An Early Look at the College Football Lines for Next Weekend

Pat Fitzgerald and his Wildcats cannot afford a loss to Northern Illinois after losing their opener.

Each week this season I’m hoping to give you an early look at the top college games for the weekend. You should see this Monday or Tuesday.

Northern Illinois 1-0 (+2.5) at Northwestern 0-1 – High expectations in Evanston were shot out of the sky in a hurry last weekend as Cal came in and led 31-7 before hanging on to win 31-24. The Wildcats were thought to be a surprise team in the Big Ten West but they looked anything but and now have to deal with perennial MAC power Northern Illinois. To say this is a must-win against the Huskies is an understatement. Right Now: I like NIU and the points

Missouri 1-0 (-5.5) at Toledo 1-0 – Gary Pinkel returns to the campus that helped him get where he is now. The Rockets will not be a pushover either and Pinkel knows it. Last year, Toledo came into Columbia and gave the Tigers quite a battle before losing 38-23 with the Tigers pulling away in the fourth. Missouri is the defending SEC East champs so they aren’t going to sneak up on anyone. Right Now: I like Missouri to cover

Navy 0-1 (-4) at Temple 1-0 – This game is more fascinating than I ever dreamed it would be three weeks ago. Navy gave Ohio State fits into the fourth quarter before losing to the Buckeyes while the Owls went into Nashville and thumped the Commodores by 30. I expect this to be a close and very exciting game in Philly. Right Now: I like Navy to cover

Southern Cal 1-0 (+4) at Stanford 1-0 – There were a lot of college football people who believe the most talented team in the Pac-12 last season was USC. In-season coaching changes and injuries scuttled the chance for a title but now the Trojans get their shot to prove themselves and it will start with a road trip at defending champion Stanford. SC QB Cody Kessler was outstanding against Fresno State and now gets a shot a much tougher opponent. Right Now: I like USC and the points.

Connor Cok and the Spartans head to Oregon for a game with massive playoff implications.

Michigan State 1-0 (+11) at Oregon 1-0 – You’ll hear this phrase a lot this season; “This is the most important game of the year in terms of the final four teams in the playoff.” The Spartans and Ducks will be playing in this game this weekend in Eugene. MSU can afford a close loss whereas Oregon needs to win at home. Either way, both teams will still be alive for the playoffs. Right Now: I like MSU and the points

East Carolina 1-0 (+15.5) at South Carolina 0-1 – Remember a few weeks back when Steve Spurrier was ripping on the Big Ten? He said his Gamecocks were better off playing “East Carolina” than a bottom tier Big Ten team. Well, here come the Pirates and what do you know? Spurrier and company are still licking their wounds from that beatdown at the hands of Texas A&M. Right Now: SC covers

Michigan 1-0 (+6) at Notre Dame 1-0 – The Wolverines and the Fighting Irish hook up again in another primetime match-up and they have yet to disappoint in under the lights. Both teams got highly anticipated blowout wins this past Saturday and enter with 1-0 records. The key here will be the Michigan running game against the Irish run defense. Right Now: I like Michigan and the points

BYU 1-0 (+4.5) at Texas 1-0 – The Charlie Strong Era got off on the right foot this past weekend by beating up on North Texas. BYU did the same on the road by beating UConn. This will be the first of many tests for Strong in Austin this year and don’t be surprised if the Cougars pull it off behind a tough defense. Right Now: I Like Texas to cover


What an Opening Saturday in College Football!

More Les Miles' magic propelled the Tigers to a comeback win over Wisconsin.

If this is what we are going to get every Saturday through January of 2015 then I think we’ll all be quite pleased. While there will be weekends with more upsets and perhaps more exciting action, this opening Saturday proved one important thing; I don’t think there is one dominant team out there at the moment. Let’s start with the two big games in Texas.

LSU rallied to beat Wisconsin last night in Houston by scoring 21 unanswered points to win 28-24. The Badgers have to be violently ill this morning after having a powerhouse SEC team on the ropes only to get knocked out in the end. Badgers’ QB Melvin Gordon carried his team with 140 yards rushing and a touchdown but new QB Tanner McEvoy could do nothing in the passing game. He went just 8 for 24 for 50 yards and two picks.

The Tigers meanwhile looked uninterested, fundamentally unsound and lazy while falling behind Wisconsin early and into the second half. Les Miles as expected started Anthony Jennings who was miserable at QB. Brandon Davis came in for a series and didn’t look much better. Jennings was able to find a groove in the second half though throwing two touchdown passes to rally the Tigers to victory.

Wisconsin will have to figure out the QB situation because those numbers by McEvoy won’t get it done. LSU meanwhile has tons of work to do but can build on the comeback win.

FSU's Jimbo Fisher has some things to work on despite winning last night in Arlington.

Up the road in Arlington, defending national champion Florida State survived 37-31 against a very tough and game Oklahoma State team. The Seminoles were thought to be as good on defense as they are on offense but giving up 364 yards and 8 of 16 on third downs is not going to get this team a return trip to Cowboys Stadium for the title game.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was great when he needed to be despite two turnovers. He threw for 370 yards, a touchdown and a fantastic 28-yard TD run. The big concern going forward for FSU is the running game which put up just 106 yards. The Seminoles’ offensive line is considered the best in the country but they looked anything but against a younger, more inexperienced defensive front from Oklahoma State.

Sometimes it’s games like these that give you a shot in the arm or are a real wake up call. If I’m Florida State this morning I’m hoping that this is exactly the case.

Other games of note…

UCLA needed three defensive touchdowns to win on the road against Virginia 28-20. If Brett Hundley expects to be a Heisman candidate then he has to play better than he did… Ohio State defeated Navy 34-17 to begin the ‘season without Braxton Miller’ campaign. The Midshipmen actually led 14-13 in the third quarter… There was no gigantic upset in the Big House this time as Michigan rolled to a 52-14 win over Appalachian State. This was a much less talented Mountaineer team than was the 2007 team however… Second ranked Alabama survived a tough contest with West Virginia winning 33-22 in Atlanta. The Tide rolled to over 500 yards of offense with running backs Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon both going over 100 yards on the day. The alarming part for Bama is that WVU QB Clint Trickett threw for 365 yards which is the most ever against a Saban-coached Bama team. He broke the record set in the Tide’s last game which was a Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma… The clear front-runner in the Heisman race has to be Georgia’s Todd Gurley who rushed for 198 yards and three TDs in the Bulldogs’ 45-21 rout of Clemson. He also had a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown too.

Just Four Independents Remain in NCAA Football

Over the past few years, a number of NCAA Football teams have changed conferences. Heading into the 2014 season there are only four major independents left in college football. Those four include Army, Navy, BYU and Notre Dame.

New Mexico State and Idaho were Independents for a single season, but have both made their way to the Sun Belt Conference.

The Independent scene, according to Bovada and betonline, might look different after the 2014 season. BYU is now pushing to be accepted as a member of the Big 12. Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall said BYU would love to be a Big 12 member.

Mendenhall said his team’s attendance was sufficiently high and the winning percentage the Cougars have is more than enough to be accepted by the Big 12 if they conference was looking to expand. Whether that happens or not is still up in the air.

When trying to handicap three out of the four remaining Independents this season – BYU, Navy and Notre Dames – remember collectively they are an exceptional combined 52-31-1 against the number when taking points under their current head coaches.

What is even more interesting, according to topbet and, the three teams have combined to go 35-11-1 as underdogs in games where their own winning percentage was under .667 for the season, including an outrageous 27-2 against the number from the fifth game of the season to the end of the season.

Army is returning 9 players on its offense including its starting quarterback and 7 players on its defense including its front four.

The Cadets have a record of 3-23 SU as well as 6-20 ATS vs. Navy and Air Force.

BYU will have 8 starters on offense including their quarterback returning from last season. On defense, the Cougars will have 6 starters back including one lineman.

Mendenhall has averaged over 9 wins per season in the last 9 seasons as the BYU head coach. BYU has also played in a bowl game each of those 9 seasons.

BYU has 353 wins over the past 4 decades. The school trails only Ohio State, Oklahoma and Nebraska in that category.

Navy returns 8 to its offense including their starting quarterback. On defense, the Midshipmen have 7 starters returning including 2 linemen.

Last season Navy won the Commander in Chief trophy of the 9th time in the past 11 seasons. Navy is 92-49 since the end of the 2002 season, including 21-2 SU over military opponents.

Notre Dame returns 5 offensive starters and 5 defensive starters from last season.

The Fighting Irish have the highest winning percentage at .733 in the history of college football.

Everett Golson who was suspended last season due to academics will return to the starting quarterback slot.

The upcoming 2014 NCAA football will have just four independents, but three of the four should play well enough to be chosen for a bowl game during December or January.

Friday Night College Football Action Leads Into Saturday

Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel need two wins to keep any BCS hopes alive.

There have been college football games on every other night this week so why not Friday? Navy and San Jose State is the offereing for this evening but I’m also looking at three key Saturday games as well.

Navy (+3) at San Jose State – The Midshipmen have already reached the six-win total and will be ‘bowling’ once again. The Spartans are on the verge at 5-5 and has unbeaten Fresno State in their season finale. Translation? SJSU needs to defeat Navy and eliminate any doubt of going to a bowl game.

It won’t be easy though because Navy comes in with their usually impressive ground game. The Middies average 308 yards per game rushing which is good for sixth in the nation.

The Spartans will counter with an aerial attack that ranks 11th in the nation. They average over 325 yards per game through the air. The over/under tonight is 59.5 and I definitely like the ‘over.’ Navy gives up about 25 points per game while the Spartans are allowing over 31 points per game.

SJSU is 6-2 in their last eight home games straight up. I like them to get a win and become bowl eligible in a shootout.

Texas A&M (+4) at LSU – Johnny Manziel and the Aggies hit the road for what could be the final two games of his collegiate career. Stop one is in Baton Rouge where the Tigers await. A&M still has hopes of a BCS bowl but I think winning out more than likely means a trip back to the Cotton Bowl where they destroyed Oklahoma last year.

LSU had a week to recover from their beat down in Tuscaloosa. The over/under in this one is 77.5 and I think you can safely take the over. The Aggies defense has been questionable all season, especially against the run and that means big doses of LSU running back Jeremy Hill.

With the LSU defense struggling as well, look for Manziel to make big plays down the field in the passing game. The Aggies getting four is very tempting but I think Zach Mettenberger and the LSU passing game become the difference. Take the Tigers.

Can Fitgerald's Wildcats end their six game losing streak against Michigan State?

Michigan State (-7) at Northwestern – What can you say about the Wildcats? Since opening 4-0, they have lost six straight. The last two games have been decided on the final play losing on a hail mary at Nebraska and then in triple overtime to Michigan.

Meanwhile, the Spartans can officially wrap-up the Legends’ Division title with a win in Evanston. They will ride their top-ranked defense and an incredibly improved offense led by Connor Cook at quarterback.

Personally I think Northwestern hurts itself by moving back and forth between quarterbacks but that’s just my opinion. They desperately need a win in order to keep bowl hopes alive.

MSU is 6-0-1 against the spread in their last seven games on the road. I love them in this one where half the crowd will be green and white.

Duke (-5.5) at Wake Forest – The Demon Deacons are 4-6 but still have dreams of getting bowl eligible by winning their final two games to reach 6-6. Wake has lost three straight games with the offense scoring just 24 points over that stretch.

The Blue Devils find themselves in some uncharted waters at 8-2. They lead the ACC Coastal Division and a win here coupled with a win at North Carolina next week would give them their first ever trip to the ACC Title game.

Under David Cutcliffe, Duke has become very balanced offensively and has improved significantly on defense as well. Duke is 5-0 straight up in their last five games while the Deacons are 1-5 against the spread in their last six home games against Duke.

This is a special year for the Devils. I like them to cover.

Trying to Right My Ship With College Games This Saturday

James Franklin leads the Tigers against Toledo in Saturday action this week.

Season Record 1-4, Last Week 1-4

I think I know how Oregon State and Kansas State felt last week. After they both lost to good FCS teams, they were still nevertheless, losses to FCS teams. I really liked the slate of games I had last week and although I was very close on a couple of them, that doesn’t exactly win you points with the bookie.

Here are the five games I like this weekend in college football.

Toledo (+17) at Missouri – Tigers’ Head Coach Gary Pinkel welcomes his old team to Columbia this week and the Rockets have to come in with some confidence despite losing at Florida. Toledo lost in the Swamp just 24-6 and although the Gators had several players sitting out due to injuries and suspensions, the Rockets gave them a game.

Missouri meanwhile laid waste to Murray State 58-14 at home behind an offensive outburst. On the surface, this game seems tighter than expected but consider that Toledo was more than doubled in offensive yards by the Gators including by 212 yards on the ground. I like the Tigers to win by more than 17.

Navy (+13) at Indiana – Last season in Annapolis, these two played an epic game with the Midshipmen coming out on top 31-30 with a TD late in the fourth quarter. Navy was off last week but had plenty of film of the Hoosiers to study as they defeated Indiana State 73-35. What concerns me with Navy is that this is their first game and often with the triple option offense they run, you need a game or two to get the kinks out.

Make no mistake that the Middies will score on a less then stellar Hoosiers’ defense. The problem will be stopping the balanced attack of the Hoosiers. Last week the Hoosiers put up over 300 yards rushing and over 300 yards passing. I think Navy keeps this close early but I like Indiana to pull away. Take the Hoosiers.

Gardner must take better care of the ball against the Irish than he did against the Chippewas.

Notre Dame (+4) at Michigan – The Irish return to Ann Arbor for another classic under the lights at the Big House. Last time they were here, they gave up a late score behind the heroics of Denard Robinson. Last season, Notre Dame forced the Wolverines into numerous turnovers and uncharacteristic mistakes in a defensive struggle in South Bend.

‘Shoelace’ Robinson is now in the NFL but Michigan now has a guy in Devin Gardner who is a dangerous dual-threat guy. He isn’t as fast as Robinson, but he’s a much better passer. Both the Wolverines and Irish were good in opening game wins last week against far lesser opponents and now tackle each other.

Tommy Rees isn’t Everett Golson, but he is a darn good passer who threw for over 300 yards last week. I give him the edge over Gardner who looked shaky at times against Central Michigan to whom he threw two interceptions. I expect another defensive battle but I like the Irish here getting four points.

Arizona (-10.5) at UNLV – If ever there were a misleading score last week it was UNLV’s 51-23 loss to Minnesota. The Rebels outgained the Gophers 419-320 but gave up a kickoff return for touchdown, a blocked field goal returned for touchdown and an interception returned for a touchdown. That was certainly bad news for the Rebels but it gets worse with Arizona coming into Las Vegas.

The Wildcats defeated Northern Arizona 35-0 behind solid defense and a back-up running back who rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown. The Wildcats get the nation’s leading rusher from last year, Ka’Deem Carey back from a one game suspension and he will be primed to run through the Rebels.

I think UNLV puts up a fight but I expect the Wildcats to pull away. Take ‘Zona.

Win Totals for College Football Independents

The loss of Golson will have significant implications for the Irish in 2013.

The list of independents has grown with the disappearing act done by the WAC. Idaho, New Mexico State and FBS newcomer Old Dominion join the Irish, Air Force, Army and BYU this season. This is a group of extremes to be sure when it comes to wins and losses.

Army 4.5 (+110 over/-140 under) – The Black Knights enter 2013 off of a disappointing 2-10 record but should improve upon that this season. As is typically the case, Army ranked number one in the nation in rushing and dead last in passing. It’s no secret what they like to do offensively. The defense must be better though. They gave up over 35 points per game in 2012. The Knights play at Hawaii, Ball State and Air Force and get Stanford and Wake Forest at home. It isn’t a difficult schedule but I still see the under.

Bronco Mendenhall and BYU will ride the defense again in 2013.

BYU 8 (+120 over/-150 under) -The Cougars were 8-5 last year but went 0-3 against top 25 opponents. The defense was outstanding ranking third in the country with just 14 points per game. The offense is a far cry from the days of Ty Detmer and Steve Young. It ranked middle of the road in both rushing and passing. The schedule is not easy. They have road games at Virginia, Wisconsin and Notre Dame and also play Boise State, Texas and Georgia Tech at home. I have to take the under here.

Idaho 1.5 (+125 over/-155 under) – The 1-11 Vandals are just not that good to be honest. They ranked almost dead last in points for, points against and rushing yards. Now they enter the independent type of schedule that will not be easy. They have seven road games which include Florida State, Ole Miss, Arkansas State and Wyoming. The home schedule features Fresno State and MAC champion Northern Illinois. I see only three winnable games here and that leads me to think the under is the right play.

Navy 6.5 (-140 over/+110 under) – Much like their rivals the Army Black Knights, the Midshipmen were one of the top teams in rushing and one of the bottom teams in passing. Their defense was significantly better though and thus the 8-5 record. This season Navy has key road games at Indiana (who they had a thriller with last year), Notre Dame (who beat them by 40) and San Jose State. The home portion will include tough ones with Air Force and Pitt. I like the Academy for another seven or eight win season.

New Mexico State 2.5 (-120 over/-120 under) – The 1-11 Aggies struggled mightily last year ranking near the bottom in rushing, points for and points against. That combination will get you absolutely nowhere. In the first four weeks, NMSU has road games at Texas and at UCLA and they must also go to rival New Mexico. The home slate features Minnesota, Boston College and San Diego State. I can see two wins potentially on their schedule but nothing makes me want to take the over.

Notre Dame 8.5 (-125 over/-105 under) – Not many at this time last year had the Fighting Irish pegged for a trip to the BCS Championship Game but they rode a solid defense and efficient offense all the way there before being thumped by Alabama. They will enter the season without the quarterback who guided them as Everett Golson is not on the team due to academic issues. Also gone are a couple of key members of the defense including Manti T’eo. The schedule features road games at Michigan, Purdue, Air Force and Stanford. In South Bend, the Irish entertain Michigan State, Oklahoma, USC and BYU. They also have a neutral site game against Arizona State. I see the issue at QB haunting them and the luck they had last year runs out. Take the under.

Old Dominion The Monarchs enter their first year of play in FBS and currently there is no win total listed. They have had good success in the lower division going 10-2 last season. East Carolina, Pitt and North Carolina are all on the road but the rest of the schedule is very winnable. I would say eight wins is doable for ODU.

Top 10 Rivalry Games Remaining

Such is the intense rivalry of the Iron Bowl, A.J. McCarron and Alabama will know that beating Auburn will be a tough task, regardless of what the Tigers' record might suggest.

Rather unsurprisingly, our focus here at CasinoReview has been well and truly aimed at the BCS National Championship race, which continues to offer intrigue and drama at every turn. But not everything revolves around the four sides that look to be in with a shot at the crystal football.

Fans across the nation, particularly those partisan to teams not at the top of the BCS rankings, are still looking forward to rivalry games. We all know that to many, a rivalry game is far more important than watching Alabama or Oregon make their way to Miami.

We’ve already seen Michigan take the Paul Bunyan Trophy from Michigan State for the first time in five years. We’ve watched as Oklahoma laid waste to Texas in the Red River Rivalry at the Cotton Bowl. We’ve witnessed as Kansas State beat Kansas for the Governor’s Cup. We’ve even seen Utah State defeat Utah in the Battle of the Brothers for the first time in 13 years. And, of course, we saw Alabama defeat LSU in epic fashion last weekend.

But there’re still plenty of rivalries on the slate before we get to Bowl Season. No doubt we’ll be taking a closer look at some of these as we move towards December, but before then, here’s a look at the top rivalry games still to be played this season.

Editor’s Note: these games are listed in chronological order. We’re well aware of the impending backlash had we suggested that the Civil War was a bigger game than the Iron Bowl, or that the Territorial Cup was not as important as the Victory Bell.

USC @ UCLA (Nov. 17)

Southern California will face two of its biggest rivals in the final two weeks of the season. Notre Dame visits the Coliseum on the final day of the Pac-12 regular season, but before that, the Trojans head to Pasadena to take on the UCLA Bruins. Not only will the Victory Bell be up for grabs this season, but there’s also the small business of who will represent the South Division in the Pac-12 Championship game? The Bruins are currently ahead of USC in that race.

Arizona State @ Arizona (Nov. 23)

Starting Rivalry Week off early, the Duel in the Desert could have implications on the Pac-12 South if results go the right or wrong way, depending on your preference. The Wildcats will look to retain the Territorial Cup, while the Sun Devils will look to take the trophy for the second time in three years.

Washington @ Washington State (Nov. 23)

After a horrible season that has seen the Cougars win just two games so far, Washington State will look to make amends to its fans by bringing the Apple Cup home for the first time since 2008. The Huskies meanwhile will be hoping that their historical dominance of the game – Washington leads the all-time head-to-head 59-29-4 – carries over for another season.

Auburn @ Alabama (Nov. 24)

It doesn’t matter that the Auburn Tigers have won just two games (so far) this season and have yet to win a game in the SEC (so far), records get thrown out of the window when these two schools collide in the Iron Bowl. That could spell big trouble for Alabama, who will probably still be in search of an undefeated season by the time these two meet. Imagine how much Auburn would love to ruin that particular dream. This final week match-up – and one of the biggest rivalries in all of College Football – will get plenty of action from fans and bettors alike.

Florida @ Florida State (Nov. 24)

Bar a collapse by more teams that we care to imagine, neither Florida side will be thinking BCS Championship by this point in the season. Both however may be on their way to playing in a conference championship. Before that, the two will collide in Tallahassee, with bragging rights on the line. The Seminoles have taken the last two games, breaking Florida’s six-game win streak in the process.

Oklahoma State @ Oklahoma (Nov. 24)

Having already beaten Texas in one huge rivalry this season, Oklahoma will be favored against their intrastate rivals when the two take to the field in Norman. The Sooners have historically made mincemeat out of the Cowboys and lead the head-to-head 74-17-7. But, with this being a rivalry game, anything can and will happen. Last year, Oklahoma State took the game 44-10, the Cowboys’ first win since 2002.

Oregon State @ Oregon (Nov. 24)

At this moment in time, Oregon has bigger things on its mind, but come the day of the Civil War, the Ducks will be focused on winning, regardless of whether their undefeated streak remains intact or not. As well as bragging rights, the lead in the Pac-12 North could also be on the line come late November, which adds a further layer of spice to the rivalry. The Beavers will have added incentive knowing that they have not beaten Oregon since December 2007.

South Carolina @ Clemson (Nov. 24)

Currently battling Florida State in both the BCS rankings and the ACC standings, Clemson may well be on its way to a conference championship when they host South Carolina. The Gamecocks are not quite out of the running in the SEC East, but probably will be by the time Hardee’s Trophy is on the line. Clemson’s last win over South Carolina came in 2008, the 100th installment of the rivalry.

Virginia Tech @ Virginia (Nov. 24)

Currently languishing at the bottom of the ACC’s Coastal Division, the duo of Virginia and Virginia Tech will have little reward this season other than the Commonwealth Cup. This will be a hugely important game for both sides then. The Hokies will likely enter this one as overwhelming favorites, thanks to an eight-game winning streak against the Cavaliers. Virginia last took home the Commonwealth Cup in 2003, its one win in 13 attempts.

Army Vs. Navy (Dec. 8 )

Finally, after all of the conference championships have been decided, and ahead of the Bowl season, it’ll be down to these two long-time rivals to finish off the regular season in style. The Army-Navy Game returns to Philadelphia this season following last year’s detour to Washington. The Army Black Knights trail the Navy Midshipman 56-49-7 in the all-time head-to-head, with Navy having taken the last 10 encounters.


Honorable Mentions

Of course, the list of rivalry games still to play far exceeds those we’ve mentioned above. To give you a little taster of what else is out there, here are our honorable mentions. These games might not have made the main list but they’re still worth watching, not to mention putting a few dollars on.

Notre Dame @ Boston College (Nov. 10)

Illinois @ Northwestern (Nov. 24)

Michigan @ Ohio State (Nov. 24)

Notre Dame @ USC (Nov. 24)


Come back on Thursday to read our list of the top ten games (non-rivalry related) still left to play.