SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
San Diego St. at Wyoming
PICK: 6* Wyoming -4.5
We have only managed a split of the two 6* plays that we have had in action against Chuck Long and his depleted Aztecs in recent weeks, but Saturday’s non-cover with Colorado State was one that did not have to happen. As expected, the Rams wore down that awful defense to the tune of 38 points and 511 yards, but S.D.S. was able to hit a pair of home runs in the second half – a kickoff return for a TD and a 72-yard TD run – that enabled the Aztecs to stay inside the spread. The upside, of course, is that we are left with the value to go to the window once again, in a matchup that has so much more to the home team than the oddsmakers are projecting.
We can start with the basics – despite the notion of two struggling teams going head-to-head here, there is a major gap between them. They have played three common opponents, and the numbers speak loudly, with Wyoming winning those comparisons by 31 points and 617 yards. The problem for Joe Glenn and his Cowboys is that they have had to literally played their Mountain West schedule from the top down, already facing the elite of the conference, before now getting a chance to face San Diego State, U.N.L.V. and Colorado State, all teams that they are capable of beating. And it was not just a quality issue against the league elite, but also one of matchups as well. Because the passing game is so limited the Cowboys must run to be successful, and there are some rock-solid defensive fronts at the top of the Mountain West. The Aztecs are at the other end of the spectrum, rating dead last in the nation against the run.
That ground game has a chance to completely dominate this matchup against a depth-shy defensive front that we can count on to wear down at the Laramie altitude (7,165 feet), and they bring much more to the table than the markets will perceive. In having a week off prior to facing T.C.U. on Saturday they installed an “Outlaw” offensive package, which features a short shotgun snap and a lot of motion. And while not many will pay attention to a one-sided loss, a lot of good things happened in those schemes. RB Devin Moore ran for 114 yards against a defense that had not allowed any team to gain more than 71 in a game this season, and there were a couple of bounces that kept the full production of the attack from showing – a fumbled snap and a botched play that was to have been a RB pass lost a combined 45 yards. The Cowboys are also showing a lot of feistiness up front on the other side of the ball. In their last two games they have held Utah and T.C.U. to 233 rushing yards at an impressive 2.8 per attempt, and note that there were no flukes built in to those numbers. On Saturday T.C.U. had 39 running plays, with none gaining more than 13 yards.
If Wyoming can play this well in the trenches, why have things gone so sour? The passing game has simply been that bad, and it has helped to contribute to a -21 in turnover differential, by far the worst in the nation, when opposing defenses have forced them to the air. That does not happen this week, as their running attack controls this flow from the start, and eventually breaks the game wide open against a feeble opponent that has been beaten by a combined 111-14 in their only two conference road trips, and will bring no confidence to the table.
(ADDED NOTE: Although Wyoming QB Karsteen Sween is going to be held out of practice until later in the week his status is not crucial to our play - Chris Stutzriem has had plenty of time working with the first-team offense in practice in recent weeks, and is currently running #1 on the depth chart, while #2 Dax Crum has played more minutes than Sween.)
Eastern Mich at Western Michigan
PICK: 4* Western Michigan -17.5
Back in the early part of this season we focused on the 12-Game schedule on a ”Verities & Balderdash” column, noting how it would bring elements that would both help and hurt our endeavors. Here is the kind of setting in which it helps in a major way, as the oddsmakers do not factor properly the situation that Eastern Michigan is in. And with Western bringing a focus to not just win here, but to win big, the rout is on the way.
This will be the 10th game in as many weeks for Jeff Genyk’s Eagles. That would be a tough toll for any team, but for a floundering side that has already clinched their 13th straight losing season, and has already lost five games by 22 points or more this season, it is a major uphill battle. As bodies grow even more weary it becomes a psychological challenge to keep playing hard, and when the losses keep adding up they are the kind of team that will not meet that challenge. And when it comes to uphill battles, imagine the effect on the psyche of a team that has not scored in the first quarter of a lined game all season, getting out-scored a combined 65-0.
Western Michigan will not only want to extend that run with an early jump, but we do not see the Broncos ever backing off here. While Eastern comes in tired, they instead get two full weeks to prepare for a game that has been circled on their calendar for 12 months, after they turned the ball over six times in a humbling road loss to the Eagles LY when an explosive offense could not score a single point. Now Tim Hiller and a tremendous corps of receivers have a chance to vent a lot of those frustrations.
Hiller is having a dynamic junior season, completing 68.8 percent of his passes for 2,517 yards, and a terrific ratio of 25 touchdown passes vs. only five interceptions. He can tax a tired defense with a supporting cast that includes Jamarko Simmons (66 catches for 702 yards and six touchdowns), Juan Nunez (44-492-4), Schneider Julien (39-491-3) and Brandon Ledbetter (38-385-5). Simmons and Ledbetter have NFL futures ahead of them, with their talent helping to open lanes for the others, and even RB Brandon West has caught 27 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to his 686 and six scores overland. And the chemistry of this unit will only get better, with Simmons, Nunez and Julien all going over 100 receiving yards in the last outing against Central Michigan, the first time in the history of the program that has happened. They bring far too many weapons for a gassed defense to stop, and the freshness and revenge motives break this wide open.
Arkansas St. at Alabama
PICK: 4* Arkansas St +23
There are not many coaches that we have had a better run with through the years playing both On and Against that Nick Saban, and this one brings us another prime opportunity. Our best success with Saban has come in competitively priced games (like the tickets cashed vs. Clemson and Tennessee already this season), when his outstanding preparation skills can out-maneuver the opposing coaches. And the best anti-situations have been when he is just looking to take care of business and move on. That is what we have this week.
Saban is 1-5 ATS since coming to Alabama as a double-figure favorite. It is a pattern that makes a lot of sense for a guy that worked at the NFL level, where the focus is strictly on getting wins, and not margins, and the SEC right now is about as close to the NFL as any college conference we have ever charted. There are no easy opportunities, and having played five straight conference games, and with a revenge showdown at L.S.U. immediately on deck, there is nothing calling for him to be concerned with anything more than just getting a win on the scoreboard, and keeping his players as fresh as possible for the challenges yet ahead.
Our key here is that the play is not all anti-Alabama. Arkansas State gets two weeks to prepare for what will be recognized as a special opportunity for the program, and there will not be all that much intimidation – under Steve Roberts the Red Wolves have played on the SEC road at Tennessee, Auburn, L.S.U. and Mississippi, in addition to non-conference trips to Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Missouri. And Roberts has some individual talents that can compete at this level. In QB Corey Leonard he has a savvy veteran that despite only being a junior will be making his 27th start, and has only thrown three interceptions this season. The RB tandem of Reggie Arnold, on his way to his third straight 1,000-yard season, and Derek Lawson have each gone for over 500 yards already, and on defense they have a force in Alex Carrington, who is tied for 1st in the nation in tackles for losses, and 3rd in sacks. They can make enough plays to hang around this one for a long time, and stay comfortably under this generous spread.
6* Wyoming -3.5
4* West Mich -17.5
4* S. Carolina -5
4* Ark State +23.5
Re: SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
3 Star Selection
***TEXAS TECH 37 Texas (-3.5) 30
If Texas is going to lose this is most likely the game that will trip them up. Not only is Texas in a very negative situation but Texas Tech is every bit as good as the Longhorns are. Texas has been great offensively, averaging 6.8 yards per play against teams that would allow 5.5 yppl to an average team and I actually rate the Longhorns’ attack at 1.6 yppl better than average with Chris Ogbonnaya at running back the last 4 games, as Ogbonnaya is much better than Vondrell McGee or Cody Johnson were when they were getting the bulk of the carries. Texas Tech’s offense is even better, as the Red Raiders have averaged 7.6 yppl with Graham Harrell under center while facing teams that would combine to allow 5.8 yppl to an average team (1.8 yppl better than average). The Texas defense has allowed 5.3 yppl this season to teams that would combine to average 5.9 yppl against an average team while Texas Tech has yielded 5.0 yppl to a schedule of teams that would average 5.7 yppl against an average team, so the Red Raiders also have a slight edge defensively in this game. Both teams are about the same in special teams and Texas Tech has a slight edge in projected turnovers and my math model calls for them to win this game straight up. What I like about this match-up for Texas Tech is their quick hitting pass attack against a vulnerable Texas secondary. Texas is very strong along the defensive line, but their ability to defend the run and to rush the passer (3.5 sacks per game) are negated by the fact that Texas Tech doesn’t run much and Harrell gets rid of the ball so quickly that the opposing pass rush is simply not a factor. Harrell has been sacked only 3 times on 363 pass plays this season and a good pass rushing Nevada team averaging 3.3 sacks per game didn’t touch Harrell. Texas has a good pass defense rating of 1.1 yards per pass play better than average because they get so many sacks, but their secondary has allowed 6.9 yards per pass attempt, which isn’t much better than average. Oklahoma averaged 8.7 yppp and Missouri’s Chase Daniel averaged 7.2 yppp despite having a bad day. Graham Harrell and the Red Raiders’ attack is ideally suited to move the ball against the Longhorns, whose defensive strength along the defensive line will be minimized. Harrell threw for 466 yards on 48 passes last season in a 43-59 loss at Texas and the Longhorns aren’t as likely to score nearly as many points and a much improved Red Raiders’ defense with this game being played in Lubbock, where Tech is at their best. In addition to the line value, the Red Raiders apply to a number of very strong situations – the best of which is a 34-3 ATS subset of a 138-56-3 ATS home momentum situation. Texas, meanwhile, applies to a very negative 5-40 ATS situation that plays against unbeaten teams. Texas is also just 5-12-1 ATS under coach Mack Brown as a road favorite against a team with a winning record. I’ll take Texas Tech in a 3-Star Best Bet at +3 points or more and for 2-Stars from +2 ½ to +1. I’ll also lean with the Under in this game.
3 Star Selection
***LSU (-25.0) 45 Tulane 10
LSU may be right in the middle of the conference season, but this will not be a letdown game for the Tigers – especially after just getting whipped by Georgia last Saturday. Les Miles rarely takes it easy on non-conference opponents and his teams have a huge talent edge in these games that he exploits. The Tigers are 10-1 ATS under Miles against non-conference opponents when not favored by more than 40 points and just 8-20-3 ATS in SEC games, so this is exactly the type of game that LSU has covered under Miles. LSU is also 5-1-1 ATS after a loss under Miles and just 11-22-2 ATS after a win, so expect the Green Wave to pay for last week’s loss to Georgia. Miles has actually been good as a big favorite going back to his days coaching at Oklahoma State and he is 10-0 ATS in his career as a favorite of 14 points or more when not coming off a win (8-0 ATS after a loss and 2-0 ATS in game 1). Aside from the team trends, LSU also has a huge advantage on the field against a Tulane team that started the season in pretty good shape but have been hit hard by injuries to key players in recent weeks. Tulane’s big play receiver Jeremy Williams was injured against Army a few weeks ago and the pass attack has struggled since. Williams had amassed 437 receiving yards on 42 balls thrown to him (10.4 yards per attempt) while the rest of Tulane’s passes have averaged 6.3 ypa. Williams’ injury left RB Andre Anderson as the Waves’ only offensive weapon (864 yards at 5.0 ypr), but Anderson was injured early last week against Rice and he’s out indefinitely. Tulane only ran for 67 yards at 2.8 yards per rushing play against a horrible Rice defense last week and they won’t have any success running against LSU’s front line. LSU’s defense has been only 0.2 yards per play better than average this season and they were lit up by the two potent offensive units that they faced, allowing 7.7 yppl to Florida and 7.8 yppl to Georgia last week. However, the Tigers have allowed just 4.3 yppl in their other 5 games (to teams that would average 4.9 yppl against an average team) and I don’t expect a wounded Tulane offense, that I rate at 0.7 yppl worse than average heading into this game, to do much damage. LSU’s offense has moved the ball very well since Jarrett Lee took over at quarterback and the Tigers are 1.4 yppl better than average offensively. That unit should score plenty of points against a Tulane defense that started the season by allowing just 173 yards to Alabama, but have gotten steadily worse as the season has progressed. The Green Wave have allowed 7.0 yppl, 6.9 yppl, and 6.9 yppl in their last 3 games to Army, UTEP, and Rice and I don’t see them stopping a determined LSU squad today. This one sets up for another blowout win over a non-conference opponent for Les Miles’ team and I’ll take LSU in a 3-Star Best Bet at -26 points or less and for 2-Stars from -26 ½ to -28 points.
2 Star Selection
**MISSISSIPPI (-6.5) 28 Auburn 14
Auburn has dropped 7 consecutive games to the point spread and they are still overrated. The Tigers’ offense is horrible (4.3 yards per play against teams that would allow 5.5 yppl to an average team) and they’ve averaged just 3.6 yppl in 2 games since changing offensive coordinators. Kodi Burns is the new signal caller for the Tigers, and he may prove to be an upgrade because of his running (220 yards at 4.7 yards per rushing play) despite the fact that his passing numbers are a bit worse than former starter Chris Todd. Auburn’s defense started out the season among the best in the nation, but that unit has struggled in conference play and has allowed 5.8 yppl or more in 3 of their last 6 games. Injuries have played a part in the recent poor play and I do expect the Tigers to start to get better defensively, but they haven’t proven that they can defend an above average attack. Auburn has dominated bad offensive teams this season, but they gave up 6.1 yppl to LSU, 5.8 yppl to Arkansas, and 7.9 yppl to West Virginia last week. Overall the Tigers have been 0.7 yppl better than average defensively, but Ole’ Miss is a very good offensive team that has averaged 5.9 yppl (against teams that would allow 5.0 yppl to an average attack) and the Rebels have performed well against good defensive teams, averaging 5.4 yppl or more against Florida, Alabama, and South Carolina, who are all better defensively than Auburn is. Mississippi’s offense has been 0.2 yppl better than Auburn’s defense this season and the Rebels have a huge edge with their defense (0.3 yppl better than average) going up against a Tigers’ offense that is 1.2 yppl worse than average. Both quarterbacks are a bit interception prone, but Mississippi is a bit more likely to turn the ball over because they’ll likely throw the ball more. Overall, my math model favors Ole’ Miss by 14 ½ points in this game and I’ll take Mississippi in a 2-Star Best Bet at -7 points or less.
2 Star Selection
**Clemson 23 BOSTON COLLEGE (-4.0) 19
Clemson’s week off has reportedly revived the Tigers, as the players say they are having fun in practice again under new coach Dabo Swinney and are eager to get back to the field to prove themselves after 3 heartbreaking losses. The Tigers lost all 3 of those games by 5 points or less to good teams Maryland, Wake Forest, and Georgia Tech despite being -3, -1, and -4 in turnover margin in those contests. In other words, the Tigers’ woes are more bad luck than bad play, and averaging -2.0 in turnover margin in their 5 games against Division 1A opposition is not something that is likely to continue. The week off also allowed a couple of key players to get healthy enough to play this week, including quarterback Cullen Harper and star running back C.J. Spiller, whose 6.5 ypr average (6.3 ypr in his career on 322 rushes) was sorely missed the last two games. Clemson’s offense has been just average in their 5 D-1A games, averaging 5.1 yppl against teams that would allow 5.1 yppl to an average team, and that attack is 0.1 yppl better than average with Spiller back to join with James Davis (5.3 ypr) in the backfield. Boston College is very good defensively, allowing 4.4 yppl to 6 Division 1A opponents that would combine to average 5.1 yppl against an average team, so the Eagles have a 0.6 yppl advantage over Clemson’s offense – although they aren’t quite as good without top LB Brian Toal and perhaps S Wes Davis, who missed last week’s game. However, Clemson’s rugged defense (4.7 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.7 yppl against an average team) has a 1.4 yppl advantage over a bad BC attack that has averaged only 5.0 yppl against teams that would allow 5.4 yppl to an average team. Turnover margin shouldn’t be an issue in this game for Clemson given that Harper’s 8 interceptions on 182 passes (4.4%) is considerably better than the 12 picks that the Eagles’ Chris Crane has thrown on 216 attempts (5.6%). Clemson also has better special teams and the Tigers should be favored in this game according to my math model, which successfully picked against Boston College last week with North Carolina. I’ll take Clemson in a 2-Star Best Bet at +3 points or more (at -1.15 odds or better) and for 3-Stars at +6 points or more.
MICHIGAN ST. (-4.5) 30 Wisconsin 20
Wisconsin had been 0-4 straight up and 0-4 ATS in Big 10 play before upsetting Illinois last week, but that wins sets up the Badgers in a very negative 11-49-2 ATS subset of a 47-106-2 ATS road letdown situation. Unfortunately, my math model isn’t that impressed with Michigan State and the math favors the Spartans by just 3 points. The situation more than makes up for the lack of line value, but I will resist making the Spartans a Best Bet unless the line goes down to 3 points. I’ll consider Michigan State a Strong Opinion at -6 points or less and I’d take Michigan State in a 2-Star Best Bet at -3 points or less (-1.15 odds or better).
GEORGIA TECH (-2.5) 27 Florida St. 19
Georgia Tech let me down last week with an upset loss to Virginia, but that was the first time all season that the underrated Yellow Jackets have not covered the spread and they are likely to get back on the right side of the ledger today. Florida State is a decent team, averaging 4.9 yards per play on offense and allowing 4.6 yppl on defense in 5 games against Division 1A competition that would combine to be out-gained 4.8 yppl to 5.2 yppl by an average team. In other words, the Seminoles are about an average team from the line of scrimmage and just a bit better than average overall after adding in special teams. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, has averaged 5.8 yppl and allowed just 4.4 yppl to a schedule of 6 Division 1A teams that would combine averaging 5.2 yppl and allow 5.3 yppl to an average team. Georgia Tech has been much better than average on both sides of the ball and they should be favored by more than a touchdown in this game. My math model gives the Yellow Jackets a 62% chance of covering at -2 points based solely on the math, but they unfortunately apply to a negative 46-102-2 ATS situation that will keep me from making this game a Best Bet. That situation has about a 56% of covering at a fair line, which gives the Yellow Jackets a solid 56% chance of covering when I combine the math with the negative situation. I’ll consider Georgia Tech a Strong Opinion at -3 points or less and I’d take Georgia Tech in a 2-Star Best Bet at -1 or better.
USC (-44.5) 54 Washington 3
USC was in a tough spot last week in Arizona, but they dominated that game against a good Wildcats squad more than the 17-10 final score indicates. The Trojans out-gained Arizona 368 yards at 4.8 yards per play to 188 yards at 3.1 yppl and should have won by more than 7 points. USC is not in a negative situation this week and the Trojans can name the score against a horrible Washington team that is winless this season and just 1-6 ATS. The Huskies are a bit improved offensively since Ronnie Fouch took over the quarterbacking after Jake Locker was injured, as Fouch is a much better passer. However, Washington still rates at 0.5 yppl worse than average offensively and they don’t stand much of a chance against a dominating USC stop unit that’s yielded just 3.5 yppl and 8 points per game to a schedule of teams that would combine to average 5.7 yppl and 29 points against an average defensive team. USC has an even bigger advantage when they have the ball, as the Trojans’ offense is 1.8 yppl better than average (6.7 yppl against teams that would allow 5.0 yppl to an average team) while Washington’s young defensive unit is 1.2 yppl worse than average (7.3 yppl allowed to teams that would average 6.1 yppl). My math model favors USC by 50 ½ points and the Trojans are 31-10 ATS under coach Pete Carroll from game 8 on (3-1 ATS as a favorite of more than 28 points), so the Trojans should begin to play even better. USC’s backups are all top recruits too, so there is little drop-off when the subs enter the game - so the margin should continue to rise until the final gun. I’ll consider USC a Strong Opinion at -45 points or less and I’d take USC as a 2-Star Best Bet at -42 points or less.
TCU (-14.0) 35 UNLV 16
UNLV is coming off a 35-42 loss as a 23 ½ point dog against an overrated BYU squad and they may not have much left for a TCU team with a dominating defense and a surging offense. UNLV is a good offensive team, averaging 5.8 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 5.4 yppl to an average team, but they aren’t good enough to move the ball with any consistency against a great TCU defense that has yielded just 3.8 yppl and 10.4 points per game to a schedule of teams that would combine to average 5.4 yppl and 24.8 points against an average defensive unit. TCU allowed 35 points to Oklahoma’s potent attack (the fewest points Oklahoma has scored this season), they gave up 14 points to a good Stanford offense and they’ve allowed 7 points or fewer in their other 7 games, including giving up just 4.2 yppl to BYU. Only Oklahoma has been able to average more than 4.2 yppl against the Frogs, so UNLV has their work cut out for them today. The Rebels aren’t likely to score more than 14 points and their horrible defense (6.7 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.5 yppl against an average team) will have a tough time keeping TCU below 30 points in this game. The Horned Frogs were without starting quarterback Andy Dalton for a couple of games, but Dalton returned for the 32-7 win over BYU and he’s been great since coming back to the lineup. TCU is still 0.2 yppl worse than average offensively for the season with Dalton under center, but they’ve been 0.9 yppl better than average in 2 games since Dalton returned from injury. Even using TCU’s season rating would yield a prediction of 36 points for the Horned Frogs against UNLV’s porous stop unit. The Horned Frogs have a 58% chance of covering at -14 points based solely on line value (based on the historical performance of my math model) but the Rebels have a 10-4 ATS mark as a home underdog while TCU is just 4-13 ATS in recent years as a road favorite of more than 7 points (1-1 this year). The team trends are enough to keep me from making this game a Best Bet but I still like the Horned Frogs. I’ll consider TCU a Strong Opinion at -14 points or less.
Re: SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
5-Unit Play. Take Temple (+7) over Navy
4-Unit Play. Take Under 57.5 Troy at Louisiana-Monroe
2.5-Unit Play. Take New Mexico State (+21) over Boise State
2.5-Unit Play. Take Mississippi (-6.5) over Auburn
2.5-Unit Play. Take Kansas State (+10) over Kansas
2-Unit Play. Take South Carolina (-5.5) over Tennessee
2-Unit Play. Take Minnesota (-7) over Northwestern
2-Unit Play. Take Louisiana-Monroe (+10) over Troy
2-Unit Play. TEASER: Take Minnesota (-0.5) over Northwestern AND Take Utah (-1) over New Mexico
Note: This is a 6.5-point teaser.
2-Unit Play. Take Clemson (+4) over Boston College
2-Unit Play. Take Florida (-6) over Georgia
2-Unit Play. Take Florida State (+2.5) over Georgia Tech
2-Unit Play. Take Rice (-2.5) over UTEP
1.5-Unit Play. Take Miami (+2) over Virginia
1-Unit Play. Take Miami (+115) over Virginia
1-Unit Play. Take Florida State (+120) over Georgia Tech
Re: SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
This Saturday the undefeated Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (8-0 SU & 6-1 ATS) will try to keep their perfect season going when they travel to Fayetteville to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks (3-5 SU & 3-4 ATS). If you look at the raw numbers, Arkansas does not have a chance to keep this one close. Tulsa leads the country in scoring, averaging 55.6 points a game. They are also the 1st ranked team in yardage per game, averaging an obscene 601.1 yards per contest! They are an equal opportunity offense also, with 2768 yards passing and 2041 yards rushing. When they run the ball they average 5.9 yards per carry with 4 different ball carriers totaling over 200 yards this year, each of them averaging more than 5.5 yards per carry! They are led on offense by senior quarterback David Johnson who has thrown 32 touchdown passes with only 9 interceptions. I could go on and on but I think you get the point. Tulsa has a very good offense. I am not going to try to convince you otherwise, but let's at least look at the competition they have amassed these eye-popping numbers against. Conf-USA has plenty of good offensive teams, but defense is not a staple of that conference. While looking at the conference teams that Tulsa has played thus far, I found it very interesting that they have not even faced a team ranked in the top 6 in Conf-USA yet! That's right, Tulsa has faced only the worst defenses in their defense deficient conference. Then you add a non-conf game against North Texas (dead last 120th ranked defense), and it becomes easier to see why Tulsa has those unbelievable offensive numbers. Indeed, Tulsa has posted those gaudy point totals against the 120th, 117th, 114th, 113th, 107th, and 93rd ranked defenses in the country! Not exactly your who's who in stop units. Enter Arkansas.
The Razorbacks come from the most powerful conference in the country. It is the deepest, and also the most talented conference in the country, both offensively and defensively. Arkansas has played to this point probably the most brutal schedule in the country, including SEC foes #2 ranked Alabama, #5 ranked Florida, and Auburn, which has a great defense. If that were not bad enough, they also had a non-conf game against #1 Texas! Tulsa will in fact be the 5th ranked team the Razorbacks have faced this year. They have faced Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy, so facing this Tulsa offense led by David Johnson (who?) will not phase them. Those games against Florida and Texas were not remotely close, but they were blowouts because those teams also play defense, Tulsa does not. Tulsa is allowing 26.1 points a game, and that was against some of the worst teams in the country! The Razorbacks boast the SEC's leading rusher, junior tailback Michael Smith who has 920 rushing yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Let those numbers sink in a bit 5.6 yards per carry against some top notch defensive teams. Texas and Alabama are tied for 5th in the country, both allowing just 2.6 yards per carry. Florida allows 3.4, Auburn allows 3.8, Kentucky 3.8, and Mississippi allows 3.1! Those are the defenses that Michael Smith has averaged 5.6 yards per carry against, quite impressive if you ask me. What better way to combat an unstoppable offense then to run and run and run, killing the clock, shortening the game, and limiting Tulsa's possessions. Well, they may not actually limit Tulsa's possessions because I think Arkansas will run up and down the field on Tulsa, and score often. Arkansas' much maligned defense has improved steadily this season, which is to be expected from such a young unit. They need only slow Tulsa down to make this a close game, a game Arkansas has a better that a "fighter's chance" to win.
It is also worth noting that this will be Tulsa's first game on the road this year in front of a huge hostile crowd. Tulsa's 3 road games to date at UAB, No Texas, and SMU will hardly prepare them for the raucous atmosphere at an SEC venue. History suggests that Tulsa may be in over their heads here also, since the Razorbacks have beaten Tulsa 16 consecutive times. As a matter of fact, the last time these 2 teams met Arkansas was a 36.5 point favorite! The Razorbacks last 3 results show their improvement, with 2 very tough losses and a win over Auburn. For them to have any hope to have a chance at a bowl game they need a win here, and they would like nothing more than to end Tulsa's perfect season. The pressure on Tulsa mounts with each passing week, to remain unbeaten, as that is their only chance to hit the jackpot and a BCS bowl invite. Coming to a tough SEC venue that will have a homecoming crowd in full voice, may not be the best setting for their winning streak to continue. The SEC is 57-12 SU when hosting a Conf-USA team, and we need only keep it close to cover. Take the points but I will call for the outright upset.
Verdict: Tulsa 19, Arkansas 28
PLAY 1* UNIT 2% ON ARKANSAS +7
Re: SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
6-Star Kent +6.5 over Bowling Green
The Golden Flashes will dominate the ground game here which is always a fantastic situation, especially when you are an underdog. Kent is the #1 running team in the MAC at 217 YPG. Bowling Green is 97th against the rush on defense and they have been shredded on the ground the last three weeks. Last week Northern Illinois whipped BG up front for 233 yards. After the game, UNI QB Chandler Harnish talked about the ease of which they moved the ball on the ground, “We had four or five yards before I had to make a cut,” he stated. “We were just blowing them off the ball.” That’s been the theme for the BG defense who allowed 218 yards on the ground the week before vs. Miami (Oh) and 206 the week before that against Akron. On offense, BG averages just 100 YPG on the ground and they have failed to reach triple digits rushing in three of their last four games. Now they face the best rushing team in the league and it will simply be more of the same. You might think that Bowling Green has the edge because they are at home. However, you might want to consider that the Falcons have not won a home game yet THIS YEAR. They are 0-3 both SU and ATS including a 24-21 loss to 2-7 Eastern Michigan team. Before losing to Northern Illinois last Saturday, this team played host to Miami (Oh). They were out gained by 138 yards on the ground in that game and lost 27-20. That is a significant stat because Kent played that same Miami (Oh) team last week on the road, out gained them by 158 on the ground and plastered the RedHawks 54-21. Those games were only one week apart so a comparison is definitely relevant. We REALLY like the way this vastly under rated Kent team is playing right now. Despite losing at home to Akron and a very good Ohio team leading up to last week’s blow out, we were able to see a lot of improvement each week. The Golden Flashes have now out gained their last three opponents and five of their last seven. Conversely, Bowling Green has been out gained in six of the eight games this year. These are two teams head in opposite directions right now. We side with the improving team who turned the corner last week. The road team has actually won 5 of the last 7 games out right and with Kent’s huge edge on the ground, we see no reason that won’t happen again this week. Kent wins this one SU.
5-Star Texas A&M (-3.5) vs. Colorado
A&M is definitely an improving team that simply took awhile to get adjusted to the schemes of their new head coach Mike Sherman. This team was atrocious early in the season but their offense has really gotten on track. The Aggies put up 49 points and over 500 yards of offense last Saturday in their win @ Iowa State. In their last four games vs. Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Iowa State, this developing offense has put up an average of 33 PPG and 440 total yards per game. We’re not talking about playing patsies either as two of those four teams are really good and Kansas State isn’t bad. That’s simply bad news for Colorado whose offense is simply putrid right now. The Buffs are among the worst offenses in the country right now. They were shut out 58-0 last week against a Missouri team that had allowed 84 points in their previous two games. Now the Tigers are a great offense so the 58 points aren’t a huge surprise, however their defense is shaky and for them to shut out Colorado and allow just 199 yards of total offense is a huge red flag. This team has scored only 80 points total in their last 6 games which comes to just 13.3 PPG. The only game they actually cracked 20 points was @ Florida State when they scored a meaningless TD with 3:00 minutes left in the game in their 39-21 loss. The Buffaloes are 105th nationally in PPG and just 102nd in yardage gained per game. Head coach Dan Hawkins is now rotating his two QB’s, Dan Hawkins and Tyler Hansen, and neither is performing well combining for 264 yards passing in their last TWO games. This will be the second of back to back road games for Colorado and their third road trip in the last four weeks. They are 0-3 both SU and ATS on the road this year and have been beaten by an average score of 42-9. This team has struggled on the road going just 3-13 ATS their last 16 away and they are not going to turn it around this Saturday with an offense that can’t score. CU is also just 4-12 ATS in the second of back to back road games dating back to 1991. We’ll gladly side with an improving Aggie team at home here.
3-Star Kansas State (+9) over Kansas
Both of these teams are no strangers to the end zone on offense, as both average over 30 points per game. In fact, both Kansas and Kansas State have been held under 28 points only once this season. We are giving the edge to Kansas State in this match-up because of the fact that Kansas’ defense is absolutely terrible. The last two weeks they have given up 1,230 total yards on offense along with 108 points against! Kansas will not be able to hold a lead against Kansas State because of their bad defense and the 9 point edge will be easy for the Wildcats to cover on Saturday. Kansas State may have the best player in the nation that no one knows about in quarterback Josh Freeman. Freeman has thrown for 2224 yards and 15 touchdowns while also rushing for 286 yards and 13 touchdowns! Freeman should have a field day against Kansas’ 114th ranked pass defense, as other big-name quarterbacks Graham Harrell, Sam Bradford, and Matt Grothe combined to throw for 1192 yards, 10 touchdowns, and no interceptions against the Jayhawks. Kansas even allowed Colorado (who has a terrible offense) to put up 14 points and almost pull off the upset. The last two years the Jayhawks are 2-0 ATS vs. Kansas State, but K-State has a strong hold on the all-time series and is 10-3 ATS in their last 13 meetings with Kansas. With the Jayhawks being so poor on defense, expect Kansas State to match/exceed anything Kansas is able to do on offense. Kansas won’t be able to cover the 9 point spread vs. Freeman and the rest of the Wildcats. Go with K-State.
3-Star Arkansas State (+24) over Alabama
Re: SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
BIG TEN GAME OF YEAR
8 Unit Play. Take Michigan State Spartans over Wisconsin Badgers
Big 10 Game of the Year. A have a bunch of reasons why this choice was made so lets get rolling. First lets talk about Wisconsin, a team that was predicted to finish high in the Big 10 standing. They have just one conference victory and most handicappers fail to see that their defense is totally overrated. Every team in the conference has run on them and their secondary can be burned deep. Granted Juice Williams did not perform well, but his receivers were wide open, he just missed the throws. In their last six road games, Bucky has given up 206 points (34 points per game). Wisconsin does have two great running backs in Hill and Clay; however, the quarterback has been the real problem for them. QB Sherer has taken over and did not perform well at Iowa and expect MSU to force him to beat them through the air. This is something Wisconsin is not capable of doing especially without TE Travis Beckum.
4 Unit Play. Take Arkansas State Red Wolves over Alabama Crimson Tide
No question this selection is based primarily on going against Alabama then it is going with the Wolves. Bama has just come off of four emotional conference games (Georgia, Kentucky, Ole Miss, & Tennessee). Now they face Arkansas State and this non-conference opponent will be hard to get up for. Expect them to just go through the motions, win the game and move on. They have a road trip to LSU next week and that game will get most of their focus even this week. The Red Wolves are coming off of a bye and have nothing to lose. They have played competitive all season long and will keep this one close as well. Alabama 28, Arkansas
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PAC 10 GAME OF MONTH
I'm taking the points with ARIZONA STATE. I feel these teams are more evenly matched than their records indicate. I also believe that we're getting excellent value with a line which has climbed from it's opener, all the way up past the two touchdown mark. Yes, it's true that the Beavers have enjoyed a much better season. Let's keep in mind that the Sun Devils were favored by 11 or 11.5 points at Tempe in last season's meeting with the Beavers - they won by 12 points. Arizona State returned 13 starters from that team, which went 10-3, while Oregon State, which went 9-4, returned only 10 starters. Note that the Sun Devils currently have 16 seniors on the roster. The point I'm trying to make is that there has been nearly a four touchdown swing in the pointspread from last season, I feel this an over-reaction. Indeed, despite returning more starters, Arizona State has gone from double-digit favorites to double -digit underdogs. Many teams with a record like Arizona State might already think about quitting and looking ahead to next season by giving their young players more playing time. Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson insists he has no plans of doing that though and was quoted as saying: All I care about is for those seniors to go out as winners," Erickson said "That's the most important thing to me. Nothing in the future concerns me right now other than what happens for those seniors that are going to finish their career in the next five weeks." In fact, with games against Washington and Washington State on deck (followed by UCLA and Arizona to close the season) the Sun Devils know that if they can find a way to score the upset this week that they'll very likely be able to generate a winning streak. "You just deal with it one game at a time, where you're at and the direction you're trying to go," Erickson went on to say:. "We have a very good focus on what we need to get done, and that's what we're trying to do every day...We are going to stay the damn course, and you do it every day and every week, things turn. It'll just happen." Keep in mind that Erickson, along with several assistants, coached at Oregon State previously. That makes this week's game a little extra special and I look for the Sun Devils to bounce back with a huge effort, earning at least the cover. *Pac 10 GOM
WAC GAME OF YEAR
I'm taking the points with UTAH STATE. I feel the situation favors the home underdog here. For starters, the Warriors are in the middle of a gruelling schedule spot. Indeed, for the entire season, they have alternated between home and away games. That means they've been flying back and forth from Hawaii to the mainland nearly every weekend. They began the season with a game on the East Coast, taking on Florida at Gainesville. They then flew home the following week and back on the road the next. That pattern has been repeated over and over again. Most recently, they took on Boise on the blue turf and then flew home to face Nevada last weekend. Now, it's back on the road again. They've been playing fairly well recently but I expect all the travel miles to finally catch up with the Warriors here. While it won't affect them this week, note that the Warriors do get some "scheduling relief" after this, as they will play back to back road games for the first time all year and then fly home to play their final three games at home. In addition to the travel factor, I also feel that the Warriors will be ripe for an emotional letdown here. While it's important for them to keep winning, the Warriors are off back to back huge games and it will be much tougher to get fired up for "lowly" Utah State. That will prove costly though as the Aggies very nearly beat Fresno State last week, eventually losing by two points when the Bulldogs hit a long field goal. Yes, the Aggies have a poor (1-7) record. In fairness, they've played a very tough schedule though. Four games came on the road. All were against 1-A teams, including Oregon. Additionally, two of their four home games came against Utah and BYU and those two teams are a combined 15-1. Their other two home games resulted in a 2-point loss against a solid Fresno squad (see above) and a blowout victory vs. Idaho. The Warriors are just 1-3 on the road and that victory came by only a field goal. Dating back to last October, they're 2-5 SU/ATS on the road and both victories were by three points or less. The Aggies come in at 3-0 ATS their last three home games and they should bring some confidence with them. For starters, they played very well against Fresno and nearly beat the Bulldogs. Additionally, they had some success against the Warriors last season. They produced a season high in both points and total yards and easily earned the cover. That was at Hawaii vs. a much more dangerous team. This year, the Aggies are improved and playing at home. QB Diondre Borel has started the last five games and has played well, recording more than 1100 yards of offense. As Coach Guy had to say: "He is getting better every week. I think that just comes with the experience that he is getting. Those guys he is playing with in front of him did a good job. He didn't get sacked and avoided the rush. That helps a lot when you are not worrying about those things." While they did earn the victory, the Warriors struggled to contain Nevada's read-option rushing attack, giving up more than 300 yards on the ground. The Aggies use a similar attack and Hawaii coach Greg McMackin knows that his team will have it's hands full trying to contain Borel. He was quoted as saying: "Utah State quarterback Diondre Borel is running all over the place. Nobody is like the guy (Nevada's Colin Kaepernick) we faced this week, but he's a close second." Look for an inspired effort from Borel and co. as they take this game down to the wire and earn at least the cover. *WAC GOY
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Cannot back Georgia here with Florida playing so well. This is the worlds largest cocktail party in Jacksonville, but Florida has the ability to shut down the run, which forces the Bulldogs out of their game plan. QB Tebow is now on fire and with some big time revenge on the side of Florida who lost by 12 last year, I smell plenty of weak ness's I have noticed with Georgia coming to the forefront here. Florida offense is on fire, scoring 152 points in their last 3 games against SEC foes. Bulldog secondary average at best and suspect here, and with QB Tebow leading the SEC in pass efficiency, they are worth the spread here as I think Florida far more capable of making big plays...this is for the East title no doubt in the SEC, Florida is better.
Colorado in bad shape and off a 58-0 pasting at Mizzou, where head coach Hawkins benched his own kid at QB to start a freshman. Not good news for Colorado traveling back to back to play a Texas AM team improving weekly who won at Ames Iowa last week, a tough place to play, and scoring over 40 points in the process. A Tale of 2 teams going in totally different directions, and the offense of Colorado is woeful. Playing ion College Station worth 4 points alone here not to mention Texas AM is a better team.
OK..whats the big deal about Tulsa. yeah they ran the score up against a bunch of nobodies. Big Deal. They looked OK at best on TV Sunday night against a bad Cent. Florida team with a frosh QB. A HUGE step up in class against an improving Arkansas team whose has a solid running game that will move the chains and eat the clock. I know some of the Tulsa coaches used to be at Arkansas and that angle, but this team against a SEC team laying a TD on the road? Arkansas at home here catching Tulsa on a short week off an emotional game.