Three Bowl Games You Should Wager on Now

Rawls
Rawls
Central Michigan will need to ride the legs of Thomas Rawls in order to keep the high-powered Hilltoppers' offense on the sidelines.

Trying to keep track of the multitude of bowl games these days is like trying to keep tabs on a colony of ants by naming all of them. There’s a good chance you’ll remember a few of them but you have no chance in heck of remembering every name. Especially when the name changes all the time to boot.

I’ll do my best to get all of the games and their titles correctly as I give you the five best bowl games to wager on for 2014.

Popeye’s Bahamas’ Bowl 7-5 Central Michigan (O/U 65) vs 7-5 Western Kentucky (-3)

I like this guy for a couple of reasons and keep in mind all three of these are games I like because I think they present you with the best chance to gain some cash. Central Michigan is led by running back Thomas Rawls who spent two seasons at Michigan before transferring to CMU. He has over 1,100 yards rushing and averages about 23 carries per game which is one of the higher rates in the country.

Western Kentucky is an offensive juggernaut featuring a quarterback who has over 4,000 yards passing and a running back over 1,000 yards himself. Neither team has what we’d call a good defense. The Chippewas surrender over 23 points per game while the Hilltoppers give up 39 a game. The difference is that CMU scores just two points more per game then they give up while WKU scores over 44 points per game.

I love the Hilltoppers to cover here and I love the OVER even more.

Cincy
Gunner Kiel leads the Bearcats' attack against Virginia Tech.

Military Bowl Pres. by Northrup Grumman 6-6 Virginia Tech (O/U 49) vs 9-3 Cincinnati (-3)

I have to admit I’m a bit jealous of the players on both sides in this bowl game. As you know, players on bowl teams get lots of gifts with some being better than others. Every member of the Hokies and Bearcats will receive their own Xbox One. Pretty nice huh?

I like this game because I really do think it’s a mismatch. The Hokies barely made it into the postseason with a four-point win over rival Virginia. Since beating Ohio State in Columbus early in the season, the Hokies have really sputtered along. The defense allows just 20 points per game and that has to be their calling card in this one.

Cincinnati is led by former Notre Dame quarterback Gunner Kiel. He has had an excellent season as have the Bearcats who shared the American Athletic Conference title. The Bearcats score 35 points per game and while I think Virginia Tech will limit them, I don’t think it will be enough.

Take Cincinnati to cover and take the OVER as well.

National University Holiday Bowl 9-3 Nebraska (O/U 61.5) vs 8-4 USC (-6)

There’s two trains of thought here with the Cornhuskers; the players will be so relieved to have Bo Pelini gone that they’ll play out of this world or they won’t respond well to the interim coach Barney Cotton. All Big-Ten running back Ameer Abdullah suffered a keen sprain late in the season but should have ample time to recover. The Huskers have a nice supporting cast that includes wide receiver Kenny Bell but they will be facing some great athletes on the USC defense.

Southern Cal was a hail mary loss to Arizona State from playing in the Pac-12 Title game and finished the season with a blowout of Notre Dame. Trojans’ QB Cody Kessler has had a solid year and can put up serious numbers which I believe he will in this game. The Nebraska defense has been humbled by both the run and the pass in 2014 and I think that continues.

Take the Trojans to cover and take the OVER.

 

A Thursday Night Trio of Pro and College Football Action

Ryan
Ryan
I would have that look on my face too if I were Jets' Head Coach Rex Ryan.

NY Jets (+10) at New England (O/U 45) – This just looks too easy doesn’t it? The Patriots have had their way with the Bills and the Bengals in the last two weeks after struggling to beat Oakland at home. The Jets are a mess. Although I thought they played hard against Denver, too many mistakes and a horrendous secondary eventually cost them.

The reason why you can’t just lay your money on the Pats to cover is simple; we’ve seen this type of thing with these two teams before. Six weeks prior to the 2010 playoffs the Pats beat the Jets 45-3. They met in the divisional round in Foxboro where the Jets pulled the upset 28-21.

It may be one example but it proves simply that when we think the Jets are dead in the water, that isn’t always the case.

Obviously they need better play from Geno Smith or Michael Vick regardless of which one is behind center. They don’t have to be brilliant but they have to take care of the football. The Pats need to deal with season-ending injuries to Stevan Ridley and Jerod Mayo.

Trends: The total has gone OVER in eight of the Jets’ last nine trips to New England… The Pats are 5-1 straight up in their last six games at home against the Jets… The Jets are 0-4-1 against the spread in their last five games… New England is 6-13 ATS in their last 19 games at home against the NYJ.

Boyd
Pitt's Tyler Boyd has suffered from some inconsistent QB play this season.

Virginia Tech (+1) at Pittsburgh (O/U 45) – These two have split their 10 meetings dating back to 1996 with each winning five games. The Hokies looked like a surprise team when they knocked off Ohio State in Columbus but back-to-back losses against East Carolina and Georgia Tech derailed those thoughts.

The Panthers have lost three straight including one at home to Akron. Pitt has been a hard team to figure out this season and I expect them to have their hands full tonight.

The Pick: I’ll take the Hokies and the OVER tonight.

Trends: The Hokies are 1-4 straight up in their last five games at Pitt… The Panthers are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at home… The total has gone OVER in four of Va Tech’s last six games on the road… Pitt is 1-4 ATS in their last five home games.

Utah (-3) at Oregon State (O/U 53) – The Utes are a really bad one-point loss to Washington State from being unbeaten right now and their schedule has been a little tougher than has the Beavers. OSU is also 4-1 with a blowout loss to USC and wins over pretty weak competition.

The Utes have actually played better on the road than at home and that could come in handy tonight.

Trends: The Utes have gone 1-4 against the spread in their last five games against Oregon State… The Beavers are 11-5 straight up in their last 16 games at home… The total has gone UNDER in 10 of Utah’s last 14 games… The total has gone UNDER in four of Oregon State’s last five games at home.

The Pick: I like Utah to cover and I love the UNDER.

‘Big Boy Business’ is Exactly What College Football is

Weis
Weis
Charlie Weis won just six games at Kansas and was sent packing this past weekend.

Saturday saw the end of one rather rotund head coach in college football while the seat underneath another one got about as hot as it can possibly get. While those things are happening there are also some pretty intriguing things on the horizon as college football enters October.

Kansas Cans Weis

The Kansas Jayhawks fired Head Football Coach Charlie Weis following their shutout loss to Texas. Weis went just 6-22 and also won just one Big 12 Conference game during his time in Lawrence. Weis took over after a disastrous stint from Turner Gill but he quickly put his stamp on the program by booting 29 players and Weis has since stated he regrets that decision.

My guess is that there is still a future in football for Weis but I have to believe it will just be as a coordinator perhaps at the NFL level.

No Rest for Hoke

Michigan’s Brady Hoke said after his Wolverines lost 30-14 at home to Minnesota that this is a “Big Boy Business” and he’s absolutely right. Hopefully he remembers this when he is sent packing. It is no longer a matter of ‘if’ but when Hoke is relieved of his duties. His team was physically dominated on both sides of the ball by a Minnesota team that had beaten Michigan just once in the last ten years.

Hoke’s problems initially began and ended with his quarterbacks but now it’s evident there are even more problems as his defense was run over and his offense is as listless as a sailboat without wind. At Michigan however, it’s one thing to struggle on the field but when you can’t put butts in the seats at Michigan Stadium then things really get serious. Right now “serious” is an understatement.

Spurrier
The ol' ball coach is already sitting at 2-2 in the SEC East.

Picks Gone Wrong

At the beginning of the season I said South Carolina would win the SEC East and for all I know they still could but that choice is looking more and more doubtful after they saw Missouri come back and beat them on Saturday night in Columbia. The Gamecocks are now 3-2 on the season and 2-2 in the SEC. They are the only SEC team to have played four conference games.

They’ve defeated Vanderbilt and Georgia but have lost two conference games at home to the Tigers and Texas A&M in the opener. South Carolina still has time but they’ll need help to win the East.

Another team I had winning their division was Virginia Tech and like South Carolina, they still have a great shot at achieving their goals but things need to get better. I thought for sure when the Hokies went into Columbus and upset Ohio State that this Frank Beamer-led team was on its’ way but they stumbled against a good East Carolina team and then lost their only conference game to this point against Georgia Tech.

The Hokies will only be as good as QB Michael Brewer is I believe and that’s a lot of pressure on the young man but there’s still plenty of time.

My Weekly Final Four Predictions:

Now that we are into October, I’ll give you my selections for the four teams that qualify for the College Football Playoff.

Michigan State – The only road block is when the Buckeyes visit East Lansing.

Oklahoma – Baylor visits November 8th.

Alabama – They still face tough challenges from A&M, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn.

Oregon – They haven’t looked as dominant as other Ducks’ teams but who will beat them?

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

SEC
SEC
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.

Hundley
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.

 

College Games I like Tomorrow

Beamer
Beamer
Frank Beamer and his Hokies host East Carolina tomorrow in Blacksburg.

East Carolina (+10) at Virginia Tech (O/U 54) – This could be a dangerous spot for the Hokies who come home following a huge upset win over Ohio State in Columbus. The Pirates gave South Carolina fits well into the final quarter before losing in Columbia.

Trends: East Carolina is 7-2 straight up in their last nine games… Virginia Tech is 2-4 against the spread in the last six games when playing East Carolina… The total has gone UNDER in four of ECU’s last six games when playing the Hokies… Virginia Tech is 18-7 straight up in its’ last 25 games at home.

The Pick: I like East Carolina getting the points but I’ll take the Hokies to win and take the under as well.

Gurley
Todd Gurley leads Georgia into South Carolina tomorrow.

Georgia (-7) at South Carolina (O/U 60) – The Gamecocks are 1-1 but were embarrassed at home by Texas A&M and then hung on to beat East Carolina last week. The Bulldogs were impressive in beating Clemson in the opener and now head to Columbia for their first SEC game. Having already lost to the Aggies, South Carolina cannot afford another loss in conference play.

The Dawgs will ride with Todd Gurley who I expect to have another big game.

Trends: Georgia is 1-4-2 against the spread in their last seven games at South Carolina… The Gamecocks are 22-1 straight up in their last 23 home games… The Bulldogs are 4-2 SU in their last six games at South Carolina… The total has gone UNDER in five of USC’s last five games when playing at home against Georgia.

The Pick: I like Georgia to cover and I like the OVER.

Purdue (+27.5) vs Notre Dame (O/U 56.5) – This game is being played in Indianapolis. Let’s be real quick here shall we? Purdue just lost at home to Central Michigan. Notre Dame just shut out Michigan.

Trends: The Boilermakers are 0-5 straight up in their last five games against Notre Dame… The Irish are 4-1 SU in their last five games… The total has gone UNDER in five of Notre Dame’s last six games… Purdue is 1-11 SU in their last 12 games.

The Pick: Take the Irish to cover but take the UNDER.

Tennessee (+20.5) at Oklahoma (O/U 56.5) – This is a big opportunity for Butch Jones and the Vols but I also think they are going into a buzzsaw in Norman. Sooners’ QB Trevor Knight is playing well and OU just doesn’t lose at home under Bob Stoops.

Trends: Tennessee is 2-4 against the spread in their last six road games… The Sooners are 5-0 straight up in their last five games… The Vols are 1-8 straight up in their last nine road games… The total has gone OVER in four of Oklahoma’s last five games at home.

The Pick: Take OU to cover and I love the OVER.

UCLA (-7.5) vs Texas (O/U 50.5) – This game is being played in Arlington. I’m not sure we’ve seen the real UCLA just yet and this would be a horrible week for them to show up if you’re Texas. The Longhorns were throttled at home by BYU last week and I don’t think it will get much better.

Trends: The Bruins are 7-1 straight up in their last eight games… Texas is 2-4 against the spread in their last six games… The total has gone OVER in four of UCLA’s last six games… The total has gone UNDER in five of the Longhorns’ last six games.

The Pick: Take the Bruins to cover and I like the UNDER.

Penn State (-3) at Rutgers (O/U 51.5) – This is Rutgers first-ever game in the Big Ten and they open with the Nittany Lions who are now eligible for a bowl after the NCAA lifted the postseason ban this week. I really like Christian Hackenberg at QB for PSU.

Trends: Penn State is 4-1 straight up in its’ last five games… Rutgers is 1-4 against the spread in in its last five games at home… The total has gone OVER in four of PSU’s last five games on the road… The Scarlet Knights are 16-5 straight up in their last 21 home games.

The Pick: Take Penn State to cover and I like the OVER.

The Big Ten is Buried and Why is Pat Haden on the Field?

Va tech
Va tech
Virginia Tech handed the Buckeyes a rare home loss on a bad night for the Big Ten.

Three big games faced the Big Ten yesterday in the second week of the college football season and the first one was going pretty well. Seventh-ranked Michigan State had stormed back to take the lead in the second half at third-ranked Oregon and about the same time that Michigan and Ohio State fell behind in their games, the bottom fell out on the Spartans.

Oregon blitzed Michigan State with a 28-0 run to win 46-27. Rivals Michigan and Ohio State both suffered crushing defeats as well with Michigan getting shutout 31-0 at Notre Dame and the Buckeyes getting beaten at home 35-21 by Virginia Tech.

With Wisconsin losing to LSU last week and Nebraska needing a last-second touchdown to get past McNeese State, the chances that a team from the Big Ten makes the College Football Playoff are now slim and none.

For Michigan, they were shutout for the first time since 1984 and if he wasn’t already on the hot seat then Brady Hoke is now. The alumni will not be pleased with the embarrassing loss to the Irish in the final game of their rivalry for the foreseeable future. The Wolverines still have trips to East Lansing and Columbus and the fan base is already turning on Athletic Director David Brandon who has essentially offended the student population in Ann Arbor with crazy restrictions on their attendance at games.

In Columbus, the Buckeyes fell behind the Hokies 21-7 entering the third quarter but rallied to tie the score in the fourth. Virginia Tech responded with a long drive and then capped the victory with a 63-yard interception return for touchdown with under a minute to go. To say the Buckeyes miss Braxton Miller would be an understatement but the defense is suddenly a question mark as well.

The only way a Big Ten team makes the ‘final four’ is with tons of help. We’re talking a situation where the SEC and Pac-12 have some form of armageddon among themselves and the ACC and Big-12 stumble significantly as well. Basically what I’m saying is “it ain’t gonna happen.”

Haden
Haden's actions are inappropriate and he should no longer be on the selection committee as well.

A Major Issue at USC

On the field of play yesterday in Palo Alto, California, the USC Trojans scored one their biggest wins in the post-Pete Carroll era when they knocked off Stanford 13-10. It’s a rivalry that has grown more and more intense even with Carroll and former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh now in the NFL.

The real story from yesterday’s game however didn’t involve the players on the field; it involved the USC Athletic Director on the field. Pat Haden, who also happens to be a member of the College Football Playoff Committee, came down from his seat in the press box to confront officials after Trojans’ Head Coach Steve Sarkisian was slapped with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

First of all, Haden can be on the field as many athletic directors are, to come down and confront officials during the game is flat-out wrong and it gets worse. Haden admitted he came down because he received a text message from someone on the sideline asking him to come down. That’s a violation of NCAA rules but that isn’t the point.

Haden must step down from the playoff committee immediately. While he can’t vote for his own school, he can vote for Stanford but with the intensity of the rivalry why would he? This is just one of many problems with the selection committee and if Haden can’t control himself on the field how can he do the same while voting for teams for the playoff?

ACC Coastal Division Odds for 2014

Fedora
Fedora
Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels are looking to capture the ACC Coastal Division.

As my tour around college football continues, today is the ACC Coastal.

North Carolina 7/4 – The Tar Heels have seven starters back on defense but three of those that are gone went to the NFL. The offense returns eight players but one of the three gone is tight end Eric Ebron who was an absolute stud for UNC. Other than Notre Dame, the non-conference schedule is not overly difficult. Besides the Irish, the Heels also have road trips to Clemson, Virginia and Miami. I see UNC finishing with seven to eight wins this year.

Miami 3/1 – Al Golden enters his fourth year with a 22-15 record and seven starters returning on each side of the ball. QB Jake Heaps who is with his third team now, seems to have the keys to the offense but Golden has yet to commit. The Canes were selected as the favorites to win the Coastal and that possibility obviously exists with their talent. Miami opens at the team they last saw in a game and that’s ACC newcomer Louisville who blasted the Canes in last season’s Russell Athletic Bowl. They also have trips to Nebraska, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech as well. They do get Florida State and Duke at home. The division title is there for them but is the schedule too much?

Beamer
I have a feeling Frank Beamer and the Hokies will challenge for the Coastal Division if not win it.

Virginia Tech 3/1 – The Hokies return nine starters on offense but just five on defense from a team that struggled last season with just eight wins and a blowout bowl loss to UCLA. QB Logan Thomas is gone and I think that’s a good thing as he never lived up to expectations. Despite few starters back on D, the talent is there especially in the secondary and on the D-Line. If the offensive line can gel, then the Hokies are a legitimate threat to win the division. The tough road trips are to Ohio State, North Carolina and Duke.

Duke 6/1 – The Blue Devils return eight starters on offense and six on defense as they look to follow up last year’s division title. Duke must replace three starters on the defensive line and Anthony Boone is the only QB with experience. The Blue Devils should roll to a 4-0 record against weak non-conference opponents but then they have four conference road games in their next five and among them are trips to Miami, Pitt, Syracuse and Georgia Tech. I do not see repeat for Duke in 2014.

Georgia Tech 8/1 – The Yellow Jackets return just 10 starters from last year’s team that featured some big wins and heartbreaking losses. Because of the offensive system, losing backs isn’t usually a big deal. Coach Paul Johnson just reloads in the backfield. Other than Georgia to finish the season, the non-conference slate is easy. Besides the trip to Athens, GT also has trips to Virginia Tech, North Carolina and NC State. If the defense comes together, the Jackets can be a threat in the division.

Pitt 25/1 – The Panthers come off of a 6-7 record in Paul Chryst’s first year in Pittsburgh. Eight starters return on offense and just five on defense. Pitt will rely on a new quarterback but he’ll have the benefit of receiver Tyler Boyd who was even better than Larry Fitzgerald was as a freshman. Tough road games are at Boston College, North Carolina and Miami. 6-6 is very possible again in the Steel City.

Virginia 25/1 – With 16 starters (9-Off/7-Def) returning, Mike London has no more excuses especially considering the solid recruiting class as well. London is one of America’s ‘coaches on the hot seat.’ The first four games will tell the story for the 2014 Cavaliers. They host UCLA, Richmond and Louisville and then travel to BYU. The only way London survives is by getting to a bowl game and even that isn’t a guarantee.

The Pick: I have a feeling Coach Frank Beamer will have his Hokies ready to be back among the elite in the ACC.The Tar Heels could put pressure on both Miami and the Hokies but I’m not sure I’m buying the UNC hype.

LSU, Bama Highlight Four Games From Saturday’s Action

Franklin
Franklin
I have to believe James Franklin will see some time at QB against Kentucky.

College football starts to get pretty serious now with big games across the country this weekend. These are the four I’m looking at for wafering purposes only of course….

Missouri (-14) at Kentucky – I’m really surprised this number isn’t higher. The East Division leading Tigers punished Tennessee last week with a 31-3 victory while Kentucky (2-6) routed Alabama State. Their only other win is against Miami of Ohio.

At this time, Head Coach Gary Pinkel has not yet said whether Maty Mauk or James Franklin will start at quarterback. Franklin reportedly could have played last week but did not. With Ole Miss and Texas A&M remaining on the schedule I’m guessing Franklin will see some action.

The Tigers are 4-1 straight up in their last five road games while the Wildcats are 3-8 straight up in their last 11 games at home. Take Missouri to cover with confidence.

Nebraska (+6.5) at Michigan – The Cornhuskers come into Ann Arbor fresh off a hail mary victory over Northwestern. Michigan returns home licking some serious wounds after the butt-kicking they received by arch-rival Michigan State.

Both teams come in at 6-2 but Nebraska still has a legitimate shot at the Legends’ Division title. They need to win Saturday and then need to defeat Michigan State next week in Lincoln. Michigan would need significantly more help to win the division and I don’t see that happening.

The Huskers are 2-9-1 against the spread in their last 12 road games while UM is 5-0 straight up in their last five in the Big House. Brady Hoke is 19-0 at home in Michigan Stadium since becoming the head coach. Make it 20 but take Nebraska and the points.

Mettenberger
Can Mettenberger lead the Tigers to an upset of #1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa?

LSU (+9) at Alabama – These two SEC West foes hook up again in what promises to be another good game in Tuscaloosa. I’m just not sure LSU has the defensive horses to hang in there however.

The one area the Tigers may have an advantage is throwing the ball. QB Zach Mettenberger is a top pro prospect who can make all the throws and he has very good wide receivers. If Alabama has a weakness, it could be the secondary. Safety Vinnie Sunseri is out for the year and there is a lot of youth playing as well.

With that said, the group has gotten a lot better since being torched by Johnny Manziel in week two.

The Tigers are 5-1 straight up against Alabama on the road in their last six which garners which attention but this Bama team is too balanced. I like the Crimson Tide to cover.

Virginia Tech (+6.5) at Miami – This was once one of the great rivalries in college football but both teams have seen better days despite pretty decent records. The Hurricanes have to move forward from their blowout loss to rival Florida State and must do so without running back Duke Johnson who is out for the year with a broken ankle.

The Hokies are 6-3 but have lost two straight to Duke and Boston College respectively. QB Logan Thomas has all the tools to be a top pro prospect but it just hasn’t all come together for him.

Both teams still have hopes of winning the Coastal Division and getting a crack at the Seminoles in the ACC Title game. The ‘Canes are 1-5 against the spread in their last six home games against the Hokies but that isn’t going to scare me away here.

Take the Canes to cover behind a better defense and the passing of Stephen Morris.

Thursday Night Offers You Some Potential Action

Thomas
Thomas
Thomas and Virginia Tech survived a scare last week but can they win at Georgia Tech?

College football and the National Football League are both offering some action for Thursday night and all three games could give you some opportunities to make amends for a rough weekend. Check out the three games below.

Virginia Tech (+7) at Georgia Tech – The 3-1 Hokies are struggling despite their only loss coming to top-ranked Alabama. Last week, Marshall took them into overtime before the Hokies finally emerged victorious. Quarterback Logan Thomas entered this season with hopes he would be in the running for the Heisman Trophy. Instead he has thrown six interceptions to just four touchdowns.

The Yellow Jackets meanwhile are scoring a boat load of points. Georgia Tech is scoring 45 points per game but the number is a bit inflated by the 70-0 win over Elon in the opener. The running game is its’ usual tremendous self. The Jackets are fourth in the country at over 345 yards per game.

This one may be decided by the defenses however. Georgia Tech is giving up just over 11 points per game while the Hokies are giving up about 17 per game. The Hokies are 0-5 ATS in their last five road games. Georgia Tech is 1-5 in their last six games with Va Tech. I think this one will be tight so I love the Hokies getting seven.

Iowa State (+3) at Tulsa – The Cyclones are coming off a bye week which followed a tough loss to rival Iowa. Their other loss is to in-state Northern Iowa in the opener. ISU doesn’t do anything offensively ‘great’ and that’s part of the problem. The running game is 99th in the country and the passing attack is 50th. Pair that with a defense that is giving up 28 points per game and there’s your 0-2 record.

The Golden Hurricane aren’t sitting much better though. They rank in the bottom half of FBS schools in both rushing and passing and defensively they are giving up over 37 points per game. Over their last seven games, Iowa State is just 1-6 against the spread while Tulsa is 2-4 over the same span.

This is the type of game where I really think the stats speak for themselves. Take the Cyclones and those three points in this one.

Kaepernick
Kaepernick needs to return to his late-season form of a year ago if the Niners plan to win in St. Louis.

NFL

San Francisco (-3.5) at St. Louis – For the first time in the tenure of Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers are coming off back-to-back losses. His team entered last Sunday’s home contest with Indianapolis 8-0 in games following losses or ties under Harbaugh but that stat was crushed by the Colts’ defense.

Now the Niners must travel to St. Louis to play a Rams team that gave them fits last year. The only good news for San Francisco is that the Rams are coming off a horrible loss in Dallas where they were never in the game from the outset. With both teams at 1-2 and Seattle firmly in command of the NFC West at 3-0, this game takes on huge significance.

The 49ers are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games in St. Louis. Straight up, the Niners are 4-2 in their last six in the show-me state. Over their last 25 games at home against San Francisco, the Rams are 7-16-2 against the spread. This game should depend most heavily on who can run the football.

The Rams are 28th in the league while the 49ers defense is a shocking 29th in the NFL against the run. Something will have to give here to be sure. Colin Kaepernick has struggled in the last two weeks and he’ll need to get off to a good start. Relying on Frank Gore early could help that situation. I really like the 49ers giving the 3.5 in this one.

Good Opening Week Match-ups in College Football

Clowney
Clowney
Clowney and the Gamecocks open against North Carolina in one of the better match-ups for week one.

Because odds are still being calculated in many cases for the opening weekend of college football I’m not going to get into those in this article. Remember, there are still a host of teams, USC among them, that have yet to name a starting quarterback. Those decisions will have an impact on how the sports books formulate the lines for the opening games.

That doesn’t mean I can’t take a look at some of the top match-ups on tap for the final weekend of August as college football kicks off.

North Carolina at South Carolina – There any number of people who have the Tar Heels selected to play in the ACC Title game in December. QB Bryn Renner is back and the recruiting has been very solid the last couple of years. The Gamecocks are interesting here because the following week, they play at Georgia. That game will more than likely decide the SEC East with all due respect to Florida. That said, I still like the overall firepower or the Gamecocks in this one.

Wallace
Ole Miss will need a solid game from Bo Wallace in order to beat Vanderbilt in the season opener.

Mississippi at Vanderbilt – The Commodores and Rebels open the season with an SEC clash right out of the gate. Last year Vandy went 9-4 but has seen five different players subjected to disciplinary action recently. Ole Miss is coming off a shocking haul in recruiting that landed them the nation’s number one defensive prospect in Robert Nkemdiche. I think the Rebels will go into Nashville and get a win with all the distractions going on there.

Texas Tech at SMU – If you’re a running back, you might be used for pass protection and receiving only as these two pass-happy teams hook up. June Jones’ Mustangs will be a challenge for new Red Raiders’ Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury who brings a ton of experience with the spread into Lubbock. Take Tech simply because I think they have a few more athletes than the Mustangs.

Rice at Texas A&M – With all due respect to the Owls, the Aggies will win this game handily. The reason it’s a game to watch is to see who is under center for the A&M when the offense takes to the field. Will the University take a risk and play Johnny Manziel or will they keep him out while the NCAA investigates any wrong-doing on his part? There will be eyes all over the country watching College Station and especially those in Tuscaloosa.

Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State (Game played in Houston) – Cowboys Head Coach Mike Gundy announced this week that he’ll go with two quarterbacks against the Bulldogs. Both Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh will be seeing plenty of action. These two guys both threw for over 1,500 yards last season and offer different skill sets in having to make Mississippi State prepare for both. Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs were 7-0 last year and finished 8-5. QB Tyler Russell returns to help avoid a late season slide. My gut leans with the Cowboys right now in a close game.

Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (Game played in Atlanta) – The two-time defending National Champions go for the three-peat and it starts in Atlanta against a very good Hokies’ team. Many people are already chalking up the win for the Crimson Tide and I can see why but Va Tech returns QB Logan Thomas and probably the best defense in the ACC. Nick Saban has won every season-opening game since he arrived in Tuscaloosa and I don’t see it changing here. With T.J Yeldon, Amari Cooper and A.J. McCarron on offense and speed to burn on defense, the Tide should roll past the Hokies in a game that will be closer than some imagine.