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SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
Florida International at Troy (-7)
Troy's only two losses this season have come on the road at Ohio State and at Oklahoma State, both who are currently ranked in the top 15. The Trojans have dominated the Sun Belt for the past two plus seasons posting a 14-2 record. This year has been no different as they have won two league games comfortably despite playing both on the road. The only negative on this team right now is that starting QB Hampton was lost for the season in last game vs FAU, but not much separated Hampton from his two backups in preseason competition. Having not played since last Tuesday, Troy has valuable extra time to groom a new starter. Athletic WR Jernigan is expected to take some snaps at QB as well to mix things up. Troy averages 180 rushing yards per game and ran for 299 yards on 7.7ypc at FIU last year so they likely will not have to put too much pressure on their quarterbacks. FIU has strung together three straight wins (four straight ATS) but have not been impressive either visually or statistically. They were +4 turnovers each at Toledo and at North Texas, winning both games despite finishing with less total yards. Last week FIU had two key interception returns totaling 98 yards lead to their first two touchdowns and MTSU shot themselves in the foot multiple times throughout the game. FIU currently ranks dead last in the country in total yards per game and is 116th of 119 in average yards per play. Even in their three games against non-BCS teams (Toledo, North Texas, MTSU) they have only averaged 307 yards which would rank them close to 100th. The Golden Panthers are improved but are still 4-26 in their last 30 games and are the youngest FBS football program in the country. Recent injuries to starters on both sides of the line and being outrushed 4.2ypc to 2.7ypc by MTSU (one of the worst rushing teams in the country) last week are cause for concern. Troy is an impressive 29-5 straight up at home under coach Blakeney. This will just be Troy's second home game of the season, their first in 35 days, first against a meaningful opponent, and it is homecoming week. With FIU tied for first in the Sun Belt standings, they are sure to get Troy's full attention which is not something they are used to given their short history of success. Give the points.
Play: Troy -7 for 2 UNITS
Utah State at Nevada (-20)
Nevada had won two straight road games impressively before an improbable slip up vs New Mexico State last week. An 83 yard fumble return for a TD followed by a muffed punt on consecutive series in the 3rd quarter along with three fourth down conversions of 5, 7, and 20 yards allowed NMSU to escape with a narrow 3 point win. Nevada is 9-4 ATS since 2005 after a straight up loss and they figure to bounce back strong again here. Nevada's defense has been burnt through the air by some of the top passing teams in the country this year but get a much more favorable matchup this week. The Utah State offense is one of the worst in the country and last week did not have a single net passing yard in the entire first half vs San Jose State. Nevada only won by 3 last year at Utah State but held a dominating 472-212 total yard edge and were in a huge letdown spot on short rest having just lost at Boise St in 4OT the previous Sunday. Injuries and defections have plagued the Utah State roster since preseason camp and they are anything but a team who has the luxury of quality depth. One announcer called the defense a "mash unit" at the start of last week's game. The top two defensive players on the team, DE Calderwood (stomach) and LB Hutton (foot) are trying to play through health issues and are less than full strength. The Aggies are still playing two quarterbacks with neither being able to secure the position full time. Calls for head coach Brent Guy's job are growing louder by the day. Nevada is 13-4 ATS as a home favorite under Chris Ault. There will be homecoming and hall of fame ceremonies at the game. Expect the Wolfpack to roll here.
Play: Nevada -20 for 1 UNIT
Re: SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
3 Star Selection
Akron (-3.5) 35 EASTERN MICH 21
I don’t understand the line on this game. Akron is a pretty decent MAC team that has averaged 5.4 yards per play and allowed 5.7 yppl and been out-scored by an average of just 26.1 points to 27.3 points against a schedule of teams that is about 4 points worse than average. Eastern Michigan, meanwhile, has been out-gained 5.0 yppl to 6.5 yppl and out-scored 14.7 points to 34.8 points in 6 games against Division 1A teams that rate at 5 ½ points worse than average. The Eagles did manage a victory a couple of weeks ago against Bowling Green, but they then lost last week to a pathetic Army squad and lost by 24 points or more in their other 4 games against 1A opposition. The Eagles are also without their best quarterback, Kyle McMahon, who is out for the season after averaging 7.1 yards per pass play on 77 pass plays against teams that would allow 6.8 yppp to an average quarterback. Quarterback Andy Schmitt has averaged just 5.2 yppp this season against teams that would allow 6.7 yppp. Schmitt doesn’t throw many interceptions (just 14 career picks on 611 passes, 2.3%) and Akron quarterback Chris Jacquemain does tend to be more careless with the ball (20 interceptions on 519 pass attempts, 3.9%), but my math model gives Akron a 58% chance to cover at -3 1/2 points even with Eastern Michigan projected to have fewer turnovers. The Zips also apply to a 63-16-3 ATS statistical match-up indicator and I’ll take Akron in a 3-Star Best Bet at -6 points or less, for 4-Stars at -2 ½ or less, and for 2-Stars at -6 ½ or -7 points.
3 Star Selection
NORTHERN ILL (-8.5) 31 Toledo 14
Toledo is coming off a huge upset win at Michigan, but it’s going to be tough for the Rockets to avoid a letdown this week. Toledo, in fact, applies to a very negative 18-66 ATS road letdown situation that is based on last week’s upset win and the Rockets are not generally a good road team (7-19-2 ATS). Toledo isn’t really a good, a the Rockets have been 0.6 yards per play worse than average offensively (5.1 yppl against teams that would allow 5.7 yppl to an average team) – although only 0.5 yppl worse than average with RB DaJuane Collins healthy – 0.1 yppl worse than average defensively and horrible on special teams. Toledo has been out-scored by an average of 8.2 points by teams that are 1.3 points worse than average. Northern Illinois, meanwhile, has out-scored their opponents (who are 12.8 points worse than average) by an average of 12.5 points (so they’ve been about average based on scoring) and the Huskies have been solid from the line of scrimmage – rating at 0.3 yppl worse than average offensively (5.7 yppl against teams that would allow 6.0 yppl) and 0.2 yppl better than average defensively, yielding just 4.6 yppl to teams that would average 4.8 yppl against an average team. The Huskies started off the season very strong offensively with freshman Chandler Harnish at quarterback (they averaged 6.6 yppl and scored 27 points against Minnesota), but Harnish was injured early in week 2 and just came back last week. Harnish’s stats (416 yards on 44 pass plays for 9.5 yppp) are misleading since he connected on a couple of big plays, including a 91 yard play, against Minnesota, but he should be better than backups Nicholson and Grady were (although the Huskies will miss Grady’s rushing skills). The Huskies surely remember last year’s game in which the Rockets ran up the score against NIU’s injury depleted defense in a 70-21 win. That defense is now very strong and will get some payback today. My math model favors Northern Illinois by 13 points and Toledo’s very negative situation makes NIU a good bet here. I’ll take Northern Illinois in a 3-Star Best Bet at -9 points or less and for 2-Stars at -9 ½ or -10 points.
3 Star Selection
PENN ST. (-23.5) 41 Michigan 6
I doubt that Penn State will feel sorry for a Wolverines squad that has beaten them by a combined 14 points the last 3 seasons and the Nittany Lions will get their sweet revenge today against an impotent Wolverines squad that just lost at home to Toledo. Michigan is a pretty good defensive team, allowing 5.0 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.4 yppl against an average defensive team, but that unit is not any better than the average defensive rating of the 6 Division 1A teams that Penn State has averaged 42 points against. Penn State’s attack has averaged 6.9 yards per play with starting quarterback Daryll Clark behind center in those 6 games against 1A opposition, who would combine to allow 5.2 yppl to an average team and my math model projects 7.0 yppl and 41 points for the Nittany Lions in this game. Penn State combines their explosive offense with a devastatingly good defense that has yielded just 4.0 yppl in 6 Division 1A games to a schedule of teams that would average 5.6 yppl against an average defensive unit. Michigan is pathetic offensively, averaged just 4.6 yppl against teams that would allow 5.4 yppl to an average team and the Wolverines averaged a paltry 3.2 yppl at home against the only really good defensive team that they faced (Utah). Penn State can name the score in this game and my math model projects a 35 point win if the Nittany Lions play their starters the entire game. Penn State’s backups haven’t given up many points either this season and my math model gives the Nittany Lions a 61.8% chance of covering at -23 ½ points even without factoring in the 64-20 ATS home favorite momentum situation that applies to Penn State. I’ll take Penn State in a 3-Star Best Bet at -26 points or less and for 2-Stars from -26 ½ or -27 points.
3 Star Selection
Oregon St. (-14.0) 45 WASHINGTON 17
Oregon State is not getting enough respect, which probably goes back to their opening game loss to Stanford and their 14-45 loss at Penn State in game 2. However, the Beavers are a very good team and their win over USC was no fluke. The loss to Stanford was a fluke, however, as Oregon State out-gained a better than average Cardinal team 6.0 yards per play to 4.9 yppl on the road. Losing big at Penn State is not such a negative now given how the Nittany Lions have been dominating everyone and the Beavers actually played better than average on both sides of the ball in that game after taking into account how good Penn State is. Oregon State’s other loss was by just 3 points on the road to a very good Utah team and the Beavers out played the Utes 6.3 yppl to 4.9 yppl in that game. Oregon State has played the 2nd toughest schedule in the nation and the Beavers have out-gained their opponents 5.9 yppl to 4.9 yppl, which is extremely impressive considering their opponents would combine to out-gain an average team 5.9 yppl to 4.8 yppl. Washington has played the toughest schedule in the nation, but the Huskies have been dominated to the tune of 4.5 yppl on offense while allowing 7.5 yppl and being out-scored by an average of 18.6 to 42.0. Washington is a couple of points better with sophomore quarterback Ronnie Fouch in place of injured starter Jake Locker, as Fouch is a better passer, but the Huskies rate at 0.1 yppl worse than average with Fouch at quarterback and Oregon State is 1.0 yppl better than average on defense. The Beavers have only allowed more than 4.9 yppl to Penn State and USC, two of the top 5 offensive units in the nation, and Washington has scored more than 14 points only against BYU and Stanford, who are both closer to mediocre defensively than good. Oregon State is actually the best defensive teams that Washington has faced this season so far and I just don’t see the Huskies getting more than 17 to 20 points in this game unless the Beavers are very negative in turnovers. Oregon State will probably only have to score 30 to 35 points to cover the spread in this game and the Huskies have allowed an average of 42 points to teams that are collectively 0.3 yppl worse offensively than Oregon State would be on the road against an average team. Oregon State, meanwhile, has faced only one worse than average defense and the Beavers scored 66 points in that game last week against Washington State despite turning the ball over 4 times. Oregon State has a history of beating up on mediocre and bad conference foes under coach Mike Riley, whose team is now 16-4 ATS in conference games against teams with a win percentage of .500 or lower (5-0 ATS since last season). The Huskies, meanwhile, are now just 6-17 ATS in Pac-10 games when not an underdog of at least 20 points under coach Willingham. Perhaps the line on this game is much lower than it should be because people remember Washington’s near upset of an overrated BYU team. However, Washington was out-gained 5.0 yppl to 7.4 yppl and it was a fluke that they were even close in that contest. I’ll take Oregon State in a 3-Star Best Bet at -16 ½ points or less and for 2-Stars at -17 points.
3 Star Selection
Missouri 37 TEXAS (-5.0) 32
The line on this game is a bit off due to last week’s disparate results, with Texas upsetting Oklahoma and Missouri getting upset by Oklahoma State, and the Tigers apply to a great bounce-back situation this week to go along with the line value that last week provided. Missouri lost last week to a very good Oklahoma State team due to 3 rare interceptions by Chase Daniel, who had thrown just 1 in 5 previous games, but the Tigers out-gained the Cowboys 6.5 yards per play to 6.0 yppl – which is very good considering Oklahoma State would out-gain an average team 6.7 yppl to 5.1 yppl on the road. Texas, meanwhile, was out-gained by an average of 6.3 yppl to 6.7 yppl by Oklahoma but took advantage of a +2 in turnover margin to win that game. The Longhorns did actually perform very well, as Oklahoma would out-gain an average team 6.8 yppl to 4.5 yppl on a neutral field. So, Missouri was 2.1 yppl better than an average team in defeat last week while Texas was 1.9 yppl better than average in victory. The season numbers for these two teams also favor the Tigers, as Missouri has been an incredible 2.6 yppl better than average offensively with Chase Daniel in the game (8.0 yppl against teams that would allow 5.6 yppl to an average team) and 0.5 yppl better than average defensively. Texas has been 1.4 yppl better than average offensively with Colt McCoy under center, but I rate the Longhorns attack at +1.7 yppl with RB Chris Ogbonnaya as the main back the last two games (he’s averaging 7.1 ypr while the other two main backs have averaged just 3.7 ypr). The Longhorns’ defense has been just 0.4 yppl better than average this season (5.0 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.4 yppl against an average team) and they gave up 6.7 yppl and 8.7 yards per pass play to Oklahoma last week and Missouri’s offense is better than that of the Sooners. Missouri actually has a huge advantage from the line of scrimmage using all games played by both teams (Missouri is a total of +3.1 yppl and Texas is at +2.1 yppl), but the Tigers racked up some big numbers against bad teams and I decided to do a profile analysis to get a better idea of how good each team has fared against good competition. Missouri’s offense has faced two better than average defensive teams in Illinois and Oklahoma State and the Tigers are have been a less incredible 1.6 yppl better than average on offense in those 2 games (6.6 yppl against teams that would allow 5.0 yppl) while the Texas defense was just 0.1 yppl better than average in the only game they’ve played against a good offensive team (last week against Oklahoma). Texas has faced two better than average defensive teams (the last two week against Colorado and Oklahoma) and the Longhorns’ attack has been 1.4 yppl better than average in those games (6.1 yppl against teams that would allow 4.7 yppl). Missouri’s defense, meanwhile, has had to face 4 good offensive teams this season in Illinois, Nevada, Nebraska, and Oklahoma State and the Tigers have been 0.8 yppl better than average defensively in those games, allowing 5.6 yppl to teams that would average 6.4 yppl against an average team. The profile analysis reveals that Missouri has been 2.4 yppl better than average against good competition (+1.6 yppl on offense and +0.8 yppl on defense) while Texas has been +1.5 yppl better than average against better competition (+1.4 yppl on offense and +0.1 yppl on defense) – so Missouri still has a solid advantage. Neither quarterback makes a habit of throwing interceptions (I project Texas with a +0.3 turnover margin) and Missouri only has a slight edge in special teams and it is pretty clear to me that the Tigers are the better team getting nearly a touchdown. Missouri’s loss last week also sets them up in a very strong 25-1 ATS subset of a 65-12 ATS bounce-back situation that has been very good to me over the years (23-5 ATS since I discovered the situation). I’ll take Missouri in a 3-Star Best Bet at +3 ½ points or more, for 4-Stars at +6 or more and for 2-Stars at +3 points.
2 Star Selection
NAVY 30 Pittsburgh (-3.0) 26
Pittsburgh is an overrated team with a 1-4 spread mark that is suddenly ranked because they beat another overrated team in South Florida two weeks ago. The Panthers have out-gained an average schedule of opponents by only 5.1 yards per play to 4.8 yppl while rating at 0.5 yppl worse than average offensively and 0.7 yppl better than average defensively. The Pitt defense, while very good overall, isn’t good defending the run (5.0 yards per rushing play allowed to teams that would average 4.8 yprp against an average team), so the match-up against Navy’s option attack is a bad one for the Panthers – whose great pass defense is a non-factor in this game. Pittsburgh had a very good run defense last season and still couldn’t handle Navy’s option attack in a 45-48 loss in which the Midshipmen racked up 497 total yards at 5.9 yppl. Navy’s offense this season is as good as ever, as the Middies have averaged 5.7 yppl in 5 games against Division 1A opponents that would combine to allow 4.9 yppl to an average team. Navy isn’t as good with backup quarterback Jarod Bryant running the attack (just 0.4 yppl better than average), but starting quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada has practiced with the first team unit this week and looks like he may be ready to play on his strained hamstring. Navy is 1.1 yppl better than average with Kaheaku-Enhada at quarterback, but I’ll assume Bryant will play the entire game just to be conservative. Navy’s defense is still an issue, as they rate at 0.5 yppl worse than average, but Pittsburgh likes to run the ball and the Middies are good against the run (4.2 yprp allowed in 5 Division 1A games against teams that would average 4.6 yprp against an average defense). While Pittsburgh would rate a slight edge overall from the line of scrimmage, the match-up of Navy’s run-heavy attack makes a Pitt defense that is 0.7 yppl better than average less effective and my math model projects Navy to average 6.1 yppl with 344 rushing yards while Pitt manages just 5.4 yppl with their bad offense going up against Navy’s bad defense. Navy should be favored in this game even if I assume Kaheaku-Enhada will not play for the Midshipmen, which is probably not the case. I’ll take Navy in a 2-Star Best Bet at +3 points or more (-1.15 odds or better) and I’d consider Navy a Strong Opinion from +2 ½ to +1 point.
2 Star Selection
NEVADA (-21.0) 46 Utah St. 16
Nevada did not match up well with New Mexico State last week, as the Aggies were able to exploit the week Wolf Pack secondary in a 48-45 upset win. Nevada is now 1.7 yards per pass play worse than average defensively (7.6 yppp allowed to teams that would average 5.9 yppp against an average team), but Utah State’s porous pass attack is not likely to exploit that weakness today and the Wolf Pack are among the best in the nation defending the run (3.5 yards per rushing play allowed to teams that would average 4.8 yprp). Utah State’s dual quarterbacks have averaged only 5.0 yppp (against teams that would allow 6.3 yppp to an average team) and the Aggies have managed just 4.7 yards per play overall this season (against teams that would allow 5.6 yppl to an average team). Nevada is 0.6 yppl worse than average overall defensively, but that number is skewed by the 10.0 yppl they gave up to Missouri and the Wolf Pack gave up a reasonable 4.2 yppl at Idaho, the only average or worse Division 1A offense that they’ve faced (Idaho would average 4.5 yppl at home against an average team), and they also allowed just 3.4 yppl to Grambling. Utah State may score around 20 points in this game, but Nevada has scored 45 points or more in all but the two games in which they faced good defensive teams in Texas Tech and Missouri. The Wolf Pack have averaged 7.0 yppl (against teams that would allow 5.7 yppl) with starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the field and Utah State, while not horrible defensively at 0.3 yppl worse than average, isn’t good enough to stop Nevada from scoring. Kaepernick is one of the best running quarterbacks in the nation (673 yards on 58 rushing plays) while also being a good passer (6.9 yppp against teams that would allow 6.3 yppp to an average quarterback) and Kaepernick has thrown just 6 interceptions in 395 career pass attempts. Nevada also has two running backs that have averaged over 6 yards per rush and they are tough to stop. Utah State has faced just one team with good running backs and a running quarterback and the Aggies allowed 425 rushing yards at 8.3 yprp and 66 points at Oregon, so they don’t figure to have much luck stopping Nevada today. My math model only favors Nevada by 22 points, but the Wolf Pack apply to a very strong 75-17 ATS statistical match-up indicator that is 10-2 ATS for me since I discovered it a few years ago. I’ll take Nevada in a 2-Star Best Bet at -23 points or less.
2 Star Selection
Stanford (-1.5) 29 UCLA 19
Stanford starting quarterback Tavita Pritchard was knocked out of last week’s game with a concussion and was playing very well at the time, but backup Alex Loukas led the game winning drive over Arizona running a spread option attack that surprised the Wildcats. Pritchard has been upgraded to probable and the Cardinal are a much better team than UCLA. Stanford’s offense has averaged 5.6 yppl when Pritchard has been in the game (against teams that would combine to allow just 5.0 yppl to an average team) and while Pritchard’s numbers are a bit below average, the Cardinal have two very good running backs in Toby Gerhart (641 yards at 5.8 ypr) and Anthony Kimble (419 yards at 6.3 ypr) and have averaged 5.7 yards per rushing play this season (against teams that would allow just 4.6 yprp to an average team). UCLA has given up 5.5 yprp this season (to teams that would average 5.0 yprp against an average defensive team) and they gave up 345 rushing yards at 8.6 yprp last week at Oregon and could stop Fresno State either (219 yards at 5.8 yprp) – so Stanford’s rushing attack should work well. Overall UCLA’s defense is just 0.2 yppl better than average, so the Cardinal have an advantage when they have the ball. Stanford also has an advantage when the Bruins have the ball. UCLA’s porous attack has averaged only 4.5 yards per play this season (against teams that would allow 5.3 yppl to an average team) while the Stanford defense is 0.1 yppl better than average. Stanford also has superior special teams in addition to being 1.4 yppl better than UCLA on offense and only 0.1 yppl worse than the Bruins on defense. In addition to the line value, the Cardinal apply to a very strong 71-19-1 ATS statistical match-up indicator and I’ll take Stanford in a 2-Star Best Bet at -3 or less and for 3-Stars at -1 or better.
Re: SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
IOWA (-3.5) 30 Wisconsin 19
I pegged Wisconsin as the most overrated team in the nation heading into the season (I played them under 9 wins) and that prognosis has proven pretty accurate given their consecutive losses to Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. Wisconsin is a pretty good offensive team that rates at 0.5 yards per play better than average (5.6 yppl against teams that would allow 5.1 yppl to an average attack) and the Badgers are pretty good on defense too (5.1 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.6 yppl against an average defense). Pretty good isn’t likely to be good enough to win on the road against an underrated Iowa team that rates at 0.8 yppl better than average on offense with Ricky Stanzi at quarterback and 0.6 yppl better than average defensively. Stanzi split time with incumbent Jake Christenson the first 4 games, but he has established himself as the better quarterback – averaging 7.3 yards per pass play against teams that would combine to allow 5.9 yppp to an average quarterback. Iowa’s defense hasn’t allowed more than 5.1 yppl and 22 points to any team all season. In addition to their advantage from the line of scrimmage, the Hawkeyes are also considerably better in special teams and certainly should be favored by more than the standard home field advantage. I’ll consider Iowa a Strong Opinion from -3 ½ to -5 points and I’d take the Hawkeyes in a 2-Star Best Bet at -3 (-115 odds or better) or less.
Southern Miss 35 RICE (-2.0) 31
What we have here are two teams that are comparable offensively while one team is much better defensively and in special teams – and the better team is getting points. Rice is a pretty good offensive team that has averaged 5.9 yards per play against teams that would allow 5.8 yppl to an average attack. Southern Miss is also mediocre offensively, averaging 5.6 yppl against teams that would allow 5.7 yppl to an average team. There is a big difference on the defensive side of the ball, as the Eagles are 0.4 yppl worse than average defensively (5.8 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.4 yppl against an average team) while Rice is a horrible 1.1 yppl worse than average on the stop side of the ball (6.7 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.6 yppl against an average team). The only reason Rice is close to even in scoring margin (39.0 to 39.2 points) is because they are +6 in turnover margin and have returned 4 interceptions for touchdowns – a trend that is not likely to continue at that pace (my math model forecasts a +0.4 turnover margin for Rice in this game). Southern Miss star running back Damion Fletcher (749 yards at 5.9 ypr) could top 200 yards in this game against an Owls’ defensive front that has allowed 6.3 yards per rushing play this season to teams that would combine to average 5.0 yprp against an average defensive team. The Southern Miss attack has been shut down by good defensive teams that can stop the run (the scored an average of just 10 points against Auburn and Boise State), but the Eagles have averaged 35.5 points in their other 4 games against teams that are collectively 0.4 yppl better defensively than Rice. Rice is going to get their share of points too, but the line on this game should be pick and the Eagles apply to a solid 123-59-3 ATS situation. On line value alone the Eagles have solid 54.0% chance of covering at +2 and the technical analysis is in their favor as well. I’ll consider Southern Miss a Strong Opinion at +2 points or more and I’d take Southern Miss in a 2-Star Best Bet at +3 points or more.
OKLAHOMA ST. (-16.5) 43 Baylor 20
It may seem that Oklahoma State should be in a letdown situation after winning at Missouri as a huge underdog last week, but that actually isn’t the case. The Cowboys actually apply to a 55-19 ATS situation that plays on home favorites after winning straight up as a double-digit dog and that angle is 6-0 ATS for unbeaten teams after beating a previously unbeaten team, so it doesn’t appear that Oklahoma State is likely to letdown – especially given their habit of beating up on lesser teams (11-1 ATS as a favorite of more than 4 points the last 3 seasons). Baylor is a solid team that is very good offensively with Robert Griffin at quarterback (0.9 yppl better than average) and the Bears are 0.3 yppl better than average defensively (4.8 yppl allowed to teams that would allow 5.1 yppl against an average team). A bit better than average on defense is not going to be enough to contain a great Cowboys’ attack that has averaged 7.5 yppl with Zac Robinson at the helm (against teams that would allow 5.8 yppl to an average team). Oklahoma State also showed last week that they are a pretty good defensive squad too and they now rate at 0.4 yppl better than average on defense. Oklahoma State is a perfect 5-0 ATS this season and my math model favors the Cowboys by 22 points over what I think is an underrated Baylor team, so there is still some value in siding with Oklahoma State. I’m still going to resist playing on Oklahoma State as a Best Bet, but I’ll consider Oklahoma State a Strong Opinion in this game at -17 points or less.
TENNESSEE (-7.5) 24 Mississippi St. 10
Hidden by Tennessee’s 2-4 record is the fact that the Volunteers have one of the best defensive units in the nation. The Vols have allowed just 4.3 yards per play to a schedule of teams that would average 5.7 yppl against an average team, and that includes limiting the very good offensive units of Florida and Georgia to a combined 5.3 yppl (those teams would combine to average 7.2 yppl against an average defense). Tennessee’s defense should dominate a bad Miss State attack that has averaged just 4.6 yppl this season against a schedule of teams that would allow 5.5 yppl to an average team. Having Tyson Lee at quarterback has not improved the Bulldogs’ compensated yards per play numbers, but Lee has not thrown an interception in 93 passes while former starter Wesley Carroll was picked off 6 times in 95 pass attempts – so Lee is an improvement. Tennessee’s new quarterback Nick Stephens has also been void of interceptions on his 49 passes and he appears to be a major improvement over former starter Jonathan Crompton. Crompton averaged just 5.0 yards per pass play (against teams that would allow 5.9 yppp to an average quarterback) in his 4 starts while Stephens has averaged 6.2 yppp (against teams that would allow 5.8 yppp) in his 2 starts, which doesn’t include 42 yards on 2 passes early in the season against UAB. Tennessee’s offense has been 0.3 yppl worse than average for the season and they will probably struggle against a solid Mississippi State defense even with Stephens at quarterback. Miss State has been only 0.3 yppl better than average defensively in 6 games, but they were abused by the good offenses of Georgia Tech and LSU, allowing 7.3 yppl in those games, while being very stingy against the 4 sub-par offensive teams that they faced. The Rebels yielded just 3.6 yppl in those 4 games against bad offensive teams that would combine to average 4.5 yppl against an average team and Tennessee won’t move the ball that well if that Miss State defense shows up. I still get Tennessee by 14 points in this game even if I assume that Miss State will play at that better level of defense. Tennessee is coming off a 14-26 loss to Georgia last week and Phillip Fulmer’s teams have always been very good at bouncing-back from losses. In fact, Tennessee is 14-1 ATS under Fulmer after losing by more than 7 points if they are not favored by more than 14 points, including a perfect 14-0 ATS since 1995. I’ll consider Tennessee a Strong Opinion at -9 points or less. I’d take Tennessee in a 2-Star Best Bet at -7 points or less.
Strong Opinion UNDER
UNDER (54 1/2) - California (-2.5) 24 ARIZONA 23
Cal and Arizona are both known for their explosive offensive units, but both of these teams are much stronger defensively than given credit for. Cal’s offense has averaged a very good 6.4 yards per play (against a schedule of teams that would allow 5.6 yppl to an average team), but the Bears have 3 running plays that have gone for 80 yards or more and that is not something that is likely to repeat itself. Cal will certainly bust huge TD runs with their explosive backs Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen, but those runs aren’t likely to come at the 20 yard line or further from the goal line, so those long runs need to be adjusted to account for the future. Doing so would lower Cal’s rushing attack rating to 0.4 yards per rushing play better than average rather than 1.1 yprp better than average. However, Cal is better off with Nate Longshore as the starting quarterback, as Kevin Riley just misses too many open receivers, and the Bears are 0.9 yards per pass play better than their season rating with Longshore behind center. So, the Bears actually rate at 0.9 yppl better than average with Best back in the lineup this week (he missed the ASU game) and Longshore remaining at quarterback (which I assume he will after a solid performance against a good ASU defense). Arizona’s defense has been 0.7 yppl better than average, allowing just 4.4 yppl to a schedule of teams that would average 5.1 yppl against an average defensive team. Cal only has a 0.2 yppl advantage over the Wildcats’ defense in this game. Arizona’s offense has averaged 40 points per game, but they are actually just 0.2 yppl better than average for the season (6.2 yppl against teams that would allow 6.0 yppl to an average attack) and rate at just 0.3 yppl better than average with Willie Tuitama behind center. Cal’s defense hasn’t received a lot of national praise yet, but the Bears are among the top 10 defensive units in the nation. Cal has yielded just 4.1 yppl this season to a schedule of teams that would combine to average 5.4 yppl against an average team and the Bears have allowed 14 points or less in 3 of their 5 games. The 31 points Cal allowed to Michigan State is misleading as only 17 were the fault of the defense and Maryland’s 35 points is also misleading given that the Terrapins averaged just 4.8 yppl in that game. The Bears have a significant advantage over Arizona’s offense, but the Wildcats will throw the ball much more in this game than they have in their lopsided wins in which they simply started running the ball with a huge lead. I still forecast Arizona with just 311 total yards at 4.8 yppl even after adjusting for Arizona’s extra likelihood to throw the ball. Cal, meanwhile, is projected to gain 346 yards at 5.4 yppl, so neither offense is expected to gain more than the national average of 5.4 yppl. My projected math model score in this game is Cal 23.4 to Arizona’s 23.1 and the reason for the total being so much higher is because these teams have had games that are significantly higher scoring than they really should have been based on normal scoring efficiencies. Not only has Cal had 3 one play drives of 80 yards or more but there have been 6 non-offensive touchdowns in Cal’s 5 games (instead of the 1 or 2 you might expect at this point in the season). Meanwhile, there have been 4 non-offensive touchdowns in Arizona’s 6 games this season and it appears as if the oddsmakers haven’t taken into account the fact that those 10 non-offensive touchdowns involving these two teams is extremely random and is not likely to continue. This game has a 55.7% chance of going Under 54 ½ points based on the historical performance of my math model picking totals and I’ll consider the Under a Strong Opinion at 54 points or higher (54.7% at 54 points).
Re: SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
20* Big 10 Game of the Year (off 2-0 Thurs / top-rated CFB game of the weekend)
My 20* play is on Ohio State at 3:30 ET. Most CFB fans are probably hoping that Ohio State doesn't make it back to a third straight BCS title game, after the Buckeyes' performance in the last two. When Ohio State was humbled 35-3 by USC in Los Angeles back on September 13, a return trip to the BCS title game was the last thing on head coach Jim Tressel's mind but the Buckeyes have won four straight and do enter this game with Michigan State ranked 12th in the nation and remain unbeaten in the Big 10. Michigan State was unranked before the 2008 season began and a season-opening 38-31 loss at Cal came as no real surprise. However, the Spartans have won six straight and enter this game ranked 20th, after beating an undefeated (but probably overrated) Northwestern team last week, 37-20. I'll get to Ohio State in a minute but is MSU really a top-25 team? I say N-O! Two of the Spartans' six wins have come against Eastern Michigan and Florida Atlantic (a combined 3-10) plus another win came at Indiana, 42-29. The Hoosiers are one of just four current Division I-A schools which have yet to earn an ATS win (0-4-1) and one should remember that MSU win for one of this year's most dramatic "turnaround" moments. Indiana connected on a 97-yard TD pass late in the third quarter, that appeared to give the Hoosiers the lead. Instead, an OL was called for holding in the end zone, giving Michigan State a safety and a 36-29 lead. The Hoosiers never recovered. MSU's other wins this year came in home games over Notre Dame (23-7) and Iowa (16-13) plus the aforementioned win at overrated Northwestern. QB Brain Hoyer played very poorly early on, completing just 44.6 percent of his throws over the team's first four games with just one TD and two INTs. He did throw for 321 yards against Cal but averaged just 126.3 YPG over the next three. He has "picked up the pace" in his last three games (58.6 percent / 204.7 YPG / 5 TDs and 1 INT) but he is still bothered by a sore shoulder. The heart and soul of the offense is RB Ringer, who is second in the nation in rushing (158.9 YPG) and leads the nation with 14 TDs. However, he's averaged just 3.6 YPC over his last two games against Iowa and Northwestern (60 attempts) and will face an Ohio Sate defense which plays the run very well (103.6 YPG allowed / 3.6 YPC / 3 TDs). WR Devin Thomas (79 catches / 8 TDs) left early for the NFL, leaving Hoyer with sophomore Dell (has just 20 catches and is listed as questionable with an undisclosed injury) and freshman Cunningham (19 catches) as his primary targets to go up against a veteran OSU secondary (Buckeyes are ranked 13th in defensive pass efficiency). OSU may be 6-1 but the team's 1-5 ATS mark proves the Buckeyes have underperformed in '08. However, the team was able to win at Wisconsin two weeks ago and while the offense was less-than-impressive at Purdue last week, the 'D' was in fine form (Purdue's lone score came on a 53-yard FG). Freshman QB Pryor 'exploded' on the scene with four TD passes as well as 66 yards rushing against Troy but after another solid game vs Minnesota (TD pass plus 97 yards rushing and two more TDs), has not been very productive the last two weeks. He did lead OSU on the game-winning drive in the late 4th-quarter at Wisconsin but while he's completed 69.7 percent of his throws the last two games, he's averaging only 120.5 YPG through the air, while running 29 times for only 47 yards (1.6 YPC). Beanie Wells looked very good in his first two games back (106 and 168 yards while averaging 7.6 YPC) but concerns regarding his foot returned after he gained 94 yards on 22 carries vs Purdue. In the end, I'm not even a little bit sold on MSU being an "elite" team, while the Buckeyes have been just that since 2002 (one national title and two other BCS title game losses). OSU has dominated the Big 10 since 2002, going 43-8 SU, with four of those losses coming in the '04 season. The Buckeyes have gone 25-2 SU in the Big 10 since the beginning of the '05 season and take a 12-game road winning streak in Big 10 play into this game. OSU has won six straight (11 of 13) against MSU, including a 24-17 win last year in Columbus, where the Buckeyes outgained the Spartans 422 to 185 in yards but saw the Spartans return an INT 54 yards for a TD and a fumble 25 yards for a TD. Don't expect the Spartans to be "that lucky again" and remember that the Buckeyes have won eight of their last nine road games against ranked teams. Big 10 Game of the Year 20* Ohio State.
Re: SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
Memphis Tigers (+8) over EAST CAROLINA PIRATES
ASA - Believe it or not, ECU has actually been the most surprising along with the most disappointing team in country all in the same season. The Pirates opened the year with wins over Virginia Tech and West Virginia and at the time they looked like huge victories. Not so much anymore. They beat the Hokies by blocking a punt and returning it for a TD with under 2:00 minutes remaining. VT has very little offense and is simply not the team they have been the last few years. West Virginia is down drastically in 2008 after losing head coach Rich Rodriguez to Michigan. While they are 4-2, the Mountaineers have looked shaky all year and struggled to get by a terrible Syracuse team last week. In other words, the Pirates hot start doesn’t look all the impressive in hind sight.
ECU has since lost 3 straight games and they have been dominated in each of their last two. Houston came here and whipped ECU 41-24 (we were on Houston if you remember) and they last week they were beaten 35-20 @ Virginia. This team’s offense looks really bad right now. After starting the season on fire, QB Patrick Pinkney has now completed only 22 of his last 48 passes. He has struggled so much that head coach Skip Holtz has now said he will rotate time at QB this weekend with Pinkney and back up Rob Kass. Never a good situation in our minds.
Speaking of offense, Memphis has a very good one. They are now in the top 20 in the nation averaging nearly 500 YPG. They are very balanced on that side of the ball averaging 5.9 yards per carry on the ground while QB Hall has thrown for almost 2,000 already this season. They are MUCH better than their 3-4 overall record. They have actually out gained 7 of their 8 opponents in total yards which gives us an indication that they should have had some wins they did not get. In their most recent game, they face a very good Louisville team and lost by a TD despite out gaining the Cardinals by a whopping 182 yards. Louisville’s defense came into that game with the 9th ranked defense in the country and the Tigers promptly shredded them for 481 total yards. This team can move the ball and they will again this weekend vs. a Pirate defense that has gone in the tank allowing their last four opponents to average 436 YPG.
ECU is simply not playing well enough right now to be favored by more than a TD against a high potent offense. We had a very similar situation a few weeks ago when they were heavily favored against a Houston team that has an explosive offense. The Cougars went onto win that game 41-24. We look for Memphis to win this game SU, just as Houston did.
VIRGINIA CAVALIERS (+4.5) over North Carolina Tar Heels
ASA's 6-Star Top Game- The Cavs are really starting to play well after a poor start. They began the season 1-3 including losses to USC and @ UConn, however they have won their last two games handily vs. pretty good competition. UVA whipped Maryland 31-0 two weeks ago and then dominated East Carolina 35-20 last Saturday. This team is under valued right now because of their poor start. Their opponent, North Carolina is over valued giving us a GREAT situation with the home dog in this game.
North Carolina is coming off a stretch of three big time emotional games including two straight at home. They won all of those games vs. Miami, UConn and Notre Dame, however their fate should have been worse. They were out gained in EACH of those three games and by 275 total yards in all three combined. The Heels are 5-1 SU this year and have been out gained in all but one game this year. They are doing it with smoke and mirrors. The UNC offense is really stagnant right now. They have averaged just 294 total yards in their last three wins. They lost starting QB TJ Yates a few weeks ago to an injury which has hurt. Now they will be without their #1 playmaker, Brandon Tate. He is one of the most dangerous kick return men in the nation and a starting WR. He was lost for the year in last week’s 29-24 win over the Irish. The Tar Heels offense isn’t nearly as good as their point totals may look. They have benefited from two interceptions returned for TD’s and a blocked punt returned for a TD in just the last two games alone (both at home).
The Cavs overall stats might look a bit underwhelming on offense. However, as we stated, they have really picked it up the last few weeks putting up big numbers vs. Maryland and East Carolina. Starting QB Marc Verica is improving drastically since taking over for Peter Lalich early in the season. Lalich has since been booted off the team for legal problems and it’s no coincidence the Cavaliers are now playing well. The new signal caller, Verica has now completed 50 of his 66 passes his last two games combined. However, the main reason for UVA’s offensive turnaround has been their rejuvenated running game. After their horrible performance @ Connecticut, head coach Al Groh made sure his team got back to running the ball. The last two games they have rushed for 207 & 202 yards. Senior RB Cedric Peerman has been lights out. After carrying the ball just 26 times on the season leading up to the Maryland game, he has now toted the rock 32 times the last two games for a total of 293 yards. That along with a solid defense that has allowed an average of just 281 YPG their last three makes Virginia a great looking home underdog.
History is HEAVILY on our side in this one. UNC has now lost 13 STRAIGHT games at Virginia. Their last win in Charlottesville was back in 1981! The Heels are also just 2-12 ATS (14%) on the road @ Virginia since 1980. On the other side of the coin, this well-coached Virginia team has been fantastic as a home underdog. They are a money making 14-3 ATS their last 17 as a home dog. Not only that, they have won 11 of those 17 games outright as and underdog.
UVA is playing well and dangerous right now especially in
Oregon State Beavers (-15.5) over WASHINGTON HUSKIES
ASA 3-Star #367 Oregon State (-15.5) over @ Washington - 6:00 pm CST.
The Beavers, at 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-10, remain in the hunt for the Pac-10 title, with an edge on a lot of other contenders because of their win over USC three weeks ago. Washington on the other hand is 0-5 overall and 0-2 in conference play and the Huskies season has quickly slipped away from them.
We feel this Pac 10 clash sets up to be a one-sided blowout from start to finish as the Beavers have huge advantages on both sides of the football. Oregon State is coming off a 66-13 rout of Washington State last weekend, a game in which the Beavers amassed over 500 total yards of offense with 323 rushing and 225 passing. The ground game for Oregon State averaged a remarkable 7.5 yards per carry. The defensive statistics for the Beavers were just as impressive as they allowed just 53 yards rushing and 79 passing to Washington State.
Washington was off last week but they’ll still be without their best overall player QB Locker who broke his thumb a few weeks back versus Stanford. Redshirt freshman quarterback Ronnie Fouch is still learning the system and won’t pose too much of a threat for the Beavers defense. Against Arizona two weeks ago the Huskies managed just 244 total yards of offense, 63 via the rush. Without a running game we expect the Beavers to put eight men in the box and force the young Husky QB to beat them.
Statistically speaking the Beavers hold all sorts of advantages. Oregon State averages 4.3 yards per rush and they’ll be facing a Washington defense (we use that term loosely) that yields 5.6 yards per rush good for the 118th worst in the nation. Offensively the Huskies average just 2.9 yards per rush compared to a Beaver defense that allows just 3.8 yards per carry.
Now let’s take a look at who Oregon State has played. Oregon State has faced USC, Penn State and Utah, all three of which are ranked in the top 10 statistically on defense and yet they still put up impressive offensive statistics. If we throw out the highest number of points scored by OSU (66-point game against WSU) and the lowest number of points scored by the Beavers (14-points vs. Penn State) they still average 32 ppg. Washington with their young QB has managed just 21 total points in a game and a half. Oregon State has out-yarded every opponent but one this year and right now they are WAY undervalued by the oddsmakers. Oregon State has won 4 straight in the series, have covered 4 in a row and 7 of the last 10. Washington is just 17-35-2 ATS their last 54 games at home. The Beavers will get to 40+ points in this game with the Huskies lucky to reach 20.
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