevant, is how the game described above played out. Second, the Bulls were playing the worst team in major college football. The FIU Golden Panthers owned just one win in their last 26 games coming in, so to expect any focus from the Bulls was simply not going to happen. “I think we were thinking a little bit ahead,” South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe said. “Luckily we won that game. It was a little scary.” And this game was also on the day of the big grand opening of FIU’s brand new on-campus stadium which was a huge day for the school and football program. They were going to show up; this was their Super Bowl, especially against an in-state opponent ranked # 12. “We really, really played with everything we had,” FIU coach Mario Cristobal said. So everything adds up perfectly to draw a line through the game and forget the results because South Florida basically just showed up and went through the motions. And with head coach Jim Leavitt saying, “We played about as bad as we could have played, I don’t see how we could have played worse,” look for his team to play 60 minutes of football here.
NC State enters off an upset win over one in-state foe East Carolina. It was fitting that the game went to overtime because the stats were dead even (literally). But it was still the first game this year in which NC State actually scored a touchdown against a real opponent after getting shutdown against South Carolina and Clemson. And South Florida’s defense is just as good if not better than those two so look for State’s offensive troubles to comeback in this game. And this comment by head coach Tom O’Brien makes me believe that his team may bounce off last week’s win: “They listen to the trash about how they can’t score and how they’ve been scoreless for so many halves (against FBS teams),” O’Brien said. “It bothers our young guys. Our veterans are more used to it and don’t take it to heart. This win got the weight off their shoulders and showed them how it feels to win a big game.” So we have two teams entering off wins, but South Florida is looking to play much better while NC State is satisfied because they finally scored a touchdown. The better team will be extremely focused here and stretches out to a comfortable win. Go with South Florida.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
The Ball State Cardinals enter into this Home Coming contest against visiting Kent State in a somber mood , Receiver Dante Love suffered a career-ending spinal cord injury last week , in his teams 42-20 win against state rivals the Indiana Hoosiers . It must be noted that the young man, had successful surgery to repair the damage, and is expected to walk again and live a normal life. Love is currently ranked 2nd in the nation in receiving yards , and was one of the Cardinals all time top stats leaders at his position . His versatility also made him a dangerous special teams player, and the impact of his loss will be much greater than some pundits might expect .The combination of last weeks emotional win and the loss of one of their biggest stars , will hinder the Cardinals abilities to concentrate and compete at a high level here this week, even though they are facing a sub .500 opponent in their MAC conference opener.Final notes & Key Trends: Kent State may only be 2-12 ATS dating back to last season, but for the most part they have been very competitive , with their average margin of defeat ringing in at just 8 PPG.
Play on the Golden Flashes to cover -Projected score: Ball State 34 Kent 24
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Colorado State and California.
California has played major competition in all 3 games and has wn 2 ut of 3. They have beaten Michigan State 38-31 at home, beat Washington State 36-3 on the road, and lost a close game to a good Maryland team on the road 35-27.The Rams have lost to Colorado 38-17, squeak by Sacramento State 23-20 and beat a poor Houston team 28-25.The Rams don't have the offense or defense to match up to the Golden ears.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Alabama Crimson vs Georgia Bulldogs
This could be a game that is critical to determining an eventual BCS bid. In the latest coaches' poll, Alabama comes in at #10 in the country, and the Crimson Tide is #8 in the AP rankings, while Georgia sits at #3 in both polls.
It is never necessarily a picnic to travel across the country and play a team like Arizona State, but Georgia did so and managed to beat the Sun Devils handily, 27-10, last weekend. Matthew Stafford, as usual, was solid but not sensational, completing 16 of 28 passes, and Knowshown Moreno carried the offensive load, rushing for 149 yards (6.5 a pop). But it was the Georgia defense that rose to the occasion. The Bulldogs sacked Rudy Carpenter four times and held him to just 208 passing yards. And Georgia totally snuffed out the run, limiting the Sun Devil running backs to 23 yards on 14 attempts.
Alabama scored a resounding 49-14 win over an Arkansas team that is admittedly a lesser commodity than it was last year. John Parker Wilson did not have a particularly good day, going just 6 of 14 for 74 yards, but the Tide didn't really need the passing game,. They dominated the line of scrimmage, running for 328 yards. Between Glen Coffee and Roy Upchurch, they picked up 253 yards on an average of 14.9 yards a carry. 'Bama has its national ranking, and deserves it, on the basis of its very decisive season-opening win over Clemson (34-10).
Both teams have stopped the run pretty well (Alabama at 2.2 ypc, with Georgia at 2 ypc). Both have quarterbacks who have gotten perhaps a little more attention than they deserve, though it must be said that between Stafford and Wilson, they have thrown just one interception in 196 attempts. The sensational Moreno (6.6 ypc, 9 TD's) is certainly a difference-maker for Georgia, but 'Bama has already seen the Clemson backfield of Spiller and Davis, so there's nothing awe-inspiring here. .Besides, Nick Saban's team is happy to counter with its deep backfield, with three runners in the SEC's top 15.
Georgia is currently on a 6-0-1 ATS roll, and has won eleven games in a row, but there is little separating these teams, especially since Wilson can now make use of freshman WR Julio Jones (three TD's in four games) and the Bulldogs don't have the services of fullback Brannan Southerland, who is out with a foot injury. We're inclined to grab points here with the Tide.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Troy St. Trojans vs Oklahoma St. Cowboys
What's this? Oklahoma State, which has been known as a high-scoring, airborne squad the last several years, is the nation's second-ranked rushing team? And they are tops in Division I with 6.7 yards per carry? That's right, and they owe it in large part to Kendall Hunter, the sophomore running back who is chalking up eight yards a carry and rambled for 21-0 yards against Houston is the season;s second week. Hunter is fourth in the country in rushing, but he's only got roughly 45% of the backfield's yards, so this team is deep back there. Although Zac Robinson only has four TD passes, he is eighth in the nation in passing efficiency. So the running game actually enhances his overall effectiveness. It should be noted that one of OSU's "games" was an exhibition with Missouri State, while the other two foes (Houston and Washington State) are usually found wanting on the defensive side.
So does Troy, which has allowed just 2.8 yards a carry by opponents, offer up the kind of defensive challenge that would test Oklahoma State's numbers? Hard to tell. The Trojans are coming off a game at Ohio State where they acquitted themselves well, outgaining the Buckeyes 315-309 even in a 28-10 defeat.
What we know about Troy is that this team can score some points. That's the residue of former offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, who's since gone off to Auburn. Sophomore QB Jamie Hampton (6 TD's, 5 INT's) may not be as productive yet as his predecessor, Omar Haugebook, but this team rolled up over 700 yards of offense in its own exhibition blowout against Alcorn State.
Oklahoma State comes to the table with solid special teams play (first in punting, fourth in punt returns). But Troy is a team that is hardly intimidated on road trips, having visited Florida State, Florida, Nebraska, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU and Ohio State over the past couple of years. And they've covered nine of the last 11 as a traveler. If they're not drained from the game in Columbus, they have a shot to be very competitive here. We'll take the points with Troy.
Take the Troy State Trojans
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Stanford Cardinal vs Washington Huskies
Ty Willingham, who was chased from Notre Dame, is wearing out his welcome at U-Dub. After finishes of 2-9, 5-7 and 4-9, he is off to an 0-3 start that has been punctuated by two embarrassing defeats and a heart-breaking loss to BYU where his team was penalized for an end-zone celebration, then missed a long extra-point try that could have tied the game.
Sophomore quarterback Jake Locker is fleet afoot, and has not thrown an interception in 84 attempts, but he doesn't necessarily make steady advances through the air (53.6% accuracy). One must afford him the edge, however, over Stanford signal-caller Tavita Pritchard, who has tossed four INT's and hasn't thrown a TD pass in the last three games.
Willingham, the former coach at Stanford who left that post to go to Notre Dame, has now beaten his "ex" four times out of five, won 27-9 at Palo Alto last year, but the standout in that game, Louis Rankin, who ran for 255 yards, has graduated. Washington, which ranks 100th in rushing (2.8 yards per carry), hasn't made up for that loss.
The Huskies are a lousy home favorite, having covered one of their last nine and five of their last 20 in that role. They are being beaten consistently at the line of scrimmage, giving up 5.6 ypc (although they have faced three ranked foes). They are also averaging almost 18 yards gained per points scored, which is substandard. The conclusion is that Locker can not carry the offense by himself. The Huskies have allowed eleven sacks (3.67 per game - 118th in the nation), while not recording a sack themselves. Stanford has actually managed to get to the passer (12 sacks already!).
While this is certainly a step down in level of competition for Washington, this Stanford team is not there to roll over, and they got at least a marginal confidence boost in last week's win over San Jose State, in which they held the Spartans to just 54 rushing yards. The bottom line is that we just don't want to lay any points with Washington, which doesn't even have a home field advantage (1-7 SU last eight), so we're on the take with Stanford.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
The Indiana Hoosiers and Michigan State Spartans are very similar in that both teams have run oriented offenses and both defend the run well, so in what figures to be a tight battle, it seems prudent to grab more than a touchdown with the home team here.
In fact, the home underdogs are actually averaging more points and yards offensively and allowing fewer yards per game defensively, meaning that this line may be based more on reputation than on the performances of these teams on the field this season.
Indiana is averaging 32.0 points and 446.7 total yards per game while going 2-1 so far, with a whopping 271.3 of those yards coming on the ground. The Hoosiers are averaging an impressive 5.7 yards per rush, and quarterback Kellen Lewis has made up for his passing deficiencies by leading the team with 331 rushing years on a terrific 9.5 yards per carry. The Indiana defense has done its part by allowing just 19.3 points and 298.0 total yards per game, limiting opposing rushers to 3.1 yards per carry.
Now the Spartans are off to a 3-1 start, and they are averaging 28.2 points on 376.0 yards per game. While those numbers look impressive, they are actually not as good as Indiana and the yardage numbers are padded somewhat by a dominating performance on the ground vs. a bad Notre Dame team last week. Their defense has been solid, allowing only 13 points per game, but they are allowing an average of 324.2 totals yards and 3.8 yards per rush, more than half a yard higher that the Hoosiers run defense allows per carry.
Add this all up and we see a field goal type contest either way, so we feel Indiana offers lots of value at this price at home.
Free Pick: Indiana +8
Virginia Tech +7.0
The Nebraska Cornhuskers are 3-0 and outscoring their opponents by an average score of 40.0-14.3, but the Virginia Hokies represent a jump up in class here.
After all, the Huskers three blowout wins have come vs. New Mexico State, San Jose State and Western Michigan. They are now facing a legitimate defense for the first time all year, and while the Hokies are allowing a few more points and yards than recent seasons, they have still displayed big play ability with 11 takeaways and seven sacks.
Also do not forget that Virginia Tech already has two conference wins, and their only loss was at East Carolina, so that have not faced the same cupcake schedule that Nebraska has taken on. They are also coming off of an impressive road win over an up and coming North Carolina program.
While Nebraska may have the more gaudy statistics on paper, we feel that a tougher schedule for Virginia Tech to this point has better prepared them to take this contest down to the wire, and an outright shocker would not surprise us.
Pick: Virginia Tech +7
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Troy @ Oklahoma St.
PICK: Oklahoma St.
Troy completely embarrassed the Cowboys last season as they never saw the Trojans coming. Oklahoma St. lost that game by 18 points and the finals score did not even tell the story as Troy had a 31-point lead entering the fourth quarter. The Trojans piled up 562 total yards in that game but it is important to note that the two best offensive players, quarterback Omar Haugabook and running back Kenny Cattouse have moved on. The Trojans offense is not nearly the same as last season.
The Cowboys meanwhile come into this year a perfect 3-0 and the offense may be even better than last season. Oklahoma St. finished last season 7th in total offense and 22nd in scoring offense. This year, the Cowboys are currently 5th in both total offense and scoring offense and they have improved their margins each game. Granted the last game came against Missouri St. but in the game prior to that, they racked up 699 yards of offense against Houston. They are rolling right now.
The cog to this offense is quarterback Zac Robinson as he is currently eighth in the country in passing efficiency. His first start as a Cowboy came last season in Troy and it was a game that he would like to forget as he was 18-37 for 191 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He no doubt remembers that game and would like nothing more than to turn it around here against the same team. Troy has been solid on defense but most of that success came against Alcorn St. in a 65-0 win.
Most of the offensive success came in that game as well as the Trojans put up 736 total yards of offense in that game. In the other two games against Middle Tennessee and Ohio St., Troy tallied 300 and 315 yards on offense respectively. The weakness of the Cowboys over the last few years has been the defense but they have been solid thus far as they are 29th in total defense after coming in 101st last season. That stop unit has a point to prove this time around after getting humiliated on the road last year in Troy.
Offense will be the key as Oklahoma St. is 13-4 ATS over the last three seasons when it scored 28 or more points. The Cowboys have scored 56 and 57 points in their last two games and they are a perfect 10-0 ATS in their last 10 games after scoring 50 or more points since 1992. Since 2003, the average point differential in six games is +22.7 ppg. Trot meanwhile is 2-9 ATS in its last 11 games after two or more consecutive spread wins. Look for the Cowboys to get their revenge in a big way here. Play Oklahoma St. Cowboys 1.5 Units
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Stanford +3 1/2 (5 units)
Georgia-7 (5 units)
Lsu -24 (5 units)
Western Kentucky +20 1/2 (5 units)
Washington State +21 1/2 (5 units)
Arkansas+27 1/2 (5 units)
East Carolina-10 1/2 (5 units)
Arkansas State -1 (5 units)
Unlv -4 (5 units)
San Diego State -11 (5 units)
Nc State -8 1/2 (5 units)
Troy +16 1/2 (5 units)
Tcu +17 1/2 (5 units)
California -26 1/2 (5 units)
Auburn -6 (5 units)
West Virginia -14 (5 units)
Iowa -8 1/2 (5 units)
Hawaii-San Jose State Over 49 (5 units)
Penn St-Illinois Over 58 (5 units)
Georgia-Alabama Over 44 1/2 (5 units)
Wake Forest-Navy Over 54 (5 units)
Indiana-Michigan State Over 49 1/2 (5 units)
Washington-Stanford Over 52 1/2 (5 units)
Nebraska-Virginia Tech Over 45 1/2 (5 units)
LSU-Mississippi St Over 39 1/2 (5 units)
WV-Marshall Over 51 1/2 (5 units)
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Wisconsin vs. Michigan
Michigan coach Rich Rodriquez believes Michigan has greatly benefited from the bye week, as it has given his squad a chance to get healthier and work on the playbook. The team also spent a lot of time working on techniques and fundamentals. Look for a very tight game throughout and for this to come down to a FG either way. Take the home underdog.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
3* Alabama +7 over Georgia
There are still some 7's out there. In some spots you'll have to lay -115 to get it, but you want 7 here, not 6.5. This game has all the indications of being a classic SEC primetime battle that comes down to a last second field goal to win it. As a matter of fact, there's far more evidence to support that outcome than a one sided affair.
One glaring reason is Alabama's history of playing close games. While Nick Saban is getting a lot of credit for this due to last years results, a closer look shows us that perhaps the talent in general, at Alabama over the years, deserves the real credit. For instance, one stat being thrown around this week by tout sheets is that Saban and Bama only lost one game by more than a touchdown last year, in Saban's first year. But dig a little deeper and you'll find plenty of close games before Saban got there. How about this. If you gave Alabama +7 points in every game for the last 5 years, not including this year, they would be 41-13 against the spread. If you just took the last 3 years, they would be 26-5 ATS.
Close games and Alabama go hand in hand. The important thing to remember is that during that 5 year stretch, Alabama had some mediocre results in the win loss column. 4-9, 6-6 and 6-7 mixed in with 2 winning years. So while Bama was having losing years, and firing coaches, they were still keeping it close on the scoreboard. That's a testament to the talent that goes to Alabama. In Sabans first year, they started turning some of those close losses into wins. This year their wins aren't even close, winning by an average margin of 36-9 and while the competition level can be questioned, they did knock of Clemson in week one.
People like to mention Quarterbacks and Running Backs when they talk about a football team and their successes or failures, but the unsung heroes are always the offensive and defensive lines. Without the guys in the trenches, we wouldn't know the names of these star QB's and Backs. This is precisely where Alabama is getting it done, both lines. If you've watched ESPN at all this week you've likely seen footage of Bama Nose Tackle, 365 pound Terrence Cody. This kid can disrupt an entire offense singlehandedly. While Georgia will no doubt spend some extra time on him this week, what can you really do? Focus too much on him and that opens the door for someone else to get to Georgia QB Matt Stafford.
There is no knock on Georgia here. But there's clearly more pressure on them. They were handed a lofty #1 ranking before a single game was played this year. Often times teams have a hard time living up to expectations when that happens. But, so far so good. We really have just two games to judge, last week at Arizona State and their previous game at South Carolina. They dominated Arizona State last week and held South Carolina to just 18 yards rushing but the Gamecocks were able to move the ball through the air to the tune of 271 yards
Georgia's home field advantage figures to be even more pronounced this week. It's their "blackout game". It's only happened 3 times in modern history. The team will wear it's black jerseys as will every person who walks through the gates of the stadium. It's a prime time, National TV affair and the crew from ESPN will be their live all day. The place will be a mad house. There's a reason they call it a home field advantage and that advantage WILL come into play Saturday Night.
All the same, we're comfortable taking a touchdown with Bama. If this were a court case being decided before a jury, all the evidence would be pointing towards a close game with an outright upset not an impossibility. These are the kinds of games we like to play. Smash Mouth, old fashioned SEC football. Talent on both sides of the ball. Neither team beating themselves. Both teams are plus in turnovers with Bama at +4 and Georgia at +3. The talent in this one is even. Mistakes and big plays will decide this one. We'll take our chances. 3* Alabama +7
3* San Jose +3 over Hawaii
One of the most important stats for any handicapper to be aware of is turnovers. It should come as no surprise that there is a direct correlation between wins and losses and turnover differential. Not just wins and losses straight up, but wins and losses against the spread as well. Sure, in college ball, there are plenty of games where simple talent wins out. But all things being equal, when two teams tangle where the talent level is fairly even, you can be sure that the deciding factor will be a mistake. Most likely a turnover.
Turnovers are rarely accidents. Sure, every once in a while a simple flub will happen. A drop. A wet ball. But most of the times turnovers are created. A defense creates turnovers because they get after the ball and hit hard. A defense creates turnovers because the pass rush is good and they hurry the Quarterback and because the pass coverage is so good downfield that opposing QB's are constantly throwing into coverage. Special teams creates turnovers as a result of great kicking team coverage getting downfield in a hurry and getting after the ball.
Likewise, turnovers are created by the offense and the coaching staff. A poorly coached team, where the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing, generally turns the ball over. A receiver may run a wrong route. A back may go left when the play is to the right and so on and so on. Which brings us to Hawaii. Hawaii is dead last in the nation in turnover margin at -9. To be fair, they had to play Florida in week one and they did turn the ball over 6 times in that one, but there may be more to the story than just getting blown out by one of the best teams in the country.
Hawaii figured to be hurting coming into this year. They have the fewest returning starters in the WAC and a brand new coaching staff including the head man Mcmackin who was the defensive coordinator last year. The new offensive coordinator was a high school coach last year. So we have new coaches, new players and of course new schemes to learn which in turn creates a great opportunity for their to be confusion and ........turnovers. Gone are June Jones and Colt Brennan as well as several other key pieces to the 12-1 season a year ago. No shame in the loss to Florida but they also lost to Oregon State 45-7 and Oregon State lost to Stanford and was blown away by Penn State.
San Jose State on the other hand has played some competitive football at times this year. They trailed 14-12 at Nebraska early in the 4th quarter until a kick return swung the momentum in that one and Nebraska scored 3 td's in the 4 quarter to win 35-12. Statistically, the game was dead even across the board. Last week at Stanford they had a 10-7 lead at the half and trailed 13-10 after 3 before giving up 10 in the 4th quarter. They also own wins over Cal Davis and San Diego State. If there's a problem at San Jose, it's in maintaining a lead late in games.
Huge coaching edge for San Jose. Dick Tomey took Arizona to 7 Bowl games in the 90's and has won where ever he has been, including Hawaii. He also guided this San Jose team to as 9-4 mark in just his 2nd year here, 2006. Again, a well coached team is not likely to beat themselves. Also, having coached in Hawaii, he knows how to handle his kids once there. Knows the distractions and what to keep them away from to maintain focus.
Ultimately, we doubt Hawaii is as bad as they have looked. However, we don't think they are very good either. San Jose appears to be the better team thus far. At worst, these two are fairly even which brings is back to the coaching and the turnovers. Hawaii is a work on progress. A new project. San Jose has everything in place.
Lastly we bring up the punching bag syndrome. We mention this quite a bit over the course of a college football season. We mention it, because it's an important factor often overlooked. When one team dominates another for many years, when the chance to turn the tables presents itself, teams are likely to take advantage. In this series, Hawaii has won 7 straight years. Which means there's not a senior on this San Jose State team that's ever beaten Hawaii. No one wants to go thru their entire college football career having never beaten a team they have had 4 or 5 cracks at. So there's added incentive.
If you doubt these teams are at least equal in talent, consider this. Last year, in Hawaii's 12-1 year, with June Jones and Colt Brennan and all the rest of the weapons, San Jose State took them to overtime where Hawaii pulled it out 42-35. San Jose has 7 returning starters on offense and 6 on defense. Hawaii has just 4 on each side of the ball.
This year Hawaii is averaging fewer than 300 yards per game on offense, QB Tyler Graunke has an injured throwing hand (think turnovers) and they are rushing for only 3.2 yards per carry. San Jose State held San Diego State to 6 yards rushing.
All is not perfect for San Jose. They are having trouble late in games. Last week Stanford got aggressive defensively and had 6 sacks in the 2nd half and had San Jose at -24 yards in the 4th quarter. But we think they are the more talented and better coached team in this one and have far more positives to draw on than Hawaii does at this stage of the season. We're looking for San Jose to break the 7 game losing streak and win this one straight up and we'll gladly take the +3 as a bonus. 3* San Jose State +3 over Hawaii
2* Tennessee +6.5 over Auburn
If handicapping football games were easy, we could use logic as simple as the following and do quite well. Tennessee lost to UCLA who then got blown out 59-0 by BYU. Then Tennessee beat a weak UAB team before getting blown out once again by Florida last week. On the other hand, Auburn started out 3-0 with a defense playing superb ball, and SHOULD have won last week at home against LSU to go 4-0. Easy stuff. Automatic play on Auburn huh? Well, maybe not.
These are the types of situations that sure aren't easy to play as a bettor. But they can provide us with some extra value due to the results of both squads year to date. Let's first take into consideration the emotional state of these two teams. Auburn was sky high last week for LSU. National TV audience. Chance to go 4-0 and knock off LSU. What makes it worse is that they had the lead a couple of times and should have won the game. The loss totally deflated this team. To quote coach Tuberville, "We’ve got a disappointed bunch of guys in the locker room. We felt like the way we played at times, we should have won it. They made a few more plays than we did"
Tennessee on the other hand figures to be loose. What do they have to lose? Everyone thinks they are terrible. While they also had a disappoint result last week, it's a little different when the score is 30-6 and you were never in the game to begin with. It's disappointing, sure, but not as disappointing as the Auburn loss. The Vols had already tasted defeat once this season and no one was mentioning their names and National Title in the same breath.
So, so far we have a slight mental edge in favor of the Vols and we have some added value in the line as a result of the Vols score last week not being close while Auburn could have won their game. But how about the talent that these two bring to the table? Well, first let's revisit last season. In case anyone forgot, the Vols started out last season in similar fashion. In their first 3 games, they were blown out by Cal and by Florida and beat So Miss to start 1-2. Just like this year, they were calling for Fulmer to be fired (someone called a radio show Fulmer was on this week and asked if he was going to resign) The Vols responded to last years 1-2 star by winning 8 of their next 9 games and landing themselves in the SEC title game.
Fulmer gets bashed quite a bit. But his teams have always responded for him when their backs were up against the wall. In 2005 they went 5-6 which is unacceptable in Vol Land. Fulmer was all but done if he didn't produce. The team responded with a 9-4 mark in 2006 and the last years 10-4 capped with Bowl game win over Wisconsin. You don't last 17 years in Tennessee without doing something right.
The Vols lost QB Eric Ainge which has hurt. But there's 8 starters on this offense from a year ago and six on the defensive side of the ball. This team will score some points this year you can be sure of that. Which brings us to where we feel the Vols have a shot this week. The Tennessee defense actually played well last week. Sometimes the score on the scoreboard doesn't tell the whole story. They held Florida to just two offensive touchdowns. Florida had a few field goals and a punt return for a TD. 3 Turnovers and a ton of penalties added to the Vols problems. Each team had 16 first downs and about 250 yards of total offense.
Auburn on the other hand, came back down to earth a tad defensively against the first real offensive threat it has faced this year. They gave up 178 rushing yards and 220 thru the air while offensively they had just 70 yards on the ground. So this defense has some holes. As long as this Auburn offense is a work in progress, it opens the door for teams like the Vols to stay close. If the Vols can slow down Tebow and the Gators they should be able to handle a brand new Auburn spread offense with just a few games under their belts.
The potential to keep it close combined with the mental edge the Vols are likely to have has us taking the +6.5 here. To use another quote, this one from Auburn QB Chris Todd - "It was real exciting. There’s nothing like it,” Todd said. “The adrenaline rush, playing on that stage was awesome. You’d like to win, but it came down to the end, and those are the type of games you like to play in"
That was last week. Now that the adrenaline rush has worn off, do you think Auburn will be as high for the Vols this week? Or perhaps a little flat?
2* Tennessee +6.5
1* Virginia +7 over Duke
(Line moved to +6.5 most places before we could get this out. We're only going to use this as a 1* play either way. We prefer +7 but still a play at +6. )We're not here to knock Duke. There's only one way to go for this program and that's up. They have already have a smany wins this year as the last 3 years combined, so hats off to David Cutcliffe and company. Duke is playing some good solid football on both sides of the ball and figures to be competitive, although it won't be easy the rest of the way.
What we have here is a major overreaction to each teams results thus far. Virginia is 1-2. They beat Richmond but were obliterated by USC and Uconn by a combined score of 97-17 giving up over 500 yards of offense to both the Huskies and Trojans. Meanwhile Duke is 2-1 to start the year and has folks paying attention. So, sure, if you just look at the scoreboard and the stats, Duke is deserving of the 7 point favorite role. However, if you dig a little deeper, and attach team names to those results, perhaps not. Duke beat James Madison and Navy and lost to Northwestern. Not so impressive really. Not compared to USC and Uconn. Point being, if it wasn't Duke, no one would care. They'd simply say this team hasn't beaten anyone yet.
The reason Duke is getting some attention is because they are 10-82 straight up this decade. That's right. 10 wins and 82 losses. Not very good huh? Yet here they are, favored by 7 points this week. They are favored based on their two wins and the fact that Virginia got blown out in their two losses. But really folks, how much is a team going to change in one year? This isn't pro ball where teams go from worst to first in a year. Change in college football is gradual. 2 wins one year. 5 the next. 7 or 8 after that, and then, who knows.
Duke has been the worst team in college football for many years. While they may improve a little each year, don't expect too many more wins from them this year. As a matter of fact, this week against Virginia may be their last legitimate shot at another win all year looking at their schedule. They may in fact get that win too, as Virginia certainly isn't playing very well. It's simply not logical though, to think Virginia doesn't have a good shot here as well. If anything this one figures to be close.
Virginia was 9-4 a year ago. They were involved in a ton of close games. They have won 57 games this decade. That's 47 more than Duke. They get better talent through their recruiting efforts than Duke does. They have some key holes to fill but still return half of their offense and defense from a year ago, a team that aside from going 9-4, beat Duke 24-13. They have outscored Duke by an average 20 points per game the last 19 years and have gone 17-2 straight up during that time.
Playing and losing to USC is actually a positive here. We talk about this quite a bit. You play a team like USC, especially early in the year, and everything you have been working on in practice falls apart when you try and implement it in the game. USC is just too good. But then you get in there against a team like Duke, and bingo, things start to work they way they were designed.
Virginia has some problems for sure but let's not get too carried away with either of these two teams results after 3 games. Virginia is more than likely not as bad as they have looked. Duke is more than likely not as good as they have looked. What you more than likely have here, is two mediocre to bad teams. One on their way up, one on their way down. The most likely scenario here is a close game that comes down to the 4th quarter. We're getting some added value here based on season to date results and at the end of the day, this is still Duke. 1-11 last year. 0-12 the year before that. And so on, and so on. 1* Virginia +7
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Oregon vs. Washington State
Play: : Under 56
PLAY UNDER on any team against the total after a game where they forced three or more turnovers against opponent after two consecutive games where they committed four or more turnovers. One contest fits this system that is 27-5, 84.4 percent. It’s a Pac-10 matchup between Washington State and Oregon.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Stanford vs. Washington U
Play: Washington U -3.5
The Huskies who come off a bye week and dominated Stanford in last season’s road contest with over 530 yards including 388 rushing. Washington has faced three top-25 teams to open the season with all three opponents featuring explosive offenses along with a pair of Heisman quarterback candidates. Now they face a mediocre signal caller in Stanford’s Tavita Prichard, who completed just 50% of his passes last season and is no better this year at 53% for 469 yards and 4 INT’s in four games. Washington spent the bye week focusing on its run defense and will likely force Prichard to beat them. I look for the Huskies to smell blood in the water and savior one of their few opportunities to score a big home win.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Alabama vs. Georgia
I really have seen little from Georgia that impresses me yet, as hyped up as they were in the preseason polls. Even more confusing to me is all the hype over their QB Stafford, who is a good QB, but nothing like a Heisman candidate he was touted as. Looking at his numbers, if he was in the Big 12 conference, he would be the 8th rated QB on stats alone! Georgia is pulling out all the stops here, and wearing black jerseys for this game, and creating a great deal of buildup for this crucial SEC tilt. Bear in mind that under Head coach Nick Sabin, Alabama has not lost by more than 7 points under his leadership.
With both defense's quite good, I still lean towards the Tide defense here as the better run stoppers, and at days end the running game will create the most opportunities for the team that can establish it best. Alabama runs it for 5.9 yards per carry, which is impressive, and they are off the total destruction of Arkansas last week. Georgia had to travel to Tempe and they beat a so/so Arizona State team by 17, which once again was hyped by ESPN as a huge deal for Georgia. The Sun Devils had lost to UNLV the week before. The Bulldogs barely escaped South Carolina with a win, and that game included some miracles for them to walk away with a win. Alabama is far superior to South Carolina.
Alabama's Glenn Coffe at RB is a great pounder inside and has speed and QB Wilson is solid, but not quite as good as Stafford for Georgia. I do however respect and admire RB Moreno for the Dogs with 455 yards so far, but this will be his toughest test to date, facing a very good stop unit. I expect Georgia to pass it more than run it here, and if the Tide can rush the passer with success, it plays well into their plans of being a blue collar workhorse type unit in this game. In a low scoring SEC bragging rights battle, with a Tide team used to playing tight games with the better defense, this is a 3 or 4 point game one way or the other. An outright Alabama win would not shock me in this game folks, as this is the win that Nick Sabin has been waiting for since his arrival at Alabama, the one signature win he needs to raise the bar for the Tide faithful.
Alabama 17 Georgia 14
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Cincinnati Reds @ Houston Astros
The Reds and Astros have been two of the lowest scoring teams in the majors in recent weeks! Cincinnati is averaging less than four runs per game in their last 16 games. As for Houston, they’re averaging just 2.6 runs per game in their last 10 games. When you factor in both club’s struggles at the plate, along with the way the pitchers should dominate in tonight’s match-up, you have the perfect scenario for a pitchers duel. Johnny Cueto of the Reds has allowed two earned runs or less in five of his last six outings! The Cincinnati right-hander also has compiled a stellar 1.35 ERA in his last four road starts! The Astros continue to “squeeze the sticks” a little too tight as they’ve struggled at the plate recently while trying to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
The Astros won’t be the only team struggling at the plate tonight as Roy Oswalt gets the start for Houston. The big right-hander is an amazing 22-1 in his career against the Reds with a 2.51 ERA as he’s held Cincinnati to a .234 batting average! Oswalt is a perfect 11-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his home starts against the Reds and, keep in mind, this is a Cincy lineup that no longer has Ken Griffey, Jr. or Adam Dunn! Like Cueto, Oswalt also comes into this start in rock solid form as he’s 8-2 with a 1.67 ERA in his last ten starts! Even though the Astros could win and still be eliminated tonight, there is no doubt they are approaching this game as a tight, must-win affair and Oswalt can be expected to do his part. The key to the low score is going to be another fine start from Cueto as the Astros bats continue to labor at the plate! Play UNDER the total in Houston on Thursday night!
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Minnesota at Ohio State
Big step up in class for the Gophers who have played twice against the MAC and faced teams from the Big Sky and Sun Belt Conferences. Minnesota's offense has looked good but they have taken advantage of a whopping +11 turnover margin. After winning just a single game last year they have started the season 4-0. But that success looks to be short lived as they are without last year's leading rusher and they have battled major injuries along the offensive line. QB Adam Weber is a talent but we can't see him having any time to throw against this Ohio State front seven. Beanie Wells is expected back for Ohio State this week and his addition should be a major plus for this offense. Tyrelle Pryor opened up the Buckeye passing game last week and he should have big success against this weak Minnesota secondary. The Gophers finished last year 115th in the nation against the pass and they enter this game last in the Big 10 this season despite playing weak competition. Ohio State has cashed four of the last five meetings in this series and they have won their last three conference openers by an average of 33 points per game. After three poor offensive showings we expect the dual threat offense of Ohio State to come to life against a much weaker defensive squad. PLAY OHIO STATE
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Army / Texas A&M
Games in this pointspread range have to be broken down differently from others, because of the obvious talent mismatch. These ATS outcomes are decided more based on the intensity of the teams, and it should not come as a surprise that we have landed here, because the service academy teams have been good to our pockets for a couple of decades when we could isolate the right spots. These are disciplined athletes that are going to play hard for the full 60 minutes regardless of how the scoreboard reads, which is exactly what you want in an underdog in this price range, while at the same team the superior team is also more inclined to back off early, and not embarrass a service academy. With Army this week we get even more.
The Black Knights are 5-0 ATS as underdogs in the state of Texas the past six seasons, and we have put many of those results into our portfolio. There is a prime reason for those showings – they annually get more players from this state than anywhere else, and this season is no different, with 27 Texans on the roster, including five starters. These trips mean something special to these athletes, and this one even more so because of Hurricane Ike. A lot of those Army players are from areas that were impacted, and we will let coach Stan Brock take it from there -
“It will be a big deal because this is the first time that these guys have seen their families since the hurricane went through there. Hopefully, some of the freshmen can step up in practice and make the road trip. We have six freshmen that we are hoping can travel so they can go home and see their family.”
The energy that those freshmen brought to the practices this week is something that will be infectious for the entire team, and veteran starting guard Brandon Cox, a Texan, echoes the sentiments - “Going home, seeing a bunch of family, having everyone come to the game, it’s going to be fun, going to be exciting. I’ve been to Kyle Field two or three times with my grandfather, he’s an alum there. I’ve been to a couple of games and the atmosphere is unbelievable.”
The key on the field is that the Black Knights also help to tactically get the game home as well. Brock has gone to an all-out option package on offense, looking to slow the game tempo down whenever possible. That has led to some stodgy offensive snap counts through the first three games, keyed by an Army offensive ratio of 161 running plays vs. only 39 passes. That will not change here – they will stay with the ground attack regardless of the game situation, and that will severely reduce the opportunities that the favored Aggies will have to get near this pointspread. Making it even more difficult is that A&M simply is not very good, particularly in the area of rush defense, which matters so much this week.
Texas A&M has already lost outright to Arkansas State on this field, and was not competitive in last week’s 41-23 loss to Miami, a game that was nowhere near what the scoreboard showed. The Aggies scored on the first snap from scrimmage, a 62-yard touchdown pass from Jerrod Johnson to Mike Goodson, and then were bullied by an embarrassing 41-3 fashion until the Hurricanes backed off late in the game. Note that in the only A&M win it was a +3 turnover advantage at New Mexico that did the trick (the Lobos led 370-236 in total offense), and that this defense is allowing 210 yards per game overland, at an alarming 5.7 yards per carry. That weakness enables Army to get some first downs and keep the clock ticking, which turns this pointspread into Mt. Everest. And even should the Aggies get a few big plays to get near the number, Mike Sherman is not the kind of coach to pile it on here, particularly with the Big 12 opener at Oklahoma State immediately on deck. He would be more than satisfied to get a win by far less than this spread, and to get his starters out of the game as early as possible.