NCAAF: Games to Watch - Week 9

NCAAF: Games to Watch - Week 9

Games to Watch - Week 9
By Chris David

Week 9

Saturday - Texas Tech at Kansas (Gameplan, 12:00 p.m.)

The Red Raiders invade Lawrence this Saturday in what's expected to be another Big 12 shootout. Texas Tech is one of nine undefeated schools left standing, largely due to the second-best offense (557 YPG) in the country. QB Graham Harrell (2,761 yards, 23 TDS) and WR Michael Crabtree (51 catches, 12 TDs) are a tough out for any opponent, plus T-Tech has been able to run the ball better (138 YPG) this season. Unfortunately, Mike Leach's defense has given up 28 PPG in the last three games and now faces a Kansas offense (460 YPG) that is very potent. QB Todd Reesing (2,322 yards, 69%) leads an aerial assault that has seven players with at least 10 catches or more. Keep an eye on receivers Dezmon Briscoe (705 yards, 8 TDs) and Kerry Meier (57 catches). Similar to Tech, the Jayhawks' defense isn't exactly a brick-wall. In a game where offense is expected, it will most likely be decided by whoever has the ball last.    

Gambling Notes
Texas Tech has won nine of the last 10 battles against Kansas, including five straight wins in Lawrence. The Red Raiders are 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS on the road this year, while Kansas has gone 4-0 SU and 2-1 ATS at home. This is the first of three serious battles for Texas Tech, with back-to-back home games on deck versus Texas and Oklahoma State. The Jayhawks are the lower-ranked team, yet the favorites in this matchup. This is the first time that T-Tech will be an underdog this season. Last season, Leach's club was 0-2 ATS as a road 'dog, losing both games by a combined 47 points. The Red Raiders have posted 31 and 45 points in their last two trips to Memorial Stadium.

Saturday - Georgia at LSU (CBS, 3:30 p.m.)

The SEC gets a little more intriguing on Saturday when two one-loss teams in Georgia and LSU meet from Baton Rouge. The loser could be eliminated from any shot at a national title and possibly the conference race too. Georgia owns the best offense (429 YPG) in the SEC but the attack is only averaging just 24.2 PPG in its five conference games. LSU's offense is still seeking an identity at the QB position between Jarrett Lee (8 TDs) and Andrew Hatch (2 TDs), yet neither has been consistent. Running back Charles Scott (631 yards, 8 TDs) is the Tigers' workhorse but his production has been declining of late. The Bulldogs have allowed 7 and 10 points on the road this year, while LSU has only surrendered 13.3 PPG in three battles at home. One surprise is that both Georgia (8) and LSU (7) have failed to create takeaways this year. It's impossible to handicap turnovers but that might be the difference on Saturday afternoon.    

Gambling Notes
Georgia has won five of the last seven meetings against LSU but the two teams haven't squared off since the 2005 SEC Championship when the Bulldogs blasted the Tigers 34-14 as a one-point underdog. UGA is 2-0 SU and 1-1 ATS on the road this year, with the lone non-cover coming in a 14-7 (-7.5) victory against South Carolina. The Dawgs have been a solid play as road underdogs under head coach Mark Richt, going 7-2 ATS during his tenure. LSU has posted a 22-2 SU ledger at Baton Rouge with Les Miles in control and that includes a 3-0 mark this year. The two losses were by a combined five points and both came in overtime. The totals have been low in the last three meetings (39, 42, 42) and all three have gone 'over' as well. After this heated tilt, the Bulldogs meet Florida next Saturday.

Saturday - Oklahoma State at Texas (ABC, 3:30 p.m.)

Can anybody slow down the Longhorns? Oklahoma State will match its perfect record (7-0) against Texas this Saturday in yet another big game from Austin. The Cowboys put forth its best defensive effort of the season last week in a 34-6 win over Baylor. Unlike other Big 12 schools, OSU looks to run first behind RB Kendall Hunter (955 yards, 9 TDS) and then pass with QB Zac Robinson (70.1%, 1,488 yards) and WR Dez Bryant (809 yards, 45 catches, 11 TDs). The Cowboys hope to sustain long drives this week or it could be lights out early against the Longhorns, who own the second best scoring average (48 PPG) in the country. Mack Brown's team looked even better last Saturday against Missouri (56-31) than it did two weeks earlier versus Oklahoma (45-35). QB Colt McCoy (81.2%, 1,894 yards, 25 total TDs) leads the team in both passing and running the football, and is now the odds-on favorite (5/6) to win the Heisman Trophy. McCoy and the offense receive all the press in Texas, but the defense is ranked second nationally against the run (48 YPG) and is second in the conference with 24 sacks.    

Gambling Notes
Gamblers are in a tough spot this week with this pair because neither has lost against the number. Oklahoma State (6-0 ATS) and Texas (7-0 ATS) have been nothing short of exceptional this year at the ticket counter. Last year, Texas nipped Oklahoma State 38-35 after trailing 35-14 heading into the fourth quarter. McCoy ran for 106 yards but was picked off three times, while Robinson put up 486 yards of total offense and three scores. The 'over' has cashed in four of the last five meetings. The Longhorns have a road trip to Texas Tech on deck while Oklahoma State hosts Iowa State.

Saturday - Penn State at Ohio State (ABC, 8:00 p.m.)

Even though we're in Week 9, it's a fair argument to say that this Saturday's battle between Penn State and Ohio State is the unofficial Big Ten championship. The winner will have the inside track to the conference title and perhaps a shot at the BCS championship too. PSU's offense (45.5 PPG) has been on fire and last week's 32-point output in the second half against Michigan showed how explosive it's been. This week, QB Darryl Clark (1,531 yards, 11 TDs) and the "Spread HD" offense will face its toughest test of the season against Ohio State's defense (265 YPG). The Buckeyes forced five turnovers last week in a 45-7 blowout victory over Michigan State. The unit leads the conference in takeaways at 21. The 45 points was a season-high for OSU and much needed too after being held to 18 PPG the last two games. QB Terrelle Pryor (411 yards) and RB Chris "Beanie" Wells (619 yards) are the main playmakers on an OSU offense (322 YPG) that is ranked 10th in the conference and 92nd nationally. Will the unit be able to move the football against a PSU defense (263 YPG) that is ranked eighth nationally and has tallied 23 sacks?    

Gambling Notes
Since Penn State joined the Big 10, Ohio State has never lost to in Columbus (7-0) to the Nittany Lions. Last year, OSU rolled PSU 37-17 in Happy Valley behind 453 total yards of offense, including 133 yards on the ground from Beanie. Four of the last five games played in Columbus have gone 'under' the total. Since Jim Tressel took over the Buckeyes in 2001, the school has only been home underdogs twice and is 1-1 both SU and ATS in those instances. PSU has been a machine against the spread this year, going 6-1 ATS and that includes a perfect 3-0 record on the road. Ohio State is just 2-5 ATS but has covered two of its last three games.

Saturday - Southern California at Arizona (FSN, 10:15 p.m.)

Gamblers get a chance to chase with the Pac 10 on Saturday Night when Southern California invades the desert to face Arizona. Since losing to Oregon State on Sept. 25, the Trojans have ripped off three straight double-digit victories and that includes a pair of shutouts. The defense (220 YPG) is the best in the Pac 10 and second nationally. Your offense doesn't have to do much when you the other team doesn't score, yet QB Mark Sanchez (1,501 yards, 19 TDs) has improved weekly. Arizona's chances of scoring will rely heavily on QB Willie Tuitama (1,691 yards, 15 TDs). The Wildcats trailed Cal 24-14 last Saturday before outscoring the Golden Bears 28-3 in the second half for the big victory. Even though the 'Cats rallied for the win, the defense surrendered 425 yards but was fortunate to force four turnovers. An Arizona upset would put Mike Stoops team in first place of the Pac 10.    

Gambling Notes
USC has won six straight against Arizona, including a 20-13 triumph last year at home. Sanchez was picked off twice in the win while Tuitama was an efficient 30-of-43 for 233 yards. The Wildcats have covered three in a row in the series but they've been catching generous (21, 21.5, 39.5) numbers. This week, USC is listed as a 15-point road favorite and Pete Carroll and company are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games as a 'chalk' on the road. Arizona has played much better at home this year, going 4-0 both SU and ATS while averaging 50.3 PPG. The Wildcats are 7-1 ATS in their last eight contests as a home 'dog.

Other Games to Watch

Auburn at West Virginia

Non-conference action headlines Thursday's primetime battle when Auburn and West Virginia go head-to-head from Morgantown. The Tigers have three losses by a combined nine points this season. Perhaps that's why WVU is listed as a 3½-point home favorite for this matchup.

Boise State at San Jose State
Boise State will put its unbeaten mark on the line this Friday when it travels to San Jose State. The Spartans have been a solid team at home (3-0) this year, plus the club always seems to get up for the Broncos at Spartan Stadium. BSU has won its last two visits, but the final scores were decided by three (23-20) and seven points (56-49, OT).

Boston College at North Carolina
Don't look now but Boston College is 5-1 and it could easily be 6-0 if it weren't for a collapse to G-Tech (19-16) in Week 2. North Carolina finally saw its luck go the other way in a 16-13 overtime loss to UVA last week. Now Butch Davis and company must regroup at home versus a red-hot Eagles squad.

Mississippi at Arkansas
Do you think Houston Nutt circled this game on his calendar when he was hired at Ole Miss. The Rebels invade Fayetteville this Saturday and most would expect the former Arkansas coach to pull every trick out of his hat just to embarrass the Razorbacks on their own turf.

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