As Thursday Night Football Winds Down, There’s Still Plenty of Action

Matt Forte needs more carries for many reasons in order for the Bears to defeat Dallas.

One of the worst parts about college and pro football seasons coming to an end is that we lose our Thursday night fixes. Thankfully, we still have a good one in the NFL and a very competitive one in the collegiate ranks.

Dallas (-4) at Chicago (O/U 51.5) – Dallas enters the Windy City coming off a rather embarrassing performance on Thanksgiving Day in a home loss to Philadelphia. The loss dropped them to a game behind the Eagles with Philly of course having the victory in hand.

What I find fascinating is that the Cowboys will play in Philly next Sunday while the Eagles will be coming off of a tough home contest with Seattle. If Dallas can find a way to win this win and then take advantage of some extra rest, that could go a long ways towards a win against the Eagles.

Although the Bears have pretty much been eliminated from playoff contention, I don’t think you’ll see them just roll over for the Cowboys. Despite a defense that at times looks like it rolls over for everyone, Chicago will play hard especially with the game being on national television.

Bears’ Head Coach Marc Trestman said this week his Bears have to get back to running the ball. This might be a good week to do just that as the Cowboys rank 22nd in the NFL in stopping the run. That could mean heavier doses of Matt Forte which in turn takes pressure off of Jay Cutler.

Key Injuries: DAL OT Tyron Smith/Illness-Probable, CHI WR Alshon Jeffery/Hamstring-Questionable

Trends: The Cowboys are 1-4 against the spread in their last five game… Chicago is 3-11-1 ATS in their last 15 games at home… The total has gone UNDER in five of Dallas’ last seven games on the road in Chicago… The Bears are 4-2 straight up in their last six games at home against Dallas.

The Pick: My problem here is that I just don’t have complete faith in either team. That said, I have to go with the one playing better overall and that’s the Cowboys. Take Dallas to cover and the UNDER.

George O'Leary's UCF Knights can grab a share of the AAC title with a win at East Carolina.

Central Florida (+7) at East Carolina (O/U 56) – Both teams are 8-3 but UCF is 6-1 in the American Athletic Conference while East Carolina is 5-2. Memphis is already in the house with a completed regular season and a 7-1 AAC record. If the Knights can win on the road here, they’ll get a share of the title.

Central Florida and Memphis did not play against each other this year and there is no conference title game either.

One other outside factor will be Cincinnati. They are also 6-1 and can clinch a share with a win Saturday against Houston.

Regardless of the outcome in this game both teams are heading to bowl games. What matters though is which bowls because the better the bowl the better the payout. UCF is 2-2 on the road while the Pirates are 5-0 at home.

Trends: Central Florida is 9-2 straight up in their last 11 games on the road… East Carolina is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games against the Golden Knights… UCF is 1-4 straight up in their last five games on the road against the Pirates… The total has gone OVER in four of ECU’s last six games when playing against Central Florida.

The Pick: I like the Pirates to win the game but take UCF getting seven and take the OVER.

Getting You Ready for Some Good Thursday Night Action

Mike Pouncey's return has helped stabilize the Dolphins' offensive line.

Buffalo (O/U 50) at Miami (-6) – Back in week two of the 2014 NFL season, the Miami Dolphins headed to Western New York fresh off of a season-opening win over New England. Buffalo was returning home following an overtime win Chicago to open the season. Oddly enough, the two AFC East rivals meet for the final time this season and again have identical records.

At 5-4 the stakes couldn’t be any higher in an incredibly deep AFC Playoff race. New England controls the division at 7-2 and both the Dolphins and Bills still have road trips to Foxboro in their future plans. Miami is 1-1 in the division while Buffalo is 2-1 but the pressure is really on the Bills here.

Their conference record is just 2-4 while Miami’s is 4-2. With so many teams still alive in the AFC tie-breakers are crucially important. In order for the Bills to win, they must get something out of their 26th ranked offense. Miami boasts the fourth-best defense in the league right now so the task will not be easy.

Conversely, Miami has to deal with Buffalo’s fifth-ranked defense so I don’t expect a whole lot of scoring in this one.

Key Injuries: BUF RB Fred Jackson QUEST/Groin, WR Sammy Watkins QUEST/Groin… MIA TE Dion Sims OUT/toe, RB Lamar Miller QUEST/Shoulder

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in six of Buffalo’s last eight games when playing on the road in Miami… The Dolphins are 4-2 straight up in their last six games at home against Buffalo… The Bills are 2-4 against the spread in their last six trips to Miami… The Fins are 4-2 SU in their last six games

The Pick: I like Miami to win but I think that number is too much. Take Buffalo getting the points and take the UNDER.

Gunner Kiel has been impressive as the Bearcats' starting QB this season.

East Carolina (-2.5) at Cincinnati (O/U 68.5) – The Pirates are coming off a 20-10 loss to Temple where they committed seven turnovers. The Bearcats are just a game behind ECU and would jump ahead of them with a victory.

Cincinnati has won three-straight following a three-game losing streak that saw losses to Big Ten leader Ohio State, AAC leader Memphis and Miami, FL. Gunner Kiel has thrown 20 touchdown passes to just three interceptions.

Both teams have proven they can score but I think the Pirates defend better.

Trends: East Carolina is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games… The total has gone UNDER in six of Cincinnati’s last eight games when playing ECU… The Pirates are 5-1 straight up in their last 6 games… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Bearcats last six games at home.

The Pick: In a close one, take ECU to cover and the UNDER.

Cal (O/U 72) at USC (-14.5) – Sonny Dykes has the Bears a win away from being bowl-eligible which is a big step forward from last year’s 1-11 record but the Trojans have had their number of late. Cal doesn’t have any problem scoring as they rank fourth in the nation but their defense is almost dead-last.

That should open up things form Trojans’ QB Cody Kessler who I expect will have a big game.

Trends: Cal is 8-17 against the spread in their last 25 games… USC is 5-0 straight up in their last five games at home against Cal… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Bears’ last five games when playing on the road at USC… The total has gone UNDER in 14 of the Trojans’ last 20 games at home.

The Pick: Because Cal can score, I like them getting the points and take the OVER here.

What We Know and What We Don’t Through Three Weeks of College Football

The SEC has remained in its' dominant place at the top so far in college football.

We are now through three full weeks of college football and typically by this time we have a small glimpse of who the top teams might be. I would accept arguments right now on any number of teams but I still haven’t seen one team that makes me sit up and take notice. Consider the following games from this past weekend.

Georgia was the darling of the college football world after their huge win over Clemson in their opener. Paired with South Carolina’s devastating loss to Texas A&M, many CFB experts we suddenly changing their picks for the winner of the SEC East Division. The Gamecocks barely escaped East Carolina (more on them later) in week two so naturally, we thought Georgia would go into Columbia and win right?

Georgia battled hard by fell 38-35 to the Gamecocks. The loss opens things back up for South Carolina and also makes each team’s game with Florida that much bigger now.

As far as those Pirates of ECU are concerned, all they did was go into Blacksburg and knock off unbeaten Virginia Tech 28-21. This was a Hokies team that upset Ohio State in Columbus just a week before. Suddenly we were all thinking that maybe the ACC wasn’t easy street for Florida State. Well, maybe it is after all.

The Bruins proved they can win without Hundley, but their wins have been ugly.

One of the sexier picks to make the Championship Playoff this season was UCLA led by Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley. The good news is the Bruins are still unbeaten at 3-0, but their wins have been struggles. They defeated Virginia on the road with defense, barely survived Memphis in the Rose Bowl by seven and then Saturday they managed to get by Texas 20-17 with Hundley out with an elbow injury.

Back-up Jerry Neuheisel led the Bruins to the go-ahead touchdown with three minutes to go in the fourth. Let’s be clear; the name of the game in college football is winning and UCLA is winning but I have a hard time seeing this get through the Pac-12 schedule unscathed right now.

What We Know

What is blatantly obvious to all of us is that the Big Ten is not going to go anywhere near the playoff with several miracles. A week ago the conference suffered losses at the top with Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State going down and losses at the bottom with Northwestern and Purdue losing to MAC schools.

This past weekend, Michigan was taken deep into the second half by Miami, OH before pulling away in the fourth. Indiana lost to Bowling Green and Iowa lost at home to rival Iowa State by three. This is a Cyclones’ team that was throttled at home in the opener by North Dakota State too.

As bad as the Big Ten has been, the SEC has been quite the opposite.

The best football conference in the country is proving worthy of their title as they now have seven teams in the Top 25. Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss are in the top ten and each is unbeaten. Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri are also listed. The tragic irony of this dominant situation is that the SEC could very well knock itself around too much.

Florida plays at Alabama this coming Saturday and then in two weeks, things get really interesting. LSU will play at Auburn and Alabama will travel to Ole Miss. While it’s doubtful anyone comes out without some scratches, the SEC can’t beat itself up too much or it could cost itself the two spots we’ve all given it in the final four.

As usual, there’s a lot that can happen.


Deciphering What’s Left of the Season: the Non-AQ Edition

Colby Cameron's Louisiana Tech Bulldogs are just one of the teams looking to take a non-AQ conference title.

Following on from Wednesday’s look at the AQ conferences and how each is likely to pan out this season, CasinoReview takes you to the non-AQ conferences in search of finding those teams looking to take home a division title, or even conference title, this season.



East Division

Central Florida (8-2, 6-0 CUSA) – The Knights need to win one of their two remaining games this season to be awarded the East Division crown. Thanks to a head-to-head win over East Carolina, UCF can still win the title even if it loses both games, providing the Pirates lose two also.

East Carolina (6-4, 5-1 CUSA) – First the Pirates need to win out to have any chance of taking the division and then they need help from Tulsa and UAB, who would both need to win against UCF for East Carolina to be awarded the title.

West Division

Tulsa (8-2, 6-0 CUSA) – The Golden Hurricane can afford to lose this weekend against UCF, but only just. This race will go down to the final game of the season – which has Tulsa traveling to SMU – if the Mustangs win at Rice this weekend. If the Mustangs lose this weekend, Tulsa takes the West.

SMU (5-5, 4-2 CUSA) – The Mustangs need to defeat Rice this weekend in Houston to be in with a shot at the division title. A victory sets up a winner-takes-it-all clash with Tulsa next weekend.



Eastern Division

Kent State (8-2, 6-0 MAC) – Ohio’s loss to Ball State on Wednesday means the MAC’s Eastern Division will be decided between Kent State and Bowling Green, who conveniently play each other on Saturday. A Kent State win gives the Golden Flashes the division title. A loss means not only would Kent State need to beat Ohio next week, but Bowling Green would also have to lose to Buffalo, in order for the Golden Flashes to head to the championship game in Detroit.

Bowling Green (7-3, 5-1 MAC) – The Falcons must defeat Kent State this weekend or it’s game over. A win would give Bowling Green a huge advantage going into the last week of play. The Falcons would merely need to match Kent State’s result to win the division.

Western Division

Northern Illinois (10-1, 7-0 MAC) secured a spot in the championship game with a 31-24 win over Toledo (8-3, 5-2 MAC) on Wednesday night. With one game to go, neither Toledo nor Ball State (8-3, 5-2 MAC) can catch the Huskies.



The MWC does not use a tiebreaker to determine the conference champion should two or more teams finish with the same record. Those in a tied position at the top of the table would be considered co-champions.

San Diego State (8-3, 6-1 MWC) – The Aztecs can win outright with a victory over Wyoming (Nov. 24) so long as Fresno State loses to Air Force and Boise State loses one of its last two. In a best case scenario, a loss would likely generate a co-champion scenario.

Fresno State (8-3, 6-1 MWC) – Fresno State can win outright with a victory over Air Force (Nov. 24) and losses for San Diego State and Boise State. The latter would need to lose both of its final games. A loss leaves the Bulldogs vulnerable to a co-champion scenario or losing out on the conference title altogether.

Boise State (8-2, 5-1 MWC) – The Broncos can win the division outright with two wins accompanied by losses for San Diego State and Fresno State. One loss could generate a potential three-way tie with both San Diego State and Fresno State.



Arkansas State (7-3, 5-1 Sun Belt) – In all likelihood, the Sun Belt championship will come down to Arkansas State’s game against Middle Tennessee (Dec. 1). The winner of that game is likely to be crowned champion. Before that, the Red Wolves need to beat Troy.

Middle Tennessee (6-3, 4-1 Sun Belt) – If the Blue Raiders can navigate their way past South Alabama and Troy, they’ll likely set-up a conference championship game with Arkansas State. A loss to either of those sides could prove very costly.

Louisiana-Lafayette (5-4, 3-2 Sun Belt) – The Ragin’ Cajuns’ only hope of winning the conference is to win out and finish tied at the top of the table with Middle Tennessee at 6-2. The two teams do not play this season so further tiebreakers may play out in Lafayette’s favor. It’s unlikely though.

Louisiana-Monroe (6-4, 4-2 Sun Belt) – Although not mathematically eliminated, ULM faces an uphill struggle. That struggle would include winning out in the division and then hoping the other contenders continue to lose leaving ULM and Middle Tennessee tied at the top of the conference with a 6-2 record. ULM holds the tie-breaker in that scenario, and that scenario only.



Utah State (8-2, 4-0 WAC) – A win for the Aggies over the Bulldogs this weekend is enough to take the WAC title thanks to the fact that Utah State has already beaten San Jose State. A loss to Louisiana Tech would end all hopes of a division title.

Louisiana Tech (9-1, 4-0 WAC) – The Bulldogs play both their remaining rivals to close out the season. A win over both ensures an undefeated season in the conference and a WAC championship. A win over Utah State this weekend, and a Utah State win next weekend is also enough to take home the championship. A loss to both eliminates the Bulldogs.

San Jose State (8-2, 4-1 WAC) – Spartan hopes are pinned firmly on Louisiana Tech defeating Utah State this weekend. If the Aggies are victorious, San Jose State cannot win the division. A Bulldogs win however would set up a showdown with the Spartans next week. San Jose State would need to win that game and hope the winless Idaho can defeat Utah State. Don’t count on it.


So there you have it (almost). There’s still an awful lot up for grabs on the non-AQ side of the BCS. Some champions may be decided as early as Saturday, while others might not be crowned until December 1. One thing’s for sure though; the excitement really starts here.