Utah State (8-2) @ #20 Louisiana Tech (9-1)
Saturday, November 17
Louisiana Tech Offense vs Utah State Defense
Louisiana Tech has one of the best offenses in the nation, statistically speaking. They like to run the spread, hurry-up offense with a balance of quick passes and running plays out of the shotgun. They are averaging 576 total yards per game, which ranks #1 in the country. Utah State's defense will certainly have their hands full on Saturday, but the Aggies are very capable of slowing the potent La Tech offense down. Utah State ranks 1st in the WAC in total defense, and 6th in the nation in scoring defense by allowing only 13.5 points per game. Louisiana Tech will probably move the ball on Utah State throughout most of the night, but don't expect the Aggies to give up anything easy. Utah State is coming off of a bye week, so they have had two weeks to prepare for this dynamic Louisiana Tech offense. Expect some of that preparation to pay off on Saturday.
Utah State Offense vs Louisiana Tech Defense
For as good as Louisiana Tech's offense is, their defense is downright awful. The Bulldogs rank #105 in scoring defense, and #120 in total defense. Last week, against a subpar Texas State offense that ranks #101 in total yards, Louisiana Tech was shredded for 597 yards and 55 points. Texas State has the same shotgun, "run and gun" offense that Utah State likes to run, and the Aggies have been much more effective at it this season. Utah State has an extremely balanced offense that ranks 31st in the nation in total yardage. They are led by QB, Chuckie Keeton, who ranks 17th in the nation in passer rating, having totaled 23 TDs and 7 INTs while completing over 68% of his passes. Keeton, and the rest of the Aggies' offense should have a lot of success through theon Saturday afternoon.
Even though Utah State has covered the spread in every game this season, they continue to be undervalued by the public. In my opinion, Utah State is more deserving of a top 25 ranking than Louisiana Tech. In fact, LA Tech's strength of schedule ranks #112 in the nation, while Utah State ranks #54. The Aggies have posted good wins on the road at Utah early in the season, and demolishing WAC contender San Jose State also. The extra week of preparation will really help Utah State in this game, and I have them winning and covering on Saturday afternoon. TAKE UTAH STATE -3.
#11 Oregon State (7-1) @ #14 Stanford (7-2)
Saturday, November 10
In my opinion, Oregon State and Stanford are pretty much dead even. This should be a traditional, grind-it-out style of game as both teams have good defenses and methodical offenses. This game will be played at Stanford, where the Cardinal have had pretty good success this season. However, the Beavers have proven to be a very capable road team this year.
Oregon State offense vs Stanford defense
Oregon State's QB, Cody Vaz, has done very well after taking over for the former starter, Mannion. In Vaz’s first game as a starter, against a very good BYU defense on the road, he went for 332 yards 3 TD and 0 INT. He also came in late in the fourth quarter at Washington to almost lead his team to a comeback victory. They are going to rely heavily on his arm Saturday, because Stanford has the #1 rush defense in the country. The way to beat Stanford and keep drives going is to throw the intermediate and deep routes. Stanford has a pass defense rated #99 in the nation, and as Arizona showed earlier in the season, there are some holes to be found in the Cardinal secondary. Vaz will need to churn out a performance similar to the one he displayed against BYU to move the ball consistently against Stanford.
Stanford Offense vs Oregon State Defense
Stanford will start redshirt freshman QB, Kevin Hogan, this Saturday. He is filling in for the struggling Josh Nunes. This will be Hogan's first career start against one of the Pac-12's best defenses in Oregon State. Hogan was very efficient last week at Colorado, but the Buffaloes have one of the worst defenses in all of college football this season. Many people say that Hogan will jump-start the Stanford offense, but it will be interesting to see how the young QB responds to the pressure and adversity of being in a tough spot against a quality opponent.
Stanford likes to run a relatively vanilla downhill running game, mixing in play action to their tight ends. Oregon State has gone up against similar offenses in Utah and Wisconsin earlier in the season. The Beavers held those two opponents to 3.0 and 1.5 yards per carry respectively. Oregon State ranks #14 in the nation overall in run defense this season. Expect the Beavers to load the box, stop the run, and make the freshman QB execute tight downfield throws to sustain drives. If Oregon State can do that, they should have a good chance to win this game outright.
I’m expecting a semi-low scoring game in this one. I could easily see this game coming down to a field goal by either team. In that case, I’ll take the team with the more capable offense and proven quarterback getting the 4.5 points. Take Oregon State +4.5.
Iowa Hawkeyes (4-4) @ Indiana Hoosiers (3-5)
Saturday, November 3
Big Ten Network
If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that I would be picking Indiana to win outright over Iowa, I would have probably assumed you were talking about basketball and the number 1 ranked Hoosiers' hoops team. However, here we are in the first weekend of November, and the Iowa Hawkeyes are really struggling, while the Indiana Hoosiers have exceeded expectations as of late.
Indiana Offense vs Iowa Defense
Iowa’s defense has struggled against teams that can pass the ball. Radcliff of Central Michigan went 26/35 283 yards 2 TD 0 INT, and Iowa lost that game. Matt McGloin of Penn State went 26/38 289 yards 2 TD 0 INT in a 38-14 rout in Iowa City. Indiana’s pass offense ranks #30 in the nation. Despite having a lackluster rushing attack keep defenses honest, the Hoosiers have still been able to move the ball through the air against quality opponents. The combination of their incumbent starting QB Coffman and the surprising freshman, Sudfeld, collectively totaled 282 yards 3 TD 0 INT and 352 yards 3TD 0 INT in home games versus Michigan State and Ohio State respectively. Last week, Sudfeld took over in the second quarter at Illinois. He finished 10/15 with two touchdown passes. Regardless of who is taking snaps for the Hoosiers this Saturday, they should be able to find holes in that Iowa secondary.
Iowa Offense vs Indiana Defense
At first glance, it appears that Indiana struggles at defending the run, as they rank #114 in rushing yards per game allowed. However, majority of those yards were given up to teams like Northwestern, Ohio State, and Navy. All of these teams run the ball much differently than Iowa. Northwestern and Ohio State have mobile QB’s that run the zone-read option. Navy runs the ball 75% of the time with their triple option attack. Iowa has a downhill, I-formation running game that is similar to Michigan State. Indiana held MSU and their stud running back, Bell, to only 2.9 yards per carry. Also, Iowa’s lone bright spot on offense, RB Weisman, is doubtful to play in this game. Indiana is at their best defensively when they can load the box without worrying about getting burned on the edges. Iowa doesn't really have the fast, impact playmakers that can break a long touchdown. If Indiana can limit the Hawkeyes on the ground, I’m not sure Vandenberg can keep Iowa in it with his arm. The Hawkeye offense has struggled most of the season, ranking #112 in total offense.
I would give the coaching edge to Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Hawkeyes. I'm just not sure if Iowa has the health, motivation, and gameplan to pull off a road victory against a hungry and resurgent Indiana team. Indiana nailed down their first conference win in awhile last week at Illinois. Even though the Fighting Illini have been horrible this season, I believe that game will go a long way in building the confidence of this young Indiana squad.
Indiana has covered in their last four games, and they are 4-1 ATS in Big Ten play this season. Iowa is just 2-5 ATS on the year, including a 2-7 ATS record away from home in the past two seasons.
All of a sudden, Indiana has a lot to play for in the Big Ten Leaders division. After Wisconsin’s loss last week, Indiana is now in the mix to challenge the Badgers for a spot in the Big Ten title game. They should be fired up and ready to go in front of a packed house in Bloomington (which has been rare in the past several years).
Meanwhile, Iowa is sliding out of contention in the Legends division. They are banged-up, playing back to back road games, and they struggle away from home as is. Kirk Ferentz needs a win badly, but this Iowa team has gotten worse from week to week following their suprising win at Michigan State.
I usually don't put too much stock into line movement. If I see an advantage with matchups or situations, I will tend to make a play based on that credible evidence and my intuition, even if it goes against "sharp money" or other line movements. However, I found this line pretty interesting. Iowa opened up as a 1.5 point favorite, and they were quickly bet down to a 1.5
point underdog. Despite that line movement, according to Yahoo sports, 60% of the public still expects Iowa to win the game. That tells me that the sharp money is on Indiana to cover at home. Like I said, I don't always read into sharp money too much, but I certainly don't mind being on the same side as it. Take INDIANA -1.5
Northern Illinois (7-1) @ Western Michigan (3-5)
Saturday, October 27
ESPN3Since losing their season opener to Iowa, Northern Illinois has rattled off seven straight wins, including four straight covers against the spread. They have won their last two games (vs Buffalo and @Akron) by a combined score of 82-10. The Huskies should be able to have another productive outing at Western Michigan on Saturday. Here is how they will be able to keep their undefeated MAC record intact:
Northern Illinois Offense vs Western Michigan Defense
Northern Illinois loves to run the football down their opponent's throat. The Huskies rank 7th in the nation in rushing yards per game, and their Junior QB, Jordan Lynch, is second in the nation in rushing yards at 131 per game. Northern Illinois runs a hurry-up, no-huddle offense that has proven to wear out defenses, especially defensive linemen. In their four MAC conference games this season, the Huskies have outscored their opponents by a total of 45-0 in the 4th quarter, which is a huge testament to their ability to run their opponents to the point of fatigue. As I mentioned before, QB Jordan Lynch gets most of the carries. His playing style is very similar to Heisman trophy contender Collin Klein of Kansas State. Much like the K-State offense, Northern Illinois loves to put Lynch in the power pistol formation and run straight quarterback-keeper plays, prompting Lynch to read defenses and set up blocks. They also like to run a shotgun-spread, setting up the zone-read option or quick pass to the outside. All of that running potential poses a huge threat to Western Michigan's defense, as they run a 3-3-5 base set that is built to defend the pass-happy teams of the Mid-American Conference. Western Michigan has been awful against teams that had any sort of running threat this year. They gave up 5.8 yards per carry (ypc) to Kent State and 7.5ypc to Toledo, who runs a shotgun spread zone-read similar to what Northern Illinois will try to establish on Saturday.
Western Michigan Offense vs Northern Illinois Defense
Western Michigan lost their star QB, Alex Carder, early in the season. It doesn't appear that he will be back for this game. That means the Broncos will go with Tyler Van Tubbergen, who has started the last four games. Van Tubbergen has struggled so far this season, as he only has 3 TD's and 8 INT's against three MAC opponents this season. That is not a very promising sign for a Western Michigan offense that relies heavily on their passing game. In fact, the Broncos throw the ball 56% of the time, ranking #20 in the nation in that category. They like to run 4 or 5 WR spread sets, looking for short passes and yards after catch. However, Western Michigan has struggled finding room for its wide receivers all season, as they only average 6.1 yards per pass (#103 nationally). Their leading wide receiver, Jaime Wilson, is questionable to play after sustaining a groin injury last week. He may not be 100%, even if he does play. The Broncos have been pretty turnover prone as well, as they rank #116 for interceptions thrown as a percentage of passing attempts. It may be hard for Western Michigan to improve on those numbers this week. Northern Illinois held Akron's potent passing attack to 157 yards last weekend, and Akron ranked #24 in passing going into that game. Look for them to do the same against a banged up Western Michigan offense that is having trouble executing their gameplan.
The recipe for having success against this Northern Illinois defense is to run the ball effectively. In the two games the Huskies failed to cover (against Kansas and Army), both teams ran the ball for more than 150 yards in each game. Western Michigan does not pose any real threat in the rushing game. In fact, they are amongst the bottom 20 teams in terms of how often they run the ball. Look for Northern Illinois to sit back and disrupt the routes of Western Michigan's wide receivers.
Western Michigan is 0-4 against the spread as an underdog this year, including a 37-17 home loss to Toledo earlier this season. Meanwhile, Northern Illinois is 5-2 against the spread this year, covering in four straight contests. The Huskies have a huge edge in talent and this matchup greatly favors their overall strategy. I would look for Northern Illinois to maintain their unblemished MAC record and cover the seven point spread on the road. TAKE NORTHERN ILLINOIS -7.
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Nebraska Huskers (4-2) @ Northwestern Wildcats (6-1)
Saturday, October 20
ABC Regional / ESPN2
Northwestern Offense vs Nebraska Defense
Nebraska is coming off a much needed bye week following their 63-38 beatdown at Ohio State on October 6. The Huskers had no answer for mobile QB Braxton Miller and the zone-read attack of the Buckeyes as they gave up 371 yards rushing in that game. Nebraska will face another mobile QB in Northwestern's Kain Colter. Last year, Colter had his coming out party in Lincoln, amassing 229 total yards (115 pass yds, 57 rush yds, 57 rec yds) and 3 TD's. In that 2011 meeting, Nebraska spent the entire week preparing for Dan Persa at quarterback. When Persa went down in the second quarter, Colter took over the reigns, and Nebraska looked completely lost on defense trying to defend him. They should not be surprised by Northwestern's gameplan this time around, which is expected to feature Colter and their leading rusher, RB Venric Mark. Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini claims that his team used the off week to figure out how to defend the zone-read rushing attack. Even if the Huskers turn out a solid defensive gameplan, they still need to make tackles in space, which is something they have struggled with all season. Expect Nebraska to pull up their safeties in an effort to slow down Colter and Mark. The Huskers need to limit gains on first and second down to put Northwestern in predictable passing situations. If that is the case, and the Wildcats have to go with their passing QB, Siemian, expect the matchup to shift greatly in Nebraska's favor. The Huskers matchup-zone should contain a Northwestern passing attack that is still unproven. Expect Nebraska's defensive line to get good pressure on 3rd and long situations, as they rank 7th in the nation in sack percentage.
Nebraska Offense vs Northwestern Defense
Statistically speaking, Northwestern's defense has done a good job against the run this year, but they have not seen a rushing attack like Nebraska yet this season. The Huskers rank 5th in the nation, averaging 274 rushing yards per game. Last week, Minnesota's dynamic QB, MarQueis Gray, tore up the Wildcats with designed quarterback keepers before he left the game in the second quarter. Gray finished with 9 carries, 86 yards (9.6ypc), and a touchdown. If Northwestern doesn't tighten up their defense, Taylor Martinez will absolutely shred them on the ground, which could ultimately set up well for the deep play-action pass.
Nebraska's star RB, Rex Burkhead, has been nursing a sprained MCL since the opening game. It is likely that he has benefitted from a week of rest, and is closer to 100%. Expect him to be on top of his game, side stepping and bulling defenders over.
Northwestern is only 1-3 against the spread and straight up as a home underdog in the past two seasons. Meanwhile, Nebraska is 3-1 against the spread as an away favorite over that time span. The weather for Saturday's game is expected to be low 60's, cloudy, with a slight wind of 10mph.
If the Huskers lose this game, Bo Pelini will start to feel the pressure of being on the hot seat. After all, this is the same Nebraska program that fired Frank Solich after churning out a nine win regular season in 2003. I think the week off has given Pelini and his staff time to develop a solid defensive gameplan. This Northwestern team poses less of a passing threat than UCLA or Ohio State, so expect Nebraska to load the box and bring the safeties up to stop the run. However, gameplanning is only one piece of the puzzle. The Nebraska defense still needs to execute, stay disciplined, and wrap-up. I am expecting big plays and long runs from both teams on Saturday, and for that reason I am leaning OVER 61 total points.
For more Week 8 College Football Selections, visit The Pick List.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-0) @ Temple Owls (3-2)Saturday, October 2012:00 ETESPN3
Why is the line at -5?
The line actually started at Rutgers -4. It has moved up since then to -5 or even -5.5 in some books. At first glance, this may look like a sucker bet, as Rutgers is undefeated, ranked #15 in the country, and playing a team that is not known for football success. Is this line too good to be true for those leaning in Rutgers direction? The answer is no. My guess is that the oddsmakers are predicting a low scoring affair, just as they have in the previous two Rutgers
games (-7 vs UConn, -7 vs Syracuse). After all, Rutgers is only averaging 25 points per game, which doesn’t leave much room for error defensively when trying to cover by 5-7 points. However, the Rutgers defense has definitely answered the call so far this season. (ranked #7 overall in scoring defense).
Temple Offense vs Rutgers Defense
Temple likes to run the ball more than almost every other team in the country. In fact, they are running the ball 62% of the time, which ranks as 10th most in the nation ahead of teams like Alabama, LSU, and Wisconsin. They usually run a shotgun-set, zone-read option to do most of their damage on the ground. Their QB, Coyer, makes good decisions on the option, and has excellent running ability. The Owls like to go with the hurry-up offense, not allowing the other team to make defensive substitutions. They also like to line up in the old-school, double TE, I-formation from time to time. However, Temple’s preference to run the ball at a high percentage plays right into the strength of the Rutgers defense. The Scarlet Knights rank 2nd in the country (behind Alabama) in rushing defense by only surrendering 58 yards per game. They are only giving up 2.3 yards per carry. Look for Rutgers to stuff the run, and force Temple to beat them through the air. If this happens, it will be a long day for the Temple offense that ranks 102nd in pass completion percentage. The Owls are only converting an abysmal 30% of their third down attempts (#113 in nation) due in large part to their inability to pass the ball on third and long scenarios. They may find themselves in plenty of those situations if the stingy Rutgers defense can stop the run on first and second down. Rutgers Offense vs Temple Defense
Rutgers also likes to establish the run with their star RB Jamison. Temple is giving up 143 rushing yards per game, so Jamison may find some running room in between the Owls' front seven. If that holds true, it should set up play-action opportunities for the Knights’ efficient QB, Nova. In the past four games, he has thrown 8 TD’s and 0 INT’s. UConn had success passing the ball down the middle of the field early in last week’s game vs Temple. Look for Rutgers’ big, physical receivers to break inside with slant or post routes to take advantage of the holes in the secondary.
It is paramount that Rutgers is able to establish a solid running threat in this game. Much like Rutgers defensive gameplan heading into this matchup, Temple will also try to stuff the run to get the Knights into predictable passing situations. Temple thrives in getting a good pass rush, as they have managed to get sacks on nearly 9% of their opponents passing attempts (which ranks 11th in the nation). To stay away from those situations, Rutgers will need to keep the Owl’s defensive front guessing with a balanced attack.
The only significant downfall of this Rutgers offense early in the season has been their inability to finish drives. They rank 101st in the country in red-zone scoring at 71%, They certainly don’t want to fall into the same trap UConn did against Temple last week when the Huskies missed four field goals and lost the game in overtime. The Knights have to find a way to finish drives to keep pressure on the Temple offense to make a play.
Temple usually plays pretty well at home, as they are 3-0 against the spread as a home
underdog in the past three years. That includes an impressive, straight up 37-28 win two weeks ago over South Florida. On the other hand, this Rutgers team has proven to be road warriors early in the season. They picked up some quality wins at South Florida and at Arkansas, keeping their composure late in both those games to seal the victories.
I think Rutgers will come out focused and ready to play their brand of football. It’s always hard to lay points on the road, but Rutgers is a confident team that runs the ball, stops the run, doesn’t turn the ball over, and gets takeaways. They should be able to stop Temple’s one-dimensional offense, all the while keeping a balanced offense themselves. I think they will keep on rolling, remain undefeated, and cover the spread. TAKE RUTGERS -5.Get more Week 8 College Football Selections at The Pick List.
This list is comprised of teams that may be overlooking their current opponents due to a big game coming up the following week. Last week, Kansas State, West Virginia, Florida, Arizona State, and Texas A&M were put on look-ahead alert. Those teams finished 4-1, with West Virginia notching the only upset loss. However, those teams only went 2-3 against the spread, with Arizona State and Florida providing the covers. This week's teams are:
Notre Dame--This Week: vs BYU; Next Week: @ #9 Oklahoma
Next week Notre Dame will try to prove themselves as national title contenders against an OU squad that is finally living up to preseason expectations. However, this week they will play a BYU team that will limp into South Bend following a 42-24 home loss to Oregon State.
Cincinnati--This Week: @ Toledo; Next Week: @ #16 Louisville
One week before what may be the battle for the Big East vs Louisville, Cincinnati will travel to the Glass Bowl to play an underrated Toledo team that is capable of putting up some points.
Georgia--This Week: @ Kentucky; Next Week: vs #2 Florida
It would be easy for the Bulldogs to overlook a struggling Kentucky team at any time, let alone the week before their biggest game of the year against rival Florida.
Mississippi State--This Week: vs Middle Tennessee; Next Week: @ #1 Alabama
This is a classic letdown spot for a team that has struggled early against inferior opponents (won 30-24 @Troy, won 20-10 vs South Alabama). They are undefeated, coming off a quality win vs Tennessee, and they have a huge opportunity at Alabama on the 27th, but first they will face a pesky Sun-Belt opponent who already got a win at Georgia Tech this season.
Northwestern (5-1) @ Minnesota (4-1)
Saturday, October 13
Minnesota is one of those teams that has difficulties on the road and usually plays beyond their potential at home. Under Jerry Kill (who took over at the beginning of last season) Minnesota is 4-1 ATS (against the spread) at home as an underdog, including an impressive 3-2 record straight up in those games. The victories came over Iowa (+16) and Illinois (+10) last season, and vs Syracuse (+3) this season. The Gophers home field advantage is definitely something to take into consideration; however, I don’t think this matchup favors them, particularly on defense.
For some reason, Northwestern got away from what they do best last week (at Penn St), which is running the zone read with versatile QB Colter and their breakout RB Mark. Instead, the Wildcats put the game in the hands of their pocket passer, Siemian, to throw short and intermediate routes. I’m not sure if NW was intimidated by PSU’s strong front seven, or if they saw a mismatch in the passing game, but it ended up biting them in the end as they weren’t able to establish much offense in the 4th quarter, aiding in PSU’s comeback victory. The zone-read had success in the red zone, yielding two touchdowns (one by Mark, one by Colter), but the two only had 18 total carries in the game (in comparison with Siemian’s 36 pass attempts). That is a very surprising number considering that Northwestern had an 11 point lead going into the fourth quarter. I don’t expect Northwestern to follow that same strategy going into this game against Minnesota. They will look to establish the run with Colter and Mark in this game. This is the biggest key for the Wildcats, and I think they need to get Colter/Mark a combined 30-40 touches at least. If Northwestern can get those two players going, they will win this game easy. The Wildcats rushing offense that is 16th in the country (230ypg) is built off a very strong, solid offensive line that should overpower the Gopher’s front seven. Defensively, Minnesota is very small, but fast. They are strong in the secondary, and more equipped to stop a wide-open, spread, pass-happy team (like Syracuse), rather than a team with a solid running game. Their defensive line is built to rush the passer, not stop the run. They have two DE’s with great speed, but they are essentially linebackers in stature. With the exception of a 300lb DT, Minnesota has a small defensive front seven that gets eaten up by solid run blocking linemen. That was proven true when Iowa rushed for 7.3 yards per carry, just dominating the Gophers at the line of scrimmage The only way Minnesota could stop the run game was by blitzing off the edge, hoping their man would get to the ball-carrier before it was too late. This, of course, set up huge gains in play action for Iowa. If you look at some of their earlier games, Minnesota gave up 4.5ypc to UNLV and 4.3ypc to Western Michigan. Both of those teams are less than stellar in the running game, but they both managed to run the ball at a pretty good clip against the Gophers. I failed to include the rushing stats for the Syracuse
game, because SU really didn’t try to establish a run, and a large percentage of their carries came from QB scrambles. I see Northwestern getting back to the running game, much like they did at Indiana earlier in the season when they had a huge line of scrimmage advantage and amassed nearly 400 yards rushing. Having said that, I should note that Minnesota is coming off a bye week in which they have had a little more time to study and prepare for the zone-read attack. Will that prove to be an advantage for Minnesota? It might, but I doubt it will hold up for four quarters, and I see the size, talent, and physicality of Northwestern’s offense ultimately prevailing in this one.
Offensively for the Gophers, versatile QB Marquis Gray, who sat out the past two games with
an ankle injury, may return this week. Coach Jerry Kill didn’t reveal too much information on Gray’s status, but he did say that the QB was 60-70%. If he does play, expect it to be in a limited or situational role. Last year Gray ate up Northwestern for 170 yards rushing, though the ankle injury will likely keep him from running too much in this one (if he plays at all). When Gray isn’t playing, this methodical offense led by Soph QB Max Shortell needs to focus on balance, ball control, intermediate passes, and not turning the ball over. I would compare this Minnesota offensive style with Max Shortell to the Vanderbilt offense and Jordan Rodgers, who Northwestern held in check at home in week two. Now, that doesn’t necessarily indicate that NW will be able go on the road, following that tough loss, and shut down the Gophers. There is something to be said about playing back to back road games, especially when you are coming off an emotional loss. On the other side, expect the Gophers to maybe add a few wrinkles and maybe some trick plays into their gameplan following two weeks of preparation. That being said, ultimately Minnesota needs to limit turnovers if it wants to stay in the game. That was the recipe for success against Syracuse, as Minnesota won the turnover battle 4 to 0. However, even though the Gophers moved the ball and picked up first downs (mostly in the second half), they lost the turnover battle 0-4 in their loss to Iowa, including a costly pick-six. Look
for Northwestern to keep Minnesota’s offense in front of them, making them earn points by establishing long drives and forcing the young QB to play consistent and complete a high percentage of passes.
Ultimately, a great recipe to winning on the road is by running the ball and stopping the
run. I see Northwestern executing both here, taking away the crowd and any potential momentum for the Gophers. Offensive coordinator, Mick McCall, will make it a point of emphasis utilize the advantage Northwestern has in the running game, especially after receiving criticism for not doing so last week. TAKE NORTHWESTERN -3.
Northwestern 31 Minnesota 20
Saturday, October 6
Nebraska has struggled badly against teams with mobile quarterbacks, and Ohio States Braxton Miller is probably the best dual-threat QB in college football. In the past three years, look at how Nebraska has fared against these mobile QB's:
- 2010: Bowl Game vs Washington: L 19-7: Jake Locker 13 att 83 yds 1 TD
2011: @ Wisconsin: L 48-17: Russell Wilson 6 car 32yds 1 TD (bought time for pass with feet)
2011: vs Ohio St W 34-27: Braxton Miller 10 car 91 yds (got hurt in 2nd half)
2011: vs Northwestern L 25-28: Kain Colter 17 car 57 yds 2TD
2011: @ Michigan: L 17-45: Dennard Robinson 23 car 83 yds 2 TD
2011: Bowl Game vs South Carolina: L 13-30: Connor Shaw 19 car 42 yd 1 TD
2012: @ UCLA: Hundley 12 car 53 yd, 305 pass yd 4 TD
Nebraska could not get the opposing team's offense off of the field in all of those games. Those quarterbacks not only ran the ball effectively, but they also moved around and bought time with their feet to open up big plays in the passing game. This has been a huge Achilles heal for Nebraska under Bo Pelini, and I'm not sure if they can reverse that trend on the road Saturday against a gamer like Braxton Miller.
On the other side of the ball, I am not completely sold on Martinez as a passer quite yet. His stats look good (mostly against cupcakes), but he still has to prove himself in tough spots. He fared well in a comeback win over Wisconsin last week, but I still question whether he has the pocket presence, poise, and decision making ability to lead his team on the road in a tight game. When faced with any type of pressure, Martinez has released some terrible throws or just completely folded in the pocket. Expect Ohio State to load up against the rushing attack of Burkhead and Abdullah to make the Huskers beat them through the air. Nebraska's offense has had trouble with rhythm all year, and if the Huskers can't keep Braxton Miller off the field, expect the offense to be out-of-sync and restless (much like what happened in the second half of the UCLA game where they mustered only 60 yards passing).
As coach of Nebraska, Bo Pelini is 0-5 straight up as a road underdog, and most of those losses aren't even close (like @Wisconsin and @Michigan last year). It will be hard for him to buck that trend against a Ohio State team with a mobile quarterback coached by Urban Meyer. Somebody pointed out to me that Nebraska is 9-3-1 ATS recently against ranked teams. If you look closer at those numbers, they are 1-3 in the past year, with that one win coming at home vs Michigan State last season. Most of the other covers came in 2009, when Nebraska had Suh and that stellar defense. This defense is nowhere near that caliber. Additionally, the revenge factor comes into play from that blown lead to the Huskers in Lincoln last year. While I'm not putting this one on the Pick List, I will advsie to LEAN OHIO STATE -3.
Friday, October 5
Both teams are coming off bye weeks. After a very slow start, Pittsburgh has been playing well and trending up after a breakout 35-17 win over VaTech, and then hammering cupcake Gardner-Webb 55-7. In both those games, QB
Sunseri and RB Graham both looked like the impact players everyone expected them to be at the beginning of the season. On the other hand, after starting their season in competitive losses to Northwestern and USC, Syracuse has been trending down in their last few games with a 28-17 win over Stony Brook and a 10-17 loss
at Minnesota. Senior QB Nassib looked good against Stony Brook, but the 'Cuse still had to rally in the second half to get the victory. He didn't fare so well against Minnesota, throwing two picks, and Syracuse didn't score a TD until less than one minute left in the game. The Gophers were able to shut down the Orange, and utilize ball control to win that game. I expect Pittsburgh to do the same here. The line is in favor of Syracuse by 1.5 points. However, in their last nine games, Syracuse is 1-8 against the spread, with their only cover coming against an overrated USC (+24.5) team traveling across the country earlier this year. I have to ride the hot hand with Sunseri and Pittsburgh in this one, even though they are playing on the road. Take Pitt +1.5--one unit.
See all of this weeks picks at The Pick List.