Last Week: 7-0
It’s been a strange season so far to say the least. From here on out I promise to take my meds and get away from this bi-polar style of all or nothing capping. I’ve got to admit I’m still a little clueless on a number of these teams. We’re still dealing with 40 new coaches in college football this year. And countless new assistants. Some of whom already haven’t worked out (Houston, Wisconsin) and been canned. This is why I’m thinking this could be a little tougher season to cap. We don’t have much in the way of history or trends to work with for many of these teams. Hopefully we’ll get a better idea of how these teams operate after the first month or so. Until then all we can do is hit submit and hope.
Nebraska (-24) over Arkansas State **
I can already see Bo Pelini making his defense run up and down the stadium steps this week. If it hadn’t been for the UCLA QB taking a knee at the end of the game, UCLA would have gained more yards on the Nebraska defense than any time in it’s history. My bet is with just Idaho State next week, Nebraska will be very focused for this game. Especially since Arky State put up 34 points on Oregon. It should be noted that it was basically all in the second half after Kelly pulled his first team. Still, I don’t think Pelini will take anything for granted here. I hate taking Nebraska after they win. As in when they went to Washington a couple years ago and smacked the Huskies around. Then came home and barely beat South Dakota State as -44 point favorites. But when they lose it’s another story.. And they won’t be in a good mood this week. Just a couple things about Arky State. This isn’t the same team that won 10 games last year. Their defense was pretty much decimated by graduation. Thus the Oregon offense being able to cut through them like butter until they decided to start toying with them with their backups in the second half. Nebraska should be able to do the same thing. I can see the Huskers scoring in the 50′s or higher here. Can ASU score in the 30′s? After the Huskers defensive performance last week, I doubt it. Another reason ASU is a “play against” team for me this season is because they won 10 games ATS last year. These AQ teams who have an “out of nowhere” great ATS season like that, all ineveitably fall the next season, and don’t get over .500 ATS. With only 10 starters back, I can easily see a big fall this year against the number. The Huskers were 29 point winners over Southern Miss in the first week. And SM had more overall talent than this ASU team. I see no reason why the Huskers can’t do the same to Arky State.
Maryland (+3) over UCONN **
If this is a defensive battle like I think it will be, I’ll take the home points. So far, UCONN can’t score, and that’s a problem going on the road for the first time. I also like the QB play from Maryland better than I’ve seen with UCONN, who so far has thrown 5 interceptions on the season. Maryland hasn’t been any better in turning the ball over 8 times on the season. But it’s mostly been fumbles instead of poor QB play. So whoever wins the turnover battle should win this one. I like Maryland because of the QB advantage. And I also think Edsall is the better coach in this contest. A trend that I don’t think I’ve ever brought up and don’t play very often, and one that has been strong over the years is the home dog after an outright dog win has hit at about a 65% rate in the 2000′s. Maryland is the only team that qualifies this week. And with this short a spread, I give them a decent chance at covering.
Boston College (+3.5) over Northwestern **
I came very close to playing Northwestern last week because I thought it was a great spot play with Vandy coming in fresh off a heartbreaking loss to SC. A team they worked hard and prepared for all summer, and put all of their energy and emotion into, only to come up short. Then they had to go on the road as favorites the next week after suffering that HUGE disappointment. And they simply didn’t have the energy left to finish their game against NW, and again came up short. But this week is a little different for NW. They have yet another team coming in who is of similar talent. But this week they are giving points to a team who should be very focused for this game.. Especially since this is pretty much a “must win” game for BC to have any chance to make it to a bowl this season. NW has a knack for playing down or up to their competetion, and playing very close to the spread. I have a feeling this is what we’re going to see here too. I like the job that BC QB Rettig is doing so far this season (5 TD’s 1 int). While NW HC Fitzgerald is juggling two QB’s, which I think could eventually backfire on him. At any rate, I simply see two middle of the road teams going after each other in an early season game that perhaps means more to the dog in this case. With one of these teams owning a very poor ATS record as a favorite (NW). I’ll take the dog.
Florida International (+17) over Central Florida **
This seems like a lot of points to be favored over a FIU team who is picked to win the Sunbelt this year. I can appreciate UCF being a stronger team this year. But I don’t think these teams are 11 points on the line different than they were last year in which FIU won as +6 dogs. Many will automatically be blowing off FIU because of their comparable scores against Akron. But FIU is a dangerous team with a duo threat QB. They are also a very good rushing team. And could very well be the running dogs in this game. 17 starters are back from last seasons 8-5 FIU team. So they aren’t a young team by any means. They have already been on the road once against Duke, and lost the game in a 30 point Duke second quarter in which nothing went right for FIU. I expect them to come into this game very focused now that they know they are the big dogs. And although I think UCF wins this, I don’t think FIU makes it easy. 17 points is a big line for two AQ teams from similar strength conferences and winning programs…just sayin’
Stanford (+9 -120) over USC **
Even though this could be a very difficult season for Stanford because of their tough schedule and having a rookie QB, I think this is a pretty decent spot for the Cards because of being in their “comfort zone” of playing their third straight game at home, while USC is playing their second straight game on the road. The bottom line for me in this game is I feel that Stanford has at least equal to better lines on both sides of the ball. So it will be up to Barkley and his skill players to beat Stanford. That may happen, but I think they’re going to have trouble covering two scores against what I think will be the running dogs in this spot. If USC starting center Holmes can’t go, it’s going to put some added pressure on their offense. Stanford is green in their defensive backfield, but unlike last season, I think the Stanford front 7 will get to Barkley a few times in this game. And if anything, we’ll see some hurried passes and possible mistakes by USC. The key to the game and for this play to hit is if Nunes can just manage the game and not make key mistakes that will give USC short fields. The Cards getting back FB Hewitt this week is big. It should not only improve their rushing game, it should take some of the pressure off Nunes by having an extra short dump off receiver when he goes back to pass. Plus having that leadership back in the huddle doesn’t hurt. So far USC hasn’t made a believer out of me that they are truely a top two or three elite team. And this week they are playing a tougher lunch pail type of team that tends to give them problems. It’s finesse vs power. And I tend to like these power teams. Especially when their playing at home. I’ll take the points.
Wisconsin (-13.5) over Utah State **
Wisky did what they usually do when they go out to the west coast during the regular season, they threw in a clunker. On the other side Utah State upset state rivvals Utah in what was a huge game for the school. But I think this could be a very good situational spot for Wisky coming off an embarassing loss, while Utah State has to travel a couple time zones to play another physical BCS team. When you don’t play in a BCS conference, I think it’s very hard for these AQ teams to play two great games in a row. A Boise or a TCU might be able to pull it off, but I don’t see a Utah State team with just 12 starters back having the same success. The difference for Wisky between last week and this week is I don’t believe Utah State is nearly as stout up front on defense as Oregon State. And I look for much more success running the ball this week. The Badgers should come into this game mad and not taking anything for granted after having a close win in their first game and a loss in their second. Despite their offense, the Badger defense has played great up to this point. And I expect the same here. I look for a fairly low scoring game. But I do look for Wisky’s offense to get untracked enough to cover this spread. If they can’t they might be in trouble going into league play. I think Bilema will want to get these problems ironed out in the next couple of weeks. I look for a 31-14 type of game.
Northern Illinois/Army (Under 49 -120) **
I don’t play many totals, but this looked like one of the best on the board this week. Army HC Rich Ellerson said he was very surprised at his team’s performance last week when they traveled out to the west coacst and got beat 42-7 by SDST. But I think it’s very tough for a team to not only travel cross country, but play a team who has had a game under their belt when you haven’t. So I thought it was a big disadvantage for Army in that game. I expect Ellerson to tighten things up considerably this week. Especially on defense. I know there has been many comparisons to the NIU/Army game last year in which NIU won 49-26. But in that game Army was rolling out a new DL while NIU had the best OL in the MAC. So it was a HUGE mismatch. It will be just the opposite this year. All of those OL have graduated, and NIU is down to just 24 starts (117 in the FBS). While the strength of this Army defense will be their DL. NIU was able to rush for 289 yards on Army that day. But NIU no longer has the OL or their QB Harnish, who was a first team MAC player who will be sorely missed. Now they go on their first true road trip to face a mad Army team who has bowl aspirations this year. In NIU’s first game in a neutral site (Illinois) location against Iowa, they scored 17 points, but managed just 200 yards of total offense in that game. So they are still a work in progress on that side of the ball. On the other side, NIU is still pretty stout on defense with 8 starters back. So I think this could be a bit of a Mexican standoff from both sides on offense. This game is ripe for an upset. Army has the experienced QB and homefield advantage. But I’m going to take the under. I look for a 24-20 type of game.
Utah (+4 -120) over BYU **
With Utah having painted themselves in a corner after their upset loss last week to the other state team Utah State, I look for the Utes to come out much sharper for this game to try to avoid losing to both of their state rivals in the same year. Although last year’s game was a blowout, I expect a much closer game this year with BYU seeking revenge. But I don’t anticipate the QB problems that Utah went through last week with Wynn not playing very well from the onset, and then getting hurt. It’s pretty obvious after a year out of the game he wasn’t ready to come back. In 12 of the last 15 games, this game has been decided by a TD or less. In most years, this game is usually low scoring. With the future NFL talent on both defenses, I expect the same here. I’m going to like BYU in a lot of games this year because they are a stronger team. But they are still lacking some bigtime playmakers on offense. And I don’t see them being capable of pulling away on the road in a hostile environment. It will be interesting to see if BYU can stop Utah RB White, who completely riddled BYU’s defense last year. Should be a great game. But I’ll take the home cookin’ points.