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SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
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MAIN EVENT SATURDAY COLLEGE FOOTBALL
I'm taking the points with ILLINOIS. As you probably know, Penn State has a strong team this year and has cruised through it's first four games. That being said, the Illini represent a major step up in class from the likes of Coastal Carolina, Syracuse and a Temple team which was coming off a heart-breaking last second loss. While bettors have fallen in love with the Nittany Lions early on this season, they have soured on Illinois, as the Illini are 0-2 ATS in their two lined games. Let's keep in mind that the Illini are still 2-1 SU though and that the lone loss came by 10 points vs. a very strong Missouri team at the Edward Jones Dome. Note that the Illini had opportunities to win that game and finished with a significant advantage in time of possession, while gaining over 500 yards on offense. With the betting public really liking the Nittany Lions while disliking the Illini, the line is higher than two touchdowns. I believe that offers us terrific value with the underdog. Keep in mind that the last time the Illini were underdogs of greater than two touchdowns, they went into Columbus and beat Ohio State outright as +15.5 underdogs. Having beaten the Nittany Lions outright last season and having hung with Missouri, the Illini certainly won't be intimidated here. While they haven't enjoyed much success here in terms of SU victories, the Illini did get the cash in their last visit here, covering the spread (lost by 14) as 18 point underdogs. In fact, all three meetings here this millennium were won by Penn State but decided by 14 points or less. In 2002, the Illini lost by 11 here and in 2000, they lost by 14. This year's team Illinois team is led by the dangerous Juice Williams, now with another season under his belt, and boasts a national ranking. Including the two ATS losses in this series, the Nittany Lions were a money-burning 4-12 ATS in conference play the last two seasons. Conversely, the Illini were a profitable 11-5 ATS in their conference games the past two years. The Illini, who have the advantage of extra preparation time due to having last week's bye, are also an outstanding 6-1 ATS the last seven times they were listed a double-digit underdog with the lone loss during that stretch coming vs. USC in the bowl game. Look for them to improve on those numbers as their previous big game experience (Missouri) proves valuable and they hang within the inflated number once again. *Main Event
NON CONFERENCE GAME OF MONTH
I'm playing on NOTRE DAME. The betting public usually loves Notre Dame and a couple of years ago, the Irish could do no wrong. However, they began 2007 by getting crushed by LSU in a January bowl game and then proceeded to lose nine of their first 10 regular season games, going 3-7 ATS during that stretch. Naturally, after that tough 2007, the betting public was pretty down on the Irish. After all, nobody likes to keep losing money on the same team week after week. The Irish did close out the year with a couple of wins though and the betting public thought this was a "new year" and backed Notre Dame heavily in Week 1 - the Irish won vs. San Diego State but didn't cover. Still remembering last year, that caused a lot of bettors to immediately get off the Irish in Week 2. The Irish responded with a solid win and cover. The Irish faithful jumped back on the bandwagon last week, giving their team yet another chance and the Irish lost SU and ATS at Michigan State. That result has caused the majority of the betting public to again abandon the Irish which I believe has helped create excellent value with what I feel is currently an underrated Notre Dame team. Yes, the Irish lost on the road last week. They're 2-0 SU at home though, including a 35-17 win over Michigan. That victory avenged a 38-0 loss suffered at Michigan the previous year. This afternoon, the Irish will be playing with "revenge" once again, as the Boilermakers beat them last season. That was at Purdue though and this game is at South Bend. That's noteworthy as the Irish are 14-1 the last 15 times they were a host in this series, most recently a 35-21 win here in 2006. While the Boilermakers are capable of being fairly potent offensive, I'm not impressed with their defense. The Boilermakers blew out Northern Colorado in their opener but that was to be expected. (The Bears are a Football Championship Subdivision team that went 1-11 last season.) They followed that up by losing at home vs. Oregon and then only beating Central Michigan by a touchdown. They were actually losing that game 25-24 with a minute left in the game, too. In fact, Central Michigan had an edge in time of possession and a significant advantage in both first downs (26-16) and total yards, 440-344. That was somewhat of an 'emotional' win, which could leave the Boilermakers susceptible to a letdown here. I say that it was emotional for a few reasons. For starters, the Boilers won in the final minute. It was also a rematch of last year's Motor City Bowl thriller. Additionally, it gave Coach Joe Tiller (retiring at end of year) the school record for most victories. Back to the Purdue defense. The Boilermakers have now allowed 57 combined points in their last two games. Including the aforementioned Motor City Bowl game, they also allowed a whopping 149 in their final four games last season. In other words, they haven't stopped anyone in a long time (except 1-A Northern Colorado which scored 10) and the Irish should be able to put up a decent number of points. On the other side of the ball, I believe that the Irish will be able to effectively limit the Purdue running game which will cause the Boilermakers to be one dimensional. While I certainly respect QB Curtis Painter, I feel that the Irish blitzing defense will cause him some trouble. It should also be noted that this will be Purdue's first road game of the season. The Boilermakers were 0-3 their last three road games last year and are 7-12 their last 19. With the line having dropped from -3 down to the point where a SU victory ensures a cover, we're getting excellent value with the home team. Look for the Irish to avenge last year's loss as Weis gets the better of Tiller in their final matchup. *Non-Conf. GOM
CFB BEAT DOWN - BLOWOUT GAME OF MONTH
I'm laying the points with OHIO STATE. After failing to cover in all three lined games, the betting public has jumped off the Buckeyes' bandwagon. That has caused this line to be quite a lot lower than it would have been otherwise, giving us solid value with the much stronger team. Keep in mind that the Buckeyes are still 3-1 SU and that the three victories have come by an average of 24 points. All wins were by double-digits and two of them came by 18 or more. The lone loss came at USC and there's no real shame in that. While the Buckeyes already bounced back from the USC loss with an 18 point win over Troy, they still haven't forgotten about the loss. I believe those memories will keep them from treating the Gophers lightly, particularly with Minnesota coming in at 4-0. Let's also keep in mind that the Buckeyes were laying -24 points ON THE ROAD when they faced Minnesota last season. Yes, the Gophers have been playing better. They haven't played any teams even close to this level though. Let's not forget that the Buckeyes brought back a whopping 19 starters this season though while the Gophers brought back 15. That means that we've got an even more experienced Buckeyes team, playing at home and laying roughly a touchdown less. Note that the Buckeyes won last year's meeting by a score of 30-7. They were laying -27.5 points when they hosted the Gophers the previous year and they crushed them by a score of 44-0. The previous meeting here resulted in a 34-3 victory for Ohio State. Note that the Buckeyes have also won their last three Big 10 openers by an average of 33 points each. The Buckeyes started highly touted freshman Terrelle Pryor last week and all he did was throw four touchdown passes and break Art Schlichter's school record for most TD passes by a freshman. Pryor certainly has plenty of confidence, saying: "I don't want to be cocky, but I've been making plays my whole life." In addition to the four touchdown passes, Pryor added 66 rushing yards on 14 carries. While I like the Buckeyes with or without him in the lineup, it should also be mentioned that Ohio State is expected to have star running back Chris "Beanie" Wells back in the lineup. That's worth noting as Wells was a Heisman Trophy candidate before getting hurt and had more than 1600 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns last season. The Buckeyes have won 21 of their last 22 home games and they're 20-3 all-time against Minnesota at Columbus. Look for them to make a statement, continuing their dominance in this series and winning by 20+. Blowout GOM
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11* WESTERN MICHIGAN over *Temple
Shoulder injury to Temple QB Adam DiMichele gives Western Michigan a massive QB edge in this game. HC Al Golden said his QB (and charismatic leader of an Owl team that covered 3 of its first 4 this season) will be out
a considerable amount of time, with the injury. He was replaced by RS freshman Chester Stewart, who tossed 3 interceptions in relief against Penn State. The Broncos, who have never lost to Temple and outscored the Owls 56-10 in last 2 meetings, have veteran Tim Hiller at the controls. Hiller has thrown for 5457 yds. and 54 TDs in his 23-game career and has completed 72% of his passes this season. WMU RB Brandon West has run for 403 yards in the Broncos last 3 games. WMU?s rush defense has allowed just 3.6 ypc, and the Broncos, who have produced All-MAC pass rushers in recent seasons, will put pressure on Stewart (Penn State had 7 sacks against the Owls last week). Temple?s defense, which ranks 114th against the run, isn?t in good health, either, as four starters and a backup (including 3 LBs) have missed time with injury.Late Score Forecast:WESTERN MICHIGAN 30 - *Temple 13
10* N.C. STATE over South Florida
Scout's report last week's upset of undefeated East Carolina has done wonders for the confidence of the Wolfpack players, reflecting the cumulative effects of the solid coaching of Tom O?Brien. N.C. State had been giving signs of improvement last year, with victories in 4 of its last 6 games. Now that quick RS frosh QB Russell Wilson is providing an improved passing dimension and 2007 top rusher Jamelle Eugene (667 YR LY) has
returned to the offense, the athletic NCS defense should find itself both better rested and with more to fight for. The South Florida offense, lacking marquee rushers and long-distance threats, is too often overly dependent on QB Matt Grothe to bail it out. Bulls 0-2 vs. the spread on the road TY, and 2-6 last 8 as a traveler overall.Late Score Forecast:*N.C. STATE 23 - South Florida 21
10 ALABAMA over *Georgia
Alabama, with its sr. QB (John Parker Wilson) and its strength in the pits, is one of the few teams that figures to be able to challenge loaded Georgia where it is vulnerable. The Crimson Tide returned four starters on their O-line, led by future NFL LT Andre Smith (6-5, 330). And the deep Bama DL (including 6-5, 365-pound NT Terrence Cody) figures to be a problem for the still-youthful Bulldog offensive line, which was re-shuffled when LT Trinton Sturdivant was lost for the season in August. South Carolina?s veteran defense slowed the Bulldog juggernaut to just 14 points two weeks ago, and the Crimson Tide should have some success too. Frosh RB Mark Ingram and blue-chip WR Julio Jones have given Nick Saban more punch on offense in 2007. The Red Elephants haven't lost a game by more than 7 points in Sabans tenure.Late Score Forecast:ALABAMA 24 - *Georgia 20
10 *MICHIGAN over Wisconsin
Big Ten SCOUT s tell us new, crafty HC Rich Rodriquez believes Michigan has greatly benefited from the bye week, as it has given his squad a chance to get healthier (especially on OL), as well as spending additional time working on techniques and fundamentals. Look for Wolverines? improving RS frosh QB Threet (16 of 23 vs. Notre Dame) to be afforded more time to connect with WRs Matthews & emerging frosh Odoms, now that more confident, hotshot frosh RB McGuffie (131 YR in 25 tries vs. Irish) demands more attention from Wisconsin front 7. Meanwhile, not so sure Badgers new QB Evridge will easily dissect the Wolverines secondary, particularly if top RB P.J. Hill frustrated by tenacious UM stop unit once again (only 25 carries, 78 YR in 2 games vs. UM). And with Wolverines? speedy LB corps keeping close tabs on Badgers top target TE Beckum, UM primed to avoid 1st home loss in series since 1994. Wiscy, which was fortunate to escape in 13-10 win at Fresno (Bulldogs missed 3 FGs), not so lucky in the boisterous Big House Late Score Forecast:*MICHIGAN 23 - Wisconsin 20
Re: SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
5 College Best Bets and 5 Strong Opinions this week.
Stanford (+3) 3-Stars at +3 or more, 2-Stars from +2 1/2 to -1.
South Carolina (-25) 3-Stars at -27 or less, 2-Stars at -27 1/2 or -28.
Ball State (-17 1/2) 3-Stars at -21 or less, 2-Stars from -21 1/2 to -23.
South Florida (-9) 2-Stars at -10 or less, 3-Stars at -7 or less.
Penn State (-15) 2-Stars at -17 points or less.
Strong Opinions are:
LSU (-24) Strong Opinion at -26 or less.
Fresno State (-7) Strong Opinion at -7 or less.
Army (+27 1/2) Strong Opinion at +27 or more.
3 Star Selection
***BALL ST. (-17.5) 48 Kent State 17
Kent State applied to a very strong 53-6-1 ATS indicator last week and still couldn’t come close to covering the spread. That’s 10 consecutive spread losses for the Golden Flashes and it’s about to become 11 in a row. Kent is a horrible defensive team that has allowed 6.4 yppl to teams that would combine to average just 4.8 yppl against an average defensive team and the Flashes are not going to be able to stop future NFL draft pick QB Nate Davis – even with top WR Dante Love out. Davis has been among the very best quarterbacks in the nation this season, completing 73% of his passes for an incredible average of 10.0 yards per pass play (against teams that would allow 7.1 yppp to an average QB). Dante Love was Davis’ favorite target, but Love was seriously injured in the first half of last week’s game and will no longer be able to play football. Davis and Love had grown into the nation’s top passing duo, as Davis completed an amazing 28 of 32 passes intended for Love for 460 yards (14.4 ypa). If I take those passes out of Davis’ tally then he still would average an incredible 8.4 yards per pass play and Davis gained 127 yards on 14 pass plays (9.1 yppp) after Love’s injury last week at Indiana. Kent State has allowed 66% completions and 7.3 yards per pass play to a horrible collection of quarterbacks that would combine to average just 4.9 yppp against an average defensive team. Davis will exploit that defense even without Love and RB MiQuale Lewis (529 rushing yards at 5.9 ypr) will also have a big day running against a Kent defensive front that has given up 5.8 yards per rushing play this season to teams that would average just 4.4 yprp against an average team. Kent is decent offensively, averaging 5.6 yards per play against teams that would allow 5.8 yppl to an average team, but the absence of star running back Eugene Jarvis (1669 yards at 6.0 ypr last season and 5.2 ypr this year before getting hurt in game 3) will likely hurt that attack. Ball State has a much improved defense that has yielded 5.5 yppl to teams that would average 5.3 yppl, so Kent’s offense and Ball State’s defense are about the same and Kent will have a difficult time keeping up with Ball State on the scoreboard. In addition to the mismatch at the line of scrimmage there is some technical analysis that supports the Cardinals. Ball State applies to a 57-18 ATS home momentum situation that is based on last week’s win at Indiana and Kent applies to a negative 22-68-3 ATS situation. Love’s injury should also serve to fire up his team, which will no doubt dedicate this game to their fallen star. I’ll take Ball State in a 3-Star Best Bet at -21 points or less and for 2-Stars from -21 ½ to -23 points.
3 Star Selection
***SOUTH CAROLINA (-25.0) 45 UAB 10
South Carolina hasn’t been very good offensively this season, averaging just 5.1 yards per play against teams that would allow 5.4 yppl to an average attack, but the Gamecocks have been 0.1 yppl better than average with Chris Smelley at quarterback and Steve Spurrier will take out his frustration against the nation’s worst defense. UAB has allowed 7.8 yppl in 4 games to teams that would combine to average just 5.1 yppl against an average defensive team and the Blazers are particularly bad against the pass, allowing 9.3 yards per pass play against teams that would average 5.5 yppp against an average team. UAB allowed 9.7 yppl to Tulsa, 9.2 yppl to Florida Atlantic, and 7.4 yppl to a sub-par Tennessee offense. Even the 4.8 yppl and 10 points that UAB allowed to Alcorn State last week is bad when you consider that Alcorn State is one of the worst offensive teams in Division 1AA ball and would average just 2.7 yppl and 0 points against an average Division 1A defense. While South Carolina finally gets to have some fun on offense the ferocious Gamecocks’ defense (4.2 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.9 yppl against an average team) should put the clamps on UAB quarterback Joe Webb, who is a below average passer (6.0 yppp against teams that would allow 6.9 yppp) but has run for 443 yards on 55 rushing plays (8.1 yprp). UAB has only faced one better than average defensive team and the Blazers scored just 3 points in that game at Tennessee. South Carolina’s defense is much better than Tennessee’s defense, so Webb won’t generate too much offense. My ratings favor the Gamecocks by 35 points and Steve Spurrier’s teams at Duke, Florida, and South Carolina are a combined 86-54-2 ATS (61%) as a favorite of 35 points or less. Spurrier is also 5-1 ATS at South Carolina when facing a team with a losing record. I’ll take South Carolina in a 3-Star Best Bet at -27 points or less and for 2-Stars from -27 ½ to -28 points.
3 Star Selection
***Stanford 30 WASHINGTON (-3.0) 21
Washington has faced a tough schedule of teams (Oregon, BYU, and Oklahoma), but that doesn’t hide the fact that the Huskies are a bad team. Washington has been out-gained by an average of 4.3 yards per play to 7.6 yppl in those 3 contests, which is bad even when you consider that Oregon, BYU and Oklahoma would combine to out-gain an average team 6.4 yppl to 4.6 yppl. The Huskies’ Jake Locker is an outstanding talent, but all of last year’s top receivers are gone and Locker has averaged just 4.2 yards per pass play (against teams that would allow 5.2 yppp to an average quarterback). Jake can still run the ball (229 yards on 37 rushing plays), but the running backs have been horrible and Washington’s overall rushing numbers are just average (4.1 yards per rushing play against teams that would allow 4.1 yprp). Stanford has a solid defense that has allowed 5.2 yppl to teams that would average 5.5 yppl against an average stop unit and the defense has been better the last two weeks with the addition of LB Nick Macaluso, who missed the first two games of the season. Stanford’s offense is hindered by the poor quarterback play of Tavita Pritchard (4.6 yppp against teams that would allow 5.5 yppp), but running back Toby Gerhart has run for 407 yards at 5.7 ypr and he should have another big game against a weak Huskies’ defensive front that’s surrendered 6.0 yards per rushing play to teams that would average 5.3 yprp against an average team. Washington can’t defend the pass either (9.6 yppp allowed to teams that would average 7.4 yppp), so Pritchard should have decent success through the air too. Stanford is actually a much better offensive team than Washington is and the defensive edge for the Cardinal is huge (as well as the special teams edge). Not only is Stanford the better team but the Cardinal apply to an 88-35-1 ATS subset of a 248-132-6 ATS statistical match-up indicator that has been very good to me over the years and Washington is 0-6 ATS as a home favorite the last 3 seasons, including 0-5 straight up their last 5 in that role. I’ll take Stanford in a 2-Star Best Bet at +3 points or more and for 2-Stars from +2 ½ to -1
2 Star Selection
**S. Florida (-9) 31 NO CAROLINA ST. 14
South Florida is 0-3 ATS this season, but the Bulls are in a good spot to play a good game this week against an NC State team due for a letdown after their overtime win over East Carolina. NC State applies to a negative 42-78-1 ATS situation that plays against home underdogs after a straight up win as a dog of 7 points or more and the Wolfpack will be hurt by the loss of top defensive player Nate Irving, who injured his leg in the second half of last week’s win. Starting quarterback Russell Wilson is also out indefinitely, but Wilson wasn’t really that productive and Harrison Beck probably won’t be any worse. Beck has averaged just 5.8 yards per pass play on 209 pass plays since last season (against teams that would allow 6.4 yppp to an average quarterback) and he has thrown a horrendous 13 interceptions on just 214 career pass attempts (6.1%, which works out to 2 per game). South Florida has been just mediocre defending the pass so far this season, but Beck shouldn’t do too much damage and the Wolfpack aren’t going to be able to run against a dominating USF defensive front that has allowed just 3.1 yards per rushing play in 3 games against Division 1A opponents (who would combine to average 4.3 yprp against an average team). South Florida’s offense has only been 0.2 yards per play better than average in 3 Division 1A games, but they played it pretty conservatively last week in a letdown spot against Florida International (which followed their thrilling win over Kansas) and I actually rate the Bulls’ attack at 0.5 yppl better than average. NC State’s defense has been worse than average through 4 games (5.8 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.7 yppl) and that unit is likely to get worse without Irving, who leads the team in tackles, has 25% of the team’s tackles for loss and 28% of the team’s passes defended with 3 of those being interceptions. South Florida applies to a very strong 40-3 ATS subset of a 245-130-6 ATS statistical match-up indicator and my math model suggests that the line is fair, as I favor USF by 8 ½ points despite the Bulls playing below their potential so far. I’ll take South Florida in a 2-Star Best Bet at -10 points or less and I’d make USF a 3-Star Best Bet at -7 or less.
2 Star Selection
**PENN ST. (-15.0) 40 Illinois 16
Penn State has won their 4 games by an average score of 53-10 and the Nittany Lions still appear to be an underrated team. Perhaps people question the strength of a schedule that includes Coastal Carolina, Syracuse and Temple. My math model compensates for strength of opponent and the Nittany Lions rank among the top 5 teams in the nation in my ratings. Penn State did host a pretty good Oregon State team (the Beavers are underrated because they lost to Stanford in a game they actually dominated from the line of scrimmage) and the Lions out-gained the Beavers 7.0 yards per play to 4.7 yppl in a 45-14 victory, so Paterno’s club has proven themselves against a team of similar caliber to Illinois. By the way, Illinois faced two horrible teams in their 3 games and the Illini only out-gained Eastern Illinois and UL Lafayette 5.9 yppl to 4.6 yppl, which is a far cry from Penn State’s 7.0 yppl to 3.8 yppl advantage against their schedule. Illinois did play very well against Missouri (6.9 yppl to 6.7 yppl allowed), but quarterback Juice Williams has followed up his incredible 409 yards at 8.7 yards per pass play performance by averaging just 5.2 yppp against Eastern Illinois and UL Lafayette, which is a game they nearly lost. Overall, Williams has been just 0.3 yppp better than average (6.9 yppp against teams that would allow 6.6 yppp to an average quarterback), which is slightly better than he was last season (5.9 yppp against teams that would allow 5.8 yppp). Illinois certainly doesn’t run the ball as well this season (5.8 yards per rushing play against teams that would allow 5.5 yprp to an average team) as they did when they had Rashard Mendenhall toting the rock and I don’t see the Illini doing much damage against a dominating Penn State defense that has allowed just 2.9 yprp and 3.9 yppp to teams that would combine to average 4.5 yprp and 5.0 yppp against an average defensive team (after factoring in that they faced Temple’s backup quarterback for most of last week’s game). Now the Lions get their best defensive player, DE Maurice Evans (12.5 sacks and 21.5 total tackles for loss last season), back after serving a 3 game suspension. Penn State’s offense is also very good (7.4 yards per play against teams that would allow 5.7 yppl to an average team) and the Lions great rushing attack (279 yards per game at 6.7 yprp, against teams that would allow 5.0 yprp) will thrive against an Illinois defensive front that has allowed 5.6 yprp to teams that would average 4.6 yprp against an average team. If Eastern Illinois can run for 211 yards at 6.6 yprp against the Illini I just don’t see how Penn State and their dominating offensive line can be stopped. The Illini have been good in pass defense (5.4 yppp against teams that would average 6.6 yppp) but they are just 0.1 yppl better than average overall and Penn State should have no trouble moving the ball. My ratings favor Penn State by 24 ½ points in this game and using this year’s games only would favor the Lions by 32 ½ points. Penn State reminds me a lot of Kansas last season, as the Jayhawks started the season with dominating wins over weaker teams while the public questioned how good they really were because of their schedule. My math model picked Kansas every week and the Jayhawks covered the spread in their first 11 games. Penn State is a very good team and that will be proven over and over again this season. My only concern is Illinois coach Ron Zook’s history of success against good teams. Excluding Zook’s first year at Illinois in 2005 (when he didn’t have any talent), Zook’s teams at Florida and Illinois are 13-1-1 ATS as an underdog in conference play, including a straight up win at Ohio State last season. Penn State, however, is 17-4-1 ATS the last few years as a favorite of 9 points or more and the Paterno is 8-1 ATS as a favorite of 9 points or more in revenge games - so the team trends are about even - and Penn State applies to a solid 87-34-1 ATS statistical profile indicator. I’ll take Penn State in a 2-Star Best Bet at -17 points or less.
Re: SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
Army 12 TEXAS A&M (-27.5) 34
Army is the worst offensive team in Division 1A football, as the Cadets have averaged just 3.9 yards per play against teams that would allow 6.0 yppl to an average team. However, Army’s run heavy attack (78% runs) should have decent success today against an A&M defensive front that has allowed opponents to average 6.5 yards per rushing play (those opponents would only average 4.6 yprp against an average team). If Army can run for better than the 3.7 yprp that they’ve managed so far this season then they can sustain a few drives and eat up the clock in the process. Teams that run a large majority of the time are generally good bets as huge underdogs in part because running the ball eats up more clock and usually leads to fewer turnovers (which are normally a big problem with huge underdogs). Texas A&M has been well below average both running (3.9 yprp) and throwing the ball (5.5 yppp) and the Aggies are 0.7 yppl worse than average overall on offense (4.7 yppl against teams that would allow 5.4 yppl to an average team). Army is pretty good defending the run (4.5 yprp allowed to teams that would average 4.7 yprp), but the Aggies should move the ball through the air pretty easily in this game against a Black Knight secondary that has given up 7.5 yards per pass play to teams that would average just 5.4 yppp against an average defensive team. My ratings favor Texas A&M by just 22 points in this game and I’ll consider Army a Strong Opinion at +27 points or more.
Fresno St. (-7.0) 32 UCLA 20
UCLA has been out-played in every game this season and the Bruins were lucky to get their one win over Tennessee (they were out-gained 4.0 yards per play to 4.9 yppl by the Vols). I don’t see that trend changing today against a good Fresno State team that survived their letdown game last week at Toledo (a 55-54 OT win). The Bulldogs have been 1.1 yppl better than average offensively (6.3 yppl against teams that would allow 5.2 yppl to an average team) with a good balance of run (188 yards at 5.5 yprp) and pass (207 yards at 7.2 yppp) and veteran quarterback Tom Brandstater rarely makes mistakes (just 6 interceptions on 416 pass attempts since last season). UCLA’s defense has barely been better than average so far this season (5.6 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.8 yppl against an average team), so the Bulldogs should be able to move the ball pretty well in this game. That is not likely to be the case for UCLA’s offense, which has managed just 3.9 yppl in 3 games this season (against teams that would allow 4.7 yppl to an average attack). Fresno is average defensively (5.7 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.7 yppl) and will be a bit without two of their defensive linemen this week, but UCLA doesn’t appear capable of moving the ball consistently enough to keep up with Fresno State. My ratings favor Fresno State by 12 ½ points and using this year’s games only would predict a 17 ½ point margin in favor the Bulldogs. UCLA is 11-0 ATS as a home underdog of 6 points or more since 1989 (1-0 this year) and Fresno State is only 3-9 ATS as a non-conference favorite under Pat Hill, so I’ll resist making this game a Best Bet. I’ll consider Fresno State a Strong Opinion at -7 points or less.
LSU (-24.0) 37 Mississippi St. 7
Mississippi State was 4-0 in close games last season (i.e. games decided by 7 points or less) so their 8-5 record is a bit misleading and is the reason the Bulldogs were overrated heading into this season. Miss State was just an average team last season, rating at 0.7 yards per play worse than average on offense and 0.6 yppl better than average on defense. This year’s team is even worse offensively so far, averaging 4.6 yppl against teams that would combine to allow 5.9 yppl to an average team, and that unit has managed just 7 points total in games against Auburn and Georgia Tech the last two weeks (and they scored just 14 points against a bad Louisiana Tech defense in their only other game against a Division 1A opponent, which also resulted in a loss). LSU’s defense is not as good as it’s been in recent years, but the Tigers are still very good on the stop side of the ball and that unit has allowed just 4.1 yppl in 3 games against teams that would combine to average 4.9 yppl against an average team. Mississippi State may give more playing time to quarterback Tyson Lee, who has completed 67% of his 45 passes, but Lee’s compensated yards per pass play number (5.0 yppp against teams that would allow 6.3 yppp to an average QB) is only 0.1 yppp better than Miss State’s team average – so Lee doesn’t appear to be the answer (although he hasn’t thrown an interception and Carroll has thrown 6 picks). Expect another single digit scoring effort from the Bulldogs in this game. LSU may also be changing quarterbacks, as redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee played very well in the 2nd half of last week’s comeback win at Auburn after starter Andrew Hatch was knocked out of the game with a concussion. Lee has averaged a sparkling 7.6 yppp on 50 pass plays (against teams that would combine to allow just 5.7 yppp) and he gives the Tigers a better passing option to go along with their great rushing attack (6.7 yards per rushing play against teams that would allow 4.7 yprp to an average team). Mississippi State is once again solid in pass defense (4.6 yppp allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.1 yppp), but the Bulldogs were ripped for 439 yards on the ground last week by Georgia Tech at an incredible 8.3 yprp. I actually think that game was an aberration since the Bulldogs aren’t used to seeing the option being run in the SEC, but LSU should still be able to get good yardage on the ground and gradually extend the margin in this game. LSU actually applies to a very strong 74-16-1 ATS statistical match-up indicator, but the Tigers are a surprising 0-10 ATS in conference home games following a victory under coach Les Miles and they could certainly suffer a letdown this week after last week’s showdown with Auburn. My math model favors LSU by 30 points in this game, so the Tigers can still cover even with a bit of a letdown, and that 74-16-1 ATS match-up indicator is too good to ignore. I’ll consider LSU a Strong Opinion at -26 points or less.
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PURDUE +2.5 AT NOTRE DAME O/U 46
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.
ILLINOIS +14 AT PENN STATE O/U 58
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.
STANFORD AT WASHINGTON -3.5 O/U 52.5
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.
VIRGINIA AT DUKE -7 O/U 44
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.
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.
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.
ALABAMA AT GEORGIA -6 O/U 44.5
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.
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The Sharp Moves
Alabama (+7) over Georgia
Georgia is coming off an impressive 27-10 win over Arizona State, although the Bulldogs did not return home from the west coast until early Sunday morning which will adversely affect their preparation time for facing Alabama. Alabama head coach Nick Saban is a remarkable 10-0-1 ATS as a conference underdog with revenge off a conference win versus a conference opponent off a straight-up win. Moreover, Georgia head coach Mark Richt is a money-burning 1-5 ATS following consecutive road games and 3-7 ATS at home before a game involving revenge (Georgia has Tennessee on deck).
Alabamas offense has been excellent this year as the Tide are averaging 36 points per game, including 237 rushing yards (5.9 yards per rush attempt) and 387 total yards (5.9 yards per play; 10.8 yards per point) versus teams that would combine to allow just 22.8 points per game, 4.1 yards per rush attempt, 5.1 yards per play and 13.7 yards per point to an average offensive squad. Lets also note that Alabama is averaging 41.5 points per game on the road this season, including 283 rushing yards (6.7 yards per pass play) and 410 total yards (6.3 yards per play; 9.9 yards per point).
Finally, the Crimson Tide, while being young, boast an outstanding defense that is allowing a paltry 9.2 points per game, including 55 rushing yards (2.2 yards per carry), 188 passing yards (4.8 yards per pass play) and 243 total yards (3.8 yards per play; 26.3 yards per point) versus teams that would average 25.5 points per game, 3.7 yards per rush attempt, 7.0 yards per pass attempt, 5.3 yards per play and 14.2 yards per point against an average defense. One of my favorite investment propositions is taking a .500 or better underdog that possesses both a solid running attack (4.4 yards per carry or more) and a stout defense. We get both with Alabama and seven points to boot!
Technicians Corner: Alabama head coach Nick Saban is a profitable 21-13-1 ATS when taking points in conference games, including 15-6 ATS versus an opponent off a SU/ATS win and 14-3 ATS from Game Five out
SPECIAL GUARANTEED MOUNTAIN WEST GOY!
SAN DIEGO STATE
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6-Unit Washington -3 over Stanford
The Huskies are a MUCH better team than their 0-3 record indicates. They have played a brutal schedule losing @ Oregon and at home to BYU and Oklahoma. Those three teams have a combined record of 10-1 with the only loss coming from Oregon last Saturday mainly because the Ducks were down to their fourth string QB vs. Boise. Washington has now had two full weeks to recover and prepare for a 100% ABSOLUTE must win game. We give a big advantage to the Huskies in this one. Stanford is 2-2 on the year but they have been out gained by an intimidating 469 total yards in those four games combined. The only team they have out yarded was San Jose State last week. That game was tied 10-10 with under 2:00 minutes remaining in the third quarter before the Cardinal pulled away in the final frame to win 23-10. Stanford’s only other win was at home in the opener vs. Oregon State. They got an early Christmas present there as the Beavers turned the ball over 3 times and had 100 yards in penalties. Stanford gave up almost 500 yards in that game and were out gained by almost 200 yards. The Cardinal gave up 72 points in their two road losses, both ASA’s Pac Ten Game of the Week This section of 1st & Goal has our Big Ten Game of the Week. Located in the heart of the Big Ten country we have great ties or contacts in this region and have always done well with our Big Ten picks. See who we like this week below. blow out losses. As we said, Washington has had a tough go of it schedule wise. In our opinion, they’ve played the toughest early season slate in the land. They can be forgiven for losing @ Oregon, who was full strength at the time, as most come up well short in Autzen Stadium. Their 28-27 home loss to a very good BYU team was a dagger. If you remember, the Huskies scored on the last play of the game to “tie” the game. However, the official threw a flag for celebration (horrible call) and the Cougs then blocked was essentially a 35-yard extra point. The UW simply could not emotionally recover from that loss by the following week when they were blasted by a great Oklahoma team. With a very good QB in Jake Locker, we look for Washington to get some much needed relief this week playing a defense that had allowed 100 points in three games entering last week’s game vs. an overmatched San Jose State team. UW has dominated this series winning 19 of the 23 meetings since 1980. That includes an easy 27- 9 win last year @ Stanford. The Huskies have also covered 62% of those 23 contests. Stanford has historically been a road struggler with a record of 9-25 SU their last 34 as a visitor. Washington gets this must win and easier than many think.
3-Star Ohio State -19.5 over Minnesota
Watch the Buckeyes break out in this game. They have not covered yet this year and that’s part of the reason we’re getting great value here. Last year, OSU was favored by 24.5 points AT Minnesota. They crushed the Gophs in that game 30-7 ripping through the Minny defense for 250 yards rushing (5.4 yards per carry). The ground squirrels, on the other hand, could get nothing going on the ground netting just 45 yards for the game (1.6 yards per carry). That forced QB Adam Weber to try and make things happen through the air resulting in two interceptions. A similar scenario will play out this weekend at the Horseshoe. OSU has not looked very impressive the last three weekends which has thwarted their public perception. Reality is, this team is still loaded with veterans and nearly every key player is back from last year’s squad that played in the National Championship game. They can be forgiven for their incredible flat spots before and after their “Clash in the Coliseum” with USC. Those games were against Ohio and Troy, neither of which had the Bucks full attention. Their loss @ USC was embarrassing, however we’re not so sure you couldn’t pick any team in the nation and put them in that game and get the same USC dominating results. In other words, the loss simply reiterated how good USC really is rather than how bad the Buckeyes are. Buckeye QB Terrelle Pryor has now had a few games to get his feet wet and he will provide the Minnesota defense with huge problems. While the Minnesota defense had no option but to be better than last year when it was THE WORST in the nation, I think we’ll notice this Saturday that the supposed improvement probably isn’t all that great. The Gophs are 4-0 and just might be one of the worst undefeated teams in the nation right now. They have played a very weak schedule with two MAC teams, a Sun Belt team and a Division 1AA team. Last week’s win over Florida Atlantic might have looked impressive, however the Owls were in a terrible spot having to travel to the northern reaches of the nation for the second straight week after visiting Michigan State the previous Saturday. The defenses they have faced are not even in the same zip code as OSU’s stop unit. The Gophers have also been helped greatly by turnovers and field position thus far as 11 of their 19 TD drives have been less than 50-yards. Take out the USC game and this Buckeye defense has allowed just 214 YPG. Minnesota will have a rough go of it on offense this weekend. OSU has dominated this series winning 20 of the last 21 meetings out right. Since 1983, these teams have met 10 times at the Horseshoe. The Bucks have won 9 of those games. If you disregard their only home loss to Minnesota during that stretch, OSU has won by an average score of 42-7. Expect another dominating performance from the Buckeyes at home on Saturday.
4-Star play Houston +11 over East Carolina
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96% (26-1 ATS) NCAA FB GAME OF THE MONTH!
Alabama at Georgia Sep 27 2008 7:45PM
Reason: At 7:45 pm, our selection is on the Alabama Crimson Tide + the points over Georgia. Last year, Georgia won 26-23 at Alabama, but this year's Crimson Tide squad is a far cry from the team that went 13-13 in the 2006 and 2007 seasons. This year, Alabama is off to a 4-0 start, and demolished Arkansas 49-14 on the road last week. Alabama also opened the 2008 season with an upset win against then-No. 9-ranked Clemson, so the Tide have jumped into the Top 10, while Georgia sits at #3 in the latest polls. Most impressive, of course, has been Alabama's defense. The Tide has surrendered just 9.2 points per game. And since 1998, College Football teams which give up 14.8 or less points are an eye-popping 26-1 ATS at Game 5 of the season forward, if they're off a win of 6+ points, covered the spread in their previous game, and they're now priced between +5.5 and +9 points. College Football Game of the Month on Alabama. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie. And don't miss my Big 10 Game of the Month or my College Football Revenge Superplay out of an eye-popping system on this Saturday.
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Rare Triple-Play GOM With BIG-Time 7-Team Teaser
San Jose State vs. Hawaii
Pick:San Jose State +3
Play San Jose. The Spartans will return the favor for Hawaii's come from 2 TD behind victory in OT last year. You see the 3rd all-time winningest coach in Hawaii FB history is **** Tomey (77'-86'). Unfortunately, he's on the San Jose sidelines. The problem in this game is the Warriors being so green. They retuen 4 starters each on both sides of the ball under 1st year Coach Greg McMackin. They looked drastically over-matched 2 weeks ago @ Oregon State. I don't like the fact that the Rainbows are a -9 in turnovers their first 2 lined games this season. It seems there is no continuity on offense under the new system & QB Tyler Graunke will be trying to play with a hand injury backed up by a JUCO transfer. On the other side, Tomey is getting good play overall out of Cal transfer QB Kyle Reed, who was 23 for 26 vs. Stanford last week. The kicker here is the defenses. San Jose is @ #47 & Hawaii @ #80. The Spartans are 8-3 their L11 lined games. I don't see any Warrior advantages besides home field & history. That's not going to be enough with revenge on the Spartans' minds. $600 to win & a Triple-Play on San Jose St. My 7-Team Big Time Parlay $1500 to win $442 Southern Cal -4000, Florida -2100, Cal -4000, South Carolina -2100, Texas A&M -4000, Kentucky -1600, Texas -3200.