Football Newsletters Sept. 24 - 29

Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 24 - 29

Marc Lawrence PLAYBOOK

PRO FOOTBALL

4* BEST BET

Cleveland over CINCINNATI by 7
division cellar-dwellers. The Bengals came oh-so-close before falling in overtime to the NY Giants. That sets the table for this contest as teams off a loss of 3 or fewer points against the defending Super Bowl champions are 1-7 ATS when hosting a division foe the following week. Couple that with the fact that winless teams at home in Game Four of the season are 1-11 SU and ATS when facing an opponent off a loss of more than 7 points. With a strong possibility of a ‘Quinn sighting’ in the offi ng and the Black Cats a putrid 2-16 SU and ATS in Game Four of the season, look for Romeo to come calling today.

3* BEST BET

Houston over JACKSONVILLE by 3
Questionable play-calling by Gary Kubiak denied the Texans a chance to take Tennessee down while a fortuitous 51-yard fi eld goal at the buzzer lifted the Jags past the Colts in diverse results for both of these teams last week. As a result the Texans are in quest of their fi rst win of the campaign with a defense that’s allowed 31 and 38 points in its two losses. We mention that because teams in Game Three that have allowed more than 30 points in each game to open the season are 4-1 SU and ATS when taking on an opponent off a SU and ATS win. Jack Del Rio’s 2-4 SU and 1-5 ATS mark as a favorite against division opponents off a loss is disturbing.No surprise here to see Jax fall to 0-6 ATS as home chalk against a foe off an away game. Take Tex.

NY JETS over Arizona by 6
Flyboys return to the Apple off Monday night’s skirmish in San Diego while the Cardinals look to regroup after Sunday’s hard-fought, fi rst loss of the season at Washington. It won’t be easy considering Zona’s 2-10 SU and 4-8 ATS mark against the AFC East. Couple that with the fact that Brett Favre is 8-1 as a nondivision favorite after Monday nights and 3-1 SU and ATS in his career against the Cardinals. We won’t fade those kind of numbers

NEW ORLEANS over San Francisco by 3
One team’s got it and the other doesn’t. Defense, that is. And if you’re Frisco head coach Mike Nolan you’re banking heavily on it as the Saints have managed to post 30 or more points in each if its last four meetings in this series (all wins). Our friendly database tells us that favorites or dogs of 1 or less points off backto- back losses are 0-7-1 ATS in Game Four of the season when taking on a foe off back-to-back wins. The loss of TE Jeremy Shockey certainly doesn’t help matters. The bottom line is it’s hard to pass on a touchdown dog with 100 yards the better defense. We won’t.

CAROLINA over Atlanta by 3
Panthers let us down in a major way last week when, after jumping out to 10-0 lead at Minnesota, they then no-showed the fi nal 40 minutes of the game. With that we have no choice but to fade them in their non-desirable role as chalk. That’s confi rmed by John Fox’s 3-9 ATS record as a division home favorite, including 1-5 when laying more than 6 points. In somewhat of a surprise, the rebuilding Falcons will look to improve to 3-1 (or better) through the fi rst four games of the season for the 4th time in the last fi ve years with a win here today. Averaging 55 yards more than they allow per game against an opponent that surrenders 23 YPG more than it gains, another 3-1 start is a distinct possibility.You know what to do.

TENNESSEE over Minnesota by 1
From a technical standpoint this game is a tough call. That’s because 3-0 teams at home, favored by less than 7 points, are an eye-popping 12-1 ATS in Game Four. On the fl ip side, dogs with a 1-2 record off a win are 14-1-2 ATS when facing a foe off back-to-back wins. Whew! What to do? The feeling here is the 1-2 dog is a lot hungrier than the 3-0 favorite. The decision-maker comes from the fact that Titans head coach Jeff Fisher is 1-9 ATS as a home favorite of 3 or more points off a win against an opponent off a win of less than 10 points.Take three or leave it.

TAMPA BAY over Green Bay by 1
Battle of the Bays finds Tampa back home off an exhilarating 3-point OT win over Chicago while Green Bay takes to the road off Monday night’s SU and ATS loss to the Cowboys. That loss snapped a 6-0 ATS win skein in September for the Pack. Given the Packers’ 5-0 ATS log as dogs of 3 or more points against the NFC South, we’ll opt for the points. If the line drops below 3, forget it.

Buffalo over ST. LOUIS by 10
Not much of a case to be made for the hapless Rams here. Not when 0-3 SU and ATS home teams are 9-18-1 ATS, including 0-5 when hosting an undefeated foe. Buffalo has been one of the surprise teams in 2008, for sure. It’s hard laying this many points with them, though, as they are just 9-17-2 ATS as road favorites, including 2-9-2 against an opponent off back-to-back losses. Then again, with St. Louis’ 0-13 SU and 2-11 ATS against winning teams under Scott Linehan there is no way we’d entertain wasting our hard-earned money on a team that can’t compete.

San Diego over OAKLAND by 10
With rumors circulating hot and heavy about the impending fi ring of Raider coach Lane Kiffi n, one has to wonder about the mental approach of the Blackand- Silver as they enter this game. And that’s a shame as this year’s team appears much more competitive than editions past. Nonetheless, the Chargers have owned this series (9-1 ATS the last 10 games, including 6-0 here) and they own a gaudy 11-1 ATS mark in September on the road against avenging opposition. The Raiders’ 2-14 ATS record at home in division games slants this game heavily in the visitor’s favor.

DALLAS over Washington by 7
All aboard. It’s time for everyone jumping on the Cowboy bandwagon to step up and be counted. To that we refer to Lee Corso’s favorite phrase, “Not so fast, my friend!” Sure, they’re another 3-0 team at home in Game Four taking on a winning opponent (these teams are 20-8 ATS). And, yes, Wade Phillips is 6-1 ATS in games against opponents off back-to-back SU and ATS wins. But the fact of the matter is the Redskins are a well-schooled unit (one turnover this season) that has given Dallas fi ts the last three seasons (4-2 SU and 5-1 ATS). They are also 14-6-1 ATS as road dogs against division foes off a win, including 9-3 taking 6 or more points. Too many points to pass here. No leaping allowed.

Philadelphia over CHICAGO by 6 Eagles continue to soar behind a healthy Donovan McNabb while the Bears continue to search for a quarterback they can rely upon. Granted, Kyle Orton has given Chicago a shot in the arm early on but the fact of the matter is there is a huge edge in Philly’s favor in this QB matchup. Ditto on the coaching sidelines where Andy Reid reigns superior over Lovie Smith. That’s confi rmed by Reid’s 25-11 ATS road mark against an opponent off a loss, including 11-2 when he has road rage (revenge). Conversely, Smith is just 9-14 ATS against non-division opposition seeking revenge, including 0-6 during the fi rst six games of the season. Andy looks just dandy here tonight.

Monday, September 29th

5* BEST BET

PITTSBURGH over Baltimore by 17
The 2nd place Steelers host the 1st place Ravens in this battle of AFC Central Division rivals under the Monday Night lights in a showdown of the league’s No. 1 and No. 2 ranked defenses. When the Steelers come out of the tunnel they will take the fi eld knowing they are 14-1 SU and 12-3 ATS at home on Mondays since 1990, including 6-0 SU and ATS with revenge. On the other side of the coin, Baltimore is 1-6 SU and ATS on Mondays against division rivals when not taking double-digits. With Marc’s PROVE IT ALL NIGHT theory (see page 2) also at work here, look for the Ravens to drop to 1-7 ATS as a guest in this series when Pittsburgh is off a loss. Our taste buds are set. Pass the ketchup.

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Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 24 - 29

Marc Lawrence PLAYBOOK

COLLEGE

Friday, September 26th
LOUISVILLE over UConn by 6
Both of these Big Easters were showcased against Big 12 foes last week in primetime and both emerged with SU wins, just what was needed from a conference that’s endured some withering criticism so far in 2008. For the home-lovin’ Cardinals, this game marks the fi rst of four league paybacks from last year. However, there are a few more ‘fours’ that need to be considered here: conference home favorites in Game Four of a season-opening four-game homestand are a lukewarm 7-16-1 ATS. Duly noted but we’ll also point out that the invading Huskies don’t really live up to their name on the conference road, mushing along to a feeble 2-9 ATS mark when getting points. With the series visitor currently 0-3 ATS, it’s possible these sled dogs could lose their way on a chilly Kentucky night.Saturday, September 27th

WAKE FOREST over Navy by 13
And then there was one. With household names like Virginia Tech, Florida State, Miami Fla and Clemson grabbing the headlines, the notion that Wake Forest would one day – any day – fi nd themselves to be the ACC’s fl agship program seemed about as impossible as something like Elvis’ daughter marrying Michael Jackson (wait… that did happen, didn’t it?). After confi dently humiliating Florida State 12-3 on national TV to remain undefeated, Jim Grobe’s Deacons can no longer be ignored as major players in the ACC. Wake does owe a debt of gratitude to the schedule maker after being set up with a very beatable foe in Navy on Saturday, then given a timely week off to prep for Clemson. The Middies squared their season at 2-2 after becoming the latest bully to beat up on Rutgers but still carry the scars of last year’s 20-point thrashing by Wake at Annapolis. The sailors are 5-1 ATS as dogs of 14 > points, a stat that loses some signifi cance when we note Navy’s 2-7 mark as dogs lately against the ACC. However, the Demon Deacons own an embarrassing 0-6 spread record as non-conference home chalk at this price. After trading bruises with the physical Seminoles, Riley Skinner and company may not have enough left in the tank for a margin call over the hard-trying Midshipmen.

TEMPLE over W Michigan by 1
We knew the Owls would have trouble getting up for Penn State last week following their devastating last-second defeat by Buffalo on a Hail Mary TD pass. Temple’s luck went from bad to worse when the Nittany Lions knocked QB Adam DiMichele out of the game on the fi fth play from scrimmage but the Owl defense stepped up to hold PSU scoreless in the fi rst quarter. Then the roof collapsed and Temple was buried beneath 31 second-quarter points en route to a 45-3 embarrassment. Western Michigan rides into Philly on a 3-game win streak and will get to line up against its fi fth consecutive foe that suffered a losing season in ’07. However, we’re not that impressed by the Broncos’ list of victims – Northern Illinois, Idaho and Tennessee Tech – and the trip to hostile Lincoln Financial Field may be tougher than expected. The barn-dwellers are 5- 1 ATS playing with revenge after tangling with Penn State and we actually like homecoming home dogs playing with triple revenge. Although DiMichele will miss the game (and likely be out for a considerable length of time), replacement Chester Stewart won’t be running for his life all afternoon like he was against the fearsome Nittany Lion pass rush. Owls fi ght their way back into the MAC race with the upset here.

WEST VIRGINIA over Marshall by 15
Mountaineer fans are silently praying they haven’t jumped the gun in awarding a contract extension to coach Bill Stewart… especially after West Virginia’s 17-14 overtime loss at Colorado dropped the Mounties to 1-2 for the fi rst time since 2003. We’ve already warned you against putting your faith in a home favorite recovering from an OT loss; that’s a shame because the Hillbillies are totin’ some good numbers to this fracas: West Virginia is 5-2 ATS off consecutive SU road losses and 5-2 ATS at Morgantown taking on C-USA opponents. The Herd may be 3-1 SU in ’08 but they’re 1-3 ITS (In The Stats) and have visited the shed in their last two hoedowns with WVU, getting whacked by 25 and 32 points.Despite their early woes, the Mountaineers represent a big step up in class for Marshall, who will slide to 0-4-1 ATS versus the Big East if they fail against the number here. Time for QB Pat White to step up and take control of his team.

Pittsburgh over SYRACUSE by 13
Here’s a real shocker: both coaches enter this contest off a SU win, although Pittsburgh’s Dave Wannstedt earned his against a tough Iowa team while soonto- be-cast-into-the-lake-of-fi re Greg Robinson watched his ‘Cuse batter 1-AA cream puff Northeastern (0-3 this year and 3-8 in ’07). Even more unbelievable is the Stunning Stat of the Week: the Orange are 25-8 SUATS in the dome off a SU win, including a 3-1 ATS mark under the doomed Robinson. The Panthers are an awful 1-5 ATS of late in Big East openers but we can’t get too excited because Syracuse resides at the bottom of an 0-7 hole they’ve dug as home underdogs.We also can’t seriously consider investing in two bad coaches who’ve enjoyed about as much success lately as our country’s fi nancial institutions. No thanks.

Michigan St over INDIANA by 7
Ball State’s 42-20 pummeling of the Hoosiers last week lets us know the IU program still has a ways to go under coach Bill Lynch. Indiana’s defense failed to show up, allowing the Gonads to pile up 463 total yards in a disappointing home favorite loss. Even more troubling is the 224 rushing yards the Hoosiers yielded, a number that should have Michigan State RB Javon Ringer licking his chops. After ripping through Notre Dame for 201 rushing yards, Ringer increased his season total to 699 yards (2nd in the nation) and chalked up his 11th TD, the most in the country. The ATS archives also point us in Sparty’s direction: MSU has cashed in 5 of the last 6 series meetings including a 4-1 ATS mark at Bloomington. The Hoosiers sweeten the deal by offering up a miserable 10-24 ATS record at home when tackling a foe off back-to-back wins. All these glowing numbers can’t disguise the fact that today’s game marks the fi rst of FIVE straight Big 10 revengers for the Spartans and after being spoiled by a trio of games in friendly East Lansing, MSU may be a tad overpriced as road chalk in its conference opener. Pass.

IOWA over Northwestern by 8
Unbeaten Northwestern will get its fi rst major test of the young season in Iowa City when they tackle an angry bunch of Hawkeyes who easily could have beaten Pittsburgh last week but stumbled to a 21-20 loss instead. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz drew some criticism when he chose to go with QB Jake Christensen over Ricky Stanzi for the entire second half but the truth is the loss was a total team effort. The Hawkeyes outgained Pitt 361-259 but converted just 4-of-17 third-down opportunities, suffered six sacks and missed a critical 35-yard fi eld goal. Expect the Iowa defense to rise to the occasion while Ferentz sorts out his QB dilemma – the Hawkeye stop unit had allowed ZERO touchdowns in three games before Pittsburgh crossed the goal line three times. The Wildcats’ fast start has come against a trio of weaklings that own a 1-7 SU mark against lined competition in ’08 but Northwestern’s usually porous defense has shown some fi re, holding back-to-back opponents to single digits for the fi rst time since 1995. Still, there’s no denying NU’s sorry 4-10 ATS log as an underdog off consecutive wins while the hosts chip in with a 4-0 SUATS mark when playing off a 1-point loss. The bottom line is we’re just not that crazy about homecoming favorites and the early line looks to be pretty sharp.

DUKE over Virginia by 3
No, it’s not a misprint… the Blue Devils are actually favored, quite a rare sight for a team that’s taken an average of 16 PPG from the Cavaliers in ten straight series doggie appearances. In fact, the Wahoos have been favored a whopping 19 times in a row over the Dukies, winning 17 of those confrontations SU. As you might expect, Duke owns a horrid 1-10 ATS record as chalk and they don’t know how to handle success, failing to cash in 15 of 16 tries after logging a SU win. Fortunately for the Cavs, they’ve had an extra week off to initiate repairs to a defense that was obliterated in a 45-10 loss at UConn (Huskies had a 506-219 advantage in total yards, outrushed UVA 382-31 and led 28-0 at halftime). They’ll also be welcoming a walk-on at QB, a position devastated by injuries, defections and suspensions. Despite these sobering stats, we still can’t open the wallet to lay a touchdown with a team that’s been favored only TWICE in the last four years. Our INCREDIBLE STAT (page 3) says it all: hold your nose and take the points.

MIAMI FLA over North Carolina by 4
Hurricanes showed some spunk in their loss to Florida two weeks ago, then built on that success by roaring into College Station last Saturday and fl attening Texas A&M 41-23. Suddenly, Miami is fl ashing a bit of the old UM swagger andthey’d love nothing more than to settle the score with former head coach Butch Davis, who beat the Canes 33-27 as a 7-point home dog at Chapel Hill in ’07. UNC looked to be in control of its ACC opener with Virginia Tech last week but the Heels consistently shot themselves in both feet: critical turnovers combined with 121 yards in penalties allowed the Hokies to rally from a 14-point defi cit for the win. A major concern for this game is the health of Carolina QB T.J. Yates, who left with an ankle against Va Tech and will not suit up here. That adds up to a major advantage for the speedy Hurricane ‘D’ but until coach Randy Shannon improves on his 2-6 SUATS mark in conference games (0-4 ATS home), we simply can’t trust laying points with him. Miami’s 2-8 ATS record as a revenger further clouds the picture and with the line currently hovering around 7 points, we think Baby Blue could actually steal the green here


FLORIDA over Ole Miss by 20
The TV coverage of Florida’s 30-6 Saturday smackdown of Tennessee consisted mainly of sideline shots of UT coach Phil Fulmer cursing, grimacing and gritting his teeth in rage, images that will convince most bettors to expect a similarly dominating effort from the Gators today. Not so fast, though… both teams enter today’s tussle off ‘Inside-Out’ performances. Ole Miss buried Vandy by 183 yards in a 23-17 home loss to the Commodores while Fulmer’s Vols actually won the stats against Florida. Even more disconcerting for reptile lovers is the array of ATS stats that back the visiting Rebels. Ole Miss has cashed in four straight meetings (3-0 L3 at The Swamp), owns a 4-0 ATS log off back-to-back homers and rings the register when playing on the highway with SEC revenge (7-2 ATS L9). Meanwhile, the Gators have dropped six straight to the number after tangling with Tennessee and they’ve laid an 0-3 egg lately as conference home chalk of 22 or more points. UF’s 3-0 start is somewhat misleading: the Gators are averaging 37 PPG despite gaining only 332 YPG thanks to their overwhelming 10-1 edge in the turnover department. Florida’s Urban Meyer has faced Mississippi coach Houston Nutt only once, winning by 10 points in the 2006 SEC Championship game, and he’ll have to coax another such effort from his Gators to have a realistic shot at covering today’s huge impost.

LSU over Mississippi St by 21
Even if LSU doesn’t get a chance to defend its national championship this season, there’s no denying the toughness and tenacity of this superb Tiger team. Trailing 14-3 at the half in Saturday night’s showdown with Auburn, the Bayou Bengals scored a touchdown on their fi rst possession of the second stanza, then silenced the sold-out crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium when Les Miles pulled an onside kick from under his hat and regained possession of the football. Several plays later, LSU scored to take the lead and even though Auburn rallied for a late 21-20 edge, the better-conditioned, more physical Tiger offensive line cleared the way for a game-winning – and spread covering – TD with just over a minute remaining. Coupled with Mississippi State’s horrendous no-show at Georgia Tech (lost 38-7), today’s matchup looks like the latest in a long line of LSU blowouts of the Bulldogs. The Bengals have grabbed the cash in 10 of the last 11 series meetings and Miles has punished MSU coach Sylvester Croom in their three contests by an average of over 35 PPG. True, LSU is stuck between an Auburn/Florida sandwich but the Tigers get a bye week after Missy State to gear up for the Gators. We can trot out a few stats in favor of the Bulldogs – 8-2 ATS on the road with revenge, for example – but we know you’ll ignore them. Our take is simple… we don’t see how LSU can recover from its emotionally depleting win over Auburn to take the woeful Bulldogs seriously and as we’ve said before, disinterested favorites are not to our liking. Pass.

No Illinois over E MICHIGAN by 6
Following a pair of season-opening losses to Minnesota and Western Michigan that could easily have ended as wins, Northern Illinois fi nally broke into the win column with a 48-3 destruction of Indiana State. We’d be more impressed if new Huskies coach Jerry Kill had beaten up someone besides a Sycamore scrap heap that went 0-11 last season but, in truth, NIU could be heading into today’s revenger with the EMUs sporting a 3-0 record. The Eagles opened their season with a 52-0 smashing of the same sad Sycamores but have since been grounded by a trio of consecutive ugly losses where they were outscored 134- 51. This probably explains why Northern Illinois, a team that lost to Eastern Michigan last year as double-digit home favorites, has been installed as 6-point road chalk here. The Huskies can improve to 4-0 SU and ATS on this fi eld with a win-and-cover today but from where we’re sitting, it looks too close to call.

C MICHIGAN over Buffalo by 3
More MAC madness as both teams try to shake off non-conference losses. Gutty Buffalo continues to impress under coach Turner Gill, hanging tough with mighty Missouri before falling 42-21 (easily covering as a 32-point dog). The Chippewas played hard, too, losing a second straight last-minute decision to Purdue but also cashing the ATS ticket. We know the linemaker is impressed with Buffy: the Bulls are catching just 7 points at Mount Pleasant compared to the 15 they took in a home game with CMU back in 2006. With few ATS stats to recommend either side, let’s talk intangibles. We think Buffalo gained a world of confi dence from their game with Mizzou while Central Michigan could still be down after dropping an emotional double revenger to the Boilers. The Bulls are 7-1 ATS after allowing 21 or more points and if the Chips let down just a little, Buffy could easily roam into the Winner’s Circle.

Cincinnati over AKRON by 7
Bearcats showed no ill effects from their previous manhandling at Oklahoma when they rebounded to spank Miami Ohio 45-20. Cincy QB Tony Pike replaced injured starter Dustin Grutza and almost pitched a perfect game, completing 20 of 24 passes for 241 yards and 3 touchdowns. Though today’s matchup is a home game for Akron, the Zips are probably wishing they could take on the Bearcats somewhere in New York… both their wins this season came in the Empire State against Syracuse and Army. Yes, the Rubber City boys did go fl at in losses to Wisconsin and Ball State but with Cincinnati’s Pike making his fi rst road start, Akron may be able to keep the Bearcat offense in check. The Zips’ 22-3 win over the Cadets last week makes them a play in this sweet little angle:home underdogs off a SU win as double-digit favorites are a solid 13-6 ATS since 1990. We’ll cast a slim vote on Akron’s behalf here.

EAST CAROLINA over Houston by 7
You’d be hard-pressed to fi nd two more dejected squads squaring off on today’s schedule than ECU and Houston. The BCS bowl glass slipper that the Pirates were so proudly displaying after a 3-0 start was rudely shattered by an overtime loss to hated NC State when ECU QB Patrick Pinkney set up State for the winning score by losing a critical fumble. The Cougars, a bowl team for the past three seasons, sank to a 1-3 start when new coach Kevin Sumlin rolled the dice against Colorado State and came up empty. Instead of attempting a 32-yard FG that would have forced overtime with the Rams, Sumlin directed QB Case Keenum to go for the win – and his pass was picked off in the CSU end zone. Despite their disappointed demeanor, both teams bring some strong ATS credentials to the party. East Carolina has covered fi ve of the last six in the series. They also own a 5-0 ATS mark off consecutive road trips and stand 6-1 ATS as double-digit conference chalk. Houston counters with a 5-1-1 ATS mark when playing with conference revenge, a scenario that was assured by last year’s ugly 37-35 loss to ECU as a 14-point home favorite. Our aversion to OT losers that show up as home favorites will keep us from sailing with the Pirates here, especially since the ship appears to have sprung a few serious leaks.

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Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 24 - 29

South Florida over NC STATE by 7
The Wolfpack used up a season’s worth of emotion in last week’s electrifying overtime win over East Carolina at Raleigh. NC State fans that were wondering if the Tom O’Brien hire would ever produce dividends must have breathed a huge sigh of relief following the 30-24 Wolfpack win. They may fi nd themselves gasping for breath today when State butts heads with the Bulls of South Florida (3-0 ATS vs. ACC foes). USF sleepwalked through a weak 17-9 win over woeful Florida International last Saturday so you can bet the coaches will clamp down and demand greater intensity for this tough road game. State does have one solid stat in its favor: entering this season, home underdogs off a SU overtime win are 27-17 ATS. We have great respect for the USF program but State could ride the home crowd to another cover here.

Florida State over Colorado by 6
Sure wish we hadn’t already handed out the Caption Obvious Award. Try out this gem from Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden after his Seminoles lost SEVEN turnovers in a brutal 12-3 home loss to Wake Forest: “We’re not where I hoped we would be.” Guess what? Things might not improve real soon. Fresh off a confi dence-builder over West Virginia, the Buffs carry a 5-1 ATS mark into Jacksonville when playing off a SU home dog win. No need to worry about a Colorado look-ahead to Texas; the Buffaloes have cashed eight of nine tries before taking on the Longhorns. The dazed Seminoles are 0-4 ATS lately after playing Wake and own a poor 1-5 ATS mark off an ACC opponent when taking on a non-league opponent. The site should provide a major edge for FSU in terms of fan support, the main reason we’re calling for a fi nal so close to the current number. led Boston College 7-3 at halftime last week, then were trampled underfoot by a 31-point second-half outburst by the Eagles. Poor play at quarterback and a rash of missed fi eld goals doomed UCF, not good news for a squad that’s only 2-8-1 ATS in its last 11 tries as a road favorite. George O’Leary’s Knights beat the Miners last season, 36-20, as 21-point home favorites – making the current 4-5 point line look mighty tempting. That’s when the PLAYBOOK database warns us UTEP is a solid 6-2 ATS recently as a home underdog. Sure, the Miners aren’t much but they did outgain mighty Texas in a loss here three weeks ago. Close call.

4* BEST BET

PENN ST over Illinois by 27
Okay, so the Nittany Lions haven’t taken on world-class competition so far in 2008 – they still look like the team to beat in this season’s Big 10 race. The Nits have taken to Joe Pa’s new spread offense, averaging an Oklahoma-like 539 YPG (273 rushing / 266 passing). Last year’s 27-20 win by Illinois was head coach Ron Zook’s fi rst over Paterno and Joe Shades is a good bet to return the favor: he’s 17-5 ATS when winning SU as a favorite with revenge. Zook’s numbers don’t look nearly so good. He’s a weak 1-6 ATS on the road versus revenge (0-3 as a dog with losses of 17, 23 and 33 points) and has not cashed a single ticket against an avenging conference foe. With the 81-year old Paterno noticeably bothered by a broken leg suffered last season, this is Penn State’s best opportunity to reach the BCS title game before the iconic Joe Pa resigns. Regardless, the Lions should avenge last year’s SU road favorite loss at Champaign by squeezing the Juice out of the Illini.

New Mexico over NEW MEXICO ST by 1
Lobos must have still been reading the press clippings from their stirring 36- 28 home shocker over Arizona when they took the fi eld against Tulsa last Saturday. Thirty minutes later, the Golden Hurricane had blown New Mexico off the fi eld by a 35-0 score. Tulsa fi nished with 606 total yards of offense and scored touchdowns on fi ve of its six fi rst-half possessions. Thankfully for UNM coach Rocky Long, he gets to take on an opponent he’s beaten fi ve consecutive times. But this little beauty from the PLAYBOOK database puts us on Hal Mumme’s Aggies: home teams in Game Three are 12-6 SU and 13-5 ATS vs. sub .500 foes playing Game Five, including 7-0 ATS if the host is off a loss. With State gradually closing the gap between these two enemy programs, look for the Aggies to improve to 6-0-1 ATS in Game Three of a season by nabbing the cover here.

SAN DIEGO ST over Idaho by 13
These sure are some sporadic Spuds. Idaho has gone 2-2 so far ITS this year but those two stat losses were by an ungodly 409 and 309 yards. How bad are the Vandals? So bad that we like a San Diego State team that’s averaging just 34.7 yards rushing per game (#118) to bring home the pointspread bacon against the Tater Heads. Aztecs play their best off a bye week, covering 10 of 13 opportunities, a number that tightens to 8-1 if they’re off back-to-back losses (SDSU 0-3 in ’08). Any team that gives up 42 points to lowly Utah State like the spud-boys did last week can’t be trusted at any price.

UNLV over Nevada by 3
Surprising Rebels (2-win season each of the previous four years) have started 3-1 for the fi rst time since 2003. They followed their huge upset of Arizona State with a tense 34-31 win over Iowa State, their second consecutive overtime victory. Vegas hasn’t slowed down the Wolf Pack lately, though, dropping three in a row both SU and ATS. Nevada won last year’s meeting 27-20 but the loss of star RB Luke Lippincott (broken leg against Texas Tech on 9/6) is a major blow for the Reno Wolves. We’re going to pass here so if you plan on playing this Silver State battle, you’ll have to pick your poison.

San Jose St over HAWAII by 1
Spartans got shoved around by more physical Stanford last week but will have no such problem here: Hawaii has gone from being an undefeated BCS bowl squad to a WAC punching bag in record time. SJSU coach Dick Tomey has come up empty in three cracks at the Warriors but this could be his breakthrough opportunity. The Islanders are just 4-8 ATS in the series, including a sad 1-5 mark off a SU loss, and their offense has declined to the point where the defense is spending far too many minutes on the fi eld. We’ll take the better team with the better coach – and as many points as we can scrape up by game time.

ADDED GAMES

KENTUCKY over W Kentucky by 25
On paper this is a much bigger game for the new kids on the block from Bowling Green than it is for the Lexington Cats. The little schools always bring all they’ve got against their brethren (witness Ohio U at Ohio State earlier this season). With Alabama on deck (0-4 ATS in games before the Tide), Kentucky could be in a prime look-ahead spot. However, in deference to the SMART BOX,we’ll ditch those ideas and instead ignore the Hilltoppers.

MEMPHIS over Arkansas St by 3
The Red Wolves have been a pleasant surprise this season and look to be in position to challenge Florida Atlantic for Sun Belt honors. Before buying a ride on the Red Wolf express, though, be advised Memphis has played much better than its 1-3 record would indicate. The fact of the matter is the Tigers are 4-0 In the Stats this season. They also enter today’s fray with a dose of double revenge against ASU. With a Louisiana Monroe revenge affair up next for the Wolves, we’ll run with the Tigers in this four-legged special.

OKLAHOMA ST over Troy by 18
Hats off to the Trojans. Not only did they manage to outstat Ohio State in Columbus last week, they are also 17-6 SU in their last 23 games. Hence, a 5-1 ATS log as dogs of 24 or less points when squaring off against .666 or greater opposition. The question today, though, is whether or not a letdown is in order? In the Cowboys they take on a team that has bagged the cash in 10 of its last 12 tries as a non-conference favorite of 13 or more points. If a string of three straight Big 12 revenge games weren’t on tap, we’d consider snapping the rubberband with this offensive juggernaut.

TOLEDO over Florida Int’l by 16
Holy Toledo, what a contest the Rockets were involved in last week. A 55-54 overtime loss to Fresno, on this fi eld, was determined when Tom Amstutz decided to pull a ‘Shanahan’ and go-for-two to win the game in the 2nd OT. Now they become a non-desirous home favorite off an overtime loss with a Ball State revenge game up next. While FIU isn’t much, they did battle USF tooth-n-nail in the debut of their new home stadium last week and could be in a letdown mode themselves. No interest either way here.

KANSAS ST over UL-Lafayette by 21
Another paycheck game but then aren’t all non conference Sun Belt games for the love of the money? The thinking here is the Wildcats likely have bigger fi sh to fry next week (Texas Tech). Next thought is the Ragin’ Cajuns are a nifty 6-3 ATS against the Big 12. The fi nal thinking is KSU is 7-1 ATS at home versus anopponent off a double-digit victory. The bottom line is we suppose we’ll pass.

RICE over North Texas by 19
Rotten numbers abound on both sides of the ball in this stinker. The not-so Mean Green are 2-9 ATS as non-conference pups off a loss and 1-5 ATS as wellrested dogs. The soggy Krispies have no snap, crackle or pop either as they are 1-9 ATS as chalk off a non-conference game when taking on a foe off a loss;1-6 SU and ATS in their last 7 tries as a favorite; and are a not-so-glamorous 13-33 SU record in their last 46 games. We’re not interested whatsoever in this scrabble match.

WRITE-IN GAME

TEXAS over Arkansas by 24
The Hogs were taken back behind the shed and whupped-up at home by Alabama in a red-faced 35-point loss last week while Texas trounced Rice by 42 points in preparation for this Hurricane Ike makeup. According to our history book, Arkansas is 3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS the last four games in this series while the visiting team is a super-sharp 9-1-1 ATS the last 10 games. Considering that,since 1980, the largest line in this series has been 13.5 points (two times) and that the underdog won both of those affairs STRAIGHT-UP, you’d have to hogtie us to keep us from taking the points.

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Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 24 - 29

Athlon Sports

Connecticut (+3.5) at Louisville

Louisville has bounced back from a dreadful performance in an opening-day loss to Kentucky to post consecutive wins over Tennessee Tech (51–10) and Kansas State (38–29). We don’t know quite yet how good (or bad) Kansas State is (the hunch is more bad than good), but the Cards played very well in the Thursday night win over the Wildcats. Victor Anderson posted his second straight 100-yard rushing game and Hunter Cantwell looked far more comfortable in the pocket. The challenge will be more difficult this week. UConn once again is winning games without much fanfare, doing so with a potent rushing attack and a very solid defense. Donald Brown leads the nation in rushing with 179.0 yards per game, but he is far from a one-man show. The Huskies boast several big-time running backs — some young, some old — to complement Tyler Lorenzen and the pedestrian passing game. In my opinion, the wrong team is favored in this game.

Connecticut 27, Louisville 21

Alabama (+6) at Georgia

We knew Georgia’s 2008 schedule was going to be brutal, but back in the summer we didn’t figure this early season date with the Crimson Tide would end up being such a big hurdle. Nick Saban’s club has been one of the nation’s biggest surprises, rolling out to a 4–0 record highlighted by dominating performances against Clemson in Week 1 and at Arkansas in the SEC opener. The strength of the team has been the rushing attack, with a host of talented ball-carriers operating behind a veteran offensive line. Georgia is a tough club to run on, however, so senior quarterback John Parker Wilson likely will be forced to make some plays down the field. Could this be Julio Jones’ coming out party? The freshman wideout has been solid when called upon, but the Tide haven’t really needed to open up the passing attack. Speaking of supremely talented freshman receivers, Georgia is getting a big (and much-needed) lift from A.J. Green, who has emerged as Matthew Stafford’s favorite target. In Stafford, Green and tailback Knowshon Moreno, Georgia boasts a trio of skill players that rival any in the SEC. Alabama is very good. Georgia is great.

Georgia 20, Alabama 17

Colorado (+6) at Florida State (Jacksonville)

One team is coming a thrilling overtime win over a (formerly) ranked opponent. The other team is coming off sobering 12–3 loss at home that featured some dreadful play on offense. Yet, Colorado (which beat West Virginia) finds itself as almost a touchdown underdog against Florida State, which managed only 220 total yards in a loss to Wake Forest. Yes, Florida State has the home field advantage, even though this game is being played in Jacksonville, but there isn’t much evidence (if any) to suggest that the Seminoles are the better team. They are still having major problems at the quarterback position. Against Wake, true freshmen Christian Ponder and D’Vontrey Richardson combined to complete only 33 percent of their passes and were intercepted a total of five times. The Noles’ defense played well, but this team needs to get better on offense to challenge for the Atlantic Division title. Colorado isn’t likely to challenge for a division crown in the Big 12 North, but the Buffaloes continue to makes strides under Dan Hawkins. They have a pair of talented true freshman tailbacks in Rodney Stewart and Darrell Scott, and quarterback Cody Hawkins has been steady in the first three games. Florida State will be by far the best defense CU has seen, but I think the Buffs will have enough to get it done on the road.

Colorado 21, Florida State 17

Tennessee (+6.5) at Auburn

These are not good times for Phil Fulmer. The man who delivered a national title at his alma mater in 1998 is under intense fire in the Volunteer State after a fourth straight loss to the hated Gators. It doesn’t figure to get much better in the near future, with trips to Auburn and Georgia looming. This team has talent, but the offense has struggled under new coordinator Dave Clawson, and the special teams have been poor. Auburn must rebound from an agonizing 26–21 loss at home to SEC West rival LSU. The Tigers have been outstanding on defense (as usual) but have been inconsistent on offense while adapting to Tony Frankin’s spread attack. Chris Todd showed some positive signs against LSU, throwing for 250 yards and a touchdown, but he was intercepted twice. Both teams are very good on defense and both teams are experiencing some growing pains on offense. Should be a typical SEC game.

Auburn 17, Tennessee 13

North Carolina (+7) at Miami

North Carolina’s hopes of reaching the ACC title game for the first time took a big hit when quarterback T.J. Yates injured his ankle in the third quarter of the Tar Heels’ 20–17 loss at home to Virginia Tech. Backup Mike Paulus, who completed 3-of-8 for 23 yards with three interceptions in relief, will make his first career start this weekend. Miami is coming off the biggest win of the Randy Shannon era, a surprisingly easy 41–23 victory at Texas A&M. Redshirt freshman Robert Marve looked very good at quarterback, completing 16-of-22 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns, and Graig Cooper rushed for 128 yards and two scores on only 16 attempts. We’ll know more about this team after Saturday, but the Hurricanes are looking like a legitimate contender in the Coastal Division.

Miami 24, North Carolina 14

Illinois (+14) at Penn State

The schedule hasn’t been overly taxing, but Penn State has been one of the most impressive teams so far this season. Thanks in large part to the emergence of senior Daryll Clark at quarterback, the offense is averaging over 50 points and 500 yards per game. And the defense has been impressive, too, giving up no more than 14 points in any single game. The Nittany Lion D figures to get its stiffest test from a potentially explosive Illinois attack. The Illini scored 42 in a season-opening loss to Missouri and 47 vs. FCS opponent Eastern Illinois but managed only 20 points (with only one offensive TD) in a sluggish 20–17 win vs. Louisiana-Lafayette. Over the last two games — against inferior competition — Juice Williams has thrown three interceptions and only two touchdowns. He will need to play mistake-free football to give his team a chance to win in Happy Valley.

Penn State 37, Illinois 24

Purdue (+2.5) at Notre Dame

Purdue, which lost in overtime in Week 2 to Oregon, is painfully close to being 3–0 on the season. But the Boilers, who escaped with a 32–25 win over Central Michigan last Saturday, could also be 1–2. Joe Tiller’s club is getting great production from tailback Kory Sheets (117.3 ypg), but senior quarterback Curtis Painter isn’t posting the type of numbers we are used to seeing. He hasn’t been bad, but he has yet to throw for 300 yards (after doing so six times last season) and has only tossed three TD passes. Purdue’s offensive balance should pose problems for Notre Dame. The Irish have struggled against the run and have had a tough time putting pressure on the quarterback, with only three sacks in three games. Jimmy Clausen has shown improvement at quarterback, but he isn’t getting much help from the running game. I’m not sure the ND offense is good enough to outscore Purdue, even at home.

Purdue 34, Notre Dame 24

Northwestern (+7.5) at Iowa

Northwestern is one of the undefeated teams that we still don’t know too much about. The Wildcats have defeated a bad Syracuse team, a decent Duke team (on the road), a FCS foe in South Illinois and a solid MAC team in Ohio. The offense hasn’t been quite as potent as we thought, but the defense has been better than expected. This week will present quite a challenge, however. The Cats will be facing the nation’s eighth leading rusher in Shonn Greene, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of the first four games. The Hawkeyes have been playing both Jake Christensen and Ricky Stanzi at quarterback this season. Stanzi, a sophomore, did not play in the second half of a one-point loss at Pittsburgh last week but is expected to get the start against Northwestern. Iowa has been terrific on defense, giving up a total of 29 points in four games; if the Hawkeyes are simply mediocre on defense, they should be in position to earn a spot in the top half of the Big Ten.

Iowa 20, Northwestern 14

Virginia Tech (+6.5) at Nebraska

It’s the first significant test of the Bo Pelini era. The Huskers have passed every test so far, but we haven’t learned too much about this team in wins over Western Michigan, San Jose State and New Mexico State. This is far from a vintage Virginia Tech team, but the Hokies are good enough to beat Nebraska in Lincoln. Statistically, Tech hasn’t been impressive, but Frank Beamer’s club has found a way to eek out 20–17 wins over Georgia Tech and North Carolina to open the ACC schedule with a 2–0 record. Nebraska hasn’t given up a lot of points (14.3 per game), but the Huskers have been a bit vulnerable against the pass, allowing 269.7 yards per game. However, don’t expect Virginia Tech to come into Lincoln and throw the ball all over the yard. Tyrod Taylor is winning games as the starting quarterback, but the Hokies are doing very little in the passing game. He has thrown for a total of 173 yards with no touchdowns and two INTs in two ACC games. If Virginia Tech can’t move the ball through the air, scoring points could be very difficult.

Nebraska 24, Virginia Tech 14

Wisconsin (-6.5) at Michigan

With Ohio State not dominating like we thought, the Big Ten race could get very interesting. Wisconsin, off to a 3–0 start, looks like a contender, but the Badgers are about to embark on a very difficult three-game stretch that features a road game at Michigan and home dates with Ohio State and Penn State. Wisconsin has been sharp in every phase of the game, most notably running the ball and stopping the run. If the Badgers can slow down Michigan’s ground game, led by freshman Sam McGuffie, they should be in good position to celebrate their first win in Ann Arbor since 1994.

Wisconsin 27, Michigan 18

Last week: 6–4 straight up (7–3 against the spread)

Season: 24–16 straight up (21–18–1 against the spread)

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Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 24 - 29

THE SPORTS MEMO - NFL

MARTY OTTO
MINNESOTA AT TENNESSEE -3 O/U 36
Recommendation: Tennessee

The Titans are looking like the class of the AFC South right now and are asked to lay just three points at home against the Vikings? We’ll pick this one off early. Since Vince Young went down we have seen an increase in the passing game with Kerry Collins. It hasn’t been a huge difference statistically but Collins does a much better job in the short to intermediate touch routes that Young struggled so much with. He is better at reading defenses too, a big plus when we consider ball security. The old man still has a gun for an arm and forces teams to respect the pass which in turn helps the strong ground game with bruiser LenDale White and burner Chris Johnson. While Minny is strong on the ground offensively and very tough against the run defensively, its pass defense is still a major question mark. Once Collins softens them up look for some holes to open for the Titans’ running backs. Throw in a strong home field edge, a legit top-five defense and the fact that despite playing last week Adrian Peterson is dealing with a hamstring injury and we have advantages across the board. Take Tennessee.


ERIN RYNNING
CLEVELAND AT CINCINNATI -4.5 O/U 43.5
Recommendation: Over

Two teams with playoff aspirations to start the season face-off with 0-3 records this Sunday as the Browns visit the Bengals. The reason these two squads have stumbled -- most notably the offenses -- has been the caliber of defenses they’ve faced. The Browns have surrendered to the Cowboys, Steelers (note bad weather game), and Ravens. All three are above average defensive units. Meanwhile, it’s been much the same for the Bengals with games against the Ravens, Titans (note bad weather game), and Giants. It’s no wonder both teams have found it tough sledding on offense. However, it all has a great chance to change this Sunday when these two below average defenses face one another. Remember last season when they hooked up for an amazing 51-45 shootout that produced 1,085 yards? As a result of the early season shortcomings, we look to be getting some value here with the total. These two teams still feature high-power weapons on offense
and I’ll look for them to ignite on Sunday. Take this one Over the total in what has the recipe to be an absolute scoring fest from the start.


TIM TRUSHEL
MINNESOTA AT TENNESSEE -3 O/U 36
Recommendation: Tennessee

The Titans are the best defensive team in the NFL. They create turnovers with a solid secondary and an even better front line. They get as much pressure on the quarterback as any team in the league. They don’t make a lot of mistakes and they are especially strong on third down allowing just 29.6% conversions. Yet because they are not flashy and not from a major media market, this team goes unnoticed and remains one of the best values on the board each week. Both Minnesota and Tennessee are similar in style, preferring a conservative approach while relying on the running game. Tennessee has had more success because of the quarterback play of Kerry Collins. A caretaker with a big arm, Collins’ heady play has earned him a quarterback rating of 90.7. Minnesota’s quarterback rating is well below 70. Additionally, the Tennessee offensive line is much better at pass blocking and has afforded the offense more time to avoid mistakes. Even in a winning effort last week, Gus Frerotte was sacked three times. The Titans have allowed just two sacks all season. The home field advantage is real and the Vikings have also been known to struggle away from their dome. We expect Tennessee to capitalize on the little advantages and earn the win and cover.

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Re: Football Newsletters Sept. 24 - 29

THE SPORTS MEMO - NCAA

ROB VENO
PURDUE +2.5 AT NOTRE DAME O/U 46
Recommendation: Purdue

I have to favor this Boilermakers squad in this game where extreme passing game advantages will be on display. After facing diverse offensive juggernauts Oregon and Central Michigan in their last two contests, Purdue will gladly welcome the sight of this incredibly stagnant Fighting Irish offense. Through three games, Notre Dame is averaging just 286.7 yards per game and that number includes the mediocre 342 they gained against San Diego State, which had all four defensive line starters out. Without turnover help and short fields (Michigan game), this team has struggled mightily to move the football and expect Purdue to keep them right in the 17-20 point range. Meanwhile, quarterback Curtis Painter and head coach Joe Tiller’s spread passing attack figures to have little trouble against the Irish. San Diego State brought an all out passing blitz and had Notre Dame chasing around receivers the entire game. Purdue’s much more finely tuned aerial attack is likely to shred the Irish pass defense and non-existent pass rush, which has exactly one sack in 113 pass attempts this season. With time to find receivers, Painter will likely have a monster day and that recipe alone is reason to back the Boilers getting points.


JARED KLEIN
ILLINOIS +14 AT PENN STATE O/U 58
Recommendation: Illinois

I have to take the two touchdowns here with this very talented Illini squad. We’re getting significant value with Illinois because of what we’ve seen over the past three weeks with these two squads. Illinois is 2-1 SU and seems to be getting penalized for barely pulling out a 20-17 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.Penn State has looked good, going 4-0 and beating its opponents by a combined score of 211-40. The Nittany Lions are notorious for soft preseason schedules and this year has been no different as Coastal Carolina, Oregon State and Temple all came to town and a trip to Syracuse was their only road trip. I think it’s safe to say that Illinois will be their biggest test of the season. Dating back to last season, Illinois is 6-0 ATS getting double-digits, two of which they won outright including last year’s win in Columbus over Ohio State. Let’s also keep in mind that the Illini lost to Missouri by 10 in St. Louis. Penn State has a pretty good offense, but for Illinois to essentially trade scores with the Tigers is very impressive and shows that there are few teams in the country that warrant a two touchdown line against this team.


FAIRWAY JAY
STANFORD AT WASHINGTON -3.5 O/U 52.5
Recommendation: Washington

Our card was filled with some brutal beats last week. None more awful than Stanford’s last second touchdown and cover when they decided to keep running the ball instead of taking a knee against rival San Jose State. We’ll get our money back this week with the Huskies, who come off a bye week and dominated Stanford in last season’s road contest with over 530 yards including 388 rushing. Stanford’s aggressive defense blitzed Washington heavily last season, and quarterback Jake Locker made them pay again with his escapability and run/pass talents. 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. We look for the Huskies to smell blood in the water and savior one of their few opportunities to score a big home win.


ED CASH
VIRGINIA AT DUKE -7 O/U 44
Recommendation: Duke

Virginia has won six straight meetings in Durham and 17 of 19 overall in the series, yet they find themselves as a touchdown underdog this week. This is despite the fact that Duke had only been favored in two games in the past five years prior to their win over Navy two weeks ago. Also note the Blue Devils have not been favored in an ACC game since 2002. In fact, my records go way back as the Duke win and cover over Navy was the first time they had covered the spread as a favorite in 12 games dating back to 1996. However, you can throw out all the stuff out as this is a completely different program under David Cutcliffe. There is definitely a reason the Blue Devils are laying a touchdown. Cutcliffe has some talented players and has coached them far better than anyone in Durham since Steve Spurrier roamed the sidelines. I’d even go so far as to say had the Blue Devils beat Northwestern -- a game they let slip away -- this line would be close to double-digits. Virginia is a program in complete rebuilding mode. They gave up nearly 600 yards to USC and almost 400 rushing yards to UConn in their two lined games this year. Don’t be afraid to lay the points with Duke this week.


TEDDY COVERS
SOUTH FLORIDA AT NC STATE +8.5 O/U 43.5
Recommendation: NC State

NC State has played stellar defense from Day 1 this college football season. Tom O’Brien’s squad shut down South Carolina for three quarters in their opener, until finally wearing down in the fourth after the continued ineptitude of their offensive attack. The Wolfpack held the powerful Clemson offense in check as well, cashing a ticket for their backers despite getting only a single field goal from their offense for the afternoon. In fact, the offense was held without a touchdown in 13 consecutive quarters against FBS teams dating back to last year, prior to their game against East Carolina this past Saturday. It’s not like NC State didn’t have a ground game - running back Andre Brown gained more than 100 yards against the Gamecocks’ stout defense. But their quarterback play bordered on inept, as O’Brien shuttled senior Daniel Evans, junior Harrison Beck and redshirt frosh Russell Wilson in and out of the lineup. The frosh, Wilson, ended any controversy this past Saturday, playing brilliantly in NC State’s come-from-behind win over East Carolina, throwing for 210 yards and three touchdowns. All of a sudden, this looks like a pretty good football team, playing with confidence and poise at home. As the Big East continues to falter repeatedly, both SU and ATS, we’ll take advantage with a play on this very live home underdog.


BRENT CROW
OLE MISS +23 AT FLORIDA O/U 49.5
Recommendation: Ole Miss

I was shocked at the line on this game with the Gators opening as more than a three-touchdown favorite. Florida is certainly a top notch team, but Ole Miss is vastly improved, even though they lost last week to Vanderbilt. The Rebels had a 385-202 yardage edge against the Commodores, but had six turnovers. Ole Miss has more talent this season than they have had ever since Eli Manning left for the NFL, and one bad game last week against an underrated Vanderbilt team has this line out of whack. It was Ole Miss, remember, that had Wake Forest on the ropes in Winston-Salem a couple of weeks ago. The Gators come in off a big 30-6 win at Tennessee and will likely have a little letdown this week, especially after seeing Ole Miss lose at home to Vanderbilt. Florida has definitely been overvalued under Urban Meyer, as they are just 1-9 ATS as double-digit conference favorites over the past three years. On the other hand, Houston Nutt thrived as a big SEC dog while at Arkansas, going 5-0 ATS the last three years when getting double-digits on the road. I feel Ole Miss will be able to move the ball enough to push across a couple of scores and take advantage of what looks to be an overpriced pointspread.


DONNIE BLACK
ALABAMA AT GEORGIA -6 O/U 44.5
Recommendation: Georgia

We have some concerns with the Bulldogs returning off their successful road trip to Tempe. But with bigger goals, including an SEC and National Championship at stake, we expect Georgia to once again be focused. Their opponent this week, Alabama, is off an impressive win over Arkansas. Nick Saban’s team is getting plenty of accolades from the media and pollsters alike. However, we feel Alabama is overrated. It is hard to find fault in their crushing road victory over Arkansas, but it was a game in which Arkansas moved the ball at will against the Alabama defense. Mistakes, penalties and huge turnovers kept Arkansas from ever getting close. Alabama had four scoring plays of 60+ yards and the game got away from the Razorbacks on two terrible pick-six interceptions. Alabama led 35-7 at the end of the first half yet Arkansas had more yards. These mistakes are not expected to occur with Georgia. Georgia has a better quarterback, defense and more overall depth. The Bulldogs have a bye week on deck and won’t get caught ill-prepared. This number was available as high as -10 at the beginning of the season and while Alabama has exceeded expectations we see the adjustment as a huge overreaction. Lay the short price.


BRENT CROW - EARLY LOOK

There are lots of bad teams laying big points this week in college football. Obviously, their opponents are pretty weak as well, but I thought some of these lines were pretty large considering the capabilities of the favorites. Some of the ones that jumped out at me were South Carolina -25 over UAB, Pittsburgh -15.5 at Syracuse, California -25 vs. Colorado State and Texas A&M -28 over Army. South Carolina just beat Wofford, 23-13, and now they are laying nearly four touchdowns over UAB? UAB may have one of the worst defenses in college football, but South Carolina has made every defense they have faced look good thus far.Question: How could Pittsburgh be favored by more than two touchdowns on the road? Answer: They are playing at Syracuse. The Orangemen struggled past Northeastern this week, 30-21, but at least they got a win. Northeastern, which also lost to Ball State and Georgia Southern, had nearly 400 yards of offense in the contest. Pitt escaped with a win over Iowa at home last week and I seriously doubt that Wannstedt has them focused this week. It will be a struggle for the Panthers.California -25 over Colorado State? Cal did put a beat down on Washington State, but so did Baylor and Oklahoma State. Colorado State is not a top-25 team by any means, but they can be competitive in the Mountain West, which by the way, has owned the PAC-10 this year. This was a seven-point game last year at Colorado State and the Rams outgained Cal by 50 yards.Finally, Texas A&M -28 over anybody seems absurd right now if you have seen the Aggies play. However, Army is as bad as any I-A team I have ever seen. They were hammered by Akron at home last week 22-3 and now travel to College Station to face a team that needs a blowout win. I’d love to play against A&M here, but Army may just be what they need at this point.For all the talk about the Auburn offense, it was the defense that let them down when it counted against LSU. This week, the Tigers are six-point favorites over Tennessee, which was trounced by Florida at home last week. Tennessee killed themselves on offense once again, as their first half possessions went fumble, punt, fumble,interception and a punt returned for a touchdown. Auburn’s defense will try and bounce back after allowing scoring drives of 73, 89, 76, and 54 against LSU in the second half.Wonder if Oklahoma remembers what happened the last time TCU came to Norman. You can bet Bob Stoops recalls that 2005 season opener when the 7th ranked Sooners dropped a 17-10 decision to TCU as a 25-point favorite. That happens to be the last time anyone has left Norman with a win. TCU should provide a challenge again, but I expect the Sooners to prevail, even though getting the cover might be tough.The big line moves this week were against former powerhouse programs that have fallen on hard times under new regimes. Wisconsin went from a 3-point road choice to -6.5 at Michigan and Fresno State went from -3.5 to -6.5 quickly in its game at UCLA. Obviously with the national attention and coverage that Michigan and UCLA both get, their struggles are going to be magnified, as everyone is certainly aware of. What is interesting here is that the Sunday night line moves were the result of sharp money, not Joe Public on Saturday mornings. Is this early money in anticipation of the public money to come, thereby setting up possible buy-back on Michigan and UCLA at even higher prices? Or was it the opening oddsmaker basing his number on tradition and not paying enough attention to what has happened to these programs in the first month of the year? My guess is a little of both, as the amount of money wagered on Sunday nights is small and they don’t have to open with a perfect number to eventually find the right one. This could be the week that the Penn State defense finally feels the effects of losing so many key linemen. The Lions have been spectacular on offense, but have yet to face a decent offense that could threaten them like Illinois. The Illini have gotten all of the early action with the number dropping from 16.5 to 14. Juice Williams and company will be looking to make it two in a row over the Nittany Lions.An improving NC State team, off an overtime win over East Carolina,gets another crack at a top-25 team this week when South Florida comes to Raleigh. Wolfpack freshman QB Russell Wilson had a nice game and seems to be gaining confidence as the leader of the offense. South Florida slept through its win over FIU last week and had better be ready this week or they could be the second straight upset victim of the Wolfpack.Florida State showed that its opening two wins over cupcakes meant little as they were dreadful on offense against Wake Forest last week. The Noles committed seven turnovers and numerous penalties in the 12-3 loss and somehow have been installed as favorites again this week over Colorado in Jacksonville. I would like to take the Buffs here, but am a little leery of the way they celebrated following last week’s win over West Virginia.How about this pointspread series swing: Purdue is a 3 point dog at Notre Dame after being -21.5 last year at home against the Irish. Two years ago they were +14.5 in South Bend, so the swing has been 36 and 24.5 points over the last two years. Very rare that you’ll see the pointspread swing that much between two BCS schools.Who will Oregon start at QB this week at Washington State? FreshmanDarron Thomas, who was fifth on the depth chart and slated to redshirt, came off the bench to throw three TD passes in the Ducks’ loss to Boise last week. It probably won’t matter against the Cougars, who went to their third stringer, Marshall Lobbestael, after losing starter Kevin Lopina and backup Gary Rogers to injury in their win over Jerry Glanville’s Portland State team.

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