Saturday Service Plays
Saturday Service Plays
Big Al McMordie
Mississippi vs. Alabama
Play: Mississippi +13.5
At 3:30 pm, on Saturday, our complimentary selection is on the Ole Miss Rebels + over Alabama. In its last game, Mississippi was favored by 2 points at home against South Carolina, but fell to the Gamecocks 31-24. Alabama also played a close game, and squeaked out a 3-point win over Kentucky, which wasn't very impressive considering the Crimson Tide was a 15.5-point favorite. But Alabama was coming off an emotional 41-30 upset win of Georgia, so it had a natural letdown vs. Kentucky. Both teams had last week off to regroup, and I think Mississippi will give Alabama all it can handle this Saturday, as it falls into a rebound system of mine that has cashed 63% ATS. Consider that, since 1980, .333 (or better) road underdogs priced from +3.5 to +17.5 are a super 140-84 ATS vs. conference foes, if our road dog lost its previous game straight-up as a home favorite. The last three years, Alabama has defeated Ole Miss by a field goal each game, but the Rebels covered the spread as a big underdog in all three games. Look for Mississippi to get its 4th straight cover vs. Alabama. Take the points.
Ohio State vs. Michigan State
Play: Michigan State +3
At 3:30 pm, our complimentary selection is on the Michigan State Spartans plus the points over Ohio State. The Buckeyes have played just two road games this season. They were drilled 35-3 by the USC Trojans in September, and that exposed Ohio State to be a complete fraud. The Buckeyes did win their other road game -- a 3-point victory in Madison against the Badgers -- but the closeness of that game doesn't inspire confidence in Ohio State since Penn State went into Wisconsin and blew the Badgers out by 41 points last week. On the other hand, Michigan State DID impress me last week vs. an undefeated Northwestern squad, as the Spartans were a step quicker than the Wildcats all day long. Also, I really like Javon Ringer, who leads the nation in rushing with 1,112 yards and 14 touchdowns. He's a workhorse back, and carries the ball 35 times a game. Nobody's been able to stop him yet, and even though Ohio State has a strong rush defense, I think Ringer's still going to get his yards. The Buckeyes have a great young talent in QB Terrelle Pryor from Jeannette, Pennsylvania. But he's still a year away from being great. Last week, he completed 10 of 14 passes for just 97 yards. Frankly, the wrong team is favored here. Take the points with Michigan State.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Florida Intl at Troy St
Prediction: Florida Intl
Reason: Ai Simulator 3* graded play on Florida International over Troy - AiS shows a 70% probability that FI will lose this game by 7 or fewer points. FI is off to a 3-3 start while Troy stands at 3-2 on the season. FI has turned it up in the second month of the season winning three straight and 2 of them on the road. Their best game was winning at Toledo 35-18 and were installed as an 18 point dog. They have also won 4 straight ATS. The biggest contributor to this success is that their running game has really improved and is improving each passing week. They have gained 100+ yards in the last 3 games and this has really opened up opportunities in the passing game. Troy has lost 2 of 3 and has not been consistent with their offense against opponents this season. The passing stats for Troy are a bit misleading. on the one hand they hit 60% of the passes attempted, but they are only averaging 5.8 yards per attempt. It has been worse over the last 3 games hitting 58.6% and gaining just 5.1 yards per attempt. FI has gained NINE yards per pass attempt over their last 3 games and they are coring 36 PPG. Supporting this play is a strong Money line system that has gone 33-14 making 28.9 units since 1997. Play on a road team versus the money line in a game involving two average defensive teams scoring 21-28 PPG and after scoring 31 points or more in 3 straight games. Take FI
Re: Saturday Service Plays
North Texas @ UL Monroe
PICK: North Texas +19.5
North Texas is winless on the season but there is no way it should be catching this many points against a team that is only one win better. The Mean Green have not been competitive at all this season as they are getting outscored by over 37 ppg. To their credit, the schedule has been a tough one as it is currently ranked 31st toughest in the nation. Kansas St., Tulsa and LSU starting the slate and losing big games to those teams was no surprise at all.
The Warhawks come in 1-5 on the season and while they have been more competitive, there is a good reason for it. The lone victory came against Alabama A&M so like North Texas, it has yet to defeat a FBS team. This is the first of three straight home games for UL-Monroe but with the final two coming against Florida Atlantic and Troy, it could already be lookahead time. Obviously, the Warhawks want to come out of here victorious, but I do not see and full effort in this one.
Looking at rushing offense and defense and passing offense and defense, these two teams are not far off from each other as the average ranking of those four categories is a good indicator of where the two stack up. The North Texas average is 93rd while the UL-Monroe average is 97th so the Mean Green actually have a slight edge and this is with playing a tougher schedule. The Warhawks defense was supposed to be one of the better units in the league but it is currently ranked 7th in the SBC in total defense.
North Texas can take advantage of this soft defense. The team has not been able to get many points on the board but the offense has been able to move the ball as it is 61st in the country in total offense including 38th in passing offense. The Mean Green are 71st in rushing offense and they can improve upon that here going up against the 118th ranked rushing defense. The Warhawks allowed an unfathomable 556 yards rushing against Louisiana-Lafayette.
The UL-Monroe offense does have a playmaker in quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster as he is 49th in the nation in total offense. The problem has been converting the plays that count and that namely is on third down. The Warhawks are 118th in the country in third down conversion at a mere 24.4 percent. The North Texas defense isn’t like to hold them down much but it likely won’t have to. North Texas is hoping for a shootout which is the way it can win and stay within this inflated number. 3* North Texas Mean Green
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The No.1 ranked Texas Longhorns enter into this tilt against the Missouri Tigers off a huge 45-35 win in the annual Red River Rivalry last week vs the Oklahoma Sooners. That was a mammoth battle, that will now have the Longhorns in a let down situation this Saturday.
Meanwhile, the No.11 Missouri Tigers their opponents in this spot,were beaten last week at home, by a very good Oklahoma State team by a 28-23 count . The Tigers high expectations for a Big 12 North Division Title , could get side swiped with a second straight conference loss. Needless to say the Tigers will be primed and extremely motivated for a bounce back performance. It must be noted that Missouri is a perfect 7-0 under HC Gary Pinkel in the game following its first defeat of the season.
This is what I am betting will happen...... Look for Tigers multi faceted air and ground attack behind star QB Chase Daniels (2,055 YDS, 16 TDS) to slice and dice what I still consider to be a vulnerable Texas secondary. I also expect a Tigers defense that has 15 sacks and 12 take aways this season, to slow down a Texas offense that will start this game lethargically , after last weeks full tilt effort.
Final notes & Key Trends: Missouri is 8-0 ATS L/8 on the road against a team like Texas off back to back SU/ATS wins. College Football teams like the Tigers off a loss as a double digit home favorites , are 40-11 ATS in their following game.
Projected score: Missouri 37 Texas 31
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Syracuse vs. South Florida
Play: Under 50.5
We all know how bad Syracuse is and that their Coach Greg Robinson will be fired at any time during this last quarter. They have had no success this season with a lone victory in six attempts and that came against Northeastern. South Florida is coming off a bad loss to Pittsburgh but will enter this game with over two weeks of rest. They traditional have a strong defense and I cannot see the Orange getting double-digits on Saturday. We will not worry if South Florida can cover this huge number and just collect with the under.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Do not look now, but the Stanford Cardinal just may be the second best team in the Pac-10 right now, and they get the nod to knock off UCLA on the road here.
The Cardinal went to 3-1 in the conference by surprising Arizona last week, as running backs Toby Gerhart and Anthony Kimble both topped the 100-yard rushing mark. The bad news was the injury to quarterback Tavita Pritchard, but he is expected to start this week.
Then again, that may not matter, as the key matchup here is the powerful Stanford running game vs. the soft UCLA run defense. The Cardinal are averaging 184.1 rushing yards per game on an impressive 4.9 yards per carry, and they will be running against a Bruins defense that is surrendering a whopping 170.8 rushing yards per game on 4.6 yards per rush.
Meanwhile, UCLA has lost four of their last five games since upsetting Tennessee on opening week, with the second win coming against conference doormat Washington State. Their offense has been as bad as the defense, as the Bruins are averaging a woeful 3.0 yards per rushing attempt and 5.8 yards per pass attempt.
Not many people had the foresight to predict this before the season, but even with this game being played in Los Angeles, we are looking for a handy Stanford win.
Pick: Stanford -1
Arkansas St. +3.0
They say that good defense stops good offense, and we feel that the Arkansas State Indians will again prove that to be true when the visit the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns this week.
UL Lafayette is 2-0 in the conference while scoring a whopping 103 points, but they rely almost exclusively on one of the best running games in the country, as they are averaging an unbelievable 332.2 rushing yards per game on a fantastic 7.5 yards per carry. The problem with that is that the Cajuns really have no fallback if their running game gets slowed down.
Well, the Indians may have the best run defense in the Sun Belt Conference, as they are allowing 121.8 yards per game on the ground on just 3.5 yards per carry. Also, Arkansas State has been able to put up points vs. like opponents, as they are averaging 34.0 points in two conference conrests.
We look for the Indians to slow down the Lafayette running attack and to put up just enough points to pull off the mild upset.
Pick: Arkansas State +3
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James Patrick Sports
Toledo vs. Northern Illinois
Our selection is for Saturday’s NCAA College Football action is the Northern Illinois Huskies in MAC action as they celebrate Homecoming festivities while hosting the Toledo Rockets, still fat off their huge upset of the Michigan Wolverines in one of UT’s biggest wins in their Football Program’s History.. They take their Homecoming Celebrations seriously NIU as the Huskies have cashed winning tickets in 9 of 10 games. With the Rockets putting up 70 points on these Dogs last season we look for a payback as the Huskies bite hard at home.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Colorado State + over Utah
BYU is getting more attention in the Mountain West but Utah is climbing up the rankings and has a more favorable schedule down the stretch. Colorado State nearly caught TCU last week as the Rams have covered in three of the last four games, appearing to be one of the more improved teams in this league. Utah’s defense has carried the Utes so far this season but the offense has great balance and can put up big numbers as well. Colorado State should have trouble running the ball but the Rams have put up big passing numbers and could steal a cover in this game.
Nelly’s Sportsline has hit at least 70 percent of our last ten packages on this site and we will take on the big game in college football Thursday night. The Mountain West Conference has provided some high quality football in recent years and this game will have significant implications in the conference race and the national bowl picture. Our last Mountain Match-up pick was a winner earlier this season and you should join us for the winning side in tonight’s BYU/TCU game.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
USC vs. Washington State
Play: USC -42.5
A sign in the Washington State Student Center reads, “Quarterback needed". Also states: Must have a strong arm and an affinity for getting tackled, hard. No experience required!
Open tryouts – yes, open tryouts – are being held for a backup QB role on the Palouse. That’s certainly not a good sign when the most talented team in the nation comes calling.
Looked like Pete Carroll had ASU +28.5 last week and he’ll be able to name the score again this week. No matter what the offense does, defenses always like shutouts. Look for USC to name the score and hang up 60 pts on them. They need to win impressively to move up in the polls.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
U Connecticut -1.5
Connecticut takes to the road this weekend for a conference battle with northeast neighbor Rutgers. The Huskies come into this game off a bye and a 38-12 beat down at the hands of the Tar Heels back on October 4th. The Scarlet Knights limp in from a 13-10 defeat at Cincinnati. We are taking the Huskies -1.5 on the road in New Brunswick, NJ.
This weekend’s contest will be Connecticut’s third road game in a row and the second conference game in three weeks. Randy Edsall’s club is sitting at 5-1 and with a win Saturday they will be 2-0 in Big East competition with two conference home games in the offing. That fact, along with proving the Carolina loss to be a fluke, should have the Huskies more than amped for this game.
Rutgers is just 1-5 on the season and 0-2 in conference play. Their offense has not adjusted to the loss of running back Ray Rice and quarterback Mike Teel has been dreadful in the early going. The senior passer has just three touchdown passes to seven interceptions and his 106.6 rating is reflective of the Knights one-dimensional offense. For the past three seasons, the team has relied on an effective running game to setup the pass, but this year they are averaging just 113.2 rushing yards per game and a meager 3.6 yards per carry.
Connecticut sophomore quarterback Zach Frazer will be getting his second start of the season in place of the injured Tyler Lorenzen. Frazer stepped in for Lorenzen in the Louisville game and looked absolutely masterful in leading the Huskies to a 26-21 victory. However, he looked dreadful in the team’s loss at UNC, throwing three interceptions and zero touchdowns. His ball security will be key if Connecticut is to win.
Connecticut will be able to create short third down yardage behind the nation’s leading rusher, Donald Brown. Look for Brown to wear down a Rutgers defense that is allowing 4.0 yards per carry and for Frazer to be an efficient compliment as the game goes on. The Scarlet Knights, without a capable running game, are converting just 28.9 percent of their third downs and they are unlikely to do a whole lot better against the Huskies defense. This game will likely be close, but the Huskies have proven when they take care of the ball that they are the better squad in this match-up, regardless of location.
Things to consider: Connecticut is 9-1 SU and 7-3 ATS in their 10 games as a road favorite. Connecticut is 4-2 ATS the last five years coming off a bye. Connecticut is 3-0 ATS in their last three games at Rutgers. Connecticut is 5-0-1 ATS in their last six games versus the Scarlet Knights.
Pick: Take the Uconn Huskies -1.5
Re: Saturday Service Plays
5* Michigan State +3.5 over Ohio State
This week #12 Ohio State visits #20 Michigan State in what amounts to the biggest game for Michigan State in quite some time. Michigan State hasn't beaten Ohio State since 1999 but if it's going to happen, this looks to be the time and place. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio was Jim Tressels defensive coordinator and earned a championship ring at Ohio State. These guys are familiar with each other. Both teams have a loss but it was Ohio States performance against USC which stands out. Michigan State lost a close shootout with Cal to kick off the year. It's been all up hill since. Yards per point numbers for Michigan State an excellent 12 on offense and superb 21.6 defensively. Ohio State not too shabby either with a 13 on offense and a 19 on defense. Both teams good in turnover margin with Michigan State at +10 and Ohio State +7. But Ohio State having some troubles on the offensive side of the ball. They failed to score an offensive touchdown against the worst defense in the Big 10. They rank 94th in the nation in total offense and 10th in the Big 10. Their inability to move the ball could spell trouble against a Michigan State team that has no trouble finding the end zone. Michigan State Running Back Javon Ringer is one of the best in the nation. Likely the best Ohio State has faced this. Ohio State's conservative game plans, their unwillingness to throw the ball, the coaching familiarities, the higher ranking of Ohio State, the game being one of the biggest home games for Michigan State in years, it all adds up. We like to say that when a team like Michigan State sees the door open a crack, against a team that has historically dominated them like Ohio State, they have to kick the door in, because that opportunity may not present itself for years to come. So, in a sense, it's now or never. The talent is there, it's one of the best Michigan State teams in years. We likely won't need the field goal in this one but we'll take it. Michigan State +3.5 (the play is still good at +3, we played it +3.5 and would certainly prefer the hook)
2* Iowa State +7 over Nebraska
Both of these teams desperate for a win sitting at 0-2 in the conference. Nebraska has certainly had the upper hand in this series but a look at these two teams results thus far this year shows some similarities. Both started out with wins over lesser competition and then suffered defeats when they stepped it up. Nebraska was hammered by Missouri but then came back last week and took Texas Tech to overtime which shocked quite a few people. Meanwhile, Iowa State was looking good a couple of weeks ago, up big on Kansas at the half before falling apart in the 2nd half and losing by two, followed by their worst game of the year, last week at Baylor. But Iowa State has shown some promise. In their game at Iowa, they outgained a decent Iowa team, won the time of possession battle and the first down battle but came up short on the scoreboard. They lead the Big 12 in takeaways at +17 and sit at +7 in turnover margin, which ranks among the best in the country (Nebraska is -4). Their yards per point numbers are a tad better than Nebraska's but we'd have to give the edge to the Cornhuskers as far as strength of schedule. This will be the 2nd road game in a row for Nebraska and only the 2nd road game of the year for them as they started the season with 5 straight home games. We're also counting on a hangover affect from last weeks devastating overtime loss to Texas Tech, while Iowa State figures to improve drastically off of their worst performance of the year. We think this one has the potential to be a good competitive game so we'll grab the touchdown here with the home dog. Iowa State +7
2* Vanderbilt +15 over Georgia
We're not going to argue about the overall talent levels of these two teams. Georgia gets the nod. We'll also concede that the way things looked last week, the way Georgia dominated the Vols and held them to 16 yards rushing and the way Vanderbilt looked at Miss State, it would seem as though Vandy has no chance. All of which, by the way, creates a little extra line value for us here. But there are plenty of positives to draw on here. For one, this Georgia team is pretty much the same team from a year ago. We'll, a year ago, Vandy led Georgia 17-7 before losing 20-17 on a late field goal. They had 179 rushing yards and another 131 through the year. If you're worried about the QB situation at Vandy, don't. Mackenzie Adams replaced Chris Nickson last year early in the Georgia game and threw for 125 of those 131 yards going 7 for 10 in the process. He also came off the bench in the Auburn win this year. He gives Vandy the downfield threat they need to challenge the Georgia secondary and keep them honest. Don't be surprised to see Nickson in there as well. Vandy also beat Georgia the year before last, at Georgia, 24-22. So can Vandy, with their talent, compete with Georgia? The answer is in the last two years results. Of course they can. Keep in mind the last two years were losing ones for Vandy, just like the last 25 years. So if ever they are going to compete, why not now when they are having their best season ever??? Vanderbilt is playing the type of football that keeps games close. They shorten the game. They lead the SEC in sacks. They are the least penalized team in the SEC. They are one of the better teams in the country on the turnover margin chart. Their yards per point numbers are better than Georgia's mostly due to their making the most of their opportunities inside the red zone where they rank, you guessed it, number one in the SEC. Again, it's all the basic fundamentals here that have made Vandy 5-1 and able to compete. Do all the little things right, consistently, and you have all the makings of a sound, competitive football team.........oh, and how about some added motivation. Last year when Georgia won, they celebrated by dancing on the Vandy logo at midfield. Now, revenge is great in college football. But throw in something like that to add a little juice........hey, if I was coaching Vandy, I'd make the team watch that Georgia dance routine before and after every practice this week, and then one more time on the bus ride over to the stadium Saturday morning. This game has the potential to be better than many think. Vandy +15
2* Navy +3 over Pitt
Nothing ground breaking in our approach in this one. Simply two teams we feel are even with the home team, Navy, getting a field goal in a game that could go either way and probably has a great chance to be decided by 3. These two hooked up last year in a wild 48-45 shootout which Navy won. Pitt is 4-1 with their two most impressive wins being 21-20 over Iowa and 26-21 over South Florida on the road. But there's some question marks as well. Such as losing to Bowling Green and close games against Buffalo and Syracuse. Navy also has some question marks this year but, like Pitt, have a couple of equally impressive wins. Knocking off Wake Forest and Air Force, both on the road, in their last two games tells us Navy is playing some good ball. The Turnover margin favors Navy at +6 on the year to Pitts -3. We'll take the points here in a game that figures to come down to the wire. Pitt being ranked #23 in the Nation helps our cause. Anytime an unranked team plays a ranked team, particularly at home, there's added incentive. Hey, that could be Navy at #23 next week. Navy +3
2* North Carolina -4.5 over Virginia
Shop around. We see -4 out there. The question here is, which Virginia team shows up? The team that looked like the worst in the land the first 4 games of the year, or the team that beat Maryland 31-0 and East Carolina 35-20? Look at the difference in these two teams results against a common opponent, Uconn. NC beat Uconn 38-12 while Virginia lost 45-10!! Rather than guess which Virginia team will show up, we'll take into account the entire year for both squads. When doing so, we find a much more consistent and talented football team in North Carolina than we do with Virginia. At 5-1, The Tar Heels are the number one team in the nation in turnover margin at +11 while Virginia ranks 100 out of 119 teams in that category. Great ypp numbers for NC with a 10 on offense and an 18.5 on defense for a +8.5 overall compared with Virginia's dismal 18 on offense and 14 on defense for a -4 overall. The line on this game is reasonable enough at under a touchdown while the gap in talent appears wide enough to have us laying points, which is a rare occasion. North Carolina -4.5.
2* Kentucky -7.5 over Arkansas
Speaking of laying points.......not something we like to do, but sometimes it can't be avoided. This one for very similar reasons as the above game. This game opened Kentucky -11 and we think the oddsmakers had it right. We pointed out some glaring yards per point numbers in the NC/Virginia game and we have an even wider gap in this one. Arkansas with over 19 on offense and 10 on defense rates as just about the worst in all of college football while Kentucky with a 12 on offense and 26 on defense ranks as one of the best (using that stat). It's a significant stat because it tells you how hard a team has to work to put points on the board while also showing us how effective they are defensively at keeping opponents out of the end zone. Some will bring up schedule strength here but really, it's not an issue. They both played Alabama. Kentucky was on the road and lost by 3. Arkansas was home and lost by 35. We wouldn't get too caught up in the Auburn win last week either. It was two teams with new offenses both at the same point in their progress. Some are pointing to Kentucky's lack of offense in their arguments for this one being a close game. We'll go in another direction though. We'll point to Kentucky's defense, which currently ranks as the best scoring defense in the SEC and 3rd nationally, going up against an Arkansas team still learning the new schemes. Put another way, we may not be asking Kentucky to score all that much here. We may just be asking for a touchdown and a couple of field goals. We'll take the better team with the better defense and we'll lay a number that gets more and more favorable as each day goes by. Wait on this one, it may be less than touchdown by Saturday! Oh, and if you're wondering about turnover margins here, Kentucky is +7 and 11th in the nation.......Arkansas is -8 and ranked 114 out of 119 teams. Wow.Kentucky -7.5
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Georgia Tech / Clemson
PICK: 4* Georgia Tech -2
We were all set to attach a higher * Rating to the Yellow Jackets in this one before the Tommy Bowden departure caused that Monday market stir, but in this range it still holds up, particularly since Bowden’s dismissal adds an element of disorganization to a struggling Tiger team that did not need such a distraction.
The Clemson problem was really one of expectations that were set too high, which we focused on in turning that Alabama ticket against them in the opener (in retrospect, isn’t it shocking to have been able to take an underdog price on a neutral field between the teams?) and our NCAA ”Verities and Balderdash” column back on September 2nd. There were some decent skill players in the offensive backfield but the line in front of them was woefully inexperienced. Because of this they have never been able to get untracked on that side of the ball, and there is little reason to expect anything to get better – they have used five different OL combinations in six games, without a senior in the main mix, and only C Thomas Austin has started every game at the same position. Now Cory Lambert, who has started at two different positions already, looks like he will not be able to start this week, forcing freshman Antoine McClain, formerly the back-up at RT, to start at RG, where his 6-5/325 frame does not make him a natural fit. You can not build chemistry through all of these changes, and an aggressive Georgia Tech defense front can dominate the line of scrimmage throughout in this one.
The OL is only the beginning of the problems on offense this week. After the dismal offensive showing in the loss at Wake Forest, Bowden announced that he was benching veteran Cullen Harper in favor of the inexperienced but more mobile Willy Korn, and then the fireworks began. The comments from Harper on Monday afternoon were most blunt - ”It's what he deserved. I'd call it karma. I thought it needed to be done. I think anytime a head coach or someone in a leadership position starts to place blame on his coaches and players, it weakens their respect on the team. His past experiences have shown he's done that." When a veteran team leader is benched it not only causes that reaction, but a ripple effect through the other players as well, but new head man Dabo Swinney has indicated that it will still be Korn at QB. Not only does the freshman have that struggling OL in front of him, but there will also not be the comfort of having C. J. Spiller to carry the ball either. With both Bowden and offensive coordinator Rob Spence gone it is a most muddled situation, with even the stances of the linemen being changed this week by position coach Brad Scott. It is a recipe for major struggles vs. this class of defense.
Meawnhile we also focused on the Georgia Tech ground game in another ”Verities and Balderdash” column, as Paul Johnson’s schemes have worked quite well based on having mobile QB’s in Josh Nesbitt and Jaybo Shaw, talented runners in Jonathan Dwyer and Roddy Jones, and a big and physical WR corps that has done an excellent job of down-field blocking, and in the case of 6-3/229 Demaryius Thomas of catching the ball as well (18 receptions for 359 yards). There is no reason to be concerned with last week’s sluggish showing vs. Gardner-Webb, when Nesbitt and Shaw were both held out to cure minor ailments (each had practiced during the week), and a team that has produced the season-high in rush yards allowed vs. every lined opponent so far this season has a chance to do it again, in a game in which their own defense should provide them with plenty of field position.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Wisconsin at IOWA -3½
The Badgers roll into hostile territory and since I think these Hawkeyes have been an under-rated bunch thanks to some tough bounces, I’m going to lay the points against their Big 10 rival. In fact, everything bounces Iowa’s way today in what comes down to which quarterback I’d rather have on my side … Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi or Wisconsin’s Allan Evridge. And guys, I’ve taken an interest in how Stanzi has made tremendous progress by minimizing mistakes and capitalizing on opportunistic situations for Iowa.
Supporting Stanzi, we have running back Shonn Greene, who ranks 6th in the nation in rushing with 134 yards per game, so ball control will most certainly be on our side.
On the other hand, I’ve also taken notice in how Evridge has digressed, like last week, when he completed two passes against Penn State. He ranks 90th in the nation with total offense, and quite rankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t even get the nod in this one, as there’s been talk of a switch to junior Dustin Sherer. They’re listed as co-starters on the depth chart, and that’s fine with me, because either one will be forced to face the 18th-best pass-efficiency defense, 22nd-ranked total defense and 5th-best scoring stop unit. Bring on either one, that’s fine with me.
Iowa has covered 5 of the last 6 in series, while the Badgers are just 1-7 against the line away from Madison. And the bottom line is a win here is the key to Iowa’s bowl hopes. Lay the chalk.
Kansas at OKLAHOMA
Last week I had so many emails and phone calls from fellow handicappers telling me I was nuts to release the Red River Rivalry Over the posted total. All I heard about was Oklahoma’s defense, and how Texas was going to have to play conservative if it wanted to knock off the big, bad Sooners. Result: 80 points in what have been the best showdown in the rivalry the past decade.
Now, I am going to repeat this once again: the Big 12 is home to the No. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 scoring offenses in the nation. Kansas State is not far off ranking eighth while Kansas is at 24th in the country. Oklahoma is averaging 47.1 points per game while Kansas is averaging 34.3, and as Oklahoma will be rip-roaring mad to get back at Texas and will be looking to demolish the Jayhawks, I think it will forget – or just won’t care - to play defense. It’ll just want to score points and win big.
Looking inside the numbers, nine of Kansas’ last 13 on the road have gone over the posted total, while the Sooners are on over runs of 5-1 overall, 4-1 at home with teams that win on the road and 9-3 at home. As I said about last week’s premier game, let’s bank on this one going over the total.
2♦ Kansas/Oklahoma Over
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Vanderbilt @ Georgia
Vanderbilt (5-1, 3-1 SEC) took their first loss of the season last week, 14-17 at Mississippi State, in which they scuffled badly on offense with just 107 totals yards, prompting Coach Bobby Johnson to make a change at the trigger. Out is 6’1” 212 senior QB Chris Nickson (36 of 70 for 311 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT) who’s rushing skills (73 for 317 yards and 6 TD) have earned him all 6 starts this season. In is 6’3” 215 junior QB Mackenzi Adams (21 of 37 for 231 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) who’s superior arm earned 6 starts in 2007 (101 of 182 for 1043 yards and 9 TD) and has sparked the Commodores offense off the bench repeatedly this season. He sure can’t hurt a Vanderbilt passing game that is averaging a measly 90.3 yards per game on just 5.0 yards per attempt. This is good news for receivers Sean Walker (15 for 198 and TD), Jaime Graham (6 for 40) and Justin Wheeler (11 for 105 and TD) plus tight end Brandon Braden (10 for 93 and 2 TD). Each of these kids is a quality player and have been underutilized with Nickson under center. Coordinator Ted Cain needed to draw up running plays for Walker (10 for 108 yards and TD) and Graham (6 for 49 and TD) just to get the ball into the hands of his best athletes. Still, the ground game that has averaged 159.8 yards per game at 4.1 yards per attempt will be the centerpiece of Vandy’s attack. The line of 6’5” 275 sophomore LT Reilly Lauer, 6’3” 295 junior LG Ryan Custer, 6’3” 292 junior C Bradley Vierling, 6’2” 290 junior Nick Forte, and 6’7” 305 junior RT Thomas Welch make up the best group this team has fielded in years, paving the way for 5’10” 202 junior RB Jared Hawkins (79 for 333 yards and 3 TD rushing, 4 for 22 yards and TD receiving) to lead a squad that has banked 12 rushing scores in 2008. Against Georgia’s brutal rush defense, this unit must get off first.
Defensive Coordinator Bruce Fowler loves to send them and the results through 6 games have been big plays aplenty. The pressure that has racked up the SEC’s best 19 sacks has also been key to generating a whopping 11 interceptions and 4 fumble recoveries. 6’5” 272 junior LDE Steve Stone (14 T, 4 TFL, 3 S), 6’4” 290 junior LDT Greg Billinger (14 T, 3 ½ TFL, 2 S, BLK), 6’4” 285 sophomore RDT Adam Smotherman (7 T, 2 S), and 6’5” 230 Broderick Stewart (9 T, 4 TFL, 2 S, FF) plus backup end 6’3” 278 freshman TJ Greenstone (12 T, 4 ½ TFL) all have chased down quarterbacks this season as have each member of the speedy linebacking corps of 6’0” 220 junior WLB Patrick Benoist (44 T, 5 ½ TFL, 2 S), 6’0” 225 freshman MLB Chris Marve (33 T, 2 TFL, S, FF), and 6’5” 228 sophomore SLB John Stokes (8 T, 1 ½ S) plus backup 6’3” 218 junior LB Brent Trice (8 T, 2 S, FF, FR). No less than 12 different Commodores have recorded sacks this season and this front 7 is here to tell you that Vanderbilt isn’t the laugher on your schedule that it used to be. Maybe the best player Coach Johnson has to work with is 5’10” 182 senior RCB DJ Moore. Not only has Moore averaged 19.7 yards per punt return and 22.5 yards per kick return but he has been all over the ball on defense. 17 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and a sack, a forced fumble, a recovered fumble, and 2 picks fill up the stat sheet even though opponents rarely choose to test Moore. 6’3” 202 junior LCB Myron Lewis (31 ½ T, 4 TFL, 3 S, 2 INT) has been more than up to the task he takes on with a physical style. Fielding the middle are 6’2” 212 senior SS Reshard Langford (31 T, 2 INT) and 6’2” 210 FS Ryan Hamilton (33 T, 2 TFL, S, 3 INT, 2 FR, FF). Each of these kids brings major pop and dynamite ball skills to the table. By the numbers, Vanderbilt’s defense has allowed 16.3 points on 318.7 yards per game and the way they turn the ball over, they have the ability to shock any team in the nation on any given Saturday.
Georgia (5-1, 2-1 SEC) uncharacteristically turned the ball over twice in the Red Zone but still managed a 26-14 win over Tennessee in Athens last week – just the fifth and sixth turnovers of the year and just the second and third time Mark Richt’s (77-20 in 8th season) crew has come up empty in the Red Zone for the entire season. With 9 returning starters, the Bulldog defense was expected to be strong and they have not disappointed – especially against the run. 6’5” 275 senior LDE Jarius Wynn (4 T), 6’4” 292 senior LDT Corvey Irvin (15 T, 4 TFL, 2 S), 6’1” 287 junior RDT Geno Atkins (19 T, 3 ½ TFL), and 6’4” 246 senior RDE Jeremy Lomax (5 T, TFL, FR) get the starts but Defensive Coordinator Willie Martinez actually rotates personnel liberally with sophomore Demarcus Dobbs (11 T, 1 ½ S, INT, FF), sophomore Brandon Wood (10 T), and freshman Justin Houston (8 T, 2 ½ TFL, S) getting plenty of snaps and keeping the attack fresh. Just 52.2 rush yards per game at 2.1 yards per carry have been allowed by this unit and just 20 rushing first downs have been surrendered all season plus they get help this week. The physical 6’1” 243 senior MLB Dannell Ellerbe (12 T, TFL, INT) has missed time with an ankle injury but returns to pair with his explosive young mate 5’11” 228 sophomore WLB Rennie Curran (47 T, 7 TFL, 3 S, 2 FF) who has simply been a sideline to sideline machine this season. 6’2” 247 sophomore MLB Darryl Gamble (25 T, S) has been very solid in place of Ellerbe and we expect both to get plenty of snaps with the extra beef a plus against Vanderbilt’s rush game. The play of Georgia’s secondary hasn’t been nearly impressive and was flat-out exposed by the 41 points Alabama shredded them for. 5’10” 190 junior RCB Asher Allen (22 T, 2 ½ TFL, FR) is a fine player but 5’8” 196 junior LCB Prince Miller (21 T, S) just doesn’t bring the height to compete for balls in the air. 6’2” 198 senior SS CJ Byrd (19 T, FR) and 6’2” 212 sophomore Reshad Jones (23 T, TFL, INT) certainly have the size but lack the break to generate turnovers. Through 6 games, this squad has forced just 3 interceptions and 3 lost fumbles. With just 273.8 yards allowed per game, Georgia should be allowing less than 18.3 points and the lack of turnovers is the key.6’3” 228 junior QB Matthew Stafford (111 of 80 for 1503 yards, 8 TD, 3 INT) is about as dependable as they come with 25 consecutive starts under his belt and is a serious NFL prospect, consistently demonstrating good decision making – at least up until his misadventures last week in the Red Zone. TE Trip Chandler will likely miss again this week with 6’4” 225 freshman Aron White taking his place with 6’0” 240 FB Brannan Southerland also getting snaps at a position that is almost exclusively used in blocking under Offensive Coordinator Mike Bobo. Bobo has a trio of big receivers to make the catches and they have been piling up the stats in bunches so far. 6’2” 204 senior Mohamed Massaquoi (23 for 331 yards and 3 TD) was to be the star this season along with 6’2” 200 junior Michael Moore (13 for 196 and TD) but it has been 6’4” 200 freshman AJ Green (29 for 441 and 3 TD) that has ripped up defenses all season at better than 15 yards per catch. By the numbers, the Bulldogs score 33.0 points on 430.3 yards per game and the rushing attack of 159.2 rush yards per game at 4.7 yards per carry with 13 scores is at least an equal emphasis. 5’11” 208 sophomore RB Knowshon Moreno (105 for 590 yards) has crossed the goal line 10 times already this year in addition to 10 catches for 124 yards while 5’11” 212 freshman Caleb King (42 for 193 and TD) has proven equally tough to stop when given the shot. This is one dangerous offensive team but we don’t see them as elite for just one reason…offensive line. LT Vince Vance was loss last week with a season-ending knee injury, making an already makeshift line even more of a question mark. This week Georgia will go with 3 freshman and 2 sophomores with 6’5” 286 LT Clint Boling, 6’4” LG Chris Davis, 6’3” 304 C Ben Jones, 6’5” 331 RG Cordy Glenn, and 6’5” 338 RT Justin Anderson. Georgia fans know these kids are blue chips in the making but they also know none has played at the same position all year and only Davis has started in all 6 games.
SELECTION: So how can you have a Homecoming Game following a home date? Anyway, the Commodores spoiled the Bulldogs’ Homecoming in 2006 on a last-second field goal by K Brian Hahnfelt (7 of 8 and long of 48 yards this season) and have a shot this season. Their sack attack and ability to turn the ball over could mean trouble for Georgia’s very young offensive line. 64 penalties for Georgia compared to just 26 for Vanderbilt could also be key. Take Vanderbilt + 14 ½ between the hedges.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Michigan Wolverines @ Penn State Nittany Lions
New Michigan head coach Rich Rodgriguez and this year’s football program making a name for themselves in the history of Wolverine football. Unfortunately, this team is being recognized for it’s futility and the task of restoring Michigan to a premier football program in the Big Ten and nationally is not going to get any easier this weekend whent they travel to University Park Pennsylvania to take on the #3 ranked Nittany Lions. The (2-4) Wolverines are off to their worst start since 1967 and lost last Saturday for the first time ever to a team from the MAC (10-13) when K.C. Lopata missed a game tying 26 yard field goal with :04 seconds remaining in the game.
At the other end of the spectrum, Penn State is heading into Saturday’s game coming off an impressive (48-7) win on the road over the Wisconsin Badgers. It remains to be seen how long the 81 year old head coach Joe Paterno will coach but, based on how well Penn State has played so far this season, I don’t think anyone will be calling for his ouster anytime soon. This may be one of Paterno’s best teams in his coaching career and barring a major screwups, only road games against the Ohio State Buckeyes (Oct. 25th and the Iowa Hawkeyes (Nov. 8th) stand in the way of what could be a very special season for Paterno and his Nittany Lions.
There’s not many positives Coach Rodriguez can boast about this season and it is not totally unexpected the Wolverines are struggling in their first year under the new coach with an entirely different approach than his predecessor, Lloyd Carr. However, I’m sure the Michigan faithful never expected the team to be as bad as they’ve shown this year and the climb back to prominence may take longer than expected. Carr retired after last season with a (9-4) record and a big bowl victory over the Florida Gators (41-35). Carr was under criticism for his last few years for teams that did not meet expectations and mainly because he could not beat the Wolverines biggest rival in the Big Ten, Jim Tressel’s Ohio State Buckeyes. Rodriguez was hired with high expectations after turning around the West Virginia football program with a high-powered motion-spread offense. The players he took over at Michigan were not recruited for this system and until Rodriguez get some players that better fit his system, the Wolverines will continue to struggle. Michigan ranks dead last in offense in the Big Ten scoring 18.8 points/game. The defense ranks eighth in the Big Ten giving up points at a clip of 24.8 points/game. You know things are bad when the one player of note on the Michigan team is punter, Zoltan Mesko, who leads the Big Ten with a 45.2 average. It’s very possible he’ll get to show off his powerful leg many times this Saturday against the stingy Penn State defense.
The Nittany Lions have big time playmakers on offense and the #6 ranked defense in the nation. Sr Daryll Clark (6′2 231lbs) was named the starter this summer and Nittany Lion fans have to wonder why he was not playing sooner. He’s completing 65% of his passes, has a touchdown to interception ratio of 10:2 and has rushed for another 6 touchdowns. Sophomore Evan Royster leads the rushing attack with a 7.3 avg and 9 touchdowns on the ground. The talented receiving corps of Deon Bulter, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams must have been held back a couple of years because they seem to have been at Penn State for the last decade. Williams adds another threat as a return man having run two kickoffs and one punt back for touchdowns to go along with his gaudy return averages. Beaver stadium is loud and rockin’ everytime the Penn State plays and a difficult venue to travel to.
What do you want to hear? Michigan has a chance to go in and pull the upset. Not in this world. Penn State is a 23½ point favorite with a total of 47½. JoePa is famous for covering the spread, conciously or not. With next weeks game against Ohio State will JoePa be conservative and save his troops for the Buckeyes? My thought is no, take the Nittany Lions to be ahead by 4 touchdowns before they call off the dogs. Take Penn State minus the points and get ready for the big game next week against Ohio State
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Missouri at Texas
Pick: Missouri +4
It seems like every time you look at the schedule, there is a BIG-12 game going on with National Title implications. This week is no different! Texas took care of business last week in the Red River Rivalry. Now they get the privledge of facing Mizzou and Texas Tech right afterward. Missouri got caught snoozing last week as Chase Daniels threw three INTs resulting in the Tigers' first loss of the year. The Longhorns came from behind last week, expending a lot of energy and emotion in the monster game vs. the Sooners. You have to wonder if they can bring the same type of play for a second week in a row vs. a Missouri team that has equal weapons at their disposal, and strong motivation after their loss. Missouri players know that a win here vs. the #1 team puts them back on the National Title map. A second-straight loss and the hopes are shot. There is talent all over the field here, and the difference is likely to be mindset. Not that Texas doesn't want to win as much as Missouri.But, after what they had to do last week in a physically and emotionally draining game vs. their most hated rival, there is no place to go but down. I expect that to be the difference maker here. Missouri has won six of the last nine Big 12 road games against the spread and I like them here.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Nebraska -6.5 / Iowa State
The Huskers almost pulled off the biggest upset of the week by taking Texas Tech to the wire in OT, only to make a bad play in OT which cost them the game, One thing is for sure, Bo Pellini will have them ready to play at what I call the "snake pit" in Ames Iowa. Iowa State put themselves on the radar screen two weeks ago by leading Kansas by 20 points in Ames before blowing it. They followed that effort up by a 28 point loss to bottom feeder Baylor last week in Waco. This game looks close on paper, but bear in mind Nebraska has lost 3 in a row all to ranked opponents, Virginia Tech, Missouri and Texas Tech, and in 2 of those games, one or two plays and NU comes out with a 2-1 record versus 0-3. I do not see a decent Nebraska team who can balance the attack and play some multiple scheme defense losing their 4th game in Ames this week, they are due for a win, and while a trip to Ames Iowa is never easy, after getting waxed by Baylor, doubt the Cyclones recover in time against a hungry Nebraska team. Nebraska 31 Iowa State 20
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Black Widow Sports
1* on Illinois -16
Illinois will bring a fiery passion to the field after having a letdown last week against Minnesota. It won’t take much of an effort for the Fighting Illini to crush Indiana this week, but the effort will clearly be there following a terrible loss to the Gophers. Indiana is coming off a 45-9 home loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes, who had lost 3 straight games heading in. Indiana QB Kellen Lewis suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of the second half in that game, and he likely won’t be playing for the Hoosiers this weekend. Illinois won last year against a very good Indiana team on the road 27-14. Indiana’s defense is susceptible to the run, and last year Illinois put up 288 yards on the ground against the Hoosiers. Illinois will be able to do whatever they want offensively this week, and they’ll be able to sustain a big lead with their running game. Indiana is 5-17 ATS (-13.7 Units) in road games vs. good offensive teams - scoring 31 or more points/game since 1992. Indiana is 9-23 ATS (-16.3 Units) after having lost 4 out of their last 5 games since 1992. The Hoosiers are 2-12 ATS (-11.2 Units) in road games after 2 consecutive games with a turnover margin of -1 or worse since 1992. Whether Lewis plays or not, Indiana doesn’t have the manpower to slow down a pissed off Fighting Illini squad with a great running game. Take Illinois and lay the points.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
1 Unit on Oregon State -14
Washington is off to a disastrous 0-5 start. Oregon State has played great football for four straight weeks, winning 3 of 4 and covering the number in all 4 games. Washington has been absolutely pathetic on the road this season, losing by 34 points in each of those games to Oregon and Arizona. OSU is 6-0 ATS vs. poor passing defenses - allowing a comp. pct. of 58% or worse over the last 2 seasons and 7-0 ATS versus poor rushing teams - averaging <=120 rushing yards/game over the last 3 seasons. Washington is just 9-23 ATS off a road loss against a conference rival since 1992. I like OSU by three touchdowns. Lay the number.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Jeff Alexander Sports
1 Unit on Air Force -4
The Falcons are a nightmare matchup for UNLV and I like them to run all over the Rebs this Saturday. After big wins over ASU and Iowa State, the Rebs have been spanked each of the past two weeks and it appears this early season surpriser if fading fast. Once conference play arrives, UNLV traditionally struggles against the number. UNLV is 5-14 ATS after the first month of the season over the last 3 seasons and 2-10 ATS in weeks 5 through 9 over the last 3 seasons. Air Force has been one of the strongest covering teams the past few seasons, especially in MWC play. Air Force is 13-4 ATS in all lined games over the last 2 seasons and 10-1 ATS against conference opponents over the last 2 seasons. Air Force wins and covers for the third straight time on the road this season.